Damascus steel – ‘sheet’

Last weekend I spent three days at Owen Bush’s forge making damascus steel. We used gas forges mainly as the temperature is easier to control, and power hammers as they reduce the effort and time required to work the steel.

damascusfurnace This is the start 11 layer billet for the piece I formed into two bowls.

gasfurnacepuck This is the same piece when it has been hammered and folded to give 88 layers and then hammered down to a more rounded sheet.

damascustexThis is the piece textured and ground back so that the pattern will show through.

damascusivThis is the pattern on the piece that has been cleaned and etched just for a look-see.

ringtooliiThis is the tool I used to hammer the piece into a bowl.

I will take some pics of the finished pieces soon.

Pots on the beach, Cellardyke

I have been working on the beach with my local Crail clay and clay from the River Tay using driftwood, pebbles, rocks, wood ash, mussel shell and bird bone.


I have tried a form of slab building, hitting the clay with driftwood over a textured rock to get a thinner, tempered and textured sheet which I have then formed over stones, first sprinkling wood ash to prevent sticking and eased it off when it was slightly hardened. I have also used seaweed and teasel leaves to texture the clay.


This is Crail clay shaped in a crevice in the rock, having been formed with driftwood first.

potCrailCellarb it has grey slip scraped back with a mussel shell.

potcrail2 This is a pinch and coil pot from Crail clay. The shell in it has fired to quicklime and so as it rehydrates the bits pop off in a rather fun way.

Week 7 Bronze casting

Roddy and Malcolm did the bronze pour for my four sand moulds. They did an amazingly efficient job and I have four bronze vessels. Thank-you Roddy, Malcolm (and Graham who welded the pouring funnel frames.) Casting purists should look away now.

Vessel 1 is a quaich or tumbler cast in Cellardyke beach sand. The surface is sandy and the slight undercut at the lip has given great ‘flashing’


Vessel 2 uses the same form but is cast in oil sand and has a design inside. The bronze has create a lovely swirl pattern.


Vessel 3 is also oil sand but uses a copper bowl that I raised in the States. The metal cooled before it completed the form so it has an organic form to it.


Vessel 4 is more open in shape. It is cast in greensand so has a pinkish sheen. It has interesting internal texture, I think because the form was ceramic, so I was more cautious tamping down the inside.


Week 7 Enameling Workshop

As a bursary applicant to the Guild of Enamelers I got a place on the Scottish region’s annual workshop in Edinburgh. Maureen Carswell led the workshop on foil based pieces. I worked with a slightly heavier gauge and produced three and a half samples:-

Piece 1 was torch fired, a soft white enamel over a liquid clear flux.


Piece 2, a stitched vessel, was kiln fired- a black enamel on clear flux inside and the soft white on the outside. The copper is tied with binding wire



Piece 3 is a development of this stitched vessel design, but with white liquid flux inside under the sifted black and a clear flux outside.

Piece 4 is an unfinished dish, but is again soft white over a white liquid flux, with rather pleasing brush marks.


Week 5 Making moulds for sand casting

The college foundry is set up for large items, sculpture I think. I made 4 sand moulds to try out different formers and different sands.


The oil sand mould for the copper tea vessel was carved to enlarge the thickness so that the metal would stay hot enough during the pour in the quite thin walls. The copper vessel I had raised as part of the white pine native american project.


The greensand mould for the ceramic tea bowl was tamped down carefully to avoid breaking the vessel.


I mixed sifted beach sand with dried ground clay to make the beach sand mould for the turned wooden tumbler that I’d made earlier in the term.


The fourth piece was also oil sand and of this wood mould. I carved on the inside of the form to test what this would look like,


Roddy was very helpful with all this work, making new mould boxes and helping make the moulds.

Week 6 Sawdust firing – preparation

I did the sawdust firing as this kind of firing is a traditional method of firing, now used mainly for decorative purposes.


I packed a bin with sawdust shavings, layering in pots as I went.

I fired a piece broken so that I could get smoke effects from different parts of the kiln (dustbin) and reconstruct the patchwork, similar to reconstructed museum pots. This had blue slip, which helped the reconstruction, but is too bright for the piece.


I fired a piece with masking tape resist and a crank slip, which crackled during firing and could be rubbed off when the firing was complete. This piece had grey slip patterns and I part filled it with sand before firing to keep the smoke from the inside. potsawdustcrank

I fired a piece wrapped in seaweed to get the salt into the firing.


I fired various local earthenware pieces,


We lit the sawdust with newspaper and put the lid on with a kiln shelf to adjust the air flow. It burned from Thursday morning until Friday late afternoon when we had to take the pieces out.


I’ll post photos of the fired pots shortly.