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Donnerstag, 21. Mai 2015

Badass;-) - my new seax

 Okay, so I am not one for running around as a mere visitor of re-enactment fairs loaded with a whole armoury on my back. It´s awkward at best if you want to visit the booths and dismount them with your longsword, short sword, seax, dagger, quiver, bow, arrows, axe, ten knives and whatnot. Seldom do I even wear my (blunt) Viking spatha. It might be very disputable if people in the Viking age went to a market in full assault attire. The sagas do portray people in early medieval Scandinavia as people with a strong background in farming and householding most of the time. Plus, a Spatha was extremely expensive, so even people of higher social status might have preferred a plain seax or long knife for everyday use.

And even if I normally don´t carry that much bulk around, I noticed that a big blade might come in real handy when camp tasks are calling, such as firewood splitting and the preparation of it, preparing food and even carving and other chopping tasks. Plus, okay, I admit it, I am a big boy too;-).

So off to the smithy it was to make me one. I like the fact that it is a tool in the first and the weapon aspect is secondary. It was the weapon of the simple people and served them well every day as a tool while being a worthwhile companion when the going went bad.

I also like the fact that forging one is a great challenge, and I want to get better in swordsmithing as well, so, hey, I thought, what better exercise than that?
 The blade is loosely modelled after a Torgard find. The tang, however, is a free interpretation to aid in cutting. The offset makes it real efficient for that. The handle will be made from the piece of elk antler, but I will fit a pommel for balance, maybe a Wheeler Type XIII, but I am still about on fitting and weighing it in. The blade is not yet as well stropped to make for a real test, but of course...
...I could not resist putting it through some first paces. Chopping full-tilt into mild steel rods dented the edge a bit, but no shards. The blade is tough enough to lever up a 65kg - anvil and to lever up a standard wooden room door. It sings when driven hard;-), sweet. It feels quite nimble in spite of the thick spine. I look forward to it!

New damascus hadseax completed

 It has been some time going, but here it is: Finally the Damascus hadseax I started some time ago. The blade is 1.2842 and rebar, 60 layers, selectively tempered and carburized in the forge, handle has Mokume gane bolster and buttcap, reindeer antler and yew fittings.
 I had a go at carving again, and while there´s still a lot of room for improvement, I notice some progress and hope to be able to do some more complex work soon.
The tang is riveted against a Mokume Gane buttcap, own work, copper and silver.

The yew handle is treated with my own version of violin finish:

1 grain Mastix or Dammar
1 grain Daemonoropos draco (dragon´s blood)
1 grain turpentine resin
1 grain beeswax
1 teaspoon boiled linseed oil
ca. 3 cl isopropylen or ethanol or other until the whole mess is soluted.

I also used the concoction for tanning the carving.

Medieval "pen knife" - a cooperation project

This is the blade I made for Steffen, who re-enacts a medieval scholar and who wanted a knife to cut the pens of goose feathers for writing. He had given me a very detailed input into the design. It should have been left-handed;-), and I researched the rest. It is quite an interesting knife to forge, for the blade has to be very, very thin and razor - sharp. So I did some very thorough annealing and gave it but a very conservative temper at roundabout 56 HRC. It is that flexible that it stands the Solingen nail test (when drawn flat over a nail, an elastic "wave" forms). It had taken me some experimenting, but it all went okay in the end. It can be stropped over a leather belt, like a razor. Erich turned the beautiful handle out of boxwood, and the magic troll glued it on.
Family project, you see;-). It all worked out great, and Steffen was quite enthused about it. We traded for a flatrate of some bottles of his delicious and healthy "Hippocras" spiced wine.

For me it was quite the joy to make this knife and I hope it serves him very well in his scripture work.

Mittwoch, 13. Mai 2015

Escape from Mordor at #Bacharach Vierthälermarkt 2015 reenactment fair

 The magic troll had raved about the re-enactment fair at Bacharach for years now. Now my woman is not one to rhapsodize so easily;-), so I was quite enthused myself and looking forward to a weekend "out of time".
So we packed our tent and camp gear and the angry load (re-enactment attire works surprisingly well outdoors but tends to be a bit ... well ... fluffy;-)) and prepared for the long and arduous travel via train. Of course, the train driver labour society had scheduled a general strike, so we were not exactly looking forward to a journey across half the country with little chance of everything running straight and clean. So we were taken by a very agreeable surprise when the Böööön ;-) family, Jacob and Nadja notified us they´d fetch us to take us to Bacharach by car. It was making friends on the drive, and while we also talked a huge pile of rubbish, it was a great balance between mad jokes and serious talk. When we arrived, we set up camp on a campsite besides the great Rhine  river, situated in the ancient town of Bacharach, which dates back to Roman, even Celtic times. I was informed that the name goes back to a Celtic *Baccaracos, apparently a Celtic chief in ancient times, but also heard the theory that there had been an altar of Bacchus, the Roman God of wine and feasting. A lot of legends circle around the Rhine, not the least being that of the Loreley, a beautiful sorceress.

We set up tent and went for a stroll around the city to smell the roses. What became apparent at once was that Bacharach is a most spellbinding city, beautiful with its ancient cobwork houses and old wineries and a castle overlooking the town. What became apparent at the second glance, however, is that the city is ill. Many showcases in the streets were dusty and empty, many houses withered, many shops yawned empty. Working in a city marketing, I have learned to notice decay when I see it. And I noticed something else. There is a railroad track cutting through the town like a hatchet, with noise emission at a level that would normally not be permitted elsewhere. On the other bank of the river was another railroad track screaming at the sky. Now Bacharach is a city making a living from wine and tourism. I have seen no industrial sites in the vicinity. That amount of noise emission destroys tourism in the long run. Now the ever - present issue pops up, being that "we have to do trades and economy, in order to have a prospering business output, don´t we? And so we need logistics.". But tourism is business, too. Noise kills a town that is more than a thousand years old, not business. It´s plain old greed. One could easily dispatch goods on another way-if the railroad companies had cared for the tracks in the ´80s and ´90s elsewhere. But due to lack of interest they did not invest. No way to change it, and why does this guy here rant about it in the first place?

A good friend of the magic troll´s, nicknamed Romulus, organized the fair. Originally from Bacharach and now living near Wurzburg, he called up traders and musicians and walking acts to make up a great event, taking place on a lawn near the Rhine river. I do not know how much he charged for it, but I daresay it will not be more than peanuts compared to the effort. He is an avid reenactor and musician, someone who dresses up funny on weekends, believes in strange things such as fairy tales and tries to save his hometown with what he can do. His friends were an integral part of the fair, and while some of them actually got some money for it, many of them just joined in.

There is a lot of solidarity in the re-enactment scene. No, don´t get me wrong, it´s not a pink fluffy unicorn palace all the time. There are people there, actual people with actual problems, but it´s freaking me out a bit, that nearly all of the people I have met in the last months are great individuals, and in stark contrast to common practice in this our oft-quoted society, they tend to care a bit more for each other than is customary. They like to laugh and sing, good food and drink, care for their families and friends and for the most part, form a community, even without a standard or an organization. Special people are integrated without so much of a second thought.

Back to our little stroll, we were desperately looking for some food, but fact was, there was a lot of great advertisements;-). So we roamed and discussed, and we met with Hajo the beggar and his woman. Now Hajo is a great person wh, until we finally went into one pub in hope of a meal. It turned out it was 4 minutes after 9 pm, and the kitchen closed at 9 pm, so no food really. But we were more than satisfied to meet up with Dirsidh and Dodo, whom we meet frequently on re-enactment fairs all over Germany. We had a Weissbier (enough carbohydrates for an evening, you know;-)) and a nice chat.

Then it was off to our smug little home for a good night´s rest, to greet the new day. At first we went for the grocery store, primarily to get some coffee and other less important victualies;-), back to the campsite to lower the blood level in our caffeine, and then, eager to get to the fair, we dived into our gear and off we were. We crossed the finish line of some forgotten run or race and passed by the most beautiful of all dog poo heaps and then...


Beautiful colours, beautiful smells, woodsmoke, food, incense. The sound of real folk music:

 and okay, the sound of other someoneses hooting and pooting into a camping toilet with a bag on one end at a sound level like a starting jetplane with another one doing insult to a drum the size of a cartwheel with as much rhythm as a Dada poet on steroids;-). But since we took it as a bowel massage, that was fine with us;-), too. But blimey, I simply can´t remember their name...;-), must´ve been blown out of my ears;-).

I had forgotten the memory card of my camera, so you have to live with what someone made who actually knows her trade on the photo gallery of for more impressions.

We met with a lot of very, very nice people. Hajo, Dan, Romulus, Tini, Maria, Jacob and Nadja of course, Renate, Sigi, Ben and Tina, and a lot of strangers sitting under a plane tree. We relished in great food and Morroccan tea and mocca, and in no time we felt earthed again. We met with those people, and we showed to each other what we had made since last we met, told a tale of where we´d been and shared our joy and grief. And it´s funny; you meet as strangers and part as friends, and with many of them it´s absolutely okay that you only meet maybe one time a year, for you always continue where you´ve stopped last time. It started to rain hard. But when it stopped, there unfolded the bridge of the Gods:

Bifröst, Bönfröst;-), or as Jakob put it, Bofrost;-). No deepfrozen junk food here, though:-).

And another strange thing happened. Some had complained about the rain, some (ähem;-)) had talked rubbish (BÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖN!!!!!), but as the rainbow appeared, there were a lot of silent smiles on the faces of everyone around and a frenzy to get a photo, and a lot of talk of awe and inspiration.

It got dark, and there was a fire show going on. We watched in awe, once again, and sipped a mead beer and talked to some more lovely people. We moved from the booth of "Heiter bis Folkig" to the tavern, had some more beer. It was amazing with a capital "A" (pun intended;-)) that Romulus, even though he had the whole organization on his shoulders, found time and energy to have a beer and play and make some music with us. We had a chat and some songs together, and we just let time flow beneath us while the Rhine joined in with its own song, oh-so-ancient, and oh-so-wise. Stars came out bright and piercingly light and frosty starlight sang above us and above those ancient hills and the stream that has seen the aeons. They say it guards an ancient treasure. They say the treasure is cursed.

But the gold in our mugs and glasses and the silver of the moon and the stars and the velvet in the voices of those musicians were treasures we took home to keep.

Back to the tent we realized it had somewhat lost its structure;-) and it had been somewhat soaked inside, but no harm done really. It was a cold night in a wet sleeping bag, but I had made some pushups and situps beforehand and snuggled deep into it with extra clothes on, so I became warm no less with the hours;-). The magic troll was a bit scared of me in the morning, for my face looked like a wet loaf of bread afterwards:-), but that passed quickly with some fresh air and a hot coffee;-D. Funny, as I write it I can still smell that lovely smell of the ancient alcohol stove I brought with me, and the boiling water and the instant coffee in my Kuksa... and I love the memory. In fact I will thrive on it for years to come.

Sunday saw us visiting the booths and talking for a good while to Siggi and Renate, two most excellent characters. Siggi is an experienced blacksmith, and Renate makes wonderful hand-dyed wool and spins her own yarn. It would go way to far to delve deeper into everything we talked about, but it was simply great to be with them.

As was meeting with Steffen and Dipali from Lanarius Handspinnerei, two more lovely people. Steffen is re-enacting a medieval scholar and makes his own Hippocras, a spiced wine after the recipe of Hildegard von Bingen out of twelve herbs and was like "HHIIIIPPPOOOOOCRAS TASTING!!!!!FREE!!!!HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPOOOOOOOOOOOOCRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSS TASTING!!!!1!11!" most of the time;-D. I had made him an actual, left-handed "penknife" (no photo yet, but I hope to provide one soon!), a knife used in the medieval ages for preparing the goose pens used for writing, and "the father";-) had made a woodturned hornbeam handle for it. Actually we got the impression he liked it a bit, and he gave us some bottles of this, his wonderful concoction. We talked a bit about how not all was grand in wonderland, too. You might get the impression that the re-enactment scene is a fairy´s wet dream come true, but it is not. When the magic troll met with Stefan and Dipali at Freienfels medieval fair, there was a couple coming to the booth stating they were

"Germanen". GAH!

Now this is always making us a bit suspicious, and it turned out they were from a fascist esoteric order named the "Armanenorden" (insert sound file of someone throwing up), and yap, those things exist in the re-enactment scene and, yap, it´s getting me a temper, so to say. Having talked to some of those individuals, and being constantly faced with the need to explain myself why I try to scientifically treat the topic of runeology, I must say it makes me furious. It is the one thing you can do to make me want to whack the shit out of you if you join this order and try to convince me to do the same. Sadly, I don´t, but sometimes I think hard about that Ganghofer quote "Sometimes it can be satisfying to give a stinker a thorough spanking". It makes Steffen all the greater a person that he did not but simply threw them off his booth. The culprit is, yes, there are people like that in the re-enactment scene also. As I said, it´s no wonderland where pink fluffy unicorns graze the rainbow. But people don´t get overly excited. They throw them out and that´s it. They deserve no place and they are a side phenomenon at best, and many folks join forces to fight rascist scum like that in a non-violent way.

We talked about how we had a task to fulfil, namely to inform people how it really might have been. It can be a theory at best, but the only thing one can do is trying to keep the complete idiots and ideologists out. Reenactment is science. Of course, no one will yell at you when you are just doing LARP or costumed BBQ camping. But most of the people I have met on the fair and in the last months doing re-enactment are well aware of their responsibility. One example that is often quoted is that the swastika, the use of which is not allowed in Germany, is far older than the Nazi symbol, and dates back to the bronze age. In my opinion, it would be far better to inform kids and adults about the true provenience of that symbol, which, when seen purely from a semantic and morphological point of view has no rascist implications at all, but was presumeably a symbol of luck, than banning it. The forbidden fruit always taste best, so to say. I am well aware of the fact that this symbol now has a history that does not enable taking the ban from it, and I am certainly no Nazi, but I guess the point is made. Noone could, for instance, call the early Scandinavian culture rascist. Evidence speaks against it, be it reports by ancient Arabian and Jewish traders or the finds of Oriental goods as far up as Birka and Oseberg, ranging from water boilers, rings with "Allah" inscriptions, to silk and embroidery and even Buddha statues. And still, there were tablet-woven bands found which showed a swastika. Of course, what I want to make clear, is not that I have an answer, but, as usual, I have a question.

But I personally believe that by feeling how a tunic fits, how a seax chops and hippocras tastes, you can come closer to the truth. It´s a lot about sensations you feel, that re-enactment thing. It is a lot about responsibility, and the taking of it, about, well, love, and social contexts that work in a world far removed from the actual, but no more in a society powered by a greed that shatters 2000 years of history to smouldering ruins.

All too soon all was over, and again we prepared to gather up our provisions for the long and arduous train ride back, when Jakob came around and went like "I hope you join us on our drive back?".

Guy, if you read this, this is primarily for Nadja and you, and the others of course. You are escapists and dreamers and you talk as much rubbish you need a helmet to listen;-D. Cling to being like you are. And never cease dreaming, and living your dream!


Mittwoch, 6. Mai 2015

Solingen Knife Expo - #Messermachermesse Solingen 2015 - Mindblowing experience

It was that time of year again, and Unrest, Nick, Olaf and all the others kept calling what to do next;-). So we hitched car and train and whatnot to meet at the Klingenmuseum Solingen for the annual highlight of the year: The knifemaker´s exhibition.
Unrest fetched me with his ticket at Hagen railway station, and we took the train to Wuppertal Vohwinkel, where we had the privilege to see a lovely and well preserved art nouveau entrance and waiting hall at Vohwinkel railway station.
 A bit off - topic, but maybe not, as we will see further down the post;-).
 I loved those tiles, partly presumeably Venetian tileware. Beautiful!
 Steampunk anyone?:-D

 The station from outside. Why was this important? It was just a great start into a stress, but for the most part, very inspiring day.
 We hitched the bus then to go over the hill and arrived just a short while later:
 In the historic quarter of Gräfrath.
 Up the hill, overlooking the beautiful village scenery, there is the old monastery of Gräfrath, which is now home to the world - famous Klingenmuseum (blade museum Solingen).
 Now it´s a commonplace that the city of Solingen is home of some of the world´s finest cutlery since the medieval age, when "Cöllnische Schwerter" (Blades from Cologne) where a trading good dealt as far as Estnia and Russia by Hanse merchants.
 The museum hosts exhibitions of blades and cutlery from the stone age to today, but again we were not coming for the exhibition.
 At the first booth we had our first chat. Stefan of Steigerwald knives had a load of goodies on display:
 Leatherworking tools and provisions...
 as well as blade blanks, handle materials and blades, diamond hones and files, in short, everything one could wish for to get started in knifemaking.
 Keeping our limited supply of time in the back of our heads, we went to the next booth...
 ...and completely messed up what time management we had mustered in meeting with Peter. Now what I can safely say is that I would not have been able to forge my first sword had it not been for my two favourite Peters, the Abel and the Johnsson one;-). This is the former, and we had a chat and a beer and many a discussion and some healthy laughs, too, for he is a nice guy to boot. He again gave valuable input, and I daresay he deserves another drink next time:-D.
 Even if his works speak for themselves, I simply have to comment that I love his personal style that somehow bridges eloquence with character. He is someone I can learn a lot from by just talking to him, wait, was that an hour?
I certainly like the character pf the somewhat "tribal" look with those elegant handles and clean lines.
 He is fond of the knife he points out here, somewhat of a modified Santoku design. Those are kitchen knives.
 He had a lot of custom blades ranging from 39-open end €
He also does bargain: Those are knife project blades from Pakistan. I will discuss this topic further down, no worries...;-).
Nick bought some C105 steel from him and I daresay Peter shocked him when he bombarded him with words like cementitic grain conglomerate and bainite grain structure tempering;-), but as soon Peter realized this fact, he put it plain and simple. He is a most excellent teacher.
He gave him quite the insight into how to temper the steel in order to achieve a superior blade. I really look forward to the results!
Onwards with a bit of a frenzy, I met with Markus Schwiedergoll. Now Markus is an old acquaintance of mine. He runs "Die Klinge", a small, but excellent knife shop in Dortmund city. To say he is a nice guy does not exactly meet the point;-), for he has a kind of humour that can only be compared to the subtlety of a chainsaw massacre, but that´s alright with me :-D as you all know full  well. If you come into a knife shop and are greeted by a action figure of Mama Bates and Chucky it must be a place worth visiting after all:-). Markus currently has a new project going on with staged seminars and asked me if I´d care to join in with a workshop or two. We´ll see what happens;-).
Off into the garden of the museum, we met with Olaf and Peter, and Olaf showed us his EDC. He had repaired the sheath for this seax and modified the grind. Of course I actually do like it a lot, but I also have somewhat of a controversial stand towards it, because he carried it openly on his belt, together with a "Gnadgott" dagger he recently made. While both are well made and certainly beautiful to boot and would never pose any problems on this expo, I suspect he carries them in public, too. We as knife users are faced with many problems, and the only chance we have is to illustrate that we are not maniacs, but sensible human beings. Now imagine Olaf would be caught in public with those two absolutely maniac knives. On a re-enactment fair or the expo, all would be fine. But we have but one option to retain the permission to actually be allowed to carry knives in general, and this is working with the legislative and not stupidly counteracting and provocating. I have had good success and even sold one or two legal bushcraft knives just by TALKING to policemen. If you do not have open access to a seax, it will be okay, provided you do not play the lunatic when the police asks you and politely answer questions. That way even a missing locking mechanism or other device to render it unaccessible will not be knife crime, but that depends strongly on whom you are confronted with. I do not know how often he carries that beast in public, but IF he does, I suspect he won´t be that diplomatic. Advice: Do not mess with the authorities. At least not that openly;-).
But of course we had a chat and a great time together as always.
Olaf also showed me his most recent creation, this beautiful bushcraft knife with a MOra blade and an oryx handle. I certainly love it!
The filework on the blade is most excellent and I am a bit envious!:-D
Off to the booth of Norbert. Achim and Matthias only were there on Saturday, but we had a chat with Norbert no less.
Now might be you know this kind of video, and you might even recognize the knives from last year. I find it most interesting that the Pakistani Damascus blade now has little in common in appearance with a knife while his kitchen knife is still like new. However, Norbert made a steel analysis, and found out it had 0,6% carbon content, which would not make for THAT bad a knife. Turns out, the Pakistani knife simply was not tempered. We then had a discussion why the heck this could be since in Pakistani culture there is a thousand-year old tradition of steel and most of the most eloquent metallurgical technologies we now have date back in one kind or the other to Oriental traditions. We discussed matters and came to the conclusion that it must have something to do with intercultural reception. I personally would suggest that those knives are made fast with next to no provisions, and while in a former Persian culture a blacksmith had a very high social status, even if he were not deemed a "free" man, nowadays it is a crappy job for the lowest of the low. Actually the craftsmen often take little to no pride in what they do, with a few exceptions, and that shows. I had the privilege to meet some Pakistani knifemakers who actually take pride into their products, and that shows in their products as well. I guess this is somewhat of a vicious circle: To gain higher social esteem, they need money, to get more money, they´d have to offer higher quality, even higher quality than a comparable European smith would have to offer in order to overcome the prejudice. It is good to have the opportunity to talk to actual people on the expo in order to actually gain insight in complex processes like these!

In fact, the expo was a hotspot of scientific research and learning. Herbert Schmidt was doing a very great lecture on Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), while the students of his school did a great job demoing the cutting capabilities and principles of guard and attack in many demoes. Talking of which, often it was not the success, but also the failure that was very impressive, for it made well clear that the skills involved in European swordfighting were highly complex. I was listening intently, for it was not easy to understand all the aspects. It did not quite help that Olaf stood by my side the whole time ranting about how he would smash up the swordfighters with his billhook and that they were all sissies. I can tell you, I was a bit stressed out, for I  tried to be respectful and polite, but at the same time simply wanted to get the meaning of the lecture given. I am normally not one for ranting about something like that on the web, too, and I do not mean any disrespect or offence to Olaf, but it makes something very clear: That there´s a difference between fantasy re-enactment and historical research. Not that I want to belittle fantasy re-enactment, everyone should do what he´d like as long as he does not voluntarily harm anyone. And wanting to learn is not for everyone, either. But when I look back along my life, the happiest and most rewarding moments I had, apart from the ones I spent on my mountainbike riding along impossible ridges at lake Garda or in the Alps or through silent and solitary woods, were those at the university, when after a long day in the library you finally came across that one word or sentence in a dusty book that simply fell into place. When you got a tiny glimpse of the truth.

The students involved had of course interest in the martial aspects of swordplay, but also did a very sound demo of the research involved. It´s not about smashing your opponent to pieces (even if I trust each and every one of them to be more than capable to do that), but a responsible line of learning with a most deadly offensive weapon that at the same time stands for a psychological archetype. A sword is a very essential piece not only of our culture, but also of our psychological landscape. In the same way that the use of axe and knife has shaped our very hands and motoric and sensoric interaction, the sword has shaped our archetypical psychological landscape. And, as I would like to put it, by studying it, you might get a tiny glimpse of that hidden truth. It is not an aspect of an academic guy being better than one who is not, but an aspect of self-respect and pride in the humility of being a student of life. For I find I deserve to know more than I know now, and deserve to be a better human being next year than I am now. Everyone deserves to. But since I cannot care for everyone, I simply decided it was about time I´d do what I want, and that is getting a glimpse of the truth. And the sword conveys that meaning.

Unrest and myself then made for the booths we had yet missed and came across the booth of Andreas Henrichs. He had a lot of goodies on display, including this Viking sword (Wheeler type III). I loved it!
It was also great to see the Damascus blades, which were absolutely bargain for that quality!
We had a great chat with Andreas. He is a very accomplished craftsman with a very laidback and down-to-earth attitude. It was a right pleasure to meet! We bought some scrap Damascus for next to nothing, and traded emails.
I daresay Unrest got the bug bad, and I guess there´d be one or the other forging session coming up soon...;-).
A detail of the lovely Viking sword hilt with gold and silver inlay.
Another detail...
Then it was a right-hand turn to face... one of my favourite human beings of the expo: JT Palikkö not only is an extremely accomplished master of swordsmithing and knifemaking, but also a great and funny chap to boot. In fact, it was mainly some weird jokes we traded:-D.
He got a visit by someone who might as well be the next shooting star of German swordsmithing. Lucas, a young gun, had brought this lovely late medieval long sword for evaluation by JT, and it turns out he was certainly quite impressed and seemed a bit reluctant to hand it back over;-). He gave valuable input as usual. I love that most when meeting with those swordsmiths: They are a great community with an abnormal degree of politeness and respect for each other. Those who really want to learn, can prosper in this community. I sincerely hope to make an article about Lucas soon, since we traded email addresses and will hopefully stay in contact! As for the swordsmithing scene I strongly suspect that most of them are very responsible characters well aware about the fact that what they create is a deadly weapon of assault and an artefact of grave importance. Of course, there´s also a lot of weird humour, but most of them are very unique and sympathetic characters. I daresay we will see further on why this might be;-).
And of course JT had more to offer than "just" some advice, for he had some of his lovely swords on display, too. This one is a Hungarian saber which he interpreted as closely as possible. While he extrapolated the hilt in his reconstruction, the whole concept of the saber is a s close to the real thing as possible, including the nodes of percussion and the distribution of the weight. I had the privilege to handle it (no swinging and flailing about wildly of course:-)), and it was that light and well-balanced you could handle it with three fingers. Nothing could be more wrong than thinking a medieval sword were a clumsy thing used like an oversized cold chisel to peel the opponent out of his plate armour! Fighting with such a weapon requires an abnormal amount of body control, precision and practice, and a swordfight certainly was nothing less than a romantic affair. It is unrealistic to think that a swordfight would last a day, as is often stated in romantic poems and stories. Closer to reality is the situation that lasts some mere seconds-then one would be dead. In Japanese philosophy there are the terms "one sword of Death, one sword of Life" referring to the fact that if a sword is kept in the sheath and used to develop one´s character, it can actually be life - giving. It is all about constantly keeping in mind the consequences of one´s behaviour and acting accordingly. I daresay this would be a great asset in today´s world if more people would relate to this line of thought.

On we went to the booth of Maihkel. Now Maihkel is another artist and great human being, always smiling and with a calm and steady air about him. He had many lovely art knives on display. Certainly not my piece of cake, for I tend to abuse my knives a lot, but that´s all my fault really:-).

I admired the craftsmanship on this axehead. Maihkel got the axehead, presumeably out of Wootz / Pulad steel on a flea market in France and did this lovely engraving on it.
More to my personal liking  was this daneaxe, also an old one he engraved with a beautiful interpretation of an Urnes style Viking knotwork.
Maihkel seems to have an obsession to date with engraving;-). he transformed this roebuck skull into this work of art... almost makes you want to die so that he could engrave your bones...*ggg*.

Time was on short supply, so we just traded some friendly talk and one more smile, and off we were to my absolute highlight of the show. Having met Peter Johnsson, one of the premier scholars and craftsmen in swordsmithing, last year, and having written to and fro one or the other email, I can safely state that he has inspired my life. Unfortunately time´s ALWAYS on short supply when we meet, and a thorough discussion would take us way too far for the limited time. I have thoroughly studied his theories on sword physics, and to say I am inspired would not do it half justice.

Let´s put it that way: In a way we might as well be kindred spirits. I asked him if he´d call himself a warrior, and he said that he would say so, but not one of the sword, but one of the mind. It is quite obvious that he teaches with a fierce passion, and I got his meaning well.
But what is less than obvious maybe is that there´s a dimension of his theory that is a reproduceable metaphysical effect. In a post concerning last year´s expo, I had reported that there was this "little girl" who, when taking up the sword, was like a lamp unblended. Now look at the picture of this lady. She was a well-educated intellectual with presumeably an academical career, speaking English with an "Oxford" accent, and in her 70s.
When she took the late medieval sword to hand that Peter offered her, the same happened as it did last year with that "little girl". Suddenly she became far more present, radiant almost. She had a twinkle in her eye but you could also tell she became careful around the weapon.

We discussed this matter, and Peter again explained his theory that medieval sword physics, following the same principles as masonry and architecture, were designed to do exactly that. Following a kind of sacred and symbolic geometry, the sword was not only becoming a most deadly offensive weapon, but also a means of enlightenment, deeply embedded in a ritualistic canon.

What we talk about here is a philosophy dating back to philosophers like Thomas von Aquin, and, keeping in mind the other scriptures of that time, a philosophy that was called the "Solomonic master key" or "master´s sigil" in Christian natural philosophy. Musical harmony, astronomy, theology, art, medicine, law and alchemy as natural philosophy all followed these principles in order to gain "precision, subtlety, higher understanding and deeper reckoning" (Hanns Schmuttermayer, Fialenbuchlein, ca 1480, quoted after

It can be supposed that the theory is based on Pythagorean principles and philosophy, and at once something fell into place while we talked. Can it be that, just as well as the sword connects to the body when taken to hand, something happens on a deeper, more psychological level?

I have done a lot of research on the AZOTH, the Paracelsian principles of diagnostic and treatment in medicine and magic, and had tried to evaluate the facts and speculations concerning the obscure manuscript "The Cauldron of poesy", a manuscript by an anonymous scribe (featured in Eriu XXVI, in case you ask;-)) and embedded in "Imacallam in Dá Thúarad (colloquy of the two sages)" . When talking to Peter, something fell into place concerning these researchs and his theory. For just like the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci not only symbolizes a proportion in arts, but a relation to the Cosmos, thus does this theory not only represent a proportional geometry, but a relation to the whole. And as I want to state that the psyche or soul, if you like that word better, has an effect on the body, it is quite obvious that the geometry and physics of the sword has an effect on its "metaphysis" (please take note that I mean this in the sense of the word, not the connotation, meaning "Above / behind the physical"), metaphysis in this case meaning the faculties of balance, handling, "feel" directly influenced by the layout. And as the soul or psyche reacts on the physics of a sword, it must be possible to draw a line of agnition between the way the psyche reacts to the layout of an "inspired" sword as I´d like to call it. For in my book there are well - made swords, badly made ones, and "inspired" ones. The latter give the owner or the person who handles them the impression of having a "spirit" or "soul". The observations I have made, while still lacking empiric relevance, hint that this effect is not only subjective, but objective and subject to geometrical layout of the sword. This would in turn indicate that the medieval theory- that geometry is more than just a method of construction -actually bears scientific relevance. In turn, this might imply that the metaphysical aspects of those theories deserve to be considered in a modern way. I have long since suspected that the observations I have made in meditation after a medieval diagram have more significance than being but a fancy of one half-mad outcast:-P. Suffice to say that a crucial ingredient of that diagram is the Vesica, which in turn is crucial to the construction of medieval swords also. And in a symbolic meaning as well in a biological, in a physical as well in a metaphysical way the Vesica has something to do with portraying a correlation between two node points or topological fields. I smell it here, and it has my mind racing in a most positive manner.

I have now neither room or space to spread this topic out, and it will have to wait for a different post. Suffice to say, as intellectual and prosaic one might be, the effect can even be witnessed by a sceptic like Unrest, who´s now moving to and fro the possibility of writing a mathematical program to analyse the theory, be it even to prove it´s wrong;-).

So what we have here is a massive amount of inspiration, and I daresay Peter would like that a lot.

I will go back to the drawing board, so to say. And I very much look forward to the exhibition "The sword - form and thought" , a most revolutionary approach to medieval and modern swordmaking which will take place in the Klingenmuseum Solingen from September 25th. I really, really look forward to meeting the likes of Petr, Peter, Jake, Owen, JT, and all the others in autumn on the selling exposition of swords and related deviant art.

I heard it told (by wanderers:-D) that the motto of the event which is more or less an Arctic Fire event gone "sober";-), will be the forging of Xiphos, "penetrating light", originally the name of an iron age type of sword, but now the concept of a combined effort of the best swordsmiths in the Western world.

So the event will offer enough interesting input for all aficionados, swordsmen and philosophers. In October, it will be followed up by a HEMA martial arts workshop and an exhibition.

After a good hour´s intense talk we went on our merry way. Please do not take me wrong: There was still a lot to see, and of very high quality, but there was little capacity left in my brain. But the other booths I just passed in a hurry and a frenzy.

What I did, however, is visit two booths that always stand out:
Gerhard Wieland had his really eloquent knives on display, meticulously handcrafted the "tribal" way.
This one I liked a lot!
And there was Andreas Schweikert, whom I owe a lot of valuable input and inspiration. He also forges with little machinery and also does Wootz and Damascus blades. He had these machetes, Kopis and Parang and En-Nep on display. They are made from C 60 steel and well documented:

What can I say?


What an emotional rollercoaster ride. What a hotspot of extremely high quality craftsmanship and quality people. What a frenzy, but also how much inspiration.

Readers of my blog know how reluctant I was to forge my first sword. And even as I did it, I did not like the experience. But I realized one thing that I cannot deny. I am a swordsmith, and cannot help it. I did not call for it. But there are many things now pointing me into this direction. There are many, many thoughts racing through my mind now, and I can´t spill them right now.

But when visiting this expo, many things just fell into place. I cannot thank Peter enough. For offering the gear that clicked into my drivetrain of thought.

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