Dienstag, 28. Januar 2014

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.

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