Each horn must undergo 14 different stages, to become a kosher and high-quality Shofar. Come and learn all about it, in order to make a wise choice when purchasing a Shofar
Making a Shofar is a long and complex process, involving knowledge, skill and experience. Here, at Kol Shofar, each horn undergoes 14 different stages, in order to get at the end of the process, the finest and highest quality Shofar, with a clear sound, excellent finish, and without unpleasant odors that most Shofars have.
The production stages each horn goes through:
Sorting the horns: The process begins by selecting and sorting the raw material – i.e., the horns. This requires someone with a sharp and skilled eye, who can decide if a particular horn is suitable for making a Shofar, and of which type and sound.
The horns consist of two parts – the bone, which is actually a part of the animal’s skull – the male part. And the horn, which is a sort of shell that surrounds the bone – the female part. After the bone is removed, you get a horn two thirds of which is hollow (the broad side), while the top third is made of keratin (the narrow side).
It is interesting to note that all animals that have horns are kosher animals. Although not all horns can be used for making Shofars – there are certain animals, such as the reindeer, whose horns are made entirely of bone, nevertheless the deer is a kosher animal.
Most Shofars are made of the horns of a ram – an adult male sheep. There are other horns used for making Shofars, such as the Kudu’s (a large antelope found in the southern parts of Africa), goat’s and ibex’s horns, and other exotic horns from different parts of the world.
Shipping horns from different parts of the world to Israel is expensive and logistically complicated, as horns are not “off-the-shelf” products you can simply order. Horns are imported from outside the country, since there are not enough horns of various sizes in Israel. After picking the horns, the bone is removed, and they are then sterilized under veterinary supervision. It is important to note that animals are not killed for their horns, the horns are a by-product of slaughtering animals for food.
After the sorting process, in which all defective horns not suitable for Shofars are discarded, the horns go through a sterilization process that is unique to Kol Shofar – we use a method we developed to remove the unpleasant odor of the horn, making our Shofars the only odorless Shofars!
Straightening the Shofar: The first stage of work consists of straightening the narrow side of the horn, which is made of keratin, in order to drill and reach the hollow part of the horn. We straighten the horn by heating it until it softens, and then using a press to straighten its curvature and allowing it to cool down. This is a very intricate stage, requiring high skill and sensitivity, since using too much strength might pierce the horn or break it.
Each horn is unique, and therefore it takes a great skill to identify each horn, taking into account its flexibility, depth, thickness and many other characteristics, in order to achieve the best results without disqualifying it.
Making the mouthpiece: The mouthpiece is the heart of the Shofar, and has to match the mouth and lungs of the person blowing the Shofar.
Making the mouthpiece is a complex and delicate task, that involves many trade secrets. We produce Shofars with different mouthpieces – wide, round, narrow, elliptical ones and more – to achieve the best match for the Ba’al Teki’ah.
Many Shofar owners bring their Shofars to us, and ask that we adjust them to their demands, including tuning the Shofar sound.
Drilling: Drilling the Shofar is also a highly skilled act – you have to locate the hollow part of each horn and drill it accordingly. The longer the drill hole, the harder and more complicated the drilling. Any wrong movement might cause the drill to pierce the Shofar and disqualify it. Some Shofars require drilling holes of 30 cm and more.
Sanding and polishing: The next step involves polishing the Shofar, and deciding what it would look like. Each Shofar undergoes 5 different sanding stages: rough, medium and delicate, plus two stages of brushing, medium and delicate. Then, the Shofar goes through two stages of polish by flapwheels, that give the Shofar its shining appearance. Some Shofars keep their natural texture, while others are polished until they are completely smooth. Anyone can choose the amount of polish they like.
The sound of the Shofar: Many different attributes determine the sound of the Shofar, such as the size of the horn, its thickness, the size of the sound box, the length of the drill hole, etc. At Kol Shofar, we specialize in tuning and improving the sound of the Shofar. Thanks to our ample knowledge and skill, we know what is the best sound your Shofar can make and how to produce it. Many people bring their Shofars to us, and ask us to adjust them and improve their sound.
Now that you are familiar with the various production stages, next time you purchase a Shofar, you will be able to better assess its quality.