Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I had a great day yesterday!Took a day off work for a 5 minute doctor's appointment (... who knew???). Slept in for an extra 3 HOURS!!! (got up at 7:00am). Had lots of great coffee and I spent 7 hours at my jewelry bench making stuff while watching the BBC Wartime Farm series.
I'm really loving working in bronze. I completed 3 arm bands and a set of wicklebander hooks. My back was stiff and my bum was sore ... again ... (... I REALLY need to get that padded seat) ... but I just felt so ... CONTENT ... and ... COMPLETE... I've needed a day like that for a long time.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I know it's been a while since my last blog and stuff has been happening, but a combination of back-to-school craziness, insanely busy calendar and falling into a bit of a rut has sort of stalled the creativeness lately.

At the end of August, Leslie and I went to Minneapolis to attend an SCA event called the Known World Metal and Glass Symposium. My one of my best and dearest friends in the SCA, Daniel, and his wife Katherine were running the event, so we went over early and tried to help out where we could. The event was hot, humid and really fun. I got to hang out with great friends, make new friends and surround myself with metal-goodness for several days. It was also exhausting. Got home, 10 hours before I had to get up and head back to the classroom for the first-day back to school ... argh.

Aside from general business, we also had to deal with our van breaking down - which prevented me from bringing my forge to a really cool viking event we have every 2 years called the Althing (even though some incredibly generous and dear friends offered to transport the forge for me - unfortunately my pride is too stubborn). We still day-tripped the event but it just wasn't the same. While looking for another used van, we've decided to instead sink the money back into our van and try to get another 5 years out of her - give us time to same up more. So hopefully we'll be back out to events in the spring with the forge in tow.

I think the hardest thing I've been having to deal with is that my dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Aside from having to come to terms with the possibility of losing my dad before I lose my dad - I find myself terrified I may have it when I get older too. 

So ... this rut has become rather deep - I need to dig out of it and get back to my work-benches ... I have jewelry and stained glass to make ... the sooner I start, the better. I'm sponsoring 3 people in the upcoming Queen's Prize Tourney ... I'm hoping that will help get me off my arse and stop wallowing in self-doubt.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Greetings all.
I'd like you to meet Fingal - I've started a mentoring relationship with him in blacksmithing over this past year. Truth be told, I haven't been able to do much work with him so far - he lives in Acton and I live in Hamilton and I don't have a home shop setup yet, so the only time we have had to work together is at SCA camping events when I bring my travel forge. But I try to support his interest in smithing the best I can until I'm able to do more. We just finished a 3-day get together to sort of hang out and talk about smithing plans.
My prime motive for our get together was to give Fin his birthday/Yule/graduation present for last year ... my old riveter's forge. I bought it at an auction 8 years ago but never got around to using it once I made my SCA travel forge. It definitely needed some work ... the pan had a few holes rusted through it but the blower was in good shape and over all the forge still had some good bones to her. So we took it apart, cleaned and wire brushed the pan and fashioned a sheet steel patch for the area with the holes. We replaced the worn and rusted bolts and bolted the whole forge back together - good as new.The last thing we did was give the pan a good lining with furnace cement.

I figure, since I don't have the facilities to work with Fin on a more regular basis, I want to be able to get him started exploring some of the skills we have worked on at SCA events - and I think a forge is a good place to start. We met up with his mom at Ikea on Wednesday afternoon and I gave her her boy back along with his new forge. I also gave Fin this year's early Yule gift ... my copy of Lorelei Sims' The Backyard Blacksmith and a hammer I picked up for him at Pennsic ... I know ... I can't help myself.  It was a good visit.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Last Saturday, my wife and I got back from our yearly 2-week vacation to Pennsic. My SCA friends will know what Pennsic is - for everyone else, Pennsic is an annual 2 week SCA camping event held in Slippery Rock Pennsylvania that brings over 10,000 SCA members from around the world together onto a campground called Cooper's Lake. For 2 weeks, a medieval city materializes complete with markets, a university, walled encampments and a host of martial and battle fields - it's pure magic. 
In the past, Pennsic meant for me nights of wandering from camp to camp, singing songs, telling stories, watching the belly dancers and fire dancers and getting pissed drunk with my friends. Now Pennsic means spending everyday in front of a blazing forge, blacksmithing everyday for 2 solid weeks (except for one day I take off to be with my wife on our anniversary). At night, I come home to our camp tired and sore ... and happy ... and spend my nights with my beautiful wife. We still visit friends in other camps sometimes, but my days of drinking and partying are long past. We're often quite happy to be in bed by 11:00. 
Pennsic has become my creative pilgrimage instead of my booze-soaked playground. I spend my days smithing with good friends, creating beautiful and useful things with steel and hammer and fire - and my beautiful wife is happy to let me play, even though I don't spend nearly enough time with her during the days as I should (... I know, I am very blessed). 
Pennsic has become a time of contentment instead of craziness. Maybe it means I'm getting old ... but I'm okay with that ... so long as I have my beautiful girl to grow old with me ... I'm okay with that.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

First weekend of my summer vacation has been a busy one. Just finished polishing a special order of armbands - 6 bronze and 4 brass. I still have to do the final bending but it was easier to photograph the different patterns while they were still flat. Each armband took around a hour to make - from cutting the sheet-stock to the final polish ... my poor arse is killing me ... (mental note: I need to get a padded stool :).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Today ...
Today, and everyday I am grateful for waking up each morning beside the most beautiful and incredible woman I have ever met. I am grateful that she is my lover, my very best friend, my confidant, my rock, but most importantly... she is my wife. She lets me fly as high as I can dare to dream, but keeps me anchored in the here-and-now. She gives me strength when all I want to do is curl up and quit.
Today, and everyday I am grateful for dear friends who have been my teachers, accomplices, kindred spirits, colleagues and counselors.
Today, and EVERYDAY I am grateful that I have people who believe in me. With that there is nothing I can't do ... just watch me. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

 I finished my mask the other day. I like the way it turned out. After a bit more research I found out that Comedia dell'Arte is actually a set of specific characters and not just a style of mask and theater as I had originally thought. So I would have to say that my mask is "inspired" by Comedia dell'Arte rather than a proper Cd'A mask. I still like the way it turned out. I'm definitely going to do this activity with future classes - the kids liked making masks and they turned out pretty awesome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Something new ... sort'a ...
Lately I've been playing around with paper mache in my grade 5/6 classroom. I've done paper mache before with my grade 5 classes - in the past we made canopic jars in our Egypt unit for social studies. That was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed themselves (though it took weeks to complete the project). I don't go for the "traditional" paper mache flour-and-water paste - I cheat and use white glue watered down (it's easier and the results are great). Those jars created a huge mess every day we worked on them because I went with the dunk-and-squeegee method with the newspaper strips - the kids got glue EVERYWHERE. This time I learned. We're using the brush-and-patch method. It's just like decoupage except we're using small patches of overlapping newspaper instead of strips and we use paint brushes to soak the patches with glue and push and smooth them into place - It is MUCH neater and we don't waste as much paste as the other times.

This time we're making masks as 3-D sculpture for art class. This has definitely moved the kids out of their comfort-zone of simple 2-D drawings and cut-and-paste activities. I've been having a hoot with this and decided to try and really expand my kids' imagination; so I introduced them to some of the more fanciful examples of masks like Venetian carnival masks, and Mardi Gras masks and Comedia dell'Arte masks and Steampunk masks. That really got their attention.

For my ongoing example to demonstrate the process, I chose to try and make a Comedia dell'Arte mask - I've never made one before or any paper mache project with this level of sculptural detail.

We started with a paper template that was transferred to a piece of regular cardboard. By using relief cuts, and crushing the corrugation inside the cardboard and A LOT of masking tape to hold things in shape, I showed the kids how to transform a 2-D sheet of cardboard into curved 3-D mask shell. Once that was given a layer of masking tape, it was then given 3 layers of paper mache to make a strong and rigid foundation to build the 3-D sculpture of the mask.

For my mask, I demonstrated how using crumpled up newspaper, lots of tape and a little imagination, a person could sculpt anything they wanted. The kids were amazed as the nose, nostrils, cheeks, jowls, forehead and wrinkles took shape (... personally, so was I). For their masks, I also allowed the kids to use found or re-purposed objects as details for their masks. Some are struggling with it - others are really enjoying it (like me).

 After all the 3-D details are sculpted, the whole mask gets 2 layers of newspaper and a final top layer of brown paper towel to cover up all the ink colours and give an interesting texture to the mask. The final step is painting ... I'll post the results when I'm done.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Busy Long Weekend

This has proved to be a very productive long weekend. I was finally able to get my work-space for making silver jewelry organized. It's only a small corner in my basement, right next to my stained glass bench, but for what I do, it suits my purposes just fine.

It took me hours of moving stuff around and organizing the rest of the basement so that I could dig out the corner I needed. It's turned out pretty nice ... I have my home-made jeweler's bench, a storage cabinet underneath, my flex-shaft, all my tools nice and organized, I even set my my old netbook computer so I can look up stuff or watch Netflix while I work. I have to say I'm pretty pleased with myself.

So naturally I had to dive into some silver projects I'd been meaning to get around to. I had to scrounge together some silver scraps from past projects, so that meant I even got to use the rolling mill my wife bought me for christmas.
(... reminds me ... I have to figure out a way to bolt that thing down)

I started my projects late Saturday afternoon and took Sunday off to be with my mom and dad for Easter. So finally, by 3:00 this afternoon I had finished 4 silver viking armrings and 1 hesselberg amulet. I think they turned out pretty well. 

That's one more project space organized ... still to do;the blacksmith shop and a small wood shop space.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

 Woodworking Class 2

Today was the 2nd woodworking class we had signed up for at Shaker Roads. We had a fabulous day. This class was much more involved than the step stool class. Today we were taught how to take a rough board of cherry and flatten it and trim it into a beautiful board of furniture grade wood. We were taught how to correctly use a jointer to flatten one side of a board with some twist in it, then true it up through a thickness planer, true up edges on the jointer for the top, cut tapers on a table saw, cut tenons on the table saw and band saw, glue up the table top ... all hands on from board to table and we got to use all the toys.

I have always been a huge fan of shaker furniture but I never imagined I would one day make my own shaker table ... and they turned out beautifully if I do say so myself. As much as iron has become my main passion over the years, I think wood will always have a special place in my heart. A huge thank you to Maurice at Shaker Roads for a great learning experience and some beautiful furniture that my wife and I will be proud of for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

 A Great Woodworking Class With My Girl.
I had a great day today. My wife Leslie had one of her 
BRILLIANT ideas back before the holidays and signed us up for a Shaker woodworking class at a small woodshop called Shaker Roads (around the Ancaster area near Hamilton- they have a website). 
Their intro class was making a Shaker Step Stool. Since it was an intro class, the focus was about shop orientation, using simple power power and hand tools, assembly and simple finish. So we were not ripping and gluing up boards in this class - all the component pieces were prepped, cut and ready for us but we had to do final adjustments, and fitting together along with all the other assembly steps. Although the instructor Maurice and his friend Joe did do a demonstration of how to take a piece of cupped and twisted common grade board of cherry and cut it, flatten it, plane it, and true it up into a beautiful board of furniture grade wood.
The class was all day (8:00am to 4:00pm) and included a simple lunch of fresh made sandwiches on homebaked rustic bread, homemade pickles, good coffee and homebaked ginger cookies - it was yummy. Maurice and Joe demonstrated excellent simple shop techniques and explained things in a very understandable way. I'm no stranger around a woodshop (and it was great fun to play in someone else's toy box, especially someone who had way better toys that I have) but Maurice did an excellent job of de-mystifying the whole process, so everyone felt confident about what they were doing regardless of their skill level, and went home with beautiful hand made shaker step stools they could be proud of. 
These are the photos of the ones Lelsie and I made today and it was great fun, but it did remind me of how long its been since I put a full day in a shop on my feet all day on concrete (my back is as stiff as the boards we were using). It also reminded me of how much I miss the smell of fresh saw dust.
Lelsie and I are signed up for the second class as well where we will be truing up our own boards and making a small cherry side table from start to finish. 

I am very much looking forward to that.

I'm lucky I have such a brilliant wife.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I've got 100 people following my blog ... when the hell did that happen ?!?!?!?

I'm not sure if that is awesome ... or really scary ...

... all right ... if you folks are sure ... but I ain't promising anything ...

... 100? ... really? ... cool ...
On winter days like this, when I look out my classroom window and there is a thick blanket of snow covering everything for as far as the eye can see - I can't help but sit back in my chair, wrap my hands around a nice hot cup of coffee and think to myself ....
... Stupid Groundhog ...

Monday, February 16, 2015

... Rant Warning ... I HATE FACEBOOK!!!

This is what I get for trying to be clever!!! I came up with the BRILLIANT idea of setting up a facebook account for my officer position in the SCA as the Minister for Arts and Sciences for our Barony (SCA'ers will understand what I am talking about). My intentions were good ... really they were ... I thought since everyone and their dog/cat were on facebook that this would be an easy way to maintain the class / workshop calendar for the Barony, to promote discussion and sharing of A&S topics and classes, set up albums of projects, track A&S in the barony for reporting - AND - have it all in a neat package to pass it on to whoever took over after me ... sounds reasonable, doesn't it???
I have been on facebook for less than a day and I already HATE it. This whole process would have been so much easier and neater on Google+ but it isn't as widely used as facebook ... grrrr ....
Why didn't I keep my big mouth shut ... ???
Hopefully I'll get some experienced guidance from more seasoned facebook-users in our Barony to help me sort out this schlamazel.
... did I mention how much I hate facebook? ... grrr ...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Problems with Salt.

No, not health problems ... PHYSICS problems.
Well, this is a new one for me ... but at the same time it just fascinates the science teacher in me to no end. Here is the story - several years ago some dear friends of ours have me this beautiful salt and pepper set as a gift (either Christmas or birthday - I forget which). This set has happily sat on our side-board ever since and Leslie and I kept only our favourite sea salt in it. Well tonight when I went to use the salt shaker during dinner, this is what I found.

The sea salt had absorbed enough moisture in the air that it had caused it to swell enough to crack the body of the salt shaker all around the bottom plug. Likely these were micro fractures that formed in the shaping of the cups - the set looks like it is pewter. They were completely invisible until the expanding salt forced them open.

I`m rather disappointed that my favoutite salt shaker is now severely damaged ... but the science teacher in me keeps saying, "... THAT`S SO COOL ...", a bit of a dilemma. Oh well - live and learn.

So, from now on, all salt shakes in our house will have iodized salt mixed with raw rice to deal with clumping and expanding caused by moisture ...

... who knew ...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

More Morris Stuff.
A friend of mine created this YouTube video years ago and I completely forgot about until another friend re-posted it on Google+. It is BRILLIANT - and loads of fun so I just had to post it here for my blog. I have to say that I think joining this Morris tradition has been one of the best things I have ever done. I love the people I have met along the way - Leslie and I have been blessed with incredibly talented and wonderful additions to our extended family. Enjoy the video - I've re-watched it at least 8 times this past week - still love it.
Some Morris fun!!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

I don't know what it is lately but I've been totally consumed and fascinated with two completely different and radical building concepts that seem to be really taking off - the Tiny House movement and Shipping Container Architecture. As it turns out they're not really that new, they have both been around for a while but they have really been getting more popular in the last few years.

For me it started with the Netflix documentary "Tiny", which was all about the tiny house movement and chronicles a young 20-something building his own tiny house. If you haven't seen it, find it and watch it - it's worth seeing (or look up some videos on YouTube). It totally hooked me and has been playing with my brain for the last year. I've even started following some tiny house blogs (check out my blog list, down there on the right) and 2 Google+ communities.
I've included some random internet pictures of tiny houses (outside and in, though not of the same houses) to give you an idea of what a tiny house could become. My SCA friends may think to themselves "those are just like the Pennsic trailer houses ...". But they're not ... these are not just thin plywood shells-over-frames like the Pennsic houses - these are fully insulated, actual all-season homes with all the amenities ... just on a scale of under 300sqft.
Now I'm not delusional enough to think about giving up all my stuff and going to live in a tiny house - I'm a BIG guy and I LOVE all my tools and stuff, so I'm quite happy with the house I'm in. But I'm totally in love with an idea of having a tiny house as a cabin or cottage by a lake. I'm even more in love with the idea of pitching in together with some friends, buying some acres of bush and setting up our own tiny house/cottage summer-commune ... that would be something.

Storage container architecture has also been on my mind lately. The building designs are too modern/cubist/contemporary for my tastes, but I've been toying with the idea of a 20' storage container blacksmith shop ... this has potential that merits some more thought ... this could be fun ( ... if Leslie doesn't kill me first).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Okay ... well, this post may not quite follow the intent of this blog (... reflections on a journey of creativity, blah, blah, blah ...), but as with any blog, your going to get the occasional rant or "WTF?!?!" post. So here it is ...
I was on the train coming home tonight ... okay, first some back story. I'm one of those nut-jobs that takes public-transit to and from work - from Hamilton to Toronto - everyday (well for the majority of the way). I drive 15 minutes to the train station at Aldershot and then I catch one train, one subway and one bus (... cue the George Thorogood ...) right to the front drive of my school - everyday (... it's actually kinda sweet ...).
Tonight, coming home, there was a switch problem which delayed all the west-bound trains for around 50 minutes. Now, I'm sitting in the train and I'm surrounded by people griping, complaining, making snide comments about the train service to people on the phone, and I'm thinking to myself, "you gotta be kidding." I've been in worse traffic jams than this when I used to drive the way into and out of Toronto (for over 12 years). I've sat in traffic for over 4 hours during snow storms .. but now that I'm taking public transit ... someone else gets to do the driving.
So we were stuck for a while ... so what? If my legs got tired, I could get up and walk around, or I could read a book, or eat a snack, or do a crossword puzzle, or talk on the phone, or even take a nap ... and I would still get to where I was going.
I just didn't get what all the vitriol was about. I was still going to get home, and I would not be homicidal because of a stressful drive home. Why didn't anyone else see it? So I had to spend my time listening to others stressing out over something that was completely out of their, or the train company's control. I just didn't get it.
Oh well ... just another day at the rat-race. But I gotta tell ya' ... I'm one tired rat. Some days, I just want to get off this running-wheel and start to live my life the way I truly want. I'm going to be 44 this year ... and I can't wait to retire ... how sad is that?
Oh well, I think I'm going to go to bed ... maybe the race will look better tomorrow.
-a tired rat.

This Saturday is a very special event that I look forward to every year. It is the Annual Apple Tree Wassail at the home of some of my dearest friends - David and Mary Clarke, in Hockley Valley. This year will be the 14th annual wassail. It will be an evening of Morris dancing, music, laughter, shenanigans, good food, good drink, and the finest company you could imagine - I can't wait. Saturday is the only thing getting me through this week.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

WOW ... I never knew how satisfying blogging could be - I should have done this a long time ago.

I'm also really enjoying the Google+ network - I've enjoyed building up my profile and exploring the thousands of communities on Google. I have already found a dozen different communities that interest me and I've even started my own community. It's a community for Morris Dancing - it's called Canadian Morris Dancers and Friends.

My wife Leslie and I have been doing Morris dancing for several years now. I don't dance but I do play drum for the Morris dancing group we belong to in Hamilton called Cold Barn Morris. Our group and the Google+ community I created is open to anyone who is interested or curious to find out more about Morris dancing - so feel free to check us out.

Here is a link to a YouTube video so you can see what Morris dancing is all about - it's really a lot of fun (... and a great workout).
This is our group dancing a dance called 2-stick Idiot during May Day in 2013

 And if you don't dance (like me), we always welcome new musicians as well - whether you play fiddle, concertina (or any squeeze-box), penny whistle, mandolin, banjo, ANYTHING ... we've even got a bassoon player (... Hi Duffy!!! ...). I play bass drum - this is a picture of my drum (... Thumper ...) ... and my hat.

So this is the Morris-side about me not many people know about - I guess this counts as part of the creative journey.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Well, not much crafting going on (too busy with school work) but I have added a bunch of links to some of my favourite videos about blacksmithing and other crafts, so check them out and enjoy.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Well New Year has come and gone. It's been a busy few days and school starts up again on Monday (... yay ...). This was a great winter break and I got a lot of stuff done around the house - I also finally got around to start up this blog, so it was definitely a productive break. But as teaching careers usually do, it will once again put a serious cramp in my "play-time", so there may be larger gaps between postings. However I do plan to keep up this blog - I did a lot of hedging before I started it up and I don't want to loose that momentum.
It will soon be time for bed ... tomorrow I plan on making a big batch of Three Sister Soup to freeze and maybe do some tidying up around my jewelry bench. Also looking forward to some good friends coming over for a visit - a nice way to end a good two-week break before heading back into the rat-race (... only 16 more years to retirement ... I can't wait ...).
I hope everyone has a prosperous and happy New Year ... I think we deserve it.