Mittwoch, 31. Oktober 2012

A ride into the golden autumn´s peace-and being very nasty to my mountain man bushcraft knife;-)

I just had to get out the other day, what with my mind and my heart battered from too many obligations, conflicts and other interhuman pieces of cake;-). So I straddled my steed, which hasn´t seen the dirt for some time, and made for the woods. When I rode the first kilometres, I was still asking myself what the heck I was doing, when I could stay at home, cuddle into my bed and pull the blanket over my head to pretend I wasn´t there. But that state of mind has never done anyone any good. Life IS a bastard, at times, at least when you have too much interference with humanity:-/. But it won´t stop kicking at you if you´re lying on the floor. Instead it will jump on the back of your head with all its might and nailed boots on. So, no use crying or hiding other than in the woods. It was right painful to go the distance, not only psychologically, but also, due to my profound lack of training... but after the first downhill, my mind was wiped clean, and with the first air I got over an embankment, I was grinning like a madman (okay, I AM a madman;-)), and I was in the mood to shred. And shredding I did, and as my muscles warmed up to their task, it became increasingly more easy, and I really enjoyed the ride. At this point, I paused and cuddled between the twin stems of an ancient oak that stood there in my youth and hopefully will be after my death.
I leant the bike to a tree and knelt at the oak leaves at her feet... erm, another song...;-).
Having a look around, I grew ever so much calmer, and the excitement of the ride left me to make room for a sense of deep peace. The sun was warming my chest, and I had a sip of tea.
Golden light surrounded me, and the clamour of the world subsided in silence. Even my bike became but a device to get there...
Then that gnarly little troll in the back of my brain told me to take out the mountain man knife I made some time ago, and which I finished recently-okay, I THOUGHT I had finished it*ggg*-and made a sheath for it, too, and really put it through its paces. The blade is 115 mm long, has a 6mm thick spine, and a high convex bevel. It is made from leaf spring steel with a selective temper and a leather washer-stag antler crown handle. Making a fuzz stick was a cinch, and for its heft, it really cuts well. I realized, however, that the edge was not hair-popping sharp, as I like to have my knives and that I can improve on it still.
The blade with its sheath, and a patinized leather sheath, wet-formed and hot-waxed around the knife.
The spine of the knife. The rough surface shows it was forged into shape about 95 %. It has seen less than 3 % stock removal. The handle is heat-coloured.
Batoning through dried, knotted pine wood and spruce wood was a cinch, of course, for the blade´s convex bevel and thick spine.
Then I rammed it tip first into an aged oak stem lying around and levered it out. The tip went in for about 5-10 mm each time. I repeated the process 10 times. No damage to the tip whatsoever, which delighted me very much.

It was when I had hacked halfway through the oak stem that I realized the handle came somewhat loose, not as much that it would have hindered working, but loose nonetheless. Since I am increasingly fond of this knife, I stopped to check, and I realized I simply forgot to peen the tang over the rune disc at the crown! Silly, I know...;-)
So I just sat back and enjoyed the scenery.

I sincerely hope that tree will sleep well this winter and awake to a new year of prospering after the dark hag is done with dealing death...

And I had a cuppa forest...;-). (Cheer up, my love!*ggg*)
 I kept sitting there and meditating, and the sun sank lower. Short have the days become, and it became a bit chilly, so I went on my merry way, having a bit of shredding and a really enjoyable singletrail ride-oh, and as far as I can tell, no toads were harmed in the process;-).

At home, I peened the tang over the rune disc (this much cheating shall be allowed, isn´t it?;-))
Akiri really inspired me;-), so I hacked through a piece of stag antler.
No harm to the edge!
 Then I cut a sanding belt from my belt grinder. No harm done.

I carved a mild steel rod. After all that, the blade still shaved. Then I slammed into the rod, inflicting a minor dent on the edge.

 It still worked, though.
 Slamming through a tin can then was but child´s play.*ggg*
The dent. It could be removed with some strokes of the strop, and I had not to reprofile the edge at all.

I am a bit proud of my achievement, for all that means I got something right. Noone in their right mind does that to his or her knife, and a knife certainly is not an axe. But it´s comforting to know that you can rely on your blade. Tiny mistakes, however, lead to failure, for instance, not peening over the tang properly. If you have to rely on your knife, you want to double check you have done everything properly. And, I will make a knife with a full tang out of this steel.

Coming to think about it, this knife is made from spring steel. I think, I will stick to this sort of steel. I have tried silver steel, CrV steels, 100Cr6, Tank bearing, damascus, 440 C, D2 and many more. The best knives I own are made from junk spring steel.

It was a strange day, with going from depression to joy and to contention even. I know there are several of you out there currently living lifes that are not exactly easy. Do not let life bring you down! get out into the woods, they can help you cope with the everyday madness. For me they do that.

And hey, we´re all mad, aren´t we?*ggg*

On the bench these days... load of work

 First and foremostly, and most important: The Sgian Dhú I forged for Craig for his appearance at the Bethaus smithy! The blade is 3 mm thick and very slicey, made from spring steel. The handle, after I had the weird idea of heat-colouring a stag antler handle after it was mounted and cracked it in the process, is made from very rare reddish bog oak from the Muttental mines, some 150-200 years old.

Then there is a seax, spring steel, and a deer bone handle, yet to be finely ground.

...and a spoon carving knife, a right-handed one, spring steel.

Watch this space!


 I  am currently preparing ´shrooms and potions;-). The mushrooms are either just dried or salted and spiced and salted with...erm ... salt, thyme, sage and artemisia, weird, I know, but tasty;-). I even seasoned some with honey and sage, and dried them and what can I say... they are all gone already..;-) I tend to eat them as snack more often than cooking with them!
Those are gins and potions: Up front there is a very handy love potion, which is also a good tonicum against arthritis:

take four handful of nettle seeds,
four handfuls of dried rose petals (rosa canina)
0,2 l of birch sap
and honey to cover the whole mess
2 cl of Amaretto liqueur

let rest for three days in the sun, and three weeks in the dark, strain through a sieve and enjoy. 2 cl per day will suffice!

Behind that, a cough syrup.

take two handfuls of ribwort plantain (plantago lanceolata),  ten leaves of gravel root (Euparium) or Echinacea, one small and sharp chopped onion, cover with honey and let it rest for six weeks in the dark.

The big bottles: Sloe gin, with cinnamon spice, Birch sap and herbal wine with nettle seeds, sloe / birch sap wine, sloe / birch sap / herb wine. Jul feasting is accomplished!;-)

By the way, this is Willibald;-), a birch sap vinegar fungus that simply built up in a neglected birch sap bottle. I fed him with honey, and he prospers well. I have made birch sap wine with him and added a bit to bannock dough already... works!;-)

Modifying an old knife - and a new bushcraft style sheath

 I had this knife lying around that did nothing anymore after the blade chipped after testing it hard, but the concept still appeals to me, so I figured I´d do something about it. I annealed with an industrial "hairdryer". To do it, I wrapped the handle (the tang was not tempered at all in the first place, other than that you cannot do it) with a big piece of cloth, which I wet through. Since the blade had a selective temper, I just heated the part which was tempered until it was completely blued and let it cool, while constantly renewing the moisture in the cloth. I repeated the process three times, constantly checking the temper with file and mild steel rods along the entire edge. I have now tested it, and it has an even temper of about 59 HRC. The handle still is yew with mosaic pins and double lanyard holes;-) which I buffed up a bit. Then I went on and made a new sheath for it, for the old one was more of a suitcase than a sheath. By the way, the blade is a laminate three layer with tank bearing steel for a cutting layer and wrought iron-crucible steel with titaniumcarbide and silicium xilite (ferrum noricum) by Matthias Zwissler that I forged into a blade. The spine of the blade is 7 mm thick, but, having a high bevel convex grind and a wide blade, the knife still cuts well.
The sheath. I used a technique Joel introduced to me, mixing iron oxide with linseed oil to achieve a light brown tan. The sheath is wet-formed and hot-waxed around the knife and I am quite pleased with the outcome. The carving shall represent a Celtic boar;-).

Donnerstag, 25. Oktober 2012

Another day in the smithy;-)

 On Tuseday I went to Volker´s place to have our argument;-) and to solve some problems, and got the opportunity to at last do some projects of my own... and I came across some new goodies by Viktor and Volker. The hearts and the snails and snakes are Volker´s work, the knives are by Viktor, out of mild steel, DOH! He just made them to tutor Volker how to do it, so no harm done, really, for I know what he´s capable of doing normally;-).
 I made a leaf-handled Birka knife and a BBQ fork with a ram´s head as a gift for my other boss;-). Also I tempered the seax knife up front. The knives are made from spring steel with a carbon content of about 0,75%. I find I use this steel more and more. I could do something more fancy, but always return to this kind of steel for various reasons. It takes a good and serviceable temper of about 58-61 degrees Rockwell, is very tough and easy to work with, which is good when you want to do some more complex decorations such as leaves, ram´s or dragon heads and the like.
 The knife is not ground at all. When it´s done, it will see less than 1 % stock removal. This minimizes adverse effects from heat buildup when grinding, leaves a protective layer of ferrum oxide on the blade and gives a no-frills appearance. Also I find that the steel is refined by doing more forging.The blade is tempered selectively, the handle is coated with oil and the oil burnt while annealing.
The fork has a ram´s head. I made it from mild steel, which is work-hardened in the tips. No grinding whatsoever, nor power tools involved other than the ventilation on the forge. The handle of the knife also has a countertorsion I even like for a change;-).

Brief review of a Mora craftline High Q carbon robust

I recently got a new Mora craftline HighQ carbon from my favourite Mora supplier. Here are my first impressions:

The blade is 110 mm long and comes with a mirror polish. It´s made from Mora´s trademark carbon tool steel, which is produced by a French corporation. It is cold rolled and has an estimated carbon content from 0,75 - 1,00 %. I estimate the Rockwell hardness from 59-61 HRC. It has a scandi grind, of course, and the blade has  a spine thickness of 3,2 mm. The handle is made from a reinforced molded plastic inner, which is the same as the handle of the legendary 510. There is a Kraton coating over it making for a very adhesive feel and great safety. The handle is long and big to be handled with working gloves also. The sheath is molded from thermoplastic as usual, and it comes with a button to carry another sheath from the craftline or outdoor lineup, which is a cinch to have for bushcraft applications. The knife has a very clean look to it with many intelligent solutions.
My first impressions in cutting are that it cuts very well, obviously. It came out of the box frighteningly sharp and seems to hold an edge very well. Do not expect the cutting prowess of thinner Moras, however. This is a knife that feels less slicey compared to, say a companion or the laminate whittling knives. The feel is similar to a Fällkniven F 1, only for a fraction of the price. It is sold for 11.95€, and that makes it a threat to any bushcraft knife on the market!

It was possible to crack hazelnuts with the butt of the handle. Batoning was a cinch, as was making a fuzz stick. Hardness was enough to carve mild steel rods.
Blade thickness.
The sheath is compatible to the carrying system in either direction;-). It gets my mind racing:-).

This knife is rock solid, and, don´t tell anyone;-), but it might easily hold its own against knives ten times the price and more. It is ideal for beginners in the field of bushcraft and will get any job around the camp and on the trail done, and is suited also for more brutal tasks.

I will do a shootout soon... in fact, I prepare a video documentation, too. So watch this place. Knives to be tested will be:

Fällkniven F 1
Mora Bushcraft Triflex
Mora Robust
EKA Nordic W 11
Otter hunting knife
Hubertus countryline
No-name NORMA Chinese hunting knife
Balzer hunting knife
My own Mountainman bushcraft

The knives will not be tested to destruction, but rest assured they will get a beating!

Whatever the outcome, however, what we got here is a problem;-), for the price tag makes it an easy buy.

Mittwoch, 24. Oktober 2012

Das Schwert vom Muttental (The sword of the Muttental) - Impressions from a day of martial rituals and chaos.;-)

 Here they come-some impressions from the "Heidenspass" (pagan fun) party at the Bethaus smithy, which turned out a mess;-). On Friday, I called Volker if all was okay, and learned, that a film crew announced their venue for the festival. Being impressed, I asked, what they wanted to film, and Volker said "To film the Scots! Erm...,and for a TV soap, too... ". I know when you cannot get any more information from Volker, so I left it at that and readied myself for a catastrophe. Years of practice, you know;-). I got the info they wanted to come at around 9.30 am, and felt assured the whole thing would be finished at 1 pm.

 We arrived early, at 11 am, that is, and I immediately wanted to prepare work, and cut the raw stock for the blade of the claymore we wanted to forge. At 11.30 the film crew arrived. They immediately closed down the entire area, and only the protagonists of the culturally dubious TV soap were allowed, including Volker, to do anything. They even wanted to prohibit us from talking at all, even at the distant end of the area, some 50 m away from the set! No harm done, really, would they have asked politely, but they were extremely short-tempered, cynical and plainly insulting, and yes, I have no problem ranting about them in this blog. Everything bad has a good side, too, for in this situation I really learned to love those weird guys and gals from Clan Mc Laren friends of Germany. Click on the link, there´s a load of photos! In situations like that you can estimate the quality of people.

We had a laugh, with whispered shouts of "Creag an Tuirc!" (Rock of the boar), the warcry of Clan Mc Laren and fun with bagpipe adjustment*ggg*. It was also funny to see the head admin of the crew stood there with a disgusted look on her face and a shawl pulled over her nose and mouth to fend up the stench of the smithy (which is outdoors), and muttering to all who would and more that would not like to hear how inferior those blue-collar men were and how sorry she was she had to work with ´em... I guess it was a good thing she did not hear much of what those guys and gals had to say about the behaviour of her crew. I do not like talking behind the back of people much, but this is just fitting, for mobbing is the job of corporations producing casts like "How we destroy the life of some poor fellow living on the dole already by making a feature about exactly how his sleeping room stinks" and other medieval mindset cripple shows. But as is, that crew was not so important that we did not have other topics, too. We made good use of the spare time by having a good strong coffee and chats about this and that, and I learned a lot about the Mc Laren Clan.
 To the right is Jogi, second in line to the McLaren friends´ chief role. Looks a brute, but is one of the nicest guys I know!
 There was plenty of life around, and we certainly had fun.
 I followed Sylvia into the kitchen to get me another mug of coffee. Jochen was there, too, and we had a chat. I asked him: "Will you stay for the evening party today?" He looked up, a bit irritated, and replied. "Yes, of course, for it´s mine! There is a party going on, and I booked the location 4 months in advance." As did I. So, we took counsil.
 Fortunately, I must say, my cellphone kept ringing with storytellers, druids and other weirdos canceling their appearance, so it was just Clan  Mc Laren and myself left.
 ...there is worse company (from the right) than Ralf, Rübe and the others.
 They were as nervous as I, and tprepared their attire quite thoroughly... mess it up completely in the barbecue;-).
 Rübe enjoying a great handmade beef burger.
 ...and the rest of the lot. Of course, no barbecue without a catastrophe on this day, for, even if Volker said the grill should be placed there, does not mean it is so. Sorry, Volker, but that´s how it was for me. Jochen had a problem with customers inquiring about a BBQ meal, and so the position of the grill was not okay at all. So, speed grilling it was, and off to the feast.
 What I like best about the clan is their stubborn refusal of anything unnerving them or taking the fun away. They simply make do and enjoy themselves. I like that.
 And I understand that someone is proud of this banner.
When the morons were gone, we set to work in earnest. I had prepared a ritual, and it was a goosepimples experience to all of us. The Eldest of the clan, Reinhold, was chosen by the clan to respond.
Text of the ritual:
(Fran dagen, fran natt, rekkur varom koman, fran austrisheimi, uuestrisheimi,sudrisheimi auk nordrisheimi. Kvedja, kisibbjan, varför vart koman? - Att smidja sverdi! - Vad är herkalls dins? - Creag an Tuirc! - Rísa herkalls dins annat! - Creag an Tuirc! - Rísa herkalls dins thredjan tid! - Creag an Tuirc!)
At that point, the bagpipes sounded the charge;-), I consecrated them with artemisia, sage, salt water from ancient Hallstatt stone salt I mined myself long ago and drew out the ring of the elements around us all, giving a sacrifice to the elements and the first matter and the fire and lightning. When I started the invocation of fire and lightning, a light drizzle fell and a gentle rumble of thunder was heard at the distance (or maybe just a starting plane;-))
However, talk is cheap, and work is harder;-) that I am a bit light in the head did not mean there was no blacksmithing going on... Look here for more photos 

It was hard work for all of us, with permanent sound of bagpipes singing and shouts of "Creag an Tuirc!", and it was an arousing experience to all bystanders. Some passers-by said afterwards it made their hair stand on end. I understand that well, it was very archaic and martial atmosphere. Now I often state that I am a pacifist. Now I forged a sword for a Scottish clan. How does that fit together?

If you take a look around you, you might notice that we live in a very strange situation. Everywhere people prepare for war, but the last thing they want is peace. For peace is a non-profit affair. Traditionally, the Chleadhaimh Mór was the sword of the Clan´s champion, and this champion´s (Tren Fhér) obligation was to defend the clan in times of war. Often, in ancient Celtic tribal practice, war was an ordeal by battle, a duel fought solely by the champions of the armies. I can pretty much relate to that. Also, this ritual was something I did for myself. I will forge my own sword in the near future. I have studied its ethics and its mythology for 20 years now. This is not the place to talk about this more broadly, but it was a process. I have always fought against the desecration of the sacred, be it Christian, pagan, philosophical or whatever provenience, against the inhumanity of our everyday society, and I have always spoken my word. Five years ago it was that a sword came to me (another story). At that time, more than twelve people (roundabout 30) people followed me, so I could readily acclaim the status of Ansrúth ;-)after the Senchus Mór*ggg*. But I did not, for it is not my way. It´s not the easy way. It is not that I could state I was a master, nor that I belong to this religion or that, for I, (and if we are honest, we all are) am a seeker. I am not better than anybody. Instead, I concentrate on trying to not make the world any worser as it already is. I try to listen to the weak and strong alike. When I can, I try to help. If anyone wants to prey on the weak, I tend to get angry, but I try to be objective and reflect myself. That is not to say that I always succeed in doing so, but that I try. In the situation our world is, noone does that anymore. Noone treats the other with the respect even a moron deserves, and most people are but concerned with their own wellfare and prosperity, and, more so, get at each other´s throats for the slightest of reasons. It is said in the Völuspa:

Broedr mún beriaz, ok at bánom verdaz,
skeggold, skalmold, eda verold steypiz,
vindold, vargold, mún engi madr odrom thyrma.

(Brothers I see starting at each other, and strive for death,
An axe-time, a sword-time, ere the world ends,
A wind-time, a wolf-time, I see every man doom the other.)

So, I am reluctant to admit that, it might as well be the time to take the sword to hand, and in a way that is quite different to the actual use of the weapon. For a sword has always been more than just a weapon. It has been a symbol, and to it was bound a way of living, a way of spirituality even. In Japan, the sword was said to contain the soul of the Samurai, and presumeably, the sword did not mean less to the Celtic and Caledonian tribes. We might live in a world dominated by the tank, the whip (and the credit card) (Ernst Wiechert). But the spirit of the sword might be the only way to doom the idea of the tank. And the whip. And the credit card. Thusly, I did not forge just the blade of a weapon. I forged a bond between the members of Clan Mc Laren, and, hopefully, a tiny portion of a myth.
And, if the claymore was used for the protection of the weak, and I know the Clan Mc Laren friends well enough to estimate what meaning the forging of a sword conveys to them, I can forge this sword even if I am a pacifist, for that does not mean I am a misty-eyed dreamer. 
I am certainly not an accomplished swordsmith. This is my fourth blade, and I have so much to learn my ignorance is vaster than an ocean still. But noone else did it, so I had to.

Back to the forge now: As I was in the middle of the work, my cellphone rang. It was Alex, who helped me a lot at the Meilerwoche festival. Turns out he was on the way but got lost in the woods. He applied for working and helping with the kids, and said he would come with a rather dubious friend of his, a drunkard, to be quite plaintive. In the meantime, it was 3 pm. In the brief time of  talk we had it became clear that he was drunk also and had no money to get anywhere. He wanted to come to the smithy nonetheless. So I took some tiny bit of time to get him back on track (in several ways, or at least I hope so). He called several times, and I agreed to give him money to get back home. Look above why I did this. It was getting on my nerves, what with all the epic failures, but I guess I tried to be fair.

All the while, the forge I was provided with did not work properly, Volker asked me to forge mini horseshoes, people called to cancel their venue. Kai, Marie and some friends dropped by, Erdmuthe;-), Jandark, and Bastian came in a haze, and myself and the Mc Larens were bound by the forging of the sword, as we worked on binding the spell into the metal, Alex called again and again, and Renate and Sylvia and Jochen and Volker went mad with each other. It was a mad dream. The day came to a close, and somehow we decided to finish the blade on another occasion. Then Alex suddenly was there. I spun around madly with all the friends enquiring and the clan feasting and Alex and Volker begging for attention.

And then it was all over. We had a drink and said goodbye, and it was mighty soothing to learn the clan really had enjoyed themselves. They all had that spark in their eyes that kindles the fire of a heart. This was beautiful to see and very rewarding.

Because I was done - and all fluffy at that - I had a chat with Jandark, Julia, and Bastian, who wanted to go to a party of the president of my club, zee aylienz, and we appointed a rendezvous for them to fetch me. Of course, I had forgotten my light, and it was exactly 15 turns of the cranks of my bike for it to start raining, and what was a light drizzle at first, became a downpour after some minutes. What was real funny was, that the metro train that passes through the Ruhr valley, can be seen from the bike lane. There, it overtook me,  wet, cold, and shivering from fatigue, with SOMEONE *ggg* sitting inside warm and cozy, with his third beer open, from the money Volker then lent him. No jealousy, really, but I simply had to stop, I was laughing that hard. And I would be laughing harder still, when on a steep incline my chain broke. I fixed it, in the dark, with rain in my eyes, cold fingers and a laughing fit so intense I had muscle sores from it the next day. I arrived at home quite early, had a shower and some food and  was off to the party. Maik welcomed me warmly, and I had not expected that.

Then, when I ladled food on a dish and had my beer standing nearby, I tore down the bottle with my elbow. I had broken my middle toe some three weeks earlier, and the bottom of the bottle broke exactly the next one. I took up the bottle, mopped up the beer, finished ladling up my food, drank the rest of the beer, said "ouch" and had another laughing fit.

For I understood.

And I have learned a lot that day.

And it´s better to encounter chaos and misery sometimes than not to live at all.

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