2023 Winternights Viking Festival Updates

We will be posting updates here, on WNF facebook page, and on LSF pages until event.

We now have access to a pickup truck  which we will be using to get clay soil and coarse sand for building both this year’s furnace and forge. We will be getting these materials and holding a cob brick/ puddling party hopefully weekend of Sept 17th

Work is beginning in earnest now on preparing grounds and events for this years festival.. We are modifying the way we build the Viking furnace.. Instead of using a large multifaceted /sides soapstone, which we believe led to cracking of last years, we have high temperature ceramic tubes on order..

Another Viking culture learning event for this year will be navigation on open seas before compasses.

Check out the WNF facebook page for updates on all activities fb.com/winternightsfestival

We just updated the Winternights Viking Festival website to reflect this year’s festival information. Currently we know ‘Sons of Odin’ and ‘A Touch of Glass and then Some’ will be returning. If you are a vendor / presenter / educator that matches our venue please contact us and join us this year.

09/10/2023 – This year at our annual Winternights Viking Festival we will again be smelting iron ore into iron.. Our last two attempts did not go as well as we had hoped but we have made improvements based on what we learned.. We will be making a major change this year that should allow a good smelt.. 

Instead of making the furnace over several days to a week we will be making ‘mud bricks’ first and then using mud mortar to construct it.. This will allow the furnace to be fully dry and partially cured before smelt day.. 

We mention this now because as part of learning and fun activities the foundation is planning on having at least one ‘mud party’.. A large tarp with clay dirt, straw, and water with ‘stomping of the mix’ and also ‘forming mud bricks’ for drying on wood slabs.. 

We will post day(s) this will be occuring and if you might be interested .. please let us know..

9/12/2023- Two big pluses today – First the ceramic tubes for the air inlets to furnace and forge arrived intact.. Second – we were able to borrow a pickup truck to get clay soil with.. It is nasty stuff as in lots of clay but it also has rocks mixed in so it can’t be used immediately as is.. We would like to thank and acknowledge Havens Trucking in Wantage for providing it as no one else within an hours drive had any. Thanks for helping support our festival.

9/15/2023- Rough Sifting of Clay pile has begun : Shovel onto metal mesh. Rake what goes through to side. Pull what didn’t off into pans. Repeat. This is 1/4″ mesh. When have enough will do the same process but using 1/8″ mesh.

9/17/2023- We want to have enough of everything ready to mix so we do it all in one shot on same day.. We know the ratio for making the cob but that doesn’t tell us how much.. Mom was right ‘math’ would come in handy later on … short version – subtract area of inside of forge(ID) from area of outside (OD) of forge and multiply that by the height = total ci / cf of material. Divide that by ratios and we know how much of everything we need (plus add extra for safety lol).

9/22/2023- Month til festival .. rain this weekend .. cob puddling mud stomping next weekend (9/30) to make bricks for forge .. still need coarse sand (working on local source).

9/22/2023- Quikrete responded quickly to our ticket on where to find coarse (concrete) sand since nothing was coming up in searches (only not available). Seems Athenia Mason Supply in Wantage has it. We called and then went over .. they were very courteous and helpful .. also the price definitely didn’t waste donation funds .. THANK YOU Athenia! – We now have all the ingredients we need to build the forge

9/23/2023- We regret to announce that members from NH and PA holds may not be in attendance this year .. in part due to rising fuel and other costs. Other members including president of US holds still intend to be here.. the foundation wants to be open and honest with who and what will be at the festival..

9/25/2023- Rain get it out of your system .. fortunately it currently looks good for our clay/mud stomping furnace brick building party next weekend. This is intended also to be a learning class. Yesterday we reached out to Darrell M. of Wareham Forge in Ontario,Ca.. A specialist in the Viking Age, creating reproductions for Museums and re-enactors.. He responded immediately. We will be sharing and learning from him in building our furnace and smelting ore. He also works with DARC (Dark Age Recreation Company) in Canada .. we may be able to get several pieces to add to our collection and show at this year’s festival.

9/26/2023- LSF will be holding building and learning this Sat and Sun at Nordic House. Project/Process is making Viking age cobb/clay furnace.. Puddling cob and making bricks to build it up with .. 11 am to 4:30 pm both days .. ok to arrive and leave to fit your schedule ..

9/30/2023- Weather is not cooperating so far.. cloudy was supposed to by gone early am.. its noon and has started raining again..

Don’t you need water to make mud?

Yes but we need to be able to control how wet it is and can’t with this.. Also we need to dry out more of the clay and sand first as then its easy to mix it evenly.. This week’s weather has not allowed that.. Not a total waste yet.. Before it began raining again we dug up an area where we will be placing the furnace.. Raked it out and applied some play sand over it. Hopefully tonight and tomorrow will be clear and dry..

10/02/2023-

Sunday was a beautiful day for stomping clay with clear skies, lots of sun, and temps way up. Surprisingly no one came to learn, have fun, help. The day was very productive though as all of the clay/soil we had previously sifted with 1/4” grating was resifted using 1/8” screen. Whatever didn’t fall through has been spread around the area the furnace will be. 

The sifted material has lots of what looks like pebbles and of course fine powder in it.. All the same light grey color. We now have about 3.4 five gallon buckets of it. That equates to 2.5 CF of dried clay. Began testing it yesterday for actual clay content using a mason jar with water. After vigorous stirring and shaking it appears all of the pebbles were just mini clumps of dried hard clay as the water dissolved them. Its been settling for about 15 hours now and looks like its going to be close to 90% if not 99% grey clay … WOW  We still have the massive pile of clay soil that has not been sifted at all to use . 

Today’s task once the sun has risen enough to dry all the condensation off the tarp is to open, spread, and dry out the concrete sand for mixing with the sifted clay. Hope to begin mixing and stomping with water and possibly begin forming of tiles to use as inner liner of furnace today.. Weather looks good for most of week.

Furnace Build Area
Sifted buckets of Clay
Clay Soil after 2 hours of Settling

10/04/2023-

Great news! We have been talking with members of and now can confirm members of Smelt Team 6 will be attending the festival.. They are skilled iron ore smelters as well as craftsman blacksmiths.. They will be doing a Viking age smelt ending with producing an iron ore bloom near end of festival day.. They also will be demonstrating iron forging. In addition to doing they will be available to discuss and answer questions. Last they have several replica pieces of a famous traveling Viking blacksmiths tools.. Hail Smelt Team 6 .. More info and pics to come.

10/05/2023-

Progress on the village.. The longhouse fire pit is back in place.. Just a few cooking stones need to be put in place. The mixing of clay cob is in progress. Two batches done. The forming of the furnace can begin after it rests(plasticizes) overnight.. Discussed with Smelt Team 6 things they will do.. Should have information on them along with photos in coming days.

 

Fire Pit Opened UP
Posts and Crossove
Stomped Clay Cob Mix

10/06/2023 – 

Good way to start weekend.. we received ‘Approved’ temporary permit from township.. Thanks to zoning officer and others for prompt review process.. Moved 2 batches of cob out to furnace area.. Getting ready to mix 3rd batch but this one gets chopped straw as well. Temps are nice and bit of mist in air but so long as rain holds off until end of day we should be able to get a fair amount done.

 

10/08/2023-

Laid down base for furnace today… will start building walls tomorrow.. I added a tad too much water and its softer than should be .. wind and sun today should firm it for tomorrow. You can see the 10″ stove pipe we are using as the inner guide/support for forming cob around.. It is just temporary while forming. When centered have about 4″ for walls though they will only be 2-3″ thick.

Added a piece of stainless steel sheet to bottom of fire pit. This gives a hard smooth surface to remove ashes and roasted ore from.. The pit is a good place to roast ore as the deep walls keep any exploding bits from going anywhere but directly up.. Another thing we learned was we had not roasted ore enough last year so want to do it correctly this year..

Straw Clay Cob Base
Pipe Centered on Base
Stainless Bottom Fire Pit

10/09/2023-

Banner arrived today so it is up to promote event and to highlight location for attendees day of event.. Continued work on furnace .. about 1/3 done. Expect it to be finished by end of day Wed.

Lower portion / sand mold

10/10/2023-

Long day..7 hours to finish the inner wall .. am happy with it.. the outer wall should go faster but probably will not finish until Thur.. fortunately weather is holding.. You can see how nice the inside of the walls are, as in smooth and round, before add more sand.. Finished height is 41″ that may sag a little but it will still be in the ‘best’ zone for smelting ore.

Ready for more sand
Inner Wall done - 41" Height

10/12/2023 –  Good day today.. finished outer wall of furnace around 4:15.. It needs to cure/dry a bit now. In few days will cut opening and drill temp/sight and tuyere holes.. then can build small fire to cure and dry walls out slowly.

Outer Wall Done - Height 41"

10/13/2023-

Long but productive day before tomorrows rain day hiatus. Moved all of the remaining clay soil from where we unloaded it from pickup bed to its new home/purpose of being the Viking forge area. Its a little difficult to see in photos but front edge is almost a 90 degree wall, sides are 60’s ? and rear is close to a 45. Actually we make sure to get it done today so tomorrows rain could soften and settle it down.. Then on Sunday we can smoosh and form it more into shape.. We also trimmed back all the low hanging branches near places where people would be walking or gathering.. by the Rune Wall for instance.

Front of Forge Wall
Side View of Forge Embankment

10/18/2023 – We cleared the area for Sons of Odins ceremonial rock structure they will build and dedicate for this years festival. Cut an opening in furnace (not final) and burned kindling on the outside of furnace to form a ceramic skin. Collected and smashed more iron ore to use in furnace. Last but not least we formed the actual forge on top of the forge base we made.. Yesterday we made 2023 WNF fliers to hand out. Will hopefully be making ones on iron making in Viking age for furnace/forge area.

Forge on Clay Base
Furnace Outside Burn

10/20/2023 – Getting closer .. worried though as two of our main volunteer’s backs have flared up.. for one it may impact what food we have available .. for both their being able to work event.. Our prayers to both for it to leave as quickly as it arrived. Update on our preparations .. yesterday we used the Viking fire pit to roast iron ore.. It does a great job of containing the flames and retaining the heat.. In first photo you can see rocks on top as fire comes roaring to life.. second shows it well into roasting and after logs were added over to provide high heat all around.. we did hear some pops where expanding water in them exploded so they should be safe to put in furnace now. . did more yard preparation as well .. Tomorrow Smelt Team 6 will be here for pre-prep and to help for event.

Fire Starting- Ore Above
Hours Later Fire Above

10/21/2023 – We regret to announce that Rhiannon with Sons of Odin will not be attending. She and her husband are ill, its a long trip, and they do not want to possibly give it to others.. Prayers for recovery.. Thought all should know as she was a presenter and vendor. Safe journey

10/21/2023 – Smelt Team 6 has been for more than a few hours getting the furnace ready for tomorrow’s smelt.. Moisture needed to be driven out slowly and clay allowed to vitrify to withstand tomorrows smelt temperatures.. Fortunately one of the 2 that were having back issues are managing through and were able to prepare Slovak goodies for tomorrow along with Viking ones I’ve been working on.. Forecast still looks favorable .. very autumish

10/23/2023 –

Thank you to all those that were vendors and/or presenters/educators at this year’s 12th Winternights Viking Festival! Thank you to all attendees for coming out on a cold autumn day and of course for your donations. The trustees and our volunteers appreciated your warmth on such a cold day. Will post more of an update soon but have clean up and a little more rest (lol).. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.