Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tidbits from Southern Region War Practice

Since I have decided not to attend Pennsic this year, I felt the need to sate my appetite for a decently long SCAdian event. While not to the scale of the big war, the Southern Region War Practice plus EKU was a nice local event. There was much to be had in the way of weapons practice, but I decided to not bring my bow in favor of taking it easy for the weekend.

Fighters out on the field.

The site turned out to be rather nice. I was able to stay in the lodge with showers, which was pleasant minus the snake that found it's way into my belongings! Thanks to one of my lodge mates and his son, I never had to encounter the scary little fellow. I am much appreciative of that.

The meals at the event were hearty thanks to the hardworking cooks of the Shire of Owlsherst. While I don't have pictures of the feast, I did have the chance to enjoy it and ended up having rather friendly company during the meal.

Though still early for a lot a blooming plants, these little ones were popping up all over the woods. They created little pops of color throughout the site. I didn't want to pluck one, but I did consider transplating a few to my own backyard. I eventually settled for just a picture.

To be quite honest I really decided to go to the event mainly for the East Kingdom University classes. I ended up having the chance to learn how to spin wool properly, tried my hand at making glass beads, learned a bit about blackwork embroidery, fell in love with viking wire weaving and had the chance to sing with some very welcoming folks.

My second attempt at wire weaving still on the dowel

The finished wire weaving piece (and my not-so-period pants)

Djembe Repair - Roping & Tuning (Visual Tutorial)

The last in my series of Djembe repair posts involves the roping and tuning of the drum after having placed a new head. Again, my post really acts as a supplement to the instructions for roping and tuning found at Hawk Dancing. I am happy with the results.

ROPING (not the Gyptian type)
I used a section of Dacron rope wrapped around three times and secured with a slipknot for my base "hoop". If you chose to do this, make sure you can fit two fingers comfortably between the ropes and the drum body. This will ensure there is enough room for stringing the verticals.

Next I strung the verticals using another long section of Dacron rope. You are dealing with a lot of rope during this process, make sure it doesn't knot into itself. I worked from the top hoop down and back up again all of the way around the drum. I found it very helpful to sting "anchor ropes" between the bottom and top hoops to keep the head even while I worked my way around with the verticals. These anchors were made using sections of the old rope then removed and tossed aside as I was ready to string new rope in each section.

While stringing the verticals, the head begins to pull down a little and you may get some gathers around the skin hoop. I simply pulled the skin to smooth these out as I saw them.

After stringing the veticles by hand the top of the drum looked like this.

Using a thick wooden dowel, I tightened each vertical section with as much force as I could muster. There are other rope pulling tools for drums available if you want to make this easier on yourself. Since this was a fairly small drum, hand pulling worked decently enough.


I will try to explain the easiest way I have found to create tuning diamonds on a Djembe.

Start by drawing the end of your rope under two vertical ropes. Will we call them A and B. They look something like this.

Next, using one hand, pull A over B and draw the end of the rope up between them.

You can now pull the rope through to create one section of tuning. It looks like this once the rope is pulled taunt. If it doesn't look like this, try again. You will get into a rhythm of making these as you work around the drum.

When you reach the end, you will be confronted by the last vertical which consisted of a one rope A and a two rope B. Treat this just as you have when making tuning diamonds before. Draw the end of the rope under A and B. Pull A over B and then guide the end of the rope through.

Finish the rope down to the base hoop in the way that makes most sense to you, yet is still pliable enough to re-tune later if you need to.

I wanted to create a more substantial handle that my drum had before. In order to do this I used a size 15 crotchet needle and just worked a very simple single chain stitch.

It's basically done by making a loop under the head of the needle as a starting point then repeating this: wrap a new loop under the head, lift the old loop over the head.

After a while, it looks like this. It makes a sturdy strap for carrying the drum.

When all of the roping and tuning if finished, pull the goat skin down over the head and wrap with a bandage overnight. Leave it somewhere where it won't be disturbed.

The next morning, remove the bandage. Your drum head will look something like this.

Simply trim off the excess skin from the head and you are left with a rather handsome drum. From what I understand, once you have completely re-headed your drum you will need to play it for about a week and add a tuning diamond or two if needed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Making a Set of Celtic Ogham Staves

Today I felt inspired to make a set of Ogham staves. I did some research about these over the past few days and wanted to try to make a set on my own. I created my set from the natural shed of four great trees nearby. It took a while to find appropriately sized pieces and to trim them to vaguely similar lengths. I'm happy that the trees were able to share some fine pieces.

From there I used a knife to carve open areas in which to inscribe each Ogham letter. While I did this, my cat explored around me and acted nasty when I finally decided she must go inside. Once back indoors I used a pencil to place the a letter on each stave with a dot at the bottom to indicate which side goes down. Finally, I went over my pencil inscriptions with a wood burning tool. They ended up looking pretty sexy.

Some handsome staves indeed!

Tonight I will do something special to get them ready for use. In order to get some practice with these, I have offered free Ogham readings on Etsy. Actually, I will post some of the basic information from that listing on here just for educational reasons. Here it is:

What is the Ogham?

The Ogham refers to the ancient Celtic Druidic alphabet. Each letter stave corresponds with one of the 20 sacred trees. Here, the Ogham is used to seek wisdom concerning a certain topic.

How does it work?

The questioner holds in their mind a question that they are seeking guidance about while the reader calls upon the wisdom of the Divine, the Land and the Ancestors. The reader then casts the staves. The placement of the staves and their symbols indicate a message for the questioner.

p.s. I swear I will wrap up my Djembe repair posts soon. They have been pretty popular lately.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Djembe Repair - Goat Skin Head Replacement (Visual Tutorial)

Huzzah! Yesterday both my new drum rope and goatskin head arrived. The head was purchased through Sinclair City Market and the rope was purchased through Radioware . Both places shipped quickly and had very friendly customer service. It may seem odd that I purchased my rope from Radioware, but they offered the best price on a small order of 1/8 inch Double Braid Dacron Rope. I ended up spending about $5 plus shipping on 50 feet of rope as opposed to ordering 100 feet (minimum order) from a drum shop for about $25 plus shipping.

I started by making 14 hoop knots using the instructions at Hawk Dancing. Their method works very well. "Over the ring, through the loop, under the ring, through the loop." Please see their site for some other helpful pictures. A lot of my djembe tutorial photos are a supplement to that guide.

The 15th hoop knot looks very confusing, but is simple once you get it. For this step, the new knot is basically cradled in between the strings of the old. Hawk Dancing has a few photos describing this. Those photos perplexed me a bit, but I found it helpful just to think "Over the ring, through the LOOPS, under the ring, through the LOOPS."

Be patient, it will take a few tries to make the final locking knots.

The fully knotted top hoop looks like this.

I then soaked the goatskin in room temperature water for an hour.

I would suggest leaving for a while and coming back to work on this instead of watching over it or continuously checking the skin to see if it is ready yet.

Lay the wet skin out on some cardboard.
It looks like a very moist tortilla right now.
Don't make a wrap though, that would be foul.

Hawk Dancing suggests piercing the skin while it is laying flat on the cardboard in order to create holes to run a cord through.

I found it MUCH easier to just pinch the skin inbetween my fingers and snip it carefully to make about 1/4 inch long slits.

The approximate placement of those slits are indicated by the numbers on the picture above. You may make more if you feel the need to.

Once all the slits have been made and the skin is laying hair side up, center the metal hoop on the skin.

You can now begin to thread a cord through the slits. Follow an "out, in, out, in" pattern.

I used the old cord from my drum for this step since I didn't want to waste a section of the sturdy new Dacrop rope.

When you have threaded the cord all the way around, carefully pull the cord tight to gather the skin around the metal hoop.

Make sure the metal hoop stays centered while you do this in order to prevent later frustration with the skin.

Now place the skin onto the top of your drum body.

Carefully place the top hoop over the skin. When you do this, make sure your knots are on the outside edge of the hoop.

Flatten any areas where the skin has folded or puckered under the top hoop.

Note: In my next post I will cover the process for roping and tuning the djembe.

Aloe & Mint Natural Toothpaste - Visual Recipe

Since I am about half way through my tube of toothpaste, I decided it was time to learn how to make it on my own. In doing research I found mostly tooth powders and very liquidy concoctions predominated the homemade toothpaste market. This recipe is a fine medium between a thick commercial toothpaste and a liquid herbal toothpaste. In developing this recipe, I tried to strike a balance of liquid, grit, flavor and practicality. I really like the idea of making toothpaste for two reasons. Firstly, it's overall more cost effective than store brought toothpaste. (Especially if you have all the things you need already.) Secondly, I feel it provides one step towards reducing my dependence on consumer products. It's a bit empowering to be able to make a daily essential on my own rather than just accepting the product as a given manufactured entity.

Small mixing bowl
Measuring spoons
Wooden stirring stick
Mortal and pestle set
2 oz squeeze bottle

2 T Aloe Vera (food grade, 100%)
2 T Glycerin
2 t Baking Soda
1 t French Green Clay
2 t Dried Peppermint Leaf
1/2 t Orris Root Powder
10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
3 drops Vitamin E Oil

Note on Aloe Vera: Do not use the kind of aloe intended for sunburns! That is a topical ointment and shouldn't be consumed. You will want 100% aloe leaf gel for this recipe. It comes as a liquid dietary supplement in a jar at health food stores.

Start with 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel in a bowl.

Add in 2 tablespoons glycerin.

Stir well.
Aloe will separate a bit. You want this.

Add in 2 teaspoons of baking soda.
Use 1 teaspoon if you aren't that keen on the taste.

Stir until a little foamy.

Add in 1 teaspoon of french green clay.

Stir until it takes on an even light green color.
Right now it will taste like a late night pottery studio.

Grind 2 teaspoons peppermint leaf into a powder.

Add the peppermint leaf to the mix.
Stir until a medium earthy green.

Add in 1/2 teaspoon of orris root powder.

Stir well to break up any orris root that may clump.

Add in 10 drops of peppermint essential oil.
Add in 3 drops of Vitamin E oil.

Upon adding these oils, you will notice quite a change in the consistency of the toothpaste. Right now the recipe is very close to the right consistency, but I will likely revisit this one later.

Finally, transfer the toothpaste to a 2oz squeeze container for use.
A funnel will be very helpful during this step.

1) Squeeze three of four drops of the toothpaste onto your toothbrush.
2) Scrub in well.
3) Spit.
4) Rinse.
5) Have shiny, clean and minty teeth.

Please note: This recipe will not bubble in your mouth like some commercial toothpastes. There is typically an ingredient in those to create bubbling. Bubbles do not equal cleaning power though. The clay and baking soda will more than take care of cleaning duties in this recipe.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Respectable Steampunk, Beyond Cogs & Watch Bits

Steampunk items have really only come to my attention within the past year or so, thus I am by no means an expert on the matter. However I feel that good steampunk creations are a combination of Victorian nuance with fantastic function or mechanics. I've seen some beautiful water cooled computer casings and intricately detailed mechanical insects. Unfortunately, I've also seen a plethora of items that were non-functional, impractical or wholly dependent on watch parts and cogs for their edge. Granted, there are some nice pieces that incorporate watch parts and cogs but predominately more that lack originality. The saddest thing that I've seen as of late was a gathering of machine embroidered cogs on a kitchen item with the word "STEAMPUNK" printed underneath. I really expect to see distressed pink shirts with screen printed bronze cogs over the breast at the mall any day now.

In thinking about a post regarding steampunk items, I chose a few rules. No cogs, no watch bits, no keys and nothing terribly expensive. Just handmade items with a little edge that could be enjoyed by any steampunk lover without being glaringly obvious. Initially I started by thinking "Okay, I'm a Victorian... what do I practically need?". Things like momento mori, mourning items, combs, hats, gloves and snuff boxes came to mind. I found surprisingly slim pickings in areas I expected to find many. Few people make steampunk silhouette portraits for instance. Seems odd to not find many mourning items though considering mourning was practically an Olympic sport in the era. In the end I went in a slightly different direction, but tried to keep the essence of function, edge and a bit of Victoriana in mind. I've only selected a few items to share here which hopefully appeal to a wide audience. I look forward to finding a few more to post eventually.

NYC Souvenir- by BROOKLYNrehab

What respectable Victorian with an interest in the sciences doesn't want a specimen from the notorious Columbidae of New York City? This item is methodically preserved by the seller and would make a lovely addition to a cabinet of parlor curiosities.

Antique Microscope Slide Pendant- by Aminyitray

How simplistic yet clever! This pendant is a perfect way to carry bleeding edge Victorian science around with you wherever you wander. This seller has a number of scientific curiosities which might interest the steampunk aficionado.

Starving Child Eating Lobster Tote- by UtilitarianFranchise

The image on this bag is deliciously eerie. It reminds me of an etched frontispiece to a horrific Victorian novel about possessed sea creatures. This is the kind of bag that is just yearning for a proper lady to store her cross stitch samplers and crotchet doily projects inside. I really wish this image was on an evening bag though. Perhaps one with a ornate clasp closure and a delicate chain handle.

The Individuated Scarf of Self Actualization- by FuschiaMinute

What a freaking fabulous name. That being said, I could absolutely see this scarf being paired with a simple brown waistcoat, a pair of spectacles and a leather field case for the gent who wants to survey the country side while still keeping all of the luscious colors of impressionist paintings close at hand for inspiration.

Floozy Flytrap by GrandmaWasAFloozy

Now here is a simple, elegant piece that has a bit of edge to it. It's delicate appeal is really enhanced by the addition of a silver button closure and a bloody fabulous name. The crafter behind this item sells a number of exquisite items that have a Victorian feel and a lot of bite.

Stress Less Rosemary Mint Scrub - Visual Recipe

I really am loving these visual recipes! They are attracting visitors from all over the world too. The pictures make every step of my processes easier to convey. Today I will be covering a divine rosemary mint salt scrub. The scent is amazing, absolutely one of my favorites. It's ridiculously simple to make, exfoliates skin well and leaves you feeling silky smooth. This scrub is intended to be rubbed onto the skin immediately before rinsing off in a warm shower. A commercial scrub is nowhere near as pleasant as this one.

Measuring cup
Wooden stirring stick
Plastic container

Note: Since this is a product that you would want to keep in the shower, I would highly advise against storing it in a glass container. Although it may look sleek in glass, glass is dangerous to have in a bathroom.

1 c Epsom Salt
1/2 c Sweet Almond Oil
10 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
1 heaping T of Dried Peppermint Leaf

Measure out 1 cup of Epsom salt.
Transfer to plastic container.

Measure out 1/2 cup of Sweet Almond Oil.
Add to Epsom salt.

Mix until oil is evenly distributed.

Add in essential oils and stir again.

Your scrub will now look like this.
It will also smell AMAZING!

Add in 1 heaping tablespoon of dried peppermint.
Stir so that the leaf is evenly distributed.

1. Rub the salt scrub onto your skin immediately before you shower. Move in circular motions while rubbing to exfoliate well.
2. Rinse the scrub away with warm water. The salt will rinse away and the oil will remain to moisturize the skin.
3. Breath in deep. This essential oil combination used in this recipe is a great aromatherapy stress reducer. The warmth of the water on the oils really activates the scent.

Alternatively, this can also be used as a foot scrub or added to a hot foot bath after a long day of walking or standing on your feet during work.

Salt on cuts, scrapes and wounds hurts. A lot. Don't use this scrub if you've just nicked yourself shaving or if your skin is otherwise sensitive.