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Freitag, 22. November 2013

On the bench - a variety of ancient crucible steel blades and some thoughts on steel and mythology

 I have altogether too much projects going on to date, but I am always afraid I will not be able to use the smithy in winter, so, better too much lying around than nothing at all. This is a most current project I am very fond of. I forged this "Iscian" knife on Samhain eve out of steel I found in the woods. The pattern does not show yet, but I guess it´s a very high carbon steel at least, maybe Pulad. I found this ingot in the woods near my home, and it was very hard to process. It had to be forged at a temperature of about 950 degrees Celsius, give or take 20-50 degrees, and you had to go very light on it. So it was a light hammer and much patience that even made the material for this blade. But it paid off. This blade sings, I can´t tell it any other way. I edge - quenched it with a very conservative tempering, and still the edge has an estimated hardness of 62 HRC, while remaining springy enough to emanate a faint ringing sound even when you just take it up. In bad fantasy novels swords sound like that;-). I love that.
 I forged a double scroll that did not quite turn out too well, but I guess, you still need room for improvement;-).
 I have to work on the grind still. The blade is still thicker towards the tip. As is, I will either fit yew, blackthorn, stag or bog oak scales to it, and I am thinking of inlaying three thorns of blackthorn into the handle... but we´ll see.
 Out of the same steel I have forged a set of knives which I find ideal as a backwoods kit. Top to bottom: Nessmuk, 115 mm long blade, Kopis, 160 mm long, and a whittling knife with a 90 mm blade.
 Top: Spine thickness at 4 mm.
 The Kopis has a thickness with a taper from 6 mm at the handle to 2 mm at the tip.
 The whittling knife is rather thin at 3mm.
 Below the knife blade you can see some of the material, and if you look closely, you can see a certain structure or even layers in it.
Like this, see? I know, I can rant on endlessly about steel and carbon contents. This ingot has an estimated carbon content of about 1,3%, which made it difficult to forge at best. I look forward to these knives, and is a very intense experience. The objects made from this steel emanate a strange energy. It is an almost mystical experience finding and seeking this material in the backwoods, cleaning and processing it and turning the scrap metal into a knife that is more than just a tool or even an object of the arts. It is like telling and living a story, and is more than just metallurgy. I find it very hard to explain, but the singing of that Iscian on top of this post is more than just a result of the quenching and tempering process. It is a violent song that the trees have found for the torture of the woods, for the pollution and waste that has been done to the forest. It is not altogether a positve energy. It is dark and vibrant like the dark side of the woods, like death and decay and the opening of gates better left alone. But open they do, and Samhain is the very essence of this. This Iscian will be the "opener of the gates", the guardian at the gate of the turning wheel.

But, mythology set aside, I hope that these knives, or rather objects, will be poetry for me in the years to come, and they have opened up a new path for me. Not the path of the sword, which I always believed I was on, but that of a more sublime symbol.

"Knife, and chain, and bow- cauldron, speech and goblet, too. Staff and jewel, ring and mask."

And I look forward to complete them this winter.;-)

Donnerstag, 14. November 2013

Marburg - a lovely weekend with the loveliest person in my life

Ah, yes. I have not written for quite a long time. Fact is, I have too much to do, and some logistical problems...

But in no way there has nothing happened.For instance, I went for a lovely visit to Marburg to meet with my lovely magic troll. And, while not everything we did is for the public;-), we also went on a nice little foraging troll stroll.
The path led into the foothills that offer a beautiful view of Marburg castle. It is funny, many of Germany´s greatest poets, such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Clemens Brentano, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and many, many more have lived or visited this city. And, visiting a pub concert on Friday at Molly Malone´s Irish pub, I got the impression that at least folk music and romanticism is alive and well still. More so, I have the feeling that every inch of city, university, and, even more so, the woods, breathes the spirit of poetry.
This is a photo by the magic troll that shows a bit of the atmosphere. There is poetry in the autumn, too.
And as we came up the hill, the little one whining, complaining and on the verge of tears (because I was going too slow;-)), we saw this chainsaw carving sculpture standing in the middle of nowhere, which someone obviously had made just for the fun of it.
Into the woods we ventured, to the site of an old market garden.
Recently it had burnt down, and it lies in ruins. There is a very strange air about the place, with car wrecks silently rotting there (and, of course, polluting the ground in the process), with the plants growing wildly. It is strange that we are only accustomed of our pet plants growing tiny... and suddenly you are faced with a giant Thuya tree and flower "trees". It is as if nature would strike back there, and violently. The place will rot, and the plants, once enslaved, will destroy the ruins, unto they will lie submerged in wreckage, beyond recognition. I would wish this fate will befall some big-term crop seed corporations selling former ABC weapons as herbicides, too, if I was allowed a wish, but I am not.
The woods, made from alien plants, lay utterly peaceful.

 Then it was off into the deeper woods, foraging for bay boletus and other ´shrooms,sloe berries, quince and rowan berries. At a hunting stand in the middle of nowhere, we rested, and had a cuppa tea. Note the deranged portion of our little camp belongs to me;-).
 I simply love this picture. Funny, how it´s always the weird things I love, like the tip of her nose bending into the kuksa, and her look following, and then the pupils of her eyes go up, and then she smiles. I am right grateful for every hour we are able to spend together. We also did a bit of Ömpf-troll watching, and she made a sketch of the little fellow we observed, and I gues it´s already onlineon her facebook account. Just search Triona ni Erc on facebook;-). I know she will hate me for this...;-).

And this was the outcome of the day:

We made a great dinner, with a topinambur cream soup I will remember for years to come, it was that tasty, and it was not me who made it;-), and some deer stew with quince and parsnip, with a delicious chutney of rowan berry and quince. NOMMMM!!!!!

Hardcore knife with a traditional pedigree - hardcore test surprise

 On the recent knife expo at the Solingen industrial museum "Gesenkschmiede Hendrichs" I got the opportunity to meet with Mr. Rommel, new head of corporation and chief manager of Otter knives. Otter knives still specializes in making simple, traditional pocket and working / utility knives. Hailing from a background of decades of handicraft, the corporation certainly knows a thing or two about making sensible utility designs. I came across this "Berufsmesser", as it is called in the Otter catalogue. Yap, I know, I already own one, but, hey, you know how it is;-). I played it some, and realized the blade was straight, which my old one was not, the craftsmanshipalmost meticulous, but not so much as to make it too beautiful to use. It came with a beautifully grained Cocobolo wood handle. The blade is a very old German style, the so called "Hamburger" style, dating as far back as the middle ages, often used in bread and kitchen knives, but also in utility folding knives as early as the 15th century. As I have mentioned before, the knife comes in very cheap for the quality, about 18€. The blade is made from high carbon steel, with a finely accomplished "Solinger Dünnschliff" (convex, "Hamagore" bevel), and polished to a blueish sheen. This example of the type came shaving sharp. I am informed it is made from medium high carbon steel with 0,75% carbon content, and yes, there´s also iron, period. This makes for an edge that can be finely ground and made wickedly sharp.
 The knife has a slip-joint mechanism that stops at 90 °. It came with no side or axial play. The smoothness of the action leaved something to be desired, but with a drop of tootpaste and turpentine oil (Balistol) and few minutes of working it, it set in and was nearly as smooth as silk.
 The blade cut into this iron rod with ease and no damage whatsoever to the edge.
 Same thing with this piece of stag antler, where I slammed it in several times.
 I then slammed the tip into this tin can lid, and the stiff slip joint spring inspired my confidence. Of course, the sheepfoot blade design is no stabbing knife at all, but it can be made possible.
 What it does best is cutting, even after the abuse. It made short terms with this piece of paper.
 I cut the paper while it hung free. After the abuse, (cut on the left), there was a little more playing around involved, and the cut in the paper is a bit ragged at the beginning, hinting of a bit of a loss of sharpness on the edge. But the paper was a bit damp, making it not the easiest for cutting while hanging free.
 It was easy, however, to cut the paper after overcoming the initial resistance of thecutting material.
 Stag antler, iron rod, cutting paper...
and then it made this out of a piece of fir wood;-). Sweet.
 The real surprise came when I did the spine whack test normally reserved for liner lock knives. The spring is so stiff it keeps the blade secure even under this extreme stress.

And here´s a lousy clip to show you I did not spare it when whacking on the stag antler;-)
 I found overall that this is a knife with an extremely huge potential. I heard some rumours that Otter wants to do some mods on it. What could be improved is a bigger lanyard hole, for it comes stock with but a 3 mm hole. I drilled it, of course, for I voided it of its warranty nonetheless. I then realized the hard way;-) the iron liners bent, and, looking at it intently saw another feat of high potential. For the spring does not go around the butt of the knife, leaving an empty space. You could with little effort insert a block of G-10 or volcanic fibre, and, by fitting a simple clip in, making this knife an even more versatile carry. Am I enthused? You bet. You will be hard pressed to find a slipjoint folder that is capable of doing this and come out almost unscathed. The knife also comes in different lengths suitable as a legal carry even in the UK or Denmark, and rumour has it there will be still more options available in the future.;-). And NO, I did NOT get payed to write this;-).
Every knife shall have something of simple beauty to it, and so I made this lanyard mojo for it. Silver fittings, leather, of course, an agate pearl, aaaand: A glass bead jewel made by my beloved magic troll. If you want one, she will trade or sell. Contact her on her Blog:

or via her facebook accont. Shameless crossposting, I know, but I guess you appreciate it;-).

Oh the loot! Flea market finds....

On a recent flea market I came across a right heap of goodies I just wanted to share with you. The whole lot cost me 20 €;-). Two handforged  Yugoslavian hatchets, a huge piece of stag antler for scales and handles, an electricians knife (I will give you a close-up soon!), three files, two still working, one for damascus, and  a piece of roe deer antler.

It always pays off to keep a lookout!;-)

Mittwoch, 6. November 2013

An encounter with Hugo-another unlikely Fimbulmyrk tale;-)

 It was some two weeks ago, when I went out on an after-work foraging stroll. Winter cometh;-) as they say, so I´d decided to go look for some more apples and ´shrooms and quince to stash into my attic;-).

What can I say... I was just some 200 m from the nearest house, when something came swooping at me from behind, so close I could feel the rush of air. An eurasian jay it was, and he settled close to me on this plank. Ever so gently, I took out my camera, as not to disturb him or shy him away, but he did not seem bothered at all. In fact, I had the impression that he rather enjoyed being a model star! I talked with him in my mind, but our conversation was being a bit disturbed, for I felt his attention slip;-) when a lady with a dog came by. But was he bothered by that canine? Not at all! He just ruffled his feathers a bit, made some funny noises, but otherwise was not nervous at the least. I talked to that lady, and I learned this was his place, and the neighbourhood calls him "Hugo". I found that appropriate, even if he calls himself a different name. I cannot repeat his own name, for a computer does not have signs for those sounds his name is composed of:-), and it´s also a bit too long (Eurasian Jays are sometimes being a bit pompous, I think;-)).
Then that lady went on her merry way foraging for mushrooms, and I  was left with Hugo. We had a nice chat, and he showed me a good mushroom site;-), accompagying me for a good portion of the trail.

The we said goodbye, and both went on our merry way.

I am lying, of course. Am I?;-)

Donnerstag, 10. Oktober 2013

Short introduction of a Boker plus Colubris tactical belt knife

 Okay, I admit it. I am a geardo.

I am an inconsequent asshole jibbering and jabbering about going simple and then going along and buying the latest paraphernalia. I can tell you, I have told myself so.

But then I never stated I was completely off the grid, whatever that might mean. And I still have no TV, no fridge, no personal personal computer, I am neither facebooked, xinged or whatever still, I still forage for my food. So you might forgive me if I buy something from time to time, just because I want to;-).

Fact is, I did not need it. I could make something very close myself.

The culprit is, I just wanted it. I was on a marvellous trip to Solingen, doing some visits, renewing some very valuable acquaintances. Not the least was my visit to Tobias from Boker Baumwerk, Solingen. They have a sales shop where you can get second grades and production leftovers and one or the other proto that did not see actual production. Now Boker is famed for their tactical knife designs. I still don´t like tactical knife designs. I am not overly fond of G-10 and Micarta, and I don´t believe in this super steel prybar shrapnel designs. But, as is, I visited the shop, had a chat with Mrs. Felix, until she was going home, and Tobias came in. I was quite delighted, for we hadn´t met in a year or so. Tobias is one of those guys you may take for a thug at first sight, and he is no stranger to the martial arts, in fact... not that any martial artist is a thug, mind you!;-) But you can tell by the way he moves and walks that he knows how to take a beating and defend himself. If you get to know him, however, you will learn that the first glance at his being a  "thug" might cheat; suffice to say that he is a very nice and reflected guy with a calm, but persistent air about him. Of course, we talked a lot, and I played some knives, actually quite absently, to be honest. Then I laid my fingers on something weird, a bit like a crossover between a Nessmuk and some alien starship wreckage;-). Oh, and do you know that feeling, when you play something and it just falls in place?

This actually was the case. And NO, I didn´t get paid to write this. You all know my stance towards things that look like alien starship wreckage. Then I learned it had a 440C blade, with a legal length in the bargain (10,9cm). I at first wasn´t too fond of the spine thickness, which is at least some 6 mm, but it has a high slightly hollow grind with a flat secondary edge bevel, and a very wide blade.
 Oh, and the packaging alone is worth mentioning. You get the impression you bought some quality item, and the idea you bought a firearm, which, I daresay is not all by coincidence. The knife is designed by DJ Urbanowski (American Kami). He is a madman, I think;-). Good thing for starters, I think;-).

The way it is accomplished is a very American way of designing knives, to be true...;-)

It comes with a well - fitting kydex sheath with a Tek - Lok carrying system. I am fond of carrying systems and extra bits and gimmicks actually, ever since I got my first "LEGO" playing kit;-). Kitting aside;-), this knife feels sturdy, and comes with a blade that does even work, which is not the case with all tactical designs.
Of course, I tested it and estimate the hardness at 58-60 HRC. It carves steel rods, chops antler, and is capable of doing more delicate work. The finish of the blade consists of tiny scratches ("stonewashed"), so no harm done if you add some more. Using a firesteel and all that other abuse did not have any adverse effects on the blade. Balance point is slightly hindward of the index finger handle point, and with a lanyard will go further back. That makes for a bit of a less than ideal balance, but hey, it´s just that I have to find a flaw to make sure I am living up to my personal image;-) of being a groping moron...;-). The handle is special waste G-10, of course, but you can use  ´em to drive nails, so no complaint. Also, this product will have an exceedingly long life-cycle. It is not exactly beautiful, no sir, but has a kind of brutal aesthetics to it. If you can live with the somewhat martial appearance, it´s a great blade with a serviceable steel. I do not like to modify this opinion of mine, no sir;-), not at all, but it maybe that tactical designs might have their advantages after all;-)

I bought it, and we continued to have some chatting about mountainbiking, survival and martial arts and this and that, until I said goodbye, because I had to get my bus...

Short introduction of an Otter sailor´s knife / London / sheepfoot slipjoint folder

 This is a knife I have owned now for some time, and I realized how much I like it just because it always rides in my pocket, and I actually use it quite often. It is an Otter sheepfoot blade with a slipjoint construction. This knife is dead simple, but it comes with a real spring and a rectangular blade root making for a half-stop for safety. Liners are made from mild steel, as are the bolsters. Cocobolo scales are pinned in place by brass pins. I drilled a lanyard hole through them and fitted a leather lanyard. The blade is C100 still, with a hand-ground very thin convex bevel. It has an even temper aiming towards a higher flexibility and comes at a claimed hardness of 56 HRC. The blade is 75x2 mm with a sheepfoot tip, with a speciality, for the edge line is slightly offset and diagonal to the spine. It is a very effective cutter, whittler and eating knife. You can use the spine to spread butter very effectively making it a great snacking knife also.
 Plus, it is a knife with history and atmosphere, for this blade shape originated as a "Boscher" (a Solingen dialect term for a bos-scher, "woods shearer" or "woods knife", cognate with the Dutch "bos" for woods.) This shape goes back to the medieval ages and was quite a common shape throughout the North of Germany. Many Solingen kitchen and general use knives were forged that way. The "Scherper" of miner´s attire origin often shared characteristics with it, but it was most famed as a mariner´s knife. Legend has it that boatsmen tended to break off the tip of any knife brought on deck of any ship privately, except for knives in this shape, so it became a common mariner´s blade shape. The French folding knife type often called "London" is nearly identical.
By the way, apologies for the lousy pics, I still cannot figure out how to use this camera properly...

The knife is not a masterpiece of craftsmanship, in that the blade is fixed a bit off centre in the handle. The grind, however, otherwise is excellent. It can be made hairpoppingly sharp, so sharp in fact that you can split a hair with it. Talking of which, out of the box the sharpness was nothing to brag about, either. But then, it comes dead cheap. The spring is super stiff and actually gives you a lot of confidence, the blade has a nice geometry, the knife has a rustic, but serviceable finish. It is capable of hard work and begs for more. Buy it;-).

They come in a size even  legal in the UK and Denmark. Get them here.

Freitag, 4. Oktober 2013

The scent of autumn

 It is here. That time of year when the year draws to a close. As with old age, things start withering, but there is also an air of one last violent flourishing, of ripening fruit and flourishing herbs, of sprouting mushrooms, violently pushing out from the dark. It is here. That time of the year, when mists waft through the darkening woods, and the sounds grow silent, until silence is all that remains.

I went out in the woods, following narrow trails seldom trod, relishing in the silence and the twilight as in a precious dark red wine long dispensed with, enjoying all those colours becoming so much more vivid and elegant.
 European Rowan berries (Sorbus Aucuparia, in German: Vogelbeere, Ebereschenbeere). They are rich with Vitamin C, but also with Paraascorbin acid, which is laxative. Therefore rowan berries should not be eaten unprocessed.  I collected some for gin. Take two handfuls for one litre of Vodka, cover with Kandis sugar or honey. But first let them rest in watered vinegar for three days. Then take them out, rinse them with water, and process them further. You can also make jam from them! If you suffer from mild food poisoning and are absolutely sure of your diagnosis, you can use them as a purgative.
 On I wandered through the darkening woods, still in their green dress. Ever so powerful, this tree grew through this pitchfork. The tree survived. The pitchfork is falling prey to the tooth of time, and its rusty colour is becoming more and more becoming a part of the fallen leaves in colour and substance to give nourishment to all those creatures of the underground dwelling on the decay of the living.
 Few if any consider that the mushrooming part of the mycelium is but the smallest part.
 Deep down in the darkness there dwells the root, and the human soul mirrors the sprouting mushrooms, in that mind and body are but protrusions of that which lies submerged...
 And thusly I wandered, deeper into the woods, where man does not tread. In stealth I went, barefoot and calm, into a realm where light is dim and strange the sounds that reach our ear. Here there is no modern man, and even the most civilized human being realizes with fear and terror that his well-mended world is but a surface embellishment. Reality there thrives violently and without mercy, and cares not for human care nor value.
 But paths there are for those who dare to tread them.
 And light there is, ever so much brighter in the dark.
 For woods come to a clearing, and there is rest... I sat down and had a cuppa tea and whittled some shavings and did some stumpsitting...

Near my resting place I came across this little caterpillar. Don´t know what it is or what it´s called, but beautiful it was.

 And a wasp spider building its net, weaving artfully and beautifully - the death of its prey. Such is nature: Beautiful and wicked at the same time...
 I came to the foot of the hills when the light drew to a close, and I ventured farther into the murky woods...
 Sloe (prunus spinoza, in German: Schlehe). I collected some for gin and jam...

 ´shrooms!!!! Bay boletus and boletus in fact, and quite some impressive ones... I took several home to dry. I use to dry them with a dousing of salt and some herbs. That way you have a great instant mushroom soup....;-)

I arrived upon the hill at dusk.

And while I waited for the bus my mind was racing brim full with the experience. I find it becomes harder to adapt to this funny postmodern society the more I venture into the twilight. But, this question remains to be asked: Which is more important?

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