Mittwoch, 29. Juni 2016

Rookie Ride, Foraging and cuppa coffee

It has been quite some time since I last offered a rookie training, and yeah, while it was stress that I gotted mobbed out of my own club for´t, I did not quite realize that I missed sharing knowledge with ambitioned rookie riders. The gals and guys from the iron forge squad were interested in doing some goofing around and we met at ... tadaaah... Felsengarten area in Hagen. The schedule was to do some basic tutorial, forage for some herbs and watch the eagle owls nesting there. We met at half past two on Sunday. Kathrin came by and Henning... and Julia had announced her venue...;-). I could not take any on-bike pictures, and it was a bit chaotic at best, for Henning´s 35-year old klunker disintegrated due to spontaneous material wear;-), and we could not stick to the plan, but as is, Henning went rad with the old iron, and Kathrin deserves even more respect, by embarking on a 20km ride even to get there.
Julia suffered from a hangover and did no riding, but just smelled the roses.
After the training, we went foraging for St. John´s Wort, lavender and sage and carried home quite a loot!
Kathrin collected St. John´s wort for oil concoctions, especially for curing burn marks for the smiths! Way cool, Kathrin, that´s how it should work... ;-)
The vicinity of the Felsengarten area is a very cool place to relax.
We also met with an elderly lady who was doing some owl-watching and who readily shared her knowledge with us. We watched the eagle owls, and had a nice chat.
Then all of a sudden we heard this soft groaning rumble... accompagnied by the customary whining of Julia, who demanded to be off, for now she was hungry. Of course, she has to satisfy her need in an instant ;-), because else she gets free radicals ;-) and we must suffer from her temper :-), so off we were. Henning and Julia drove out to the Käse Deele café, and we had some good food and some more chats.
Folks, it´s simply good to have you around... thank you all so much for being so laidback....
Then I offered Kathrin to show her the ride home, because she was not too fond of riding through the city traffic. It was her first mountainbike ride at all, and she was in for some ordeals, and I remember full well how it was for me, being taken out into the woods by a bunch of absolute madmen, and I don´t want my friends having to experience that! ;-) She encountered some limits that day and did a marvellous job in coping with them. She had warned me she would whine a lot, but I was the one constantly having to remind her of watching her pulse and heart rate and not to overdo it...She also mastered one or the other fear when going downhill, and while there´s still a long trail ahead of her, she actually seemed to enjoy it... Respect! Tutoring is fun that way.

When I had delivered her to the departing point at the lake, I made for my way home after a long and joyous day.
I relished in the vistas and in the fact that my body performed as it should for a change. This was a day that I will keep in my memory for sure!

Mittwoch, 22. Juni 2016

Grosses Messer-Update

I have been desperately in need to practice my swordsmithing abilities, so after talking to James Elmslie on the sword expo in Solingen last year and the lovely work of Jake Powning I felt inspired to give a "Grosses Messer" (in this case more of a hunting sword) a go for practice. As a single-edged weapon, tempering is a bit easier, for a thick spine makes it not that prone for warping in the quench.

I want to make abundantly clear that I owe a lot to these masters, as I do to Peter Johnsson, Stefan Roth, and Petr Florianek, as you all full well know, and since the occasion arises from time to time, I want to emphasize that I do not want to copy any of their works, but feel inspired by them to eventually find my own style. I also want to say that plagiarism does a lot of harm to a most ancient and honourable art, especially if it is done at a lousy quality. It fouls up things for all of us, and it will eventually ruin the art and the atmosphere of it.

The blade is made from Unimog spring steel with a carbon content of about 75%. The guard and pommel will be wrought iron. The blade will get a selective temper on edge and spine. For scales I plan stag antler or bog oak. I´ll keep you posted!

Where there´s a will, there´s a way - and a fond thankyou to a load of friends

 I wrote about my mishap recently. It was all my fault, really, of course. Of course, I could not afford a new frame. I had my phases, of course. At first, it was resignation. My bike stood in my attic for three days. I had called Dennis from Metal Motion Bikes, and he agreed to do the best he could for me. Which in this case was roundabout 200€ for a new frame or yeah... something else;-). People from the Bike industry may know this as JRAs (just riding alongs). I did not want this, because I have sworn to stick to the truth as best as I can. So call me naïve, but no new frame for me. He then tried to get a new derailleur hanger for my old Orange frame, with no effect. Oh, I was like, fuck it all, life sucks, and got furious. The bike industry is playing havoc with people, as does just about any industry at the moment, but in this case their so-called innovations are often frankly absurd. We talked about one corporation currently developing 36"-wheels, and no, you read right, it´s not a typo meaning 26". What´s next? Back to Penny Farthings? Of course, this will be tauted "the" next big thing. In an article in a bike magazine however I recently read at the railway station the editor rode a bike equipped with 26" wheels and raved about it and prophesized that this will be all the new rage next year. I can tell you, I was laughing so hard I nearly rolled on the floor. What´s becoming of all the 29" hype? Going with the wind soon, I´d say.

But all this makes me furious. It´s all a waste of resources, and we can´t afford to waste our resources any more. And my fury gave me a valuable insight, and you might laugh at me, and you are rightly doing so, for it is that simple.

I am a smith. Smiths have made this world. It was blacksmiths that made the first bicycles. Why the f*** do I think I cannot at least try to repair my frame?

So I started to think. The seattube cracked above the weld. The weld as a presumeably weak spot came out okay, and part of the tube was still attached. The aluminium used in the frame has a tensile strength of roundabout 370 N/mm². The epoxy glue I use for my knife handles has roundabout 180 N/mm² of tensile strength. If I fit in a tube with a hole for tension release and a clamp slot identical to the slot in the seat tube and use an expanding broach for reaming the inner diameter to fit a smaller-diameter seatpost, which by coincidence lay on my shelf doing nothing, that should do the trick... but where to get a tube? I almost laughed, the solution was that simple: From an old seat post I hacksawed off the clamp, which was broken anyway, drilled a tension release hole, sawed the slot and filed it to fit. Since I have no seat tube reamer I went to Dennis´shop. Felix, the mechanic was so kind as to do the job and making some more valuable suggestions-for free. Back home, I glued the tube in with epoxy and used glass fibre mat and epoxy  to wrap the seat tube. I think I´ll add another layer, just for safety, then I´ll paint it black and it´ll be almost like new.

 Yeah, I am a bit proud of my achievement. But as Leo mentioned in the comment form of the recent post, it is more than that. I have this anxiety riding on my shoulder (pun intended) constantly, and being able to find a solution for this sort of damage relieved me of it, and I want to share this with you. For I thought about something my father told me once. In WWII Germany was short of resources. He had a bicycle then, which he absolutely loved, and since he grew up on the countryside there was no such thing as roads. As a kid, he and his friends even built ramps to launch off, and coincidentally;-), he broke his cranks. He was a madman sometimes, and I can vividly imagine how the ramps looked like they took off from. Must have been the like where the challenge was to be faster downhill than the ramp and to survive the kicker... ;-) His father gave him a right whacking, of course, and showed him how to weld them back together the following day.

Another story was that he got some wooden skis for Chrismas one year... he built a ramp with his friends and broke off the tips of the skis the next day. So no skis. What to do? He simply cut some wood and built his own. They were not straight, and the tips sometimes got stuck in the snow, for he hadn´t been able to bend them properly, but they did the job, and he loved them. The next skis he bought himself in the 60´s.

What I want to say is, In "them days" people were not anxious about their material. They cared about it, of course, but it was not a matter of life and death, because they new they could come up with a solution. They did not think digitally, but looked astray from the beaten path for solutions. There were more answers than "1" or "0" or permutations thereof. You had friends and family and made do, even under circumstances that  were not ideal. It was not the bike that made the man, but the man that made the bike (or the skis).

I have learned a lot by this mishap. I still would like it had rather not happened. But it had. My repair is certainly not state-of-the art, and might even fail some day soon, but it felt empowering to again get out into the woods by my own devices.

 The rest is almost customary: Alongside murmuring creeks, up some fireroads and down some challenging singletrails I rode, smug and content with my hearing no creaking.
 The weather was not exactly at its best, and I was soon caked with mud, but grinning widely the whole time. Down a challenging singletrail I realized I need to really do more technical riding again, for my lines were shitty and incoherent, and I even nearly stacked up big style once....
 ...but it is moments like these that make it all worth it. Even clawing together my last bits and pennies to get out there is worth it.
And it is a metaphor. For life. Life sucks sometimes, yeah, that´s true. But moments like these make up for it. All in all, for every hardship, there are moments of greatness, of joy, of pleasure and contemplation, of beauty and peace. Not as a reward, and strewn away in a pattern that is incomprehensible to us mere mortals most of the time. But there IS a pattern to it...

For I was in for one last surprise. And I have to apologize to a friend. In the last years I had the impression that Moritz was a bit superfluous and chance is, he actually is. He is a different sort of human being, at least compared to my own life, and that sometimes leads to misconceptions. Yeah, I enjoy talking to something less grave and just chatting away about bikes and girls and drink and whatnot, but since I often have to think very grave thoughts and have to carry a lot of responsibilities (all my fault, really), I did not think much of his reliability. What arrogance on my part! When he learned I was without a bike and he told some tall stories about how he would organize something I therefore did not think much of it.

When I returned from a cool ride with a good coffee at the trailhead café, and unlocked the door...

... there was a derailleur hanger for a 2011 Orange Crush sitting on my mat. It was put there by Moritz, who had managed to achieve the impossible. This gives him much credit as a bike mechanic (he works for Reuber bike shop in Dortmund), but more so as a human being.

I also want to acknowledge Henning, who is a smith with Ahlhauser Hammer and who offered me his own bike as a bailout spontaneously after reading about it on my blog. In general, the offers of help and the kind words I got from my friends and readers was overwhelming.

And this is what remains to be said in this post: Those are things that count.

It may sound a bit far-fetched, but: For most humans life is a shitty place these days. Some few foul up the lives of so many at the moment. Many people suffer, and are far worse off than just having a tiny crack in their bike frame. People are hopeless, homeless, depressed, disoriented and desperately seeking for values. There is a lot more to be fixed than just a bicycle frame. What one person can do just so much. And sometimes fixing a bike frame can help you understand bigger things.

And, as strange as it may seem, the simple things remain untouched. Friendship. Love. Trying your best and hoping for the best.

And as long as these things exist, there will always be hope. We can still make it work.

Thank you, my friends, for you have given me more than just repairing a bike.

Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2016

Plan and broke

The plan was clear. My birthday had passed with the usual catastrophe, and I had just mopped up the shards and ruins of that what was left of my life afterwards as usual, so, in order to celebrate another survival of the shittiest day of the year, I thought, yeah, get out to do some foraging and some nice riding, have a coffee and a cake.
I went to the Felsengarten and got myself some herbs... 
 Sage, salvia officinalis, in German: Salbei, for tea. I like to have a sage tea when the weather is hot to cool down, and it´s good against coughs and flus and fever.

 Got myself some pine cones and sprouts for pine honey against coughs and stomach problems and for schnapps.
 Some common yarrow (Alchemilla millefolia, in German: Schafgarbe)
 Lavender, because it smells oh so good and for mead spice.
 Oh yeah, and I DID some light trials riding amongst the rocks and had fun. BIG mistake, as we will learn further down.
 But at first, I paid a long overdue visit to one of my fav cafés, the käse-deele. I had a coffee and a wafer...
 It started to rain, but I was sitting smugly under a bush and really enjoyed the good food, the solitude and the soft and silent rain.
 In fact, the landlady came over and we had a chat, and I got myself another really good coffee at a bargain, and I really breathed through and enjoyed my life. Moments like this are really cool for me, for then I can forget that the world´s a shitty place these days and people kill each other all over the world for petty reasons. It reminds me of the good old days of my childhood, of simple joys like this.
I know this is escapism, but what shall I do? I can´t help it any. I can just try to keep the damage at a minimum. And my own life is not exactly easy, too, so I need my time-out, too.

Turned out it was not that sustainable. I just rolled away from the café to hit some trails, when my bike started to creak. And creak louder. And louder still. And with a final crack I found myself sitting almost on my rear tire, for my seat tube broke.

Can´t afford a new frame, of course.

So, again some stressing out, for I do not just ride for the fun of it, but to get around, too.
Having no bike will raise my costs to a level where even getting to work will compromise my food and bodycare. Cool. :-(

Now, I will of course find a solution. Of course I will make it work. And it will not depress me any more. But it sucks. It is not that I do not work. It´s just that no one wants to pay me for it. If I would be on the dole, I would have 300 € more to spend per month. But I refuse to have anyone tell me how to live my private life. So the dole is not an option.

I do not want to whine about all this. Whining will not help. Noone will mercy me. There is no mercy, and who tells otherwise is lying.

What I sincerely want is that you understand this:

Everything comes at a price. Freedom isn´t free. Sometimes life sucks. But I will not die by a cracked frame. I do not regret the coffee or the wafers or the chat or the rain or the fragrant herbs in my backpack. I do not regret the soft rain on my face and the silent moments or well-natured chats with fellow humans. It is sad that my frame broke, and one might get a bit superstitious, and yap, I am. But I do not want to trade for a Mammonist´s life. I don´t want to give in to the anxiety that befouls so many people´s lives these days.

Some of you have hard lives that suck sometimes. Life these days is not only not easy for many of you, but a shitty hell, when you are standing on the wrong side of the line. But problems can be solved. And after every problem solved, you come out the stronger for it. You might not notice, and people tell you otherwise, but it´s simple and true.

If you give in to Mammon, however, not only your life is fucked, but your soul.

I refuse my ancient soul to be taken from me by the grey one. Call him Mammon-Pluto, Mammon-Baal, Baal-Zamon, Vrtra, Nidhöggr, Azi-Dahaka, Shaitan or Satan, it does not matter. By solving my problems with a smile, I will fight him. I will fight him to my last breath and from the first breath of my next life, with every breath of the next life to the last breath and so on through the aeons, until the world will end or this abomination is erased from the Noumenon. I will fight with smile and laughter and tears and cries and making good things and enjoying and being sad and being fierce and loving and furious and gentle. I will fight him in the world and the next and all worlds that can be, and in my own soul. I will fight him at the roots of the world tree and high up in the sky. I will tear apart his disciples with my hammers and tongs, with my saw and my chisel, with my files and pens and pencils, with sword and shield, with bow and arrow, with gun and rifle, with cauldron and goblet, with dagger and staff. By the fortress of the four winds: He will not take over completely my soul or the souls of my friends. By the heart of the Holy Wind: I will name him. By fire and wind: I will raid his fortress of the nine lies, and my dragons will seize him and prey on his flesh. I will fly again.


Care to join in? ;-)

Viking utility knife

Some progress on my little utility Viking knife, 76x4-1,5 mm three-layer laminate file and spring steel blade, nice and slicey Scandi grind, silver mounting, reindeer antler and birchwood burr. The antler will be carved still and the handle has to be waxed still. The sheath is hardened leather.

New viking sheath knife

 This is my latest project: A Viking sheath knife inspired by Norse blade finds and Mammen carving patterns. The Damascus blade (100x 5-1.5 mm) is made from file and spring steel. And here comes the best: If anyone finds a flaw, he can keep it for himself! :-P It is not quite perfect, because I am still not good enough to perform forgewelding while Nick insists on telling me jokes that are not funny and asking me how to take over Western society ;-). But as is, it cuts like the proverbial whatsitcalled ;-). Handle is...
 ...carved and tanned reindeer antler and birchwood burr.
 The blade gradually tapers from 5 - 1.5 mm, which makes for a very durable yet well-balanced and slicey blade.
 A garnet for a butt cap. The tang is almost a full tang, so no need to peen it over, and so I thought I could do some bling...;-)
The Scandi - style sheath is made from hardened leather.

I like it and I use it!

Mittwoch, 1. Juni 2016

New belt pouch

I tend to be bit lazy when leatherwork is concerned, but not because I do not enjoy it. Yesterday I found my resolve and made this belt pouch... it´s still not perfect and has to see quite some refinement still, but as is, I like it. It´s overbuilt with at least 3mm thick vegetable tanned leather, but I like to be rather safe than sorry.

I have to do this more! ;-)

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