hrj: (doll)
(Just for grins and giggles -- and for various other sociological reasons -- I've taken up the challenge to enter the West Kingdom's A&S championship this year. There have been a number of years with relatively few entrants -- and sometimes no entrants eligible for the overall championship -- so I'm doing this not for the sake of trying to win, but for the sake of supporting arts and the visibility of the arts in this kingdom. I'll most likely be blogging my entries. In most cases, the blog may be just my accompanying documentation with pictures or text, as applicable, of the entry.)

West Kingdom A&S Championship - 12th Night 2014 - Woodworking (Tools Made of Wood)

This is an upright weaving frame used as a free-standing anchor for tablet-weaving and other narrow-ware techniques. Frames of this type are seen in medieval art, especially in genre scenes involving the Virgin Mary. Although a variety of structures are seen in these depictions, not all of them are functional, as depicted. The general structure involves two upright pillars fastened to a base plank, and a cross-brace running between the uprights to act in opposition to the tension of the weaving. This cross-brace may be placed below the weaving area ...

MS Fr 598 fol. 29 arachne low bar cards
Arachne Bibliotheque Nationale de France (MS Fr 598 fol. 29) early 15th century

... or it may be placed at the top of the pillars, creating an overall square frame.
BNF Fr. 376, fol. 116v high barFestal Missal - high bar w cards
Annunciation, Pilgrimage of the Heart
(BNF Fr. 376, fol. 116v), second quarter
of the 15th century
Less functional depictions may omit the cross-brace ...
base no bar
... or may have no base-plate (also essential for countering the tension of the weaving) ...
British Library Royal 16 G V penelope high bar no base
Penelope (fol. 45v), De claris mulieribus (British Library Royal 16 G V), c. 1440

...or may omit any sort of connection between the two pillars entirely.
PML M.453, fol. 24r no base no bar
Mary weaving, a book of hours (PML M.453, fol. 24r), c. 1420-1435

A more practical piece of evidence for construction than simple force dynamics is the surviving example of this type of frame from the 9th century Norwegian Oseberg ship burial.
Brøgger, Anton W. & Arne Emil Christensen. 1928. Osebergfundet 2. Kristiania: Universitetets Oldsaksamling.

Construction and Modifications

I have followed the general construction of the Oseberg find for my frame with several modifications. Specifically, mine uses the flat base-board with stabilizing cross-feet at the end, uprights that are square in cross-section at the base and more rounded above the cross-brace in the weaving area, and a cross-brace placed below the working area.

The major differences in my frame are overall smaller dimensions, omitting the decorative shaping of the base-plate, using somewhat longer stabilizing cross-feet, giving the upper portion of the pillars an octagonal rather than round cross-section, and making the whole thing easily disassembled with certain other modifications to this end.

In order to make it possible to disassemble the frame for transport, rather than the pillars being pegged through the base-plate and cross-feet, a 1/4” x 3” hanger bolt is screwed into the end of the pillar which then passes through drilled holes in the base-plate and cross-foot and is fastened with a wing-nut. There is a washer counter-sunk into the bottom of the cross-foot to prevent wear that could result in a loose fit. As the base-plate and cross-feet are meant to come apart, they are not joined with a dovetail as in the Oseberg frame, but simply overlapped and held in place relative to each other by friction. In order to leave room for the protruding wing-nut, I added an additional layer to the end of the cross-feet to raise it off the ground slightly. These pieces are glued to the cross-feet with wood glue and have been carved into decorative “lion’s paw” shapes. This design (with the protruding feet) will also make the frame somewhat more stable on uneven ground if I take it to outdoor events.

The cross-brace is shaped into a tenon at the ends and fits into a mortise cut into the pillar. No additional fastening for this joint is required as the tension of the weaving will hold the cross-brace in place during work.

The frame is made from oak 1x2, 1x3, and 2x2 lumber. The lumber for the pillars was intended as spindles for stair railings, hence the protruding round post at the top. I’ve left this part unfinished at the present with the intention of using it to attach decorative finials when I’ve been able to locate appropriate pieces.

The wood is finished with beeswax.

hrj: (doll)
My working deadline for having at least some version of my 15th c. dresser finished is the West-An Tir War held 4th of July weekend. That means this weekend was my last chance to meet the deadline (after three weeks of a crazy work schedule that involved late nights and at least one Saturday). So I've set a reasonable partly-done goal for this event: the main dresser without the upper shelf unit, and possibly without the painted decoration. The first step was to assemble the main cabinet kit from IKEA.
The basic structure will be to add removable legs underneath...
...and then a lower shelf unit with feet.
Since the cabinet has a recessed bottom, the leg plates I'm using for this part are triangular and attach with 5 screws along the edges.
like so:
The feet on the lower shelf will attach with regular square plates. I've cut the shelf to length (it's a smidge wider than the cabinet, but not enough to be worth cutting it down to match), drilled the screw holes for the leg plates, and drilled sockets to receive the ends of the pegs I've glued into the bottom of the legs. The pegs will prevent the units from being knocked apart casually but they don't actually fasten. And I've only left about 1/4" of the pegs sticking out of the legs in order to reduce the chance of them getting snapped off. Because I don't trust the complete interchangeability of my carpentry, I've discretely numbered the legs and their home plates and the corresponding corners of the lower shelf. The numbers won't be visible in use. Here the cabinet is sitting on the lower shelf (but without the lower shelf feet yet).
When I ordered the various legs and feet, I expected them to all come with the hardware attached like this:
Three of the feed had their hardware, but one didn't. The legs had holes drilled for the hardware, but not hardware. And the two longer legs (for a part of the project I'm still designing) had neither hardware nor holes.
The hardware in question is like a screw on one end (the part inserted into the leg) and a bolt on the other (the part screwed into the plate). Now my Favorite Home Depot Guy was able to identify for me what hardware I needed to make up the lack, but his suggestion for inserting it was to put a nut on the bolt portion and ratchet it in using a wrench. The problem with this was that the only style of screw/bolt available had a rather lengthy bolt portion and it would have been too long for my socket wrench.
So just as an experiment, I inserted the bolt portion into my power drill and then used low power to screw it into the drilled hole in the leg/foot. This worked perfectly. Due to the design of the bottom of the cabinet, I didn't need to cut off the excess length on the bolt for those four legs, so I only had to apply a hacksaw to the one lone foot, and to the two larger legs that are set aside for future elaborations.

At this point the legs, feet, and lower shelf were set aside to be varnished before doing any further work. It's too hot to do any work outside at the moment. (Reports say we're at 102F currently.) So I moved on to creating the doors. I'd previously said that the door hinges would be invisible in use but the ones that had the right design and small profile end up with the hinge showing slightly (and therefore taking up a little space on the face of the cabinet, which has consequences that we'll see later). These are spring-loaded kitchen cabinet hinges, shown here sitting on top of one of the shelves that will be turned into doors.
The two outer doors have the hinges attached to the edge of the side of the shelving cabinet. The "doors" are just barely tall enough to overlap the opening just slightly, so I was very careful about lining them up to avoid gaps. Once the two outer doors were attached, I was able to evaluate the constraints on the middle door. The doors themselves ended up being completely flush with each other with no space for a side hinge on the middle door. So my options were a top hinge or a bottom hinge. The bottom hinge would have been less visible and slightly more accessible, but it would create the potential for someone to lean on the open door and splinter the wood. (Yes, my project risk assessments assume that my friends will be clumsy and clueless.) So I went with the upper hinge.
The design of the hinge means that when the middle door is opened all the way, the door holds in place, so the convenience aspect turns out ok, it's just the visibility in an odd location that's non-optimal.
So once the varnishing of the legs and lower shelf is done, I'll have a completed cabinet of this style:
One other part of the project is to add a removable upper shelf unit, to make the whole thing look more like this:
I have plans for how I'm going to do it, but it involves more carpentry than I thought I could get done this weekend (since I also have some tent canvas repairs to do, and I need to make packing lists and figure out which cookbooks to take). The other part is to paint the main side panels and doors with a trompe l'oeil design imitating wood carving. I was thinking originally of doing some fancy gothic tracery, along these lines:
But the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards a simple linen-fold design repeating on each panel, more like this:
What I'm thinking of is something of a pen-and-ink drawing effect, using fine parallel lines for the shading. I have an acrylic-paint "pen" to experiment with (and one extra door to use for practice), but I don't want to mess it up by being in a hurry.

Oh, and it's really really hot this weekend, and I'm trying to focus on achievable goals.
hrj: (doll)
Gawronski, Jerzy. 2012. Amsterdam Ceramics: A city's history and an arcaheological ceramics catalogue 1175-2011. Uitgeverij Bas Lubberhuizen, Amsterdam. ISBN 978-90-5937-267-2

(Repeat after me: I do not have a pottery problem.)

I saw a copy of this book at the West Coast Historic Culinary Symposium earlier this year but barely had time to do more than drool over it. Now I own a copy.

The book starts with a review of the history of Amsterdam, covering the geographic scope of the city, relevant historic events but especially the construction of key landmarks, typical artifacts of each era (they do a series of similar objects such as a shoe, a spoon, a drinking vessel, an illumination device, for each of sections) and the location of key excavations. This takes up the first 100 pages of the book. Then we have a catalog of 1247 ceramic artifacts (of which about half fall within the SCA's period), all with color photographs, typical examples with cross-sectional drawings, with the find location, location of origin (if different), fabric, size, and type-group given. (Dates are implicit in the sectional groupings which correspond to the eras of the historic review.) I don't know if this is literally every substantially complete piece of pottery excavated out of Amsterdam (probably not0, but it's far more generous than the usual "just the pretty pieces" or "just a single example of each type". For example, the 1300-1350 section includes 13 stoneware jugs, 2 redware jugs, 6 redware tripod pipkins, 2 redware small cauldrons, etc. etc.

One fascinating result of this coverage is the ability to see the very slow rate of change in basic cookware types and shapes. For example, certain styles of tripod pipkin and frying pan continue essentially unchanged from the 12th through 18th centuries, while other specific shapes and functions of object appear for more limited terms or appear at later dates. The coverage also enables a much greater range of decorative features (when present) to be displayed so that typical versus unusual designs can be identified.

This is going to be a great source of ideas for new items to add to my open-fire cooking equipment (or for determining that I really do have almost one of everything relevant). I imagine there will be a great deal of lugging the book around to my favorite potters and asking, "Can you make me one of these?"
hrj: (doll)
Gaimster, David (ed). 1999. Maiolica in the North: The Archaeology of Tin-Glazed Earthenware in North-West Europe c. 1500-1600 (British Museum Occasional Paper Number 122). The British Museum, London. ISBN 0-86159-122-4

I do not have a "pottery problem". I have pottery; it's not a problem. This book is far more deeply geeky than I have a practical use for. It's a collection of conference proceedings covering archaeological evidence for the production and use of maiolica style pottery in England and the Netherlands. In addition to diagrams, descriptions, and photographs of assemblages of pottery from various locations, it covers the identification of clay sources by molecular composition, documentary evidence for production and import/export movements, and special studies of some particular categories such as floor tiles, apothecary jars, and flower vases. The bibliographies for the articles are a virtual shopping list for other publications on the topic.

I could wish that there were more color plates. While there are plentiful illustrations, there are only 5 pages of color (plus the cover image). For a topic as colorful as this one, that leaves a bit to the imagination. But the focus specifically on pottery used on north-west Europe provides a nice balance for the usual focus on the Mediterranean where the industry was centered and most fully developed.

I picked up a second copy of this book as a thank-you gift for one of my ... uh ... dealers. And, no, I don't have a pottery problem. I can stop any time I ... ooh, pretty!
hrj: (doll)
So given my two engineering challenges (constructing the basic elements & designing the assembly/teardown structure), my design breakthrough came when I discovered IKEA had come out with a new Trofast shelf unit. One that had the size and relative proportions ideal for the central element of a 15th c. dresser.


Very conveniently, the shelf units that were supplied as alternatives to the plastic storage totes are exactly the right size to serve as doors, saving me from having to cut and finish something to shape.


The planned understructure requires a design compromise from the original inspiration. For the lower shelf itself, I picked up another glued-pine shelf board like the one I use on top of the tower units in my current set-up. It’s strong, solid, and lightweight and will stand up to having hardware attached.


But the legs in all the 15-16th c. dressers are uniformly plain rectangular columns.

Aubert_Chas_Martel clip 1

And the easiest way to achieve strong, stable, easily-removable legs is to use a commercially available screw-in leg and metal top-plate set-up. (Specific leg style is not the one I’m using.)


But these items all involve some version of turned decoration or similar shapes because -- duh! -- why would you want to use this method to make a table with plain square-column legs? And here’s my compromise. Turned joinery is certainly common in my target era. Bebb’s Welsh furniture book has numerous examples from as early as the 15th century of turned table legs and a style of elaborately decoratively turned chairs. But the earliest I can find an example of a turned column as a decorative element on a dresser is the early 17th century.

Bebb562 copy

And the earliest I can find a turned leg in the position I want to use it is the end of the 17th century.

Bebb587 copy

Given the vagaries of survival, I don’t feel entirely inappropriate using the commercially available turned legs for my purpose, but it’s definitely a divergence from my target model. The plan, then, is to fasten the leg top-plates to the underside of the Trofast cabinet with relatively short legs attached. (I’d have to look it up on my order but I believe it was the 15” style.) The lower shelf will also have top-plates attached to the underside corners with short ball-style feet attached. (It probably wouldn’t be a packing problem to leave the feet permanently attached, but for structural reasons it will be stronger to use the same screw-on style.) To stabilize the box portion when set onto the lower shelf, I plan to insert small pegs into the bottom of the legs that will sit in holes drilled into the shelf. Set up both parts independently then set the top unit on top of the shelf and into the holes.

A bit of kitchen cabinet hardware supplies hinges for the doors that will be invisible when the doors are closed and won’t get in the way of access to the storage totes. The only remaining engineering problem is the canopied backing piece with shelves. And that will take another post.
hrj: (doll)
So what exactly is the target image I have in mind for this piece of furniture? I wanted something that would be a combination of a “display” piece where serving dishes could be stored visibly or staged for use, but also with internal space for the (modern) modular storage totes. Ideally, the visible storage/display space would be appropriate both for serving dishes (plates, pitchers, glassware, etc.) but also for my reproduction cookware.

Initial research suggested that the sort of thing I was looking for would be most appropriate for the 15-16th century, which also fit best with the era of most of my reproduction pottery. (It doesn’t necessarily fit ideally with the eras I dress for -- I tend to max out at the end of the 15th century.)

Manuscript illustrations (primarily Burgundian) provide examples of a couple of basic types, both of which could be thought of as a wide box (with doors on the front), standing on 4 legs, with a shelf fixed at the bottom of the legs just above the floor.

The more elaborate variant adds a backing, either simply as a standing panel, or with shelving and sometimes a shallow canopy:

(Brussels, ca. 1472) This is going to be image-heavy. )
hrj: (doll)
It is part of the constant SCA balancing act that Authentic Stuff often tends to be large, heavy, and bulky, or requires multiple servants to transport and set up. (Not always, but often.) As someone who loves serious cooking at events -- whether modern cooking of medieval foods or full all-out medieval cooking in little footed pipkins -- I’ve spent the last quarter century penduluming back and forth between practicality and authenticity (whether only in appearance or in underlying structure).

Through long trial and error, my compromise point has settled on the following conveniences necessary for my sanity:

* camp kitchen furniture must be able to be packed in a reasonably-sized vehicle
* camp kitchen furniture must be able to be set up and taken down in a reasonable amount of time
* ideally, camp kitchen supplies must be able to be packed and stored in the same structures in which they are used at events
* camp kitchen supplies and equipment must be stored and transported modularly so that different needs can be accommodated without totally repacking everything and without taking All The Things to every event
* my kitchen at events must be organized in a way that makes cooking easy and safe

To this we add the following goals on the historic side:

* modern elements in the kitchen should be relatively hidden from view from outside my camp
* the larger physical structures used to organize my kitchen should at least be not obviously modern (e.g., wood surfaces if possible where visible) and should bear some conceptual similarity to historic equipment whenever practical

I confess that I’ve more often settled for “not obviously modern” and “natural surfaces” than the further goals. I settled for purchasing a round firebox rather than making or commissioning the reproduction of the Roman cooking brazier I long for. I’ve been a only gradually inching closer to having reasonably authentic trestle tables for prep and dining. But I’ve long had my dreams. And one of my dreams is for my camp kitchen to include something like this:


This is the project diary of that quest. Read more... )
hrj: (Default)
This is going to be rather image-intensive, so it's behind a cut. Herewith is my stream-of-consciousness progress in devising a turning spit for my medieval camping fire-box.

Read more... )
hrj: (Default)
When we did the pottery-painting sessions for the last Perfectly Period Feast, we had so much fun that I thought more people needed to share in the experience, so I volunteered to coordinate a "Paint Your Own (15th c. Spanish) Pottery class for A&S.

We'll be working with the gorgeous 6-lobed bowl style and there will be a brief lecture and presentation on the types of decorations used on bowls of this type and on other simple pottery of the same era. The decoration style we'll be emphasizing is a relatively simple, free-flowing -- sometimes even a bit abstract -- style in a limited range of colors. I guarantee that people of all levels of artistic ability will be able to reproduce or adapt at least some subset of the motifs in question.

All materials (pots, paints, brushes, etc. etc.) are included in the class fee, as is the post-painting firing and shipping back to you after the firing is done. This is professionally made pottery produced by Lodema the Potter who developed the lobed-bowl design based on research by Mistress Crystal and other members of the PPF team. The class fee is $25 per bowl with a discount of $5 for a second bowl shipped to the same address.

The pottery class is scheduled for Sunday morning at A&S in order to minimize conflict with all the other wonderful classes you'll want to enjoy! If not all the bowls are spoken for at A&S, I'll be reprising the class Sunday morning at June Crown (time TBD but I suspect it will be "whenever interested people find me").

Just imagine: you'll not only learn about Spanish pottery designs -- you'll end up with your own authentic reproduction bowl ... that you painted yourself!

Here are some examples of pre-fired bowls of the style we'll be doing from one of the PPF painting sessions. (The fired bowls have more brilliant colors.)

hrj: (Default)
Made it to this weekend's pottery painting party for the Perfectly Period Feast. There was an unfortunate firing failure (half the intended painting subjects came out cracked) so we pretty much only had one piece each to work on. That meant I decided to pick one of the more intricate originals to copy. The colors will be darker after firing, of course.

The original (14th c. Spanish):

hrj: (Default)
I heard about this cool font-making site ( on the conlangs community and just gave it a test run. The basic idea is that you print out a template page that has spaces for you to write characters on, then you scan it, upload it to the site, and they turn it into a True-type font. I did a test run with just a basic upper and lower case alphabet taken from the Peniarth 20 Brut y Tywysogion (14th c. Welsh book hand) and here's the result.

This is just a rough first attempt -- the spacing is a bit wide, I wasn't as meticulous with the calligraphy as I could have been, and for a serious attempt I'd want to use the extended character set to have fun with some of the alternate letter forms, ligatures, etc. But I've been looking for an easy font-generation program to play with ever since I messed around with one called Font Monger back a decade or so ago. This could be quite a lot of fun.

By the way, the site is set up to copyright the resulting font to the person who creates it. I'm not quite sure what their business model is (and I did do some research in advance to make sure there weren't any complaints about the site installing spyware or viruses) unless they're directly associated with the font editing software that they suggest at the end of the process (which costs fairly standard software prices).

ETA: Changed the example to jpeg format since there were some format problems in displaying. If you see this note but don't see the text example, please drop a comment so I can trouble-shoot.
hrj: (Default)
Woke up with a scratchy throat this morning. Although various people have been wandering around work hacking and sneezing, I really can't blame anything except shorting myself on sleep all week. (Largely because I got sucked into playing with new tools and setups on the 'Phone.) Definitely my default "Winter Cold, Standard Edition" this time -- not like the fluish thing I had a month ago.

And yet, rather than take to my bed, I needed a day out in the sunshine (which I don't get much of during the work week these days). I've been meaning to get over to the Roomax showroom in SF to check out their wall beds (towards the make-over of the guest bedroom). I liked what I saw and got an estimate on the model I liked (which locks in my price for a couple months ... which is good since they're about to raise prices). That gives me a target for starting the initial parts of the process (empty the room, rip out the carpet, paint, install the same flooring I put in the living room).

After that I dropped by Omnivore books which has been on my to-do list since [ profile] j_i_m_r raved about it. Picked up a couple of books (one on making easy processed milk products, one 18th c. cookbook that I didn't happen to have).

Now, what I was supposed to do today was get some housecleaning done, take down the Christmas tree, and maybe do some sewing. Nope. On the other hand, I have this cunning idea for a project. I've been trying to visualize the "perfect small purse" to replace my current (worn out) Eagle Creek shoulder pouch and that would accommodate the new phone better than a simple replacement. And I got to thinking about some of the designs in Purses in Pieces that I've been meaning to explore. And then I noticed the purse in there that not only had the cute attached drawstring pouches on the main flapped pouch, but set in between them was a separate rectangular pocket for a set of writing tablets. And it would be just perfect for an iPhone. I'm not planning on doing a straight reproduction of the historic artifact -- for one thing, I want to adapt it to a shoulder bag rather than a belt bag, and this isn't intended for SCA use. But I like the "multiple pockets and divided areas" design. And adding in a few zippers, modern strap fasteners, and so forth wouldn't change the overall esthetic significantly.

Just what I need: inspiration for a new creative project when I'm having trouble keeping up with the day to day stuff.


hrj: (Default)

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