Apprenticeship Session 13

Since we’ve lost so much time this spring, today was an extra long session and we actually got to work on two projects: cooking utensils and our bellows.

Cooking Utensils

I had seen these utensils – I dunno what we should call them, maybe bread bakers? – at a couple of reenactment events we had attended. They looked interesting and reminded me of the “Tonka Toasters” we use over campfires to make pies and sandwiches.

While the coiled spiral shape is something we’ve done plenty of, it’s usually been of round stock with no gaps in between. We had discussed for the past week what might be the best way to approach making these. Take round stock and flatten it out? Take square stock and flatten it out? As it turns out, the way we wound up doing it is actually one we discussed – as the most difficult – which is to coil rectangular stock on the narrow edge.

sketching out the design
the plan

As with most coils, the start is the most critical part. There’s no fixing the taper or curl (at least very much) once you’ve started the coil. This was only a one-sided taper and I nearly forgot what those were like as most of the recent ones have been two-sided or round. That went pretty well, but continuing the coil proved to be heavy work that went much better with the stock held tight or braced up against something when striking the opposite end. One really nice thing about a coal forge is that we were able to heat specific sections of the coil to have them bend while keeping other sections cold for striking. That’s not possible in a gas forge – you have to quench sections in water to cool them off to get a similar effect.

While the concept of a one-sided taper followed by a narrow-edge coil is simple enough, the execution is another thing. Nearly every blow wants to bend and twist the piece since it doesn’t like to move on that narrow edge. And trying to keep the coil smooth and avoid flat sections is easier said than done. I found it reasonably easy to keep the outer edge smooth, but the inner edge would get some straight areas that are harder to deal with.

In the end they came out pretty well and we were able to make some small tweaks to the spacing at the end using tongs.

tweaking the final spacing
tweaking the spacing using tongs

The last step was to work on the handles. There are lots of choices there. We could draw them out, twist them, round them up, make a tang and put on a wood handle, and so forth. In the end, Rob punched a hole through his so he could hang it and I drew another one-sided taper and made a thumb loop at the end.

the mostly finished cooking utensils
our cooking utensils

This is the kind of project that will get better with practice (don’t they all). But I’d like to give this one another try and have some fun with different handles. Looking forward to cooking some bread on these!

On to the second project …


We had started making our bellows back in August but set them aside for our trip to Scotland and then the winter and then all the challenges that the spring brought. But it’s time to get them finished up!

We had left them after we attached the hinge to one set of bellows (you can catch up on that here). So we needed to get the hinge on the second set before moving on to the next steps.

Once that was complete, we moved on to getting the snout ready. We are using about a 10cm length of 2cm diameter copper tubing and attaching it to a thin sheet of copper that will sit on the end of the wood part of the bellows. We started by cutting a hole in the middle of the copper sheet that was about the size of the INSIDE diameter of the copper tube. Then we punched a few (four, to be exact) holes so that we will be able to tack it to the wood. Lastly, we soldered the tube to the sheet – something I’d never done before. It was really cool to see the solder melt and seal up the joint!

There’s still a few steps left before these will be complete. We are going to use canvas rather than leather for the sides. During the Viking-age they may have used textile, most likely wool, rather than leather for some bellows as leather may have been too expensive for such a tool. We just don’t know for sure. So we used a pattern to cut it out and that’s where we left if for the day.

So what’s left to do before these are done?

  1. Attach the copper tube plate to the snout
  2. Attach the canvas to the sides
  3. Attach the handle
  4. Treat the wood (with linseed oil)
  5. Treat the canvas (with a beeswax/tar mixture)

Our homework is to complete four of those steps and then bring them back to the Goose Prairie Forge to complete that last, messy, smelly one to get them done. Can’t wait to see them in action!