Dienstag, 28. Januar 2014

Towards a serviceable bushcraft knife-Another try;-)

For a long time now I have been trying to optimize the traditional bushlore style knife. I have found that my favourite style of handle is very comfortable for the hand, even though it looks a bit thorny;-). I have also experimented with some offset to make for a more powerful position when cutting with great force or chopping. The grind is set higher, for it is made from spring steel, and has a spine thickness of some 6 mm and will get a progressive selective temper, maybe even a bainite heat treatment, who knows? As for length, it´s a good 11,8 cm long. Oh, and the drillings are no drillings, they are hot punched;-). I´ll keep you informed!

Progress on my little fully integral En - Nep

So, it has been quite some time coming, but it is getting there. I have been treading very carefully with this knife, but here it is. The blade is made from spring steel with a selective temper, the bolsters are one piece. the tang, while being a good 10 mm thick, is drilled and lathed out for balance, bolsters and buttcap are finished with a ball peen hammer. The scales are stag antler fitted with volcanic fibre inlays and screwed on with a  brass screw theat was then sawed off. Of course, they are epoxied on, too. The balance point is still a bit too far back to the rear, just behind the index finger, but as is, it´s nimble enough. The filework shows a snake that winds itself thhrough the bolster and into the tang, and I hope to be ableto do some engraving, too. I will show you more details as soon as it´s done. The blade itself has a high convex bevel, and having taken it through its paces already I can say...


I hope I can show you some testing soon.;-).

I like this one.

My history of knifemaking-found some old steel

Rummaging through my attic-turned -home, I came across these three old knives. I made them way back, when I still lived in the forest, and they all have a story to tell. The first one on top was made when I still had no forge whatsoever. On the topmost meadow above our garden, at the edge of the dense woods, I loved to sit beneath a rowan tree, and beneath its roots I had found an old billhook knife. The handle was rotten away, and it was rust-eaten almost beyond recognition, but, the blade being very thick in the spine, still offered plenty of material to make a Bowie knife from.I took a hacksaw with a tile-cutting wire to it, and then the rest was done with a water - cooled roto - grinder and grit paper. I then fitted a piece of copper as a guard, and a handle out of yew and stag antler, which an acquaintance of ours gave to me. The tang is glued in and peened over an inlaid brass plate. The knife has so far seen some 15 years of hard use and is still in good condition. It measures in at some 16cm, the spine is 4mm thick.

The next one I made in the scagel style. I am still quite fond of those Scagel knives, even if I am somewhat less of the opinion that he invented "custom knives", for this was done all over the world in village smithys and frontier smithys alike. The blade is made (forged) from an old car bolt wrench, quite thin at 2,5 mm, and tempered in an urine concoction after the "Curicus and offenhertzig wein artzt" (1782), resulting in a bainite temper. It is very flexible, yet holds an edge extremely well. After 12 years of hard use I only but recently redid the grind, but only to change the edge geometry. The handle is made from stag antler, mountain pinion and leather washers. the mountain pinion is a piece of root that had been washed up a torrent in a mountain creek near "my home away from home", the place where I used to stay each year-a cabin high up in the Styrian mountains, the Ursprungalm. I brought it home as a souvenir, and then decided to put a bit of a sentiment into this knife.

Still below is the youngest of the trio, some 9 years old. It is made from an old wall anchor I found in the ruin of an ancient manor high above the Volme valley. It was winter then, and a snowstorm was blowing hard. Seeking shelter, I went into the ruin, and there it was, rusted deep. It shows no strucure, but the carbon content is high enough to make for a blade, that, tempered in the aforementioned urine concoction, cuts iron bolts. Some years ago, I removed the original scales, which were ebony, but so lousily fitted they cracked, and filed the tang and drilled it to accomodate a lanyard hole. Then I put some oak scales on from the last blank my father prepared before he became too sick to do any woodworking at all. Also a bit of a sentiment, if you so will. This is one of the blades I forged in winter, under a starlit sky, with the cat owls hooting and the ice howling on the lake. I treasure the memory even more than the knife itself, but more so since this time will never come back. It measures in at some 95 mm with a very sturdy spine, some 7 mm thick. I put a hollow grind on it, so that it cuts well enough, though it is a bit overbuilt. Never really sharpened it the whole time through, just some stropping is all.

Apart from the feeling that I must have done something right with the making of these knives, they make me wonder, and I ask myself: Do I have put those years and the armour the sentiment in these artifacts gave me for my heart put to good use? Sometimes it feels I wasted my time stargazing and dreaming. This is when I have to work at the office or have to make do with what´s left in my cupboard for food at the end of the month. But in general, I´d rather do it the same way again, and do not have real regrets. Yes, I can see more in a tree, or a squirrell, or  a bird, or a rock, than some Monsanto employee might. Bu they´re the ones f***** up the planet in a big style. Would not say that I don´t, but I guess my footprint´s a bit smaller on this earth. No, I do not regret, and even if it sometimes feels I can go not one step further, I take out those things I made long ago. And I play them in my hands, and remember the stars, and the winterwind, and the hunting owls. And even if it is a grim smile that is on my lips then, a smile it is. For even if those knives would not last, or be taken from me, noone will ever take the dream from me.

Freitag, 17. Januar 2014

New knife finished!-Capuchadou le original!;-)

Soooo, this is a new one I am quite fond of. It is some 85mm x2,5 mm with quite a shallow blade, made from 240 layers of rebar, spring and file steel, with a selective temper. There is a predecessor of the famed Laguiole folding knife, the Capuchadou native to the French region of Laguiole. While currently there is a folding knife currently marketed as such, peasants of the region carried a small, light fixed-blade knife for all the odd little everyday life of a farmer or shepherd before the venue of the folding knife, which was influenced by the Spanish Navaja. Et Voilá, le Capuchadou...;-). The handle is genuine rose wood, meaning rosa canina wood, which I really love for its wild grain and deep colour nuances. The ferrule is ball-peened copper. The knife has soon become one of my favourite kitchen knives. It is a cinch for dicing onions and vegetables, for cleaning carrots and peeling apples, and a great snack knife, too. I am therefore rethinking my stance towards thick spines in knives. Okay, I would not want to carry a bush beast with a flimsy 1,8 mm spine thickness, but, provided the temper´s right, I guess you can live with thinner even in the woods. Just look at Mora knives... guess there will be more like this one.

Of Chrismas fair mayhem, of breaking bonds and forging unity... impressions from a busy end of 2013

 Now, you have waited quite long for one of those posts, and for a reason. After the Chrismas fair mayhem I was simply feeling as if someone put me through a millstone, and did not quite feel like blogging. But here they come, impressions from a busy end of the year. We had one fair at Volmarstein Orthopaedic Institute, which was a most interesting opportunity to boot, for we forged with handicapped persons and kids alike.
 We arrived early and set up forge. It was going to be a very busy weekend with lots of creativity also in finding solutions for enabling people to have a go. We managed, and it was very rewarding seeing the twinkle in the eyes of a person condemned to lying flat on his belly for most of his life, and being able to master the violent fire and the hissing steam and the unforgiving iron! It was worth the ordeal of pre-Chrismas time just to see this spark in his eye, and I hope it was kindled to give him the strength to brave his everyday life. Think you got a hard life? Think again. And my utmost respect goes to those people. Not because they are "special", but because they - for the most part - are stronger than most just because they are mastering their life. Because they are not special, and don´t want to be.
 This guy, however... ;-)
 had some time to spare and some noise to make to attract the customers, and what did he do? Bushcraft whittler from wootz I found in the woods...
 We made this giveaway certificate for the kids and other customers.
 Quenching and tempering the blade. Then suddenly it was absolute chaos. When I looked up again, it was dark. People kept coming, we forged with kids and adults and had to find new solutions constantly. i could not take photos, but, hey, you have alreay seen people forging in this blog, don´t you?;-)
 This is far more important;-) at dinner time I had a break and got me a delicious dish, one of my favourite meals: Green cabbage with sausage and fried potatoes.Yum!
 And back to work again, kindling the flame and sparkling sparks...;-)

Next day we met with the good guys from the Insitute´s staff, can tell you, we had quite a laugh together!

 Then Peter dropped by. He´s an accomplished smith himself, as you can tell by his build;-). He provided visitors with mead and ale in his medieval tavern. We had a nice chat and a laugh together, and he is thinking of ordering some Oseberg lamps... get on with it, bro;-)!
 The kids dropped by and had some fun smithing.
 ...and were righteously proud of their accomplishments!
 I made this common cubicle-nosed Iroquois pig that tries to be a Celtic boar but still has room left to grow...;-) as a hiking staff headpiece. Willi´s currently making himself one which I am very fond of, with a ram´s head, but since wild pigs have some significance to me,  thought I´d go for one of these.
 And some fully-integral En-Nep knife with a tang drilled out for balance.

 Then suddenly, Volmarstein fair was over, and we were headed for Schwelm. This was a bit of a stressy actioon, for for my employer I helped organize the fair, we moved the office, I followed several projects at work that needed instant accomplishment, I had to organize three booths and do some forging at the same time. But when we met at Schwelm, all was forgotten. All the politics and the strategies and the hacking about in the office. At the office, I am but scum. But I know steel-and steel knows me. The fires were lit, Rolf, Nick, Willi, Volker and a load of groupies gathered around the booths. Rolf made some great leather tooling work with the kids, Nick offered some tin can play at skittles, and Volker, Willy and myself did some serious blacksmithing show;-) not at all.
 Brought some blades for some back-of-booth display, too. Lousy picture, apologies!

 Nick had a go at the forge himself.
 We met with Arthur, too. He´s a beeskeeper we frequently meet on events around these parts, and it´s always a pleasure!
 In Schwelm we also forged new links for a chain of unity we also did in Bochum at TFH (2,8 m) and Altenessen (3,05m). The idea behind the project is to let people from every social background have a go at forging an individual link, which is then linked to the great chain. We believe in unity amongst all races, ethnies and social caste and background. We believe that while we may not have peace in the world, at least people should pay each other the respect in allowing the thought that every individual human being is shaping the course of this mankind we value far too much. We believe that politicians, bankers and other warmongers have no power over the hearts of the people, and while they will not allow peace, because peace is not profitable, they cannot achieve total mind control.

And, quite personally, we believe, that, when we light the fire hot enough, the deity -or the Gods- will hear us and listen.

At least, iron does.
 Many of the kids we forged with, had alreay been there last year and waited eagerly for our booth to be set up on Saturday and Sunday. Felt good...;-) not being scum for once.;-)
 Rolf had a load of rare and beautiful pocket knives and craftsman´s cutters on display, together with his lovely leather work.
 Also some weekend project blades out of damascus and 440C.
 Nick suffering from the chills*ggg*.
 A dragon head link for the chain. The chain will be displayed at Schwelm Town Hall.
 Rolf suffering from the chills...*ggg*
 And tooling these leather wrist bands with kids and adults alike. He also made knife sheaths for knives we forged by the dozens!
 And this was the chain of Schwelm. 2,5 m of unity were forged in two days.
 And suddenly, the moon was out, and we were packing up.
We had some dinner, fish and chips without the vinegar, had a chat, and were all headed home. Folks, it´s simply good to have you around. You haven´t noticed much of what was going on beforehand, but you have certainly saved me from going mad that weekend.

Cheers to you weirdos and to those other weirdos out there!

Montag, 6. Januar 2014

Short introduction of an Otter billhook knife

Here we go again, long time, no post, and I have to admit, I was being a bit of in a rut, so I left blogging be for some time now. But here we go again: I wish all my faithful readers a happy new year 2014. 2013 was a bit of a bastard for me, but hope dies last...;-)

Here are some thoughts about another legal carry knife I purchased dead cheap on Solingen "Messer-Gabel-Scheren-Markt" knife expo in November. It is an Otter pruning knife. It comes with a big (85 mm) billhook blade from C 75 high carbon steel with a homogenous temper (not selective, that is).I estimate the hardness to about 56 - 58 HRC. It comes with beautiful cocobolo wood scales, brass bolsters and liners, and a stiff spring out of C 30. Overall craftmanship is meticuous, and i can´t for the death of me figure out why it was sold as second grade... It has a high convex bevel that is nice and thin and nearing a flat grind. Out of the basket (no packaging here) it came razor sharp. The handle is nice and chunky. Often the scales on knives like this look a bit crappy, but this one simply is beautifully finished. There are little to no tolerances. There is no radial or axial play in the blade. The spring is quite stiff, and the blade opens in one fluid motion due to a round base of the blade´s root. This is one thing I would recommend to change, for a rectangular blade root would add some more safety to a slipjoint, even if it is a very safe handler already. The upswept handle allows for powerful cuts when pruning trees, and makes it even suitable for some whittling tasks. A knife of this shape quite naturally is not suited for all tasks ideally, but that´s not to be said that they canot be done! Even cutting sausage is a cinch with the proper technique.Peeling an apple is where the billhook design really shines, and cutting rope and zip - ties also is really easy.

What do I think? This is a very able cutter with a friendly appearance suited for a lot of tasks, not only pruning, harvesting herbs and mushrooms, but also kitchen and whittling tasks, provided it is used with the proper technique. For the price it is a real great bargain. I would add a lanyard hole, for a lanyard comes in real handy when you are pruning trees, and would wish Otter could find it in themselves;-)to add a rectangular blade base. But other than that I would not change a thing!

Buy it, it takes little room on your shelf*ggg*.

Ilkka Seikku´s got a blog!!!!!

I have long become an avid fan of Ilkka Seikku. I just love the knowledge, versatility and no-frills appearance of his woodcraft tools, and I keeplearning from his vast treasury of woodcraft skills, but ranting over and out, now he´s got a blog, so anyone could go and have a look and build an opinion for oneself:


I especially love the post about the bush prowler knife, a favourite of mine.


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