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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?;-)

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