Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bellows Test

Revised Air Delivery Test - Norse double chamber bellows
Darrell Markewitz & Neil Peterson, raw data by Peter Martin

A series of tests were made by Neil Peterson and Peter Martin at the DARC smelt in Wareham on October 28.

The bellows used is a reconstruction of a Viking Age blacksmith's double chamber bellows. The reconstruction is based on the two existing images of this type. The side depiction from Hylestad, Norway with a human figure provides relative scale, the top view from Ramsund, Sweden gives us proportions of length to width and valve size.

The rough dimensions of the reconstruction are:
total length: 70 cm (28 inches)
total width: 20 cm (20 inches)
individual bag length: 50 cm (20 inches)
individual bag width: 25 cm (10 inches)
effective loft height: 30 cm (12 inches)
inlet valve size; 10 cm (4 inches)
outlet tube size: 2 cm
For a fuller discussion of the reconstruction- go to an earlier BLOG Post

The tests were undertaken by a number of operators. The skill levels ranged considerably, from trained blacksmiths through to those who had never used any kind of bellows before. This was done to give the largest sample over the largest spread of skills. (It can be assumed that after several hours of working the bellows during a smelt, skill levels would come to be quite good - and air volumes more consistent.)
It should also be noted that the Y tube running from the bellows was tied in place, but not sealed with clay. This would have allowed some seepage of air before it could be measured at the exhaust end of the bellows tube.

Measurements were made by Peter using a small hand held anemometer which would record an average flow over a time period of 20 seconds. Number of strokes delivered over the time were counted. This allowed individuals to develop a consistent pattern of strokes before the measurements were taken. The first control level was taken with the anemometer held over the exhaust tube of the bellows.

An attempt was made to estimate the effects of resistance such as that would be created inside a working smelter. Neil made up a simple filter was made by layering 'landscape fabric' into a wooden frame which could be placed over the bellows tube. Measurements were made while each operator pumped against one, two and then three layers of this cloth. (Note that there was no attempt to actually match these filters against the real resistance of a working smelter.)

L/min figures below assume a pipe with 2 cm interior diameter (18.8 is the resulting multiplier)



m/s - no pressure test (L/min)

m/s - pressure test 1 (L/min)

m/s - pressure test 2 (L/min)

m/s - pressure test 3 (L/min)



11.1 (209)

7.1 (133)

6.9 (130)

5.1 (103)



13.6 (256)

7.3 (137)

7.1 (133)

4.9 (92)



11.7 (220)

7.1 (133)

7.1 (133)

4.3 (81)



9.3 (175)

6.3 (118)

5.5 (103)

3.2 (60)



11.2 (211)

8.4 (158)

7.5 (141)

5.4 (102)



10.0 (188)

8.0 (150)

6.7 (126)

5.2 (98)



11.15 (209)

7.4 (139)

6.8 (128)

4.7 (88)

Observer's comments:

" As bag pressure increases stroke length shortens and stroke rate increases proportionately. Operator notes increased bag pressures and "maintains" "constant" pressure at bottom of stroke resulting in arithmetic decrease in flow rate at logarithmic increases in air resistance. " (Peter)

" Way too many math terms that I'm not sure truly apply - I'm very leary of the word usage here although I agree with the jist of the observation, pump rate goes up, stroke shortens and flow rate decreases. " (Neil)

With that said the pressure tester adds a theoretical geometric (or exponential) progression of resistance (0,1,2,4). (Theoretical as it may be that putting in two layers makes it 4 times as hard to move air, or only 1.5 times as hard as one layer.)

The drop off on flow isn't even close to that sort of progression. The drops are 33%, 8%, 31%. It is interesting that any resistance at all produces a very significant drop, doubling? that resistance then produces only a minor fall off, but doubling? again produces another hefty drop off. Perhaps we are approaching the limit of the bellows to move the air.

It was noted (Peter) that a more useful measure of resistance would have been produced by use of a graduated tube full of charcoal particles.
Creating some method to introduce an anemometer 'in line' during a working smelt would also produce valuable information. (In the past all air volume measurements have been recorded with the blower venting with no resistance.)

In earlier writings, estimated values for the air delivered by this system were calculated by measuring the output of an earlier version of these bellows. This was done quite primitively, by means of attaching the bellows tube to a large garbage bag. Ten standard strokes were then made. The resulting bag of air was then placed inside a container of known volume, and the level compared to the total size of that container. This then produced an average volume produced per stroke at 2.2 litres.
Working stroke rates were determined from actual operation of that same bellows by various (untrained) operators during the Early Iron 1 experimental smelt It was observed that the average strokes per minute over a working period of 10 minutes was roughly 1 per second.
Taken together, these numbers produced an estimate of working air delivery set at 120 litres per minute.

In light of the better estimates produced in the test reported above, it is obvious those earlier volumes are incorrect. In effect however, at a working smelter producing considerable resistance to air flow, the original estimates still are close enough to the results of this test series. The earlier conclusions about the effective delivery of the Norse double bag bellows - in a size indicated as blacksmith's equipment, remain supported.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Historic Blooms?

Some thoughts on Blooms

I have been spending more time than normal in discussions related to the current series of experimental iron smelts. These include members of our working team, iron masters Lee Sauder & Skip Williams, and researchers Kevin Smith, Arne Espelund and Birgitta Wallace. (In various combinations, with separate topic threads intertwining).

I wanted to pull together a couple of things for the interest of my readers (and fellow pyromaniacs). Please remember that the following represents ideas from any (sometimes all) of the people mentioned above, who may not be clearly represented. With that large grain of salt taken - read on...

A reasonable question was raised about how I keep comparing the blooms we have been making compare to actual Viking Age artifact blooms.

First a note on our sizes:

I had decided to keep the sizes of our blooms into the small end of those found from the Viking Age. As was pointed out to me by a couple of people, historic blooms tend to range closer to 8 kg on average, with a few samples as much as double that weight. From what we have learned from Lee and Skip, and our own direct experience, once you get the iron bloom ball rolling, its actually pretty easy to just keep packing on the size. Inside the reaction, the furnace reaches a point where to maintain a consistent burn rate (at roughly 6 - 10 minutes for 10 litres) you effectivley dampen down the heat by adding ever larger charges of ore. In some smelts we have seen ore additions raised to as much as one and half times (by weight) of the charcoal amounts, inside a consistent consumption. When that happens the end product are truly monster blooms - in the range of 20 kg (Lee and Skip have gotten even larger ones).
In truth, there is a basic amount of fuel expended to get the interior of the smelter at the conditions for the creation of any bloom in the first place. This will vary by the construction and size of the smelter, does tend to represent 50% or better of the total fuel consumption. It makes practical sense to just keep piling on the iron once you have gone to all the work to get things happening in the first place.

The counter to this is : How do you work that huge lump of metal afterwards? For those other modern blacksmiths reading, imagine hand forging a piece of iron which is an irregular half ball shape, roughly 10 cm thick by 20 wide. The obvious solution is - POWER HAMMER. But what if you did not have any? Even trying to re-heat such a large mass after it has cooled is a daunting task...

We also have been influenced by our initial starting point in all of this - the Viking Age iron smelt at Vinland by members of Leif Ericsson's crew circa 1000 AD. The written reports suggest roughly 3 kg of iron were produced at that first smelt in North America. (Although its important to note that I'm not sure if that number may refer to the estimate of the workable iron produced, not necessarily a measure of the weight of the bloom out of the furnace.)

Taken altogether, the DARC series of smelts have kept the size of the blooms produced in the range of 3 - 5 kg. I certainly feel that if we can make 3 kg of good workable iron, we could have easily produced 10 kg with just a bit more smelt sequence. It also leaves us with a mass of material which is much easier to manipulate into the consolidation phase of the process.

Second - physical appearance:

Kevin Smith commented "...those who wrote about these Norse bloomery furnace blooms were convinced that the archaeological examples in question were blooms that had been consolidated to that shape and density through initial forging/welding, perhaps in several steps, after removal from the furnace."

Kevin is exactly correct that many of the artifact blooms show a distinctive 'hockey puck' shape, a flat sided disk, often sliced from one edge into a 'pac man' profile. As he states, this specific shape is clearly the result of heavy compaction hammering of the bloom. There are also however a number of samples which have a clear convex / concave bottom and top shape to them. These are almost identical to what we are pulling out of the furnace from our own smelts.

Iron Bloom - Oyane, Telemark, Norway (19.5 cm dia.)

'Resurrection' Bloom - Wareham, 10/2006 (18 cm dia.)
bottom uppermost

On extraction, the bloom mass will have a dished bottom surface, with the upper side either flat or slightly dished in. The top surface is normally well compacted, the lower side somewhat less so, with the lightest structure to the circular edges (especially the side furthest from the tuyere).
We often end up doing not much more than a very quick surface compaction on the still hot bloom after it is extracted. With a good quality dense bloom, the core is noticeably very hard, with lacy material attached to the edges. The first working over with hand sledges will either compress in, or often just knock away this attached material.

(more to come)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

GRAVE GOODS - Call for Entry

A Juried Exhibit of Contemporary Artisans
Woodstock Museum - Woodstock Ontario
September 5 to November 1 - 2008

In Ancient times, providing for the needs of the dead into the after life often exhibited the best work of artist and craftsman. Much of what we know about these lost cultures comes from clues found in graves. Into the early years of Canada's history, people continued their own distinctive and often elaborate traditions around burials and morning. How future ages may view our current era is sure to be coloured partially by what objects we use to mark our own passing.

Be it whimsical or serious, conceptual or traditional - GRAVE GOODS seeks to explore how the current generation of artisans view all aspects of burial customs. Original objects in all mediums created after September 1, 2007 are eligible for entry. Artists are being juried based on past works to encourage the creation of new pieces specifically for this exhibit. Grave Goods further explores the themes set out in the Woodstock Museum's special program for 2008 - 'Funeral Rites'.

Exhibit Guest Curator : Darrell Markewitz (Reflections of the Conquest, Out of the Fiery Furnace)

Special Exhibit Host : An Droichead / the Bridge

Key Dates:

Jury Entries - Start : November 1, 2007
End : June 1, 2008

Documentation - Due : July 1, 2008

Object Delivery - At the Woodstock Museum no latter than September 3, 2008

Check the web site:

Please! Feel free to pass along this open call information to any other artists you know who might be interested.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Possible FOOT powered air system

If you have been following the discussion of historic iron smelting, you have seen that the problem of air volumes has been an ongoing problem. Simply put, the method developed by Sauder & Williams, which works almost every time, requires the use of high volumes of air. Their theoretical model (and practical experience) calls for 1.2 to 1.5 litres per minute of air per square centimeter of smelter interior at tuyere level. In our case with the 25 - 30 cm diameters, thats in the range of 800 litres per minute.
Our problem is that working with the * reconstructed *, * blacksmith * bellows based on * only two * * period illustrations * with * no artifact evidence * - the best we can produce is on the order of 120 litres per minute. (Note all the potential errors!)

So I had sent a direct question off to a number of experimenters and researchers about bellows sizes and types for Dark Ages Europe.

Both Arne Espelund and (quoted) Skip Williams reminded me :

"... Actually, if you take a close look at the 'log framed' furnaces in Evenstad, at Trondelag, etc. you will see that there is a thin wall where the tuyere in inserted and sort of a large access arch over the bellows. This is probably the closest parallel we have to an Icelandic bloomery; same culture; different time and place...."

I also was sent this reference by Peter Hurley :

"...I think the following link may be helpful. It contains a conjectural reconstruction of how a foot powered two bag bellows might have worked. It remains only to build one and test it's potential output. For 800 litres of air per minute, I estimate each bag would have to have at least 8.7 litres of capacity assuming a pace of around 46 "steps" per minute:..."


That reference is from a book 'A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland' by P.W. Joyce - 1906. This appears mainly to derive its information from various written documents. The commentary discusses blacksmithing equipment and does not clearly give any date information (or artifact sources). It does describe yet another set up for foot powered bellows (though not as elegant a mechanical system as the Evenstad ones.)

Skips reference to the Evenstad process and set up is interesting (and admittedly something that did not come to mind). This is a larger scale multiple use smelter intended for top extractions and repeated hot swap firings. The largest problem I can see with the layout is that there is no provision for slag tapping. The tuyere also looks to be set too close to the base of the furnace for development of the slag bowl and bloom either.

The more interesting note is the 'traditional' bellows construction. Double chamber, but foot powered. At Hals there would have to be some kind of frame in place to make this set up work. I did a real fast ball park estimate from the measurements from the Evenstad document (from Arne Espelund's 'Iron Production in Norway') and get a (very rough estimate!) of 140 litres per stroke (empty one bag). Our own experience with the large UbberBellows had shown that the speed of stroke is limited by the time it takes to push the air through that 2.5 cm ID tuyere opening. ( That hand powered reconstruction is about the same volume - but slightly different proportions.) Our constant average was about 6 strokes per minute, with 10 stokes possible at least on short bursts. That suggests a delivered volume from 840 to maybe 1400 litres a minute.
If I'm reading the source document correctly (the translation and style is sometimes not clear) the mouth of the Evenstad tuyere is 3" diameter - which would make for easier delivery through the pipe. This in turn would make it possible to increase the pumping rate (thus delivered volume) above those numbers. Now I have an eliptical trainer trainer workout machine here, and even in my pathetic condition can easily maintain 30 plus strokes per second against some resistance. So being REALLY theoretical, lets peg the top end from the Evenstad set up at as much as 3200 litres per minute.
The Evenstad furnace is roughly 60 cm internal diameter (according to Espelund's conversion of 1 ell = 60 cm). That gives us a surface area of roughly 2700 cm. Using the Sauder and Williams calculation for effective air delivery, that suggest an optumal volume of at least 3250 litres per minute. Bingo!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Smelt - some considerations

Neil and I have been looking at our measurement system with a bit of a critical eye:

First off - there have been inconsistencies in some of our past experimental data. This has most often come from not making correct account of the variation in the unit weights of some of our raw materials.

Charcoal varies a lot in terms of its density, this primarily due to the amount of water that may be incorporated in various sources and individual batches. The material from Black Diamond Charcoal for example is particularly dry. The primary adjustment here is recording totals as volume - rather than as raw weight as has been done in the past. During an actual smelt, we are measuring by a standard bucket volume anyway (then calculating the weights.)
The measured volume of our standard bucket is 10 litres.

Ore is also measured by a standard scoop, again working in volume. The calculations from number of scoops to weight has proved to contribute the largest error in the past. The problem here is the widely differing densities of the various ore types that have been used. The Virginia Rock ore for example has an average weight of 12 ounces per scoop, with the hematite grit closer to 20 ounces for the same volume.
The best suggestion here is to measure the weight of a standard scoop of ore for each individual smelt event.
The weight of a scoop of the hematite grit is 560 gms.

Air is delivered by an electric blower controlled by a marked switch. It is also becoming obvious that the normal vacumn blower is starting to show its heavy use. (Although a rugged piece of equipment, it is several decades old!) The light dimmer switch being used as a volume control is also likely to degrade with time. This became appearent during the last smelt, when the dial mark that used to show the 'just kicking over' position was in fact producing not enough current to start the blower running.
The best suggestion here is to measure the various marked volumes with the anemometer for every experiment.
The just measured air volumes are posted HERE

The relationship between air volume, charcoal consumption, reactive column height, and ore particle size needs to be re-considered for the next experiment in the Icelandic series. Up till now we have been following Sauder & Williams' guide lines for high volume air delivery - and with great success. According to their model of 1.2 - 1.5 litres per square centimeter of smelter area, our working volumes have been the range of 500 - 800 l/min. (against our typical base dimension of 25 - 30 cm).
Williams had reported that Michael Nissen (of Denmark) had been undertaking working smelts at volumes in the range of 300 l/min. This is with a blow hole set up and using a version of the Norse double bellows. (His unit is about 50% larger in physical dimensions than my blacksmith type reconstruction.) One thing to note here is that Nissen's set up has the bellows tube sitting just slightly outside the actual blow hole. This may create an extra air intake, from a possible venturi effect from the blast of air. This effect might be increased because of the way air flow pulses under the physical action of the double chamber set up.

Our own experience (admittedly only a single test) of the blow hole set up suggests that this effect may in fact be limited. Note that the last test used the electric blower, which delivers air in a constant blast (no variation cycle):
- When the charcoal was first added, a significant volume of the applied air did not penetrate into the furnace, but instead heated air splashed back out of the blow hole.
- As the internal charcoal slowly ignited, this black splash effect was visibly reduced. This suggests there was some natural draft effect from the rising hot gasses within the furnace.
- The high temperatures within the furnace fairly quickly started to melt material off the interior wall above the blow hole (stone surface). The slag produced then dripped down - freezing when it hit the relatively cold air a the mouth of the bellows tube. This effect was seen at roughly 30 minutes into the main smelt sequence. After about a hour after the addition of charcoal this melted slag had effectively blocked over the entire surface of the blow hole (save for the actual mouth of the bellows tube).
- In that test smelt, there was no attempt made to remove this solidified material. The normal care was taken to ensure the actual mouth of the tuyere remained clear (by rodgering the opening to remove hardened slag).
One question here would be - In the Nissen smelts, was extra care being taken to keep the whole of the blow hole surface clean of slag? I took a second look at some of the images from one of these smelts, and in fact the bellows tube fits snugly into the hole on the front plate. This suggests minimal air loss and no extra venturi effect from the blast.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Icelandic Smelt ONE - published images


This has the images from the weekend's effort plus their brief commentary at this point. I'm still working on the full description and formatting up the experimental sequence details.


TIME - preheat two hours / main smelt four hours

CHARCOAL - 270 litres

ORE - 11 kg

BLOOM - 6 kg

Keep tuned - what was learned this experiment will be directly applied to the Oct 27 smelt.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Support Our Troops Ribbons

For some time now I have been trying to get one of the 'Support our Troops' car decals. I have just not had much luck with this. From truck stops to Canadian Tire - no one seems to actually sell the things. A couple of weeks back I was talking to another blacksmith, Don Shears, who recently returned himself from a tour in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces. A couple of days latter I got this source for the ribbon stickers from him:

... you asked about the magnetic "Support Our Troops" ribbons.

Below is a link to a page off of the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency (CANEX) website, listing a massive variety of S.O.T's items (I didn't know how much of that stuff there was until I looked!) About halfway down the page are the ribbon magnets.


The cost is minimal - less than $8 with the postage and the taxes all together.

Worth doing...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thanksgiving smelt - Draft report

This is just a fast overview of the smelt on Sunday October 7 - carried out by Neil and myself.

The smelter was constructed as had been discussed in earlier posts. Neil had gathered a donation of pre-mixed pottery clay (donated by Potter Supply House in Kitchener). This was cut into slabs roughly 6 cm thick, each trimmed to allow them to be stacked into the cylindrical shape of the smelter. The seams were 'mortared' using the wast 'smelter clay' that Selena has provided.

At the front of the smelter, the structure was built up from stone slabs. The lower section was raised to a level of roughly 20 cm. Two smaller pieces were laid on top of this, leaving a central slot about 5 cm wide by 7 cm high. On top of this was placed a large slab - 4 cm thick by roughly 30 cm tall, which was 30 cm at the lower edge and 20 cm at the upper. This slab sits over the zone of the smelter that is subjected to the highest operating temperatures.

The tuyere was mounted so that the tip of the steel pipe was set to just even with the inside surface of the smelter (the edge of the upper stone slab. For this experiment, the standard 22 1/2 down angle was used. Air was delivered via our standard blower, with the rate in the higher volume range that has proved successful in our earlier smelts.

The smelter was constructed on Saturday, and left for the moisture inside the clay to at least partially stabilize over night. This step turned out not to be as effective as was hoped.
The overall set up - during the preheat phase.
Because of the use of block clay (in replace of the standard cobb mixture) a longer than normal preheat sequence was undertaken. Split wood was burned using natural draw for about 1 1/2 hours. A low air blast was then applied for a further 25 minutes before filling with charcoal to begin the primary sequence. The higher temperatures created by the air blast to the wood drastically effected the clay. As the internal dampness flash heated to steam, serious spalling (in fact explosive shattering) of the clay bricks was the result. This so seriously damaged the top course of the clay blocks that this layer was removed and then replace with the sheet metal cylinder used in past smelts. This allowed us to maintain the normal working height of the smelter (adjusted total was 60 cm above the tuyere)

For this smelt, there was not a fixed base of charcoal fines established at an optimum level. Instead, the bottom of the furnace (packed earth) was allowed to accumulate a layer of ash and charcoal from the pre heat materials. In the end this would effect the position of the developing bloom.

Although the smelt was started with a reduced air volume, we fairly early on decided to return to more familure methods - so increased the air delivery to the range of 600 litres per minute. With this higher air flow the charcoal consumption was in the range of 8 - 5 minutes per standard bucket.
Neil taking an 'up the kilt' shot - nearing the end of the main sequence.
The ore used was the commerical hematite grit. To reduce the tendency of this smaller particle size to absorb excess carbon in the reaction zone, the ore was added as a single scoop sized slug, spread evenly over the top of the smelter each time (as opposed to layering it through out each charcoal bucket). It was decided to aim for a historic sized bloom, so a rough total of 11 kg of ore was used.

The primary smelt sequence (first charcoal to extraction) took about four hours.

A top extraction was undertaken, again represented the process we expected may have been used in the archaeological setting we are working towards. There was a clear knob of slag produced at the tuyere which was certainly melted stone from the front slab. This turned out to be a different composition than the normal slag bowl material - with a significantly different melting temperature.
The slag bowl and bloom had also formed somewhat lower in the furnace than has been the case in the past. Both these results made finding and extracting the bloom a bit tricker than in past experiments.

In the end, Neil pulled the resulting bloom. The weight was about 6 kg (roughly 45% return). As has been the case with other uses of the hematite ore, the exterior of the mass was fairly crumbly, but with a clearly solid core.
Remains of the smelter after extraction. The bloom is to the upper right corner.
Todays work is to excavate and record the structure of the furnace after it has cooled down. What is discovered can be compared to the archaeological evidence from the site at Hals.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Data from Williams & Nissen smelt

This is some information (borrowed with permission) from Skip Williams - reference his smelting trip to Europe spring of this year (March 2007). Skip was kind enough to send me his draft report on the experiment, featuring the use of the tuyere plate / blow hole system.

The smelting experiments were conducted in an oven similar to the one in the picture below. This design is Michael Nissen’s interpretation of the Espevej Oven which was used in parts of Denmark in the period from 200BC to 200AD. The oven has a diameter of approximately 30cm and a height of 50cm above the blowhole. Air is supplied to the oven through a blowhole in a thin plate that is luted into the oven at the start of each smelt. Reports of Michael’s experiments with this design, in English and Danish, can be found at http://jernmager.dk/

The blowhole plate is made of a mixture of local sandy clay and horse manure. The aim is to make the plate as thin as reasonable so that it will not melt in the extreme heat that occurs in this part of the furnace. The plate we used was 30cm wide and 40cm tall. It was approximately 4cm thick. The diameter of the blowhole was around 4cm. Air was delivered from a blower through an air tube that rested on rocks and turf placed in front of the furnace.

This information from Skip, and what is visible on Michael\s web site, is interesting in a number of ways that relate back to our Icelandic furnace experiment series:

1) The general concept of the use of a thin / fire proof section at the tuyere. By controlling the way heat develops over the parts of the furnace that are subjected to the highest temperatures, it is possible to reduce the structure at other places, where temperatures are not as high. (We have seen this same pattern develop, This is especially clear on the bricks used in the EconoNorse test smelter.)

(Skip's photo of the resulting bloom - after sectioning)

2) The quality of the bloom produced. Note that it has a much higher concentration of slag within the mass. You can clearly see how the 'bubbles' of deposited iron have grown inside the mass, slowly filling in and squeezing the slag out as they form. If you compare the cross section from the \proto bloom\ from the first VA smelter at Early Iron 1, you can see an obvious sequence.

I will be using Skip & Michael's layout for the Thanksgiving day smelt. The rock slabs will cover from base up to about 30 cm above the tuyere / blow hole space.

Rural High Speed (as if!)

Like usual - way too little and way too late...

Grey County Broadband Initiative

Grey County was chosen as one of the successful applicants in the Rural Connections …The Ontario Municipal Rural Broadband Partnership Program.


Geoff Hogan, Director of Information Technology
The Corporation of the County of Grey
595 9 th Avenue East
Owen Sound , ON N5K 3E3
Phone: (519) 372-0219 x284
Fax: (519) 376-5640

Just a side note to my faceless survey entry:

I just finished investing some $1000 in a direct satellite uplink system for my home. So unfortunately this initiative comes as way too little and way too late.

Our original internet access was via direct dial up. I have been involved in computer based communications longer that there even was a true internet - starting with simple bulletin board style messages in the late 1980's. Our first provider here in Wareham was via Ambassador out of Shelburne.

Through this all, we have been badly effected by the lack of quality provided by Bell Canada wires. As the internet and computers themselves sped up - our hook up cable degraded. In simple terms, as a true rural resident (not in a town or on main road) the same piece of copper wire remains in place. This while the number of physical homes on our road has doubled, and I dare say the individual service demands per house have quadrupled. Run the math and it is clear the Bell Canada wire does not carry the load.

One of our two phone lines to the house tends to deteriorate whenever we have a day of rain. Often to the point of not being able to function at all - completely dead. If you have ever tried to call Bell service you know the problem. A call centre in India of all places, staffed by people who are nice, but have little technical knowledge and certainly no concept of the physical realities of Central Ontario.
Our working download speeds here were in the range of 2 kps or less. Our modem has the potential to run at 56. High speed is considered to be in the range of 100 - 200. True top end speeds as much as 5 MG (thats 2500 times faster than what we get here via the Bell wire!)
We have six different computers here, all different platforms, operating systems, modems and browser software. ALL of these get that same slow access speed. I have linked these via any number of dial up access numbers and through different service providers. Always that same 2 kps or less. Everyone who lives on the section of Centre Line A running west from the Wareham crossroads has the same problem.
Bell insists there is nothing wrong with the lines (even though the phone itself fails in wet conditions). I have demonstrated this to the technician from Bell by hooking up a lap top to the bare wires where they come out of the ground to the house - and still Bell insists there is nothing wrong with their phone lines.

I have generated almost 100 percent of my home based business income directly off my (huge) web site for the last two years. I am an artisan blacksmith, and this income includes direct sales of educational DVD, recruiting students for courses, custom commissions and international museum work. Without the internet I just would not be able to support this business.

I had researched other possible connection methods. I was told that I could access direct wireless service - but to do so would require the installation of an 80 foot tall mast for the receiver head. Since local building codes do not permit me to install anything to that height on my long narrow lot - this was impossible. (Not to mention the cost involved!)

So my only option was to fork out the money for purchase and installation (total of $800) plus other hardware upgrades (another $300) to access the Xplornet direct to satellite system. The cost for this at even the base level is $60 per month. Note that the cost of my dialup ISP was a mere $20 per month.

I have been forced to make this investment and absorb the ongoing monthly cost because of the critical importance of internet communications to my business.

Perhaps the best and most cost effective program that could be put in place would be to offer some kind of grants or rebates against the cost of the hardware and installation of such systems. As has been the case for most of my life - my own forward thinking and independent actions will prevent my access to such a program. Staying ahead of the curve has always meant paying out of my own pocket.

Bell Canada needs to also be hit - and hit hard. Their instance that pathetic quality service to rural customers is acceptable - despite the fact that they impose an additional monthly fee because of our rural location - is at best dishonest. Yet again the profit motive and urban density is at the real core of this refusal to even acknowledge the existence of a demonstrated problem with their equipment.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Riverdale House - 1st Install!

For those of you following the continuing saga of the Riverdale House railing project...

The complete process of this major commission (for me) has been documented on the web site: I decided to to this mainly to provide the customers with an ongoing record of the work as it progressed, and also to have a well documented series I could use to illustrate to future clients just what is involved in the creation of such a project.

Just this week the first two finished panels were installed on the house in Toronto

These two images of the pair of flat panels give some idea of how the overall design works in on the front porch. The upper image shows the way the thin flat bars tend to visually disappear when viewed from directly behind them. This was a requirement so as not to block the view of the park across the street from the owner's front window.

The second image is taken from an angle. This gives a suggestion as to how someone viewing as they walk down the street will see the full width of the bars as almost a solid wall of contoured shapes.

I had made the panels just slightly smaller than my measurements indicated. As it turned out - the fit was perfect. One of the frames required a thin shim of wood (which I had prepared and brought with me) and the other was bang on.

I am quite pleased with the results. I checked over my measurements for the next three elements and added some details on the exitisting under framing. Next comes building a full sized mock up of the stairs, to which I will assemble the framing for the two hand rails.

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

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