Monday, September 26, 2016


A collabrative project between :
Katriona Gillespie
Darrell Markewitz
Kelly Probyn-Smith

Initial concept Sept 21, 2016
First proof of concept test = Sept 25, 2016

details to come...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Scottish Coal - the Bad, the Ugly (where is the good?)

One of the tasks for the central week of Turf to Tools 2 was to get a basic equipment set up for basic blacksmithing operations at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.

After way too much time expended attempting to source equipment, and manage excessive shipping costs, Eden Jolly at SSW ended up using measurements I supplied and simply casting a new forge fire pot. Cast Iron pours is one of the features of the facilities at SSW!
Eden's fire pot, set in place and ready for the fuel.
As it turned out, two critical elements remained to create an effective forge.

The first problem has proved providing suitable air flow. As built above, there is a choke point at the lower 'chip breaker'. This was fabricated out of scrap materials available around the workshop, forming the 'slotted cylinder' type seen above. Problem ended up being that the available air opening was effectively a rectangle about 1/2 wide by about 1 3/4 inch long. Too small to easily pass the required air for ideal combustion. After trying three separate blower / gate combinations, we did manage something that if a bit loud, would at least allow for a reasonable sized fire.

We used up the last bag of (more or less) acceptable coal on hand - remaining from the 2014 project.

Eden went to the local coal merchant.
He asked for blacksmithing coal
He was sold what they call 'Smithy Nuggets'.
The bags are actually labled 'Best Home Heating Coal'
What we got.
Sorry - this is Anthrocite - hard coal.
Not Bituminous or soft coal.
Hard coal is fine for steam engines or heating stoves. It is not the type of coal needed for small scale (ie normal) blacksmithing forges.
See the yellow crystals on the surfaces? That is sulpur.

This is what happens when you try to burn this quality fuel in the forge.
After about 10 minutes of a full air blast.
Eden still struggling after 20 minutes of blast.
This level of dense sulphur ladden smoke is toxic to the worker. I've already gotten lungs damaged from working with high sulphur coal at a museum in the late 1980's. By the point that the second photo was taken - I would not get any closer to that fire or smoke.

The sulphur also damages the metal itself, making forge welding particularly almost impossible. (Maybe more on that later.)
Since the next phase of Turf to Tools is to compress and repeatedly forge weld up the blooms into solid bars - I was not willing to subject our hard gained bloom iron to contact with this fuel.

We have hopes that we may be able to get some better quality (workable) coal from the near by Transport Museum in Alford.  (later today)

At this point the Bloom to Bar part of the project is three days behind. It will have to be laid aside to ensure all is ready for the second iron smelt experiment (fuelling with Peat) taking place TOMORROW.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

TtT2 - Considerations towards an object (1)

I have been attempting to place segments here into roughly the chronological order of the individual project events - to provide a record of the progress of each segment.
To be fair to myself, the lack of access in Europe (thanks for not much Google), has me now neck deep in the Turf to Tools 2 project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Aspects of this work are currently dominating my thoughts.
So although it may mess up any standard documentation effort, today's offering is going to cover what is going on in my (over active) brain this day...

Right now I am wrestling with a number of underlaying concepts / world views generated by the Turf to Tools project.
Exploring material, resources and landscape, this Slow Prototype project looks at the processes, skills, and heritage of taking raw materials through to workable implements.
- The role of the 'Artisan Maker' as a middle ground between 'Fine Artist' and Technician.
- Explaining the merging of 'processes, skills, and heritage', and how the Arisan also may undertake an extensive 'conceptual' journey.
- Considering the relationship between the Environment and the Human, in terms of the impact of Human gathering of materials, conversion to object, use of object, through to discarding of object.

In conversation with a number of the other people undertaking their own 'residency' periods here at SSW, many state their objectives as 'conceptual art'. I hear a lot of stress on the * idea *, not the finished  * object * itself.
I honestly get uncomfortable around this. There is certainly an impression given that exploring a concept, often into long duration, and fine detail, is of itself more important than actually physically creating a tangible object. That 'manufacturing' process is often deemed to be the work of 'mere technicians' (implied if not directly stated). Effective communication of a concept to other viewers is often held as less important than the individual's personal exploration.

As you might guess (those of you who have followed me any length of time or viewed my past work via the Wareham Forge web site) - I don't follow this view point of 'high art' being somehow more refined / valuable / difficult than what is often delegated to 'craft'.

I'm realizing, partially through conversation with Director Nuno  Sacramento, that part of my intended role inside the Turf to Tools project is to provide an example of the 'Artisan Maker', and their role within a larger collaboration.

Here is an example of what I mean :

(click for a detailed view)
This is a 'concept flow chart' that applies directly to the stated objectives for the Turf to Tools project specifically. Many of the individual points themselves may have greatly expanded chains of concept / consideration sitting beyond what is shown here (!).

I think it becomes obvious that even framing the  * background * leading to the making an object can involve consideration of a huge number of concepts and factors, ranging from the theoretical to the practical. 

I will be undertaking a second step mapping this morning, which is the charting behind creation of a specific object. (Hope to detail that here soon!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Some iron around Ypres

I don't want (at this point) to really comment about the vast destruction of Ypres during World War One. But I do want to put some of the iron work images contained here into some kind of context.

The following images relate the main market square in the centre of Ypres:
This is a 'before and after' WW1 - images roughly looking to the west. Note the pavillion.
This is an aerial view, facing roughly east. The arrows relate to the next image.
This is a large pannoramic view taken from the location of the original pavillion (seen in the first image) towards the arrows shown in the image just above. This image shot Sunday Sept 6, 2016.
The point of this introduction?
The town of Ypres was almost completely flattened by artillery bombardment from 1914 - 1918.
After the War, the returning population there chose to completely restore the central town exactly as it had been before the destruction. Most of this re-building took place in the early 1920's.

This has effected the iron work now seen around the city centre (inside the medieval defenses). There are occasionally pieces that had managed to survive the bombardment, picked out of the rubble and re-used. There are a great number of objects that are copies of the few 'artifacts'. There is also a good amount of replacement work, mostly dating to the post WW 1 period.

Wall brace - presumed 'orginal', on the Cathedral.
Many of the buildings in central Ypres have roughly similar forged pieces on the exterior. These typically run in a line that would mark the beams holding up second or upper floors. My best guess is that these serve as 'washers', the central staple (clearly seen here) being attached to the wood beams on the other side of the wall.  There are many on 'newer' buildings that are obviously just decorative.
Grill Pannel - Inside the Cathedral
Framing the 'new' alter in the Cathedral is a series of tall hand forged grills. These are 'new' (dating to the restoration in the 1920's). Many traditional forming and joinnery techniques are seen - hot punching  & spliting (with elements inserted) / rivets / collars / forge welding. This was an amazing piece of work.
Door grill pannel
There are a large number of both 'security' door grills and rails for small balconies. These range in complexity from simple (but often effective) scroll work to more elaborate forgings like the one seen here. (We noticed that although the original client had obviously asked for the initials D M to be included - the two oval shapes make the text read out DooM !) A piece that shows both forge and more modern torch or arc welding (certainly available by 1920's).
New and old work
This combination caught my eye.
What was likely originally a bell pull on the right was certainly hand forged, appeared to be actual wrought iron material. From its condition I would guess created well before the 1900's.
The quite elaborate door panels appear much more modern, certainly after the restoration effort. Perhaps even a contemporary work, created to match the lines found elsewhere around Ypres.


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

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