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A replica of the Capel Garmon firedog to be forged by a team of SCA blacksmiths for the made-on-site competitions during the Lilies War XXIII. Photo (at left) of the Capel Garmon firedog is taken from the book Decorative Ironwork by Marian Campbell 0-8109-3241-5.
Updated Thursday, July 11, 2013. Possible new dates to begin this project. See the Blacksmithing Classes page linked above and below.
Calling aspiring SCA blacksmiths! Hans Schlosser will be host to SCA blacksmiths as part of a group effort to forge a beautiful historic piece of ironwork - the Capel Garmon firedog - seen in the photos here. This project is for aspiring new blacksmiths and beginners. In fact, it would be best if smiths participating in this project have no prior experience in blacksmithing. Upcoming classes and seminars will focus on training a group of SCA blacksmiths in the necessary foundational skills of fire control, forge-welding, tool making, ornamental ironwork, forging small animal heads, and all other skills needed for this project. Classes and seminars will start in October of 2008 and continue through the fall, winter, spring, and finish at the Lilies War- transitioning immediately into the group project to forge the firedog. The Capel Garmon firedog project will be part of a large blacksmithing exhibition at the Lilies War. Class and workshop dates will be posted on the Blacksmithing Classes page here: http://www.beautifuliron.com/class.htm
Preparing SCA-smiths through hands-on classes and workshops. Training will begin at the shop of Hans Schlosser and include projects that utilize the same techniques that will be used later to produce the firedog. While it is true that medieval smiths used only charcoal fires, we today don't have an abundant supply of charcoal. We do have coal and coke and these fuels are used in very much the same way as charcoal. A blacksmith must truly master the use of fire before he/she can ever hope to be successful in forging the firedog. This has been the most serious problem area for all new smiths. We will begin by learning professional fire tending methods for the coal fire. Basic forging techniques such as punching, drawing, upsetting, tapering, riveting, fullering, cutting, welding, collaring, slit punching (we can put a 1" hole in 3/4" iron for example), and twisting, layout, and forging parts accurately to fit a drawing or plan, will all be learned during a series of structured training workshops. Workshops will include tool-making, animal head forging, scroll-making, striker team forging of large bars and large animal heads. Confidence in ones ability is necessary to handle large work and these classes and workshops will focus on building skill and confidence.
We will need 4-6 SCA-blacksmiths and 2 or 3 good working forges for this project. Cheap portable forges are not adequate for most of this work. We will be building our own forges before the Lilies War part of the project. More on this later!
Tools and skills of the medieval blacksmith. Smiths who wish to participate in this project must become proficient in all tasks of the medieval blacksmith, and by proficient I mean that smiths must be able to perform those tasks at the journeyman level. The iron-age and medieval blacksmiths did not 'beat iron' as most modern blacksmiths do now. They forged their iron and 'wrought' it from a non-uniform bloom to forcefully produce a product that was accurate to the customers dimensions and pleasing in appearance. The only tools the smith used were hammers and sledges, anvil, fire, bellows, tongs, punches, chisels and cutters, and a small assortment of crude hand-held iron tools and objects. Despite the seemingly limited tooling, these ancient smiths produced some of the most elaborate and beautiful ironwork ever made. The Capel Garmon firedog is one such example, containing heavy forged elements to support the weight of the burning wood, decorative scroll-work, and a very fancy set of oxen heads capping each end post. The tools we will use to produce this firedog will be very similar to the tools used by smiths from the medieval period.
Blacksmiths will make most of the tools to build the firedog. Specialty tools and tongs will be needed and these will be made by the blacksmiths participating in the project. Junk tools from auctions are seldom ever adequate. We must make our own tooling to build this project.
At left is another photo of the Capel Garmon Firedog. The photo is taken from the book Davies Brothers Gatesmiths by Ifor Edwards ISBN 0-905171-22-5 copyright 1977. CLICK ON THE THUMBNAIL for larger view.
Be part of the first SCA-blacksmith group to build a project of this scope! As far as I can find, no other SCA smiths have attempted a project of this size and beauty. We will be the first! It will take smiths with very serious attitudes towards their work- more so than any other SCA project. The heavy frame members are forged from iron bars much larger than anything SCA smiths are accustomed to working with. Scrollwork must be accurately made to fit closely together as well as match the overall design. Parts are attached with a combination of fire-welding, riveting, and mortise and tenon work. Ox heads must look like ox heads when they are finished, and then welded into place! I know that this is a very ambitious project for SCA smiths and I am confident that SCA smiths can produce a work of this complexity, size, and beauty. Join us and make history!
It takes some real attitude to take on a project like this. Success in any new field of study requires a willingness to learn. But every time the subject of producing a beautiful iron project is brought up in discussion with other SCA smiths, the idea is always met with disbelief that any other SCA smiths could ever acquire the skills needed to perform the work. We all tend to see things from our own perspectives. There are at least two different types of personalities and each views the lives of others through their own set of values and beliefs. One type of person wants to learn new skills and this type of person thinks that others also want to learn. Another type of person is not willing to learn new skills and this type of person believes that other people are also just as inept at learning anything. The first group often chooses a project that looks like something they would like to do and then learns whatever new skills are required to make their dream project a reality. The second group lacks confidence in their own ability to learn new things so, they look only to the skills they already posses and decide on some simple project that can be done with the limited skills they already have. The first group is self conscious and self critiques their own work in a continuous effort to improve their skills so that they can give their very best effort. The second group never admits any fault of their own for not improving their skills and becomes angry or upset if anyone should question their poor workmanship or lack of effort. So dear reader, which group do you belong to? If you are of the type of personality that wants to choose a great project and learn the skills necessary to do the work- if you are driven to give your best effort - then come join us!
Sources for more information on the Capel Garmon Firedog:
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=151462920 Book seller link - reprint available from the Antiquaries Journal vol. 19, from 1939
about the village of Capel Garmon
Wikipedia article about the village and burial chamber at Capel Garmon
Wikipedia article on welsh art and history
History of nearby village of Bro Garmon – IMPORTANT description only of firedog –
Saint Garmon's church, in Capel Garmon, was consecrated in 1862, but is no longer in use. An Iron Age firedog, discovered buried in a nearby field in 1852, and now held at the National Museum of Wales, is considered to have been have been produced by a master craftsman. It depicts two mythical creatures, part horse and part bull, and is rated as one of the most important examples of decorative ironwork found in the United Kingdom
excerpt – the only excerpt concerning the Capel Garmon Firedog on that page-
Mythical beasts are also hinted at, for example in the imaginatively constructed horse-cow heads that ornament the Capel Garmon firedog.
http://www.cymrufu.com/article.shtml?id=35 dead link
http://www2.thny.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/sites/celts/pages/museum.shtml dead link
http://www.geocities.com/illustration_fr/Blacksmithingpage.html dead link
http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/item1/20255 dead link
Latest update 11-Jul-2013.
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Page created February 17th, 2005.