Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Demo at ReARC :

photo by Neil Peterson
That is Kat Muller, assisting on the Norse bellows.
This was during my hands on session / demo at the ReARC conference (see recent posts) this past weekend.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lecture, Workshop tour - end of October

My friend and fellow experimental archaeology enthusiast (crazy) Neil Peterson and I are departing early tomorrow for a two week plus trip to the USA:

The adventure starts with a stop at West Liberty University, West Liberty, West Virginia. Dr Darrin Cox (kindly!) describes the program we will be presenting :
“Darrell Markewitz and Neil Peterson are scholars of experimental archeology from Canada. They will practice their ancient professions all day long, just outside the rear entrance to the Media Arts Center. Students will be able to observe the actual work involved in these professions that date back to the time of the Vikings and a number of observers will also get to make their own glass beads and work with wrought iron,”
Neil demonstrating the Viking Age bead furnace - Goderich 2012
We will be conducting demonstration / workshop sessions on campus for students. That evening (Thursday October 17) we will be giving a pair of short lectures :

'the Artist Blacksmith - a view from the workshop' (Darrell)
'Experimental Archaeology - Viking Age Glass Bead Making' (Neil)

As far as I know - these are open to the general public, but you would have to contact the campus for details.
Link to an article (and campus information)

Starting Friday Oct 18 - to Sunday Oct 20, we both will be participating in the 4th Reconstructive and Experimental Archaeology Conference (ReARC) at the Schiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia North Carolina.
Besides generally hanging about, we both will be giving presentations at the conference Saturday :
09:20 – 09:40
Title: Making Yours One of the "Good" Presentations”
Author: Peterson, Neil, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada

Abstract: We've all been to bad lectures or presentations in the past and we don't want to be one of those. Do you know how to avoid that?  In many ways the medium becomes your message.  No how matter how good your material is, if the presentation is poorly done your audience will tune out.  Presenting a paper has many advantages over other presentations, not the least because the content is well known to you.  Papers, however, regularly show a standard set of problems that are easily avoided. In this session Neil will review the 'do' and 'don't' items for presenting, basics of how to create a presentation, powerpoint ideas, and many other things you need to know to make yourself a better presenter. Based in part on the excellent book 'Presenting to Win', in part on many years lecturing at Universities, Museums, and conferences around North America, and in part on many years presenting in a corporate environment, this session will help you make your presentations more interesting, and memorable.
2:50 - 5:00
Forging the Viking Age
Presenter: Markewitz, Darrell, Wareham Forge, Ontario, Canada
Description: Scandinavian culture was known for the quality of its metalwork, especially in iron. Just how did the tools available effect the creation of the object? Is there an effect from the qualities of the metals available themselves? Join artist blacksmith and Viking Age specialist Darrell Markewitz for this combination demonstration and hands workshop session. A reconstructed 'sand table' charcoal forge, along with replicas of Norse blacksmithing tools, will be used. Those wishing to participate need to be dressed in natural fibre, long pants and work boots (jeans and T shirt ideal).
Darrell working the Sand Table Forge, Bristol RI - 2006
 To the ReARC web site

PS - this is both an amazing small conference, but also a great deal (at only $50 at the door - $40 for students). 

After ReARC, we are then travelling up to Washington College, Chestertown Maryland. There, at the request of Dr. Bill Schlinder, we are undertaking a modified version of the 'Archaeology and Experiment' workshop program.  For this program, we will be including sessions under Neil's guidance, building and working with the VA bead furnaces, as well as mounting a complete bloomery iron smelt.
Extracting the bloom - Bristol RI - 2011
As well as lectures to the students, we will be providing one open public lecture session, Wednesday October 23:
Norse America – what REALLY happened?
This will be a pretty free wheeling discussion around Vinland in the Viking Age. Darrell will be looking at the truth of L'Anse aux Meadows, Neil will be considering some of our 'favourite' fakes and forgeries.
 Again, you would have to look to the campus web site for exact location and time (evening).

 If that was not enough, we are going to take advantage of the proximity to hang out with Bruce Blackistone, Fred Blonder and our (extended) friends of the Longship Company.
It turns out their replica ship the Sae Hrafn docks off the north Chesapeake, a mere two hours from Washington College! Plans are to spend a couple of days on the water. Bill Short and his companions from Hurstwic are planning on travelling down for the gathering as well.

Those interested in the Viking Age, Iron Smelting, Glass Bead Production, Experimental Archaeology, ... are welcome to check for the public presentations and come out to meet us!

Oh - and if that is not *enough*, Neil figures we are 'more or less' driving up past the Corning Glass Museum in New York on our way back to Ontario. So we have juggled our travel and stops to allow us at least a few hours there (Neil has never seen it) on the way home Monday October 28.

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!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Mysteries at Autumn Leaves


come by and see me this weekend at the 
and find out...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Blacksmith Business Available ?

Iron Art for the Home & Garden

An Established, High End, Working Ironwork Shop is For Sale

            Health issues have forced early retirement and the resulting sale of
Forge Ahead Ornamental Iron in Guelph, ON. This is an excellent opportunity for one or more Smiths to step into a successful shop with an exceptional reputation for quality workmanship and customer service.

There are a couple of options for selling the company and we are open to discussion regarding;

1.  An ‘Under New Owner / Management’ scenario -  involving;

-       the ‘option’ of assuming the Forge Ahead name and website,
-       all equipment and inventory,
-       promotional material / data base,
-       training in quoting, contracts and progress draws,
-       training in equipment use (if required)
-       introduction to current suppliers and,
-       Existing Clientele.

2. Close the doors and sell everything off.

Serious Inquiries only to: Forge Ahead Ornamental Iron

                             Contact: Jim or Lynn Barton

   Phone: 519-829-3994

92 Ferguson St. Guelph, ON Canada N1E 2Y6        Ph: 519-829-3993     Fax: 519-829-3994
                                                        Email:    Website: 

I have seen the operation at Forge Ahead, and at least briefly met Jim and Lynn. 
This is certainly a very unexpected and unfortunate turn for them both - as a couple they were active, focused, and in my observation, both skilled and well organized. 
Their current operational site is fairly large, and would require a good volume of business to support - with the work (and costs) that this implies. The shop is located in a rented facility in the NE corner of Guelph.

This may represent a good opportunity  for an already established and skilled working blacksmith to 'move up' to a larger operation...

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

NEW - Fall course lineup...

Moving into NOVEMBER - I have added a number of new programs:

Intermediate Blacksmithing 
November 9 & 10

This two day program covers forge welding, 3-D punching, additional decorative techniques. Detailed Information on / registration for this course can be found HERE 

Basics of Casting Metals 
November 16 & 17

This two day program will introduce the student to casting PEWTER in SOAPSTONE and BRONZE in SAND.
 Detailed Information on / registration for this course can be found HERE

Introduction to Blacksmithing 
 November 22 - 24

ONE space remains!

Introduction to Blacksmithing 
November 29, 30, December 1

TWO spaces remain!

Detailed Information on / registration for these courses can be found HERE

NOW BOOKING -  Interested students should contact me

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