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Mittwoch, 24. April 2013

Spring is here!!!!

 These days I am outside whenever I can... which is not as much as I would like, but there´s little I can do about that. I have been doing a bit of foraging, too. For instance, the plant above is pulmonaria officinalis, i.e. lungwort (in German: Lungenkraut). Good against bronchitis, and will find its way into my cough syrup.
 This is Glechoma Hederacea, ground ivy (in German: Gundermann), a spicy herb, great as a spice, in salads and soups and even as a tea. I also put it in a herbal syrup and into my birch sap mead.
 Jack-by-the hedge or mustard garlic, rich with mustard oil, with a taste similar to wild garlic before blossom, and a taste like cresses afterwards. Good as a spice, on cheese sandwiches, and I put it in spiced oil. Recent studies also claim an anticarcinogenic effect of mustard oil, which also is summat;-) I daresay...;-) Of course, I like wild garlic better, but won´t shun it if I can´t have wild garlic*ggg*.
 Ranunculus ficaria, i.e. lesser celandine, a spicy, tasty herb before blossom. After blossom you should not take the leaves. Then you can harvest the roots which are rich with starch and make a saturating ingredient in wild soups and can be used for binding sauces and soups and even pudding,
 a sweet woodruff pudding, for instance? Just kidding, of course, for sweet woodruff should not be used in large quantities. Just take a handful of plants for about one litre of syrup. Sweet woodruff can induce headaches and impair blood clotting ability due to a high Cumarine content. If you take "blood-thinning" medicaments such as Marcumar or ACC, do not use it before consulting with your doctor.
 I could not resist posting this photo of an oak and a beech making love...
 Stinging nettle, great for soup and stews and spinache! Always pick them from bottom to top, to avoid burning...
 Sloe and wild plum are blossoming. The blossoms are tasty in a  herbal syrup and have a blood cleansing effect.
 I have no shop to date other than the smithy, so I took out my hadseax and the sgian achlais into the woods and worked on it sitting on a stump. It was a great experience, being out in the spring woods, with birds asinging wildly all around, sipping my tea and playing with my tools. The knife is the seax blade that did not want to be an elvish blade;-). Mokume Gane (silver, gold and nickel) bolster, reindeer antler and yew handle. The blade is a three layer laminate, wrought iron from an old villa in Bergisch Gladbach, and 1.2842. I have tested it severely, and bent it at nearly 90 degrees. Had to straighten it afterwards, but the blade came out unscathed other than that. It also chops antler and hardwood and takes a good and keen edge. And as I sat there, sitting at the root of an old oak, I thought that this knife deserved a name, but could not think of any that made sense. Silently the wind rustled in the dry leaves of the oak, left over from last autumn still. Then it was silent again. I sipped my tea and thought hard, when suddenly I started, for there was the stem of the oak I leant to creaking violently. I paused, and asked myself... what did that mean? And as if the tree wanted to make a statement, it creaked again, even louder and longer, and there was no wind then. I smiled. Then all was silent again, and no sound to be heard. And the windd began to blow again, singing a gentler song in the leaves around. And there it was - the name I wanted to find:


(Oaken song)

 I admit I brought this socially abolutely inadequate knife with me;-), stashed away at the bottom of my rucksack, of course, and with a lock in the sheath. I could say I did it because I wanted to make a sheath and needed its length to baton through a suitable piece of wood. I could say I brought it with me to shoot photos, or for historical documentation purposes. But truth is, I just love to play with it. I forged it long ago, when Matthias Zwissler was still working at the Krenzer Hammer, together with Harald, from a piece of C 60 Harald gave to me, and it has a selective temper. And I still have to say it´s one of the best knives I have ever made. It´s about 250 mm long, with integral bolsters and a massive copper buttcap. The tang is some 20 mm thick, the handle is Sambar stag.
 It has a very good balance, and thusly it is suited for delicate work as well as hard chopping tasks. I have used it for brutally hard work, such as splitting, batoning, prying and all that fun stuff you should never do to a knife;-). I have to do some blade sports...;-)
 The wild pigs were enjoying the sun, and apparently quite fond of spring also... I like these animals very much. I can relate to them, if that makes any sense;-)...

 The wild sheep rams were out also, and cut a striking figure;-)

 More tree porn...;-)

A relaxing sunbath after the mudbath...

Spring is here! I love it... long was the winter, but nature finally awakens! Isn´t that great? To me, it´s the kindling of a new flame, of hope and of light.

On the bench these days-Sgian Achlais, spoon and seax

 Those are some of many projects currently going on: A handforged spoon out of mild steel with a handle out of reindeer antler, a BIG sgian achlais , spring steel with a yew handle and copper ferrules for a friend of Craig´s, and a hadseax out of wire damascus with a reindeer antler handle.
The sgian achlais with a finished handle, not yet glued nor with the tang peened over the buttcap, for I have to do some grinding still. Wrecked half of my tools, so everything extremely tribal... but rugged to boot. Maybe I´ll do a video test on that knife soon, it certainly can take a beating! As is it chops through antler, oak and ash, carves mild steel rods and still cuts paper. I will take this to test and try harder still!

Donnerstag, 18. April 2013

Children´s birthday party at the smithy - and an elven knife that wanted to be a seax;-)

On Sunday we had a children´s birthday party scheduled, and Volker had called the other day if I could help out. Turns out I could, and so I saddled my steed and rode out. Of course, there were not many surprises, business as usual, and I find I get more and more routine in that. Not that each and every time it would not be a new experience. It feels great to work with the kids, if they are willing and their parents let them be creative! Those kids were great to work with, minor quarrells are always part of the trade, but all in all, they were willing and enjoyed it well.
I wonder what will matter in their life more-the things they learned to make by hand or those abstract mathematic noone except a rocket scientist will ever need? And I simply hope to start the feeling they can actually make things by hand, and being capable of actually shaping their own world by hand and skill and will. If we could achieve but a tiny bit of that notion, even if it were in but one out of hundred, our work would not be for nope. We always welcome them back to the smithy, whenever they want to come, and not only for the reason they pay Volker for it!
You can always tell when kids are creative and eager to learn when the parents give them a backing. Those kids were socially educated, not yelling at each other, quarrelling some, but that´s normal, but not beating each other to pulp (and mind you, we had that, too, on more occasions than we´d like to mention). Mum and Daddy did not panic when the kids were playing in the nearby creek, building dams and coming back looking like swamp monsters;-), and in turn, it showed in the work of the kids. So simple!
The kids had a display to choose from this time, and we forged mini horsehoes with their names stamped into, knives, musical notation signs, snails, snakes, pendants and the like.
Here Volker stamps horsehoes with the name letters of the kids...
Nick came by, too, to have his first try of working with the kids, and he did a great job with the kids. His smithing skills still give us something to work on, but that was quite a feat; for he simply made clear that he was learning still and wanted to do it together with the kids! Really good, mate. The kids liked him and he got the right kind of control. 
"Hammer high!!!" was his command, and the kids had fun with it!
The kids always have to wear safety glasses, goggles, gloves and aprons for protection.
Some of the things we made. Celtic Kopis and utility knives, a seax and a skinner blade made from coldforged (work-hardened) steel. We offer a tutorial for a knife out of spring steel, but that takes way longer and costs 50 - 70 €, and most parents are reluctant to pay THIS! MUCH! FOR! A! KNIFE! DOH! *ggg*, so mild steel is what they get. It is surprising, though, that you can get ´em to cut, albeit not very good, by coldforging!
More of the stuff.
Then, suddenly, all was over, and I tutored Nick some more on blacksmithing, and then I worked for a project we are about to start. The idea was developed after the "Forging against racism" - event at the TFH in Bochum city. Petr mailed along and asked if he could contribute, and the magic troll, Volker and myself decided to start it for ourselves and blacksmiths and craftsmen all over the world, if at all possible. So, if you want, forge a chain link or even a chain, carve it, weave it, knit it, felt it, do whatever you want. keep it in your country, call all your friends to contribute, call anyone who would want to contribute, be it a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Taoist, Shintoist, Shamanist, Animist, Philosopher, Atheist or whatever. We will start a blog and a facebook account and will offer anyone who coordinates the activities in her / his country admin / author rights on that blog. If you have already made something, send a photo smaller than 1 MB to an email adress I will establish soon, when the blog and accounts are on (I will post in two - three weeks time with all info!). And then, in a future yet to come, I hope we can all meet and link that chain together as a sign to all the warmonging arseholes around the world that we, the people of the earth don´t want nuclear threats and wars for petty reasons. If we had an argument, fine, that can be discussed. But we are fed up with the economists ruling out our life and death. With our work, we could fight without violence, not against something, but for a process of forging unity. That is not to say all will be grand. But tell us our story, and people all over the world will get to know your people. You can, of course, write in any language you´d want, but it makes more sense if you could do it in English, for it is understood in most any part of the world.

So, come on, get to the forge, the spinning wheel or the carving bench. Wood will be linked to wood, cloth to cloth, and iron to iron, and work to work and deed to deed!
Then I rummaged through my backpack and, deep down in the depths I found the elven hunting knife that broke recently for it got too hot. I realized it had a monstrous spine thickness and decided to give it a try to draw it out further, and made this seax blade from it. Wrought iron and 1.2842 three-layer - laminate, and it worked out well. Due to the additional pounding, and some annealing, annealing (and when I was done annealing I did some annealing and annealed, and annealed some more, just for  a change, before I did some annealing;-)) I managed to achieve a finer grain structure. Then I tempered it and tested it, and it works! Seems that the iron does not want me to forge fantasy knives, and I will keep that to heart!
The sun was setting when I said goodbye to Nick and Volker and made for the trail home.

Mittwoch, 17. April 2013

Knifemaking day at the smithy...

 On Friday I had an appointment with Nick at the smithy, and some work to do. So I rode out to Witten. The sun was shining brightly, and I took in the silence and solitude in the Ruhr marshes and the hooting and singing of geese, cranes, ducks and singing birds.
 I met but few people, and the atmosphere was outright idyllic.
 But we were determined to change that!*ggg* Nick came by and we lit the forge, and I showed him some basics, for he wants to get serious about smithing and to help out where he can. And we worked on the En-Nep we forged at the Industrial Museum.
 Nick apparently enjoyed himself.  He suffered from some throwbacks, but I hope that does not bother him much.
 I showed him how to forge a swallow´s tail scroll, and a rat-tail scroll, and he tried out for himself.
 Meanwhile, I ground and tempered the sgian dhú blade out of spring steel for a friend of Craig´s. Sorry, Craig, it´s getting there, and I know I am a forgetful moron, for in fact, I simply forgot it. George will get a good one, though.;-) The other blade is a hadseax made from wire damascus.
 And some copper fittings and a spoon from mild steel I forged that day, too.
 When the sun was setting, Volker brought Nick to Witten railway station, for it´s a right trek out there! I had fun with Nick and I hope he´s here to stay!

Donnerstag, 11. April 2013

Path of the huntress...

 On Tuesday I simply needed to get out into the woods. I wanted for the silence and solitude of the green, of the song of the wind in the treetops of pine, spruce and fir. Of the cry of the buzzard and the sight of roe deer in the distance. Of rain and earth, and of twilight. I did not have much energy, so I did not the biggest of hikes, but hitched the bus and rode out to the hills. I immediately vanished in the thicket, and it was as it always is: It felt as if a leaden blanket was taken from my shoulders. The woods welcomed me with warmth and silence and a twilight pleasing to my eye. They embraced me with their solitude and the virility of the sprouting green. And spring is definitely on the rise; birds were tweeting and fluttering about, I spotted a hare looking at me from ten metres distance (and fumbled my camera, which refused to work...). And the ever-present buzzard was gliding above in a beautiful chute through the treetops.
 I climbed a steep slope. Everywhere I saw the tracks of wild pigs and the desolation they left in their quest for insects, snails, mushrooms and roots and leftover acorns. And in the ruts they plowed with their snouts, tiny plants were sprouting and a myriad of insects was scurrying about.
 Then I came across this owl cast, and I imagined this stately huntress gliding through a starlit night, a silent shadow amongst the deeper shadows of the night. I imagined twilight-wan feathers and a solemn hooting, and I imagined I was on her trail that day.
 Deeper, ever so much deeper I went into the woods, sometimes lit by a pale sun, sometimes grey with the cloudy light. I walked silently, but with little effort, my thoughts and feelings echoing through my mind and my heart. The trail went on and on, and sometimes I spotted the hare in the distance. Yonder hills I went and then into a valley seldom trodden. You can find traces of human history there, but now it´s little known, and there were times I remember well when you could not find it on the map. It´s funny how man believes just because he can draw maps that he knows every place... and sometimes forgets to calculate. Nowadays it´s laid out on the map, but it is just too small to matter. You cannot make money with it, so they neglect it. I am the richer for it. On I walked and followed the trail marked by hare and owl droppings, deeper into that valley. And, resting on the ground, under a tree marked with owl droppings, I found this treasure:
 A sheep´s horn, and the skull of a tiny raptor, which I take to be a baby weasel, plus its bones and fur.
 I left the skull, and took home the sheep´s horn, and wandered on on the trail... is this a piece of badger fur? I don´t know, really...
 And who might be living under this stump?
The trail went on and on, and did time pass, or did space, or was it me or the world that turned? Moss covered the tree trunks, and ancient roots clawed at the soil.

 This is the skull of the weasel. It is conveying meaning to me, but the story it tells in itself is sufficient. It has been prey to the owl or an even bigger bird of prey.

I returned to the roar and din of civilisation. I took the bus home with a somewhat surreal feeling, and I had funny dreams that night...

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