Montag, 27. Juli 2015

Beado-Léoma, the Battle-light - Swordsmiths, wordsmiths and museum expositions

We are currently working on a very, very fascinating project. Petr had come visiting recently, and we had good fun together feasting and drinking and talking bullshit ;-) (Thanks for totally screwing our minds, Petr!:-) We´ll never get that song out of our heads, and we see mushrooms everywhere...*ggg*) as well as some great in-depth discussions. But what was most intriguing to us that we had the chance to see one of his most recent works of art.

This is the sword beado - léoma (Anglo-Saxon for Battle - Light), a sword in the line of the most intriguing epic poem Beowulf, and a very eloquent incarnation of many Kenningar for the hero himself. For instance, the animal on the pommel, is a bear that stands for the name of the warrior, for "Beowulf" means "bee-wolf", hence a bear. The bees on guard and pommel stand for honey and mead which is served in the hall Héorot, the mead hall of king Hrothgar, where the drama takes place. The sliding piece for the belt on the sheath is carved in the shape of a mead hall with shingles. Those shingles stand for civilization, a roof, that provides warmth and protection from the wild things. The garnets stand for the glow and warmth of the hearth fire.

Now it all becomes wonderfully fascinating, for Myles Mulkey, bladesmith, swordsmith, author and poet had written a beautiful poem that in my opinion reflects the atmosphere best. It will be featured in the catalogue of the exhibition, together with a translation. You can get it here as soon as it´s printed.

The magic troll and myself guided Petr to Solingen and helped him deliver the sword for the oncoming exposition "The Sword - Form and Thought", which will take place at Klingenmuseum Solingen from the 26th of September to 28th of February 2016.

And while he was not so sure the museum would like the fact he had a poem to go along with the sword, it turned out very well. Dr. Grotkamp - Schepers, head director of the museum, was quite enthusiastic about the sword and poem. In fact, it was great to see all of the staff being extremely motivated around the exhibition, so much in fact that some of them even cancelled their holiday to be able to see the first sword arriving and having a chat with Petr. The only problem was the translation of the poem...

So we offered our help;-).

For free.

Bummer, I hear you say, you are a bunch of punks, what, for free? Nothing´s free, and you could use the money!
Let me explain this, for this is not how this thing works. It is not about earning money in this case. It is about being part of a modern hero´s tale. It is about being swordsmith and wordsmith. It is the gathering of the hosts, a muster of wizards and scholars, and it is a very unique thing taking place, something that is far more than "just" an exhibition. Mrs. Grotkamp - Schepers is a dyed-in-the-wool scientist, but I daresay she feels it herself, as does everyone at the museum, as does any smith and poet involved.
And for us two it is an opportunity to give the grey god a right kicking up the spine. He takes reign over the souls and lives of men in our society, befouling our everyday life. But this sword and the poem - and the other swords in the exhibition are a whisper from the dawn of time. It is maybe a bit bold to say it is something sacred happening here, but to me it feels exactly like it. But it is nothing like a fancy or a dream. The exhibition is centered around the topic of the xiphos, an iron age secondary Greek weapon. All of the swords in the exhibition are made around this topic. The name means "piercing, penetrating light". 
In Myles´ poem civilization is represented by simple but crucial things. The roof of the mead hall, family and kin, the hearth fire, mead and food. The sword is a representant of these things, and, more so, defends them.
The sword that Petr has created is a brutal weapon. Its balance is willingly nothing like eloquent. It is straightforward and front-heavy, made to chop off the limbs of an unarmed adversary, such as an evil spirit referred to as "trolls" or "thurses" threatening those simple things of civilization, not for eloquent fencing, but for fighting with brute force.
But the culprit is, it´s made to defend, not attack. It represents the hearth fire. In its glow the new life is born, tales are told, and it gives light through the darkness of winter. The hero himself has to wield it. In order to overcome the threat he has to become the threat himself, a brute force (Eliade). He gains supernatural power, but in every hero tale there is a point where he is confronted with his own mistakes, and Germanic lore is full of tragic heroes. But the threat is to be overcome, and the individual does not count.
It is the simple things the hero fights for. It is not 300% increase of gain p.a., not the fourth TV and the third laptop. In a world of darkness the hearth fire becomes crucial for survival. Literally speaking, we live in a world that is - in a metaphorical way, of course - not so different from the world of Beowulf. It is threatened by dark things lurking in the twilight, just outside our perception. What remains is the metaphorical hearth fire to be protected, the mead hall and the birthing place as simple things that make our world. It has not changed, but has been obscured by darkness and too much light, by mist and nonsense notions. And it is a sad metaphor becoming true that the bees are dying out.
To us piercing light is shod unto the mead hall. To us the tale and the warmth and the company, bees, honey, mead and fire have a place. And the sword should defend it with brutal force.
Piercing light is secondary in that it is a secondary weapon, and in that it is the last-ditch resort of the warrior, it requires an all-or-nothing effort, speaking within the confines of the metaphor. And also speaking in the confines of the symbol, piercing light is what we need in order to analyse the threat that befouls our society.
We have to give it all or nothing to defend the mead-hall and its hearth fire.
Ask again why we do it for free.;-)
Cheers to Petr and Myles, lift your swords up high and shake them like wild boars!

Mittwoch, 8. Juli 2015

New clipper sheath for my hadseax

 Bit of a blurred photo, apologies for that, but I guess the idea is clear. I love these sheath models these days. Oh, why does he make a modern sheath for a re-enactment knife? - you might ask.
To me it is far more than just a knife for bbq-ing in a costume. A knife to me is an everyday item, and as I also tend to wear the shalwar pants I made for re-enactment more and more, in the woods, but also for going to the grocer´s, because they are practical, I also use this re-enactment knife for everyday chores as well as bushcraft. The sheath makes for a comfy carry, and as the clip does not show at all it might also make for a solution on a re-enactment fair, at least until I´ve made another sheath more suited to the A-factor (authenticity). The sheath is made from tempered , naturally tanned top grain 3mm leather with pitch twine and brass rivet, wet-formed and tempered around the knife. I achieved a hardness comparable to Kydex (and without the downsides) with it, and it keeps the seax in very well, even upside down. I like it.

Dienstag, 7. Juli 2015

Twilight treasures

After work again, and off I was to hitch the bus and drive out. Out into the rolling hills. Out into the twilight of the forest, away from the frantic ratrace and the heat of summer. Into another form of existence...
 As the adder sheds its skin, with a look back from the cool shadows, a look with a smile.
 Into a hall where wooden pillars bear a sky of green.
 Twilight is where my name was born, twilight reigns where few men tread, and twilight is the balm that soothes my soul.
 From the deep, deep, dark, rich soil there sprouts a crystal, quartz unfolds its blossoms over the aeons, growing steadily, stealthily in the dark, through veins of rock and subtle life that is thus alien to life it can´t be called.
 Under root and gnarled wood and rock-hard oaken portal it sprouts into the world.
 Beside the trail of deer and mouflon, of hare and fox and snake and lizard, where the tiny mouse fight their fights and survive their adventures, under a sky pierced with the song of the hunting buzzard...
 ...the gold of fae and treasures of the dirt...
 ...connect to each other like a link to link of an iron chain. And as rune to rune the spell of twilight sings into my soul...
 I see unfolded secrets from the deep, I feel unfolded from my debth myself.
 And thus I grow, grow like the oak, the mighty keeper of the gates...
 And thus I fall, like death in life and life in death.
 And so I walked in enchantment of this runic song, walked the hours away until I reached the shed in the woods  where I often sit and sip my tea and contemplate.

And smiled into my wooden cup of forest.

New hadseax with treasures of the deep

 This is a very special knife with a strong historical background. The blade is made from crucible steel I found in the woods and a middle layer of 100Cr6 ball bearing steel, 90mm long making for a great everyday companion. The ferrule is from the new knifemaking supplier in my hometown, Hennes & Mauritz. Oi there, give me a break, was that H&M?

Yap, it was, the ferrule is a fashion jewellery finger ring made from actual bronze.;-) I was quite enthused to find it and had that idea nagging at the back of my brain the whole time. The handle is made from bog walnut from the lake I lived beside for most of my life. The dam had to be repaired, and when it had dried out, I found the wood of a WWII 98k carbine´s stock. After trying to give it to three museums in the vicinity, I simply kept it, and since it was gravely damaged I decided I´d do that swords to plowshares - thing and make a knife´s handle from it. 
 Into the pommel I fitted a blood agate I found myself on the banks of the river Rhine in Cologne. A bit too much glue still...
 The blade has a severe taper from some 6 mm to zero.
 Here you can see that I still have a lot to learn how to forge a three-layer-laminate. To me it is an absolute challenge, even more difficult than to forge Damascus, because it is quite hard to get the symmetry right. Also, when forging Damascus, you can drive out any impurities in the weld in the process, but with a three-layer laminate it has to be right on first try.
Having tested it, I can safely say it´s one of the sharpest blades I have ever forged. The tip got a bit too hot when grinding, so I had to cut off a mm or so, but now it does what it should and more.

What I like best about this knife, while it does the cutting, it is also a constant reminder to me of several things. When I look at it, I remember the moon over the silent lake, the hooting of owls, the flittering of sun on the waves and ripples. I again see what I have first seen in my life-treetops of the pines and furs gently moving in the summer wind, I smell the smell of resin and mould. But I also smelled the stench of gunpowder when I worked on it. The gun it once held had fired a lot and got hot in the process, so much in fact that the smell became a part of the wood. This wood had once been a walnut tree swaying in the breeze. The gun had presumeably taken a lot of lives. When the alliance came to free Germany, the soldier who had used it threw it into the lake. Dark and still, it guarded its treasures and curses of the deep. It is safe to say that the soldier who threw this gun into this lake had been not a big-term Nazi functionary, and if he performed any deeds of heroism, those might well be those of an everyday sort. Might be he killed with a feeling of guilt. Might be he killed with a feeling of purpose. Might be he just tried to survive as best as he could, as most soldiers did and still do. The dark and deep abyss has kept the secret. The secret is a part of the wood, as is the secret of walnut leaves swaying in the wind. There are stories in the wood of children scooping up the walnuts or might be a farmer and many farmers or might be it was harvested on an industrial scale, which is most probable. And just like the wood, the stone in the pommel had also been washed up by the stream, secret in secret and  stories and tales. This is the real power of this knife. It is a weaver of nets, of webs, of dread and dreams and joy, a teller of secrets. It is a key to hidden doors of copper on an iron hill with a golden lock. It remembers the abyss and its secrets but it now lives again, not as a weapon in the first, but as a companion for a dreamer.

And last night when I went for a short stroll into the woods, I heard the cat-owl hoot.

Donnerstag, 2. Juli 2015

After-work hike

 After work the other day the woods were calling again. No words did they utter, and did not scream. It was just the memory of light and the light rustling of leaves, as fine a touch as by a feather; and so I hitched the bus and went out into their loving embrace. Of course, there is a chance you find that boring, and it is very difficult to find words that suit the experience, or pictures. But in my book, exactly this is the culprit. We love to read something spectacularily new, especially on the internet. We are hunters and gatherers, only that what we hunt and gather does not feed us in any way. We pile heaps on heaps of gleaming crap into the corners of our minds. There´s always some new flash and dash and the latest run-of-the mill. Heard about that scandal? This one or the next?

The woods actually DO change. But they change according to their own devices, and bend and bow to the laws of nature, not to the constant debts and vicious cycles we love so much that we compose our very lives out of them. Our culture keeps us low when we should be vibrantly flaming. Put your noses to the grindstone, or you won´t belong. I have personally come to the decision that I´d rather die than belong, for then my death would be according to my own devices. It is not out of depression, but out of joy that I come to this conclusion.

How come?

I have decided to live. I want to truly live, not a masquerade, but a life that somehow fits into the world. And to experience joy, I have to accept grief and pain. To live I must accept death.

There can be no security in this life. Our culture tries to sell us this, and charges a lot of fees for it, but all the promises it makes are rendered absurd by contemporary developments. World-wide terrorism, economical instability, a world on the threshold of world war IV (yap, did not recognize we still got World War III, do you? Lost track myself....). And if we all are honest, it has always been that way. There can be no certainities. Everyone can die at any instant, everywhere, and in spite of any promises of national security and whatnot.

So what? Quit whining! Any tree can fall, any wild piglet be killed by a wolf. They do not complain. They do not change that much. Oh, I hear those high priests of economy complain, what, humans are far aloft from animals and even trees, how can that outcast state we have anything in common? I hear priests and imams damn me for being heretic and infidel, for we should dominate, not care.

But this is not how I understood Economy Report, Bible, Koran, Vedas, Pillars of Insight or whatnots. We must care for our fellows in creation. It is a fallacy if anyone says otherwise, for we can witness in our days that such a behaviour leads ultimately to the extinction of man. This cannot be a goal for neither Christians, Muslims, Mammonists (...erm, maybe...).

But theology and philosophy is not subject to the woods, either. It is a common mistake that we all tend to project our humanity onto trees and wildlife. They simply do not "think" that way. And it is not thinking they do in any way we can understand. This makes us not superior to them in the least, not at all.

A dolphin does not need clothes or a computer. Why should it develop them, then? And dolphins are not cute, in fact they bite off their victims´heads and give the rump a fucking, excuse my language, but this makes it clear. Wolves are not nice, or free or wild. They just are. All those are human attributes, illusions at best.

This does not mean we should quit telling tales. It is human to tell tales, and good fun. But we have forgotten that there´s always a secret truth hidden behind; a glimpse behind the mirror, a look into the face behind the mask.
 Oh, no, I do not belong. I have long trodden another trail. It did make me lonely, but no more. I have looked behind my own failure, and I can now smile. I have experienced no mercy from my fellow humans, and they can expect no mercy from me. I would never want to voluntarily hurt anyone. Walking barefoot teaches you to avoid treading on snails, however disgusting they might look;-). But I am amazed that I have lost my mercy for humans complaining about the mess they created in the first place. They have taught me that; for if I make any mistake, they would laugh at me and kick my head instead of helping me up. I´d never kick them, and offer my hand whenever I can. If they don´t take it it´s no longer my business. I am amazed because this is what I have also learned this in the woods: If you allow yourself freedoms and make mistakes, you are in trouble. There´d be no whining and postponing or paying by instalments. If you don´t find a solution, you are fucked.

At work, I had a funny conversation the other day I had several times in my career already. A business man stated he believed in a "might makes right" justice. Okay I said, since we were standing together in a one-to-one situation and no one to witness, how much money´s in your purse? He replied and told me the amount. So, I said, give it to me, plus the keys of your car, and make no fuss. He looked at me, not quite sure if I was serious. I donned an air of menace and stepped closer. He looked at me in terror. Then I stepped back and explained to him that this was exactly what he believed in. For I could have beaten him up with two fingers only. He was a bit thoughtful afterwards. Of course I did not do any harm to him, and never would, and I´d never recommend this. I just could do this because I have a very good reputation amongst those business partners. He even gave me his thanks afterwards. What disgusts me, however, is, that he would not change anything, and no one would. But, if life - as a normal and necessary consequence of their behaviour - gets the better end of them, they start whining and complaining and expect others to help them out.

In nature, this can prove fatal. And it is always interesting to see indigenous woodsmen of all cultures act in contrast to many so-called survival gurus. Seldom if ever, for instance, would a Saami be caught so unawares in nature that he´d call for a survival situation. Instead, indigenous people tend to be much more careful und prepare every step with caution so as to avoid saying "survival" in the first place. These people try to remain as self-sustained as possible, while on the other hand they would help anyone in a bad situation according to a very strict cultural code of conduct. The behaviour of white men is often called insane, and I would not argue with them.     

 I am not a survivalist. I love the woods and hope the love is -keeping in mind it´s not that possible at all ;-)- mutual, in that I will be sustained by them due to my respect and knowledge. When I walk along the creek, I not only think about how to make the water drinkeable but also feel the lovely song and soothing sound it provides. It keeps me sane to walk the woods that way. If you quit lying to yourself and actually think your thoughts and feel your feelings, there is an infinite wealth to be harvested. It´s not free, for to get the heart of the woods you have to pay dearly with the blood of your own heart and life. But this will give you so much back in turn that you would pay any price for it.

The new path I am on is fascinating me, and, oh, yes, I will continue, for the one who lived once, lived in fear and debt and self-neglect, is dead.

And I smiled.

Mittwoch, 1. Juli 2015

What the term "soul ride" means to me-long overdue solitary ride to the hills

 It is a bit difficult to me at the moment. I had to move out of the smithy again, so no blacksmithing at the moment. I had been betrayed by people I thought were friends and for whom I had done my share of work. In my mountainbike team there is a strong aversion against me, for my opinions are alien to zee aylienz (pun intended), and I still speak my word. Mountainbikers cannot understand that I sympathize with hikers, equestrians and, oh how frivolous, even hunters. Many of them are only interested in "bigger is better" and "progression", in building illegal trails and many of them shit on trail etiquette. There are times when I do not even touch my bike and shun it in disgust. It is just like you feel disgusted by a body part to me, for I have been riding mountainbikes for 29 years now, and before that did exactly the same with a modified BMX bike with gears.

But it´s not in the bike or the sport. It´s in the people. They might all be decent enough, but I simply cannot stand their crazed gibberish, the nervous talk that all is well and all will be well and always has been. There are exceptions, of course, but I cannot stand the superficial focus on a surrogate activity without so much of a single thought spared about what lies behind. Philosophy, ecology, politics, emotions simply are topics left out. Instead one rants about what fork what stunt and whatsitsname bikepark.

I have realized that I have always been an outcast and will always be. It´s a simple fact: I always was happiest with few people around. I could do what I ever could to be accepted, I could work for them, I could create and give them a context, such as a club, a smithing community, a promotion club, in the long run I am always mobbed out. Don´t know why this is so. People who must know (psychologists, priests, druids, philosophers) tell me they can´t say why this is so, either. Others say I am "too good" for this world. Excuse me, I am not good. I have a lot of grave shortcomings. And - can anyone be too good, because he´s no bastard?

The answer is, yes. Yes, in a world of bastards, you are too good if you don´t get rid of your neighbour by cunning and shrewdness.

But there is little I can change about that, and I know this full well. So I guess, I will continue to care for my fellow human beings, and, to rekindle my fire, I need an outing from time to time. Then I go for a hike, or sit on a stump, or saddle my steed and ride out to the hills.
 And this I did. Oh, no spectacular stunts. Not that technical a trail. To most of those rookie riders the trails I rode would have been outright boring. But there was silence, and solitude, and the cry of the buzzard, the rustle of the wind and the vista that showed me I was far away from the city. This is a historical site and the top of the world of my hometown.
 In the late medieval age and early modernity, there was the "iron trading road" running along those hills, the Hellweg, an important trade route in those times. There are still many remnants, old buildings, rests of old tax points and the like. I imagined those two-wheeled carts slowly working through the woods. I saw the pictures of those truckers of these days after a long day of 25 km of wheeling along through dense and murky woods finally coming in to a wayside inn and feasting on what was available, meeting each other, trading wares and stories and one or the other song. I imagined wanderers and pilgrims on the way, keeping closely together in fear of robbers and rovers and the terrors that had no name and many. And in the evening, by the fireside in the inn, they told stories of werewolves and robbers and white women, of the mannekens grisebaort (greybearded little-men) and dwarves and druds and witches. Of course, they were too brave to believe those stories... but how come they were so glad to sit beside the fire with an ale and their tobacco pipe near? The iron and coal they brought from the Siegerland as far as Cologne found its way to many a smithy in the vicinity, and in Hagen and Breckerfeld the bladesmiths knew how to process it to a most excellent steel that became legendary throughout Europe. Still one can see a trace of the mastery of these smiths when looking at the works of their offspring in Zlatoust and St. Petersburg. In those ancient days the Brakkersfelders Knopmetz had a similar nimbus to those works of art Zlatoust now produces and was far renowned throughout the world.

But it was not just iron that those ancient truckers transported. Corn and meal, ale and wine, cloth and works of art, sugar, salt and coffee, cocoa and spices they transported over these hills.

I imagine sometimes one or the other did halt his wagon, and standing where I was, enjoyed a moment of rest while looking down into the valley.
 On I followed the winding trail, down into the valley, and after a slightly technical session came to a most ancient friend of mine: The priorlinde, a famed and ancient linden tree in the valley.
 By storm and lightning it had been ravaged, and yet it stands still strong after more than thousand years, silently, slowly swaying in the breeze of spring and summer, in the thunderstorms and autumn´s chill winds; in the frost of winter and in the coming spring again, year after year of slowly growing, sprouting, where limbs were severed, regenerating, reverberating the silent thrum of the dark soil below.
 It grew around the mesh and poles of iron. It grew through rock and stone and soil.
 Into the light it grows, into the green and golden sky, upwards and upwards with the ferocity of stone-hard roots and branch and stem dancing lightly.

 It keeps a light within its crown, a secret therein.

 I touched the bark and silently smiled.

None of my fellow mountainbike riders would understand this, and I am glad for it. They will never know the secret.

 On I rode to the site of one of the sustainability centres in the vicinity. There is this hall of willow trees, another special place. Yes, it is man-made, and one could argue about the necessity, but the trees prosper no less for all the steel that binds them.
 The trees form a golden spiral, and the atmosphere is overwhelmingly serene.
 It is as if you are contained within this place.
 Peace filled my heart, and I lay down to rest and meditated a good hour away.

I drank deep from the cauldron of the rich, green fire again. And, again, as I remounted my bike, I felt as if resurrected by creation. Oh, no, it´s nothing special.

It was just a solitary ride to the hills. Without gibberish.;-)

New mocassins

Summer´s well here and I thought I´d get myself some new mocassins. Except for the sole, I made them from recycling leather from old couches and handbags. The sole is 3mm vegetable tanned oxhide leather and self-soling repair rubber which is simply glued on. Due to the sole taking shape of your foot this is not THAT ideal. After a recent 25 km-hike I had to reglue them, because the movement of the muscles on the soles of your feet makes them come apart, so I have to come up with another solution... but I have some cooking up at the moment.

So... again... stay tuned!;-)

Progress on my semi-integral bush barong

 This is somewhat of a special knife to me. It´s made from a piece of my first sword, a claymore I forged together with the folks of Clan Mac Laren. This is a piece from the tang originally that turned out to be leftover, so I thought I´d try out something new with it. A lot of thought  went into the construction. I wanted a knife with a sturdy yet nimble feel and at the same time an able chopper, slasher and slicer. The handle thusly should be offset, a bit like a pistol grip, to aid in chopping. To aid in cutting, it is not too thick in the spine and has a very high convex bevel. When I thought about it, it was when a problem occurred to me: The offset helps a lot in cutting, slashing and chopping freehand, but when preparing food you often cut on a board, and an offset handle like this one always compromises this. To aid in counteracting this effect, the contour of the handle follows a more or less s-shape, but what helps most is the barong style sage-leaf blade. This way the hindmost part of the blade might not get in contact with the board, but get into effect when you perform a drawing cut. Then the sausage or onion you want to slice is somewhat "gathered up", just like a recurve edge line would. For pressure cuts you can still use the tip area of the blade.
 The blade is tapering from 8-1,5 mm presenting a "bearing of equal load" layout. This means, a branch is always thickest at the stem of a tree making for an ideal stress distribution. A distal taper is always able to bear the equal load of a straight bearing double its size or more, depending on the material. The quench line is a progressive edge temper, meaning, the hardness gradually fades towards the spine and is not just selective. That way the blade can be much thinner than a traditional uniform or standard edge-quench temper because it has somewhat spring-like characteristics.
The blade is some 115mm long. I fitted it with olive wood scales and mosaic pins.

I look forward to use and test it. In the hand (while it still has to see some polishing) it feels well comfy and the balance point is right on the index finger. It cuts as aggressively as intended.

But I´m in for some serious testing still... watch out;-).

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