Friday, February 16, 2018

'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


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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Fine Kettle of Fish

How do you Measure an Anvil ?


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 weight
25 lbs = 1 quarter

GERMAN Anvils use the 'long hundredweight' :
120 lbs = 1 hundred weight
30 lbs = 1 quarter

BRITISH Anvils use the original Imperial system, with an ancient history (see bellow)
112 lbs = 1 hundred weight
28 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' :

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.

The 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

Now 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

You 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:

So 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.
The system called tower weight was the more general name for King Offa's pound. This dates to 757 AD and was based on the silver penny. This in turn was struck over Arabic dirhams (2d). The pound was based on the weight of 120 Arabic silver dirhams, which have been found in Offa's Dyke.
The tower pound was equivalent to about 350 grams.[30][31]
1 tower pound (12 oz) = 7,680 tower grains = 5,400 troy grains
1 tower ounce (20 dwt) = 640 tower grains = 450 troy grains
1 tower pennyweight (dwt) = 32 tower grains = 22 1⁄2 troy grains

You see that the standardized 'Silver Penny' as the base weight unit. It is defined by a number of wheat grains- the PENNYWIEGHT. Ounces and Pounds are counts of these coins. (Partially blame the Danes for this - 500 years earlier!)

Before this, it gets really weird :
The Latin edition of the Assize of Weights and Measures, one of the statutes of uncertain date from around the year 1300, describes hundreds of (red) herring (a long hundred of 120 fish), beeswax, sugar, pepper, cumin, and alum ("13½ stone, each stone containing 8 pounds" or 108 Tower lbs.), coarse and woven linen, hemp canvas (a long hundred of 120 ells), and iron or horseshoes and shillings (a short hundred of 100 pieces).[1]

Later versions used the Troy or avoirdupois pounds in their reckonings instead and included hundreds of fresh herrings (a short hundred of 100 fish)

So - Based on Edward 1 measures :
One Penny = 2.92 gm
20 Penny = one Ounce = 58.4 gm
one Pound (iron) = 15 Ounce = 876 gm
one Hundred (iron) = 100 Ounces = 87.6 kg

That makes the 1303 'iron hundred' = 192.7 (modern) pounds

Is that a LONG hundred, or a SHORT hundred - of herring?

Monday, January 15, 2018

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 Sims
Crestline - 2006

I 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 Weighers
Ten Speed Press - 1997

I 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 Meilach
Schiffer Publishing - 1999 (original 1978)

I 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 Meilach
Schiffer Publishing (2000 +)
About a half dozen titles - all recommended

When 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 Andrews
Skipjack Press - 1994 (original 1977)

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 Publication
dozens 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.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

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 CDN
Coldlands Knives - via Amazon

I'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.

both 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) Prices
2) Minimum Order amounts
3) Shipping Costs
4) Alloy content / layer counts
Yes 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 shipping amount to our valuable client .We hope you can understand .However we would like to tell you that we have very low shipping charges for Canada especially on big order packages. (*)
A couple of days later, I got the promised description on 4) Alloys and Layers:
Our Damascus steel is forged out of the steel sheets of grade AISI 1075 and AISI 4340. AISI 1075 is a high carbon steel that contains around 0.75% carbon. It is widely used to produce various types of springs and cutting tools. AISI 4340 is a low carbon and high nickel steel alloy. It contains 1.65% – 2% Nickel, 0.7% - 0.9% Chromium and 0.3% to 0.4% Carbon. 
Number of Layers, Initially a stack of 11 sheets of AISI 1075 & AISI 4340 is formed. The stack is then heated and hammer forged. The heating and beating process is repeated 4 to 5 times to get over 176 layers of high quality Damascus steel. 
Heat Treatment, Each blade is carefully heated to 1560 degree Fahrenheit, where after; it is oil quenched and tempered to achieve hardness above 56 on rock well scale.
I did dig through the offerings on the web site, and reply with some specific items. I had asked about specific sizes and prices. In some cases I had asked if it would be possible to purchase just the blade blanks (not finished as illustrated).
The prices are obviously US funds (converted in brackets into CDN funds)
For reference, I have pulled the object images off their web site.
Following are the info & price of the bars you requested .
HK 330 ,

WIDTH    :  2   INCH
PATTERN : Feather
PRICE : $28.00 ($36 *)
HK 331 : 

WIDTH    :  1.5  INCH
PATTERN : Feather
PRICE : $21.00 ($27 *)
HK 332:

WIDTH    :  1.5  INCH
PRICE : $18.00 ($23 *)

You are welcome to send us your own required size for price and make.

Sword price and size are following ,
HK 269-2 :

PRICE : $90.00 ($113 *)
HK-143 :

PRICE : $40.00 ($51 *)

Leather Sheaths Included in prices .Yes we sell without hilts .Also we can supply you any bars,billets in any size you demand .

Blank blades sizes are following :

PRICE : $22.00 ($28 *)

Back up to yesterday's commentary:

First - Commercial Sales
Take a look at the offering from Coldlands Knives at $125 (plus tax, shipping)
Compare it to the (larger) blade HK-143 at $51 CDN *.
I did check to see if that blade is one of the standard offerings from Salahuddin:
Salahuddin HK-300
I remain almost certain Coldlands is either purchasing from Salahuddin, or a close competitor in India.

Second - Billets.
These could be considered roughly equivalent to at least the layer count on my circa 1990's work (Note that I normally use a more complex alloy assortment, and with pattern welding usually use three or more rods).
Takes me two days / against roughly $ 25 - 35 *.

Third - Blade Blanks.
Similar to my own one piece 'heavy kitchen knives', HK-244 shown as comparison. I As a finished one piece design, I would charge for 9 inches x $40. (Again, I normally include an extra step of complexity - welding in the carbon core).
Takes me roughly 5 days / against roughly $30.

So, here is the thing
(Those intending to become full time bladesmiths take special note.)
Go back and read part one.
Run the numbers.

This is not intended in any way a criticism of Salahuddin.
They are producing good quality objects, making use skilled workers. They have miserable safety standards, microscopic wages (compared to Canada) and no comparison in operational costs. They are brilliantly using the internet to massive advantage for both research and sales.

But we just can NOT compete with these folks - if PRICE is the only comparison being made by North American consumers.

* One important caution : Prices here are NOT including the shipping cost. Possible entry duties (??)
DHL uses an overly complex 'contact for estimate' system.
Canada Post (Ontario to India) used for reference, suggests adding roughly $20 for a single / double item sized package (slow air + tracking).

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

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