Jan 20 2018

Handgonne breech loader, cast bronze Part I

Bastian Asmus

In this series of articles I will find out how to make a particular handgonne, and in extension, very early firearms in general; or rather how they could have been manufactured with the contemporary technology. I am not much for guns’n shooting, but I have always been intrigued by the casting process of guns and cannon.
Why? Because, as a fully trained bronze founder I know that there are a lot of challenges involved and even a lot of room for failure. As a professional maker of things, failures are among the least favourite topics to talk about. However, also being a scientist helps to overcome this predicament: Without failure there can be no progress. Or in other words we should not content ourselves with our hypotheses, but should constantly try to falsify them.

 

Early breech loaded handgonne.

This image of a supposedly 15th century handgonne shows a very early breech loading system, that did not take hold for centuries to come. Technical limitations in the manufacturing process, may well be responsible for this. It could simply not be manufactured as easily as the much more common muzzle loaders. Source: Viking Swords Forum thread 7364.

Continue reading


Oct 6 2017

Film: How to make a 15th century beer tap

Bastian Asmus


Reconstruction: Functional tap from the early 15th century. Reconstruction: Early 15th century tap. The location is Zurich, Switzerland.

Some time ago I made a tap for a re-enactment brewer. I was already able to gain experience with the production of tap taps when I made my Aquamaniles. Therefore I decided to document the manufacturing process. Medieval taps often have a stylized cocks as a handle on the plug.  From the end of the Middle Ages taps or spigozs were made by the Zapfenmacher. One of the centres was Nuremberg. In the iamges of the Mendelsche and Landauersche Hausbücher of the Zwölfbrüderstiftungen it is interesting to note that the process step for the production of the taps shows only the reworking, but never the moulding. The illustration of the redsmith by Jost Amann in Hans Sachs book of trades gives at least a hint of the moulding material..

In the background, lumps of clay may have served as a raw material for the moulding material.

A little later again, in the 17th century, Christoph Weigel depicts the Zapfenmacher in its own right . Here a strong specialisation had taken place within a century.

The films are not about a strict archaeological experiment. Rather, it is a matter of examining some hypotheses on the manufacturing process. First and foremost, these were:

  1. Is it possible to make a wax model where plug and tap fit snugly?
  2. Can you cast this in such a way that there is little rework?
  3. How can the grinding of the plug into the tap be mastered manually?

Have fun watching. As always, I am looking forward to your criticism, questions or suggestions.

The first part deals with the history of the tap and the production of the wax model.

The second part is about moulding the wax model, pouring the tap and the first cleaning after casting.

The third part is about finishing the cast tap. This means that it must be roughed, filed, drilled and ground. The grinding of the plug into the tap’s body was particularly exciting. In fact, absolutely leak-proof tap can be produced with the simplest of means.

 

References


Jun 8 2015

Aristotle and Phyllis Aquamanile

Bastian Asmus
Aristoteles und Phyllis, Aristotle and Phyllis, Lai d'aristote

Aristotle and Phyllis aquamanile, 2015 by Bastian Asmus made after a 15th century original from the low countries.

Aristoteles und Phyllis Maltererteppich

Aristotle and Phyllis in the  Malterer tapestry. Now in the Augustinermuseum Freiburg. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Middle High German lay of Aristotle and Phyllis probably originated in the 13th century in the upper Rhine region between Basel and Strasbourg. The story was a popular motif and is found not only in sculptural works, but also in tapestries and drawings. King Philip of Macedonia’s  son Alexander, later called the Great, is educated by Aristotle. The young Alexander, madly in love with the beautiful Phyllis, is scolded by his teacher for his mental absence and warned of the dangers of love and/or women. Aristotle effects the separation of the lovers through intervention with the King. Musing on revenge beautiful Phyllis seduced Aristotle.  As price for her love she demanded that she could ride around in the gardens on his back. Whilst doing so Aristotle is discovered by the Queen and Aristotle falls prey to shame and disgrace, because he could not meet his own requirements. He was exiled and pondered over the wickedness of the world.

aristoteles und Phyllism Hausbuchmeister

Aristotle and Phyllis. Hausbuchmeister 15th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Aristotle and Phyllis aquamanile was modelled in wax and cast in  the lost wax technique. It can now be seen in the newly founded European Hanseatic league Museum.