Paper, SCA Life

It Starts with Research

There is a Laurel Prize Tournament coming up and I decided that my research into this new endeavor would be a good entry.  I want to be clear, my model making skills, or lack thereof, are not part of the display.  The display is to help you visualize the process.  So, yes most of the model is purchased.  I even thought about buying the LEGO medieval water wheel setup instead.  Anyway, just follow me along here.

Here is my medieval water mill plant.  Through the doors, carts would bring the raw materials in, rags, castoffs from the textile industry, bones and hide, etc.

Here is a better view of the wheel.

The water wheel drives a shaft that trips a series of hammers to break the cloth into fibers.  There may also be some processing with lime or chalk, depending on the needs.  The mill would use a source of clear water for this, a spring perhaps, not the river or stream driving the wheel.

The mascerated fibers are put in a vat with more water.  A vatman pulls sheets of paper out of the vat with a mould and deckle.  There is skill here.  The vatman needs to know when there is too much material or not enough on the mold.  There is a small jiggle that needs to be done to make sure the fibers are evenly spread and to help start the “lock.”   Handmade papers in this fashion should basically have no “grain.”  Grain is caused by the mechanical process that modern papers are made.  The constant shaking causes the fibers to align.  Handmade papers should not have this issue.

After the paper has drained for a little bit (a few minutes only), a coucher takes the mould and “couches” the sheet on to a post.  Felt is spaced between the papers. The felt helps wick away some moisture but primarily is there to give support to the paper.  This stack is called a post.  When the post is big enough, it will be taken to a screw press to expel more of the water out of the post.  Ideally, there is a 3 person crew.  The vatman pulls the sheet, one coucher takes the mould when ready to couch that sheet, a third coucher gives the vatman a fresh mould.  Each coucher is moving between vat and post.  When the post is ready, all three people will move it into position and operate the press.

I don’t have a model of a screw press.  But once the paper has sat in the press for a while (many hours, maybe a day or more), the post is taken out.  The sheets are carefully separated from the felts and hung to dry.  Other methods of paper making would dry in different ways.  The Indians would stick the paper to a hot stone wall to dry.  The Japanese and Chinese had easel-like racks.  Europeans like the drying loft method.  Paper is hung from thin strands of horsehair in a warm loft to finish drying.

Here is everyone working together.

After drying in the loft, the job isn’t done.  The paper might then be polished to close up the pores.  These was done with warm stones, warm glass, or eventually, a glazier hammer.  Supposedly, an experienced glazier could do 6 reams per day.  Assuming measurements are the same, that is 3000 sheets per day.  The paper might be sized.  A thin layer of glue or gelatin (or depending on the culture, starch or clay) is spread over the sheet and then more drying.  

After all of the drying, the paper can be sold. It might be sold as is, or cut to size as a customer requests. 

I have now a papermaking kit and in the near future will start. 

SCA Life

I swear . . .

I think about oaths a lot.  I take oaths very seriously.  I am often surprised how not seriously some people take oaths.  Here are some thoughts.

In the SCA, we are attempting to recreating the Middle Ages as the should have been, or could have been.  So we give oaths and we value chivalry.  Or at least give lip service to that.  I am sure there are many people who actually also treat their oaths seriously but there are visible few who don’t.

In our modern society, there really is only one oath that has consequence.  If you are called to testify in a judical proceeding, you will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth.  If it is then discovered that you lied, you can then be tried for perjury.   Just about all other oaths have no real consequence.  The oaths of marriage are easily dissolved.  The oath of office for public service or the military are often overlooked.  Again, as long as the people vote for you again or your superiors don’t care, the oath is hollow.

And there is a reason our modern society went this way.  If there was honor in the real Middle Ages, it quickly was used for nefarious purpose.  Old Anglo-Saxon laws allowed those of high station to swear an oath as proof they didn’t do something.  I am sure originally it was felt that honor would rule the day but it probably didn’t take long for someone to simply swear they didn’t do something and suffer no consequence.  As society evolved, it was clear that most oaths didn’t mean anything.

Back to the SCA then.  I talked to a few friends about this.  Advice I got ranged from “some people just don’t think they are in the wrong and therefore believe they are true to their oath.” to “for some, taking oaths is just part of the game.”  And of course, there are many who believe the oaths they take.

Back when Sir Seto was on vigil, I made a replica of Oathbinder in stained glass for him.  I gave Oathbinder a motto (maybe it already had one).  I felt all good swords should have a motto.  I put on the stained glass, “No one may speak falsely within my reach.”  I intended a double meaning.  One, that the magic of the sword would not allow you to speak falsely.  Two, the fact that a naked blade was presented to you, you would be unwilling to speak falsely under threat of beheading.  It may be foolish to hope for a magical blade that made it impossible to say that which is not true.  Oaths would be binding then.  You literally could not say words that you didn’t believe.

In some way, the modern business culture of mission statements and values is like oaths.  We are encouraged at my company at least to reflect on that mission statement and corporate values daily.  How will I engage in teamwork today?  That kind of thing.  We should do the same with our oaths.  We should mediate on those words.  For me, since I am only a member of the populace, I would think “to serve where I might according to my knowledge and ability.”  How will I do that today?  For those of you who do reflect on your oaths, I applaud you.  We need more who will “champion the good”, “protect the innocent”, “work for the common good”, and “promote the diverse arts.”

For those of you who don’t really reflect on your oaths, maybe you should.  Your word should have meaning.  When you take an action, you should reflect back, did I act in accordance to my oath?  If not, what will you do about it?  I really wish there was a good mechanism for enforcing or giving consequence for violating one’s oath.

Just some thoughts about oaths.

SCA Life, tablet weaving

My love-hate relationship with tablet weaving

Before we got into the SCA, my wife and I went to Ren Faires more and we (mostly she) made our own clothes.  To help with that process, I decided to learn tablet weaving.   I figured, people have been doing this for 10,000 years, surely I can figure it out.

Needing help with those clothes is what brought us to the SCA.

I don’t mind weaving but there are certain things I don’t like.  I don’t like warping my looms.  That takes a lot of time and I often do it wrong.  Even for patterns I have done before!  Simple patterns are good for me.  I can get lost in the 4F/4B and etc.  But patterns which require turning certain cards and not others quickly frustrate me.  And of course, those are the interesting patterns!

I have finished my last round of glass and I said I would work on my garb.  I need to make new garb and accessories and those things need trim.

I am trying to decide what trim to make and trying to find patterns that I like and actually like doing.  My universe is small.  I have even considered buying some trim from others who (hopefully) enjoy doing the more complex patterns.  But the other part of me wants to do it myself.  So simple patterns here we come!

Wish me luck!

Here are some of the trim I have made in the past.

SCA Life

It is the simple things

This weekend was Simple Day.  It was a very enjoyable weekend.  And I re-learned, it is the simple things that matter.

  • The joy and ease of setting up camp with additional hands.  Quickest ever.
  • The joy of seeing a local group doing local things – begging a macaroon, giving out a baronial award, enjoying each other’s company.  That kind of thing.
  • The joy of good doughnuts.
  • The joy of watching parents and children enjoy the day together (mostly looking at you Adam).
  • The joy of a new(ish) person to the SCA meeting and geeking out with so many people.
  • The joy of managing to perfectly peel one egg.
  • The joy of walking into a room like you are Norm on Cheers!
  • The joy of hugs from close friends.  Especially Llew.  He gives good hugs
  • The sad joy of hugging friends who are hurting and hoping that it helped.
  • The joy of the blessings of the weather gods
  • The joy of chatting with friends about just whatever.
  • The joy of unexpected gifts from one’s SO.
  • The shame-faced abashed joy of forgetting that one has not ever introduced one’s SO to their Majesties and subsequent ribbing that resulted.
  • The joy of people using the photos you took at profile pics.
  • The joy of teaching eager students
  • The joy of learning that one’s efforts are worthwhile (apparently my vinegar makes good cheese)
  • The joy of good food, good friends, and good song.
  • The joy of meeting new people and remembering their names!
  • The joy of going home again after a good weekend.

Simple Day is probably not all that simple to run but it is the simple things that matter.

SCA Life

What the Filk!

So refer back to “the (bardic) circle is unbroken”

The (bardic) circle is unbroken

if you need to.

I have dabbled in a few things.  Andreas offered to proof some poems I wrote.  Still waiting Andreas.  So much for Norman efficiency (I jest).

I have two very tentative starts on two filks.  I can normally make a line or two fit but my humor is a brief thing.  After attending the Martial RUM in June 2018, I had dinner with Dai and Lindan (Bill and Brenda Sutton).  Part of the conversation was on writing filks and Brenda offered to give me a hand.

The first filk is based on the Grand Pubs of Yorkshire.  I was sad to learn that it is not a period or even close to period song.  I might sing the original some time.  It is a nice piece about beer and home.  I can relate to that.  The filk will be the Grand Pubs of the Known World and I started doing some research.  Of course, Verena and the Drunken Duck will appear in it.  I understand that there is the Broken Harp in Calontir, The Cock and Bull Tavern in the West (I know that song too), The Green Dragon at Gulf Wars, and the One Paw Tiger.  I may not be able to get everything in but I think it will be pretty good if I can.

The second filk is based on Gaelic Storm’s Girls Night in Galway.  I did the original scan on that shortly after it came out.  Girls’ Night in Pennsic.  I had to ask around about what that entails.  The only time I heard about Girls’ Night at Pennsic was the first time I went to Pennsic.  I believe Katerina and Roana went out and invited Gertie.  Not sure what trouble they got into so I asked Roana about it.  A lot of this filk will be similar to the original but hopefully fun.


Glass, SCA Life

Making fused plates – Hadley edition

Here is how I make my glass plates from the beginning.  I was given a drawn sample of what Hadley’s submitted arms were.  I then made this mock up to work from.

I chose the glass and went to work.

Starting with the green.  I had this scrap of glass from a previous project.  I cut it to size.


I didn’t have the blue so I clean it, measure , and cut it to size.

So those two are very easy, just straight cuts.

I line them up and put them on a piece of clear glass to give the final piece its needed thickness.

Next come the circles.

This was my first attempt on the white circle.


Not too bad until I try to break it out.

I am shown a trick this time.  Score the circle and push it out on top of a surface that can give slightly (like a couple of cloths).  Turn the cut glass over and push it gently to run the crack.  If you look above, you can see where the crack ran from the circle to the edge and that is okay.  Nice looking circle there.

Do it again for the clear glass on top.

This is another trick I learned.  Others said to draw on the clear like a stentil and fuse that.  So I did.


It was much easier than I thought.  Having done it for this piece, I am reasonably sure I can do the same for Willows, Oaks, and Cavendish Knots.


I then cut out the stars and crescent on the ring saw.

As I say, it isn’t art until you bleed on it.  I made art.

And the final plate ready for the kiln.

The final piece.  You can see the paint smudged in the lower roots.  In hindsight, I should have wiped that off and started again but I was nearly finished when I hit a bit of water in the paint.  Overall, I am pretty happy with it.  It is the plate I have shown the most technique with and solved (with advice) a problem that was limiting what I could create.  Enjoy it Hadley 🙂

Glass, Persona, SCA Life

Making fused plates – abridged

I will have a more detailed post later about a different plate I did.  But here is a quick post about how I make my 12″ x 12″ fused glass plates.  This one is for my device as a sample plate for my display.

I had already cut the glass before I got to the shop.  My device isn’t that complex, other than the swan.

So first thing is again, glass likes to be ~1/4″ thick when it melts.  There are ways to force it.  But for my purposes, just use two sheets of 1/8″ thick glass.  I am spraying hairspray onto a clear piece to bulk out the plate.  I will then put the blue and green pieces on this clear piece.

Yep.  Just plain ole cheap hairspray.  I am told I use too much so I may need to cut back a bit on it.  It does burn off but on large pieces of glass, it has to get out somewhere. If it can’t, it makes bubbles.  So I will cut back a bit.

Adding the blue and green.  You can also see the swan on an irridescent white piece of glass.  I was normally use white for the swan but I had a scrap of irridescent.

The pieces of glass are supposed to be 12″ square but they rarely are.  And sometimes my cutting isn’t the best either.  This is just a hair off center (less than 1/8″).  It will have to be good enough.

Now for the tricky part.  I use a ring saw to cut out the swan.  Just Elmer’s paste glue to glue the paper to the glass.  The water in the ring saw quickly saturates the paper but it usually holds it in place long enough.

There are a few spots to be touched up.  Because the glass will melt in the kiln, most of the small imperfections will smooth out by themselves. I touch up the spots I can get to with the ring saw or a normal grinder.  But I am not too worried about it.

And there we go.  Ready for the kiln.

This will be part of my Artist’s Display.  I have been advised that I need to have examples of my own work.  Since I give so much away, I need to make a few pieces that I don’t give away.  Where we go.  My device is pretty simple.

Clothes, Persona, SCA Life

Planning for the future

This may come as a shock to you but I am a planner.

I plan for things that probably will never happen.  I have three separate plans for if I win the lottery depending on the amount of money I might win.  For example, when I started my stained glass class, I planned this:

My choir was learning Purcell’s Ode to St Cecilia.  The Music of the Spheres is a significant image from that piece.  I knew I wanted to make a piece based on it. I learned what I needed to do to make it.

So I plan things.  Here are some of the plans that I am working on or will be working on.


One big thing I wanted to do since I started vinegar is coming together but I still need to learn a bit more.

Plan the first: Have a tasting

This is inspired by Hrefna’s Icelandic feast she sometimes does at Pennsic. I want to do something similar with a cheese I made, drizzled with a vinegar I made, served with a cordial I made.

Make balsamic vinegar – check.  Need more though

Make cordials – check.  I have that one down.

Make cheese – need to learn that one yet

It is my hope to do a tasting for a small number of people at Pennsic 50.


Plan the second:  make medieval food cart.

When I saw the dragon bread oven that Bear and company made at Camp Dubois, I was like, “okay.  The concept of the food truck is actually pretty old.  We should be able to do this.”  I found these images.

I am not sure about transporting a bread oven around though I can see doing it.  No, I had a different idea.

Imagine a person drawn food cart.  Stained glass panels around the bed.  Silk banners flapping in the breeze.  On this cart is a trough full of ice with chilled rice noodles, chilled soba noodles, pickled vegetables, maybe some pretzels for fun, and chilled vinegar drinks.    It is a hot day on the battlefield at Pennsic.  There is a time out or something.  You wander back to the Midrealm tent on the field and this cart comes out.  I think it would be wondrous.

Avery has given me some advice but I don’t know how to do any woodworking.  So got to learn that.  I have a lot of cardboard to make mock ups with though.  It is going to take a while I fear.


Plan the third:  Clothes

To date Gertie has made all of our clothes.  But I need more and I had really good conversations this past weekend.  Time to learn to sew.

This is my inspiration.

These are parts of the Coronation outfit for Roger II, Rogerius Rex, King of Sicily.   I rag on Normans alot but Roger’s family thought differently than the typical Norman.  Norman Sicily is a fascinating place.  My third persona hangs out here.   I thought it would be really neat to try to make a heraldic outfit for me based on this.  I would need to learn to sew.

The kind people on the Library of Alexandria FB group led me here.

All the detail I was looking for.

I would do something like this.

I would do it in linen instead of silk velvet.  There is disagreement on whether the original is blue or purple.  I am looking at the Royal Blue and Juniper linen from

For the mantle, I am thinking something like this.

I would need to learn to embroider or perhaps applique.  Like the original, this would be outlined in pearls.

Here is some of the detail in the original.

I know how to tablet weave so I will have to think about what I want to do with that.  Probably silk since it will sit near my neck but cotton will be suitably soft.

On the reproduction discussed, they cut brass plates and painted them instead of cloisonne and enamel.

I would like to do some thing different.  Fused glass sewn in the cuffs.  Not sure how to do that yet.


Things to learn and work on.

  • Learn to make a hard cheese.
  • Learn to do enough woodworking to make a cart
    • make cardboard mock up
    • talk to woodworkers on engineering this for my needs (size, breakdown, transport)
  • Learn to sew
    • basic sewing
    • applique or embroider
    • how to do those cuff plate.

I have a lot to keep me busy for a while.  I will probably bothering some of you to teach me what I don’t know.




Glass, SCA Life

Making Purple Frets

At Crystal Chamfron, I started work on a project I wanted to do for a while, making award medallions.

When I received my purple fret, I got a belt favor.  It was one of my prize possessions for a while.  I am not inclined to wear a lot of regalia so I only wear my Dragon’s heart now.

But I felt that people would like a special token for their awards and the Purple Fret is both possible to do in glass and important to me.

For this project, I decided that a 2″ in diameter circle is a good size.

First, cut the glass to 2.5″ by 2.5″ squares.  As a reminder, fused glass wants to be about 1/4″ thick.  I need to cut the yellow glass for the normal background of a purple fret and another color to provide the additional thickness.  I chose white because it is cheap and I had it.


The next step is to make circles.  You can do this by hand but there are special tools to make it easier and more accurate.  For this, I used a lens cutter.


I cut all the white circles and most of the yellow circles before I ran out of yellow glass.

To do the knot part of the purple fret, I used noodles.  Glass noodles are like linguine.  They come in 16″ lengths and about 1/8″ thick.  I played around with the placement to make the knot.  I was asked, “could I make it look interweaved like the drawn image?”  The answer is “yes with a but.”  Some of those lines are pretty small and manipulating small pieces of glass is tricky.  I compromised and did the following.

The “square” of the knot is made up of 1″ lengths.  The “x” of the knot is 2″ lengths.  Here I am cutting the noodle into the smaller pieces I need.

There is specialty glass glue to temporary join the glass together.  Fusing is needed to permanently make it one piece.  But that said, plain Suave Extra Hold Hairspray actually works better than that specialty glue.  Here I am spraying the hairspray onto the yellow circles before moving the purple noodle pieces.

Since the purple pieces intersect each other, I need to build them up in layers.  I start with one of the long pieces and two short ones.  Bisect the circle with the long piece and get the short pieces half way between the long piece and the circle edge.  It will look a little like a Deadpool icon 🙂

By this point, the hairspray is going to start to get tacky.  I use my exacto blade to more precisely move the pieces around until they are where I want them.


Not shown is hitting the piece with more hairspray.  But now I am adding the cross pieces to make the square part of the knot.  Again, I use the exacto blade for precision.  Also not shown is adding the last long piece but the process is the same.  Spray more hairspray, place the long piece going perpendicular to the first long piece.  Use the exacto knife to move the piece precisely.  Then put the piece aside for the hairspray to dry.

I wrapped the pieces in paper loosely but securely.  I often have trouble going from my house to the glass store to fuse.  The “glued” pieces tend to slide around with the bumps and such on the road.  However, I was surprised by how few pieces got out of place going from basically St Louis to Champaign (~3 hour drive).

The next step hasn’t happened yet but then I will cut lengths (~1/2″) of heavy wire to be a ring for the medallion.  The wire will then be hairsprayed between the white glass back and the yellow glass front.  In the kiln, the wire will sink in the glass as it fuses and be a permanent part of the medallion.

I expect to be done in time to give these to Their Majesties by Martial RUM or Simple Day at the latest.


Finished product right to gift.

By and large, I am happy with them.  I could paint the lines on but I am not sure that would help.  I might try to replicate the knot better in the future.