Sunday, October 06, 2013

Viking Age Sand Table Forge

For those readers who have been wondering where the Viking Age has gone...

Working the Sand Table Forge - Haffenreffer Museum (RI).
 From an archaeological stand point, this specific piece of equipment is quite speculative. All the actual illustrations we have of blacksmiths from the Early Middle Ages show the smith working standing upright - and typically with raised forge fires. In contrast, most of the actual archaeology I have seen suggests use of ground set forge bases.

This presents a problem for the working blacksmith.
Standing allows for the production of the greatest amount of physical power through the use of not only arms, but upper torso and even lower back and upper leg muscles. An anvil set at 'proper' working height (face at roughly 30 inches, varied by body size) is easy to achieve by altering the length of a timber block to set it the anvil on. Combining this with a ground fire is extremely taxing for the worker, who then must stand directly on top of the forge fire while heating the metal being worked. (As I know from personal experience, this is extremely punishing!).
Other possibilities are to work 'hunkered' (squatting), kneeling, even sitting. The closer to the ground the smith positions the body, the less physical power can be developed to drive the hammer. In fairness, it should be remembered that working traditions in other areas of the world often have the smith working hunkered (Indo-China) or sitting (Japan).

The bones would certainly tell of course.
As far as I know, or have been able to tell, no direct observations of indicated blacksmith's remains (tools in burials) has ever been made.

One of the advantages of the admittedly speculative Sand Table Forge is that the plans are for a piece of equipment that easily packs down into a container of sand and two flat surfaces.

I have not published a direct set of plans for the Norse style twin chamber bellows. Those interested in that should just use the search function of the blog. There are easily a dozen separate articles dealing with Viking Age bellows and construction. Scattered around are a number of photographs of a well proven design, that uses a 1/2 square checked piece of cloth as the background (allowing scale). 

These two illustrations comprise the basic handout I have prepared for my upcoming trip to the USA in later October.

At West Liberty University (West Virginia) I will be undertaking a day long workshop session with a combined group of archaeology and visual arts students.

At the (4th Annual) Reconstructive and Experimental Archaeology Conference (North Carolina) I will be undertaking an afternoon combination demonstration / workshop session.

At Washington College (Maryland) I will be undertaking a version of my four day long Archaeology & Experiment - Iron Smelting program with archaeology students.

Core to the first two programs is the use of my reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon / Viking Age sand table forge.

I have been often asked for a copy of the working plans for the version I have been using in demonstration for about the last decade. Here they are!

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

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