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Mittwoch, 21. August 2013

News from a bum´s life;-) of posting no photos, mobbing, chaos and friendship.

So, the Fimbulmyrk fanclub ;-) encouraged me to write with no photos. You begged for it, and here it is;-): a post with no photos whatsoever. My life has taken at least one turn of great significance to me, and several other minor changes. I thought I´d just drop you a line, and there´s a story to be told.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, when I was just a kid, my father forged a knife with me, in the shop of his employer. It was a mild steel trench knife with a hunting knife pedigree with a work-hardened and slightly carbonized edge. I was seven then, and of course he let me do some of the minor forging. He used a gas burner for heating, and while he wasn´t overly precise (as I can now say;-)), the knife worked well enough for me then. It was certainly no wonder of edge retention, but worked surprisingly well, and he taught me to work-harden the edge. It was the start to a career of cold-forging every tiny bit of steel I could lie my hands on, mild steel, tool steel, even copper, brass and aluminum were hammered into the shape of a blade (that boy´s got a problem;-)), some extremely ugly, some just merely ugly. Then I experimented with tempering with no tutoring at all and nearly blew the house up;-) with the gas torch, but somehow managed to keep myself and the family alive. All through my life there was one or the other form of blacksmithing involved, woodworking, woodcarving and even carpentery. Then I really got serious about bladesmithing, and built up a dirt forge in the garden, working with charcoal, an old barbecue and a modified vacuum cleaner, a sledge for an anvil, and an old locksmith´s hammer and some makeshift tongs. I forged my first decent knives from file, chisel and spring steel crap, and it went surprisingly well. The knives I made certainly were no marvels of bladesmithing, but some of them I still use hard, and they stand up to it. It was then that I questioned many things in my life, and that led up to trying to make as much of my gear myself as I could, which even led to making my own charcoal. Living in an old house in the woods with plenty of space on the property, that was no problem. It was then that I started to work for museums, and there it was that I became acquainted to Harald, who soon became a tutor of mine. Harald taught me a lot about blacksmithing, and became a friend. When Harald quitted work at the museum, he built up a business for himself, and started to work at the Krenzer smithy, and there I became acquainted to Matthias, a damascus bladesmith and archaeometallurgist, known to many as one of the smiths of the biggest damascus billet in history (2,4to of 15N20, 1.2842 and C75Ni also known as "monster" damascus), beside Achim Wirtz and Norbert Bahls. It was then, by coincidence, that he learned I had tried my first welds with the dirt forge, and offered me to freely experiment in his smithy. Looking back, I must say this was a blacksmith´s apprentice´s paradise. Damascus, Mokume Gane, a very good Danish belt grinder, and even a Beché air power hammer, mind you, the real stuff. I made huge progress in these days, and I really got the bug bad. Whenever I could I forged, either with the wild dirt forge or Matthias´gas forge or Harald´s coke forge. I was right obsessed!;-) I used to drop by the smithy, and we did some forging, I helped them with their projects, and they gave valuable input on my forging. Often, others were there, and we had a ball together. Frank, Vera, Achim, Norbert, I got to know a lot of quality people and we met as strangers and parted as friends. Blacksmithing does that for you.

But all was not grand in wonderland. Harald and Matthias encountered personal problems both, and I have to say it was not entirely their fault, but both were mobbed by the smithy´s owner´s wife. Not that they were easy to live with, mind you. But a fact´s a fact. First Harald quit his business again to work for a tool company in Remscheid, and then Matthias quit the place, too. Meanwhile, I got to know Willy, that old bastard;-) better, and we tried to keep a tutoring smithy at Krenzer´s. Matthias, however, moved on to the industrial museum Ennepetal, and we were welcome at his smithy. We met each Friday at 3 p.m. to do some tutoring with young adults and having a ball. Of course, we tried to help out at the smithy best we could. I remember cleaning a toilet that had not seen cleaning for 30 years; quite a fascinating experience, I can tell you, and, having been offered payment, I gladly accepted... turned out the payment for 10 hours work was a blacksmithing tongs, equal in value to 14.99€. Quite the salary, but no harm done, I did it for the smithy.

It was round about that time that the mobbing started on us, too. The owners are Christians of a protestant sect, and we are not. We had never said any unrespectful word, however. When invited for dinner, I even spoke my own version of table prayer, in a socially acceptable manner, and it was hard not to compromise too much on my own belief. Out of respect I did this, but respect must not necessarily be returned. It simply would not fit either party any more, so we quit, too. We did not leave in anger, and we still help out from time to time. It´s a good idea and a great location, and we, for one, know how to set aside personal quarrells for the greater good.

Off to Matthias´smithy, then. It was a great time again, and we had a lot of fun together, even if he sometimes was a bit over the top... we learned afterwards his parents were being severely sick. Matthias was caring for them, and, them residing in the South of Germany, had to travel a lot and had his head elsewhere often. I daresay we got on his nerves one time or the other... but we simply did not know. Anyway, Matthias, too, quit his bladesmithing business, and gave away most of his smithy to his friends and apprentices. He left us the gas forge, 1,5 tons of steel, the anvils, and all there was left in the smithy. This was in 2007, and we started working for the industrial museum on a regular basis. Each month of the season we were there on the first Sunday, and many of them I have featured in this blog. It was our turn now to open up our own smithy. We brought in our own stuff, we had a hammer - In with a load of different people. From all over Germany they came to have a look at us and do some forging. Rolf, Siegfried, Bastian, Mauro, Kai, Nick, Volker, Marcel and his kids, the big and the small Daniels, too many people to mention them all, came and we forged together. We had  a great time indeed, and I daresay we were a right attraction for the museum, for even people from Bavaria and Hessen, from the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Austria and Czechia came because they had heard of and from us. And out of respect we worked there. For free. We paid the gas, it was our steel we processed, our time and money, our tools and our networking.

Out of respect we did that.

Turns out that respect is not necessarily to be returned, and "do what you will, but do not harm anyone" is a motto not everyone can understand.

I have to say I have a strong suspicion we got mobbed out. When we were there in July, we were looking forward to another great Sunday of working hard and having fun with fire and steel.BUMMER! The gas bottle we had thoroughly made sure it contained enough gas to forge in June, was empty, and carefully re-installed as to pretend it was full. But empty it was, so no forging at all.

This was the moment Rainer came in. Now Rainer certainly´s no bad guy, and a good enough person to boot, and it certainly was not his fault, and I hope we made sure of that. But Willy looked at me, and I at Willy, and we said in unison: "That´s it. We quit." Enough is enough, I daresay.

I then went to Volker and asked him if he´d care to have us, and he gladly accepted and even organized a place for bigger events. The rest is told quite shortly: I made some phone calls, sent some sms, Volker lent me his car, Willy came with his and Daniel with his, we met at the smithy and got our act together. We were even able to joke, and, while it was hard and sorry work cleaning up, we made it a good time. Many of the museum staff said they regretted we had to go.

I think I have made clear why this was an important step for me, and an important experience. There are people talking a lot, asking a lot, and doing nothing, or worse.

But there are always people you can rely on. People not necessarily with a defined belief or attitude. But people that are straight and true. I have found from my experience, that a lot of those I know are bladesmiths. I just want to thank them. It´s great to have you around!

Oh, and how does the story end?

We brought the smithy to the Bethaus, where it´s now stored, and the Sunday after we had a hammer - In and a barbecueing session. It was great fun and tasty food and some working with kids.

Handforging speaks louder!;-) 

Donnerstag, 1. August 2013

It´s been a long time...;-)

... since you read something substantial in this blog. Not because nothing has happened, that much is safe to say, but for various reasons. One is that my camera is wrecked and I do not want to bore you with endless texts (okay, I actually DO want that, but don´t tell anyone). Another one is that I am currently over the top with things to organize: I train the beginners of our mountainbike club again, work for the city marketing and the smithy, and have to clear a smithy and build up a new one. And then I have to travel quite a bit to see the person I love most in this world... so much to do!

But as soon as I got a new camera, you can look forward to some new projects and news on this blog at least next month. PROMISE!!!;-) So, just stay linked, and look forward to some strange humour, raw work, bushcraft, poems, recipes, rants, and hard riding soon!

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