Sunday, July 18, 2010

IRON Norse Cook Pot

This specific object is the last major piece I am making for the DARC presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August.

In this case, materials were the starting point. I had a small piece of antique wrought iron sheet on hand. I had gotten this as a sample from Master Thomas, some years ago. He had gotten the salvage from a late Victorian water tower, constructed some time about 1900. The material was double layer wrought iron, two layers of material with the grain lines set at 90 degrees to each other. At the time he had about a ton of this stuff, torch cut up into roughly 2 x 2 foot pieces. The thickness often varied over the sheets, the piece I had was about 1/4 thick. (I'm now kicking myself I did not invest in a quantity of this material.) I had *just* enough material to form the three pieces required for a cylindrical cooking pot with a 9" starting circle joined to 5 inch tall sides.

Although I have made a good number of replica Viking Age cooking pots, these all suffer from one important inaccuracy - the thickness of the metal. Typically modern replicas all use modern sheet steel, in the range of 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick (so closer to 1 - 2 mm). The actual artifact samples are much thicker, more on the order of 4 - 6 mm (although this thickness is not generally given in secondary sources, or most exhibit descriptions).
The reason the artifact iron pots are so thick is because of the raw dynamics of hand production of sheet from bars. Its just too difficult to make thin sheet with hand hammers from bloomery iron currency bars.
The artifact pot is described at 22 cm diameter and 13 - 14 cm tall. (Though the proportions seen in the image seem to suggest this may not be accurate?)

Iron Cauldron - Bengstarvet, Dalarna, Sweden.
In the collection of the Statens Museum, Stockholm.
Image scanned from Viking Artifacts, Graham Campbell - pg 200, no. 45

Now, I was generally familure with this object, but in fact started work by cutting the largest possible pieces from the wrought iron sheet on hand. My replica is made of three pieces, two long rectangles form a very slightly conical upper body, with a dished circle the bottom bowl. This did result in a slightly larger pot than the artifact sample. The 23 cm diameter is fairly accurate, but my replica is deeper, at 17 cm total. I did use standard round head rivets larger 1/4 diameter), which does make these more obvious than the short rods used for this purpose on the artifact.

Finished replica wrought iron pot.

I have seen two different published images of the reference artifact. The Graham Campbell one does leave some question to exactly the shape of the attachment lugs. The other image (seen in 'the Vikings' , Graham Campbell & Kid) must be from the other side.

Bengstarvet, Dalarna, Sweden / 'Late Viking Age'
The Vikings / Graham-Capbell & Kidd
page 81 / number 41

You can see there that the lug is a more standard 'punched tab' style, set with two rivets.
Working from (faulty!) memory, I used an interpretation from the larger image seen at the top of the page (Viking Artifact) and made the lugs up as a simple hook shape.

The handle itself is forged from modern mild steel. I did take the trouble to start from 1/4 x 3/4 flat stock, forged down to roughly 3/16 x 1 inch. This does break up the obviously modern lines of the starting bar.
The finished pot may be slightly over riveted. It is generally water tight - it is of course next to impossible to get a simple riveted seam completely water proof. Next step is to cook some thick oatmeal up to 'burn seal' the outer seams.

I am extremely happy with the results!

If readers are wondering why postings have been thin of late, I am under extreme time pressure with both the Goderich Celtic week and the DARC at LAM 2010 trips in less than two weeks!


vandy said...

Lovely pot. Can't wait to try it!

STAG said...


I just turned down a commission from a fellow who wanted an armour made from quarter inch plate. I felt it would be too difficult to form. I should send him to you.

David said...

Given that an 18 gauge (.05 inch plate) suit of armour weighs, conservatively, 40 pounds, a suit of armour made from 1/4 inch plate would weigh, conservatively, 200 pounds. I hope he's pretty strong. :-)


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

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