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Coffee Urn & Triptych

posted Jul 26, 2017, 4:43 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Sep 1, 2017, 7:24 AM ]
Two related projects on one page! Woo!

So the SCA group we're playing with out here in Ruantallan, the Stronghold of Ravensdale (the Annapolis Valley area in Nova Scotia to the modern world) got its hands on a coffee urn, meaning when we had feasts (especially ones in the Great Gules Hall, or involving Garb Sledding, or other times hot drinks might be appreciated) we had the ability to make decently-large quantities of hot drinks (mostly hot apple cider at this point), which is great! However, of course, the stainless steel cylinder isn't very period, and gets too hot for it to be able to simply be painted. So I made a little free-standing screen, based on Medieval triptychs, with a cut-out for the tap in the centre piece, to stand in front of it so it isn't too glaringly modern on the table. As the urn itself was donated to the group, I donated the screen as well. It was a lot of fun to make.



Medieval screens seem to most commonly have arched tops, although flat ones were around as well. I wanted to do arches, on the basis that they looked more period to my modern eye; but due to needing to hide the urn, and not wanting the top to project substantially above the top of it, a rectangular one would be more practical. My compromise was to do arches sticking slightly above a rectangular background, with the background chiselled slightly down from the rest of the panel (all made out of scrap skin ply we had kicking around from another project), to help isolate the main part. I think it came out very nicely!

The Medieval triptychs,  not intending to hide something else, folded inwards; this one folds back to wrap around the urn. The hinges are strips of bias tape, securely glued with carpenter's glue. The background and gold was painted with dollar store craft paint, with the design itself done with gouache (which is an amazing alternative to acrylics; beautiful coverage! Try it if you haven't yet!) and then carefully sealed with multiple coats of an external varnish, so it could at least be wiped down without smearing the art.

The shields are showing the devices of Ravensdale (that being the proposed device at the time, since changed slightly), East Kingdom, Tir Mara (our principality), and Ruantallan, with the devices for the kingdom and principality being closer to the centre. The flowering tree over the Ravensdale device is an apple tree, added because that version of our device didn't have the apple branch earlier (and the current) versions had. The Annapolis Valley is known for its agriculture, particularly apples. Very pretty in the Spring; there's a lot of orchards around. The other side has basic Tudor roses. If I had to do it over I would have made the apple blossoms a lot larger; being so pale they're hard to see.

We also have a raven stooping over the couple, also to tie it back to Ravensdale (and incidentally to House Ravenspeak, heh).

It works very nicely and looks pretty awesome if I do say so myself!

A little while ago, though, I came across another coffee urn at Value Village (the (un)official sponsor of the SCA, lol), this time of plastic that didn't get too hot to be painted. So I painted it up directly, woo! Tried to make it look like pages of Medieval illumination, with three period recipes for hot drinks, one on each of the three sides, with the intervening legs painted gold and decorated with stick-on jewels (held more securely with crazy glue). This one I'm keeping for now; but I may either sell or raffle it off when we eventually get posted elsewhere; we'll see. I might end up keeping it. But it's nice to be able to have the choice of two hot drinks (alcoholic mulled wine and non-alcoholic hot apple cider? Coffee and hot water for tea etc? Hot tea and cold water or juice to drink? The sky's the limit!).

Again, painted with the cream ("Antique White," I think?) dollar store craft paint and gouache and varnished, although I did end up using an ultra-fine point Sharpie to do the calligraphy. Hey, if you do that yourself, test the varnish you want to use before applying it to the work; ends up that the first varnish I used makes Sharpies run. Aargh. And of course I did the front first since I didn't have enough time to do all three sides before the next feast. Happily it's not really noticeable (especially by candlelight) until one tries to actually read it. For the other two sides I gave it a couple of coats of a matte Krylon finishing spray (<3 Krylon) and let that thoroughly dry before using the proper finishing varnish that will allow the inside to be washed without wrecking the paint. That was happily enough to keep the Sharpie intact. Needed quite a lot of pens, too! I went through I think three at least per side; dollar store Sharpies don't seem to have too much ink in them. Mind you, I had to outline and then fill in each letter (plus all the illumination), so I suppose that does come out to a decent amount of ink all told. I experimented with the chisel tip markers, but they couldn't get me as fine lines as I wanted, and my calligraphy pens's tips were too stiff; I didn't trust them to be able to draw on the hard plastic (even with the paint on there) without scratching off the paint or ruining the tip. Plus I thought the ink would run too much.

Pretty spiff, eh?


A neat happenstance is that it sits just high enough off the table for an LED tea light candle to be slipped beneath, which makes it a bit easier to see the tap, and which also makes it look like it's got a small flame beneath it somewhere keeping it hot, which I like a lot.

The recipes:

Clarrey. Take kanel & galinga, greyns de paris, and a lytel peper, & make pouder, & temper hit wyt god wyte wyne & the þrid perte honey & ryne hit þorow a cloþ. (14th Century English recipe).

Caudell. Draw yolkes of eyron thorow a streynour with wyne or with ale, that hit be ryght rennyng; put therto sigure, safron, & no salt. Bet well togedyr; set hit on the fyre on clene colys. Stere welle the bottom & the sydys tyl hit be ynowghe scaldyng hote; thu shalle fele be the staffe when hit begynnys to com. Then take hit of and styre alwey fast, & yf be nede, aley hit up with som of the wyne; or yf hit com to hastyly, put hit in cold watyr to myd syd of the pot, & stere hit alwey fast; & serve hit forth. (15th Century English recipe).

Potus ypocras. Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried, a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii unce; of notemugges, ii unce & a half; of carewey, ii unce; of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of honey. (14th Century English recipe).

--Yeah, I have no idea what half of those ingredients are. Long pepper, cloves, nutmeg, I can get; no idea what spikenard, galyngale, or grains of paradise are. Google is a thing, though, so I assume I can easily find out if I care; I only was looking for period hot drinks of a good length to fit onto each side, ha ha. Obviously the first one went onto the front; needed the extra space for the tap.

Also, I have to admit it was weird to be lettering (and reading) "Potus" over and over at the beginning of 2017. Hopefully this will just be a historical blip, but right then, with Trump being the current (and recently-inaugurated) President of the United States ("POTUS" for short), yeah, a little weird. I kept side-eyeing the spelling.

Thanks to A Boke of Gode Cookery for the recipes! Fantastic resource; you guys should definitely check it out.