Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blanks


Wholesale jewellery orders were once the biggest part of Elfshot's business, but over the years the one-of-a-kind museum reproductions and workshop instruction have taken on bigger roles.  It's not that there isn't as big a demand for knapped jewellery, it's just that I can only do so much work in a year and I enjoy working with new pieces and new people more that I like the mass production side of making wholesale products.   However, this week I get to turn my brain off and knap a couple dozen necklaces and earrings.  The first step is making four dozen blanks that will be turned into Dorset and Groswater Palaeoeskimo endblades and Recent Indian arrowheads.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, January 26, 2015

Silver Head Mine Path Boil-Up


Saturday turned out to be the best day this weekend for snowshoeing the East Coast Trail.  A friend and I headed out for a few hours along the Silver Head Mine Path running north towards Torbay from Middle Cove.  This trail has a good mix of woods, cliffs, and rivers.  We stopped for a few minutes and made some soup on a camp stove that Marc brought along.  Winter is definitely my favourite time to explore the trails around home.






Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, January 23, 2015

A half dozen bow drills

Combo #84: Wood bow, modified iron nail drill bit,
and antler socket
I just finished up a set of 216 bow drills for the Nunatsiavut archaeologists to use in school programs in northern Labrador.  Ok, maybe that's a bit of hyperbole, but the six bows, six spindles, and six sockets are all interchangeable, which means there are 216 possible combinations.  Since the kit is going to be out of my hands I'm not going to be able to do my usual maintenance on the sets.  The nephrite can be difficult to sharpen when it gets dull.  A wet lapidary wheel, diamond file, or abrading stone is needed to touch up the nephrite bits when they get dull.  Not every rock is going to work as an abrading stone, but finding one that works is part of the fun.  We went with three nephrite bits and three modified nail bits.  The iron bits are also traditional for the area and will be a little easier to keep sharp using conventional whetstones or metal files. 

The full kit.  The top two bows are antler and the rest are wood.  five of the sockets are designed to be handheld, while the one on the left is a mouthpiece.  The top three drill spindles have nephrite bits and the lower three have modified nail bits.
The nephrite bits.  I made one extra, just in case.

An unmodifed nail (L) and one hammered and ground into a drill bit (R) 
The assembled drill spindles before lashing the bits into place.

This is my first time experimenting with iron drill bits and I wasn't sure if they would want to twist out of the wood spindle, so I added a little 90 degree spur at the proximal end to lock it in the shaft.  I did this on three of the drills and left the fourth one straight.  In retrospect, I don't think its necessary and I believe that the square cross section of the wrought nails will prevent the bits from twisting in the handle.  Although I won't be there to make repairs if that belief is wrong, so its probably better to be safe than sorry.

Assembled.  I went with epoxy and artificial sinew for the binding.  These are going to get heavy use by people of all skill levels and I won't be there to make repairs.  As much as I dislike using artificial bindings, I think it was the right decision for this particular set.

I tested the spindles out with a class of Open Minds students at The Rooms yesterday.  Look how clean they were in the previous photo.  It doesn't take long antique them when you turn them lose on a classroom of grade 5 students.  I'll have to remember that the next time I need to make something look world weary and aged. 


Combination #173: Mouthpiece socket, antler bow, and nephrite spindle
 
Ready to pack and ship north.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Don Locke, 1938-2015

Gerald Penney’s Obituary for Don Locke, 20 January 2015.

Don Locke, Newfoundland’s premier amateur archaeologist, died at his home town of Grand Falls, on 14 January, 2015 in his 76th year. Known to family and close friends as Sonny, he was an avid woodsman, trapper and landscape/wildlife painter. In work life a linesman with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro he, along with other such dedicated workers, built the provincial electric grid system. However, his real passion was a strong desire to come to a better understanding of the Beothuk and the other pre-and post-contact aboriginal groups on the Island. Readings of J.P. Howley’s The Beothucks (1915) and other early accounts coupled with a keen sense of the natural landscape enabled him to find their campsites and other remains; in many respects following Howley’s footsteps. He created replica Beothuk villages, on the Exploits just outside Grand Falls and at Indian Point on Red Indian Lake. His 1973 inscribed booklet, concerning their sites and artifacts is a prize of my library. His material culture collection was eventually acquired by the Newfoundland Museum. Later in life Don and I undertook a number of exciting surveys of the interior southwest coast and Notre Dame Bay region. Always ready to reveal his deep knowledge of nature and lore he will be sadly missed, especially by Marjorie and three children.

Don Locke, 1985

Photo Credit: Gerald Penney

Monday, January 19, 2015

Snowshoeing

We got out for a quick snowshoe trip around Beaver Pond in Shea Heights this weekend.  

This was the first trip of the season where it really felt like snowshoes and poles were a necessity.  


 Photo Credits:
Tim Rast

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ulu kits for students

During the last half of this week I've switched my focus to education, especially hands-on learning.  I helped facilitate a ground stone tool making workshop at The Rooms yesterday, where I took this photo of the tools and materials that we use in the Open Minds program.  Over the coming weeks and months I will be doing work with a couple northern organizations that would like to bring a program like this into schools in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut.  In the workshop, I'll be making bow drill sets for archaeologists in Nunatsiavut to use in school programs in northern Labrador and, in the office, I'll be working with the Inuit Heritage Trust to write up the instructions and assemble the materials for teachers to use in programming in Nunavut.

Tools and materials used for the slate ulu making workshop. A) Rubber mat to protect the table, B) File for sharpening the slate, C) Sandstone abrader for grinding the slate, D) Bow drill bow, E) Bow drill spindle with nephrite bit, F) Bow drill socket (mouthpiece), G) Ulu handle, H) Ulu slate blank, I) Scissors, J) String, K)Assembled ulu
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Port au Choix Dorset Palaeoeskimo Reproductions

Artifact reproductions of
Middle Dorset Palaeoeskimo
cutting, scraping, and carving tools
The set of Dorset Palaeoeskimo hafted stone tools is ready to send to it's new home at Port au Choix National Historic Site.  These pieces were commissioned by Parks Canada to use in hands on interpretation.  They are made from the same wood, chert, antler, ivory, bone, and sinew available to the Dorset culture 1500 years ago.  The nephrite that I used in the burin-like tools is similar to what has been found here, but I used stone quarried in B.C.  Likewise, the reddish microblades are made from an exotic jasper.  The red and green stones give the set a bit of a holiday feel.

From left to right; A side-hafted chert microblade with sinew lashing and a wood handle and brace piece, a hafted chert endscraper with sinew lashing and wood handle, a chert knife with sinew lashing and antler handle, and a hafted nephrite burin-like tool with sinew lashing on a wood handle with a bone brace.
There are a couple extra pieces in the set shown here, but most of this will be in the mail to Port au Choix shortly.

Multiple views of the hafted endscrapers.  These are unifacial tools and they were hafted in unifacial handles.

Multiple views of side-hafted microblades.  These are extremely sharp slicing tools for use on soft organic materials.  Along with some friends, I once cut more than 330 feet of seal skin into rope using a knife like this and it is still sharp today. 
Hafted burin-like tools.  Archaeologically the brace pieces from BLT handles and the brace pieces from microblade handles look very similar, but they had slightly different functions.  Here, the back of the brace is important in supporting the back of the nephrite bit and the brace fits inside the handle to made the handle width adjustable.  I used sinew lashing to tie down the thin end of the brace, but the original artifact that I based this reproduction on used a hole and a small wood peg instead.  Another difference is that the wood handle opposite the brace is an open slot on my reproduction, but on the original artifact this is closed off below the notch of the tool.  I didn't realize that when I made the reproduction, but the notch and base of the Port au Choix BLTs are also a slightly different style than the reference artifact that I used.  I'm ok with the open slot in this instance.

Dorset knives with carved antler handles, based on artifacts found at Port au Choix.  A couple of these handles have been found and I believe that they represent a stylized polar bear.

A close-up view of the lashing on one of the scrapers.  The lashing is twisted sinew thread approximately 1 mm thick.  Sometimes it is a single thread that has been twisted and other times I twisted multiple strands together to make a longer cord. 

The twisted sinew lashing on one of the burin-like tools.  I coated the thread with hide glue and reinforced the contact surfaces between the stone tools and their handles with the same.  The hide glue hardens and protects the sinew, without changing the look of the tool. 
A sample knife, endscraper, microblade, and burin-like tool with a scale.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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