Monday, September 30, 2013

Goldenrod, Black Walnut and Pennsic Pardon Projects

I felt sort of like the President this past weekend.  That may not make a lot of sense... yet.  You may be aware that every year on Thanksgiving day the president of the United States (for PR purposes) issues an official pardon to some random turkey.  That turkey, instead of being devoured (as is right and proper) is allowed to live out it's days happily.  When I went to Pennsic a few months ago there was a storm rolling in and many of the campers packed up and headed home a day early.  Many of those campers left a good amount of firewood in their camps unused.  I decided to issue a formal pardon to some of that wood.  I handpicked some of the nice looking hardwood for future use.  It may have served well as temporary entertainment for a drunken gaggle.  I decided to put it to use on a more long term basis.  I took home about 10 pieces of that firewood and decided to make a number of projects out of that wood.  The scraps would find their way into the fire under my cauldron but the end result would was expected to be a set of artifacts that will live longer than the memory of the drunken gaggle bonfire.  Pennsic Wood you are hear bye pardoned.

These are the Pennsic Pardon Projects that I have been working on this past weekend.

I wanted to dye some wool yarn along with the rest of the fabric so that I could some day weave some trim that I can use for points.  Since the whole dyeing process was new to me it seemed like a good time to experiment.  I recently went to an event where some folks were dyeing.  They used small plastic mesh bags to hold the wool yarn so that is what I did as well.

I used the pot to make the loops and then slid the yarn off the pot and tied it together loosely.


It may have been about one week late for this experiement.  The goldenrod was in full bloom a week earlier but by the time I made arrangements to borrow my friends back yard fire pit the weeds had all but dried up.  I found the 6 bags you see below in a vacant lot although only one bag is really "fresh" looking.

Here is one of my favorite thrift store finds, a huge copper pot.  You can see that it is a bit green, which was OK with me.  I was going to use any sort of mordant before dyeing since I was using a copper pot.  I figured the green corrosion might add a nice green to the dye.  I was shooting for a nice pale "goose poop green". 

Loaded up and ready for the fire.  I had a couple metal saw horses which I used to hold up the copper pot and simply stacked the fire between them.


Once I put the weeds on the fire to simmer for a couple hours I proceeded to work on some wood projects which will appear here in the random order in which I worked on them.  I had a long list of ideas and a huge pile of wood to purge.  The goal was to filter the wood which was definitely no good and burn that under the dye.  The rest of the wood would be sorted and roughed out into a future piece.

This is a stump which was a portion of the base of a pear tree which had to be removed.  During the removal process about a year ago I grabbed a couple stumps to play with and some branches for legs.

I started with this stump with the intention of making a small three legged stool.

After splitting the stump I used the wedge again on the other side to rough it out into a shape which would be about 2 inches thick and easy to flatten.

Here is the stump when I finished with the hammer and wedge.  At this point I moved on to using a hand axe to try an flatten it as much as possible before completing the process with planes.

As I was working directly on the ground instead of having a work bench I needed some method of holding my piece down while shaving it with a plane.  I chose to simply pound a few stakes into the ground deeply and then I could press the piece against it while I worked the wood.

Surface of the bench is roughly smooth now.  I then cleaned up some of the saw marks on each end of the board.

I debated but ultimately decided to shave most of the bark off the bench.  Below you see the before and after of the bark removal.  I also used a plane to soften the corners of all the edges of the stool.

These are the pieces which I intend to use as the legs of the stool.  I chose three pieces which were about evenly shaped.  I'll come back later and use a draw knife to clean off the bark and bumps.

I placed that project aside for the day and moved on to this project.  The below piece of wood was a piece of Pennsic Firewood I mentioned above.  It was very thick and very straight grain which is what caught my attention in the first place.

I easily split the wood and used an axe to shape it into a rough rectangle which would become the head of a wooden mallet.

I used a hand saw to square up the striking surfaces of the mallet head, but used an axe and planes to clean up and square the head's sides.

Almost square.  You can see that I did this all by hand and made a lovely pile of oak chips to pile it on.

Here you can see one of the stakes I pounded into the ground to help hold my piece while I planed it.

About an hour and a half into the cook this is what the weeds looked like.

After about 2.5 hours I used these tools to scoop out the unwanted vegetable material left in the pot.

Here you can see the nice green color of the remaining dye.

Here are the fabrics I dyed with the goldenrod.  The tan material is linen and the pure white material is silk.

To help get all the vegetable matter out of the pot I used a ladle to scoop the liquid into this 5 gallon bucket while trying to filter it.

As soon as I put the material into the pot it started taking color.  I loved the initial color change.  This color was after only a few minutes.

I used a pine 1" X 4" board as a paddle.  I cut the board to the shape of a boat oar and used that to stir the pot and remove the material.

Here is the pile of weeds that were removed from the pot when done boiling for 2.5 hours.

Now that the material was in the pot to cook for a few hours I decided to start another wooden bench.  This bench would be made from an old arming stump I had in the garage.  I have a better one made from a much harder wood.  I figured I'd split this already cracking stump and burn the scraps.

This stump was a joy to split.  I was able to make these splits with about 4~5 hits of the hammer.  The wood has exceptionally straight grain and split very nicely.

Check on the material.  Color coming along nicely.  I did checks like this about every 10 minutes and then stirred up the pots.


At this point I was in a bit of a rush.  I got news that a rain storm would be coming in and I was focused on woodworking so unfortunately I didn't take a lot of pictures.  I did a lot of splitting of logs and splitting of the log wedges.  I tried to rough out shapes for many types of tool hands for tools i intend to make.   The goal was to produce as many blanks as possible and burn all the wood which would be of zero value.

Time to remove the material.  I let it simmer for about 2 hours and overall I am happy with the green color.  There are a few spots of material which were discolored either by contact with the pot, over heating or left over vegetable matter sitting against the material.  The usable portion of the silk was about 80~85% so I'm happy with the result.

I spread the material out on the ground in the shade to cool and set.  I worked on setting up the pot for the next batch while this material rested about 30 minutes.

Next batch was some black walnut dye.  I only decided to do this last minute so I didn't properly plan.  I was very short on black walnuts so the color of the dye didn't come out nearly as dark as I would like.  Also the friend who collected the walnuts for me happened to grab a lot of green walnuts.  These would have worked fine if I let them sit and ferment in a bucket for a few weeks, but I ended up cooking these only 2 days after they were collected.  I will surely do the walnut dye again, but will collect a LOT more nuts next time.

Here are the nuts in a 5 gallon bucket.  I filled the bucket with water early in the morning hoping to soften some of them, but it didn't seem to make much difference.

Once the walnuts were cooking I went back to the silk and linen.  I rinsed the material out two more times with cold water and then hung it to dry on a hemp line.  It was a very windy day and the wind picked up as the storm headed in.  The wind dried the material fast but also frayed the edge of the material about 1 inch on each piece.

I stoked the fire up big for the walnuts for a couple reasons.  One, I wanted to break down the green nuts but more importantly I had some old garbage wood I wanted to get rid of.  Since I felt the rain coming in I began packing up all my tools and only kept a few things out to work on so I began playing with fire more and more at this point.

Another impromptu project was some game pieces.  I took some of the left over branches from the pear tree legs and decided to make some back gammon pieces.  I used a hand saw to cut 60 pieces which were all about the same thickness and size.

After about 2 hours of cook time I decided to add the material to the walnut bath.
As soon as I placed it into the solution it darkened immediately.  Unfortunately the color didn't stay, but my initially I was very optimistic.

Here are the weeds and nuts after cooking.  I let them cool and then packed for the trash man.


About 2 hours of cook time and the wool was ready to come out.  By the time I took the wool out it had been drizzling on and off for about an hour already.  I was in a hurry to get the tools away so I have no more pictures of the afternoon wood projects.

By the time I was had hung the wool it was pouring outside.  It was rather dark as well. I had to do all the final clean up about 8:30 PM in the dark rain.  I dumped the dye bath over the fire and then rinsed the wool twice.  I rung it out between rinses and then hung it up from the same line.  I knew it wouldn't dry but hung it anyway.  The next day this is what it looked like.  The color of the wool was even for the most part.  There are a few small sections of dark stains but I will be able to use over 90% of the material.  I am happy with the look and feel of the wool, I just wished it came out a little bit darker.

All in all a grand success.  I am very happy with my first dying experience and look forward to doing it again.  Next time I should probably focus more on the dye and less on the wood projects though.