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The Society of Creative Anachronism: Collegium

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Left to right: Cuttlefish bone casting and medallion, leather press medallion, Alpha cape pin, Viking medal pendant, cow bone needle. March 2016.

Recently, pretty much since being home, I’ve been attending events put on by my local SCA, aka The Society of Creative Anachronism. While you can read more about the society on their website, I’ll give you a few pointers.

The SCA is approximately 50 years old and can be described as a haven for all those loving early history – circa 800-1600 CE – from fashion to craft to fighting to history and beyond who want to do more than just reading about the time.

While there are basic meet ups weekly such as fighter practice where fight forms from heavy armored to rapier are (obviously) practiced, there are also much more extravagant outings.

While these range from week(s) long camping trips (some over a thousand strong) to day campaigns, what I am really focusing on is an event which took place a few weeks ago: collegium.

Collegium is a two day garbed event (meaning you must be dressed in period) which you attend in order to take classes hosted by others in the SCA which span metal work, leather work and crafting to fiber arts like weaving to history classes, working as a scribe or more fundamental fighting technique classes – just to name a few sections.

For me, this led to a lot of time sitting outside at lunch tables creating a lot of crafty trinkets. We were technically only at collegium for 6 classes over the weekend but with some luck I managed 8.

While I’m not going to explain everything I learned over the weekend (we do not have the time or the space) I can give you some brief overviews of some of my favorites!

In terms of classroom lessons, I adored my lecture on metallurgy and Viking casting theory – yes, this was as amazing and nerdy as you can imagine! I loved learning about boiling points and differences between theorists (and the fights between practical theorist and research theorist). Plus learning from fellow nerds? Totally awesome.

When it comes to things I got to make myself, I’d have to say crafting a bone needle and creating my pewter casting were my favorite crafts.

The needle in this picture started a two and a half inch long, triangular shaped cow bone shard, about 2/3 the thickness of a #2 pencil. So, over the course of an hour and a half to two hours, using (basically) a super coarse nail file to reshape and thin out my bone, followed by super fine sandpaper to smooth out any bone fibers. Once it’s shaped, you thin the non-pointy end to easily be able to drill the tiny eye to thread through.

Easy enough, right?

Pewter was, obviously, a much trickier craft.

I never had to melt down any of the metal or even handle the casting – very luckily for my beginner skills – but I did learn to make a cast out of cuttlebone fish!

And not only did I learn this, but it’s super easy!

Basically, you buy cuttlefish bone from your local pet shop, then sand it down until it’s flat with little visible spine indent. The last bit of real prep is to cut it across the middle so you have two relatively even pieces.

Cuttlefish bone is extremely soft so you can press anything or carve anything into it with a little pressure and get a good amount of detail. I used a flat circle to make a pendant shape, a ring for the center design, and then carved in the edging details and hook. The shape should be about half an inch or so down.

The last step of carving is to put a few divots into the top to help the pewter get into the mold. You then fill the mold and let it set but that’s all the description I’ll be giving (don’t try this part without someone who knows EXACTLY what they are doing! You don’t want to burn yourself!)

Once set, you clip the extras bits of metal (which will go back in your main pot), file the edges down, and then sand/polish to a shine!

I had so much fun making this medallion which I plan on wearing to future events and details come out so well.

Again, this is only a small look at this weekend and the SCA as a whole but if you are a fan of crafts, history, or just learning new things, I really recommend looking up your local barony and getting involve. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and learned a whole lot.

– Taylor Gallagher

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