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Michael Stuart

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I have been thinking of doing this for years now and need some advice. :banghead:

 

I am planning on going to renfairs to demonstrate. I was wondering what all would one need to demonstrate in front of the general public? The idea is to have the same blade at different stages to speed up the process so that this all fits within an hours time with explination of whats going on. What tools I have planed currently is propane forge, files, postvice, anvil somehardy tools and of course tongs/hammers. A basic forge setup. The type of blade I'm planning on making is your standard blacksmiths knife along with hooks and other small items. The steels would most likely be water quenchable.

 

Would wood handles be a viable option? Given the ability to make a sword would simple swords be a possibility? I am sure that some of you have taken part of the shop with you to other places what did you bring so you could make blades? Would clay coating be useful as far as making a useable blade without tempering? Would being a minimalist the tools that you should bring with you be a good thing or a bad thing, Why? As far as bissnuss goes, would it be a good idea to be able to fill orders while on site?

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Is it a demo during a ren faire or are you scheduling a set timeframe to do a demo?  Unless you're gonna schedule a show, and have a rountine that you go through, I'd stick with the short quick demos.  Most people don't stand around long and watch unless they can see results quickly.  We've done some of the simpler, quicker blacksmithing items. Some people are interested and may stand around watching for hours.  When I demonstrate, I usually don't end up showing a complete knife from beginning to end as part of the demo.  (When I'm teaching bladesmithing specifically it's different.)  I'll have my completed blades ready for sale, but I usually don't finish a blade at the faire itself.  

 

It sounds like you have an hour allocated for each time, correct?  I think showing the stages of the knife construction while you forge would work great in that instance.

 

Your tool selection sounds just right.  Don't forget a container for the water.  ;)

 

As far as filling orders while onsite or doing complete handles, can you finish those while demonstrating, talking to people, answering questions, etc.... ?  Normally I don't end up with the time to do it, too many interruptions.

 

I do things differently if I'm demoing throughout the day versus a scheduled demo time versus a re-enactment event.  The re-enactment events are about the only ones I'd work on swords at.  

 

Just some of my random observations, I'd be interested in hearing what others say about this same topic. I'll probably think of more schtuff later.

 

Jamie

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It sounds like you have an hour allocated for each time, correct?  I think showing the stages of the knife construction while you forge would work great in that instance.

 

well thats the most time that i think the public would like to be at mua "booth" but i am sure its more like 15min. I was thinking of putting up a "knife board" but that wouldn't allow me to interact with the public and hand them a knife to pass around then say throw it forge and go to the next step.

 

Your tool selection sounds just right.  Don't forget a container for the water.  ;)

 

:laugh: yea there is always something that you forget going to things like this

 

 

Most people don't stand around long and watch unless they can see results quickly.  We've done some of the simpler, quicker blacksmithing items.

 

oh i learned this one off the bat at faire being a vendor and all. I plan on making this style knife. Can be seen in attached picture. So far my personal record for making one of these is about three hours hammering without sacraficing quality.

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Speaking personally, I'd be disappointed to see someone using a propane forge at a ren fair  :(

 

But I like the 'knife board' idea, or maybe a series of small pass-around sized boards with a before and after piece for each operation. Then the audience could look at what you are intending to do as you are doing it, and you won't lose as much time waiting for the piece to come back in as you would by passing the actual piece around. A water quench steel sounds like a good plan too.

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I've wrestled with the propane forge thing, and finally decided to keep using it.  For me, it was a matter of other's safety.  Here in South Dakota, it's always windy.  I had too many small pieces go airborne that I didn't want to risk anybody being burnt.  Or even starting someone's tent on fire!  (They don't like that for some reason.)  It's never happened to me, and would probably never happen, so I don't take that chance anymore.  Sometimes I will use hardwood charcoal in the right circumstances (remember, coal wasn't popular yet), but I still stick with gas.

 

It also depends on the regulations the ren faire has.  I've been to some that require period style tools, equipment, displays, etc...  For instance, no screws can show ANYWHERE.  Others are a lot more lenient.  To be accurate, the London style anvil would need to stay home, and you'd need bellows of some sort.  I don't know about the history of the post vise, so it may or may not fit in.  (Anybody have more information on that?)  It all depends on how authentic you'd like it to be.

 

I do like the idea of the knife board.  That way you could talk about it while the piece is heating up, saying "This is the stage I'm at now, next I'll..."   It seems to me that the pass around thing would be an invitation for it to disappear.  But I've never tried it, so it could work great.

 

When I do make blades at ren faires, those are the same style that I make (more or less).  One thing that always attracts attention, is noise.  Use a large hammer and hit hard.  It makes a wonderful noise that can be heard a long ways.  Wet forging is also a good way to get people's attention.

 

I have thought of short (15-20 minute) "skits" to do during the day when there's alot of people in the area.  

 

Jamie

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I've wrestled with the propane forge thing, and finally decided to keep using it.  For me, it was a matter of other's safety

 

Speaking personally, I'd be disappointed to see someone using a propane forge at a ren fair  

 

 

well yes, that was one of the things that haved hinged apon for quite some time because it will be one of the major focal points. The thing that made go with popane is that it is what i know. I have used coal in the past and didn't like all that much because of time and effort involed in keeping it working prpoerly. The other reason is that yes there is a safety factor involved but the reality is that as far as i have seen almost everyone uses coal in the renfair circut. I decided that I wanted to dare to be differant the show the "modern" bladesmith doing blades of a differant era and in all reality we still use those shapes and design in our knives today. The history of knives is rather uncanny it is the vurtully same as in our day and age today as it was many centuries ago. As i have said to other people, the knives that we have today are pretty much the same as the had since the dawn of time. The only thing that has changed is the metirials and the process of how we go about it. Even then much of how we the bladesmith go about things really hasen't changed that much since the day of yesteryear because of the fact that you can only do so much.

 

 

I do like the idea of the knife board.  That way you could talk about it while the piece is heating up, saying "This is the stage I'm at now, next I'll..."   It seems to me that the pass around thing would be an invitation for it to disappear.  

 

you have a good point I will have to afix some to a hunk of wood er something with rivets. thank you

 

oh and the time that i am waiting for a peice of metal to heat. I figured that it is kinda neat how that works out talking to the public and all, :laugh: turn up the heat and you don't have to talk to the public as much!

 

.........I don't know about the history of the post vise, so it may or may not fit in.  (Anybody have more information on that?)  It all depends on how authentic you'd like it to be.

 

 

not too worried about that but you would be surprised at the tools that many smiths had oon hand. For example, in a book I read though they found a traveling smith in a viking grave..... by golly it had a hack saw in it, just like the kind you may find at the local hardware store.... adjustable and all

 

[notworthy] they were real smart back then. it makes me wonder what tools have stayed in curculation over time and not made it into the graves.

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what fairs are you looking to do. I demo at 2 ren fairs and use propane all the time. I call it bottled dragons breath  :D I have done demos that lasted 4 and 5 hours ranging from swords a damascus billets after doing this for 6 years i have found out you tend to lose most people after 1/2 hour of show and tell. the ren crowed is looking more for you to be funny then what kind of blade you make. so keep what you do down to 30 min be a little funny and show them hot steel being forged into blade shapes. and leave all the geek speak for the forums

 

Bill Jones

lochmor knives

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I've made up stories about the forge, and plan on eventually making it a lot more covered with the face of Loki on the front of it with the mouth open.  Just haven't gotten around to it yet.  Bottled dragon's breath, I might have to borrow that...  ;)

 

Bill, do you have any examples for demoing?  I know that anytime a procession goes by, I hammer as hard and loudly as I possible can to the rhythm of the drummer.  People seem to get a kick out of that.  (except maybe the drummer...)

 

Jamie

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just for the record the only knife in that photo that jon made was the bottom one with the red handle and all of the knives in that shot were ground on a belt grinder photos for the mosaic of knives were barrowd from http://www.dragoncutlery.com/gallery.html and it took him 3 hours to atach that handle

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thefaires that i plan attending will be Silverleaf Ren Faire, Mayfaire and Shiabrook. All of these are based in southern Michigan. Ther may be even more faires that i'll go to but these are a trail run to see how things go. Then, if every thing goes ok, I will book shows for the whole season next year.

 

 

I do like the idea of bottled dragons breath and would make for one heck of an excuse where it comes from :laugh: could also make for some nifty ren faire role playing. I as well may have to barrow that idea for those times when there is nothing else to say.

 

 

hey wait a minute.. i am a drummer by the campfire hmm.....gonna have have to make that avil ring like a son of a gun.... er better yet..... a bell >:-)  i found that air tanks for scuba diving work real well for making bells. I even found a way to makem sing like a singing bowl too. Boy are they loud.

 

well if there looking for enterainment than i could probly swing in a few jokes here and there. Ya know a well placed dropping of hot metal and "the blacksmith dance" never hurt either.   :laugh: I guess I will have to think back and figure out what poeple have thought was real funny in the past without hurting anyone err thing. And that will become part of the show. Now thats one heck of a concept. I just wonder if i can pull it off.

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"I do like the idea of the knife board.  That way you could talk about it while the piece is heating up, saying "This is the stage I'm at now, next I'll..."   It seems to me that the pass around thing would be an invitation for it to disappear.  But I've never tried it, so it could work great."

 

That made me cringe...I've had too many pieces be sizzled to a dripping, sparkling crisp while talking to people when I've worked at the shop at our local museum.  But then, that was with a coal forge, so with a gas one it might be ok...

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The 2 demos I do are for 2 types of show  the one show I get to forge the hole day so I set up and do a long blade  and it takes me about 4 hours to hammer out and folks will come by all day to see how I the blade is coming along. I also have 2-3 pieces in differant stages that  i can hand out to them to look at. the other show they want me to do the demo more for entertainment so i do a small hunting knife and a short lecture on how the blades are made, in that time period. I also have pieces to hand out ( never never sharp ones) for the folks to look at. all I can say is keep it short and funny if you can and then they will come into your shop and buy one that you made

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well thats pretty much how the last show went and i got a great response from what i was doing so i think i will add these ideas as funds come in. people were more interested on the smaller projects during the hot priod of the day and as it cooled down i was able to do larger projects. Currently building a trailer to house all of the equiupment. I did find that it is neccasary to have sort of a tent or fly because there isnot alays a tree near by for shade. Also, i found it provide a constant for seeing the colors of the steel through out the day and alows you to keep working through the rain. i am finding that having a handcranked rolling mill would be handy for many things on site so thats the next project after the trailer.

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