Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peterson House - Front Supports : INSTALLED

- Yesterday, with the kind help of home owner Neil Peterson, I finally installed the forged support pillars that I have been working on for the last two months:

Overview of the two supports as seen from the front sidewalk.

Each support is a bundle of forged pipe, a central load bearing support of 2 inch, surrounded by a group of smaller diameter pieces. There are four of 1 inch, plus four of 3/4 inch, the latter drawn out to long tendrils. The bundles are wrapped by tendrils of 3/8 inch round at four places.

I had made an earlier commentary on the design aspects leading to this project :

Where DO Ideas Come From - Peterson House

Looking North to the hop trellis
Looking South - to the earlier fence extension project.
The view SE - framing the church across the street.
Top of the North Pillar
Close up of the forged pipes with tendril wrap section.
Top of the South Pillar

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Remember this?

I do.

In fact we had just gotten our very first Video Cassette Recorder (a high tech front loading Betamax) the day before the Live Aid concert in 1985.

Take a listen (and a look) and come back...

What I hear, what I see, and what I remember - is that despite the energy, this piece of music was a lament. A cry to action. No one is featured in their glam rock perfection. A lot of sweaty tee shirts. You can see that they mean what they are singing.

Ok ?

Now take a look at this recent version:

Sorry Glee Cast (and more likely FOX television)

Are you frackin' kidding?

Now look, I really like Glee. I find it generally entertaining. I mostly like the characters. A good 50 % of the time I like the music (enough that I have scooped a good dozen for my iPod).

But this is SO far off the mark. Happy, Happy. The meaning is totally buried under all that star power.
And these are supposed to be HOMELESS? Are you bloody well kidding? Awful middle America, middle class, white bread, clean and well turned out. Don't look a thing like the Homeless I've seen in Toronto.
Hell, I just grew up 'short' (and still live short) - and *I* don't look that fat and happy!

Remember this song is supposed to be a rally cry for Africans starving to death in a famine?
One that still continues after now some 25 years?

Bah! Humbug!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Schiffer Releases Ironwork Today 3

Any readers who are artisan smiths might remember that about two years back there was an open call for current work to be included in a new volume in the Ironwork Today series.

There is a bit of a story behind this series. Author Donna Meilach had written an influential volume Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork, back in the late 1970's. Donna had taken a number of courses in smithing, then spent time with the developing art smithing movement, primarily in the South West USA. Her survey book was the first to cross the divide between the practical world of working smiths and the more abstract vision of the artist and fine art curator. Along with short b&w photo essays illustrating how individual smiths created particular objects, there were collections of some of the best artistic blacksmithing work of the time.
Donna remained an active participant at ABANA conferences, and in the developing internet. In the late 1990's Donna decided to revise the original Decorative & Sculptural. At the time she made an open call through the internet discussion groups for additional images of recent work to be included in the central gallery section of the book. Yikes! She got a huge number of submissions of both high quality contemporary work - with suitable quality images. So many in fact, that she launched on a series of a half dozen additional survey works. The last of these was Ironwork Today, Inside and Out. As the series of books progressed, an increasing number of Ontario artisan blacksmiths had their work included.
But Donna was never able to complete the intended Ironwork Today 2. On her untimely death, the task of completing book two was assumed by Jeffrey Snyder. (Questionably, although Donna's hand is obvious in this book, Snyder assumes sole authorship.)

To get a submission of work into this kind of volume, not only does the work itself need to have both solid technique and outstanding design. The photographs themselves need to be both of high quality and striking in composition as well. (A word to the wise here - always take the time to get the best possible images of your work as it is completed and installed.)

Ironwork Today 3, after several delays, has just been released. In past volumes in the series, objects were grouped by type. Snyder has chosen to give each individual a separate section, listed alphabetically. A total of over 70 individuals are featured. Again there some local artisans are included, with submissions from OABA members Darrell Markewitz, David McCord, and David Robertson.

My first criticism is of Snyder's basic method. Although he is listed as an author, in reality he is at best only an editor of other people's work. It is clear that each individual contributor has written their individual statements and commentaries. Because of this, the book has no overall structure, save as an alphabetical list. This is a flaw that extends right back to the initial call for submissions, where the instructions about content were vague .
This also extends to the variation in the images themselves. Some are overview shots on white seamless backgrounds (thus lacking in detail). Some are extreme close-ups in high contrast (thus lacking context). Some have the look of the work of professional photographers, some obviously are lower quality work of the contributing smiths themselves.
I find that the variation in quality also extends to both the commentaries and descriptions. The type of content included for each artist is not consistent. It is so obvious that many of those included have learned the lingo of the art critic:
" The architectural framework of a piece becomes a canvas onto which I can paint an iron improvisation. Artistic blacksmithing is for me the place where Fire, Rhythm, Iron and Ideas meet and cause a spontaneous combustion of my spirit that I can only watch manifest"
(John Winer)
Not only are such grand pronouncements questionable, seeing page after page of so many attempting to frame up the same kind of rationalization gets extremely annoying.
On the quality of the work side, there is obviously a sliding of the scale downwards in relation to past volumes. There are more of examples of work that may be nice, but frankly not exceptional. If only speaking for myself, I was highly honoured to have been included in Donna's last book, but find the relative quality of my own work appears artificially shifted higher if Ironwork 3 was in fact the standard.

It is nice to see your work illustrated in book form, but the lack of direction and frankly lack of visible contribution by Snyder results in a volume that is little more than a vanity publication.
So taken in total, I would suggest that the cover price (roughly $55 US) on Ironwork Today 3 might be better spent on one of the earlier books by Donna Meilach. Most especially a copy of Decorative & Sculptural Ironwork, if that is not already in your library.

Other books by Donna Meilach :
Architectural Ironwork
The Contemporary Blacksmith
Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork
Direct Metal Sculpture
Fireplace Accessories
Ironwork - Dynamic Details
Ironwork Today, Inside and Out
Ironwork Today 2 (although not credited)

On a strictly personal note, although I was happy to be included, I was displeased that neither my web site or my e-mail address had been included on my own section. Both were given for most all the other contributors.

PS - I was highly annoyed by Schiffer's shipping costs. My $175 order of books cost some $70 to mail to Wareham (from Pennsylvania).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CanIRON 9 - Quebec

I just got this from event organizer (and fellow Early Iron member) Antoine Marcal :
Antoine Marçal posted in Caniron IX
Bonne nouvelle! Nous avons confirmation du...
Antoine Marçal 13 December 11:56
Bonne nouvelle!
Nous avons confirmation du lieu et des dates de Caniron IX:
du 28 juin au 1er juillet 2013 sur le lieu historique national des Forges-du-Saint -Maurice!

Good news!
We have confirmation of the dates and location of CanironIX!
From the 28 June to the 1st July 2013 on the Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site of Canada
Parks Canada - Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site - Forges du Saint-Maurice National His
Located 20 minutes away from downtown Trois-Rivières, Québec, the Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site...

BTW - that logo is most certainly NOT official! Just something I whipped up quickly to grace this post.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Russian VA Iron Smelt...

This video clip was suggested by one of the Early Iron gang:

As seen on YouTube - posted by 'zoomantiq'

The clip shows a team from Russia (given the Cyrillic text) working at a large living history (Viking Age?) event.

I quite like the simplicity of the basic construction method. Use of bundled straw for interior form is elegant.

I do wonder at the purpose of the base construction.
The built up earth plinth may be primarily to raise the height of the furnace. This appears to be explained in commentary. Other than raising the furnace for ease of access, its hard to understand why.
Considerable care is taken with the construction of the base, with a layer of straw, covered with a clay cobb plate, this in turn with what appears to be a semi refractory layer. (Light coloured clay that appears to be mixed with charcoal fines.
This same light material is used as the inner layer for what looks like the first 10 cm of the furnace wall.

The interior diameter of the furnace looks to be roughly 20 - 25 cm.

Note the bellows size and style (medium size double action - Late Medieval) Depending on pump rate (hard to determine from the video) this equipment should be able to supply plenty of air volume.
Use of steel pipe for bellows tube / tuyere
Set at basically flat angle (only slight downwards)
Very shallow base distance below tuyere (perhaps 10 cm??)

The is use of round port for tapping. Appears to be at same height as the tuyere.
There was no tapping event recorded, and no tap slag visible in later parts of the smelt.

Total furnace height looks quite short, the entire furnace may achieve (barely) 40 cm total. Considering placement of the tuyere, this suggests a very short reactive column.

Charcoal is roughly broken for size, scoop from pile method for screening out fines.

Ore appears to be hematite / iron sand or oxide powder (brown ochre) ?
Laid in a large slabs rather than sprinkled through charges. Only two charges shown, and it would be important to know how much ore was used.

There is use of flux (a fine white powder - may be borax?) near end of smelt.
May be explained in commentary, but why?

Furnace is allowed to burn out and basically go cold.
Extraction is by breaking out rear wall to expose interior.

When the interior is exposed, the slag mass certainly looks considerably above the height of the tuyere. Was the smelt halted because the tuyere was blocked? (Commentary may explain?)

On the extraction, three pieces are pulled aside.
The first (which is the piece in the smelter's hand near the end) is holding heat in a manner that at least suggests there may be some iron in it. If so, it is extremely lacy and small. The second piece is dense and dark, and looks like iron rich slag. The last piece (seen again near the end of the video) is light coloured green, typical of an iron poor slag (melted furnace walls).
Obviously the comments of the team would be important to understanding their results.

It appears the smelt master has determined the pieces containing iron by look and weight. It might have been more instructive (for him and us) if these fragments had remained hot enough that they could have been hammer compressed. Just quenching will sometimes break away some of the loosest slag component, but normally not enough to get a really accurate read on just how much iron might be included in such lacy pieces.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Historic Tool ??

A recent question came in about a historic object:
... I was looking into historic blacksmithing in the area of Peterborough, Ontario. I am an art conservation student at Fleming College in Peterborough and I recently completed a project treating a heavily rusted 19th century tool made of a mild steel (which I was told may be a blacksmithing tool). However, I am completely baffled as to what the tool is and what it was used for!
Click to see at approximately life sized.

The image above was altered from Megan's original -
Rendered via Photoshop because of possible copyright concerns

From the scale, the object is roughly 38 cm long by 16 cm wide (so roughly 15 x 6 1/2 inches). The overall construction is rather 'light' - with the components of the frame looking to be about .5 cm / 1/4 inch in thickness. The maximum width of the clamp is about 5 cm / 2 inches at full extension. This strongly suggests not a metalworking application, but something to be used for much lighter materials. (My WAG is for wood working??)

There is no doubt is was 'blacksmith made' (hand forged, forge welds, hand cut threads). I take it you have tested to ensure that it is made of mild steel, which dates it to post 1855 at the very earliest (Bessemer furnace date).

Although I can see the object is intended to be mounted to a wooden bench in roughly the same position as in your image, I can't for the life of me think of what it would be useful *for*.

Maybe one of my readers (a lot of blacksmiths and history types) will be able to identify this tool?

Personally, I have not a clue!

Later Addition

Those that caught this first thing this morning did see an actual photograph. When I e-mailed Megan for permission* she asked that the image not be published due to possible copyright concerns. (Since I've been working with artifacts for a long time, I'm personally less concerned about this - see a past commentary )

I've gotten a couple of questions :

Yes, the lower 'wing nut' does screw / move to push against the sliding bar near the top. It would place pressure on to the bar, but gravity would release it.

The first 'more likely suggestion came in from Matt Balent (via Facebook) :

"Perhaps for compressing/clamping broom straw?"

When I was at Black Creek Village, we had used a simple clamp made ourselves (well, by Ian Bell) from two slabs of wood and a couple of bolts. After the straw had been wrapped to a circular stick handle, the clamp was placed just bellow this attachment point. Then a needle and string were stitched through the flattened straw. Several courses of this would convert the cylinder to a flat oval cross section when the clamp was removed.
Doing this with a bench mounted clamp would be even easier. (If you look at a modern corn broom, you will see the same basic method used.)
It was pointed out by a couple of comments that the six inch width of the clamp might make it a bit small for this purpose.

Even Later!

From Sheldon Browder :

"It's a string mop holder, purely and simply. A mop handle goes on the tang and 1/2 of the mop strings go on each side of the clamp. The photo is upside down."
Now Sheldon was a master blacksmith at Colonial Williamsburg for a good long time. His knowledge of Settlement / Colonial Period objects has always impressed me.

Image scammed via Google from

I must admit that I am old enough to remember using a modern version of the same purpose tool. Details a bit hazy at this point, but there was a roughly similar arrangement of a D shaped frame with a plate that could be tightened against the flat bar, gripping the centre of the string bundle. In that case the construction was stainless steel, and there was a bolt and thumb screw on either side of the gripping plates. The handle fitted into a conical socket (which is a stronger arrangement).

* The Price of Advise!
"By contacting the Wareham Forge, any individual or organization is presumed to have given consent for the collection of such information as is required for the Wareham Forge to carry on its normal business related activities."
Standard Web Site Disclaimer
Those sending me e-mails asking for advise (unpaid consulting) may see my answer to their question re-formatted and turned into a posting here on Hammered Out Bits. I normally echo these posts on to Facebook (at least as a short description and link back). I do take care to remove any personal data (for their own security) and normally will request permission before posting any personal image that may be sent to me. (This does not apply to images pulled down off the open internet by the way).

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Gamer's View on Metals, Armour & Weapons

  - There is a interplay between material, technology and application throughout history. In our real world, the reason why a specific type of metal was used for a specific form of armour & weapons can have to due with more complex factors than 'what is most effective. (My favourite example is the Trojan War being fought with *bronze* armour and weapons - although *iron* technologies had been developed at least 1500 years earlier!)
This piece may not necessarily be insightful to a good number of my regular readers. It maybe does represent a kind of creative thought experiment however.

I am a private game designer and am in the middle of writing a game that utilizes different metals for forging primarily armor and weaponry. I have a compiled list of most metals and alloys but I'm having extreme difficulty in generating a 'generalized' list of the most common metals / alloys used, and maybe with a few durable rare ones I'm not aware of, that are used for weapon and armor forging and what their comparable strengths are when compared against one another based on damage type received (blunt, slashing etc.)
Could you, or would you please, help me to figure out the best types of metals for armor and weaponry over the others and why they're better or why they shouldn't be used either for weapon crafting, armor crafting or both?


So - your problem (as with all *game* designs) is the line between the real  world and the ideal in a game universe

First thing I should mention is that the melting points are not (basically) important here. They may give you some idea of the working temperatures, but most of the *functional* metals and alloys are in fact not cast (melted and poured) but either cold hammered / hot forged.
So here is some basic information for you / I have re-ordered the list in terms of 'effectiveness' - plus added some stuff you have not considered. The way the individual materials is worked - or the form of the armour itself is also an important factor to consider.

'skilled' means a generally useful individual with basic knowledge and tools
'specialist' means a trained individual with specifc tools
'expert' means an experienced artisan with highly specific tools

Listed 'lowest to highest'


Quilted cloth (non metal)
soft (minimal protection, but cheap and easy)
some resistance to thrust and slash (but minimal at the 'seams') minimal against crushing
no special tools

Leather (non metal)
soft (minimal protection, but cheap and easy)
some resistance to thrust, better against slash, not good against axes
no special tools

Boiled leather (non metal)
boiled or baked with wax
better resistance to thrust, good against slash, slightly better against crushing
no special tools

Horn (non metal)
most typically used as scale construction
slightly better resistance to thrust, good against slash, less effective against crushing
very materials intense to produce

overlaping pieces of metal (horn, boiled leather) on cloth or leather vest
varies with material used
very good against slash, good against thrust, less effective against crushing
labour intense to produce

interlocked rings of metal
1) butted ends
2) rivet closed
3) welded
very good against slash, good against thrust (only fair against arrows), less effective against crushing
extremely labour intense to produce
extremely fatiguing to wear

Coat of Plates
'vest' of leather or heavy cloth - contains bars or small plates of metal
varies with metal used
bars - very good against slash, not great against thrust, good against crushing
plates very good against slash, thrust, good against crushing
minimal metal working required

Primary Plate
large pieces cover non moving body areas (chest, thigh, forearm)
varies with metal used
very good against slash, thrust, crushing
skilled metal working required
good balance of protection vs fatigue

Articulated Plate
larger plates over front sides of target areas, moving plates over major joints (knees & elbows)
usually worn over chain (to protect inside of joints)
excellent against slash, thrust, crushing
specialist metal working, careful fitting
extremely fatiguing to wear

Full Plate
entire body covered with fully moving plates (may include inside of joints)
exceptional against slash, thrust, crushing
expert metalworking, careful fitting
moderately fatiguing to wear.


Lead and Lead Alloys (pewter)
extremely soft (virtually useless as armour)
almost no resistance to thrust, slash crushing
could be either cast to shape or cold hammered from sheet
widely available

Tin (melts at 232 degrees C)
marginly better than lead (virtually useless as armour)
almost no resistance to thrust, slash crushing
could be either cast to shape or cold hammered from sheet
remote and limited sources, used as an alloy component for bronze

Copper (melts at 1083 degrees C)
soft, but can be slightly work hardened
typically cold hammered to shape (difficult to cast)
possible use for scale, coat of plates
weapons - slashing, crushing
alluvial deposits
skilled working

Silver (melts at 1064 degrees C)
soft, but can be slightly work hardened (varys with alloy)
typically cold hammered to shape,  could be cast
high cost against lack of function (never used )
alluvial deposits

Gold (melts at 1064 degrees C)
extremely soft (varys slightly with alloy)
typically cold hammered to shape  could be cast
extreme high cost against lack of function (never used)
alluvial deposits

Electrum (gold-silver alloy) (melts at 1064 degrees C)
soft, but can be slightly work hardened (varys with alloy)
typically cold hammered to shape  could be cast
high cost against lack of function (never used )

Bronze (copper-tin alloy) (melts at 950-1083 degrees C, depending on the proportion of tin)
Speculum (high-tin bronze) (melts at 850-950 degrees C, depending on the proportion of tin)
Tin in this alloy has the effect of lowering the melting point, and increasing the hard / brittleness of the mixture. So at 15% plus the alloy casts very easily, but is so brittle it breaks if dropped on a hard surface.  Depending on alloy, the lower tin contents can be hammered cold. All alloys can be cast, or hot forged.
the advantage to bronze is that it is easily cast into moulds, making mass production possible
primarily seen as primary plate
weapons based on thrust rather than slash (spears)
specialist working

depending on stone type, finished blades can be *extremely* sharp, problem is that they are also very brittle.
no armour applications
weapons slashing or crushing
skilled working

Iron (melts at 1536 degrees C)
Pure wrought iron is actually *softer* than a high tin bronze. Wrought iron is quite flexible, so resists impact damage (sword may bend, but not break)
Iron ores are everywhere, and althought the production of ore to iron is difficult, working iron bars into objects is relatively easy.
Iron is hot forged to shape. Armour may have cold hammering to finish
suits all armour types, especially chain, plate
weapons of all types, especially slashing
specialist work to smelt
specialist work to forge
skilled work for basic repairs

Steel (iron-carbon alloy) (melts at 1300-1536 degrees C, depending on the proportion of carbon)
Small quantities of carbon (typically .2 - 1 %) allow radical changes to the qualities of the metal via a complex heat treating process. As carbon increases, so does potential hardness, but also potential brittleness. Individual alloys best suit specific applications only (.5 carbon for swords, .75 carbon for knives)
The 'case hardening' process bakes a thin layer of higher carbon over the surface of a softer wrought iron core. This method was often used for plate armours.
suits all armour types, especially plate types
weapons of all types, especially slashing
Steel is hot forged to shape. Armour may have cold hammering to finish
expert work to smelt
specialist to expert work to forge
skilled work for basic repairs

Layered Steels
The best way to create exceptional weapons (to the advent of modern exotic alloy steels) was to layer together thin plates of wrought iron (flexible) and carbon steel (hard). The resulting layered block combines the primary desired qualities of the two components.
Layered steels are hot forged to shape
weapons - primarily slashing
expert work to forge
specialist to expert work to repair

Note : The sole *historical* exotic alloy used was nickel iron - sourced from metallic meteors. Nickel contents typically 7 - 15 %. (For comparison, your modern table knife is roughly .5 % nickel) Likely you would place it on this simple chart between Steels and Layered Steels

Note : The iron alloys were never used as a cast material (carbon content over 1.5 %) for either weapons or armour. Although easy to mass produce, the metal is brittle -and because of the process extremely heavy.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Yule Sale!

December 1 - 31

'Iron' Broaches - FREE SHIPPING : Saves you 25 % +
Romano-British Utility Knives - FREE SHIPPING : Saves you 25 % +
Norse and Celtic Pewter Castings - TWO FOR ONE : Saves you 50 % +

Introduction to Smithing


Forge Viking Age

Experimental Iron Smelting
Viking Age in Denmark

Introduction to BLACKSMITHING


Forging the VIKING AGE

IRON SMELTING in the Viking Age
Exploring the Viking Age in Denmark
Just in case you might be wondering 'Just WHAT does he spend his time on?'
I started working on this: writing, taking images, formatting, coding, inserting... about 10 Am this morning. Its now 3:30 PM - and I worked straight through without lunch.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What is True - or what they want?

'Wrought Iron Work'
What it really is - what it really means...

Wrought Iron was the metal of the ancient smith :
• It is a specific type of material, both chemically and physically much different than modern mild steels. Wrought Iron is typically forged (hot worked) at different temperatures, when finished is softer and more flexible than our modern day steels, and is more resistant to basic oxidation (rusting).
• The truth is that real wrought iron has not been produced in commercial quantities since the late 1970's. It is basically NOT AVAILABLE anywhere in the Western world, save as re-cycled antique material.
• Despite what may be claimed by some, all modern smiths work with industrially produced mild steel bars.
• Today, most self described "wrought iron workers" are in fact using machine formed, cold twisted, mild steel elements which have been mass produced over standard forms - then arc welded together. Typically these shops employ not blacksmiths, but welders and production fabricators. Most often the poor design, and frequent duplication, of the objects they manufacture clearly reflects these limitations.

A truism among actual artisan blacksmiths :
When some one says they are producing 'wrought iron work' - the first question should always be -
"Where did you get the iron?"
 Opening segment from 'Wrought Iron Work' - new commentary / description on the Wareham Forge

So - how does this relate back to the title?

I have been concerned of late about the way the internet is shaping information. Increasingly, useful content is becoming buried under the dross - the noise. *

I was early involved in the developing internet - my first service provider was back in the days of bulletin boards (although they call that kind of thing 'chat' these days). I started working up the original Wareham Forge web site in the mid 1990's (some point about 96 - 98)/ Over the years I have been able to maintain a Google ranking 'above the fold' (top 10, often the top 5), based on longevity, lots of content - and I hope accurate (or at lest interesting) information.

But more and more, I see other sites with far less to offer (on so many levels) edging me out. I see individuals catering to the whims of an increasingly trend driven population.
'Sure, I *know* I don't actually work with wrought iron - but its what people want to find...'

Might just be me.
Expecting to be able to shape the world to what is true - rather than just giving people what they *think* they want...

*Sturgeon's Rule : 95 % of EVERYTHING - is garbage.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forging the BIG Time (again!)

...more on the Peterson House Project.

 In the last post, I described the creation process leading to the final design.
Now, that looks great on paper, or even as a sample piece, there are some practical realities that need to be considered.
'Expand the diameter to six inches for visual weight' :

Calculating pipe sizes against desired bundle width. Locating the tendril wrap locations.

This is a 'size as' drawing I used to visualize / convert my available stock sizes into the layout. I'm working with standard schedule 40 mild steel pipe (most typically used for water lines). One ongoing problem for me is that the material is defined by its *interior* diameter, but as an artist, I'm more interested in its *exterior* measurement. Of course all the specifications are in thousandths of an inch, which messes me up even more. (Additionally, something I just found out - and should have known - is that as the diameters increase, so does the individual wall thickness increases!)
So what I ended up with is using 2 inch (2 3/8 OD) for the central support. To evenly distribute a bundle of tubes around this circle, I have a total of four at 1/2 inch ( 3/4 OD) and four at 3/4 inch (1 inch OD).

Physical strength was NOT going to be a problem here! Physical WEIGHT on the other hand...

I've got a handy little booklet (from Canada Steel) which lists the weight per foot of many standard industrial steel stocks.
On my scratch notes, you can see the unit weight for the various pipe sizes.
Now, bare in mind that I will be working with pieces roughly 10 feet long. The central support pieces (that 2 inch) may not seem like much, at roughly 58 lbs total, but when you make that 10 feet long...
Try forging one end while your are holding (balancing) the other *with one hand*. And consider moving that length, part of it orange hot, around the shop.

My new 3 burner gas forge (rebuilt largely for this project) with the two main support tubes heating.
A larger view, giving some idea of how long those tubes really are!
Anvil? Using my heavy layout table (3/8 plate steel top) as a forging surface. Working with a 5 lb hammer.
Detail of the finished profiling. The surfaces more deformed than aggressively shaped.
Just to put the work into perspective (for those that don't know me).
Those 58 lb tubes represent over 1/3 of my own body weight!

The surfaces are deformed with slightly flattened and spiral shaped grooves. Because it is important to retain the load baring strength of the main tubes, the circular cross sections are not 'pinched' too much.

The next step was to work up the smaller sized pipe. Because this material was not really adding (much) to the structural strength, it could be much more aggressively flattened and folded. The smaller cross section also means that even as a flattened oval cross section, it was possible to twist sections.

Showing one end of the 3/4 ID pipe as forging was completed.
One last note:
On the calculation of weights is also seen the costing for the materials. For *small* objects, normally the cost of the steel is minimal next to the contribution for labour. Not so for architectural work, especially for pieces as massive as these structural uprights. Each finished support, roughly 8 1/2 feet long, will consume almost 200 feet of the various pipe diameters. The cost of this material is approximately $400. (An indication of the relative price for the finished project.)

Oh - one last thing. With the tendril wraps, and some vine work at top and bottom, each completed support unit is estimated to weigh roughly 150 lbs. (And yes, there is a 'large object tax'!)

Where DO Ideas Come From (3) - Peterson House

My current commission is for a replacement set of supports under a front porch at Peterson House in St Agatha.
The house is late 1800's, a nice 'short two story' brick, what could be considered an affluent farm house of the period. The front porch covers the entry for the original entry door, with a small balcony above off the master bedroom. The original sculpted wooden pillars have rotted out. Part of the project has included replacing some of the timber support beams underneath.
Peterson House - This image altered to 'remove' existing structure

As with any project of this nature, there is a structural component, plus an artistic consideration. I had done some work earlier in the year for the clients, in that case an extension to the existing fence. (To the left side of the house.) The first possibility was to continue working in that theme - a design based on the natural lines of vines with large leaf end terminals. As usual, I sat down with the clients and had them pour over a number of book collections of contemporary work by other artisan smiths. We marked things they liked, with me making notes on their specific comments. Later, I took a more careful look at those pieces, narrowing down the general outlines from all the specific illustrations.

From this I was able to generate a number of rough layouts. One specific structural requirement was going to come to dominate the possibilities - that there had to be a strong vertical line of metal to support the weight of the heavy porch roof and its upper deck. In most cases, this reduced the visual aspect of the potential designs to look too much like 'a beam with stuff stuck on to it'.

In the end, I was struck by the potential from something else entirely:
Runnels of slag - Slag Pit Smelt 1 - October 2011
 Neil has become my enthusiastic right hand for the ongoing experimental iron smelts here in Wareham. The massive slag block produced in our 'slag pit' smelt in October was composed of individual runnels of slag, running downwards through a bundle of willow sticks. Even at the time, we both remarked on the artistic possibilities.
So I was struck by a potential design - using a bundle of individual tubes, instead of one major structural elements. In fact, a bundle of smaller tubes would be *stronger*, with the many side wall cross sections combining to the load carrying capability. Inspired by the folding and bulging of the slag, individual tubes could be partially flattened, twisted, folded or surface deformed. The bundle would be both welded and then wrapped with tendrils of round rod. This would both massively reinforce the welds, but also add an additional decorative feature.

Of course - I couldn't really draw this concept effectively!
Faster to make a sample piece :

This is the original sample, composed of a total of five individual pieces of pipe. The central core is larger diameter (roughly 1 1/4 OD) and the outer pieces of smaller (thus more flexible!) pipe (roughly 7/8 OD). The sample is about two feet long, and has tendril wraps of 3/8 round at either end.  A number of different forging techniques have been used on the individual pieces.
The competed sample bundle is roughly four inches wide.

At this point, I played some hoo-doo with Photoshop.
- First I photographed the sample piece from a number of different sides.
- I then spliced the images together to create an impression of what a full sized support would look like.
- I then scaled that image to fit the proportions of the modified image of the front of the house (with the existing structure removed digitally).

The problem here is the at the four inch width, the bundle just looks too small in proportion to the rest of the structure. Note that there is no problem with physical strength! The original pillars were roughly 6 x 6 inches, but turned into cylinders (which reduces the apparent visual 'weight').

Next I played some games with scale - and this is what the result was :

Here you see the bundle increased in size so it 'looks right'. Measuring from the known dimensions, the bundles should be closer to six inches wide.  (The total height of each is roughly 8 1/2 feet.)
Also in this last illustration is a very rough concept for the lower hand rail. This element is not required by code, with the concrete porch only 18 inches above grade. The landscaping plan is to place a large plant into the current central gap. So the rail is more about  a 'leaning' support. (The clients actually rarely even use the front entrance to the house.)To that end, the hand rail will be a simple arch shape, further supported by some organic and asymetrical curved elements on either end.

Next : Forging the BIG Time - converting design to reality

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bill Short on VIking Age Weapons & Combat

 My readers will be interested in this note from Bill Short, researcher, author and fellow Viking Age re-enactor. Bill is associated with the Higgins Armoury Musueum, and we of DARC have worked along side him on several occasions.

Generally, his Hurstwic web site is an excellent overview of many aspects of Norse archaeology, live and that group's ongoing experiments and research.

(The following was scooped from a recent Facebook posting from Bill) 

William Short
I've been updating some of the Hurstwic web articles with additional and updated text, and with many dozens of new photos. A lot of the photos were shot for my next book and illustrate our current interpretation of Viking fighting moves from the sagas. The new material is interspersed with the old, but most of it is in the arms and armor articles:
and in the turfhouse article:
Comparatively little is known about Viking age weapons, and even less is known about how the weapons were used. This limited knowledge is due to the limited sources we have available for the study of Viking age weapons and their use. This series of interlinked articles summarizes what is known ...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Archaeology & Experiment - Smelt at Brown University

In April in 2011 I was able to deliver a version of the 'Archaeology & Experiment' program - at Brown University. This was thanks largely to the interest of my friend, colleague and sometime mentor Kevin Smith of Brown's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. The program was organized in association with Krysta Ryzewski, who was teaching a course on the Archaeology of Materials.

The full written report on this experience is now (finally) available!

There are considerably more photographs included than a normal, as the report covers not only the progress of the smelt, but also the teaching experience.

Lowering the slag bowl. Kevin Smith looking on, students observing the tuyere and maintaining ore and charcoal additions.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

the Work and Mind of Jake Powning

Sometimes you meet someone that makes you think - 'Boy, I wish that was me...'

Jake has recently posted up a series of commentaries about his most recent creation - Dagfinnr / the Day Finder :

The finished sword
The inspiration story behind the piece
A photo essay of the work in progress

I actually feel honoured that Jake Powning thinks of me as a friend and kindred spirit. 
I wish my own work was even *half* as good as Jake's.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Found on the Beach ....

.. but what does it mean?
On 05/11/11 2:41 PM, Peter  wrote:
I'm writing to you to see if you or someone you know might be able to help me identify some items I found while walking along a beach on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. At the base of an eroding bank on a marine estuary with direct access to the ocean, I found what appears to be bloomery slag and a stone that might be a bellows shield stone.
Image by Peter Hosmer

First - remember the long history of European occupation in that area. Likely to the early 1600's, I'd think 1650 for certain.
Many of the earliest colony attempts by the English had a 'make it pay' set up. Iron smelting was one of the potential money making enterprises often attempted at many colonies.
Add to this the explosion of small bloomery furnaces all over the Colonies just after the Revolution. This to supply raw iron after the Americans cut themselves off from English industrial supplies! Many of these furnace operations used locally available primary bog ore, which is a resource quickly depleted. This, plus the huge amount of charcoal required, caused many of this kind of small operation to be relatively short lived.

The stone has a hole chiseled in the center and is about 18" long and 10" wide and 2" thick.
Image by Peter Hosmer

If this was in fact a bellows shield stone, one side would quite obviously be subjected to extremely high temperatures. There should be cracking and obvious discolouration. Depending on rock type, the stone itself might be physically melted. You might even find bits of slag attached to the stone. If both sides have the same appearance as shown in your photo - none of these effects are seen. It is very unlikely this stone has been exposed to the 1100 C plus temperatures created in a working charcoal forge.

Remember that side blast forges for charcoal were in common use up through the Colonial period into the early Industrial. Depending on just were you are located, suitable coal for forge work (a specific type and quality required) might not be available. Coastal locations often had coal shipped in from England. (See Revolution effect again). Until canals / rail systems are established, many locations were forced back to charcoal fuel. So even if this stone shows heat effects, it could easily be Colonial activities.

Although you did not expressly state 'Viking Age', I wonder if you were considering this?
Remember there is absolutely *no* physical archaeological evidence of Norse activities further south than central New Brunswick (and that most likely on the Bay of St Lawrence side). (Note that the 'Maine Penny' is held as a chance find - likely via First Nations' internal trade.)  See this article by Dr Birgitta Wallace

The slag varies in size and appearance, and some pieces have shell fragments embedded in them. There is a relatively small amount of slag - perhaps a small pail full and over the course of the last 8 - 10 months could be seen emerging from the embankment as erosion took it's toll.
Image by Peter Hosmer

So - it is clear that the material is coming from the bank - not washed up out of the water? 
Slag is produced from other high temperature activities, but the colour certainly suggests iron smelting slag. The dark colour indicates the presence of iron, as does the fluid shape of the pieces. 
The shell fragments suggest a furnace set at natural ground level, this and the shape of the flow, from a slag tapping type. That type of furnace (as above) was used up to the 1800's at least, especially for small scale operations. What is the change in shore line at your location over the last 200 - 400 years? 

The small amount suggests a small furnace - but you can not tell if you are just getting the first edges of a larger field.

Remember that there is a 'rough' balance in an iron smelting furnace : 
Ore IN = Slag + Iron OUT

Now, this is pretty rough in an actual working furnace. Another consideration is yield, which is most directly modified by the iron content of the ore (but also relative furnace size, experience of the iron master, total size of the smelt itself). This all is going to effect how much slag is going to be left over from a given smelt attempt. Any way you look at it, the slag amount should be in the range of tens of kilograms. Much more than your photograph suggests.

If you really want to nail the potential dates, the shell fragments might be carbon dated. This would not be definitive, but might give you a kind of 'no older than' type of date.

I would first suggest checking local records and history to see if there is any record of Colonial iron smelting activities. Such are usually noted, both as 'proof of progress' in a settlement - but also because such operations usually were taxed as well!

As Regular Readers know, I often take this kind of request and turn it into a blog posting. Be Warned!
(In fact, it was the time I was spending on this type of information that lead me to start this blog in the first place.) If you want to know more about the mechanics of contacting me for a personal research request such as this, check the 'fine print' published on the web site.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


"We are the 99 %" is a great rally cry.

It is not a statement of principles, or a demand.

I got lead into this via Jim Wright : Stonekettle Station :

And Jim had suggested taking a look another (opposing) viewpoint :

Eric Van Newkirk : Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets :

Go off and read all those. You might be gone a bit if you read some of the comments attached (I certainly took the time - and felt it was worth it).

The following list was placed in the comments to Eirc's article 'Welcome to the Occupation':


1. Repeal of the Patriot Act

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." -- Fourth Amendment to the Constitution

Forty-five days after 9/11, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act without reading it. This new law was supposed to protect you from terrorism, but it has really left you unprotected against lawless federal agents. The Patriot Act contains numerous violations of the Fourth Amendment. It gives federal agents vast new powers that have been abused to investigate innocent Americans.


3. Forced Acquisition of the Federal Reserve for $1Billion

No Congress, no President has been strong enough to stand up to the foreign-controlled Federal Reserve Bank. Yet there is a catch - one that President Kennedy recognized before he was slain - the original deal in 1913 creating the Federal Reserve Bank had a simple backout clause. The investors loaned the United States Government $1 billion. And the backout clause allows the United States to buy out the system for that $1 billion. If the Federal Reserve Bank were demolished and the Congress of the United States took control of the currency, as required in the Constitution, the National Debt would virtually end overnight, and the need for more taxes and even the income tax, itself. Thomas Jefferson was concise in his early warning to the American nation, "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

Article I, Section 8, Clause 5, of the United States Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof and of any foreign coins. But that is not the case. The United States government has no power to issue money, control the flow of money, or to even distribute it - that belongs to a private corporation registered in the State of Delaware - the Federal Reserve Bank.

4. Re Investigate the Attacks of 9-11-2001

More and more evidence is being released to the public surrounding the suspicious circumstances surrounding 911. This measure would be included in the list of demands to show that the original investigation was significantly flawed.

5. What to name the Occupy Wall Street "Demands"


which essentially said corporations can spend as much as they want on elections. The result is that corporations can pretty much buy elections. Corporations should be highly limited in ability to contribute to political campaigns no matter what the election and no matter what the form of media. This legislation should also RE-ESTABLISH THE PUBLIC AIRWAVES IN THE U.S. SO THAT POLITICAL CANDIDATES ARE GIVEN EQUAL TIME FOR FREE AT REASONABLE INTERVALS IN DAILY PROGRAMMING DURING CAMPAIGN SEASON. The same should extend to other media.

7. End the War On Drugs

The war on drugs has been going on for more than three decades. Today, nearly 500,000 Americans are imprisoned on drug charges. In 1980 the number was 50,000. Last year $40 billion in taxpayer dollars were spent in fighting the war on drugs. As a result of the incarceration obsession, the United States operates the largest prison system on the planet, and the U.S. nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska. 21 Sep 2011 - 15:17 21 Oct 2011 - 17:17 6570

8. Require all Corporations to have Labour Representatives on Company Boards

9. National Repeal of Capital Punishment 

10. Nationalize Health Care

11. Free education Kindergarten through college

Redraft education financing legislation. Lower educational expenses for students instead of raising tuition costs. Pull money form the "WAR" system to refund education and continuing education. Forgive Student Loan Dept or restructure the Student Loan System so that students are not punished for self improvement and made into corporate slaves upon educating themselves. Standardized testing does not account for stereotype effect or cultural differences in learning styles in elementry schools. Reform education to make it either free or affordable to all. Reappropriation of tax to focus on educations subsidies.

THIS REINSTATES MANY PROVISIONS OF THE GLASS-STEAGALL ACT. --- Wiki entry summary: The repeal of provisions of the Glass--Steagall Act of 1933 by the Gramm--Leach--Bliley Act in 1999 effectively removed the separation that previously existed between investment banking which issued securities and commercial banks which accepted deposits. The deregulation also removed conflict of interest prohibitions between investment bankers serving as officers of commercial banks. Most economists believe this repeal directly contributed to the severity of the Financial crisis of 2007--2011 by allowing Wall Street investment banking firms to gamble with their depositors' money that was held in commercial banks owned or created by the investment firms. Here's detail on repeal in 1999 and how it happened: . 

13. Outlaw flash trading

14. End Gender Discrimination - Equal Pay for Women 

15. Office of the Citizen

16. The United States must sign and ratify all human rights agreements with all other countries


There is a second set of 'demands' listed, via the Huffington Post. This has been compiled by on the street interviews. Its a lot less structured, not surprisingly:

I realize that as a 'movement' - Occupy Wall Street has virtually no structure. Sorry, since there *is* not any structure, no leadership, no agreed to principles - its just a flash mob. No one really should be surprised there is no control, and that things get out of hand. It is more remarkable how little violence there has been, the lack of command and control taken into account.

You Canadians involved with the Occupy Movement!

Read that list again. See anything that even applies to Canada? 

Maybe a couple of the most vague human rights related clauses. Almost all of which are actually ongoing processes already.

Its hardly surprising why most of the rest of us in that '99%' don't understand what this is all about, when the PARTICIPANTS don't even have much of an idea....

(and yes Steve, I know you warned me about political commentaries!)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sauder on SMELTING

Lee working with an Aristotle Furnace - Smeltfest 09
Lee Sauder, with his smelt partner Skip Williams, are in no doubt largely responsible for the current 'Early Iron Iron' movement in North America. Their quick and open friendship and guidance have been of critical importance to my own development and understanding of the Bloomery process.

Lee has recently re-vamped his own web site :

Most importantly, he has made a number of his research articles available as PDF downloads:
(this list copied directly from Lee's site)

Published Articles:
A Practical Treatise on the Smelting and Smithing of Bloomery Iron
This is the paper I wrote for Historical Metallurgy back in 2000, reporting our early work and challenging some of the prevailing notions about bloomery smelting.
Update on "The Practical Treatise"
An excerpt from a paper I expect to be published in the proceedinbgs of the 2010 conference. This summarizes some of the changes in my technique since the above paper.
The Basics of Bloomery Smelting
An introductory paper I wrote for The Anvil’s Ring back in 2000.
Practical Bloomery Smelting
A paper from 2001 for the Materials Research Society. Similar to the HMS paper, but a lot more concise.
Aristotle's Steel
Another paper forthcoming in the HMS 2010 Conference proceedings, describing an easy way to convert iron into steel.
A Journey Into Medieval Ironmaking
Written for the Anvil's Ring in 2010, reporting on my trip to England, and the work inspired by it.
  Shop Reports:
Bloomery Construction
Step by step instructions for building a clay bloomery furnace.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Afghanistan ... and Viet Nam

So now we're getting out of Afghanistan...

 To Hear this Sound Clip

... And now, of course, we're leaving Vietnam... We're leaving through Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. It's the overland route. It's the long way out. Ya gotta go through China and Russia to get out that way. What'll we tell them, man? "We'll only be here six weeks. Just looking for the Ho Chi Minh Trail!" Wow. Maybe they'll buy it, y'know. Of course, you have to remember why we're over there in the first place...
Oh, yeah! It always comes to me. To free those people...
So they can have industry- yeah! US industry- YEAH! Those are the middle two letters of the word 'industry'..US. And that is our job around the world. Run in, free some people and whip a little industry on them. "Here's your industry. Cool it awhile, willya?"
Then you have to have to remember the sexual side of Vietnam which a lot of people don't notice. ...  But they're always afraid of pulling out. That's their big problem, y'know? "Pull out? Doesn't sound manly to me, Bill. I say leave it in there and get the job done!"
'Cause that is, after all, what we're doing to that country, right?

George Carlin

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

                   Afghanistan                               Viet Nam


'begins'        October 7, 2001                       November 1, 1955

'ends'         'Home by year's end' - 2011        August 15, 1973

'duration'    10 1/4 years                              19 1/2 years

troops        131,000 (Coalition total)             536,000 (US)

deaths        2713 (Coalition total)                 58,220 (US)

%               .02 (1 in 48)                             .1 (1 in 9)


'begins'        October 7, 2001                     unofficial

'ends'         'End of  December' - 2011        unofficial

'duration'    10 1/4 years               

troops            3,000                                 '30,000'

deaths            158                                    '117'

%            .05 (1 in 19)                            .004 ( 1 in 256)

Data gathered from Wikipedia, so should be considered 'soft'

I was intending to wax poetic about 'never should have done it'.
But those numbers should depress the hell out of anyone reading them.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Slag Pit Two - Report Ready

Image by Vandy Simpson
The full report, with many images, has been published!

Go to the Wareham Forge Iron Smelting Documentation : Slag Pit 2 - November 5, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

'It came from the PIT'...

November 5, 2011
'Celtic Iron Age' slag pit with Short Shaft Furnace.
Participating: Darrell Markewitz / Neil Peterson / Ian Fleming / Lloyd Johnson

Bloom after sectioning

Total Time : 3 hours 45 minutes (main sequence, not including compaction)
Total Ore : 19.2 kg industrial taconite
Total Charcoal : 45 kg (33 kg graded)

Total Bloom : 6.4 kg (including smaller fragment)
Total Yield : 33 %

I am extremely pleased with the operation of the furnace and the results!

It is clear that the results of the October 9 smelt were entirely due to the poor quality of the ore. With virtually identical layout, this second smelt using the slag pit system produced an excellent return of nicely compacted workable iron. The bloom was virtually slag free when it was extracted, with very little lacy 'mother' attached. Later spark testing indicates the metal has a slight carbon content, a bit less than standard 1018 mild steel (so about 1010 equivellant?)
It should be noted that our normal high volume air  and furnace layout produced the type of dense 'puck' style bloom we normally expect.

Slag block exposed
The slag pit system worked virtually flawlessly, at no point was there any obstruction to the tuyere. As the taconite contains only a small amount of silica, the available slag was also considerably less than last time. Pieces of the clay 'donut' can be seen in the upper area of the pit itself, where they had broken free and sank dowwards as the heavier bloom had developed. Although not entirely clear in this image, the liquid slag hand run down through the central hole and eventually carbonized the supporting sticks.

The furnace itself remains in almost perfect condition! (In fact, the repairs made after the first use proved more durable than the original structure.) With a bit more care taken, the furnace was slid on wooden rails off to one side, then returned to place after the slag block was excavated and the pit re-filled. There is no reason that this furnace, with the original tuyere still in place, could not be used for another smelt.

Excellent work all round!

Thanks to Ian and Lloyd, who provided some much needed fresh hands for the compaction stage.

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

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