Saturday, December 31, 2016


Tentative Dates* for 2017 Basic level courses:

March 11 & 12 = Introduction to Smithing - two spaces only / work with propane forge

March 25 & 26 = Build a Zombie Killer - four spaces / consider an 'experience' style program

April 7 / 8 / 9 = Introduction to Smithing - four spaces

May 5 / 6 / 7 = Introduction to Smithing - four spaces

June 2 / 3 / 4 = Introduction to Smithing - four spaces

* July - no courses scheduled (possible presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC)

* August - no courses scheduled (possible trip to Scotland)

* Should either of these projects not be carried out, it is possible there may be programs placed on the schedule for those months.

September 8 / 9 / 10 = Introduction to Smithing - four spaces

October 13 / 14 / 15 = Introduction to Smithing - four spaces

November 10 / 11 / 12 = Introduction to Smithing - four spaces

December 9 & 10 = Introduction to Smithing - two spaces only / work with propane forge


At this point I have already filled one program completely (May 27 & 28 - Zombie Killer), and I have five deposits already in hand (made as Yule gifts).
Based on the experience of previous years, available dates fill quickly!

First deposit = first booked!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Kristmas Krafts....

This was something I posted up on Facebook earlier this week...
If you care about the comments and suggestions - look to my Facebook page.

Here is the simplest thing I have come up with - a project suitable to make with your kids?

Cat Food Can Spinner

This project makes use of empty 156 gm aluminum zip top cans that cat food comes in. (Sure to work with tuna fish cans as well).

After emptying, wash out the can.

You need to make a small hole in the bottom.
I'm using my drill press here, but an hand drill works just as well.
Simplest way is to put the can on a scrap piece of wood, and just tap a nail through to make the hole.
If you need guide lines, measure out rough 1/4 divisions, then break each 1/4  into three roughly equal segments. Precision not required!
I normally use a pencil or a water based marker (the lines will wash off in the first rain).
Now you cut along the lines, up to the small rim edge of the can.
I've got some tin snips for this, but aviation cutters or even a pair of heavy (bandage) sissors will cut this thin aluminum (note - use rough working sissors - don't use your dress-making shears!)
This is the most 'difficult' part of the project for young fingers.
Now you twist each segment through about 60 degrees.
The easiest way is using a pair of square tipped pliers as seen.
Note that you grip the segment by the bottom 1/3 or so.
With the aluminum, you can do this with bare fingers - but be careful of the potentially sharp cut edges.
You likely will have to adjust the individual 'vanes' you have just made when finished - the shape of the can can distort a bit.
Now you need about 24 inches / 60 cm of light string, or nylon fishing line as seen here. Plus a small washer or a small nail.
Fold the line over double, tie a knot on the free ends.
Insert the folded end through the washer
Pass the other end of the line through the open centre of the loop, then snug it tight against the washer (or nail).

Last step is to pass the free end of the line through the hole you made in the centre of the can.
Run the line from the inside towards the outside of the can, so the washer pulls up tight against the inner surface of the can.

Now hang outside off your eves or from a tree branch in your yard.

The light weight of the finished spinner makes it move with even a slight breeze, the edges of the vanes catching the wind. The longer string allows it to wind up and then spin back.

In the image you can see some other prototypes, each made from colourful pop cans.
For those spinners, a heavy box cutter was used to cut lines into the body of each can, creating strips about 1/2 inch / 1 cm wide.
The red one has straight cuts, again twisted by about 45 degrees off flat.
The blue one has diagonal cuts, with the can 'squashed' to make the oval profile.

Monday, December 26, 2016

2017 Schedule - ALREADY!

I have been asked since the Fall for my 2017 course schedule.
At this point I actually have a total of 12 paid deposits against 2017 programs (!)

So here it is - a very (very!) rough draft for how 2017 is shaping up:

At this point consider the outline up to the start of July fairly firm.

Right now DARC is under discussions with Parks Canada about a possible return to L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. This is likely to bracket 'Parks Day' weekend of July 15 & 16. No real idea at this point about potential team size or demonstration period.
I had been asked if I would be available to come back to the Scottish Crannog Centre for their 24th anniversary event (brackets August 5 & 6). Potentially with a return to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop for Turf to Tools 3.
This makes July and August very tentative.

Early Fall may be modified by the possible ReARC conference, very tentatively the weekend of 21& 22 October.

At this point (December 2016) the intent is most of the course offerings will keep the same fee structure as 2016 rates.

As with past years, keep an eye to the web site descriptions of individual courses for firm dates and availability. Demand is even increased over last year, so you are advised to book (with a deposit) as early as possible!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

OAC Grant - Final Summary

Crafts Projects - Creation and Development : Final Report

A note to readers: One of the requirements for the OAC grant which funded the major portion of my six week research trip to Europe & Scotland Fall of 2016 was to submit a final report summary. In so much that it took me five hours to prepare that report - I've included it here as part of my continuing documentation of the overall project.

My original grant application was to fund one month’s work at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Lumsden Scotland. The amount covered return travel, studio fee and materials, lodgings, and maintaining my home studio in my absence. Two working sessions were planned. First was a continuation of the ‘Turf to Tools’ project started in 2014. This is an investigation of human impact and relationship with the local landscape, specifically through an exploration of historic bloomery iron smelting techniques. The second half of the grant covered personal study, primarily into small scale bronze casting techniques.

The core remained the two projects at SSW, from September 12 through October 10.
Turf to Tools 2 included three individual iron smelts, all assisted by other artists in residence. The first smelt used ore gathered on a field trip to the historic Lecht Mine. The second expanded on work from 2014, testing peat as a possible fuel. This smelt was held as a public demonstration, with artists and local people attending. The third was a teaching session for the SSW staff.
Preparing for extraction while the crowd watches at the second iron smelt as part of ‘Turf to Tools 2’. - Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
As part of the personal project segment, I produced two small cast bronze pieces in the process of learning the base techniques and becoming familiar with the required equipment.
As an addition, some time was spend in the ceramics studio. Here two pieces were created, both based on ancient artifacts. I also was able to participate in two Raku firings, including observation of the kiln construction.
Cast bronze with natural stones, 16 x 13 cm, part of the proposed ’Memory Disk’ series (not polished). Inspired by the erosion of the cliff shore line at Dunottar Castle, utilizing wave polished stones from that location.
Cast bronze, 13 x 9 cm, outer and inner surface shown, part of the proposed ’Memory Disk’ series (not finished). Inspired by the Neolithic to Bronze Age stone line chambers across Scotland (several nearby Lumsden / SSW).
Wheel thrown ceramic, 8 cm tall, inspired by the ancient ‘Beaker’ artifact (seen as inset). This object used as part of the initial test of the ‘Tocca Ferro’ process. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
Bisque fired ceramic, 18 cm long, inspired by Roman and Etruscan votive figures (seen as inset). This object originally intended as a master pattern for use with bronze casting. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
A major unexpected element was the instigation of the ’Tocca Ferro’ process, working with artists Katriona Gillespe and Kelly Probyn-Smith. This was the first testing of what may be a new ceramic firing process, working in conjunction with the iron smelting furnace. A number of small objects were created.
Ceramic, bisque and Tocca Ferro. This grouping inspired by images of destruction of the town square of Ypres during WW1.

In all honesty, I never expected to receive a grant. Through late Fall and early Winter of 2015, a number of additional projects arose that could be combined into a single air travel from Canada to Europe. In the end, I extended the OAC grant to cover a total of 6 weeks, taking part in three additional arts projects.
First of these, from August 29 through September 6, was taking part in the Ypres 2016 Cenotaph Project. I was part of one of the working teams, under Scottish artist Shonna Johnston. Artisan blacksmiths (drawn internationally) worked in groups of 6-8 to create individual panels for the larger memorial, with all work done before the public. I was one of only 6 Canadians on the working teams. In addition to the huge impact the Ypres landscape has had on me personally, I also had submitted a design for one of the memorial panels.
Working with Peter Hill on an element of the “Two Brothers” panel, as part of the Ypres 2016 event. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
Two Brothers
The completed panel I worked on at Ypres 2015, design by / team leader Shonna Johnson.
Age Shall Not Tarnish Them : The design rough submitted for the Ypres 2016 Cenotaph
Second was an invitation to take part in ‘ARTEfakty’, the Pruszkowski Festival of Archaeology, September 7 - 11, just outside Warsaw, Poland. I was one of only two North Americans (the only Canadian) attending, demonstrating bloomery iron smelting methods. I was grouped with a team with members from Denmark, Norway and the USA.
The ‘Viking Age’ demonstration team preparing to consolidate the hot bloom just after extraction at the ARTEfakty event. Image by staff photographer
Third was a session at the Scottish Crannog Centre, from October 2 to 5. Here I worked with staff researching (and training towards) early Iron Age furnaces, for both iron and bronze casting.
Working with staff at the Scottish Crannog Centre building and test firing an Iron Age smelting furnace. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith

The largest impact on my future work will come from this amazing opportunity to work alongside artists from a wide range of European countries. Additionally, most Artisan Blacksmiths work alone, so the ability to work as a team, and discuss work with people from such a range of locations and backgrounds, is significant. Certainly much was learned.
The exposure to related high temperature processes at SSW has lead to a deeper understanding of furnace construction overall. My intention is to build flexible use furnace system here at Wareham over this winter (allowing for both bronze casting and raku firing).
Close association with artists from many disciplines at SSW and other the other projects has refined my own understanding of the role of the Artisan within the larger artistic community. As always, the wide range of personal contacts from such far flung locations can not be underestimated.

At this point, the primary method the support of the OAC has been attributed has been through a dedicated series of blog posts, describing the overall experience.
Additionally the OAC logo appears on the fixed blog frame indicating the support via this grant.
As the individual iron smelt documentation is created and posted to the Wareham Forge web site, the OAC logo will be included.
A number of public lectures are in the submission stage, where support of the OAC will be mentioned and illustrated.
Currently a publication is being created that details the Turf to Tools project, undertaken by SSW. The OAC logo will be included on the sponsorship page there.

In conclusion, it is my feeling that the value provided by this Project Grant was greatly increased, both in terms of scope and impact, by the expansion to include the many extra projects listed. Personally, I have been increasingly involved with skills training. In this I feel the value of this grant personally will most certainly be passed along to others into the future.

Those following this blog over the last months have seen many separate postings, describing in some detail my exeriences over the Turf to Tools 2 / European Iron Project.

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

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