Freitag, 29. August 2014

Most interesting flea market find from way back then

 I had been in a cleaning up and tidying frenzy, and in the progress came across this knife I had had lying around in some forgotten drawer for ages. I remember once having purchased it years ago from "Khalil", one of my favourite liars;-) on the Schwelm flea market. It is presumeably of Kurdish, Turkish, Greek or Syrian provenience. The shape is common to Crete or Greece. I got it cheap, can´t exactly say for how much now, I remember 15€, but maybe even less. It had been dulled. Now, when I was tidying up I took it out and thought, okay, where´s the harm, gotta do something different to refresh, and took out the old diamond hone and the strop. It apparently was very hard in the edge, but the first real eye-opener came, when I took it to the strop and heard a very high ringing sound. It took, if that´s at all possible, a sharpness higher than razor-sharpness. I have never seen a knife split a hair that easily, and when I tested it against the hair of the back of my head, it cut right through them. I was surprised by its flexibility, though. I bent it full circle, and it came out straight.
 Its blade is very thin, and I was cooking some stew and diced some onions, and it made short terms with them. It built up oxide fast, though. It was then that I realized the oxidation showed a strange pattern...
 Like this, see? Readers of my blog might be accustomed to this pattern. It is not your average common welded damascus.
 If you look closely, you can discover something like darker areas, just like carbon islands.
Of course, I cannot say for sure, but overall I have the strong suspicion that this is a genuine Wootz / Pulad blade. And even if it´s not, it is as fierce a cutter as anyone could wish for in a kitchen. Due to its ruggedness it would make an excellent bushcraft knife, too, but alas, it is no legal carry at 190 mm blade length. Maybe I´ll just make a sheath for it no less, maybe with a possibility to put on some locking device to hinder immediate access. Do I love this knife? It´s becoming more of an obsession than a love;-).

And, let me mention this: This is a genuine tribal knife at its best. In its home country, it might have been made by a village smith of the highest skill level. Even if it has ebony scales and a beautiful brass inlay, its finish would not draw any attention to a potential Western collector at all (it escaped mine for years). But its ruggedness is up to par, if not superior to knives four times thicker in the spine. Knives like this are used in their respective home countries for everything, from kitchen tasks to whittling to butchering, cutting food and wood and meat alike. They are a tool for everything, loved, but loved no less for the fact that they see some pretty hard use.

It requires an extraorbitant skill to make. I am only just learning how to quench blades that thin without damage and then having the patience to grind them down even more without overheating the blade. Blades that can do feats like this one does have received the highest concentration in every step of the fabrication process. They are made at the absolute limit of the material properties and stand for a highly developed manufacturing culture. They are not fancy, but great.

Progress on my first sword

 And here it is. With a bit of help from Nick, I have come this far with my first sword, the "Sword Of The Muttental". I am not too glad with the proportions of the guard in relation to the blade and the pommel, but I have little time to correct this now. But as is, the tempering on the blade, tempered after the traditional European method is on the spot, resulting in a centre of percussion exactly on the second third of the overall length, with the balance point without the handle fitted at the end of the ricasso, some 20 cm from the guard. It has to be ready for testing on September the 6th. As is, it stands the British sabre test and the Zlatoust test of lateral strength and shows just a minor dent in the cutting area when slammed full tilt edge first into the anvil. The guard is hot-fitted. It is made from cold-worked mild steel to aid in shock distribution.
 The pommel, however, is a different matter. Still rectangular, and I guess I´ll leave it that way, it is made from a piece of steel I found in the woods. When we drove the hot-punch through, this is what happened. Ever seen anything like this? I have still something lying around, and I guess this will be used for my personal sword.
 As you can see, the blade length is more of a one-and-a half hand-sword  length than a two-handed sword. But the Scots wanted to keep it that way. The shape is inspired by a late medieval sword in the Royal Armoury Of Leeds and fantasy designs, but certainly will not get some goofy dragon handle;-). It was a bit difficult to get a continuous edge line with all the nicks and dents, and I have to work on that still. As is, it is a light-feeling and relatively stiff, but lively sword that still has a tiny bit of weight towards the tip so that it contributes to a dynamic style of combat. That will change a bit when a handle is fitted, but I´d like to keep this character, for those I made it for are more accustomed to an axe or stage combat swords.
Of course, there is no Fimbulmyrk post without a dose of superstition*ggg*... When I rode to the smithy, I saw a grey Egyptian cat sitting by the trail in the middle of nowhere. I said hello and was a bit surprised, for you do not see this species very often around these parts. They are rare and beautiful, and I greeted her with a smile. The real gooseflesh experience came when I had quenched the sword and held it high when some great bird-of prey circled three times just some 10-15 m above us. I was fitting the guard and pommel, and wanted to greet it, but it was already away.

Swordsmithing can be beautiful.;-).

A day at the smithy-forging with children and saving a sword

 I am not quite sure how to write this positively. I am currently feeling a bit burned out, not necessarily by smithing, but by the circumstances. Our host in the smithy, Volker, had done outright sabotage those last months to my attempts to continue forging that claymore that turned out a bit shorter;-). Readers of my blog know the story of the "Sword Of The Muttental" which I started together with ClanMcLaren Friends of Germany. Now those lads and lassies are nice enough, but first and foremostly, this is my first sword. I have a hand hammer, a small forge, tongs, and a flex at my disposal. I do this, for free. The sword should have been a real sword, not just decoration, from the first hit of the hammer on, and I had started it with people, who, for the most part, had never forged anything or even never held a hammer. The folks get impatient. Folks do, no problem with that, izt has taken long enough. They have been assured they´d get a clan sword, and this is what they want. NOW. You might get a clue where the culprit of it all might be and that there might be a tiny problem...;-). Plus, there are birthday parties to forge on, and knives to make, and to forage for my food.
 But I am Fimbulmyrk. I haven´t earned that nickname by sitting behind the oven and complaining. So I saddled my bike, put my hammer and tongs and material and projects into my 40 kg rucksack and rode the 15 km to the smithy. I was a bit angry, so I made it clear to Volker that he did not at all want to feel the consequences of not letting me complete the sword. Suffice to say, we had an argument of the uglier kind. You see there´s a sword lying on the forge in the picture above. Of course, I also helped out with the forging with kids and worked on other projects. But all in all, I was glad Willy was there, helping out, too. When I was all fluffy with pounding spring steel, I set out to normalize the blade. I had to shorten it a great deal, because it had been hit the wrong way at wrong temperature and abused in a way I´d normally never do to a blade of a knife let alone a long sword. The steel is very rugged, so that might not be that much of a problem, but I did a very thorough normalizinh heat treatment leaving it nice and soft. Then I had to put it away to cool down and rest some more. In the meantime I started a new bushcraft proto from 100Cr6 and ground my Barong.
 And I admired the beautiful sculptural work by Willy, of course! He really makes delicate forms and sculptures a lot these days.
 Like this, see?
 Volker wasn´t too mad with me, for he provided us with a steady flow of caffeine.
 He also had bought a new anvil... with edges for a change!
 We also had a piece of cake.
And I completed these two blades, the Barong I had started recently and a more conventional knife for my personal use. 115x2,8mm, 100Cr6, selective temper, with a very high convex bevel that appealed even to Willy who generally thinks my knives are too thick and have a too brutal edge geometry. I take this as a very high compliment.

All in all I must say, I regret that often you have to bully your way up to being respected. I´d say my case was just, and I made my point, but I do not like it any making threats, as civilized as they might have been. I have always thought all men were of principially equal potential and intelligence, but I now suspect they are not. I also had a long talk, and not just one, with Willy on the topic, and have learned a bit by his experience. I reluctantly admit I have been a bit naive in the past. But then I want to simply remain naive. Because if you are a suspicious bastard, it also falls back onto yourself.

But sometimes you have to fight for your right, and do whatever is necessary. I fought for the right to keep my promise to others, for my right to bring joy to a company of individuals who are sticking together in a world where it is not usual to stick together. A complex matter, for sure, but a good example of how problems are made, and, I hope, how problems could be solved, if that makes any sense to you.

Of course, the long time that the forging of this sword has taken, was also my fault, but I want to do my best in a hostile environmment. I have made a bold claim, because I knew I was capable of it. I did not reckon with the fact that my environment was unreliable at the best, but I have taken this slowly, because I had to learn how to use sword physics in the first place. I am a student at best, and I sincerely hope I can make up with earnest what I lack in talent, but a sword there will be. I said it would be, and I stand up for my word, even if it costs me.

Altena Reenactment Fair

 On the first of August the weird Franks called me if I would join them at Altena reenactment fair, so I put on my attire and hitched the bus. Funny, I git the bus ride for free because of my attire and had a nice chat with the bus driver. We met at the railway station and took the train to Altena, a very nice little medieval town in the neighbourhood. Nick was there in full battle gear which got him some puzzled looks from the local ghetto kids...*ggg*.
 It is traditional that no reenactment fair starts before the first tankard of stout, and who are we to break traditions? I mean, tradition is a good thing!
 Across the aisle there was a merchant having all kinds of lousy swords on display.
 We certainly had a ball when this electro knight dropped by, complete with laser sword and all, representing the local energy provider (not my piece of cake). The guy, however, was a funny chap, and we shared a laugh together.
 We strolled through the city, which was brim ful with action, with booths with quality goods (little to no Leonardo Carbone in sight!). We fell in love with the Oriental market, with jugglers, tumblers, story tellers, mocha and tea café booths, and eventually met with Heynrich, the bowyer. He´s a nice guy hailing from Dortmund, and it was funny to see we have some acquaintances in common, but had never met before!

 So many quality goods were on display...
 Really nice pottery...

 Quality food everywhere, not just the mandatory "Flammkuchen" and barbecued sausages you get on every market, but a big array of oriental and even veggie food to choose from.
 Gah! A dragon!;-)

 To be honest, I was less than enthused about the atmosphere of a city market, but somehow the contrast was a sight to behold. It is as if this picture asks you something. Listen closely, and you might understand;-).
 Then we went towards the castle, not without some complaining by Nick, who is a lazy bum, YES YOU ARE*ggg*! Kidding aside, those two are some of the nicest people I have ever met.
 At the castle, there were not many booths, but the atmosphere was great. I only just so escaped a riot when I saw a Knight Templar and by mere reflex had to shout "BÄÄÄÄÄÄÄH". That guy was frowning hard the whole time, carried a spear, shield, sword, Seax, several knives and a Polypropylene attire by a famous reenactment outlet store. Your humble viking just sat there, ate some quality food and had a healthy drink and watched the music play. And I did not think so much of offence when doing this, was just enjoying myself and thought he´d join the game and counter it with some good natured mockery himself as is common amongst Templars and vikings normally. Alas it could not be, he frowned even harder, and with an air of menace growled "You enjoy yourself, do you?" while loosening his sword in its plastic sheath with a cheapo leather wrap. I answered " Yap. You too?" He growled some more, which might´ve been an insult, but of which I was completely ignorant, for I had a tankard to empty and sopme sausage and fresh bread to eat. Okay, that was an insult I uttered, but I was referring to templars, not IT-scribes wearing a templar tunic...

But okay, if he reads this, I really apologize for this ugly joke. Instead I would counsil him to get a better psychotherapist.;-)
 We stthen strolled around a bit to take in the castle atmosphere.
 ...and, on personal request by Nick;-) visited the castle dungeon.

When we returned to the daylight, there was Kaspar doing his performance. He´s an accomplished juggler and tumbler and storyteller, and it was a plain joy to watch him entertain kids and adults alike.

  Then we enjoyed the performance of "Die Heidweilers".

Here´s a bootleg video of their performance of "Jelinka", a traditional Bulgarian song sung in German:

Then we went down into the city again. Behind the castle there was this beautiful woodcarving. I don´t have a clue what it stands for, but I found it great.

 As I did find these metal sculptures embedded on a house wall besides the path back down into the city.

 Or this sculpture sitting on the stairs.
 Altena has a history of the Romantiv movement as well as the German "Jugendbewegung", including the "Wandervogel" movement in the 1920s, which has a somewhat ambivalent nature, for some groups of this movement inspired the "Hitlerjugend", but also the Monte Verita "Lebensreform" movement and also influenced the hippie movement. In many ways modern Rewilding and Uncivilization movements or the "Romantic revolution" share many characteristics with these movements of old. Altena was a melting pot of the Wandervogel and Lebensreform individuals. Here the first youth hostel of Germany was founded, which also was the first in the world. The sculpture and the text refer to this event. The youth hostel of Altena can still be booked.
 After that much history and culture, we had to relax a bit, and went to the Oriental tea house to have a refreshing hot mocha and a mint tea and some Arabian sweets.
 Kathrin enjoying a fresh mint tea.
 Nick enjoying his drunken stupor...;-)

 The atmosphere at that booth was beautiful, tapestries and cushions verywhere. It´s funny, you sit outside, and stormclouds are gathering on the horizon, and all that will separate you from the tempest is a flimsy pavilion, and yet you  feel warm and cozy, sipping your tea. It felt weird, but wonderful.
 When we had finished our tea, we went on our merry way, for the first raindrops  were falling, in search of a place to remain dry...

 We went to Heynrich, the bowyer´s booth and received a warm welcome. We helped saving the tent, albeit just a tiny bit, and were rewarded with a scenic vista of the tempest - from inside.
 I found this knife Heynrich made from an old cleaver very interesting. Bit too hefty for me, but beautifully made!
 I currently have a bit of an affinity to archery, having just completed my first selfbow (watch this place!;-)), so I took in those beautiful longbows with relish. We had a chat about archery, knifemaking, smithing and this and that....
 Knives by Heynrich, often out of spring steel or old files.
 Mate, if you read this, you´re still always welcome to our smithy!

 Heynrich, the bowyer.
 Then Nick got himself a fresh beer, while I craved some caffeine, and Kathrin was in desperate need of some mint tea winning the Ms. wet tunic contest in the process.
 Dark mists were rising above those ancient hills I love so much.

 When the sun sank, the weather cleared up. There are many more stories. How we met with Olaf from Thor Klingen, a friend and knifemaker and weirdo viking. How I sat there and people mistook me for his friend, who was dressed like a druid, and who was sitting right beside me (they had looked for a druid...). How I could only just so persuade Olaf not to buy Nick to send him as a blood eagle... erm... blood broiler... erm... blood parakeet sacrifice to Thor*ggg*. How we bought some poison-green hemp mead and did nort realize how fast it was empty, and generally, how much we enjoyed ourselves and the simple life and the company of friends and quality people. How we talked to many beautiful people and simply had a wonderfully perfect day.
 The lanterns were lit and those cafés and taverns were inviting us to stay, but we had to get the last train.

 The final parade of giants through the aisles of the fair.

 The castle at night.
 Then we arrived at the railway station, which was feeling like being raped after that wonderful day. Every single thing on this station was smashed, battered, bashed and beaten, pissed at and shitten at. There was an abundance of turds in the passage. The roof was missing. And there was some junkie waiting for the train, too, begging us for cigarettes. He was one of the more friendly kind, and no harm done, but it was a bit unnerving still. But we could see the castle in the distance, and basked in the memory of a fine experience and in our respective company.

My friends, it´s good to know you!

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