Mittwoch, 17. Mai 2017

A much-needed solitary ride through the highlands

I had quite a stressy time again. At work and at the ironforge were a lot of things that - while not all being bad - required a lot of time and energy. So, what to do? I am so glad I cannot even begin to tell that I have managed to get on my bike again in cases like this, for I had lost the need a bit, or better, the impetus to fulfil it. So, off into the woods, following the lane out into some real hills. To the real foothills of the Sauerland I rode, and when I got there, I followed a trail just for the adventure of it. I had not ridden it before-or so I thought. It was granny gear from the beginning on, and huffing and puffing at that, and the hill got steeper still, and more technical, with roots and rocks and sticks and stone, and it seemed to go on forever. Maybe you know the likes: A trail that it so demanding and challenging that you at the same time beg for the ordeal to end as well as wishing it will go on forever. For in your exhaustion you can sense something that is lost to mankind these days. A honest sweat, but that´s not all of it. It is like to a battle with sword and shield (and trust me, I know how that feels, too), but out of your free will. You COULD give in to your exhaustion. But you don´t. You move the pedals, and each revolution is an ordeal, and a victory.
The forests all the while were radiant with the light of a sunny spring day, full of scents of herbs and flowers, and I took it in with every heavy breath. My heart was pounding in my chest. In moments like these I feel that it´s not that healthy anymore... but then in moments like these there is an extreme amount of work that my poor heart has to do... and pardon my praising myself when I say that that uphill was not for everyone... so I was quite content with my body even working the way it did. I know people half my age that are well-trained that would not even consider riding up monsters like this... ;-) It´s not that I want to say that I am any better than them. But maybe there is a different mindset involved. I tend to welcome challenges like this more than I´d put emphasis on the ordeal and I remember that I braved difficult situations before. This in turn helps me to stay positive in a life that´s not exactly easy at times. If I rode up trails like this (and worse) or down trails like Dalco (which was a right nightmare to ride with a bike from 1994), then I´ll be able to withstand what life throws into my face. Even more so, the so-called "normal" people who insist on me changing my life according to their design would not even dare to put themselves in situations like this. Those who tell us they live according to the "ad baculum" canon, are not necessarily the strongest. Might may make right, but there is a limit to what "they" (also read: us) can control. The birds were still singing wildly. The sun was still shining, and still I ride up hills for the fun of it. 
What for, do you ask, and you do righteously ask. Why even bother? Why put energy into fighting gravity? What will be the outcome?
I should say this picture answers best your question. For the sake of the feeling when you round that bend and look into a tiny dale where time seems to stand still. When the incline stops or gets less extreme and you feel the wind in your helmet. When you come to a crossing and find flowers, lovingly set into a surrounding stone wall, not even on the property, but just for the sake of beauty...

And then you look back, and you grin at the ordeal and rejoice in the fact that you did it.

No, you will not gain riches by fighting up that hill. All you might gain is a bit like the proverbial fairy gold. You cannot buy anything by it, but light on the leaves will pay off far more. It´s just the same with scenic vistas. It is a bit difficult to comprehend, and you can just get the gist if you exclude something: You are not capable of seeing scenic vistas without an uphill. There´s no easy way. ;-)

Over these old hills, over the ridge I rolled with a smile.
Oh, and there´s the big picture...
But also a small flower by the roadside...
Rolling on, with hill and dale, I went on my merry way, on and on.
Then, trails again, into a nature preservation site.

There was an education site for kids by the trail.

I really loved this wood spirit standing guard at the trailhead.


..and the carving of the owl.

Yeah, that is the reason I love these rides. I love my bike for it provides me with an ability to see places like this. For the flow of flying down technical trails, for the vistas and the things that I see.
For small trails through the thicket...
And the shortcuts to places far off that are not that far off when your imagination is not far off. The chimney in the distance is a power plant site near Werdohl.

Trail followed trail and technical chutes changed to gentle slopes, steep and brutal inclines changed with gentle rolling, flowing fireroads.
I rode a secret trail through the thicket I had not ridden for ages...
...and there, on the top of things, I had a sit down...
...and a cuppa tree;-).

Then I was on my way down the valley on a very challenging and seldom ridden trail...

It was a very long ride, but it went all too soon.

Donnerstag, 11. Mai 2017

New backwoods utility knife on the bench

 This is a project I am currently pursuing along the lines of the making of the short sword, and it may as well be a byknife to the big one, along with other tools... German hunting swords often had a set of tools to go along with them, such as a saw, an awl, strikers and several knives.
 The blade is forged out 98%, extremely throroughly annealed and deep - frozen spring steel with a selective triple quench. The handle will be Sambar stag.
We´ll see how it goes... in any case, I threaten to keep you posted.

On the bench: "Grosses Messer" hanger short sword

This is currently a project that takes up a lot of energy, not necessarily in forging, but in research and creativity. I did quite a lot of research on this type of short sword, which was in use from the high medieval ages (13th century) to early modern times and which was argueably the predecessor of European hunting swords and sabers alike. Especially the "Wehrnagel", a kind of horizontal additional crosspiece which served a double duty in fixing the crossguard (not yet made on this project) might be the feature that eventually evolved into a hilt basket. The blade is some 40 cm long and has a taper from 8-4 mm to date. When nearing the final grind (which I will do after tempering), the taper will be even more severe. This is found on some originals. Lacking a fuller, the blades in question relied on the taper to achieve a better balance. I am currently thinking hard about whether I should fit a kind of pommel to it. Originals often had a pommel to achieve the balance, but fact is, even now I have taken too many liberties for it to be anything other than a creative interpretation of the style of sword. It is a way for me to learn how to temper and achieve the correct physical dynamics of a sword.
A lot of people ask me these days why I need "another knife". So I want to tell you some more thoughts on my motivation. I am a bladesmith, and I would professionalize would there be any chance for me to even earn a modest living from it. The first documented ancestor of my father´s family lived in the 16th century and worked as a bladesmith and armourer, and from that time on I come from a family lineage of blade- and weaponsmiths from my father´s side. There´s also some nobility in it, especially from my mother´s side, dating back to early Prussian tribe nobility, back to the age of chivalry and even  earlier. I like to think that the "Gods with the amber crowns" still had a part in the life of the earliest ancestors of my family.
But the "symbol of our time no longer is the sword; it´s the tank and the whip" (Ernst Wiechert)... and the credit card, one might add. And the most people uttering doubts about my motivation forgings knives and swords are Mammonists. They do not pray to any God but almighty Mammon-Baal. And they are very afraid that they might lose their hoard, so much in fact, that they distrust everyone. It is in our culture. Moral integrity is scarce in most people´s background. Law is the one thing keeping them from running wild in greed and lust and hate, and they cannot accept that someone lives according to a moral codex that is far more strict than their judicial system can ever be. I am not of nobility, of course not. But I have a moral codex I try to live up to that is strict and unforgiving. A sword not only is a weapon for lunatics running amok with it. In fact, this is the abuse of a symbol that carries far more meaning than just the killing properties of the edge. Owning a sword, even just holding it in hand, can be enlightening in that. It is useless to tell what you might or might not feel when holding a sword of the correct physical layout, but in any case there is a huge responsibility involved. It might be obvious that you´d better not use it, but there is more. If you ever get the chance to hold a real sword, not a wall hanger,  I strongly suggest you seize it. Then you might be able to actually feel why anyone owning a sword WILL live to a strict moral codex, provided she or he is not a lunatic. It is not that anyone asks you to. It just happens. If you carry your sword around or not does not even matter. If you own a sword and know how to use it (which means you had a professional and experienced adviser, a master even), it will happen, if you want it or not. Your mind will change.
We need less tanks and credit cards.
Ever since I made my first attempt at making swords, I realized it did something to me. It had nothing to do with the actual weapon. And it did nothing to change my mind on being a pacifist. In fact, ever since I handled my first sword, I became even more of a pacifist. It is the sword that taught me that there is no option once violence has started, and to use my brain more than my fists. If you whack someone in the face, might be you break his nose. If you smite someone with a sword, you WILL lop off limbs. Anyone who´s not insane that way will not want that. So you have a sword and live along the warrior´s way of doing things, and you are not insane. So you have to develop a steely resolve to constantly question your actions and your self-control. You realize that every action is the seed of consequences, some of them very grave. It simply will not do to put a taboo on violence. You have to realize it is in every one of us, including me, including you. And then, out of your rational evaluation, obstain from it. Not the other way round.
A sword was the weapon of chivalry. It was to protect the weak against the enemies of God and the forces of evil. I pre-Christian Greek culture there was a name for a special type of sword, xiphos, meaning, piercing light, which metaphorically also stood for analytical evaluation and intellectual capabilities. The Chinese Gim was a poet´s sword or rapier, and bore a strong symbolic connection to the poet´s calligraphical  brush.
Anthropomorphical Celtic sword finds are presumed to come from a Druidic background, maybe serving a mythological or sacrificial purpose. All of these examples hint of a strong sociological function. Now, you ask, is that not a sign of a very violent layout of society in these times? Now. I ask, is not putting a taboo on cutting edge weapons for most of the populace while on the same scale developing weapons of mass destruction like nuclear missiles (and, by the way, acting so carelessly around them that whole islands were bombed to oblivion just in order to see what happened), far more violent? Also, one can postulate that in ancient times, everyone who owned a sword was trained in its use. Imagine starting a pub riot on a martial arts convention to get the idea. Fancy the idea? No? So you better be polite, which, by the way, is the reason politeness and respect are an integral part of any martial arts training even nowadays.
Making a sword, is even more of a difficult matter. It is a matter of respect, and I am not talking about wall hangers. Of course, swordsmiths tend to have a very special kind of humour. But I have yet to meet one of them (accomplished or at least dedicated one, that is), that is not polite and respectful to anyone but the most moron customers. To make a real sword puts you in line with the masters of old. Even if it most certainly will spend its entire life sitting in a box, it should be made as if the future owner´s life would depend upon it, and with the very personality of the owner flowing into the process, for it should not only be an elongation of his or her arm, but an elongation of her or his soul, nothing less.
This Grosse Messer is for me. It is a mere practice piece, but I am taking my time. I like this style of sword, because it was a tool at first, and most certainly served a double purpose. The Kriegsmesser was a weapon of warfare, but the shorter "Bauernwehr" or "Grosse Messer" originally was a farmer´s tool and weapon.
I forged it from repurposed train wagon leaf spring steel, which was leftover from the forging of a claymore that I forged with a clan of drunken Scotsmen ;-). 
The crosspiece is made from a lump of rotten wrought iron I found submerged in the surface of a local trail. Holes are all hot - punched and chiselled. I think, I will drill the hole for the Wehrnagel, though, for the wrought iron did not take too well to the punishment.
I had to weld it back on several times to even get it that far. But as is, the cracks will not hinder the performance much, and are not going that deep, so I guess I will leave it that way.

Anyway, the project is something that keeps my mind racing these days. No, I do not need to make another sword. But I NEED to make another sword. You might be able to make out the tiny difference.

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