Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

Folk Art

Creating a Wide Awakes parade lantern.

Folk Art, Tinware, UncategorizedRob GorrellComment

When a tinsmith gets a chance to study an original antique tin item firsthand, or has access to a design drawn from an original, he or she can produce a reproduction.  More often what I create should really be called an historic interpretation.  I try to stay true to tools, techniques and designs from the period when creating a period piece.  But sometimes I end up blending parts of different traditional designs into a new piece that may or may not have existed in the period. Living history people can get really steamed on this subject. This is my interpretation, non-expert like. One project I was contacted for recently involved making what we called the Wide Awake Lantern.

Wide wake 1

 

We had the rooster image to start from and a couple of images of original parade lanterns found online.

lantern_ITM_63013      lincoln original 2   railsplitter

I worked up a design that was a combination of features and started working up prototypes.

?????????? It always looks so simple starting out on paper, but as I worked through the details I had to make many changes.  For example, it was decided that it would be much more practical to have a slide up panel that a hinged door on a lantern that was to be put on a swivel handle.

??????????  ??????????       ??????????

We also decided to put an asphaltum finish on these lanterns. Asphaltum is an old recipe of asphaltum black, turpentine and varnish. It has to be painted on, dried and then baked at increasing temperature increments to drive off the volatiles. It is a long, stinky and messy process. In the case of these lanterns I had trouble getting a smooth layer of finish. The final result is not as smooth as I would have liked, but I think they are acceptable in a period context.

Another design feature that I had to work with was the wire bracket for the lantern to swing on.  No matter what I tried to to stiffen up the bracket, the whole assembly would flex when the lanterns were carried around.  The wire looks to be about the same size as in original examples, and the design is similar. I finally decided that the originals must have had a similar flex to them.  Just because something was made a certain way in the past doesn't mean that it was a perfect design.

In the end we came up with what I think is a good approximation of what a tinsmith may have made for a Wide Awake parade lantern in the mid 19th century.  it was a real learning process and if I am asked to make more I will be making some improvements to the design again.

??????????

 

Making a Parade Torch.

Folk Art, TinwareRob GorrellComment

A colleague of mine contacted me a while back about reproducing some parade torches for his reenacting activities.  He needed some torches that could be carried in political rallies and parades from the 1860's period.  This was an opportunity for me to learn something new and I was happy to take on the project. It took a series of emails and picture swapping to get to the design that seemed to work the best.  We settled on something similar to this antique design.

il_570xN.569153673_agjc

I ran into a problem with the screw on spout.  The problem being that I don't have any idea how to make a screw on cap. Some other tinsmiths took a look at it with me and we threw around the idea of adapting an existing metal cap to fit, but didn't work out in the end. We ended up going with a corked spout on this batch.  if anyone is interested in teaching me how to make a screw cap I would very interested.  We also talked about a press on cap but were afraid they might leak.

The bodies were rolled on a mandrel and punched to receive the copper rivets that would hold the handles on.

??????????DSCN4038

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did not get photos of making the rest of the parts. The tops and bottoms were cut and burred on a burring machine then touched up on a steel mandrel. The handle and hangers were a bit of trial and error to get right.  It's weird how simple these things always look on paper...

??????????The wicks for this series of lanterns were old smudge pot wicks I found in an antique shop.  They flame huge!  I ended up wrapping thin wire around the wick top to reign in the flame a little.  In the future I think I will try a smaller type of wick.

torch 2The torch shown above is the final design. This particular torch is made from hot dip tin which is a much more historic appearance than the shiny modern electroplate that is commonly used.

As always, I welcome any comments about the methods of construction, suggestions and opinions related to this post.

 

Making a large Parade Lantern.

Folk Art, TinwareRob GorrellComment
party-light-at-night.jpg

  A while back I was digging through the online collection of metalwork on the website for the Winterthur Museum and came across this great pierced tin parade lantern.

Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, parade lantern, 1800-1825, United States, Sheet iron, Paint, Iron wire, Wood,  gift of Henry Francis du Pont, 1959.1656

.  This looked like a great project to try to reproduce or interpret in some way.  I figured it would be a good way to practice laying out the dreaded frustrum of a cone for each of the conical parts.  Plus we think it will be a great party beacon outside of our tent the next time we go to rendezvous.

 

 

I have not found much information about this particular style of parade lantern.  I have found reference to the parade lanterns that swing on a hanger and burned oil or kerosene, like this one for sale on Etsy, but no other that is pierced and on a pole like this.  But I have only checked a few sources so far.il_570xN.569153673_agjcLaying out the round parts and doing the tin punch was pretty straight-forward with ruler and compass. However, laying out the cones gave me fits.  There are a number of period books that show how to do the geometry to lay out the cones, But every time I tried it the large diameter of the cone came out too large.  In hindsight I think it was an error in adding the extra needed to do the set down seam between the body and the cones that threw me off.  Laying out the six vent holes (under the little half-cones) so that the came out even when the lap seam was soldered took some time to learn also. There is probably one a simple geometry tricks that I haven't learned yet to get them right.

As I mentioned, there are a number of books available online and in print that cover layout techniques that were written in the early 1900's.  There is a chapter on tinsmithing in this one.  I have downloaded or purchased several the same information is presented in almost all of them.

As usual, I had intended to take lots of photos as I worked out the pattern to illustrate my successes and failures along the way, but I did not.  But here are a few shots of the finished lantern.

Shelleys party light

 

Party light at night

 

A few new projects for a peaceful yard.

Folk Art, TinwareRob GorrellComment

It has been a while since I posted anything new, but I have been working away in the shop.  I have been working on several new tin projects that I hope to post soon. But most of my time has been spent updating our back yard.  It had been several years since anything really new had been built and it was looking pretty sad and shabby.  the first project was a new fence.  It was supposed to be a two weekend job........that ran into about 4 I think.  I should have given more thought to the 300+ individual fence posts that I cut out.

blog pic 2

It took several days and evenings to get everything cut. Then there was getting the frames built, level lines pulled and the fence constructed.  At this point this is what the fence looks like.  We will be adding gates later.

blog pic 1

After the fence was in we needed to add a new shelter for the blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that we are trying to grow.  The old shelter kept the birds out but was getting pretty shabby. We decided to go with a greenhouse style structure made from conduit and bird netting, and lots of zip ties.  I wanted something that could be taken down in the winter if we want to take it out.

blog pic 3

We also tore out some trellis work and wood artwork that was along the garage.  I decided that I wanted to do a copper bird sculpture along part of the wall. It started out as a trellis for the clematis vines, but after Shelley and I worked over the design we decided to make it a stand alone sculpture instead.  The theme is flying birds in copper.  The inspiration was Shelley's bird jewelery, and the image of birds taking flight.

Birds for blog

The birds were cut from scrap copper and formed on a sinking block to give a more natural shape.  The birds were then soldered to copper wire and formed along the fence and wall. Here is Shelley taking a break from making jewelry to help me get the shape right.

Shelley working on birds

And here is the finished sculpture. I think it adds a nice feature to the back yard.

birds for blog 2

So that is what I have been doing mostly. It is my plan to have these projects finished in the next couple of weeks so that I can get back to the coopering projects that I have been itching to work on now that the weather is good and I can work outside.

More to follow soon.