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Monday, August 13, 2012

Thorgeir's Favorite Things

Turning a bowl from start to finish on a lathe that I had built - it was great being able to use Richard's lathe during the last trip, but nothing can compare to seeing the whole process through.  This applies equally to designing and building a new lathe, using my experiences with Richard's to guide my choices, as it does to starting with a tree trunk on Day 2 or 3 and turning it into a finished bowl by Day 6.  This bowl is also the largest piece that I have done on a pole lathe, giving me further satisfaction.

Discussing peat maturation with a gentleman from Ireland who remembers cutting it as a boy - although the fellow's ideas of how peat turns to coal were a little off, it was fantastic to talk to someone for whom peat cutting and use had been a way of life and who could look at the walls inside the furnace hut and describe exactly the depth from which the pieces had come and the strengths and weaknesses of the kind of peat that was used.

Wandering over to Norstead, the sister site to Parks Canada's, on the other side of L'Anse aux Meadows village, to see if I could help them to get their lathe working better - I arrived carrying a bundle of turning tools slung on a shoulder strap and felt like a true itinerant "journeyman" turner.  The day was spent doing what could best be described as "Norse junkyard wars in the boatshed", as the resident interpreter (Sveinn) and I sought out what we could from the various wood piles, pieces of antler hanging around, and odds and ends in my tool chest to build a new foot pedal, to support and stabilize one of the centres, and to move the lathe so that there was enough light and space for the public (and the turner) to see what was happening during use.  It was also a fantastic experience being up close to Snorri, the reproduction knarr that is now housed at Norstead, hearing the tales of its journey(s) to Vinland, and seeing how everything fits together.  Having failed to accompany my wife and daughter to the Ship's Museum in Roskilde a few years ago, this was my first opportunity to get a hands-on look at a full-sized Norse vessel.  The experience was enhanced the following day, when we returned as visitors and talked to Lambi, the other interpreter in that area.  I had many questions that needed further information that he willingly provided.

Moving my lathe to the beach side of the site, from where I could see and hear the sea - working in the area between the smithy and storage/slave's hut was great for meeting and interacting with people and for being out of the wind on the first couple of days, but it was out of the wind and disconnected from the ocean.  One of my best experiences during our previous visit was working by the ocean and coming to work each day to the view across Epaves Bay.  When the winds dropped on Day 3, I therefore moved over to the seaward side of the site to work on the lathe, initially working with my back to the sea so that I would be facing visitors, but eventually turning to face the water after I worked out that I could not work adequately with the pole coming over my shoulder.

Finally, daily swims (at 2 pm).  I must thank Audr for the loan of Norse "shorts" for the 2nd and 3rd times in water.  I got a few interesting comments after the first swim, when I went without them.  At all times, the North Atlantic was cold, but bearable and a great relief after being outside in the sun for much of the day.  The shallowness of the bay did allow the sun to warm the water a little, but trying to keep the whole of one's body within 2" of the surface was an interesting maneuver.

There were too many good experiences off site or on the way to or from LAM to go into details. The scenery of the drive up the west coast of Newfoundland, the copious quantities of excellent mussels consumed at Northern Delight, and seeing porpoises swimming past the ferry on the way home were great, but perhaps the best thing was the company of good friends on another foray to the start/end of the new world.   Thanks to everyone for making it fun.


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