Sunday, February 11, 2024

'How Dense Are You?' now available on Amazon!


How Dense Are You?: Recording bloom density from experimental iron smelting. Paperback – Feb. 6 2024 

Key to any understanding of the ancient processes of bloomery iron smelting is assessing the actual iron that was made!

How Dense Are You’ charts the density of 30 individual blooms, created by Darrell Markewitz and his team, spanning over 20 years of experimental iron smelting. This work specifically focused on historic Northern European methods during the ‘Dark Ages’.

• The ‘short shaft’ furnace, which was used for the production of blooms, is detailed.
• A variety ores were processed, but a dependable analog from easily available red iron oxide powder is described.
• A measurements from a number of artifact blooms are given for comparison.
• Individual blooms are charted against a total of 8 possible effective variables.
• This 42 page report is richly illustrated with photographs
• Includes web site links and formal citations

In comparison to many academic studies, this volume centres on the
practical experience of actually making bloomery iron. It answers the question : Can the skill of modern makers match that of the ancients?

Darrell Markewitz is a professional Artisan Blacksmith, who has been investigating bloomery iron smelting since 2001.
Neil Peterson is a Project Manager in high tech, who has assisted in this experimental archaeology research.

Note : This work written without use of AI
prices in $ CDN / set originally at US $1.99 / US $9.99
This volume (45 pages) was created largely as a test for the '7 Day Amazon Publishing Challenge' (*). It is a revised edition of a commentary written in 2022, considerably improved with the addition of more internet links and academic type citations. 
Although now formatted for both e-pub / Kindle and as an 8 1/2 x 11 printed book, my main purpose was learning the mechanics of Kindle Direct Publishing - not retail sales potential. So to that end, I would suggest anyone wishing to support the ongoing experimental work in bloomery iron smelting here actually purchase the e-pub version. You will need to ether have a version of Kindle Reader application (or own a Kindle device), or you can open and read via your main computer internet browser. The advantage of the e-pub (along with the reduced cost) is that all the various internet hot links contained are available on a click.
I had already started on a full book length : '20 Years Before the Blast - Bloomery Iron Smelting' (tentative title), which would cover observations from all the work in that area since 2001. This is being done as a legacy project, again not with expectations of sales income. On completing the 'Challenge' project, in conversation with David Robertson, I occurred to me that I could certainly convert my lecture 'Beginning Blacksmithing or Things I wish someone had told me' into a book version that might be more suited to a popular market.
Worth mentioning that David had undertaken his own first Kindle / Amazon project :  
* ) It is perhaps fair that I make some comments about the '7 Day Challenge' here :
At core this is kind of pyramid scheme - so do enter with your eyes open. The process is presented free of charge, and you certainly do get what you paid for! 
The presenters are at core attempting to promote their own business - AIA Publishing. They will consistently push you to sign up for their numerous (and expensive!) workshop programs on marketing, publishing and writing.  They will consistently give glowing examples of individuals who have used these services (in the range of thousands of dollars cost) who then managed to generate incomes from multiple hundreds, even multiple thousands of dollars in sales - every month.
The key here is the promotion of using current Artificial Intelligence mechanisms to 'create' the entire contents. From preparing outlines, 'writing' the contents, to generating the cover graphics. At best I personally found all minimum ethically bankrupt. The hook appears to convince a gullible public to spend $3.99 US on a Kindle version with questionable value and little originality. To be fair they don't actively dissuade participants from original content creation, but more that they constantly present how easy it is to have machines do all the actual work for you instead. The marketing strategy involves generating massive amounts of these publications, so relying on the many trickles from individual offerings eventually combining into " MASSIVE INCOME!! "
One thing to be particularly aware of : All three of us (Kelly as well) who undertook the last Challenge cycle found the mechanics of layout and submission for approval of the Amazon print on demand version of our manuscripts particularly fussy and annoying. All had to work though tedious multiple submissions and revisions to get to a final print ready version. I actually spent more time on revisions than I did actually preparing the text and images contained.
To be fair, they will provide you with references to a number of available on line access points, especially outlining how the Amazon / Kindle Direct Publishing system is set up.  
My overall impression here is that this whole exercise represents yet another example of the 'internet bubble'. Those few who initially realized the potential of a new computer / internet sales venue have made out like bandits. Then the profits have shifted not from working that (new!!) system, but in selling 'experience' with the system to others, who are seduced by the 'get rich quick and easy!!' potential opportunity. But very quickly, that potential market is swamped and diluted, beyond any reasonable capacity. Remember E-bay, Etsy ??
So taken together, the '7 Day Amazon Publishing Challenge' will provide some useful information. I'd highly recommend ignoring all the hype, and most certainly those sales pitches.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Upcoming Lectures - SCA Practicum

Practicum 2024: Back to Basics

When : Saturday, Feb 24, 2024
Where : Rideau Park United Church, 2203 Alta Vista Dr, Ottawa, K1H 7L9 (map)

Practicum 2024 – Back to Basics (

Site opens: 9:30am  Site closes 8:30pm

(At point of this post, class schedules have not been published) 


DARC round table on the Viking Age

60 minute round table style discussion
best suits teens through adults

DARC Round Table on the Viking Age

How do you approach re-creating daily life in the Viking Age? Drawing on decades of practical experience presenting this period before (literally) tens of thousands of the general public, as well as individual lifetimes as working artisans, four prominent members of the Dark Ages Re-creation Company will discuss aspects and issues related to not only this historic period, but undertaking living history in general. Topics will range from the general (Viking vs Norse?), the practical (balancing historic vs modern tools and materials), to the topical (perceptions and representations of gender). Opinions are likely to differ, and discussion with the audience is expected!

Norse Iron 

60 minute illustrated lecture / discussion
best suits teens through adults 

The 'Dark Ages' are known partially through a number of truly impressive objects made from forged iron, Sutton Hoo (Anglo-Saxon) and Oseburg (Norse) being the best known examples. During the Viking Age, iron was used for domestic objects, tools and weapons. Illustrated with artifact images and physical replicas, this session will look at how iron itself was made, the work of the blacksmith, and objects of special interest to re-enactors.

Note there is a slight change here, due to my own mix up with lectures at the Blue Dragon event in January! 

Starting in Blacksmithing for Re-enactors (some practical advice) 

60 minute illustrated lecture / discussion
best suits teens through adults 

As popular culture exploits an interest in blacksmithing, more and more people are drawn to a first attempt to pick up a hammer. Forget what you see on 'Forged in Fire'! Drawing from a lifetime at the forge and decades of teaching experience, this combination illustrated lecture and Q & A, will look at contemporary blacksmithing equipment and processes, with an eye to the differences between modern, traditional and historic methods. A particular focus will be important practical advice for the beginning smith.

Instructor Bio 

Darrell Markewitz first picked up the hammer in the late 1970's, and has worked professionally as an artisan blacksmith since the late 1980's. He found the Wareham Forge in 1992, specializing in 'Historic Reproductions in Metals', with work for both major museums and individual re-enactors, as well as private commissions for his Art Nouveau based designs. Most significant museum work is his creation of the living history program for Parks Canada at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC, he has provided staff training, physical presentations and object replicas for museums throughout North American, in Great Britain and Europe. Since 2001, he has undertaken personal research via experimental archaeology into bloomery iron smelting, which has included numerous conference presentations and academic papers.
As Sylard of Eagleshaven, he is 'Ancient of Days', holds a Laurel for decorative metalwork, and is the original 'bastard Viking' of song and story. He founded the Dark Ages Re-creation Company in 2000, and remains it's driving force.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Elora Sculpture Project 2023 - 'What Comes Next'


‘What Comes Next’

Elora Sculpture Project - 2024

Average global temperatures for 2023 became the hottest on record, rising to 1.46 ° C above ‘pre-industrial’ average (1850). With warming will come sea level rise.

The form of this sculpture is suggested by deep undersea hydrothermal vents.
In keeping with the concept of ‘humans once lived here’, sometime in the distant future coloured limestone formations have combined with new coral growths to cover over the debris left behind when human industrial civilization was abandoned. Despite the worst of human degradation, the sea continues to harbour life, although much has been distorted to unfamiliar forms.

I beg the indulgence of the Jury on this submission, which is more conceptional than fully rendered. The individual elements can be illustrated by past works, provided as examples of at least intended types.

General Description

The core of the sculpture is a irregularly surfaced, roughly conical stack with a number of openings at the upper side, standing about four feet tall by two feet at the base. This structure is composed of randomly coloured concrete, laid around and including various cast off pieces from plastic appliance housings and shaped scrap metal like machine parts and shot sections of pipe. Some of these are surface textured and painted to suggest mould or algae.
At several spots, the structure includes groups of randomly shaped ‘bubbles’, which allow for viewing into the interior. These placed so that the motion of the sculpted ‘jelly fish’ in the interior can be glimpsed (part of the mechanism described below).

Over the surface of the stack a number of creatures crawl or are attached. These will include vaguely crab and shrimp like animals, variations on real (often bizarre) worms, coral and kelp forms - and some creatures the like of which has not been seen since ancient mass extinction events.

Above all this, from the main central opening, number of tall sinuous curved panels rise, suggestive of the ‘smoke’ visible at some ocean vents extend a further two - three feet. Each is pivoted and counterbalanced, allowing for some motion side to side in the wind. The counterbalance weights are formed from drastically shaped and patterned steel blocks, suggesting strange jelly fish like creatures.
Also standing above the main form are a number of thin rods which support individual, brightly painted fish profiles, which also swivel in moving winds.

As with past submissions, this will be a new work, created specifically for the Elora Sculpture Project.


The main point of inspiration remains images taken at deep sea hydrothermal vents:

Some of the ‘black smoker’ types show bright mottled colours over the deposited materials making up the stacks.
Commonly found animals are crabs and shrimp.


1) Structure

Some indication of how individual metal and plastic elements will be incorporated can be seen in my ‘Mecha’ series (2015) although this was considerably more limited in scale.

2) Crabs / Shrimp
These will be at least suggestive of earlier work like ‘Burgess Crab’ (2011) and the horseshoe crab element seen in ‘Last to Sea’ (ESP - 2020), although what will be made will be considerably smaller in size.

'Burgess Crab'

Horseshoe Crab element
3) Worms / Other

I will certainly use the stacked plastic disks with spacers method used for ‘Roller’ (2013), although with a rigid spine. Other worm like creatures will incorporate the waving form seen along the back of ‘Hallucigenia’ (2012)



4) ’Smoke’
The panels will be individually curved, as seen in ‘Celtic Winds’ (2005), although not as aggressively contoured, and starting with a narrow triangular shape before folding.

5) Kelp / Coral
Exact details will vary as individual elements are created. An earlier examples of potential forms can be suggested by ‘Kelp-on-Stone’ (2010)


The overall height will be 6 - 7 feet (installed)
The overall diameter will be and irregular roughly 3 feet, with individual elements attached.

Due to the expected weight of the  total sculpture, the main structure will consist of a series of individual ‘donut’ sections about 12 inches tall. These formed of fine sand concrete mix, cast into loose wet sand forms to an estimated thickness of about two inches over wire reinforcing grid. The base concrete itself may be coloured / contain texture elements, and there will be coloured paint applied to the surface to best reflect the reference image mentioned above. The rings will have internal framing of steel and bolt through pipe fittings on the interior allowing each to be lifted in place then securely attached together. The bottom most ring will also contain a framework of 1 1/2 x 1/8 inch web angle allowing for bolting to the existing sculpture mount.
The concrete sections will include various found object pieces, exactly what, primarily at the whims of what can be found.

Individual creature forms will be primarily made of forged mild steel bar, structural and sheet. Some will have decorative paint applied, some left to naturally rust patina. Use of heavy wire rope, and re-bar may be used to create interesting textures on longer kelp like elements. The ‘Roller’ element will incorporated plastic (CD/DVD) disks, others may have framework glass included. All the individual elements (save those few that move) will be bolted into place.


A further commentary, written for this blog

And will you go to church to pray,
Leaving your children to atone.
This world you’ve left in disarray
Is not God’s work; it is your own.

“God and The Orange Clown”
Ian Robb (1)

Over the past years I have become more and more distressed with human impact on the Earth’s environment. Measurements for 2023 show that global warming actually rose 1.46 ° C. (2) This places any governmental attempts at limiting the impact of CO2 emissions as an means of keeping any rise in global average temperatures from increasing any more than 1.5 ° C as clearly impossible.
At point of writing (January 15, 2024) the actual atmospheric CO2 level was 422 parts per million. (3)

“The last time CO2 levels exceeded 400ppm was around four million years ago, during the Pliocene era, when global temperatures were 2-4C (3.6-7.2F) warmer and sea levels were 10-25m (33-82ft) higher than today.” (4)

Look at a sea level projection of what even 10 metres higher would mean, and you will see the majority of major cities along both the USA coasts may be simply be under water by the much repeated 2050 benchmark. (5)

'Oh - It will not be that bad, and that is still a lifetime away, I will never see this!'


Look only as far out as 2030. About the time you will be buying your next new car (likely another F150 pickup).


Back in 1976 (five years after I was personally involved in the Enviromental movement, if only in a small way) Billy Joel wrote 'Miami 2017' (6). At that time this was a reflection on the New York City debt crisis, but...

Seen the lights go out on Broadway
I saw the Empire State laid low
And life went on beyond the Palisades
They all bought Cadillacs
And left there long ago
They held a concert out in Brooklyn
To watch the island bridges blow
They turned our power down
And drove us underground
But we went right on with the show





5) The link allows you to plug in various water level increases against a zoom in world map


Sunday, January 07, 2024

Upcoming : Classes at SCA events - one

Blue Dragon Studium 3.5

When : Jan 20 – 21, 2024
Where : Woodview Community Centre, 151 Cadillac Ave N, Oshawa, ON L1G 6C3, Canada (map)
Description : The Canton of Ard Chreag hosts Blue Dragon Studium IV


I will be returning to a couple of teaching style events upcoming for the Society for Creative Anachronism, here in Ontario, over the next two months.

These are the offerings I have proposed / are scheduled for Saturday January 20
Historic Pewter Casting

8:30 - 12:00 AM
8 student maximum
14 years and up
materials fee = $10
Students will be required to be masked, considerable dust generated during carving / instructor protection

Metals have been cast into stone moulds since the Bronze Age. Simple pendants and tokens of pewter are found throughout the Medieval period. In this class each student will carve their own re-usable soapstone mould, then make several finished castings of lead free (tin) alloy, with needed tools provided *. The class includes a brief historic overview, a discussion of mould making methods and a discussion of designs. Students keep their mould block, which should have room for 2 - 4 objects (depending on size), 4 - 6 finished castings, a simple technique handout.
* Any students owning a demel type rotary tool are asked to bring them (four units provided).

Norse Iron 
2:00 - 3:00 PM
60 minute lecture / discussion
no class size limit
best suits teens through adults

The 'Dark Ages' are known partially through a number of truly impressive objects made from forged iron, Sutton Hoo (Anglo-Saxon) and Oseburg (Norse) being the best known examples. During the Viking Age, iron was used for domestic objects, tools and weapons. Illustrated with artifact images and physical replicas, this session will look at how iron itself was made, the work of the blacksmith, and objects of special interest to re-enactors.

Experimental Archaeology for Re-enactors 
3:00 - 4:00 PM
60 minutes as lecture / discussion
no class size limit
best suits teens through adults
As you gain skill and experience with Medieval craft works, your personal experience often hits a point where references fail and you think 'Just how did they do that?'. Without realizing, you may have crossed the line into Experimental Archaeology! There are differences to be considered between Experience and Experiment, but surprisingly, adding to formal knowledge can often be the product of fairly simple undertakings. Among case samples are the work the Dark Ages Re-creation Company into Viking Age glass bead making and bloomery iron smelting. 
Instructor Bio
Darrell Markewitz has operated the Wareham Forge full time since 1992, with experience as an artisan blacksmith spanning 45 years. He is a specialist in the Viking Age, working closely with Parks Canada at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC, as well as contributing to museum programs in Canada, the USA and the UK. A special effort for the last two decades has been research into bloomery iron smelting, expanded into experimental archaeology and academic papers.
As Sylard of Eagleshaven, his involvement with the SCA extends to the mythic founding of Eoforwic, and he is founder of the Dark Ages Re-creation Company.

These are the session descriptions I provided after I had contacted the event organizers back in early December. You can see when you look to the event schedule, I am used to a more formal set of descriptions for session offerings (lost in the web formatting). I am also specifically stressing my real world experience, rather than using SCA personna and accomplishments - especially because of the topic areas.

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