Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

tin lantern

Weekend Sale on new Open Top Lantern Design.

Rob GorrellComment

It is always nice to be able to study an antique piece before trying to make something similar. Sometimes the old lantern is behind glass in a museum, or on a museum website. In these cases you are limited to the view presented to you, but it better than nothing. Once in a while you run into an original in someone’s private collection and get to put your hand on it, which is great. You can get measurements and see little construction details that might be new to you as a builder.

Recently my friend Richard called and said he had an old lantern for me to take a look at. It appears to be an original 19th century lantern that has seen some abuse, Over the years someone has painted it with what looks like aluminum roof paint, and replaced missing horn panes with some sort of acetate or plastic panes.

It is an interesting lantern and a design that I have not made before. The open top with the heat shield attached to the handle is new to me and the proportions are a little different from my other lantern designs. I also like the triple beading on the body and the top cone.

Richard lantern 6.jpg

I fiddled around with the design a few times and came up with my variation on the lantern. It is an evolving pattern and is not an exact copy. But not too far off I think.

 

Image by Michelle Waters Photography.

I have three of these lanterns on sale TODAY for $70 each. Click on the image below to shop.

 
Image by Michelle Waters Photography

Image by Michelle Waters Photography

Image by Michelle Waters Photography

Image by Michelle Waters Photography

 
Image by Michelle Waters Photography

Image by Michelle Waters Photography

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

Repairing a tin lantern.

Folk Art, TinwareRob Gorrell1 Comment

I have been doing a lot of reading about coopering and tinware lately and trying to learn the techniques myself.  One area that I have found very interesting is in the repair of tinware, buckets and other handmade items.  I think sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the idea that every handmade item produced in the pre-industrial period was flawless, and that we should only present perfect reproductions. But not every tinsmith was an expert.  There were people cranking out crap then just like today, the difference being that the crap wore out and some of the really good stuff survived. And they fixed stuff.  I don't have the reference handy, but there are lots of documented repairs that have made it own to modern times.  So in that spirit, here is how I repaired a tin lantern that I made.

Last winter I made two tin lanterns for us to use at reenactments and living history events. We used them a few times and they worked pretty well, until one of the rivets came loose and the handle fell off.  Well actually I guess I should say that the lantern fell off the handle to be more accurate.  You can see here where one of the rivets pulled through the hole. It turns out that I used the wrong rivets, which were also too long.

So I cut out a heavy piece of hot dipped tin plate and curved it to ft over a wood mandrel. I also punch a proper hole for a new rivet.

Next, I cut a small washer for the inside of the handle, then riveted the washer, handle, and curved plate together.

The final step was to solder the assembly back onto the lantern.

So the lantern is now good as new.  Maybe not perfect, but fully functional.