Nydam quiver, part two

When I last rambled, I was ¾ of the way through one half of my Nydam quiver. I finished that half and realized that I had made a very serious error; I had not paid enough attention to how well the two halves were going to fit together. Basically, I had turned the billet to size/shape and then cut it in half lengthwise to hollow it out. Cutting it in half ate close to ⅛” of material for the width of the saw blade. That meant the finished quiver would not be round. Furthermore, my cut wandered a fair bit.

Seriously, how do you keep and round cylinder perfectly aligned and perfectly centered on a bandsaw? Maybe there is a jig that I could have built, but that would require measurements, accurate cuts, and other nonsense that I choose not to partake in. Had I continued with the cherry version of this project, I would have had to use a metric sh*t tonne of wood filler and I would have had to carve the outside to make it round-ish. Sorry but there are other, more period-correct, ways to skin this water buffalo.


9, cherry version
Here’s the half that I hollowed, before realizing the whole thing would never go together without a mess of wood filler. While it may be nothing more than decorative firewood, I am sort of proud of it.

My path was fairly clear…I needed to start over.

So I did.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the wooden quiver found at Nydam was made from some type of maple. I still didn’t have a suitable maple log and my cherry is too twisty so, this one will be ash.

1, ash log

2, log split

I was not willing to chance splitting this log with wedges or a froe, as would have been done 1600 years ago. I made my life easier (for once) and used my chainsaw to create the two halves I needed. As you can see, the chainsaw doesn’t leave behind a very smooth surface. Learning lessons from version 1, I opted to plane these smooth using a handplane. It takes a lot of sweat to do this but planing by hand is so immensely satisfying that I didn’t mind. Plus, since I wasn’t starting this version with wedges and an axe, I figured I owed the SCA-woodworking-gods some kind of serious sweat.

Once I go the two surfaces smooth and mating up quite nicely, I paper glued them back together. For those that don’t know, I paper joint is where you apply glue to the mating surfaces but before you put them together, you lay some paper in between them. Newsprint is great for this as you don’t want anything too thick. You want to glue to soak through a fair bit. What you are left with a glue joint that can be taken apart fairly easily, later on down the road. As you can see in the photo below, I also took the precaution of applying a hose clamp at either end. I didn’t want to be sent running from 2×4’s of ash if this thing came apart on the lathe.

3, ready to turn
Glued up, clamped up and the corners knocked off to make life a little easier on the lathe. The clamps will get moved when I need to turn those areas.
4, ready to hollow
And it’s round. It also didn’t try to kill me so, yay!

The hollowing went just like last time so I will not waste your time explaining that again. One thing that does warrant a mention is that ash is horrible wood to try to carve. It’s not as hard as many others but it is significantly stronger. It might have been ok if I had worked it when it was really green. I had had this log for almost a year when I turned it and it was another year after I turned it before I got to carving.

I must also say that the paper joint worked a treat. With the hose clamps, it held together nicely on the the lathe. After a year of sitting around inside drying out some, it popped apart beautifully with a well placed blow from my axe. I only need to clean up a couple of areas with the knife before carving could get underway.

Tadum! It’s hollowed!


5, hollowed
Nice, tight fit.

Like the original find, my version has a wooden disk in the bottom that has been carved and fitted by hand and glued in. The original was also pegged in place with 4 small, oak pegs. between the tightness of the fit and the wonderful strength of modern wood glues, I saw no reason for the pegs. If the authenticity police would like to have a word with me, too bad. It’s my project, not their’s.

As documented in the paper by Rau (see link below), the original quiver was held together by glue and sinew laid and tied in the 7 narrow grooves along the length. 1600 years ago, it would have been hide glue. I used oh-my-gods-it’s-stronger-than-the wood-itself-and-nuclear-bomb-and-water-proof-as-well modern wood glue. Hide glue is still fairly easily obtained today but honestly, I wanted something I knew and trusted to last. Afterall, I want to use this quiver, not repair it.

Likewise, the sinew is completely pointless for my purposes. First of all, I only have artificial sinew so, why bother? Secondly, the modern wood glue makes any kind of sinew completely superfluous. Thirdly, it’s my project.

Rau also said the the 3 deeper and wider grooves held, at one time, some form organic material. I opted to use leather. My thinking was that if I wet it and stretch it before application, it will dry tight to the wood (when I stitch it). Secondly, it will look pretty cool, especially after I age it too look like it has been in a bog for 1600 years. Third and really importantly, using leather meant that I didn’t need to weave a band. I don’t react well to weaving…or fibre arts.

6, assembled
It holds 14 of my arrows.

There it is, waiting for the leather to dry/shrink. The brass ring, attached to the wider band, is the product of my own creative license. I will use it to attach a shoulder strap, as Rau theorized it being carried. I am unsure about this theory for several reasons.

1, Carrying the quiver by a single point would allow it to swing around a fair bit when moving. It will be prone to getting caught up on everything nearby.

2, With the hanging point this high (19cm from the top), the quiver will hang almost straight down. This should make drawing and arrow an awkward thing. I’ll know more once I have been out on the range at Pennsic and I’ll report back.

With all of that in mind, I took the liberty of adding another brass ring to the leather band at the lower end of the quiver. This will allow me to incorporate a 2-point harness, hung from a belt, if I so choose. Again, there is no evidence to suggest this is how the quiver was carried/used. Ultimately, I need to use this thing and enjoy it in an SCA context.

7, finished
Blackened and finished

The original had been sitting in a bog for 1600-ish years. Making my own version and leaving the wood and leather all freshy freshy seemed sort of stupid. I whipped up a batch of iron acetate which I knew would darken the ash a whole bunch (and blacken the leather entirely.

Much has been written about how to make and apply iron acetate, most of it far more elaborate than it needs to be. This is simple stuff, people.

Take about 3″ of steel wool (the good kind that doesn’t have oil in it) and wrap kind of loose in cheese cloth. Throw that in half a mason jar of white vinegar. Cover the top with plastic wrap but, poke a couple of small holes in it. Come back in a couple of days and remove the cheese cloth/steel wool glob. Toss it. Use a brush you don’t care much about and brush the mixture on your project. Wait for a few hours to see if it is dark enough  If not, do another coat. Stop when you are happy. Dead nuts simple and none of the nonsense about strainers, temperatures measuring pH or sacrificing a virgin rabbit underwater during a full moon.

I finished the whole deal up with a coat of Tung oil. There’s no real need for that considering how I will use and store the quiver.

So there you have it, the first of my quivers that are completely plausible for a Norseman, and not a cloth bag to be seen. Imagine that?

The Nydam quiver

From 1856 when the site was discovered in South Jutland, Denmark and up until now, the find at Nydam has been providing archaeologists and researchers with plenty to sort through and discuss. Efforts were intense from 1989-1997 and 1999. Amongst other things, fragments of two 4th century wooden quivers were discovered. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am making a replica version of one of these quivers.

(Note: I dislike the term “replica”. It introduces unreasonable demands and opens oneself up to criticism by folks with nothing better to do with their time. Perhaps I’ll go with “version” instead)

I officially began this aspect of my “quiver project” in November of 2016, when I split a cherry log into a billet for this quiver. The original quiver was made of (some form) of maple but since I did not have a maple log lying around, I used black cherry (which I did have in log form…like everyone does).

Half of the log being quartered into a billet. A heavier hammer would have been nice.
Axing down the quartered piece in order to round it a little bit before turning.
On the lathe, ready to be made round.

The original quiver was turned on a lathe. It is only reasonable to assume that it was done on either a pole lathe or some other form of reciprocal lathe, driven by an assistant. These are the types of lathes we know were available to people in the 4th century. Standing here in the 21st century, I possess 600 pounds of Australian made cast iron with enough torque to turn a small planet. I dislike my pole lathe, I am not very good at using it, it was cold outside and I am generally lazy. I used the cast iron behemoth. This is my big reliance on modern tools for this project.

Hollowing tools l-r: elbow adze, firmer gouge, curved gouge.

Rau (2007) said that the original quiver was turned, split along its length and then, the two halves were hollowed out (and reassembled later with a disc attached to the bottom, but that’s for later). Adzes and gouges have been available to carpenters since Egyptian times and continue to see extensive use today. I had great visions of my completing most of the hollowing using my curved adze. Reality had other plans.

Using an adze is bloody hard work! I am fortunate that my version doesn’t weight very much (certainly less than any of my axes). Despite this and being beyond razor-sharp, my wrists did not enjoy this experience. But that was not the hard part. The hard part was in delivering accurate blows with the adze. I know experience bowl carvers who can hit the same mark countless time in a row and do so for hours at a stretch. I am not those carvers. I was all over the place and it got worse the longer I was at it, whether my arm was sore or not.

I know of two basic methods of using an adze. #1,  Small bites are taken into the wood, once behind the other and then, longer strikes are made to clean up the raised chips. If the piece you are working is standing up and you used this technique, you would start at the bottom of the piece, work your way up and finally long cuts clean it all up. #2, A chip is “chased” along the surface being worked on, forming a long shaving of waste wood. Using the previous example, you would start at the top of the workpiece and slowly work you way down creating a long channel. I have used both methods and here are my less-than-extensive observations…

Method #1 is suitable for hogging of a lot of material, fairly quickly. If you are working on something large and accuracy isn’t too important, method #1 will get you where you want to be. On the other hand, method #2 leaves behind a much nicer surface, all other things being equal. Working slower and focusing on accuracy of blows offers more control. I found myself delivering approximately double the blows using #2 and this led to fatigue and my accuracy suffered. Time and building the required muscle memory is not something I have invested in enough.

Held in place by my tail vise on my workbench.

Eventually, I had to switch to a gouge to continue the hollowing. This was partially due to the work nearing finished dimensions, partly my frustration with the adze and largely because my adze is too wide to get deep into the groove I was cutting. I already owned the curved gouge seen in the above picture (far right) so I started with that. This proved to be sloooooow work and hard on my hands, wrists and arms. The design of this tool does not lend it to being struck with a mallet so it was muscle power or nothing. So, I did what woodworkers of any time period would do if the option was readily available to them… I bought a new tool.

In this case, the tool was a firmer gouge (the middle one in the above picture). The difference between this and the curved gouge is that with the blade being straight and its handle having a metal hoop around the top, this tool is meant to be struck with a mallet. There are other factors involved such as the thickness if the steel, how the steel is attached to the handle  but here is a pretty general guideline to go by… If the steel is straight in line with the handle and there is a hoop at the end of the handle, it is meant to be struck. This made my work faster and easier on my body however, I ran into an issue I should have foreseen…

I figured that since both gouges had fairly low cutting angles that they would have little trouble in cutting where I directed them. What I found was that despite being insanely sharp, the grain of the wood often had its own ideas about how it wanted to come away. I wound up with a mess of split and torn grain. I tried cutting downhill and uphill and this helped some . The result of this was that I now have several areas where the grain has lifted very close to the edges. That means that the end product will be very thin in those areas. I do not believe I am at the point of having major structural issues but time will tell.

Cutting across the grain. What is this glory which I have I discovered?

I brought the work home in order to make some progress while away from the shop. Naturally I set up my portable workbench in my kitchen, like all wood carvers have done at some point (or desperately wanted to do if they were married). Not wanting to make a lot of noise, I put away the mallet and firmer gouge in favour of the curved one. Now, I need to make something abundantly clear… I am NOT a wood carver. I have made more than a few spoons but I really consider that to be more of a whittling thing than anything else. In my mind, a lot of spoon carving techniques did not transfer over to this project. I was very wrong.

I began cutting down the walls of the quiver, across the grain, instead of along the length (following the grain). I learned that I could take a serious of short, small cuts down into the workpiece fairly easily. Once I had made a series of these overlapping cuts, I could turn to go down the length to clean put the chips and smooth the torn grain.This is still hard on my hands and I can only work for stretches of about 10 minutes but here’s the beauty…the results were very predictable. I have found that by working like this, it is very easy to control how much wood I was removing and from where. I have had no unexpected grain being lifted and little risk of going through the side walls (so far). It is still slow going but generally,  I am content with this development. Time will tell.

As things set right now, I’m about 3/4 of the way through hollowing out the first half of the quiver. I have about 5 hours of work into it with a tool in my hand, spaced out over a long period of time. One thing I have determined is that if Roman-era woodworkers had access to modern grinders with carving blades attached, they would have used them. I am seriously considering picking up one of those blades but if I do, there is no way I will truly appreciate the work of those that have come before me. I would also lose renewed understanding of wood structure and how it works.

Still, bloody tempted.

Bucking a trend

In some circles, there is often a veil of secrecy surrounding what people are working on. I’m talking about within the Arts and Sciences community.  This is most prevalent when people are preparing to enter (a project) in the Kingdom A&S competition but it also happens with our Queen’s Prize Tournament (a non-competitive A&S event geared towards less experienced/recognized artisans). Don’t even ask about the secrecy of the WWF as it is on its own level. What I have tried to understand is, why keep secrets?

One of the reasons I’ve heard for this is a desire to have a “Wow!” moment. I suppose this is natural for many people. Many of us enjoy seeing people’s heads turn and jaws drop when our work is revealed. It would be a great boost for the ego, no doubt.Some revel in this. Fine. I’m don’t think I am one of these but hey, whatever floats your boat.

I have been told by some that they are secretive because they don’t want to give some kind of advantage or hint to other competitors. The idea being that if competitor A discovers that competitor B is forging some tool as part of their entry, they (comp A) had better up the game by smelting their own iron ore before they make a similar tool (textbook one-upmanship). I guess since I don’t “get” A&S competitions (right up there with judged sporting events, just stop) I am not able to “get” why this is a consideration. But, it is for some.

Some people think their projects are some kind of PhD thing where competition is fierce and other makers/researchers are cutthroat thieves. Ummm, ok? More glory to them, I suppose. (A whole lot of us need to lighten up).

Having said all of that, why do I feel some small need to keep my A&S doings remotely quiet? I’ve got two projects brewing that I haven’t talked about very much. I know one of my issues is that I am slow in my work. Really…slow. Remember that pole lathe? Yeah, like that. Glacial. My fear is that I will talk about what I’m doing and someone (anyone) will come along and say, “That’s cool. I want one of those for my kit, too”. Then,over the course of a weekend, they’ll build or make it. Why does this matter? Shouldn’t I be thrilled that I’ve inspired someone else and gain someone to talk to and share ideas with that has real experience? That would be the right and noble thing, right? The truth is that I am left thinking that the project isn’t that important anymore and I walk away from it. This nearly happened with my pole lathe when someone told me, “Person A built a pole at such-and-such event from a log. It took him an afternoon”. That was one of the more discouraging things I’ve ever heard.

The other thing that gets stuck in my head is that if I talk to others about what I’m planning, they usually try to help by steering my efforts. This could be as simple as loaning me a tool or providing me with a source I didn’t know about previously…and these are awesome things! It is when the talk turns to, “You should do this thing with your thing. It would be amazing!” that I get frustrated. That, and the inevitable, “We have no evidence that they did/knew/had this” and thereby dismissing my efforts. This one causes me to lose my shit because it assumes that the speaker knows everything there is to know about a certain topic. It becomes especially frustrating when the speaker is one of the more knowledgeable people in their field. I mean, if you want to say there is no evidence of Vikings having used duct tape to repair their sails, that’s fine. I’ll give you that. But, a better approach might be, “I’ve never heard of X doing Y. Let me know what you find or can you point me to a source?”

Despite all of this, I have decided to share what I am currently working on. I do this because I like to think what I’m working on is pretty cool, has merit and will certainly offer a different perspective on a couple of things. I think that is worth more than any wow factor or well-meaning helpers causing me to want to claw my eyes out. At least, it is for me. Besides, since I will not/cannot-bring-myself-to enter any sort of competition or tournament any time in the forseeable future, I need some place to put my stuff out there. I would like to do this beyond a post or two after KA&S or QPT followed by deafening silence as often happens.Besides, a lot of people cannot attend the events mentioned and thus don’t have the opportunity to see/learn what is out there. If I don’t blog about it, my work will be in the same boat.

Currently, I have two real projects on the go. One has to do with glass beads from the viking age and the other is all about quivers for archery. I don’t have much to share regarding the beads just yet. I have picked the brain of the guy who REALLY understands the data and come up with a good plan of attack but, I have no beads yet. Suffice to say that in the SCA we don’t “do” viking beads very accurately. More on that one later when I have something to show you.

The quiver project has excited and frustrated me. It all started with wanting a more plausible or accurate quiver for my dishevelled Norseman persona. All anyone ever seems to talk about are arrow bags (as “shown” on the Bayeaux Tapestry), arrows being tucked ino ones belt and the bag variants found upon the (very much not Norse) Mary Rose.This has been frustraing. When you step outside the Norse and Europe, you can find very different designs like the fan-like quivers used by the Mongols and Tartars or basket-woven ones from the Orient (to name two). “Cloth bags, belts and ground quivers are all we have from early Europe”, is what I’ve been told. That’s fine on its own, but there actually IS more to see and learn from.

First, there is the leather artifacts found at Haithabu. These were published in Die Lederfunde von Haithabu by Von Willy Groenman-vanWaateringe in 1984. Since this was published in Amsterdam, I assume it was written in Dutch. Honestly, I don’t know. For my purposes, it doesn’t really matter because I have something of a translation available (more on that in another post). The point is that we have an extant example of leather quivers (thinking is the artifacts are from two quivers) from the 11th century in the heart of the Norse culture (thereby disspelling the idea that all we have are cloth bags, belts and ground quivers). I will begin patterning it over the next few days so I can recreate it. This will be a real challenge for me as I have never patterned anything and my knowledge of leather work is minimal. Still, it’s a cool starting point!

I’ve also found and article which shows fragments of a wooden tube. The way the tube was found amongst arrows, the remenants of a bow and, human skeletal remains, clearly indicate the tube was a quiver. This find is from the 4AD at Nydam. Earlier than my typical area interest but hey, an all wood quiver! It really earns bonus points for having been turned on a lathe. I mean, how can I not attempt to recreate this? There are other details about it that I will talk about later as I gather pictures and put thoughts to page. (Remember my post post about splitting a cherry log? That was the start of the wooden quiver).

I’m unsure exactly where this quiver project will lead me. At this time, I have these two quivers to work on and I’ll probably do one of those fan/horse quivers from the Monguls. I’ve also found a few examples from feudal Japan which I’m trying to gather more information on. Anything I were to do with them right now would be pure conjecture.

Through all of this, I want to accomplish a few things… I want to show that we have more than cloth bags, belts and ground quivers, that other finds are NOT purely ceremonial (which I have also been told) and then, try them out! I am curious if there are pros and cons of different styles beyond simply material availability.

So there, I’m sharing. After this long, rambling diatribe, aren’t you glad? No more of the “SOOPER SEEKRIT” stuff. To each their own but I am very happy to buck that particular trend.


I’m feeling pretty lost in my SCA life lately and I don’t know what to do about it. The past 6 or 8 months have been hard to understand. Maybe there is nothing for it but to avoid eye contact and keep my head down but that’s never been my style. Or, my strength.

I’ve seen people do things they said they would never do and I feel disappointed and somehow, betrayed. I’ve lost a lot of respect for some people over this. Integrity seems to depend on convenience or opportunity.

I’ve seen decisions made that boggle the mind. This in itself is not a horrible thing but when there is no avenue for understanding available, these things stew. I wish I had the tools to treat things like “water off a duck’s back”. I wish my brain worked like that. It does not and it never has, ever. A lot of therapy and an assortment of medications haven’t made a lot of difference when things really boil. There is one pill that helps in the short-term but it makes me numb. It is only a last resort type of thing.

I simply do not understand our award system. I have written in for people and been told, point-blank, “XYZ will never be considered for award ABC”. What? Why? How can I and others see the worth of an individual, be able to document their deeds and actions and yet be summarily dismissed? This is about the time I get told, “It is up to the Crown”. I suppose this is technically true but it REALLY reeks of a cop-out. Sure, it is how things may have happened in the ages we focus on but I would suggest that asking for input from the populace is something that would not have happened “back in the day”. Can you imagine a King or Baron going before their subjects to ask them how they feel about the taxes they pay? And yet, isn’t this exactly what we do by having an award recommendation system? Is it the intention that we treat these things like political campaigns to bolster support for our “candidate”? Gods, I hope not. Recent political campaigns tell me this would be a very bad thing.

I see people undertake tasks or projects in order to gain personal notoriety. I just dont understand this. Every one of us appreciate a pat on the back for a job well done but if the reason you are doing something is FOR the pat on the back, something is wrong. That seems too  self-centred for a group which espouses chivalry, largess and  humility. Then again, I am not a Knight or any other form of Peer. Nor have I been around this thing since the rocks were cooling so, what do I know? I guess I just give more worth to discovery, learning how things were done in the middle ages and sharing those things. Maybe pretty , shiny things are more important and I, once again, just don’t get it.

I see all of things and more. From people using my (freely given) shoulder to cry and lean on, I know I am far from alone. I have been told, “If you don’t like it, win Crown”. This is one of the most condescending things I’ve ever been told in the SCA. The suggestion is that one must either have a wicked sword arm or be friend/partner/spouse of someone who does or shut up. Of course, the other approach is to become an officer on one level or another. Some people do not have the material or organizational skills to do this. What other option is there for them (us)? I suppose they/we/I could start another political campaign.

Maybe there is nothing for it but to avoid eye contact and keep my head down. Great.

I feel pretty lost and disillusioned.

Starting something new

A while back , I built a pole lathe by hand, from a log. A few people in my Kingdom were interested in how I split the initial log so, I thought I should post some pictures of a current project . 

Here is a cherry log. It is about 13″ wide and a bit over 3ft long. I need a piece that measures about 4″x4″so, I need to quarter it. Do you see that dark mark on the end that looks like the hands of a clock? That is a crack through the pith. There is a wider crack at about 1:35 and that is my starting point. 

That’s an iron splitting wedge. The idea here is that after a liberal application of brute force, the crack will widen until it extends into the the bark face…

…at which point I used another wedge to further things along. After more brute force…

…the crack widens some more. Things proceed more easily if you have additional wedges. I have a few wooden ones that I use when chainsawing. Eventually…


That’s it. Nothing to it. A sledgehammer is very helpful (I was stuck using a heavy claw hammer). 

One of the key things when considering a log to split is to choose one which is clear of branches/knots. This log had one significant branch (you can see it in the last picture. It’s the V-shaped pattern you see). Branches make the fibres of the tree run in weird directions which can (and did) result in some fibres crossing the split. These need to be axed out. Not a huge deal here because there was only the one.

Logs have been split in this fashion for thousands of years. It’s amazing what can be done with a simple wedge (Do you realize that an axe and knife are also simple wedges? Think about it ) . 

One of these halves will get further split tomorrow. Those pieces will get turned into bowls, cups, and whatever else I can think of or need. 

Thanks for stopping by . 

Thinky thoughts

There is a saying; “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”. That’s where I’ve been for quite some time, nothing good to say.  Perhaps I’ve reached something of a critical mass with thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure but I know one thing; I need to write. Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

POLE LATHE UPDATE!!!:  It’s complete and rather functional. I had it up and running at our Althing last September. That is what I committed to when I challenged into the White Wolf Fian. Thing is, I withdrew from the Fian before my “due date”. Too many things were happening out of public eye that really rubbed me the wrong way and I realized that it was not the right group for me to be involved with. So, I withdrew my challenge. The pole lathe was (and is) still very important to me and I didn’t want to be known as another person with a failed Fian challenge. I’ll post more about the lathe when I find my pictures of it.

Since I last wrote,  I have taken part of two Arts and Sciences events; our Queen’s Prize Tournament and Spring A&S Faire. For QPT, I decided to enter a demonstration of how to carve a wooden spoon; basically I was going to carve a spoon at the event and the process, combined with the techniques and the result would be my entry. To say this was unusual for and A&S event would be an understatement. I’m not sure my judges really knew what to do with me! Performance pieces are surely not unheard of but when a musician plays or sings a piece, it is not so they can be judged on how well they teach it. That’s sort of what I was asking my judges to do. The reason for this was twofold: #1, I wanted to give a demonstration at an upcoming event and I needed to know if I had any business doing so and #2, I wanted something to keep my hands busy all day.

What I came away with was…I have no clue if I have any business demonstrating what I do. I was told that I am doing good work and that I should keep it up. Also, the notion was planted in my brain that the process of how things were made in period is just as relevant as reproducing the artifacts for us. It is through the period processes and techniques that we truly learn why items were made the way they were and gain better understanding of the intricacies of the materials and tools used. Now, Master Wilfrid of Sweflingham has been trying to drum this into my thick skull for a while but somehow, it stuck at QPT.

For our Spring A&S Faire, I made a 16th century candle lantern using Norse era tools and techniques. Why? Because doing it using 16th century tools would be too easy, I didn’t have the time or interest in creating one of those tools (and probably not the skill, if I’m being honest) and besides, my persona is Norse. This would be a challenge, which  believe an A&S entry should be.

I’ll write more about my actual entry at another time but suffice to say, I busted my ass and really stretched my tool skills on this thing. I even had a catastrophic failure on one component and managed an effective repair using period techniques. I was quite pleased with that bit, including my research into those techniques. My documentation will never be “scholarly” but I know I put more detail into this one than I ever have before. Loads of pictures and description of how and why I did things. I will post it here some time in the fall. This year at Pennsic, I will buy the horn I need to complete the lantern and I do not want to post until the piece is finished.

Neither of these events were good experiences for me. I cannot say what I have been able to take away from either of them that furthers my understanding of tools or techniques, suggests new areas to explore or ways to improve my research and documentation abilities. I feel like I came away with…nothing. I literally do not know what my next steps are in order to improve. Are there better ways to use my knives to do certain things? Is something missing in my knowledge of different woods? Maybe I am misinterpreting my sources or outright wrong about what I’m saying or doing? Why bother working so hard on documentation if there is no evidence to suggest it is looked at? Maybe I simply do not understand how A&S and its judging work?

One thing I am fairly certain of is that I am unlikely to enter another A&S-centred event any time soon. It just doesn’t seem worth the stress. This stuff is supposed to be fun and for me at least, the fun has been sucked out of this aspect of the game.

But what do I know? I just make shit.

When we last saw our wandering Norseman…

What? You are still here after all this time? Sweet Jeebus but entire nations have risen and fallen since I last wrote anything. You folks need some hobbies if hanging around here is all that is keeping you breathing.

The truth is, I haven’t had a lot to say lately. In this space, I’m a fairly big fan of the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing”. That has been the situation I have found myself in. Much of the winter saw me frustrated at getting a new shop set up. No one is to blame in that but I was left wanting to scream at times. I couldn’t get much work done on my pole lathe either because the workspace for that is essentially a large lean-to. Not ideal during an Ealdormerian winter.

Spring and these early months of summer saw me not at my best mentally and emotionally. There’s been a lot of mess spilling from the mundane world into my Scadian life. The details don’t matter except to say that it has been a very taxing and depressing time. I vented a lot at a recent camping event and I gotta tell you, it felt good to have people there to hold my hand. Oh, spring also saw the arrival of a 400lb black bear wandering around the lands of Chateau de Shrub (where my shop is). Big, mean, aggressive bugger that ripped the throat out of one of the neighbors horses. Working on the pole lathe became quite secondary to my desire to remain in one piece. It will be tough finishing by my deadline.

Pennsic begins in 3 days and this circus of a Town Run can finally bugger off. Considering how bloody awful last Pennsic was, I am over-the-moon excited this year. Camping with my Shrub and the FINE folks who are the Thuligans. My girls are pretty jacked up as well because they love the Thuligans (really, how could they not?).  They get to help do stuff with these people. Actually, they have to help or they will be beaten (and not by me at first). My girls have really blossomed into first-rate humans and this group of people is a huge reason for it.

Packing and organizing for Pennsic has really hammered home just how muddled my brain is. I’ve been staring at empty, open totes for a few days now. I know what I need for Pennsic. I know of the little projects that I need to do to make the trip as stress free as possible. I even have all of the stuff I need and it is all out in the open. Think I can figure out what needs to be done first? I’ve made lists and set priorities but that does is take the edge off of the insanity. Something is going to be left out and I’m really trying to avoid that.

Oh well. I won’t be the first person to do Pennsic without pants.

thanks for stopping by

It feels like progress

It may not look like much, but I have made some progress on my White Wolf Fian challenge. Observe, the pole lathe bed in its natural habitat…


Alright, for now it looks like a tree trunk with a groove knocked out of it. I am not ashamed to admit that it took a lot for me to cut into the log. Here I had a seemingly perfect ash log that split so beautifully; I really didn’t want to screw it up! So, I did what any resourceful Norseman would do when faced with unease and anxiety. I went to the internet.

You see, the internet is full of wonderful and helpful people. People that have built spring pole lathes before. I decided to take advantage of their wisdom and experience. It is from these wonderful folks that I learned that 3″ is a pretty good width to make the groove in my lathe bed wannabe. The groove is for the poppets to sit in (the poppets will hold the work piece, allowing it to be, well, worked). The poppets need to be able to move along the bed to accommodate different sized work. 3″ is a good width because it will allow the poppets to be plenty thick and strong. It will also leave me with a substantial surface for the bearing surface of the poppets to register solidly.

“But Einar, how did you actually create the groove?”, ask the fans, hanging on my every word.


I used a chalk line to “draw” parallel lines, 3″ apart done the length of the bed. The brace bit you see in the above picture allowed me to drill holes through the bed that would establish the end points of the groove on either end of the bed. Next, I cut along the grooves outline with a tool that the Norse probably wished they had (chainsaw). I know that sounds easy enough but a chainsaw is a tricky thing to use to cut to an exact line. Basically, I started at the drilled out hole at one end and finished at the other end. Repeat on the other side of the groove if you are following the home version.

wpid-20141112_141758.jpgHere you can see the two holes at one end of the groove and the cuts I made down the length. With those steps done, I was left to knocking out the wood that remained between the holes (and cuts) on either end. This task fell to tools that the Norse were very familiar with, a mallet and chisel. I had to work from both sides of the log because it is still close to 7″ thick (including the bark). In this picture, I am working the underside.

The process is fairly simple: Drive the chisel straight down along the line marking the end of the groove. Cut and lever away the wood by then coming at that chiseled line from the waste side (what will be the groove). Continue these steps until you break (on) through to the other side (any Doors fans among my readership?). Repeat at the other end.


A close up of the completed work. Its not the neatest bit of woodwork ever completed but it will serve. The important thing for me was to begin the process and get the groove cut before the cold weather hits. I really don’t want to be working on this in sub zero temperatures and with snow up to my knees. I am hoping that by getting the groove cut and the waste wood removed, the log will be under less tension as it seasons and dries a bit over the winter. This should help minimize any cracking that normally accompanies drying wood. To further help with that, I coated the ends of the log and the ends of the groove with a commercial end sealer. This product (called Anchorseal) helps slow down the loss of moisture from the end grain, which eases the tension the wood will experience. I also blocked up the ends of the log to protect them from the wind over winter. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t have a bunch of firewood by the time spring comes around.

The next step with be rough cutting the poppets from the other half of the log I split. There is not a tremendous rush on that as much of the work will be done inside the toasty confines of the shop. I also need to get moving on building my forge because I need that in order to make the tools to use with the lathe. Again, work that can happen indoors. As near as I can figure, I am still very much on track to present the finished lathe and some bowls produced on it this coming summer at the War of the Trillium.

Got questions or suggestions? Leave a comment and hit me with ’em.

Thanks for stopping by.

White Wolf Fian progress report. Aka, At Least I Don’t Have to Trash My Project

Shortly after I posted about my White Wolf Fian challenge I ran into some good fortune. An arborist friend of mine called me to ask if I wanted any white ash as he was clearing a building lot for a client. “Cool!”, I thought. “I’ll be able to get some timber from which to make my spring pole lathe!” When I got to the job site, there were over a dozen ash trees in various stages of being felled, all between 8″ and 14″ in diameter. Perfect. I picked out a couple that would be suitable and my friend said he would put them aside for me. I was to pick them up the next day and because he was looking at least an extra day on the site, this was no problem…except local firewood-urchins visited the site during the night and stripped the site bare. They only left some branch wood.


By now, 3 months has passed since my challenge at Pennsic. 9 months still to go including an Ealdormerian winter when it is not pleasant to work outside. Thrown in something of a minor mental breakdown (ok, two of them) and what have I accomplished? Zip… Zilch… Nadda…



And then yesterday, a ray of hope. I chanced upon one of the many local tree companies who are always busy at this time of year and struck up a conversation with them. As it turns out, they were finishing up for the day but would return the next day to drop the last tree they had been contracted to do…a tall, straight ash tree, 16″ across at the butt and clear of any branches for the first 40 feet of the trunk.wpid-20141104_100749.jpgPerfect.

I arranged to meet them the next morning at the site and because the tree was still standing, I had no fear of anyone taking the timber for firewood.

Here is the log, measuring 13″ across and 7 feet long.wpid-20141104_111220.jpg

The tree folks warned me that this thing was heavy. Really. Heavy. I knew it would be but I had a plan to make it more manageable. You see, I need half of this log in order to make the bed of the lathe. I could see no reason to attempt muscling it around in any form bigger than one half. So, just as would have been done 1000 years ago, I split it in half down its length using a series of wedges and a liberal application of brute force (a sledge hammer).

In the past I have used wedges to split some very large diameter logs into more manageable pieces with good success. However, I had never attempted to split one that was near 7 feet long. I had also never been overly concerned about how straight my work was because I was just going to chainsaw up the pieces to become bowl blanks. For this lathe bed, I wanted to get it pretty straight so I would have less work making the top surface flat and so I didn’t waste any of the wood (This stuff doesn’t grow on trees you know. Wait…). 5 minutes later…..



Ummm, I cannot see how this could have possibly worked out any better. The split followed the centre of the log perfectly. Both halves  are straight and the split surfaces are dead flat. To say I was pleased would be a great understatement.

The two halves are no safely stored under cover at my Shrub’s place. I’ll head back there this weekend to get some work done. As I said, one half will form the lathe bed with a chunk left over for one of the poppets. The other will supply the other poppet and, if I split it well, the 4 legs. My goal for the weekend will be to accurately size the bed and cut the groove for the poppets (details of what this all means will follow, for those that do not speak pole lathe).

The other nice thing to happen in the past week was the arrival of  Carole A. Morris’s book, “Wood and woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and medieval York”. I received this book as part of a trade with Lord Evan Quicktongue. It is one of the most significant texts dealing with Viking-Age woodworking, especially woodturning. I consider it a essential source for research of my Fian challenge.wpid-20141028_165625.jpg

Until next time, thanks for stopping by

White Wolf Fian

There is an Arts and Sciences group in Ealdormere called the White Wolf Fian. It is a challenge-based order where membership and successful completion of a project conveys no rank or award beyond being able to say, “I did it!!!”. The goal of the Fian is to push artisans to a higher level of skill and knowledge in a particular field or topic. Challenges are to be of an intermediate level (with the Kingdom A&S rules as a guideline) and require between 6 months and 1year to complete. During Royal Court at Pennsic XLIII, I challenged for admission to the Fian.

My challenge is  straightforward…build a pole lathe, the tools needed to work on it and produce some functional bowls. Sounds simple enough but I think this poses a few significant challenges for me.

1. The tools used for making bowls and cups are called hook tools. The only way to acquire them in the 21st century is from a few select blacksmiths, most of whom live in the UK and Europe. These smiths charge a fair rate for their work but it is out of my price range. So, I need to make my own. Lots of greenwood turners do this but my only attempt thus far was a dismal failure, which makes me a little nervous.

2.  The lathe itself, while not requiring a high level of precision, is nonetheless a very large project for me. I mean, I’m a woodturner. I make wooden bowls, cups and urns. A lathe is a large piece of furniture! Heck, it’s  industrial equipment! Oh, did I mention that I am inept at measuring anything accurately? Yeah, furniture sort of depends on measurements for its creation so this will be a challenge for me…a very big challenge.

3.  As I said, I am a professional woodturner and I am pretty good at what I do. I know my way around my lathe and arsenal of gouges and chisels. Woodturning on a pole lathe requires very different tools and techniques to what I used to. Imagine putting a 9ft spear in the hands of the best fencer in the Kingdom. They still understand distance and timing but can’t make it work with a log in their hands. When it comes to hook tools for making bowls, I am that fencer. I understand wood and how steel can be used to cut it but this will demand a whole new set of biomechanics (never mind that I’ll be standing on one leg while the other pumps up and down on the treadle!).

The first will be building something I can use as a forge. I will not be using a coal forge because while that would be a more period method, I am not up for the mess and expense. The challenge is to create bowls using period techniques, not become a blacksmith (I’ll save that for another time). I’ll be using some firebricks and a propane torch for my heat, a hammer and anvil to shape the tools.and a combination of my modern grinder and slips tones to create the cutting edge.

Of course, I will document the entire process here. You have been warned.

Thanks for stopping by.