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Upcoming projects:
Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ashokan 2013

The Ashokan Center holds a yearly hammer-in, one of the oldest and best in the country. This was the first hammer-in I have ever been to, and returning this year reminded me how great it really is. Bacon, beards, and brews, not to mention the outstanding lectures and demonstrations by some of the most talented and knowledgeable people in the craft. It is, without exaggeration, one of the best weekends of the year. It was a pleasure to see faces new and old, and swing the hammer once again in good company!

Fires of the first forge lit for the weekend

Inside the inferno
Roman Landes all the way from Germany

Mike Davis and the blade from his forging demo

Ric Furrer preparing a billet for welded inlay
Mike Davis using a tattoo gun for scrimshaw
Unicorn toad scrimshaw

Kevin Cashen and his satirical humour
Chiselled billet for Ric's inlay demo


Friday, September 13, 2013

Armguard Part II

Continuation of this project: Armguard Part I

This has been some time in coming, and has actually been done for about three months now, but I just got the time to process the photos and write the post for it. Without any more introduction, here we go!

While the repousse tools I ordered came through the mail, I started making the leather backing for the brass. It was simple enough, just tracing the metal and then sketching a shape on paper to trace. As you can see, it took a few attempts to get the way I wanted it (and my old nemesis- symmetric).  The underside of the leather does not matter much anyway...

Cut out and ready for the edges to be refined. I used a knife to cut it, so it was not the cleanest. As I work on a quiver now, I have found that a sharp pair of tin snips does a fantastic and clean job for the higher weight leathers.

After I had an idea of how many eyelets I would need, I marked them at an interval which I have since forgotten and used a punch set to prep the holes for the eyelets.

Here is the front of the leather with the brass on top. I will later fasten the metal to leather with home made rivets with washers on the back to keep it from tearing through.

Repousse! I did not have a pitch pot, so I instead used a small cast iron skillet filled with pitch. I ordered my tools from Saign Charlestein opened SC Studios LLC. He was very helpful and understanding of my severe lack of knowledge in this subject and worked with me to create an entry set of tools. I also ordered the California Red Pitch from him, and it worked great.

The first part was to set the piece in the pitch. I heated the pitch rocks in the oven, filling the skillet gradually to avoid trapping too much air inside. When it was all liquid and deairated, I allowed it to cool to room temperature so it could solidify. Then I heated the surface with a torch and gently pushed the metal in until it began to slightly flow over the edges. You need to be careful doing this, as it will quickly spill over the surface you are working.

To remove it, simply heat again and pull out. There will inevitably be pitch left on the metal, but it can be cleaned off with acetone. On to the next side. The way pitch works, you can hammer specific parts without it deforming the entire area around it, allowing you to make detailed designs and textures (which I am a long way from doing).

All I did was help define the lines more clearly and the spaces between them. Nothing fancy.

Now I began marking the holes for the rivets. I used a regular broad headed nail to punch through the brass in pre determined locations. The only problem with this is you will need to de-bur the other side.

To the left of the above picture is a piece of stainless steel rod that I will make the rivets out of. The reason for this as opposed to a regular steel bar is it will be in frequent contact with my arm, and as arms (or any skin for that matter) does when confined to warm, uncirculated places, it sweats. And sweat has the incredible tendency to rust steel almost immediately.

Before I started riveting, I did a few experimentations with patina. I wanted a heavily aged look with higher contrast from the previous image. To do this, I dipped the ends back in the pitch bowl, removed it and wiped it mostly clean, and then burned the remainder of the pitch onto the metal. After that, I used a home made mixture of linseed oil and charcoal ash to darken it, then burnishing it into the metal. After that, I sanded the highlights to produce the above effect.

Here is what it looks like on the leather again. Much better than before (I think).

Compared to the original design. I have also marked and punched the holes for the rivets into the leather.

Sizing the holes and washers. All seems to be going well. This is when I measured how much of the rod I would need for each rivet. As a general rule, I leave the diameter of the rod in length hanging over each side of the thing being riveted. This allows for a proportionate head to be hammered on each side.

The riveting block I made for the folding knife a while back. It is a little worse for wear, but it still works. The proper size hole is filled mostly with a piece of unheaded rod, until the length of the unheaded rivet fits in the block such that the necessary length to head it protrudes from the top. This way, I can hammer a head onto one end while the remainder stays straight and undeformed.

After heading all the rivets, I put them in the brass to see what it looks like. See? it is nice using a nail to punch the holes because it pushes the edges down enough that the head of the rivet sits flat with the piece.

Back to leatherworking. I have no idea what this thing is, but I found it in the workshop and it made a great edge beveler. All I did was sand the bottom side flat and have at it. It cuts a fine ribbon of leather from the corner of the edge, making it nice and round. The sharper the edges at the corner of the fork, the easier it will cut.

Using that same piece of paper that I traced onto the leather, I sketched a simple design to tool into it. I will eventually build a lightbox, as my nemesis Symmetry held me up until I folded it in half and traced it on the window. I also marked the rivet and eyelet holes to avoid running into them.

To tool the leather, I dampened it slightly, allowed to dry until it was nearly its original shade of tan, and then used the repousse tools to press the lines in. At first I hammered, but found that I did not need to and that by simply pressing down firmly and sliding the tool across the line, it created a cleaner, more evenly deepened mark. Also, the friction darkened the recesses a little (a lot).

Silver for the tooling...

...and brown stain for the rest. This complimented the aged feel of the brass, and by covering over the silver and wiping it around a little before it dried made it more random and marbled. also, applying the stain in random patterns helps with the agedness.

After much research and no results, I decided I would make my own sealant. There are many commercial leather sealers out there, but none of them were locally available. Instead of ordering it online, I went the home made route (theme?). In the jar are the following:
-1.5 parts pure beeswax
-1.5 parts paraffin wax
-1 part or thereabouts of olive oil
This mixture, double boiled and homogenized, will protect the leather from moisture and keep it from cracking. And I suppose it smells nice too, if you are into beeswax.

Applying the mixture, after it solidified, was simple enough. All I did was heat the leather with a hair dryer and wipe it on with a paper towel. I found it difficult to use too much, although when you can see the yellow-white colour on the leather you probably reached the threshold.

Leather, brass, and a rivet all together. This was to give me a feel for what it would look like. At this stage, I also used a wheel to clean up the edges of the leather. What you need is something with the convex side of a circle (outside edge) and a U shaped groove along that edge. Think a pulley wheel but smaller. I used a wheel from the K-NEX toys and it did a great job. Dampen the leather slightly (I did this before sealing) and firmly slide the groove of the wheel along the edge of the leather. It makes it nice and smooth and keeps it from pulling and expanding later, not to mention looks much better.

Hammering the first rivet. Note that the washer is on the arm side of the armguard. If you do not use something between the head of the rivet and leather, it will pull through far sooner than you want it to. Especially if you never want it to.

That same rivet hammered down. There is no need to kill it, just enough to make it flat and secure.

All the rivets done. Some of the corners were tricky, as I did not want to damage the brass in the process. Finding a good position to hammer on is more difficult than you think.

The final step is to put in the eyelets. I found these on clearance for $.99 per hundred. They are not essential, but make the armguard look much more finished, not to mention save wear on the leather and the cord running through the holes.

Finished armguard. I hope you enjoyed!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Isarn Project

Some friends and I have been planning a collaborative project for some time now, and it is finally time to put pen to paper and begin the first steps towards a unique journey through cultural history. The idea is to all create pieces of a culture using traditional craftsmanship, starting with a map (that I will draw), and then forge/craft pieces of the heritage relating to that region such as axes, tool chests, locks, knives, etc. I will be doing the maps all by hand with quill and ink on either parchment or hand made paper. Having never mapped with a quill before, I thought I would take the time to practise before doing anything really time consuming and meant for distribution. Although the ink I used was supposed to be waterproof, it was not, so the sealing of the paper resulted in quite a bit of smearing, so I will be getting a different type next time.

This began, as I usually do, with a general, low detail pencil drawing to work out what it will look like and make any small adjustments before using the ink.

The elder futhark runes simply read 'Isarn Project' spelled phonetically, as would have been done back in that Age.

Being left handed makes me take much more caution and consideration to what I am doing, an more than once I lost sight of how long it takes ink to dry. Fortunately, the smudges were in places where I could mostly hide them behind fresh ink.

The level of detail possible with a quill is astounding, although it is difficult at times to prevent lines from bleeding together or drawing excess ink out through surface tension.

My goal with this piece was not necessarily to make a map, but to survey all the different elements I use in cartography and see the differences between the techniques I used in the past and how they changed with a quill in hand.

Because it takes so long for the ink to dry and I do not have a sand jar (yet), I had to draw this over the course of several days, taking sections at a time and working right to left so as to avoid destroying everything I just drew.

Some things, like mountains and the shoreline are easier with a quill, while others, like forests and cities/buildings are far more difficult. This has certainly been a learning process, there is no doubt about that.

Contrary to most popular literature, there is a very low risk of errant droplets or splatters landing on the paper. Perhaps with a cut feather quill it would be different, but this steel nib from Italy when my folks travelled there a few months back is very clean and smooth.

In the trees is where the lines were most likely to bleed together. When dipping the quill back into the ink, the first few strokes are much thicker, and as a result the tiny circle tree shapes close into black dots unless extreme care is taken to avoid drawing lines next to each other for a few seconds.

And finally the finished piece. This is before the paper was sealed. Nothing spectacular, but an eye opening experience.

Despite the claims that this ink was waterproof and permanent, it was obviously not. Most notably along the left coastline and trees, the ink began to bleed and smear. It is, unfortunately, one of those learning points that comes when it is too late to do anything about it. I will be replacing my generic ink that I found in the attic a few months back with India ink, which I trust well above this to perform and dry permanently.