MISCELLANEOUS NON-ORCISH PROJECTS                             12/31/05

       Just to show you that Ugluk's not a total loss, here are some non-orcish projects of mine!

--Fellowship Brooch
--Ranger clothing and gear
--Wizard Staff

FELLOWSHIP BROOCH --Two different versions
       What's an orc doing making a Fellowship brooch?  Well, I'll confess that my initial plan was to damage it with a sword blow and splatter it with fake blood, to wear as a "trophy".   So I wasn't taking pains to do a really good job, just playing around to see what I could come up with in an hour or two.  But when my wife saw it and pronounced it "exquisite", I figured I better let it survive unharmed, at least until I could make her an improved version!

       I downloaded the photo from the Noble Collection site and enlarged it on a photocopier to about 155 percent, then used that as my pattern.  I cut the leaf out of thin steel from the bottom of a can (not a food can, but one that rolls of sheet brass come in), using metal snips.  The metal was much thinner than I'd expected, so I'd recommend something like a coffee can, or one of those small sheets of steel from a hobby or craft store, or (best yet) real silver.

       After some quick trimming and filing, I sketched the vein pattern on the back and embossed the veins with a cold chisel and small hammer.  The metal was resting on a scrap of leather for this.  The border of raised dots was done with hammer and pointed punch (a nail would probably work), working freehand and not being very careful.  That all makes the metal curl up, so I flattened it carefully, tapping with the butt of the hammer handle when necessary.  Cutting and embossing probably took less than half an hour.

       The tendrils are 16-gauge steel wire, with the galvanization removed (or at least shined up) by a quick scrub with steel wool.  A test on some scraps showed that solder would stick nicely to the metal but discolor it terribly.  Not wanting to mess with repolishing it, I simply glued the tendrils to the back of the leaf with Liquid Steel, reinforcing with epoxy when that proved very prone to cracking and popping off.  Oh, yes--cans and other scrap metal sources will frequently be galvanized or otherwise plated or coated.  This might give a nice shiny look, but can cause problems when subjected to the heat of soldering, possibly ruining the finish.  Always test a scrap first.

       The green color is just leather dye!  Again, not terribly neat, and it rubs off pretty easily, but it does have that nice transparent look.

       Kestrel from the Lord of the Rings Costume List says "The Noble Collection leaf itself is 2 1/4" from base to tip--when you
add in the silver wire on the top, it makes it 2 3/4" long.  From side to side, it is 1 7/8" wide."   My leaf is a little over 3" long by 2-5/8" wide, so it's kinda big, but would be more "to scale" on a human portraying a hobbit!

       The finished brooch doesn't actually have a pin on it, but I could probably add something easily enough, or just modify the tendril arrangement for the next one.

       There are a lot of other great ideas on making brooches from clay, plastic, and other materials on the Alley Cat Scratch site's Cloak page,

       Dolfinna also made a lovely brooch following my lead, using a coffee can, solder, photographic oil paint, and silver leaf paint:

       Guy Hutchinson made his from a beer can! 

click here
       This is the brooch I made for my wife for Christmas, based on the description of it resembling a beech leaf (when Strider finds the one Pippin dropped).  Overall length is 3".  I was a little more careful with this one, using a slightly curved piece of wire hammered into the back to raise the veins.  The paint is acrylic, but enamel would be better.  The metal is from a coffee can, and the wire is brass.  Here is a photo of the pin on the back.


      Can't really see myself as an elf, but got interested in a Ranger impression.  I am using some inspiration from the Strider's movie costume (see the ACS page on Strider,, but am freely adapting with evidence from the books and materials that I have on hand.  So think Halbarad, perhaps, not Aragorn.

      "A little apart the Rangers sat, silent, in an ordered company, armed with spear and bow and sword.  They were clad in cloaks of dark grey, and their hoods were cast now over helm and head... each cloak was pinned upon the left shoulder by a brooch of silver shaped like a rayed star."  Strider is wearing a dark green cloak and hood when the hobbits first meet him, and "high boots of supple leather."  No brooch is mentioned.

       My sword started life as an el-cheapo Viking sword (about $40), with a rather clunky 30-inch blade.   The new guard came from another old fantasy sword whose blade has gone off to better things (my Greek hoplite sword).   The new grip is just wood wrapped with leather.  The pommel was a finial from a brass bedframe, secured with a long cylindrical nut with a slightly rounded head, kind of like a bolt with threads on the inside instead of the outside.  I filled the space around it in the hollow pommel with lead printer's type and epoxy (talk about cheating!).  The byknife and straps are based on Aragorn's Ranger sword but not exact copies.  For detail photos of the suspension strapping, click here for the front and here for the back.  The belt is an old thrift shop find.

       The byknife has a squarer point than Strider's, and is a little plainer.  I ground the blade from a piece of 1/8"x3/4" mild steel barstock.  The grip is cherry, held with bronze rivets.  The band on the butt end is a slice of brass tube, neatly shaped and recessed into place.

       Boot progress.  The uppers are an old deerhide donated by my lovely wife.  The soles are 7-8 ounce vegetable tanned leather.  At left are the pieces, based on a medieval hosen pattern.   I've done lots of medieval turn-shoes before, but not boots, so this seemed the best way to assure that they'd fit.   They will be somewhat loose, and a fold of the leather will be pulled across and buckled at the side, like some 15th century boots.  At right is the stitching in progress, using a two-needle method.   This is an edge-flesh seam, showing the awl through the next stitch hole.
       The two pieces of the upper ("vamp" and "quarters") are assembled first, then stitched to the sole.  At left, the narrow strip around the sole is a welt, being stitched between sole and upper.  At right it can be seen sticking out after the boot is stitched and turned right-side out, and an outer sole will be stitched to it.  The buckle and strap are also visible.  For a simpler way to make books, the Leather Factory Plains Boot Moccasin pattern is only $6.99,

       I already have a longbow which I made from an ash pole.  Here are arrows under construction.  At left are 2 broadheads, with the basic pattern for the heads.  They are pretty crudely done but I might come up with nicer ones.  (Hmm, good orc arrows...)  Below are 4 "bodkin" points, made almost 20 years ago by a blacksmith named Brock--the four dots are his maker's mark.  I had to grind down the sockets considerably to make them light enough to use.   At right are my first three fletching jobs.  The bottom one is several years old and has been shot a couple times, hence the damaged look.

click here
click here
       The quiver is copied from that found in the Alps with the 5300-year-old Ice Man, made of deer hide sewn with thongs.  To the side seam is laced a reinforcing rod, which has a groove cut in it and 20 holes.  The seam edge is supposed to fit into the groove, apparently, and it's a real pain of a job even if the thong doesn't keep breaking...  The top flap covers a side flap which protects the fletchings, and a simple leather loop and lace holds it all shut.  The carrying strap was missing from the original, so I will just tie or lace a leather strap to the wood rod.  At some point I will probably make a more Tolkien-ish leather quiver, especially since this one sheds terribly!
click here

       The shirt is made from an old black cotton sheet.  It is based on an 18th century pattern, with rectangular sleeves gathered (actually pleated) into the rectangular body, and gussets under the arms.  The neck opening is also pleated into an edging, but no real collar.  If you have ever hand-sewn one of these shirts for historical purposes, you will understand my smugness at having machine-sewn the entire thing!

       The cloak is a half-circle with a hood, cut from an old gray blanket (basically a Roman paenula).  Took almost an hour to make.

click here
       The brooch is not actually silver, but metal from a baking powder can.  It is about 2-3/4" wide across the points, and the brass pin is similar to the beech leaf brooch shown above.  For the bends, I used a pair of sheet-metal bending plyers made for gutter and siding work, with big flat jaws about 4 inches wide.  Very easy to place the piece in them and bend slightly for each crease.  Still needs a little buffing to erase the discoloration caused by soldering (did a lousy job on that...).

       Lots more to come!   The old shell of a gray wool 17th century coat that never got done has been dyed brown and edged with leather for the jerkin.  For the outer coat or duster I'm considering something that looks sort of 14th century, maybe green wool.  But I might poke through the thrift shops for something leather.  The trousers may be burgundy wool (or linen or even denim, depending on what I find), based on 17th century breeches, but I might just go with the brown wool footed trousers that I wear with my Roman winter clothing.  Plus some other neat little kit items that will be fun to make.

       Even got my wife inspired to work on her hobbit dress, and she's mulling an elf costume!

       For Halloween, 2002, my daughter Olivia (age 9 at the time) was planning a party for some friends.  I was thinking of dressing as a Nazgul, or maybe as an orc (which is how this whole Orc costuming project got started!).  But she didn't want me dressing up as a Bad Guy, so to match her Harry Potter-style wizard costume I whipped up my own wizard get-up.  Gray 18th-century blanket-coat and linen shirt, gray 17th century "slops" or breeches and stockings, medieval shoes.  Then I dug out an oak sapling in the backyard that my wife wanted gone, and made this staff.  The top had been the beginnings of the roots, and was quite a hunk of wood until I worked it down some with hatchet, drawknife, and rasp.  It is 76-1/2" long, and the top has some neat twisty bits like gnarled fingers.