Saturday, April 6, 2013

late winter, early spring crafts

 Projects, and some more thoughts on arts and crafts.

hackberry bows
 Here's a couple of bows i finished up recently- both hackberry from th' same log. One is 64 inches long, pyramid shaped and backed with rawhide, which i stained with black walnut husks. Th' rawhide stops about 7" from th' tips, covering only th' bending portions of th' limbs. It pulls 35 pounds at 26". Ostrich skin grip and very narrow, sinew wrapped nocks for low outer limb mass, which translates into a faster moving arrow.

Also i made another sinew backed recurve, also hackberry, 54" and pulling 58 pounds at 26"- tested draw at 30" for safety. Takes no visible set after two hours of shooting. Sinew, and proper tiller can do amazing things. 

Some more thoughts on arts and crafts. This bow was commissioned by Rob- he wanted it to pull 65 pounds. Can you handle a 65 pound bow i asked him. Of course i can he says. Well, me and him have th' same length arms, so that helps with tillering, as i can just make it fit me- Rob is also quite a bit stockier than me, but i know most guys want a bow that's too strong for them. Just because you can pull it back doesn't mean you can pull it back comfortably, and repeatedly, which is essential for accuracy. So i made this bow to pull 58 pounds at 26 inches. Here's th' satisfied customer pulling his bow to 24", as far as he could wrestle it. Better build up them archery muscles Rob.

Rob asks me, how long does it take you to build one of these. I don't know i say. A long time. What, he says, like maybe 65 hours, 100 hour, 120? Yeah, something like that i'd guess, i tell him. Sinew backed bows take almost twice as long as non backed ones. So with your time and what i'm paying you about three dollars and thirty three cents an hour. You said it Rob. Craftsmen make things because they love to, not to get rich. 

Which leads me to another thought- I've been selling things at th' farmers markets for a while now, charging $15 for a wooden eating spoon. More than once people have said to me "if i was rich i'd buy one of those, they are so beautiful"- One of these people is a friend of mine- he has a "buy local" and "support local small business" stickers on his car. I'm not pickin on ya, i'm just saying, What? - Nine times out of ten people will then go and spend twelve to fifteen dollars on some beer that will gone tomorrow. Or order something just barely cheaper that was made in china. We really need to rethink our priorities over here. I wonder what people in the oriental nations think of us? They make all their own stuff and most of our stuff too. They must think, wow, those "developed" people can't even take care of themselves, and yet there is such a superiority complex around that we are somehow better than th' rest of th' world. Hmmm. 

These are just things i think about- I'm really not trying to get anyone to do anything, you must reach your own conclusions- but we can't buy self sufficiency, or th' peace that comes along with it. So grab a tool- make something, of if you need something you can't make, have someone you know make it- it'll be worth so much more than you'll pay.

Here's a few more recent projects

leather bill fold

maple cooking spoon, left handed
milk painted shave horse
silver maple eating spoons.

Well, that's all for now, see ya soon. ~Rico

car seat cover and new clothes

Fynn has unlocked many keys to childhood for me~ one secret is that little ones love bright and pretty colors! and his love for whales has inspired Rowan's new carseat cover- "pretty" whales- meaning different colors of whales...

so here is the carseat cover i made for Rowan, with Fynn's influence- 2 blue buttons to fasten it- and i sewed a green leather cover to the handle...

i also made a pair of shorts for Fynn from the "pretty whales" (just in time for fall- ha!) i couldn't let him miss out on the whales...

Here are some clothes i've made for myself~ a brown T-shirt, a black T-shirt (i'm very excited about these- what a learning experience!)a green skirt from T-shirt fabric, and a brown linen skirt i made a few months ago.

i learned a lot about working with knit fabric while i was making the green skirt. i kept taking it apart until i got it right. and i also learned a lot while making little shirts & hats & altering onesies for Rowan- hopefully i will post these soon too. then i was able to make the T-shirts!- a miracle for me because it's so hard for me to find T-shirts i like!

i have also posted some pics of Rowan in his medieval shirt. In case you were wondering, it fits him perfectly! The socks keep falling off, and the hat was small enough for a doll...

Th' Past two weeks

Well, this past two weeks has been rife with activity- Aside from taking care of th' new baby and taking over many of th' household chores, one of th' highlights for me has been taking over some of the homeschool duties for Fynn, who will be five years old by th' time you read this. We spent time in th' wood shop together, learned how to measure things, made and painted split bamboo marble slides,  went running and exercising in th' woods, learned some winter plant identification- I was pleasantly surprised when Fynn pointed out to me a hackberry tree which had no on leaves on it. Started reading through Bruce Lee's book to learn how to begin to learn Kung Fu, amongst other things. This has been really exciting for both of us, and both Fynn and i look forward to more. 

And in addition to all that, i've managed to make a few things for our winter maket booth. If you live in Fort Collins, th' markets are held every other weekend from november-april, and every weekend in december- we'll be there december and febuary, come on down. 

Here's a pole lathe turned bowl in black locust wood, painted with milk paint, which is non-toxic, mixed with earth pigments for color. To make th' paint you dissolve milk curds with lime, then mix in th' pigments. Or, without th' pigments it makes around a 20 lb. test glue... similar, though not quite as strong as hide glue.

milk paint bowl

 Here's a couple of spoons, th' one on th' right is hackberry, th' one on th' left is made from a crooked branch of apple, painted with milk paint.

apple and hackberry spoons

Here are th' side views, th' hackberry i carved from a straight log, th' apple from a crooked branch, so th' spoon follows th' grain exactly, this would be a small ladle or serving spoon. 

 Also split out some hackberry cutting boards, painted th' handles, and painted one whole side of one of them, the idea being you can chop on one side, then use th' painted side as a decorative serving board. 

hackberry cutting boards.

 I also finised up a bow and started another one, as well as prepared about twelve staves for quick drying. Here's an ash longbow in th' Meare Heath style. The Meare Heath bow dates from th' Neolithic Period, or about 2500 B.C. It is the second oldest surviving bow in th' world that we know of. It has wide flat limbs and is an extremely durable design. This was made completely without power tools from an ash tree i felled in east Texas with a hand axe. It is hard to get good pictures of bows because they are long and skinny, and you mostly see th' background, but here goes.

Ash long bow.
 I left some of the inner bark on for camouflage, and sewed on a simple leather handle. Th' string is made from twisted linen. Th' bow pulls 56 lbs. at 28".

 Once i finished that one i started on a hackberry bow for an old friend. It is in th' tillering stages now.
I've read many archery books, and they all say th' same thing, "tillering is more art than science"-
well, i have a lot of respect for those guys who write good books on how to make bows and arrows, i could not have gotten to where i am without them- But, tillering is not art and it is not science, it is skill. I'm sure we could debate th' meaning of art for ages but we can all agree that it is an expression of yourself, and science is knowledge, or th' study of knowledge- Tillering is making a bow bend evenly, the only thing it expresses is if you can do it or not, and it is not easily done- it takes lots and lots of practice, patience, and repetition. So, if you are new to bowmaking, don't give up- keep trying and go much slower than you think you should once that bow starts bending. 

Here's a hackberry bow that i've been working on th' last few days as well.

hackberry longbow
So this all gets roughed out with an axe, then i thin th' limbs till i can bend them by pushing th' bow against th' ground. By tapering th' rings on th' belly you can come close to an even bend before you ever start bending th' bow, which is very helpful once tillering proper begins. But it took me many bows to learn this. And i'm still learning. Here's what it looks like on th' first tillering board pull, you can see already too  much bend in th' right limb near th' handle, that spot will be meticulously avoided till th' bend is even. 

When chopping out a bow stave, it is helpful to work up th' limb with a series of ladder chops, then back down th' limb no deeper than those chops. This goes a long way to prevent you chopping too far into th' stave and pulling out a split which will narrow th' width of your bow, especially with severely cross grained woods such as elm, and to a lesser degree hackberry. I've also set up a 3 tiered chopping block system so i can work up and down th' stave without having to bend over, placing the axe in relatively th' same position everytime. This makes a huge difference in how you feel after chopping for half and hour or more.

And remember when chopping to leave yourself plenty of room on th' block to catch the axe, should you need. Here's a picture of an actual event, th' axe chopped off th' wood easier than i had anticipated and landed firmly in th' block. Note how far back th' stave is, if it had been on th' closer edge i could be a hurtin man. This need never happen, but when you've been chopping for a long time you get tired and lazy, so allow for this, and take a break if you need it. 

Robin Hood?

Till next time,

Medieval outfit for little baby

I tried my hand at nalbinding a little bit last winter, then got sort of stuck at the "felting strings together" part, so i put it down for a while. But sometime this summer i realized i didn't have a newborn sized hat for L.B. (who should be born sometime around mid October) so i thought i'd give nalbinding a try again. I started with some yellow wool yarn that a friend had given me, which was the perfect thickness for nalbinding, and when i ran out of that, used 2 different greens doubled up together to finish the hat. Instead of trying to felt the string ends together, i just started working a new string where the last string left off. Later i tied together loose ends and cut off the extra strings. That worked pretty good. It's a very stout hat- should keep Little Baby plenty warm enough.

I still had some green yarn left and thought i might be able to figure out some little socks. They actually turned out pretty good! - Except the second heel turned out a little different than the first, but who will ever know? I used the 2 greens doubled up for them too.

Now that i had matching hat and socks, there was some green and yellow fabric in my room that was catching my eye, and i thought it was the perfect opportunity to try out a basic medieval tunic (or dress) pattern. And who better to try it on than a little person who doesn't require a lot of fabric! The fabric is just some cotton gauze- not very authentic, but i wanted to use what i already had. I also found some simple clasps among my sewing things and used those to close up the neck. I stitched the whole thing by hand using golden- yellow thread, and all of the seams are finished on the inside. This was one of those projects that was really fun to work on- i didn't want to put it down! We'll soon see how it fits L.B.... At least someone in the family will have some nice viking clothes!