Monday, July 10, 2023

Telling of Tales (10 lines)

Gathered around the fire, someone asked : “Is there anyone here who remembers the Time of Troubles?”.

They turned to the one, ancient of days, and said “Tell us the story”.

He gathered his dim recollections, and voice still strong, started a Tale.

“ It was a Time of Heroes, when the men where tall and wide of shoulder, strong of arm and bold; the women were slender and graceful, nimble fingered and bright.”

His speech was slow and measured, as he sought to mingle facts with coloured words and spin out past events and characters.

“But what about this person and that?” someone interrupted, not understanding that the message of the telling was more important than mere details.

So in the tale, the characters became more heroic or evil, the events more dramatic. 

The truth of the past became a parable of warning

“Did I mention, It was a Time of Heroes, when the men where tall and wide of shoulder, strong of arm and bold; the women were slender and graceful, nimble fingered and bright.


And if that was not the way it actually was, it most certainly is the way it should have been.”



This, like the telling it outlines, is a fable of itself, based on an actual event. One late night gathered around a fire at the recent SCA Trillium War event, the question was posed, and a story of the past woven. I was quite surprised (although in retrospect I perhaps should not have been) that only one other had any personal memory of that Dark Time in the history of the North. So the telling (and the weaving of a tale) fell to me. 

A standard joke about my years of the SCA in Ontario is being 'older than dirt'. Only one other from that initial core group is (like myself) still marginally active, quickly approaching 45 years ago.

Image is taken (without permission, primarily as it is not indicated just who took the photo) from :

I took almost as much time attempting to find a suitable illustration, something that at least might suggest the mood I wanted to create. (Note that I don't share the view point of the blog posting that image came from, for a number of reasons that will be clear to any who really know me.)

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Inspiration, Design - and slogging

I have recently negotiated the first architectural / railing project I have had in quite some time. 

The project is for a set of exterior railing sections, attached to a series of large natural limestone slabs which descend down the side of a private home, from street level at the front to the walk out basement level of the back yard. 

View from the lower level, original suggestion of elements

 The individual slabs are quite wide, in the lower section each from 18 - 24 inches wide. The typical lift between steps is 6-7 inches (so the thickness of the slabs as well)

The customers wanted the design of the railing units to echo the lines of a piece of sand blasted glass set into their front door:

After considerable discussion, they decided they wanted a larger number of short sections (total seven at 14 inches each) placed on individual slabs, rather than the two medium length pieces I had originally suggested. There is one two step section for the front steps into the main entrance, plus one longer section at the top part of the rear side, where the stone slab steps are much closer together. That piece has a bend in the middle to match the line of the slabs :

The handrail parts are made from 1 inch heavy walled square tube, which is flattened down on the diagonal to 1/2 tall by 1 1/2 wide, with the ends capped :

sample piece (here with curved end) of the proposed handrail

The uprights are made from 1/4 x 2 inch flat bar. Each is drawn out to a long taper down to 3/8 x 1/2 at the narrow end, over the entire length. This is in the range of 32 - 34 inches long, depending where they fit to the design, some longer elements in the layout for the longest rail section. 

You can see this is basically a clean lined 'Arts and Crafts' style design overall.

Now comes the slogging part.

The overall project requires forging out a total of 45 individual tapered pieces from flat stock. 

After two days of working, I have found it takes me 30 minutes each to forge the tapers. The effective heating cycle allows for forging three pieces at a time. Completing six pieces (so all together with prep and cutting, 3 1/2 hours heavy work) is about what is sustainable for me right now. *

working sequence of forged elements

For my initial test, I started with a piece 42 inches long, drawing the required taper on one end. This to give me an adequate cold end to hang on to. The rough forging is done on the air hammer, with evening and straightening done after by hand. In the image above, that test piece has been cut to the average for the individual elements at 32 inches.

For the production sequence, the starting bars are cut to 52 inches, enough for one taper on each end. After the first taper is completed, this stretches the bar to 62 inches as shown. With two tapers complete, the bar reaches 72 inches total (better to have a bit too much material - than not enough).

group of three pieces in the forge, one end already tapered

 As you might guess, manipulating pieces up to six feet long poses problems in a normally tight working space. Because delays pushed the ability to start this work from the start of June to the start of July, summer heat now becomes an important consideration. For that reason, I have set up my twin burner propane forge at the entrance overhang into the workshop, placing the (considerable!) heat generated outside the building. The air hammer is set up just inside the door that is where that image was shot from, about 10 feet away from the forge.

main workshop floor, looking towards entrance (1)

Hand smoothing out the lumps and evening out is done on the large fixed anvil seen to the right in the image above. Ensuring the lines are straight is being done by forging against the heavy layout table seen in the lower left. (The top is a piece of 4 x 8 foot by 3/8 thick plate which permits this). 

My intent is to produce six finished tapers each working day until I have all these elements complete = a total of 8 days. I fully expect NOT to be able to maintain that pace straight through without a break. *

* Now officially a 'senior', I just 'ain't the man I once was'. Three hours serious forge work, added to the usual additional three plus hours every day for writing and other shop related tasks, is about what I can manage on anything like sustained basis.

1) that image was prepared for a commentary on 'Distancing at the Wareham Forge'. It shows the workshop set up for a typical training course here, with an additional anvil (just left of centre) and extra leg vice (normally set back against the right side near the larger anvil).


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

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