Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

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

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.

Trying out my new cart at the Fort Frederick Market Fair.

Rob GorrellComment

A few times each year Historic sites around the country sponsor Market Fairs. These fairs are gatherings for artisans from across the Living History community to present their wares, and for like minded folks to come and shop. Think colonial shopping mall in a field.

My favorite is the Fort Frederick Market Fair held each April at Fort Frederick Md. We have attended for several years and have always had a good experience.  This is where you go to get the "good stuff".

This year we decided that I should try my hand at being a "Street Merchant", meaning that I could roam about selling my wares instead of having a tent or booth in one spot.  I don't sit still very well so it seemed like a good fit.

The cart was well received by the people at that event and there were several cases of severe cart envy among the participants.  Ed Schweinfurth made the cart about 10 years ago and recently passed it on to me. Ed is a good friend and I am very grateful for the chance to use this wonderful cart.  Ed patterned the cart closely after similar carts used at Colonial Williamsburg.

Sales were good at the event and the crowds were large. Shelley and I had a great time and hope that the event was a success for everyone.



Starting on a new Tramp Art Sewing Box.

Rob GorrellComment

I have been wanting to make a new sewing box for a little while now and have finally started working up the design.  The last sewing box I made was this one.

This time I decided to do a box with a simple geometric design of triangles, then a lid similar to the green box.  To get started I drew a simple pattern for the box sides.  After numbering the parts I realized that I only needed two of the pieces, duh.

From here I cut out all the parts for the first layer. To make the pattern for the next layer up I drew lines about 1/4" in on the pattern and cut it down to the lines. Generally the top layer is made the same amount smaller along each edge as the thickness of the layer below.  Here are some more of the parts cut out.

One thing for sure. I need to get different lighting in the shop for photography.

The top is all cut out, notched and ready to paint. Each layer will be painted and finished before being applied to the lid.

Next I will finish notching the triangles for the sides and start painting pieces.  Hopefully I can post some progress in a few days.


Working up a pattern for an unusual lantern.

Rob GorrellComment

I am always looking through books and websites looking for more information on period lanterns.  I don't know what it is exactly about lanterns that interests me so much, but I have been making a bunch of them lately.

I came across this lantern in the online collection of the Winterthur Museum and had to try to figure it out. It had two doors, a tube on the back (extra candle?) and a storage area on the bottom.  The original has horn panes.  The museum dates this lantern to 1800-1850. 


 Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, Lantern, 1800-1850,United States, Tinned sheet iron, Horn, Iron, paint, Bequest of Henry Francis DuPont, 1965.2836.

Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, Lantern, 1800-1850,United States, Tinned sheet iron, Horn, Iron, paint, Bequest of Henry Francis DuPont, 1965.2836.

My lantern is an interpretation on the original, not an exact reproduction.  I used mica for the panes, but am working on getting horn replacements made. There were a few items on this design that were new to me and I hope to make improvements on the next attempt.  For example, the skinny lower door was difficult to get hinged properly and came out a little longer than the upper door, also, getting the three vent cones on the top scaled  out for cutting took a few tries.




The original lantern is painted black, but I antiqued this lantern. i will probably use asphaltum on the next one. If I remember to do it, I will take photos of the construction process next time.

I would be very glad to hear comments or suggestions to improve this design.

I am looking forward to trying this out at our next living history event.   

Special thanks to Susan Newton at Winterthur Museum for her assistance.

A Big lantern for a Mason friend.

Tinware, UncategorizedRob GorrellComment

My friend Bill has been wanting me to make him one of my large parade lanterns (AKA party beacon) for quite a while.  He wanted several different masonic themed panels along with his gunsmithing notice.  Unfortunately I could not figure out a way to get all that information tin punched onto the lantern without it looking like an odd star chart.  So we talked more about it and simplified the design to one repeated image with his initials added. This lantern was an interesting challenge and was fun to make.  I look forward to seeing it lit up outside Bill's camp at an upcoming event.


Mason party beacon

Here is what it will look  like at night, minus the blur I hope.

 Mason party beacon night.

This lantern design is my interpretation of an 1830's parade lantern that is part of the Winterthur Museum collection.


A new red colonial lantern.

Tinware, UncategorizedRob GorrellComment
I have started playing around with painted finishes on some of my tinware.  It would be nice to be able to reproduce original paints, but so far most of the formulas for period paints that will stick to metal are pretty toxic. But I am still looking.

This lantern was painted with a few layers and colors of paint, and heated in an oven to get the final finish.

You can see more images in my Etsy Store.



Making a New Hampshire Paint Pot.

UncategorizedRob GorrellComment

One day while scouring the Googlesphere for ideas for projects I ran across this great little tin item on the New Hampshire Historical Society webpage. The original can be seen here. paint pot 2

It is owned by the NH Historical Society and is Object 1975.023, dated 1850.   The description is " Small oval tin pot. Partitioned in middle with large flange at one end. Fits comfortably in the hand. Small handle on one side."

I contacted Doug Copeley at the Society to see if they had any more information and was told that the "pot was purchased in 1975 from an antique dealer in Hollis, NH, who had purchased it in Vermont. The dealer was told that it was a carriage striper’s paint pot. One section was for the paint, and the other for the thinner."

To me the small projects are sometimes harder than big ones. For example, on a large lantern with lots of parts, if you are off just a little here and there it doesn't always show. But if you are off on a small item with few parts...well, you can't miss it. The original item is less than 2 inches high and less than 6 inches long.Making a New Hampshire Paint Pot.  Layout precision is something that I am still learning, so this seemed like a good project.

There was only the one image online to go from, but there were dimensions given. So with dividers, a ruler and calculator I worked up what I hope is a decent pattern.paint pot pattern

The technique that was new to me on this project was the flange on the top of the pot portion. I have watched master tinsmiths like Bill McMillan work a lip like this over a stake. But he has been at it about 30 or so years longer than me and I did not have any success doing it that way. I ended up making a wooden two piece form to work the tin over. I first formed and soldered the body around the solid inner form. Then I put the tin and inner mandrel inside of the outer part. This way I could use a mallet to swage the lip over against the top of the form. The inner mandrel also made it much easier to burr the edges of the bottom to fit over the body of the cup.IMAG0185

I doubt that this is the best way to do this, but it worked for me. I would be very happy to hear other techniques or experiences.

The rest was pretty straight forward, handle, divider and the lip, which I assume is for mixing the paint and thinner. As usual, I did not remember to take very many in process photos, but here is one.paint pot 3

And here is another image of the finished pot.paint-pot-etsy1

If anyone has more information about this paint pot or similar tin items, or if you have suggestions to improve mine, please leave a comment.  I am also posting this on my FaceBook page.