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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: 2018-02-24T06:18:03.676-05:00


'Legacy' in Elora


Once again, I am quite pleased to have a piece chosen for inclusion in the Elora Sculpture Project for 2018: 'Legacy' drafted submission‘Legacy’What do we leave behind for future generations? The pyramid structure recalls one of the oldest enduring human structures, the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The covering of plastic water bottles indicates one of the longest enduring objects produced in current days - sure to also endure for centuries to come. Individual bottles (makers labels removed against liability) are each attached on to long bolts, those welded to the underlaying steel frame. It is the intent to start with the frame only partially covered, with additional bottles added to ‘complete’ the structure over the course of its installation. This piece originally conceived during the ‘Turf to Tools’ project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in 2017, as a commentary on human impact over the ages on the natural environment. (It is a topical piece, with controversy about the impact of water bottling in the Elora region.)Those following this blog may remember the original posting on Legacy, as a concept, from September of 2017.Behind the whole thing was a lot of thought I had about ancient landscapes, human impacts, artifacts, and modern interpretations. The 2017 trip to Scotland had included touring Edinburgh, work with Celtic Iron Age Iron at the Scottish Crannog Centre *, and a one week residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.This process was certainly an extension of the larger Turf to Tools project series (2014 & 2016) at SSW.Although the original design for Legacy was sparked by road side trash in normally clean Scotland, it turned out the concept also was topical to the town of Elora, back here in Ontario. Right now there is a large controversy (with protests and angry meetings) about a major water bottling plant being proposed by Nestle for the area. 'Jobs' and 'it won't effect the water supply' are the two standard statements made by industrial water corporations.**The slight modification to Legacy to use only plastic water bottles, with their endurance in the environment of as long as 500 years, was obvious.The piece becomes a statement not only about how the past might be perceived by some future observer, but also about how what we do NOW will massively impact generations to come.* the Crannog Centre had provided the base funding for the 2017 trip. Along with a honourarium to help offset car rental, meals and lodgings for the time at Aberfledy, they covered the air fare costs from Toronto. I added funds for the time in Edinburgh and the week at SSW.** I can tell you from personal experience - here at Wareham. When the Ice River Springs industrial bottling plant was put into operations at near by Feversham in 2002, I started having heavy levels of clay silt in my own well water. A filled glass coffee pot, if left for 10 minutes, would have a deposit settle out which completely covered the bottom. This problem persisted for about six months. I have a deep well (about 150 - 175 feet), so drawing water out of the limestone of the Niagara Escarpment. This is well below a thick red clay layer about 20 - 30 feet thick laying about 30 feet down here. That effectively seals that ancient water from any surface effects (contamination) - or modern replacement of the aquifer. It is illustrative that on the Ice River Springs web site - there is no mention of exactly how much of this ancient water is being pulled out, bottled, and shipped away to consumers.[...]

A Fine Kettle of Fish


How do you Measure an Anvil ?British?American?German? European?EUROPEAN Anvils, and many (most) modern cast steel alloy anvils, will be marked in KILOGRAMS. For you Americans, 1 kg = 2.2 lbs.(Join the rest of the world, will you?)'Antique' - so forged - Anvils will be marked in HUNDREDWEIGHT (cwt) / QUARTERS  (qwt) / POUNDS.A QUARTER is 1/4 of the hundredweight.AMERICAN Anvils have the weights defined under their own 'rationalized' system (appears to date back to the Revolution ?) use the 'short hundredweight' :100 lbs = 1 hundred weight25 lbs = 1 quarterGERMAN Anvils use the 'long hundredweight' :120 lbs = 1 hundred weight30 lbs = 1 quarter BRITISH Anvils use the original Imperial system, with an ancient history (see bellow)112 lbs = 1 hundred weight28 lbs = 1 quarter.Anvils historically were made in size 'ranges', about:1 hundred weight (typically farmer's anvils)1 cwt + 2 qwt (typically small rural blacksmiths)2 cwt (typically urban shops or carriage works)3 cwt (typically mines, rail yards or other industrial)4 cwt + (typically ship yards)Although produced in a size class, each anvil was individually marked with its exact finished weight before it left the factory.Check the rear side (horn placed to left hand, the side away from you).There should be three groups of numbers punched in, typically placed across the narrow 'throat' area.Run the math for your actual weight.See also my 'Guide to Purchase an Anvil' : WEIGHT ?At 112 pounds ??Where the heck does that come from ???Honestly, although I was well aware that this came from ancient British ideas about measuring things, I had always wondered.Tracking this down proved worse than I imagined!(A lot of Wikipedia references here.)The hundredweight has had many different values. In England in around 1300, various different "hundreds" (centem in Medieval Latin) were defined. The Weights and Measures Act of 1835 formally established the present imperial hundredweight of 112 lb. Weights and Measures Act of 1835 defined the Imperial hundredweight as comprised of 8 STONES.... Established the imperial stone & hundredweight of 14 and 112 lbs. respectively, based on the wool stone of Edward III it gets weird...You see the stature above refers to a much earlier system - the 'standardized' (??) system as defined by Edward 3 - 1350. The STONE as the base unit :...every Stone to weigh 14 lb see 'pounds' as a base unit. Problem is that there were at least THREE different 'pounds' in use :Troy / Avoirdupois / London (Tower)Depending on what you might be measuring (silver / fish / iron) you might be using one or another of those base 'pounds'. And to further mess this all up - a "Hundred' refers to different counts of different units - depending on the type of material being measured out.If you are interested (and want to get really confused here) check the article on Troy Ounce - which has a good conversion chart between all those: now we have to make a step even further back - to the 'codified' set by Edward 1 - 1303.Per Ordinance of the whole realm of England the measure of the King is composed namely of a penny, which is called a sterling, round & without clipping, weighs thirty-two grains of wheat in the middle of the Ear.And an ounce weighs twenty pence. And twelve ounces make a pound of London. And twelve & a half pounds make a stone of London. But in other things the pounds contains fifteen ounces, the ounce in either case weighs twenty pence. …But the hundred of iron and shillings consists of 100. The sheaf of [steel] consists of thirty pieces. The Dozen of iron consists of six pieces. system called tower weight was the more general name for King[...]

References for the Beginner Blacksmith


I'm starting to prepare classroom materials for my upcoming stint as one of the instructors for the Haliburton College Artist Blacksmith program. Here are my recommendations for books that can help the beginner into the work of the artist blacksmith. (In order of my preference)Note that the links provided are set for Canada's Chapters/Indigo where possible. the Backyard Blacksmith : Loreli SimsCrestline - 2006978-0-7858-2567-8I know Lorelei loosely. She is a brilliant teacher, with long experience. Unlike many others, this book has exceptionally clear images that were purposefully shot to illustrate each point. This book is specifically aimed at the beginner, and I feel the best single guide in print.the Complete Modern Blacksmith : Alexander WeighersTen Speed Press - 19972345-00-99=98=97I refer to this as the 'popular mechanics / hobby tinker' version of blacksmithing. There is little 'art' here, but lots of basic practical information. All that stuff you wish you paid attention to in grade 10 shop class. Beautifully clear drawn illustrations, so good that you can just look at the pictures and read the captions and get almost everything - with text easily as good. A gold mine for anyone setting up their own backyard first workshop.Decorative & Sculptural Ironwork : Donna MeilachSchiffer Publishing - 1999 (original 1978)0-7643-0790-8I had purchased the original version of this volume when both it, and my interest in blacksmithing was new. Donna was a professional writer who got interested in the (then) new artist blacksmith movement that was developing in the 1970's in the USA. The book is a well laid out general survey work, with chapters on major object types. There are short photo essays, illustrating how one working smith (of those times) undertook a process, leading to a finished object. This is followed with a set of 'boy I wish I had made that' object images within that object type. Both a good starting point into various techniques, and very inspiring collection of work.Contemporary Blacksmith (series) : Donna MeilachSchiffer Publishing (2000 +)About a half dozen titles - all recommendedWhen Donna started working on a revised second edition of 'Decorative & Sculptural', she made an open call for additional photographs of current work for the new colour section. She got a landslide of images. Enough to fill a good half dozen additional volumes (!). Most volumes focus on a specific type of work (Architectural, Sculptural, etc), gathering together images of work undertaken in many artistic styles, all examples of the best contemporary artistic blacksmithing.(no image available from Amazon)New Edge of the Anvil : Jack AndrewsSkipjack Press - 1994 (original 1977)1-879535-09-2    Jack Andrews taught sculpture, including blacksmithing, in the America SW in the 1970's. The original version of this book was based on that experience - and the time of publication was almost the only thing available. This is a book firmly rooted in the 'hippy' movement of those times. The images are 'art' - but often do not clearly illustrate the intended concepts. There are some chapters on basic metallurgy and formulas for smiths that are very valuable. I personally find the point of view dated (and suggest your money is better spent on something given above).Dover Pictorial Archive (series) Dover Publicationdozens of titles - search ‘metalwork’The Dover series are inexpensive reprints of images no longer holding copyright. Drawings or photographs, in black and white, usually with no commentary. An absolute gold mine of designs and details. Many less than $20.[...]

Layered Steel / Global Markets (2)


...continues from yesterday's commentary...Competition from Offshore / 3rd World"One-of-a-Kind 14" Custom Handmade Damascus Steel Bowie Hunting Knife"Selling price $125 CDNColdlands Knives - via AmazonI've had a web site since about 1994. It is a large site, so both because of longevity and content = external linkages, and a published e-mail address, I get a huge amount of even business related spam.About two weeks ago, I got sent an (unrequested) e-mail along with a (huge x 39) pile of images, detailing products available from a company in India :We would like to introduce ourselves as manufacturers and exporters of all kinds of handmade  Damascus Steel & Stainless Steel knives. ... We offer competitive prices and quickest worldwide delivery. We also invite you to visit our website and see our wide range of knives. We can also provide you any kind of knives in any materials you demand. You are also welcome to send us sketch or photo of your design for make. Quantity does not matter. ...Salahuddin World Class Hunting & Sporting Knives Company.Pak Town Wazirabad 52000 ,District Gujranwala Pakistan.www.wchsk.weebly.comboth images from - Salahuddin World Class Hunting & Sporting Knives Company.So - Primarily as an exercise, I took the trouble to look over the company web site.- Generally, I found the overall quality of the offerings quite good. Finishing certainly looks excellent.- The layer counts seen are nicely balanced to yield dramatic patterns - 'medium' density / layer counts.- They obviously have a bundle of standardized forging methods, but at the same time, there is evidence of individual production (pattern variation) on each. (Digging through the web site does show use of what looks like a fairly small mechanical hammer. Use of simple hand grinding.)- They obviously have a set of standardized blade profiles. These are then expanded by applying a fairly wide range of hilting materials and details.Now - We all need to be aware that there are families in India and Pakistan who have been making extremely high quality cutting edges of all kinds - in some cases for * centuries *. This has included an * unbroken * tradition of working with layered steels. (And do remember - where does Wootz come from originally!)Quality has never been an issue here - those craftspeople can certainly produce good work. Blade * shapes * certainly have been a problem in the past.I had seen some of the first lots of 'India made' blade blanks, a table full offered at the SCA's Pennsic War event, some point about 1978 / 79. These were still a bit rough in technique, and out of about 100 samples, I only found three that I thought were close to actual European historic patterns.But face it - People are People, folks in India are at core as smart as any place else. India as a nation has certainly jump started into the Information Age way, way faster than 'the West'. At least in terms of progression from ox carts to internet within a single generation.So I was curious. Outside of that huge e-mail, Salahuddin had been polite and business like. I had a number of direct questions about the product and the ordering mechanics, so I wrote back:1) Prices2) Minimum Order amounts3) Shipping Costs4) Alloy content / layer countsYes we can also supply blank blades and blank billets as per your requirements ( sizes ,patterns ,) .1 ) Regarding the prices ,may we ask is that possible to send us art number from our website of the knife or blank blade in which you are interested ? So we can quote you prices accordingly .It would be highly appreciated .Would you please ? You are also welcome to send us your own design for price and make .2 ) You can order in any quantity ,there is no minimum quantity .3) The shipping charges depend on the weight of your package ,because we pay by weight to DHL courier company and we always charge shipping charges after weight the package .Because our consistency not allow to charge extra[...]

Layered Steel / Global Markets (1)


American bladesmith Bill Moran had pioneered techniques for creating layered steels, in the late 1960's. Working through trial and (much) error, Bill had recreated methods used historically to create dramatically patterned surfaces by stacking differing iron / steel alloys, welding to solid billets, then folding / twisting / distorting the stacks. During the early 1970's first his, then an number of other 'master' bladesmiths slowly introduced this work to the blacksmithing community. Those who had figured these techniques out, were most typically pretty vague about exactly how it was done.I first picked up the hammer as a student at Ontario College of Art, about 1978. (Initially almost accidentally.) It was not until later in 1979 that I finally managed to learn how to successfully forge weld. In those days, one of the marks of 'knowing the craft' was to be able to reliably create layered steels. After a single year at Black Creek Pioneer Village (1979), my access to a forge was limited. It would not be until I returned to BCPV in the late 1980's and into the early 1990's that I would really start developing my own skills with the layered steel techniques.Some early layered steel knives - about 1993.Bottom is flat stack (Damascus), Far right is twisted stack (Pattern Weld). Long blade is antique wrought iron.I was always most interested in the distortions created in the stack lines caused by the effects of hand hammering. Initially all my work was done entirely by hand - and always working alone. In these early days of the Wareham Forge, (in my mid to late 30's), it would take me a single working session of 2 1/2 hours to prepare, weld, draw out a knife sized billet. I could physically manage three such work sessions over two days - having to rest up the final half day. Typically starting with a 9 - 11 layer stack, that would yield me a billet of roughly 250 layers - large enough to make the two smaller blades seen above for example.I have forged a lot of blades over the years, 'one forge session' for two or three knife blade blanks (again depending on size and profile).In the early days, I did not have much shop machinery. I was doing my shaping and polishing on a 6 x 48 'wood worker's' belt sander. It typically took me two days to polish, heat treat, finish for hilting.I never had a lot of interest in decorative hilts (the 'male jewellery' aspect of high end custom knifemaking). For the simple kind of slab hilts seen above, add another hour or two.So - taken altogether, the two knives seen the image above represent :- Investment in a basic forge and shop tools- Development of about five years (trial and error) experience- Total of 7 days (specialized and often exhausting) work- (support of workshop, 7 days + expended materials and sundries) = Two roughly 5 inch long finished knives.I was charging $40 per blade inch back then, so (assuming they sold) = $200 each / $ 400 total.That's $ 57 (gross!) per day.*Now, things have changed, both for me personally, and most certainly within the 'artist blacksmith' community over the last 20 years :1) For bladesmiths, the use of power equipment has increased dramatically. Air hammers had been uncommon when I started. Either people had to rebuild (often cranky) antique mechanical hammers, or invest $40,000 for a German built air hammer.- Small user built air hammers are common today, at a *tenth* of the cost above. (see David Robertson)- First Turkish copies (@$10 - 15,000), now low end Chinese copies (below $10,000) of those self contained air hammers are available.- High speed, long belt sanders (incorrectly called knife 'grinders') are widely available. Typically in the $1000 range. Plans for home builds easy to find.2) Techniques, based on new equipment types, have both changed and become widespread. Primary is the use of hydraulic presses to replace the actual hammer.- Because a press gives a perfectly even compression, it becomes simple to produce perfectly even, s[...]

Blast from the Past


... on several levels.I  have slowly been working through scanning the better part of 20 years of colour slides into digital format. Most of these are reference - taken at museums, living history sites or workshop events.Here are a few from a trip to Stirbridge Village, Mass. Should have been 1990.Foot Powered Treadle HammerOverall ViewHammer & Die (diagonal bar seen is support when not in use)Planks forming the 'spring'This is a very simple construction, in use allowing the heavier leg muscles to provide the motion, and the inertia of the heavy head the striking force.The major element is the heavy log (was hardwood about 16 x 16 inches) that provides the stable base for the hammer. It is also a fair size, I remember it as about 8 - 10 feet long.The hammer head pivots on a simple bar driven between the pair of upright supports.The hammer is held at rest by being attached, via a chain, to a set of thin planks. These need to be quarter split (dead straight grain). There were several of these, each about 1/2 inch thick, attached to the rear of the beam.The hammer was attached to a foot lever, which extended down the right side of the beam, to a suitable position for the operator's right foot at the front. (not seen in these images unfortunately). The attachment I remember as having some combination of offset and split linkage (?) reducing the impact shock and spring effect from the hammer lifting.How it works:The operator balances back on the left foot.Push down with the right, which pushes the hammer down against the spring of the planks.On impact of the head on the metal being worked, the operator allows his driving foot to stop pushing.The spring planks then lift the head back upwards.Repeat as the spring pressure stops, driving the head back down for a second impact.The operator and spring combination is actually just working to oscillate the head up and down - not force it. It is the inertia of the hammer head that creates the force.I watched the blacksmith at Stirbridge work 1 x 1 stock on this - pretty much draw to a short point in one heat.Circa 1830's design, if not earlier. Still effective... This basic principle is the same that is used for the the original ABANA 'push / pull' small air hammer. I have an early version of this type in my own workshop:50 lb air hammer (light blue) in the corner of the forge areaMy air hammer was built by David Robertson, way back about 2000. It is rated for 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 stock - but has been used for as heavy as 1 1/2 x 4 (!). David's current versions (which he sells) are significantly better in design, operation, and stability. One limitation of the type is that it requires a large stand alone air compressor for working air.[...]

'Ypres - 2016' Finishing


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.

'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?)


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)


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 - Runes (2) Wikipedia - Rune Magic [...]

the Runes (part 4)


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."[[...]

the Runes (part 3)


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 :, 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 - Runes Bryggen Inscriptions[...]

the Runes (part 2)


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 e[...]

'We were so much older then...


... we are younger than that now."

From the 1997 Newfound Tourism campaign
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"


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


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 ...


... 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”


" 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


Building the Iron Smelting Furnace

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.


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'


... 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[...]

Stone Circle...


... 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.

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

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

'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


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


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


'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


'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


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)


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!