Friday, September 27, 2013

Tillering and some fall scheduling

Tillering a bow with a stone flake
I spent a few hours working on the Beothuk bow reproductions today, although the rainy weather has kept me inside for most of the tail end of this week.  I'm still plugging away at the prep work for this fall's workshops and demonstrations.  In St. John's, I'll be returning to The Rooms at least twice in October; once for an Open Minds workshop with school kids and then again on October 19th for International Archaeology Day.  I'll be volunteering with the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society on that day and demonstrating flintknapping.  It will be a casual open house type event and I'll be working some Ramah chert throughout the afternoon.  I'm sure that I'll have the Beothuk bow reproductions there as well, so if you want to see them and have a chat, please stop by.  In November, I'll be heading to Nunavut for a couple weeks for workshops sponsored by Parks Canada.  I alluded to these workshops about this time last year, but they were put on hold for a few months.  I'll be in Resolute Bay from November 11th to 15th and Grise Fiord from November 18th to 22nd.  If you know anyone in these communities who might be interested in learning to flintknap and haft stone tools, please let them know that registration for these workshops will be taking place shortly.

Drying the bow over a hotplate
Back in the workshop, I returned to heating, drying, bending and tillering the Mountain Ash Beothuk bow reproductions.  They dried noticeably on their own over the past couple of days in the cool dry basement.  One had started to develop a slight twist in the limbs, which I wanted to get ahead of before it set in permanently.  I twisted the limbs back using dry heat and continued to dry  the bows over a small hotplate for another hour each.  This hour of heating made the bows much stiffer than they had been yet, so I decided to do a little more tillering.  I'm not counting on the wood being stable yet, so I didn't tiller them all the way to a full draw, but they are coming along nicely.

Utilizing a flake to scrape the belly of the bow
I used a chert flake to scrape inside the belly of the bow while it was drawn on the tillering board, to help the limbs bend evenly.  I don't always use stone tools when I'm in my workshop, but if they are the best tool available for a particular job, I don't mind working with them.  For example, when I drill holes in slate, I genuinely prefer to use a bow drill with a nephrite bit, because its quicker than an electric drill and it makes a more authentic looking reproduction.  Today when I was looking around my shop at the metal files, knives, and scrapers that I have on hand, it was this little stone flake that caught my eye and turned out to be the best tool for the job.  It had the perfect edge shape, angle, and sharpness to quickly and carefully scrape the belly of the bow.  There's also no danger of it leaving the wrong type of tool marks on the finished bow.    Whatever trace it leaves on the wood will be correct for the time period and Beothuk culture that the bow is meant to represent.

This is the unmodified flake that worked so well.  I primarily used the distal edge of the flake (the bulb is towards my palm).  At first glance its a fairly straight edge, but it actually had a soft concave section in the middle that worked well along the edges of the belly and a convex section towards the point that worked well for scraping into the middle of the flat wood.

The camera flash kind of washed out the edges of the tiny usewear flakes that appeared along the edge as I worked the wood, but I think you can make out a slight polishing along the edge with some shallow scalloping above it where millimetre long flakes chipped off.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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