Friday, November 30, 2018

Stocking The Rooms in time for Christmas!

I'm just back from dropping off a big Christmas restocking order for The Rooms Gift Shop here in St. John's.  The order included a few flintknapping kits and a selection of handmade reproductions of Dorset, Groswater, and Beothuk endblades and arrowheads.  Everything is made from Newfoundland chert and the knapped stone tools have been mounted as necklaces, earrings, lapel pins, and tie tacs.  For this Christmas season, The Rooms gift shop currently has the best selection of Elfshot jewelry available.  

Groswater lapel pins and Dorset earrings.

Beothuk necklaces and earrings.

Groswater earrings.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, November 29, 2018

PalaeoIndian Reproductions

A foreshaft assembly with a
Folsom point based on
a theoretical reconstruction
I'm still around.  Although you might not realize that if you follow this blog.  I've been plugging away in the studio on reproductions throughout the year and travelling a lot for work.  Some of the projects I've worked on have embargoes on them until exhibits are opened or programs aired, which has given me an excuse to be extra lazy on this blog.  I'll try to use the end of the year as an incentive to document some of the projects that I've participated in during 2018.  

Here is a look at some pieces that are fresh out the door.  These are for a museum exhibit in the US and represent PalaeoIndian artifacts.  The reproductions include a fluted Folsom point made from chert, hafted in an antler foreshaft that fits into an antler socket which is glued and lashed to a wooden mainshaft.  The mainshaft is cut short for dispaly purposes.  Three bone needles, sinew, and a bone thimble (based on an Inuit design) make up part of a sewing kit.

A progress shot of the stone point, antler foreshaft and antler socket pieces.  The most important piece for the museum was the foreshaft, so I tried to match that as exactly as possible to the reference drawing.  The stone point came out a few millimetres larger than the reference point.  I find fluted points very difficult to make and this was my fourth attempt at this spear point and I didn't dare try to work it any more after both flutes came off reasonably well.   The socket needed to be a bit longer than the drawing for functional reasons, but overall the final assembly was within a couple centimetres of the illustration.

Bone needles and thimble.  The bone needles are based on PalaeoIndian artifacts and are made on long bones.  The thimble is based on Inuit thimbles in the Canadian Museum of History Collection.  
The complete set included some sinew thread to go along with the needles in the sewing kit.  All of the pieces are antiqued and the spear shaft was cut short because the storyline of the display focuses on the foreshaft assembly.

The museum requested that the sinew lashing be left off of the spear point and foreshaft.  Fortunately, the flutes on the Folsom point allow the spear point to be gripped fairly snugly by the foreshaft even without lashing or glues.  I don't think I'd trust it for hunting, but in a display and normal handling it is a good, secure fit.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Repairs for The Rooms

Earlier this winter I completed a few repairs and replacement pieces of toys and games used in programming at The Rooms.  These pieces included replacement counting sticks and dice for waltes games, new artificial sinew and antler sticks for pin and cup games, and new artificial sinew on 22 rawhide buzzers.  

Wooden waltes discs with ink designs and wood counting sticks with lightly ochre stained ends.  These were replacement pieces from existing sets with missing pieces.  I didn't make the original sets, but I worked from photos and reference pieces to match the intact pieces.

Antler pin and cup games with artificial sinew cords.  The previous antler sticks were broken or lost.

Rawhide buzzers.  I replaced the worn artificial sinew and added the wood sticks to make them easier to pull.

The rawhide is very hard wearing and durable.  I made these quite a few years ago for The Rooms and even though the old cord wore out there is no wear on the discs.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bone and Antler Games for the Canadian Museum of History

These Bilboquets or pin and cup games are on their way to join the Canadian Museum of History's travelling Kids Celebrate exhibition.  The pins are all antler and the cups are either long bone sections or caribou antler with the porous interior scraped hollow.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beothuk Gaming Pieces

Beothuk game piece reproductions
Late last year, I worked on a set of bone Beothuk Game Piece reproductions.  They were a birthday present ordered by a friend for her archaeologist husband.  I made 13 pieces in total and we selected seven of the nicest pieces to make the gift set.   This old blog post discusses some of the primary sources and interpretations of how the game pieces may have been used.  The pieces are carved in bone (I primarily use caribou long bones) and decorated with incised lines on one side.  They are covered in red ochre.

Thirteen finished game piece replicas
Like anything, the more time you spend with a project, the more detail that begins to emerge.  All of the known game pieces are either diamond shaped, rectangular, or irregular.  A complete set seems to have been composed of three diamond, three rectangular, and one irregular piece. There also seems to be a different approach to the thickness of the different game pieces.  The irregular and diamond shaped pieces are quite thin and flat, and often have a slight curve to them, probably from the shape of the bone they are made from.  The rectangular pieces are much thicker and blockier.  They aren't cubes like a six-sided die, but they are not simple flat tiles like the diamond shaped pieces either.  I tried to reflect this difference in the reproductions.

Carving the designs is a multi-stage process.  The final designs are quite complex, so I don't carve them all at once.  I begin with the borders and longest lines first and then add progressively more detail in additional carving sessions.  You can see my pencil marks on the blanks in this photo.  The reproductions are sitting on a sheet of paper that is printed with the original artifacts that I used for reference.

This is the final set of game pieces for my friend's birthday.  It has three diamond shaped pieces, three rectangular pieces and one irregular piece.  I'm especially happy with how the ochre took to the bone - they really capture the look and feel of the original artifacts.  
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dorset Bear Heads

A family of four Dorset Palaeoeskimo polar
bear pendant reproductions
I had a couple requests this summer for reproductions of Dorset Palaeoeskimo walrus ivory polar bear head pendants.  I finally finished a set and shipped off the first two late last week.  I use the same couple of Dorset artifacts for reference for all of them, but slight differences in the size and the ivory always gives them their own personalities.  To me, the larger two look the most natural and look like a male and female.  The smaller two are closer in size and style to the reference artifacts.  

The original artifacts have hollow throats, which
allows them to be suspended on a cord.  The
originals may have been suspended in a similar
way, but there may also be a more spiritual
significance to the hollow throat design.
I'm still working the same few tusks of walrus ivory that I purchased from the West Baffin Co-op in Cape Dorset.  It is well seasoned now, but I still take precautions to keep it from drying out and cracking or de-laminating.  When I finish a carving like this (and sometimes while they are in progress) I coat the ivory in a generous layer of mineral oil.  I use unscented baby oil.  The ivory sucks up the oil and it prevents it from drying out.  I find that if you wear and handle walrus ivory a lot your natural skin oils will replenish and protect the piece from drying out.  If you've purchased an ivory pendant or harpoon head from me in the past, it would probably be a good idea to give it another coating of baby oil every few years.  Now would be a good time.

Each one turned out slightly different.

The smallest in the set are still available.  Contact me for pricing.


Still available. Contact me for pricing.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reproductions for Qalipu First Nation

Waltes game and crooked knife
Earlier this week, I completed work on a few different artifact reproductions, tools, and games for the Qalipu First Nation. Some of the pieces, like this waltes set and crooked knife are based on Mi'kmaq culture from Newfoundland and the Maritimes.  Others are Maritime Archaic and Beothuk reproductions for use in a mock dig program run on Newfoundland's west coast. The pin and cup games are more generic and have analogs in many different cultures in this part of the world.

Crooked knife. This knife is made from a steel file, wood handle and waxed cotton thread.  I used several historic Newfoundland Mi'kmaq crooked knives as references for this piece, especially this one in the Canadian Museum of History collection.  Other groups in the Province made similar knives, but one of the characteristics that makes the Mi'kmaq version unique is how the blade is secured into the handle.  The blade is fit into a slot on the top of the handle and tied into place.  In Labrador, it seems more common to cut a socket out of the side of the handle, insert the blade, close the socket with a wooden plug and then lash everything together.  The blades in Labrador may also have a bit more of a curve to them at the tip.

The ochre stained pieces are all Maritime Archaic; two bird headed bone pins, a bird headed antler comb, and a bird-bone flute.  The two broken arrowheads are Beothuk or Little Passage style.

Pin and cup games made from long bones and antler for the cups and antler for the pins.  I used braided artificial sinew for the cord.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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