Apprenticeship Session 28

Since it had been a couple of weeks since our last session, we decided to take a step back a revisit some of the basics. We had decided to scrap our attempt at and “armed” spade hinge and start over. There were several flaws to overcome and lessons learned in what we had done so far. We all agreed that it was best to begin anew with a different plan and some different tools.

So instead of getting started on a new version of the hinge, we took a detour and decided to make Thor’s hammer pendants. Thor’s hammers are just a classic Viking-age trinket that should be a nearly subconscious project to make. However, while Rob had made one or two, I had never attempted one to this point. I had been looking forward to doing so, however!

We started with some sizable round stock – maybe 3/8-inch or so – and then proceeded to shoulder it on two dimensions (sides) to make what amounted to a square tang that was even with the edge of the stock and not centered in the middle. That seemed weird, but the next step was to cut it off and then flatten what remained of the round stock and so having an edge to use for the “bottom” while pounding the thickness flat made sense. When we finished that step, we had what looked like oars or a broom ball stick.

We then used a nail header, like the one we had made earlier, to create the shoulders of the hammer. The nail header worked brilliantly and much better than any fuller or guillotine we had tried in the past.

Then it was a matter of hammer control to get the angles of the Thor’s hammer in place. That was a little tricky as the hammer can hit the anvil when you’re at an angle like that.

The last step was to bend the tang over and twist it around to form the loop. It’s really quite easy to do, except it cools off so fast. It took more heats than you’d hope to get that finished. (And we cheated and used a torch to finish it up.)

It’s interesting that they have different shapes, but both are classic, traditional Thor’s hammers. We both want to crank out scores more of these as they are fun to do – and great practice for hammer skills!

His and Hers Thor’s Hammers

Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant FY21

Ermagherd we get to do it again!

The North Dakota Council on the Arts has a Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program that “is designed to honor and encourage the preservation of North Dakota’s diverse living traditions by providing grants that allow master traditional artists to pass their skills and knowledge to apprentices on a one-to-one basis over an extended period of time.” We were encouraged to apply for this program to help us continue to study under the master blacksmith Doug Swenson of Goose Prairie Forge and were lucky enough to be funded from July 2020-April 2021.

Last year our projects represented a wide sample of items and techniques. This year we are going to get more focused on hardware for doors, cabinets, and chests. This type of work requires greater precision and is going to push our skills.

Work Schedule

The schedule is based on 15 flexible sessions of 3-6 hours in length taking place 2-4 times per month for a total of 50+ hours. The apprenticeship will begin July 1, 2020 and conclude by April 30, 2021.

  1. Nails & nail header
  2. Måstermyr strap hinge
  3. Simple latch
  4. Ring door pull
  5. Spade hinge
  6. Spade hinge with arms
  7. Pipe lock (Bolt lock)
  8. Pipe lock (Bolt lock)
  9. Pipe lock (Bolt lock)
  10. Cam latch
  11. Cam latch
  12. Cam latch
  13. Plate lock (Måstermyr?)
  14. Plate lock (Måstermyr?)
  15. Plate lock (Måstermyr?)

Project List

These projects are going to be very challenging, but once again the challenge will be squeezing it into everyone’s busy scheduled. And the impact that COVID-19 has on our program is yet to be determined.

Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant FY20 Wrap Up

“… is designed to honor and encourage the preservation of North Dakota’s diverse living traditions by providing grants that allow master traditional artists to pass their skills and knowledge to apprentices on a one-to-one basis over an extended period of time.”

North Dakota Council on the Arts, Folk and Traditional Apprenticeship grant

Wow. What a year. Honored and encouraged, for sure.

We kind of summed up the amount of growth that has taken place by another well-known quote: “Do not seek to do what the master has done, instead seek what they sought.”

When we first started on our projects this year, we were looking for direction for every step along the way in the projects. At the end of our grant period, we talk for a bit then agree on what we are working on and how to approach it and then we just dig in and ask questions when we are unsure of the next step or how to correct something. We can work independently for the most part, but we still have a lot to learn.

We had a nice selection of projects which provided a wide variety of skills and techniques to work on, and while challenging, were somewhat basic/fundamental. Or at least they seem so now, here at the end. But getting a solid foundation in the fundamentals is going to pay dividends as we continue on. You have to crawl before you can walk – we’ve taken our first steps!

Folk Art in Place: Eel Spear

Because in-person classes are mostly on hold for the time being, the Vesterheim museum in Decorah, IA has been having their instructors do some virtual lessons. Here’s a video that Doug did for that series on how to make an eel spear.

Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant FY20

The North Dakota Council on the Arts has a Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program that “is designed to honor and encourage the preservation of North Dakota’s diverse living traditions by providing grants that allow master traditional artists to pass their skills and knowledge to apprentices on a one-to-one basis over an extended period of time.” We were encouraged to apply for this program to help us continue to study under the master blacksmith Doug Swenson of Goose Prairie Forge and were lucky enough to be funded from July 2019-April 2020.

Work Schedule

The general outline of the work we intend to do and the things we intend to learn includes the following:

  1. Topic: Shop safety; Technique: drawing down; Project: hammer
  2. Technique: twisting, bending over anvil edges; Project: hammer
  3. Topic: Basic metallurgy; Technique: forging tool steel; Project: hammer, chisel
  4. Technique: hardening tool steel; Project: hammer, chisel
  5. Technique: hammer technique; Project: spearhead
  6. Project: spearhead
  7. Technique: shouldering; Project: shears
  8. Technique: grinding, sharpening edge tools; Project: shears
  9. Technique: hot punching, riveting; Project: shears
  10. Project: building the forge
  11. Project: building the forge
  12. Project: building and using the forge
  13. Project: candleholder
  14. Project: candleholder
  15. Project: fire striker
  16. Project: fire striker, sheep bell
  17. Project: sheep bell
  18. Technique: fire weldingwelding Welding is a process that joins metal by using high heat to melt the parts together and allowing them to cool, causing fusion. Welding is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal.; Project: iron chain
  19. Project: iron chain
  20. Project: iron chain
  21. Project: cooking utensils
  22. Project: cooking utensils
  23. Project: axe
  24. Project: axe
  25. Project: axe
  26. Project: axe

Project List

  • Viking Age forge ✓
  • Fire striker ✓
  • Candleholder ✓
  • Iron chain ✓
  • Chisel ✓
  • Cooking utensils ✓
  • Shears ✓
  • Hammer ⊙
  • Axe ⊙
  • Spearhead ⓧ
  • Sheep bell ⓧ

That’s a lot of projects and a lot of hammering! The biggest challenge, however, will be squeezing it into everyone’s busy schedules.