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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.;-)

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