Quilled Bag by Michael Galban

Quilled bag by Michael Galban in the “Iroquois” exhibit in Bonn, Germany. This one is of a quilled drawstring bag in the Kunstkammera (Peter the Great’s collection) and the other is a drawstring from the National Museum of Ireland. One is depicted in the catalog.

The Bundeskunsthalle has a facebook page as well. There are some great pictures there as well.

The exhibit is massive. It has thousands of Iroquois objects in it – both contemporary and ethnographic. There is an important catalog of the exhibit available. It is a huge book with all of the objects illustrated inside.

Photos and copy supplied by Michael Galban.

Knife and Sheath by Joe Seabolt

Photos supplied by Joe Seabolt.

The importance of eating well when you are writing

When you are engaged in creative work, it is important to keep a close eye on what you are consuming. You tend to be severely influenced by what is feeding you. You will also tend to imitate the people that you hang around.

With this in mind, I started a project some time ago. On any day that I had time, I would start my musical day by meditating on a Bach Chorale. I sang through each of the parts. I made a quick Roman Numeral analysis. I made note of interesting voice leading and spacing.

Today, I finally finished #371 in the Remienschneider book. Here are a few conclusions after looking in detail at every chorale that Bach harmonized.

Robert Helps used to do a composition excercise with me that he used to do with Roger Sessions. Take a chorale. Harmonize it. Compare it to what Bach did. See how much you suck. Bob would say, "Whatever you do, you'll probably find that Bach was more adventurous than you."  That's still true.

More than anything, I've also found that I tended to move into distant areas before properly establishing my home. The chorales are like concentrated lessons on how musical motion works. They teach the balance between unity and diversity, motion and stasis, and above all, how far you can stretch something without breaking it.

I also think it's a good project for any musician to do. It has given me hours of pleasure in aesthetic contemplation. I also now know which one is the best one, but I can't tell you. You'll have to go through them yourself.

"Make a Rifle that David Crockett Would Take to Texas"

Somewhere sometime I heard a story that when Crockett wanted to explore "The Texas" he needed to sell some personal items (one being his watch) to fund the trip. He also needed a flintlock gun as he was using percussion almost exclusively.  Percussion caps were scarce in 1836, and almost non existent in Texas. So, living in Tennessee would have possible choices of Tennessee or maybe North Carolina arms. 

Jud Brennan's "David Crockett" rifle is for me a great improvisation. He has perfectly combined a romantic fantasy with a historical overtone. The style and flavor of the gun are correct for the period. By adding the signature and partial motto, he has also introduced a literary commentary. This approach is quite rare in Contemporary work. Most makers are connected to form exclusive of story. That is not to say that every new gun need to have been the result of a fantasy or historical notion. What is interesting is that this one conjures up more to the viewer than just it's form. 

*Crockett did own a York Pa. rifle in his younger days, it was sold off to cover debts.  
*The Brennan rifle has a Getz Barrel 45" 45 Caliber. 
*The antique Goucher lock was found on ebay, John Ennis added a fly to it for double set trigger use.
-Robert Weil

Jud is holding his "David Crockett Rifle".

More photos of this rifle can be seen here.

"I can tell you that Jud applied a great deal of thought to the making of that rifle - it was conceived as a whole piece from the start, it did not evolve. The earliest pictures that I took bore the unmistakable appearance of the final product. The rifle for Ed Louer was coming along at about the same time and shares some attributes - the captive patch box lid for example, but the Crocket Rifle was of a piece!"
- Dr. Peter Marshall

Photos by Dr. Peter Marshall. Copy by Robert Weil

James M. Graham, Gunsmith

Graham, James M.: He was working as a gunsmith in Franklin County, Kentucky, from before 1829 until after 1850. Graham was born in Kentucky in 1799 and was the son of gunsmith William Graham (1768-1845) of Franklin County. He learned the trade in his father’s shop and married in Franklin County on June 15, 1829. Little is known about James Graham, but he was a well-respected gunsmith in his day. A gunsmith by the same name, and thought to be him, was commissioned to make a fine rifle for Tennessee Congressman David “Davy” Crocket who became famous for his death at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, on March 6, 1836. The rifle is historically important due to the Crockett association,, and it survives today in the small museum at the Alamo along with a story of its checkered life.

The rifle was commissioned in 1822 by a group of Nashville, Tennessee, citizens as a presentation piece for Congressman David Crockett in recognition of his political service to the state. The gun was presented to Crockett on May 5, 1822. It was described as full-stock in black walnut, brass mounted with a patchbox and profusely inlaid with silver. The gun was signed “J. M. Graham” on the barrel and was probably made by James M. Graham of Kentucky since he is the only known Graham gunsmith of the day with the same first two initials. The gun was christened “Old Betsy” by Crockett according to one story, although he had other guns over the years with similar names.

Crockett family tradition indicated this gun was in fact the Alamo rifle,, but family “recollections” are not always reliable. The provenance accompanying the rifle into the twentieth century provides the following details about its history. The gun was carried by Crockett on his trip to San Antonio, Texas, in 1836. (See entry for Kentucky gunsmith John Berry, who repaired Crockett’s “Old Betsy” rifle while Crockett was en route to San Antonio). Upon arriving, Crockett joined the small band of American troops who became martyrs by choosing the cause of liberty over their own lives when they defended the Alamo against a much larger Mexican force. The fall of the Alamo and the death of the Americans led to the famous battle cry, “Remember the Alamo”.

Despite some records indicating most American weapons were destroyed after the battle, the Crockett rifle reportedly was recovered from the battlefield and, due to its inscription, identified and eventually returned to Crockett’s immediate family. Years later Crockett’s son, John W. Crockett, sold a number of his father’s remaining personal items, including the rifle, to a friend of the family named Wade Hall. Following Hall’s death the Crockett gun went to his son, who sold it to Texan W. H. Barnet in January of 1862. later that year the gun was sold by Barnett’s wife to a Mr. Whitton, presumably while Barnett was serving in the Civil War. Barnett was captured at Van Buren, Arkansas, and served time as a prisoner. After the war Barnett returned home and purchased the Crockett rifle back from Whitton. The gun then remained in Barrett’s family for over twenty years.

The gun suffered from poor care during those years, and in 1886 Barrett described the gun’s condition and his renovation efforts by stating, “She was so badly rust eten (sic) at each end of the barrel that I cut her off at each end and put a patten (sic) steel breech and a steel rib and made her a half stock percushion (sic) lock gun using all the mountin (sic) and American black walnut stock”. Based on Barnett’s description, the Crockett gun kept its original mountings and most of the walnut stock, thereby retaining a good portion of its original appearance including its patchbox and extensive silver inlay work. The historical rifle eventually made its way back to the Alamo and is on display along with its history at the Alamo’s Long Barracks Museum in San Antonio. James M. Graham, while not one of the better known Kentucky gunsmiths, might be responsible for one of the more significant surviving Kentucky rifles in American history.

Marriage Records of Franklin County, Kentucky, p. 70; Franklin County, Kentucky Will Book 2, 1824-1854, p. 163: Federal Census of 1840 and 1850, Kentucky Division; M. Newland, “Old Betsy Crockett,” The Trafalger Times, Issue #7, July 2000 (official journal of the Staffordshire Branch of the MLAGB).

Quillwork Bag by Cathy Sibley

Photo supplied by P of KY.

The quest for originality

A few weeks ago, I dropped off a friend who was giving a composition master class with some young composers. When I came back from my rehearsal to retrieve him, they were winding down, but I was asked to respond to a young composer who queried, "Do you think it is important for a young composer to try to do something original?"

It's an excellent question, but I think it's the wrong one. When I started my masters degree program, I experienced writers block for the first and only time in my life.  My very wise composition teacher at the time was Marty Sweidel. He said, "Kurt, this can often happen when you start your Masters degree. You are all blocked up because you are trying to write the great American Symphony. Just write stuff, and stop trying to be brilliant."

A much better question for people involved in creative activity is, "Is it honest?" That's a tough question to answer sometimes. It's especially hard to explain to someone outside your discipline. I find it incredibly difficult to explain to anyone why a G# in this spot feels like some sort of compromise. I imagine it is the same for other disciplines. That little spot of grey in the painting makes it less comprehensible but more "right" somehow. A little bit of Teutonic sentence structure, while obfuscating the main point - and at the same time clarifying it, works.

For me, if I am focussed on being honest, I cease to worry about whether what I am doing is derivative. It necessarily will be derivative in some spots because I am participating in a tradition. Originality grows out of honesty because we are unique. Let me say that again. People create unique things because people are unique things. It's only when we are pretending that we are not that we get into trouble. When you set out to be original, you already have your eye on someone else. That is the death knell of creativity.

Dog Bone Bowie Knife by Leonardo and Eduardo Fontenla

This classic bowie style have a blade forged in Damascus steel rain drop pattern with 250 layers of a blend of 1095 and 15N20, a blend of steels with different carbon contents, providing a desired mix of hardness and toughness. The chassis is a twisting pattern welded of 150 layers of the same material. The defense is forge-welded with 150 random layers of steel and the collar the number of sheets welding is one thousand. The grip are built in bone with silver pin and washers built in german silver (alpacca) with a nice filework. The scabbard is made of vegetable tanned leather with german silver fittings.

This knife and scabbard were made by brothers Leonardo and Eduardo Fontenla of Forja Fontenla, viewers from Argentina.

Copy supplied by Eduardo Fontenla with photos by Valeria Parillo.

Burl Pipe Box by Steven Lalioff

Several years ago I acquired this historic pipe from a fellow that claimed to have found it while doing foundation repair to his home in Otsego County in New York State. It is a very fine example of an original 17th century, Iroquois (Oneida?) clay pipe. The pipe, (16.5 cm long), is hand formed,  highly burnished, and pit fired. I have seen very few examples of these classic pipes outside of a museum case. The rarity and fragile nature of the pipe inspired me to create the protective case.

  It was a long Winter here in the Midwest and making a neat little burl pipe box was the perfect project to wait out the remaining chill of the season. I can't create such a thing in a time clock sort of way but instead, I keep it along side my other projects and work an hour or two on it at a time. The goal is to make the box just large enough for the pipe to easily be removed, but not so large as to allow the pipe to rattle if shaken. The lid required the most effort, it needed to slide easily but still retain enough friction in the grove to hold itself closed. stable ash burl is the perfect material for such a project. It took perhaps 500 or more times to test the lid, remove it, scrape a little here and there and test the fit again. When you make such a thing, forget about time, it's irrelevant. I hope it still fits well when Summer humidity sets in!

Photos supplied by Steven Lalioff.

What's In Your Bag, Manfred Schmitz?

Allen Martin Lehigh Rifle
Art DeCamp Screw-tip Powder Horn with Spots
Hunting Pouch by Manfred Schmitz

bulletbag, pennyknife, tow worm, ball puller, cows knee by Manfred

Copy and photos supplied by Contemporary Makers' European Correspondent, Manfred Schmitz.

Ken Gahagan Knife

Photo supplied by Ken Gahagan.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Scenario

Kaushik Rao is a political theory student at Johns Hopkins University working on capitalism and ecology.

Last year, oil companies such as TransCanada, Valero, and others pushed for the completion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry heavy crude oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada, through several Midwestern U.S. states, and down into the oil refineries of the Gulf of Mexico. Since the pipeline crosses the U.S.-Canadian border, it is an international project and therefore needs to be approved by the State Department and the White House Administration. A decision on the approval of the permit to build the pipeline is expected by July. The United States government needs to prevent construction of the Keystone pipeline because it would have extremely negative consequences for America on economic and environmental grounds.

One of the main sources of pressure to approve the pipeline is the oil lobby’s marketing campaign that aims to convince Americans that increasing domestic oil production will decrease gas prices here in the U.S. But the fact of the matter is that increasing domestic oil production does not decrease oil prices. Those in the oil lobby that argue for increased oil production in the U.S. conveniently neglect to mention that oil is a globally traded commodity that is highly manipulated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil markets do not act in the same way that markets for other commodities do, such as corn and steel. The OPEC cartel controls the supply of oil in the world at any one time by increasing or decreasing its production.

The U.S. is left with two scenarios: 1) America starts to buy less oil from foreign countries, which results in OPEC cutting production to decrease the supply of oil which increases prices. 2) America increases its own domestic production of oil to the point where it no longer needs to import oil. This would also be met with subsequent cuts in production by OPEC which would keep world oil prices high. In both scenarios, Americans will be left paying the higher OPEC price because American oil companies would rather export at the higher OPEC price than to sell the oil domestically at the lower U.S. price.

This brings us back to exactly why the Keystone XL pipeline will not help the U.S. economy. If the pipeline is built, American refineries will be pumping out more refined oil than ever before. But this will not increase the supply of oil because of the anticipated cuts in production by OPEC, and thus will not decrease the price of gas in the U.S. If anything, the pipeline would increase the price of gas in the United States because the Keystone pipeline is first and foremost an export pipeline. It would divert oil from the Midwestern states and send it to the Gulf of Mexico where it will then be sent overseas. Since Midwestern refineries would have less oil to work with, gas prices will be expected to increase in the region if the pipeline is built.

The oil lobby also argues that the Keystone pipeline will bring 20,000 permanent jobs and 118,000 “spinoff” jobs to the United States. But this study was entirely funded by an amalgamation of oil companies and thus cannot be fully without bias. In an audit of the same study by the State Department, it was found that the Keystone pipeline would only create 5,000 temporary jobs for two years and at most 20 permanent jobs. Furthermore, the Keystone pipeline would destroy countless more jobs because of spills and leaks from the pipeline. The portion of the pipeline that has already been built has experienced 14 leaks to date. Each of these leaks destroys farmlands and businesses which are then required to shut down which in turn eliminates jobs. 

Exxon pipeline spill in Arkansas, 2013

The Keystone pipeline will have disastrous effects on the United States and will increase the world wide greenhouse gas effect. The type of oil that would travel through the Keystone pipeline is called bitumen, which is a tar-like type of oil. Since bitumen is extremely viscous and flows slowly, it needs to be diluted with natural gas and other hydrocarbons. This diluted bitumen is highly corrosive to pipelines because of its high sulfur concentration, and its high viscosity which increases the friction and temperature inside pipelines. Thus, Keystone XL will be highly susceptible to oil pipeline ruptures which will cause environmental disasters. Another issue with diluted bitumen is that federal regulations are currently not stringent enough to monitor what types of chemicals are added to the oil during the transportation process. In a traditional oil spill, some of the oil can be skimmed off the top of water. But in a diluted bitumen oil spill, the chemicals make the oil heavier which causes the bitumen to sink to the bottom of rivers as we saw in the Mayflower Exxon Mobil oil spill in Arkansas. 

Exxon pipeline spill in Arkansas, 2013

Current greenhouse gas effects have already been the cause of extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy which inflicted nearly $80 billion in damages and cut 86,000 jobs from the United States. Burning the recoverable tar sands in Alberta will increase the Earth’s temperature by a minimum of 2 degrees Celsius. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the Keystone pipeline will contribute to climate change and create more severe weather events just like Superstorm Sandy which will ruin our nation’s infrastructure and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in the future. And this pipeline will lock the United States into an expensive and environmentally harmful form of energy for decades to come.

America needs to move away from an economy that is so dependent on oil, which is a job-killing course. Alternative energy is the future and the U.S. government needs to invest more in its development of different types of energy sources such as wind and solar power. They will create far more permanent jobs and support the future of an economy built around sustainable energy. The money that we as a country put in to develop alternative energy sources will be paid back many times over in the forms of new jobs that can’t be outsourced and through less frequent extreme weather events which will reduce the damage to our infrastructure. Oil is the past. Blocking the Keystone pipeline is the first step towards preventing damage to our country’s future.

Flintlock Rifle in the Style of F. Klette by Lowell Haarer

.50 caliber
larger Siler lock
Rice barrel - .38 inch, 'C' profile
most of the brass parts are handmade
Aged brass and wood finish

Copy and photos supplied by Lowell Haarer.