Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DARC to LAM - July 2012

The Dark Ages Re-Creation Company
will be returning to
L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC!
July 19 - 27, 2012

The Wareham Forge is pleased to announce that it has an agreement with Parks Canada to mount a living history presentation, with interpreters provided by DARC.

At this point the exact interpretive program has not been established. The specific physical demonstrations will depend largely on what additional members of DARC chose to enlarge the core team.
What you can certainly expect to see:

Green Woodworking - including a spring pole lathe
(Grimmi roughing out, Thorgir on the lathe)
Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom
(Ka∂lin preparing the warp)
Small Textiles - Spinning, Naelbinding, Tablet Weaving
(Jorin working in the sunshine.)
Domestic Tasks, including food preparation
(Kadja - 'A woman's work is never done - especially when she is a slave.')
Trade and Gaming
(Ragnar - ' Would you buy a used longship from this man?')

Some Other Guy who also seems to talk a LOT.
(Kettil ponders a question)
Daily Life in the Viking Age
(Snorri looking on)

All the images above by P. Halasz - taken during the August 2010 presenation

Thursday, January 19, 2012

(late) Medieval Images of Blacksmiths

Those interested in historic trades, re-enacting are likely to find this of interest. I got to this via a link from a link posted by someone on Facebook.
From a fast Google search:

Das Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwolfbruderstiftung zu Nurnberg,1965 German craftsmen from 15c & 16c, two vols 275 pages of plates 150pp G+ (E30-40)

The on line version has searchable terms in English - by Occupation / Tools / Materials

The index is cut up a bit different that you might think. Blacksmithing is broken down into specializations (Bladesmith / Armourer / Smith /...) so some hunting might prove fruitful.

Under 'Blacksmith' There these images which are of interest:

Dated 1425

Dated 1450
Dated 1504
Dated 1595

Disreguard (or not) the obvious link in all with farrier's work.
Do Note:
- the bellows set up and type
- design of the forges
- size and shape of the anvils
- profile of the hammers

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Revising the Web Site

- As long time readers / followers of the Wareham Forge well know, the web site has undergone many changes since its inception in the 1990's.

The original site was heavily text based. Those with long memories will remember that initially the internet was solely text, my involvement goes back to the days when the primary interactions were through bulletin boards (!) As producing content for the internet got ever easier, and transmission speeds have vastly increased, the internet has become dominated by images. Video has now become an increasingly larger segment of how information (in its widest sense) is being communicated.

For good or ill, I have added much to those few original sheets of information that composed the Wareham Forge web site. Rightly or wrongly, as I creep into the second half of my 50's, I find myself writing more, and yes, working at the forge less. (Although I like to think the quality of the work has also greatly improved!) Through this all, I have rarely *removed* anything from the web site. There is also the addition of two large theme sections, the Norse Encampment and Experimental Iron Smelting. Although enclosed in the Wareham Forge domain, either of these are significantly self contained and large sections in their own right.

The result is that currently, the total volume of content of the Wareham Forge site is some 220 megabites. There are over 100 separate 'sheets' and well over 1000 images.

Through it all, I have attempted to hold to a couple of primary concepts:
1) To keep the transmission rates for viewers fast, so as to better accommodate rural users (no high speed).
2) Design for those using *older* computer systems (and smaller screen sizes) - and purposefully avoiding 'the latest thing'.
3) To have a balance between interesting and valuable text and illustrating with images.
4) Avoid using anything that annoys me personally when I see it on other web sites.
5) Design the site so it reflects my own personality and taste (You don't like the site, you likely will not like me - and maybe I'm not the one you should be working with on that project.)

Now, one of the results of so much content is that the site has become almost impossible to navigate.

I'm in the process of re-evaluating the overall design of the whole site. To my mind, there are four primary tasks here :
- evaluating the actual content available
- gathering & converting images, writing commentaries
- determining the graphic layout
- physically producing the code and installing the web site

I have been aided in the most recent design changes by some people on Facebook, who have provided comments and advice as I worked up a potential layout. The new front index sheet (installed just this morning) is what I have come up with:

This represents the 'above the fold view, at roughly 1000 x 800 (13 x 8 inches for us old people).
- One big change from previously is the colour shift to a light faded with black text (from the previous high graphic dark with light print).
- If you look in your own browser, you will see the two top images are random selections of mainly close up v- views of forge work.
- The side bar now features pull out navigation points.
- Scrolling down, the 'Visual Guide' offers most of the same navigation points, but now via thumbnails.
- I've cut away much of the detailed descriptions to specific sub sections that used to be on the front page.

My next task is to learn (via Neil, thank you!) how to work this framework via PHP.
Then finish processing the images and writing commentary for the 'new' work (last two years!)
Then re-sort the content, splitting off the best work into a portfolio section, and older work into separate areas (for each type).
Then design the graphic backgrounds for the various sub sections
Then apply the new PHP method to all that .

At least it keeps me close to the stove this winter...

Comments extremely welcome!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

EXARC journal article!

© EXARC, 2012; ISSN: 2212-8956; Publishing date: January 15, 2012

Before you stands our first online issue of the EXARC Journal. It is divided in three sections. There are two peer-reviewed sections covering ARCHAEOLOGICAL OPEN-AIR MUSEUM and EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY which are available to EXARC Members only. The third section is open to all and is called MIXED MATTERS.

If you would like to see the full scope of our most recent articles, please Become EXARC Member so you can see our most recent articles, such as: Presenting Medieval Gambling and Pub Life or What’s in an experiment? Roman fish sauce: an experiment in Archaeology...
My submission is one of the articles available only to members:

"But if you don't get any IRON..." Towards an effective method for small iron smelting furnaces

Darrell Markewitz (CA)
Few ancient processes are as mysterious as smelting ore into metallic iron. Just how, exactly, is this done? The exact processes used by the ancients are unknown, but modern experiments can suggest some possibilities...
The article gives a simple outline of how to build and operate a short shaft direct bloomery furnace. Photographs by Neil Peterson and Paul Halasz (above) illustrate some of the DARC Iron Smelt Team in our past work, especially at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in 2010.

One of the articles from this issue that is open to the internet public is by Neil Peterson,' 50th Anniversay of L'Anse aux Meadows' an overview of that entire presentation.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Winter Work...

What the HECK has he been up to?

Three primary projects:

1) DARC to LAM 2012

At this point I've compiled the working budget. The contract is between Parks Canada and the Wareham Forge, who have approached us about mounting a living history program at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC with tentative dates July 119 - 29. Needless to say, getting a contract team of eight (which may expand to as many as 14 +) 3000 km from our Central Ontario base is a major logistical effort. Waiting at this point to get a firm commitment on presentation dates - and budget approval.

2) Completing Vandy's Weaving Shed

This is a 'temporary' styled work building (frame on deck block supports) 8 x 16 base. It is intended to house the large four harness loom, with shelving for bulk weaving / textiles supplies. It is set to pull as much solar gain as possible via a pair of insulated sliding glass doors on the south face (scrounged from the dump!). In use it will plug in via an extension cord, and our old box stove will provide cold season heat.

3/4 view, to roughly NE (from the corner of the main building). The slanted steel roof is set to make best use of the winter sun angle.

3) Revamping the Wareham Forge Web site

(And maybe learning PHP?) Once again I am working towards what will be pretty much a complete graphic revision of the (huge!) Wareham Forge web site. Part of my problem is that the site was started in the mid 1990's, when everyone was on slow dial up - and sites were primarily text based.
The world has changed, speeding up and getting ever more compact. I've rarely *removed* anything from the site, which currently holds a total of some 225 MB worth of files (over 100 pages and over 1000 images!)

The prototype work so far:
This was my first design. This would be a standardized framework, with pull down menus to the left for the major topic areas. I personally *like* the use of dark backgrounds with lighter type as a bold graphic statement - however...

This is where I'm leaning on version two. (The existing content for the individual information pages goes into the white box - which will even out the layout.) It has been suggested by a number of observers that the use of lighter backgrounds generally looks 'more professional'. (??)

On design & colour - the theory used on the whole web site:
(This may be stupid, but here is why.) I decided at the inception (some 15 years back) that the whole web site should 'look like me'. The reason was, 'if you don't like how I present myself, you will likely not like me (either) and maybe I'm not the one you should be working with'. This is a two pronged decision. It strengthens some individual people's choices, but admittedly limits in some other areas (professional architects as a possible example). Question for me has always been 'Do I want to work with that kind of person anyway??' (On the rare occasion I have been contacted from that quarter, it has NEVER worked out in the end.)

The individual topic sections are marked by shared backgrounds / colour shifts. Frankly, I have no clear idea if the casual user even notices (??)
I have made some limited attempt to design the site so as to keep it high in the Google rankings. I consistently sit 'above the fold' (top 5 - 6 results) for a large number of potential searches. But frankly, that ranking system changes so quickly, I have come to think that chasing the rankings is a fools game. I manage primarily on the longevity of the site (over 15 years now) and especially on the volume of content.

This all is a massive amount of work. My pay off is that the internet is my primary source of new commissions.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Composing an F&Q

- As regular readers know, I often rant about the less than well thought out questions I get asked. The instant nature of e-mail and the internet spawns (increasingly) way too many e-mails, asking questions that are covered in full inside the Wareham Forge web site - or here on Hammered Out Bits.


"I have never done any blacksmithing and I want to make knives. Is there a one day course to teach me?"

Short - No

Long :
Forging blades successfully requires considerable hammer control. And how to make a number of basic shapes. And how to carefully judge temperatures. Then how to forge actual blades.
An extremely talented student *might* be able to forge a simple blade on the second day of a special two day program. I don't advise this however. Take a basic level course, then PRACTICE forging, *then* take the regular two day 'Introduction to Bladesmithing' course.

"I want a copy of this thing by another artisan (insert image from internet here). Can you make it?"

Short - Yes - but I *will* not.

Long :
Go to the original artist who made the thing in the first place.
I do not copy the original work of other artisans. I most certainly will *not* work cheaper.
I will discuss creating a new original design *inspired* (but significantly modified) by the works of other artisans.

"Can you make this thing faster / cheaper than the commercial version."

Short - No

The reason commercial products are cheaper and faster is that machines are set up to allow for high volume production. I make every object individually, one at a time. There is no 'economy of scale' involved.
Remember the 'Iron Triangle' : you can have something cheap, you can have something fast, or you can have something *good* - but only *one* of those. The aspect that is sure to suffer if you want it cheap and or fast is having any kind of good quality. You will get *exactly* what you pay for.

"I want this thing made in a movie / comic / illustration / game. Can you make it?"

Short - Yes, but you will not like it.

Long :
Anything seen in a fantasy, is just that - a fantasy. Objects in the real world are constrained by materials, and physics. You can NOT effectively swing a 15 lb sword. A chain mace the size of a basket ball will weigh 100 lbs.
I *can* create replicas of these fantasy objects, but because I use *real* materials and methods, the end result will be display objects (at best).

"Why does it take so long to make (insert complex object here)?"

Short - Good work takes time, and I do more than just hammer.

Long :
Developing skill takes years, and years cost you strength, I'm certainly 'better' than I was at 35, but those 20 plus years have taken a physical toll.
Don't forget the time for setting up and prototyping. Since almost everything I make is a one of a kind original object, each piece is a potential voyage of discovery.
Running a business (at any level) requires so much more than just making things. On an average day I spend roughly 10 hours on 'work', but a real productive day for me has only 2 - 3 hours actually at the forge.
I make each object one at a time, and projects are scheduled as individual commissions are finalized.
Depending on time of year, there is teaching, demonstrating, documentation, research, maintanence... all to be undertaken as well.
See : the Iron Triangle.
This is a work in progress. I hope to add the finished list to the web site in a week or two. (Yea, I know, if they are not reading the information already available...)

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

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