Paper, SCA Life

A Pressing Matter – finale

This weekend I finish the press.

After a few weeks and many coats of polyurethane, we get this.

Very shiny 🙂 In period, they would have waterproofed with linseed oil and I could have done that. My friend has poly so we used that.

Next we drive the stay for the press screw through the upper support. We did use a dremel to widen the hole a bit and I didn’t do as good of a job as I could have. There is a little bit of splintering but not too bad.

On the top side, we add the set screws.

Then we add some feet to the base plate.

Here is all the parts before we add the rods to make the frame. The foot of the press screw is just a set screw on the bottom.

We cut some PVC pipe that will provide some vertical support and protect the long screws.

The photo of the long screws inside of the PVC didn’t turn out. Here is the finished press.

SCA Life

A matter of Perspective

I have not been an apprentice very long but one of the first thing my Laurel said to me is “people think you lack focus.” My response was “then people aren’t paying attention.”
I wanted to lay out what I work on, why I work on it, and how they are interconnected.

Let’s start with my history studies. I decided on an Anglo-Saxon persona when I was listening to the History of England podcast and the British History podcast. The earlier podcast at started talking about Alfred the Great. And I was struck by, “why have I never heard of this guy before?” My wife and I loved our visit to Bath. So it was a natural to make my persona from there. At one of my first events, I asked my mentor why there are so many “make and take” classes but relatively few pure history classes? I don’t remember the answer but I then decided I wanted to deep dive into what the late Anglo Saxon world was like.

Before joining the SCA, I started learned to do stained glass. I then branched out into fused glass. As much as I love it, it is a modern art form that I am doing. Did Classical and Medieval people do fused glass? Yes. But I don’t have the means to do it the way they did it. I make plates, tokens, and medallions but they are very modern. So I looked for another art form I could do that was period.

At the first RUM I attended, I took some classes on cordials. It was just after our fire. Cordials didn’t take a lot of space or work. I leapt in. I made scores of cordials. Some of them got to be pretty good. But again, as easy as cordials are, most are not period. So the search continued.

I had all of these small bits of cordials around. What can I do with all of this alcohol? Vinegar! Few people were doing it and it was very important to all eras of civilization. You cooked with it. You preserved food with it. You drank it. You cleaned with it. To date, I have made vinegar out of meads, wines, cordials, beers, ales, and ciders. I have tried to make vinegar out of anything with alcohol in it.

It turns out there is not much depth to vinegar. It was important. There are whole industries that revolve around it. But the actual making of it isn’t too complex. But my vinegar obsession is directly related to my cordial making. And the next phase of my journey with this is directly related again. I want to make my own wine and turn that into vinegar. I will eventually grow my own grapes and turn that into wine then to vinegar. These things are related.

All along the path, I am looking at how does this fit with my persona? Is Oswyn of Baðon a historian? A vintner? A glazier? He was educated at Bath Abbey. He knows his history. I don’t think he was a glazier. But maybe a vintner and a vinegarie.

I was asked about a year ago if I would like to sell my glassware as part of the Starlight Syndicate. I was flattered. Several of my closest friends are part of that. But it was clear that I couldn’t do it. Glass, at least, what I do, is too expensive. I would have to sell for ~$100 or more and have $1000s in inventory. I couldn’t afford that. But it did get me thinking, what could I sell?

I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would take a lot of licensing and inspections. Then it hit me, paper. We make handpainted awards, so why not handmade paper? And it occurred to me that Oswyn Swann might be a stationer. So we are going down that road now.

All of this looks like a mess. To some extent, it is solving the maze of my personae. Sometimes you follow a promising path in a maze but it turns out it is a dead end. If you step back a bit, you will see it is all interrelated. It all goes towards, “what can I give back? What can I contribute?” I give away a lot of what I work on. Some have claimed or implied I only do it for some sort of fame or glory. Do I enjoy the whatever fame comes with it? Of course I do. Who doesn’t like acknowledgement for what they do? But I don’t do it for the fame or glory. I do it because when I needed it most, the SCA was there. The people in the SCA were there. What can I do to make it a better place? That is why I do what I do. That is what they have in common.

Persona, SCA Life, Uncategorized

The Generations of Oswyn

I have been thinking about my personae lately. And I have figured out how they are connected.

If I did a Roman persona, the name would be Marcus Aemilius Vivianus. Mostly because I just like those names. Vivianus is in honor on my WoW character, Vivacity, a draenei restoration shaman. With a name like that, this would be a minor sub-family of the Aemilii. There is some evidence of a Vivianus in Roman Britain. I then envision that this Aemilius Vivianus was a Roman solider in Britain. Either he or one of his descendents or freed slaves took the additional cognomen of Cygnus. When the Roman troops were recalled from Britain, this Vivianus Cygnus remained in Britain.

So from that time to the time of Alfred the Great, this family lived in the Somerset area but I don’t know what they may have done. But the Swan as a symbol was adopted somewhere along the way. When Alfred issued the Charter establishing Bath as a burh, Oswyn’s family was one of founding families of the new port city of Bath.

From the 10th century on to the 16th century, the family took the last name Swann and the fortunes changed. Where they were once at least a lesser nobility (being reeves in Bath), they solidly landed in the raising middle class. I personally will blame the Normans and the drop off in prestige of Bath for that. It is in the early 1500’s that Bath sees a brief revival before the Dissolution of Monastries by Henry VIII. Then in 1590, Elizabeth grants a new charter to Bath and the spa recovers.

Oswyn Swann is probably a bit before Elizabeth. Part of that is I don’t particularly care for ruffs and such. There are some great artwork of Pieter Aertsen’s that I think captures the look I think Oswyn Swann has. So the main question is, does Dutch middle class fashion equal English middle class fashion? I don’t know the answer to that.

So around 1595, a technical school was established in Bristol which in time becomes the University of Bristol, and another branch, the University of Bath. It looks like papermaking was happened around London but certainly these nascent schools would need paper. Before there was a formal school, there would have been early education attempts. And Bristol being a major port, there would need for paper for charters, bills of sale, the churchs and such, etc. I am going to assume Oswyn Swann is active in the Somerset region as a paper merchant sometime between 1500 and 1560.

The last Oswyn is probably an offshoot of the main family around the time of the Conquest. As he is the least developed of the personae, I will just let him be for a while. The connection will come.

Paper, SCA Life, Uncategorized

Then you need a partner and a plan

So in It starts with research, I showed the model I did of a 16th century European papermill. I put up that display at Dragonshire 12th Night / Festival of Maidens and I was honored to get Mistress Gianneta as my patron for this endeavor.

Let’s back up a bit. Why am I doing this? About 8 months ago, maybe close to a year but I don’t think so, Dr Best asked if I was interested in joining the Starlit Syndicate. I was flattered. Many of my close friends are part of it; Lucretia, Gunnar, Heather, and yes even Dr Best. He pointed out that the shop has generated several laurels which is indeed true. The issue? What should I sell? I guessed that he thought about my glass work. I declined. One I wasn’t going to Pennsic that year. Two I don’t have any inventory to sell. I did some number crunching and I just don’t think I can sell my glass. It costs between $50 to $75 for me to make a glass bowl. I would have to sell them for at least $100 and I just don’t think people will pay for that. Plus I would have to have many $100s to possibly $1000s of inventory to sell even a small number of bowls. I just can’t afford to do that.

So I looked at what could I sell? I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would require licensing and inspections and then to sell across state lines would require more regulations. That is not worth the hassle. I already decided glass was out. Plus, the glass I do is really not medieval. So if I wanted to sell something, it would have to be something new. I didn’t want to be full time merchant but it would work well for my Oswyn Swann persona. So I want to do something to give and something to sell. See Words on Paper for more.

The plan then. I got a papermaking kit for Yule. Most parts are there. I need to rig up a cheap press. Ideally, it should be a screw press. I also need a drying method. The papermill display used a drying loft. But that is not very portable and takes up more space than I have. But I do need to dry many sheets at one time. I could build a drying box. It is still not portable. But there is an older technique that would work well. I can get flat surfaces and either heat them or let the sun do the work. And I need to look into a glazing hammer. But I have everything I need to do a proof of concept.

The plan is to pull some sheets. There is a small amount of skill needed. Once that goes well, upgrade equipment. Then I will start with already beaten fiber with sizing. Then move back to already beaten fiber without sizing and adding it as I need to. I might on occasion create my own fiber but that requires even more equipment and time. Things would have to go very well for me to afford that.

Watermarking will be a thing and branding as well. I have brands already decided 🙂

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.