Friday, February 18, 2022

Courses into 2022

 February 2022

This is a general reply to those who have contacted me about the possibility of undertaking blacksmithing and related courses at the Wareham Forge.

• First General Reminder :

I do not offer any courses over the winter months (mid November to end March). There is no heat in the workshop!

Into 2022, I have a major project for Parks Canada which will require the majority of April through June.
So I will only be available (at point of writing) for potential dates beyond July 1, 2022.

• Second :

I normally frame up my year's course schedule in February.
Please refer to the information kept (reasonably) current on the main web site :

Please be advised that there are going to be changes to the indicated fees and details on content / student numbers.
The final costs must be quoted directly via a current e-mail, those on the web site only serve as a guideline.

The general guideline on pricing will be :
- If two individuals book a session together
    Use the quoted rate for each student (no price reductions)
- If a single student books a two day session
    I will be offering discount from the posted $300 per day, to $250 (x 2 = $500+)

Note that these are not hard quotes, as some courses do have additional materials related costs which will remain in effect.

Heading into 2022, I expect I will be primarily setting courses as based on request / interest - for the majority NOT to a fixed schedule. This may allow more flexibility for available weekend dates?
This may result in the creation of more 'private session' courses.

• Third Consideration

I have never offered 'fast start' or 'make a thing' = 'experiences'.
(And those interested in blacksmithing are strongly advised NOT to mistake such offerings as actual instruction!)

I hit 65 in November of 2020. Primarily for that reason, I am not intending to continue with the basic level programs (Introduction to Blacksmithing / Basic Bladesmithing, as open registration weekends
I will continue to offer the higher level and special interest programs, for most of these, I remain the only available instructor, certainly in Ontario (in many cases the only in Canada).
My hope is that my own desire for teaching will set the pace and selection of courses offered (not mere income reasons).
If you are interested in starting level courses, refer to the other quality instructors given at the bottom of this note.

    Three B

This is an entertainment - NOT any depiction of reality.
See my commentaries on this blog :

Saturday, October 31, 2015
Saturday, March 18, 2017

• Fourth

The situation with COVID-19 continues.

No individual is allowed access to the Wareham Forge unless they have received two vaccines plus booster
No discussion.

I personally will be remaining in effective lock down, here at (rural) Wareham, with full expectations to continue this (with Omicron) into at least early 2022 and beyond into the foreseeable future . Since this all started, we have been keeping to a roughly three to four week cycle for supplies, with only trips into our local village for bank / groceries / hardware. We have completely avoided urban centres, with only Owen Sound on a roughly 3 - 4 month cycle.

I was (finally) able to secure my third, booster shot on January 16. This combines to make me at least somewhat protected. However, as I have existing lung damage (and age) as contributing risk factors, I remain cautious.

There are two published commentaries available - it is highly recommended that you read these:
On the main web site :
I keep this general information current on a monthly basis
On the blog :
This is a general commentary about distancing and teaching at the Wareham Forge.

the main elements determining the situation for courses are these :

1) Reduced benefit to students : correct social distancing, although (barely) possible, do NOT make for effective instruction.

2) All the risk is carried by the instructor : I have been pretty much isolated since March 14, 2020 - have you?

Expect at best extremely limited selection and availability for enrollment in courses here at the Wareham Forge until an effective vaccine protection and reduced infection rates related to COVID - and its developing variants, is certain.

General Advice :

I do recommend anyone interested in blacksmithing training carefully examine the past experience of those offering courses. A large number of what can only be considered 'entry' level workers have been, frankly, 'cashing in' on the current popularity of blacksmithing and mounting short duration 'experiences'. Teaching is also a skill. The recent trend to 'giving people what they want' is foolishness in my opinion (against some 40 years teaching experience). My recommendation is that you examine closely the workshop facilities, quality of past work and teaching experience of the instructor before booking any kind of metalworking program.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

How DENSE are you? Measuring Blooms

20 years

90 personal bloomery iron smelts

Ya, I have a few blooms kicking around...

Like about 30 

(not counting smaller pieces, blooms now rendered down into bars)

During the early years, working with Lee Sauder and others at the annual Smeltfest workshops, typically individual smelts were in the 45 kg range, which in turn resulted in blooms at 8 + kg. 

Tests done here in Wareham (where accessing ore was a problem) more typically ran 25 to 30 kg ore, with resulting blooms averaging between 2 - 5 kg. This primarily because we figured if you could make a medium sized bloom, with more ore and time you could certainly make a larger one. 

Another reason was simple handling of the blooms themselves. There is a physical limit to how much impact force (largely untrained!) workers can apply with hand sledge hammers. Even historically, once blooms got much over about 5 - 8 kg, they were cut up into smaller chunks to allow effective compaction into the finished iron bars.


Something I was told at the 2008 'Iron in Thy' symposium always has annoyed me. As it did the other working participants sitting around that table :

'Modern experimenters are unable to produce iron blooms of similar quality to those made by the ancient iron masters'

At the time, I certainly felt still fairly new to bloomery iron smelting, to the point I just felt I was staring to get some handle on the methods. (I would have been at numbers 33 - 35 at that event). In 2008, I did not feel I had enough direct experience, and certainly not any hard numbers, to refute that sweeping statement.

Obviously, even a dozen years later, that statement (from a well known archaeo-metallurgist) still sticks in my craw.

Generally, all the blooms produced here at Wareham are 'finished' to the same level, which does help make some comparisons valid. Given the small working team, with normally only myself as having any blacksmithing experience (1) we hammer work any bloom through only the heat available at extraction. This involves knocking off any clinging slag, then very rough compaction to force loose exterior into the core. As temperatures are rapidly dropping while this is happening, there is rarely any actual welding taking place, more mechanically pressing out larger voids and forcing out still fluid slag. 

Starting in 2012, there was a 30 ton hydraulic press available at Wareham (modified log splitter). In some cases, after the initial hand hammering, blooms were rushed to the workshop and the mass was given several compressions, then cut via the press.

So over the last two weeks, I have pulled out the blooms on hand here.

Each was re-weighed (to differing methods, depending on overall size)

Three different containers were used for volume by water displacement. 

There certainly will be accuracy limits determined by the simple equipment used. Water measurements at best accurate to 5 ml within 1000 ml. Larger blooms, over 6 gm, weighed with a scale +/- 5 gm

The overall intent here is to compare these measurements against densities published for some artifact blooms, one problem being that sample size is considerably smaller.

Preliminary results :

Wrought Iron (solid bar) = density of 7.75 gm/cc (2)

Bloom Average (28 samples) = density of 6.28

This actually compares very favourably to artifact blooms, at least the few I have found with descriptions of density. I will be trying to contact some specific museums to see if they can provide numbers on their artifacts.

1) Neil Peterson has been slowly increasing his skill and knowledge of working blooms specifically. Neil has been coming up and undertaking afternoon workshop sessions were he has been taking pieces in the 500 - 800 gm range and compacting these down into finished working bars. I should be noted that this still is different than sledge hammer work - Striking is it's own separate skill set (and one that I also have rarely done!)


Saturday, February 05, 2022

Recent Workings : 'Look at the BONES...'


'Look at all the BONES...' 

Addition of Animal bones into a Bloomery Iron Smelt
June 20, 2020

Smelt Team:
Neil Peterson, Rey Cogswell
Smelt Master : Darrell Markewitz


    Several recent papers have suggested the presence of small fragments of bone sometimes found within the debris fields related to bloomery iron smelting point to a possible 'ritual' practice, even so far as proposing a functional impact on iron bloom quality. How might the physical process within a complete iron making sequence effect the ability of bone to endure, and thus remain to be recovered archaeologically? A typical 'short shaft' furnace will be constructed and operated through to bloom extraction on a clean working surface. Both bone pieces and meat containing bone of several animal types will be added, before, during, at at the final stage of the smelting process. Afterwards, the debris field will be examined in detail to determine what remains of the bones.


This is another lengthy report, more a draft for a possible paper later :

Part One : Build and Smelt

 Additional : Smelt Images

    Part Two : Excavation and Evaluation

  " It is important that this experiment makes no attempts to suggest ‘why’ Norse smelt masters may have chosen to, or even if they ever did, add bone pieces into a working furnace. Extreme care must be taken in any attempt to apply ritual practice from other cultures, remote in time, geography, working methods, and especially radically differing world views.
    " The fairly consistent destruction of any bones added during charcoal charging does suggest that it is unlikely to recover archaeologically anything beyond the uncommon and smallest traces of added bones. The only likely situations where bone has much chance of leaving traces after being added to a functioning bloomery iron furnace :

  • Meat containing bone, but only if added at the very end of the smelting sequence.
  • Bones placed on the base layer of the furnace, before the smelt actually starts."

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

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No duplication, in whole or in part, is permitted without the author's expressed written permission.
For a detailed copyright statement : go HERE