Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Visting Llyn Cerrig Bach - An Iron Age Wonderland!

The Lake from the south west near Llanfairyneubwll. where one of the most important collections of British Iron Age objects was found during WWII.
The objects were found during the construction of RAF Valley (now famous as Prince William's place of work!). Peat was needed to cover the original runways which were very sandy (the sand was getting into the airplane engines) so they used the peat next to the runway which contained the aretfacts.

The most of the original objects are kept at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, but some replicas of the objects made by Ancient Arts can be seen at Oriel Ynys Mon at Llangefni on the island. This shows a reconstrution of the slave chain found on the site and which was used to pull a stuck mechanical digger out of some mud before it was identified as Iron Age!

 During the Iron Age the objects had been 'rituallly' placed in a lake on the site which subsequently dried out leaving the objects very well preserved in layers of peat. The lake you see now only exists because of the removal of the peat in the 1940's.
 You can get to the site from the RSPB carpark at Llanfihangel yn Nhowyn along a lovely path through the nature reserve. At this time of year it is quite stunning, if not a little noisy with the RAF jets taking off and landing! The birds don't seem too mind though!  For more information on making the replicas go to:

Monday, 24 June 2013

Petroglyth pecking at Bryn Celli Ddu!

 Ancient Arts took part in a very successful Summer Solstice celebration at Bryn Celli Dddu at the weekend.

A replica of the pecked stone found at Bryn Celli Ddu (a Neolithic passage grave). The original stone is at the National Museum in Cardiff. Bryn Celli Ddu is thought to have been built to marked the summer solstice. It is also suggested that year round alignments allowed the site to be used as an agricultural calendar.
As part of a Summer Solstice event organised by Cadw, Ancient Arts undetook some on site stone pecking to show how the design was made on the stone. Here Dave demonstrates the real use of a wheel barrow! The important burial chamber is behind.

Due to the time limit involved we chose a smaller stone for the stone pecking and 'pounced' onto the surface. (The design is drawn onto fabric or paper and small holes punched through along the lines of the design. Chalk or charocoal is then rubbed over the holes transferring the design onto the surface!)

A knapped stone (knapped to form a sharp point) is then used to tap or peck the design into the surface of the stone.

Progress was steady. Every now and then the pecking tool has to be re-knapped as the point wears down.

Because this is a protected ancient monument we were very careful to collect all our stone knapping debris and take it with us. However, originally the waste flakes produced by knapping the tools were probably just left and may be identifiable by careful excavation.

More hard work!

The finished petroglyth next to the 'orignial'. Our 'little brother' was given to Cadw. Thanks to all who came along and to Cadw for this wonderful opportunity to work 'on site'. 


Friday, 21 June 2013

New Ancient Arts sign!

I'm very proud of my first attempt at wood carving - it is, of course, done in a 'primitive' style!

Woodland Art Foundry Part II

Forming the moulds around the wax items.
The wet moulds then went into a charcoal fire. This melted the wax which then just melted out/burnt away and semi fired the mould. The moulds were left in the fire for 3 hours.
 Day 2 began with a copper smelt using a reconstructed Bronze Age pit furnace. Here Dave is digging the pit out in our metalworking hut.

The pit is then filled with charcoal and crushed copper ore (malachite) added.

After lunch, and with the copper made, it was time to cast the objects made yesterday in bronze. The copper made in the AM was added to bronze ingots and used for this casting (bronze being a mixture of copper and tin).

A small clay and dung furnace was used for the casting (the pit used for the smelting could also have been reused for this). The metal was placed in a ceramic crucible and heated in the furnace (again using a forced draft to raise the temperature) until it was red hot and liquidfied!
The bronze was then poured into the moulds. It is vitally important that all the wax has been removed from the moulds before this is done otherwise they will explode, showering molten bronze about. David smells the moulds to check that all the wax has gone (if he smells wax the moulds go back into the fire).

The moulds are placed in 'sand boxes' (a hole filled with sand would also work). This supports the delicate moulds (they are only semi ceramic, not fully fired).

Dave used metal 'shanks' for this but in prehistory wooden and clay covered 'shanks' like these which we have reconstructed could have been used to lift and pour the crucible.

The bronze is quite brittle at this stage so the moulds are tapped rather than smash off using a hammer.

 William (who has been crushing charcoal used for the casting and is did not start out the day this dirty!) with his bronze!
The bronzes then need to be 'fettled'. The details 'chased out' using small chisels and files.
Emma's Celtic design emerging from the metal!

Woodland Art Foundry June 2013

Some photo's of the great weekend we had meeting lots of interesting friends! Cheers!
Day 1: Starts off with tea and doughnuts and a brief introduction to early primitive copper smelting and bronze casting. Here Dave is demonstrating how a reconstruction of a Bronze Age mining lamp works.
Down to work outside in the sun and invigorating breeze! Explaining the lost wax process and how the wax objects are made. 
Starting to shape and form the items in wax.
 he wax can be shaped (using fingers and warming the wax with a hot gun or hot water) and incised using modelling tools (metal, bone or wooden). 
 Paul detailing the design.
 Some in the group went for a prehistoric axe design while others went for sculptural and decorative forms. 
Once the waxes were finished a thin coat of clay slip was painted onto them.
 This is the messy fun bit, well one of them!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Ancient Arts smelting copper for the Time Team

Just come across this short piece of film by the Time Team last year at.

Tony Robinson cleaning the bronze handle after casting.
Dave and Phil of Ancient Arts spent two days smelting copper and casting bronze using Prehistoric techniques for the show:

Dave and Tony removing the casting.
They cast a decorative bronze handle for a drinking vessel for the show.
Advising on some of the metal finds from the site.

A great weekend running the Ancient Arts Woodland Art Foundry Course!

We are back after a great weekend smelting and casting on the Woodland Art Foundry course! It was lovely to meet everyone who came and joined in our eccentric adventures!

A very big thank you Cathy and Emma for all their hardwork.

I will post more images from it as we download cameras:)

The evolution of Ancient Arts

- from right to left: Dave, Sue, Emma!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Woodland Art Foundry this weekend!

This week we are getting ready for the Woodland Art Foundry course we are running at the weekend. Crucibles to make..furnaces to fire..tea bags to buy!
Adding copper ore to the furnace.
The copper ore in the furnace on its journey to metal! 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Splitting and adzing seating for our fire cirlce!

Its been a lovey, warm and sunny week here at Rowen.  Dave and Sue have taken advantage of the weather and been making some seating for our fire circle out of two ash logs we had lying around!
To split the logs Dave used his trusty sledge hammer and iron wedges.  To begin he hammers in the first wedge at the base of the log and soon a crack will appear in the log.
The idea is to work with the natural grain of the wood.  Further wedges are inserted into the developing crack and hammered in.
As the wedges are hammer in you can hear the timber slowly but surely cracking apart.  Splitting this large log this way took less than 5 minutes.
Once the timbers had been split Sue started to smooth off any surface bumps and sharp splinters using an iron adze.
Once this is done they will be positioned and set on a stone base (to keep the ash off the wet ground) and be ready as a vital part of our 'idea exchange centre' (sitting around a fire and chatting!).