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Mittwoch, 4. März 2015

A rare Karesuando collectible

I knew I had it somewhere, and after the meeting with Gabriele on the expo I began to look for´t thoroughly. I bought this knife years ago. Karesuando does not make them anymore, more´s the pity, but I got me one when they were still for sale, more´s the joy.;-). Blade´s 84mmx3,2mm 12C27 Swedish stainless steel at roundabout 57HRC, handle´s birch burr with a more subdued grain and reindeer antler. The sheath is made from top-grain cowhide leather with a plastic insert and a very traditional belt loop. The knife is a most comfortable carry and came out of the box razor sharp. Even though the blade shape is more suited for skinning, I find it also makes a decent whittling knife. The hollow grind makes it more suited for little tasks. For hiking around the block and even light camping tasks it´s a good snacking, whittling and allround knife.

I like it.

Dirt and steel, a cold butt and a cuppa tea;-)

Okay. I looked outside. The sun was shining. On the lane that passes beneath my window road riders and mountainbikers passed with minimum attire. Then I looked at my  belly and my hips. And felt for my legs. It was then I came to a conclusion.

 I discussed the pros and cons and what ifs thoroughly, and finally gave my sluggishness a thorough kicking up the spine. And saddled my bike. And made for the woods.

We will learn that my decision had some consequences. But I am not talking about that yet.

So, off with me, and I was right glad to be outside, the sun was warming me and all was grand in wonderland. I took the long way along the lane to get in the miles and do some basic endurance training. I recently had some problems with my heart and lungs, but only until I took up riding again, and even my thrombophilic legs did what they were supposed to do... it felt good to spin the cranks and casually rolling alongside the lake. Careful not to pass the anaerobic threshold, I took the turn into the woods, and all was silent. I was wondering because there were no one else in the woods that day. By that time the sun was not shining so much any more, but I thought "hey, it´s still good and warm, weather´s not going to be that bad" and went on my merry way.

Near the top of the hill I passed by the ruin of this ancient mill, and there I paused to smell the roses...

 ...or shall I say the steel???! Blimey, where´s my hacksaw when I need it? Beside the ruin there lay the remnants of an ancient carriage or sled. Nearly still in working order...;-)
 More spring steel in spring... this is a treasure trove that certainly will see me again!
 All was still above the crumbling walls. Inside the walls there was an old oven and a hearth and the remnants of a bed all strewn about the place. It was a weird sight to behold the passing of that place, all taken back by the forest´s ancient might.
 I was somewhat torn apart between the joy of finding those resources and the melancholy of the crumbling place.
 The trees around the place looked crooked and torn, but the atmosphere was still light and warm.
 Looking around, I saw a herd of roe deer in the far distance, but, as usual, I fumbled my camera and thusly, no pics of roe deer but an empty forest: Just buy yourself a roe-deer play figure and move it across the screen to get the full picture...;D.
 Then I was back on my bike, and took the singletrail to the hilltop. And while I did that, clouds gathered. And more of them. And yet more of them. And they turned pitch black in colour. And it started to rain. Then to drizzle. While I put on my rain jacket, I met a horseback rider, and after some polite greetings she uttered "shitty weather, ain´t it?", and I replied somewhat naively "that´s okay, it´s still winter after all". If only I had had a clue then.
 Then it started to hail. And to snow. Actually, I was glad that the hail was turning to snow, because those acorn sized pellets of ice actually DID hurt, even if you´ve got a helmet on.;-)
 Towards the hilltop I rode, catching snowflakes with my mouth and singing the marching song of Fiach MacHugh. Fortunately no one was there to be insulted;-D. It´s funny, when conditions get that foul, I always have to laugh. I felt alive then, and pensive at the same moment. How come we feel most alive when the going gets that rough?
 On the hilltop, beside the fire road, I sat down on a stump and watched the driving snow.
And had a sip of tea. It is funny, how the taste of tea in the cold weather and the woods gives you the feel of coziness even in a snowstorm. I cuddled into my plain windbreaker (not much to cuddle in, I admit), and let my thoughts wander with the driving storm.

But, being aware that the conditions were actually going worse and I had no spare clothes with me (yap, it happens to all of us from time to time, and I am not proud of it). I rode on to the city of Hohenlimburg to shortcut the ride and all the while revelled in my toughness and badassedness...

...but only until I hit the road where the icy storm hit me with all its might, and in combination with the oft-quoted ice water down the butt it made me want to cry and grunt with hypothermia. For once there was no overcoming it. My hands were freezing until I felt them no more, and I stopped frequently to avoid frostbite while putting them under my armpits to warm up. I certainly looked an outright fool, but I like to keep my hands as they are.

It was a shivering and a freezing frenzy getting along the lane,  frequently stopping and drinking the hot tea that was left in tiny pinchs to aid keeping warm.

But suddenly I was home, in my warm attic-turned-home, with a warm full bath and hot cocoa and tea and a load of spiced pasta, and all was well again. Okay, my hand joints do ache a bit still, but that will fade eventually.

Blimey, I look forward to summer.;-)

Kai´s new innovative caplifter

 When I was at Kai´s the other day, he proudly presented me one of his last works, a caplifter for stylishly opening beer bottles. It´s made of mild steel. The torsion is first marked out at both ends with a chisel.
Then four strands are marked out. One strand is decorated with a hacksaw. Only then does Kai do the torsion work.

While the leaf can do with some refinement, I really fell in love with this technique, and have to try that out myself....! Props, mate!

Donnerstag, 26. Februar 2015

A Hammer - In with Kai

Kai called some days ago if I was feeling like doing some pounding. Now Kai had just finished his first Damascus blades and had some surprises on hand, so I saddled my steed and  rode over the hill to his place. I was welcomed warmly and with a cuppa strong java, and then we lit up forge. This forge he has built over the last months. And when I look back how he started and where he´s now, it makes me proud to think I had a part in this.

And it was simply good to be there. I have a load of problems with most of the smithies I am working for. It just seems I get mobbed out of everything I have ever attended to (and worked for- for free), and this results in a constant pressure on my shoulders. When I ask new and old acquaintances to mirror my effect on others most respectfully tell me I am "larger than life" and thus give "lesser" men (those are quotes) a bad feeling, resulting in constant efforts to get rid of me. As one of my oldest friends stated "the dumb want to keep themselves company" (not my words) and that I am unusual and so forth. Culprit is, I do not see any effort on Kai´s part to get rid of me. And I do not need to play the psychiatrist either. I guess that´s what you´d call a friend. Thanks, bro, by the way, it is appreciated!

For it was just lighting a fire and swinging a hammer and pounding the steel... making damascus, the damascus for the aforementioned Rus / Varangian Kopis, by the way, and having a lot of rough and good-natured talk.
Kai had made two bearded axes "Viking style". Above is a shed find, a historical carpenter´s axe... sweet!

 And those are the first Damascus knives Kai made. Above is a skinner blade from chainsaw Damascus. The knife below is made from six layers of file steel and rebar, buffalo horn and yew.

I like the rustic appearance; and what they still lack in eloquence they more than make up for with charme. Props!
 This is the rest of the billet Kai welded.... I guess a new era has begun...;-)
And I look forward to a friendly competition!

...and...psst...don´t tell him, but I´d be glad if he beat me one day! It won´t be too long coming...

Progress on my Rus reconstruction - and Lúgra Móros

 The first steps towards my new Rus knife have been made, and I realized in the process that the Kopis knives I love so much actually have a historical background. One of my all - time favourite and ritual knives, Lúgra Móros (the moon-mare) is very close to a Novgorod find without me intending. In fact, I was always having the opinion, it was more of a Celtic design (hence the Old Gaulic name), but it seemingly also has roots in the Achaemenid Kopis but also in the younger Pishqabz. I wonder a lot of things these days. Could it be that the Varangians who served as a Byzantine palace guard served as a cultural vehicle to submit Persian or general Oriental weaponry and culture to the North? Or was this style of edge line original to Viking culture? What with an Irish influence) Quite certainly an Anglo-Saxon influence can be dismissed. I am fascinated by the thought that the Varangians, when returning home to Kiev or Scandinavia, brought Oriental wares with them (this is well documented). I also wonder whether Varangians also came in contact with Iranian and Oriental Martial arts? Plus, it is safe to say that at least one Russian martial arts and combat style of the medieval ages that was a predecessor to Systema originated in the Ukranian region around Kiev / Novgorod. This is a speculation of course. But a fascinating one...;-)
Anyway, the design of my Rus blade went a bit off the mark of the original drawing, but it is still somewhat historically accurate, for it mixes characteristics of the several Novgorod finds. The deviation is due to my forging it out of memory and not making a scheme out of brass or wood beforehand. This will happen next time. As is, the blade is 115x5mm in dimensions and made out of 45 layers of historical crucible and file steel. A first etching only revealed a tiny bit of pattern, but it is forged out in Masame technique to show the strands better. Below is a small whittling / neck knife I made for fun.

Wonderful woodturning by my goduncle

On a recent and long overdue visit to my goduncle and godauntie in Marburg he showed me some of his woodworks. He was inspired by my father to take up woodturning, and took it to another level. This is a serving platter with wonderfully made intarsia out of several hardwoods.
 A chandelier out of oak wood, wonderfully grooved.
 I really love those goblets. Oak and cherry wood.
 But what I was most fond of these composite wood and MDF goblets.
 Walnut and oak...
 MDF board...
 The handle he made out of a beef bone that went into a delicious soup.
When we started talking, he was convinced he´d give it all up, what with being 82, but after we finished talking he was not so convinced...;-). I will browse my attic for some interesting woods and look forward to what he´ll make of it! By the way, he will sell on request. Mail me and I will notify him, if you want one.

Mittwoch, 25. Februar 2015

Impressions from Karesuando

Gabriele has done me a great favour when she wrote me a mail the other day. She had been to Karesuando and wrote about her adventures there.
Obviously, her first impressions were those from the window of the plane: And Lapland was there, wide and clad in a mantle of snow.
And, as seems to be customary, Lapland welcomed her with open arms. This is a snöljus, a snow pyramid with teacandles inside for a welcome. She then visited the factory of Karesuando Kniven to watch the people craft those knives that are in use all over the world and to make her own.
Those knives I have talked about in a most recent post, and while I am not all agreed with everything they do there is no mistaking the fact that they are great and refined tools. Gabriele made her own at the factory and gave me some impressions about how those tools are made.

The raw material for the handles is curly birch from the region. I personally like the fact very much that all materials come from the region, or at least from Finland and Sweden (steel), guaranteeing a low ecological impact. Hats off to this corporation. The wood has a far higher density than comparable birchwood burr from Middle Europe, because of the hard circumstances in which those trees grow. This in turn makes it less prone to working loose, even if there is only a short tang inside.

The handles are fitted to the tang with a tight fit and then ground to shape.

This is Gabriele finishing the handle of her knife with a mixture of turpentine and oil, making it resistant to weather and dirt, but not giving the handle that "dead" feel a laquer often gives. This is a very traditional approach making the handle more serviceable, while not requiring too much of it.

As you can see, much of the work in building the knife is actually made by hand. Here apparently the bolsters are fitted and blades are prepared.

All this handiwork results in knives like the Järven model... I personally love this one very much.
 This is the Galten model. We will learn where the reindeer antler comes from soon;-).
This is "the boss";-), Per Erik Niva. Per-Eric manages the corporation and, having met him in person, I can safely say he´s a nice guy to boot.
 Gabriele in full "battle mode", out with a snowmobile. I am a bit envious of this experience... I guess it must be a great experience being out there in the beautiful landscape with a "big girl´s" toy...
 She also told me of a reindeer herding that took place when she was there. Reindeer still mean a lot to the Saami in the vicinity, even though they can no longer live the nomadic life of their ancestors. They are even forced by the government to sell and butcher their herdes "by decree". We Middle Europeans tend to regard Sweden and Scandinavian countries in general as a kind of social paradise, and while it is true that we can learn a lot from Scandinavian contemporary culture, be it educational, social or integration programs, all´s not grand in wonderland. And in my opinion we could learn a lot more from Saami culture, and I would go as far as stating that they might have a lot of insight that might even solve our ecological problems. For it is not only necessary that we learn the rational aspects about nature. We need a new natural lifestyle, including emotional and spiritual aspects as well. Learning includes learning a new respect for their culture. It is not possible to just take what we need from them, but we have to learn how to respect in the first, before we could even ask.

 Anyway, she provided me with these wonderful photos of the renrajd. The reindeer live half-wild most of the season. For the marking and butchering, they are herded together.
 This is normally done in winter, when they are relatively tame.
 This is Sara, reindeer breeder and Karesuando kniven employee taming a reindeer for marking out. Sara spontaneously invited Gabriele into her site caravan for coffee and delicious bread with reindeer sausage and a very heartful chat. Lapland is very welcoming, as it seems! Gabriele wrote it so envisioning that I felt the urge to get there one day.
 The herding is arduous and not exactly very easy work, potentially dangerous, too. No sissies here!
By the way, the antler is of course also used in the Karesuando knives.

As a conclusion, I can say that Gabriele´s mail made me crave for more. It is a fascinating region, and the slöjd and culture of the Saami even more so. I hope Gabriele will provide me with more correspondence about the factory and, especially, Sápmi culture.

I want to offer her my heartfelt thanks about the exclusive insight and wish her many more of these wonderful experiences!

Donnerstag, 19. Februar 2015

New project I want to start

On I finally found the knife Joel once upon a time referred to when he first saw Lúgra - Móros, the moon mare. Here he made some similar ones modelled after some medieval knives found with the St. Thomas Guild. The knives in the picture above, however, are Rus knives from Novgorod, from a late Viking area. I simply love the Kopis lines of the topmost design. I do not know yet whether I will do an exact reconstruction or an interpretation of the knife.

Also on schedule is the topmost knife as a seax replacement. I love the aspect that this design transports a lot of cultural interconnections. For the Kopis form is safe to say to have been introduced by oriental employers of Viking mercenaries or tradesmen from the middle east.

This is another thing I want to have...;-), a Rus folding knife. So much for the "Barbarian" Vikings... even more so however, does this find:

..give testament to the theory that Vikings, and Rus, the Viking founders of Kiew, actually were rather civilized gentlemen, for it is a device carried by male and female "Vikings" carried for a rather sophisticated body care. Second to left is an ear-cleansing spoon, and, owning and using one, I can say it beats a q-tip by far.

I have work to do!!!! Copyright of the pics is with If you want to share, please quote correctly. Thank you!

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