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Mittwoch, 24. Februar 2016

On the bench - Sica and damascus

New projects galore... I made a big Sica (spring steel, no stock removal yet, not even drilling) and a smaller snack knife out of Damascus that was left over from an experiment...

I know I am a lazy bum... but be patient even if I tend to forge a lot and complete little... in any way I threaten to keep you posted!;-)

Puukko parade

Now here they come: Puukkos, the woodworking wonders of the North. From the top: Roselli carpenter, and on the expo, I got myself some lovely Wood Oy Wood Jewel knives, and I must say these knives certainly inspire me. In the picture below you can see both of them and the knife I made recently.
To the right there´s a small whittling knife, and the knife in the middle is a slightly bigger build. Now these babies come at an outright bargain. They are not quite meticulously finished, but made sturdy and well enough for a knife that sees actual use. The tang goes all the way through the handle and is peened over a disc, even on the small knife. The blades are selectively tempered (some 58HRC in the edge and 45HRC in the spine). When I tried to test them on the hair on the back of my head, I accidently got me a haircut, they are just hair-splitting sharp out of the box. The sheaths are fitting very well with use in mind: They will eventually loosen up a bit and be perfect. They offer a plastic liner inset that adds safety against penetration. Plus, they are dead beautiful. I have been craving these since I knew they were existent, some 10 years or so, but did not know where to get them. I can absolutely recommend this combination to anyone who would be satisfied with a natural-looking bushcraft knife and does not necessarily need a full-tang knife, they will do everything and beg for more, and you will be pleased by just looking at them. I am.

But now this is somewhat more of just a plain review. I own several Puukkos and I always wondered why it is that they offer so much atmosphere and function. First and foremostly it might just be that they are just following an ideal shape for a blade. The general layout makes this style of knife very dexterous for woodcarving. The blade is in line with the general working direction of the hand, and yap, the ergonomics are spot-on because there simply were hundreds or even thousands of years of refinement in the layout. Knives from the Finnish Viking age look no different from nowadays´ blades for a reason - because they work. But there is more to it. As with every nation I have so far encountered, the Puukko also had some ethnological and mythological functions... I am planning to do a feature on that soon. Just have to find this bloody manuscript ;-) in my attic again to give some real references...

In the meantime, I should say I will try to make myself a real one, maybe with a Damascus blade or stuff... I´ll keep you posted!

Historical puukko blade with a new handle

 So, I had this blade lying around for ages. I have this from the last producing smithy in Solingen, and it was courtesy of Mr. Rudolph Broch, one of the best bladesmiths in Solingen city in his time. As is customary in Solingen, you get to know someone (and mean it) and he or she tells you to go to someone (who is informed) and then you get to know this person (and mean it) and so on, and this was the manner I was being introduced to Mr. Broch then. I would not have found the smithy in the first place, it is quite hidden, and Mr. Broch welcomed me when he learned that I was interested in learning some tricks of the trade and enthused when I said that I really loved those old styles of Solingen knives. So, some ten years ago, he not only welcomed me to his smithy and showed me some tricks, but also showed me around his garage, which was brim full of knife blades and blanks that either were discontinued in production since at least 50 years or were never produced at all. It was a knifemaker´s wet dream come true, and it was like wonderland. Amongst the blades I found there were trench knives from WW I and II, hunting knives that would have made Horace Kephart envious... and a whole dispatch of puukko blades. Mr. Broch did not quite know for which corporation they were made, for it was way back then, too, put assumed they were made either for Iisakki Järvenpaa or Puronvarsi. What I can safely say is that they are made from stainless steel, and they were all Rockwell-tested with nine cone imprints along the whole length of the blade, with groups of three. The imprints were marked with a pen. The hardness varies from 57-59 HRC according to the markings, and, from experience with testing blades I can say that this is most certainly true. The temper is even, and the tang was tempered through, so I gave the end of the tang a bit of an annealing. The blade has a characteristical diamond shape, which is common with the Finnish type of woodworking knife. I fitted a nickel silver bolster and a handle of reindeer antler and birchwood burr.
 The tang was peened over a flower buttcap I filed from bronze (still has some engraving work to be done to;-)...
To make for a more durable edge, I gave it a tiny secondary bevel. The blade is now razor-sharp, and will be a personal item... I´ll give it a classic simple sheath or maybe even something more fancy, we´ll see...

The Puukko has fascinated me as an everyday tool, but also as a cultural aspect, and I hope to be doing more on the mythology and history of this great style of knife.

Donnerstag, 18. Februar 2016

Riding home...

 This is not an altogether joyous post. I had been craving to get outside and do some riding for weeks again, and eventually managed to squeeze some time in. It had snowed a little, and the sun was out illuminating a clear blue sky. I took the lane to the foothills and was encountering breathing problems and the feeling that my body was not working properly. So I shifted down some gears and just put some basic intensity effort in. It was very cold, and in retrospective I have to admit I did not dress up that sensibly and had a cold in my bones. But I was becoming a little bit nostalgic when I thought about ´em days when I used to soar up the inclines and hammer down the hills. Alas, these times are well over now and will not come back. I remember a lot of cool rides with friends with not so much of a single worry, hooting and hollering down impossible terrain just for the bollocks and the fun. But those friends are gone and turned out to be no friends in the first place, and I had spent 25 years in the least living in an illusion.

The trails, however, have nothing to do with this. They are not an illusion. The way I ride has changed altogether. While I still like to do some technical trails and get some airtime in, it is not that important anymore. It is the silence and solitude of the forest that I so dearly need, and in order to get there cheap I use my bike.
 Plus, if anything goes awry with my bike, I will not be able to repair it for lack of money. Mostly my own fault, really, for I could get social allowances maybe to stock up my meagre salary, but I want to live my life according to my own designs. Money that you get from slavers makes you a slave. This I do not want at all. But that way you don´t go full tilt sailing over jumps, for wheels cost at least 150€. It just sucks doing a business job for 300€ less than  the average dole while being constantly at risk of being made responsible, but that´s how it is in the year 2016.

But since my body´s worn out a bit anyway, it´s not something that I should miss that much. But I realized I actually do miss it. I have ridden down the Dalco trail with an almost  rigid bike (there was no suspension other than 35mm of rubber eraser in those days). I have ridden down sheer cliffs in the Alps and I was able to fly. I rode with the gods of mountainbiking and had fun with them. I miss the flying and the carefree shredding, I miss the mountainbiking scene as it was.

Casually floating through the woods is what I need now, but I realize my life has changed a lot, and while a lot of things are really cool and one could not expect that everything always stays the same, I also must admit that I would not want to be the same idiot I once was. So I actually accept that my life is changing and has changed. But as life is generally and all over the world changing for the worst of the worst, and my life´s not THAT crappy to date, I guess I can´t complain.
 Still, I miss what was, and if I look at it realistically, will most certainly never come back again. As is, it felt good to feel the crunching ice and snow under my tyres and riding through the woods round the place where I once lived.

But thoughts occurred to me unbidden, as if in meditation. It feels somewhat weird, and sometimes I ask myself if it really did happen. It was a bit like a fairy tale, and most people look at me as if I was telling tales when I, well, tell the tales of my life. I grew up in a world that can and shall not be real, and the rulers of our world strive to annihilate even the memory of a lifestyle like this. They do not want self-reliant, they want human resources. They do not want you to make your own gear and relish in fruit from your own garden, and most certainly do they not want you to have encounters with real live animals, with fox and hare and deer and wild pig and badger and learn from them how to live wild, to kill and die and not be afraid of growth and passing. This is what teaches me even now and has taught me: All things must die, and I am no better than our cat was then which one day just went into the woods for dying in dignity. I do not want to be less than the cat I loved then as a companion, and the change that has come upon my life is a part of dying. Death is my brother who walks with me, and it is like you walk over the dark grounds of earth, and a booming step goes with you, beneath. I certainly fear death, but I am not afraid of it. I look into the face it has now, and it wears the mask of the change. But the sickle does not hit the twinkling sun that shines through the frost-enchanted branches and twigs of a forest that is, was and will be. The badger does not smile-but neither is he afraid of death or hates. He knows fury, but no hate. When he lives, he lives, when he dies, he dies. Fox hunts hare and the wolf hunts its prey, but this is a natural order. I grew up with it. Many people say I am a dreamer and this growing up of mine is a mere fancy and has never been.
 But they cannot do anything against what I am, because they do not understand. And beneath the sorrow and the sadness there is something adamantine that is not affected by sadness or even joy. It is what I really am. And in the woods, however tame or domesticated, your mask ceases to be, but you put on another, and this reflects what you really are. And it is what you really are, that´s what counts here, not what you say you are or what you want to be. There´s a lot of things I do not like about myself, but the woods don´t care. Life and death don´t care.
 The light is dim and blue, and truth is hard and cold like a sword in winter, but still the trees grow, grow up into the sky. Branches that once grew near the ground now embrace the sky. My self that was does not matter anymore, or matters in a different manner now. It is just like that my self of those years ago is part of the same tree that is my life. It still lives and thrives in that time. I do not believe in the concept of time as linear. I live now in that moment going over the cliff at Dalco as well as in the moment of writing this, and we sit down, have a cuppa and chat about it... and the self of tomorrow comes in casually and has a bit of a sit-down... and it has brought some cookies to add in to the coffee.
 And the forest grows, and the river runs two ways...
 ...and the trail has not yet ended. And that crystal-clear moment when I look at the snow in the sunlight will be there forever, but forever is but a word. I am coming of age, and I feel it in my bones. There is one moment in time, and if you are well aware, you can actually witness it. Let´s say, you sit down in an armchair, and when you get in, you are a youth still, and you sit, and you realize that when you get up, you will be an old man. This moment has come for me. It has come early for me, for I have always been old. But then I am still young, because I have always been. Sounds luna-tic, does it? Trust me, it is, and I am proud of it. But to me it is the truth.
 I rode to the place where I grew up, where I became what I am and will be. There were those tar linings on the dam which I used as a mark to practice my switchback technique as a kid... but the shutters of my home are now nailed shut and the house that meant so much to me now is slowly decaying because of neglect and to write off miscellaneous transfer assets to make even more money.
I rode those figures again... but the feeling was not there. I looked towards the house... but there were no lights lit. I looked into myself... and all was there where I left it.
 
And while all things must come to an end eventually, there is no end to anything.
 
Nequaquam vacui 

Martin Troy is forging damascus;-)

Last weekend Martin from Ireland came visiting to do some forging and general horsing around;-), and yeah, here´s the story;-).

Martin arrived on Thursday night, well, actually well into the night, because flight was all messed up. We had a  chat, and were off to sleep, for we wanted to be at the smithy early - for a TV film team had announced their venue. I´ll spare you the entire story, just in case, you know;-) and might do a post about all that happened if they mess up;-). On the other hand, all was good, the weather was being fine, and we were doing a lovely hike to a great place to meet some friends and forge weird stuff. Martin was planning on making a straight razor for a good friend of his, who is a hairdresser, and a San Mai Damascus for another friend and customer of his, with crucible steel we found in the local woods around my place as a cutting edge. I showed him a bit around the place, and our senior blacksmith introduced him to the tools. For the Damascus he cut up an old sawblade and we had prepared some file steel to go along with the crucible steel. In the meantime I took care of the folks and showed the TV crew around.


Michael was there and did some forging of some very ambitious projects... and I am quite astonished at his progress at the moment. He does some sophisticated projects and while sometimes he gets frustrated and is a bit eager, he does some amazing stuff!
Currently he is finishing off a Damascus boot knife and working on a project that is secret still, but knowing what he´s about, I can say I am pretty fond of it... I hope to be able to keep you posted!

 
Kai was there, too, and demonstrated his amazing skill of putting g his hands into his pockets;-) and Nick showed everyone how to burn your project properly;-), just kidding of course;-P. We exchanged some weird jokes and wicked humour as usual...


While I was showing Martin around, I found this carpenter´s axe lying around in the shed that I really wanted to share with my trusty readers;-).



You can see the offset and the forged socket-way cool, if you ask me, and one day I hope to do something like this!


Martin prepared the billet for tacking together and was off for the welding.

...while I was doing spark analysis on some steel I found in the woods. Apologies for the lousy picture, but I was doing this freehand with lousy lighting. If you look closely you can see some dark red sparks on an old chisel I found in the woods, which hint on it being alloyed with cobalt or tungsten... we´ll see how the forging will go. This is what I find exciting and challenging-making do with what you find and working the story into it!
When I do spark analysis I always use spring and file steel for comparison to evaluate the carbon content as precisely as possible. It´s not that precise, to be precise, but actually works for me... and I am not being particularily nice to my blades, so to say, ahem;-D.


Then Martin was ready for the welding and drawing out and he apparently liked our power hammer;-).


Henning dropped by and did some forging himself. Apart from being  one of the nicest guys I have met, he quite certainly has a lot of talent. He did a hardy tool from an old railroad screw and did a very great job at it. Nick lent a helping hand. While Nick might not be the best blacksmith there can possibly be and often simply refuses to listen when he is being tutored by Kai or myself, he is a very important guy to keep things running smoothly. He keeps everything together with good humour and patience, always has a big deal of empathy for everyone´s problems and does a great job with kids. And of course, he is one of my best friends.
 

Then Friedhelm and Bernd came by with a friend of theirs, Gunther the boar. Gunther was not feeling that well that day and had a laydown while Friedhelm did some first aid to dress him up for dinner;-).
...in fact, Gunther was bleeding all over the place...

...and suffered from a severe hangover;-). Kidding aside, Friedhelm, who is a hunting instructor and game warden, gave us valuable insight into the bureaucratics of hunting in Germany and dressing techniques. We learned a lot by simply watching, and toasted to the dead animal. For even if we did some wicked jokes on that, that´s not to say we had no respect. I can´t explain that to a veganist, but I daresay my trusty readers know what I mean when I say so.

There´s a difference between hunters and shooters, so to say, and Friedhelm quite certainly is one of the former variety. He simply loves his hunting ground and cares for it because he´s been growing up there and understands each and every rock in the forest. He knows and loves and therefore cares about his hunting area.

Here he explains skinning techniques. In general itr´s about the balance between cutting and working the skin loose .
Like this...
After processing this was left for Bernd, the red baron;-) to take with him.

 
Martin suffered several mishaps, unfortunately, but in general, we made do and had a ball with it. The crucible he originally brought was too brittle, but I had some left that was processed already. Then the billet burned off, but I had some Damascus billet left that he could use. Unfortunately, Bernd had ordered a hunting knife, and we were kind of eager to get all that stuff together... but when you get eager, you get problems. So the San Mai did not quite weld in. Martin, however, is not one to do it the easy way and tried a traditional Japanese technique instead of just tacking the billets together and then welding it all together. When all runs good, everything is good, but with this technique everything must be perfect and there´s no room for errors... turned out the edge steel fell out constantly, so he called it a day and made the straight razor instead from a piece of Damascus he had brought. 

It was well into the evening, when we set the BBQ and did some feasting and had a beer. It had been a great day in great company with a lot of positive energy around. It was a very intense atmosphere and I should say we all have prospered from it.

I look forward to the next sessions! It is just perfect that while having fun you can do a good job keeping something alive. I also learned a lot from Ernst, our senior blacksmith. who gave me a good tutoring on the power hammer. I always find it amazing that he can do that delicate a work with the machine, and slowly begin to realize that it might be possible. I like this last picture, by the way. It tells the story of how I see this stuff. At the moment, everything seems to be very dark everywhere. But there is a smithy lit, and the flames of the forge are roaring violently. That which cannot be mended is welded in the forge; and by doing so we slowly start learning from each other to agnize the name of steel. There are people from 8 to 77 years old at the smithy, girls and guys, Germans, Irishmen, Saami and Swedish people, and we all learn from each other and cover the ground we stand on. It makes me proud to have a part in that. It is a beginning. Not an end. 

Mittwoch, 17. Februar 2016

Jagd und Hund 2016 - impressions from bushcrafter´s paradise

 Yeah, it´s that time of year again, and the exposition in Dortmund opened its gates again. It was somewhat business as usual-and yet totally different. I went on Tuesday and Sunday this time, and Sunday was the first time I went there with a bunch of people. Tuesday was the day for chats and encounters. About one of the first booths I visited then was the booth of Mr. Kalman Szábo. He is a Hungarian knifemaker who makes meticulously crafted knives at a bargain. Made from 1.4034 mostly, they come with a mirror finish, little tolerances and a razor edge, and razor means razor...;-)
 He had some more modern models on display, but also some lovely Hungarian traditional designs. Some of the folding knives were huge, with blades up to 15cm!
 I was more fond of the more sensible models, however.
 Not too bad were the fixed bladed knives;-):
 Now 1.4034 is a relatively simple steel and people tend to sneer at the concept of making custom knives from it. But in fact, you can sensibly harden that steel to 56 HRC, if you know your business, and, yap, everything comes at a price.
 Owning a knife from Mr. Szábo I can say they hold an edge very well in relation to the steel employed. In the woods you do not want something hard and brittle, but something that holds an edge well enough while remaining flexible and easy to sharpen. So, in my book, those knives to a well enough job for the prize... custom handmade knives for 75 € anyone?
 I also loved those antler carvings. In Hungary this art is alive and well!

 ...
 ... onwards to the Dannecker booth with labelled knives with some really great ideas.
 The knives are partly made in the Czech republic and partly in Spain and Taiwan, but at a reasonable quality for reasonable prizes...
 ...and some cool designs, too.
 Back again: This is Mr. Szábo.

Then I went on to visit the birds of prey which were displayed in area 3A. There were also the children´s programs going on there.

 Children could partake in learning programs that looked like fun...;-) not a commonplace, if you ask me!

This is a case of YOLO...You Obviously Love Owls;-)...




This fellow actually did not like me much...;-)


 Falconer´s gear... lovely belt pouch, cloves, bells and cap.
 There also was a rather spectacular offroad parcours on site where you could actually test drive an offroad vehicle.
 This one would make for a great hunting vehicle...

The areas were well visited, but on Tuesday it was not that crammed full. Still, there were a lot of people around...

 Then I went to Gunnar´s booth. Gunnar works for www.siljan.se who make very practical Mora designs, including the famed Wasa knife. Now Gunnar´s a great guy. Once I worked for him, and I can really appreciate his being cool under pressure. He certainly knows how to work hard, but is also very laid-back and super-friendly at the same time. When we got there on Sunday, he gave us a huge load of weekend project Scandi blades out of three-layer-laminate steel, just to promote our beginners!
 The knives come in vivid colours and this may not be to anyone´s liking, but I guess I must not quite rave about Moras, do I? They are just THE one knife, period, when function is key, and they come at a bargain that often challenges me...
 Then I met with Rainer at the DMG booth. Rainer makes lovely custom gentleman´s folding knives, quite certainly not my personal style, if you so will, but still. Visit him at www.rg-knives.de. We had a chat, but then I cleared the space because he had a customer...
 And made my way to Attila Kertesz, who was displaying his art next to him. His website is www.afk-knives.com. Well worth a visit!
 Some of his works of art...
 Off to the booth of Nandger Franck (www.schmiedeglut.de). Nandger is a self-made man autodidactic knifesmith...
 ...and yap, he is not famous for nothing! Apart from that, it was a pleasure to meet and have a chat with him, him being a super - friendly guy.
 I loved this style of knife! He does a very clean Damascus, and the blades are certainly inspiring to boot!
 ...
 ...
 What was most intriguing was that he does a huge array of styles with his own spice in each. This is not easy to do, and it shows his pedigree as a craftsman. 
 Also on his booth were blades from monosteel and Damascus...
 Bushcraft knives and accessories.
 Then I went to Olaf´s and Heike´s booth. They are very great people and I am proud to call them friends. I helped them build their presentation again, and it was a joy to work with them - as always. They offer beautiful handmade custom leather clothing. This motorcycle jacket was made from 4 mm(!) bull leather. They do just about everything and are crazy enough to try things out.
 This is a jacket made from an old Swiss army blanket, custom - made to tailoring.
 Look at those buttons: They make each one of them by hand from old historical silver coins.
 I loved those vests from ostrich leather.
 ...
 ...
 Their prizes are very high, but given that buying one of those items is a more than lifetime affair and they stitch it all by hand to measure in Germany, often from local resources gives a new perspective on that. If I had the money, I would gladly spend it. Visit their website at www.wildfang-design.de

 They also had some smaller items on display, some Swiss army surplus, e.g. this tool roll...

 ...pouches, bags and paraphernalia...
 ...
 The booth was big fun, for there´s simply that much to see and all so lovingly arranged.
 Then suddenly it was Sunday, and Julia, Kathrin, Martin, Nick and myself went to see the expo. At first I was somewhat fuming, for the girls were constantly going their way without further notice, so it was a bit of a cat-herding going on, but we made appointments, and all went smoothly afterwards. We all were very fond of the booth of Juha and Jorma from Wood Oy, Finland. It was a bit like coming home, with the warm colour of birch burr greeting us and the guys being as they were. We had a great chat and I hope we can get together at the ironforge soon, folks, for it was a jolly meeting.
 I loved these clocks and wall boards.
 pendants, and we got a whole load of raw materials, too...
 ...ahem;-), yes, I must admit it, I do not react entirely rational to those wood jewel knives...;-) I got myself two of them.
 ...because it´s funny. I may be a knifemaker, but every time I try to get that special flair into one of my knives, I mess up one way or another, and it does look like a German knife, not a Scandinavian design. Yeah, true, I hear you say, you´re a German, so it´s no wonder you make German knives. But to truly understand how knives work, you have to make them "and fail properly";-).  
 But, no harm done, it did not feel that bad to have an excuse to buy some more blades...;-)
 I really love those Saami sheaths out of wood!

 Yeah, that´s 50€ for the knife in the picture...;-)

 I daresay it was a bit of an eye-opener to Martin, who is currently starting his own swordsmithing business to see the prizes (which were not THAT expensive given the quality!) at the DMG booth.

 ...in fact, for the quality, they were a bargain. This is one fine example by Mr. Fazekas.
 A real asset was that Mr. Fazekas  had his new book on display, and I guess I´ll get myself one in Solingen.
 Then we were off to the booth of Peter Huber (www.messerdesign-huber.de).
 To start with I must admit I did not think much of these knives. While they were excellently and meticulously made, they came in a powdermetallurgical steel hardened to 71HRC. Yeah, you read it right, that´s 71 HRC. Of course, as Peter said, these will most certainly be knives not exactly intended for bushcraft, but that´s not the culprit. It does not make sense to me, and I fear most buyers will put them in a showcase and leave them there.
 There will be a review of them in Messermagazin soon (www.messermagazin.de), and I daresay it will be a rave review...

 But other than that, all was grand in wonderland with all these really lovely German hunting knife designs around, which I found really inspiring.
 ...I simply love those elegant integral bolsters!
 Nicely made butt-caps with the tang peened over-perfect!
 Some sketches of Peter´s.
 Also he had this historical hunting sword from 1880.
 Round the bend there was this lady with a 100-yard-stare and constantly throwing sparks off a firesteel;-)... I was really enjoying meeting Gabriele from Karesuando, quite certainly one of the nicest persons around!
 Karesuando had a whole lot of new products on display. I hope to get some production proto photos soon, because my crappy camera just does them no justice.
 For now these sneak previews have to suffice: A lovely Saami knife design...
 And some really bling knife. The Ripan (willow grouse) exclusive edition comes with a damasteel blade and black diamond inlays... I hope to give you an article on the making of soon.
 But I must admit I loved this knife even more. It´s a knife that Gabriele made for herself. Just cool, if you ask me, in its worn appearance. A real knife that has seen real use (and a certain degree of abuse, too...;-)). Again, I was getting on the nerves of my friends by having another chat;-), but that´s how I am, am I?;-)
 YOLO....;-P
 ...and a lovely cupboard...
 Then off to the booth of Mr. Morsbach to get some Damascus for Martin. Now Mr. Morsbach always is good for something special. Here he shows his newest creation, a small folding knife from 1.4125 steel that will also be available in D2 soon.
The blade is ground to zero with a hollow grind. Mr. Morsbach (www.katzek55k.de) is one of the last qualified grinders in Solingen, and it shows. Apart from this, he also is a knife-nut always open for something new. I have a deep respect for him and the things he does, and have learned a lot from him.

Then all of a sudden all was over, and we were heading home with hearts full of pleasure and a truckload of goodies in our pack, and looking forward to 2017!

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