Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oseberg Tripod Replica

This is the next in the series of Viking Age cookware I am working on for 'that film'.

This, strictly speaking, is a replica rather than a reproduction. The measurements are within about 10 - 15 % of the original artifact, but I worked with a bit less attention to fine details (exact construction of the basket hook and twisting) than I would have for a detailed reproduction. I have made versions of this object a number of times in the past. It is not shown as standard item on the Wareham Forge 'Norse Replicas - Cookware' sheet, but can be custom ordered.

The source artifact here is the tripod found in the Oseberg ship burial - Norway circa 825. This is a royal quality object, and I believe the only metal tripod known from the Viking Age. Both of these facts should be considered when anyone is considering using this object as the prototype for a re-creation. It is far more likely that a traveler's camp in the Viking Age would use three cut saplings and a simple rope and chain trammel combination. (With the living history presentations DARC mounts, we have changed to reflect this use.)

There is another 'problem' with this object - mainly that it is barely functional in a practical sense. There are two aspects to this.
First, the size of the tripod and its integral hook are such that even with a small sized Norse cookpot - there is hardly any space below the hanging pot to allow for the fire itself. In the overall image, the pot seen is a reproduction (in copper) of one of the pots found in the Mastermyr find. The piece of wood seen is roughly 10 cm in diameter. Although it does not show as clearly as I had hoped, there is actually only about 15 cm clearance between the bottom of this pot and ground level. Certainly not enough to construct a camp fire. It should be noted that the cauldron actually found in the Oseberg burial was considerably LARGER than this, and when hung on the tripod barely clears the ground at all. You would have to dig your fire into a pit in the ground to use that combination,
This lack of clearance relates to the second problem. Not only does the size of the tripod cause any cooking pot to hang right on top of the fire wood - the integral hook does not allow for any adjustment to the height of the pot. As any skilled camp cook knows, you adjust for cooking temperature by raising or lowering the pot over the fire.

The overall impression all these factors give is that this tripod was intended as the * symbol * of a cooking tool, rather than a * working * cooking tool. For a more detailed commentary on artifacts that may not be quite what they first appear, see my article 'Aunt Martha's and Damnthings'.

A detailed image of the top of the tripod - folded for carry.
The three legs are joined by a short loop that has been peened over to fix them in place. Note the use of a square cut spacer (not found on the artifact - but this gives better action to the hot peening step). The integral hook is formed of a pinched basket, made up of three individual rods. These are first twisted, and the longest is folded in half. The ends are then forge welded and drawn to the terminal hook. The last step is to open up the basket shape and fit a collar of flat stock at the middle.

A closeup of one of the clawed feet.
Here I have set the foot over a gap in a stone floor to show how the pointed feet would be pressed into the ground. Two shorter pointed pieces are forge welded to the main bar, then spread and curved. Note how the base of the foot is flattened and set at an angle to that of the leg. In use, this tripod has a fixed configuration, as determined by the angle of the feet and a curve at the top of each leg (see image above). This means that the tripod also has a fixed height when correctly mounted (refer to cooking use discussed earlier).

I am quite happy with how this piece turned out. I hope it can be seen in the finished film.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Just WHO spilt the beans? (Outlander)

A Clarification:

I have been asked by the Art Department of OUTLANDER PRODUCTIONS to remove the concept drawing I posted up as part of an earlier posting (Aug 28) that described work that I am currently undertaking. I had found the information I used on that earlier post by using a standard GOOGLE search using the key word 'Outlander'.

Now - I want to make extremely clear that the small image I used was taken from a fan type information and gossip web site :
There has been absolutely NO VISUAL INFORMATION transfered to me from my contacts at OUTLANDER what so ever.

OUTLANDER PRODUCTIONS has ordered a number of objects from me intended for set dressing on their current effort. Almost all of these pieces have been ordered from the normal standard objects offered on the 'Norse Replicas' section of the main Wareham Forge web site. As well, these pieces are almost without exception based on well known artifact samples. There is no way that these can be considered in any way 'original' or 'proprietary' designs - the source objects exist as part of the open historic record.
Of the large number of cookware and tool replicas ordered by the team at Outlander, only the cauldron hanger is not a close approximation of an existing artifact. The hanger is based on elements directly taken from that found at Sutton Hoo (Saxon - c. 600). Strictly speaking, even this piece should be considered a modification and interpretation of the historic artifact, rather than an original design.

If you look over the content of past contributions to 'Hammered Out Bits', you will find that the majority of the postings relate to technical aspects of blacksmithing or metalworking, plus discussion of historic materials - both with a strong leaning to the Viking Age.

Those commentaries that relate to the ongoing Outlander project primarily confine themselves to technical aspects of the metalwork, and discussions of the source objects as they apply to the material culture of the Norse.

I actually have no knowledge of how any of the pieces will be utilized by Outlander Productions. I have not been given any information about the film, its production, or any aspects of its visual designs by anyone at Outlander Productions.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

'Outlander' - Viking Age Cookware

What I have been doing # 5

If you have been following the blog for a while, you have seen the piece about my current project - an assortment of Viking Age replica cookware for the feature film 'Outlander. Todays entry will also refer back to an earlier commentary on historic welding fluxes - and the Lund meat spit...

This image shows a number of the cookware pieces for the Outlander project:

Spiral Iron - Here a pretty standard interpretation of the few existing artifact samples. All are very small, in the range of 10 - 15 cm diameter. Intended for use in the 'Chieftain' house, mainly due to the large amount of metal required to form the piece.

Dish Iron - There are two of these, each with a dish about 25 cm diameter. One virtually identical to the artifact samples, and intended for a 'Bondi' house. The second has been upscaled to suit the 'Chieftain'. On this piece there is line and dot punch work along the handle. The hanging loop has been created by punching and drifting. It is then detailed with punch work to resemble a human face. Quite intentionally, the handle is forked and the dish is attached to it using TWO rivets. There is at least one artifact sample that uses this method. (Which puts an end to the idea that the dish was rotated during cooking.)

Meat Fork - This is replica of a large meat cooking fork, used with a joint of meat which would be supported on a forked stick over the fire. This type is an alternative to a meat spit. The fork is made from a large piece of flat bar, split back and then drawn to points. The remaining bar is then shouldered and pulled to a cylinder. The socket was made separately (from heavy pipe in this case) and then the two pieces welded together. Set on a length of sapling.

Meat Spit - This is based on the Lund sword spit discussed in that earlier posting. Again a heavy piece of flat stock is the starting point for the working end. First the long tapered point was drawn out. I decided that this shape would taper in width and thickness, so keeping a rectangular cross section down the length. (Other interpretations often create a diamond cross section, but I can't see this on the artifact images and descriptions.) The base is then split and drawn to cylindrical points, which are then curled forward. The long shaft is made of a piece of square stock - with the two pieces welded together as the last step.

Next set of objects is a collection of woodworking and blacksmithing tools, followed by a cauldron hanger and several larger pots and cauldrons.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the Vikings Return!

Step back in time with the Haffenreffer Museum to experience daily life
in the Dark Ages! The Haffenreffer is attached to Brown University and
is located in Bristol Rode Island (just east of Providence).

Sat & Sun, Sep 16 & 17,
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology invites you to spend a weekend
exploring the Viking World! The Dark Ages Re-creation Company from
Ontario, Canada, brings the Viking Age to life on the grounds of the
museum while top scholars share their knowledge of the Viking world.
Enjoy public lectures, re-enactments, combat demonstrations, Iceland
animals, artisan displays, and hands-on activities for the whole family.

Saturday Lecture by Darrell Markewitz - the Dark Ages Re-creation Company

Adventures in Iron Smelting

Wrought iron was a fundamental raw material to the Norse, who used
it to make everything from ship's rivets to swords. The exact methods
used in the Viking Age to change bog ore into useful metal are unknown
however. Since 2000, members of DARC have been involved in a series of
experimental iron smelts. The results are a blend of archaeology,
metallurgy, practical experience - and wild-ass guesses. Join us for an
overview of successes and failures, and what may have been discovered
about the Viking Age

Intro Bio:

Darrell traces his interest in Living History, metalwork, and the Viking
Age back to his student days at Ontario College of Art in the late
1970's. After college, he worked as a historic interpreter at Black
Creek Village in Toronto, eventually becoming the artisan blacksmith
there. His personal studies into the artifacts and culture of the Norse
continued, leading to the 'Norse Encampment series of living history
programs in the 1990's. This included creation of the interpretive
program at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada for Parks
Canada, the only presentation of its kind in North America. Other
significant museum work has included consulting on the Smithsonian's
'Vikings - North Atlantic Saga' and the Newfoundland Museum's 'Full
Circle - First Contact. He created the stand alone exhibit 'The World of
the Norse' for the Cranbrooke Institute of Science. He has delivered a
number of published papers related to historic interpretation methods
and experimental iron smelting.

Darrell was instrumental in the formation of the Dark Ages Re-creation
Company, a group of dedicated amateur historic interpreters who
specialize in daily life in the Viking Age. The Company was started in
2000 to work on events surrounding the Viking Millennium, and has
undertaken presentations in conjunction with a number of major traveling

One of the signature features of the Norse outpost at L'Anse aux Meadows
was the first processing of iron ore into metal in North America.
Darrell was part of a special team assembled by Parks Canada in 2001 to
investigate the archaeology. This sparked his direct involvement in a
continuing series of experimental iron smelts, eighteen to date. Darrell
and the DARC smelt team are slowly working towards an understanding of
the practical methods used by Norse iron masters 1000 years ago.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Viking Age Smelt - September 2

Just a fast overview. The smelt was undertaken at 'Baron's Howe' - an SCA event hosted by Steve Muhlberger at Bonfield ON, just outside of North Bay. There was no power available on site, so all human powered equipment was required. The smelt was a continuation of the Dark Ages Re-creation Company's work into Viking Age smelting methods.

Team was composed of the primary DARC smelt group (Markewitz, Jarbeau, Peterson, Cook, Burnham) with assistance from various event participants for material preparation and bellows pumping (notably Russ Sheldon and Nick West).

The smelter was clay cobb, in this case roughly 100 lbs of commercial ball clay mixed with chopped hay and some local rough sand. A bundle of sticks was used as a form for the central shaft. Due to time constraints and fatigue, the cobb was mixed up considerably too loose, and significant sagging of the smelter was the result. The stones seen in the photograph were not originally intended, but were required to prop up the slumping base. The initial tuyere used was the standard high temperature ceramic with 2.5 cm ID.

Rough measurements of the smelter : 60 cm tall total
20 cm internal dia. at mouth
25 cm internal dia. at base
15 cm from tuyere to base

Air was supplied by the experimental 'Ubber Bellows' seen in the image. This is roughly based on possible Norse types - but enlarged to generate air volumes as suggested by early experiments (primarily Sauder and Williams). No definate measurements of the air delivery have been made to this point. Rough estimates are 90 l per stroke, with an average pump rate of 8 - 10 strokes per minute. With losses and the actual action of the system taken to account, a more realistic estimate is for a range about 500 - 600 litres per minute. (Peak delivery speed was measured at 70 kph.)

Ore was the Virginia Rock Ore, with about 12 kg of ore used. This was roasted and crushed to 'pea to rice with fines' as been done in past experiments. This amount is considered to be on the low end of what is required for a complete smelt reaction.

About 75 kg of charcoal was burned, the entire smelt running over about 7 hours including preheat.

There was a major failure in the air system at about six hours. This primarily due to exhaustion in the part of some of the bellows workers. The air was reduced, temperatures dropped and the slag froze inside the tuyere. Fast work with a slag tap, a replacement tuyere and switching to stronger bellows operators managed to get the smelt under control, but physical damage to the bellows itself occured. For these reasons, the 'shock charge' was omitted entirely and the smelt sequence cut short.

The end result was a roughly 1.5 kg bloom. Its appearance suggests it may be a higher carbon material. As with past smelts, the bloom was extracted through the top of the smelter.

The intent of this experiment was three fold:
First, the whole process was intended as a educational demonstration.
Second, some improvements had been made to the Ubber Bellows, and it was hoped that more experience would be gained related to this unit,
Third (and perhaps most significantly), the entire smelt was laid out to duplicate known features from 'House J / the Smithy' at L'Anse aux Meadows.

The smelt area was inside a rough approximation of the floor plan found at LAM. Our site was just slightly smaller, roughly 3.2 meters wide by 2.8 deep. As at LAM, the area was dug back into the side of a small hill. The size and placement of the smelter, stone anvil, and slack tube are roughly the same as indicated by the archaeology.

Of note is the debris field. First, there is a very distinctive void caused by the position of the smelt master,. For a right hander this is to the left side of the smelter (looking into the dugout mouth) There is also a lack of materials underneath the bellows, which must be placed to the right and forward of the smelter in this arrangement - to allow for room for the bellows operator.

1) This area shows larger pieces of unburned charcoal, perhaps with some unprocessed ore pieces. This represents spillage from additions to the smelter.

2) This area will have some of the above material, which then is covered with a quantity of partially burned charcoal and partially reduced and sintered ore fragments. This material is deposited when the balance of burning material is scooped from the smelter to extract the bloom. Material that was nearest to tuyere level will be to the top of this layer (smallest charcoal with the most ash, larger sintered ore pieces, closest to fully reduced).

3) This area will have considerable tap slag, ash and consumed charcoal fragments. This was just in front of the tap arch, and slag was pulled out here. Many of the pieces were pulled away while hot - creating tendrils of slag. Larger masses were tossed away from the work area entirely. (At LAM this would have been into the nearby creek.) In this experiment, this slag was dark greenish black, spongy in texture with gas bubbles making it quite low in density.

4) This area around the stone anvil contained fragments of the slag mass. The extracted bloom has considerable slag material attached, and light consolladation broke of egg to fist sized pieces of this material from the metal underneath. This slag (as in the past) is a medium gray in colour and relatively solid. Some smaller fragments of bloom metal would also be found here (any large enough to gather by eye were retained however).

Expect a more detailed field report to come, with additional photographs.

Neil and Karen have already posted up a number of their images from the weekend including the smelt at:

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

COPYRIGHT NOTICE - All posted text and images @ Darrell Markewitz.
No duplication, in whole or in part, is permitted without the author's expressed written permission.
For a detailed copyright statement : go HERE