Yes, I admit to stealing the words to a song! But it was just too tempting not to. We just finished up attending an SCA event known as Great Western War in the Bakersfield area of California. And yes, the weather turned out to be hotter than we would have preferred. But the thing that was really hot was a couple of the activities that were going on – a reproduction bead furnace, and an iron ore smelting furnace.
Now, these things may not sound totally exciting to the average person. But even people who are not usually into crafty things were pretty entranced by the process. I confess that I do not know the names of the people who managed to accomplish these cool projects, but I was fortunate enough to participate in one, and observe the other. This post will be a bit more brief than usual, and you will have to wait until next time for some of the details. I am working on an iPad mini with very little connectivity, and I am also a bit fried from having been at an event for a week.
A lady came by my shop in the market, and noticing that I had hand made period reproduction glass beads in my shop, she started telling me about the bead furnace project. Ironically the plans were actually put on the Internet by a friend of mine who lives in the Middle Kingdom. These folks used her years of hard work and experimentation to accomplish a very successful bead making session. And it was really awesome.
The original period furnace would probably have used a bellows system to provide the needed draft for the furnace, but we cheated and used an air mattress inflator. The furnace itself was built with clay and chopped straw, allowed to dry partially, and then baked by heating it with a small charcoal fire.
The next day a charcoal fire was lit in the furnace, the air mattress inflator was cranked up, and glass rods became beads. Much experimentation occurred and many people were able to make their very own glass beads to take home. For a craft junky it doesn’t get much better than that!
Here is a picture of the bead kiln in action! I am actually thinking about making a kiln of my own when I get home.
Next time – where to find the plans for the furnace and other results and adventures.