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Mittwoch, 9. April 2014

The new bullies on the block;-)-the folks from Ahlhauser Hammer Smithy!

It was some time ago when Mike and Diana dropped by the Bethaus smithy to do some forging with their little one and having a go. It was right fun to work with them, for especially Mike is an accomplished blacksmith himself. We the talked about some plans of theirs to revive an old smithy in the Ennepetal that - alas - burned down some time ago. Now there´s a club to sponsor its revival, and Diana wrote the other day for me to announce they are now online. And here comes the link:

I want to give you some personal ins and outs about this smithy. It is one of the old smithies in the Ennepe valley, an old site of many smithing manufactories, and one of the last upholders of regional smithing traditions. Scythes, machetes and farming tools as knives also were made there. It stands in line with the Krenzer Hammer, another manufactory looking back on a long tradition. The valley is also deeply molded
by blacksmithing and metallurgy. Even the trees tell a tale of a long tradition of crop-change farming, charcoaling and bloomery. In many places you can find slag heaps, the so - called "Sinnerhoopen" and iron oxides and ore which hint to the smelting of the legendary steel for the "Brackersfelder Knopmetz". The smithy burned down some time ago, and those folks are now faced with the challenge to start with zero to rebuild a tradition. It is a very great thing, because this can  establish a new tradition. I will contribute as much as I can, and might be the "Brackersfelder Knopmetz" will come to life in their smithy... we will see what the future brings. For now I am quite enthused.

If you could find it in you (or your purse) to contribute to their work, please contact them via their homepage. Thank you!

Dienstag, 18. März 2014

Spring hammer - In at the Bethaus smithy

 Last weekend saw the sun shining and the folks getting nervous to be out smithing again. So we called each other up, and made for the smithy. Willy was already there lighting up forge.
 Nick dropped by, too. He wanted to get the little spring steel knife he started for his woman, ready, and found out the hard way that annealing is the harder part... don´t let it bother you, bro, you´re doing well enough, and we all know how it is to get the first one done!
 This is the bronze knife I forged that day.
 The kids kept coming, and we did some tutorials, too.
 Willy especially had a lot to do and did a great job as usual!
 The kids were right stoked to make their own projects!
 Then Daniel arrived and had a go himself. It was all  a good-natured and friendly atmosphere, and many of the kids weren´t there for the first time, but are there each weekend to do some forging.
 This is an iron age knife Willy made with the kids. Inspiring!
 I forged this teeter-totter snail, and it was almost as much fun making it as playing with it afterwards... guess there´s an idea!
 Then Alex and his kids dropped by. Alex is Viktor´s son and keeps the fire burning for sure. He brought his own barbecue, and we had a chat and a laugh!
 A Kopis I made, all integral, no grinding yet!
 When the moon came out, we lit the barbecue again. I had prepared some cheese- stuffed champignons and parika, the guys brought meat and bread, we had a beer and chatted the night away.
 Oh, and discussed the results of a day;-). Sgians forged by myself and finished by Willy... guess there´s a cooperation coming;-)...

 Viktor had got himself some cleavers on a flea market recently, and I like ´em very much. Presumeably from the 18th / 19th century, all hand - forged.
When I rode home I was feeling content and glad of my acquaintance! Folks, it was a fun day, great to have you around!

What a bronze knife can do....

 The other day I had that little itchy twitchy troll at the back of my mind wanting to know it again, and so, during our last hammer - In I just made another bronze knife. I wanted it primarily for harvesting herbs and elf-watching (they just hate iron, you know;-)). I wanted to know also why it might be that humans were so reluctant to adapt to iron (the European bronze age endured thousands of years, and some good thousand years after the first iron products were made, bronze tools were still widely used throughout all classes and castes and regions). Could it be that bronze makes for good backwoods tools after all?
 The blade is hot forged to a certain degree and then hammered out cold to work - harden it. I was able to get the blade shaving sharp, and it whittled fire sticks and delicate flower work well.

 The knife. I estimate the hardness in the ultimate edge about 50 HRC. It could easily be maintained using a sandstone for grinding and a quartz for finishing, a good thing in the wilderness. I then asked myself whether it would stand up to some abuse. Prying and digging with it bent the tip slightly, but with little effort the blade could be straightened.
 I batoned it through some dried birch wood, and did some chopping to twigs. Chopping dented the blade a bit in the hind part where I could not do as much cold-working due to lack of experience with the material. Also, this is a bearing bronze and not ideally suited for the task due to a high copper content. A traditional knife bronze (98% copper/2% tin or 1%/1% silver) would come out way harder
But even as is, you wouldn´t have any problem whatsoever surviving in the woods with this knife. I guess bronze tools simply were doing the job well enough so that humans simply did not feel the need to swap. This need only arose when weapons were concerned, for a steel weapon e.g. made from ferrum noricum (not iron, mind you!) will ultimately shear through a bronze  sword. Bello pater omniae seems to apply in this case.

Bronze as a foraging tool has its advantages, though. Herbs harvested with a bronze knife or sickle will not take to a metallic taste so easily and, according to hearsay, will be more effective in healing. So this one will see use for foraging herbs.

Mittwoch, 5. März 2014

Toodling around the bush;-)

 The other day I was feeling the need again, that itchy, scratchy need to get out and put in some singletrack miles. Also there was the birch sap rising at mild temperatures and I saddled my steed and put some tools into my daypack and a fresh container bottle, made myself a flask of tea, and then I made for the hills. The sun was shining, and at first I was thinking about heading straight to the grove, but then decided otherwise and took in some much-missed singletrack riding. It is funny, I do njot often realize I miss it,l but when I am finally on my bike again and headed down a technical singletrail , everything fallos into place again. I contemplated a bit about that, while I was riding up a steep road that mends into a fireroad, and that I have ridden since I was a child. I took this route home from school when I was kid quite often. Now my time at school was not exactly an easy one. I was better at school than most, I had different questions, I was not very good at sports how it was teached (I hated football or basketball or gymnastics, and even though I rode mountainbike races already, even worldcup races, I always failed at school sports;-)), and, generally I was a strange kid, growing up in the woods as I did. Mountainbiking up that trail always had a kind of katharsis effect from all the mobbing and mocking and violence I had to suffer. I struggled up that road, and where it ends and goes on as a fireroad into the woods, I used to stop and relax, and it always was as if a great weight was taken from my shoulders. 23 years later my life is not exactly easy, and will never be, and sadness is a companion on my trail. But as I took my feet from the pedals of a way different bike, with a loooong high-mech suspension fork and no drum brakes at all;-), I felt the weight of it all subside, and I breezed in the early spring breeze freely. I often think about mountainbiking in general quite critical these days. Most mountainbikers I know behave like right morons. This is a development I witnessed since quite recently. Noone respects hikers, horseback riders, or hunters anymore, in fact it is deemed an act of coolness to ooze out quite some language into their faces. Slowing down before hikers is uncool, and tearing up the landscape with manmade stunts off the trail, is no longer  a no-go, but commonplace. Okay, so I have built stunts myself, on abandoned trails, and had fun with them. And it´s not really a great damage done, if it´s done properly and with respect to nature and fellow human beings. But this new generation of riders (with quite a lot of old-generation riders in it also) simply does not care a shit, to a degree that they even get bodily against people pointing out it´s not okay to do this or that. I always try to talk to people politely and to find a solution, but I have given up on trail access issues, for the worst enemy of legal trails are the mountainbikers themselves. And if you add politics to the issue you got a brew that will drive the sanest man mad. So the taste of mountainbiking has become a bit of a bitter one, for on many outings I meet with hunters, pedestrians and equestrians, and simply because I talk to them, even if it is difficult at times, politely and with respect, I get a right shower of the foul, of their bad experiences with bikers, and I often have to admit that they are right. I feel ashamed and cannot but try to make things right others have made worse, and continue to do so.

I will continue to follow my heart on the path of my soul, and this involves riding as well as being a part of nature. And I do not think it´s a contradiction. Tire tracks will heal with time, even stunts would be okay, but you have to know where, when and how you do it. If you love nature, you want to get to know more of it, and if you know, you will have your fun in a manner that does not ruin too much. But this is not a post for the morons. It´s a post about silent joy. It´s a post about feeling flow on a singletrail as well as sitting on a stump and having a sip of tea, savouring the sun, and a gentle breeze in early spring, listening to the birds singing and feeling the sap rising. The morons will never understand. They are too busy posting the weight and mass and colour of their morning shit on facebook or what´s app to simply sit back silently. Language? Quite truly so, but that´s the only jargon they understand.

I have always been different to them, I never had a part in their business. Mountainbiking has been my vehicle into the other world, to get there faster, there, where I was born and where I belong. I am a different being, and have more in common with an oak or birch or a hare or fox or the wandering hunter´s moon than I have with their world. As an infant, my lullaby was the song of the breeze in the soft treetops of spruce and fir, and the hooting of owls and the cry of the buzzard was more important to me than the latest top ten pop song.

I will no longer partake in a world where I don´t belong, at least not more than I must, and I will become stranger and wilder still.
 I arrived in the grove with all thoughts run out, as it well should be, for these thoughts are poison. Death it is to insult a poet, death, to love him, and to be a poet means death also. He who knows must not ask, he who asks, knows not. So, I left all these thoughts to the breeze and the light and the eraly scent of spring, wafting through the birch grove ever so gently. Down I sat with my back against a birch tree, and sipped my tea.
 I took out my two latest projects, two Kopis knives, that will fit in the concept of "Grimsarksberarmál", a poem and a story I have in the making, given by the wandering moon and a feather of the cat-owl;-). The topmost knife is made from Zwissler damascus with a wild pattern, which I know nothing of, but it took a good temper. Below is a knife out of Wootz steel I found in the woods.

"Beyond the dream road through the iron wood
Lord of the forest made love to a faerie:
Silently the moon´s reflection in the water."

The hours passed in thought and without thought, and in reflection and meditation (others call that drinking tea;-)). Then it went a bit cold, and I went over to the birch I tapped and got me a bottle of sap and fixed a fresh one to it. Oh the loot:

And I rode home with freed shoulders.

Torture testing my new knives and talking a pile of rubbish as usual

So here they come, some small clips (of lousy quality, of course, uncut and cut-off, I know you liek it rustic;-)) of me sitting in the woods and doing harm to some examples of insult to the idea of a knife;-). First comes the bushcraft knife I made recently and of which I have already posted a clip of testing the tip strength. I first did some chopping (aged and dried beech wood). It chops quite well, as I thought, due to the offset angle of the handle.
Then it was checking for sharpness, cutting paper. The paper I brought with me in my rucksack and it had been raining a bit, so it was, while not wet through, slightly clammy. The knife did well enough cutting through it, but there is still room left for improvement. Guess I have to work on my normalizing before heat - treating still. As is, it´s shaving sharp, but not hair - splitting sharp.
And this is some testing of my new En - Nep fully integral. I am quite fond of it, for in this case the tempering is spot - on. It´s also withstanding a load of abuse, including some 80 kg of fat-arsed Fimbulmyrk;-):
I want to emphasize that this is gross abuse of a knife. Do. Not. Try. This. At. Home. At least not with a run-of-the mill production knife.

The spine came out straight after this. I then tested the tip strength in my usual manner. It came out unscathed, and I really, really like it. Must I mention that I took all of my rubbish (paper) home again?;-)

So, why do I do this? The answer is simple: I simply think you cannot get better without a challenge. And I want to work on my consistency. It´s getting there, but I have high standards, and I want my very own no-frills, hardcore bushcraft knife that I can rely on 100%, and that I can replicate at will. It´s still some way to go, but I think I am on the path. And when I have the monosteel wired, I will then work even more on laminate steel, damascus and self-made wootz steel. I then hopefully have enough years left of my life to someday be able to forge a sword worthy of a tale and a testing. That´s my goal.;-)

Dienstag, 25. Februar 2014

Rapatap the birchsaptaprap, yo! - A foraging ride with Erdmuthe;-)

 Erdmuthe;-), called me up the other day if I wanted to go for a ride with her;-), oops, ON a ride, that is;-). I had planned to do some birch sap foraging, so I fetched her  and we did a plain old fun ride to the grove. It was being a bit muddy, and I guess, it was quite a bit of climbing involved, considering she´s a rookie, only riding for -is that one year? Respect for her, for she did very well, even when it got a bit tough. Jandark, congratulations on your choice of woman;-)...

We had a little lunch break, me having a sip of tea and she having a right feast;-) to be true, she offered me to partake, but I had to politely decline. Several singletrails and some chatting later we arrived at the grove, where I had already prepared my tap system a week ago, and the sap is on the rise well. Readers of my blog are well acquainted to the method I learned from the old Russian master at the smithy, Viktor. Please take care to tap a birch you haven´t tapped the year before, don´t take more than you need, and plug the hole with a piece of branch afterwards. Thank you!
 The bottle was half-full, and I changed it to a fresh one. I will make some more mead this year, so I am taking a bit more than last year. We had a sip of birch sap, some more tea, and a nice talk about self-sufficient living and bushcraft, and simply took in the scenery.
 Then the light went low, and with the red and golden rays of the sun we  made for the trip home.

I simply love the enchanted colour of those twilit woods! It was a simple day with simple pleasures, and I hope Erdmuthe can take home those rays of sunlight when things look dark, her life not being exactly easy. But whose life is? All we can do is try to figure out what´s best, stay pointed into the right direction, and keep going. And some things smile, and sometimes there are good moments to treasure.

Samstag, 22. Februar 2014

Lost places and steel found;-) - a spring hike in winter

 Today was one of those days I felt the urge to simply get out into the not-so-wild. I packed up and took the bus towards the Sauerland, and made off  into the hills.
 The sun was shining, and the road led me into a rare-trodden part of the woods, where lie the remnants of a WWII explosives factory. Everywhere there were huge blocks of concrete, strewn as if blown by the wind, and the destruction of this work of man was almost utterly complete.
 The birds were singing, and it was very warm, and everywhere there was green sprouting delicately, and life springs up, gently still, but it wells up again.
 But there, on a tree branch, I saw the skull, presumeably of a wild pig. Someone had put it up there, and it faced directly towards the entrance of the hidden hall.
 There is a certain beauty in this coincidence in my book. It is almost as if death himself showed the way to the underground, the mysterium of the sprouting life welling up from root and mycel underneath, growing violently in to the darkness. Life is no less violent than death, but in our everyday notion of things we fail to see this. Of course, there was nothing superstitious about the hall. It was an old factory site, nothing more. Or is it?
 The interior. there are some strange shafts inside I first took for chimneys, but now I doubt it.

This is how those chimneys look from outside:

 On I went, leaving the dark behind, passing by tree and mossy stones, deeper into the woods.
 And thus I came towards the hilltop, and beneath the hill, there is an old dump site. Many old farmhouses have dumpster sites like this, and for those who know and are able to put it to use they are sometimes right treasure troves:
 Leaf spring steel. ANCIENT leaf spring steel, to be precise. Ancient leaf spring steel that has been cold-worked for ages and then left to rust, making for a very fine grain structure when forged correctly.
 Coincidentally;-) I found this hacksaw in my pack, oops, don´t know how it came there;-) and got me piece for forging what I like best to forge!;-)

Then, on top of the hill, there is the ruin of this old farmhouse, whereof hails one of my many storytelling knives (I made a post about it in January)

The ruin, strangled in ivy and little trees, has somewhat of a fairy, eerie atmosphere to it, and I took it in with my deep breaths.

All broken down to become something new, the place is now a place where worlds collide; where the veil between our cherished reality and the realm of something else is growing ever thinner with decay, and decaying are the threads of the weavings we surround ourselves with to assure ourselves that our path is the only one to be trodden. But the other world laughs at our plight of hiding behind our well-polished lies.

 And thus I weave, a cloth of dreams. Of the wind in the treetops and the silent gliding wings, and the song of the owls that led me over the hills and yonder, and towards the valley again. I want to weave this cloth of dreams and seam it with moonlight and starlight and the night winds in the woods. I want to wear it as a cloak when I have to walk amongst all-destroying Mammon´s disciples, to protect me against hate and iron.
 Towards the valley, and there, on the threshold I sat and took a sip of tea from my flask.
 And thus fell twilight, and strands of twilight I took with gentle hands to twine it into the cloth of my dreams, to interlace it with the fading sun and the rising of the light of stars.
And back I trod into the world that is no longer entirely my only abode. For this cloak is mine, and it is the other world´s dream, and it is a name, a mask and a mirror I wear.

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