And the winners are....
Drum roll please.....
A little louder....
Bows and armor!!
Thank you for your responses!
Bows and steel armor came in tied at 33%.
Shields and jewelry are tied at 17%.
From the results it appears that what you want to see is bows and steel armor. This week I will be working, Lord willing, on finishing my spaulders (A.K.A. shoulder armor) and will post pictures of the process along the way. These will be an example of my handiwork. As of right now all my steel armor is made on a strictly custom order basis. So as soon as you know what exactly you want let me know.
As for bows, those will soon be on the my Etsy shop as requested. Give me a little time as I will need to build up my stock. If there is anyone who knows they will buy one as soon as they are a available please let me know. I may be able to hook you up with a deal. Also, I need to know whether these bows are for strictly costume purposes or if you want to use them when you go to the range.
I know some of you showed interest in these so I want to hear more from you. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.
Today is Sunday, the last day that I will be taking responses from this poll. I will post results tomorrow afternoon.
Today I am going to be taking the time to give a lesson in the history of blacksmithing. On this historical tour we will visit several aspects of blacksmithing and I will share my knowledge of mechanics, resourcefulness and anthropology.
Today's topic: blowing hot air.
More specifically, I want to talk about different ways in which to supply oxygen to the forge.
When the average American thinks about blacksmithing he or she tends to think of the medieval European scene with a blacksmith and his apprentice pounding away at a misshapen sword, dunking it in water while it's still red hot and then sticking it back in the fire.
(word to the would be bladesmith, please don't do that, it ruins the metal).
Usually some sort of wooden bellows is thrown in the mix because it "looks medieval". That's the image Hollywood has branded on our brains. While water, hammers and a big anvil are all important to the forging process, all this would be hard to do if there was no heat.
You may remember from your science classes that fire needs three things to keep going. Fuel, heat, and oxygen.
Many of today's commercial forges use natural gas or propane as their fuel source so as long as ambient air is let into the firing chamber there is no problem with airflow. I use coal when I forge because I like how it works for me. Coal is actually a bit hard to keep burning. Once I have it lit it can easily go out three minutes later if I don't have at least some air flow coming from below my fire. So how do I get air to my fire? I should be easy, right? Actually, yes, it is. I use a what is called a "blower". It does as it's name suggests: it forces air to go someplace it wasn't before. There are many kinds of blowers out there; some of these include hand bellows, fans or even pistons.
Earlier than that we have the bellows, a simple device easily made with two boards and an air proof (or at least resistant) material like leather or fabric. This device uses at least two separate holes to function. One is the output. The other is the intake, which has a flap that allows air in when the bellows is pulled apart and closes when the bellows are squeezed. An improvement on this design was the double bellows that was essentially two bellows attached to each other so that on both up and down strokes of the operating lever. (https://medievalfoundry.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/the-origin-and-use-of-bellows-especially-in-medieval-europe/)
Throughout the ages there were many different ways blacksmiths used to force air into their forges. The only limit they had was not creativity, but resources. I was fortunate enough to come across a hand crank blower when I did but in other places there is not as many resources as I had. When a lot people think of sub-Saharan Africa they don't think of the expert metalwork that the peoples from there do. Indeed blacksmithing is probably the furthest thing from one's mind when they think of Africa, even if they the weapons that are used by some of the peoples there. (https://anthromuseum.missouri.edu/minigalleries/africanaxes/intro.shtml)
Believe it or not, many of the tribal people, who have had little access to western influence in ages past have been using and mastering blacksmithing for thousands of years. (http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=3432&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html)
I first learned about these blacksmiths when I was reading through the book Practical Blacksmithing from Weathervane Books. (http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Blacksmithing-Original-Classic-Illustrations/dp/051725025X) It's a great book that is a compilation of letters and lessons from the early 1900s about various tools, tricks and techniques of the business of blacksmithing. Included are some interesting notes on the history of blacksmithing and blacksmithing in other cultures.
Anyways, I was intrigued by the ingenuity of the smiths in that they used skins as their blower by attaching the to hollow logs and pumping them. I was able to find a video of one in action. Here is the link to the video: http://www.anvilfire.com/AnvilCAM-II/index.php?video=zulu_blacksmiths
He ones in he film appear to be make from goat skins but there are cases of banana leaves being used for this purpose.
As I was doing research on African blacksmiths I found an intriguing thing about some African cultures, blacksmiths tend to be seen as outcasts and set apart from the rest of the tribe. Olivier Gosselain of the University of Brussels took a trip to the Cameroon to investigate this. "I was questioning Dowayo informants in northern Cameroon about the reasons for segregating both blacksmiths and potters." He said in one of his articles,
He proceeded to ask if the bellows is indeed the source of this "cough" and is told the idea had not occurred to anyone in his tribe. Being more of a functionalist myself and experiencing blacksmithing, I know that here are hazards with the smoke which can cause coughing and sickness. For this it seems the blacksmiths are not only seen as tool makers but also as bringers of illness, essentially a "necessary evil".
So to conclude this historical tour let's recap. Today we can electric blowers and gas fuel for todays metalwork. Before we had electric motors we could use hand cranked blowers and bellows. And perhaps the most important thing we talked about, blacksmithing is not a strictly medieval or European thing. It is global and there are different perceptions of the character of the smiths themselves.
As one final lesson in forced air delivery, there is also the easiest to build but not so easy to use blowpipe. All it is a pipe stuck in the fire and blow into it. It's simplicity is breathtaking.
Forging On (or at least doing household chores),
Last time I said I was going to give you all a chance to decide what I work on next. Well here it is. My first poll. Please let me know what you think. I take your input very seriously. So seriously that Monday morning I will post the results and run the statistics on it.
Other than the new poll I also have more pictures to put up.
This here is the first steel shield I made for myself. This is about 6 years old. I learned quite a bit as i made this thing. For example using chemicals to remove old paint and tar, how to curve something with pipe clamps and then weld it, and that latex paint does not stick well to metal. I've used this thing for my renaissance festival costumes and I loaned it to a friend for his VBS costume. I enjoyed working on his project and learning every step of the way. Now I want to make it anew. When I get the chance I'm going to make a wood backing for it, better carrying system, framing, and probably a canvas cover to hold the paint better.
Designing and dreaming is so much fun! If only time and energy would allow it to give forth fruit....
Other than my shield I also have pictures of my vambraces.
That indeed is my arm.
And there you have it. New pictures, new pages, and a new poll. Please enjoy clicking the shiny new buttons.
Later today I will also be uploading another post, this one on the history of forced airflow. And then I shall go make a latch with which to lock my shed.
Just put in new pictures on the products page. I'm working on building the category pages. That will be coming soon. It's taken me a while to get all this together. I've had to dive into my old files on my much slower, and yet bigger, computer to retrieve some of my older work which will be posted shortly. Funny how loading times seem to be the bane of productivity. I've also been doing a little restoration around my house so please pardon the full time student for taking so long to put his old projects online.
Anyways, upcoming things to look forward to in the next three weeks are full pages to products and past projects, history lessons, "how-to"s and new products! All of these will of source be accompanied by full size pictures.
Speaking of of new products, I want to hear the opinions of my visitors. Please tune in this Friday for a special three day event where you choose what I work on!
See you then!
Stephen Marts is a recent university graduate in the Riverside area and the sole proprietor of For the Honor Forge. When not working, studying, sleeping, taking care of his kids, doing chores or such, he likes to design and make new products for his shop, though he often gets sidetracked with his ongoing research. When writing, he sometimes talks about himself in the third person, sometimes in seemingly randomly in the plural, as if he and his business were separate entities speaking in unison. He is prone to typos as well. We hope this does not offend you.