Saturday, January 14, 2023

'What Dreams They Had' - ESP 2023

 How does Canadian popular culture hope to fix it’s fantasies in place, and what confounds the current imagination?

Materials : industrial mild steel, steel cable, copper / aluminum tube (to be determined), ‘found’ objects (primarily plastic), glass
Construction : primarily fabricated & welded, limited forged elements, some small wind driven moving parts


This sculpture superficially takes the form of an Ojibwe Dream Catcher, here a circle four feet in diameter. Quite deliberately, as a refection on Cultural Appropriation, every one of the traditional First Nations concepts behind their objects are rendered incorrectly, specifically to indicate ‘European’ based contemporary Canadian distortions, forms, and concerns. Following the 'Western' concept of ‘everything has to have a function’ the piece also incorporates an equatorial sun dial.

- The scale is enormous, at four feet diameter, where the Ojibwe objects are small enough (3 - 5”) to hang from a baby’s cradle
- The overall layout and all materials are distinctively modern industrial types, where the Ojibwe objects use carefully selected natural materials.
- The external framing is made of braided steel cable.
- The framing uses 12 attachment points, being the 12 Georgian calendar months (not the Ojibwe 13 for the lunar cycle, although there are variations between individual Nations).
- The internal web is made of industrial wire grid material, not strung from flexible lacing as the Ojibwe.
- Half of this is made of perforated stamped sheeting, not actually a web at all.
- The arrangement of the interior is symmetrical and mechanical, not a reflection of a natural spider’s web as in the Ojibwa myth.
- The opening is both placed off centre, and is a geometric star pattern, not the central, perfect, circle, as called for in Ojibwe tradition.
- A large glass rendition of the planet Earth, as viewed from the Moon, and set slightly off centre, replacing  ‘One glass bead for the Creator’ placed in the exact centre (although Ojibwa tradition, this itself is Post Contact - because of the use of glass). Custom hotworked glass bead by Shannon Scollard.
- Four metal ‘spinners’ are placed at the lower frame edge, replacing a single bird’s feather (traditionally owl for girls, eagle for boys) tied to the end of the web lacing, at the centre.
(For a commentary on the background research conducted see:

Specific ‘Dreams’ are represented as caught in the web. (Never depicted in First Nations objects!)
 - A cluster made of of a female and male pair of clothed ‘fashion dolls’, surrounded by plastic dollar signs and coins. This all representing the dream of Wealth and Celebrity.
- An industrial form disk containing a ring of glass tubes - directed inwards to a bundle of four glass bubbles. This a representation of the dream of Fusion Power (and by extension, the dream that somehow Technology can save us from impending Climate Change.
- A toy pick up truck, wrapped in an electrical cord, it’s end hanging down. This representing the compelling dream of the Electric Vehicle, now blunted by the American auto maker’s insistence in producing large sized vehicles (at huge costs).
- A possible fourth representation (applied to the bottom quadrant) would be a plastic doll’s house. This representing the current greed fueled dream of the Monster House as a profit taking scheme.  (Once the framing is created, a decision will be made on including this element against how cluttered the piece may look.)

The equatorial sun dial slants forward from the circular main frame.
- The wide steel band to mark the passing of time is scribed (hot punching) with hours running from 5 AM to 9 PM - sun rise to sun set on the Summer Solstice (June 20). This band would be made from 1/4 thick by 3 inch wide steel. If the exposed top edges (at roughly 24 + inches above ground level) are considered a safety problem, the ends can be capped with a short length of horizontal steel pipe.
- The material for the gnomon rod will be determined by tests of available materials. The ideal would be a rod of coloured glass or plexiglass (this second less susceptible to vandalism). The intent is to mount a small solar powered LED in the upper socket, so providing glowing illumination at night. Should this not prove feasible, the rod will be replaced with copper or brass.
-This whole element is set at the 44 degree angle required for the latitude of Elora.

As the exact position of the installed sculpture is unknown, the base mount needs to be able to be adjustable to account for the E-W alignment required for the sun dial to function. The bottom base is a flat plate welded in place above the low framing (2 inch wide angle) required to allow the sculpture to be bolted to the existing plinth. A second steel plate is welded to the sculpture framing itself. These two plates are flush mounted, secured primarily by a thick central bolt to allow rotation. Additional holes will be pre-drilled in this top plate. Once the correct compass setting is determined, an additional set of holes and securing bolts will be made through the bottom plate. Drilling these 1/4’ diameter holes represents the main work involved in mounting the sculpture.

As with past years this sculpture is presented as a design rough. It is unlikely to be actually constructed unless selected for inclusion.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Blade find from Belgium??


On 2023-01-13 6:36 AM, "C..." * wrote:

 I am a metal detectorist based in Belgium. I stumbled across your website and hoped maybe you can help me?
I recently found an iron blade, which from my own experience looks very old. It looks like forged iron, feels like it weighs a lot for a small object.
I was wondering if you can advise me of an approximate period it might be from and its use? I have been trying to research it online, it reminds me of a small Viking period knife from the examples I have found. Maybe from the 9th -10th century, so I was thinking maybe mid to late Medieval. I could be completely incorrect though. When I found it a part of the end crumbled off, I believe it was a bit more pointed.

The blade has an interesting slight curve. The area I found it in has human history dating back thousands of years.

I thank you in advance for any help you can provide. Please find some photographs attached.

The original request e-mail, highlighted in bold are the elements that I flagged when I first read it.
Below is my reply, with images provided by "C..." inserted as considered.

Well - a lot to unpack here. Sorry to say I may not prove that helpful. I warn you that you may know much of the following already!

That is likely your first problem. Two World wars that chewed up most the ground, and left so much stuff buried. Very small country, intensively populated and farmed - for like forever...

Find location may provide you with some clues - my advice is first to check the history on the piece of ground where you uncovered the object. If the result is 'too much history to narrow occupation' that pretty much ensures that unless there are significant marks or design to the object, you are just not going to narrow it down.

Ok - not copper alloy, but...
One possible narrowing would be distinguishing between post Industrial (c 1855) mild steel, and earlier forms of wrought iron as the material.
Wrought iron - especially very old wrought iron, corrodes in a different and distinctive way. The slag inclusions from its creation in bloomery furnaces often causes it to erode to display a linear grain. Steel on the other hand, more typically erodes with flake like patterns.
Looking at the object, it *appears* more like a 'modern' steel.
You could check this using a destructive spark test - or better still via a (costly) lab test, both for carbon content. Wrought iron has basically no carbon. 


One warning is that the level of corrosion to the object appears limited, not what I would expect from centuries buried. As you surely know, the condition of the ground at location of discovery is a big clue there.


First thing that jumps out is the cross section. This is a 'sabre' grind - with a rectangular back, then the angled bevel to the cutting edge. Viking Age blades are basically all V profile grind. This to get the most function out of the least amount of metal. A sabre grind requires more material, but does result in a stiffer blade.This remains the case through the Medieval period - again shifting into the 'early Industrial = 1600's'.

One of the things I do to help me understand photographs is reduce one down to 'size as' and print it off. To help visualize what the original object shape was, I then will extend the lines into what seems a logical profile. 
Reduced to life size @ 13.5 cm / 8 cm blade

 The object has an extremely wide and thick back compared to a sharp taper to the cutting edge. There does not seem excessive amount of material missing on the blade side (ie - corrosion or wear effects). Attempting to pull measurements off the images, the back is about 5 mm thick and about 10 mm wide, with the bevel about 15 mm wide. As you mentioned, there is a clear blade side concave curve. (Which has to be intentional, the forging process naturally flexes the blade to a convex curve!) This curve has to relate to the function of the tool. The point, extending the existing lines forward, is very thick and blunt - again obviously for strength. 
(showing cutting edge)

All this would intentionally create a tool that was extremely strong, but a relatively blunt cutting edge. The curve would suggest use in a sliding cut action - not a straight chopping direction. Given the total blade length at about 8 - 9 cm, the overall result is an extremely rugged tool - far more than is required for the length. But also one that would not have a very effective cutting edge. (Yes - even with some of the edge material obviously corroded away).

The tang is very short, remains at about 4.5 cm. Good chance it just has been corroded or broken away however, so need to be a bit careful about applying too much to this. That said, it does not taper very much down it's length, which may suggest most of the original remains. Not much (remaining?) for secure mounting into a handle. It does appear thicker at the extreme end than at the joint to the blade however, and is clearly rectangular (close to) rather than circular in cross section. This all may indicate something about the original mounting method. A lot of Norse knives have rounded tangs - which passed through a hole drilled or burned into the hilt material, then secured with a metal disk as the end of the tang was peened over like a rivet.

Overall, I see a short, very strong but blunt blade, more likely to be made from a steel alloy.
My first guess would be part of an agricultural tool - like a tooth from a drag harrow.
Although I admit I am not familiar with the design requirements, another possibility could be some kind of pruning or hand harvesting tool (apples?).

If you can find someone (university?) who has a hand held XRF analyzer, this is basically micro destructive and would give you the relative elemental composition of the material. That might be the easiest way to determine relative technology of the metal itself.

Sorry - this from my computer desk and working from such limited information. May not be the commentary you were hoping for?

Good luck with this - and keep looking! Here in Ontario, our history is so relatively shallow (any iron object around my area will be no older than about 1615) - and in comparison so thin. My own home at Wareham was settled (by Europeans) about 1840 - 50. The First Nations just avoided this area, as other than deer and small game, there were no resources available that made the area worth exploiting.

* The images included here are "C..."s. I have intentionally omitted his last name. 

(Note the provision included on the bottom of any longer e-mail replies from me : " To those receiving long detailed replies to specific questions : My own written response may be edited and re-used as a blog posting."


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

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