Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Splitting Birch and Knapping Glass

Splitting the birch
I continued working on the ice patch inspired Northern Archaic darts today by splitting a birch log into long blanks for the darts.  The complete darts will be somewhere around a metre and a half or two metres long and less than a centimetre and a half in diameter.  The birch split well enough using chisels and wedges (I've misplaced the hatchet that I normally use for wood splitting).
Fibre Optic Glass
At the same time I need to pull together a wholesale order for the Heritage Shop at Port au Choix, so I started making fibre optic glass blanks for jewellery.  I'll probably work on both projects in tandem and try finish the work within the next week or two.  It will be a hectic couple of weeks wrapping up Elfshot work before heading out for a brief field season.

I need at least three darts.  I'm hoping that I can find them somwhere in these five staves.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 25, 2015

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Harpoon with Spare Parts

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Harpoon Heads
This is a fun little set that I just sent off to Mount Royal University in Calgary along with the Northern Plains projectile points that I showed on Friday.  This a Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon with three interchangeable harpoon heads.  Two of the harpoon heads (one with a chert endblade and one self-bladed) have braided sinew lanyards and sealskin lines attached to them.  There is a third harpoon head prepared to fit the same foreshaft, ready to attach to a line when needed.  I don't think I've ever made a kit quite like this before and it really made me think about the tools in a new way.  

All three harpoon heads fit
the same whale bone foreshaft.
I think it's very likely that Groswater hunters would have carried sets of spare harpoon heads like this around with them.  Each harpoon head we find archaeologically doesn't have to equate to it's own complete harpoon.  The barbed or endbladed harpoon heads may have been used on different prey or in different conditions, but there is no reason to carry around multiple complete harpoon shafts to fit them all separately.  Similarly, there is no reason to wait until a harpoon head is damaged or lost to prepare backup parts.  I think versatile kits like this were probably much more common in the past than a single harpoon without any spare parts.

The selfbladed antler harpoon head is designed to toggle, but it also has a single barb to help secure it in the prey.

I used softwood for the main body of the harpoon and sealskin for the lines and lashing

A Newfoundland chert endblade lashed to an antler harpoon head with sinew.  The foreshaft is whalebone and the braided line threaded through the harpoon head line hole is sinew.

I suspect Groswater hunters maintained similar spare harpoon heads for inevitably lost or damaged parts or different prey or hunting conditions.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 22, 2015

Northern Plains Projectile Points

Record in Stone and
Here is the finished set of Northern Plains projectile points.  This sequence of reproductions spans about 10,000 years of prehistory.   I've attempted some of these point styles in the past, while others were new to me.  Either way, I relied heavily on the Archaeological Society of Alberta's publication "Record in Stone: Familiar Projectile Points from Alberta".  This book has been periodically updated over the years and remains an extremely useful publication.

I don't want all the points in a set like this to look like they were made by one person at one time.   If very different tools or techniques were used to make the original artifacts, I'll try to mimic those as best that I can.  I also made each projectile point from a different type of stone to try to build variety into the set.

The complete set of reproductions arranged in chronological order from top to bottom

Spot the reproduction...
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Groswater harpoon progress

Un-notched Groswater
I have a few goals in the workshop this week and several orders that I'm trying to fill all at once, but my main focus is to get a Groswater harpoon and assorted Northern Plain's projectile points finished and in the mail by Friday.  The clock is ticking and I need the harpoon to be dry before shipping, so my priority today was working the sealskin so that the lashing can go on to the wood shaft as soon as possible so that it can dry while I work on the other unfinished pieces in the order.

Stretching and drying sealskin for the harpoon line and lashings.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ptarmigan Feathers

I need a few ptarmigan feathers for a set of atlatl darts.  A friend from Labrador managed to find a half dozen wings in his freezer and popped them in the mail for me last week.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, May 15, 2015

Start of the long weekend

If I had made it out to the workshop today, I would have finished these Groswater harpoon heads.  But I didn't make it to the workshop today.  I got distracted by office work, photo editing, and the first lunchtime pina coladas of the season.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


 The bilboquets or pin-and-cup games I showed boiling on Monday are dried and ready to ship now.  I discussed it with the client and given the way these toys are intended to be used, we decided to go with braided artificial sinew instead of real sinew.  It looks the same, but it should last a little longer, with less maintenance than real sinew.  The bone targets, pins, and cords range in size and therefore difficulty.  The pins are primarily ribs and the targets are cut from caribou long bones and whale ribs.
Set of nine bilboquets

The different sizes and hole diameters make some of the toys more challenging than others.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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