I often tell people that one thing which makes the SCA great is that it gives you an avenue to take any hobby, and follow it well past the logical extreme. Long after your relatives are tired of being given your handiwork as Christmas gifts, and long after helpful people on Etsy have run out of ideas, you will have an audience who can offer suggestions, challenges, and a genuinely grateful dumping ground for your surplus works of genius.
My own recent foray into artistic inventiveness left me with several very useful lessons, that I wanted to share here. Long story short, I got interested in printing warrants for officers.
Lesson 1: As soon as you pop your head above the parapets, there will be an enthusiastic audience. Many, many people will have been meaning to do something similar, and even if there is nobody actually doing exactly what you are planning, there will be an awful lot of people with ideas, references, and tools that they are happy to offer. This can be daunting.
It took me very little time to realise that printing the warrants was going to be a long-term project, going through multiple iterations of progressively more authentic technique. Which might never happen (though I hope it does). So I decided to start by making the paper.
Lesson 2: If your great idea is going to take years to be realised, find some intermediate goals that will give you faster gratification, and keep the audience from throwing things at the stage.
The internet is full of the same, very small amount of information on the history of making paper – repeated endlessly. But one or two people gave references, and I have my first book on the subject… and I know where to get more.
Lesson 3: Before the internet, there used to be books and libraries. This can be easy to forget, but not everything useful that was written before the year 2000 has been put online.
When I asked my lady if she had any spare linen I could use for making rag paper, she (a) laughed, and (b) asked me if I was going to make a trip hammer to pound the rags.
Lesson 4: There is probably no hobby, no matter how feeble and academic sounding, which can’t be used as an excuse to make large structures and use power tools.
I have some beautiful photos of a trip hammer I saw in Stubing. Slightly over-engineered, but I could scale it down. It was driven by a water mill.
Lesson 5: Life in the SCA is one long choice between deadlines and rabbitholes. Chasing rabbits is a perfectly respectable pastime.
Happy new year – if anyone is looking for me, I’m in the shed working on a portable water-driven trip hammer. Until the next rabbit comes along.
Yours in service,
Lord Nicodemus Novello