Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working with the Wapusk Artifacts

I'm working on the reproductions for Wapusk National Park. I have the paper patterns that I printed from photos that I took on the first visit, but its always good to compare the reproductions to the originals. No matter how many reference photos that I have, there's nothing like comparing the pieces side by side. In the photo on the right, the reproduction endblade is in the middle and is flanked on the left by the artifact and on the right by my paper pattern.

One way that I can compare the reproduction to the artifact is to try fitting the handles on the original artifacts. In the photo to the left the blade in the handle is the artifact. The reproduction is below and I can see that it needs a bit more resharpening before it is an exact match for the dimensions of the artifact. If the reproduction handle is good, then it should fit the original artifact just as snugly as it fits the reproduction blade. In some ways, I make a handle that fits the artifact and then a reproduction that fits the handle. I've mentioned before how the people who made these tools would have a different perspective on them than us. For them, the stone blade would be the temporary, disposable part and the handle would be the curated and reused part of the tool. Retooling the same handle with multiple blades would help create a more uniform toolkit over time. I can use that same idea to help make a more accurate reproduction. The handle is new, but by refitting first the artifact and then the reproduction I have a continuous chain from the old to the new version.

The side-by-side comparisons are also useful because I can use the artifact as the pattern and copy exactly the angles and dimensions that I need directly onto the reproduction. These marks are very useful and if I can get back into the shed and work the piece quickly enough after The Rooms visit, then I can still visualize the modifications that need to make and remember how the artifact sits next to the reproduction.

The snow goggles are a pretty cool piece of technology and are relatively simple to make. Snow goggles are a very old form of sunglasses, that cut the glare reflected off of ice and snow to help protect the wearer from snow blindness. Matching the exact dimensions of the artifact slows the build down a bit, but if you were to make a pair for yourself they'd be pretty quick and easy. They are made from a softwood tree trunk, with a diameter of about 40 cm * - which is pretty much the thickness of an old Christmas tree. The inside is scooped out to fit around your nose and eyes and the outside is bevelled to match. If I were making a pair for myself to wear, I'd probably do most of the work on the inside of the goggles first so that it fits comfortably on my face, and then work the outside last. They won't fit over glasses, but if you are like me and squinting your eyes helps you see a little more clearly with your prescription glasses off, snow goggles create a similar effect. You won't get 20/20 vision, but things are a little less blurry when you look through the eye slits.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
1: Wapusk endblade comparison
2: Wapusk knife comparison, artifact is in the handle and the reproduction blade is below
3: Side-by-side with the Wapusk Snow Goggles
4: Snow goggles, ready for the next round of modifications

*Edit: January 23, 2013. 40cm? What the?  I'm going to guess that I meant 4cm or 40mm.

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