As quiet as things have been on here for the last couple of months, both the blog and I are still going. Unfortunately I have what my wife refers to as a “butterfly brain” as it flits from interesting thing to another, and recently it has fluttered onto WWII wargaming and so a lot of my spare time has been spent writing army lists and assembling models rather than making boney things in the shed.
However, a few bits and pieces have still emerged from the mess that is my workbench and I have still been going to various shows and displaying my craft.
Since my last post I have joined another Early Medieval re-enactment society – Regia Anglorum. This is so that I can increase the number of shows I can attend without having to increase my travelling, so already this year I have had another show at Bamburgh with the local Regia group.
The beginning of this month saw me at Lindisfarne with the Vikings demonstrating bone and antler working, and (most pleasantly) to my surprising discovering that I apparently have quite a little following of fellow members who read this blog!
The most recent show I attended was a small local display at Kirknewton as part of their Archaeology Festival. It was a fairly relaxed (but very windy) few days and given the location, the kind of event that attracts people who are really interested rather than merely passing.
Finally, this coming weekend I will be at Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields. As I mentioned last year, Arbeia is a pleasant little show in a rather nice setting, even if the actual location is somewhat odd.
The first of my newly crafted items is not really bone related, but was made to exchange with our group silversmith in return for some hacksilver. As a silversmith he has been succesfully making some rather pretty Viking age jewellery (he also sells through Etsy and has a Facebook page), but he is wanting to take things further with his authentic craft setup and needed some bellows to go with his forge.
I was asked if I wanted to make some and trade for the silver, thinking “how hard can it be” I agreed and using materials to hand, the MkI bellows were made;
However, these did suffer from a few problems – primarily the leather being too stiff (which I had suspected but didn’t have anything else to use at the time) and also not opening far enough. Unfortunately this meant that the volume of air being movement was not particularly great and thus the bellows had to be worked quite hard in order to be even remotely effective. In turn this put a lot of pressure on the hinge area and the composite wooden block forimg the pipe mounting split.
Luckily, it was at a local show, so that evening I took the deceased bellows up to the shed and with the aid of another group member (a leatherworker, who also has an Etsy shop and Facebook page) we hunted through her supplies and found some better leather (1mm goatskin I believe). We stripped down the bellows and replaced the front mounting with a solid piece of hardwood, added extensions onto paddles so they were easier to compress and then reassembled it with the new, thinner leather (that we also cut wider to allow the bellows to open further).
These changes resulted in the MkII (below) and by all accounts they were successful and the bellows have been quite merrily puffing away ever since. Also, as she had helped and supplied leather, I split the hacksilver with our leatherworker, so everyone involved was happy and came away with something.
Despite comments from a few people, the fact that handles extended over the valve appears to make no difference to the efficiency of the bellows at all.
The second item I am rather pleased with is a bone whistle I made at the Kirknewton Archaeology Festival. I have tried a few times over the last few years to make a decent, working bone whistle but have never succeeded, despite roping in various Society members who can play them. However, this past weekend, someone was present who not only could play them, but actually had a bone whistle with them that I could closely examine. After some fiddling and tweaking I made my own and it actually works! It is not an entirely accurate Early Medieval example – there are too many finger holes, the window should be “D” shaped not rectangular and a few other points, but at least I now have a working example to continue from.
A recording of the whistle playing. Please excuse the background noise as it was recorded in the village hall with people outside the room talking. If you can’t play the file, try downloading it and opening it directly.
So, things have been slow but not dead and I hope to have some various interesting things to post soon.