The bare bones...

Last month Bill Robertson came to the Netherlands to teach his ' Bone & Iron Chest'  class, which I was lucky enough to be a...


Last month Bill Robertson came to the Netherlands to teach his ' Bone & Iron Chest'  class, which I was lucky enough to be able to attend.   
The class took place at the home of Trees Beertema.  Trees has a beautiful workshop/classroom available and is a wonderful hostess,  which makes taking classes at her place always feel like taking a short vacation, even though you have to work really hard!



This is my finished chest.  I am quite pleased with it even if it has a few faults.  Making the working lock was the biggest challenge, but I managed and it works!  
Below are some of the few photos I took during the class.  You may want to look at Elga's and Debora's blogs, as they also took the class and have posted about it.



We started out with cow bones which we cut up (and Bill had prepared some for us to save time) and then made those into a lovely dovetailed box.  My first ever dovetails!  Such fun! (no really, I mean it!)



We cut the hinges and straps out of thin steel, made them look pretty ( well that's debatable, considering crooked lines I managed to carve into the steel... ) and riveted them onto the bone chest.  
So, after four days (and a few nights lasting well into the early hours!) we still were not finished, but we got some clear instructions on how to finish the chest and the lock.



Even though Bill tries to teach his classes using fairly basic and 'normal'  tools, in order for me to finish the chest at home it meant I had to go online and buy lots of  'stuff',  as I just do not own a lot of the tools we used.  
 I spent a full day trying to source materials and tools and managed to find nearly everything I needed from two shops:  Cookson Gold in England and De Zilverwinkel in the Netherlands.   Both stores got my order delivered to me within 24 hours.  Fantastic!



It was a bit like St.Nicholas or Christmas unwrapping all of my new toys.  And I've had so much fun playing with them!  The best toy is my torch which I needed to anneal the steel and to do some silver soldering (see also Elga's post).



After cutting and fitting the handle it was time to start on the most challenging part of the chest:  the working lock.   It took a lot of fitting, measuring, dry fitting and trying again to make it all happen.  The part with the hinge at the very bottom of the picture above gave me the most trouble.  

In trying to bend it to go around the lock, it stuck out a bit too far.  I was afraid it would break if I bent it back and as it is a part with a hinge on it (I did not have a hinge plate left to cut another one!!) I tried to hammer it down a little.  All that did was make the metal dangerously thin.  

As I had just bought a torch and silver solder, I decided to try and do a little repair job even though the hinge wasn't broken yet.  Of course I did play around with the silver solder and some scrap metal first and that all went well so I went ahead and soldered my 'nearly break'.  It worked!

So even though it sticks out a bit, I managed to finish the lock hinge without breaking it.



All in all, I am very pleased with it.  I have started to age the chest a bit (rounded the edges and corners and used a dark wax on it) but I think it could do with some more aging.  I may try burying it in the garden for a while, who knows how great it will look then!



This is the bottom of the chest, so pretty with all the straps going over the edges.   I can see some of the wax still needs to be wiped off. 

As I am a slow worker by nature, one of my objectives in class is just to try and keep up with the rest of the students. It doesn't matter that I'll made a few mistakes or that not everything is as neat as it could have been.  It is about going through the process, understanding what is going on and learning how I can do something on my own at home.

 I have learned so much from this class.  So many techniques I can use on future projects.   And I came away with another new challenge:  learning how to silver solder.  Now that is something which takes a lot of practice but that opens up so many new possibilities!


 
I will leave you today with this photo.  I wanted to show you the lovely natural pattern on the bone which I chose to use for the lid.  As it is best seen when you hold it up to the light, I went outside to photograph it with the sun behind it.  I couldn't really see what I was photographing as the light was too strong, so I just held up the chest, closed my eyes and snapped a picture....

Do you see it?  The clouds, the bone pattern.... It looks like the clouds are floating across the lid.  Totally accidental, but sooo pretty!

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60 comments

  1. ooh hij is gaaf geworden. Hier heb ik ook bij staan kwijlen toen ik de workshoplijst zag van Trees. Helaas zit het er even niet in om mee te doen aan zo'n workshop maar het gaat er een keer van komen.

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    1. Dank je Inge. Het was een geweldige workshop. Wel heftig hoor want we hebben tot diep in de nacht zitten werken. Op zaterdag was ik pas om half drie thuis en de volgende ochtend om negen uur weer present. Maar erg gezellig zoals altijd en vooral erg veel geleerd.
      Mocht je een keer in de gelegenheid zijn mee te doen, ik kan het je van harte aanraden!

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  2. Impressionnant et fabuleux travail, le coffre est magnifique !!!
    rosethé

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  3. Great write up Josje, I am still struggling with the silver solder, it feels like I had beginner's luck a week ago. Mmmh, are you sure you want to bury the chest in the garden, I hope you have no dogs nearby, a pot inside the house might be a better idea!

    And I agree, this was a great class to take with so many new things to learn and tools to add to the collection :-)

    I love that last photo, just beautiful!!!

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    1. Thank you Elga. Well I haven't soldered anything difficult yet, like hinges. I will start trying those soon though. I hope I can get some syringes via my dentist who is a cousin of ours. I tried dirty soldering and it worked fine! I don't know whether it will be a strong bond though, somehow it just seems wrong to me. Be that as it may, the solder did flow and the pieces did attach.

      It is a bit scary to bury it in the garden isn't it? No, no dogs around here but plenty of cats. I doubt that they'll dig for bones ;-)

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  4. Wat een kusntwerkje!!! En die laatste foto is prachtig!

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    1. Dank je Margriet. Ja mooi he die foto? Als je het expres zo zou willen doen krijg je het niet voor elkaar ;-)

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  5. Well done honey, it looks wonderful. I am so impressed by your skill, I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to try the project, never mind the tools!
    I really like the handle on the top, it is so delicate. And how pretty it looks in the sun! I love the translucency of the bone.
    Have a great week
    Simon

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    1. Thanks Simon! Oh we had so much fun trying all of these new tools! If you ever have the opportunity to take part in one of these classes, please do! Bill is a very relaxed but very good teacher. He will be teaching a class at the Kensington show next year!

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  6. Dear Josje,

    What a lovely little thing. I already saw that at Elga. It's a lot of work I think. The details are amazing. The last picture is wonderful. Maybe you should take more pictures with your eyes closed. ;-)
    Hugs Dorien

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    1. Haha, yes maybe. My blog post will then probably look very different ;-)
      Thanks Dorien!

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  7. Hello Josje,
    You did a fantastic job. the chest is exquisite. Any little fault is not visible at all! It looks perfect. your ironwork is great and I loved seeing you, Debora and Elga's posts about it...Excellent work, as always.
    Big hug,
    Giac

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    1. Hi Giac, thanks for the compliment! Ah you know it is like with many things you make in a class, as long as you don't put the teacher's work next to it, your's looks great ;-)

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  8. Your chest looks perfect to me. It's a gorgeous piece. It must have been a wonderful class for so many reasons. I can only guess about all the new things you learned to make it. I am curious about what sort of tools you bought to finish it. Other than the torch, I suppose you needed all the other things related to silver soldering.

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    1. Thanks Catherine, yes it was a wonderful class. Most of the tools I needed for finishing this piece are related to the silver soldering. So I needed the torch,fireproof soldering sheet, several grades of silver solder, flux, pickle..you know all this stuff ;-) But also I bought some things to finish silver like tripoli, rouge, several buffing wheels, also a stake, some graining tools, saw blades, sand paper...again all known to you. I hope to start making a couple of small things in silver myself. Nothing too complicated obviously, I'll have to do it with only a few tools. But solder silvering (on silver) will be something I'd like to have a go at. I am prepared for a lot of wasted material, haha! Good thing they'll buy back the scraps at the goldsmiths suppliers. All in all, many more opportunities to have fun!

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    2. When you get firescale on your sterling silver, remember you can always bring the fine silver back to the surface. Unless you are planning to use a bright dip for that. I still have some nitric acid to make bright dip but hazardous shipping charges are so extreme, I am hoping I never have to order any again.

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    3. Thank you Catherine. I'm always a bit scared of using serious chemicals so I hope I can prevent using too many. I've been doing some reading on firescale and it seems to me the best thing is to try and prevent it. But what do I know? I am an absolute beginner. It will be a lot of trial and error I expect and maybe an email or two to some people ;-)

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  9. Astounding and spectacular work, Josje! The finest craftsmanship I've ever seen or could imagine.

    The clouds appearing as though they are seen through the lid does look remarkable!

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    1. Ah thanks Shelley! It was so much fun learning to work with these new materials and tools! I'm definitely going to be doing more of this.

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  10. Je hebt weer een waar kunstwerkje gemaakt Josje. Wat een prachtige kist.

    Groeten Xandra

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  11. Hello Josje! What exquisite workmanship! Your metal work is superb! The silhouette of the fleur de lis is so clear and precise and your lock is fantastic down to the head of the key!; And that it works too is beyond belief! I am curious as to where you shall have it displayed and how? The burying it in the earth to age it sounds so appropriate for a bone box. Just don't forget where! :)

    elizabeth

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, well we did have a good teacher. I don't think I would have been able to do this all by myself. The key is very pretty but it was given to us by Bill who, I believe, had it cast years ago. I think I will be making a bigger key though, as I feel this one is slightly too small for the size of the chest. We'll see if I can cut it that small!
      I don't know where I'll put it, maybe in a study...I thought it would be nice to put a big book in it or something like that. I haven't buried it yet. I was thinking about it and wondered how long you'd have to keep it buried to show any signs of aging. Probably much longer than I am willing to miss it ;-) I'll have to think of something else...

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  12. Hi Josje,

    Just beautiful!

    What a great excuse to by some new toys, a whole new world opens up now you have new tools. The contrast of the bone and iron is stunning,many hours of work are clearly visible in the detail, so all well worth the perseverance. I just love the last photo, if only you could have it permanently displayed like that.

    ML Fi xx

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    1. Hi Fi, haha yes, any excuse to buy new toys is a good excuse!
      I also love the contrast between the bone and the iron, nearly black and white, a classic combination.
      Now if I could only control the weather so that I could display my miniatures to perfection...(then I'd probably be a very wealthy woman!)

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  13. Hi Josje! Beautiful work! You say there's a few faults with it but I really can't find any! Your metal work looks perfect, and I think your lock is excellent, I would never have known you had trouble with it! Thanks for sharing your wonderful work! Kind regards, Brian.

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    1. Hi Brian, yes there are a few faults, but it doesn't matter, I am pleased with it. And after all it is all about learning the techniques, getting a pretty end result is secondary. Thank you for the compliment though, it is much appreciated!

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  14. Congratulations....you've finished your chest! And it looks wonderfull, hopfully I can finish mine soon. The picture with the clouds is remarkable: a gift by nature ;)
    Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thank you Jeffry! I don't know how much work you still have to do, just the lock probably? It's a good thing the lock is the same size and not smaller (as your chest is much smaller) because it is a very fiddly job getting it all to fit.

      Yes, cool picture, isn't it?

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  15. Wonderful and beautiful work!
    Hugs
    Kikka

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  16. OMG I have never seen anything so wonderful, I cant believe the lock works too.

    Hugs
    Marisa :)

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    1. Thanks Marisa! Yes the working lock is something everyone in the class was eager to make. Very fiddly to make as it is all so small, but so cool!

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  17. well, I think what you have created looks wonderful, I love all those straps and hinges, and a lock that works? In miniature?! Amazing!! Congratulations on completing a fantastic project!!

    hugs
    Andy xx

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    1. Thank you Andy. It was fun and interesting to make the lock as it gave me some understanding of how to make working parts like these. Now all I need is a metal lathe and I'll have working locks on all of my doors and cabinets ;-)

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  18. Well done Josje!! Being there myself, going through the odd moments of anxiety whether the metal will do as you please, and working your way around the intricate lock mechanism.... You can be proud of your self! And i totally agree, not only are you left with a wonderful unique miniature chest (it's very pretty!!) but all the new techniques you've brought back home with you as well. No doubt you'll find good use for your new found metal skills. I can see many new projects ahead :)

    PS yesterday i finally went to the Rijks Museum (was there at 9 am :) and saw 2 original little ivory chests from the middle ages that are pretty similar to this little chest. Many other intriguing pieces too; i'll post on that later. But I had to smile when i saw these 2 though. I have to say, not half as pretty as ours :)

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    1. Thank you Debora. Well there was one bend which I could no longer correct. I saved it, but couldn't correct it, so it sticks out a bit too far now. Oh well, it all adds to its uniqueness. In my optimism I thought I could make another one once I have mastered the art of silver soldering, but as I will then have to take the entire hinge off the chest, I don't think that will ever happen.

      Oh you went to the Rijksmuseum, good! You were smart to be there at 9, it can get so very busy later on. I did not see the two ivory chests at the Rijks. I haven't seen all of the museum yet so there is plenty more to look forward to. I did see two ivory chests at the V&A in London when I was there in May. These also were not half as pretty as ours ;-))

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  19. Wow Josje, you are a great advert for a Bill Robertson class! You've done this beautifully. And it looks like an antique too! I know how you feel about your torch, I feel the same way about a printer I just bought, ridiculous isn't it, under normal circumstances, these things are not thrilling, but add the possibility of making miniatures with them.............! Best buy ever! Now I want a torch too! :D

    P.s. Not sure if you missed it, I have a giveaway running at the moment, the camisole and bloomers, if you are interested of course :D. Thanks for your comment on the tutorial too :)

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    1. Hi Sarah, yes the possibilities of trying out new techniques are my reason for buying tools. Unfortunately it can get very expensive. The torch was not too expensive and also small so it is easy to put it away when not in use. The thing with the torch is that you need quite a few other things before you can start trying soldering. These would make perfect birthday/Christmas gifts!

      Have fun with your printer! I'll join your giveaway later today.

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  20. Oooooh, beautiful Josje !!!! Truly well done!
    cheers,
    Elly

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  21. Hi Josje! Dat was een prachtige workshop, ik wou dat ik dat ook eens kon gaan doen: nieuwe dingen leren en doen :D!! Jouw kistje is ontzettend mooi geworden, zeg, ondanks dat je zelf er niet helemaal tevreden over bent (begrijp ik?). Ik ben juist van mening dat niét altijd alles perfect hoeft te zijn, want dan heeft het iets "eigens", iets helemaal van jou en je zult het daardoor altijd kunnen herkennen toch? Ik vind het in ieder geval wél prachtig en je kunt er trots op zijn. Wat betreft je laatste foto: wát een mazzel, het ziet er op die manier nog origineler en mooier uit dan het al is!!
    Fijne dag. Groetjes, Ilona

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    1. Ja goed hè die laatste foto.
      Er zitten een paar foutjes in het kistje die helemaal niet erg zijn, maar waar ik wel van geleerd heb en die ik een eventuele volgende keer kan voorkomen. Het was een enorm leerzame workshop en met een mooi resultaat. Ik ga zeker deze technieken nog eens gebruiken!

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  22. Must have been an enjoyable experience. The chest is great. I love like the light goes through it. Cow's bone... what an interesting material.

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    1. Oh yes it was very enjoyable! The bone is an interesting material for miniatures, very strong and relatively easy to work with. I like that we can use it for some projects instead of ivory, as obviously old ivory is very hard to come by!

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  23. El baúl es genial y a ti te ha quedado igual de bien.
    Enhorabuena.
    Besujis!!

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  24. Dear Josje, What a great talent you are! You have made a fine little chest and learned some helpful skills making the little hinges and the amazing working lock with a key. The final photo with the clonus behind is a charming one.
    All the best .
    janine

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    1. Thank you Janine. Well I must say these are the kind of classes which go way beyond just an enjoyable experience. Are you back from your travels?

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  25. Yes Josje, arrived home and within three days we were off for a week on the boat. I must admit I am having a bit of trouble settling down after being on the road for over four months.
    I do notice a stirring of activity once more in miniature bogland after a wonderful northern summer.
    You have created a wonderful work space - love those cupboards!
    Regards Janine

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    1. Thanks Janine! I keep sitting and staring at my room as it is so much nicer than it was. But I have to get to work on some miniatures as that's what it is all about after all.
      I can imagine you have difficulty settling after so much traveling. But it is great that your able to do these things.

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  26. Josje, you have done a wonderful job on a complex and challenging project. Congratulations on achieving such a successful result! How exciting to have the opportunity to learn such skills.

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    1. Hi Sandie, I am lucky that I live close to someone who organizes these classes. This class was terrific for learning many new skills!

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