Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ásfólk - Easter Event


Ásfólk - Grand Opening Event 
April 14 - 15 
Eagan, Minnesota

I was quite flattered when Arthur Von Eschan asked me to be one of the guests for the grand opening of his Ásfólk studio / school.

I had met Arthur when he undertook a private one week training session here last Fall. The course content was a special 'Forging the Viking Age' program we designed together. It included work using replica Norse forge, anvil and tools - making a number of replica objects. As well Arthur undertook a full bloomery iron smelt using a VA style short shaft furnace (which he also constructed). We both felt it was an excellent week.

Arthur is still working up details on the Grand Opening event (so expect details to be added soon!)
Bill Short, Icelandic Researcher and Combat Instructor, is another of the special guests. (I have worked with Bill a number of times in the past - and certainly recommend his work.)

These are my proposed sessions over the roughly 24 hour, two day event:

Lecture : Iron and the Norse
An examination of how iron was made, how it was worked, and what it was made into during the Viking Age. Illustrated with artifact images and many replica objects for close examination.
(expected to run 60 - 90 minutes)

Demonstration : Forging the Viking Age
Showing the construction and use of a 'sand table' style forge (charcoal / bellows stone / twin chamber bellow) with replica blacksmithing tools (largely based on those from the Mastermyr Tool Chest). As well as discussing the dynamics of the tools, a small seax (knife) blade will be forged from antique wrought iron.
(expected to run about 60 minutes)

Workshop : Forge a Seax
Participants (limited by available equipment!) will work in pairs to forge a small, simple knife blade from mild steel bar. Each pair will alternate forging with operation of the bellows - all using replica Viking Age tools. The completed rough forged blade is yours to keep (and may be further finished within other working sessions under planning).
(expected to run 90 - 120 minutes)

Demonstration : The Aristotle Furnace
The Aristotle is a theoretical model of a small scale 'hearth steel' re-melting furnace. (There is some evidence this process was known to Norse metalsmiths.) Over a roughly 30 - 45 minute working cycle, it can convert 600 - 800 gms of any scrap iron material into a roughly predicted carbon content 'bloomery textured material.
(expected to run 45 - 60 minutes)

Workshop : The Aristotle Furnace
Individual participants can run through the operation cycle of the Furance. Each will produce their own cake of modified carbon 'steel. The small roughly 500 gm (1 lb) cake created is a good size for further forging down to a working bar at your home workshop.
(expected to run 45 minutes per person - ongoing)

Round Table (proposed) : Building the Viking Age
Join experienced re-enactors and museum program designers Bill Short and Darrell Markewitz for a rather free wheeling discussion of some of their trials and triumphs attempting to bring the Viking Age back to life. Expect some observation on what works (or doesn't!) in public presentations. The good, the bad, the ugly (!) of making and using artifact replicas.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

'Forged in Fire'? - not this professional!


... I'm a Casting Producer with Leftfield Entertainment. We produce hits like Alone, Pawn Stars, American Restoration, and Counting Cars on The History Channel, as well as programming for networks like FOX, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic.

We’re currently casting competitors for the hit show Forged in Fire on the History Channel, and after taking a look at your site, I thought you might be interested in hearing more!

We're searching for bladesmiths and armourers.  This series focuses on experts who pride themselves on producing incredible blades, whether they be historical or modern, large or small.

Participants will be given the opportunity to showcase their talents for a chance to win a substantial cash prize.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in?

Please let me know if you have any questions or might be interested in applying!

For more information on Forged in Fire, please visit http://www.history.com/shows/forged-in-fire.

(edit - all name information removed)

 Ok - So maybe I should be flattered that between all the possible choices of people available on the ever expanding mass of self promotion and anngrandizement that the internet has become, Leftfield Entertainment chose to contact me.

At this point I have watched the first three seasons of Forged in Fire.
My opinion of the program has dropped since I wrote my initial critique, based on the first three episodes:


Now, an argument could be made that I could be a true mercenary, jump through the pre-production hoops, and just play along for the personal experience and what is likely a free air ticket to the studio location.
But there is no reality in 'reality' TV.
Odds are much better I would end up damaging whatever reputation I have built over 4 decades of work.

So this is what I sent back:

If you check your records, you might see that I was contacted several years ago - for the original pilot episode of Forged in Fire.

Several emails.
A long phone conversation.
A painful set up for a Skype interview.
(This was four / five years ago. The intern could not seem to understand that rural Canada did not have high speed internet. 'Just use your phone...')

The end of that eventual Skype call went like this:

Intern - Great, now if you could please send us a copy of your audition tape!
Me - What ???
Intern - Your audition video.
Me - er.. You have seen my web site, which effectively is my portfolio of past work. I can send you a copy of my CV, although that also is on the web site. ???
Intern - No, we need to see what you look like on camera.
Me - (silence)
So what you are telling me is that you don't care about the quality of my work, or my past experience.
You just want to see if I'm a freak on camera???
Intern - (silence)
We're searching for bladesmiths and armourers.  This series focuses on experts who pride themselves on producing incredible blades, whether they be historical or modern, large or small.
Look - let us be honest here.

Forged in Fire has an absolutely horrible reputation between professional blade smiths.

- There are constant incorrect uses of technical language.
- The 'experts' often make comments / do things that are incorrect (This specifically to your 'historic' judge, who consistently has used historic weapons employing incorrect methods.)
- Contestants regularly make fundamental errors in the most basic forging techniques. (Burning metal / hammering cold / incorrect heat treating process)
- Often standard safety processes are ignored - in place of 'dramatic effect'. (So much so I am amazed your crew allows it.)
- It is obvious that most of your contestants are those who * grind *, not * forge * - despite the show title.
- The often heard statement 'I made my first knife at (insert pre teen age) - does not in any way indicate actual working experience.

You should be aware that the reputation of Forged in Fire is so bad that there is actually a Facebook group named : 'Bladesmiths who will never appear on Forged in Fire'.

 I can't imagine in any way you would want me.
Although I do have many decades at the forge (and as a professional working artisan blacksmith since the mid 1980's).
Although I have made many blades, from tools, to knives, to swords.
Although I have undertaken considerable work with museum quality replicas and reproductions.
I don't consider myself a 'professional blade maker'.
My teaching experience would make it extremely difficult for me to 'go with the flow' - in terms of agreeing with statements made by your judges that I know to be false information.
Past experience with TV productions has made me extremely wary of 'edit for effect' - and distortion from what was intended into what is broadcast.

Practically, you might also consider the mere logistics challenge of my involvement.
- Right off the start, as a working artisan smith, my next free block of uncommitted time is now into November.
- I am located in rural Ontario Canada. Two hours NW of Toronto.
Consider the raw problems of potentially mounting an in shop filming week at my home studio?
(With the current mess of US Homeland Paranoia at your boarder, even attempting to bring a box of tools via air flight is a dicey process at best - which my own past experience has proved.)
So - thanks for your interest.
Forged in Fire has certainly sparked an increase in interest in bladesmithing as a process.
Unfortunately, the huge amount of mis-information and mis-conceptions it has communicated has resulted in more problems for we professionals in the field - than advantages related to its popularity. 

A reputation takes years to forge.

But with one bad heat, all that work can be burned away.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Looking for Course Dates??

2017 Blacksmithing Courses at the Wareham Forge

2017 Course and Event Schedule - March 13
The demand for courses this year has been simply massive.
I'm in close contact with David Robertson - and his bookings are about the same.
At the end of February - I'm booked solid up to the end of NOVEMBER.

As of the date of this posting (March 11) I have only the following spaces remaining:

March 25 & 26 - Zombie Killer - 4 spaces *

October 28 & 29 - Forge Viking Age - 1 space

November 10/11/12 - Introduction to Smithing - 4 spaces

December 9 & 10 - Introduction to Smithing - 2 spaces

* As of this morning, I have a total of three people asking to attend this as a Basic course.

The following programs require previous experience, but have spaces remaining :

April 22 & 23 - Forge Welding (requires Basic) - 2 spaces

November 25 & 26 - Layered Steel (requires ability to Forge Weld + Bladesmithing) - 2 spaces

Those interested in the one week private session - Forge to Blade :

Look at the white spaces. These represent mid week periods which have not already been committed to other projects. What you see is that there is potentially only the last week in August to mid September as available.

Only a deposit secures a placement!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Early Iron Furnace in Upper Canada


Lansdowne Iron Works National Historic Site of Canada

In Lyndhurst, Ontario

 Illustration of an early iron furnace - by Edwin Tunis,
from his book Colonial Craftsmen, 1957.

It was known by 1784 that an iron deposit was situated about 2 miles from a 16’ waterfall on the Gananoque River.  After prolonged competition for the privilege of opening an iron smelter, in 1800 the Executive Council of Upper Canada gave their blessing to the proposal by Wallis Sunderlin of Tinmouth Vermont. By 1802 a water powered blast furnace was in operation on the east bank of the river, and 1200 acres of land were granted to Sunderlin to supply charcoal for the furnace. At the same time a bridge was built across the river, a saw mill erected, and a forge with trip hammer was built on the west bank to manufacture wrought iron for the Royal Navy dockyards at Kingston, as well as local blacksmiths. At its height, it was said to produce a ton of cast iron per day and 400 lbs of wrought iron. The location became known as Furnace Falls, and boasted a hotel with a 10 gallon still, and several houses. A grist mill had been added before the whole industrial complex was destroyed by fire in 1811. Wallis Sunderlin died the same year. The iron works was never rebuilt. This was the first iron smelter in Upper Canada.
In 1828 new saw and grist mills were built on the east bank. In 1846, Furnace Falls was renamed Lyndhurst. In 1857 a beautiful stone 3-arch bridge was built over the river very close by, which is now the oldest bridge in Ontario. By 1870 there were sawmills and grist mills on both sides of the river, and in 1912 a hydro generator was installed in the mill on the west bank. The last remnants of the furnace stack were demolished in 1881 to build a new grist mill on the east bank, which was demolished in 1967. The mills on the west bank burned down in 1953.
In 1932 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board designated it a National Historic Site and erected a stone cairn in 1935. In 2008 a Stage 1 Archaeological report was written and the site registered on the Ontario registry as BdGa-37. In late 2016, the Township of Leeds & 1000 Islands purchased the west bank for parkland and possible archaeological exploration.
Sesquicentennial Archaeological project
In the Spirit of Canada’s Sesquicentennial, The Municipal Heritage Committee for Leeds & 1000 Islands, in conjunction with the Lyndhurst Rejuvenation Committee, proposes to conduct Archaeological Research on the properties described in the Stage 1 Report of 2008. An application is being prepared to Parks Canada for a Cost Sharing Program which will pay 50% of the cost up to $25,000. We have to raise an equal amount to match the grant.
from 'The Blacksmith in Upper Canada' by William Wylie (scan from photocopy!)

Archeology Update Jan 30
Pledges have been coming in steadily since the forms were posted on line. We have passed the threshold where we can launch a project for 2017, assuming Parks Canada support, but it would be small, and would leave more to be accomplished in future stages. Our goal is to have a two-week dig. ...

This is the kind of project that builds communities. It builds on previous accomplishments in the community, beginning in 1932 with the granting of National Historic Site status to the Lansdowne Iron Works, saving the Lyndhurst Bridge in 1985/86, commissioning the book “Rear of Leeds & Lansdowne 1796-1996” by Glenn Lockwood, and writing the Stage 1 Archeological Report in 2008, not to mention the designated blacksmith shop, four historic plaques and one interpretive sign in the same area. Some of these events contribute greater significance to the location, while others were prerequisites to the archeology now proposed and the funding we are now eligible to apply for.
As we said in our presentation to Council last Nov. 7, the long-term vision is to have an interpretive center incorporated into the newly purchased township park land on the west side of the river below the bridge; here to tell the story and show the artifacts, and create a small attraction to the village and area. In getting to that goal, the process itself will be an exercise in community building, by raising the funds for the archeology in the community, and by getting local people involved in the actual archeology. We have built into the project the opportunity for volunteers to participate with trowels and whisks, under the direction of the archeologist, digging up their own history.
Our goal for this year (it will continue for a couple of years) is $22,000, of which we now have pledges for 40%. Please help us out and show your pride in the community and our history and our Sesquicentennial. 
To support this project - contact :
Art Shaw 
3367 County Rd 3, RR 1 
Lyndhurst, ON. K0E 1N0
--> artshaw@ripnet.com  
The pledge forms are here:  www.deltamill.org/ironworks

This in from Art on February 13:

"Last Monday night, Leeds & 1000 Islands Township Council voted unanimously to support the project and be the applicant for the Parks Canada Cost Share Program."

The next step is for Art and the Township Treasurer to complete and submit the formal proposal to Parks Canada. 


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

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