j.w.s.

My Demonstration Area

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I've been cleaning up, repainting and tweaking my demonstration area at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire over the past few days and I still have more to do, Now, we've had this building for 27 years and I've been smithing in it for 20 now.. it's changed a lot over the years and the following pictures are all what I've managed to build myself over the past 6 or so years. Next big project is clearing all the grape vine from my fish pond (under the water wheel) and building a hood/chimney for the forges. During the off season this is one of the areas I enclose and teach classes in.

-J

 

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A shot of my gas forge, coal forge and small quench tank.

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This is the coal bin I built a few weeks ago, it holds about 250lbs.

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An overall shot of my working area - the air compressor doesn't actually belong here and it'll be gone before the Renaissance Faire begins in August but I use it for a few tools.20150616_164155.thumb.jpg.80d13622665ba9

A look from the outside in.

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Workbench and a view looking out at the bleachers.

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A shot of the newly installed anvil pillar courtesy of Randy McDaniel. Yesterday I fit my anvil and recast the top just to level it out a bit.

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Today I added this narrow counter top as a display for knives. I'll probably cover it in fabric and some nice pieces of timber to make a display. Also a shot of my second workbench.

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Here's the stadium style bleachers that wrap around my demo area, yeah, they're in need of a new coat of stain. I think they comfortably hold about 75 people but I typically get almost double that for demo's 3 times a day, they just pack in along the sides and back.

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And this is the outside shot of my demo area looking over the bleachers.

 

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I doff my cap off to you sir! You pack the bleachers at your demos, I'm happy to get 20-30 on a nice day. Beautiful set up you have. My only thought being, isn't your anvil's horn pointing the wrong way? :rolleyes:

Seriously nice set up well done.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I doff my cap off to you sir! You pack the bleachers at your demos, I'm happy to get 20-30 on a nice day. Beautiful set up you have. My only thought being, isn't your anvil's horn pointing the wrong way? :rolleyes:

Seriously nice set up well done.

Frosty The Lucky.

Wrong way? I tried balancing it but the darn thing keeps falling over and I don't want to point it up because I'd probably trip and impale myself on it.. if you want it the other way I suppose you could just walk to the other side.. but like you, I set up my tools to be most useful for me, not for anyone else. :) As for the audience, well, I think we're averaging around 250,000 during a 13 week season, so finding slightly less than 1% that want to watch blacksmithing demo's isn't all that hard, and since my demo's are each different it keeps them coming back for more. Normally I write up my schedule on the chalk board with things like "1pm, Let's Talk About Seax (and break it like we're Irish) - 3pm Wire We Here? (A not so existential look at forge welding a cable knife) - 5pm Get it Hot and Bang it (Audience buys me beer and calls the blade, anything goes!)" I try to keep it "edutational", make 'em laugh a bit and they wont even realized they're learning something! And aside from my set demo's I'm constantly showing someone how to do something or working on small projects.. something about the sound of the anvil attracts customers.

J

 

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I've had a number of kids show up at the Grange Fair in Wrightstown while I'm forging and tell me about seeing and talking to the smith at the PA Renaissance Fair, so I assume they are talking about you. Nice looking area.

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I've had a number of kids show up at the Grange Fair in Wrightstown while I'm forging and tell me about seeing and talking to the smith at the PA Renaissance Fair, so I assume they are talking about you. Nice looking area.

If it's kids, I've got a number of teachers that "force" their students to watch a demo when they visit for school days, citing it to be "one of the only historically accurate things to see at the Renaissance Faire". Kids days are a lot of fun. For those days I eliminate the double entendre and dig into more of the science behind what I'm doing and the importance of things like mathematics and physics and how they can all be combined to make a sharp and pointy object capable of obliterating one's enemies. One of these days I need to make it to the Grange Fair.. I've driven through the town when it's happening a few times on my way up to Warren County, but never set any time aside to actually attend it.

J

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I think you may be thinking of a different Grange. The one I'm talking about is in middle Bucks County, not that it really matters.

 

It might be one of those trips. I know the one kid was talking about arrow points and I think you may have made him one. I helped forge him a small bick he could use to do the wrapped portion to the shaft either last year or year before, I forget now. 

 

We'll have to get together at some point.

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I demo for much smaller crowds so don't get a lot of spectators. Kids though are my favorites, they ask the best questions and often have a better idea what's going on than their folks or teachers. My favorite response when I asked if they knew what the anvil was being the kid who raised his hand and said, "A coyote Killer!"

I need to change my demo projects to something that's more attention catching. Twists are popular and I'm going to prepare some Fredrich's cross blanks. Slumping glass hasn't been very successful for me, even at home so I'm not going to make that mistake at a demo again. :blink:

Being able to maintain a patter, tell fun stories, jokes, answer questions while keeping it mostly on topic is important. Demonstration is theater, if you can entertain the audience they're remember and if they remember you can insert good info.

Frosty The Lucky.

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DSW, I'm thinking the one in Center County. 

Frosty, my most favorite time is my last demo of the day because the audience decides what I'm going to make. Sometimes I have someone do a quick sketch, sometimes it's an innocent child yelling out something like "a goblin scratcher" - whatever it is I have fun, get to do a lot of improv and the audience gets a kick out of it. My favorite is the one guy who shows up once a year, so far I've made him the Butter-knife of Doom and the Spork of Dispare, I ran into him two weeks ago and his brain is churning for this year's fun collectable to finish out the set. Lol

J

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I'll have to put up a board and put the viewer's choice on the last line. I've done a lot of requests but never thought of making it a feature of the demo. Uh would Chop em up sticks qualify as a venture into the dark side?

Hmmmm. Frosty The Lucky.

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I've done a summer at a small brand new demonstration shop a year ago. MAN that stuff is hard, like you said Frosty :

Being able to maintain a patter, tell fun stories, jokes, answer questions while keeping it mostly on topic is important.

Demonstration is theater

.

I wasn't prepared for the theater and the talking, so I ended up spewing the same information and cranking out the same 6 projects (snakes, snails, lucky horseshoes, etc.) that got super boring.

The random requests were the funnest and most challenging part, it was great practice. Man those little kids LOVE this stuff and soak it all up. Most had never seen or heard anything about smithing so the history really fascinated them.

I'll have to try and make it to PA, that ren Faire sounds HUGE, and they have some great smiths to boot!

Edited by Kette

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It helps to be a natural joker like I am but public speaking is an acquired skill. I had a lot to learn. Fortunately the first couple public demonstrations I participated in was with a pompous oaf. He was so full of his own majesty and desire to convince someone to buy a really overpriced knife . . . Well, he was a great example of how NOT to do it.

I told jokes, engages folk answered questions, described what I was doing step by step including what hammer or tool I was using, why, what it was called, how it made the metal move, etc. A friend stopped by and took a few pics, the two with my former associate in them showed him with an angry glower and the one person holding one of his blades watching me and grinning.

The kids were the best. They'd usually ask their parents the first couple questions not to surprising they don't know me. "Is that a real fire? Is that HOT? etc." got some of the most hilarious Parent answers. "No little Johnny, there's a fan under the table and that's colored plastic blowing in the wind." No little Suzie, there are batteries in the handle making it glow."

Opening the dome a little answered the real fire question and smiling at the kid and slapping the hot steel on the anvil block was all the "yellow light bulb and batteries" answer took. A big theatrical wink at the kid won an ally every time. The truly IMPORTANT thing to remember is never make the parent look a fool!!! Anybody can make a mistake so telling the kids that's how they do it in the movies and TV gives their folks an out they almost always jump at.

I've got a demo coming up 06/27. It'll be FUN.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Sprinkle a couple of drops of water on the anvil, then hit the drops with hot iron.  The water turns instantly to steam, displacing air.  Bang!

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Yeah, especially when welding. Just be careful that noone is in the rather sizeable debris field when you do that trick, especially little ones around eye level to the anvil.

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Exactly Quarry! It was limiting since you have to constantly worry about the safety of the crowd. Even wearing hearing protection was annoying because of answering questions, but the anvil I was working on sure did ring (even quieted down). The crowd loves it, but they aren't listening to it all day long! I have tons of respect for good demonstrators, explaining what you're doing in a way that is understood is harder than it seems.

the first couple public demonstrations I participated in was with a pompous oaf. He was so full of his own majesty and desire to convince someone to buy a really overpriced knife . . . Well, he was a great example of how NOT to do it.

The kids were the best. They'd usually ask their parents the first couple questions not to surprising they don't know me. "Is that a real fire? Is that HOT? etc." got some of the most hilarious Parent answers. "No little Johnny, there's a fan under the table and that's colored plastic blowing in the wind." No little Suzie, there are batteries in the handle making it glow."

We had a guest demonstrator that was from a certain corporations heritage site. Perfect parallel to your "pompous oaf" partner. Spent 20 minutes cold hammering stock to give a 'hammered' texture on a trivet, and made a WAY overdone leaf. He was great with the crowd though.

I worked in Kansas City, so almost every parent who walked up with their kids said "oh look, this is where they make horse shoes!".... Got tired of that REAL fast. In their defense, it was a fake farmstead, but I got to explain to them how much more important the blacksmith was and they always left in awe. The fake fire conspiracies were the best though, so many elaborate idea's of how to fake it, when the real deal is WAY easier.

J.W.S. - I can't believe how small your area is... do you have any apprentices? how do you all fit?!

 

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I don't do the water pop trick and the steel stand keeps my anvil quiet enough I don't need more than plugs. If I need to call an audience a little drum roll tune tapping on the heal does the trick. I'm sure you guys are tired of me and my Soderfors but even on the steel stand a couple taps on the heal has a REALLY loud and musical note. If I stay on the sweet spot and work hot steel its only identifiable as hammer and anvil.

I keep my small steel table between the anvil and audience and can make a small scatter shield by leaving a bottom tool in the hardy hole for kids who want to peak around the table. The forge and post vise blocks my left side. It's not perfect but keeps spatter off folk and I'm really careful if I weld anything.

The good news recently is the Patterson flux I've started using, it's WAY more effective then my old borax, boric acid home brew so I only need a small sprinkle and welds throw very little spatter. Still . . . I've been thinking about making a plexiglass screen, maybe for this demo eh?

Frosty The Lucky.

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J.W.S. - I can't believe how small your area is... do you have any apprentices? how do you all fit?!

 

My forge area is only 12x10 on the inside, just 120 little square feet just for me, my tools, my 2 forges and my knives on the counter. Just the way I like it.. apprentices need fed and are constantly in the way when I'm trying to get work done.. these people are drinking beer and I've only got about 25 minutes to get them entertained, happy, awestruck and reaching for their wallets.. but, if I can be a little not so humble, I'm really good with a crowd (I used to do the whole acting thing and am a former jouster so I'm used to crowds of 10,000, the small crowds I get are a cake walk).. :) I strategically planned this layout, and trust me there's times where I wish a little molten borax would land on a few people, but it works perfectly for my show and I'm constantly looking for ways to improve audience safety.

-J

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See guys, theater is effective and FUN! :lol:

Frosty The Lucky.

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