[Ansteorra] Period containers; Also: pyromania

Dr. C. M. Helm-Clark Ph.D. cat at rocks4brains.com
Fri Mar 28 20:03:11 PDT 2008

> One of the best compromises between a period-looking drinking 
> container and convenience that I've seen is a leather jack with a 
> wooden or leather base that has a plastic insert with a curled lip to 
> keep the jack clean.  The insert can be put in the dishwasher and the 
> black insert is relatively hidden.  I forget who makes these but I 
> can check when I get home tonight.

Yes, those _ARE_ nice...but (says the little nagging voice
in the back of my head, the one I wish would SHUT UP and leave
me in peace) why compromise?  Why not just get or make a real
leather jack?  They're not hard to make and depending on your
preferences, you can finish them with real pitch, the plasticized
artificial pitch stuff, acrylic sealant or wax (I prefer the 
first and last choices myself...something about natural materials
and all that).  Heck, I suppose I could even teach a class or
two if people were interested (well, the laurel they gave me is
for leatherwork, after all... ;-).  But not for King's College
please - that's too soon.  We're having rotten luck with the
house hunting (the deal on the second house we tried to buy fell
through this week...bummer) so I'm still living in my "studio
apartment on wheels" aka my RV...and that means most of my SCA
stuff is still up in our house in Idaho, including my leather
shop set-up, with all the proper and correct knives that one
needs to do jacks without slicing off fingers accidentally, not
to mention all the correct stitching stuff like the sewing palms.
And it's really easy to tool jacks and bombards up with your
arms or your favorite gothic decorative techniques (yeah, I guess
I could teach that too - period 15th C. Nurenberg cuir cisele' 
tooling is a specialty of mine, and strangely enough, it's actually
really easy to do even though it doesn't look like it).

And the best part is: not only can you wash them (though not in
a dishwasher please, just in a sink - dishwasher levels of heat 
are bad for most leathers), jacks are 100% completely, totally 
and documentably period!  Why settle for peri-oid when with a 
little bit of effort, you could have period instead?

If anyone here knew and remembers Master Morgan the Tanner from
Calontir and all the jacks he made, I am the person who inherited
his jack patterns after he passed away.

Anyway, give me a couple of months to settle in and get my stuff
down here, and I'd be happy to put my money where my mouth is
about teaching this sort of stuff.  Even though I really want to
get the bloomery project for smelting iron off the ground too,
for the right sorts of bribes (coffee is good, so is good period
cooking...) there's no reason I couldn't put together a class or
two for folks on period leather drinking vessels.

I've not gotten back up online over the bloomery planning since
first there was Gulf War that needed to come and go, and now I
am going to be in Australia for most of April on business - and 
that sort of stuff makes it kinda hard to work on the bloomery
and other pyromaniac activities...but I have 3 offers on places
to set a up bloomery (and actually, there's no reason why we 
couldn't go ahead and plan for 3 bloomery runs, one per site) so
when I get back from Perth at the end of April, that's probably
when I'll start to put some real concrete plans together.

There is one very large obstacle to overcome before anyone can
do any iron smelting, folks, and that's having some iron ore on
hand to smelt...  I've been doing some research on this while the
rest of you lucky bums ran off to Gulf War (that's the downside
of starting a new job: no vacation time yet) and it turns out 
that northeast Texas hosts major reserves of ore-grade limonite.
The catch is finding some to collect - most of northeast Texas
is private property, so finding a place where one could cart off
about a cubic yard of limonite for little or no cost is the next
hurtle to clear.  The alternative is driving up into Arkansas or
Missouri to collect at some spots I know are up there, or getting
ore from the magnetite site in Nevada - which actually is easier
than it sounds since one of the routes you can take between here 
and my possessions in Idaho can be tweaked so that you pass the
iron mine in question (and you need a lot less magnetite than 
limonite, so you don't really need a pick-up to go collecting).

So yeah, I'd be happy to addict more people to leatherwork with
some jack-making classes, if folks are interested - and yeah, I
hadn't forgotten about getting a bloomery project or two going.

I'm chuckling a little bit to myself, right now, because one of
folks who offered a place to build a bloomery was unsure if sandy
soil would work.  I'm chuckling since that's exactly the problem
we faced with building the bloomery up in Artemisia. The bloomeries 
at Pennsic are on clayey soil, so you can get away with using mud 
right out of the "lake" at the Pennsic site and don't have to worry
about collapsing the bloomery into the slag hole.  Now the soil up 
at the Artemisia bloomery site was loess, 100% unconsolidated silt 
and sand, no clay to speak off.  This is not the problem is appears 
to be. The way around the sandy soil problem is three-fold: 1) build 
a brick foundation around the slag hole to distribute the weight of 
the bloomery chimney; 2) build the chimney using a wicker frame; 
3) mix the cob for the chimney using bentonite clay mixed 1:1 with 
the local soil (bagged bentonite is available at any serious building
building supply that stocks masonry products).  Because the soil
at Pennsic is so good, the Pennsic smelters can get away with
omitting the 3 steps needed for sandy soils. But like the Medieval
smelters of coastal plain Britain, the foundation, wickerwork and
added clay are the period solutions to the sandy soil problem.

At this point, I'm probably babbling so I'll stop putting everyone
to sleep and head to bed myself. I probably won't be posting anything
to this list for the next 4 weeks while I'm in Perth so I'll catch
everyone on the flipside when I get back.

Therasia, that loud obnoxious new person in town

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