The Medieval Box and William of Gellone

I absolutely love this little wooden box.

I have visited museums all over America. They are fantastic. And of all them I have a favorite. It is “The Cloisters” in New York city. It is a subsidiary of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET). And it is the only museum devoted solely to the medieval period of time.

It is so devoted to it that the building itself is from the medieval period. Monasteries, Cloisters and portions of other buildings were purchased in Europe, dismantled and shipped here to be built into a museum. Kind of cool.

The Cloisters Museum in New York City

Well, inside this museum is my favorite piece. It is a simple walnut box called a coffret. And the images painted all over the box tell a story of William of Gellone. How he wanted to re-capture the city of Orange. He dressed as a spy and attempted to deliver a false message. But, fell in love with a muslim princess and was discovered and thrown in jail. There is more.. I have written more about William here

The coffret

Well, the point of my blogpost here is to tell you about my tutorial to make this box out of black foam board. It was on my list for a long time and it came out really good! If you want to make this box the tutorial is right here: Make a Medieval Box (coffret) I use mine to hold office supplies; pencils and stuff like that. Here is a picture of the one I made. And you can make too.

The Medieval root of Pothole

You know what a pothole is. But did you know where the term actually originated from? It’s an interesting little thing.

The term “pothole” comes out of the middle ages. and it really is related to pots.

a medieval pipkin

Cooking pots in the middle ages were made out of clay. Well, they still are being made that way. The drawing I have here shows a pretty standard type of cooking pot called a pipkin. It had a round bottom so heat would be distributed evenly. And it had three legs so you could stand it up right in a fire.

Clay is heavy and a potter wanted to spend his or her time making pots not lugging clay long distances. So….

So if a potter found a rich vein of clay in the road or on the side of the road he would dig it right up! And leave a hole behind, right in the road or along the side of the road.

That clay would be turned into a pot.

And hence the term “pothole”.

It’s a hole in the road that a potter dug up so he could make a pot.

I love this kind of thing!

Now I have a question for you. Do you know where the term “undermine” originated from? Or how about “The Daily Grind”?

Stay tuned to my blog and I will fill you in on these.

Medieval America 35 – Finishing California

In this installment of my travel series of videos I complete my trip through California. We stop at three different spots including Hollywood, Mount Palomar Observatory and Tijuana Mexico.

If you are new to my work this video is one of a series of videos I am making as I travel the entire continental United States. I call it “Seeing Medieval America” . And that title is because a majority of my destinations are castles, blacksmiths, meaderies and museums. Fun stuff. You can see the main page for this travel series on my website here: Seeing Medieval America.

The Castle Book

Got to gather a lot of information when it comes to building a castle.

If you are familiar with my website and youtube channel then you probably already know that I want to build a castle – a real one! I have built plenty of paper castles. ANd those are great. I even have a downloadable packet of the paper version of the castle I want to build ( That’s here ) But when it comes to building a real castle there are two major things:

  1. Money – It’s just like everything else in this world – you need money. And to build an actual castle you need a whole lot of it.
  2. And you need to know how to do it. I would say that for me this is the fun part.

About this second requirement

I traveled all around America visiting castles to try and understand what they were about, how and why they were built. And I learned a whole lot. I have taken away a few overarching ideas from all this. First, I needed to keep a notebook for all the information, thoughts, and ideas.

And the second big thing that I learned is that there is a thousand ways to build a castle. Yup, each castle was built in it’s own way. And isn’t that kind of cool?

This uplifts me and reinforces the thought that I can build a castle – and do it a unique way. My castle will have it’s own story.

The completed diorama

This kit really is a great choice for making a diorama. It has a whole spectrum of materials that you use to make great looking terrain.

I have bought a whole lot of diorama making materials over the years and the cost of this kit was twenty bucks. It’s worth it.

Here is a look at the completed diorama.

The sardine box diorama

The kit is available on amazon here: Woodland Scenics Scene-A-Rama kit with water effects

Cardboard Diorama Base

I have been making dioramas for a very long time and I have bought/made a whole lot of materials. I just bought a diorama kit because I wanted an easy way to put together a diorama without buying all kinds of materials.

I bought this diorama kit made by Woodland Scenics. It cost twenty dollars. And it has everything to make a diorama with water. – everything except the wooden base you can see on the box.

Here is what comes in the kit:

The kit contents.

The sheets of cardboard you see there are part of the kit too. They are used if you want to put a background scene on the diorama.

This kit, is simply a great bargain. I have, over the years, bought a whole lot of diorama making stuff -a whole lot! And I was a bit surprised by how much comes in this kit.

About the base of the diorama

The wooden base shown on the cover is very nice but you really don’t need it. You can use a doubled up sheet of cardboard or foamboard. Or you can use a piece of plywood. Anything flat and reasonably strong will work just fine.

But I really like that base! So, I figured I could make one out of cardboard 🙂 Here it is right here:

I am really happy with it. It looks great. And I figured I could give the template for it to diorama makers. So, I have uploaded it to the website. This way you can make it too.

The tutorial for this project along with the template is here: The Sardine Box Diorama

Be sure to check it out even if you just want to see how I made the diorama and how it turned out.

And if you want to buy the Diorama kit it is on Amazon right here: Woodland Scenics SP4113 Scene-A-Rama Water Diorama Kit

Making your own sword

It was a life-long dream for me. I got it done and you can do it too.

My sword

It isn’t that difficult to do once you understand a few basic concepts.

And one thing I really want to stress is that this is a real sword that can be used. I stress this because it is even easier to make something blacksmiths call “A Sword Shaped Object” . And that’s an important thing to know.

Anybody can get a piece of steel, cut it to the shape of a sword and add a handle to it. That would be a sword shaped object. And it would be absolutely useless in a combat situation.

It all comes down to the characteristics of steel. THere are thousands of iterations of steel and each has it’s own properties.

And for a sword you need a steel that is strong and flexible. It should have some give and flex to it. That means it needs to be moderately soft.

But…. if it is too soft it will not hold a sharpened edge. It will dull quickly or not cut very well. So, it also needs to be hard!

Ahh… so this is what a blacksmith does when making a sword. A blacksmith finds this middle ground where the sword has a certain amount of softness and a certain amount of hardness! Yup, that can be done.

You just have to know this!

Okay, So, making a sword is quite different than making a “Sword Shaped Object”. And when I made my sword I learned all of this. And in my tutorial I show you all of it so you can make a real sword too.

Check out my complete tutorial on how to make a sword right here

My new Cardboard Box Projects Book

I love cardboard – It is amazing!

When I was a kid growing up my dad working in a factory that made cardboard and cardboard boxes. He operated a machine called “The corrugator”. That’s the machine that puts the wrinkles in the center of sheets of cardboard sheets. In the industry they call that fluting. And these corrugations are what make cardboard so strong.

So, pretty much since childhood I have been using cardboard to make all kinds of creative projects. And this is where my latest book comes from.

The book is done and I have gotten some help with editing and am currently doing a minor re-write. It’s a great book and it gives a whole lot of different types of projects that can be made from a cardboard box.

Now I am looking for a publisher or an agent for this book.

If you want to have some fun making things with cardboard check out this section of my website: Cardboard Box Projects

Projects that re-purpose materials

I have done a lot of cardboard work which is a great way to repurpose shipping boxes. And….

And I have a friend who has sent me pics and information about a project he just completed.

He took Milk Jugs and used the plastic to make a pen blank. A pen blank is the body of a pen. You insert the inky part into it. It’s a fun project and something like this is done all the time with woodturning tools.

People like to turn exotic woods into a pen blank. And those projects are great. You end up with a custom made pen.

But this re-use of milk jug plastic is just terrific because it reuses those milk jugs. You literally have a whole lot of raw material that you don’t have to buy.

Here is the pen that he made:

Great looking pen made from Milk Jug plastic

It doesn’t take a lot. 350 degrees F in the oven and the plastic from milk jugs is workable and moldable.

The softened plastic.

He made a wooden jig to press the plastic into.

Plastic in the mold.

Now you can see how this plastic has a whole lot of potential for many different types of projects.

Well, I think it is a really fun, and really interesting process and project and if you want to see the complete tutorial it’s right here on my website: Recycling milk jugs to make pen blanks.