Calculations, Coopering, Cats, and Cooking: Current events

Sorry I’ve been remiss this week. All of a sudden, there are a lot of balls in the air and I’m rushing to catch as many as possible before they hit the ground.


The Engineer doesn’t want you to think she can’t figure out the inside angles of a polygon. She just didn’t see the point in giving me the answers.

Can’t just tell me the answer, oh no, that would be cheating. I manage a tutoring center for a living. Math people. Go figure. Like any good teacher, she helped me get there on my own.

I should have known better than to think I could get out of this without learning some math.

Anyway, I’ve decided that there are eight staves in the tankard I’m making, so that makes it an octagon. Thankfully, this chap named Euclid wrote some books on geometry way back when* and that shifts things into the realm of history. Which moves the ball back to my side of the net.

The formula for determining the interior angle of a regular polygon is simple enough. The number of sides minus 2, times 180 and then divided by the number of sides. (No, I didn’t know that, I looked it up.) That gives you 135 degrees.

Then, as any woodworker can tell you, you halve the angle to determine the angle of your cut. The bevel on each side of the stave for an eight-piece bit of coopering is 67.5 degrees.
So there.

Then I Googled it to check my work and discovered a lot of websites where I could just type all those variables in and let it figure it all out for me. Seriously. How do people not pass math classes these days?

*Note: Whatever it might normally mean, “Way back when” is now officially 300 BC. Just so you know.


In the meantime, in case you missed the post yesterday, I’m hard at work making that stave tankard I was calculating earlier.

Here’s an article about another one of the same sort that was found in the mud along the Thames by a mudlark. These things are pretty big by modern standards. According to the article, it holds three pints. The Mary Rose one I’m basing mine on holds 8 pints, probably as storage for a sailor’s beer ration.

Unless I’m way off, I calculate that mine will hold roughly two pints.


We’ve adopted a new 9 month old kitten from the Tacoma Humane Society. Our other two cats are boys and The Engineer was feeling outnumbered by all the Y chromosomes. Also, one of our cats will turn 15 years old this year and he’s slowing down a bit. Which means the 7 year old — who is naturally runs in the neighborhood of 25 lbs anyway — is getting torpid because he doesn’t have an active sibling to play with.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Cleo. She’s our newest family member and I’m sure she’ll be in charge in no time at all. 


In my bio I say that I’m not a reenactor or a member of any of the reenacting groups. And that’s true, but it’s not for lack of trying. Long ago, I attempted to create a group of my own, centering on Renaissance foodways, centered around a guild of actors at the Washington Renaissance Fantasy Faire.

We called ourselves Saint Brigid’s Hearth, named so in honor of a dear friend.

The reality of setting up and creating a reenactment troupe was a bit more involved than I gave credit for. It was rather like setting up and running a small business.  The from-scratch nature of this meant building more or less from scratch, beginning with costume and characterization.

In short, the acting concerns outweighed the reenacting concerns.  That was a number of years ago and in the interim, the ren faire where we originated fell and a new faire arose to replace it. I pressed the guild into other hands and moved on to other things as they continued as an acting troupe for awhile before fading away as Real Life Concerns drew the attentions of the actors and the guild went dormant. 

That’s when serendipity took over: I conceived of and began this project.  A project that will include cooking, baking, brewing, bricklaying, and other things that will be of concern to the craftsmen who built and used the kitchens of the renaissance.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been in negotiations with the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire to revive the group as a proper reenactment society. To build a period-appropriate kitchen on the faire site and do cooking demonstrations. To make history entertaining and trick people into maybe learning something.

This week, the last of the i‘s and t‘s were dotted and crossed (not everything in this post can start with a c…) and I turned in the final designs and addressed the fire concerns for the wood-fired bread oven. So the Renaissance Artisan will team up with St. Brigid’s. The prototype oven will be built in my back yard as part of this project, and then in late July we will duplicate it on the faire site.

“Because he needed something else to do?” is probably what you’re saying, but there’s nothing in the presentation of foodways to a ren faire crowd that I’m not already going to be saying to you.

And I’m not going to be doing it alone.

It’s going to be more than just “The School of the Renaissance Artisan in front of a live studio audience” because St Brigid isn’t about me. It’s about providing a community of and for other people with the same aim as me: to celebrate the workaday peacetime world of renaissance England.

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