Friday, April 26, 2013

Ceramic Tube Tuyere Source

sethhoward said:
In a post about copper tuyers you mention using ceramic kiln supports. The only ones I can find online that have in ID large enough have an OD of 3". Can you send me a link or give me the name of the pottery supply shop where you buy yours?

Ceramic tube tuyere in place - building Econo Norse furnace
These are cylindrical supports intended for porclein kilns. Rated to something like 1150 or 1200 C.
They come in various lengths, I get the 12 inch ones. They are about 3/4 ID (2 cm), maybe about 1 3/4 OD.

I get them as a standard stock item from Pottery Supply House Canada :
They would do mail order off their web site.

m Round Shelf Supports, 1 3/4" Dia. 
(Recommended for cone 10)

Part number FRP12 - 12" $6.50 ea (CDN)

I normally pick up my orders (powdered clay and iron oxides) directly from the Kitchener store. :

S&S Pottery Supplies
Globe Studios 141 Whitney Place #24, Kitchener, Ontario,
Canada N2G 2X8
Tel: 519-743-4252
Monday - Friday  10 am to 5 pm  Eastern time
Saturday - 9 am to 1 pm  Eastern time
Closed Saturdays from Canada Day - Labour Day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Glass 'Sword Bead' ??

On 11/03/13 4:38 PM, Scott wrote:
I've got an opportunity to make some beads and I'm trying to find historical info on sword beads... and their use on scabbards. Have you found anything relevant to this?
General readers might have seen that the other major experimental archaeology project (besides iron smelting)  DARC has been working with is glass bead making. Most specifically as an experimental archaeology process, attempting to figure out how VA furnaces would have been constructed and function. see :
(Readers might also want to troll this blog - search 'glass bead')

Although I do have some understanding of small charcoal fires, I thought it valuable to learn how to actually make beads as well. So I invested in a half decent oxy / propane torch (a home built by David Robertson) and a pile of glass, built a simple annealer. I've made maybe 150 - 200 beads at this point. Not a huge number, but enough at least have some idea of the basic processes.
Some modern patterned torch made glass beads, about 1.5 cm diameter
I was interested (from some time back) in the 'sword bead' references.
I can also only remember some pretty vague second hand descriptions. These from back in my SCA days, when solid documentation was hardly the norm.
I think I may have come across the references in 'the Sword in Anglo Saxon England' by Ellisson (Davidson?). I've got it here someplace and may try to find the correct citation later.

What I remember is this:
That there was a custom in Saxon times to fix a 'touch stone' to the sword. These were often unusual shaped or coloured stones, often with a natural hole in them. A lace would secure this stone to the scabbard or hilt of the sword. The thought was that the stone would draw the poison out of any wound inflicted by the blade. If you cut yourself sharpening, you had ready access to the stone. An enemy would most certainly not. So even a superficial cut would fester and perhaps even kill your enemy after the fact.
This might not be too big a stretch on observed reality for the time. With no understanding of germs and disease, and the regular process of tightly binding a wound (to keep evil 'vapours' out) - gas gangrene would be a common occurrence.
The specially made glass sword bead is then an extension of this practice into a man made object.

I think I may have seen a single artifact object at some point (failing memory!) which was described as a 'sword bead'. Given that the average Viking Age glass bead is closer to 1 cm in diameter (or less), a larger and ornate glass bead found in a male burial - close to the position of the sword (ie waist), would be a obvious thing.

I got the following on a Google search :

From the British Museum
Background - C 600  England - Anglo Saxon
Description - Green glass sword-bead, drum-shaped.
Dimensions  -Diameter: 2.1 centimetres
(no image included)

From the British Museum Background - 4th - 5th Century - Ukraine (Hun?)
Description - Chalcedony sword-bead; disc plano-convex section; central perforation.

A more random search will yield :

 Tilerman Beads, the pieces are his modern replicas, he does quote the individual sources however.

Anglo-Saxon/Merovingian Sword Beads

As seen on the Facebook Page
Photos of Mike's reproductions of Anglo-Saxon and other 5-7c continental sword beads. They were most likely used as amulets, fastened to the scabbard. The size and decoration are not what determines a sword bead, it's the presence in a male grave and (where recorded) in a position associated with sword/scabbard. They were not used as whetstones, as glass would not be suitable for that use. Similar beads appear in female graves and may be amuletic, too, or symbolic rather than functional spindle whorls.

Sword Bead - Howletts - Grave 20


Sword Bead - Howletts - Grave 20
A cylindrical translucent green bead with vertical ribbing on the sides.  Dated to the 6th century, found with a sword and a gilt bronze buckle.

I *think* this is Mike Poole's replica of the first bead referenced above from the British Museum. He does list a number of other 'sword bead' replicas on both his web site and Facebook pages.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Introduction to Smelting Iron is an intensive hands on program, roughly 18 hours in duration. Students will prepare materials, build a smelter, then fire it to produce a workable iron bloom. The 'Econo Norse' smelter that will be used was designed to be quickly constructed of easily obtained materials. It is fired with charcoal and uses an electric blower for air supply. A bloom weighing roughly 15 lbs is expected from use of about 40 lbs of ore.

Friday Evening, the program starts with a background lecture covering the historical development and the practical elements of the small direct process bloomery furnace. (Typically 8 - 10 pm)

Saturday, the day will be spent constructing the 'Econo Norse' brick smelter itself. The smelt normally requires about 80 - 100 KG of charcoal to be smashed to size and sorted. Ore will be prepared, with various potential types being evaluated. At least some rock based ore will be roasted and crushed for the experience. Other furnace types will be examined (as part of ongoing experiments at Wareham). The working site will be prepared for the smelt the following day.

A LONG day Sunday will start at 8 AM with the pre-heating the furnace. Any more charcoal required will be prepared. The now cool ore will be crushed (about 20 - 40 KG required) The initial charge of charcoal is scheduled for roughly 10 am. The actual process of the smelt takes roughly 6 - 7 more hours. Participants will learn the effective managing of an operating smelter, including adding fuel and ore, controlling air flow, and taping slags. Valuable experience will be gained in how to interpret the sounds of a correctly operating furnace.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Study to Viking Age ?

On 11/04/13 4:33 PM, Shayne  wrote:
I am an aspiring student who is interested in the Viking Age world and culture and wish to attend a University in hopes to study the Vikings and even become an archeologist. I would like to one day work in a Viking Age museum, either doing research or helping to further ongoing research.

Big Problem !

I talked to a couple of people I know (senior students, working archaeologists) at an demonstration DARC just did at the Royal Ontario Museum last weekend. I got pretty much the same response from everyone:

Consider a general archaeology undergraduate program.
- There are a very limited few institutions that have special programs that relate to Norse studies. Often these will be entirely language based, and usually only offered at a senior under grad or worse post grad (masters) level. Even in North America, this may mean major universities (distance and expense). University of Toronto is one such btw.
- Try to find a university / college that might have some individual instructors with a personal interest in Northern European / Norse research. Hope you can link up with one of those. (Kevin Smith out of Brown in Rhode Island is one I know of)
- Take a look at schools that have some kind of experimental archaeology program. (Bill Schindler at Washington College in Maryland is one I know of)

A number of people suggested that if your true desire is to study Norse history / Archaeology, you might even consider looking to a school in England or even Scandinavia.

In North America, there is only ONE historic site / living history museum. That is L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. The interpretive program there only employs about 6 individuals. This is short season (June through September), and realistically, those jobs go to locals, most of which have been with the program for at least a decade or more.
There is only one fully functioning 'historic entertainment' VA site that I am aware of. That is Norstead - right next to LAM. The staff there fits the same restrictions.
There may be some other fledgling private 'villages' in operation, mainly in the USA. Over the years I have heard a lot of bold plans, but honestly, have never seen any of those result in a stable working situation.

So the long and short is that useful paths inside North America are quite limited. In Scandinavia particularly, there are a large number of living history sites with interpretive programs. These range in size and complexity. Some do offer volunteer programs, some even training possibilities (thinking of the Ribe Viking Centre for the first and Lejre Experimental Centre for the second).

I wish I could offer better advise. I came up via 1800's living history museums in the late 70's and 80's. Back then there was no such thing as education as a historic interpreter. I boldly self promoted myself to get the work designing the Encampment program for Parks Canada at LAM. Its easy to be considered the specialist - when you are the ONLY one in the field! So for me, it has been over 30 years of acquired working experience, rather than formal training.

Talking to Dr Birgitta Wallace, at LAM in 2010 (photo - Paul Halasz)

Hope this is some (limited ) help. For myself, I would say 'just do it'...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

'Beehive Cell' - Haliburton Sculpture Forest

Haliburton Sculpture Forest - 2013 Submission
"A Secret Space"

"We are looking for a sculpture that creates a meditative space...designed in such a way that it evokes the feeling of a secret, special and welcoming place"
When I read the description for the 2013 theme, I was immediately struck by the though of an 'enclosed' space. Much of my own work is inspired and informed by objects and elements from history, especially that of the Celts and Northern European. The idea of a 'secret meditative space' made me think of the stone 'beehive' monastic cells, constructed by early Christian monks 1500 years ago in Ireland and Scotland. Made of locally found natural stone, carefully balanced, these small, roughly conical structures were used for just that same purpose - a small meditative space.
As an artisan blacksmith, I considered how the durability and solidity of steel could be applied to the same kind of form.
From my own visits to the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, I knew that the natural environment there was the most important element of how it evokes a sense of peace and wonder. How best to both create a sense of intimacy, yet still embrace the natural word?

'Beehive Cell' incorporates design elements drawn from many points of inspiration. It takes the overall form of a loose 'basket' of uprights that define a roughly conical enclosure. The individual curved elements are flared and diagonally cut at the upper ends, reminiscent of cut and bundled saplings.
Although initial concept was born of ancient Celtic mysticism, the form is also suggestive of a First Nations wigwam, or an inverted bird's nest. The overall shape is a oval, the curved shape of the entry way perhaps hinting of womb like enclosure?

By defining an interior space through the use of separately placed uprights, Beehive Cell both defines a secret and private enclosure, but allows the visitor to remain conscious of the natural world around. Sun and wind can easily penetrate the inside, birdsong clearly heard, animals glimpsed in passing. Three integral seats allow for ease of rest, time for contemplation.

The line of text from Rumi will be created with letters hot punched directly into a wide steel band set within the structure. This will be mounted at a height at roughly eye level to the seats, directly across from the doorway. In this the text itself becomes a 'secret' - to be discovered by those who venture into this special space.

The metal will be finished by a hot galvanized coating. This finish will initially provide a mottled and bright colour. Although highly durable, intentionally this coating also works in opposition to to the overall natural forms of both the sculpture itself, but also its setting. As the years mount, this surface will dull, but always this feeling of organic lines rendered in a human made material will persist.

Beehive Cell may be a bit larger than other submissions, with a oval interior at roughly 6 x 8 feet, and a rough total height of 12 feet. The interior space is some 9 feet tall at the centre. The doorway is tall enough to easily allow an adult passage, and wide enough at the bottom (about 36") to admit a wheel chair.

As an artist, I have hoped for years now that I might find a proposal suitable for inclusion into the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. As an artisan blacksmith, the connection to the nearby Fleming Arts complex is important as well. The requirement for works that would easily endure 25 years in place suggests creation of a work that will endure beyond my own self...

Ok, Ok!
Those of you who know me can stop rolling your eyes. This is my first real attempt (after all these years of carefully avoiding it) to use 'Arts-speak'. You all know I hate it. Stick two things together that have never been jointed before, then call it 'Man's Inhumanity to Man'. When I was a student at Ontario College of Art in the Seventies - the place was full of it (pun intended).
But truth is, I do really like the intention of the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. It has a wonderful atmosphere. Regardless of the individual works, the way individual pieces are discoveries as you walk a forest path is both restful and interesting. 
And its a paid commission - with realistic money too.

And honestly, I am not kidding about the 'life beyond the artist' part. The submissions are required to have a durability of at least 25 years. That would put me at what, 82 ? 
What are the odds...

Monday, April 01, 2013

FITP Lectures - Saturday April 8

Forward Into The Past
23nd Annual Symposium
Saturday April 6
Bricker Academic Building, Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo Ontario

I'll Huff and I'll Puff
Observations on Air Delivery in Bloomery Iron Furnaces

Given a good quality ore and a suitable furnace, the most critical factor in determining the size and quality of the iron bloom produced in a direct process iron smelting furnace is the air delivery. A decade of experiments with Early Medieval type furnaces has shown that to create blooms most like the archaeological samples, high volumes of air are required. How does this reflect back to the design of the bellows equipment itself? If specialized equipment is required, are their further cultural implications?

This is a first draft presentation of a formal paper - with additional materials (A test run of my ICMS submission, see below.)
The Cutting Edge : Considering Blades

Cutting tools have been with us as long as we have been human. Stone, copper, bronze, iron - all these materials have determined the possibilities and influenced the shapes of blades. The bladesmith has long cloaked his craft in mystery, often to the confusion of the end user. This session will be a free wheeling look at both historic artifacts and a peek at techniques of the bladesmith. As well as attempting to suggest the correct common types for specific historical periods, consideration will be given on how to select and care for knives and other bladed tools.
For more information on the event go to the FITP web site

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

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