Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

I am once again accepting orders to be made in my new shop.

Back in the shop with better prices on lanterns!

Rob GorrellComment

We are finally settled into our new old house and have our workshop in decent shape.  It is a great old fixer upper on a street lined with massive Sycamore trees, two blocks from everything fun to do in town.

OK. Kidding, not our house. This is The Castle, a local landmark and museum that is well worth visiting.

We are back to making things between the many, many, house projects and yard work, but will not be getting out to any trade fairs this year. Just too much to do.  But there is good news from the tin shop side of things.  As I have settled in to the new workspace and taken some time to upgrade my tools and patterns, I have found several ways to speed up my methods and reduce waste. Yeah!   So I am dropping the prices a bit on all of my lanterns.  You can see the new prices in my shop on this website.


New pricing on lanterns!

I am also taking on some custom work including a hearing trumpet and a metal sheath for a Civil War dagger. More to come on those later.

We have moved.

Rob GorrellComment

Hi folks. Shelley and I finally made to move to Marietta Ohio. We have wanted to move here for a long time. It is a great little historic town and has a nice variety of things to do withing walking distance of the house.



As always happens, moving in and getting set back up is taking longer that we expected.  So it will probably be March before I am ready to start accepting new orders.

I am looking forward to working out of the new shop and hope to see you in the spring.




Thanks for making it a great sale.

Rob GorrellComment

I want to thank everyone who bought my lanterns during the Spring Lantern Sale that ended today. The results were way beyond my expectations.

Now I am off to the 2017 Fort Frederick Market Fair on April 29,30 at Fort Frederick Md.  I will be tooling around with my yellow push cart filled with lanterns for sale. 

If you are in the area of the fort I encourage you to stop by for the event. It is one of the two events I do and it is always a good time.  While you are there I would encourage you to check out the work from my fellow tinners, Early American Tin Lighting, Tin Man Roy, and Hot Dip Tin. They are all craftsmen that I admire and am inspired by.

Let's make an English Ship Lantern like the ones on the HMS Victory.

TinwareRob GorrellComment

I have a long list of tin items that I would like to learn to make in my shop. One item near the top of the list is the ship lanterns that are hanging on the HMS Victory in Portsmouth England.  Recently I have been asked by some reenacting groups to make up some examples that they might be able to use in their interpretation of late 18th and early 19th century navy crews.

A problem that I run into in trying to reproduce a period lantern from the late 18th/early 19th century is the difficulty in locating and seeing dated original lanterns.  For the most part they did not survive to our times.  There are various mid to late 19th century lanterns floating around, but earlier lanterns are scarce, or I haven't found them yet.  I have mostly worked from paintings, period drawings and assumptions based on later lanterns.

The best contemporary illustration of the lanterns on the Victory I have found to date is the painting "The Death of Admiral Lord Nelson" by Arthur Devis, 1807.  Devis made sketches for the painting on board the HMS Victory upon her return from the Battle of Trafalgar.

I also received some closeups and dimensions of the lanterns currently on display on the Victory from the museum staff.  The current lanterns look like the lanterns in the painting, but have some necessary modern adaptations.

Photo from HMS Victory website.

Working from this information and advise from other tinsmiths and historians, I started working up a pattern for the lantern.  The first couple of attempts were disasters, but in time I think I worked up a pattern that is a fair interpretation of the lantern.

The panes on this lantern are a modern compromise, being flakes of mica embedded in a resin material.  The original lanterns most likely had thin panes of horn for panes.  Every horn worker that I have talked to says that it would be difficult and expensive to reproduce the horn panes. It is a very labor intensive process and would probably triple the price of the lantern. There is a source for horn panes made from water buffalo horn, but in my opinion they are too dark to be useful. 

This lantern is painted with black oil paint to try to approximate a period oil finish. I do not know if the original Victory lanterns were painted or japanned.

This lantern is fitted for a candle, though the originals may have been whale oil lanterns.

The next step is to talk to the living history people and see what they think of this design.  This lantern is the same size as the originals, 21" tall by 7.5" in diameter.  We might need to compromise a little to make it a little easier to pack to events.  In the meantime I will be putting the current version in my store on this site.




A visit to the Musee du Chocolat.

Rob GorrellComment

Yes I know, this is a blog about traditional trades and such, but everything is connected, right?

We just returned from a return trip to Paris, where we took in all the art, culture, sights and pastries that we could manage in just 8 days.  Paris is and endless source of inspiration for us and in spite of what is being said on the "news", it is still a safe and wonderfully welcoming city.

I wanted to just add a few photos here of some of the tin and wood items on display in the museum. I encourage you to go the website for the museum and look around.

This is neither wood nor tin, but too cool not to include.

choco 6.jpg

Sorry the images are a little blurry. I was taking pics with a cheap cell phone camera in a darkened exhibit through glass.

Some new lanterns on my Etsy page

Rob GorrellComment

I have been playing around with different finishes for my lanterns and ended up with a few lanterns that are a little different that what is in my store on this site.  If you are looking for a mid summer lantern fix, check them out here at my Etsy Store.


I also accept custom orders for lanterns if you need something in particular.




What would Hogarth Think?

Rob GorrellComment

I am going to be giving a presentation on colonial lanterns at this year's Tinsmithing Covergence, to be held at Sauder Village Ohio.

While doing some research for the talk I noticed that nearly all of the lanterns depicted in the etchings and paintings from the 18th century that I came across, were round.  There are numerous existing lanterns attributed to the 18th century, but it looks like, from this very un-statistical study, that round was the way to go.

In talking with other tinsmiths about this it was pointed out that it is easier to make a round lantern with the tools used in the 18th century than to make a square lantern. So maybe that is all there is to it.

Here is an example from Hogarth:

Here is an example from Diderot:

There are numerous examples on the Sifting the Past Blog showing round lanterns. In fact, of the 18 paintings from the 1700s showing lanterns, only one was not round.

Another thing I noticed is that in the different Hogarth prints that the round lanterns appeared to have narrow dividers compared to other round lanterns I have studied.  So last weekend I set in and came up with a design influenced my the various period examples.

It is really a hybrid of a couple other lantern designs I have worked on, except that this lantern is about an inch more in diameter that my other round design interpretations.

Here is another view. Compare this to the Hogarth image above.

Now I am the first to point out that there is a large amount of speculation and "artistic license" taken with this design. But in my defense, Hogarth did not exactly show me much detail. 

Who knows, maybe Hogarth thought, "you've seen one lantern......"

If you make it to the Convergence, and if you are a tinner you really should, stop by and let's talk lanterns.


My version of a round 18th century lantern.

Rob GorrellComment

I have been spending a lot of my shop time learning to develop patterns for tin lanterns based on photographs of original lanterns held in museum collections.  I have not had the opportunity to get my hands on the actual lanterns to see all of the details. However, the museum documentation often gives good details for dimensions of the lanterns.  So armed with photographs, rulers, dividers and overall dimensions I try to work out a new pattern to make the lantern.

The red lantern shown here is my interpretation of the original 18th century lantern held in the collections of the Musuem of Fine Arts, Boston. I have reprinted the image below with permission from the museum.

Photograph (c) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In my lantern I used composite mica panels in place of the horn panes. Learning to make the horn panes is still on my to do list for now.

It was an interesting process to develop this pattern as the lantern body is made differently from other lanterns I have worked on. In most other round lanterns I have studied the body is made in one or two pieces with the pane areas cut out.  In the BFA lantern the top and bottom round sections, and the three vertical dividersare made seperately and then soldered together. I can see advantages to both methods and am undecided at the moment as to which I prefer.

This lantern is painted with a barn red water-based finish.

This lantern can be ordered in the shop section of this site.