sword casting

We signed the kids up for a sword casting class a few months back. It was so popular we had to be quick to get in but are so glad we did.

It was amazing!

The teacher travels around with his equipment and teaches groups and he has quite a wealth of knowledge to share about metals, casting, history.

The kids each chose a sword from many different shapes. Lilah sanded her wooded sword. They used sand casting to create a mold for the metal. Each kid started with a special wooden box that comes apart multiple ways. They fill it with sand mixed with bentonite clay and a tiny bit of water, pat it down.


Then they put the wooden sword in and push it down with a flat piece of wood.

Next they sprinkle powder on top to stop the next layer of sand from sticking to the first.

Then they fill up the next half of the box, tamp it down really firmly, and put the lid on. They use a tube shaped tool to create a channel in the sand for the metal to get into the mold.


Next they unlatch the box, open it in half and carefully take out the wooden sword. That was a bit scary because all that holds the sand in place (to shape the all-important sword shape!) is your packing skills and the texture of the sand! Then they carefully put it back together and it’s ready for casting!

He used aluminum for the swords because it’s less expensive and lighter weight than other options. He heated it in a small foundry with propane and then poured it into each vertical box mold.

It cooled in about five minutes, then he opened them and took out the metal swords.

After that it was time to shake out the sand so it could be reused. I was interested in the difference in the sand that had touched aluminum.

Next they were ground, smoothing them a bit and removing extra ends from the pour channel.

Last thing was to wrap a piece of leather around the hilt.

The kids were thrilled and learned so much and it was so great he had them do most of the process themselves.

Things I found interesting:

Aluminum doesn’t occur as an ore naturally. The only time it does is when lightning strikes it in rock form and heats it. Because of this it was discovered much later than many other metals. Unlike many other metals, it just looks brown in its rock form. Napoleon had a set of silverware made of lightning formed aluminum that he let his favored visitors use. If you weren’t favored, you had to use gold utensils.

The criss knife is a traditional ceremonial dagger, originally from Indonesia.

The Egyptian kopesh is a curved, notched sword, used to hook and pull shields down and away from opponents so that you can reach them. They based the design of the Assyrian weapon that looks much similar but slightly smoother, which had defeated them while they used straight swords.



science project day at the park, exploding capsules, dry ice bubbles, chromatography and lots more


more pumpkin patch fun with friends (slide photos taken by my friend Teri)

celebrating Diwali at the Hindu temple with music, dancing, rangoli (chalk painting) and good food followed by fireworks


creating Halloween costumes: Minecraft black and orange cats

carving pumpkins with family

at the park


collecting leaves and punching leaf confetti with fancy hole punchersimg_3295

holding snakes and other reptiles with friends at a Halloween party

picking apples in our yard with a long armed picker


sorting jelly beans (thanks Gma and Gpa!)


night swinging


game playing (new favorite this time: Above And Below)


hike for me (with bonus elderberry picking & subsequent cordial and syrup making)

bookshelf assembly with Dad and decorating for Lilahimg_3343

silly dinnertime fun watching reflections in the window

supermoon through our skylight lit up the hallwayimg_3348

phone for the kids to share means lots of cat & owl photos and videos, and lots of texting

img_3351the texts are wonderful and fun, especially so if I am not in the room with them and get to decipher who is writing to me at any given time. So far, I’ve been right about which kid I’m texting with.



park time (I read some poems to the kids and then Gavin picked up the book for more)

civilization (Gavin is playing as China and Lilah as …)img_3354

an epic story being acted out, and then they realize they are being documented and give me a pose





We have been




playing with and caring for a new kitten! A kitten has been Lilah’s fondest wish for years and so after much deliberation we decided she’s at a great age to become a pet care taker and to form a really wonderful friendship with a cat. We told her at her birthday party that she could adopt a kitten. She chose Luna Lovegood, and has been playing with her, feeding her, taking care of her litter box and making beds for her in the doll house. It’s been so much fun to watch them together and to have a kitten in the house. Luna seems to love her new home and we love having her here.

We have been celebrating Lilah’s birthday!

And celebrating more with a tea party in the park with friends.

We have been reading,


rafting on a lake which was fun until it was scary and then new plans to try a different way were made,

Gavin’s been trying some photography,

and so have I. Here are a few shots I took with the fall leaves in a pool, and reflections of the trees and myself that I enjoyed.

We have been swimming,

noticing the return of some autumn birds and filling up our bird feeder with seeds,

planning costumes,

building (here is a door with hinges built by Gavin)


playing soccer,

playing Minetest and Minecraft (Gavin did lots of chores to afford his own account to play Minecraft)

watching short animation videos. We recommend this: Fresh Guacamole by PES.

We have been visiting Logan, Utah to see an Australian Aboriginal paintings exhibit at Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art,

watching part of the Democratic Debate and Gavin asking questions about politics, following up with research about the 2 major parties in the U.S. and an article on Time For Kids summing up the Democratic Debate.

picking tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapeños and Thai chiles in the garden for chili making (with gloves for protection from chile oil for Gavin).

We have been gathering with other unschoolers for an afternoon of spooky (and less spooky) science in the park.

They made glittery slime, stewed a brew in a cauldron, mixed colors, watched some dry ice bubble fun, watched various kinds of mentos and coke experiments and Gavin set off a really wonderful water and air rocket.

Every day is a good one, even the ones with hard parts. I’m glad to be able to watch my kids maneuver through their days and help if they want it and sit back and enjoy when they don’t (and share my own discoveries and interests when they are open to that, of course.)



There was computer play and Strawberry Shortcake watching.

Gavin rebuilt his Lego game, with new pieces and new directions.  They played with that after he was done setting it up.

Then we began painting the costume again!  Gavin and Lilah set to work painting the entire torso piece blue while I put some more brown on the hair and painted the mask/bandana blue.  We cut and glued some black mesh behind the holes for Gavin to see out of and then painted blue over the exposed bits.

We admired a tomatillo husk from the garden that has weathered and is now just the fibrous bits, like a ball of lace.  It made a beautiful shadow in the autumn sunlight.


Soon the torso piece was ready for us to draw the details on in pencil and begin painting them.

I painted the white, black and dark blue and the kids worked on the gold.

While we were waiting for those to dry we went to the park.


Gavin rode his bike and Lilah and I walked.  We brought some hotwheels to race around.

There was monkey bar crossing and hanging upside down.

We looked at how objects make crisp, clear shadows down low to the ground but vague, soft-edged shadows up higher.

And more car racing.

When we got home it was time to put the finishing touches on the costume.  We added the second coat of gold because it was not very opaque the first time and then I painted the lightning on and did various other touch-ups.  Gavin tried it on and it looks great!  He’s very excited!  I am very happy it’s ready to go!

Lilah put on her skates and played tag with Gavin around the house until dinner was ready.



There was Pokemon watching and Dora The Explorer playing on the computer.  (Spanish practice!)

There was Lego play.


We read a picture book about riots and racial division from a kids perspective called Smoky Night by Eve Bunting.  It’s a beautiful book, story and illustrations both.

We went to the library to return an armful of books and to check out new interesting ones.  We came home with quite a few kids poetry books – Yay!  I am really enjoying taking the kids to pick out books in the kids non-fiction sections as well as fun picture books.

Then the three of us headed up the canyon to hike.  We went to Lake Mary and then Dog Lake.  It was chilly but not miserably so.


There was snow on the ground, though only in bits and pieces yet.  We spotted chipmunks and birds.  We even saw what I think is a grouse very close.  It didn’t mind us being in its’ space so we enjoyed a good view before heading down to Lake Mary.

The lake was very low today.  We talked about how lakes and rivers and streams change with the seasons and with the amount of snow and rain fall.

Gavin and Lilah did some experimenting by tossing snow into the stream and watching it melt and then tossing packed snow in and seeing if it did the same thing.  They decided the packed snow stayed together longer and must be colder than the unpacked snow.

We took a quick peek at Dog Lake which was more of a pool.  Then we headed back down with stops for rock climbing and puddle stirring and skiing on the snow in our shoes.


On the way down Gavin asked if we could make lasagna for dinner.  I explained that no, we would not have time.  It takes hours and it would be dinner time when we arrived home.  He asked if we could make it tomorrow.  I said that I was concerned with getting his costume done so I would like to focus on that project for the day or days it takes to finish and if we have time after that then maybe.  He understood and was perfectly happy with my answers.  When I see how much more flexible he is able to be now that we are unschooling, I am so very grateful.  Things not happening exactly as he expected or hoped was a huge problem for us, regularly causing big upset in our house.  So, the ability to step back and feel alright with things being done in a different order or on a different schedule than he’d really prefer for his own immediate interests is such a huge success for us!  I am so excited that he’s feeling comfortable and heard and respected enough to make that jump this afternoon!  I have seen it in other conversations recently too and it makes me so happy for him and for us.

On the way down the canyon the kids read Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child we checked out of the library today.

My sister came over for dinner and then we read books and had cuddle time and talked about plans for the week before bed.






Gavin watched some Pokemon while Lilah slept in.

We got some balloons at the dentist’s office so they tried tying things to the strings and seeing what would weigh down a balloon.  Large legos do, as well as toy ponies.  Then there was face drawing on the balloons, and looking through them to see the world in different colors.

Lilah and I pulled up a few carrots in our garden.

A last thank you letter was written, with fancy lettering.  If you wonder why it takes so long to finish up thank you letters, that’s because Gavin has left school with an ongoing anxiety and upset triggered by writing or even talking about writing.  There was what I feel was too much pressure too early on him and now he has little confidence and rarely can find any sense of achievement or enjoyment in writing.  It’s something I am hoping can change in a more patient environment.  I wish that he’d been left to his own timeline and been encouraged to find ways of enjoying it.  Now we have an opportunity to find ways for him to build confidence and enjoyment at home.

Every time he’s asked to write he asks for help from me, no matter if it’s actually challenging or not (I always help him and sit with him to support him) he says he feels scared about doing it wrong.  Today, he enjoyed making fancy lettering, though he still felt anxious and began to panic several times.  I’m calling it a small victory.


Then there was lunch and then we all agreed on a plan to go to the Museum of Natural Curiosity.  The kids read library books for the half hour drive.  When we arrived, we felt very lucky when we discovered there weren’t very many people there.  We spent a lot of time climbing in the rainforest area.  Lilah felt safe enough to try the spider climb today since it was relatively empty.  She really enjoyed it.  I went in with her and Gavin for a few minutes.  It’s the kind of thing I could have spent a whole day in as a kid.

We went into the water works area and experimented there with water pipes, wind power and earthquake resistant building.

Then we explored Kidopolis, painting with tempera and bubbles, making floating heads in the Magic Shoppe, pretending to be employees and customers at the bank, and playing with stop-motion animation, making their own short films.

We came home, ate together and then off for an evening walk.

It was a very good day.



They played on the computer at coolmathgames.com, helping each other when they got stuck.

Breakfast and request for me to read more Juniper by Monica Furlong.  We only began yesterday and are halfway through because they keep asking for more.  It’s a wonderful story and they are fascinated.

They built spaceships for their lego characters and then animals with magformers.  “I need a tongue!  A triangle piece!”

There was some more letter writing to friends.

We cut open the celery stalks that we put in water and red food coloring over the weekend and checked out the red xylem inside.  The color went all the way up the stalks and into the leaves!  They really enjoyed cutting it and checking out the inside and comparing our dyed and undyed celery.


We mailed letters at the post office and learned what a parcel is.  We talked about where post offices are in our city.

Back at home, we had lunch and lego play.  They made geysers today, thinking of our recent trip to Yellowstone and recalling geyser names they’d seen there for their creations.  Then they watched The Lego Movie while I did a bit of weeding.


Afterward, more lego building and reading Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle.


Then, we are off to the library where choose books to bring home.  Then Gavin reads aloud while we drive to pick up our CSA share and back home.  And more reading of new library books and a chapter of Juniper.

It was a wonderful day together.