Friday, October 21, 2016

Ypres 1916

Approaching Remembrance Day...

I had commented earlier about the effect of World War 1 on Ypres:

Market Square, Ypres, 1916 : Before and After
Part of the extension of my OAC Project Grant was my travel and participation in the Ypres 2016 international blacksmithing event (several earlier commentaries). As might be expected, it is impossible to visit Ypres without being immersed in World War 1. To back up a pace, here was the 'Artist Statement' that I wrote to accompany my design submission for the Ypres 2016 Memorial :
I may not have the kind of direct lineage of involvement with Ypres, or even the First World War, that many other contributors may have. In my case, all my direct grandparents died in their early 50’s, when both my mother and father were themselves very young children.
I am clearly a child of North America in the the Sixties, the paranoia in the midst of plenty which was the Cold War. I was a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Both my units, the Hastings and Prince Edward’s and the Toronto Scottish, were regiments who had fought at Ypres in 1917. As young men of that same age as those who suffered at Ypres, we were pulled by similar forces. We certainly were frequently reminded of battle honours bought so expensively. This was the early to mid 1970’s, at the end of the Viet Nam War. I was trained by those who had participated, and have close friends who fought in, that particular brand of insanity. Honestly, my own time and place made it hard to understand just how those other young men had been driven so willingly to their destruction.
I personally had intended in visiting Europe at some point over the next few years, to allow me to visit the battlefields in my own pilgrimage of remembrance. I turned 60 this year, I know I’m not going to see the same commemoration of WW 2. As a Canadian, who as a people are so tied to the Land, I know partial understanding will best come from walking the same ground.
‘And Age Shall Not Tarnish Them’ is most certainly not a design that highlights the most sophisicated blacksmithing technique. Personally, I feel to concentrate too dramatically on art forging may actually detract from the intention of the Monument overall. I have attempted instead to picture a ‘view from the mud’. Where the same day to day suffering was endured by all those soldiers who were involved. In the face of the raw conditions imposed on all, the thin veneer of ’nationality’ was stripped away, or covered in the same way the gas masks obscured all traces of the individual.
Walking around the central core of Ypres, its hard not to see much of what surrounds you as a kind of shrine to the destruction of WW1. The ghosts are not hidden, more like a light fog that lays down everything. I did not find it oppressive, but it most certainly was omi-present.
Beyond my direct involvement with the Ypres 2016 project, I also made two specific side trips, one to Sanctuary Wood, with its original trench system preserved, and one to Passendale. Once a young soldier myself, I wanted to walk that same ground.

It was hard for me not to see that past at almost every turn.

I found the atmosphere around Ypres itself strange. It is so clear that the massive reconstruction effort undertaken in the 1920's was intended to re-create, almost exactly, what had been lost to war destruction. (Of note is that Ypres had been destroyed by war once before, burned to the ground in the late Middle Ages.) In this the town is like a shrine to World War 1. Its hard not to feel a kind of scitzephrenia, locked to a memory of a horrible past, while modern life continues at the edges.


Later at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, part of my OAC Project Grant included two weeks intended for 'personal project'. My original schedule was to concentrate on medium scale bronze casting work.
In the end, I did make some use of the ceramics studio as well. Personally, as an artist, the time I spent there proved extremely valuable, both in terms of expanding possibilities and freeing conceptions.
Opportunities for collaboration are rare for me, both because of the technical aspects of my normal work, and primarily because my studio is remote and pretty much a solo activity. The Tocca Ferro* project was exactly the kind of thing that can spring from a random comment during a general conversation, while working in the same space as another artist.
'Ypres 1916' - ceramic + Tocca Ferro, 2016
A number of small ceramic pieces were made for the original test of the Tocca Ferro process. My contribution was a set of small 'building fronts', based on the architectural styles I had seen at Ypres.
On the first stage bisque firing, the larger piece, made of a buff clay, shattered.
The remaining two pieces were subjected to Tocca Ferro, with quite different results. The middle piece did survive the heating process, but broke during cooling. The last piece emerged fused and half melted.
Taken as a grouping, the random 'destruction' of the individual pieces echoes the destructive forces of the WW1 bombardment at Ypres.

* The exact method of the Tucco Ferro process is being kept a bit vague at this point. A formal description is in the works by fellow collaborator Katriona Gillespie.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Turf to Tools 2 - Smelt 3

Continuing the descriptions of the work under my OAC Project Grant...

The third smelt undertaken as part of Turf to Tools 2 was an extra one.
Eden Jolly and Uist Corrigan (SSW staff) did most all the work on this. My contribution was some helpfull advice, breaking ore, and as striker at the end.
Eden (sitting) and Uist - at the start of the sequence
Slag running as part of 'constant tap' process
This smelt was primarily intended to let Eden and Uist see that they had acquired the basic skills for the bloomery furnace process. To that end, the proven furnace layout from smelts 1 & 2 was used. Ore chosen was primarily industrial taconite pellets. A number of recent modifications (well illustrated at the Poland Symposium) were also incorporated:
- Initial charges of 3 kg iron rich slag (Nissen)
- Continuous slag tapping (Sauder)
- Addition of partially sintered gromps (Sauder & Williams)
Resulting 9 kg bloom, partially compacted and cut
Furnace : Short Shaft on stone & block plinth
Build : standard clay / sand / manure mix (repair from smelt B)
Size : Tapered 25 to 20 cm ID, 68 cm total with 50 cm stack and 30 cm to hard base
Tuyere : tapered copper, 5 cm proud, 20 degree down angle
Ore : Industrial Taconite (22 kg) + Lecht Mine (6 kg) + smelt 2 gromps (6 kg) - total 34 kg
Fuel : hardwood charcoal broken to standard size
Method : 3 kg iron rich slag added as first charges

BLOOM : 9 kg, fragmented - yield 26 %
Larger piece, after cutting and breaking
The next day, the lads cut the larger bloom piece with a zip disk, also breaking through the central portion at the bottom of the cuts.
Enlarging the image above may prove interesting. Note the large size of the broken crystals, and the very white colour of the metal there. Both are visual indicators of a higher than normal carbon content to this bloom. Spark testing confirmed that the iron produced was 'steely' - consistent with a roughly 0.50 % carbon content (similar to a modern spring steel). When fully compacted, this should prove a good tool making material!
Furnace just after extraction
Another important result here was the construction of the furnace itself. The basic layout was still based on the Pictish archaeology at Cudulthel. Another element used by Lee Sauder was incorporated, that of a large extraction arch built into the front base of the furnace. This is sealed separately with a new wall of clay cobb before each use, making this area easy to remove without placing strain on the remainder of the furnace itself. As you can see in the image above, after 3 complete smelts, the main body of the furnace remains in good enough condition (with some cracks repaired) to continue in use.

Excellent work!

Lee Sauder & Ancient Iron in Sudan

Can't view? - DIRECT LINK 

In January 2015, in order to enhance our understandings of Meroitic
iron smelting, UCL Qatar created the first iron smelting festival at
Meroe. The scientific aim of this festival was to collect data to
improve our interpretation of the archaeometallurgical record. A further
goal of the smelting festival was to raise local, national and
international awareness of the technological prowess of the Meroites.

Core to this project was the participation of two old friends - Lee Sauder and Jake Keen.

Those familiar with the process of bloomery iron smelting (and experimental archaeology in general) will likely be able to 'read between the lines' as they view the undertaking. A couple of things stand out:

Not all ore is good ore.

Its about making IRON - not SLAG

Ask the locals!

Excellent work by Jake and Lee!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Turf to Tools Two - Smelt B

(Yes, I am running a lot behind!)

Peat Fuel Test
September 24, 2016

This is a fast overview of the second (of what turned out to be three) iron smelts undertaken at SSW as part of my 2016 OAC Project Grant.
repaired furnace from smelt A

top flame, showing volitiles burning off

fragmented bloom pieces
Furnace : Short Shaft on stone & block plith
Build : standard clay / sand / manure mix (repair from smelt A)
Size : Tapered 25 to 20 cm ID, 68 cm total with 50 cm stack and 30 cm to hard base
Tuyere : tapered copper, 5 cm proud, 20 degree down angle
Ore : SSW2 analog (red oxide + 5% flour, 5% oatmeal), total 35 kg
Fuel : compressed commerical peat pellets, broken to standard size
Method : 3 kg iron rich slag added as first charges

BLOOM : 1.5 kg, fragmented - yield 4 % (+ considerable poorly sintered gromps)

Peat used was 'raw' - so contained some weight as water and volities (clear in smoke)
Overall internal temperatures as recorded about 100 C lower than typical.
Iron was reduced, but furnace not quite hot enough for propper formation of a compact bloom.

With some re-design of furnace (extend shaft height?) this specific type of peat fuel may be viable.

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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