The Real Know How

How-Tos, Videos, Tutorials — Ramping Up for the 21st Century

Archive for the category “craftsmen”

How to Forge Steel

“Mike Blue, Randall Graham, Ric Furrer, making steel at Larry Harley’s in May 2006. Lecture and Demonstration. Filmed by Christopher Price of The Tidewater Forge. 9 minutes.”

The inputs are alternating layers of charcoal chunks (1 inch cubes) and iron ore powder. The furnace is based on a traditional Japanese design and is “sacrificial.”


How to Cure Wood

Curing wood you’ve felled or found (drying ‘green’ wood in a controlled fashion) is essential if you want to use it for construction, woodworking, or even just for use in your woodstove or fireplace.

You can read Curing Wood in 5 Steps here.

Curing the wood keeps it from cracking, splitting and distorting after you’ve already created/built something with it.

Artificial drying – over a fire or in an oven also risks splitting or otherwise damaging your wood.

“Cabinet maker Jeff Segal shows how he’ll store and cure the freshly milled plane tree, using bearers or stickers [square dowels] to separate the wood and allow the air to circulate.”

How to Make Wood Shingles

WoodlandsTV from the UK shows us how to make oak shingles with hand tools. He notes that the oak shingles should last about 70 years untreated due to their high tannin content:

So You Want to Be A Blacksmith

“how to get started in blacksmithing.”

Using ‘Natural’ Clay to Make Pottery

These videos were eye-openers for me, because I hadn’t really thought of clay in the soil as anything other than a nuisance and certainly hadn’t thought of using it for anything.

Here we learn how to find and clean clay found in a river bank. There seem to be two methods of cleaning ‘natural’ clay. One is to dry the clay and then powder it and put it through a sifter screen, the other is to put a slurry of wet clay through a sieve. I haven’t tried either, though the wet method looks easier.

“Is mixing your clay economical. I hear arguments on both sides. But I think it’s important that you know how.”

Here wildmudpottery finds clay in a trench dug for a pipeline and uses the second wet method of cleaning the clay.

Sweetgrass Basketmaking

Basket maker Vera Manigault talks about the history and culture of sweetgrass baskets. She also shows us the tools she uses to craft the baskets and how to harvest the materials (bullrush, palmetto, sweetgrass, long pine needles) used in them. She notes that as the South Carolina coastline has developed access to the basket making materials has been cut off. In most cases, large areas of marshland where the plants grow have been cleared for development.

Basketmaker, Joseph Foreman talks more about making good sweetgrass baskets:

Making Oak Gall Ink/Dye Using Acorns

Larry Vienneau shows us how to make oak gall ink using the more readily available acorns. This is a dark-brown-black ink. He writes:

“Iron Oak Gall Ink was used for hundreds of years until modern archival inks arrived. This is the same ink used to sign the Declaration of Independence and to write most Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts.”

He notes that a similar ink was also used as a dye by Native Americans.

What you’ll need: clean whole acorns (no other debris), vinegar, gum arabic (or honey, which he says works just as well as a binder), a slow cooker, a wide-mouthed funnel, cheesecloth, a strainer, iron (rusty nails, steel wool, etc. or iron tablets from the health food store), a preservative (he uses solvent alcohol).

It can take up to a week to make the ink.

Making Walnut Ink/Stain/Dye

The black walnut has a long history of being used to produce a dark stain that can be used as ink, leather making dye, wood and grass stain and textile dye. It’s lightfast, colorfast and doesn’t respond to most solvents, so difficult to get out in general. Scrapbookers now also use walnut ink to give paper an antique look.

To make the ink you will need unhulled walnuts, water, a pot (it helps if it is rusty cast iron as the iron deepens the color), a sieve or cheesecloth and a stirrer. Some people also add rusty metal to the mix to darken the color and vinegar to help preserve the liquid.

Here is Annamarie Malik making a large batch of ink:

She sells bottles of walnut ink from her website

How to Make Milk Paint

Painted with milk paint - via

Here is a recipe from Diane Taylor Bowling of A Primitive Journey:

The full post with her comments is here:

Excerpt follows:

Things You’ll Need

Ready to mix milk paint
1 gallon skim milk
2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup hydrated lime powder – Type S
1/2 cup pigment

Step One

Click to enlargePowdered milk paint can be purchased and just mixed with water. This would be convientent but would cost about $36.00 a gallon. But making your own milk paint is relatively easy and would be half the cost of buying the ready mixed. The lime powder and the pigment is available at paint stores or even some craft stores. The results are amazing, flat muted color that resembles old world plaster. Many artists still use this ancient paint because of it’s work ability and the tone of color.

Step Two

Click to enlarge This recipe uses fresh milk that is curled by using the vinegar. By using the curdling method you have a stronger paint that is resistant to mold.

To begin: allow the milk to come to room temperature, but no warmer than 115 degrees. Pour the milk into a large container and add the 2 cups vinegar which starts the curdling process. Allow the mixture to sit overnight in a warm place stirring every once in awhile. The next day you’ll be able to notice the milk solids separating from the liquid whey. Have everything ready prior to mixing in the pigment as milk paint should be used when it’s fresh.

Step Three

Click to enlarge Put the pigment powder in a plastic container and add an equal amount of water and allow the powder to soak. Begin to stir until you have worked the ingredients into a paste, set aside. Put the lime into a small container and add the 1-1/2 cups of water and stir until you have a smooth paste. Please wear a dust mask to do this step as you don’t want to inhale the lime dust. Next you must pour the bucket of curds and whey thru a colander to separate. Wash the curd with water and allow to remain wet. Remove the curd or Quark from the colander and put into your paint bucket breaking up any larger pieces. Add the lime paste and stir well, then add the pigment. Again, stir well to dissolve any quark pieces. Strain the paint thru a piece of cheesecloth and your paint is ready to use. Stir the paint freguently as it tends to separate. If you have any extra paint and want to keep it, store in the refrigerator, it will keep for several days, although milk paint is best when used fresh. Since milk paint is a thin mixture, you may want to use more than one coat. After the paint is dry you can rub over it with fine steel wool or wax to give it a smooth, sealed finish.

Tips & Warnings

Since milk paint is made up of natural ingredients it is a safe product to use throughout your home. It can be used for walls and furniture and is a wonderful alternative to using petroleum based paint that contains caustic ingredients.

For pigments:

Many natural pigments come from mined minerals so buying them makes life easier. They’re just a Google search away.

You can make your own: Char, for example, makes a good black pigment. You can use almond shells, peach pits, bones, wood, etc.

Here is Lemoine de Gascogne in Texas making bone black from pieces of deer bone:

And here he is collecting and processing earth pigments (ochres):

Make Your Own Small Blacksmith’s Forge

From the TeenWoodWorker, who sees blacksmithing as complementary to woodworking. He notes how you can then make your own handles and fixtures for your woodwork.

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