Making a medieval beer tap. Wax modelling. Applied archaeometallurgy. Part 1.
A beer tab from the early 1400s. Some
time ago I was asked by a brewer to make a typical 15th century beer tap for
him so he could use it for his living history brewery. Reason enough for me not
only to make a tap but also to delve deeper into the history of tap making. Come along and join me on this journey
to recreate the way a tap was made in late medieval times. The tap in
question is from the early 1400s and was found in Zürich in Switzerland. It
belongs to a group of taps which possess handles in the shape of stylised cocks.
These taps were common from the 14th to the 15th century.
It measures 135 mm by 76 mm and it’s conical stopcock
has a bore of 8 mm, as well as a bore through the length of the taps body.
I had made a couple of taps for 14th century aquamaniles previously, so
the topic wasn’t entirely new to me. When it comes to late medieval brass where
there’s no way around Nuremberg as the foremost manufacturing centre in Europe. Thus it is not surprising to find
sixteenth-century images showing the production of taps for example in the Nuremburg Hausbücher
der Zwölfbrüderstiftung or the Ständebuch (Book of trades) by Jost Amman Sculpture,
escutcheons poured I have for many exquisite a princely grave Artistic candlestick,
stand and hang flaunting in churches and in the hall incense burner and hoses brazen which are used in fire blazes Mortar, glue pot and bowl rings taps, cupping heads and other things In the 17th century Christoph Weigel
portrayed the dedicated craftsman making these taps: the ZAPFENMACHER. There are a few questions as to the
manufacturing process. Which method was used to cast the tap? How was the
stopcock fitted? Is the bore and the taps body drilled or cast?
Well these are just a few of the questions related to this
reconstruction, and I will address them in turn during this video.
As a bronzed founder the foremost question is to decide on
the casting method: I am using the lost wax method in this video as there is no
evidence for sand moulding in late medieval Central Europe. Of course
there’s a good possibility that two part loam moulds were manufactured with
permanent wooden patterns, but this will be addressed in an upcoming video. Here
I’m using beeswax dyed black with soot This tap consists basically of three
cones and I’m showing several ways to make those. They can be modelled and
scraped or cast in simple plaster moulds to facilitate more efficient production
Wax can be shaped by virtually any method known to us it can be modelled
sculpted, cut, sawn, fired, rasped, scraped, cast, welded, rolled, pressed or stamped thus
it is possible to create almost any shape imaginable in wax. Another question is that of the bore in
the taps body. I decided to cast the receiving Conus but not the longitudinal
bore because the 8 mm drilling of the tap is easily enough achieved
whereas the drilling and boring of the conus is not. After all this is about
recreating the principle steps to make a tap with tools available in the medieval
period. There are other considerations as well for example a short conical core is
much less prone to break than a long and thin one
also I can fit the waxen stopcock with the waxen taps body and ensure as
optimal a fit as it is possible to cast. Now, I’m aware of the fact that this
might not be the original manufacturing technique but as I mentioned earlier
this will be discussed in an upcoming video from here on out you will see the
making of the stylized cock which sits on top of the plug [Music] the finishing of the stylized cock for
the plug concludes this video of the wax model making for the plug valve. The second part will show the moulding
and the casting of the plug valve. If you have like what you seen consider to
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