The Forge Diary: 2013 to 2014

I posted this update on Facebook a while ago, which updates the whole project to the last work weekend of 2014.

Firstly, a Google sketchup drawings showing construction – front view.

 

 

 

The final design, however has lower cross-bracing on the rafters, which will be about a foot higher than head height. This will reduce the lateral stress on the low walls either side.

An “exploded” view /   underneath, showing grooves to receive staves (the planks that stops the building from wracking)

 

 

 A close-up view, showing pinning of through / lap joints.

Pegging from the outside seemed a weakness I wanter to avoid. So we chose to blind-peg from the inside.

Actually, mMany of the final pegging will be predominantly stainless steel hex screws

2013 : August : Work was properly started on the Forge.

There was a lot of other things going on, like moving shipping containers and the such, so work didn’t start until part way through the week.

Four lapped bases and four corner uprights were constructed.

2013 : Sep 14/15 – Show – No work done on the Forge

2013 : November : Sunday only – somewhat delayed by the weather and lack of petrol – we fitted two new uprights for the Forge.

2014 : Feb – Coppicing – No work done on the forge

2014 : March : In spite of the film work getting in the way. Just over half a day’s work got all the uprights in and the wall plate trial fitted.

 

2014 : April : Ian Lewis, Chris Boulton, Malcolm Butler and I spent just under a day and a half working on the forge construction. Both satisfying and frustrating, as we did so well with what little time we had, but we could have so much more.

 Four inner uprights had tenons put on them, plus we chiselled through the mortises on the existing wall plate, and constructed the other wall plate. A bit of fettling will see that all home and dry – then it’s onto the four short connectors that keep the inner uprights in place, then the main crosspiece.

 

 2014 : May – Due to a clash with a show at Sherwood, there was a Forge-specific (roughing-it) weekend.

 We were focussed, nay driven, to make the most of the weekend, and as such managed to get most of the framework sorted. Don’t we look happy?

 2014 : July – Show – No progress on . Forge

 2014 : August week : Being there for a week acheived far more than I thought possible. Fine weather and an abundance of manpower also helped!

The main framework and staves for one wall were completed.

 2014 : September : During the hot, humid and muggy September morning we dismantled the forge, redistributed and levelled the shingle, kindly deposited there after the Detling show then re-laid the four cill beams that comprised the base.

 

On Saturday afternoon, we cut channels all around the base and some of the uprights and short connecting pieces.

Sunday morning we cut short rebated staves to go into front end wall – to replace the chamfered lot that were there, and the majority of which turned out too short!

 

Sunday afternoon we reconstructed the forge, with the exclusion of the single section wall plate, which will be channelled out at the next WW, along with all the uprights.

2014 : October : We completed the other side of the forge. By now I started to realise that once the channels are cut, the stave walls go up in a matter of hours. It was a shame to miss out on all that wattle, daub, plaster and painting… …not!

 2014 : November : Chris, Ian, Malcolm, Brian, Hannah, Kyle and I managed to
install one end of the forge.

The top section took a little “persuading”, but now all the sections are bolted together it’s already a much, much tighter construction.

 

 2015 : Next year.

We’ve got a couple of months out, doing coppicing, but work should resume in March, where we should get the other end up. Then ordering shingles and making rafters.

But who knows, we may have a surplus of bodies at the coppicing – which would free a few of us to do something else?

It’s all good, really!

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Something Old, Something New.

Ages ago, I suggested that we could spend a week down at Wychurst, doing authentic crafts authentically. After all, wasn’t that the reason we built the thing for? The Eolder and Living History Coordinator agreed, and very slowly a plan was put into action.

Over the following two training weekends, earworms were sent out, a few questions were placed in what was hoped in the right place and time and opinions sought. But as usual, it was mostly last-minute panic!

Part of the problem was timing. We’d had a week at Corfe Castle, and while I planned for it to happen during the Summer holiday season, when people were theoretically able to take time off, it seemed that most had preferred to take the Work Week off later in the month, as it led up to the multi-period show at Detling. Who’d have thought it, eh?  I shalln’t make that mistake again.

The planned scale of the proposal was also an issue. But this wasn’t so different than planning a normal work weekend. There were lots of things that we “could” do, but I didn’t know what actually could happen until we knew who was coming, and what they actually wanted to do when they were there. As it turned out, most were happy to help make an authentic Oven and a bloomery, for smelting Iron Ore (or any old Ore?!)

An Anglosaxon Oven

This is the sort of oven we will be attempting to make – with a few modifications.

 

 

And this is the sort of evidence we have to go on!  Bread oven archaeological evidence

The chap who was planning to come down and help make / teach the art of pole lathes thought that it really wasn’t worth his while, and sadly I agreed with him – so we’ll belay that idea until later. And the chap who had said he would show how to make shave horses, pulled out early on, so that was a complete non-starter.

In the end we have between 11 and 16 people for the week. Neither brilliant nor unexpected. But neither was it a complete disaster. We’ll see how it goes. I do hope our projects will be successful enough to encourage others to come down and participate in other projects.

There was also the second of two shows planned for the year to organise. But considering it was supposed to be a “quiet year” even that was touch and go for a moment, but a last minute flurry of emotional (for me) emails pushed the number of attendees to over 20, which is about what we had the previous year. Not excellent numbers, but again just enough to stop those present, getting too lonely. Perhaps again it was a case of too many events happening at the same time, perhaps as it had been advertised (lamented, even) that it was going to be a quiet year, people made plans.

But it was the Work Weekend that was the surprise. In spite of it being on the calendar of events since last year, nearly everyone seemed busy that weekend. So it got cancelled. Two more days lost on constructing the Forge. Which is a pain. Thinking positively – it’ll make me more focussed during the work week.

Still, on Facebook,  the LHE Coodinator has led a flurry of information gathering on how to make the oven, I’m not sure what the lead on the Bloomery construction has done in the way of prep, but we’re sure to give it our best shot, and spend most of the first day running around getting all the materiels onto site.

Oh, and I’ve hired a digger.

What more fun can a reenactor have?

More to follow in a week or so

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An Anglo-saxon forge diary

2010

September / October – French drains cut and filled with shingle, and connected to sump for use as a water container for use while working on the forge.

 

But let me backtrack a bit…

We always wanted to have a forge on site. Who wouldn’t? But as construction work on the Longhall was drawing to a close, it was agreed between myself and a few others, that a Stave Built Design had various positive things going for it.  Firstly it required no wattle and daubing, so it would go up and be used a lot quicker, and it would add an extra dimension to the site, being of a different construction design .

There were fag-packet designs and sketches of what people wanted, but nothing that could nowadays be presented to a planning office. Things have come a long way since we decided to build a longhall! Full plans would be required and loathe to pay an architect to draw something up, I had to do it myself.  This meant making it small enough to able to be excluded from the more technical elements of the planning process.

A few drunken rants and a couple of years later (while we finished the longhall) things got decided and are touched on below:

2011 to 2013 – Various versions of the forge were drawn up and argued about.

Abandoned designs…

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2013

April – French Drain altered and used as foundations as per new forge design. The sump was filled in as it would cause more problems than it would solve. We now had water on site (which we didn’t in 2010). Other than being inauthentic, I also considered French Drains a liability.  Water could be drawn away from the buildings using landscaping and ditches.

June – Drawings finalised and submitted to Canterbury planning authority.  Below is the final accepted design that the planning application documents were based on.

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Then I had to come up with a cutting list.  Important bit this, as I didn’t really want to run out of wood!

June – Received delivery of vast quantities of oak for the forge

August – Planning permission granted. Work starts! Work carried out: Cut lap joints in the cill beams, plus four uprights. Total time spent on forge: three days.

September & October – No work due to the Wychurst show replacing the work weekend and I wasn’t there in October, so they got on with other things.

November – Work carried out: Two uprights cut. Total time spent on forge: four days.

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2014

March – Due to film-work, only half a day of work undertaken. Work carried out: install the remaining wall uprights and trial-fitted one of the wall plates. Total time spent on forge: four and a half days

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April – Work carried out: Four inner uprights had tenons put on them, plus we chiselled through the mortices on the existing wall plate, and constructed the other, scarfed wall plate. Total time spent on forge: Six days

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May – A specially dedicated weekend, as the original clashed with a national show at Sherwood. Work carried out: All but seven pieces of the main structure now installed. Total time spent on forge: Eight days

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June – No work done, as it was a “show” month.

 

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Diary 2014 – Part 1

A slow but steady start to the year.

January

The first Wychurst “hit” was as usual, at 12th night, where everything went without a hitch, and a bit less food was left over.  There was a bit less food for me to shnaffle and take home, as because I was B&B’ing it at the Premier Inn, the family and I didn’t get back to Wychurst until mid- morning. By which time, a lot of the tidying up had already been done. Which was unexpected, but much appreciated.

I’m not sure I’ll be doing it beyond next year. I did have someone “shadowing” me in the kitchen, but we haven’t discussed has a change of heart. I’d rather do a midsummer thing.  There are two similar events booked this year, so the idea must be popular – but is there really room for three summer feasts in Regia?

February

February saw the recurrence of the coppicing weekend, where we accumulate our supply of firewood and green woodworking timber for the year.  This wasn’t the primary objective – it was originally intended to be a supply of timber for small scale round section construction.  Unfortunately, there are limited amounts of “big” wood, so about 95% of everything cut, gets taken over to the wood yard and left for the kindly attention of the one-stroke deathbeetle.  And we never really have the time to do small scale projects as all the woodworkers, myself included are busy with larger scale stuff, like the forge.

This year’s progress was helped by the fact that as it had been so wet, we could burn the piles of brash where we were working, rather than having to drag it to our site, and deal with it there. Which sort-of made up for the tractor breaking down!

Six trailer loads of been and chestnut. And dealing with a few corsican pines which had fallen over during the winter storms.  We had good weather, in comparison to recent weeks, so I have counted ourselves lucky!

March

March was the first proper month at Wychurst and the first time I could direct attention towards the Forge since last year.  However, we had some filmwork to get out of the way on Saturday. Attendance was good, and at one point on Sunday, I had half a dozen new and regular workers chiselling away at mortices and tenons.  This is what I miss at Wychurst – everyone working on one project, and seeing it leap forwards in progress.  Shame we only had about half a day of actual Wychurst working.

We seemed to have stabilised at a regular fifteen to twenty people on site each month.  However, a third work on the boats, a third are in the longhall, and the other third are working on the forge (or whatever woodworking thing is be. So manpower for *any* project is limited. As the site gets larger, this situation is unavoidable, and is a perpetual argument I have about limiting the number of structures on site to three or four.

April

April saw the Easter work weekend.  Usually it’s four days of getting stuff done, but this year we were hampered by yet more film-work (on the Saturday) and bad weather (on Sunday). So needless to say, that was one half of Easter written off. The first day of any work weekend is at most only a two-thirds of a day, as people are still arriving, and there is the slow, unspoken consensus of agreement of what needs to be done. When you know that there’s a days break in your work-flow, there’s even less incentive to commit yourself to a big job that you’re going to have to tidy up in between.

We did, in fact get some stuff done. On Friday, while others were playing with a “portable palisade” (don’t ask!) I mostly did some clearing of the area recently denuded of shipping container.  There was still evidence of it’s old base, plus heaps of other detritus.  It was all burned.  The metal was destined for either ebay or scrap. , like pairing up and enumerating the benches. If only they were put back in their pairs when they were borrowed. (moan, moan, moan – see May entry).  the hug chucks of oak, that we got from the Dover Boat Project began to be slabbed up into usable chunks – most of which have been pre-planned. One of the timber boats had a re-coating of linseed and turps. Myself, Ian Malcolm and Chris spent a day and a half on the forge, working on the sides of the structure.  And more fresco got done on the “poor end”.

May

May saw the work weekend abandoned in lieu of a show at Sherwood pines (where the benches and table tops were used).  A number of regular carpenters were going to it, so I arranged a very successful Forge-special roughing it weekend. Where four stalwart fellows got Quite A Lot Done. With fewer, focussed people, and the absence of the distractions of the scout hall, we started work before nine o’clock in the morning, had fairly brief lunches, and worked til’ late. A “subsidised” pub lunch on Saturday night was much appreciated – as well as not having to clear up the scout hall – always a pain in the backside.

We left the forge with only half a dozen pieces of the main frame left to do. And then onto stage two (grooves, staves, levelling and putting it all back together).  Stage three is the roof.

June

June was always going to be a write-off due to the regular show. However, this year, I was down there twice. The first time was the week before the show, to babysit the latest (third) piece of film-work that year.  the second for the History Channel, which appears to be considering diversifying into your “Actual History”.  Time spent waiting around was put to good use, mowing the grass and digging up the gigantic thistles that were dotted here and there.  Confidentiality agreements prevent me from talking about the filming, but it comprised of Nine parts hanging around with One part doing stuff. 

During the show, the week later, the grounds got a further mow. Like September, we were remarkably thin on the ground – with the groups mostly comprising “DeBec” and “Sceaftesige”, plus a handful of “Medwaeg”.

Voluntary donations on the gate went towards paying for the food we bought to eat, plus some to be set aside for a planned week-long gig at Wychurst in July, after the work weekend already planned for that month.

 In summary

Hoards of volunteers have failed to materialise to help with the building of the forge, though a couple of northern members have begun to frequent the place, But, Wychurst has proved yet again that it can bring in money through film-work, and that even with a handful of members in attendance, we can entertain the public that come to see us.

But while the income from filming is certainly welcome, I do hope that is the last of it for this year, as I really want to finish that forge and start playing.

Wychurst Manorial Burgh

On the cards for a considerable time, has been hiding the nasty wire fence that surrounds the Fire Lake.

The lake in question was installed some five years back. Its purpose was primarily to provide a water source to help combat any fires on site. Other functions which have evolved over time, was as a haven for flora and fauna. So while originally having the style and grace of a broken paving slab, it has slumped, settled and weathered into a area of no small amount of biodiversity.

As is usual with projects in Regia, doing anything major requires a certain amount of discussion, and dare I say, sometimes, planning. It also requires a certain amount of luck.

Luck usually takes the form of both weather and labour.

Recently, the weather has been foul. And manpower, while steady over the past few years, is a critical factor in any work…

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A dead good start to the year

On the cards for a considerable time, has been hiding the nasty wire fence that surrounds the Fire Lake.

The lake in question was installed some five years back. Its purpose was primarily to provide a water source to help combat any fires on site. Other functions which have evolved over time, was as a haven for flora and fauna. So while originally having the style and grace of a broken paving slab, it has slumped, settled and weathered into a area of no small amount of biodiversity.

As is usual with projects in Regia, doing anything major requires a certain amount of discussion, and dare I say, sometimes, planning. It also requires a certain amount of luck.

Luck usually takes the form of both weather and labour.

Recently, the weather has been foul. And manpower, while steady over the past few years, is a critical factor in any work, such as coppicing, where it is simple intense labour of the carrying kind.

Why a dead hedge?

Cheapness was one factor.  I had come to an arrangement with the Warden of the Kent Wildlife Trust, who being keen to have *any* organised management of the nearby Woods, let us have the key to the gate that leads up to the local chestnut/birch woods. So, subject to the necessary forms and insurance being provided, we could technically gather as much timber we needed.  Another significant factor in the decision was that I considered it requiring little skill, having little risk of failure, and that it would hide anything immediately behind it. Oh, and it would be sort of fun!

Fortunately, we didn’t actually need to take the old fence out. Indeed, we could even use the existing fence posts as half of the uprights to keep the infill in place. Fortunately they were primarily constructed of chestnut. So that was an unexpected bonus.

Now, how to do it…  There’s usually a right way and a wrong way to do most things. And if we have learnt anything over the past 13 years on site, is that the quick way usually comes back and bites you a few years down the line.

Fortunately, being low-tech, there weren’t many wrong ways to do it. A few searches on the internet came back with a couple of simple diagrams which even gave the distance between the uprights (about three foot) and the diameter of the branches to use as the hedge gets higher.  The thickness of the hedge was a moot point, and down to personal preference. We settled for about 18 inches.

It being foul weather (cold, damp and a biting wind) and waiting for the DeBec massive, we didn’t start until about Half Eleven. It was primarily Me and Kev Lawless until The Ladies arrived (Hannah, Steph and Helen) later that afternoon.  They very helpfully began sifting and sorting the branches into diameters of branches, which made laying the infill that much easier.

20130209_155825 The infill was made up of a couple of rows  of largish logs of about three to four inches, followed by double that in thickness of thinner branches, then a successive layer of “brash” which was made up of thin branches, twigs and the like.  All this was held together with sturdy chestnut posts of between four to six inches in diameter.

  One of the reference articles I looked at mentioned laying a series of larger branches on top, to keep it all weighed down.  We have not done that – preferring to keep the logs for top quality firewood for next 12th night – or sooner, if the mood takes us.

Problems

Getting posts straight enough was the major issue. We were not able to pick and choose the posts, as due to the agreement, we had to clear a specific area. Some of the post were a tad kinked, and if I post the video of the walkabout I did on the Sunday afternoon after everybody left, you will see that one or two didn’t go in terrifically perpendicular. Still, I suppose you can say that it looks hand-made?  The posts were generally 8 foot in length and were driven into the ground about four or five feet, depending on the lay of the land.

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Another issue was getting enough of the infill. It doesn’t go very far.  However, this can be easily sorted in time. March is only four weeks away and we will be able to go up the road (the Warden has let us keep the key for the moment) and collect more. Once we have gone up to a certain point, we can stop and let is slowly become filled with the trimmings from our own land. No more bonfires of bracken and pine.  It can all go in the hedge!

So not a dramatic angst-ridden process at all.  A satisfying task and an equally satisfying start to the new year.

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The 2012 Wychurst T-Shirt

The 2012 Wychurst T-Shirt

Designed by yours truly, traced through photoshop, then re-rendered and filled in. The only way to do those damnable shingles was to trace each and every one. I just hope they come out on the t-shirt!

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Two out of three ain’t bad

With already one of the work weekends out of the way, it’s really a bit late to start harking on about this being the third of my three year stint as Coordinator, so I can’t get all ponderous and introspective on you. Aren’t you lucky?

What I will do is babble on about what’s been happening behind the scenes, and what the plan for 2012 is.

Water

Need it bad.

Some of us have been harking on about getting it on site for quite a few years now. It was even mentioned in my manifesto. Well, a lot of things were mentioned in that. Mostly it was about how driven and committed I was to the project and how I would open up the control of what happens at and in Wychurst to as much of Regia as possible. This last bit, I think I have achieved and was fairly easy. The first bit, about water on site, is less so.

We had three options really.

The first was to do nothing, and bring our own water. Well this pretty much is what we’re doing now. The downside to it, is that there aren’t any toilets or other associated amenities on site, so there isn’t really the opportunity to just turn up and use the Longhall for a weekend, without the rigmarole of buying in portaloos, whose costs fell to the local group that wanted to use the site.

The second option is the simplest (as far as planning goes) which is to get a man in to drill a fecking big hole downwards until he hits water. This is called a bore hole. Now I wont bore you (get it) with the technicalities of the geology of where the water comes from , or the exact method of it’s extraction, because I couldn’t really give a toss unless it hurts the site, or doesn’t do what is intended.

The “Pros” for this option is that the water is “ours” and we can pretty much use as much as we want (or so it would seem – as this is “hear say” knowledge).

The “Cons” are that we need power to bring it up out of the well, and a housing to house the pump. And if the pump fails, then we have no water! All these things are minor problems, but have to be considered in the cost-comparison exercise. The final “Con” is that it will cost Quite A Lot. So all these things will have to be considered together.

The final option is getting water piped up the roadway  and into the burgh. Until recently the figure of £16K was banded around as the base costs of getting water across the road. This has now been quashed with a quote received this week of a fraction of that amount.

What this price doesn’t give us is water on our site. It is just to get it to the end of New Road. So I now have to get a quote or two for the job of laying a pipe under the Privately owned road, and up through the burgh to it’s final resting place. And it probably wont be cheap.

There are other issues, like security and the problem of pipes freezing that do need considering, but I won’t need to worry about that until I get all the quotes in.

Toilets.

There has been a lot of conversations about what sort of toilet we should have over the same amount of years that there have been about the previous subject. But finally it was agreed that a septic tank is the only way forward. This, unless someone pops out of the Regia woodwork who does this sort of thing for a living, will be done by a professional. The toilets themselves will take the form of a portacabin – style building that will simply be ferried in and connected to the pipe work of the bore hole or cold water tank.

I doubt that this will happen in 2012, but it would be a nice surprise if it did. There’s a lot of grounds work that needs doing before all that happens.

Authentic structures.

Everything is in place for the fighting platform and the gate to be constructed this year. The lean-to which was built last year to protect the Northern face of the building, will be shingled, and hopefully there will be an attempt to do some green woodworking with some of the chestnut lying around.

Unfortunately, that’s about it for actual construction. While there has been a minor re-design of forge, the craftwork building (or Kraftwerk Building as we sometimes refer to it as) is a more substantial structure and needs all sorts of stress load analysis stuff going on. And so, as the two structures are part and parcel of the same planning application, they both need fully designing before the application is made. Which takes a fair bit of work. It should help the building, as the plans will be fully available to all, and not rely on any one person having it all in their head.

Anyhow, with Easter lurking around the corner, I am getting feeling that I’m going to go and be all co-ordinator-like and send out a calling notice to find out who’s willing to cook.

Now where’s that Easter egg hidden?

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