Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year - we'll see you all in 2013!
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, December 28, 2012

You never know what you'll spot on a beach in Newfoundland

Lori and I got away with John and Elaine for a few days this week to wait out Christmas in a safe place. We stayed at a friend's house in a community that happens to be one of the Province's hidden surf spots.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. John's Harbour

A visiting tug boat in St. John's Harbour.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dorset; Why take my word for it?

This is part of the Dorset Palaeoeskimo display at The Rooms, here in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.  
If you want to know more about archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador, I recommend checking out Inside Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology.  Today's post explores some of the history behind the names that archaeologist's have given to the various peoples who settled this Province from the north: What's in a Name, Pt. 2.

Photo Credits: 
1) Tim Rast
2) Screen grab from

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dorset Palaeoeskimo Nephrite

This is a little burin-like tool made from nephrite that was found at a Dorset Palaeoeskimo site on Baffin Island.  The site's elevation along with other diagnostic tools suggest an Early Dorset occupation.

This tabular nephrite tool, with one broken end, may be another burin-like tool that was broken through the notches and discarded.  If so, it has a much larger body than little one in the first photo.  It was found at a different Baffin Island site that contained many Early and also Middle Dorset tools.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, December 17, 2012

This is Maktak

Maktak is whale skin with a bit of fat.  Different whales are eaten in different parts of the arctic - this is Narwhal from near Pond Inlet on Baffin Island.  The black and grey layer is the spotted skin of the Narwhal and the pink layer is the fat.  You eat it cold - frozen - with a bit of soy sauce.
Its really chewy, so it helps to score the maktak with a sharp knife before eating it.  Its hard to describe the taste.  Its frozen and very chewy, but it doesn't have a very strong taste.  Perhaps frozen salmon would be the closest southern food.   I like a lot of soy sauce with my maktak and I need to chew and swallow very quickly.  I've never been able to chew it all up - the skin is just too tough and rubbery.  I need to swallow it before it warms up and I think too much about what I'm chewing on.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dorset Endblades

This small triangular endblade and the one in the photo below came from a site on the north end of Baffin Island containing Early and Middle Dorset artifacts.

The site is all but invisible, until you are standing in the middle of it and you train your eyes to distinguish the tiny artifacts from the background beach gravel. 
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Besant Atlatl Dart Reproduction

Besant dart reproduction
The Besant Phase was an interesting time period on the Northern Plains of North America, that began sometime around two thousand years ago and saw the introduction of pottery and the spread of the bow an arrow into the region.  The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl during the Besant Phase, with earlier, larger points likely tipping atlatl darts and smaller, later points likely hafted onto arrows.  This reproduction is meant to accompany a Northern Plains style atlatl that I made last spring, so it uses a larger Besant projectile point hafted onto a dart shaft.

Straight with real world imperfections
To the best of my knowledge, there haven't been any complete Besant darts recovered, so I used darts found in arid caves in the Great Basin region of the US and on caribou ice patches in northern Canada as my templates.  I wanted a fairly light dart, but I could afford to give it a bit of length.  The atlatl that it is designed to accompany has a stone weight attached to it, which will help balance a long or heavy dart while in use.  I don't have access to the actual atlatl and my atlatls at home don't have weights, so there is a bit of guess work involved, but I think it should be close to being in balance.

The dart is 5 feet long, including the foreshaft, which is approximately 12 inches long.  The atlatl in the picture is the same length as the Plains atlatl this dart is designed for, but lacks a weight.

The general shape of the foreshaft and the foreshaft/main shaft socket are based on Great Basin atlatl darts.  I used this design because its the same style of foreshaft and socket that I use on my cane darts at home.  If the client decides to order additional darts or different point styles mounted in different foreshafts, then I can match them to my darts here in St. John's and be confident that they will fit with this dart in Calgary.

The foreshaft tapers to a simple, conical point that fits into a drilled socket in the mainshaft.  Its held in place by friction. The sinew lashing is there to prevent the mainshaft from splitting.

I added sinew over the pitch and ochre
I used darts found on ice patches in the Yukon as my references for the mainshaft and the glue used to attach the point to the foreshaft.  I used pitch mixed with red ochre to glue the point into place and to smooth the transition between the stone and the wood foreshaft.

Melting and mixing the ochre and pitch.  I wanted to duplicate the ochre staining found in the hafting area of ice patch projectile points and give it a colour and texture that matched the rough and ready feel of many Besant projectile points.

Scarfed join bound with sinew and hide glue
I straightened the the long shoot that I used for the main shaft using dry heat, but there was a sharp kink in the middle that I couldn't work out.  It wasn't so severe that it would have had a big impact on the aerodynamics of the dart, but it didn't look very pretty.  I cut the shaft at that kink and scarfed it back together.  The scarf joint matches the joins found on many of the atlatl darts recovered from the Yukon ice patches.

  Most of the other features of the dart are shared between both the Great Basin and the Yukon ice patch archaeological reference darts.  They both have shallow sockets at the feathered end of the dart to fit the spur on the atlatl.  The feathers are tied fairly close to the socket and the sinew binding serves double duty to attach the feathers and prevent the socket from splitting.  I wanted a utilitarian looking dart, with real life wobbles in it so that it doesn't look like it was made on a store bought dowel.  I used a long shoot that I found in my wood box. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but willow or lilac are the most likely candidates.  I tossed it a few times with a blunt foreshaft just to see how it flies and it works very well.  This is intended to be a display piece, but I want it to be a fully functional and as accurate as possible display piece.

I went with dark brown goose feathers for no particular reason, other than I felt they were a complimentary colour to the dark point and bookended the light coloured dart nicely.

Chert point, red ochre and pitch, sinew bindings, poplar foreshaft, wood mainshaft (willow or lilac shoot), goose feathers, , hide glue

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, December 10, 2012


This week is starting out better than last week ended.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, December 7, 2012

This Week Kicked My Ass

These aren't quick to fail at.
 I've probably had worse weeks, but this week was bad enough that it deserves its own little shrine to failure.  A soon-to-be overflowing display case of all the ways that I've found to screw up fluting PalaeoIndian points over the past few days.  I haven't successfully fluted one yet, so I'm sure there'll be more to add.  Our home renovations are dragging and the City permits are getting complicated, Elfshot contracts are getting complicated, I had a cold, and now I just can't seem to keep a rock in one piece.

Oh look, my reflection is in the glass.  A crappy photo to match a crappy box of crap.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Besant Point

Besant Point reproduction
I need to do a bit of knapping before Christmas.  One of the projects is an atlatl dart to go with the plains atlatl that I made last spring.  We're going with a Besant style point on a foreshaft in a fairly light dart.  Besant is one of the last atlatl using cultures on the Northern Plains and dates from around 2000 to 1150 years ago.

The Saskatchewan Archaeological Society has a good introduction to archaeology on the Northern Plains and this illustration of a Besant point. 

Its going to be hafted.

Photo Credits:
1, 3: Tim Rast
2: Introductory Handbook to Saskatchewan Archaeology

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lost Stone Obsidian

I haven't been making a lot of jewelry lately, but I did do a quick repair on this necklace recently.  It is obsidian and was purchased from the Heritage Shop in Port au Choix.  I'm sending it back to its owner  in Ontario this evening.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, November 30, 2012

Harpoon on the Wall

Derrick posted this photo of the harpoon's new home on his kitchen wall.  Great space for it - it looks awesome with his cabinets.
Here's the original concept drawing by Derrick, with a bit of ochre from the staining.

Photo Credits: 
1) Derrick LeGrow Jr.
2) Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ochre Stained Harpoon Finished

The composite harpoon that I've been working on for the past couple of weeks is done.  It features a tip-fluted box based endblade made from Newfoundland chert which combines Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimo characteristics.  The harpoon head is made from moose antler and is a mix of Groswater at the distal end and Late Dorset at the base.  The foreshaft and ice pick are whalebone.  The line is braided sinew and sealskin,  The main shaft is made from a recycled spruce Christmas tree with sealskin lashings.   The whole thing is covered in red ochre paint using eggs from the client's sister's chickens.  

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, November 26, 2012

Award Winning Pie!

On Saturday night, we got together with a couple dozen friends for a pie themed party called Pie Fest 2012. Every person or couple had to bring a home made pie, which we sampled throughout the evening.  As the night went on, we voted for our favourite pie in four different categories; Best Overall Pie, Best Tasting Sweet Pie, Best Tasting Savoury Pie and Best Looking Pie.  There were 24 different pies, representing a mix of savoury and sweet.  The night's big winners were the Caribou Pie, Apple and Ginger Pie, Steak, Kidney, and Guiness Pie, and Lori's Black Bottom Chocolate Pie, which took home the prize for Best Looking Pie.

These are just the sweet desert pies.  The kitchen was full of savoury meat and vegetarian pies, as well.
This is my entry; a Pecan Pie.  Its only the second pie that I ever made.  The first carbonized instead of carmelized earlier in the day, but I had time to make a second, passable, pie.

This is Lori's Award Winning Black Bottom Chocolate Pie - Best Looking Pie - Pie Fest 2012, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Photo Credits: Elaine Anton

Friday, November 23, 2012

This needs more red

The ochre is looking good
I'm still ochre staining the harpoon.  I've been working on it in the basement, but the house renovations moved down into my drying space today and put me behind a bit.  I think we've passed the half way point on the renovations.  The clapboard is up on the front of the house and the city inspector was here this afternoon to look at the work planned for the back of the house.  We need 4 foot deep post holes for the deck, which would make a lot more sense in a part of the world with 4 feet of soil.

Unfortunately replacing that casement window took priority over my  own  painting and drying on the harpoon.

The renovations aren't complete enough to reveal, but you can see the shiny red clapboard above the new window in the basement.

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Assembled and Ready to Ochre Stain.

The line is sealskin and braided sinew
The composite culture harpoon is assembled now and I just have to wait for a bit of drying on the hide glue and lashings before adding a couple coats of red ochre paint to the whole thing.  The inspiration for most of the components at this point are predominantly Palaeoeskimo, with some Inuit influence on the icepick.  The ochre stain will change the look and feel of the harpoon a lot, it should be interesting.  For the paint, I mix my own ground ochre with a linseed oil, water and egg clear coat.  The client's sister raises chickens, so I used one of her hen's eggs to make the paint.  Hopefully the fully stained piece will be ready to show you on Friday. 
I use a simple paint recipe using an egg, water and linseed oil which I mix with red ochre as I brush it on.  The recipe is from Robin Wood's Blog.

Spruce, Sealskin, Sinew, Whalebone, Moose Antler, Chert, Hide Glue

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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