Late 14th century daily life has been my primary focus for the past thirty years, though I have produced work from other eras. Production began with armor and includes jewelry making, metal casting, wood work, and more as well as medieval cookery and brewing for my family. Back in the day, I participated in period dance – to the point of dancing in Italy as part of a tour (IKR?) What follows is a portfolio of more recent tangible projects.
I’m really pleased with this one. Every now and then I make a thing and I think that I’ve actually earned my Laurel, and this is one of them.
I’m really just going to tease it here, because I’m hoping to write a fairly long article on the construction of it to publish in Tournaments Illuminated later in the year.
At the recently passed Great Northeastern War in the Province of Malagentia, my friend Otto Gottlieb was elevated to the Order of the Laurel for his prowess in brewing, among other skills. I was asked to (and leapt at the opportunity – he’s a great guy!) make some Ottoboros for use as tokens for him to pass out to his vigil attendees. The Ottoboros is a horn consuming it’s own tail, which is a bit of an engineering feat. The original design is of a drinkning horn, with no hanging loops or banding as in a hunting horn, but I felt that the design ‘read’ better as a horn with those elements added. It also made for convenient cord loops for hanging.
For the sake of the vigil I wound up making 75 to hand out and an additional 20 as bezants to sew to his elevation hood.
This wound up being a dream to pour and a bit of a nightmare to clean up. The sprue comes in from the lower right in the picture, off of the outside of the thickest part of the horn. It’s great for getting metal into the form, but the cleanup was a pain because I had to remove a lot of material and freehand shape the curve of the horn. You can see in the bottom picture the sprues coming off of tops of the pieces.
I had the honor of being featured in the latest Tournamets Illuminated as the author of an article on some of the tokens I’ve made for various events in the recent past.
It was a very fun process, and I hope to have more published in the future, on a variety of topics.
Special shout out to Magister Riordan MacGregor for holding my hand through the process and stitching together the random pieces I threw at him into something that people could enjoy reading!
The Silver Brooch is the ‘entry level’ East Kingdom arts award. One of my lady wife’s apprentices was getting presented with the award, and so I crafted one for her. Despite it’s name, it is not silver but pewter. I wound up making a number of these, one for each of her apprentices and ten for the kingdom coffers.
This was a bastard of a mold, and I am very happy to say that there will be an -extremely- limited number of these. Because of mistakes in the carving and a place where the mold broke, I wound up spending a great deal of time filing, playing ‘find the brooch’ in the gob of pewter.
I was asked to produce the site tokens for the coronation of Ivan and Mathilde. They wanted a ~11th century Rus theme, and their arms. Their arms were easy – his include a scorpion, and hers a rabbit, so that’s sorted. The 11th century Rus part was a bigger ask. I wound up with a single-sided round token with an integral barrel for a hanging cord based on what little I was able to find – 11C and Rus are not areas I know well. Oh, and I put a crown over the top because coronation. Seemed like the thing to do.
As is usual form me, the mold is carved in soapstone. In this case, 300 were cast, plus a few I’ve snuck here or there for people – The event had -way- more attendees than were expected (almost a factor of 2!) so tokens sold out quickly.
A while ago I posted some silly images of my family at Pennsic, goofing about and reenacting a number of famous historical artworks.
Well, you can now buy a calendar.
Yeah, I know. I’m scratching my head on this one too.
For what it’s worth, we get a whole $2 per calendar, which will go to my daughter’s college fund if we ever make enough that it actually pays for the calendar we got for my mother.
It’s a strange feeling knowing that people have your image up on their walls.
My latest laruel wreath was a Christmas present commissioned for the good lady who asked me to participate in the Pennsic A&S warpoint a few years back. I was deeply honored by both the invitation to be an East Kingdom Champion (I still giggle when I say that) and by the commission itself. This is the fourth in the series of wreaths, and I think I have the process down relatively well, but each one brings it’s own challenges.
As with the others, it’s made of brass sheet and wire. I like to make each one a little different, so this one has the leaves all the same size as opposed to having smaller ones in front and larger in back. I really like the look of this – I think the size range of the other wreaths is a little large. The recipient of this is not a large person, and I wanted something somewhat more delicate, so I went with the smallest sized of the leaves.
I began by cutting 32 lengths of 14g brass wire to ~5.5″ (depending on the size of the end leaf). There are eight leaves each top and bottom on both sides. Using a bench mark (literally a mark on the bench) I measured the rough length of the ‘short’ side of the leaf and stem piece, folded it over, clamped it flat with a pair of ViceGrips, and opened it up with flat nosed Jeweler’s pliers. This gave me a nicely pointed leaf shape.
I have a printed template that I did up on the computer as my ideal form, but because it’s a hand made product, there is an organic variation from leaf to leaf which I really like. Very few things in nature are mechanically straight or actually symmetrical, so some casualness in the shaping adds to the look of the final leaf.
I started with one long stem with leaves at both ends. This forms the central spine and sets the size of the final wreath, so while the leaves take up a certain amount of wire each, the length between them varies on a wreath-by-wreath basis.
Once all the leaf loops were formed, I soldered on rough-cut rectangles of sheet brass using jeweler’s solder formulated for brass, and a plumber’s peizoelectric torch with a flexible hose hooked up to a BBQ-sized propane tank. As you can see in the picture below, sometimes the solder blobs across the sufrace of the leaf, which I can remove later in the process. The operative is that there is a good solid join between the wire and the sheet. When everything is polished up, the joint should be invisible.
After soldering, they went into a mild acid bath to remove any remaining flux. Then the sheet was trimmed to match the outline of the wire, and filed so that the solder line was gone. In some cases, I filed through the solder entirely and had to make a new leaf, which is annoying but not tragic. The photo above shows 32 leaves soldered, filed, and bent to lie in place on the central ‘spine’. In the future, I think I’d like to have a ‘softer’ bend where the leaf stem joins the central branch. The hard angle makes it easy to process, but I think looks too angular.
Once I had all the leaves soldered and filed, including the central ‘spine’, I soldered the side leaves to the spine, working from the end toward the middle so that I could control the spacing between any given pair of side leaves. This means that I regulated the spacing as I went and any ‘slop’ wound up center back, which is ok by me. Spacing is more or less set by where the wire is bent up away from the bench in the picture above – that bend touches (or nearly so) the bend where the leaf stem springs away from the central spine.
Working from the ends, I soldered all the leaves on. Then, I went back and clipped the leftover wire to length and, using pliers, folded the leftover together and down to the spine, so that the end of the wire more or less met the Z bend of the next leaf, which matched the bend where the next in line springs from the spine. In this way, any given pair of leaves has ~3/4″ of solder to the side of the spine, then a Z bend, and ~3/4″ of solder to the inside of the spine. This reinforced the spine considerably, but can be somewhat challenging to solder. I laid everything flat onto a soldering block, with stainless steel plates and cracked bits of fire brick covering joins I wanted to preserve, but exposing the area to heat.
Once all the leaves were completely soldered on, I took a length of 1/8″ brazing rod, annealed it, flattened it slightly, trimmed it to length and pointed the ends. This was then soldered down on the outside of the spine both as extra reinforcing and as a means of visually finishing the piece. All of this was done flat on my soldering surface, using heatsinks and bits of firebrick to minimize heating to the leaves, which could cause the solder there to soften and release.
I think in future, I want to lay another pair of leaves center back which, like the central spine, has leaves on both ends. I think that would close up the spacing a little more and make for an all around cleaner solution. I’d also like to try setting the first pair of leaves back a little more from the end ones to make a single leaf over the forehead rather than a trio.
Once everything was soldered down and I had a chance to catch my breath (I enjoy soldering, but it’s high-adrenaline.) I gave the spine an initial curve and started the polishing process. For this I used a Dremel tool with a ~1/8″ diameter bit of wire in it that’s been slit lengthwise for about 1/2″ with a jeweler’s saw. I took pieces of sandpaper ~1/2″ by ~2″, and slid one end into the slit, then curled the remaining sandpaper around so that when the Dremel spun, the sandpaper flapped against the piece. This worked well for polishing, but was pretty destructive to the sandpaper, and flung little bits of sandpaper all over the shop, including in my face. Using this, I started with 220 grit to get off the solder blobs, then 400 to hide the scars from the 220. Once the whole thing had been brought up to 400, I used a blunted chisel and a light hammer, working on a softwood block, to chase in the veining and give the 3D modeling on the leaves. Any weak solder joins will pop in this phase, which can be pretty annoying because there’s no fixing it unless you are willing to re-sand a whole lot of the thing.
After the leaves were all shaped, I went back in with 120 grit and put a final finish on everytihng, then did final shaping on the stems and getting the shape of the spine dialed in. I’m always afraid of work-hardening the wire and cracking off leaves in this step, but everything is pretty well annealed by now and I haven’t lost one yet.