Thursday, July 30, 2015

Icelandic 6 - Recovering the BLOOM

Recovered bloom - only cold worked to remove clinging slag and gromps
This is the collected data from breaking apart the large mass extracted from Icelandic 6

complete SLAG MASS 68 30.9 includes tap arch stones
loose slag recovered 4.52
large mass in above 1.26
tuyere recovered 0.36
tap arch stone recovered 12 5.5
main mass with thin edges removed 40 18.2
loose fragments from above 13 5.9
fine slag / earth fragments 1.5
very dense slag from lower bowl 2.7
larger slag fragments recovered 3.9
bloom recovered 17 7.7 as cold hammered over surface
gromps 0.68 magnetically recovered
total slag recovered 17.7 + 1 cm recovered
bloom as recovered 7.7
TOTAL ORE ADDED 30.8 from smelt sequence
INPUT TO OUTPUT - 5.4 loss of fine materials

Note - the larger amounts had to be recorded using a bathroom scale, which at best was only accurate to +/- .5 lbs. KG amounts for these larger measurements calculated (/ 2.2). Amounts below 6 kg were measured using a more accurate digital scale, but are rounded off to one decimal to match.
Mass as Extracted - Tuyere and Tap Arch Stones attached
Thin crust of Slag and Fused Earth - around Tuyere (marked by green line)
Slag Block - Side View (most of stone, Tuyere, slagged earth removed)
Very dense Slag, the solidified 'bowl' from under the bloom.

 Yield = 25%

The bloom weight recorded is a bit elevated when compared to other smelt records. The normal practice  is to extract the bloom while white hot - and then strike over the surface. This removes the majority of clinging slag. The cold hammering used in this case did remove the majority of this, but certainly not as effectively as hot working. Normally striking over the bloom surface at a welding heat also compacts some of the lacy 'gromps' over the surface. The cold hammering could not do this effectively, so likely some additional material will be lost when the bloom is finally compressed into a billet.

In general, this experiment, as a full scale test of a proposed Icelandic / Grass sod construction, can be considered a good success.
The major modern intrusion to likely Norse / Viking Age method remains the use of high volume air via the electric blower.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jake Powning - 'Only in Darkness, the Light'

I have commented before on the artistry and craftsmanship of sword maker Jake Powning.

Honestly, I have always been in awe of Jake's vision and intensity.
I almost always use him as a point of reference when I am talking to students of my various weekend courses. Both as an example of a 'pure' artist, and as a story (even if distorted by my perceptions of it) of one road to success.

Jake has been taking the time to talk with me privately via e-mail about some of the problems I have been having over the last year. Technical admittedly (that failed pattern welded sword project). But also a bit about 'the artist's way' - work, approaches, inspirations, (life, the universe - everything).

One of Jake's current projects is 'Only in Dark, the Light'
This is a bronze long sword, with Jake's consistent addition of carved scabbard and cast fittings.
Image linked from Jake's web site.
Of sure interest to readers here will be the excellent slide show of the creation of the entire project, from initial design inspiration through production and finishing, seen on Jake's Blog.

The direct link is : 'Only in Dark, the Light'

For any number of reasons, I recommend you take a look at this!

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Some interesting discoveries / extensions of past work:

Wrought Iron 1 (2014) - Hector's Bane (2013)
 Wrought Iron 1 was forged as a demonstration piece. The starting bar was a piece of re-cycled antique wrought iron, in this case a cut from a support strap from an old wagon. The hole seen was hot punched (initially round) into that original strap as a mounting point. Although done as part of a public demonstration illustrating historic re-cycling practices, I did forge the blade into a more modern shape.
I decided to test etch the finished polished blade (short time in ferric chloride). The results were quite a surprise:

The effect is subtle. What is revealed is most likely two things, which illustrate the important differences between antique wrought iron and modern industrial steels. First, the colour shifts do mark slightly different carbon contents, here only slight differences through the metal. Second is the resistance to acid provided by microscopic inclusions of glass slag through the material. Both of these elements are themselves of the hammering, folding and welding process used during the creation of the original metal bar.
Also revealed are the distortions in shape from the forging process creating the new blade profile from the starting rectangular bar.

Hector's Bane is the first 'art knife' using my bloomery iron.
I had presented the blade when I first forged and polished it, and it was received very well. (It won 'best in show' at the Summerfolk Artisan's Gallery in 2013.)

 I had felt that the polish needed to be completed with one higher grit level, and undertook this process in the early spring. As much as a test process, I decided to treat the new surface with a light etch. This was the final result:

What is interesting here (if something that should have been predicted) is the mottled variation in colour over the bloomery surface.
The central core of high carbon shows as the darkest colour at the exposed edge and in gaps along the back.
The other colours over the surface are the result of variations in carbon content in the original bloom. Interesting is the location of the pale areas (low carbon) and darker ones (higher carbon). The original bloom was flattened, then cut down the centre. The two places were positioned with the central part of the bloom pieces set towards the cutting edge. This was done deliberately to ensure a solid weld at the cutting edge, plus creation of a fragmentary line along the knife's back. You notice that the areas of lowest carbon (pale) are concentrated towards what would have been the centre of the original bloom.
Carbon was obviously being absorbed into the bloom from the encasing slag environment during the last part of the smelting process.

Both of these blades will be part of my presentation (offered for sale) at Summerfolk (Owen Sound - Aug 20 - 22)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summerfolk - Q & A

 Now that Goderich Celtic is out of the picture, I am working towards my appearance at Summerfolk in Owen Sound, August 20 - 22.
Here is the 'official' description I submitted:
The Wareham Forge returns! Absent last year for a special project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Artisan Blacksmith Darrell Markewitz comes back to Summerfolk with new concept based hand forged metalworks. 2015 will be the first year of a planned four year cycle, featuring objects based on the theme of the four elements. This year's presentation will exhibit pieces based on 'Earth'. Darrell continues to work on custom architectural projects, and commissions always sought. See the web site : 
'Starburst Bowl' - 2014
On 20/07/15 2:39 PM, Jon wrote:
I'm preparing an article for this week's Sun Times and was hoping to 
trouble you for a some stories and impressions of Summerfolk. 
At how many Summerfolks have you vended?
"Over 20"
I think my first year was either 1992 or 1993. I've missed two years over
the period to this year.
How would you describe your experience at Summerfolk to another vendor 
who has never been?
The atmosphere at Summerfolk is far more relaxed than a typical 'just sales'
event. There are a large number of people attending who come for all of the
three days, plus a large number who actually camp on site for the whole
event. This means a lot of 'browsing', people typically will make several
returns to an individual booth, after viewing the entire selection of
artistic work available, before making a purchase. This also goes for people
who return year after year, watching your work as it develops. Generally I
feel that although this does mean more effort on my part, it does make for a
'better educated' customer.
The very relaxed 'old hippie' tone to the event, coupled with this return
flow, does mean that booth security has never, ever, been a concern for me
personally. If you wander off yourself for a half hour (to see a music set),
nothing will be missing and any potential customers know they can just catch
you later.
Balanced against this are the length of the working days. Typically 12 plus
hours - longer when you consider the set up Friday and tear down Sunday.
Morning on Kelso Beach - about 2005
How does Summerfolk compare to other craft and music festivals you attend?
Honestly, I have cut back on other sales events in the last decade. 
Partially because of the huge work involved in transporting and setting up
the booth structure. My own work has been come more complex over the decades
- with an increase in pricing related to this quality and scale increase. I
don't make $20 candle holders any more, and consider my presentation at
Summerfolk more of a gallery setting - than any specific attempt to generate
sales. This year Summerfolk is the *only* retail sales event that I will be
taking part in.
One significant part of Summerfolk is distinctive : the Artisan Gallery. 
The original intent of this was to allow individual artists to display work
well beyond the scope of typical sales items. Supporting this effort with
cash prizes has proved especially effective in encouraging this additional
effort to produce more elaborate objects by the artists. 
(I've won a good number of these over the years, and personally I can tell
you this recognition has been very important in personally encouraging my
own work.)
'Hector's Bane' - won 'Best in Show' for 2013
What is your favourite Summerfolk memory?
For me it comes down to the people.
There are a group of regional artisans who over the years I have come to
consider my peers. Many of these people I only see at Summerfolk, but even
still there is a warmth of seeing 'old friends' every year.
This extends to the 'customers' as well. I do have some regulars who have in
effect been 'collecting' my work over the years.
Personally, my many years beside Jim Macnamarra has had a major impact on my
direction of work and outlook to the 'way of the artist'. Over the years,
the line between our individual work has blurred, with echoes of the
influence on each other (or at least Jim's on me) showing. Not to mention
general inspired craziness. At its height, the two us where actually showing
up early Thursday morning and hauling in several tons of rock to create the
large garden style displays which themselves became one of the many
Summerfolk traditions.
2011 Set up - much restrained from earlier presentations!
What should people know about your art?
I am distinctive in the depth of historical research that goes behind the
work people see displayed at Summerfolk. Since 2001, I have been involved in
a series of experimental archaeology projects, recovering lost methods of
actually smelting metallic iron from raw ores, based on Northern European
ancient technologies. This makes Wareham the centre for this research, most
certainly unique in Canada, and perhaps the primary site in all of North
The bloomery iron produced by these ancient methods is a distinctive
material, with properties different than modern industrial steels. My effort
to create objects revealing the forms and textures of bloomery iron will
continue with new work presented at Summerfolk this year.
'Bloom Iron Bowl #2'
I'm happy to say that Jon decided not to cut up the submission above, instead he used it for a blog post over on the Summerfolk web site.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

** NO ** Goderich Celtic Festival

I found out on Thursday (July 16) that I was not selected to attend the Goderich Celtic Festival this year. 
I have attended this Festival since its very first year in 1992, with only 2014 missed (when I was leading the Turf to Tools project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden Scotland.)

On August 8, I will be attending the regular monthly meeting of the Ontario Artisan Blacksmith's Association.
The demonstration will be Lloyd Johnson forging a replica of an 1800's large adze.
Any Blacksmith's reading in the Ontario region are highly recommended to attend!

(from the OABA web site)

OABA Meeting : Henk Boon / Lloyd Johnson

When : Saturday, 8 Aug 2015
Where : 056576 12th Concession, Desboro, ON (map)
Demonstration:  Forging an adze 

Directions : to Henk Boon’s Place..... 
Take Grey County Road 40 west off of Hwy 6 (just below Chatsworth) At the fork in the road, Grey Country Road 40 continues to the left, You Stay To The Right. (smaller road) (There should be an OABA sign at this intersection) Now called Sideroad 2, continue traveling west and cross Grey Road 3 At your next stop sign, Concession 12, turn right. Henks place is on your left, the North/West corner of the intersection of Sideroad 2 and Concession 12. 
056576 12th Concession RR 2 Desboro, ON N0H 1K0 

Bring : your lunch, chair, safety glasses, (something for 'Iron in the Hat'?)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Forging Anvils in Germany

One of my recent students sent me a link to an article he had found about 'traditional' anvil forging :

The short article has been translated from the original German into English. It does suffer a wee bit in terms of clear style from the translation.

One main point I would elaborate a bit on:
A piece of 'old guy' wisdom is 'Don't buy a cast anvil'. This was most certainly true for older anvils - the metals and methods used in castings could *never* match the quality of a forged working surface.
*Modern* cast alloy steel anvils are a different matter. (As the article above explains.)
Still, the quality of individual producers can vary considerably. Be sure to sound check any anvil (either manufacture method!) before purchasing.

I have two small (50 kg) modern cast steel anvils at the Wareham Forge. One is from an unknown English foundry, the other from Czechoslovakia (I think from Branco):
• First thing is the horns, which I find too stubby and thus not as useful for producing graceful curves (a feature of my own work at least).
• The hardie holes are significantly smaller (in proportion) than other anvils in the workshop. This would not be a problem if you had only one anvil - and all your tools were designed to match.
 • The prichel holes are either too small to be useful (English) or placed so they are hard to use (Czech).
• Although the work surfaces are *very hard* - the anvils are also very 'dingy' - a loud and piercing ring.  I suspect over time there would be considerable extra vibrating effect to the hammer arm joints.

PS - Just for interest, there is this snip of advice on the Branco web site L

It is highly recommended to use the hammer weight of which does not exceed the weight proportion of 1:30 anvil to hammer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

* Making * the Norse Padlocks

This project was actually completed about two weeks back. I got involved in documenting the Icelandic Iron smelt (and a long workshop series here at Wareham).

As a review of earlier posts :

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Viking Age Padlock

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Norse Lock - Construction

 I did try to make some photo documentation of the ongoing process of actually making the replicas. (I do admit that I got a bit rushed into the final stages of making the key, shackle and the related hasp assembly, which are only shown as the final results.)

As I had mentioned in earlier descriptions, the chosen prototype was the decorated lock found at Coppergate in York (# 3610)

The material for the locks was forged out from mild steel - 1/4 x 2 inch stock to the desired 3/16 x 2 1/2  size, using a replica of one of the Mastermyr hammers. You can see the progression from rough peening to spread through final smoothing (left side). This created a subtle surface effect that duplicates the original process of forging the starting strips from a currency bar.
Portions of the longer bar were cut, then forged to rough cylinders over the edge of the anvil. These would form the body of each lock. This results in a slightly distorted shape - obviously different than simply using commercial pipe.
A total of three bodies were made - you can see the variation between each.
The seams of the cylinders were bronze braised. I had a wee bit of trouble getting a good finish at this stage. (You note that the third body was braised from the inside - far left. In retrospect, they should have all been done this way.) I did file / grind off the excess bronze at this point! I did use a modern torch for the braising heat.
Forging the smaller cylinder that holds the top shackle loop. I forged a rough cylinder on the end of the bar, then used a (admittedly modern) hacksaw to cut off the cylinder. This was then forged tighter around a piece of 3/8 round bar as a central mandrel.
One of the completed smaller cylinders. Due to the size / relative strength, these were not braised closed.
The next step was braising each of the small shackle cylinders to the larger lock bodies. (Sorry - no images there.)

Next the two end plates were made. A triangular piece was cut from the remaining wide strip, two for each lock. (The pieces here are for the 'front' of each lock.)
The individual forming steps on the end plates are shown above :
1) Grind to shape individually to fit each lock body 
2) Hot punch the upper shackle hole (front plates only)
3) Drill small holes at the corners of the shackle (front) and key (rear) slots
4) Using different straight chisels, cut out the required slots
5) Finish by filing the slot edges smooth
Another 'modern cheat' here was using a modern drill press for the corner holes - rather than hot punching these.

A large segment of the work is not documented via photographs:

• A flat plate was prepared with two holes at one end. This plate was then secured inside the lock body. Originally these would have been bronze braised into place, I used a modern (invisible) cheat and MIG welded to secure.
• The keys were forged, fitted separately to each lock individually. One end was split, then forged out to make an L shaped fork of two tines, each formed to a circular profile that would then fit into the paired holes inside the lock body.(And tested before the next step!) The other end of each was hot punched and drifted to make a carry loop.
• 3/16 square rod was twisted, then cut to make the short bars that secured the two end plates to the lock bodies. There were four such rods required on each lock. These were then used like long shafted rivets.

 • Individual shackles were made from 3/16 x 1 inch flat stock, forged to roughly 5/16 inch round on one end (to fit into the small top cylinder and punched hole in the end plate).  Each shackle was then formed to a U shape - again to fit the individual lock.
• Pieces of flat spring were prepared, two pieces for each lock shackle. Another modern cheat - I used some band saw blade material for these (suitable width and 'spring'). The pieces of spring were braised in place to one end of each shackle.

• The final step was determining the exact fit of the shackle slot - relative to the individual springs. There was a fussy balance between having the slot wide enough to make the key properly depress the shackle springs - and not having it too loose so the lock would not remain secure.

The overall project was then completed by forging the pair of strap hinges for each box. There was also a hasp set made for each box, using the same 'loop and tab' method used on various known Norse sea chests.

One finished lock, showing the shackle removed and the individually fitted key. Also the pieces of the hasp set (wrought head square nails were included for mounting).

The completed pair of locks and hasps, showing one securing a hasp set.
  Opening one of these Norse locks is a bit of a handful (literally). You have to insert the key into the lock body, and pretty much feel / fit for the holes the fork ends fit through. Then you have to press hard enough to raise the two spring ends clear of the edge of the shackle slot. At that point you have to pull with both hands (maintaining the spring release pressure) to slide the shackle free of the lock body. Basically you have to haul against the hasp / chest weight, to pull the shackle clear.

The individual keys and shackles, although similar, are NOT interchangeable! (I did end up marking one of the sets so to distinguish which parts should work correctly together!)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


After many attempts to introduce more fish into the pond at Wareham, there had been good results with a few Coy given by a friend a few years back. These had both grown to about the 6 - 8 inch range, but also started to obviously multiply. This despite being left to pretty much fend for themselves - and overwintering outside.
I have been pretty unhappy that this year, almost all of them have disappeared. I had my suspicions as to why...

Click on ether image to see pretty much at life size.
The cage I used is intended to live trap * raccoons *. It is 8 inches wide, those bars are spaced one inch apart. That makes the turtle about 7 inches wide by about 9 inches long (shell size). The mouth opened to about 2 inches by 2 inches.
Snapping Turtles are basically top end predators once they get into this size range. They live pretty much forever, continuing to grow. (I have seen some the size of truck tires.)

Although the trapping and re-location of this turtle does remove the current threat, I have seen a second much smaller snapper in the pond. That one is about 3 inches in diameter, and so does not represent quite the same threat to the pond fish remaining. It may prove more difficult to catch however. Last year I caught one in the 4 inch range, which I placed back into the river that runs behind the property. This obviously is the source of the invasion.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Furnace from BC/AD

I scammed this image from the 'Iron Smelters of the World' Facebook page
Originally contributed by
Timm Datengeiz 
via an image from Archäologisches Museum Hamburg

Measurements supplied by Michael Schmidt Nissen :
 It's 100 cm high, inner diameter at the height of the 4 tuyeres is 41 cm, inner diameter at top is 22,5 cm. Outer diameter at bottom rim is 50 cm.

At 100 cm - it might be almost high enough to allow for a passive air flow.
Beautiful furnace, from the rest of the archaeological block a slag pit type.

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

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