Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Brian Russell - Demonstrator Profile

Brian Russell
Little Newsham, County Durham, England

" Towards the end of my four years at art college, the thought entered my head that it might be fun to be a blacksmith. I really wanted to serve an apprenticeship with a blacksmith, but in early 1970`s England they were very thin on the ground. There was no BABA or ABANA, no internet, no way of contacting other like minded people. I was offered a forge in a lovely old farming village in the north east of England and opened up for business in 1976, armed with two books by Fritz Kuhn and copies of the Cosira books : "A Blacksmith Craft," and "Wrought Ironwork". Shortly afterwards, I had a couple of short visits from a Cosira instructor, Ron Brown, who arrived with a bag full of ram`s heads, snails and leaves of all descriptions. This opened my eyes to possibilities that I had previously not considered; decorative features did not have to be scrolls! The founding of The British artist Blacksmiths Association in 1978 had a major impact on the work that I was designing and making. I was able to meet and see the work of craftsmen from all over the UK who had been established for years, producing amazing shapes of all descriptions in forged metal. This was a big eye opener for me, I had to go out and find a power hammer, to enable me to work bigger sections, and quicker!
" I do prefer architectural scale work,with as many forged elements in it as possible, so it will be fun to make. It`s a good feeling to have a pile of forgings on the floor at the end of the day. I don`t buy components from catalogues, for me it would be wrong to include pieces designed and made by others in my work, no matter how good the quality or how cheap. Having said that,for some jobs we do have blanks either laser cut or gas profiled to be forged into finished shapes by us. I continuously try to come up with new ideas, it`s not always easy,as there is so many clever blacksmiths out there now, and I have designed so much myself over the years, that it is difficult to come up with new forms.
" I try to make the work that we do as varied as possible, although there is no getting away from natural forms, is there? We love rivetted gates, with mortice and tenon joints,whether large or small. Sometimes these have traditional forms but more often with a design that hopefully will stand out as being different. Forge welding is a process I really enjoy, and use as much as possible. I think that most people regard me as a craftsman that will only work traditionally, and while I do prefer to work in this way, I do take on sculptural projects that by the size and the nature of the design, make it necessary to use modern methods as well. "

Barley Hand Rails
These rather more contemporary features are to be found on a cottage that was formerly a malt house. They feature heads of Barley and germinating grains.

"We are lucky in having a good client , a property developer who keeps coming back for more work,and gives me a pretty free hand with the design.This is an old cottage he owns which used to be a malthouse, so I tried to incorporate this aspect of it`s history. All the elements are forged but the assembly is a fabrication job.If I remember correctly,the grains are swaged from 70mm round, the tools made from a pattern turned on our old lathe.We make a lot of these tools, you can reproduce almost any shape of a circular section."

Table Candle Holders
A pair of candleholders showing how plant forms can be used with good effect in forged Metalwork.
"...a rare commission for us these days. Although we make quite a lot of candleholders for churches, these were for a private house. It makes a welcome change to do small scale work now and again, I sometimes think we don`t do enough hand forging..."

Brancepeth Screen
A forged steel screen, backed by toughened glass, in the ancient church of St. Brandon near Durham.

" This piece is in a church dating from the 11th century. It is a screen glazed with toughened glass to provide a quiet room in the church.It was far too big to fit through the church door,so a window had to be taken out ,and the 800 kg screen passed through on edge ( with 75 mm clearance).It was a delicate operation. "

Also on Brian's web site: An extensive portfolio of his past work, primarily architectural pieces. On the front page is a slide show feature that shows concept drawings which fade into an image of the competed works. On the 'Image Gallery' are many of his (high quality!) design drawings.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


As you are sure to guess, mounting an event like CanIRON 8 is a huge task. From some initial meetings about a year back, Brad Allen and Darrell Markewitz took on the early concept work for the event. Starting in the fall, Mick Smith joined, assisting on the selection of a final site and the recruiting of the featured demonstrators.

Starting with a meeting in December, there are now a number of people working as the core organizing team. to keep things working quickly, this group will be kept small, at least for the first stages of the process. A smaller group, conferring mainly via e-mail, is able to make decisions more quickly.
This is the list of the core team leaders - the people who have said they would assume these tasks:

Site Manager - Wolfgang Bleckert (bleckertk AT xplornet.com)
Demonstrator Co-Ordinator - Darrell Markewitz (caniron AT warehamforge.ca)
Volunteers Co-Ordinator - Dan Linkenheld (dlink AT bmts.com )
Registration - Shirley Young (shirley.y AT sympatico.ca)
Gallery - Kelly Probyn-Smith (elfworks AT sympatico.ca )
Equipment - Jean Heroux (Heroux-j AT rmc.ca)
Trouble Shooter - Mick Smith (barbmick AT xplornet.com)


Site Manager : will include all the logistics of supporting the event. Garbage, security, set up & tear down, all the fun stuff. This works closely with Volunteers, which is where the labour is coming from.

Demonstrator Co-Ordinator : (also known as Head Animal Wrangler). This will involve all the aspects of getting the demonstrators to CanIRON, then fed, housed, equipped as required. (Darrell took this primarily because he knows the larger number of the demonstrators personally)

Volunteers Co-Ordinator : will get those work shift lists made and filled out. At the event will be responsible for getting bodies to the work stations as scheduled. Expect a lot of last minute organization! (why this is separated from Site Manager).

Registration : was the task Shirley volunteered for (and is well suited!). She has a clear idea how she wants to structure this. Karin Bleckert, as current OABA treasurer, will assist on this area.

Gallery : Kelly is bringing her experience from working as part of the Toronto arts community to this area. Along with the traditional work by all, this may include a longer term juried exhibit, likely with a web component. There is likely to be direct involvement in the program design here.

Equipment : would include all forges, tools and required AV. It is expected to include organizing a construction phase well before the event. Key will be getting and idea what can be drawn from the membership.

Promotions : will include setting advertizing rates, recruiting for both paid program ads and possibly working as a vendor co-ordinator at the the event.

Fundraising : is a major task. This would include research and applying for possible grants, hunting for corporate donations. Also checking into smaller donations of materials and services from local businesses. This individual would need to work closely with the Promotions.

- The core organizing team is still looking for interested individuals who could help out with those last two areas, ideally people with past experience.

- Remember that as we get closer to the event, each of the core team areas will require first sub team leaders. There will be lots of work required from the membership in general on conference weekend. If everyone pitches in for a couple of hours, the whole event should come off smoothly!

- If you want to contact any of the team leaders directly - just cut out the AT and replace it with the @ symbol for the correct e-mail address. (This done here to avoid spam!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010


As of February 15, 2010, the following fees have been proposed by the CanIRON 8 Team:

TypeDatesGeneral Admission
OABA Members
Early Birdbefore 1/1/11
Pre-Registerbefore 5/31/11$250$225
REGISTERafter 6/1/11$275$250
Single Day
at event$85$75
Studentany point1/2 price1/2 price
Spouseany point$50$50
Under 16

All fees in CANADIAN funds.
Remember that after 7/1/10 the new HST is likely to be applied in addition.

OABA Members in good standing receive a discount to account for their support.

Qualified Students must be currently enrolled full time at secondary or post secondary level.

Any Spouse is that of a fully registered person, and is limited to observation only.

Children are those less than 16 years of age, and will not be allowed any direct hands on participation (for safety reasons).

These fees may be subject to change should changing events dictate.

Addition - Feb 18

The Fergus Sportplex, site of CanIRON 8, will provide CAMPING ON THE GROUNDS.
These sites are set up for RV / trailers, with electric and water hookups. Sharing a site and pitching a couple of tents will make your lodging costs pretty inexpensive!
There will be cafeteria services will be available on site for lunches and diners. Local pubs or fast food are available within a 15 minute walk /short car hop to the grounds.

Friday, February 5, 2010

the Dark Ages Re-creation Company - Demonstrator Profile

the Dark Ages Re-creation Company
Central Ontario

" The Dark Ages Re-creation Company is composed of people interested in using living history to research aspects of life in Northern Europe during the Viking Age. This is accomplished through workshops and experimental archaeology where the focus is on developing traditional skills as we create accurate replicas of period artefacts and processes. ... The Company further strives to provide a resource of skilled and experienced historic interpreters and physical demonstrators to museums, schools, and educational programs."

"DARC's Experimental Iron smelting is based on archaeological evidence, and are targeted to recreate the techniques the Viking Era Norse used to smelt iron. ... Our goal is to get a method that first reliably produces iron, and second uses equipment that would have been available historically, and third that matches the archaeological record that we have with regards to blooms produced, smelter and surrounding area layout, and materials."
The link between iron smelting and the Viking Age lies in the fact that the first documented iron production in North America was by the Norse at L'Anse aux Meadows Newfoundland (Vinland) circa 1000 AD. Team members from DARC have demonstrated both historic and practical modern methods for smelting iron before the blacksmithing community : at CanIRON 5 (2005, Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia) and at Quad State (2008, Troy Ohio)
(above June 2005 - An early experiment with all Viking Age equipments
image by Neil Peterson )

May 2005 - Taping slag from a firebrick furnace.
image by Neil Peterson

At Quad State - View of a simple clay smelting furnace in operation.
image by Darrell Markewitz

November 2009 - starting to hammer work the hot bloom
image by Darrell Markewitz

DARC maintains considerable information on its ongoing research work on the web, including its experimental iron smelting.
Further information on DARK's work is also to be found on the web site of Darrell Markewitz, which includes YouTube clips as well.