Monday, September 16, 2019

Ontario Gas Tax Stickers

Open Letter - copies sent to :
Premier Doug Ford 
(direct e-mail = )
Ontario Ministry of Finance
(via web site / only allows 500 characters! =
MPP Bill Walker, Bruce/Grey/Owen Sound
(via web site / only allows 1000 characters =
Conservative Party of Ontario
(via web site =
Conservative Party of Canada
(via web site = )
Commissioner of Canada Elections
(direct e-mail = )

I am contacting you as a resident (and tax payer) of Ontario.

This is relation to the Ontario Conservative Government (Doug Ford) and its current media campaign about the Federal carbon tax - applied to gasoline.

taken from the CBC web site (below)
I had bought gas at the same location in Authur Ontario, first on Sept 5, then again September 12. There was no sticker the first time, it was in place the second time.
When I paid for my fuel, I asked the attendant if the station was required by the (Conservative) Government to post the stickers. He told me that this was in fact the case, and they were forced against threat of fines.

When I returned home, I attempted to get more information about this, via the internet:…/ontario-gas-stations-m…/

The indicated articles state "The (Ontario) government has earmarked $30 million for its fight against the carbon tax..."

Guess who is paying for THAT - and out of MY pocket?

Please not that I am not addressing here my feelings on Climate Change (2), and my personal responsibility towards some attempt at dealing with this. I am considering nothing more than the purely POLITICAL question represented.
I found the ‘information’ content of the sticker misleading, and personally consider it nothing less than partisan propaganda.

I specifically note the official start of campaign for the Federal election was September 11. 
Yes, I see that the policy was put into force starting August 30. However, to add insult to injury, it is hard not to see this current use of forced ‘announcement’ little more that an attempt to both boost support for Conservatives, and at the very least,  bend  Canadian laws on election advertisement.

I consider this nothing less than blatant political propaganda by Ford.
Paid for by the Ontario Taxpayer.

Darrell Markewitz
Wareham, Grey County

Notes :

1) I have found the methods permitted for the transfer of information to my Government ministries, and my elected 'representatives' to be at best restrictive.
a) the use of web site 'form filling' for the majority of the offices listed. In most cases, I was also required to submit considerable personal contact information (addresses and phone numbers). I will fully be expecting these will be used (in the case of all the Political institutions) to send me unwanted advertisements.
b) In two cases (as listed) there were character limits imposed. These did not allow for any correct or complete sending of information on my part. 
The fact that one of these was for my local MPP, Bill Walker, I find particularly troubling. 

2) I have written a number of times here about 'Carbon and the Forge'
I state once again that am absolutely certain of the reality of Climate Change from both the scientific data, observations by others I trust - and my own personal experience. 
I also repeat my belief that I share a personal responsibility for not only contributing (and continuing to contribute) to Carbon emissions, and further, a responsibility to undertake actions to reduce my own impact on the environment. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Adaptable Furnace Base

This piece of equipment a long time coming!

The concept started with my experience at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in 2017. Unlike previous work there (on the Turf to Tools project) the 2017 visit was intended purely as a personal artist's retreat. A good chunk of the one week was spent with Beth Bidwell in the ceramics studio. I returned to a lost love (wheel thrown pottery) and took part in several kiln firings. This included raku, using a propane fired furnace.

This was a fixed propane fired furnace base, with a moveable top section.
SSW uses a number of high BTU output propane burners, which they can switch out to provide heat for a number of different furnace / heating applications. (Wax burn out, bronze and iron casting, ceramics, special projects.)
Here you see the furnaace base, which is made up from a cut truck wheel rim, lined with castable refractory material. A simple hole in the side directs the blast from the propane burner. This runs on a ventri effect (no electric blower required). Although this base is quite heavy, it is mounted to a wheeled cart to allow it to be shifted around the concrete paved SSW central courtyard.
SSW alumni George Beasley had created the upper kiln segment seen here.
A frame and counterweighted pulley system is attached to a section cut from a metal 45 gallon drum. This containment was lined with k-wool insulation, and had a couple of viewing ports and top exhaust vents cut into it.  The counterweight system allowed the upper to be shifted upwards and easily blocked into place as this was done.
In use, the upper area was set with kiln shelves and supports, containing the previously bisque fired ceramic pieces to be placed. A bit of care needs to be taken at the initial ignition of the propane burner - too much heat, too quickly, will simply shatter the pottery. Over time, the propane feed is increased, eventually bringing the entire upper stack to correct high temperature. The required point is judged by using 'cones' - the heat effect on these observed through a viewing port. *

I was impressed on how basically simple this whole design was.

For a good long while now, I had wanted to set up a larger equipment for bronze casting at the Wareham Forge. I have done a fair amount of small scale metal casting, with lost wax investment (silver and gold), using tin alloy (pewter) in stone, and using the 'green sand' method for bronze. I have been limited in the size of bronze objects by the heat source - with a oxy propane torch. This allows me to effectively head only a small crucible, roughly the volume of a walnut.

Original lead artifact (c 800?) / interpretation in pewter / duplicate in bronze
My intent was to build a furnace that would be able to heat about a litre volume of bronze. At least to start I would continue with the green sand mould making, but this would allow me to cast small sculptures, sword or knife hilts, things like door hardware or boat fittings.

I had originally figured just to build the burner assemblies from pipe fittings, much as I had constructed a number of propane gas forges in use at the workshop here.

Over the winter, Princess Auto had these simple propane burners on sale. (For half price @ $25 each - the included, CSA certified, 10 foot hose normally runs about that much!) I bought three. These burners are rated at 500,000 BTU each.
In January, our 30 year old electric water heater (finally) failed. Although replacing it proved a real pain, it did leave me with the steel tank.
Add some scrounged fire brick I've long had on hand.
For ease of use, apply a heavy utility wagon wheel assembly (also from Princess Auto, purchased a good while back for just this kind of use).

Finished furnace base unit

I had cut (using a zip disk) the bottom roughly 1/3 away from the full tank.
That left me with a short cylinder, having a slightly domed base, all made of 1/8 inch thick steel. The interior is glass coated (think the enamel finish on an older stove), but that will not figure into the construction.
Outside Diameter = 24 inches
Height = 18 inches

Next step was measuring equal thirds around the circle, then cutting three suitable sized holes through the steel for eventual mounting of the three burners. I used the oxy-propane torch for this. ( I freely admit that cutting is something I never have done enough of to really get that good at!). I ended up using a worn down disk on my angle grinder to even out and correctly size each hole.

view down the completed interior
I have a set of half circular pottery kiln shelves, each of high temperature refractory plate, about 5/8 inch thick. One of these I cut to fit as fully as possible over the inside base of the steel shell. In the image above, you can see the edge of the part starting part circle, with the two smaller pieces I shaped to fit into the remaining base. This gives me a durable, hard, flat, fire proof floor. To fill the gaps around the slightly domed steel base, I used a refractory type material I mixed up. I had been saving damaged low density fire bricks, which I broke down to about the consistency of course sand. I mixed this 50 / 50 with powdered potter's clay, with water into a paste. (This using 'Hawthorn Fire Clay' - a fairly high melt point type I use here for building clay cobb iron smelting furnaces.)
As it turned out, the spacing proved almost perfect for the medium density fire bricks I had on hand. Each burner would be centred on one brick, with two bricks spacing around between each burner point. Once the fill and floor plate was installed, the remaining wall height came to the 9 inch length of the bricks (Ok - I did measure this out initially and cut to provide for this.) The resulting interior diameter is 12 inches.
I dry fit all the bricks, to transfer the location for the holes from those cut in the shell. As it turned out (luckily) the holes required were exactly the same size as the largest diameter in my hole cutting saw set. Short work with the hole saw mounted in a drill (cut from both sides to get through the thickness). Given the relatively fragile nature of the fire bricks, this proved a much easier task than I had suspected.
Again test for fit. Each of the bricks was mounted, again using the clay/brick dust mix as filler in the triangular gaps. It is expected this mix will contract a bit (10 %?) as it dries, but given the tight fit of the bricks I don't expect this will present any special durability problem in use.

close up of the master valve and fittings
Figuring out just how to link all the burners together proved a bit of a pain. The tubing diameter for all the pieces on the burners as purchased proved to be 1/4 inch. Maybe a 'standard' size - but not a size that any of my local stores had in supply. Once again, McDonald's Home Hardware in Dundalk saved me. They had just enough fittings, once a set of 1/4 to 1/2 inch couplings were found. This allowed me to get just enough of the (slightly more available?) 1/2 inch steel pipe fittings **
With use of a short piece of 1/4 thread fitted hose I had on hand, I managed to link all three burners together, via one central shut off valve. I further protected the short gas hose by covering it with the plastic pipe seen above.
I kept two of the burners with the original knob equipped flow valves. The central burner (seen above) is 'always on' - controlled by the main shut off. In use, you ignite that first burner from the main valve, then can control each of the remaining two burners individually. This combination should give the greatest flexibility and control over the propane flame = temperature.

The ideal would have been to mount the burners at a slight angle, both off centre along the side of the circular containment and also pointed down slightly towards the floor. This combined angle would server to create a circular vortex inside the furnace chamber, actually improving the flow of heat within. As it turned out, the distance from the brick interior through to the outside of of the shell, with burner mounted, can be seen to be almost exactly the distance to the air input slots already designed into the burner. By maintaining this, there should be the ideal amount of input air to feed the burner as it was original designed.

The completed furnace base unit weighs about 60 lbs. The combination of weight and size, plus the need to be able to store it when not in use in a working shop, lead me to use one of the utility wagon bases I had also purchased at Princess Auto some good while back (again on sale). I welded up a support from angle, which bolts on to the wagon base. The large 8 inch diameter wheels, which pivot on the front, make for good handling over the dirt floor of my workshop. As mounted, the completed unit stands 24 inches tall - a good height for manipulating the eventual crucibles. 

The last step is to take another of the kiln shelves and pattern and cut a suitable lid for this configuration of the furnace base. Ideally there should be a central hole cut, to allow burned gasses to escape. This will also allow two other functions when melting bronze :
1) Allow direct observation into the interior of the crucible (judge melting point)
2) Allow addition of more bronze material during a melt.
Will also need to figure some simple handle mounting to allow this lid to be quickly removed to extract heated crucibles.

Right now I have just used one of the supply hose assemblies that came with each burner. This pulls pressure straight out of the propane tank. There are two possible problems with this :
1) I have 40 lb propane tanks here as my normal supply for the gas forges. I have no clear idea how much fuel this x 3 burner system will draw, or how fast. The larger burners at SSW seemed to function a long time, but that was pulling from a 100 lb cylinder - one per burner. Testing required!
2) As designed, the burner is pulling straight off tank pressure. This is sure to drop (significantly) over the course of a longer session of heating.
I may introduce one of the variable 0 - 30 step down regulators into the system. This itself may need some testing to determine how this effects the overall operation. (??)
Right now I want to give the clay mix a couple of days to completely dry before the initial firing. (Potential steam explosion - and to reduce cracking effects).


Steel Shell = recycled
Firebrick = recycled (but about $10 per brick = $90)
clay = 1/2 bag = $12
floor plate = on hand (but about $55 each = $110)
burners  = on sale (1/2 price) at $25 each = $75
fittings = various = total $55
wagon base = on sale (1/2 price at $60)

To start, I will be making casting crucibles of that same clay / brick dust mixture. I have had good results in the past using the same kind of clay / sand / horse manure mix used for the smelting furnaces. I may end up investing in a couple of modern high temperature refractory crucibles as well.

Next overall part of the project will be converting the upper portion of the water tank pieces into a containment to allow this furnace base to be used as a ceramic kiln as well...

* Use of 'cones' is a 'traditional' method of determining pottery kiln interior temperatures, still widely used in the absence of (often expensive) electric / electronic instruments.
A set of small, thin, pyramid shapes are made of clays with differing melting points. These then are set in a line, lowest slumping cone to the view port, increasing in heat effect towards the interior. Watching each cone slump in turn gives the potter a fairly accurate read on the furnace temperature.

** As it turned out I bought ALL the 1/8 and 1/2 fittings Brent had on hand. Well, Tuesday is order day for the normal Thursday delivery of re-stock. Sorry to anyone in Dundalk who got caught short. (But honestly, commonly I'm 'the only one that buys that stuff'...)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

‘I was a Punk - Before YOU were a Punk’ *

On Co-Opting Symbols

Note to Readers:
This is proving a very difficult piece to write.
I am fully expecting a lot of kick back - but I would ask you read the whole piece - first. Comments will be welcome, but expect limits to ‘free speech’ will be applied. 

Thor's Hammer pendant from a Viking grave from Bredsatra, Sweden. At the Museum of National Antiquities' collection in Sweden, 10th century  (from a Pintrest collection)

What do you do, when objects you long have owned, suddenly are grabbed by some specific group, and incorporated into their personal vision?
Suddenly lifted completely out of context.
Look to the left hand in the image below:
Demonstrators carry Confederate and Nazi flags during the "Unite the Right" rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. (Emily Molli/Sipa USA | AP Photo)
Or you realise that there may be new meanings applied to an old symbol, which you may have first chosen in innocence.
But then was co-oped by others, and distorted into something entirely different. This new association most certainly something you can not agree with!

Now, there are two quite different things going on here.
If you display an SS badge, or a Swastika flag, it is pretty damn certain what you are intending.
Seriously, you can rant all you want about ‘freedom of speech’, but everyone knows the pit of hate behind those symbols in the Modern Age. And exactly what you are clearly stating and promoting.

Modern Era and current Neo-Nazis, starting in Europe, had / have adopted many icons from ancient Goths and Norse. This all in a attempt to create a (false) ‘lineage’ to their views. The fascination of Hitler and his gang with the occult most certainly is another reason. There is most certainly a direct connection being made by current Neo-Nazis, both in Europe and as today active in the USA, with ‘Heathen’ / ‘Odin-ist’ practises and symbols. **

But to be absolutely clear, the historic artifacts had absolutely no connection what so ever with these purely modern, propaganda, uses of the imagery.
There was absolutely no concept of ‘White Power’ during the Viking Age.
(Show me some Archaeology. Not some written fantasy from the 1930's!)

Context can become everything.
I have a bronze ‘interpretation’ of the Bredsatra hammer. I was given it as a gift, back in the mid 1980's. Purchased by a friend who got it at the Coppergate Viking Centre in York, England.
When worn with obviously all Viking Age clothing, inside a living history demonstration, this is fully intended to represent an individual who was following the primary religion of that time, place and Cultural set. This is a historically based character, created for purely educational purposes.

If I should chose to wear that same token with street clothes, it may - or may not, symbolize my own personal faith view.
It may be most safe to say that if the token is worn under my shirt, next to my skin, it is most likely to actually be a religious symbol. Consider a Cross, Star of David, Pentacle, …
'Thor's Hammer' necklace, 1993. Pendant based on Rømersdal, Denmark
Worn over clothing, highly visible?
Seriously - it may just be ‘a nice bit of jewelry’.
But this may also be fully intended as a visual signature of membership in a ‘club’.
Wearing a Celtic ringed Cross? Likely you are showing both Christian and Irish associations.
Wearing a Thor’s Hammer? May certainly mean you are following some version of North European Paganism.

The same symbol printed on a T shirt?
Again, the most typical is ‘that is a cool design’.
It may only represent ‘I’m interested in that Cultural set’.

But horribly - increasingly, with the (repeated) rise of the extreme Right, White Supremacist and Neo-Nazis?
The ‘Thor’s Hammer’ is becoming yet another ‘code’ symbol for those groups.
Maybe like shaving your head?
Or sporting an SS Lightning or Swastika tattoo.

This becomes a form of Cultural Appropriation.
A very, very destructive kind.

While I was researching this piece - another symbol association struck me:

Neo Nazi demonstration in Myslenice Poland.
Contributor: Bart Pro / Alamy Stock Photo

Now, I have been working with Celtic inspired designs for some 45 years. This working primarily from artifact source materials. The objects made in Ireland, in the period of the Norse expansion (c 800 - 1000) show an wonderful blend of Celtic and Norse, pagan and Christian. I love the sweeping reversal curves from earlier La Tene objects. I have never been especially interested in Irish Catholicism, or it’s symbol meanings, however. The only time I have specifically used the Irish style 'high circle cross' in my work was in the creation of a forged steel grave marker.***

Taken from Avia Venefica : Celtic Cross Meaning
It should be remembered that the ancient carved stone cross seen above is not the typical. I have seen a number of these artifacts personally (Ireland and Scotland, museums in North America). The most common layout for the Celtic / Irish cross is a with a very long lower shaft, then three much shorter upper arms.

If you did an open internet image search using ‘celtic circle cross’ - this is what you would see :

Check on the reference link for image # 2.
The association of this symbol (also called ‘Odin’s Cross’ ??) with Neo Nazi’s is listed.

Reference link on image #7 ?
“ Legal disclaimer
This image shows (or resembles) a symbol that was used by the National Socialist (NSDAP/Nazi) government of Germany or an organization closely associated to it, or another party which has been banned by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. The use of insignia of organizations that have been banned in Germany (like the Nazi swastika or the arrow cross) are also illegal in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, France, Brazil, Israel, Ukraine, Russia and other countries, depending on context. In Germany, the applicable law is paragraph 86a of the criminal code (StGB), in Poland – Art. 256 of the criminal code (Dz.U. 1997 nr 88 poz. 553).”

How careful must we be, that the brush, now covered in black and blood, may now end up painting us as well?


Note : In preparing this piece, I have lifted a number of images off the open internet.

* Title taken from : the Tubes, 1977, song of the same name

** Before readers get offended!
I am NOT implying that any specific religious practice always implies a specific political viewpoint. If anything, the merging of Nazism with Odinist should be even more offensive to any who reject those political concepts.

*** Long installed in a small cemetery near Belleville, Ontario. Unfortunately, I have never seen the work as installed - or even have a reference photo of the finished piece. It stood about 5 feet tall. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Antique? Vintage? Modern? (a Helmet)

On 2019-08-24 10:04 PM, 'M.D.' wrote:
I have a question about a helmet I was given some years ago, which I'm now hoping to sell.
The person who gave it to me first thought it was a costume replica, and now believes it to be a WW1 tank helmet. It was found in an antique shop.

It looks a lot like a medieval helmet and is very heavy. The back has a flexible "lobster tail" neck protector and the visor lifts somewhat.
An online search reveals nothing similar. Many helmets are more elegant; might this be a helmet a grunt soldier might have worn?
There are no tank helmets online that look anything like it.

Ok - so here is what I remembered, what I found, and what I think.

On tankers helmets:
I had a small drawing in a reference book
described as 're-inforced leather helmet'

image from : Weapons and Warfare of the 20th Century - Morris, Johnson, Chant & Willmott
With a slightly better idea what I was looking for, I was able to plug into Google images search on the internet and come up with a description at the Imperial War Museum in England (link):
image copied from the Imperial War Museum
So at least for British tank crews, your object remains quite different, as you had indicated. There was still some extremely limited use of plate armours in WW1 (notably massively heavy 'sniper proof' combination chest and head shields). This proved a wasted effort, as by that point the weight of the bullets easily penetrated anything able to be carried. (I saw several samples of these pieces at Ypres in the museum there in 2016 - with bullet holes.)

Ok - so what DO you have here?
I've sent back two of your images, marked up.

(green) : The original surfaces have been spray painted black (obviously a modern addition!)
 - There are a few areas that show the original metal surfaces.
 - The rust effect on those surfaces looks to be that you see on mild steel, not wrought iron.
 - These surfaces also don't have any forge scale, all the forming has been via cold bending or hammering.

(purple) : You mention how the visor only can be raised slightly. This would be a very bad design if this was a 'working' helmet. The visor is in fact shaped primarily. as a flat curve (section of a cylinder). It really should be dished (section of a sphere) in a shape that conforms to that of the skull.

(yellow) :  All the plates are formed of the same, very thin, (mild steel) metal stock.
- The metal would be extremely thin for actual wrought iron plates
- You can't really tell in the images, but this appears the same thickness for the body of the skull as well.
These do appear very thin, against the ideal for the purpose of actual combat. This is seen in the visor, which is one of the normally thickened target areas on an armour. the skull plates should also be considerably thicker for the same reasons (you can judge if this is the case?). In combat, most strikes will come to the wearer's left side skull, which commonly is thickened to protect against these impacts.

(red) - These seams look to be arc welds.
- The beading further looks to be stick welding.
- There has been an attempt to grind the welding beads smooth and flush
The uppermost line of welds appears to have actually burned through the metal - which indicates both not the best work - but most importantly again that the skull plates may be quite thin metal. 
A look to the inside surfaces of those seams will tell you a lot. I expect you will find the lumps of the weld bead.

So - what time frame does this all give us?
- Mild Steel = post 1855.
Wrought Iron was still being produced, in smaller and smaller amounts, up into at least the 1920's - 30's
- Arc 'Stick' Welding = post 1870.
Stick welders are still widely available. Largely supplanted in current workshops by inert gas welding (MIG), which itself is only after about 1945 (which would be definate modern dating).

One of the big indicators for me is the construction of the skull. It has been made of several narrow pieces, each partially dished, as cold hammering, then the segments electric welded to create the sphere of the skull. This is a very modern, 'amateur' approach to creating the required shape.
The historic method is to hot dish the skull from one single piece. That starting plate would have been forged to a modified thickness profile to start with, thinner at the edges, and thicker in the centre. Taking a flat circle and forming it into a half sphere involves dishing in the centre and raising along the edges. Dishing thins the plate, raising thickens it. Ideally the variations in starting profile would allow for a *uniform* thickness overall in the finished skull - after the stretching and compacting of the two forming processes.

'Antique' as a term gets pretty slippery. 'Vintage' may be fair. This could possibly be a late Victorian era 'replica'.

But, sad to say, I think what you really have here is a helmet made by a mid skill grade, modern, re-enactor. Likely some point in over the 1980's or 1990's.

Note : Images of the object under consideration, from the original questioner. Name is withheld for privacy.

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

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