Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Newly Completed Parks Reproductions

Here's a look at the most recent batch of completed artifact reproductions. These are some of the bigger pieces that Parks Canada is having me reproduce, so having them in the finished pile makes me feel like the work is almost over. At this point the bulk of the work is done and its coming down to some very nit-picky back and forth antiquing.

Wooden Handle: (Ivvavik National Park). This artifact (middle in both photos) has a few competing interpretations, including dog whip handle and gaff handle. My preference is gaff handle. There is a rust stained channel on one end with a squarish cross section that appears to have held an iron object, perhaps an iron spike modified into a gaff hook. There is a ghost of a cord wrapping around that channel which would have held the iron object in place. The artifact has a roughly octagonal cross-section and the end opposite the rust stained channel is burned. It looks like the rest of the gaff handle was burned away.
Probably the most challenging aspect of this reproduction was matching the ghost of the cord wrapping. On the artifact, the points where the cord touched the wood are light and the darker staining is in the gaps between the cord. So I couldn't just stain a cord and wrap it around the handle, because that would give me the opposite pattern that I needed. That would stain where the twine was, not where the twine wasn't. Instead I coated a length of twine in beeswax, twisted it to match the twist of the cord on the original artifact and then applied a water-based stain. The wax blocked the stain from penetrating the wood everywhere that the cord touched, but it could concentrate in the gaps between the twists in the cord. I put on a coat of wood conditioner before wrapping the cord and applying the stain to try to keep the stain from seeping into the wood grain too much.

Drilled Antler: (Aulavik National Park) I didn't really expect to get as close a match as this turned out to be. I've talked in other posts about all the shaping and bending that went into this piece. It was tough to create a natural looking antler surface on a piece that was almost completely modified from the original, but I'm happy with the results. There are many layers of antler dust, charcoal, rock dust, saw dust, carpenters glue, and wood stain to create the cracked weathered look. In the photo with the case, the reproduction is in the foreground and the artifact is in the background.

The main area that I wanted to leave natural antler was in the cross-section of the cut. Six holes were drilled through the antler and then it was cracked off through the holes. The best way to make that look real was to drill six holes and then crack it. I got lucky and it cracked just like the original. In the photo, the artifact is on the left and the reproduction is on the right.

Whalebone Adze Socket: (Ivvavik National Park) This is one of those reproductions where the raw material does half the work for you (artifact is in the center). There isn't any other material that looks or feels quite like whalebone. In the photo at the top of the post you can see the hole where the bit would have been inserted, probably stone. The narrowed section is the hafting area for the handle, which are often made from a section of caribou antler and tie on with skin lashings. An adze is a woodworking tool, similar to an axe, but with the blade mounted flat, like a hoe. It would also be very handy for working whalebone, which can be worked similarly to wood. There is very little antiquing here, just a bit of tea staining and then a smudge of charcoal to match a greasy black patch on the top of the original.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
First: Whalebone Adze Socket (middle) and reproductions
Second: Wooden Handle (middle) and reproductions
Third: Wooden Handle (middle) and reproductions
Fourth: Staining the cord markings
Fifth: Drilled Antler reproduction (forground) and original artifact
Sixth: side by side comparison of drilled end, original artifact on the left
Seventh: Whalebone adze socket (middle) and reproductions


  1. These look fantastic! I'm looking forward to our annual "can you tell the difference?" game show with Wade.

  2. Amazing Tim. Your skill blows me away.

  3. Thanks! There have been a few occasions lately when I've been handling the reproductions alongside the originals and I lose track of which is which. I like when that happens because it means I can probably stop working on that particular piece.

    At the moment the best way to distinguish the artifacts from the reproductions is to look for the catalog numbers on the originals. Likewise, I'll add a discrete "TR" to all the reproductions before shipping them off. Since these are made from the same materials as the originals, they will age very similarly to the artifacts. Handling them and treating them like artifacts for a couple of years really helps make them indistinguishable from the real thing, so if they aren't labelled and stored properly from the beginning things can get pretty confusing.


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