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Hammered Out Bits



Darrell Markewitz is a professional blacksmith who specializes in the Viking Age. He designed the living History program for L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC (Parks Canada) and worked on a number of major international exhibits. A recent passion is experimental ir



Updated: 2017-12-09T01:03:04.281-05:00

 



'Ypres - 2016' Finishing

2017-12-05T16:48:05.263-05:00

If you have been following for a while, readers may remember a series of posts I made around my trip to Ypres Belgium in 2016. Although primarily to attend the international blacksmithing event in early September, I also wanted to visit the World War One sites in that area.

This can be considered the finishing up of a chain that started for me back in late December 2015 - into January 2016. This was background research into the shattered landscape of Ypres because of WW. I had made a number of postings through 2017 year related to the topic. Most useful here is likely 'Ypres 1916' on October 21, 2016.

While Ypres, I took time to walk battle fields. Later on that trip, I was able to take some workshop days in the ceramics department at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Part of the result of all this, taken together, were the group of pieces seen on that earlier post (above).

I considered for a good while exactly how to finish the work.
In the end I decided, mainly because of the small size, to mount the pieces. I chose a photograph, attributed to 'the Daily Mail', of the centre of Ypres after the long bombardments.

(image)
'Ypres 1916' ceramic (Tocco Ferro) / photograph (click for original 10 x 16 size)
I think the view is roughly from the current Menin Gate Memorial, looking west towards the shattered Cathedral.



from England - 1989 (Wanna see some slides?)

2017-12-03T11:17:01.481-05:00

Those of you old enough may remember that.The meal dishes cleared, the coffee out. The host says 'Come and see my (vacation) slides!'I can hear the groans back over the 40 + years...Close friends know I'm still not over this. At least now I tend to just leave the computer set on a rotation, in the background corner (mainly, ok?).Photography was the on consistent class I undertook during my 4 years at art school. I used to purchase black and white film in bulk, and wind my own cans. Developing chemicals were available in the film lab at no cost. We did have to purchase our photo paper. As a result I have thousands of negatives, maybe a dozen prints mounted and saved.Colour Slides?A few from first year OCA - which would be 1975.Got serious on colour in 1976. Almost exclusively as slides.Switched to Digital in 2008.* the Horror...On a fast guess - there must easily be 5000 slides. In terms of 'art' shots, my objective has always been to attempt 'one good out of five'. Sometimes I managed this (but there is a lot more junk than good image making).As I got interested in History, I took increasingly large numbers of reference images. Bets are off on that stuff. I count at least 500 images just from specific museum collections. The trip to England referenced in the title here saw me shoot 20 rolls of 20 exposures (about 375 retained images).So - that all being said :Here are a few images from the 1989 'all museums' trip to London, York and Dublin. This set from the Yorkshire County Museum (roughly a block from the more famous Coppergate site.) (by the way - I am going to be kind, and keep the images to the ongoing theme of Viking Age / Blacksmithing.) **Yorkshire Museum - Roman periodInteresting because of the cut location. Possible strike from the right side, or more likely as a second blow in a series, the first a typical head shot blocked by the shield, the killing blow from a flip of the wrist, returning the sword across the head (left to right) just as the shield was lowered. (??)(I can't remember if the damage to the right face was weapon or after deposit.)Yorkshire Museum - Viking Age leather shoeOne of the features of the archaeology of York is the long occupation of the site (at least to Roman times). The occupation is along the river - so the excavations go down to waterlogged soil. This has permitted the excellent preservation of many organic materials; wood, leather, even textiles. Yorkshire County Museum - Celtic Iron Age cast bronze mountsWhat amazed me here was the D shaped mount to the lower left in this image. I had seen a virtually identical mount in the British Museum - only rendered in gold. Given the similarity in colour of the bronze mount seen here, is this a 'lower end' copy? (You can just imagine the artisan saying 'Look - just like the one the King has...')More to come...* I was pretty much forced into Digital.My much loved, trusty, and almost industructible Yashica TL Electro, became unusable. The camera was fine. I could no longer find the battery required to run the light meter (despite frantic on line searches). Coupled with Kodak stopping making the Ectacrome 400 slide film (or almost anyone else). In Canada, only Carmen's Photo was still even processing slide film at that point. ** Through this series, I will be generally posting the 'raw scans':- From original 35 mm colour slides - Given the age of many of these, there may show excessive dust / scratching / etc- Scanned using Epson C370 flatbed photo scanner- Output image is at 150 dpi at 6 x 4 inch size- The only correction has been to rotate as needed (unless noted) [...]



the Runes (part 5)

2017-11-25T10:30:46.851-05:00

This commentary, in several parts, was sparked by a recent request to create a set of rune marked tiles as a custom order. The first time I wrote a commentary on the topic of 'Mystic Runes' was back at the very start of this blog (December 12, 2006). The second part was seen recently 'the Norse Runes' (November 22, 2017)The third part was seen recently 'the Historic Use of Runes' (November 23, 2017) The fourth part was seen recently 'Evidence of 'Mystic' Runes' (November 24, 2017) NOTE: My intention with this series is to place the topic of Runes and Rune Lore into a purely archaeological context.  'Casting the Viking Runes'Through this discussion, I have used two Wikipedia articles as a major reference (*).For an informed overview, from the perspective of archaeology and history, I would recommend reading both of the articles (links below), which do have quite different points of view. The 'Rune Magic' (2) article does attempt to trace the historic origins of the modern system of using rune marked tile sets as a divination method:- Johannes Bureus / 1600's / 'based on visions'- Guido von List / 1902 / 'revealed'- Ralph Blum / 1982 / 'first book on runic divination' (**)Comparing academic history to contemporary 'Rune Magic':The Runes as used during the Viking AgeModern 'Viking Runes' tile set - made / photo by RunologeThe Elder Futhark - screen capture from Wikipedia - Runes (1)R. Blum's arrangement of Runes (scan from 'The Book of Runes'So what is clear is that the letter forms used in modern Rune divination are in fact not the actual set of letters used during the Viking Age ( c 800 to 1000 AD).Once again, I must stress that I am not attempting in any way to comment on the value of the modern practice of 'Casting the Runes'.However, as can be seen through this series, there is no direct archaeology to support this modern practice as existing in the actual Viking Age itself.(*) The 'Runes' article is primarily an academic form, describing the development and historic use of the Runes in Northern Europe. There is only a short reference to Runes as a divination tool.The 'Rune Magic' article is primarily focused on the development of the Runes as a divination system.(**) I have access to two versions of contemporary Rune Casting sets:• Ralph Blum / 'The Book of Runes' / 1982Blum does include two bibliographies - one of more academic sources, a second he titles 'Guides to the Transformational Process'Blum suggests variations of the 'three stone' system indicated by Tacitus. • Horik Svensson / 'the secret of the Runes' / 1995Svensson does not indicate any references.Svensson suggests far more elaborate casting system, including the use of a marked cloth target. (1) Wikipedia - Runeshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runes (2) Wikipedia - Rune Magichttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runic_magic [...]



the Runes (part 4)

2017-11-24T11:40:24.007-05:00

This commentary, in several parts, was sparked by a recent request to create a set of rune marked tiles as a custom order. The first time I wrote a commentary on the topic of 'Mystic Runes' was back at the very start of this blog (December 12, 2006). The second part was seen recently 'the Norse Runes' (November 22, 2017)The third part was seen recently 'the Historic Use of Runes' (November 23, 2017) NOTE: My intention with this series is to place the topic of Runes and Rune Lore into a purely archaeological context. Evidence of 'Mystic Runes'Again, what can we find in actual archaeological evidence? • As stated several times : There are no existing objects - as tiles with single rune marks on them. • There are a number of objects which have short runic letter groups on them. Typically scratched on the back of a decorated metal object (*). These tend to be from the early Migration Period (so not within the 'Viking Age' itself). Migration period golden bracteate of Type C ... from Djupbrunns, Hogrän parish, Gotland, Sweden.A bracteate (G 205) from approximately AD 400 that features the charm word alu with a depiction of a stylized male head, a horse, and a swastika, a common motif on bracteates. (1)Some are just groups of letters, some single words. As most often the letter groupings don't translate into known language words, it is unclear exactly what they might have intended to mean. The grouping ALU (as above) is seen on more than one object, but again as a 'word' itself has no direct known meaning.  Many inscriptions also have apparently meaningless utterances interpreted as magical chants, such as tuwatuwa (Vadstena bracteate), aaduaaaliia (DR BR42) or g͡æg͡og͡æ (Undley bracteate), g͡ag͡ag͡a (Kragehul I). Alu is a charm word appearing on numerous artifacts found in Central and Northern Europe dating from the Germanic Iron Age. The word is the most common of the early runic charm words and can appear either alone or as part of an apparent formula. (2)  There are however a very limited number of written references :• The most significant reference is by the Roman historian Tacitus :Tacitus (Germania 10) gives a detailed account (98AD): They attach the highest importance to the taking of auspices and casting lots. Their usual procedure with the lot is simple. They cut off a branch from a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips these they mark with different signs and throw them at random onto a white cloth. Then the state's priest, if it is an official consultation, or the father of the family, in a private one, offers prayer to the gods and looking up towards heaven picks up three strips, one at a time, and, according to which sign they have previously been marked with, makes his interpretation. If the lots forbid an undertaking, there is no deliberation that day about the matter in question. If they allow it, further confirmation is required by taking auspices.[1] (2)  This does at least suggest the outline of a practice, with the objects employed at least briefly described. (*) It is unclear from the description if Tacitus is giving refers to a 'single use' object set, or a more permanent, retained collection.  • There are a number of historical written references to the use of 'runes' as charms or to enhance objects :The most prolific source for runic magic in the Poetic Edda is the Sigrdrífumál, where the valkyrie Sigrdrífa (Brynhild) presents Sigurd with a memory-draught of ale that had been charmed with "gladness runes" (stanza 5), Biór fori ec þer /brynþings apaldr!magni blandinn / oc megintíri;fullr er hann lioþa / oc licnstafa,godra galdra / oc gamanruna."Beer I bring thee, tree of battle,Mingled of strength and mighty fame;Charms it holds and healing signs,Spells full good, and gladness-runes."[6]She goes on to give advice on the magical runes in seven further stanzas. In all instances, the runes are used for actual magic (apotropaic or ability-enhancing s[...]



the Runes (part 3)

2017-11-23T10:27:02.622-05:00

This commentary, in several parts, was sparked by a recent request to create a set of rune marked tiles as a custom order. The first time I wrote a commentary on the topic of 'Mystic Runes' was back at the very start of this blog (December 12, 2006). The second part was seen recently 'the Norse Runes' (November 22, 2017)NOTE: My intention with this series is to place the topic of Runes and Rune Lore into a purely archaeological context.Historic use of Runes in the Viking AgeThere is a very complete discussion of the development and use of Runic inscriptions available on the Wikipedia article 'Runes' Generous use of Wikipedia references used here.There are a progression of linked letter systems, listed loosely cultural and temporal:• Elder Futhark - Germanic / 100 - 700 AD / 24 letters• Anglo Saxon Futhorc - England / 400 - 900 AD / 29 - 33 letters• Younger Futhark - Scandinavia (Viking Age) / 800 - 1000+ AD / 16 letters  further broken into long twig (Danish?) and short twig (Norwegian & Swedish?)• Medieval - Scandinavia / 1100 - 1400 AD / 27 letters (composite system)Although there are hints that the Runes as a written system may extend to roughly 200 - 100 BC, the first actual artifact know bearing a Runic inscription is on a comb from the early AD period:" The Vimose Comb from the island of Funen, Denmark, features the earliest known runic inscription (AD 150 to 200) and simply reads, ᚺᚨᚱᛃᚨ "Harja", a male name.[39] " (1)Image from the National Museum of Denmark : http://samlinger.natmus.dk/DO/4148Obviously, the use seen, as a person's name (likely signifying ownership), indicates both widespread understanding, and everyday use, of a Runic letter system for language, even at this early date. Generally, there are four well documented (supported by objects) Viking Age uses for Runes:a) Memorial text - most typically carved on stonesb) Owners Names - may be just the name, or 'person owns me'c) Makers Names - typically 'person made me'd) Message text - records, personal notesMemorial texts are often more complex than they first seem. The order of naming may be intended to represent inheritance sequence, the placement may indicate land boundaries.  The best example of the last class - everyday notes, are the Brygeen Inscriptions, the collection of 670 found in Bergen, Norway. These include Christian themes (Latin language rendered in Runes), owners and makers, even pornography. (2)As has been indicated earlier - what is completely missing from the artifact record is any kind of  'one rune' tile - in any material what so ever.(1) Wikipedia - Runeshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runes(2) Bryggen Inscriptionshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryggen_inscriptions[...]



the Runes (part 2)

2017-11-22T09:46:52.699-05:00

This commentary, in several parts, was sparked by a recent request to create a set of rune marked tiles as a custom order. The first time I wrote a commentary on the topic of 'Mystic Runes' was back at the very start of this blog (December 12, 2006). NOTE: My intention with this series is to place the topic of Runes and Rune Lore into a purely archaeological context.the Norse Runes    In the main the Norse culture can be thought to be an oral one, with tales such as those known from the Sagas handed down in smoky halls for generations before they were ever written down. Archaeological evidence, as seen in the range and distribution of written fragments, suggests the Norse were a literate people as well.  The style of writing used by the Scandinavian peoples is called RUNIC, and is another distinctive feature of their shared culture.  The set of these letters is also referred to as the 'futhark', a name taken from the first six characters (just as is our 'alpha-betta').        In their original form, the runes consist of a series of vertical strokes and diagonal lines. The form of the letters derives from the fact that they were originally designed to be carved into wood. For this reason there are no hard to carve curves or horizontal lines that would run with the grain. There is no clear evidence for exactly when and where the runes were first developed, but the forms show the influences of early Greek and Roman scripts. Certainly there is evidence that early versions of the the system were in use by the Germanic tribes before the birth of Christ. As with other sets of symbols which would become used for writing, these ‘proto runes’ each had a specific symbolic meaning. The given name for each symbol came to represent its sound in writing. (For example, the first rune was called ‘faihu’ to the Goths, ‘fe’’ to the Norse and originally symbolized ‘cattle’ and by extension ‘wealth’.)     By the beginning of the Viking Age, this symbolic use has disappeared, the letters are just sounds. The Norse had developed their own distinctive system,  although this continues to change and evolve through the centuries. There are two primary versions of these Viking Age runes; the Danish or Common runes, and the Swedo-Norwegian or short twig runes. Each consists of only sixteen characters. The most widely used ‘Common’ runes are shown below:    To save space, words are separated not by a gap, but most commonly by a dot, and there is no upper case form. To mark the division between sentences, usually a double dot is used (:).  With the reduced set of letters, spelling becomes dependent on the whim of the carver. Typically, d becomes t, g becomes k, p becomes b, and missing vowels are substituted for as best as possible. (For example the name Gormr is seen as 'kurmR’ and Svein as 'suin'.) In keeping with the limited size of the original writing material, the text of the messages are usually short and to the point. Memorial stones were commonly painted, with the runes often highlighted in red. Individual words were sometimes painted differing colour s, to make reading easier. Often the text of a stone will be found cut into  its edge, or in a serpent shaped band running around the central design.        The selection of artifacts that remain today owe more to the random forces of preservation than any true reflection of period usages. There have been a few inscriptions found carved on sticks, far more are seen on memorial stones. Even still, the content of runic inscriptions gives a clue to the  spread of literacy amongst the Norse. Runic messages can be found almost everywhere the Norse traveled, from Greenland to Constantinople. Samples include such things as owner's or maker's names and marks. The iron pail handle on a bucket [...]



'We were so much older then...

2017-11-15T10:28:37.361-05:00


... we are younger than that now."

(image)
From the 1997 Newfound Tourism campaign
(image)
From a 2000 Corporate Advertisement*

Both images shot in 1996 - at the test demonstration of the 'Norse Encampment' living history program at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC.
This program was for Parks Canada, but managed by the Viking Trails Tourism Association (a local business group).


* The photographer (Shane Kelly) was hired by Parks Canada, with model releases stating specifically that any images were ONLY to be used for Parks Canada / Tourism promotion. 
I was to find out later that the various images of me as 'the official Viking Poster Boy' would be used widely. This second image was used for advertising by a major Corporation - without notice and certainly without permission. 
In 2000, during DARC's involvement with the Norstead - 'Grand Encampment'**, I was to find my image placed on things like letterheads, coffee cups and T shirts. Again all without my knowledge or permission.

** I wrote the original outline for the 'Grand Encampment', and was later to find my document in the hands of Government and Norstead management. It was the actual hard copy I had created - with my letterhead replaced with someone else's!



"Veteran's Day 2017"

2017-11-12T07:48:47.582-05:00


Since the start of my own blog in 2006 I have always written a piece for Remembrance Day. My own enlistment was only a short 4+ years, in the Canadian Reserves. I was young (lied about my age), and it was 1972 (obviously a much different service).
I'm hard pressed after reading this excellent piece to even conceive of anything I could say myself that might contribute beyond what [Jim Wright has] written. I hope you don't mind that I will just be sending my (few) readers over to read [this] piece tomorrow.

I was deeply influenced by all Heinlein's work - I've read all of it. Troopers framed my concepts of military service, at a time when (even in Canada) wearing a uniform meant getting spat on (more than once).

I guess I'm rambling a bit - but thanks for [this] eloquence.
Tomorrow I will once again raise a glass 'for absent friends'.

Veteran’s Day 2017

Jim Wright = Stonekettle Station




Imagined at the ROM

2017-10-21T08:09:37.042-04:00

As part of my recent two week teaching gig at Haliburton College's Artist Blacksmith program, I supervised students on a two day field trip to Toronto. The major component of this was visiting the Royal Ontario Museum.One of the assignments students were given was to document two objects seen at the ROM which interested them. They were to record via drawings (or possibly photographs) and notes what the object was, some indication of where it was located, and especially what aspect tweeked their attention.I came home with a page of (too brief) notes and about 20 images.A lot of those were intended as reference on just what historic iron objects the ROM currently has on display (not that many I must report).In terms of 'imagination' - these are what caught my eye as I rushed about supervising the students :Bone plated skull of an ancient armoured fish.Dish shaped protective scales of an ocean living dinosaur.Bundles of fossilized cartilage (?) along the spine of another.Skull of an ichthyosaurus.When you consider forged materials, I think you can see why I am drawn bones in general, and ancient fossils specifically. [...]



Wareham Forge makes the News ...

2017-10-19T17:28:40.943-04:00

... as in 'ThorNews'

ThorNews describes itself as 'a supplier of Norwegian Culture' - with a very heavy load of Viking Age topics represented.

Author Thor Lanesskog had chosen to use an image of a group of replica spears I had made to help illustrate today's blog post :

The Viking Age Spears – “The Ones Who Stare from a Long Distance”

on


" The majority of the spears are decorated with fish bone patterns, pattern forged along the middle of the blade " 

I sent back a bit of a clarification :

The 'forged pattern' is the result of welding layers of soft and hard iron metals together, then twisting and welding again, most typically to form the core part of a blade. There are some (unresolved) questions about why this method, called 'pattern welding' in archaeology, was undertaken originally. It can provide functional advantages, especially for long blades (so with swords). It may be as simple as building up a larger block when all the smith had were small pieces. The techniques were also clearly used for their decorative effects. Spears using pattern welding a very good example.
'Wolf's Tooth' actually refers to a specific effect caused by a specific method of working with the starting layered bars. I would refer you to the work of British blacksmith Owen Bush, who I know has investigated how to duplicate those specific patterns. 




DARC at Vinland - view through ExARC

2017-10-17T09:28:27.304-04:00



(image)
Building the Iron Smelting Furnace
https://exarc.net/issue-2017-4/mm/dark-ages-recreation-company-lanse-aux-meadows-nhsc-2017

Neil Peterson, with additions from DARC members Marcus, Kate and Karen, has had a very complete summary of the group's July 2107 presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC published in the journal ExARC.

(image)


Abstract:
To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of the historical interpretation program at L’Anse aux Meadows, NHSC, Parks Canada invested to extend their regular staff with a 10 day special program. Darrell Markewitz, the designer of the original program, and the Dark Ages Recreation Company (DARC) returned once again to this UNESCO World Heritage site to interact with the staff and public and mount displays of various craft activities.

The article details the public presentations and experimental archaeology projects carried out over the 11 day stay by a total of 14 DARC members.
Mounting such a major display, 3000 km from home base in Ontario, represents a major effort for DARC.

Next up for the group? 


Participating in the Royal Ontario Museum's presentation of 'Vikings' - a traveling exhibit from the Swedish History Museum



Art at SSW #3 - 'Legacy'

2017-09-03T11:02:39.121-04:00

... a proposal for a public arts projectcontinuing my consideration of object as cultural history. Archaeology is the study of 'what is left behind - which still remains'. Trash is often the source material (and often the most illuminating).While at Lumsden, I undertook a number of walks around the local area. Several of these were in part along the main access road that runs through the centre of Lumsden, from Rhynie (to 'north') or Alford (to 'south').There is surprisingly less trash along the sides of the roads generally in rural Scotland, in comparison to along the back dirt roads around my own home in Wareham for example. I'd put part of this down to the fact almost all cars in Scotland are standard transmission - and the roads are both narrow and twisty, requiring frequent shifting of gears. So drivers rarely can have a coffee or drink to hand, I was told that actually this was not legally allowed (?).I did notice, walking along route A97, was that what trash there was, most commonly was aluminum beer cans. (This may also be because, unlike in Ontario, there is no deposit / return system in place.) Perhaps not surprisingly, the most commonly recovered cans were from the cheapest brands - Tennent's primarily. (Draw your own conclusions there!)Aluminum is extremely durable in the environment, with a 'decomposition life' measured in centuries (1).Here in Canada, plastic beverage containers often outnumber aluminum cans found along the roadside.  So what is it we will leave behind? 'Legacy' project proposal - at SSW : August 2017'Legacy' is a proposal which would combine a number of elements.- The structure is a simple pyramid shaped framework, measuring 4 x 4 feet at the base and standing about 6 feet tall. (2) This framework would be made up of structural angle on the outside edges, with a series of cross bars welded in place horizontally at about 6 inch spacing.- Along the cross bars, set to about 4 inch spacing, would be welded a series of simple nails. The ideal would 1 1/2 long roofing nails, both in terms of ease of welding attachment (large heads) and short shafts for safety. - Pushed on to the nails would be aluminum beverage cans and plastic drink bottles, collected as road side trash. On initial installation, only some of the attachment points would be covered with cans.- A separate sign board would explain the concept and participation aspects of the project.• The pyramid form references the Great Pyramids of Egypt. At roughly 4500 years old, these are some of the best known ancient human structures. (3)• First level of public participation is continuing to 'build' the structure. Individuals will be encouraged, via the sign board to add additional trash cans and bottles to the remaining nail pegs. This would be accomplished by simply pushing objects on to the short points.• A secondary benefit would be the continuing trash clean up of the area around the installation site - hopefully even beyond.• It is hoped that the overall impact of the sculpture would be to raise awareness of both the problem of trash generation, and it's long term accumulation within the enviroment.(1) Metallic aluminum, exposed to air in the natural environment, 'quickly' forms a dull, light coloured oxide film on its surface. This oxide is itself quite resilient to further corrosion, and harder than the metal underneath it. One estimate for the time it takes a standard aluminum beverage can to decompose is 200 - 500 years.Plastic drink bottles have an estimated decomposition rate of roughly 450 years. (see same source). (2) Because of the inherent stability of the shape, there would be no special mountings required. (The simplest support would be via four standard concrete 'deck blocks', set on the ground and roughly l[...]



Stone Circle...

2017-08-28T11:57:28.031-04:00


... outside Aberfeldy, Scotland.

The Croft Moraig stone circle lays west of Aberfeldy, about 6 km along the road that takes you to Loch Tae and the Scottish Crannog Centre.

(image)
'Sacred Oak' : The 'old' oaks around the circle were in fact planted by the Victorians!

(image)
'Stone Circle' : view from the southern edge of the circle, looking roughly south west.

(image)
'Within the Circle' : Kelly visits the stones (giving a measure of scale).

Another description of Croft Moraig can be found on the Megalithic Portal web site.



History, Memory - and Statues

2017-08-20T04:14:19.083-04:00


I've been away from the News for a good while.
There was the frantic scramble to get repairs to my trailer completed, all the packing and loading for the Newfoundland trip to L'Anse aux Meadows. Departing for that the end of the first week in July. Home from that a mere two days and off to Scotland for the project work here. (It's the morning of my last day at SSW.)
So basically well over 7 weeks since I've had any time, often actually even no ability, to check the News. So all realize my perspective is extremely limited to isolated flashes.

I had caught pieces of the insanity taking place in the United States of America right now, triggered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville VA.


Now, I follow Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station.
His latest piece, posted up yesterday (Saturday August 2017) bears reading :
'No Man's Land'





 I submitted the following as a comment to Jim's (insightful as always) piece:

I am taking part in an artist's workshop, mix of Scots / Canadians / Americans, the topic of sculpture as memorials came up.
I am personally deeply involved with history (admittedly pre-Medieval primarily), so often consider the role of object within culture. From this standpoint, do consider any object does remain a reflection of the time and setting which it was created in. * Meaning * may shift considerably through time. (The Great Pyramid was constructed with considerable slave labour as well. Should it be torn down because of this?)

One of the Americans at the table suggested that instead of taking down historic monuments, these should be *non destructively* modified to reflect a modern perception of those historic events.
In this way, history is retained, but *meaning* may be modified.

Given Jim's clarion call to action, this suggestion may easily be seen as feeble appeasement. Obviously, the type of narrow focus, distortion of proven fact and willful ignorance being demonstrated can not be easily combated by a 'gentle' approach.
So clearly, as so many commenters have stated, this has little to actually do with removing a statue.

I do caution all to consider the material aspect of the Future. We North Americans are far too quick to destroy and cart off to rubble the marks of our past. Without some marks of our actions, both the good - and the very bad, how are coming generations to have any perspective framework to allow themselves to make their own decisions?

As much as delving into political commentary is something I do actually attempt to keep limited on this series, readers may see how the above actually dove tails nicely on to recent postings here :  Art at SSW - #1 Object & Age / # 2 Object & Context



the Galloway Hord

2017-08-19T03:26:03.458-04:00

At the National Museum of Scotland - Edenburgh : Lower groupping of arm 'rings'Upper grouping of ingots and worked stripsRevealed in the two cases above :- Several of the ingots were clearly made in the same top poured mould. There was a distinctive knob feature seen, from a deeper cut to one end of the mould.- The arm rings were all considerably thicker in cross section than I previously thought. (Exact L x W x H x weight is rarely indicated.)- Seeing the ingots and the arm rings side by side certainly suggested that the arm rings were made by simply hammering flat the ingots. The sizes of the bracelets was very uniform, and the volume of metal from ingot into ring was very consistent.- You also can see that all of the 'rings' are in fact flattened strips - not formed into C shapes at all.This might easily have been done to keep the package of silver small for burial. That many of the bracelets have been deliberately turned over and squished flat on one or both does suggest that all the silver, worked or ingot, was only intended as silver weight.Pair of fine silver hinged strap orniments - considered very unusual for VA findsThese large glass pieces were described as 'beads'The large flattened disks were roughly 3 - 4 cm in diameter, with hole diameters approaching 1 cm.The largest, to the lower right, was almost double even that mass of glass.Taken together, this huge size suggests to me that these might easily have been intended as spindle whorls.Not everything from the Hord was on display. Especially most of the more 'unusual' objects (likely still under preservation work).For more images - go to the Galloway Hord at the NMS We have to raise £1.98 million to save the Hoard, and in addition we need  to raise additional funds to properly conserve, research and prepare the Galloway Hoard for display, (NMS web site)  The Hoard was uncovered by a single individual, so it would fall under Scottish 'Treasure Trove' law. It appears that although technically all  such finds revert 'ownership' to the Scottish Crown, in practice, an independant pannel determines a 'market value', which museums normally pay to the original finder. Images :The National Museum of Scotland allows for full photography in all its galleries.All the images above were taken by myself on August 9, 2017Although captured as photographs, the copyright to the text panels really rests with the NMS.[...]



Art at SSW 2 - Object & Context

2017-08-18T03:06:19.448-04:00

'As the Object is removed from its original CONTEXT

It's Meaning is now OBSCURED'

Working so much with historic objects, this is a concept that I deal with constantly.
( Long term readers may have seen the (old!) article 'Aunt Marthas and Damthings'. )

- Central to the grouping above  is an unknown object, seemingly exposed via excavation.
- To the right top is a 'well known' ancient object (interpretation by Graham Taylor).
- On the lower right is an unknown object, a bronze or brass disk bearing a cross like mark on one side.

Removed from their original contexts, what can we truthfully say about any of these?
Are ALL of these religious symbols?
- Most would certainly ascribe symbolic meanings to the figure, with its exagerated female characteristics. But just what did the original maker intend?
- The disk becomes more problematic. A Western / Christian perspective might easily attribute symbolic meaning. But is that the perspective of the viewer - rather than the maker?
- The partially exposed object? Can you easily assign deeper meaning (or exclude the possibility)?


For me personally, 'Art' is about Communication.
No matter how grand or insightful your concept, if the intent is not communicated effectively to the viewer, your work fails. The exercise of creation may have value to you personally, but at best it remains self indulgent.




Art at SSW 1 - Object & Age

2017-08-17T14:41:28.607-04:00

'When does Old Junk - become Archaeology?'Regular Readers will know that  I am often commenting on the Object within a Material Culture, especially within a Historic framework.The grouping in the image above was used to illustrate the point on our 'working table' over the current Artist Residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.The upper group of five objects was gathered on a field walk through farm land to the east of SSW at Lumsden (from  left to right) :- A broken piece of roofing slate(Age unknown, as slate roofs have been built in scotland from at least from Historic (if not to Ancient) times through to modern construction.)-  An iron (?) wagon or farm machine hitch fitting, with a much decayed block of wood still attached(Use of a hex head bolt suggests post 1860. The nails are 'semi wire' type, with cylindrical bodies but flat and tapered 'cut' points, again suggesting post about 1860 to about 1880.)- Unknown material as waste(Has the appearance of a brown glazed ceramic, but is much to light weight to be composed of clay. Top side is smooth and semi polished looking, underside course texture with embedded sand grains. Too hard for a wax, may be some kind of resin?)- Fragment of glazed ceramic(A course grained light grey clay body topped with a white glaze, decorated with light blue lines. )- Broken piece of ceramic pipe(A very rough textured clay with simple mottled brown glaze on the surface, a section of a cylinder. Other pieces were found - including a full S bend fitting that would suit installing a toilet. Suggests Victorian / +1880 manufacture.)This group was found in a steeply sloped corner of a recently plowed field. To my eye this looks like an area only recently turned to cultivation. Perhaps once the 'corner dump' area for the current farm. Could also be the plowed over remnants of a much older farm cottage?The lower group of three were gathered while breaking up scrap cast iron (left to right) :- Ring of lead seal- Joint section of cast iron pipe, showing many paint layers on the exterior- Lengths of what appears to be hemp (?) fibre cording / packingAlthough other than the mystery material, the rough dating for the found objects would appear to place them to some point between 1860 - 1880.In Scotland, all are clearly nothing more than 'old trash'.In Canada, objects of that age are often placed in museums.How old, how removed from current popular culture, must an object be before it is considered 'History'?How far past before it's recovery becomes Archaeology?Stone Foundations - East of Lumsden / SSW (view uphill towards South) Further up that same hill, just about 500 m to the East of SSW (to the north end of Lumsden) we came across a group of what certainly appeared to be three square stone outlines with interior depressions. It was hard not to see these features as the foundation lines for three small, linked structures. The interior sizes were about 4 x 4 meters.Stone Foundation - North end of group - Kelly for scaleI took most note of the most northerly positioned of the group. Two large stones were inside, the larger laying flat and about 1.5 + metres long. The second was set upright, with the roughly flat surface set at what I would have found comfortable 'striking height'. There was a clear gap in the line   of outlining stones in the SE corner - suggesting an entrance (?)I certainly found these features to be worthy of 'Archaeology'.????[...]



Celtic Iron Age SMELT

2017-08-13T16:32:35.580-04:00

at the Scottish Crannog Centre - Saturday August 6, 2017(ok - not quite as planned...)'Celtic Iron Age' Slag Pit FurnaceElectric Blower DD1 type Bog Ore AnalogFurnace at 'touch off'Furnace - prepared clay with sand and shredded horse manureSlag Pit - roughly 25 cm square / 45 cm deep / filled with wheat sheaves Dimensions - 62 cm tall / 22 ID at top / 30 cm ID at base / about 25 ID at tuyereCeramic Tuyere - Output ID = 2.5 cm / Length 40 cm (made by Graham Sheffield)Tuyere Setting - 23 down / 4 cm proud / 16 cm above base Extraction - Assisted by Dirk Spoedleter Average Burn Rate = 9 min for 1.75 kg (roughly 10 minutes for 2 kg)Average Ore Charge = 1.5 kg per charcoal measureTotal Charcoal Used = about 45 kgTotal Elapsed Time = about 4 hours (main sequence)Total Ore = 20 kgHammering Extracted Mass - Shona Johnson & Pete HillResults ? Sintered Iron 'Gromps'Iron Production = 2.94 kg of sintered iron gromps (collected from hammered 'mother')Yield = 15 % (but elevated because mass not a compacted bloom)Comments:This was an attempt at running a 'Pre Roman' style furnace (tentatively 500 BC).As illustrated by  Thijs van de Manakker the pit below the furnace was capped off with a clay disk. The initial disk, supported by a grid of light branches, proved not heavy enough to prevent the drying fire from effecting the original wheat sheaf fill of the lower pit.On smelt day, the pit was refilled with a mix of straw and reeds, with a thicker (2.5 cm) disk cap. However it happened that this thick (very!) wet clay cracked (explosively!) as the furnace heated.This caused the heated charcoal to drop too early in the heating cycle, before a truly effective slag bowl could develop. In turn the reduced and sintered, but still fragmented, iron dropped out of the heat zone. Without the usual high position of a full slag bowl, this iron could not collect while hot enough to 'condense' into a compact bloom mass.Given the frantic pace of preparing for the smelting demonstration - the first ever at the Scottish Crannog Centre - this still proved a fairly good result. Especially an excellent example of the processes (and often difficulties!) involved in Experimental Archaeology.[...]



C-3's view of L'Anse aux Meadows (and DARC)

2017-07-30T09:21:49.451-04:00

At DARC's recent presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC, the group from C-3 was on site Sunday July 16 - Iron Smelt Day.
This is the short video coverage they shot and have posted:


You may not be able to view this without going into Facebook? 
I will attempt to sort this out later!



Iron Smelt at Vinland - 2017

2017-07-29T11:27:04.813-04:00

This is a fast report on the bloomery iron smelt undertaken by a Parks Canada team, with some assistance from DARC, on Sunday July 16, 2017 - at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC.This was in conjunction with 'Historic Sites Day' - and in turn part of the ongoing Canada 150 events.This is only the second time in the modern era that iron has been smelted at LAM, since Leif Eirikson and his crew undertook the process some time about 1000 AD.This iron smelt was a very long one.The 'smelt master' was Mark Pilgrim ('Little Ragnar'). He and I started at 7:00 am with the organization and pre-heat.Main sequence start with ungraded charcoal at 10:45(from here on constant bellows work by Ian / Kevin / 'Thorstien')First ore (DD2 Analog) at 12:00A bit of mix up there, poor communications / instruction (?) resulted in the first charge being a full 2 kg , followed by a more normal 1 kg amount.Burn times ran an average of about 20 minutes each (fastest = 17 / slowest = 29)Total of 29 kg ore was charged, last addition at 5:36Although the normal burn down to ready for extraction was finished at 6:45, the extraction was delayed to about 7:30 to allow the visiting group from C-3 to assemble.The end result of this was that the furnace interior had cooled, the normally white hot bloom had shifted down to at best a bright orange. This in turn resulted in great difficulty separating the bloom from the slag bowl - and the slag bowl becoming completely frozen to the furnace walls.Mark undertook the extraction process, but in the end had to break the furnace apart to free the mass.Top of Bloom - showing 'scoop' from air blast.The end result was a 5.5 kg bloom. Yield = 19 %This is still a bit lacy on the outside, due to initial compaction being undertaken well below the normal welding heat. Still the bloom looks and feels quite solid under the hammer. This a marked contrast to the crumbly texture of the 2010 results.Cut (and broken) along the mid line. Top 'half' is to left.Impressive work by all involved![...]



Adrian Legge - Master Blacksmithing classes in September

2017-07-28T16:35:42.394-04:00

I just had this passed to me by Sandra Dunn.Highly Recommended!In case any of your past students are interested, here’s some information about two courses Adrian Legge will be teaching in my shop in September.Adrian Legge, Master Blacksmith from the U.K.  and instructor at Hereford College, is coming to Ontario to teach two blacksmithing Masterclasses.  Adrian is a dynamic teacher:  funny, insightful and guaranteed to challenge you to learn as much as possible in a short period of time.   Adrian is a long standing member of staff at the National School of Blacksmithing where he’s been teaching since 1987. The BA (Hons) Artist Blacksmithing course was initially his vision after he identified that the blacksmith students he was teaching needed to be designers as well as blacksmiths and so he approached the Art College and an exciting collaboration between the two institutions began.I find that the way that metal moves when it has been forged is fascinating. It has the ability to be structural and at the same time appear to be delicate. I have been a blacksmith for over 30 years and in that time have been involved in work as diverse as the restoration of 17th century gates and railings, the design and making of contemporary garden sculpture and the teaching of my craft to others.— LeggeCourses will take place at the new teaching facility at Two Smiths in Kitchener.  This space is equipped with eight forging stations and  a design/ drawing studio.  DESIGN MASTERCLASSSeptember:   Friday 8 / Saturday 9 / Sunday 10    9:00-5:00Cost: 600.00 + hst and registration feeOver the course of three days there will be a series of lectures, workshops and demonstrations exploring the following:Drawing methodsDesign briefsCritical thinkingThe research processAnalysis and evaluation of designs as they progressThe creation of samples, models and maquettesThis course is ideal for blacksmiths looking to develop their capacity to express ideas through the medium of forged metal with clarity, imagination and confidence.All materials, safety equipment, coffee and tea will be provided.Click on this link to sign up:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/design-masterclass-with-blacksmith-adrian-legge-tickets-35045378671JOINERY MASTERCLASSSeptember:  Friday 15 /. Saturday 16 ? Sunday 17   9:00-5:00Cost: 600.00 + hst and registration feeThis three day intensive workshop will enable individuals to not only improve their skills and understanding of fundamental traditional joinery, it will also challenge them to do that within the context of designing and making a functional object.  Joinery will include a branched forge weld, an offset tenon, a rivet and collar joint plus making all of the tooling for the above: punches, collar mandrel, top and bottom snap and a rivet bolster.   Adrian will be more than happy to also demonstrate additional joinery techniques requested by students registering before August 15th.All materials, safety equipment, coffee and tea are included.Click on this link to sign up:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/joinery-masterclass-with-adrian-legge-tickets-36523837782If anyone has any questions or wants more information feel free to contact me:m Sandra Dunn. sandra@twosmiths.caSandraTwo Smiths8 Grand Ave. Unit BKitchener, ONN2K 1B3519.571.9538[...]



a 'Celtic Iron Age' Bloomery Furnace

2017-07-06T10:38:14.690-04:00

If you have not been following recent posts, you might want to look back to see the development of this prototype...As a fast introduction, this is my suggested furnace build for the demonstration upcoming at the Scottish Crannog Centre event, August 5 & 6, 2017I have decided to keep to a known and proven layout : - 40 cm stack above tuyere - 20 - 25 ° down angle on tuyere - at least 10 cm base (floor to tuyere) - set the tuyere proud of inner wall What will mark this system as 'Celtic' is : - use of semi-drum bellows - slag pit design I see the most likely 'design flaw' is the available air volume from the 'semi-drum' bellows. Because of limited workers, and the very real transport restrictions, I am going with a single tuyere / bellows combination. To try to balance that, I've reduced the interior size of the furnace : - at 20 cm the ideal air would be 375 - 470 LpM - at 22.5 cm the ideal air would be 500 - 620 LpM My theoretical output on the semi-drum bellows I built is about 500 LpM. So this suggests with the smaller furnace diameter (and good workers!) this system should function as hoped. Honestly, I feel that creation of a lacy, lower yield bloom is more likely. Not really a problem of itself, as this is more like to represent actual Celtic Iron Age results. There is a balance between interior furnace volume (heat created) and exterior surface (loss through radiation). I have successfully run furnaces at 20 cm ID before. There is a tipping point some place between 15 cm and 20 cm where there is too much loss off the exterior against limited heat volume in the interior. I'd like to try the slag pit filled with bundled grasses. The ideal (from an experimental archaeology stand point) would be to be able to cut a sheaf of oats or barley. I have run this same system (slag pit with thin clay cap) a couple of times using small sticks - with good results. The leather Y tube is something first made up for the Vinland Series, originally intended to replace the modern steel pipe fittings that normally are used. (The purpose of the Y is to allow a straight line down into the tuyere, allowing for visual inspection and clearing of blockages as needed.) A second advantage proved to be providing a flexible coupling between moving bellows and static (and fragile) furnace. Working in a more historic context, a simple wooden plug seals one branch of the T. Sound then becomes the indicator of when the slag builds too high or freezes in a drip, either case partially restricting air flow.[...]



Iron Smelting in the Celtic Age (three PLUS)

2017-07-03T08:40:43.728-04:00

Continuing from the post on June 23...Thijs van de Manakker returned my inquiry on some technical details of the smelt series seen on the videos documenting his process.(Remember Thijs' primary language is not English! Any modifications / comments in italics) 1) The height of our furnace is 80 cm.Interior diam bottom 38 cm. (a)Interior diam top    27cm.2) The slagpit is under the whole furnace.(the third image shows the 'basket' covered with a roughly 1 cm layer of clay) 3) One bellow is 36 Liter is 1/2 furnace content. (b) (**)A furnace with two tuyères with Stiphout bog ore runs best at 17 strokes (of 2 bellows) per minute  17 x 72 Liter = 1224 L/min.With that tempo we can charge every ten minutes: 1,5 KG (6 L) charcoal and 1,5 KG ore (2L), so  both charcoal and ore 9 KG /hour. (c)4) The furnace on the film was not documented on paper, so I don't know the exact figures.The average yield of our furnace is 15% raw iron . (d)The highest amount of ore we ever could load was  103  KG .Bloomforging gives 30% lost of iron, so bar yield of the furnace is 10%. (e)5) Our blooms have  0,06 % Carbon. (f)To get steel  we double an iron bar several times, to get rid of slag as much as possible, than the bar of 5 mm thickness  is packed with charcoal powder inside a  loam (mud)  cover and fired in a woodfire for 25 hours.Thijs van de Manakker.https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/7131570/1-experiments-with-a-slag-tapping-and-a-slag-pit-furnace-anneke-(g)the notes / comments(a) At 38 cm the interior cross section will be 1330 cm2Our standard furnaces run between 25 - 30 cm ID, so 490 - 710 cm2(see how even a small increase in diameter really will impact air requirements)(b) My original WAG was really off on the math and actual reported numbers! I had estimated the furnace with a bigger diameter and a lower produced volume on the bellows.Using the 'Sauder & Williams Method', the 'ideal' air volume for this furnace would be 1600 to 2000 LpM. (c) There is still no standard used throughout the experimental community on exactly how to measure and compare burning rates.Kilograms of charcoal per hour / minutes per standard charge are good indicators.Between the two, I suggest minutes per kg (charge) is the single best. During the smelt itself, this measure also gives the smelt master the best indication of just what is happening within the furnace as the smelt progresses. The consumption of standard charges will certainly vary over the course of any smelt event.This makes this experiment with an average burn rate of 6 - 7 minutes per kg.Our standard is to aim for 4 - 6 minutes per kg. (The impact of higher air volumes).(d) Given an effective furnace design, and suitable air volumes being delivered, the next big impact on smelting yields is the quality of the ore itself.So its hard to say if the yield reported is basically due to the iron content of the ore (not given here).Our normal expectation is for 20 - 30% return from ore to bloom. Larger ore volume smelts typically produce higher yield results. I do note that our own efforts using human powered bellows typically yield down into the 15 % range as well.(A hint to hopeful experimenters : For good results, your ideal ore should have +50% Fe / +65% Fe2O3. Sticking to a single ore type / source really helps your initial learning curve!)(e) Bloom to Bar represents a loss that some peop[...]



DARC returns to VINLAND - (past view 1)

2017-07-01T08:50:16.101-04:00

DARC will be returning to Vinland!Ragnar Ragnarson will once again be gathering his band of friends and heading of into the West. (You think by now we would have learned not to trust his navigation skills!)Members of DARC will be expanding the regular Encampment program at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC from July 15 through 23, 2017. The highlight will be July 16 - with a full re-creation of the first iron smelt in North America (originally undertaken by Leif Eirikson's crew some time about 1000 AD).To give you a hint at what you might see in this special presentation for Parks Canada and Canada 150 - here are some images from past voyages:2010 All images by Paul Halasz - © 2010[...]



Iron Smelting in the Celtic Age (three)

2017-07-03T06:52:59.273-04:00

In casting around for prototypes for the upcoming demonstration project at the Scottish Crannog Centre, I keep coming back to the work of Thijs van de Manakker.Thijs works at / with the Eindhoven Museum in the Netherlands. This is a living history museum, centred from pre-history to the Medieval period.One of the activities there, which Thijs has lead over the years, is experimental iron smelting based on the Celtic Iron Age. You may note that the video record below is from 1999 - two years before I even started inv(Below ported over from YouTube - you may have to click on the title to get the intended content. The full set of videos are on Thijs' web site.) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Y_mTgHj6M1Q" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/URxbEQs98Go" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gjManty8sQg" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/J7nzmhFwGoM" width="640">Looking over the process illustrated above - these are the things I notice (*):1) Build : The mix is a fairly rough blend of chopped straw, what appears to be locally dug clay, and sand. The consistency is softer than I normally use, with what appears to be a sequence of thick rings applied, then left to sun dry to firm up before the next layer is added.- This method results in very thick wall, with clear breaks between the layers. The outside is clearly blended, but the interior has been left very rough. I did wonder at this when I initially watched this first video (but the logic becomes clear later).2) Layout : The completed furnace appears to stand roughly 70 cm tall. It is clearly flask shaped, looking about the same outside diameter at the base as the height.- Given the thick walls, this suggests an interior diameter at tuyere level of about 50 cm, perhaps 30 cm at the top opening. (All WAG).- The furnace is a slag pit type (seen briefly at the start of the construction phase, later in the smelt when slag is drained). It looks like this is a smaller pit, lined with sticks, is placed to the front of the furnace below the tap arch. (Rather than a full pit under the entire furnace?).- There are two tuyeres, set at base level, opposite each other and so also 90° to the tap arch. These are both basically set dead flat. (I would be concerned about slag levels.)- The actual tuyeres appear to be lengths of modern steel pipe. These are quite long, the purpose appearing to keep the bellows operators well back from the furnace itself. (Likely done for both safety and to keep the working area around the furnace clear. This becomes especially helpful during the extraction phase.)- There is no specific way to tell if these were set proud in the interior - or how far they may have burned back during the smelt.3) Air : There are two good sized leather drum bellows supplying air. Obviously there is a flap input valve on the top. It is not clear if there is an exhaust valve.- From the video you can see the pump rate is about one stroke per second each.Also that the two bellows are being blown identically, with one operator setting the pace, the second (less experienced?) following. - A (very WAG) guess on the size of each is about 30 cm wide, with about 30 - 35 cm height of air being expelled each strok[...]