Saturday, August 27, 2016

Europe 2016 - 'Official Press Release'


Artist Blacksmith Participates in European Iron Events

Grey County resident DARRELL MARKEWITZ will soon be leaving for a six week long research trip to Europe. This will be a three country trip, including special events in Belgium, Poland and Scotland. The core funding is via a special Projects Grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Darrell will both be contributing from, and seeking to expand, experience gained from 40 years at the forge.

The trip started with the Ypres 2016 event (, taking place in early September. An international group of artist blacksmiths have designed, and will be creating on site, a new memorial to the memory of those lost in the World War One battles there. Participants (including Darrell) will be divided into working teams, each completing one of 24 panels surrounding the completed cenotaph. This work is all being done as a public event, at the central market square at Ypres.

“ Canadians figured prominently in the many battles around Ypres, Pashendale being a well known example. The two infantry units I served in as a young man, the Hastings and Prince Edward’s and the Toronto Scottish, both saw action at Ypres. I had already wanted to take part in some event marking the 100 years since events of the First World War. This seemed the ideal opportunity, not only to walk the battlefields, but to contribute something lasting to the memory of those who fell. ”

Darrell had already made plans to attend Ypres 2016, registering for one of the working teams and also submitting a design for one of the individual panels. (While the design Darrell submitted was not among the group chosen he still hopes to complete it and arrange its installation here in Canada.)
'And Age Shall Not Tarnish Them' - Submission for Ypres 2016
About the time he had first learned about the Ypres memorial, he was contacted by the Scottish Sculpture Workshop (located in Lumsden, NW of Aberdeen - Plans were being laid to continue the ‘Turf to Tools’ project, in which Darrell had a key role in 2014. T2T was described as ‘An investigation of human interaction and impact on the natural landscape.’ The work focussed on Pictish material culture (so circa 600 AD, ‘Post Roman and Pre Viking’). Especially ancient bloomery iron smelting, where the prototypes were furnaces uncovered  near Inverness, dating from 200 - 400 AD. The goal of the project was re-creating an axe depicted on a standing stone from nearby Rhynie. Darrell was the obvious choice to lead Turf to Tools, being one of the few who has direct experience with historic iron making methods. Fifteen years and over 65 individual smelting experiments has lead to him being recognized internationally as one of the most experienced in the area of Migration Era / Viking Age iron production.
Posing as the 'Rhynie Man' - Turf to Tools 2012
(Image by David Porter)

The planned extension of T2T-2 will investigate other historic puzzles. Planned are at least two more experimental iron smelts, one using iron ore from the nearby Lecht Mine and a second attempting to use locally dug peat as the fuel. These firings will be the first time either of these these elements have been tested in modern times.

“ I had applied for an Ontario Crafts Council Project Grant back in October. I honestly did not expect to get the funding, and was attempting to pull the project together using a big chunk of my own money. I was totally surprised in February when I was notified by the OAC that I had received full funding for the two weeks of Turf to Tools Two combined with a further two weeks residency at SSW to study bronze and iron casting techniques.”

“ Since I would be in Europe already, I then contacted Jenns Olesen from Denmark, who I had met at an iron making event there in 2008. I asked if there where any iron smelting events happening over September / October that I might be able to add on to the ends of my grant project. As it turned out, he was organizing participants for an iron smelting symposium as part of the ARTifacts - Pruszkow Archaeological Festival (Pruszkow is just outside Warsaw, Poland -”

This event, pulling together working teams from across Poland, Denmark, Norway and North America, will present a chance to share direct experience gained from attempts to re-discover lost metalworking methods. Darrell is the only demonstrator from Canada, one of two from North America, who are attending.

Working a Pictish Iron Furnace - SSW 2012
(image by Kelly Probyn-Smith)

On his return in October, Darrell expects to continue both his personal research, detailing new discoveries via academic papers and his web site, and his series of hands on workshops at his studio forge at Wareham (southern Grey County, near Flesherton). His hope is to replicate the medium scale bronze foundry equipment he will study at SSW here in Ontario at his own Wareham Forge.
As part of his commitment to the OAC Project Grant, he will be publishing continuing notes and descriptions via his blog ‘Hammered Out Bits’ :
Main web site :

Regular Readers: I realize the style here is a bit stilted. This is intended to be a general press release which I will be sending to local newspapers here around Grey County.

Friday, August 26, 2016

More on Hammers

Note: This piece is an addition to the earlier posting about basic blacksmithing hammers - for the starting smith from earlier this week. This segment altered from an ongoing series of e-mails related to the Artist Blacksmith program at Haliburton / Sir Sandford Flemming College.

One thing to remember off the start.
The hammers I mentioned have weights marked on the heads themselves. I'm using the actual recorded weights on the tools. This is a bit of a mess, as older tools are marked in pounds plus fractions. Some descriptions are given as ounces. Most anything not made in the USA is actually marked as grams.

1 1/2 lb = 24 ounces ≠ 670 gms
≠ 1 3/4 lb = 28 ounces ≠ 800 gms
2 lb = 32 ounces ≠ 900 gms
(≠ 2 1/8 lb ≠ 36 ounces) = 1000 gms
3 lbs = 48 ounces = (1350 gms)
(≠ 3 1/3 lb ≠ 54 ounces) = 1500 gms

Things in brackets are sizes you are unlikely to find. You can see there is a bigger difference than may first appear between 800 and 1000 gms, especially when a 1000 gm hammer is 'described' at 2 lbs (instead of the 2.2 lbs it really is).
1) Princess Auto / Deals / KW Surplus

'American' style square head cross peen, made in China = 800 gms / cost about $10 each Note that these now have very bad plastic handles which need be replaced (see below)
The actual order specification for these is found :

Note that the only thing to recommend these is the price (at $12 each). They definately need to have new handles attached before they can be correctly used.

At $10 each. You should keep a few of these in stock anyway - handles do break with use (and should be expected to).

2) Princess Auto

Ball peen, made in Italy = 710 gms / cost $23 each This is an excellent hammer, which outperforms anything else in its class. Great shaped ash handles.

(There is a 900 gm version at $32 - also an excellent 'starting' hammer)
This is the additional hammer I would most strongly recommend.
You see what the problem is - sloppy description by Princess Auto. (if you enlarge the image, you will see they use a photo of the smallest 440 gm size for all the products!)
I recommend this specific hammer because despite its reduced head weight, it does strike with considerable power. For the less robust worker, this means increased control at the same time giving good impact results.
(You also see that the 'cheaper' cross peen above actually becomes more expensive once the handle replacement is figured in.)

3) Professional Farriers Supply

Rounding hammer = 800 gms / cost about $30 each This is noteably a very short handle, and an extremely balanced head.

(So ideal for physically smaller / less strong individuals).

(There is a 1000 gm version at about $45, which again has the balanced head) Rounding hammers (on flat, one slightly crowned face) are excellent for a number of forging tasks btw.
(sorry - poor source image!)

This is the Diamond 24 ounce (actually 800 gm) # THRSDI24 at $65 each. (Been a while since I bought one - obviously!) This is a very good hammer, notable for the shorter and smaller diameter handle. (My partner Kelly, at 4'10", uses one of these).
Key here is the short head length, even head balance, shorter handle.

Here at the Wareham Forge, I must easily have 50 hammers used for students. A total of at least 15 different patterns altogether, typically over 4 possible weight classes.

 Remember : No 'one tool fits all'.
Images seen here are drawn from the indicated commercial web sites

Thursday, August 25, 2016

OAC / Europe Research Trip

As regular readers may have learned, I will be departing soon for a six week working trip to Europe.
The core of this trip is being funded by a Project Grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

This venture started with learning about the Ypres 2016 project from local artist blacksmith Sandra Dunn, back in November of 2015.

For an number of reasons (which I will detail in a later post), I decided that I would attend this event. Originally this would be funded from my own resources.
I did work up a submission for one of the smaller panels at the memorial, described on a much earlier post here. (Unfortunately, the whims of the internet swallowed the submission, which never made it into the selection process.)
Now, I had been contacted even earlier, back to mid September, by Eden Jolly of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. My friends at SSW were interested in continuing the original work on the Turf to Tools project. I rushed to complete a Project Grant application with the Ontario Arts Council by the mid October deadline.

Honestly, I was quite surprised in late January to find that OAC had indeed awarded me the full grant request - funds to cover a four week residency at SSW! This would include two weeks on Turf to Tools 2, plus an additional two weeks learning medium scale bronze and iron casting techniques aimed at creating some specific art works.

As I started to pull together the travel arrangements to combine the two elements, I had contacted my friend Jenns Olesen from Denmark. I wondered if there were any iron smelting related events happening in Europe around the same early Fall period?
It turned out he was organizing the demonstrators for an event being planned for The Museum of Ancient Mazovian Metallurgy in Pruszkow (outside Warsaw Poland).

At the International Congress on Medieval Studies in May, I met Jenn Ratcliffe. Through conversation, I heard about her company, Big Blue Dive Lights. This is a enhanced vision system for murky waters. I put her in touch with Barrie Andrian, at the Scottish Crannog Centre, who has that very problem with their underwater archaeology.
I had met with Barrie and her staff in 2014, with the hopes of undertaking some experimental work with them either with bronze casting or even iron smelting, there based on 'Celtic' / Early Iron Age.

With only the smallest amount of pushing dates, I ended up with this schedule:
August 30 - September 6 : Ypres 2016 (as participating team blacksmith)
September 7 - 12 : FIREPROOF at Pruszkow (seminar participant with two smelt demos)
September 13 - 26 : TURF TO TOOLS 2 at SSW (two experimental smelts)
September 28 - October 8 : personal arts project at SSW
(October 2 - 5 : bronze / iron at the Crannog Centre)

This is a very packed working schedule. The slight gaps are travel days, with only a couple of half day 'breaks' in the total.
Since the OAC grant is funding the travel cost to Scotland, I am using my own resources to expand the trip to include the additional two events (actually 3 with Crannog).

Readers can expect regular blog postings (using the header block seen above) detailing the research and other discoveries over the next six weeks...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Swords at Ashokan...

Announcing the 2016 Ashokan Sword Seminar!

 Ashokan Sword Seminar: September 16-18, 2016
 The New England Bladesmiths Guild's annual seminar provides an opportunity for both beginners and advanced knife makers to learn from and work with some of the most skilled bladesmiths in the world. This year's seminar will focus specifically on swords. You will learn design concepts, metallurgy, forging and finishing techniques, heat treatment, and using your finished pieces. This is a multi-level workshop for beginners and experienced craftsmen alike, with both forging demonstrations by world renowned craftsmen and hands-on forging opportunities. Equipment, steel, and coal will be provided and available for sale to begin your own home workshop!
Autumn Dagger by Phil Baldwin and Jim Kelso
"Autumn Dagger" by Phil Baldwin and Jim Kelso.
Our demonstrator team for the weekend includes lectures and demonstrations by Peter Johnsson, Ric Furrer, Phil Baldwin, Jim Kelso, Kevin Cashen, and Dan Maragni. Mike Edelson and Tristan Zukowski will be putting their European Longsword combat skills on display, and Tom Walter and Mike Polluck will be demonstrating Kendo and Tamashigiri techniques. Demonstrator bios and examples of their work may be viewed on our website by clicking here. Demonstrator lineup
Sword by Kevin Cashen
Pattern welded sword by Kevin Cashen.
We begin the weekend Friday evening with a delicious meal in Ashokan's new spacious dining hall. Dan Maragni will open the seminar with an introduction and program overview, leading into the evenings lectures and open forge time. Saturday's program will include lectures by world renowned sword expert from Sweden Peter Johnsson, up-close engraving demonstrations on our new wide-screen monitor by Jim Kelso, a blade forging demo by Kevin Cashen, and a chance to see swords in action by the weapon arts teams. The evening program will include low and high-tech heat treatment demonstrations, and the usual display of culinary and beverage delights.Five fully equipped forging stations will be available to work directly with the demonstration team. For more program details, click here.Seminar schedule
Comfortable Lodging and Tasty Meals
Come for the food, and stay for the demo!
View the Ashokan Center Facility and Lodging options here.
For private room pricing and reservation information, please reply to this message, or call Tim at the number below.
Many registration package options are available including: 
  • $30 Sunday Knife show and lunch
  • $100 Saturday Demo only
  • $120 Saturday Demo, lunch, all day beverages.
  • $175 Saturday Demo, 3 meals, and evening program.
  • $310 Demo, 6 meals, 2 nights lodging
Early bird prices shown here are valid thru September 1, 2016
More options and $90 student discounts are available on the Registration Page
Adults attending as a chaperon for a child may register as a student.
Work study discounts are also available at the student rate. Contact Tim for information. 

Payment Options: Pre-registration is required! Please register on-line and chose one of the following options.
  • Credit Card via Paypal
  • Mail check
  • Pay at the door
Checks or cash preferred to save the organization a paypal fee.
Future Blacksmithing Events at The Ashokan Center:
  • Northeast Blacksmiths Association Fall Hammer-In September 30-October 2, 2016
  • Northeast Blacksmiths Association Spring Hammer-In: April 28-30, 2017
New England Bladesmith Guild
Tim Neu "The Registration Guy"
This event has some simply great people as the demonstrators. Alas, I will be in Scotland by that point of my upcoming European Adventure. From Central Ontario, its an easy day's drive down to Ashokan (about two hours north of New York City - so other than traffic around Toronto, the northern route via the Thousand Islands Bridge is all country driving.) Highly Recommended!

Saturday, August 20, 2016


The ideal hammer for an individual is determined by head proportions, shape, weight, and handle length, grip profile and diameter. 

David Robertson for example uses a standard hammer that I personally find very uncomfortable to use. We both have considerable experience in equipping many students with tools over many years (I must easily have 50 hammers here in a dozen styles). I should also say my own personal hammer has been in my hands since the early 1980's. At 800 gms, I do about 85 % of my own work with that one hammer. (Any smith is likely to say the same thing about 'their' hammer!) 
Raw weight also needs to be considered against stock size being formed - and the desired effect for that forming. Generally heavy means a harder impact, but also means less control. Control is significantly more important (in my view) than mere power. This also can become a significant safety problem. Use of too heavy a tool for an individual, especially if the grip is not correct, can easily result in tramatic damage to elbow tendons, development of joint damages. (Yes - this specifically known from painful personal experience!) Tendon damage is a life long injury that never fully recovers.

1) Princess Auto / Deals / KW Surplus 'American' style square head cross peen, made in China = 800 gms / cost about $10 each.
Note that these now have very bad plastic handles which need be replaced (see below). Over the years the handles have gone from junk wood to fiberglass to the current (horrible) plastic

2) Princess Auto Ball peen, made in Italy = 710 gms / cost $23 each
This is an excellent hammer, which outperforms anything else in its class. Great shaped ash handles. (There is a 900 gm version at $32 - also an excellent 'starting' hammer)

3) Professional Farriers Supply (Orangeville) Rounding hammer = 800 gms / cost about $30 each
This is notably a very short handle, and an extremely balanced head. (So ideal for physically smaller / less strong individuals). (There is a 1000 gm version at about $45, which again has the balanced head) Rounding hammers (on flat, one slightly crowned face) are excellent for a number of forging tasks btw.

Handles - Home Hardware 16 inch ash blacksmith's handle / cost about $8 each These are excellent handles. You will have to ask to have them ordered in (these are open stock, but most stores just don't carry them).

The image here shows the three hammers listed:
 - The American pattern has a fiberglass handle - these hammers were available this way for a short time a number of years back.
- The hammers have wooden handles conform to what I personally consider the correct profile. This thins the handle just below the eye to reduce impact shock. (This does limit the life of the handle, but handles are cheap and elbows are not.)
- My own hammers (green tape) have also got extra (hockey & foil) tape protection just below the head. Also silicone rubber tape on the grip (again reduced impact shock).

As you can see - I consider hammer selection critically important to effective forge technique - and long term working ability.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ypres 2016 update

Newsletter from the Poppy Cenotaph project
View this email in your browser and translate

Blacksmiths and Farriers Remembering WW1

To commemorate the sacrifices of their forefathers and all who were affected by the war, a striking Cenotaph in the form of a Flanders Field poppy will be created at an International Blacksmithing Event to be held in the Grote Markt, Ypres, Belgium in September 2016.  Read more


Ypres 2016 is Nearly Here

After many, many months of planning and endless hard work by so many's nearly here!

Flights are booked, forges arranged, accommodation reserved, exhibits shipped, hammers ready and blacksmiths and farriers preparing to make their way to Flanders to meet with fellow smiths to create the unique and striking Poppy Cenotaph.

Children's Poppy Wreath

The children's wreath, to be laid at the Menin Gate at the Last Post Ceremony on 5th September has now been assembled. Containing poppies forged by children from France, Belgium, Wales,  England, Italy and Germany,  the wreath was assembled by Robert Smith, Luc Vandecasteele, Manicx Carlieri and Rik Verschoot. Read more

Panel Designs

The final designs for the 25 panels which will surround the Cenotaph have been submitted and approved. They can all be viewed on the project website along with the blacksmiths interpretations of their designs.  View here

Cenotaph Foundations Prepared

Site preparations have been undertaken at Langemark Poelkapelle where the Cenotaph will eventually be erected. . The local authority have generously taken responsibility for the extensive foundations and landscaping work at the site in preparation for the Cenotaph. We are grateful to the local authority for their wholehearted support. View images 

Forging Programme Published

The forging programme for the 25 Masters at Ypres 2016 has now been confirmed. Working delegates are limited to 160 to ensure every delegate who wishes to work is guaranteed a place on a team with a master. Team selection will be made by the forge master and his assistants. View here

Fundraising Boost

The Ypres 2016 fundraising programme has received a real boost in recent weeks through corporate donations, in-kind support and proceeds from the sale of poppies. However we still have a little way to go to reach our target and the successful creation of the Cenotaph. Donations can be made through the project website and the organisers will appreciate any further support for the project. Donate here

Artist Alberto Dalle Valle at Ypres

Young Italian artist Alberto Dalle Valle is going to be at Ypres 2016 and will draw and sketch different situations as they unfold at the event, just as a war artist would have done. He is working on a book which will reflect on the hardship endured by all those involved in the conflict. He will also be running children's workshops. Read more about Alberto

Our Poppies are Flourishing

We've seen a significant increase in the sale of the beautifully crafted poppies in the past few months with all proceeds going to fund the Cenotaph project. Extensive publicity work has seen sales increase as the general public have become aware of the project. Please share with your networks and let them know where to buy the poppies. Visit our online shop

Forge Stations layout at Ypres

Forgemaster Henry Pomfret and his team have been busy arranging the forging stations for the event including their layout.  There is a tight timescale for setting up in the Grote Markt prior to the event, so it's essential that every last detail has been considered and planned carefully. The team has been meeting regularly to discuss and plan the arrangements which will enable the teams of blacksmiths to work.

BlacksmiHER Radio Interviews

A series of interviews with blacksmiths worldwide who are participating in Ypres 2016 is being recorded for BlacksmitHER radio. Interviewed by Victoria Patti, many of the blacksmiths participating explain their panel designs and their involvement in Ypres 2016. Listen to these great interviews
Don't Leave it too Late to Register

Many blacksmiths have already secured their place to forge at Ypres 2016 and registered delegates will be allocated to teams with Masters in the next few days. Register now or you may miss out.  A flat rate fee of £75, $110 or €95 is being charged whether you attend for 1 day or all 6 days.  Do it now!

Takayoshi Komine Japanese Master

Japanese  Blacksmith Takayoshi Komine from Tokyo will be a Master at Ypres. He has an impressive blacksmithing pedigree and the organisers are very pleased he will be at Ypres. You can find details of his work here  Read more

Buyse Joris Supporting

Buyse Joris a Belgian construction company have undertaken the task of casting the segments that make up the concrete mound at the base of the Cenotaph and have generously provided all of the materials and equipment.   Read more
Contact your Local Media

The project is gaining significant media coverage around the world - but we need blacksmiths and farriers to help through contacting their local newspapers, radio and television to further raise the profile of Ypres 2016.  We are happy for information from the Ypres 2016 website to included in blogs etc. We've produced a media pack and press release templates to help you do this, just email

Tell us What You're doing for Ypres 2016

Many blacksmiths and farriers all over the world are working hard on behalf of Ypres 2016. We want to share what you've been doing with everyone so please keep us updated through Facbook, twitter or email.
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This event is part of GoneWest, the cultural remembrance of WW 1 by the provice of West-Flanders, Belgium.
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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

COPYRIGHT NOTICE - All posted text and images @ Darrell Markewitz.
No duplication, in whole or in part, is permitted without the author's expressed written permission.
For a detailed copyright statement : go HERE