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Mittwoch, 29. Mai 2013

Another productive day at the Bethaus smithy

 Last Friday it was meeting with Nick again to do some tutoring and some forging myself. So we met at Volker´s place and started right away. Nick had quite some ambitious ideas, and I felt right sorry to calm him down a bit. It´s just that he´d just forged the third time in his life and wanted to do some master projects, and that would be only frustrating. That guy´s really fired up with blacksmithing, and that´s great to see. When I told him to set aside the BIG and complicated project he was working on, I daresay he was a bit frustrated at first. But then he just shrugged and started working on the handle of the knife he wanted to complete. Of course, he needed a bit of a tutoring, too, and I helped him out a bit, but all in all, he fared well enough. Guess the outcome will be a fine one;-), and you will find it in this place.

Apart from tutoring, I did some big projects myself. I had found some material in the woods, ingots as well as steel rods from apparently the same or a similar material, crucible steel appearing toi hail from the beginning of the 20th century, with an extremely high carbon content. Blimey, that stuff´s not easy to forge!;-) But I did it eventually, and made these:
 Top to bottom: Ingots I probed and messed up. I will try that again, but this time forge a spatula out of mild steel to weld them back together and to refine them. Then an integrally bolstered belt knife, selectively tempered, as you can see by the quench line, which is already visible quite well. Then a leather working intgral half-moon - knife for the magic troll;-). Then I forged a seax blade from the crucible steel rods I found. I also did a spark analysis of the ingot to the right. The Birka style knife below is made from spring steel, and there´s another piece of spring steel lying beneath the integral, from an old wagon or whatever silently rotting in the middle of nowhere;-).
The leatherworking tool.
It simply feels good to share knowledge and to learn, and to be able to pursue your learning and your projects in an atmosphere of fruitful conversation and respect. I cannot thank Volker enough for letting us use the smithy whenever we want. Of course, there are always questions and discussions, wherever humans meet, but, compared to the smithy in the industrial museum, it is a whole different matter.

Volker is a smith who loves what he does. He is not the best of all blacksmiths, and he is aware of that. He´s sometimes driving me mad;-), and he is aware of that, too;-). But he knows what he gets by letting us do, what we love, too. We learn, to promote the work of the Bethaus as a concept, and we all feel responsible for something great; people keeping the world alive by telling stories with voice and song and sickle and, pardon me;-), hammer. Craig dropped by to fetch a sgian achlais I made for a friend of his, and we had a chat about this and that. Now Craig´s a great folk singer, an award winning one, to be precise. We had a good conversation about art and life and gypsy culture and what one could do to stop the madness of the modern world. And I daresay, we might not save the world with the Bethaus. But we made some kids and even their grumpy parents smile already. And we will keep telling our tales. Noone will prevent us from doing so. Might be we will be driven away from this place, too, as we are currently driven out of the Industriemuseum Ennepetal (mobbed out, in fact, feels quite familiar:-/). But nothing will keep us from doing what we believe in. And our number is growing, and the friendship amongst us is growing, as are our skills, for we are never done learning. This is what feels best these days.

Dienstag, 21. Mai 2013

Oh the loot-a weekend of viking shopping and gifts from my lovely magic troll!

 Now this is a geardo post. I am not above some fit of manic shopping from time to time, and I actually do not ven have to forage for food this month because of money shortage... feels good for a change. I travelled to my love´s home in Marburg to meet with her and her father, Erich the viking;-) to go to Münzenberg medieval fair. All in all, the fair was a great one with meetings with Jonny, the mad harpist, and his wife, with great conversations and meetings with great people, and I got me some material. Clockwise: Ram´s horn scales from the Solingen expo still, elk antler, roe antler for a pendant, roe antler, a nice tomahawk, roe antler, a beautiful pieve of flint, more elk antler, and reindeer antler from the Solingen expo.
 And these goodies I got from my lovely lovely love, the magic troll. A skull cap in Naalbindning technique, new viking shoes that could do well even at work, and some hand-knitted socks. She makes them for you,too, if you´d ask her nicely enough or have something equally nice;-) to trade. Look here for her blog!
 I really like those shoes, handmade and all.
 Brass shoe nails, nice. I´ll put some rubber on, though, the soles would be a bit slippery on the grass.
And, finally, I got me some handmade glass jewellry to go on knife lanyards. Beautiful, and awesomely made-and authentical in the bargain!

Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

On the bench;-)

 Some more steel lying on the bench, er the cloth, that is;-), a Birka kitchen and snack knife, with scrollwork, torsion work and enhraving / stamping, a little somewhat something someone ordered;-), a flat chisel for detail work on ram´s heads, dragon heads and the like, and a hollow chisel / half circle stamp for engraving. Tempered spring steel all, with the top slightly hardened on the stamps and chisels.
 The torsion work on the knife.
 Stamping went not so well on one side...
 I choose a moderate spine thickness of 3,5 mm on the knife.
And the in riverso perspective with a slightly better stamping. The knife was just for practicing after all;-).

Eikinnsleikr is ready!

I have taken itr really slow, but now it´s here... prét a porter, so to say;-) made a sheath for Eikinnsleikr. Oak, of course, and a scandi style upper. The stainless insult to the right;-) is a removeable chain link I use to carry it on my foraging belt. The lower part is made of two halves of oak wood from some leftover beam of my old home, the handle is yew which grew before that old house, the blade is made from 1.2842 and wrought iron, which was given to me by one of my best friends, Elmo, that is, the bolster is Mokume Gane which does not show. It is in itself a rune, and the runes of the oak went into it.

My personal carry...;-)

Flea market find - Nuba dagger

 On the flea market in Schwelm, where I worked as a member of the organisation team, I found this treasure; a real tribal dagger, which I guess might be a Nuba dagger, for i have seen similar designs. It came with a beautifully and skillfully made leather sheath. The handle is some hardwood which I have not yet identified.
 The blade is fitted into the handle by a simple hole, and it looks as if it wasn´t glued in, but simply NAILED... dead ugly, but these knives have to work, and the knife looks like it has seen quite a bit of working-no petty art knives here;-).

 The blade is excellently tempered and skillfully forged spring steel with a thickness of about 1,2 mm. Try tempering that selectively without warping, and selectively tempered it seems to be! The blade carves mild steel rods but is flexible to boot. The edge had some dents close to the handle which might be due to bone contact or simply rust.
The backside of the sheath is skillfully sewed together. There is a plaited knot to secure the handle.

The best part is, it cost me 3,00€.*ggg*

Handforging speaks louder;-)-Hammer-In @Bethaus smithy

 Last Friday we just felt the urge to make some mischief with steel and fire, so we met at the smithy. Volker was there, of course, and Willi came by as well as Nick, and Kathrin, his lovely woman, and the mad basssstard;-), Kai. We lit up forge, and just got started. It was a great and friendly atmosphere, with different skill levels influencing each other in a positive way. Everyone followed his or her gusto and projects. Volker did a lot for the atmosphere again, for he provided us with a steady flow of hot, strong java and lard sandwiches, a local speciality. Thanks, mate, for that!!!
 Nick really got the bug bad....*ggg* and really wants to learn the trade. I often have to slow him down a bit, his projects are a bit ambitious most of the time!
 Kathrin just sat there calmly and, not wanting to forge, simply read a book and contributed to a friendly atmosphere. Kathrin and Nick both are people I am outright glad they stepped into my life. They are both people with an unusual approach to life, and that´s great!

 I prepared some wrought iron from an old barn door for forge - welding laminate. I will keep the beautiful scrollwork, though;-), but use the straight parts for knives.
 Kai, long time, no see! I was glad to meet you once again, and to make some noise with you!
 Willi thinking about his projects and showing off...;-)
 Nick talking a huge pile of rubbish;-).

 Willy forged a ring to keep the tongs shut and to ease the stress on his wrists, suffering some problems at the moment.
 I welded a piece of file steel into the wrought iron, but, having too little borax, had a welding flaw at the utmost end, but no harm done, I can weld that back.
 Kai working on a whittling knife. Blimey, that guy already takes commissions... even though he still does blacksmith´s yoga before the anvil*ggg*.
 I then set out to probe a small piece of ingot I found in the local woods. I take it to be crucible steel, and it has a carbon content not far from being not forgeable anymore. The temperature window was so small, you just had to pound two times and had to reheat. We discussed its properties, and as it broke, discussed the grain, we did a spark test and all that stuff. It was great to have some more opinions, and this is a great way to learn. I have a BIG supply of these ingots, and I daresay, some of them might even have some Wootz properties. Thinking of Wootz, that is a dream of ours, just to have made that;-), too.
 Kai was tutored by Willy how to forge mini hatchets, and this came out... RESPECT!
 Nick had an idea for a chainlink for our anti-racism project. This is his second project blacksmithing all in all which he made all by himself. Amazing in my book!
 Willi made this Nessmuk basher out of 100Cr6... what can I say;-), maybe not my style, but I look forward to seeing the knife, which will be great as usual!
 He also made one of his dwarves;-)... Willy might be the only lunatic out there making eight knives and calling them "snowwhite and the seven dwarves", snowhite having a blade length of about 85 mm or so, and the dwarves at about 50 mm. They look flimsy, with a two-finger handle, but they work surprisingly great! Have to try that myself sometime soon.
 He also sharpened his spoon knife, which is coming along nicely.
 My achievements for the day: Retempering my hadseax out of wire damascus, forging a ram-headed eating kopis knife, probing the ingot and forging a laminate seax blade...
 A detail of the ram´s head, which came along nicely.
 Another perspective of the ram´s head.

It was a great day with great people and good fun, with a lot of learning and silly jokes. We all went home quite content with our achievements. Nick made a huge progress, and, keeping in mind this only was his second project with next to no help, his achievement was amazing. Kai, however, is already taking commissions, and he has made a huge progress with his tribal knives. Willy, on the other hand, is a treasury of knowledge. Kathrin and Volker contributed to the whole thing, and them all give me the feeling of being part of something great. It is an atmosphere of friendship, respect, and learning, and it seems that we all profit from this thing.

I had a chat with Volker, then cleaned up, and off I was, riding calmly along the lane through the Ruhr marshes, with the song of water birds in my ear, and the wind in my helmet.

A perfect day.

Mittwoch, 15. Mai 2013

Knifemaker`s Fair at Solingen on 4th of May

Long time, no post;-)... on 4th of May, however, there was an event that would qualify as a highlight of the year. The Knifemaking expo at the "Klingenmuseum Solingen" (blade museum Solingen) that is somewhat of a paradise for every historically interested knife afficionado, and the expo is the meeting point for knifemakers from all over the world. The event was staged at the beautiful city district of Solingen Gräfrath.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday, and I arrived at the early afternoon, and took a stroll through the beautiful cob house city streets.
The museum is located in an old medieval monastrey building, looming over the city.
I paid my entry fee, and just some two steps into the museum the mayhem began. This is the booth of Peter Sederl with top quality folding knives...
..and beautiful hunting knife designs to boot!
I found this bushcraft sheath most appealing, although I am not sure why one does not make a proper loop for the ferrorod. This way is most popular, and I have made that, too, but I tend to loose those sticks, and no fire is not good in the wilderness!
Thisis the maker to the left of the photo, and the friendly gentleman with the "Weissbier" is Noriaki Narushima. The picture illustrates the atmosphere of the expo very well... lots of friendly, good - natured people having a lot of fun!
Two booths farther into the room, I met with JT Palikkö, a master knifesmith and master swordsmith from Finland. JT had a lot of extremely well-made swords at hand, highly polished to a high lustre, and I was actually amazed to learn that those were made from high-layer damascus. He recycles a lot of high - carbon steel, too, and many of his damascus blades are actually made from historical spring steel. This is a craftsman to be mentioned in the same line as those ancestors who forged swords. Plus, he´s a friendly, crazy guy, and I really liked to chat with him.
We both raved about the cutting prowess of the "Kopis" blade style, and I felt thoroughly understood;-).
JT, this was a jolly meeting! Thanks for that!

The guy next to him was of the same stamp;-). Maihkel Eklund from Sweden presented his extremely well-finished damascus, three-layer laminate and mono steel knife blades, knives, and axes / hatchets, among the latter this outright crazy interpretation of a mini hatchet:

Gilded and finely engraved axe blades anyone? This is the maker himself. Normally, he wears a teenie-weenie-mini fixed blade knife in its sheath in his beard, no kidding;-), but he sold it... we had a short, but good-natured chat, and I hope to repeat that sometime soon!
His blades, amazing work obviously, sold for an outright bargain price. When you consider many knifemakers in Germany with a CNC-lathe want to have ridiculous fairy-tale prices for work that´s not even handmade, this is very refreshing, and a sign that he has got his craftsmanship wired as well as his pricing!
In the next aisle I met with Matthias Maresch, a former student of Uli Hennicke, and his lovely companion. I really like the fluent lines of his knives that are aesthetically appealing but not impractical.
He also had these all-metal tactical knives with kydex sheaths on display. Not my piece of cake, certainly, but one has to admire the craftsmanship!
The maker and his lady....
At their back was the booth of Mr. Lasky, a Hungarian maker, and what did I find there?
A very interesting bushcraft knife approach. Damascus from high-carbon Böhler steel with a striker handle and a razor-like hollow grind. This knife would make for a great neck knife for around the local woods, and could as well be the gag on the next barbecue party. It´s certainly no survival knife, but makes a good backup and little task knife.
This is Mr. Lasky´s lady demoing the striker handle. We had our communicational challenges;-) yet managed well with English, hands, and grins and smiles. Message!;-)
I passed by the booth of Mr.Kutz... great friction folders on display that would even be legal in the UK.
We had a laugh together, a nice chat, and I admired these knives on display, quite to my liking. I love the bolster designs on the hunting knives a lot! Unfortunately, he has no website, and I did not want to link his email address, for obvious reasons...;-)
Oh, and I did not want to keep the expos of the museum away from you, either. There are blades of knives, table cutlery, swords and edged weapons on display from the bronze age to modern times.
I was very fond of these Persian, Scythian and Andronovo bronze hatchets. I want to do some more research on the topic. Of course, I only had half a mind for the artifacts, but am resolved to come back soon to do it more throughly.
And i daresay the mindset of those ancient smiths might not be very far off from that of those smiths and makers on the show.
The picture above are Celtic examples of a weapon sacrifice. This practice was quite common with weapon sacrifices. Swords were often damaged in an act of supreme violence. Keeping in mind these swords are tempered, and well tempered, one could imagine what force had to be applied to bend them this much. It is also a testimony on the tempering skills of the swordsmiths of that age!
I am really fond of these two Celtic ring-pommel knives. Presumeably a predecessor of the Vimose seax morphology, the big knife would be used in a similar type to the seax. Both knife types were found as equipment in burial mounds when a piece of meat was present as a burial gift.
Then I met with Stefan Steigerwald and his wife. Stefan has a shop for any material imagineable for knifemaking, blades and billets, tools and lots of good advice. He, too, is a very nice guy, and I did not need much persuasion to buy ramshorn scales and a piece of reideer entler from him. Visit his shop here.
He also makes nice art knives, not my piece of cake, but there´s a gallery here. Again, we had a nice talk, and blimey, I did not manage to see all there was to see. One day certainly is a bit short with all the people to meet!
Then I met with Peter Abel, and I can say, he has a kind of humour that is illegal as felony in 48 states of the US*ggg* no offence meant, by the way. I simply like him, for he´s a friendly guy, and a master smith ready and eager to share his knowledge. He always answers questions, even if you don´t buy anything and linger around with a camera to take lousy pics of his booth. He offers blacksmithing tutorials and material for gas forges, forges, knifemaking and a lot of special knowledge. Here he offers everything you might possibly need as a knifemaker and goodies for the blacksmith.
His knives are definitely my style, but he does it so much cleaner than myself. I was amazed to learn that the knife at the upper right came out too clean for his liking, so he whacked some hammer dents in on purpose! He can do it "tribal" and archaic, but also had some very clean kitchen knives on display, drop-forged from Damasteel!
He also offered a vast array of blades for quite reasonable prices.
Then I went upstairs to visit Mr. Fazekas,  meanwhile a kind of aquaintance of mine, for we meet several times a year, and always exchange some politeness. Mr. Fazekas is a friendly man with a calm air and amazing skills as a knifemaker and blacksmith.
This Keris dagger certainly was one of my favourites of the show, for the skill with which it was accomplished. Four strands of torsional damascus were separated for the hilt and crossguard. Then they were forged into snake heads with emeralds set into them as eyes. Personally I like it also for the mythological interpretation of the keris approach.
It was somewhat funny; I had talked so much English that day, that I inadvertedly addressed Mr. Fazekas in English too;-). He smiled and simply said "Deutsch ist doch besser" (German would be better). I apologized. He smiled. Then I smiled, too. Message!*ggg*
He also had these Wkizashi and Tanto blades on display, made from thousands of layers of refined file steel. Note the Hamón on the blades!
A detail of the Keris handle.
And the blade.
This is the (deserted) booth of Peter Johnsson. I missed his lecture on sword making, and I regret the fact, but not the fact that I missed it while talking to JT Palikkö and Maihkel Eklund. However, Peter is another very great individual that I had had the privilege to meet several years earlier, a very reflected person with-must I really rant on endlessly about his skills as a swordsmith? He is a legend, but well down-to-earth. You can get his works as functional replicas at Albion amoury at a reasonable, albeit not cheap prices, but I daresay it would be better that not every punk can afford one of these weapons;-), for they are as deadly as their historical ancestry. Most interesting, however, are his theoretical works, which have thoroughly enlightened my technical understanding as well as my understanding of medieval martial arts, culture and literature. It is always funny to ask visitors in the smithy how heavy they would estimate a medieval sword. The funniest guess I got was 25 kg! I once did not know the correct number, too, but Peter Johnsson was the one shedding light into the topic years ago. And even if my guess was much closer to the mark, I would never have understood there were swords as light as 500-700 g, and the physics of swordplay were far from the clumsy dance we are led to believe from stage combat. Learning from his scriptures certainly has made me rethink utility knife design, too. So, Peter, you have influenced me very much, and thanks for that!

On I went, and came towards the booth of Gerhard Wieland. Ever since I saw his first official works;-) in the early Messerforum, I was amazed by the harmony of his design, the flowing, almost art nouveau - like lines and the meticulous craftsmanship. His knives preserve the air of the archaic while being far from rustic.
I daresay the pictures talk for themselves. Gerhard Wieland does use a hammer, tongs, a gas forge and a file, period. It makes me feel a bit ashamed of my own achievements...
I also like the (true) Hamón lines on the blades.
This is his trademark elk sculpture, for he is fond of Scandinavian culture. His knives always have to stand their test in holidays in the Scandinavian bush, so no petty mayflower steel!
Then I went on, and to another extraordinary smith. Andreas Schweickert is famous for his very eloquent Wootz-knives, but also his simpler designs. I was amazed by this knife. If you have read my blog, you know that I am quite fond of this style of knife. But to date I have never accomplished something as eloquent as this! My respect goes to the maker, for I know what stands behind it!
This is one of his Wootz blades with a beautiful stag handle.
But he can do it rustic, too. Tribal design Parang machetes.

Historical carving sets and eating knives on display by the museum for comparison. I daresay there´s not so much difference except for the common expressions of fashion and taste!
Then I ventured outside, where in the museum´s garden there was a Kyudo demo going on. It was fascinating to see the meditative air of the drawing and shooting. Hitting the target is a goal, but not of priority. Even as important is the process of breathing, aiming, and concentrating. It is commonly known that Zen archers are able to hit the target blindfolded, and I relate this to the setting of different priorities. One could say that the target is secondary, because it will be hit in any case. It was simply great to see meditation in practice.
Then I came to the last station of my visit. The booth of Achim Wirtz, Norbert Bahls, and my own personal mentor and tutor, Matthias Zwissler, where they had a Tatara oven running.

And whom did I meet there? Rolf his self, Gunnar, and Willy lingering around and talking rubbish. So I stood me next to them and helped them talk rubbish, too...*ggg*

This is Matthias. I owe him more than I can say. He has no easy life, but he clings to his passion, and I hope he will for the time to come. Keep the fire burning!
The tatara oven. They used charcoal and iron oxide to achieve a bloom, which is then forge-refined by forge - welding. This is the master skill of blacksmithing, and these guys have it wired. They are blacksmiths that really deserve the title "metallurgist". Period. I could say more, but it would not do them justice. It is my goal to one day come a bit closer to these skills. Not much else is as important.
This is a seax blade by Achim. Must I say more?
A Spatha billet in the making.
And some rustic user knives and a foraging sickle.
Left is Norbert Bahls, then Mrs. Wirtz (presumeably), and Achim Wirtz.
There was a lot of tech talk going on. Willy is listening intently, for there was much to learn in but a minute of conversation.

We talked the time away without noticing... it was only when they started packing up that I realized I had not had any food the whole day through and got some of the last meatballs, cake and coffee in the nearby booth.

Then suddenly we went outside, and Willy and I had a good chat in a nearby café, and we talked a lot about what we had seen, about old times and the times that are yet to come. It was a great day with great people, with old and new aquaintances and, more important, a feeling of being someone and belonging somewhere.

 Face it: I am a freak of nature. Be it in my job, in my social life, in my leisure, I have always been an outcast, and the so-called normal people have not held back  their opinion about the value of my doings and whereabouts. I have been mobbed even in the Kindergarten, in school, in my job, even in the clubs I founded and helped found.

But fire and steel is something else than leisure. It goes deeper and deeper into the deepest regions of my soul. It would not stop if I could not forge anymore. For I, for one DO have a soul. I do not belong to the people I met, and they don´t belong to me, and most of them would laugh at me for trying to find these words. But they, in turn, belong to fire and steel. There´s not much more to say about that. If you cannot feel it, every word is futile, and futile it is also to tell it to those who can feel it. If you work with steel and fire, if you allow it to scar you, to burn you, and don´t give up fighting, chance is, you will eventually be able to hear the song.

The song of steel, as pathetic as this might sound. But I cannot say it in any other way. The expo was full of people trying to listen. I have to apologize to them for trying to speak about something which is not to be spoken about, for talk is cheap.

To the forge, then.





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