Blog Year in Review for 2016

2016 marked the posting of another 50 blogs on my site! That’s right, I missed exactly two weeks during the entire year, not bad, if I do say so myself! That brings the total number of blogs that are available on my site to 219. The topics vary from camping, to metal working, Medieval Cooking, and researching, and just about everything in between.

This year was the year of long blog series, with five of my series having five or more blog entries. A lot of times they didn’t start out that way, but there really was just too much to say! You can easily search my complete collection by either topic or by the year and month. Just go to and scroll down the page. The right hand column will have a list of the five most recent blogs, followed by a search box for viewing the blogs by month, a newsletter sign up (yes, I also do a weekly newsletter with relevant pre-1600 archaeological finds and news), two collections of links, and then a long list of the categories that the blogs are listed in. Just click on a category the list of blogs.

Choosing a favorite blog series is sort of like trying to decide which of my pets I like best, not an easy thing. But if I had to chose my favorite TWO long series, I would choose “Purses”, and “Vardos and Their Cousins”. Both of these series were a LOT of fun to write, and the Facebook commentary was fun and interesting to participate in for both of them.

Purses was the longest of my blog series this year, with a total of 12 blogs. It chronicled my experimentation with making a purse frame, from research and understanding how they worked and were worn, through actually making a frame myself. It was a very interesting journey, and I plan to do more work on purses frames again this year.

Purses Part 1    

Purses Part 2: My First Attempt At A Purse With A Frame

Purses Part 3: Understanding The Basics of a Purse Frame

Purses Part 4: What The Clues Tell Us and More About Purse Forms

Purses Part 5: What Other Forms of Purse Frames Do We Find?

Purses Part 6: The Tip Of The Iceberg

Purses Part 7: Back Down To Earth

Purses Part 8: Where Do We Go From Here

Purses Part 9: Time For Metal

Purses Part 10: Time For Purse Frame Rings

Purses Part 11: Finishing Up The Frame

Purses Part 12: How Were Purses Used Historically

Vardos and Their Cousins had a total of five blogs in the series. It really brought home the variety of Vardos and other trailer based constructs that there are in use in the SCA.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

And not to be outdone, this lonely little blog: All Rulers Are Not Created Equal, was probably the most relevant to all folks who do ANY sort of craft that ever uses a ruler.


Purses Part 10: Time for Purse Frame Rings

Last time I put together the purse frame bar and pivot, so now it is time to add the purse frame rings.

First a confession – I am cheating by using 8 gauge bronze wire. I have seen purse frames, usually the lowest quality ones, that use plain old wire rings. I was faced purely with a time issue. With all of the events that I am currently doing there was simply no time to be able to cast the type of “chevron” shaped ring that I wanted to use, so that project will happen in the future.

Why is the chevron shape important for better quality purse rings? The previous “L” or “chevron” shaped purse rings that we looked at used part of the “L” to provide a location for holes to sew the bag of the purse to. Although this is an important benefit, it is possible to simply wrap the material of the bag around the ring and sew it in place. So why is the shape so important? Strength. A plain round wire will bend much more easily, even if it has been hammered to make it harder. The basic structure of an “L” shape makes the ring much more stiff and less susceptible to bending.

So back to my process. I looked at the purse frame from the Museum of London that had a surviving ring.

What I was looking for was the shape of the ring and the proportions of the ring to the purse bar. So I went in search of a round item that was the correct size. And here it is, a small paint can. The picture compares the can and purse bar to the picture of the purse frame at the Museum of London.

shaping the rings

Pretty darn close. So I wrapped the 8 gauge wire around the can and started forming the tabs that will go up to the purse bar. Here they are, fresh off of the paint can with the purse frame .

freshly bent wire rings

So now it was time to adjust the rings so that they actually nest inside of one another and the tabs don’t interfere with one another. A little work with a pair of pliers accomplished that, and then it was time to flatten the ends of the wire rings. Here they are in progress.

ends of tabs











Once they were flat enough I cleaned off the rough spots with a file. And checked the fit of the rings one more time.

nested rings with tabs


Almost perfect! One of the tabs on the inner ring is a little too long, so I re-trimmed it and filed it again. Then it was time to create the holes that would allow the rings to fit onto the purse frame bar. Mark the location of the holes with a punch, so that the drill bit will not slide around. Then drill the holes and smooth off any burrs with a file.

And what do we get when we put it together?

first ring fit on frame

We get something that looks a lot like a purse frame with rings. The fit is pretty close, just a little work with a pair of pliers will make it perfect.

Next Time: Finishing up the Frame

Purses Part 8: Where Do We Go From Here?

I realized after I posted the last blog that some folks might not have a clue about the process of riveting. Riveting was one of the most common methods for joining base metals together prior to the advent of modern soldering techniques and fancy gas torches. If you are interested in reading about modern soldering techniques. I wrote a blog on the technique a while ago.

But back to riveting. I made a quick, and not particularly artistic, picture of the basic riveting process. How is that for a fancy hammer?! But hopefully this gives you the basic idea. The metal of the rivet, or the end of the purse frame bar or pivot is simply moved by hammering.


But back to my process! I also spent a ton of time looking at examples in museums. I found several at the Museum of London that had a similarly shaped purse bar and pivot. This purse frame was photographed upside down, but you can see that it is very similar. And this purse frame is not only similar, but also has a surviving purse frame ring. Excellent! Now I even have a potential model for the ring on my purse frame!

Next it was time to actually make a mold of the frame that I have. I used modern materials to make my molds. Because the actual artifact is metal I was able to use silicone mold sheets to make the initial mold. This material requires heating, in a special press known as a Vulcanizer, to create a rubber-like mold. Once this mold was created I was able to remove the original artifact and inject molten casting wax into the cavity of the mold. This wax creates an exact replica of the original artifact. I made several copies of the original purse frame in wax, and then began cutting the wax apart into the individual pieces that make up the purse. At this point it was possible for me to repair any flaws in the original purse frame pieces, like corrosion or other pitting. Once the individual pieces of the purse looked the way I wanted them to, I was able to use another modern silicone mold material, called Room Temperature Vulcanizing Silicone (RTV), that allowed me to easily create a mold of the individual wax replicas of the purse pieces.

Purse mold and waxes

Here is a picture of the original artifact and half of the Silicone mold that I made from it. At the bottom of the picture are the three RTV molds that were made of the individual repaired waxes. The new waxes that can be cast from these molds are the red objects above the RTV molds. You can see that I extended the worn and peaned ends of the original purse bar so that they would be long enough to hold new purse bar rings and still have room to be peaned over. I also extended the central pin on the pivot of the purse so that it will be long enough to go through the purse bar, put on the washer (shown on the right) and still have room to be peaned over.

Next Time: Time For Metal!