Saturday, December 24, 2016

Yule gift.

I finally have some time to show off the Yule gift my beautiful wife gave me ... a gorgeous piece of hand-blown glass ... I love it.
... now to plan a window around this beauty.
Thank you, my darling ... I love you with all my heart.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Yule blessing.

Today is the longest night ... today is the first day of winter, when the world is at its coldest and the land goes into a long sleep ... but the Wheel keeps turning. I don't think anyone would disagree that this has been a hard, and at times bitter year ... I know for me and mine, we have suffered many loses of family and loved ones, as have many others ... I know many are dealing with watching their loved ones battle disease and old age and their own inner darkness ... we have suffered loss, and we have suffered hurt ... but the Wheel keeps turning. But in this darkness, we also rejoice with the promise of new life ... children not yet born ... hopes rekindled for a brighter tomorrow ... and friends and family still with us - in our lives and in our hearts ... for the Wheel keeps turning.
So I wish for you a most Blessed Jul, my dears ... for while this night is long and the wind blows cold ... Spring is coming.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nobless Largess

Well now that the gift has been delivered and received, I can show you what's come off my glass bench lately. The person the gift was for has recently taken up bee keeping and is a medieval re-enactor in the SCA, like me ... so I felt a medieval skep (that is what the straw bee hive was called) would be a good motif for this panel.  I'm pretty proud of this one because it is an original design I created and executed myself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

New shed ... New shop

Ladies and gentlefolk ... I would like to present the new home of the Oak and Hammer Forge ... ☺ ... 
I'm still in complete shock that it is finally here after 13 years of planning and saving.
I have so many people to thank in making this possible ...
Canadian Heritage Sheds (the builders), Stoney Creek Concrete (they were awesome), Michael Stewart (contractor friend who spearheaded tearing down the old shed and the pouring of the concrete pad), a long list of awesome friends (who helped through various stages) and most important of all, my best friend and the love of my life Leslie ... who I love with all my heart and who made all this possible.
There is still a lot of work to be done on the inside ... but that is winter work. Tomorrow is the final inspection!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Viking pot.

It's been a while since I last blogged (... can blog be used as a verb???). The usual depression blahs have taken hold ... but we ever struggle on  and the fight is day by day (... by day ... by day ... by day ... etc.) 
Life has been all kinds of things ... difficult ... stressful ... frustrating ... exhausting ... (you get the picture) ... :(
But some EXCITING stuff has been happening too ... and though it has been adding to the tiredness and stress, it's the "good" kind that I don't mind so much.


Now some of you may be asking yourself ... "Is that a real ugly helmet?" ...
Others may be asking ... "Is that a real ugly planter?"  ...
But to the educated Norse re-enactor, they will be saying, "No, it a real ugly DaLarna-stytle cooking pot! ... and they would be RIGHT!
I was fortunate to get invited to go down to Pennsylvania and visit with my new friends Stevan and Marci Waleff and participate in a weekend cauldron making class.  In two days Stevan taught me (and a few others) how to shape 3 flat plates of steel into a "replica" of a Norse period 4L cooking pot.  It's not quite finished yet - I had to leave early to make it back home in time to get ready to return to the classroom on the following Monday - the handle and hangers still need to be formed and attached but I think I can handle that on my own (... see what I did there? :) ) 
I know it's not that pretty ... and there are LOTS of mistakes in it ... but I think I've figured out where I went wrong and look forward to making more of these.  I came out of the workshop with one (almost) complete pot and templates to make more 2L, 4L and 6L DaLarna cooking pots. Stevan is talking about a spring workshop to make Oseberg cauldrons ... I really want to take this one too ... I hope I can fit the time in. 
... huh ... pots ... who knew?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Norse projects

Despite the heat of the last few weeks, I've still been able to find some time to work at my jewelry bench.  I love having time to indulge my "make stuff" side - I got to expand existing skills and develop some new ones.
I made a trichinolpoly necklace in sterling silver (single-5 weave), more bone and bronze Norse needle cases, more bronze needles, lots of bronze chain and my first attempt at antler Norse combs. 
I enjoyed making the combs - I've been working up to trying this for some time now ... today seemed as good a time as any. I look forward to making more of these and other styles of combs as well.
YAY Making Stuff!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Had a good day today - but, of course, I think any day spent in a forge is a good day. This all started last fall when I got a most interesting email. My blacksmith association (OABA) sent out an email with a link about an amazing event that was going to happen in the fall of 2016 ... the link is . 
2016 is the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Ypres and to commemorate it, blacksmiths from around Europe and Canada are going to construct a cenotaph IN Ypres, Belgium. Well, I can't afford to go to Belgium (and the event is happening during school-time) ... but the interesting part was that the event organizers put a call out to all smiths to contribute steel poppies to the project - they need 2016 poppies! - they even provided a template to cut out the blanks and instructional videos in how to forge them into shape.
A friend of mine, Darrell Markewitz ( set up a forging day at his shop today and he, myself and another friend Neil were able to cut out and forge 5 poppies (cutting them out of the 1/8" steel plate and grinding them to shape was the hardest part). I forged out 2 poppies - my arm is a bit sore, but I had a great time working at the anvil. 
We'll have no way of knowing if our flowers will be used in the project,  but just participating in a project like this was a great experience.
My two poppies I forged today - the right one still needs to be drilled. I learned a lot about texturing today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Finished leaded glass panel.

So tonight was the last night of my leaded stained-glass class. The task tonight was cementing/grouting of our windows.  Originally, this step weather sealed the window since they didn't use triple-paned windows in the past.  By filling in the gaps between the lead came and the glass, this also firms up the whole window and stills any rattling of loose glass - the transformation is amazing ... the window feels so much more solid after grouting.
I'm so happy with my finished window, but I'm also sad the class is over ... I really looked forward to it every Wednesday night for the last month.  But I now have more skills than I started with and I look forward to designing the window and door panels I've been thinking about these last 12 years (ever since we moved in).

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mask making.

 So, it's mask making time again in my classroom.  This year I decided to go with plastic mask shells - I figured this group of students would have too many problems making a curved mask shell from flat cardboard.  Problem was that plastic masks are WAY more expensive than cardboard, so I decided to double my investment and use the mask shaped blister-pack as well.  So like last year's mask project, it starts with taping and building 6 layers of paper-mache (3 on the outside and 3 on the inside and wrapping around all the mask edges).  This is what it looks like ...

 So ... like last year I decided to go with a Commedia dell-Arte mask - this time I made an actual character mask instead of copying the "style".  This year I chose to make a mask for the character Arlecchino ... the servant, most known for having a wart on his head.  I find I really enjoy making masks and this one has been a lot of fun.
Here is how it looks so far ...  I'll make another post when it's had it's top layers of paper mache and when it is painted.

Leaded glass panel ... joints done.

So, last week I finished soldering all the lead joints ... this is my project window - first time in the light.  This week will be cementing (grouting) the window and finishing.  I'm so glad I took this class ... I have SOOO many future glass projects floating in my head now ... this is going to be expensive ... but fun ... :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Leaded glass panel ... in progress.

I started a 5 week class on lead-came stained glass technique.  I've wanted to learn this technique for years and I finally found the time to do it.  Tomorrow is class # 3 (week 3) and things are starting to shape up.  I've already bought my own lead knife and lead cutters (they're called dykes - I'm not making this up) ... yup ... already buying my own tools? ... you bet I'm hooked.  We had to choose between 2 window patterns ... I chose the larger one (19"x13") ... here is a photo of my progress so far ... I'm loving this. 
I'll post photos when it's done.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wire weaving.

Lately I've been exploring a style of wire weaving called "trichinopoly" - it is a style largely associated with the vikings ... examples have been found in a few grave sites, sometimes attached to fragments of clothing as trim.  The weaving creates a really nice wire "chord" that can be used as jewelry and different weaves create chords of different stiffness.  

I'm practicing with beading wire and copper wire around 24ga - silver and bronze wire is too pretty and costly to be "learning" on. I'm starting to get the hang of it - weaves are usually described as single-loop, double-loop or triple-loop and can differ in the number of "ribs" or columns of loops - from four and up - I've been practicing with 4-rib and 6-rib patterns, though I've started experimenting with a 5-rib weave.  

Once the weave is complete, it is drawn through a drawplate with different size holes to draw the chord thinner and tighten up the weave.  It's been fun ... I think I'll be starting a necklace in silver wire soon ... I also think I need to order some more bronze wire in 24ga and 26ga.  I'm liking this addition to my metalwork skill-set.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Making needles.

Saturday was spent working in the basement ... a bit more cleaning ... and then something new ... period hammered sewing needles. I have a source on Anglo Saxon iron needles ... it presents the idea that iron needles in period were possibly hammered from long thin tapered strips and not formed by drawn wire. Iron's properties (especially period style bloomery iron) did not lend themselves to being drawn out into wire as easily and consistently as copper, bronze and other non-ferrous metals. So in analyzing the tool and needle finds at sites like York, my source presents the case for hammered needles ... so I thought I would try it ... however I tried it with sheet bronze because I don't readily have any sheet iron handy (future attempts will be made with sheet mild steel which
I think will be the closest I will get to sheet iron ... unless I pound the iron sheets myself ... which may also happen in future projects)
So first came the making of the tools ... I repurposed my old stump anvil into my needle anvil and I used a piece of antler to make a "pinner's bone" - the anvil and pinner's bone both have grooves in them to hold the needle straight as you shape it.
I then needed to make a piercing chisel to punch the eye and a round and square reamer to finish shaping the eye. I still don't have access to my smithing equipment, so I improvised by using large framing nails, my grinder and a propane torch to fashion these tools - the reamers have reindeer antler
handles. The last thing I needed was a lead backing-block to pierce the needle eye on and a grindstone to do the final shaping (both of which I happened to have in my collection of stuff).
The first 2 pictures show the finished bronze hammered needle on the lead block and the remainder of the tapered strip it was hammered from (ready for the next needle). I was really amazed at how well it turned out (I've been wanting to make Leslie period hammered needles for a while) and I'm excited to make more bronze needles as well as iron/mild steel needles and maybe even some silver needles (for that extra special touch) ... I have decided that all my needles will be hammered - everyone else makes bronze/copper wire needles
- I want to be different ... I'm glad Leslie likes her new needle ...


I've been trying to organize my basement workspace ... I call it basement tetris - it's a game crafters play where we move stuff around in the basement to try and convince ourselves we have more space ... it's not as fun as it sounds.
I finally got around to organizing my sheet metal stakes.  They're going to need a lot of TLC - they've rusted over the years in the basement - but now they are better organized. 
The basement adventures continue ...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Norse needle cases.

It's been a while since I've posted last ... been dealing with a lot of stuff (including a family crisis), but I'm glad to find some time to get back to the work bench.
This is my latest project ... a Norse Needle-Case.  It would hang from a woman's brooch and/or chatelaine, along with some other personal tools like a pair of snips, a pair of tweezers, a comb, etc. 
This needle-case is made of bone (goose wing-bone) caged in hand-stamped bronze bands.  The chain is double-link bronze and the loops are bronze as well. I made this as a Valentine's gift for my wife.

I also got a chance to play with my mini-torch set up for oxy-propane ... I loved it.  It feels great to see my home bench become a little bit more complete.  Next on the To-Do list is to mount the rolling mill my wife got me for Christmas last year.  Today was a good day.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Soldering station.

Had a good day today.
I installed the fume (stove) hood over my soldering bench - wired it up so that it is a plug in instead of hard wiring it to the house circuit. Turned out pretty good ... now I have a direct overhead light, a fan to evacuate fumes ... all I have left to do is vent it and hook up the duct work to the dryer vent.  Not bad for a free hood.
I like productive days.

Deck the halls ...

Well the tail-end of 2015 wasn't quite as productive as I had hoped for.  This was this year's batch of gift ornaments - holly.  I only got 7 made before the holidays (much less than usual).  I really enjoyed getting back into the glass, but my depression was particularly tough this time around.  I didn't get started until much later than I intended, and then lost steam after these seven, despite grand plans of making more and doing more work on last year's nativity project ... I still haven't decided what I'm going to do with it when it's done.

The first few days of 2016 have started with a bit more promise.  I spent yesterday in the basement doing what I call "clutter control" ... you know ... moving stuff around to fool yourself into believing you can find more useful space ... I didn't start up any new projects, but I did do some work space improvement.  I finally put some new jewelry tools and bronze wires I ordered in November away, and I've finally begun wiring an old stove hood a friend of mine gave me. I'm going to mount it as a fume hood for my soldering table and vent it out the clothes-dryer vent ... I've been planning to do this for over a year and finally getting to DOING it makes me hopeful I can get more motivated this year ... but the trick is staying motivated ...

A new year, new opportunities and new challenges lie ahead ... the road is long, but I will walk it best I can.