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Dienstag, 18. August 2015

New bushcraft knife from salvaged steel and wood

 This is a new knife project that is almost entirely courtesy of the woods and the deep earth; it is forged out of ancient spring steel with a carbon content of roundabout 0,75-0,9%, and presumeably nothing else. How funny this is if you are accustomed to modern spring steel with its relatively coarse (yet normally fine enough) grain, is illustrated by the story of its making. When I first tempered the blade I treated it quite conservatively, as I always do. If you don´t overdo it, it´s even better for the blade if you quench and normalize it one time more. It turned out soft, or so I thought. Knives from this old steel always tend to feel fluffy while they actually are not. Okay, I thought, there´s enough carbon in it, so I lost a bit of a patience and treated it like "bam", not quite gently. Culprit is, it was too brittle, so when I tested it, the tip broke off. It then sat in my drawer for a while until I thought, well, there´s still enough of it left, make it work.

At a recent hammer - In at Kai´s (by the way, thank you again, bro!), I reworked the blade and did some heating the blade. I simply wrapped a wet rug around the handle and heated the blade until it showed a golden hue. Then I ground the edge line and spine line down a bit and redid the edge bevel, and here it comes.
Blurry pic, I know... but you can see there´s a hollow forged in for balance. The blade now comes in at 90 mm. The handle is made from ancient bog oak from an ancient mine in the Muttental and is some 150 years old, put on with modern mosaic pins. The steel is approximately 100 years old. I like the fact that all materials were given by the woods and earth which will be its natural habitat.

I will make a clipper sheath for it, and it´ll be ready to rumble...;-)

Mittwoch, 12. August 2015

New projects galore-on the bench

I was in a bit of a forging frenzy, so here they come:

Top to bottom-blank for a project knife, Zwissler monster Damascus, snack knife blade (2mm spine thickness) and pendant knife from Hendrichs-Damascus (15N20, 1.2842), and knife blank from monster Damascus by Matthias Zwissler... I´ll keep you posted...;-)

On the bench these days - a viking shrubbery lore;-) knife from steel I found in the woods

 Now this was a most interesting find. On a recent stroll through my backdoor woods;-) (NO!PUN!INTENDED!*ggg*) I found a piece of steel, somewhat crescent-shaped with something like a tang protruding from it. It looked as if someone had disposed of a knife in the middle of the forging process. It was rotten with rust, and a strange blooming sort of rust characteristical for high-carbon steels and had some strange jingling, ringing sound when I hit it to a stone so I thought I would rescue it and do something with it. I had called Willy and offended him (sorry, dude, again!) if I could book a smithing tutorial with him to take care of the judicial problems I was faced with at the smithy at Volker´s. To make double sure, I also called Volker, and I was surprised, for he offered me some conditions I still have to contemplate. Bad ones, but still, it´s a smithy...

So off to Witten after a long time again. It wasn´t easy for me to swallow my pride again (and again, and again, and again), but flesh will not last, but steel is eternal. I had this piece of steel that had waited for me for a long, long time, and that wanted to be a knife, no, it screamed to be one. It was not easy to forge, being a high-carbon (spark analysis was like a fireworks...) one and me not wanting to ruin it all;-). But, following the pre-form that long - forgotten anonymous smith had given it, I made a knife from it. The steel is somewhat strange, in that it showed a distinctive pattern after quenching. At first I heat-treated it quite conservatively resulting in a less than ideal temper. Testing it, I realized it had an abnormal amount of flexibility so I pushed the envelope a bit. Still it felt soft in the edge... until I chopped brass and antler with it. Weird. 
 The blade tapers towards the tip... The handle will see quite a lot of work still of course. It´s made from reindeer antler and a brass bolster plate.
If you look closely you can see a hint of the pattern that showed. The blade measures in at a "highly illegal" ;-) 14 cm, but I will make a sheath and a case for it that locks. It will come in handy, for it is well balanced and without any stropping whatsoever is already bitingly sharp. It will make a good bushcraft and re-enactment knife, I guess.

My thanks go to Willy without whom this knife would not have been possible, and to Volker, even if I still have my grave reservations.

I will keep you posted on the progress and of the name-finding process...

Donnerstag, 6. August 2015

Helluva knife blog;-)

I recently came across this very great knife, tool and skills blog:

In it are featured many aspects of Scandinavian knife- and tool culture. For instance, Pasi Hurttila shows you how to forge a hatchet with a lot of valuable input:

I was also very fond of a great tutorial on a woven birchbark knife sheath:

The blog offers a clean homepage and a logical navigation via the wordpress system. It offers a lot of interesting features on knifemakers, blacksmiths, agricultural tools, bushcraft supplements as pouches, bags and sheaths and offers tutorials on half-forgotten techniques, very informative and well-structured tutorials by accomplished craftsmen.

If you´re into Scandinavian knifemaking culture, bushcraft or just a handicrafts and arts aficionado, go pay it a visit, it´s well worth it!

Viking Bling shopping;-) with the magic troll - flea market galore

 Oh the loot! Oh the loot! How it befits us so cute!;-)

On a recent flea market just round the corner the magic troll and I went for a bimble, not for buying anything, of course. We are both very sensible persons, you know, very prosaic and not at all prone to fall in love with bling and buying our heads off for some goodies.;-)

...errr... no...?!;-)

It was on just about the first booth we came across, that we found a lovely amber chain from raw amber, stuffed tight, and this beautiful dagger with a brass sheath. The guy at the booth claimed it was a Jemenite Jambiya, but some research showed it was of Syrian provenience. A quick check for hardness showed that it was actually even tempered, presumeably forged from spring steel. At the same booth we got the Kauri shells, for free! On another booth we got a silver "Kalevala" moon-goddess pendant, a beautiful interpretation of some Finnish Viking age finds, and an Afghan silver necklace pendant. Those files I got for 2 €, and the beautiful wooden turned container out of true Corse juniper with this lovely high-lustre shellac finish, and the antler cost 5 € total.
 A closeup of the dagger and the sheath, the lunula pendant and the other delicacies:-).
Let me give you some thoughts about it. We talked a lot to the people who sold the stuff, and, treating them with the respect everyone should deserve, we soon learned a bit about their stories. Most were common people selling what was on the attic to gain some space, and some were actually traders doing it for fun. But all of them related to the same problem.

"Most customers nowadays lack any respect. They rummage through the display as if their life depended on it, and like jackals they vomit on what they cannot eat."

 I have witnessed this kind of behaviour myself countless times. And then those "customers" offer ridiculous prices, or throw insults at the trader. Theft is common.

The pictures above tell a story. To us these goodies are cherished treasures, valuable resources and a source of joy. And the stories behind these make them even more valuable to us, as do the people who formerly owned them. Of course did we do some bartering, that´s part of the game, but you can barter without belittling your business partner. It can be quite a fun game, if it is kept polite and nice.

I daresay the people we bartered with were more willing to offer their goods at a lower price because we were polite and nice to them and gave them the feeling that what they did mattered to us (it did).

Many of the traders announced that they will be giving up on it. That would eventually lead to flea markets being only composed of trash sales booth with special-waste-clothes and beeping toy cars.

By being polite and ready to pay a suitable price tag we can do something against this development.

All in all, however, it was a great day with a load of goodies to be had, and we went home with a huge grin, prepared some good food and chatted happily about our treasures no less.

But chance is, this will not be forever.

Montag, 27. Juli 2015

Beado-Léoma, the Battle-light - Swordsmiths, wordsmiths and museum expositions

We are currently working on a very, very fascinating project. Petr had come visiting recently, and we had good fun together feasting and drinking and talking bullshit ;-) (Thanks for totally screwing our minds, Petr!:-) We´ll never get that song out of our heads, and we see mushrooms everywhere...*ggg*) as well as some great in-depth discussions. But what was most intriguing to us that we had the chance to see one of his most recent works of art.

This is the sword beado - léoma (Anglo-Saxon for Battle - Light), a sword in the line of the most intriguing epic poem Beowulf, and a very eloquent incarnation of many Kenningar for the hero himself. For instance, the animal on the pommel, is a bear that stands for the name of the warrior, for "Beowulf" means "bee-wolf", hence a bear. The bees on guard and pommel stand for honey and mead which is served in the hall Héorot, the mead hall of king Hrothgar, where the drama takes place. The sliding piece for the belt on the sheath is carved in the shape of a mead hall with shingles. Those shingles stand for civilization, a roof, that provides warmth and protection from the wild things. The garnets stand for the glow and warmth of the hearth fire.

Now it all becomes wonderfully fascinating, for Myles Mulkey, bladesmith, swordsmith, author and poet had written a beautiful poem that in my opinion reflects the atmosphere best. It will be featured in the catalogue of the exhibition, together with a translation. You can get it here as soon as it´s printed.

The magic troll and myself guided Petr to Solingen and helped him deliver the sword for the oncoming exposition "The Sword - Form and Thought", which will take place at Klingenmuseum Solingen from the 26th of September to 28th of February 2016.

And while he was not so sure the museum would like the fact he had a poem to go along with the sword, it turned out very well. Dr. Grotkamp - Schepers, head director of the museum, was quite enthusiastic about the sword and poem. In fact, it was great to see all of the staff being extremely motivated around the exhibition, so much in fact that some of them even cancelled their holiday to be able to see the first sword arriving and having a chat with Petr. The only problem was the translation of the poem...

So we offered our help;-).

For free.

Bummer, I hear you say, you are a bunch of punks, what, for free? Nothing´s free, and you could use the money!
Let me explain this, for this is not how this thing works. It is not about earning money in this case. It is about being part of a modern hero´s tale. It is about being swordsmith and wordsmith. It is the gathering of the hosts, a muster of wizards and scholars, and it is a very unique thing taking place, something that is far more than "just" an exhibition. Mrs. Grotkamp - Schepers is a dyed-in-the-wool scientist, but I daresay she feels it herself, as does everyone at the museum, as does any smith and poet involved.
And for us two it is an opportunity to give the grey god a right kicking up the spine. He takes reign over the souls and lives of men in our society, befouling our everyday life. But this sword and the poem - and the other swords in the exhibition are a whisper from the dawn of time. It is maybe a bit bold to say it is something sacred happening here, but to me it feels exactly like it. But it is nothing like a fancy or a dream. The exhibition is centered around the topic of the xiphos, an iron age secondary Greek weapon. All of the swords in the exhibition are made around this topic. The name means "piercing, penetrating light". 
In Myles´ poem civilization is represented by simple but crucial things. The roof of the mead hall, family and kin, the hearth fire, mead and food. The sword is a representant of these things, and, more so, defends them.
The sword that Petr has created is a brutal weapon. Its balance is willingly nothing like eloquent. It is straightforward and front-heavy, made to chop off the limbs of an unarmed adversary, such as an evil spirit referred to as "trolls" or "thurses" threatening those simple things of civilization, not for eloquent fencing, but for fighting with brute force.
But the culprit is, it´s made to defend, not attack. It represents the hearth fire. In its glow the new life is born, tales are told, and it gives light through the darkness of winter. The hero himself has to wield it. In order to overcome the threat he has to become the threat himself, a brute force (Eliade). He gains supernatural power, but in every hero tale there is a point where he is confronted with his own mistakes, and Germanic lore is full of tragic heroes. But the threat is to be overcome, and the individual does not count.
It is the simple things the hero fights for. It is not 300% increase of gain p.a., not the fourth TV and the third laptop. In a world of darkness the hearth fire becomes crucial for survival. Literally speaking, we live in a world that is - in a metaphorical way, of course - not so different from the world of Beowulf. It is threatened by dark things lurking in the twilight, just outside our perception. What remains is the metaphorical hearth fire to be protected, the mead hall and the birthing place as simple things that make our world. It has not changed, but has been obscured by darkness and too much light, by mist and nonsense notions. And it is a sad metaphor becoming true that the bees are dying out.
To us piercing light is shod unto the mead hall. To us the tale and the warmth and the company, bees, honey, mead and fire have a place. And the sword should defend it with brutal force.
Piercing light is secondary in that it is a secondary weapon, and in that it is the last-ditch resort of the warrior, it requires an all-or-nothing effort, speaking within the confines of the metaphor. And also speaking in the confines of the symbol, piercing light is what we need in order to analyse the threat that befouls our society.
We have to give it all or nothing to defend the mead-hall and its hearth fire.
Ask again why we do it for free.;-)
Cheers to Petr and Myles, lift your swords up high and shake them like wild boars!

Mittwoch, 8. Juli 2015

New clipper sheath for my hadseax

 Bit of a blurred photo, apologies for that, but I guess the idea is clear. I love these sheath models these days. Oh, why does he make a modern sheath for a re-enactment knife? - you might ask.
To me it is far more than just a knife for bbq-ing in a costume. A knife to me is an everyday item, and as I also tend to wear the shalwar pants I made for re-enactment more and more, in the woods, but also for going to the grocer´s, because they are practical, I also use this re-enactment knife for everyday chores as well as bushcraft. The sheath makes for a comfy carry, and as the clip does not show at all it might also make for a solution on a re-enactment fair, at least until I´ve made another sheath more suited to the A-factor (authenticity). The sheath is made from tempered , naturally tanned top grain 3mm leather with pitch twine and brass rivet, wet-formed and tempered around the knife. I achieved a hardness comparable to Kydex (and without the downsides) with it, and it keeps the seax in very well, even upside down. I like it.

Dienstag, 7. Juli 2015

Twilight treasures

After work again, and off I was to hitch the bus and drive out. Out into the rolling hills. Out into the twilight of the forest, away from the frantic ratrace and the heat of summer. Into another form of existence...
 As the adder sheds its skin, with a look back from the cool shadows, a look with a smile.
 Into a hall where wooden pillars bear a sky of green.
 Twilight is where my name was born, twilight reigns where few men tread, and twilight is the balm that soothes my soul.
 From the deep, deep, dark, rich soil there sprouts a crystal, quartz unfolds its blossoms over the aeons, growing steadily, stealthily in the dark, through veins of rock and subtle life that is thus alien to life it can´t be called.
 Under root and gnarled wood and rock-hard oaken portal it sprouts into the world.
 Beside the trail of deer and mouflon, of hare and fox and snake and lizard, where the tiny mouse fight their fights and survive their adventures, under a sky pierced with the song of the hunting buzzard...
 ...the gold of fae and treasures of the dirt...
 ...connect to each other like a link to link of an iron chain. And as rune to rune the spell of twilight sings into my soul...
 I see unfolded secrets from the deep, I feel unfolded from my debth myself.
 And thus I grow, grow like the oak, the mighty keeper of the gates...
 And thus I fall, like death in life and life in death.
 And so I walked in enchantment of this runic song, walked the hours away until I reached the shed in the woods  where I often sit and sip my tea and contemplate.

And smiled into my wooden cup of forest.

New hadseax with treasures of the deep

 This is a very special knife with a strong historical background. The blade is made from crucible steel I found in the woods and a middle layer of 100Cr6 ball bearing steel, 90mm long making for a great everyday companion. The ferrule is from the new knifemaking supplier in my hometown, Hennes & Mauritz. Oi there, give me a break, was that H&M?

Yap, it was, the ferrule is a fashion jewellery finger ring made from actual bronze.;-) I was quite enthused to find it and had that idea nagging at the back of my brain the whole time. The handle is made from bog walnut from the lake I lived beside for most of my life. The dam had to be repaired, and when it had dried out, I found the wood of a WWII 98k carbine´s stock. After trying to give it to three museums in the vicinity, I simply kept it, and since it was gravely damaged I decided I´d do that swords to plowshares - thing and make a knife´s handle from it. 
 Into the pommel I fitted a blood agate I found myself on the banks of the river Rhine in Cologne. A bit too much glue still...
 The blade has a severe taper from some 6 mm to zero.
 Here you can see that I still have a lot to learn how to forge a three-layer-laminate. To me it is an absolute challenge, even more difficult than to forge Damascus, because it is quite hard to get the symmetry right. Also, when forging Damascus, you can drive out any impurities in the weld in the process, but with a three-layer laminate it has to be right on first try.
Having tested it, I can safely say it´s one of the sharpest blades I have ever forged. The tip got a bit too hot when grinding, so I had to cut off a mm or so, but now it does what it should and more.

What I like best about this knife, while it does the cutting, it is also a constant reminder to me of several things. When I look at it, I remember the moon over the silent lake, the hooting of owls, the flittering of sun on the waves and ripples. I again see what I have first seen in my life-treetops of the pines and furs gently moving in the summer wind, I smell the smell of resin and mould. But I also smelled the stench of gunpowder when I worked on it. The gun it once held had fired a lot and got hot in the process, so much in fact that the smell became a part of the wood. This wood had once been a walnut tree swaying in the breeze. The gun had presumeably taken a lot of lives. When the alliance came to free Germany, the soldier who had used it threw it into the lake. Dark and still, it guarded its treasures and curses of the deep. It is safe to say that the soldier who threw this gun into this lake had been not a big-term Nazi functionary, and if he performed any deeds of heroism, those might well be those of an everyday sort. Might be he killed with a feeling of guilt. Might be he killed with a feeling of purpose. Might be he just tried to survive as best as he could, as most soldiers did and still do. The dark and deep abyss has kept the secret. The secret is a part of the wood, as is the secret of walnut leaves swaying in the wind. There are stories in the wood of children scooping up the walnuts or might be a farmer and many farmers or might be it was harvested on an industrial scale, which is most probable. And just like the wood, the stone in the pommel had also been washed up by the stream, secret in secret and  stories and tales. This is the real power of this knife. It is a weaver of nets, of webs, of dread and dreams and joy, a teller of secrets. It is a key to hidden doors of copper on an iron hill with a golden lock. It remembers the abyss and its secrets but it now lives again, not as a weapon in the first, but as a companion for a dreamer.

And last night when I went for a short stroll into the woods, I heard the cat-owl hoot.

Donnerstag, 2. Juli 2015

After-work hike

 After work the other day the woods were calling again. No words did they utter, and did not scream. It was just the memory of light and the light rustling of leaves, as fine a touch as by a feather; and so I hitched the bus and went out into their loving embrace. Of course, there is a chance you find that boring, and it is very difficult to find words that suit the experience, or pictures. But in my book, exactly this is the culprit. We love to read something spectacularily new, especially on the internet. We are hunters and gatherers, only that what we hunt and gather does not feed us in any way. We pile heaps on heaps of gleaming crap into the corners of our minds. There´s always some new flash and dash and the latest run-of-the mill. Heard about that scandal? This one or the next?

The woods actually DO change. But they change according to their own devices, and bend and bow to the laws of nature, not to the constant debts and vicious cycles we love so much that we compose our very lives out of them. Our culture keeps us low when we should be vibrantly flaming. Put your noses to the grindstone, or you won´t belong. I have personally come to the decision that I´d rather die than belong, for then my death would be according to my own devices. It is not out of depression, but out of joy that I come to this conclusion.

How come?

I have decided to live. I want to truly live, not a masquerade, but a life that somehow fits into the world. And to experience joy, I have to accept grief and pain. To live I must accept death.

There can be no security in this life. Our culture tries to sell us this, and charges a lot of fees for it, but all the promises it makes are rendered absurd by contemporary developments. World-wide terrorism, economical instability, a world on the threshold of world war IV (yap, did not recognize we still got World War III, do you? Lost track myself....). And if we all are honest, it has always been that way. There can be no certainities. Everyone can die at any instant, everywhere, and in spite of any promises of national security and whatnot.

So what? Quit whining! Any tree can fall, any wild piglet be killed by a wolf. They do not complain. They do not change that much. Oh, I hear those high priests of economy complain, what, humans are far aloft from animals and even trees, how can that outcast state we have anything in common? I hear priests and imams damn me for being heretic and infidel, for we should dominate, not care.

But this is not how I understood Economy Report, Bible, Koran, Vedas, Pillars of Insight or whatnots. We must care for our fellows in creation. It is a fallacy if anyone says otherwise, for we can witness in our days that such a behaviour leads ultimately to the extinction of man. This cannot be a goal for neither Christians, Muslims, Mammonists (...erm, maybe...).

But theology and philosophy is not subject to the woods, either. It is a common mistake that we all tend to project our humanity onto trees and wildlife. They simply do not "think" that way. And it is not thinking they do in any way we can understand. This makes us not superior to them in the least, not at all.

A dolphin does not need clothes or a computer. Why should it develop them, then? And dolphins are not cute, in fact they bite off their victims´heads and give the rump a fucking, excuse my language, but this makes it clear. Wolves are not nice, or free or wild. They just are. All those are human attributes, illusions at best.

This does not mean we should quit telling tales. It is human to tell tales, and good fun. But we have forgotten that there´s always a secret truth hidden behind; a glimpse behind the mirror, a look into the face behind the mask.
 Oh, no, I do not belong. I have long trodden another trail. It did make me lonely, but no more. I have looked behind my own failure, and I can now smile. I have experienced no mercy from my fellow humans, and they can expect no mercy from me. I would never want to voluntarily hurt anyone. Walking barefoot teaches you to avoid treading on snails, however disgusting they might look;-). But I am amazed that I have lost my mercy for humans complaining about the mess they created in the first place. They have taught me that; for if I make any mistake, they would laugh at me and kick my head instead of helping me up. I´d never kick them, and offer my hand whenever I can. If they don´t take it it´s no longer my business. I am amazed because this is what I have also learned this in the woods: If you allow yourself freedoms and make mistakes, you are in trouble. There´d be no whining and postponing or paying by instalments. If you don´t find a solution, you are fucked.

At work, I had a funny conversation the other day I had several times in my career already. A business man stated he believed in a "might makes right" justice. Okay I said, since we were standing together in a one-to-one situation and no one to witness, how much money´s in your purse? He replied and told me the amount. So, I said, give it to me, plus the keys of your car, and make no fuss. He looked at me, not quite sure if I was serious. I donned an air of menace and stepped closer. He looked at me in terror. Then I stepped back and explained to him that this was exactly what he believed in. For I could have beaten him up with two fingers only. He was a bit thoughtful afterwards. Of course I did not do any harm to him, and never would, and I´d never recommend this. I just could do this because I have a very good reputation amongst those business partners. He even gave me his thanks afterwards. What disgusts me, however, is, that he would not change anything, and no one would. But, if life - as a normal and necessary consequence of their behaviour - gets the better end of them, they start whining and complaining and expect others to help them out.

In nature, this can prove fatal. And it is always interesting to see indigenous woodsmen of all cultures act in contrast to many so-called survival gurus. Seldom if ever, for instance, would a Saami be caught so unawares in nature that he´d call for a survival situation. Instead, indigenous people tend to be much more careful und prepare every step with caution so as to avoid saying "survival" in the first place. These people try to remain as self-sustained as possible, while on the other hand they would help anyone in a bad situation according to a very strict cultural code of conduct. The behaviour of white men is often called insane, and I would not argue with them.     

 I am not a survivalist. I love the woods and hope the love is -keeping in mind it´s not that possible at all ;-)- mutual, in that I will be sustained by them due to my respect and knowledge. When I walk along the creek, I not only think about how to make the water drinkeable but also feel the lovely song and soothing sound it provides. It keeps me sane to walk the woods that way. If you quit lying to yourself and actually think your thoughts and feel your feelings, there is an infinite wealth to be harvested. It´s not free, for to get the heart of the woods you have to pay dearly with the blood of your own heart and life. But this will give you so much back in turn that you would pay any price for it.

The new path I am on is fascinating me, and, oh, yes, I will continue, for the one who lived once, lived in fear and debt and self-neglect, is dead.

And I smiled.

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