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Interviews

Paul Cleasby (Abbeyhorn)

May 3, 2013

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The Cleasby family is the fifth family who owns Abbeyhorn business since 1749 when the Humpherson family started the business. Your family could write an important chapter in Abbeyhorn history book so I am interested in how did you became involved in these traditionally manufacturing horn products and when was the moment when you have decided to actually buy the company.

I began working for the previous owner – Mr J Barnes – in 1980 following an advert placed in the local paper, as an apprentice horn worker. I had always wanted to work for myself and when Mr Barnes announced his retirement I enquired about purchasing the company. If I had not bought Abbeyhorn the trading would have ceased  as there was nobody to continue this tradition.

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Among your products there are some nice Scottish gifts. What traditional Scottish items are made from horn or bones?

The spoons with the thistle emblem are from our Scottish range. In 1998 I purchased “Horncraft” from Irvine. Ayrshire it was bought from the Buyers family and was integrated with Abbeyhorn. The spoons are made in the same way as we make all our spoons, however the thistle is added later using a handheld drill. All of these spoons as made from cow horn.

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Nowadays there is a great concern about environment and animal protection. I know that you are very concern about your raw material source. Please tell us more about the main raw materials and their source.

The raw materials we use are Cow horn – a by product of the meat industry in Nigeria as we do not allow our cattle to grow their horns, the Rams horn is from Wales another by product of our own meat industry, finally the Stag antler which is from Scotland, this is collected following the rutting season, where the males fight for supremacy.

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How do you transform a piece of a horn into a fantastic shoehorn? 

To transform a raw horn into a beautiful shoehorn, takes a lot of skill and few people have the “eye” to do this. Skilled horn workers can distinguish the color of the horn whilst still in its raw state. First of all a piece of horn is specially selected; this is the natural form which has had no heat treatment or shaping. It is then split into two pieces. The horn is then treated under a soft gas flame and shaped into its straight form.

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Although it looks charred in the surface the underneath is still untouched. The shape is formed in a metal vice and the tip is straightened; it may take several treatments with heat to get to this stage. Then the shoe horn takes it’s shape by being formed by hand on abrasive discs. It is then sanded several times with different levels of emery cloth. Once shaped and formed the piece becomes more recognizable as a shoe horn.

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All that is needed is a polish to bring out the natural beauty and color. Finally the final product has the leather loop and tag added. The finished article bears no resemblance to the initial stage!

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What other Gentlemen’s luxury accessories are available in your shop?

Abbeyhorn is continually adding to their range and we are pleased to say that amongst the new Gentleman’s items we have cufflinks made from both Cow horn and Stag antler, beard brushes, shaving brushes, hair brushes and combs.

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Have you ever done  custom made objects for clients?

Occasionally we are asked to make bespoke items and our skilled horn craftspeople enjoy the challenge. We are at present in discussions to make a Stag antler and glass table.

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Do you have a favourite  item from your range or a horn object that you are particular fond of?

Abbeyhorn has a great number of items within its range.  My personal favourite is the Whiskey Tot.

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Do you intend to expand the current product range?

We are always trying to increase the range and due to fashion trends we change it accordingly. We are planning to expand the Company by adding further machinery within the factory and employing more members of staff, this will hopefully come to fruition by December 2013.

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What partnerships do you have in present? I have seen your products at Leffot – NY for example.

Abbeyhorn has a very large customer base which spans Worldwide, these include – USA, Japan, Korea, Italy, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland to name but a few. We also started a Mail Order website in 2011 which is proving to be very popular, taking Abbeyhorn products into people’s homes.

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