Friday, June 15, 2018

Using up the Leftovers..

.. or Making Do in the 'Carefree Life' of the Independent Artisan

As regular readers know, and visitors to my web site can see - I run courses out of the Wareham Forge.
A lot of courses. (*)

I run just the 'Introduction to Blacksmithing' weekend course at least a dozen times any given year.
Every time, the first basic project is a simple S hook. I make one as a demonstration.
about life size - 1/4 inch square stock
I no longer sell small objects like these (in fact don't really undertake any direct retail shows any more).
So I end up with a 'few' left over.
A lot left over.

I was contacted at the beginning of June by the people who operate the 'Escape Quest' franchise in St John's Newfoundland. They had been in negotiations with Parks Canada about opening one of their 'Adventures' at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. Their rough concept was to use the 'slave quarters' building at LAM for the activity.
'Slave Quarters / Storage Hut' is building to right (1996)
The interior of this sod wall construction building is roughly 2 x 3 metres. (Although it looks larger in the image above, remember that the walls are at least 1 metre thick!)

They wanted a lot of stuff.
Ideally delivered by the end of the month.

One of the things on their list was S hooks.
Thirty S hooks.
(Did I mention I end up with a lot of S hooks?)
I had a few left over.

Another thing on their list? Hand forged chain.
Request was for 10 feet, later increased to 15 feet.

Given this was 'Escape Room' - from the 'Slave Quarters', what came to mind was this:
Complete artifact chain
This object, from the Viking Age, is from Ireland. Now in the collection of the National Museum in Dublin. I had seen this in 2014 during two days spent there.
The construction is individual large circles made of square iron bar, forge welded closed, then pinched flat into a collapsed 8 shape. (This is one way to yield the most chain length out of the least amount of metal used.)
I have seen some other Norse era chains using simple 'closed S' shaped links.

Now making chain from starting straight bar is both time consuming and often tedious work. Time was most certainly at premium on this project (**).
I did mention I have a lot of S hooks left over?
This is what I came up with:
'Escape Chain' - detail with starting S hook
'Escape Chain' - complete length

I used another 24 on hand S hooks.(***)
Each had the one pointed end re-shaped to curl the tip into a small loop. Then both ends were collapsed inwards into a closed loop. These were then linked together in a four element set, each making about two feet.
I forged a series of large diameter rings out of 3/16 x 1 inch flat stock - to about 3 inch diameter. These then were used to attach each of the looped chain segments. An extra large ring was placed on either end.
The finished length was just over 13 feet total.

This use of the previously made S hooks massively reduced the 'just now' time involved to produce the finished chain.

From an artifact prototype standpoint, certainly the object created can only be considered loosely based on the original Norse chains. The individual link elements have reverse twisted central sections. This a bit of extra complexity in the forge work I would consider quite unlikely in a basic functional object like a slave chain.

(Did I mention the sea chest hinges for the same order? Total 30 individual hinges have been made.
There are 15 matching hasps to still make. And six Norse padlocks. And a cooking pot. I don't have another available forge work day open until June 25 at this point.)

(*) For those interested in the 'Business of the Artisan' :
For the last three years, about 90% of my income has been from teaching. This includes my twice yearly segments at the Haliburton College Artisan Blacksmith program, but most importantly from weekend training programs here at Wareham. 
(Another big chunk has been from educational and research programs. That 'income' is normally completely erased by the raw travel and related costs. Despite the large amounts involved, almost always I end up paying out more than came in.)

(**) I had my first contact with Escape Room Newfounland on May 30. Between determining exact requirements and producing a hard quote, the final confirmation of the order was not given until June 5.
June is already an extremely tight month for me. I had a major historic demo to mount on the other end of Ontario, one weekend course, two iron smelting events, a sculpture to mount for exhibition. From June 5 I counted only SEVEN available days not already committed to other projects. (Oh - that was eliminating entirely any possible 'day off' for that entire month!)

(**) And I still have at least six more...

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

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