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Dienstag, 19. Juli 2016

On the bench: Bushcraft Santoku and American Tanto

 Now to something different: I was wanting to do a Santoku bushcraft design from laminate steel. This is in fact a first test on the design I made from Unimog spring steel, selectively tempered, 120x 3.8 mm to 2 mm. The holes are punched...unfortunately one o´them did go a bit awry. But, it should work well enough for testing. Blade and tang are tapering for balance. The balance point should be on the index finger if all goes well.
 The testing as I did to date shows great capabilities in kitchen applications and while woodcarving can be done, it is less than ideal... I will further refine the design, I think, to make it suited better for the task. And might be I´d even make some to sell... we´ll see.
 Another altogether different matter is this tanto design, which actually is no tanto design, but an American adaptation of a kind of Katana (Japanese long sword) tip for a tactical knife. I love to experiment with knife designs and like to go to limits. This is a tactical knife, and I have not yet much liked this style, and still do not much take to the martial concept of many of them. But there is no denying the fact that the American Tanto tip is near indestructible and offers advantages not only in penetration capabilities, but also in whittling. For instance, I have broken off the tip of some carving knives when trying to carve a spoon or Kuksa without a spoon knife. Also, when working with a mason, I used my utility knife to cut the grooves into dry building boards with the tip and dulled it quite a lot. Obviously you use a chisel normally;-), but when there is no chisel at hand, you use what is at hand. So, there is more to the American Tanto design, and I do not believe it actually makes for a better weapon, but for a better tool. I forged this blade from some steel I found in the woods. When I found it, it showed some pattern, but even after 24 h of hardcore etching it shows no patina whatsoever. It slams through mild steel rods and I aborted the bending test at 25°.
 Not that it bends easily with a thickness of some 9 mm at the handle! It then tapers quite radically, as does the tang, which is drilled out for balance, too (yeah, I know I messed up, but it cost me three
!glass! drill bits to get through this material. And this after I thoroughly annealed and deep-froze and annealed once more and I could work it with a file). Not that it was that hard, it just was so ductile that the bore chips came in one long and several short ones. The grates were looking as if someone punched a pudding. Weird.
Also, it carves mild steel, chops antler and penetrates oil cans. If anything is a tactical tool, this steel is. I plan on fitting another no-go: A Micarta handle with red G-10 liners and making a hardened multipurpose leather sheath for it... or maybe I´d even have a go at a Kydex (TM) sheath... we´ll see how it goes. Maybe it´ll get desert iron wood or ebony.... would fit the bill just as well, and I don´t like that special waste on my knives still.

I look forward to it even if it is so different to my normal line of thought. In fact, I do, BECAUSE it is so different to everything I would normally make, and it might help broaden my view and confirm new perspectives.

A rookie ride with catastrophes and cake and coffee...;-)

 Two weeks ago we met again @Felsengarten in Hagen to get in some technical basics. The smiths and crafties seem to have developed an affinity for fat tires...;-) I claim to be innocent, no really, I am ;-). Nick showed up with his new Stevens Taniwha 29er (Dom, dom, the Taniwha has come...:-)) he really enjoyed.
 It was really, really cool that Kai showed up to help with the tutoring and have some fun. He has got a lot to do at the moment, what with his studies and his eagerness to be the best... ;-). It was good fun to have him around, have a chat and do some sicker lines to impress the folks... ;-)
 We also foraged for some sage and lavender and did some owl-watching... but alas... the owl family was not at home... ;-) and we did some smelling the roses.
 The vicinity is really beautiful and you can do everything, if you do it sensible. Basking in the sun is one thing...
 We did some braking practice, and then Henning came to me and asked about some funny noises his bike made. Then it turned out there were some huge chunky tires fitted, and while the stays offered plenty clearance, the front derailleur obviously did not, and the only way was to take the big/big combination...

 Turned out that with a shortcage rear derailleur and a chain that was a bit short and a 100kg body weight that was a combination that was less than ideal.

So Henning tore off his derailleur hanger. #shit, if you ask me. Henning is fighting quite some adversaries taking up the sport, and I am really sorry for this (but cannot help it any). Mountainbiking is a hard sport, and you WILL fall, and you WILL hurt yourself, and you WILL wreck your bike. Mastery comes with controlling the circumstances, so that if you hurt yourself, you do not hurt yourself permanently, and if you wreck your bike, you are prepared to repair it. A torn derailleur hanger, however, is just about SNAFU.

Since it did not work out, Henning packed up and was off for a BBQ, and we continued tutoring Nick and Kathrin. I was really fond of Kathrin, who is making some huge progress at the moment. She has to overcome some mental barriers still (some anxiety and the plain refusal to do some essential things such as getting accustomed to riding with a lowered seat in technical situations, but as is, her composure and body tonus are way good already.

Lowering your seat in technical situations is not only a requirement of style. It often is crucial for survival, and even on some leisurely and casual rides you always encounter steep inclines where a high seat will ultimately send you over the bars. This is often not easy to understand for beginner riders, why you need a high seat for some situations and a low one for others, but it is an essential technical basic to know when to say when. A lower seat, even if you are not accustomed to it, will offer you more control in steep inclines and when climbing over obstacles.

We did some more braking practice and some first practice on off road terrain. Kai gave some valuable additional input with his background in trials and hardcore freeride mountainbike riding.
 Then we rode out to Käse Deele trailside café to do some practice in balancing a cuppa coffee and a piece of cake while having a laughing fit ;-).
Just having a good time and relaxing after a cool day riding!

Folks, it just feels cool to just go out with you, and as I have said on countless occasions - I really look forward to showing you some real rides and to open up the "heart of the wind" for you! But even so, it´s cool to have you around! For this to me is what mountainbike riding is all about: hanging out with some friends at places where it is really cool, pushing your comfort zone and playing around on a bike, and some good foodie afterwards which you can delve into with relish.

Simple. Fun. ;-)

A crossover design... for a Puukko

 This is something I have in the works at the moment with some thoughts on knife design. The lecture on Puukko design by Anssi Ruusuvuori had my mind racing, and having looked at some modern Puukko designs I find they bear a striking resemblance to Japanese Tanto or Aikuchi designs.

These characteristics are mainly the simple handle and the diamond shape of the blade. Differences include the lack of a Habaki and the rarely upswept point of the blade with Puukko designs.

I forged the blade from some Wootz steel I found in the woods... 110mmx5-2mm blade, selective temper, for technical data.
The grind is "hon zukuri", convex to zero, not that clean, to be quite honest, but I lack experience with a belt grinder. Next time I´ll stick to my trusty files! :-)

For the handle I adapted a shape from the Novgorod knife finds with an octagonal shape from bog oak. This has quite an interesting history. A loose acquaintance of mine and the magic troll´s we meet at re-enactment fairs from time to time had the wood for cheap. The corporation he worked for was being restored, and under the foundations of the building they found an old house from medieval times. The wood was conserved in the soil and was salvaged by him-he had made entire stools from bog oak!

The design is a bit dark to my liking, so I guess I´ll do some fittings from silver or bronze for´t. As is, it´s really sharp and well - balanced.


Mittwoch, 6. Juli 2016

Into the twilight on a lunatic´s path

 I tend to have only shitty days these days at work. Politics have always been somewhat psychologically challenged with a huge ego and stuff, but now it is nearing insane. But I know well it´s all my fault... I just cannot say that the wall is green, even if it´s white, just because I am told to. The lunatic therefore is me.

That´s fine and okay with me, for some of my biggest idols were lunatics... say Suibhne Geilt, Lailoken and all those Myrddins and Merlins, and their example shows me the way out. Out to the mountains and the woods, where life still reigns supreme and not that parody that is said to be life - amongst humans. So arrogant has our species become, and thus blind, that it claims that only human society is the measure for life and death... how wrong this is and how ridiculous, anyone who can still feel it, can feel in the thicket. It does not necessarily need to be untamed and wild, and not necessarily a "grave danger with Dave Granger" outing ;-) to feel it. It is just underneath the next holly bush.

There it lies, the "olore malle", the silver chord that leads to the navel of twilight. There it lies, in silence, the place where you can sprout wings and tread in stealth and speak in riddles, giggles and stifled whispers.

And yeah, again, as I did so many times before I followed it, into the twilight and deeper still, along the crags and into the green. With closed mouth and an open heart I walked and climbed the crumbling rock.

Dark and deep lay the crevice, full of unspoken secrets, the nesting place of owls. I talked about it when they asked me. They asked me, and at first I did not want to reply and answered with commonplaces and riddles. And my boss insisted and applied force, and I told the story, for "you can take my past and future / It won´t make you wise" (Lemmy Kilmister). She laughed at me, for there are no owls in her world. Owls are an ornament or something you see in a zoo.

And I laughed with her, against her, with a menacing laughter, that was not entirely human anymore. I laughed with cruel joy. For her ignorance makes her prey to what the owl stands for.

And she rises from her eyrie on planes beyond, rises on stealthy wings, like a whisper in the night. Her claws and beak are eager for the living flesh; she of the mighty wisdom, she of the cruel joy of the hunt, she of the thousand crafts and the mistress of the hunter.

Up rise the mossy crags into the twilight,

 ...up rise the vigorous oaks...
 ...up rise the mushrooms from the mycel in the dark...
 ... and from the embrace of twilight I look into the sun.
 The weird and the wonderful line this path, and eye to eye is mirrored in the sky that is no sky...
 Treetops one can see through the mirror, trees that once were or that might be, but they are not.
 In this cathedral I breathe, freely as in a dream. It may be that all will end eventually due to the haughtiness of man... but it is better to live in truth than in lies. It is better to die for the truth than in a lie. These trees are a truth, an asset that is not rooted in economy, even if economy is the reason they grow there. Maybe all is corrupted, even the order according to which the trees grow, planted by a forest bureau and only for reasons of economical value... but look at this picture and tell me this again! Feel the sun on your skin and tell me money is all there is!

For it is not. They want to keep hope from our lives, they want to rout these happy feelings and replace them with guilt and shame-unto we shall consume what junk and glittering trumpery they place before us in order to satisfy our insane greed. And we run, run at their bidding, to fulfil the new first commandment: Thou shalt buy and trash! But beyond the image of a wood, be it as it may, the silver dream road through the iron wood commences, where fairy tales still live.

I found this totem pole at a camp site some locals had set up and had to smile...

To the hills I wandered, and what is the message of this hike?

This is a signpost reading: "The concept of the Kyrill reforestation program"... but you cannot read it anymore...
 The forest has taken it all back, overgrown it, slowly and steadily... reclaims the ground...
...and the silver chord of dreams.

They cannot win.

Mittwoch, 29. Juni 2016

Rookie Ride, Foraging and cuppa coffee

It has been quite some time since I last offered a rookie training, and yeah, while it was stress that I gotted mobbed out of my own club for´t, I did not quite realize that I missed sharing knowledge with ambitioned rookie riders. The gals and guys from the iron forge squad were interested in doing some goofing around and we met at ... tadaaah... Felsengarten area in Hagen. The schedule was to do some basic tutorial, forage for some herbs and watch the eagle owls nesting there. We met at half past two on Sunday. Kathrin came by and Henning... and Julia had announced her venue...;-). I could not take any on-bike pictures, and it was a bit chaotic at best, for Henning´s 35-year old klunker disintegrated due to spontaneous material wear;-), and we could not stick to the plan, but as is, Henning went rad with the old iron, and Kathrin deserves even more respect, by embarking on a 20km ride even to get there.
Julia suffered from a hangover and did no riding, but just smelled the roses.
After the training, we went foraging for St. John´s Wort, lavender and sage and carried home quite a loot!
Kathrin collected St. John´s wort for oil concoctions, especially for curing burn marks for the smiths! Way cool, Kathrin, that´s how it should work... ;-)
The vicinity of the Felsengarten area is a very cool place to relax.
We also met with an elderly lady who was doing some owl-watching and who readily shared her knowledge with us. We watched the eagle owls, and had a nice chat.
Then all of a sudden we heard this soft groaning rumble... accompagnied by the customary whining of Julia, who demanded to be off, for now she was hungry. Of course, she has to satisfy her need in an instant ;-), because else she gets free radicals ;-) and we must suffer from her temper :-), so off we were. Henning and Julia drove out to the Käse Deele café, and we had some good food and some more chats.
Folks, it´s simply good to have you around... thank you all so much for being so laidback....
Then I offered Kathrin to show her the ride home, because she was not too fond of riding through the city traffic. It was her first mountainbike ride at all, and she was in for some ordeals, and I remember full well how it was for me, being taken out into the woods by a bunch of absolute madmen, and I don´t want my friends having to experience that! ;-) She encountered some limits that day and did a marvellous job in coping with them. She had warned me she would whine a lot, but I was the one constantly having to remind her of watching her pulse and heart rate and not to overdo it...She also mastered one or the other fear when going downhill, and while there´s still a long trail ahead of her, she actually seemed to enjoy it... Respect! Tutoring is fun that way.

When I had delivered her to the departing point at the lake, I made for my way home after a long and joyous day.
I relished in the vistas and in the fact that my body performed as it should for a change. This was a day that I will keep in my memory for sure!

Mittwoch, 22. Juni 2016

Grosses Messer-Update

I have been desperately in need to practice my swordsmithing abilities, so after talking to James Elmslie on the sword expo in Solingen last year and the lovely work of Jake Powning I felt inspired to give a "Grosses Messer" (in this case more of a hunting sword) a go for practice. As a single-edged weapon, tempering is a bit easier, for a thick spine makes it not that prone for warping in the quench.

I want to make abundantly clear that I owe a lot to these masters, as I do to Peter Johnsson, Stefan Roth, and Petr Florianek, as you all full well know, and since the occasion arises from time to time, I want to emphasize that I do not want to copy any of their works, but feel inspired by them to eventually find my own style. I also want to say that plagiarism does a lot of harm to a most ancient and honourable art, especially if it is done at a lousy quality. It fouls up things for all of us, and it will eventually ruin the art and the atmosphere of it.

The blade is made from Unimog spring steel with a carbon content of about 75%. The guard and pommel will be wrought iron. The blade will get a selective temper on edge and spine. For scales I plan stag antler or bog oak. I´ll keep you posted!

Where there´s a will, there´s a way - and a fond thankyou to a load of friends

 I wrote about my mishap recently. It was all my fault, really, of course. Of course, I could not afford a new frame. I had my phases, of course. At first, it was resignation. My bike stood in my attic for three days. I had called Dennis from Metal Motion Bikes, and he agreed to do the best he could for me. Which in this case was roundabout 200€ for a new frame or yeah... something else;-). People from the Bike industry may know this as JRAs (just riding alongs). I did not want this, because I have sworn to stick to the truth as best as I can. So call me naïve, but no new frame for me. He then tried to get a new derailleur hanger for my old Orange frame, with no effect. Oh, I was like, fuck it all, life sucks, and got furious. The bike industry is playing havoc with people, as does just about any industry at the moment, but in this case their so-called innovations are often frankly absurd. We talked about one corporation currently developing 36"-wheels, and no, you read right, it´s not a typo meaning 26". What´s next? Back to Penny Farthings? Of course, this will be tauted "the" next big thing. In an article in a bike magazine however I recently read at the railway station the editor rode a bike equipped with 26" wheels and raved about it and prophesized that this will be all the new rage next year. I can tell you, I was laughing so hard I nearly rolled on the floor. What´s becoming of all the 29" hype? Going with the wind soon, I´d say.

But all this makes me furious. It´s all a waste of resources, and we can´t afford to waste our resources any more. And my fury gave me a valuable insight, and you might laugh at me, and you are rightly doing so, for it is that simple.

I am a smith. Smiths have made this world. It was blacksmiths that made the first bicycles. Why the f*** do I think I cannot at least try to repair my frame?

So I started to think. The seattube cracked above the weld. The weld as a presumeably weak spot came out okay, and part of the tube was still attached. The aluminium used in the frame has a tensile strength of roundabout 370 N/mm². The epoxy glue I use for my knife handles has roundabout 180 N/mm² of tensile strength. If I fit in a tube with a hole for tension release and a clamp slot identical to the slot in the seat tube and use an expanding broach for reaming the inner diameter to fit a smaller-diameter seatpost, which by coincidence lay on my shelf doing nothing, that should do the trick... but where to get a tube? I almost laughed, the solution was that simple: From an old seat post I hacksawed off the clamp, which was broken anyway, drilled a tension release hole, sawed the slot and filed it to fit. Since I have no seat tube reamer I went to Dennis´shop. Felix, the mechanic was so kind as to do the job and making some more valuable suggestions-for free. Back home, I glued the tube in with epoxy and used glass fibre mat and epoxy  to wrap the seat tube. I think I´ll add another layer, just for safety, then I´ll paint it black and it´ll be almost like new.

 Yeah, I am a bit proud of my achievement. But as Leo mentioned in the comment form of the recent post, it is more than that. I have this anxiety riding on my shoulder (pun intended) constantly, and being able to find a solution for this sort of damage relieved me of it, and I want to share this with you. For I thought about something my father told me once. In WWII Germany was short of resources. He had a bicycle then, which he absolutely loved, and since he grew up on the countryside there was no such thing as roads. As a kid, he and his friends even built ramps to launch off, and coincidentally;-), he broke his cranks. He was a madman sometimes, and I can vividly imagine how the ramps looked like they took off from. Must have been the like where the challenge was to be faster downhill than the ramp and to survive the kicker... ;-) His father gave him a right whacking, of course, and showed him how to weld them back together the following day.

Another story was that he got some wooden skis for Chrismas one year... he built a ramp with his friends and broke off the tips of the skis the next day. So no skis. What to do? He simply cut some wood and built his own. They were not straight, and the tips sometimes got stuck in the snow, for he hadn´t been able to bend them properly, but they did the job, and he loved them. The next skis he bought himself in the 60´s.

What I want to say is, In "them days" people were not anxious about their material. They cared about it, of course, but it was not a matter of life and death, because they new they could come up with a solution. They did not think digitally, but looked astray from the beaten path for solutions. There were more answers than "1" or "0" or permutations thereof. You had friends and family and made do, even under circumstances that  were not ideal. It was not the bike that made the man, but the man that made the bike (or the skis).

I have learned a lot by this mishap. I still would like it had rather not happened. But it had. My repair is certainly not state-of-the art, and might even fail some day soon, but it felt empowering to again get out into the woods by my own devices.

 The rest is almost customary: Alongside murmuring creeks, up some fireroads and down some challenging singletrails I rode, smug and content with my hearing no creaking.
 The weather was not exactly at its best, and I was soon caked with mud, but grinning widely the whole time. Down a challenging singletrail I realized I need to really do more technical riding again, for my lines were shitty and incoherent, and I even nearly stacked up big style once....
 ...but it is moments like these that make it all worth it. Even clawing together my last bits and pennies to get out there is worth it.
And it is a metaphor. For life. Life sucks sometimes, yeah, that´s true. But moments like these make up for it. All in all, for every hardship, there are moments of greatness, of joy, of pleasure and contemplation, of beauty and peace. Not as a reward, and strewn away in a pattern that is incomprehensible to us mere mortals most of the time. But there IS a pattern to it...

For I was in for one last surprise. And I have to apologize to a friend. In the last years I had the impression that Moritz was a bit superfluous and chance is, he actually is. He is a different sort of human being, at least compared to my own life, and that sometimes leads to misconceptions. Yeah, I enjoy talking to something less grave and just chatting away about bikes and girls and drink and whatnot, but since I often have to think very grave thoughts and have to carry a lot of responsibilities (all my fault, really), I did not think much of his reliability. What arrogance on my part! When he learned I was without a bike and he told some tall stories about how he would organize something I therefore did not think much of it.

When I returned from a cool ride with a good coffee at the trailhead café, and unlocked the door...

... there was a derailleur hanger for a 2011 Orange Crush sitting on my mat. It was put there by Moritz, who had managed to achieve the impossible. This gives him much credit as a bike mechanic (he works for Reuber bike shop in Dortmund), but more so as a human being.

I also want to acknowledge Henning, who is a smith with Ahlhauser Hammer and who offered me his own bike as a bailout spontaneously after reading about it on my blog. In general, the offers of help and the kind words I got from my friends and readers was overwhelming.

And this is what remains to be said in this post: Those are things that count.

It may sound a bit far-fetched, but: For most humans life is a shitty place these days. Some few foul up the lives of so many at the moment. Many people suffer, and are far worse off than just having a tiny crack in their bike frame. People are hopeless, homeless, depressed, disoriented and desperately seeking for values. There is a lot more to be fixed than just a bicycle frame. What one person can do just so much. And sometimes fixing a bike frame can help you understand bigger things.

And, as strange as it may seem, the simple things remain untouched. Friendship. Love. Trying your best and hoping for the best.

And as long as these things exist, there will always be hope. We can still make it work.

Thank you, my friends, for you have given me more than just repairing a bike.

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