Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Teach me to make swords"

(I absolutely howled!)

A day in the life of a custom sword maker.

This is based on actual questions and comments I have received. The comments range from innocently misguided, through ignorant, to downright rude. They are presented here as if they all came from the same individual who becomes increasingly tiresome to deal with.

If you see yourself in the early part of the vid, don't feel bad, you are probably a well meaning if slightly confused individual.
If you see yourself toward the middle of the video, you may need to get a better understanding of how the world works. Put down the game controller and pick up a book once in a while. Maybe go outside.
If you see yourself toward the end of the video, you need counseling as your social skills are on par with those of a badger.

 I try not to do this kind of thing too often (re-post something seen on Facebook that is from YouTube). But this was just WAY too good not to pass along. I expect many of my fellow blacksmiths will also howl with laughter (and recognize the conversation!). Most of my readers here will also be highly amused...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Work - Summer Shows (1)

The next event on my show calendar is:

Goderich, Ontario August 9 - 11
I been involved with the Celtic College since its inception. Despite this, I have NOT been invited to teach at this year's Celtic College

I have had a booth in the Artisans area since the very first year of the Festival - making me the only visual artist to have attended every year of the Festival's 20 year history.
Again this year expect a display of both functional and artistic pieces with Celtic inspiration - with a special focus on wind powered pieces for the GARDEN.
As in past years, expect some new work related to my demonstration - small sculputural pieces in BRONZE.
Demonstration : Bronze Casting in Sand
 A cornerstone for Festival goers, Darrell's ongoing demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday afternoon always education and entertain.
This year will mark a return to a demonstration that has always been a favourite - bronze casting in green sand moulds. Although the Ancient Celts were defined as a primary 'Iron Age' culture, much of what we know of their art work was preserved in beautiful objects cast in bronze.
Although the main concentration will be on smaller objects, there is a possibility the feature event of the weekend may be the casting of a much larger object, possibly a short sword or a signature plaque for the ongoing 'Market Cross' sculptural project.

Join me for look at the work of the Artisan Metalsmith- and how it relates to the Celtic Iron Age.

'Four Corner Compacted' - Vessels

'Compacted; - Candle holder / Vessel

'Stone Forest - Mini' - Scupture

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Passing - Mef Simpson

November 13, 1927 -  July 23, 2013

What is the measure of a Life?

On one side, you can consider what is left behind.

Mef most certainly leaves a body of visual art. The watercolours and drawings will continue to grace walls in the homes of a great many, for in Mef's case, it is the result of a life time of creativity. Many are calming, some whimsical - all will continue to add pleasure to those who have them.
There is the work she undertook, often massive, in promoting the visual arts in Brandon. Supporting through constant effort (although yes, sometimes joyful) the Art Gallery of South West Manitoba. Of working with and certainly encouraging, sometimes just by being there, a circle of other artists. The bricks and mortar remain, as does the creative influence she had on others.

On another side, you can consider the hole that is left in the lives of others.

Mef remained active in her artistic community to the very end of a long life. So there will be one less person along on gallery trips and painting afternoons. One less set of hands to help organize and make things happen. One less eye to critique, compliment and guide.
There will be a family circle, son and two daughters. Now spread wide from the family seat in Brandon. For them it will be one less voice for needed advise, one empty seat at the table. Two grandchildren, now half grown to adults,  who may come to miss the family stories, now blurred by a generation lost.

That voice is muted now.
A vision remains on canvas and paper, more treasured now that there will be no more additions to that collection.
A larger treasure remains, held as memories by those lucky few who possess them.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New! - Hallucigenia # 7

'Roller' - Hallucigenia # 7

This is the latest in my 'Hallucigenia - Creatures from the Burgess Shale' series.

Along a flexible spinal cord are spaced a set of transparent disks that allow the creature to twist and roll along its ocean bottom home. Either end  terminates in a long three lobed spine. Which is the 'head' and which is the 'tail' - or does that even apply?
The whole is about 24 inches long. Like other pieces in the series, it is unfinished mild steel, and intended to naturally oxidize in an outdoor placement.

I had two different 'found objects' piling up in the shop. The first was a collection of the clear plastic disks you get with any spindle of DVD / CD. The second was a number of solid steel 'plugs', left over from drilling 3/4 inch diameter holes for a commission. I imagined combining the two, running along a piece of flexible braided steel cable.

'Roller' is the result.

I intend to mount a larger integrated display of the available 'Hallucigenia' series as part of my display at Summerfolk (Owen Sound) in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

OABA axe workshop

OABA Members,

You won’t want to miss Saturday, August 10th.....

Trade Axe Demonstration and OABA Evening Social
Visiting Blacksmiths Mathieu Collette, Steiiff Vinet and Marc Lepage from Les Forges de Montreal, Quebec will demonstrate making an axe based on axes by Samuel Lount, a settler, surveyor, political activist and talented blacksmith from the 19th century who immigrated to Simcoe County, Ontario, around 1810.

A small insert of high carbon steel will be forge welded into the end of the axe for the cutting edge and body of the axe will be made form low carbon steel.

There will be a $20 Charge per person for the demonstration.

It will be held in Desboro, ON at Henk Boon’s Shop.

Demonstration starts at 10:00 am.
As usual, bring your safety glasses, lunch, chair, and Iron In the Hat contribution.

As it will be a long day, OABA is planning to have an Evening Meal Social following the demonstration.  Henk has generously offered his wonderful facilities and Lisa Langdon and Sandra Dunn will be creating a menu that is sure to please.  (Chicken and Salads)

The cost for the meal is not known yet but it will be reasonable, under $10.00, just enough to cover costs.

If you are planning to attend and would like to stay for the meal, please reply  with an  email. ( )

Even if you cannot join us for the meal, the executive would like to know if you’re attending so send me a note.  to Lisa Langdon :

(slightly edited from a notice via e-mail from Lisa Langdon)

I had seen (as part of an over the shoulder glimpse) the work of these blacksmiths at CanIRON 9. The samples and production pieces they had were excellent. They certainly sounded well informed on the subject as well. (These are the same fellows seen striking in the image in the last blog posting here!)
Unfortunately, I will be exhibiting at the Earth, Air Celtic Festival in Goderich that weekend, and will not be able to attend. However, this workshop I would highly recommend to any blacksmith's reading.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

CanIRON 9 - personal view

I recently attended CanIRON 9 at Trois Rivieres, Quebec. Given the august company, I was quite honoured to be one of the demonstrators.

As you might expect, I actually did not  * see * much of the conference!

We arrived late Thursday night, hosted that evening by organizer Antoine Marcal. Antoine is a bladesmith of skill - and the only other Canadian who undertakes bloomery iron smelting as a regular process.

Friday, well to be perfectly honest, the weather was completely foul. Cold for late June, rain or drizzle  with gusting winds. It was set up and preparation day, with a certain amount of 'meet and greet' as both the other demonstrators and the conference members arrived. Food and beer on site (!!) in the evening, plus warm company, certainly cheered everyone's spirits.

CanIRON 9 would prove an event with relatively low attendance numbers, but intense activity and interaction between both demonstrators and the conference members. Those who might have stayed away fearing language problems certainly were proven to have made a big misconception. Everyone's broken French / English, good humour, desire to learn - and our shared passion for iron working - would mark the tone of the event. Translations were provided where necessary, but generally pointing and showing would always carry a conversation when language could not. (No one faulted my attempts at 40 year ago high school French, merci!)

I was scheduled to demonstrate on Saturday morning, then running a series of hands on uses of the Aristotle furnace in the afternoon. This kept me out of the other demonstrations, although I could look over and observe my friend Lee Sauder as he built a bloomery furnace and oversaw preparing the materials (mainly charcoal).

The second day, I just decided to keep running cycles of the Aristotle with people, keeping a closer eye on Lee's smelt. I was able to lend a small hand there, especially during extraction, having worked with Lee many times before and being to anticipate some of his 'extra hands' needs.

I was within view of one of the two forge demonstration areas, and could certainly tell the sessions by JD Smith and Kevin Cashen were 'packed'. (I had the pleasure of eating several meals with these two, and found them both knowledgeable, friendly, and extremely willing to share.)

I have next to no images of the conference itself - but I did manage to capture this amazing (to me) shot:

The lads from Les Forges du Montreal pitched in to help Lee initially compact, then finally draw down to billet, a half section of the bloom he made in demonstration. Certainly some of the most impressive work as a striker team than I have seen!

I was extremely happy to place the winning bid for that piece of iron (about 3 kg) at the auction later that evening..

Monday, July 08, 2013

CanIRON 9 - View by Robertson

(stolen from my friend David Robertson of Hammer & Tongs Studio)

Highlights From Caniron 9 Blacksmith Conference, Trois Rivieres, Quebec June 29 to 30 2013
I took a break June 28th to 30 th for Caniron 9 in Trois Rivieres Quebec.
Caniron is the Canadian national blacksmithing conference that happens every second year. It moves from west to east province to province.  This was the first time that Quebec has hosted it and they did a very good job.

See for a list of the demonstrators this year.

I was able to video some of the highlights for me. There was a good cross section of demonstrations from historic rifle barrel making to locksmithing. Knife making to copper smithing and smelting. It was held at the Parks Canada historic site Les Forges du St. Maurice. The site itself was fascinating as it was the first commercial iron production smelter in Canada.

In the video I was not able to capture all that went on but a few things I found interesting. It will give you a taste of what was happening over the weekend.

Direct Link to the video on Youtube:

David eventually took a different approach to communications over the internet from mine. We both were early into internet based communications, starting with 'bulletin boards' back in the early 1990's. By the mid 1990's we both had established our first web sites. This made us some of the very first artisan blacksmiths to have an internet presence, with my own and David's .
Into the mid 2000 decade, I chose to start this blog as a means to present less formal information (and ramblings).
David chose a different route. He established a 'membership' system, which allowed people slight discounts on purchases and to be included in (roughly) monthly e-mail articles. (The piece above is an example of one such mailing.)
If you have *not* signed up for 'Artist Blacksmith dot com ' I would highly recommend it!

My own view of CanIRON 9 is a bit more limited. I was one of the feature demonstrators, so was occupied with working with conference members both days (and hardly saw much of any of the other demonstrations!). Watch for some images in a post to come!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Peterson Balcony Railing

There is an old truism : 'You can have it GOOD. You can have it CHEAP. You can have it FAST. Pick ONE.' 

I most certainly am not FAST! (Although I do like to think I am GOOD.)
My work on the Peterson House has involved three separate projects:
Yard Fence Extensions
Balcony Supports
Balcony Top Rails

The final designs for the last aspect, the railings for the top of the small front balcony, were actually worked out with the customers last Fall. I started work on the elements early in the winter. One thing and another dragged the final finishing and installation of the railings into late May.
Production Layout - 'Cut Branches'
There are three individual segments of railing, each about seven feet long. The lines of the uprights roughly extend the verticals of the heavy tube bundles that make up the lower supports. I wanted to keep the theme of organic shapes into the railings, but to modify the elements to suggest the tops of a growing plant, rather than the 'trunk' effect used by the supports.

I have been increasingly using constructions and designs inspired by the fabrication details suggested by Art Nouveau forged architectural pieces. Specifically laying different structural steel pieces inside one another, then cutting apart and forging the ends into tendrils and reversal curves.
'Structural' - Winter 2013
Increasingly, I am finding it hard to draw what I conceive of. It often is far easier (sometimes actually quicker) to just make a prototype. The core elements of the 'Cut Branches' design was uprights made of a length of angle laid inside a piece of channel - a <] combination. The sample piece was the large candleabra shown above (roughly 30 inches tall). The rails themselves were formed of lengths of tube, forged to flares on the ends and curved.
The open work design is most certainly NOT conforming to the Building Code! The customers are two adults with no children, and actually preferred the open lines.

The uprights were formed from 1 1/2 x 3/16 web angle placed inside 2 x 1 x 3/16 web channel. The individual rails are 1 1/4 ID / 3/4 ID / 1/2 ID pipe and 1/2 solid. Extensions were forged from 1 x 3/16 flat and welded to the ends of the cut uprights to give enough length for the flat tendril wraps. Half inch round was used for the others.
The elements were linked by bolting through pillars made of 2 x 2 capped tube. The two side rails both weighed about 80 lbs each. The end panel, with the two support pillars came in about 130 lbs.
The panels were hot dipped galvanized, the first time I had used that process. (I was not entirely pleased with the results. It turns out the varying thicknesses of forged work means different deposit thicknesses and surface textures to the coating.) A special epoxy based primer was used (thanks to a recommendation by friend David Robertson). The custom mixed dark brown enamel matches the colour used on the other components of the overall project.

'Cut Branches' - as finished
Overall view - showing flow from lower supports
Close up - Upright / Corner detail
I am * extremely * pleased with the overall results.

If regular readers are wondering why entries have been absent of late - its been a very busy June! Demonstrations : Viking Age at Upper Canada Village / 1812 at Toronto Waterfront / Feature Demonstrator at CanIRON 9 at Trois Rivieres Quebec. All told, I was only at Wareham for 7 days over the entire month!

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

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