Apprenticeship Session 14

We had two tasks for today’s session: 1) work on the bellows and 2) start forging a shears.

The Viking-age Bellows

We did get our homework done and got the copper snouts attached and the canvas tacked on. Both were fairly simple jobs and we were happy with how easily the canvas laid in place. Working around curves and hinges we were a bit worried that it would get fussy, but it was pretty straightforward and fun!

So the next step in the bellows process is to seal the canvas. It’s not really intended as much to make the bellows air-tight as it is to protect the canvas from the heat, sparks, and hard use.

For a sealer, we used a mixture of beeswax and tar (pitch) and heated it over a campfire. It’s highly flammable, not to mention messy. We melted the beeswax first then added the tar pitch until it became saturated – the mixture will only take so much. Once that was done, it was time to brush it on the canvas.

Painting the mix on the canvas was easy enough, if a bit sloppy. The color of the mix as it dried … well, none of our suggestions about what we would name it should be repeated here. 😀

After that we set them aside to dry and started working on our shears.


Since a shears is basically two blades on one piece of stock we weren’t sure the best way to go about that. We had considered creating the blade on one end and then putting in the flat spring portion before making the blade on the other end – basically working from one end to the other. However, Doug recommended that we actually start in the middle and flatten the spring section first, then draw out the reins, and lastly add the blades to the end. Seemed like an odd way to go about it until we got into it and then it made perfect sense. It’s easy to make one blade, it’s hard to make two that match. His suggestion would give us the greatest chance of having that happen.

the finished dimensions we are shooting for

We managed to (mostly) get the spring section flattened out of the 3/8″ round stock and began drawing out the reins before calling it a day. By the end, we knew we’d been working with 10851085 1085 steel is a hardenable steel steel rather than 1020 all day. We’ll pick this up where we left off next week – and get the handles and mount on the bellows too!