By Andrew Braund, FdA Historic Craft Practices - Metalwork student
Having completed my FdA Historic Craft Practices – Metalwork, I am now looking to start on the Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies in the new academic year; however this is no excuse to be idle, and so here are a few musings on current projects and the current situation.
I was greatly disappointed when our practical unit was cancelled this semester due to workshop access and the pandemic. So much so, that I decided to proceed with my proposed project regardless. The project that I had written up was to make a full suit of 17th century cuirassier armour with an accompanying sword. With the lack of access to workshop facilities and having to prioritise still relevant coursework, I hope to have this project finished by Christmas getting as much done as possible before returning to college at the end of September. So far I have done substantial work on both the helmet (an interesting design called an “Iron Hat”) and the gauntlets having done about 85% of the work necessary on them. I now need to focus on the breastplate and subsequently the backplate. I have started rough forming the breastplate paying particular attention to the peascod belly.
Being away from West Dean, one of the things I have missed the most has been the workshops and access to them. I have had to adapt and improvise accordingly without access to many of the tools and equipment available at the college workshops. What would have taken ten minutes on the bandsaw instead took me a day’s work with a piercing saw and files. As well as the bandsaw I missed the lathe and torches amongst other things, forcing me to use less efficient but perhaps more creative means in their absence. Regardless, I am looking forward to being back in the workshop and having access to all of the tools and equipment when I return at the end of September.
Lately I have been working with ferric chloride acid and a variety of resist mediums to make a small collection of 17th-18th century artillery instruments and a storage box. I bought the box itself but have enhanced it with etched plates. There is a large decorative etching on the top of the lid featuring a design taken from a 17th century wood cut. On the underside there are two more etched plates one being another decorative plate using a 17th century design and the other being a chart for weight and size of shot. The first instrument is a set of gunners callipers, these are of a typical English design with markings at the crotch for measuring shot and bore, when fully extended the callipers back can be used as a twelve inch rule; whilst on the other side are tables of the charges used for different guns. Also in this set is a gunners quadrant, again with a twelve inch rule marked down its shaft. By placing the shaft down a guns muzzle the gun’s elevation can be read from the quadrant using a weighted line. Sadly, not having access to a lathe, rather than making the plum bob myself, I had to use a store bought one. The final tool is a sight and level based on an example I saw on the College’s study trip last year to Vienna. When placed on top of a gun’s barrel, a reading can be taken from the markings on the lower edge to determine whether the piece is level and may be sighted through the slot cut into the hanging element. All plates and instruments were made from brass.