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Dienstag, 25. Februar 2014

Rapatap the birchsaptaprap, yo! - A foraging ride with Erdmuthe;-)

 Erdmuthe;-), called me up the other day if I wanted to go for a ride with her;-), oops, ON a ride, that is;-). I had planned to do some birch sap foraging, so I fetched her  and we did a plain old fun ride to the grove. It was being a bit muddy, and I guess, it was quite a bit of climbing involved, considering she´s a rookie, only riding for -is that one year? Respect for her, for she did very well, even when it got a bit tough. Jandark, congratulations on your choice of woman;-)...

We had a little lunch break, me having a sip of tea and she having a right feast;-) to be true, she offered me to partake, but I had to politely decline. Several singletrails and some chatting later we arrived at the grove, where I had already prepared my tap system a week ago, and the sap is on the rise well. Readers of my blog are well acquainted to the method I learned from the old Russian master at the smithy, Viktor. Please take care to tap a birch you haven´t tapped the year before, don´t take more than you need, and plug the hole with a piece of branch afterwards. Thank you!
 The bottle was half-full, and I changed it to a fresh one. I will make some more mead this year, so I am taking a bit more than last year. We had a sip of birch sap, some more tea, and a nice talk about self-sufficient living and bushcraft, and simply took in the scenery.
 Then the light went low, and with the red and golden rays of the sun we  made for the trip home.

I simply love the enchanted colour of those twilit woods! It was a simple day with simple pleasures, and I hope Erdmuthe can take home those rays of sunlight when things look dark, her life not being exactly easy. But whose life is? All we can do is try to figure out what´s best, stay pointed into the right direction, and keep going. And some things smile, and sometimes there are good moments to treasure.

Samstag, 22. Februar 2014

Lost places and steel found;-) - a spring hike in winter

 Today was one of those days I felt the urge to simply get out into the not-so-wild. I packed up and took the bus towards the Sauerland, and made off  into the hills.
 The sun was shining, and the road led me into a rare-trodden part of the woods, where lie the remnants of a WWII explosives factory. Everywhere there were huge blocks of concrete, strewn as if blown by the wind, and the destruction of this work of man was almost utterly complete.
 The birds were singing, and it was very warm, and everywhere there was green sprouting delicately, and life springs up, gently still, but it wells up again.
 But there, on a tree branch, I saw the skull, presumeably of a wild pig. Someone had put it up there, and it faced directly towards the entrance of the hidden hall.
 There is a certain beauty in this coincidence in my book. It is almost as if death himself showed the way to the underground, the mysterium of the sprouting life welling up from root and mycel underneath, growing violently in to the darkness. Life is no less violent than death, but in our everyday notion of things we fail to see this. Of course, there was nothing superstitious about the hall. It was an old factory site, nothing more. Or is it?
 The interior. there are some strange shafts inside I first took for chimneys, but now I doubt it.

This is how those chimneys look from outside:

 On I went, leaving the dark behind, passing by tree and mossy stones, deeper into the woods.
 And thus I came towards the hilltop, and beneath the hill, there is an old dump site. Many old farmhouses have dumpster sites like this, and for those who know and are able to put it to use they are sometimes right treasure troves:
 Leaf spring steel. ANCIENT leaf spring steel, to be precise. Ancient leaf spring steel that has been cold-worked for ages and then left to rust, making for a very fine grain structure when forged correctly.
 Coincidentally;-) I found this hacksaw in my pack, oops, don´t know how it came there;-) and got me piece for forging what I like best to forge!;-)

Then, on top of the hill, there is the ruin of this old farmhouse, whereof hails one of my many storytelling knives (I made a post about it in January)

The ruin, strangled in ivy and little trees, has somewhat of a fairy, eerie atmosphere to it, and I took it in with my deep breaths.

All broken down to become something new, the place is now a place where worlds collide; where the veil between our cherished reality and the realm of something else is growing ever thinner with decay, and decaying are the threads of the weavings we surround ourselves with to assure ourselves that our path is the only one to be trodden. But the other world laughs at our plight of hiding behind our well-polished lies.

 And thus I weave, a cloth of dreams. Of the wind in the treetops and the silent gliding wings, and the song of the owls that led me over the hills and yonder, and towards the valley again. I want to weave this cloth of dreams and seam it with moonlight and starlight and the night winds in the woods. I want to wear it as a cloak when I have to walk amongst all-destroying Mammon´s disciples, to protect me against hate and iron.
 Towards the valley, and there, on the threshold I sat and took a sip of tea from my flask.
 And thus fell twilight, and strands of twilight I took with gentle hands to twine it into the cloth of my dreams, to interlace it with the fading sun and the rising of the light of stars.
And back I trod into the world that is no longer entirely my only abode. For this cloak is mine, and it is the other world´s dream, and it is a name, a mask and a mirror I wear.

Burns night celebration at the smithy

 Yap, I know, it has been some time ago, but then I have never claimed to be the New York times;-). Burns night, that is. Craig had called and asked if he could use the smithy for his alternative Burns night celebration, and we really welcomed that. We all are fond of food and drink and plain ol# fun and poetry and strange people alike;-). Willy arrived early to helpme with forging 18 Sgian Dhús as our part of the fun. Craig had ordered them made for his friends. So we lit up forge, and I took the sledge and did some pounding. Volker contributed with a steady flow of strong coffee, cake, good humour and good-natured encouragement, as usual. Thanks, bro, good to know you!

 And, Willy, great to have you around. Don´t know of the many fixes you helped me out! It was great fun to forge with you, as usual!
Willy made some angels he is currently practicing, and they are just cute!
 We started with forging out round material to a flat billet. Then we forged the tangs. Time went by, and the sun was sinking, and the first guests arrived, amongst them René. Readers of my blog might know him as having forged a bit himself and being groom ;-) to Pam, the goldsmith, but he is one of my oldest and best friends, and I was right delighted to be able to meet him!
 As usual I had little time, what with 18 sgians needing forging. I just thought I´d show you how you can forge a bevel with a bit more shape control:
 As with any of my knives, I had started forging the tang (see above). Then I forged a tip. I then set the would-be bevel to about one third of the full width. I used the anvil´s edge for that. Some like to use the hardy chisel, but I find this can go awry too easily, and using the edge of the anvil is faster, too.
 Then, using the anvil´s horn, you give the would-be bevel a preshape. The blade now resembles somewhat of a sickle. By the way, if you actually want to forge a sickle blade, you´d have to preshape the bevel side almost full-circle. For when you start driving out the material in the edge area, you also compress it towards the spine of the blade, and that makes this happen:
 That´s how the blade looks like with the bevel forged. No grinding whatsoever needed. By driving out the material from the edge area you straighten up the blade. To the kids I sometimes compare it with working cookie dough, only at a slightly *ggg* higher temperature.
 Craig and Nigel provided us with some great music, and it was funny how the rythm of our smithing fell in line with their songs. That was fun, folks!
 Just a few of the sgians I forged that day... I can tell you, I was absolutely fluffy, but had to keep going. Then suddenly it was dinner time. Craig and Nigel again played some great folk music, there was a mad poet reciting Burns´poems, and suddenly the haggis came in, complete with tatties and potato mash. I was hungry like a wolf, and delved into the dishes with relish, amusing myself by telling René what Haggis actually was. ;-) But he surprised me by not only nibbling daintily at it, but taking three full servings! I just managed two, and I was not even able to finish the dessert, which was a delicious apple crumble by Craig´s Lovely wife Silke. We had some real nice chats, traded some jokes, had a beer, and then...
 It was back to the smithy... I managed to forge 12 sgians total, one was made by Willy, but I simply collapsed and called it a day.
We had some chats, and I had some more beers, and some more apple crumble, and some real good whiskey. I got to know some quality people again,listened to great music, and when I was riding home, I was humming and whistling conetntly to myself all the way.

I look forward to next year´s Burns night celebration!

New Bushcraft knife done and being tested

 So this is it - the new blade I made recently, finally completed. Ilkka might not aprove, for there are mosaic pins on it;-), but he was the one who inspired me again. But then I did not simply want to copy his works, I want to keep my honour after all! Also, I am fond of this handle design, and love convex bevels.
 Handle´s curly birch, the spine thickness is about 5 mm. The blade is made from x75CrSi spring steel, forged to final shape. You can still see it in the rough spine. The blade is of course selectively tempered.
 And another angle. I am currently finding out what works best in a bush beast and it is rewarding to simply try out. I offset the angle of the handle a bit to aid in chopping and hard whittling tasks.
For starters, I carved this flower out of some aged birch twig lying around not doing anything. Worked quite well, but I was not overly fond of it, so I redid the bevel already.
Edge retention seems to be on the spot, but there will be some severe tests coming on. Above is a little vid of how I test the tip strength. I also did some chopping and the edge came out well enough, although the temper is fading a bit towards the handle, but as is, it performs well enough. Quenching wasn´t so easy, for I did it in solid lard, and due to the offset handle I could not get it in deep enough, so I put a block of lard (actually frying fat) on the tub and drew the blade through. As is, I like it, but there´s still room for improvement. Watch this place for more tests!

Montag, 17. Februar 2014

Jagd und Hund expo 2014 - A meeting with Peter Pfaffinger and the German ritual knife

Then I met with Peter Pfaffinger, and this was a right pleasure and  a privilege to boot. Peter makes "Drudenmesser", traditional German ritual knives, all by hand in the county of Bayern, and his knowledge far transcends mere craftsmanship. He simply knows all there is about folkloristic religious practice, and is eager to learn and discuss new takes on the topic. We had some seriously academical talk, so serious in fact, that Rainer, a friend and fellow knifemaker I met on the expo who first was with me at his  booth, shook his head and went on his merry way. Sorry, bro, if we upset you! Some talks, however, are not to be missed, and I hope Peter and I can collaborate on an article on German ritual and peasant knives very soon!

Go to his website : to have a first look on all there is to know on those knives!

These knives and forks were traditionally worn in the traditional pouch in Bavarian attire "Lederhosen". They often came with a smaller, second fork, the "Dirnd´l-Gabel", which was a lady´s fork to lend to the girl one was with in the inn. The knives are made with 1.4034 blades, real silver and mother-of pearl inlays, with handles made from ebony, buffalo horn, wood, bone and antler.
They are traditionally and even in modern times used as a snack knife and are an essential part of Bavarian culture. Often people just meet in the inn´s garden, and use their own knives and forks when delving into the traditional Bavarian vesper plate dish (Brotzeit). Typically a bavarian vesper plate dish contains several different kinds of smoked bacon, sausage, cheese, pickles, in some cases even pickled cabbage and a pig stilt. You drink Weissbier along the process and a Schnapps for the digestion. It is not consumed in a hurry and often takes several hours. Showing off one´s knife and fork is even as important as the food;-).
Now we are nearing the topic of the "Druden" knife. The "Drud", "Trud", Traud" or *Thrud, *Thraut, was reputed to be a witch coming in the night to the bed of the possessed, resulting in a tightness in the chest and nightmares. The Drud therefore is of the same stamp as the (night) mare in England. The Druds were said to be part of the furious host and subject to Wode/Woden/Wotan.
The traditional bavarian folding knife took the place of the fixed-bladed knife when visiting an inn with a fixed blade knife was not liable any more. The engraving IHS means "Iesus Hominum Salvator", Jesus, saviour of man and was used as an apotrophaeic symbol from the early medieval ages, and was said to have power over every demon spirit. The black handle, made from chamois horn, als had an apotropaeic meaning, as had the inlays of brass sun and moon symbols. Peter makes these with D 2 (1.2379) steel blades, not my favourite steel choice, of course, but who am I to argue;-), they are good enough! by the way, they are simple friction folders.
Peter also had a load of historical knives on display, and you could hardly tell the difference.
Some knives of his personal collection, and all have a boyhood or other story to tell. Peter has been a boy scout for most of his life and has visited many countries in the process.
This is an original Druden knife. The inscription I could not yet read, but I guess it makes clear that these knives had a symbolic meaning!
This one, however, is the most precious knife in his collection. How come? It is a working/utility knife from the 17th century. They are very, very rare for they simply were used up. I love the Santoku-esque blade, and I guess I will make one soon!
And this was right cute. A snake chasing a mouse on the spine of one of his very own ritual knives. I have used that symbol myself, and we had a lot of talk about this symbol, too. We talked about snake symbolisms throughout the world, and about the culture of knifemaking and knife use throughout the cultures of man. I hope we will have a chance to meet again soon. We have planned to do a feature on knife culture together and I look forward to many discussions of the like!

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