Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kool at Quad State

This past weekend, I attended the annual 'Quad State Round-up' held by 'Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil'.
This is a regional level blacksmith's conference, that I have attended for over a decade now. The event attracts easily 600 - 800 smiths from a circle that extends a good 1000 km in all directions. The quality of the demonstrations is almost always very good, and the size of the tail gate tool sales is legendary.

Although I was primarily focused on promoting CanIRON 8, I did manage time time to check out the usually excellent range of work on display in the gallery. These are some of the pieces I saw that stood out in my opinion:

'Snake Gate' by Darla Selander of Copemish, Ohio

Forged Candlesticks by Bruce Woodward of Madison, Ohio

I didn't get a close up of the card here - so I can't name the artist.
The title was something like 'Even Hellfires Need tending'

'Pages in the Wind' by Todd Malenke of Frenso, Ohio

'Chicken Track Switch Plate' by Linda Woodward of Madison, Ohio

As usual, I was puzzled by the judges choices - none of my picks even placed. The scale of the larger pieces can be estimated by comparing the standard 3 1/2 X 5 inch card in the photos.

Great work!
'I wished *I* had made those pieces'

Kool at Quad State

This past weekend, I attended the annual 'Quad State Round-up' held by the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil'

Wednesday, September 22, 2010



I will NOT be able to make this event, though with friend Mike McCarthy undertaking a demonstration iron smelt I really hate to miss it! Since its in the NE corner (about 8 hours from Wareham) some of my readers may be interested??

This event is in response to the interest of a number of the participants in having an informal gathering where they could share their ongoing work with others who might be interested, and learn what kinds of research on the subject are being done by people in other fields.
The presentations will be in the Huxley Theater at the Museum. Presentation times may vary slightly from those listed here. Outside demonstrations will be held at the Normanskill Farm blacksmith shop in Albany and the Watervliet Arsenal Museum.
8:00 a.m. at the Normanskill Farm (see enclosed map and directions)
Iron Smelting Demonstration: Michael McCarthy, Artist Blacksmith and pioneer in the redevelopment of traditional iron smelting technology, will smelt iron for us in an ongoing process at the Normanskill Farm blacksmith shop, ten minutes from the museum. The process will start in the morning, and we will get to see the results after the day’s presentations. We will have a little over an hour to see the start before heading over to the Museum’s theater. Presentations will end in time for us to see the culmination of the smelting process at the farm.
10:00 a.m. in the Huxley Theater, New York State Museum
Wrought Iron in the 19th Century Blacksmith Shop: Exploring the Properties and Peculiarities of Wrought Iron.
Wrought iron has physical properties much different from modern steel. How did the unique qualities of wrought iron affect hardware design, working methods, and even the scrap left behind in a 19th Century Blacksmith Shop?
We will examine physical examples, historic hardware, and hear first person commentary.
A. What is Wrought Iron really?
B. Grain and Slag: the unique working quirks of Wrought.
C. Go with the Flow: How iron's linear grain and easy welding affected all everyday
hardware and manufacture.
D. Steel vs. Wrought: Examples of iron hardware that can't be easily replicated using steel.
E. In their own words: Examples from 19th century blacksmith's letters to trade journals.
F. Scrap. How wrought scrap is produced and recycled, & how to identify it (with examples).
Steven J. Kellogg
Supervisor, The Fields Blacksmith Shop,
The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY
“The Field Identification of Rural Blacksmith Shops"
An explanation of the basics of how to identify blacksmithing archaeological sites and structures based on the author's experience both as an archaeologist and as an amateur blacksmith.
Daniel Seib, M.A., Archaeologist, Public Archaeology Facility, S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton

“Archaeology on the Northern Reaches: the Billings Blacksmith Shop, Canandaigua, NY”
The north end of Main Street, Canandaigua, was the "rough district" of this otherwise staid and proper city. Commercial, racially mixed and on the cross roads east to west, north to south, the corner of Main Street and Chapel Street was a slice of regular life in the later nineteenth century--in contrast to morally uplifting or social welfare-focused journals and magazines of the period. Focused around the business and homes on the corner, the FLCC Field school excavations in 2007 and 2009 revealed a more pragmatic and diverse view of business and private life.
Dr. Ann Morton, Cultural Resources Manager,
Fisher Associates, P.E., in Rochester, New York.
1:15 pm
“Images of the Adirondack Bloom Iron Industry”
The Adirondack-Lake Champlain region of northern New York was the nation’s highest producer of bloomery forge wrought iron throughout the 19th century, involving dozens of primarily small forge sites along the region’s waterways. While a few detailed historical descriptions of such operations are available, the archaeological and photographic record of these former enterprises is limited. This presentation focuses on a set of recently found stereoview images from 1876 of the large-scale operations of the Peru Steel & Iron Company at Clintonville, NY, which was the subject of archaeological investigations between 1994 and 2001.
Dr. Gordon Pollard- Professor Emeritus, S.U.N.Y. Plattsburg, Industrial Archaeologist
"From forest, to Company Town, and Back Again: Survey and History of the Copake Iron Works."
An archaeological survey of structures and deposits on the surface of the Copake Iron Works site (1841-1903) in Columbia County, New York. A description of a survey performed to enhance the preservation and interpretation of the site for the Taconic State Park. Sutherland investigated documents on the land use and community development of the site. The presentation will cover his methodology, final report, and how this report has been used.
Fred Sutherland, doctoral candidate in Industrial Archaeology
and Heritage Management at Michigan Technological University
The National and the Local: Peter Townsend’s Newburgh Cannon Foundry, 1815-25
In 1817 Peter Townsend (Jr), using a substantial advance from the War Department, built a foundry in Newburgh, NY to produce ordnance for the US Army. Townsend produced a number of cannon that were proved to acclaim by Army inspectors, but encountered both technological and financial troubles and was unable to meet Ordnance Dept. orders. The foundry struggled on into the 1820s but was eventually sold. This failure is put into stark relief by the success of the nearby West Point Foundry, started at the same time on Navy Ordnance advances, which flourished for nearly a century. Archival research tells a salutary tale of starting an iron foundry in America’s early industrial age, of the role of private and public capital in developing the venture, and of relying on a single, complex product to sustain a foundry.
Steven A. Walton, Historian of Technology,
Pennsylvania State University
Return to the Normanskill Farm
8:00 a.m.
Tour of the Historic Belt-driven Machine-shop at the Watervliet Arsenal Museum.
Bob Rawls has been assembling and enlarging a working, mostly 19th century machine shop and will explain and demonstrate some of the equipment.
Robert C. Rawls- Historic machine shop
re-constructor and volunteer at the
Watervliet Arsenal Museum.
“The Clinton Sedimentary Iron Ores, New York”
Nearly all sedimentary iron deposits in New York are part of the well-known Clinton iron ores. Multiple hematite-rich layers formed in a shallow sea between New York, Alabama and Wisconsin around 440 million years ago (Silurian Period), during times of rising sea level. Thicker layers were mined in New York, chiefly in Oneida, Cayuga and Wayne counties, from the late 1700s through the mid-1960s.
Dr. Charles VerStraeten,
Sedimentary Geologist,
New York State Museum
“Textural and Mineralogical Study of the Igneous Iron Deposits of New York”
New York State was a significant supplier of iron ore used in developing the resources and industries of the United States through the first part of the 20th century. The most important regions with iron deposits were in the Adirondack Mountains and the Hudson Highlands. Both iron mining regions belong to a large metallogenetic belt that developed in the Grenville (Proterozoic) rocks (1.3 to 1.0 Ga) in New York and New Jersey.
The Hudson Highlands, in southeastern New York, are the site of a swarm of unusual peridotites intrusive in Grenvillian rocks. These are associated with a string of small deposits of magnetite that were exploited 150 years ago. They also contain magnetite, and may contain pyrrhotite with pentlandite exsolution and chalcopyrite.
The iron ore from the eastern Adirondacks is composed of magnetite (partially replaced by hematite), apatite and clinopyroxene with a vartiety of other minerals.
A detailed mineralogical and textural study of the iron ore and subsequent consequences for ore processing will be discussed.
Dr. Marian Lupulescu, Curator of Geology New York State Museum
“Between Mine, Forest, and Foundry: An Archaeological Study of the West Point Foundry, Cold Spring, New York”
The West Point Foundry Association established a charcoal blast furnace in Cold Spring, New York in 1827 to make pig iron for the foundry. Making it unique among period blast furnaces, owners integrated the furnace within the foundry layout to take advantage of their existing property and waterpower system. To construct a history of the furnace and surrounding site, researchers with Michigan Technological University conducted investigations of the West Point Foundry blast furnace site between 2004 and 2006 through historical background research, archaeological site excavation and documentation, and archaeometallurgical analysis of pig iron samples. Results allowed researchers to outline the history of the site and more fully understand the integration of the furnace within the foundry.
T. Arron Kotlensky, Archaeologist,
John Milner Associates
“A Million Horseshoes a Week: How Henry Burden Mechanized the Blacksmith Shop”
Between 1822 and his death in 1871, Henry Burden transformed the tiny Troy Iron and Nail Factory into one of the largest and most important iron works in history by mechanizing the production of common blacksmith items, most notably railroad spikes and horseshoes, and by introducing new production machinery, such as the rotary concentric squeezer. This lecture will trace these developments and assess the significance of his success.
P. Thomas Carroll, Executive Director,
Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, RiverSpark Heritage Area, and Burden Iron Works Museum
“The Swaging and Rolling of Iron in Henry Burden’s Horseshoe Manufacturing Process”
Henry Burden introduced the manufacture of horseshoes by means of a revolutionary machine process in the 1830s. This is a discussion of some of the most important iron forming techniques used in Henry Burden’s method. Rawls has studied the process by creating working models from the original patent drawings, and explains some of the most important swaging and rolling processes that went into their design. He will have his models on display.
Robert C. Rawls- Historic machine shop
re-constructor and volunteer at the
Watervliet Arsenal Museum.

The Construction, Use, and Dissolution of the Adirondack Iron and Steel Company’s “New Furnace”.
New York State Museum excavations at this well preserved mid 19th century iron blast furnace revealed an extensive masonry sub floor platform. Deposits on this preparatory surface illustrate the construction sequence and finishing touches prior to the first firing. The brief use life of the furnace is marked by a mottled blend of charcoal, slag, clay and artifacts. Details of the anorthracite, sandstone, and brick masonry supports of the hot blast system’s bustle pipes and tuyeres were exposed during these investigations. Excavations revealed a cast iron runner in the blast arch along with runner supports and vertical iron guide rods suggesting the chute was moved periodically to deliver molten iron to different parts of the casting house. The content and character of the uppermost levels, notably a sequence of brick fragments, fire clay, and sandstone, document the abandonment and post-abandonment processes subsequent to the last furnace firing in 1856. Artifacts in the upper levels also testify to a century of visitations by curious tourists attracted to this industrial giant in the wilderness.
David Staley, Archaeologist
New York State Museum-Cultural Resource Survey
“All things Roycroftie: Excavations at the Roycroft Blacksmith Shops, 2010”
A large parking and drainage project scheduled for Fall 2010 on the Roycroft Campus, East Aurora, Erie County, NY necessitated Phase III data recovery on this National Landmark site. Included in the program were excavations of two blacksmith shops, dated approximately 1899-1902 and 1902-1938. Worked revealed details of both structures, and of the evolving nature of the Arts and Crafts Movement--particularly the day to day business behind the artistic facade.
Dr. Ann Morton, Cultural Resources Manager for Fisher Associates, P.E., in Rochester, New York.
“Work Areas in a Country Blacksmith Shop”
The areas where specific parts of the blacksmith’s work are performed are dictated by the necessities of the processes used and the limitations of the workspace itself. This is an explanation of how these areas may be located on an archaeological site.
Martin Pickands, Archaeologist,
New York State Museum Cultural Resource Survey

From the West:
I 90 to Exit 24.
I 90 east to exit 6A for I 787 South.
I 787 south to exit for Empire State Plaza.

From the South:
I 87 north to Exit 23.
Follow I 787 to the exit for the Empire State Plaza.

From the East:
I 90 west to exit 6A for I 787 South.
I 787 south to exit for Empire State Plaza.

From the north:
I 87 Northway south to exit 1 for I 90 East (Boston).
I90 East to exit for I 787 South.
I 787 south to exit for Empire State Plaza.

Go under the plaza, around the turn at the end, and back to the last exit under the plaza on the right.
Take the exit and turn right on Madison Avenue. The main entrance to the Museum will be on your left, under the large pedestrian bridge. Follow the signs inside.

Parking is available in two lots to your left on either side of the Museum, and on the street.


From the West:
I 90 to I 87 Thruway South.
I 87 south to Exit 23.
Take the ramp on the right immediately after the toll booth.

From the South:
I 87 north to Exit 23.
Take the ramp on the right immediately after the toll booth.

From the North:
I 87 Northway south to Exit 1
I 87 NYS Thruway south to Exit 23.
Take the ramp on the right immediately after the toll booth.

From the East:
I 90 to the exit for I 787 South.
I 787 South to end.

Turn left and drive straight on Southern Blvd./ McCarty Ave. until it ends at a traffic light on Delaware Avenue.
Turn left on Delaware, pass the cemetery on the left, and take a left just before the long bridge.
Follow the road to the parking lot at Normaskill Farm, then walk to the smithy (about 1/8 mile).


Follow the road from the parking lot back to Delaware Ave. and turn right.
Delaware Avenue to Madison Avenue and turn right.
Museum is three blocks down on the right.


Take the 23rd. St. Exit from I 787
West 1 block to Broadway (NY32)
Left on Broadway past arsenal, bear right on 3rd. Ave. (still NY32)
Enter through Security Checkpoint on right.
Ask directions.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Atlantic Realm 3 - Kelp on Stone

In an attempt to get my brain pulled back out of the Viking Age and interpretive programing, I have been working up some smaller sculptural pieces.

Altantic Realm 3 - Kelp on Stone
Natural stone, forged mild steel & reinforcing bar

I have been slowly working up a series of pieces based on ideas spawned from my various trips out to the East Coast. I love beach combing. Not only is the environment itself cleansing for me (regardless of the weather), I have always be fascinated by the undersea world. (I started skin diving at about age 10.)

There is a spot far up the Northern Pennisula in Newfoundland that I always stop at - Eddie's Cove. Its not the absolute best spot for beach combing along that route, but dependably over the trips I almost always stop there - and almost always spot something interesting:

There were a number of pieces of kelp washed up on the beach there. I had worked up a major piece (for the Reade / Maxwell project) based on kelp. Might have been a bit different if I had seen some actual samples of the stuff! Although my earlier work had always meant to be stylized, I was struck by the series of pockets running up the lengths of the fronds. In the water, these are small pouches filled with air, which help keep the plant upright.

So, call me a bad man.
On the way home from L'Anse aux Meadows, we had stopped at 'the Arches' Provencial Park. One of my companions had never seen it, and frankly I needed a short 'wake up' break from driving. The beach there is composed of wave rounded stones, ranging from egg to head sized. I was struck by the complex flowing patterns on a piece of granite.
So I stole it.

Right off the start, I had envisioned using the stone as the focal point for a sculptural piece. In the end 'Kelp on Stone' is the result.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Canada Post " Helps " Small Business ???

Yet again, an arm of Canadian Government, in its blind attempt to 'help' small business, screws us!

I've been talking the last two weeks with a re-enactor from California in the USA. The fellow wants to improve the quality of his Viking Age camp. Now, his choices are not quite the ones I would make, but here is what he is interested in:

These are all pieces by 'Torvald Sorenson' of Weland Smithy. I'm pretty sure that is is an operation catering to the whims of the SCA.

On the pieces themselves:
- I certainly do not normally make up the extremely modern bowl brazier. There is nothing (I'm aware of) in the archaeological record that looks like that - certainly NOT in the Viking Age.
- Same goes for the Cresset. Although the concept of a basket to hold wood pieces (normally pine knots) for lighting is seen historically, again its not Norse.
- The version of the cauldron actually looks fairly good. I have started to use thicker (1/8 thick) sheet for my own replicas and reproductions. The thicker material is more difficult to work, but does give a better working quality to the finished pot.
- The tripod seen uses too light a metal stock, and as well is significantly 'stretched' in its proportions. This is a typical re-enactor's modification to transform something intended to be a 'ritual object' into a working system.

Ok - back to the point of this - Shipping to the USA

Canada Post, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to upgrade all the speed packages. The old 'Regular Parcel' speed of 6 - 9 business days is gone. Now there is 'Expedited Parcel', quoted at a speed of 4 business days. (You might be able to go to the service rates, here for shipping a cauldron from Wareham Ontario to California)

Now, what Canada Post has done is to bump up all the speeds for the available choices. And of course vastly increase the prices for that 'service'. What if you are NOT in a rush? Too Bad! Pay more anyway, there is no longer an economical choice.

I figure the cost increase from the old Regular Parcel, at 6 - 9 business days, to this new 'super fast 'Expedited Parcel' is about plus 35%.

To add insult to the injury:
1) This is just the shipping time. It does not include any time in Customs. Worse, since now US Customs is combined directly with Homeland Security (read 'Paranoia', anything made of METAL has typically been held 2 - 3 weeks for 'inspection'.
2) That time of 'four days' is only from MAJOR to MAJOR centre. Say Toronto to LA. From Wareham, add on an extra two days. If the town in California (in this case) is a small place, again add on two days.

So what is happening is that I actually am being forced to pay considerably more - for a level of 'service' which I am not actually able to be given!

Just for comparison:

Item / Price / Shipping
Brazier / $250 / $100
Cresset / $250 / $100
Tripod / $500 / $50
Cauldron / $250 / $40

So you can see what is most likely to happen here. With the cost of the shipping now increased by about 35%, that cost starts to become a significant fraction of the cost of the item itself. I expect to loose the order.

Gee, THANKS Canada Post, this was SO helpful....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Styll Squared - 'Where do Ideas come from' (2)

As fans of the Wareham Forge may know, I have created a number of artistic garden gates. One of the best is 'Celts at the Gates - Spears & Shield'. The original work was altered to fit a specific space at the Styll Gallery in Elora, Ontario (were it is available for purchase, hint, hint).

I have always been pleased with my association with Styll. I will be one of the participating artists for Styll Squared, running at the Gallery from September 24 - October 24.
This special exhibition of purpose created works has two limitations for the participating artisans:
1) Each work must be 12 inches by 12 inches, and designed to hang on the wall.
2) All the pieces must have a retail price below $250.

For me, BOTH of these restrictions force me to reconsider design.
First, I very rarely work in such small scale. Outside of knives or specific historic reproductions, almost everything I create at this point is significantly larger. Although I do quote a base price for grills and gates at $100 'per square foot' this is really a bit of a fiction. Normally such objects are significantly larger than 12 x 12 inches, and there is an 'economy of scale' that applies. Although I do have some general ideas for smaller sculptural pieces, these are intended to be significantly more complex (hence more expensive) than the $250 maxium price tag would permit. Plus these pieces are full 3-D sculptures - which don't fit to the 12 x 12 on the wall concept for the exhibit.

So - in an attempt to both have some work to contribute, and to kick start my creativity after two months of focus on teaching and Viking Age history, I turned to ideas tucked away in my trusty sketch book...

Both the images seen here are scanned from the pages of Discover, a popular science magazine I have been reading since it first hit the stands 30 years ago.
The first is a photo micrograph of fish scales. (At least I think - it was a 'guess what' feature.) The colour is through staining.
The second is banded sedimentary rock from the east end of Georgian Bay. This patterning I had actually seen first on a TV program about the Great Lakes on the good old CBC.

A number of years back, at Quad State (a regional smithing conference) I had seen some new work in the Gallery there that quite interested me. (I believe the pieces were created by Holly Fisher. ) The work featured hot punched patterns on sheet. The metal had then been painted, first with a pastel base coat, then with an over wash of darker colour, which primarily was washed into the depressions of the punching.

For "Scales" I have started with some pretty rusted 1/8 thick mild steel plate. It was edge cut with the torch, the edges deliberately left ragged. The pieces where then hot punched with two different U shaped punches in a radial pattern. Finally each was slightly dished out to raise the central portion. The completed elements were fitted to a frame and backed by a sheet of polished stainless.
The stainless acts as a distorted mirror, close up you can see the bright red colour painted on the inside surfaces as reflections. The tops have been painted a mid tone blue and green, then rubbed with darker tones in the same colours. A spray of highlight colour (yellow and copper) were added last.
For the second piece "Layered Stone" I forged up a series of strips. There are a variety of metals used :
antique wrought iron, mild steel, mid carbon (saw blade) and stainless sheet. The central line has been reverse curved and flattened. The antique iron over hammered and allowed to split. It was placed overlapping the stainless to accent the difference in the metals. One bar was fluxed, set with bronze wires, then overheated. All of the mild steel bars have been aggressively surface worked to texture them. The individual strips were then welded into plate.
Ideally this piece would be placed out of doors, where the component bars will weather and oxidize at differing rates and effects, depending on their alloys.

In many ways, these smaller pieces can be considered maquettes for considerably larger and more complex pieces. I had originally envisioned a wall sized panel based on the concepts expressed in 'Layered Stone' particularly. (Ideal for a public building installation - someone give me a Grant!)

Readers who find this translation from inspiration to object interesting may also find an earlier blog posting of interest : 'Where DO ideas come from?'

Styll has not made a specific record of the exhibit - these overall images poached from their web site.
I think my two pieces are in the left hand image - on the lower left corner.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"You're THAT guy!"

Members of DARC have been swapping their 'most memorable moments' from the recent Vinland trip. This is one of mine:

Now a (long) number of years back, I had attended a lecture by Philip Baldwin of the New England Bladesmith's guild. In that, Philip de-mystified a number of blacksmithing methods, relating these back to modern metallurgy. One of these was the 'truth' about forge welding. The popular (and it turns out incorrect) wisdom is that the pressure of the hammer increases the temperature of the metal to above the melting point, and this is what fuses the two pieces. The actual situation is different. If two pieces of iron metals are *perfectly* flat and *perfectly* clean and *perfectly* intimate in contact, what happens is that the atoms on one piece bond across to the atoms of the other - essentially creating one piece of metal. Although this might seem kind of a trivial difference, the practical application is that it is *clean and flat* which make for a successful forge weld - not *temperature*. This effects the way you approach the whole process of forge welding, and how best to control it.

I think it was the day before smelt, near the end of the day anyway. An older fellow, quite distinguished looking. Struck me as originally from India, with white hair and beard, maybe trained in England from his speech, now an American from hints in the conversation.
Anyway, in the conversation about smelting, with which he was certainly familiar with the outlines, the topic of forge welding came up. He mentioned (rather off hand) that he had developed this theory, years ago, on how to perfectly flat and clean metals would bond if placed in close enough contact.
I think he was very gratified that I not only knew and applied the theory, but that I was excited to meet the man 'responsible' for the knowledge. "I teach that method to all my students!"
Sadly, he had to rush off to catch his tour bus right at that point of identification.

Its not often you meet someone responsible for a major shift in understanding in your working field.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Smelting in VINLAND - draft report

As regular readers know, one of the primary features of the recent DARC presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC was an iron smelt. Iron was first smelted by the Norse there about 1000 AD, and this demonstration smelt was based on the archaeology of the site, tempered by our own experience. The team started working up to this presentation with a series of four earlier experiments, research starting early in 2009.
The assembled team, after the smelt.
L to R : Darrell / Dave / Mark / Richard / (Paul standing in for missing Jake)
Front : Ken / Jessica

This is the equipment set up, seen the evening before the smelt.
Work took place inside the reconstructed 'Furnace Hut', set inside the Encampment compound.
The interior size, like the historic location, is roughly 2.5 metres wide by about three metres deep.

The results. The larger bloom broke up into four smaller fragments during the initial consolidation.
Total weight : 2.8 kg (This image roughly life size)

This is an image of the working area the morning after the smelt.
A careful comparison will be made to match this debris field with what what actually found in the archaeological remains.

In a nut shell, our results parallelled what the archaeologists estimate the Norse did originally:

local bog ore
DARC Dirt 2 analog
Amount18 kg estimated
20 kg
Yield3 kg estimated
2.8 kg
Charcoal?? - local softwoods
35.5 kg hardwood
Time??6 hours total

I was extremely pleased with the overall progress of the smelt. At the very least, this marks only the second time in 1000 years that bloomery iron was produced in Vinland!

The larger bloom fragment was spark tested with an angle grinder. The result looked like a low carbon iron (red to dull orange with little feather).
Mark Pilgrim took the smaller dense fragment (640 gm) and reduced it down to a working block. Result was about 440 gm (so roughly 30 % loss to bar). He did report he had a lot of trouble with the bar cracking while he was working it. My first guess would be brittleness due to phosphorus - but with an analog used as ore, there should have been no phosphorus available. (??? Needs smarter heads than mine!)

Neil pointed out the error on the bloom photo - with incorrectly added decimal points. All in full grams!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Images of Vinland

or What I did on my Summer 'Vacation'

I didn't have all that much time during DARC at LAM 2010 for picture taking. These are a few overview shots of the Encampment at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. These were taken at the end of the team's presentation day, which is why none of the interpretive action is seen.
From the parking lot, these life sized figures, cut out of sheet steel, are set on the skyline.
This is a view of the Encampment area looking across the small bay. Not a standard view, as you have to walk down the shore a bit and crawl out on to some rocks and hunker down to get it.
The Encampment. These are the reconstructed buildings, set off to one side of the actual historic structures. The fence never existed originally, but serves to confine the living history area.
Coming up to the Encampment entrance, approaching from the shore side. Most visitors actually come in from a different angle - after passing over the archaeological grounds.
View from the Entrance. This shows the three tents we brought to expand our presentation area, set on the seaward side of the main turf hall. The one in the foreground is my 'ancient and honourable', marking its third use at Vinland.
Maybe a bit redundant - a view of our main outdoor area from the opposite corner. Shot over the faering the interpreters from LAM had been building over the last two years. The closest tent here was our 'artisan' class, mainly used for basket making and various children's activities (under Sarah). The centre is the 'bondi' tent, large sail canvas set over lashed poles. This served as the anchor for the woodworking demonstrations. The far tent was the higher status 'chieftain' tent, containing Ragnar and his trade goods.
This is the main entrance into the turf hall. Carvings by Mike Sexton of LAM interpretive staff. (Mike has been with the program since its creation in 1997). Parks Canada has changed the overall interpretation of the structure, now illustrating it as a higher status chieftain's dwelling.

To come - some views inside the Hall...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Iron at Heltborg

Those interested in iron smelting should take a look at this:


This is a team working at the Heltborg Museum in Denmark - I believe under Jens Jørgen Ølsen.

The site includes a short video clip of the extraction and initial compaction of their bloom. They are using wooden tools for this. First is a tool like our own 'Thumper' (a section of 10 cm diameter log). Where we use this inside the smelter to compact in place, here you will see it used in conjunction with a stone anvil. Primarily it is used to strike off the loose 'mother'. Then the action switches to what Mike McCarthy calls a 'Troll Hammer' - a short section of log sent on a long handle. The effect for initial compaction is impressive!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Vinland Iron Smelt - a Reporter's View

Readers: As the Regulars know, I have been away almost all August, to North Newfoundland to L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. As I get my feet under me, I will be offering up some commentaries on the presentation by DARC - especially on the successful iron smelt we undertook there.
First, a look from the outside...

From 'The Northern Pen'
Published on August 30th, 2010
(full text on their web site)

by Emma Graney

Ancient technique revived at L'Anse aux Meadows


Ken 'Grettr Blackhands' Cook explains the workings of L'Anse aux Meadows' second bog iron smelt in 1000 years.

Last weekend L’Anse aux Meadows was filled with the sound of vikings singing and chanting, punctuated by the hissing spit of freshly smelt iron and the clang of hammers beating the red-hot bloom.

Donned in traditional viking attire, re-enactors from Ontario and site interpreters from Parks Canada spent a sweaty day’s work layering charcoal upon raw iron ore inside a hand-built furnace and pumping the bellows to transform 20 kilograms of iron ore into almost three kilograms of iron.

Using a technique lost almost 800 years ago the group re-created a bog iron smelt — just the second to take place at L’Anse aux Meadows in 1000 years.

“I came a long way to make iron here,” said Ken Cook, otherwise known as Grettr Blackhands, his bushy beard only partially obscuring the huge grin spreading over his face.

“When we were doing it we were all floating on air. It was pretty exciting.”

The all-day activity was arranged in conjunction with the Dark Ages Re-Creation Company (DARC) as part of L’Anse aux Meadows’ 50th anniversary.

Darrell Markewitz, an artisan blacksmith and founding member of DARC, developed the training for the viking re-enactors at L’Anse aux Meadows and Norstead, and was instrumental in organizing this year’s demonstration.

“The problem with viking history is that it’s so far beyond people’s experience,” he explained last week.

“We’re talking about things that happened a thousand years ago — people have nothing to relate that to because it’s just so different. The easiest way to help them understand what objects were used for and what vikings were about is to use living history exhibits and this is a prime example of that.

“When you look at these demonstrations they put archaeological items in context and they create this multi-faceted learning that everyone can get into. It doesn’t matter if you have regular visitors, people with learning or physical disabilities, it doesn’t matter what language people speak, all class of visitors benefit and go away knowing a whole lot more.”

Preparation for the 10-day demonstration at L’Anse aux Meadows was no mean feat.

For 18 months members of DARC re-created Vinland viking gear to the smallest detail, including replacing the wooden handles of their knives with antler to ensure they were geographically appropriate and developing viking characters that fitted with the time period.

“We’re not playing high kings here, or warriors, because they’re not the people who were here at Vinland,” he said.

“All of our costuming, our instruments — we fine-tuned everything so that it aligned with what we know from archaeology, from history.

“The 50th anniversary is an important time and we were quite excited when we got the chance to do this so we made a serious effort to do a good job.”

The bog smelt wasn’t the only thing on show at the 10-day living history exhibit.

Working with the L’Anse aux Meadows site supervisor Loretta Decker, the group formulated a list of activities and elements of the viking village to recreate for visitors.

“Of course history is a huge part of it all — making sure everything is just as it was back then — but we also had experimental archaeology with things like glass bead making,” Mr Markewitz explained.

“No one ever made glass beads at Vinland, but it was part of the wider Norse culture so we recreated an old technique so people could see how they came about.

“Doing that shows the bigger picture, helps put activities into context, shows more skills, helps develop the skills of the Parks Canada site interpreters who’re here to learn, and by doing all that it creates a better experience for every person who visits the site.”

Other activities included pewter casting in stone molds, wood turning and weaving.

“The public, I think, were extremely happy with their experience and the Parks Canada interpreters got to learn so much, which they can hopefully develop and use at the site next summer,” Mr Markewitz said.

“We got to recognize the faces and some people who planned to stay an hour or two ended staying the whole day — one couple came back three days in a row.

“That’s the value of this, of living history. People learn, they’re interested and they enjoy it.”



This article is copied from the Northern Pen web site - text and image by Emma Graney.


Steve sent me this link - to a version of the article published on the Newfoundland Telegraph. Same text, but different (actual smelting) images.


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

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