Thursday, October 18, 2018

Coming Up....

This has been a busy four weeks since my last post here :

CAMELOT working team - preparing ore during pre-heat
Demonstration Iron Smelt - CAMELOT Conference
Norse Short Shaft - early in the smelt
'Norse in North America' : Filming an Iron Smelt
'Mother of All Furnaces' : Roman style passive tall stack

And in there some place was a week teaching at Haliburton College!

Reports on all these pending...

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Furnace Building

... some illustrated notes.
The following from preparations for the CAMELOT Iron Smelt demonstration on SUNDAY : 
The furnace for this demo will be a standard 'Norse short shaft' / Clay cobb, cylindrical, roughly 25 cm ID at a height of about 70-75 cm, set on a block plinth.

As is the case where some protection to the underlaying surface (grass lawn in this case) is required, a set of four 60 x 60 standard concrete paving slabs are put down as a hard base. This gives a fireproof surface at 120 x 120 cm.
To ease the later extraction processes, a set of four, half thick, standard concrete blocks are laid to form a hollow square. This creates a box roughly 55 cm OD, with a central hole about 25 x 25 cm. This space is filled with charcoal fines (left over screenings from the charcoal sizing process). Excess hot slag will burn down into the fines, creating a kind of limited 'slag pit' effect. The holes in the blocks are filled here with a 50/50 sand and wood ash mix. This effectively creates a flat top surface to support the furnace itself. A thin layer of the sand mix (about .5 cm) was spread over the central fines to help preserve these during the drying fire to come later.
Gus Gissing assisting - image by Neil Peterson
The standard mix used for furnace construction is 1/1/1 of dry powdered clay / course sand / dry shredded horse manure. In this case the clay used is a high temperature 'EPK' (although in the past we have found most potter's clays resist internal temperatures well). The proportions are measured by eye, based on volume, then mixed together through the fingers. Water is then added to a well formed in the mixture, and blended in by hand to make a suitable 'dough'. (1)
Using a softer (higher water content) mix makes for both easier mixing, and better blending of the individual cobb balls / bricks. But - a stiffer mix means the walls are less likely to start to slump as the furnace is built higher.(2)
image by Neil Peterson
A metal internal form is used in the wall building. This is wrapped with a double thick layer of newspaper (3). This does result in some ease in building the walls up, but extra care needs to be taken to fully blend the individual clay 'bricks' as these are added. The most important result of using a metal form is to ensure a standardized furnace interior diameter. (Duplication being critical in an experimental process.)
You can see in the image how I brace the side of a new addition at the same time you I wedge it downwards to blend it into place. If you do not do this, the net result is that you continually force the soft clay down - expanding the base wall thickness, without actually adding much to the wall height.
image by Neil Peterson
With the first course of the build completed, and the internal form removed. The breaks between individual clay 'bricks' are clear. The next step is to work down the inside to ensure full blending between additions (remove all the gaps seen).

At this point, the clay cylinder remains somewhat soft, and thus unstable. How to easily both support the work so far - and continue building upwards?
A pair of solutions:
1) as each section is constructed higher, a packing material consisting of sand / ash / charcoal fines is added to the interior to stabilize the interior diameter.
2) heavy rope is coiled around the outside to keep the whole construction from sagging outwards at the same time. (4)
The interior packing also helps dry out the clay initially. 
The metal form can be placed on to the top surface of the packing, preparing for the next course of the build.
This shows the final build. At this point the furnace varies a bit along the upper edge, from 72 - 75 cm.
The heavy rope has been re-tied to a more evenly spaced wrap. Charcoal fines have been used to top off the internal packing. The furnace has been left exposed to daily sun to promote drying. The ideal would be to leave the clay to dry in this manner to 'leather hard' before removing the interior packing and the rope binding. At that point (1 - 3 days normally) the cylinder would have the tuyere mounting hole and tapping / extraction arch cut in.
Ideally the furnace would be left to naturally (gently) dry to the extent possible. A slow drying process is most likely to result in the minimum of cracking.  
In practice however, this time is most often just not possible. (It is most typical for a furnace to be constructed and initial drying fire applied later that same day, with its use for a smelt the following day.)
In this case, the build was on Friday, with return to the working site for the full smelting sequence on Sunday.

With thanks to 'Gus' Gissing, for his heavy labour help in the build, and Neil Peterson, for image taking and 'general supervision'.

1) For the recent 'Mother of All Furnaces' build, a small cement type mixer was used for the dry mix and initial water addition. This proved to work quite well. As the hand mixing with water is the most labour intensive part of the whole build, this innovation was greatly welcomed! 
2) In the past, the exact consistency of this mix has been found to largely be a matter of personal preference. Neil Peterson generally likes a stiffer (drier) mix, I like a softer consistency.

3) Important Tip! 
Without the paper liner, the cobb mix simply adheres to the metal form - making it almost impossible to lift / remove. (Lee Sauder uses an internal form of thin wood splints, which he then burns away in the initial drying fire.) In the past, our internal forms have been bundled grass and tied up sticks - both worked successfully. There are two main limits with a fixed internal form :
a) The clay shrinks 10 - 15% as it dries. if the form is too rigid (or left in place too long) the most likely result is extensive cracking. 
b) With the form left in place, there is no way to smooth or blend in the seams between individual 'bricks' on the interior surface.
Archaeology has found traces of both use of interior 'bundled stick' and exterior withy forms being used - found of impressions in preserved wall pieces.

4) I can't imagine the use of the interior packing material would leave any visible trace afterwords (some spillage on the ground?)
The rope definately leaves traces on the clay. As the exterior of the furnace does not heat enough to actually sinter into ceramic, these impressions most likely only to be rarely preserved.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

IRON SMELT Demonstration - at CAMELOT

I will be undertaking a full demonstration bloomery iron smelt as part of the 'outreach' side of this coming weekend's new CAMELOT conference.
I will be building a 'norse short shaft' furnace on FRIDAY.
The full smelting process will be undertaken SUNDAY, with extraction of the bloom intended for roughly the end of the day's sessions (about 5 pm +).

There will be some limited opportunities for conference members to directly participate. Those hoping to become involved should come dressed in 'work clothes' (must be all natural fibre, leather boots). Other safety gear will be provided.

This marks the first time this experimental archaeology process has been demonstrated at an academic conference in Canada.

CAMELOT is the continuation of the long running 'Forward Into the Past' event.
For it's initial year, registration for the conference is FREE (via their web site).

The core of the conference is a full series of academic type paper presentations, by senior students, independent researchers, and academics. This allows for topics of interest to a wide range of people, from the general public through to the professional.

This is the published outline of sessions :

Preliminary Conference Schedule
Session 1: Military
9:00 - 10:30
·       Damien Cole – The fyrd: Anglo-Saxon military organisation, recruitment, and the                                         deployment of different types of units on the ancient English battlefield

·       Daniel Hutter – The Varangian Guard
·       Ben Hennin - influences of Homeric/Roman Epic poetry on the medieval Song of Roland
Session 2: Archaeology
10:45 – 12:15
·       Andrew Moore - Archaeology and the Hill Figures of England: Ancient Giants or Early                                                                     Modern Satire?

·       Rachel Cogswell – Exploring Non-Ferrous Metalworking in Sweden, 500 – 798 CE
·       David Miles – The art of smithing: social perspectives of practitioners in the Middle Ages
Session 3: Travel
10:45 – 12:15
·       Daphne Van Delst –Medieval Badges
·       Augustine Dickinson – Ethiopian manuscripts: importance and analyzation
·       Alexander Bucholtz – King Sigurd I of Norway: Scandinavian participation in Iberian and Middle Eastern crusading
Session 4: Demonstrations
1:30 - 2:15
·       Wendy Maurice – How I grew a Tunic
·       Jean Ross – The Making of a Treasure Necklace based upon the Hon Hoard
·       Colleen Moynham – Brass Rubbing
Session 5: A Medieval Miscellany
2:30 – 4:00
·       David Porecca - Picatrix: A Medieval Grimoire of Astral Magic
·       Neil Peterson - The Big Burn: Report on a pilot bead furnace
·       Andrei Tudor – Ancient Thracian deities and Greek/Roman deities: a comparative study


Saturday, August 25, 2018



Introduction to Blacksmithing

September 7 - 9
October 13 - 15
November 9 - 11

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beardmore Sword - Discussed at the ROM

Free. RSVP Required.
ROM Admission is not included.

2018 Edward S. Rogers Lecture in Anthropology

Beardmore: The Viking Hoax that Rewrote History 

Inspired by the true story of Viking swords in the ROM's collections, historian Douglas Hunter offers up a real-life museum detective story. In 1936, long before the discovery of the Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, the ROM made a sensational acquisition: the contents of a Viking grave that prospector Eddy Dodd said he had found on his mining claim east of Lake Nipigon. The relics remained on display for two decades, challenging understandings of when and where Europeans first reached the Americas. In 1956 the discovery was exposed as an unquestionable hoax, tarnishing the reputation of the museum director, Charles Trick Currelly, who had acquired the relics and insisted on their authenticity.
Speaker: Douglas Hunter is an award-winning Canadian author with a PhD in history from York University. He has written widely on bussiness, history, the environment and sports, and was a finalist for the Writers' Trust Non-Fiction prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for his book God's Mercies

Date & Time

  • Sunday, October 21, 2018, 2:00 - 3:00 pm


Royal Ontario Museum
Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre
Level 1B
Doors Open: 1:30 pm
Talks: 2:00 - 3:00 pm



Note : All of above stolen directly off the Royal Ontario Museum web site - advertising this event. Copied here in the spirit of sharing and promoting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

'You can't always get what you WANT...'

but you get what you * PAID FOR *

On 2018-08-20 7:46 AM, N. S. wrote:
I recently received a damaged “Sword of Saladin and Scabbard” made of 1065 High Carbon Steel:
from the original seller's web site (1)

By Windlass (meaning made in India).
Here is how Windlass describes itself (taken from their own web site)
Founded in 1943, Windlass is today the premier supplier of military dress and sabers and accouterments, motion picture props, and a whole lot more. We are proud of our military contracts with governments in six continents and the excellent replica props we deliver to Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters.
You will not find this specific item still listed on the actual Windlass web site (2)

Check around the inter-web:

From the Museum Replicas web site:

Sword and Scabbard of the Great Saladin

from the Museum Replicas web site
$444.95 US

This sword has the unique "fork tongue" blade crafted of 1065 high carbon steel. Features 24K gold plated pommel and cross guard. Includes wooden scabbard covered in leather and accented with 24K gold plated fittings. Overall length of 41-1/2 inches. 

a) Any time the description and the product images centre almost entirely on the *furniture*, not the actual *blade* you had best understand what you are paying for is the *flash* NOT the *function*.

b) The blade description? *Crafted* is what it says. Not *forged*. Not a word about the heat treating. Best assume this will be perhaps a suitable (if simple) metal alloy. But most likely ground out by machine from annealed bar stock - with no hardening or tempering undertaken. Meaning not at all *combat* ready. 
(I do realize that this was not the question given to me!)
c) This item is shown as discontinued (Museum Replicas & original seller). It is not listed or described on the actual Windlass site at all! 
What was not provided was if this purchase was made at the full retail - or at some discount. If at a discount - then 'buyer beware' certainly needs to apply.

Both edges of the sword and the scabbard. I tried cleaning it with Lysol, Windex, Brake Cleaner... nothing worked. Took it to a local blacksmith who only works with military swords and he was able to remove a lot of the gunk on the blade, but scratched the sword in the process. Please see pictures.
image from N.S.

image from N.S.
image from N.S.

So here is the problem:

If the corrosion effect I see in the image (just by the lion pattern etching) is the problem?
You should have returned the blade to the seller and required a replacement.

The marks look suspiciously (to me) like finger print created corrosion. (Touching the blade and not wiping it off afterwards.) This is a corrosion / rust deposit right into the steel. The surface is actually pitted.
The only way to correct this is to re-polish / grind the surface down below the level of the pitting.
Normally this means reducing the level of the surface down for the entire length of that edge. Otherwise there will be a noticeable 'divot' at that point.
Do note that the imperfection is right beside the etched design.
How to shave the surface down below the pitting - without actually effecting the shallow etching?
You might be able to remove metal just at the pitting, by carefully using a set of small grinding / polishing burs via a dremmel style tool just at the corrosion site. Given the high surface polish down the rest of the blade surface - this will always reflect light differently - and so be visible.

1065 carbon still will *always* rust - unless you constantly keep that surface lightly oiled. Even WD40 would prevent this.
Fingers touching the blade surface are to be avoided on almost any steel surface - especially carbon steels.

The first bladesmith has cleaned out the existing corrosion. That pitting is right into the metal at this point.
The surface has been scratched? To be expected unless the entire blade surface was ground down below the pitting.

'Made in India' ? (2)
To ship items overseas, usually some kind of lacquer is applied to the metal to prevent surface corrosion during long shipping. These coatings are often not evenly done. Removing the *lacquer * sounds like what you attempted. (Noting that none of the solutions you applied will effect lacquer - maybe try actual 'lacquer thinner'?)

Overall ? - I am not surprised.

I would be quoting in the range of $600 + : JUST TO FORGE THE BLADE.
The cost of the elaborate carved hilt, cast cross guard would easily push the quote into the $1000 + range.
This is a mass produced item - made 'offshore'. The selling cost reflects this  - and also the relative quality for that price.

And no - I would not be willing to undertake the kind of repair work being requested. (3)
a) With corrosion pitting into a metal surface, there is no real way to completely remove this - without also visibly effecting the surface.
b) The imperfections on the thin 'gold' plating on the hilt detail are either a result of poor application of the plating at manufacturing, or possibly damage after the fact. In either case, the underlaying metal (likely brass) would have to be re-finished, then new plating applied. This involves taking the metal collar seen completely off the sword. Given how gold reflects off surfaces, this also makes it likely the repair would also be obvious afterward.

(1) I have deliberately NOT cited this supplier - who is also in the business of selling primarily *costume* pieces. I have personally ordered various things from them in the past. With care in selection, my choices have represented good value for the reduced prices. I have found their service excellent. My working relationship with that company remains very good. 

(2) Look - this company does have a 75 year history. There are smart people in India, and family operations there who have been making blades for *hundreds* of years. This is not intended as a snark about 'made in India', in any way.
Look what Windlass actually specializes in, makes and sells. 
*Costume* pieces. 
Even their 'Military' lines are *dress* blades - not *functional* weapons.
(The exception to this may be the 'Kukris' they have described as 'Genuine Gurkha Regimental'. This appears to be how Windlass established its original reputation. They do provide detailed specifications for these blades, but the low price (quoted at $50 US) makes this perhaps questionable?

(3) Increasingly, I get requests to 'beat the price' or 'fix the mistake' related to what are nothing more than cheap 'wall hangers'. Surprisingly - I am not at all interested. 
Please take the effort to at least look at my body of past work, and decades of experience?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Design via Inspiration (Legge workshop)

As I had posted here much earlier, over the last weekend I took part in a 'Design Masterclass' by Adrian Legge, organized by Sandra Dunn at TwoSmiths in Kitchener.

Honestly, I found the whole experience exceptional. Adrian is an excellent teacher, combining insight and knowledge through a very direct and honest manner. I was especially impressed how he was able to cut to the core - and present guidance well suited to each individual student. The class group varied considerably in terms of technical ability and past experience, but it was clear direction was given to each as best needed.

So - this is the preparation work that was given to each of us: 

Two Smiths design class
Adrian Legge

Prior to the class I would like you to do some Initial Research
You might like to investigate the potential for developing a personal style/creative identity or perhaps you are more interested in looking at a particular design problem such as something that addresses a specific site or uses an established aesthetic style that you are interested in

Collect 25 examples visual information that inspires you, comprising of both primary and secondary source material

A)    Primary source material can be e.g. observed drawings from your sketchbooks, photographs taken by you, actual objects, investigative forge examples etc

B)    Secondary source material can be e.g.  downloaded or magazine images, examples of work by others, research, creative writing etc

Try to avoid just collecting examples of ironwork that you like as this will tend to push you towards working within an existing style

C) As you collect the information to be selective and intentional  in your approach- have a reason for your choice

D) For each example produce a word or sentence that ‘explains’ what you like about it. Try to use emotive rather than descriptive. For example ‘I like this because it reminds me of the spring’ rather than ‘this is a snowdrop’
Choose images and words that excite and inspire you and that you will be able to use to generate ideas and concepts. (1)

And here are the images / objects I chose (2)
These are set loosely by source type, not in order of my initial selection:
A) My own photographs

* 'Chaos Theory' (iron smelting slag tap)
'Combined Elements' (dinosaur skeleton)
'Surprise Detail' (crab on stone shore)
B) Images by others
* 'Colour, Scale?' (fish scales, micrograph) (a)
'Curves' (leaf centre) (b)
* 'Fantasy' (CosPlay image)
'Influences' (Japanese sand garden) (b)
* 'Nature Surprises' (sea mollusk)
'Organics' (natural plant forms)
'Complex Patterns' (false colour of atoms in cloud chamber) (a)
'Patterns, Scale?' (overhead view of settling pond) (a)
'Symetry' (sea creature burrow) (a)
* 'Variation Pattern' (detail of starfish) (b)
 C - Work by others
'Structure from Organics' (Paris Metro, H. Guimard)
'Texture & Material' (Lee Sauder)
'Flow' (the Batersea Shield / Celtic Bronze Age)
'Integration' (Castle Henrietta, H. Guimard)
'Repetition, Influences' (St Padridric's Bell Shrine, Irish c 800)
'Scale' (artist unknown)
* 'Spirit' (Lady of Shalott, Waterhouse)
 D - My own work
'Exploration' (Hector's Bane)
 E) Objects (insets show actual size on enlarged version)
'Antiquity' (water worn / pierced stone)
'Attachments' ('live rock' with kelp)
'Context' (cast bronze, found object?)
'Segmentation' (trilobite fossil)

A couple of things became clear when all the individual images were laid out and viewed together :

* Most of the source images are organic / show organic lines.
* Many of the images show complex patterns.
* A number of the pattern images show the effect of one line on to another.
* A number of the images were chosen for their colour as much as the lines (3)

The two larger format images, (starfish / cloud chamber) were the two sources I ended up settling on for further work inside the workshop.....

(1) Shared in the spirit of education. Text written and provided by Adrian Legge

(2) In most cases, I had collected these images over many years. Please consider them 'scammed' as in almost all cases I can not cite the source / owner:
a) taken from 'Discover' magazine
b) taken from the Mac 'screen saver' collection

(3) For presentation at the workhop, I had printed off each image. Only the ones indicated with (*) were rendered in colour - the remainder printed in grey scale.

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