Friday, December 28, 2018

About a Phone (part 1)

"  The site doesn’t scale to mobile. Unfortunately with over 50% of internet users moving to phones and tablets, google feels like it is priority number 1 to have a website built for mobile.  "
from a recent e-mail - name withheld

Well, maybe not.
And from the look of it, certainly not those seriously interested in the Wareham Forge (or reading this right now, for that matter).

First Statistic : Population of Canada
December 2017 = 36.7 million (1)

Reported number of ‘mobile device internet users’ (so smart phones and tablets)
December 2017 = 24.4 million
December 2018 = 25.7 million (2)

Something to watch here.
1) The number of ‘subscriptions’ is reported at over 30 million.
Other reports indicated that Canada has one of the highest mobile device ownership world wide. But indicated at roughly ‘3 out of 4 people’. Which would put the number of ‘unique owners’ at closer to 27.5 million.
2) A good percentage of these would actually own more than one device - but would count twice here. (I own both a cell phone and a tablet, for example.)
3) A significant number of those would children or teens. The teens clearly show as major users, and warp some of the numbers as this goes along.

But just what are those ‘users’ actually doing?
By the data at :
  • text message / e-mail
  • watching videos
  • finding locations (maps)
  • games
  • mobile banking
You can see general information searching on the internet does not even make up one of the top five uses. (Appears to be less than 1/3 of 'user time')

Ok - and quite importantly here - just what machines are Canadians using to actually ‘surf the web’?
As it turns out, still primarily using actual computer screens :
January 2018 = 55%

The table indicates that only 33 % of unique users are using the internet on small smart phone screens.

Combine that with the reduced fraction (not indicated, but obviously some amount less than 38%) who would be attempting general internet searches.
That makes at best roughly 1/3 of 1/3 of all web site views =
11 % of all viewers.

A double check off my own main web site portals. Stats for operating systems accessing :
’Hammered Out Bits’ - my blog / month of December (2018)
  • Android = 14%
  • iPhone = 4%
‘the Wareham Forge - main web site / month of December
  • Google Android = 3.8% (3)
full site on an iPad mini *
full site on an iPhone *
Now, I had created a separate ‘mobile’ version of the Wareham Forge web site (about a year ago) :
  • (should) automatically load when a mobile device is used
  • sized to fit the smaller iPhone screen
  • stripped to single images and limited text
  • links back to the main web site if viewers want any details
view direct at

mobile version on iPad mini *
mobile version on iPhone *
Over the entire Wareham Forge web site however / month of December :
Total page views = 24,908
‘Mobile’ page views = 646 (2.5%)
These two sets of numbers seem to work against each other. I may be incorrect on either end :
  • Android operating system may not just be on phones ?
  • Some mobile users may not be moved to the special mobile versions as intended.

Over the past year especially, from younger (less than 30 year old) people specifically, I have had many suggest I should re-work the entire Wareham Forge web site (!!) so it views 'easier' on those tiny smart phone screens.

(Next : 'Viewing the Universe through a Tiny Hole' )

* Made with use of the Mobile Phone Emulator (by COWEMO)
I made an attempt to match these images to the actual sizes of the devices indicated. I suspect the size of these images will be altered by your own viewing screen.
  • iPhone : continues to increase in size, older ones = 13 cm (diagonal)
  • iPad mini : (mine is iPad 2) = 20 cm (diagonal)
These also show the vertical arrangement, which is what the mobile site version of the Wareham Forge was designed for. The images used there actually are a size that fills a horizontal view on the iPhone screen.

1) Statistics Canada
An estimate of the current (end December 2018) = 37.1 million

2) Statista

3) The separate statistics sheets for these two sites record and track different information.
The main Wareham Forge site does not track  macOSi  individually

Thursday, December 27, 2018


I have been attempting to complete this commentary since events provoked it in early November. Without a lot of effective result, to be honest. I have decided to publish it as it currently stands. Partially since I see Disneyfication as only one aspect of a set of interlocked cultural elements that I consider major problems today.


: 1. The establishment or alteration of business activity to conform with the goals or image of a corporation, especially in the elimination of controversial, sensitive, or potentially offensive activities or material.
2. The presentation of historical or cultural material in an expurgated or distorted fashion in an effort to appeal to a large number of tourists or consumers.

    the Free On-line Dictionary

: the transformation (as of something real or unsettling) into carefully controlled and safe entertainment or an environment with similar qualities
First known use of Disneyfication - 1959

: The alternate term ‘Disneyization’ has the same meaning.
As applied specifically to juvenile entertainment or theme parks, the term appears have been first used in the late 1950’s (specifically related to the Walt Disney company’s operations).  A wider application of the term started being applied by social scientists and cultural critics during the 1990’s :

    The terms are generally used in a negative way, and they imply homogenization of consumption, merchandising, and emotional labor. They can be used more broadly to describe the processes of stripping a real place or event of its original character and repackaging it in a sanitized format. References to anything negative are removed, and the facts are watered down with the intent of making the subject more pleasant and easily grasped.


In the Wikapedia overview above, ‘emotional labour’ is specifically mentioned. This refers to a specific expectation / requirement of the behaviour of those undertaking ‘content delivery’.  ‘Providers’ are to be expansively enthusiastic of the content and objectives. They are to constantly maintain a ‘happy’ aspect. They are to avoid, at all costs, any comment or behaviour that might possibly prove, in any way what so ever, to be ‘offensive’ to the many individual ‘consumers’.  (1)

‘Happy consumer’ is the ultimate goal under Disneyfication.

I first became aware of the term - and it’s application, at the 1999 Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) annual conference at Waterloo, Ontario. Within the greater community of Museums, especially Living History Museums, ‘Disneyfication’ was then, and remains today, a very derogatory label. 
As more and more business managers have replaced historians as museum directors, this process of diluting, pacifying (and often plain altering), historical fact, for ‘ease of public consumption’, has escalated. The massive growth of ‘edu-tainment’ in popular media is a dominant example of this.

So, I was bit shocked, certainly dismayed (and frankly, a bit offended), when the administrator of a college level course I was a sessional instructor at, used the term in discussion with me last August. Stated as a desirable method and chosen objective of the program I was involved in.
It is massively clear that between myself and this college’s administration that :  “our philosophical approaches to a (name omitted) program are not aligned.”

As important to me personally that the passing of hard won knowledge and experience to a new generation may be, I consider a ’Disneyfication’ approach to be totally incorrect. 
I do not consider students to be ‘consumers’ of a ‘product’.
Education should not be reduced to mere ‘customer satisfaction’.
‘Bums in the seats’ is not the measure of a successful educational program.

I am making a clear distinction here between ‘general interest' * and ‘technical’ programs.
A technical program is being defined here as one with fixed physical objectives, defined skills to be acquired, with certificate or diploma only awarded on full and successful completion. 
  • Effective completion of assigned tasks and the demonstration of the acquisition of specific skills is the requirement. 
  • An artificial environment of ‘all can do, all will succeed’ does not represent reality - and should not be created (2). 
  • The assumption of ‘I paid my fee = I get my certificate’ must be enforced as false. 
  • Making a student ‘happy’ is not a requirement of awarding a passing grade.
Otherwise the value of that certificate becomes virtually meaningless to those outside that specific college environment.
* In a ‘general interest’ program, there may be more latitude to consider ‘desire’ on the part of students.

So, Grasshopper…
Examine closely the approaches to teaching a physical skill being described by an Institution and individual instructors.
My (wise?) advice is to avoid those who merely are ‘giving you what you want’.

Beware those who promise easy success.
There are no short cuts to acquiring skill.


2)’All people have value’ is something I truly believe.
 ‘All people are equal’ is a lie however - and NOT the same thing.
I personally can not run a mile, my vision is poor, have huge problems with correct spelling. The accurate truth is not all people can do everything, or at identical ability.
(If you are blind - you can not undertake hand forge work. Period.)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Elora Sculpture Project - 2019

... on the generation of an idea.

Climate Change

Mass Extinction Events

'Mecha-Fossil' series : Summer 2015

... more to come!

I have been extremely pleased to have had work chosen for inclusion in the Elora Sculpture Project every year since 2013 :

Layers : 2013
Legacy : 2018

Monday, December 17, 2018

Blooms to Bars - some Data

Regular readers here will have noticed a bit of a theme over the last posts. Again, this whole thing was sparked by two things :
First an attempt to catch up on long promised cutting and distributing some blooms made during combination demonstration / teaching events.
Second how I can't give an simple answer to a simple question (!!). In this case 'How much stuff can you make from a single bloom'.

Now I had undertaken a specific 'Bloom to Bar' project, back in 2012. (1)
When I looked back at my notes - I realised that although I had compiled a massive overview table of the data - I had never actually published this. (The only table available on the web site documentation is from Spring of 2006 !)
'Conclusions' - Blooms to Bars - c 2018
I have dug around through my notes and various past blog reports. There are likely a few individual attempts missing. You can see that in many cases, the compaction / refining process has not been carried out to its full sequence into a 'perfect' working bar. Only some of those bars had gone on to completed objects. (2)

A much more complete version of this table has been (just) published on the main documentation. This includes links back to each of the individual smelt events, plus links to the objects as created.

Some Observations :

Bloom Yield :
This is based on raw ore to finished bloom.
- Quality of iron ore is an important element in overall yields. The majority of the smelts here used our proven 'DARC Dirt' analog (red iron oxide).
- Most of the smelts were on the lower ore volume end, most typically using 30 kg ore addition. It has been shown that there will be a rapid increase in bloom size, as additional ore is added (The two 'Smeltfest 06' blooms were created using roughly 45 kg ore, for example).
- All the smelts listed are using the 'Sauder & Williams' system of high air volumes, supplied by electric blowers. This method certainly results in higher yields than those typically found with use of various human powered air systems. (3)
- The standard here is the blooms have undergone a single compaction series, hand hammered, from the initial extraction heat.

To / Welds :
My own normal process is :
Bloom / Section compressed to 'Plate'
Plate cut & folded, welded and drawn to a 'Book'
Book has been welded and drawn to a 'Billet'
3rd Weld series, flattened at 90 degrees to last series
Welded / Drawn / Flattened to finished Working Bar
The sequence shown above is for #9 on the table, but does represent a general pattern I undertake.  (This full sequence is shown in detail on a blog post)

'Welds' here refers to one complete weld series, not an individual forge weld. My normal practice is to make my first weld using a lighter hand hammer. This allows me both control and speed, but not as good penetration. The result is more of a 'tack' weld, which will (mostly) seal the seams between pieces. I then follow up with a heavy 'consolodation' weld, using the air hammer. Due to the irregular shape of blooms, especially at the compaction of plate and plate to 'book' There are likely to be additional welding heats taken to forge in the fractured edges. Taken together, there may be 3 or 4 individual welding heat cycles to each of the 'sequences' as recorded here.
This is important, but there is a clear relationship between number of weld sequences and yield. A casual observation is roughly 10 % of the mass is lost for each weld sequence I have undertaken.

As you see, a number of these sequences were only taken to the first step, bloom to plate. This done specifically, as the intent was to create bowl forms from the material. As a raw material turned into artistic forgings, I specifically chose to retain flaws in the 'finished' bars.
Again this would skew any attempt to calculate an average loss.

Total Return :
This may be the more interesting number of the table. The number here is based on the loss of ore to bloom, then again from bloom to bar = ore to bar.
Taken overall, the rough average here is about 30% working bar from ore. I would not present this as definitive (especially given the variables discussed above), but at least suggests some earlier reported figures (as low as 10% return) may not be truly representative.

Obviously, the major flaw in these numbers is the result of the dominance of purely modern methods and especially machine tools :
- use of electric blowers for smelt air
- coal forge for the bloom to bar phase
- use of hydraulic press and air hammer for consolidation and bloom to bar phase

Ideally, this work should be continued, working closer and closer to all historically accurate tools especially. (4)

( 1)
Blooms to Bars : Supported by a Grant from the Ontario Arts Council
(2) It is obvious here that my main stress has been to testing various historic based furnace systems. To that end, each smelt is typically using a dependable, but smaller volume, of ore - the standard is 30 kg.
To date, I have produced about 75 individual blooms. You can see that only 15 of these have been worked down into a 'bloom to bar' sequence.
(This is not actually either the full number of sequences - or the correct total of objects I have created from bloom iron. Looking back, I can see several work sessions never had detailed notes recorded at the time!)

(3) The difference in yields between machine air and human air is dramatic. Typically, our own tests with variations of 'Viking Age' bellows systems have produced yields in the 15 - 20% range. The same furnace / ore / sequence, only with increased air volumes from electric blowers more typically produces yields in the 25 - 30 % range. A clear example is the listed Vinland 2 (electric) @ 27% and Vinland 4 (human) @ 8% - where everything else was virtually identical.

(4) Fortunately, others in the Iron Smelting / Living History community have also been working on the same problems :
Gotz Breitenbucher, a member of the wider Experimental Iron Smelting community (based in Norway)
Črtomir Harald Lorenči, who had expanded his work through academic studies into Early Irish ironworking / smelting
Thijs van de Manakker, one of the originals in this field. Thijs (from the Netherlands) has well documented his work via video on YouTube
Note that these are hardly the only experimenters in the field! These people had made recent comments / contributions to things I have posted here.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Making the CUTS - (Blooms to chunks)

This post is a (kind of) continuation of two earlier ones:
'More on Angle Grinders'
'Making Spears - Ore to Bloom to Object'
A sub text on both was the problem of how to cut up large bloom masses into 'working' blocks.

Lee Sauder has (wisely) repeatedly stated 'A bloom is never as hot as it will be just as you extract it'. Lee obviously has a huge more experience than I do in not only the bloomery iron process, but also both 'bloom to bar' and 'bar to object'

Well, ... As I have mentioned a number of times in pieces here, I get limited at the point of extraction by a couple of major elements here at Wareham :
1) By the time I get through the preparation, full smelt sequence, the actual extraction itself? I'm pretty much exhausted!
2) I rarely have any 'skilled' hands for actual blacksmithing related tasks. Although the DARC supporting team have undertaken a certain amount of hammer work at previous smelts, none are trained past the 'introduction' level.
3) Honestly, I have been concentrating on the mysteries of *historical* iron smelting themselves. I have not built the specialized equipment (mainly oversized forges) required for secondary heating of the blooms.
4) Although I * do * have some modern powered equipment (75 lb 'Robertson' air hammer and self built hydraulic press) this is all installed in the actual forge workshop. This at the front of the property, a good 150 feet from the smelting area at the rear of the lot.
This is all aggravated by the size limits on both my main coal, and currently available propane, forges. Anything much larger than about 6 x 6 x 4 inches (15 x 15 x 10 cm) I just can not effectively heat to forging temperatures (1)

So - How do you CUT a full bloom when it is cold?

The only realistic way I have found is to use a 'zip' metal cutting disk on an angle grinder. (2)
There are any number of basic problems with this method :
1) How to secure the irregular bloom.
2) Relatively shallow depth of cut (depending on the unit)
3) Maintaining control over the long duration of the cut
4) Cost of multiple disks - which quickly abrade beyond useful size. (3)

Here are the results of this week's adventures in bloom cutting

Two blooms were cut into smaller pieces. Both the result of group training / public demonstration smelts. The original promise was to divide the bloom between the active participants.

SCA 50 Year - June 2016
Starting Bloom = 4.836 kg
First Cut = 2.841 / 1.829 kg
Piece to right (above) sectioned again = .838 / .876 kg
Larger piece (to left above) sectioned = 1.594 / 1.136 kg (a)
(a) You can see that I was able to complete the cut on the larger 'half' after I had heated the partially scored block.

Starting Bloom = 4.836 kg
Pieces Total = 4.444 kg
Total Loss = .392 kg / 8% over 4 complete cuts

CAMELOT - September 2018
Starting bloom = 5.26 kg (b)
First cutting = 2.82 / 2.29 kg (c)
Finished cuts = 1.14 / 1.04 + .641 / 1.136 / .756 kg
(b) You can see the surface is at least scored from a quick attempt at hot cutting the bloom at extraction. The other shallow marks are from one of the (failed) University Lab attempts mentioned below (2)

(c) You can see the deeper cut lines, from the use of the monster 7 " x 13 lb grinder (which can provide up to a 1 3/4 inch deep cut)

Starting Bloom = 5.26 kg
Pieces Total = 4.713 kg
Total Loss = .547 kg / 10% over 5 complete cuts

You can see that in all instances, it was not possible to make a depth of cut entirely through the bloom mass. A scoring cut was made on all four sides, to the best depth possible with the grinders on hand. Then the mass was placed on the hydraulic press - cold. The cutting blade was able to force open the line. After several compressions (alternating sides force was applied), the central area effectively shattered.
One nice result is that this process reviled the internal crystals - both in terms of size / structure and colour. This also provides a 'relative' clue to potential carbon content (at least in the interior). The larger the crystals and 'whiter' the colour, the higher the carbon content. (4)

One other advantage to using a grinding cut is that the density of the interior is easy to view. When cutting the bloom hot, there is a combination of both compacting and slicing as the blade pushes down through the bloom. Freely admitting that of course the end purpose is usually to compact the bloom into a solid block - the 'bloom to bar' phase.

The next part of what all resulted from a simple question will be a look at just that 'bloom to bar' - in terms of offering up some data on overall yields...

(1) Loose plans afoot to build a standardized, larger sized, 'heating base' - using two or three individual propane burners installed into a shallow circular metal containment. A number of different purpose designed top shells can then use the same heat source : larger forge / bronze casting / raku ceramics.
Event looser plans are to convert an antique cast 'oval bowl' forge into a side blast unit, specifically for working blooms. 

(2) Aspects of the selection, effectiveness and use of various angle grinders was detailed in the 'More on Angle Grinders' posting.

In two earlier experiments, the finished blooms were handed over to University Engineering Departments. In both cases, after several attempts (damaging expensive cutting equipment) these folks returned the uncut blooms - with only shallow scoring on the surfaces.
As returned from a University Lab - reported two blades destroyed.
A much earlier attempt to use a 'hobbyist' quality (10 inch x 1/2 HP) fixed cut-off disk saw ended up melting the windings on the electric motor!
Use of a band saw is also not successful. The slag inclusions scattered through any bloom mass quickly tear the teeth off most standard alloy blades (Carbide tooth blade might prove more durable, but are not available for the smaller sized band saw I have.)

(3) The two bloom cutting processes detailed here consumed roughly $40 in disks. Typically a 5 inch diameter disk will only last about 5 minutes before it has been worn away past its effective cutting diameter. This results in a cut across one of the four sides to best depth.
A high quality diamond grit wheel might prove more durable or effective. Cost does intrude however.

(4) At least that is my understanding, from examining some pieces of bloom from the Japanese Tatara process. (Happy to stand corrected here!)

Late Addition:
I had this comment come in (via Facebook) from Gotz Breitenbucher, a member of the wider Experimental Iron Smelting community (based in Norway)

Götz Breitenbücher I agree about the coal -propane difference, but not about the charcoal being colder.I have never measured it, but in a well built furnace, using my viking age bellows ( medium size, about 60cm long) a bloom seems to heat about as fast as in a coal forge, somewhat more evenly, because the fire is less concentrated . In the beginning (like, 20 years ago) i had problems with the heat , but it depends a lot on a good bellow man, and the construction of the furnace. I found also, that using wet charcoal, sprinkling more water on the coal in the fire increases the temperature quite some . In the last oroshigane smelt i smelted a 300 by 40 by 40 bar of bloom in less then 30 min (don`t have the exact time) The temp MIGHT be lower, hard to tell, but it sure does not make much of a difference, in my opinion. No need to say that i found the experiment very interesting, and will spend some more time reading it !

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Making Spears? Ore to Bloom to Object

Some Background :
On October 10, I undertook a full iron smelt here, with the assistance of Neil Peterson and David Robertson. The purpose was to provide both a full filming and related commentaries for a new documentary series being created by a film production company out of the UK. The series is hosted by two archaeologists, who undertook an active role in the iron smelt as well as being interviewers. ( * )
The general outline was to demonstrate the technical process undertaken by the Norse used to create iron. Further illustration and commentary was provided of the second step, taking bar iron and making a spear tip.

( * )  At this point in time, I have been asked by the Producers to withhold the details of this series.

On 2018-12-04 Stuart wrote:
I want to compare volume of iron needed to create Viking swords and spears.
With our 18lbs of iron that we made when we were with you, you said each block could make 4-6 spearheads. I'm assuming one block would make 1 sword or less - would that be accurate?

Also how many days would it take to make a spearhead from the smelt?

(the following is based on my original reply - edited and with added materials)

ONE huge problem - is that there is not any comprehensive research on this overall process, being ore to bloom to bar to object. Especially this sequence undertaken using correct historic equipment and methods.  (1)
Almost nothing recorded or reported - so here come the Wild Ass Guesses...

SO :

Modern blacksmith's undertaking work with bloomery iron have reported :

Ore to Bloom = anything from 15 - 40 % yields at this step.
There is a huge variation here. Quality of the ore / skill of the iron master / air volumes used being the primary effects.
- Larger ore amounts typically result in larger blooms (even with everything else equal)
- Higher air volumes also dramatically increase yields.
Here at Wareham, with all else similar, but using something reproducing Viking Age, human powered air systems, my yields typically drop to the range of 15 - 18% on average. (Compare with the 28 % return for this specific test demonstration!)

Finished Bloom - hot cut during extraction
Bloom to Bar = ??
Almost everyone I know is using variations of equipment, from on 'traditional' (= mid 1800’s to ‘modern; forge equipment. So NOT the small VA forge set up we looked at in the filming. This will make a huge difference in 'loss during forging bar'.
Even with larger / hotter coal fires, using of mechanical hammers / presses, the numbers approximate 30 - 40 % loss of the bloom weight, as forged into a working bar. (2)
I certainly would expect more loss (or at least in the higher end) for all Viking Age equipment. So quoting this at 40%
This is really a bit of a WAG, since I personally have never taken a bloom into a working bar with all historic tools myself.

So this reduces this specific 8.5 kg recorded bloom down to at best 6 kg, but more likely closer to 5 kg, as the final working bar. Remember the product of the bloomery operation is a ‘currency bar’ - not the actual objects themselves.

Bar to Object = ??
Now that starting bar is sold into the hands of the blacksmith. It is re-profiled, likely cut up to needed starting sizes, and finally forged into our finished objects.
Again - I don't have the best numbers on this. My own work with bloomery iron to finished object remains quite limited.
Even with modern metals and tools (coal + power hammer). I would expect the loss to be at least 10 % at this stage. Again, I can’t provide the best comparison to losses using all Viking Age equipment. (Smaller and colder charcoal forges, much smaller anvils, …)
There is going to be additional loss (significant) during the polishing phase, after forging.
Again, I have almost no direct measurements to quote here. (3)
Certainly the more skilled and accurate to final shape from the hands of the blacksmith, the less grinding to profile, flattening, then surface polishing will be undertaken, with the associated losses in material.


The weights on the samples I had in the shop during the filming :
(the sizes are the blades L x W x T )
top - 'lance' tip (closest to your question artifact) @ 14 x 2 x .35 cm = 61 gm
rough forged hunting tip @ 14 x 3 x .5 cm = 250 gm
partially flattened hunting tip @ 17 x 3.5 x .75 cm = 444 gm
bottom - partially forged (no bevel) pattern welded @ 17.5 x 3 x .5 cm = 408 gm *

You can see there is a lot of difference between what might be considered a 'standard' hunting spear blade - and the very light construction on the 'lance' sample!

This all suggests, adding the forging loss in, roughly .5 kg each for the standard spear head being required (a bit of a WAG).
So at best, your test bloom is likely to be enough for something about 10 spear heads.

* I also have several finished spears, mounted on shafts. These are most similar to the middle two seen above.

On swords - again, I took some 'representative' samples I have under construction here:
top - to rough polish @ 81 x 5 x .77 cm = 1195 gm
pattern welded, ready for mounting @ 82 x 5 x .67 cm = 1241 gm *
finished sword @ 68 x 5 x .83 cm = 1805 gm (includes forged cross guard and end pommel + short antler tube hilt)
These are good representative weights - a finished sword (including the iron guard and counterweight pommel) is typically in the range of 1.5 to 2 kg (rarely more!)

Again - the actual losses are not personally known (I have never taken bloom to sword blade - much less with historic gear).
My best guess here is that at least 2 kg of iron  bloom would be the amount needed for a single sword.
This WAG suggests  * at best * only three swords possible from your test bloom, given the better quality of metal required for swords, two swords is more likely.

* If a more elaborate pattern welding process is used, the forge construction stage could easily approach an additional 30 % loss yet again.
I have some rough notes on forging the specific sword blade seen. I started with about 3.2 kg of metal plates. The total loss was easily 50 % overall on that project by the time the finished polish was applied.
This is certainly likely to be less productive for all VA process and equipment. 


(Speculative) Sand Table forge, 15 kg replica anvil, tools from Mastermyr.
How long - Start to Finish?
Again - I have never taken raw bloom through to working bar - using all (accurate) VA equipment.  So WAG again!

I normally use hotter and larger coal fires, plus available propane forges - and also have powerful mechanical tools replacing workers with sledges.
And honestly - 'day' is an important measure. As in ' How much can you accomplish in a typical working day'. Forge welding up the large masses of bloom is intensive and exhausting.
My 'best guess' on this is at least three working days to get a bloom into a standard currency bar.
That bar then has to be re-forged into the starting shapes required to make spears themselves. Add at least another day.
So four days to get the metal prepared to forge a spear. I would suspect you would need to easily double this time using smaller fires and smaller tools available in the Viking Age
Using my modern forge, I can forge one spear in a single working session, consider a half day each. Again likely double with all VA equipment (?)

Now these need finishing. (4)
I certainly need something about and hour each to grind and polish - but I have vastly faster high speed powered equipment.
Using just a piece of stone? No idea really. Best consider at least another full working day or two?

Do remember that in our demonstration - we did not have to actually gather any of the raw materials either!
- Easily a half day plus mucking around in the bog gathering the ore. Assuming you had already found a good source. (This not a trivial exercise in itself!)
- Several days to gather wood, cut to size - then the long process running a charcoal kiln (easily 4 - 6 days together).
- Someone would have to gather clay. If you had good stuff you might be able to use it right out of the bank? Otherwise, gather / dry / break / screen / reconstitute steps are likely added.
- None of this includes the actual walking and hauling required!

I had seen a reference that gave the ‘average iron per person within a household total’ at 2 kg each. As a male - that means a ‘large tool’ (say any axe) and a small knife. Only.


At time of writing, the general description of this specific iron smelt experiment (October 10, 2018) has not been fully compiled.

1) There is generally a large break between those that do - and those that study.
Here in North America, the original ‘Early Iron’ group was composed of artisan blacksmiths, many of whom were employed at Living History museums as interpreter / demonstrators. In the last decade, bloomery iron has caught the attention of the bladesmithing community. Although these groups are often highly skilled, they are not as a rule academically trained. Acquired direct experience tends to dominate over careful record keeping. There certainly is no clear standard of terminology or often even in method.
This is changing into end of the second decade of Early Iron. As Experimental Archaeology itself becomes a recognized academic discipline, new researchers are active in attempting to formalize working skills with scientific measurements.
There are certainly people who have undertaken the individual segments. Very, very few who have actually combined the separate steps into one overall combined effort. Few of those have actually kept detailed records of their process.
(More often than not, closer examination of claims of ‘All Viking Age’ will show significant use of incorrect tools or process. To point a good example - my own use of electric blowers on the majority of my iron smelt efforts.)
The exception here would be the original work of Peter Crew of the UK, going back to the early 1990's.

(2) Sparked by this request, I am also working up a report on my own Bloom 2 Bar work to this date. Expect this material in the near future.

(3) Again, I must admit my work on sword sized billets is limited :
Sword of Heroes
Gilling West Replica
Pattern Welded Sword 2
I have certainly created a large number of pattern welded knives - But as anyone who has attempted the much larger and significantly more difficult forgings required for swords well knows - good knife work does not equal ability to produce swords.

(4) The topic of finishing a raw forging through to a finished weapon should have a (separate) long discussion. Obviously, the forging should be as close as possible to the required final shapes. (NOT 'Forge Thick - Grind Thin')
a) There will be grinding to the final profile, which includes removing small distortions in shape. This includes flattening the surfaces.
b) The surfaces need to reduced to below any hammer marks or pits.
c) The cutting edge needs to be reduced to the correct bevel angle - and 'close to sharp' thickness.
d) A decision needs to be made about how 'polished' (shiny) the final surfaces will be. Note that this is largely an 'artistic' decision, not really a functional, one.
In the Viking Age, all this work would be done using large whet stones (imagine a piece of rock 2 x 4, about the length of your forearm).

Thursday, December 06, 2018

'Custom' Blades / Phones = Questions

Ok - I *am* getting (more) crotchitty. 
I have gotten a good half dozen 'tell me everything - because I can't be bothered to read anything' e-mail messages over the past month.

There are two core reasons that I can see for this - both underscoring current popular culture :

1) Forged in Fire = false 'information' creates general lack of understanding
2) Use of phones and their tiny screens

This is particularly frustrating to me, as I have certainly spent considerable time and effort to supply basic information on the main Wareham Forge web site - I have also done any number of commentaries related to Bladesmithing and Custom Work on to this blog.
Following good advice from David, Neil and Kelly (particularly) I have formatted up the following bulk reply to 'Will you make my knife' e-mails * : 

Layered Kitchen Knife : 1996 = $400 (+)
This is a bulk reply to your recent query related to 'Custom' blades from the Wareham Forge.
As you might expect, I get a large number of similar first contact requests.

Increasingly, as individuals use tiny phone screens as their portal into the internet, I am receiving questions which are fully covered in some detail on both the main web site ( or as commentaries on the blog ( )

So to start with, I will refer you to the following general topics :

On Custom Bladesmithing :
On Past Bladesmithing Work :
Currently Available Work :
General Questions & Answers :

On 'Custom' Blades (blog posts) :

At this point in my working life (40 years at the forge):
    - I am primarily * only * undertaking projects of my * own * personal interest
    - Acquired skill and experience = high value. Any blade created will be in the * plus $500 * range
    - I am not interested in making simple 'heavy tool' / camp knives
    - I do not work with exotic modern alloys / stainless steels
'Hector's Bane' (Bloomery Iron) : 2012 = $1000
Despite what 'popular culture' suggests, the following qualities are not possible in a single blade
    - chose either edge holding OR heavy durability
    - chose either ease of sharpening OR rust proofing
    - Layered Steel blades should be considered decorative rather than functional
You can have it CHEAP
You can have it FAST
You can have it GOOD
You can only get ONE of these 

'Bayeux' Broad Axe : 2008 = $450
Please read the background information available.
If your concept for your blade project resembles past work as illustrated, AND you are willing to commit a * significant * budget to your project, be welcome to contact me for further discussion.

I also suggest the following alternatives:
Ontario Artist Blacksmith Association :

Although I can certainly recommend a number of senior artisan blacksmiths, most of these will have similar restrictions as I do (for much the same reasons)
David Robertson :
Jeff Helms :

Two 'younger' smiths I can suggest are :
Dustin Wolski
Simone Ruetz


* Images and hot links added for this posting

Monday, December 03, 2018


I had gone into some detail about available angle grinders, and small hand power tools in general, some time back :
Makita Comes Through - January 15 - 2011

A bit of background to this post:
Right now I am attempting to get several past iron blooms cut up and distributed to the working teams involved.
I've certainly found over the years, that the ideal process for working with a raw bloom is to :
  •  compact as much as possible during the initial extraction heat, ideally from the 'half bowl' shape into a flattened disk / ' puck'
  •  while hot, cut into several 'quarters'
You can certainly imagine that specialised forge set ups, plus either lots of available (skilled) labour / specialised tools are required through all this.

Since the normal reason to undertake a bloomery iron smelt here is to investigate specifically historic process (rather than production itself), the blooms made tend to be smaller ( 5 kg range). The working teams are typically small, and in terms of forging ability, tend to be at best 'semi-skilled' (or most often complete neophytes).
And truthfully. I'm completely exhausted by the time I've set up and ran a smelt, extracted, and undertaken the initial 'clean and compact' heat.

So - this leaves me with a mass of bloomery iron, often at best a roughly flattened half bowl - now cold.
CAMELOT bloom - 5.26 kg, original top side down. Large score is from an attempt to hot cut after extraction.
I have found that the only effective way to cut a raw bloom is using a metal cutting disk. There are two main reasons here :
 The carbon content (so relative hardness) of the metal can vary considerably from top side to bottom, as well as from exterior to centre.
 As well as both solid metal and random voids, there are areas of glassy slag throughout the mass.
The glass especially presents a problem, as it will basically destroy most cutting blades (so using a band saw, for example, just is not effective.
Coupled with this is a second, major, problem :
How do you hold, and hold securely, something that shape? (1)

Taken altogether, I have found the best way, at least if working cold, is to use an angle grinder with a 'zip' cutting disk. (2)

Angle Grinders at the Wareham Forge
 Seen Left to Right :
  •  Aluminium / Size 7 inch / Unknown brand / Unknown power /  Weight 5.9 kg
  •  Blue / Size 5 inch / Mastercraft / 9 amp / Weight 2.5 kg
  •  Orange / Size 5 inch / Rigid / 7 amp / Weight 2.3 kg
  •  Grey / Size 4 1/2 inch / Maximum / 7 amp / Weight 1.9 kg
  •  Aluminium was purchased (heavily!) used at an auction. The name plate is so scratched up other information is not visible at this point. 
  •  Rigid Tools was purchased by Home Depot as their house brand. This tool was purchased in 2011, for about $150.*
  •  Mastercraft is the standard brand at Canadian Tire. This just purchased (not even used yet!), normally $90 (Currently on sale at half price). *
  •  Maximum is the 'better' brand at Canadian Tire. This purchase about two years ago, normally about $80 (also got on sale at half price). *
  •  * All these tools carry a three year warranty. 
As I had pointed out in the earlier posting on angle grinders, one of the selection limits on hand power tools for me is the relatively small size of my hands.  (3)
This is the reason why I especially like the orange Rigid tool. Although a bit heavier, the narrow shaft design allows me an excellent grip. Although heavier, the tool is nicely balanced, allowing for control even when used in one hand. In regular use in the shop, this tool has proved easy to use and certainly durable over time.
The 'Unknown' aluminium body is an absolute monster! This is one of those massive, almost indestructible tools, most likely from the 1960's (maybe even older?). Although the heavy weight does create a certain stability, the cost is a lack of fine control. There is incredible cutting power with this tool, but using it is extremely tiring. (I kept flipping the 15 amp breaker on the electrical panel while using this!)

Note that I have specifically chosen NOT to purchase the DeWalt angle grinder. In this price range ($100 - $150) the construction seems flimsy, especially the power switches. I also find the body size too large for my hands.
I had a chance at an industrial trade show a couple of years back to try out a Chicago brand small angle grinder. This tool was absolutely amazing. Virtually vibration free, quiet operation, with an 'instant stop' feature. Also $400 +, a bit steep for the operation scale at the Wareham Forge.
Getting a good quality hand power tool in recent years has proved a major problem. Certainly all the 'home workshop' and almost every one of the 'contractor' grade tools, reguardless of brand, are in fact 'made in China'. With the resulting downgrade in overall performance and durability. This is has become such a great problem (cost vs quality), that most other workshops I asked for advise on this simply wait for the cheapest knock-off brands to go on sale. Then purchase a pile of these - and simple throw them out when they fail after a month's shop use!

The task here does require the ability to make very deep cuts - and extremely wide cuts at the same time. Any of you you have used angle grinders with zip disks will instantly see the problem here. If there is the slightest twist off perfectly straight position, the thin disks can bind - and explosively shatter.

Cutting distances (with new wheel) :

Aluminium / 7 inch disk / 1 3/4 inch depth / no guard (!!)
Mastercraft / 5 inch disk / 1 1/8 inch depth / guard removable (spring clamp)
Rigid / 5 inch disk / 1 inch depth / guard shifts, but fixed in place
Maximum / 4 1/2 inch disk / 1 1/4 inch depth / guard removable (screw clamp)

I freely admit that using the Aluminium Monster is just plain scary. Note that it does not have any guard on it. (My normal here is to wear a leather welder's chest and arms over my full leather apron, gloves, plastic full face shield over normal safety glasses.) I have had a disk catch and explosively shatter in the past! Despite the too heavy weight, this tool does effectively make deep cuts. One advantage is that the significantly larger 7 inch disk does not wear away as quickly, meaning more consistent cutting depths.

You can see the 'looser' here is the Rigid, with by far the shallowest cutting depth. This is coupled with the fixed guard, which means it is basically not possible to 'oversize' the disk on this tool. Absolutely great for grinding - not so flexible for cutting. (4)

The new Mastercraft came with two separate disk guards. What I may do here is heavily alter one of these to allow for mounting a larger 7 inch cutting disk. This should potentially give me at least a two or even a two and a quarter inch cutting depth. The slightly heavier motor (at 9 amps) hopefully will prove powerful enough.
One of the additional features to this tool is the ability to rotate the end handle portion, changing the alignment of grip to cutting angle.
Any evaluation of performance or durability will need to be forthcoming.

1) I am working up a separate commentary on the process involved in cutting up this same bloom.

2) Early attempts to use a cut off saw (with the larger diameter metal cutting disks available) proved basically a disaster. Clamping the bloom securely proved almost impossible. If the bloom shifted even the smallest amount, the disk would either bind (see below) or shatter.
In the end, the way the disk attacked the mass (along with binding) resulted in actually overheating the motor. As the unit was both purchased used, and not the best quality, the result was melting the windings and destroying the tool.

3) My outstretched thumb to little finger measurement is 8 1/2 inches. The width of my palm is 4 1/4 inches. In the past this had lead me to purchase almost exclusively Makita hand power tools. Most 'American' brands are just too large and bulky for me to hold easily, thus control effectively.

4) The normal set up in the workshop is to keep the Rigid and the Maximum set near the forge workbench. The Rigid has a general metal grinding disk, the Maximum with a cutting disk (both with guards in place btw).
I also have an older Black & Decker 4 1/2 inch x 5 amp (again purchased used / cheap). This is set up with a cup wire brush for rust removal.

*** ADDITION ***

As many readers know, I flag new blog postings via my two Facebook feeds. Sometimes valuable comments come in through those portals :
Vargus Ulfr ... Please keep in mind that altering the grinders is not always a great approach. Some of the larger wheels do not have the same rpm rating as the smaller ones, and thus have a tendency to break more easily at the high rpm range.

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

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