Remodel and Rebirth of the Little Green Vardo

It just seems right.

The timing,

the monetary investment,

the effort.

This is a requested repost of a series I did almost five years ago when I took my eight foot single-axle vardo caravan and reconstructed it into a 12 foot body on a robust tandem trailer.

After adding up the mileage from the log book I keep with the Vardo, I see we have clocked over 21,000 miles since she was first put to the road in February of 2010.  I have, no doubt, missed some small side trips and there are excursions I know I forgot to record, but this is, more-or-less, where we stand.  The trailer frame itself was high-mileage but well-maintained when I acquired it back around 2002 having first been owned by a university, then by a private individual before coming to me.

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My “before” photo. Rated at 2,000 lb. gross vehicle weight. It was solid and well-built but already showing some signs of age and life in the salt air of the Pacific Coast.

The real beauty of this trailer is the square tube construction and heavy-duty hitch.  Starting small was wise for me as it constrained the build and forced me to squeeze every inch out of the design.

On the way to becoming the "after" photo. The full box body nearly done.

On the way to becoming the “after” photo. The full box body nearly done.

I eventually replaced the original jack with a more heavy-duty model and replaced the jack wheel with a large foot for stability.  For safety, the tires were replaced when the trailer was re-purposed due to age, not wear.  If you missed it and want to read more about the construction of the micro house we call a vardo, GO HERE.

The Vardo; Where are we now? What do we want?

This little living wagon is great and serves it’s function well.  It’s a little beat up and showing it’s miles; living and traveling in all weather, a lot like it’s owner.  But still, it’s a little homey shelter from the elements, providing all the necessary comforts, and making travel a breeze.  With about 49.5 square feet of living space inside (4.6 sq. meters) it is spacious for one and comfortable enough for two adults who do most of their activities outdoors.  However, I have long pondered placing my vardo on a longer trailer, either to gain cargo space for tools and the like OR to extend our living space.  Sticking with the Minimalist thinking, I  decided long ago that 12 feet was about the maximum I want in a trailer.  With a standard 4 foot hitch that makes for 16 feet (4.9 meters) dragging behind the truck or about the length of a second truck.  I did the math on the new space and I liked it.

So back to it.  What do we really need?

Thinking of the many scenarios we find ourselves in, some added amenities could be handy in certain situations.  From wilderness areas in Utah to posh campgrounds in San Diego, highway rest areas in the Midwest and museum parking lots in Santa Fe, or even stealth camping on a city street, our needs are varied.  Although the vardo was built as a wilderness base camp, sometimes it feels like a miniature fortress or space station or temple of solitude.  When we’re camping in the remote west, beyond the confines of civilization and snooping gawkers, it’s not a problem spending most of our time outdoors, using a campfire or cook stove to fry up some bacon and boil some coffee, but try that in a grocery store parking lot in the city and you will only find trouble.  But we still essentially live outdoors.  We don’t need a dance floor inside.

Two thing we want that this space can supply:

  1. A simple kitchen.  By this I don’t mean a Martha Stewart style, butcher block countertop with rotating spice racks, dual ovens and a six burner ceramic-top range.  We need a dedicated space to store our cookware and food, do some prep-work, and make simple meals in any weather, beyond the prying eyes of the local gendarmerie.
  2. Secondly, we want more storage space for our personal belongings when we finally hit the long open road and don’t look back.  Tools for making things and raw materials alone take up a lot of our space.  Leather, wood, sewing supplies, fasteners, etc. all require more space than we have.  On top of this, a large, flat work surface would be a nice addition indoors.

After several (many) sketches and mock-ups… Voila!  I think we nailed it, the vardo formerly known as the Snail reborn as Nautilus 78.  Even though we know that nothing comes from nothing, our minds like to think of things as having a beginning, middle, and end.

So in that sense, here’s to our new beginning.

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The new foundation. Tandem wheels, brakes, breakaway safety system, LED lights and 7,000 GVWR. Let’s hope we’ll never need this much trailer.

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Too many badges, certificates and insignia. Still, and excellent buy I think.

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First things first. The heavy wooden floor must go.

On to PART 2

Handmade Sandals

Sandals in progress…

If you have ever taken a class with me you might know that all the intimidating sewing isn’t as bad as it looks.  The sole is three layers thick but the use of a good, sharp awl makes the double needle sewing go quickly.  A lot more work goes into these than I would have initially thought but I really think they come out great in the end.  It took several pairs to get the pattern just right but research into design and construction led me to this final design.  The sole is three layers thick (or more historically) and have been made this way in Europe and North Africa for more than 2,000 years.

The thickness of additional layers isn’t just to provide safety for the feet but the central layer provides a path for the straps to travel through without lumping under the feet.  The parts consist of an insole (medium weight oak tan leather), mid-sole to allow tunneling the straps through, and an outer sole, in this case, leather.  The straps are 48″ per foot plus the heel yoke.

This is how they looked when I thought I was finished. Shortly after, I added buckles and have since been through a few more soles. Currently they are shod with rubber.

Nine years on and still going strong. The patina that good leather takes on cannot be simulated. They get a coat of dubbin every six months or so but otherwise, need little care. I hope to get back to a time when I can wear them daily again.

Jacob’s Beautiful Leather Backpack

One of the better things about modern communication is the ability to meet and talk to people from nearly all parts of the globe. I have been in communication with Jacob from Botswana for years now and he has shared some photos of the beautiful backpack he made based on my earlier design. That one now resides in Montana and I hope serves some function for its owner. My personal pack has since been replaced by this one and is my new favorite piece of gear. But enough about me.

Right now, according to Google Maps, I am about 13,670 km (8,494 mi) from central Botswana and am unlikely to ever make it there, though not for lack of wanting to.  However, the internet allowed us to connect across a vast distance in space and share ideas with strangers who have common interests.

Anyway, here is Jacob’s very own leather rucksack and the two portmanteaus inspired by this post to carry his gear into the bush of southern Africa. I suspect a backpack like this will outlive us all and become a fine heirloom to pass on to the next generation.     Thank you so much for sharing these Jacob. I hope it serves you well for many years.

Coat of arms of Botswana

Interview Time

Well this is exciting. I got interviewed at winter count near Florence, Arizona back in February.

It’s heavily edited from a much longer discussion but I don’t think I sound too stupid here talking about the Vardo.  The interview is very close-up and tight but you can get a feel for the interior layout. There is a lot of good stuff on the Cheap RV Living website and I’ve been a reader for a very long time.  Check it out.


https://youtu.be/ktkXcXmR96Q

A Gathering Saw

Here’s another small project happening amidst all the “real work” that needs to get done during this quarantine.

24 inch frame saw made from Missouri grown walnut. The “hanged man” style flapper is a scrap of mahogany from some repurposed shelves. The sheath here is pine.

I seem to sell or occasionally give away the saws I make. I needed a new one. The last one went into the Winter Count raffle as the prizes were looking a little scant this year.

I went into the workshop without much of a specific plan but came out with this little gem. Just a matter of removing the unnecessary bits really.

Finally, the pin sheath is stained and a canvas quiver is made to cover the saw when broken down for travel. This one is from old,, heavyweight canvas salvaged from a truck tarp. It will all fit into a neat 24 inch bundle.

I want to keep this one but after inquiries rolling in, it may go into the shop (or another just like it).

Be Safe!

For your enjoyment: a Carpenter from 1589, Mendel Manuscript.

Another Bucksaw on the Loose

I am stunned to hear from several recent misguided enthusiasts to the gentle art of wilderness skills that their new hobby costs them so much money… I guess even our low-tech approach to life can be marketed and sold to the right customer with our ingrained need for newer, quicker, and “approved” gear. Let’s hope this ailment isn’t catching.

Making something for one’s self is, in itself, an act of rebellion in these troubled times so I thought I would share what I’ve been up to in the idle hours these past few days.

After someone sweet-talked me out of my last (and personal) bucksaw I was in need of a replacement. I lucked upon some beautiful walnut last year and set some aside to make a few saws. Straight-grained, strong, and beautiful, this 5/4 sawn chunk was ripe for carving into something nice. I spent far too much time in finish and detail on this one but a beautiful tool is much nicer to use than an ugly one and curves appeal more than straight lines to this gentleman.

There isn’t much need for a lengthy instructable for this design but notice that the straight grain was respected in all dimensions and runs the length of each arm. As for hardware, it was my intention to inset square nuts into the handles and connect the blade with round-head machine screws. However, looking through my hardware on hand, that would have required a trip to a store, so for now, we use carriage bolts and wing nuts.

The devil is truly in the details and it is a joy to carve such fine wood with sharp tools. The entirety is polished with Lundmark carnauba wax as it brings out the color and grain while providing excellent protection against water.

Summertime Update

 I have been trying to write this post for a month now…  Even small posts can take too much time.

Anyone who knows me well is probably aware that sometimes my attention span is like that of a goldfish. Since more or less recovering from surgery I have been in a frenzy to catch up on the many things I’ve wanted to do these many months.  I did accomplish a few small leather working projects, messed around with watercolors, did some good reading, and took some actual paid work (yes, an actual job) to cover the ever-present bills.

Watercolor miniature in the works.

I’ve now been released back into the wild by the surgeon and the physical therapist and declared healthy enough to begin working out and to go about my normal activities. With so many things to do I have little interest or time to spend in front of a computer screen and I loathe it more than usual.  I am very happy that I have been encouraged to re-integrate real exercise back into my daily routine.  Just because we get older, doesn’t mean we need to let ourselves go.  I am as guilty of this myself.

We learn to be lazy, but we don’t have to be.

I have taken much inspiration by the work of my fellow artisans and the projects they post online, without the stupidity you find in regular social media.  I am sometimes shamed by my own lack of productivity but still thrilled that so many people I know have grown their talents to such heights.

Pressing onward.

Traveler’s Wallet

Once again, I am producing some large, traveler’s wallets.  While some are waiting their finishing touches, here’s the first of six.  They are all of the same general size and design but each has some variation in shape and closure type.

A simple wrap closure. This can accommodate a bulging wallet.

I think my dying is improving.  Having read more on the subject, I’ve been able to create a nice overall finish.  The dye is applied in many diluted layers and hand rubbed to force it into the leather.

The right size for many applications.

The leather is from a 6 – 7 ounce vegetable tanned cowhide that was a real beauty.   The side was just shy of 30 square feet.  To start working the nine foot long hide, I had to move my operation into the kitchen and onto the floor for initial cuts.  Maybe someday I’ll have a shop table big enough to accommodate something this size again.

The interior divider provides four pockets. Big enough to hold a load of cash, passport, and the separated slots are sized for standard identification or credit cards.

This wallet is perfect for keeping everything in one place for log term travel or to be used as a small clutch purse.

Edges are burnished to give a finished look and the body has been waxed with all-natural dubbin.

The thread is heavyweight bookbinder’s linen in dark gray (nearly black) so is absolutely period correct for the reenactors out there.

If you are interested in this or some of our other work, check out our Etsy shop, look at the previous sales, and read the reviews.

Have a great day!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Leather Knapsack Prototype

Why do this?

In my life-long quest for better designs and finer gear, I am constantly on some sort of hare-brained mission to make something new.  Some readers may remember the earlier backpack I made and eventually traded off to a new owner.   My friend Jacob, even made a fine copy for himself and it now lives happily in Botswana, hopefully seeing many great adventures.

Snapshot of the pack, ready for waxing.

Leather and Brass? (or, what the hell were you thinking?)

One thing that can be said about real leather is that it will, barring some mishap, last a lifetime but eventually fade back into to earth, leaving little trace.  Leather is strong, wears well, is abrasion and heat-resistant, feels good to the touch, and cannot be beat for beauty.  While I considered antler for buckles, I decided to go with a slightly more modern closures and fasteners made from solid brass.  As I use antler in most of my creations, I chose to make a few well-shaped toggles as practical accents.

The downside? These materials are heavier than modern, lightweight materials but, for me, the trade-off is completely worth it.

It begins with the little things. There are many repetitive steps in large projects such as this.

This backpack started off as some daydreaming and sketches on graph paper sometime last November but other projects and commitments made me set it aside again and again.  This was good though; it allowed me to rethink the plans and make modifications as they occurred to me in the quiet hours of the night.

The harness system took some time, thought, and modelling before work could commence.

What were the design parameters?

Design is always the toughest part when creating something new.  I’ve been looking at handcrafted bags and packs for years so I’m sure there are a thousand images bouncing around inside my skull influencing the composition of this piece.  Honestly, choosing a size was the most puzzling part of all for me.  I’m a biggish guy and have a tendency to go big when I make gear so I was determined to keep this one reigned in.

Once the more difficult decisions were made, cutting and sewing could begin.

I already had a “look”  in mind and already decided on the construction technique.  Should it be a six panel body for easier layout or single panel around the body for a more seamless build?  Should it be sewn, laced, or riveted and what pockets does it need?  Will it be “turned” (seams hidden inside) or will the closings be visible?  Finally, where to begin construction?  We can’t close the body until the external sewing is done so pockets and straps were a good place to start.

Not long after getting most of the parts gathered and cut, I found myself wounded, with only one arm for practical use.  This slowed down sewing to a crawl.  What should take fifteen minutes took over two hours so this bag became an exercise in patience.

Still, I managed to make headway and the pack came together over several weeks.

A “turned” pocket freshly attached to the body.

Maybe not my prettiest stitching ever, but as it will be mine, and not for sale, I will still cherish every flaw.

Large pocket accessible with the main flap closed.

As a prototype, there were changes that must be made on the fly but overall I was happy with the design.

The shoulder straps were made to be replaceable without too much hassle and are long enough to accommodate a heavy coat in winter.

A carry handle was a heavy debate in my mind but makes a lot of sense for modern travel.

Each side has a slip pocket, tie down D rings and a compression strap at the top of the pack.

Bottoms up! I was able to place a scar in the hide on the bottom of the bag. The two rectangular patches are for blanket straps.

Details – brass rivets, antler toggles, and beautiful leather called for a heavy pillow ticking to serve as the liner.

Waiting to be packed for an adventure. I hope to get it waxed and outside later this week. Hopefully, I’ll get some photos of the new pack in use.

  Specifications:

  • Materials – 8 ounce veg tanned leather body, 4 – 5 ounce leather pockets, brass and antler
  • Height – 16 inches
  • Width – 12 inches
  • Depth – 6 inches
  • Weight – 5 pounds

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Selfies of your hand-made gear?

Shop Update

I’m currently working on a custom order.  Projects are coming to an end for a few weeks with the impending surgery.  The dimensions of this bag are suited to fit a specific waterproof map case already owned by the customer.

The components clicked and punched the old-fashioned way but with the aid of some modern measuring tools.

Double-needle stitching.  It may not look perfect yet, but a little trimming and burnishing will clean the edge up beautifully on this bag edge.

The double-needle work creates a tight, strong seam.

A sewing awl and needle are used to hold aligned pieces for stitching. 

A Fun Little Fashion Project

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Here is a little Boho Chic bag made from a beautifully bark-tanned hide by Joe Brandl (#absarokajoe). It’s a bit outside my normal style but people have loved these bags over the years. Heading to the Oregon Country Fair, Burning Man, or just the beach? This is an accessory for you. Oh yeah, it makes a a great possibles bag too!

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Here’s my unapologetic SALES PITCH…

This hand-made bag was created by me and is adorned with a lunar crescent and four sea-shells collected on the Oregon coast. The leather is extremely soft to the touch and was tanned with an all natural process using the natural tannins from tree bark. It is double needle stitched with heavyweight hemp thread waxed with pure beeswax from another friend, Benjamin Pixie. The strap is a three-strand braid from the same hide and is very soft and supple.

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The crescent and shells are stitched with real buckskin (not commercially made) in keeping with the authenticity of this bag. It is the perfect size for a day in the wilderness, beach, or at a festival. It is beautiful enough to work as an everyday Bohemian purse in town. I have made several of these over the years and they have always been the envy in any crowd.  Wanna look like the coolest Shaman on the block?  This bag will get you there.

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The edge is bound for stiffness to hold its shape.

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Specifications:

  • Length – 7″ (17.75cm) long
  • Width –  5″ (12.75) wide
  • 4″ (10 cm) fringe
  • Strap length – 58″ (147 cm) to hang low on the hip

If you are looking for the perfect gift for the outdoorsy Lady or Gent, we are here to help you out.  Our new webstore will be filling up as we learn our way through the Matrix.  In the mean time, check us out at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Work from the Leather Shop

  • Long, cold nights in the Midwest. 
  • Limited mobility due to injury. 
  • A need to create new things
  • A desire to fund my trips later this year…

This is a recipe for high productivity in the workshop.

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Hot off the workbench.

Fortunately, I have a fairly large stockpile of leather and supplies to see me through my projects as I find inspiration in different projects.  I am leaning toward things that have been popular in the past years but if anyone has ideas or suggestions, I will gladly consider them.

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Sam Browne button in solid brass.

This is my travel wallet design.  It’s a simple clutch-style document case to keep things safely stowed when you want more than a card wallet.

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Simple, rugged design.

No frills but elegant in its own way, this one was left natural color and rubbed with dubbin (a mix of neatsfoot oil and beeswax).  Full-grain veg-tanned leather like this ages beautifully and takes on a golden brown patina.  This wallet should outlive its owner.

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Hand stitching.

As always, the stitching is double-needle saddle-stitch for strength and hard-wearing.  If you are interested in this or similar goods, please check out our new Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts or just click the banner below.  We hope to have the site fully running and stocked with new goodies in the coming weeks.

lostworldcrafts

 

Action Photos

Just a quick follow-up from yesterday’s post…

The sporran is complete and ready to go so, of course, I had to model it to show the size and wearability.

Here is the Maker in his workshop sporting the new bag.  I didn’t bother to “kilt up” but that is the belt I frequently wear when kilted.  Overall, this design is great and I’ll probably start making a few more right away.  I like this one better than my own day sporran so I guess I’ll need to make one for myself as well.  I should note that a truly traditional sporran would be ornamented with leather or hair tassels.  I pondered this addition, but it isn’t really my style.  Maybe on the next one.

Sporran in Progress

I have been wanting to make a few sporrans based on the classic 18th century style.  This type, often referred to as a Rob Roy style, is a fairly simple, single pocket design that can have a number of variations.  The one I’m making here is from 6 oz full-grain hide and should outlive it’s owner, even under hard use.  A versatile belt pouch like this was originally intended to be worn with kilt or trousers as built-in tailored pockets are a rarity in history.

At 6.5 inches wide by 6 inches tall it can hold a fairly complete fire and survival kit in a handy position on almost any belt.

As with most of my leatherwork, this bag is hand sewn using a double-needle saddle stitch for strength and longevity.

The dye is wet in these photos, looking a bit uneven, so I’ll try to shoot a few more in better light when the weather improves.

The bellows design I chose stays flat but will expand to fit more gear as needed.  Look for a follow-up soon.  It is listed on my Etsy page so it will, hopefully, be finding a new owner in the near future.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Thoughts Provoked by a Sloyd Workbench Advertisement

A bit of personal history –

I never touched a tool in high school.  When I was there, kids were openly placed in two “tracks;” either Academic or General education.  I know I wasn’t the sharpest student and I generally disliked almost everything about being in school but I was placed among the Academics.  In lieu of shop classes (woodworking, metal shop, electricity, etc.) I learned a lot from a former engineer-cum-teacher who taught Drafting and Engineering Drawing.  This was the closest thing to shop class a kid on the Academic track could do.  Why? I have no idea.  We learned about house design, making scale plans, estimating materials, and other useful things.

Engineer drawing.

Fortunately, my grandfather was a handy guy who grew up on a farm and spent his early years in the building trade so I learned the basics of using a square, compass, saws, planes, and the like from him.  Also, being left as a somewhat feral child, I was able to use and abuse the family tools and learned many valuable lessons the slow and often frustrating way.  When I was sixteen, I began working part-time for a construction company as a laborer with the thought I might make that my profession.  I learned a lot, both good and bad, by observation and exposure, and continued to work as a carpenter in various capacities through graduate school a decade later.

Elementary school Sloyd.

Where am I going with this ramble? 

It was a long and meandering road for me with many side excursions and dead-ends, and although I feel grateful for all the lessons and training I received along the way, I sometimes lament the loss of craftsmanship and the values of creativity in schools.  In short, education isn’t an either/or proposition; that you are either on track for academic pursuits or you will be in the labor force.  I have met many geniuses with little formal education and many fine academics who excel in the manual arts.

Teach your children well.  Real life skills are too important to be left to others.

Tiny House for Film Stars

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I’m just going to stretch the imagination and say this is Clark Gable and Joan Crawford just prior to christening this little home (or maybe just after, he does look a little sweaty).

Here is a wonderful tiny home with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford eyeing each other up on the front porch.  It appears to be strapped to a regular flatbed trailer, presumably for delivery to its final destination. There is nothing new under the sun.

Found here but the site is sadly defunct now: http://wintechmodularbuildings.co.uk/

Interior of a Mechanic’s Workshop

Anthelme Trimolet (Anthelme Claude Honoré Trimolet, born 8 May 1798, Lyon – died 17 December 1866, Lyon) from the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

I have stared at this painting for quite some time.  There is a lot to unpack from this one if you have any interest in hand tools.  This image is of a very organized workshop of a master craftsman plying his trade in the early 19th century.  I feel he is consulting with a client about a commission they are undertaking and discussing the finer details.  Click the image for a larger version and enjoy.

Making a Bucksaw – Retrospective

At “Echoes in Time” Champoeg State Park, Oregon, USA 2014.

This is the prototype saw I used for teaching a bushcraft class at Echoes in Time in 2014.  Unfortunately, a split in the original wood spread last winter and I had to rebuild it.  Actually though, that is a beautiful thing when you can make your own tools.  I didn’t spend any abstract money for a new one, I didn’t have to trow away some sort of useless and polluting garbage, and I could readily improve the design based on several year’s use and observation.  I’ve sold about 20 of these now so the pattern is firmly ingrained in my brain and sinews while tweaking each batch to make them more pleasing to use and efficient to make. without losing the aesthetic of this ancient design.

Saw ready for assembly.

It has been a very successful class for me at both Winter Count and Rabbitstick over the years and I’ve honed the teaching so that each student can really get them most out of it.  Not only is there basic shaping and carving, but also learning to make a simple blind mortise and tenon joint, drill holes by hand-power, and think about design options.  I hope to be teaching this one-day class again soon as it is a great introduction to hand woodworking  while building a manageable and extremely useful tool.

Assortment of cordless tools used in class.

U.S. Army Riding Gloves Pattern – free

In my internet sleuthing I have gathered literally thousands of images, plans, and patterns of things I would like to make or have for reference.  Government documents, like the scans below, are invaluable resources for the maker when they are made public.  Who would know how to better and more efficiently make a pair of riding gloves than the U.S. Cavalry.  This design is the culmination of more than 110 years in the business.

Click the pattern for the full-sized image. Scale to fit the dimensions shown for the standard sizing or scale them to fit your hand, be it a tiny little paw or oversized ham (note the three sizes on the pattern).

Part of the fun is learning the names of the parts; I had no idea there was even such a thing as a quirk in a glove.

I hope to get around to making a pair soon myself but please let me know if you have any success when you try these.  Thanks for reading and please click “Like” or leave a comment if you have one.

Campsite Life

Scenes of life on the road and around the campsites.

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October 1951: Mrs Robert Matthew, an MP’s wife, campaigning at a gypsy encampment.

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Kids at the campsite.

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A classic image of Traveller children.

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Modern gypsies (Romany) in their simple accommodation.

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I really love these little bender tents.

Family Life

A fine caravan for a successful traveller.

This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish, and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet.  Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation.  When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it.  If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.

“The Travelling Tinker” by John Burr

The Travelling Tinker

The Travelling Tinker

A painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893).  Tinkers were originally tinsmiths or “tinners”.  One of many itinerant jobs pursued by a class of casual laborers.  These were mostly skilled and specialized crafts like basket making, shoe repair, leather work, and metal work but many poorer workers were migrant farm labor picking hops and tending the market gardens during the peak harvest.  The fellow in the image above appears to be a fairly well-off repairman mending a seam in a pot.  This from a time when new items were a rare purchase.

I love deciphering images like this for the details of domestic life.  Unlike most photos, there is real intention in what the artist chose to include or not in the painting.  The house is clearly a poor one but a freshly killed chicken hangs from a nail on the wall by some dry roots.  A handmade broom leans against the wall next to a basket that has the tradesman’s coat lying across it.  The oldest daughter tends the infant while the mother stands by the laundry basin with a toddler behind.  All the children look on while the novel worker plies his trade in a waistcoat and hobnail walking shoes.

Making a Stitching Pony; Video Tutorial

Stitching Pony, Leather Worker’s Clamp, or Saddler’s Clam…

Whatever you call it, it is a handy device to own if you sew any leather.  These are simple devices that just about anyone can make with little time or money invested.  Although there are many varieties and models, the one shown in this tutorial by Harry Rogers of Bucklehurst Leather is the one I have most commonly seen.  Is there no end to this man’s skill and diversity of talents?

 

The only comments I really have are:

YES, the jaws should be lined with thick, smooth leather and that the gap is necessary to keep the jaws as flat as possible against the work.  It is also nice, but not necessary, to have a compression spring over the bolt to push the jaws apart when loosened.   And finally (terrible way to open a sentence in writing I know), a recent comment from a friend suggested that the tightening nut could be replaced and a better system be devised from a bicycle quick release axle.  Maybe on the next one.

Check out his leather work here:

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Wandering Minstral

A Wandering Minstral

A Wandering Minstrel

Here is a painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893) of an itinerant fiddler playing for a family in a Scottish lane probably trying to make enough money to eat or maybe even receive some food for his entertainment.  I can’t help but think the father looking out has a skeptical look; possibly wondering what this will cost in the end.

Music and storytelling were a very different commodity in an age of widespread illiteracy and 24 hour media.  It’s hard to even imagine a time when all music was handmade and intimate and not an item to be mass marketed.

Saddle Stitching

When teaching a leather craft or making an item for someone, I am often asked about the machine used to sew such thick leather or through so many layers in tight areas.  People are often astounded when I explain that this is all hand sewn, with an awl and two needles.

Some earlier work. Good, but not great, stitching.

I learned saddle stitching before the internet was a thing and without a book.  I was sewing leather bags, moccasins, and clothing in a relatively poor and untutored way.  As I became more savvy over the years I was able to analyze older pieces and read an article or two about saddle stitching and cordwaining that began to make my work look more professional.

Saddle stitching is the only way to build a large, complex leather project without some ridiculously expensive machinery.

While I have considered making a video to give an introduction to saddle stitching I know there are many master craftsmen out there far more skilled to do this properly.  One of them is Nigel Armitage of Armitage Leather.  He is a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen of Britain which I understand is nothing to sneeze at (I can hardly imagine the level of dedication most of these men and women have for their crafts).

Image result for Guild of Master Craftsmen

On to the show…

This is probably the best and simplest tutorial I have seen online about learning the basics of saddle stitch.  If you are new to this, remember, the pricking iron is not an absolute necessity for starting out but it will make you seams straight and beautiful.  If you don’t own one, you can still mark and follow a line or even mark the stitches with a ruler and awl (I did this for a very long time).

I hope this answers some question for those getting interested in leather work and saves you some of the headaches I experienced without proper instruction.

 

Art and Craft Fair

I would not have ever thought myself a craft fair kind of guy yet here we are…

A sneaky photo of the maker discovered this afternoon.

Last year, our local community center hosted an arts and craft fair as a way to bring local artisans together and raise money for public programs (art classes, GED education, computer skills, tax assistance, etc.).  Being new to the area we joined in last year and were invited back for a second go around last weekend.  It was a good cause and a way for us to make a little extra spending money for the holiday season.

Stacey’s jewelry, sewing, weaving, and holiday arts.

Times are tough and it seems that most people have little to spare on superfluous items this time of year.  Despite this, it was still a profitable venture and a portion of everyone’s proceeds went to a good cause.

Details…

Two very good outcomes from joining in this effort were:

  1. Forcing us to buckle down and finish a load of projects in a very short period and
  2. Putting us in touch with a lot of local makers we may not have met otherwise.

There are some very talented people out there and it is often difficult for them to show their work. Venues like this allow the small, part-time players like us to showcase some of what we do.  Now, as a primitive tech artist, I steered myself more toward items that were affordable and would appeal to the average person; especially someone looking for gifts appropriate for the holidays.  I even brought a few walnut cutting boards as they are fairly popular gifts.

Painters, printers, writers, jewelers, and even wonderful candy and jam makers were there and we a grateful for the opportunity to participate again this year.

I thought I’d share a few bench photos leading up to the fair.

Three Million Views

I guess it’s time to celebrate…

Sometime yesterday this blog surpassed three-million views.  I am both astonished and grateful.  I have often thought of just shutting down the page as a closed chapter in my life but I do enjoy writing and sharing some of my nonsense with anyone out there in the wide world who wants to read.  It is often a conversation.

Honestly, I have no idea why this number should be a milestone, it just seems like a good excuse to celebrate on a cold a dreary day.

So, for everyone who has stopped by, read a bit, and maybe even given some feedback in the form of clicking “like” or commenting on a post, I thank you.  I have gotten to know quite a few people through these rambles and probably given away more of myself than I ever intended.

Your feedback is always appreciated.

Weaving Wagon

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This is an excellent idea, especially for a skilled willow weaver.

If you need a bicycle wagon and can get a lightweight frame built, this seems to be a great, eye-catching option.  I suggest watching the short videos on their site as well.  I find their site somewhat difficult to navigate, but who am I to talk with all the clutter around here?

Here is a quick link to the video about the Weaving Wagon:

Click here for their full post  about the Weaving Wagon and I suggest looking around.  They have some neat stuff going on.

https://earthanddotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/20170604_163142-collage.jpg?w=1000I think I would really love to have something like this.

Possibles Bag

Here is an update on the most recent possibles bag I have been working on:

The buffed leather reflects a lot more than I realized while photographing.

Sorry the photos aren’t so great but here is the description: Made from 7 oz (~3 mm) Hermann-Oak full-grain harness leather top dyed and antiqued Fiebings medium brown with a single patch pocket inside. It still needs a little edge detailing, waxing and buffing before it is truly done but that will happen later today.

The interior is natural but will darken with use and waxing.

Rustic, laced construction, unlined, 18th century “English-style” bag.  The main pocket is 8 x 8 inches (1.5 litre in volume), while the overall body length is about 12 inches. 

The edges are all burnished for a smooth and comfortable feel in hand. The thick oak-tanned will soften with time and use.

The eared shape is to keep the bag from riding around to the front or back of the torso during use. This leather will age nicely and will last longer than any of us with normal rugged use. 

All sewing is double needle free-hand saddle stitch.

1 1/4″-wide strap extends to about 56″ to fit the most well-padded or heavily coated hunter. Going out for trade in the next couple days.

A Leather Purse and Wallet

Here is a shop update on a couple of the many leatherworking projects undertaken lately.   I decided to use up all the leather I have been storing and put it to good use.  I have about 100 projects I’d like to make for myself but the Yule season is coming, gifts are expected in many quarters, and we have an invite to show our wares at a local crafts fair.  So, without further fanfare…

A waxed leather bucket-style purse. I hear these are the rage in certain groups now. I remember seeing many in this style back in the 1980s coming out of Morocco and Spain.

And I decided to make a few bomb-proof wallets of various designs to go with it.

A surprising amount of work can go into even a relatively small project like this.

Temporarily gluing the welt to the bottom.

Sizing the bottom to the side before sewing.

The exposed welt after sewing and turning the bag.

Marking and punching the holes. Tiresome for the hands.

Choosing an appropriate lining; strong and beautiful.

Drawstring added, holding the leather edge biding while sewing.

The ‘ears’ for holding the shoulder strap sewn on, strap attached, and it is done!

The antler toggle helps keep the bag secure and adds a bit of primitive flash.

Difficult to photograph, but the liner gives the bag some class and a feeling of “completeness.”

This is a new traveler’s wallet design. Three pockets, large capacity to hold money, cards, and passport.

This one might be a bit too small to hold a check book but not a lot of us carry those these days.

The button stud is a favorite closure of mine as it is simple and effective without the need for a large hole.

After a quick buffing, the wax shines up nicely. This one should last a lifetime.