Thursday, July 28, 2011

CanIRON 8 - Consider a single day admission

- The CanIRON 8 organizing team did its best to offer a high quality conference, yet attempt to keep the registration cost as low as we could.

But we all realize that not everyone can manage to attend the full four days.

Remember that you can purchase a single day admission pass at the registration desk!
This is ideal for those who may not be able to get time off work, have family commitments on this holiday weekend, or are just tight on funds.

A one day pass costs $85 (+ HST)
OABA members get a $10 discount

Here's what is happening - day by day:
Click on this to get a full size copy you can print off

Its not too late to make plans for attending on FRIDAY - when programming runs from 9 am to 9:30 pm. This is by far our most information packed day of CanIRON 8

Hope to see you there!

Note to my regular readers:
I will be away at CanIRON 8 from Tuesday July 26 through Sunday July 31.
I make a frantic change over for Goderich Celtic, starting the Celtic College on Monday August 1.
I will be at the Earth Air Celtic Festival from Friday August 5 through Sunday August 7.
Expect dead air over these periods!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

DARC at CanIRON 8 - Iron Smelting Demo

Join a team from DARC on Thursday July 28 for a public demonstration of bloomery furnace iron smelting!
This is a FREE attendance part of the larger CanIRON 8, the Canadian national blacksmith's conference.

The event takes place at the Wellington County Sportsplex, 550 Belsyde Ave, Fergus Ontario.
How to get there

Demonstration starts at roughly 9 AM, with the construction of an 'Econo Norse' style furnace. This furnace type is quick and easy to build out of commonly available materials.

Preheat is expected to start about 10 - 10:30, with full smelting sequence starting about 11 - 12 noon.
The smelt will proceed over the afternoon, with final extraction of the bloom planned for about 5 pm.

The DARC smelt team will consist of:
Neil Peterson - Smelt Master
Richard Schweitzer - Lead Hand
Dave Cox - Loader

Come Join Us!

(Note, I am team leader for the whole CanIRON 8 conference. At best I may poke my nose in now and then to check everything is running smoothly. Expect to see me for the extraction however!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Halluciginia No. 3 - Crab (more)

- Just another image - close up - of the piece I just completed for 'Joined by Joints' at CanIRON 8.

The Gallery at CanIRON 8 is FREE ADMISSION to the general public:

Hours - 1:30 - 4:30 PM
Wellington County Community Sportsplex
Fergus Ontario

Maps and Directions

the Main CanIRON 8 web site

Come see what Artisan Blacksmiths REALLY create!

For a fuller description of this piece : Crab - designing to forged elements

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Out of the Womb - Endlessly Orbitting (???)

I am a true child of the space age.
I was born in 1955. That's just before the launch of Sputnik 1, the first successful human satellite launch (October 1957). I grew up watching the Mercury and Apollo programs. I wanted to be an astronaut.
If you are reading this, and are of the age, odds are almost certain you too were glued to the television on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. 'We came in peace, for all mankind' - and we believed it.

For those who were not raised on Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov , and (significantly for me) Robert H. Heinlein, perhaps the 'Space Race' is just a vague historic footnote. I was there for the very real days of fear, when young men had nervous fingers on switches and leaders postured - and several times almost started World War Three.

One solution to the oppressive threat of nuclear annihilation was to move our fragile human egg out of one single (easy to destroy) basket (read the visionaries named above).
Or preserve the race from a Dinosaur Killer asteroid. (Read Niven & Pournelle's 'Lucifer's Hammer')

Or ensure we continue past the (now certain) period of climatic upheaval - of our own making.

But I despair that humanity, having approached the edge of the rest of the universe, has wimped out. Like a 20 something who graduated college and then moved home to live with the parents, we (in the form of the American Government) have decided its just more comfortable to just stay in our bedrooms. Sure the room is small, needs painting and is crammed full of our childhood collection of junk. But its safe and comforting, and the outside world seems so cold and dangerous.

This piece was inspired by the reflections of another blog post that was pointed out to me. Itself a commentary on the current wave of internet generated rejections of the whole concept of space research. As that writer points out, the internet, computers of any kind, personal electronics, ..., ALL are spin off secondary applications from technology developed from that same 'Space Race'.

As a young man, I might have used the F-word more frequently in my depiction of this phenomenon


I'm going to leave aside the patent stupidity of NASA giving up on actually traveling to space and instead address some of the commentary I've seen on the web. Specifically, the comments to the effect that space exploration is "a waste of money and isn't worth it."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Crab' - Designing to Forged Elements :

Regular readers know that CanIRON 8 is coming up in a week (!) I will have to go straight from being team leader at CanIRON - to teaching at the Goderich Celtic College the next morning. After a week in Goderich, I have all of three days to prepare for my other major show, Summerfolk in Owen Sound. For those reasons, postings may be kind of thin over the next four weeks!

Image by 'Captain Hook' - taken from his collection :
Shells encountered while sailing on a sailing catamaran off of Marco Island, FL.

I have always been drawn to the water, and since I was a kid, interested in bugs and crustaceans. Many years back, I spent a magical week in the Florida keys, and one of my treasured beach combing finds was a large spine from a horse shoe crab.

Now, those watching my work know that a recent series of larger sculptural pieces is the 'Hallucigenia' series. These are pieces based on the fantastic creatures from the Burgess Shale. (see the complete 'Songs of Distant Oceans' series pieces)

For CanIRON 8, a special theme for Gallery is “Joined by Joints”. This defined as " works employing mechanical joins which are not welded, brazed or soldered" - the use mortise & tenon, rivets and other non-welded joints.
Now, outside of rivets, I don't actually very often use those mechanical joining methods. The intent of the theme category was to get us all to try some new techniques, and I certainly wanted to get one piece ready to display. (That and I have not done too much new artistic work over the last year, and did want SOMETHING to exhibit to show I'm some kind of artisan blacksmith!)

This is what I came up with.

I decided, especially since there are a lot of better technical smiths out there than I am, to work inside my strength, which is in design. So the piece is based on the concept of a wedged joint, rather than the mere functional aspect of a wedged joint.
I also wanted to work inside a principle common to the best of contemporary artistic blacksmithing work, that being heavily sculpted shapes. I worked with generally heavier starting metal stocks than is normal for me, then each piece is so aggressively forged that the original starting stock is completely re-profiled. This also results in a work of considerable size (the finished work will be over three feet long.)

The rough form of the piece is inspired by that simple horseshoe crab, with a heavy segmented body shell that ends in a long spine. From there, the bizarre world of the Burgess Shale takes over, suggesting a creature that never survived into our modern age.

As you can see in the original layout drawing, there is one element that forms the 'hoop' which the wedges tighten against. This portrudes from the shell, then tapers into two long tentacles underneath. There are three wedge elements, a heavier central element ending in forked spirals, plus two curved 'antenna' pieces.

The two shell pieces will be folded, riveted along that line, then folded back, creating a pair of ridge lines on each. After this the pieces will be hot dished for contour. When complete, these will be riveted to each other, and the long spine piece riveted to the lower shell.
If the cutting and fitting is done carefully, the hoop holds the three wedge elements tightly as they are tapped into place.

Although I did have a rough idea were I was going, I started by forging the main elements individually. Once more or less completed, I then combined them over a full scale outline drawing of my proposed shell pieces.

You can see here how the elements have been translated from the original layout into forged metal. At this point I have not bent the central element into its final hoop shape. The last step on that piece will be contouring the two ends into fluid curves. Working with coloured markers, I am able to determine the rough shapes for the shell pieces, which will be torch cut from 1/8 thick steel plate.

Working with the individual pieces over a full scale drawing lets me generate a final paper template. These will be used as cutting layouts for the steel plate. You can see one change made in process here. I decided to take the top end of the spine (forged from 1/4 x 3 inch flat) and further forge that end. I will cut the bar back along the chalk line, then split and draw out the two sides into a kind of swimming fin on a tentacle.

I had originally intended on following this up with a short photo essay on what happened as I fitted the two shell pieces to the other elements - and what changes this imposed on the overall design. With CanIRON 8 looming, I just did not have time to record the work as I rushed to complete this major piece in time for exhibit:

The total length is roughly four feet! (And I know that is a horrible image!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Viking Age in TORONTO - this weekend!

Friends, Fans, and those generally interested in the Viking Age in the Toronto area.

I will be mounting a Viking Age camp presentation as part of Parks Canada's 'Celebrations' series on the Toronto Islands on Saturday July 16. The presentation hours are 12 - 6 PM.

I will certainly be on hand a bit later than that, if you decide to come in to also take in the free concerts!
The Parks Canada area is set up on Olympic Island. Those coming any distance are strongly suggested to park at one of the free / cheap lots around the edges of the Subway system, then take the TTC down to the ferry docks (cost of the return boat ride is $6.50).

The presentation for Canada Day in Ottawa

The display is centered on a typical 'camp' set up, tent with bed, camp fire with cooking tools, and a general display of domestic objects. A stress on the situations at Vinland circa 1000 AD (supporting L'Anse aux Meadown NHSC). In addition I will be bringing and demonstrating with the Norse sand table (charcoal) forge.

Forge set up at the Haffenreffer Museum, Bristol Rode Island

Come take a look!
This will be especially of interest to those involved in metalworking. I don't often demonstrate with the Viking Age equipment to the general public.

Hope to see you there...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Smelting and Weather?

When I smelt by myself if I have inclement weather I can usually post pone the smelt. I would like to have more people participate. That makes it more difficult to post pone. Some of the pictures I see "easy up" covers. I assume they are not over the furnace. I could get 30 seconds out of it over my furnace :-). At the present time I can not smelt inside either. How do you people handle the poor weather?


NO worries on weather!

I ran a completely successful smelt one time at -20 F temperatures. It was punishing for us workers, and the preheat was somewhat extended (with wood splits). Once the furnace was to temperature, the difference of 75 degrees (F) in the input air did not make and effect to the operation energy inside the furnace.

In the spring I taught a workshop at Brown University. It pissed rain the whole day. We did keep the charcoal itself under cover. Again once the furnace was running, the small amount of water that hit the top of the furnace never even made it to the charcoal surface.

I'm never smelted in an absolute downpour, but I suspect once the furnace is at operating temperature it will not mater. How YOU react to the weather is an entirely different matter.

Having dry charcoal does make a (big!) difference, but in most of our short shaft furnaces, there is plenty of energy being produced. You will notice a difference in consumption (dry fuel does mean slightly lower volumes used)

We work with a 'farmers market' style tarp (now dedicated for smelter use) that is set about 10 feet back from the position of the furnace itself. This gives us a sun / rain shade. You certainly do get fine pin holes from burning charcoal dust. Screening your charcoal reduces this problem by the way.
At L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC last summer, we worked inside a reconstruction of the original 'furnace hut' on the site. This was a dried turf (peat) walled structure with a pole roof. Wall height was about 6 feet, about 8 feet to the peaked roof. Size was about 10 x 10 with one side open. Absolutely no problems with fire on the roof, a mere 5 feet from top of furnace to ridge line. (Mind you I would not recommend it generally!)

We have smelted a number of times in the winter / early spring here in Central Ontario inside my workshop. Dirt floor, 20 foot peak inside. Main problem is the fine ash that seems to go everywhere!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Axe forging - the video

- I had commented (and linked to) a great tutorial on a method of *correctly* forging an accurate Viking Age bearded axe by Jim Austin.

This is a longish video (about 12 minutes) and well worth the time!

There are a number of tricks and methods, clearly illustrated in the shorter video above. Jim is intending to sell a full instructional DVD with information on the tooling and full descriptions of the work process.

Very great work Jim!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Historic Iron Smelt in Sweden

Jens Jørgen Olesen 6:39am Jul 4
How to make iron in the old way
During the Viking market at Foteviken Museum in Sweden in 2011, one Danish and two Polish Blacksmith

This is a segment by my friend Jens from Heltborg in Denmark. Much of the narration is in Danish (or Swedish - go figure).
In the sequence shown, 16 kg of ore was used with an end yield of 6 kg (at the rough bloom stage). The clip also shows the team consolidating the lacy bloom into a (much smaller) working bar.
There are a number of interesting aspects to the method:
* Use of what looks like a rock type ore, perhaps not roasted.
* Use of a variation on the 'slit drum' bellows (which I've seen in African smelting)
* Bellows plate tuyere set up
* Use of wooden 'Troll Hammers' for initial compaction of the bloom.

The overall method produces a lacy bloom, rather than the dense puck shapes we get with our insert tuyere and higher volume air systems. In the end however, its the bar of iron that counts!

Nice work Jens - and a very good documentation video.

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

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