The last few weeks since my last post have been more than a little busy (we cooked for 10 on Christmas Day, 19 on the following Saturday and then 10 again on New Year’s Eve). However, despite that and the frankly bloody awful weather we have had, some workshop time has been snatched here and there. So, in addition to the hoard of new books (yay!) that came my way over the holidays I also have a couple of new items to add to my list of artefacts.
The workshop has also had to have some time dedicated to organisation as my wife got a new workshop herself at the beginning of January and so we had to transport a lot of furniture and willow orientated stuff over there, which is good as it both clears space in the workshop I use and allows us to reinstate the forge and get it running again (it was mothballed as the smoke was no good for the baskets stored in there).
I even managed to make a very rough start on the base of my boneworkers bench/bow lathe setup – the planks have been selected and adzed ready to join together.
Horn rarely survives for any length of time in the ground unless the circumstances are exceptional. This means that horn artefacts from the past are generally few and far between even when compared to wood. However, one of the finds that does periodically turn up are “blowing” or “blast” horns, occasionally modified with finger holes to give a greater range (the resulting instrument has a variety of names such as “prillar horn” or “valhorn”).
Usually these are known from bog finds e.g. the Västerby horn, but a similar one was actually found in London and dates to around 11th-12th century. This horn is based on the London find. Personally I find it almost impossible to get a decent sound from, but my apprentice (who used to play the trumpet) can actually get a few clearly different notes from it. It is not the best sounding horn in the world, but at least it is a start!
I also took things with a little easier and finally made a couple of items that have been on my list for a while – a little hercules club and klapperschmuck set from Butlers Field, and a bone cross.
The Hercules club is Early Saxon and is unusual in having the attached metalwork. These “klapperschmuck” (also called spangles but that word is not so cool as klapperschmuck!) are small shiny sub-triangular adornments that jingle and glint as the wearing moves.
The cross is a simple bone example, similar to a jet one from Winchester and one in antler from Hungary.
Bone working group
In order to try and gather together other crafters of skeletal material, I recently started a Facebook group (Bone, antler, ivory and horn crafting) to try and achieve this. It is open to anyone with an interest in working with bone, horn, antler and ivory and is not restricted to historical artefacts. Ideally I want to see everyone from bushcrafters to experimental archaeologists to jewellery makers and everyone in-between come together to share what they know.
The last little but of fun I engaged in was making some pine resin glue. I gave my boney apprentice a small toolkit to reference book to get him started with for Christmas and using it he handled a knife but there was a void around the tang. Instead of filling it with epoxy resin he decided he wanted it done properly so he procured the necessary ingredients and we set about making some real resin glue.
It was actually very easy and simply involved melting the resin (which had already had the turps removed), adding some charcoal and a little (dried) horse poo. All the ingredients had been finely ground with a large hammer. The approximate mix of resin/charcoal/poo was 2:1:1. Once mixed and reheated it poured into the handle void very easily and set within minutes. Simples!