Vol. 33, August 2011

Three hawks by Glen Mitchell blacksmith of Pioneer Forge, Carboor, Victoria

Its time to relegate the duck swamps to another season, we can now start to thinking about Beaver Creek and the pleasures of Spring Rendezvous. Pleasures like camping with friends in open spaces with that big ol’ Mt. Buffler on the distant horizon; renewing acquaintances with folks not seen since last Spring; whooping it up with just enough throat oil to dampen your last inhibitions; while trading and Trade Blankets always stir the blood as we all like a good red-hot bargain.

A warm welcome to all readers as we commence our seventh year of operations and prepare for our fifth Rondy on the Beaver Creek. Lately your Committee has heard several grumbles about insufficient trade blankets so we are batting it right back to members to get busy with your handcrafts on genuine pre 1840 style goodies. We certainly agree that trade blankets have been getting mighty scarce at our doings lately.

So how about a big effort to lay out more trade blankets this Spring? I don’t know of one Buckskinner who doesn’t enjoy a bit of horse trading around a blanket. It is hoped our photo of Glen’s fine hawks might inspire others to bring their handiwork to trade! Need help to get motivated – read our Club president’s DIY column for good hints. And remember, if you missed more than one rendezvous you were thought to be dead!

Now put Bill Tyler out of mind and give some serious thought to making our 5th camp at Beaver Creek a trade fest – and simply the best yet. Powder horns and scrimshaw always draw interest; I’m personally in the market for another candle lantern and always looking for more ample clothes – that is clothes of ever more ample dimension.

Glen is sure to be fetching some fancy hawks and knives, fire irons, trivets and such; Murray will have beautiful tanned skins and Peter has some very well made camp chairs. There’s much to be done and so little time and there’s no worth in flogging a dead horse – so what can you bring to trade?

Speaking of Mt Buffalo, which I wasn’t really, (but just mentioning it to stir the blood) I’ve noticed a bit of snow on our leeward side lately – that’s about as close as we get to camping ’neath the Shining Mountains, but we can dream and get a taste for it by camping wonderful on Beaver Creek, loose and free as a bird, just like Dick Summers.

Dick who? You may well ask! Read on and hear the Mountain Man speak in this novel passage contributed by Club president Ian Convey.

I seen most of it. Colter’s Hell and the Seeds-kee-de and the Tetons standin’ higher’n clouds, and north and south from Nez Perce to Comanche, but God Almighty, there’s nothin’ richer’n the upper Missouri. Or purtier. I seen the Great Falls and travelled Maria’s river, dodgin’ the Blackfeet, makin’ cold camps and sometimes thinkin’ my time was up, and all the time livin’ wonderful, loose and free’s ary animal. That’s some, that is.” “Lord God” “A man gets a taste for it”

So said the fictional character Dick Summers, the hunter, to Boone Caudill and Jim Deakins in A.B.Guthrie’s novel – The Big Sky. Staples Press Ltd., England 1947.

Annual General Meeting

Once again our AGM is scheduled to be held at Beaver Creek rendezvous – Saturday 17th September 1pm. To expedite proceedings we have attached Bob Ellis’ treasurer’s report herewith so that all have time to digest our current status prior to the meeting.

Blanket Shoot (Everyone wins)

Part of the fun at Beaver Creek in September will be a Blanket Shoot so please bring along an entry item appropriate for our time frame. Handmade items are most suitable and a nominal value of between five and ten dollars is suggested. Yes, everyone wins!


Congratulations to Jeff and Katherine Clarke on the safe arrival of baby Charles on Friday 5th August, weighing in at 3.15kg, red hair and blue eyes – a real Viking Longhunter and a strapping brother for Ellie. Katherine and Charlie both doing well. Jeff is quite understandably very proud to have a fine son.

Jim’s wounded leg has completely mended, thanks to Medicine Woman. A few days of hospital doctoring, the knife, a bit of minor sewing up, and lazing about with one leg elevated was all it needed. Jim had nothing to do but dream of exploring the Tetons to get firmly back on his feet, but now he’s back to gathering firewood again.

Bojo’s and the Free Trapper’s banners on display at Millmerran July 2011. That’s Bob’s tent in the scrub.

Millmerran 2011

Three members of the Trappers were among a strong Victorian contingent travelling north to sunny Queensland. Ron Davis, Bob Ellis and John Morland all made the 1300 kilometre trip to camp in the Primitive section opposite our new banner that Bob had hurriedly commissioned just two days before leaving.

Quite a few members of Seymour Black Powder Club also made the trip. Victorians did well competitively and a great time was had by all; the days being pleasantly warm and the evenings freezing as usual – the night temperatures down around -5C.

We havened yet heard all the stories that emanate from such large rendezvous’ but we’re bound to eventually. Meanwhile our intrepid Trappers all feature in Tattler.

On the Pewter Trail with Glen

Well, morning to y’all folks! After being long hen-pecked by that old chook, about it being time some other folks done put pen to paper and contributed to what we consider to be the best primitive newsletter down under. Well I got to feeling sorry for the Old Chook cause it isn’t a lot of fun, month after month, coming up with the goods, but the old Chookster does a good job. (Aw, shucks, cut the bulldust! – Ed.)

The old-fashioned skills of our pioneers have always interested me. After thirty years of blacksmithing the idea of working with a different metal like pewter had been with me for a considerable period. Pouring pewter into a mould couldn’t be all that different to casting round ball, but spinning pewter is a whole new game. The idea of producing tankards, porringers & other fine colonial wares by combining the spinning, casting and soldering of pewter stirred my pioneering spirit.

After trawling the net on numerous occasions I discovered the website of Thomas & Patricia Hooper of ASL Pewter in the USA. The Hooper’s website features a marvellous array of period style fineries. www.aslpewter.com I followed-up, making contact by email and subsequently a direct phone call, having a most enjoyable conversation with Patricia, which resulted in my ordering their “How To” DVD “Introduction to Pewter Smithing”.
The DVD arrived in the morning post just 12 days later, so I called an early lunch break to learn the basics of pewter smithing. It’s so inspiring to watch an artisan at their toil. Thomas works through several projects, explaining things as he goes, like how to set the disc for spinning, lube, speeds, use & positioning of tools. He also covers a little on making the forms to spin over them and about using the lathe.

Then Pat does a segment on the casting side of things, from spoons to porringer and tankard handles. Pat illustrates the cleaning up and getting pieces ready for Thomas to solder together. All through Pat & Thomas are explaining things like the casting temperature, how hot you need your soldering torch, best tip size to use. I would really recommend to anybody thinking about having a play with pewter to get hold of a copy of their DVD.

Patricia and Thomas Hooper

Thomas and Patricia operate their foundry together with a retail/ wholesale shop in Louisiana on the banks of the great Mississippi river. Many of their moulds date back to the mid 18th century / early 19th century, some from the former Bucks County Pewter business in Pennsylvania.

In 2003 Pat began engraving some of their pieces with “wriggle-work” an early folk art style for which she has received awards. The Hooper’s were also selected as Pewterers for the HBO mini series featuring the life of founding father John Adams for which in excess of 500 pieces of pewter were supplied, earning end credits in the film. By the way, I found the John Adams story well worth watching also.

I remain delighted with my contact with the Hooper’s and well satisfied with their “How-to” DVD of basics for which I give full praise. ’Till next time, Glen Mitchell

Do It Yourself says our Club President

Continuing from our previous episode, once you have some basic tools, you will need materials from which to make stuff. Here, the main thing to remember is the materials NOT to be used, i.e. chipboard, MDF, plastic, aluminium and anything else invented or discovered after the 1840’s. Wooden projects should be fastened with dowels and glue, black steel nails, copper nails, brass pins and etcetera.

Screws used for either wood or metal should be of black steel with straight slots; no brass screws and no Phillips head screws. I should mention that screws with straight slot heads are becoming exceedingly difficult to buy new, so if you can’t make them, you may have to scrounge, while hoarding any you might come across in your efforts.

Next, I’ll suggest a few projects, meanwhile – watch yer topknot! Ian

Cold Feet? Try the Sutler’s Store!

Following up on past comments about footwear I received a call from Dick Schwer in South Australia advising that Bill Lincoln had stock of sturdy straight-last shoes. This info might help those who don’t take too kindly to moccasins. In addition Bill can supply such necessities as breeches, trousers, drop-fronts, cutlery, tin cups and more.

Bill will be visiting us at Beaver Creek this September and may be able to fetch along any special requirements you might need. Why not give him a call? See a comprehensive list at http://corpsutler.tripod.com/index.html or for further details contact Bill Lincoln –mob 0411 422 144 or write P.O. Box 227, St Peters NSW 2044.

22nd Eureka Collectable Militaria Fair July 9th 2011

Commonly referred to as the Ballarat Gun Show – this was the third year the Free Trappers had combined with Seymour Black Powder Club and Western Districts Muzzleloaders under the Council of Muzzleloaders banner. Our modest display of black powder arms, accoutrements and other trappings is our continued effort to “sell” black powder fun and club membership to the wider shooting public. Ian, Jim and Chook took turns at answering queries from the many interested visitors.

Chook and Ian (not quite collectables) at Ballarat. Photo by Jim.

In all, well over 600 persons attended, several faces recognised were Don, Kelly and Cody from Western Districts and Bruce and Harry from Seymour, all stopping by for a catch-up chat. Our allocated table adjoining Roger Mowbray’s Stock Lock Arms heavily stocked trading tables featuring everything from flintlocks and accoutrements to new fangled magnums and related stuff ensured a high volume of passing traffic.

Along with other re-enacting groups among the other 130 trading / display tables were our friends from the Frontier Living History Group. Jenny and Gary Baker were dressed up as if it were 1762 following the French Indian war. They received honourable mention in the Ballarat Courier reporting…..

Everything is hand sewn, Mrs Baker said about her clothing and other items the couple had on display. There were no sewing machines back in that time period so I don’t use them so it’s historically accurate.


When a duck ducks! Eh, pardon? You will remember our story in Vol 31 where Bob and Jim shared the credits for taking a single wood duck. Well, Jim later confided that he believed that duck had in fact actually died of fright as the two charges of shot whistled on by. For not a solitary pellet was found in the carcase. Oh, and it really was by far the best wild duck I’d ever tasted.

T’was a colder night than average at Millmerran and Ronny Davis had a few sips of fire water before lighting the pot belly stove in his tent. On his knees with flint and steel he thrust the bird’s nest into the stove then rested his weary head against his bed. Seems he fell asleep as if in prayer to be rudely awoken shortly after with his backside reflecting the heat of hades just inches from that pot belly now roaring with life.

After a leisurely Millmerran breakfast Bob Ellis and John Morland were pondering morning wash-up when the inspector/best primitive camp judge happened into their camp. Noticed immediately were a modern dishwash sponge and an aluminium billy/kettle standing out like the proverbials. Doh!

Recreating the American Longhunter: 1740 -1790 by Joseph Ruckman.

I had not been aware of this small soft-cover booklet from Graphics/Fine Arts Press until recently when Glen Mitchell loaned me his copy at our Easter rendezvous. At only 60 pages from introduction to colophon, the book is instantly and easily readable with much thought provoking discussion contained within just five main subject areas, viz – Introduction; the identity of the Longhunter; the clothing of the Longhunter; the weapons of the Longhunter; the Equipment of the Longhunter.

So impressed was I with Joseph Ruckman’s work that I had to order my own copy (and one for Ian who had also been reading Glen’s copy – over my shoulder). A wealth of debate will be found in this volume – at only US$9.95 plus postage. Imagine my delight when the two copies arrived – signed with best wishes by the author.

Here are just two notations from this little treasure trove – If you want to portray a believable Longhunter, you should know something about farming. And Returning to my original point about foot travel, “trekking” on foot can hardly be considered a typical 18th century activity for woodsmen. To understand the basis of these comments and to study more about recreating the American Longhunter you could do much worse than spending a few dollars to order your own copy. You can order direct from the author at http://cathyjohnson.info/bookpages/longhunter.html

Presentation hawk by Glen Mitchell

Next Events

September 16th – 19th
Our traditional Spring Rendezvous weekend extended from Friday 16th through to Monday 19th. Traditional primitive fun, shoots, mountain man hunt, blanket shoot etc. Don’t ya wanna have fun no more? Come to Beaver Creek!
November 5th & 6th
Time Line Festival at the Old Cheese Factory, Berwick. A weekend display camp in the heart of Melbourne’s eastern suburbia. Your chance to show them Flatlanders what Longhunter and Mountain Man fun is all about.