Return to the Bronzezeitehof

Last year the Bronze Casting Festival was a wonderful experience. People from all over Europe came and exchanged information about bronze casting and metalworking techniques.

Here are a few photos of the First Bronze Casting Festival in 2017.

I’ll be returning there again this May and furthering my experiments in metal finishing. In addition to casting, I’m interested in using metal oxides as colorants for enamels and how they are affected by the reduced environment of a charcoal furnace. In the past I did a lot of metal enamelling in an electric furnace. This will be a chance to explore how the process of enamelling could have been developed. I might even have a chance to make some glass while I’m at it!

Forging Ahead!

Exciting times! Tomorrow I get on a train and head across Europe. I’ll start out in Modena and change trains in Milan, then Zurich. When I get to Berlin I’ll meet up with friends and head on to Brandenburg for the Kunst- und Handwerkstechniken der Bronzezeit (Art and Craftwork of the Bronze Age) at the Landesmuseum in Brandenburg. Then on the 14th I fly to Moscow for the Times and Epochs Festival, where I’ll be demonstrating Bronze Age metalworking. Is that enough? No… In September I’ll be going to Cyprus, the land of copper, to do even more bronze casting at the Vounous Symposium. This is a great honour since Cyprus was the source for Aegean copper. I will be seeing and working in one of the earliest areas where the craft of bronze working began.

I’ll be posting as often as I can and there will be lots of photos and pages written about the events. Up to date reports will be posted to my Patreon page.

 

Bellows Forum

Bellows are a bit of a mystery. We know they had to have existed in the Bronze Age, but the only physical evidence we have consists of fragments of tuyeres. An Egyptian painting from the Tomb of Rekhmire, from 1450 BC shows a man using pot bellows that are operated by hands and feet. There are also Chinese documents depicting the use of box bellows. But bellows, after blowpipes, are likely to be one of the earliest forms of delivering air to the furnace. Unfortunately they are also constructed of ephemeral materials.

Scene from the Tomb of Rekhmire. The man on the right is operating a set of pot bellows. The valve is opened when he lifts both his foot and pulls on the cord attached to the top of the bellows. The air is pushed out of the bellows when he steps down. These require a lot of coordination.

Until a set of bellows is uncovered preserved in a bog somewhere a lot is left to the imagination. How big or small could they be? How can the valves be altered to be more efficient? How heavy should the leather be? Should sturdiness trump suppleness? How are all the parts held together and made airtight? Bellows are one of the most essential pieces of equipment that we have for casting bronze and yet very little information is available about their origins, and we rely on information for their use and construction from the community of experimental archaeologists and reenactment groups.

Over the years I’ve seen many different shapes and sizes of bellows and always thought that a forum where bellows design and use could be discussed would be invaluable for people to share ideas and experiences.

I would like to invite others to share photos of the bellows they’ve made on this site. This could be a welcome forum for discussing the pros and cons of different designs, what worked, what didn’t. Of course any news of archaeological bellows or tuyeres discovered would add to the fun.

Bag bellows

To start, here are some photos of bellows made by Morgan van Es including a new set that were recently completed using the tutorial on this website. Morgan casts bronze at the Bronzezeithof Uelsen and Het Bronsvuur – The Bronze fire and is active on the web and Facebook discussing Bronze Age casting techniques.

Pump Bellows

 

I would welcome others to send in photos of their bellows, and not just bag bellows, any bellows that could be considered to fit in with what we know or can surmise from archaeology would be interesting for this forum.