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Donnerstag, 16. März 2017

Proven by time-three bushcraft designs

 These are three knives that have thoroughly earned their merits. I made two of them very long ago and one quite a long time ago. All three have seen some severe amount of abuse, prying, hacking, slicing, cutting, batoning, scraping off putty from windowpanes, cutting plasterboard, levering up doors, even splitting coconuts. All three came out begging for more. All three have something in common: A steel that any modern-day knifemaker would sneer at.
 Spring steel. Crap. Junk. A carbon content of about 0,55-0,75%. No fancy Niobium or Unobtanium alloy. No Damascus, no Wootz.

I love the latter, and we will see that there are knives out of these varieties that also deserve a place, but what does not cease to astound me is how well this material copes with everything you can throw at it.

All three of them have taught me a lot about blade and especially edge geometry, balance and overall layout. Above is the first prototype of my Fimbulmuk design. While not that able a woodworker, it excels in skinning and food prep tasks or even snacking. The two below are just about my favourite bushcraft knives. Both of them I use for all the hard work in the woods and the smithy. The one in the middle is the most able carving knife and best suited for woodworking while not compromising other applications.
The last one is sort of a compromise between the two above. Following the lines of a traditional hunting knife, it provides good woodworking capabilities, albeit not as good as the one with the birch burr handle, but also excels in food prepping and other applications.

I asked myself, why this might be the case?

Now look at the edge lines. The Fimbulmuk´s is by intention quite offset. The last one has an offset, too, but the butt of the handle is more in line with the tip. The resulting balance axis therefore is more of a parallel line to the ground, while the Fimbulmuk´s is more sloped. Even more extreme is the one on the knife with the birchwood handle. By the way, for both the Fimbulmuk as well as the one in the middle (which, by the way was inspired by Ilkka Seikku´s excellent bush prowler knife: http://rautasarvi.blogspot.de/2014/01/bushprowler-by-ilkka-seikku-bushprowler.html), I used a whiplash line scheme for construction. This knife has a very even balance axis. Balance point on all of the three knives is on the index finger. Most dexterous is the one in the middle. This is due to a balance axis/edge line that is not offset and lies directly in line with the handle. There are advantages and disadvantages to this design, but for the most part, this is my favourite. Most of the work I do is woodworking anyway.

But all of these knives will remain faithful companions to my working life in the woods!

A spring snuffkin hardcore foraging ride-and ranting about society


The sun came visiting through my window, and tickled my nose. And I took my bike and got outside. The snowdrop was blossoming in fields before my door, and there was this scent in the air. The air, while still fresh, had that feeling to it that is that hard to describe. 

 Spotted dead-nettle already there.


 Hazel bloom...
 Crocus...
 And the bees, these little and labourous helpers of our ecosystem, without whom the world would be a dead planet, were swarming. Sorry for the out-of-focus pic, but the little fellow refused to sit still;-)...


 Lung wort. Got myself some for bannock spicing...
 Stinging nettle... got some for tea, spice and spinach substitute and for stew and soup.
 Also coughwort (tussilago farfara, in German: Huflattich), as spice and against bronchial diseases.
 Beautiful like the beaming sun it blossoms...
 Up I rode, and the trail I was on is a well-known one for over 20 years of hard riding. Time was when I trained for my first downhill race (Kaprun world cup qualification run 1992) on it. I have ridden up it on my way back from school, with friends and solitarily, ever more so in fact in these days. The friends I had seem to be all gone, dead, off to pursue the rat race alone or curling up in a corner or whatever. It was a strange feeling riding there. The trail is not changed that much. I am.

...or maybe not. I ride several gears lower up it. I am a bit more ravaged, beaten and battered, just like my bike, but still I am there, riding the same trail I rode 25 years ago, and the grin on my face is just about the same. It is not that I am not changed. It is not that I have no scars, in my heart and soul and quite certainly, on my body. But there I was, riding up this very same trail.

 It felt good.
 Then I was off to business, i.e. getting myself some birch sap. I brought a drill winch, a big drill bit, a piece of hardwood that I prepared as a tap, a length of garden hosing and two coke bottles.
 In the trees there were two raven croaking. The sun was shining vibrantly.
 The grove lay peacefully calm...
 ...but a bird of prey, presumeably a buzzard, was circling above, crying its eerie cries on the hunt for prey.
 This is one way of tapping a birch.
 And this is another, more simple one.
 I had a sitdown and a cuppa tea while waiting for the vessels to fill up with the sap.
 Little fellow out in the woods... ;-)
 I also made a tap on site, which made it more efficient to get the sap flowing.
 Please take note: If you tap a birch, please use one that is at least 30 cm in diameter. Take just 5l at a maximum, and seal the holes you made with a plug of green birchwood. The ones in the pic are made from maple, because I also tapped a maple tree.
 One bottle of spring.
 Then I saddled my steed again....
 And rode down this not exactly ungnarly trail. Now this is another trail that has eaten my flesh and drunk my blood for some 30 years now. It has evolved into a really technical chute. Makes me make up for my midlife crisis that I still ride it and even faster than I did when it was smoother.
 
Down to the lake I rode with a huge grin, the lake where I grew up and lived through the happy days of my life.
 

When I think of these days I sometimes cannot but think it was all a fairy tale. Like it was something that happened in a story book. When we were driven out of our home, I suffered from a culture shock. Here, I knew everything that was of importance. I could work all day in the garden, I could plow a field with just a hoe, I could fetch whole tree trunks from the woods alone for coaling. I coaled my own smithing coal, I made tar and pitch from fir and birch, I foraged for herbs and mushrooms. I was nimble and fast and subtle. When the police was looking for someone, I was the one guiding them. I forged my own tools, I built my own furniture and had just started to experiment with textile work. Of course, I knew what I needed to know about the "world outside", but most of the trials and tribulations of the outside world were a laughing matter to us, for we had far more concrete problems. My father being a deputy police officer, I shot my first gun at the age of seven (and never liked it). As I said, I never liked firearms and still do not, but it was not an option not to train how to use it. On the other hand, I got one of the rare really hard whackings in the face when I pointed my toy gun my father had made from wood and a copper tube at a passers-by and my father saw it. I got such a cuff I sat down in the dirt! I used a chainsaw first at the age of ten, and an axe at the age of seven. Life was not exactly easy, but it made perfect sense. And I knew the tricks and hacks of it.

Now the old house is crumbling, because the corporation that owns it needed to write off miscellaneous losses to compensate for aid money they made less of an optimal use of. And I have an office job myself, underpaid of course, because I am not qualified enough, and lying and betraying others is so commonplace that it is not even questionable. I have to dress in funny attires that both tie you down like a webbing load restraint assembly while providing the least possible amount of weather protection. I am developing funny ideas of what I really need (or want), and the cyborgs and internet zombies around me try to convince myself and themselves that all this ridiculous endeavour is natural. But even if it sometimes feels as if another person had lived through the time at the lake, it still belongs to me, and always will. This enables me to stand up and walk away from the crippled souls. To breathe real air, even if it´s in a dream.

And the soul cripples hate me for it. They always have done. And they have always tried to break me, from the Kindergarten (yup, I WAS a weird kid), to primary and secondary school (yup, I was weird, I was the one riding 30 km to school and back in a snowstorm to sit and listen to the crap some cheesy-faced starveling economy teacher coughed up). Fellow pupils, teachers, preachers and whoever, masters and clerks and bosses have tried to break me. They tried. But there I am, riding the very same trail with the very same grin, with a love for the place that is even vaster and deeper. But there I am, still foraging for part of my food and feasting on the virile sap from the paps of mother nature. Yeah, they will hate me forever, because I am the one able to walk away, at least in a dream, and they cannot, because they sold out to the big deceiver, the grey god. I do not hate them, for they had not the alternative that I had. I try to heal wherever I can. But I cannot understand them, and they cannot understand me. I cannot understand, what is going on in this world. To me, it is lunacy, even rabies. But it is not relevant, out there.   






The woods brim with colours after a winter of hardships, and hope is born anew, even when there is no hope in man´s company. There are kids killing children (http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/herne-neunjaehriger-junge-umgebracht-taeter-auf-der-flucht-a-1137584.html) just because they want to, and, when asked, just shrug and tell their judges they did not feel too bad about that. There seem to be no consequences. Out here, there are.

The consequences are grave. Make a mistake, pay for it, and dearly. And it´s not that someone comes to punish you. Ride down that trail, sail over the bars, fall deep, die. It´s just that you messed up, did wrong, and the results will catch up to you. If you sow, you will get your victualies, if you work, you can reap the fruits of your labour-or maybe not, then you have to work out an alternative. But you will get a very direct response to all of your behaviour. This is, by the way, the reason I suppose things like bushcraft and survival, traditional crafts and extreme sports are booming that way they do at the moment. For in these sports and endeavours you can still get what is lost in the everyday madness that is called modern society. And while we have to keep in mind these are surrogate activities, this is not necessarily bad. It is a matter of measure in my book. For instance, if you have your riding technique wired, you can ride trails like these. If you can ride trails like these, they can take you places. Remote places, for instance, where you can tap a birch and get home with some delicious beverage way better than any soft drink. The other hand is that you can get lost in the process. It is fun to air out and do stunts, and I love to do so. But man´s society tends to make a business out of that. Look at events like the Rampage (https://www.redbull.tv/live/AP-1M77N5KZ92111/red-bull-rampage) to get a gist.

Now all´s fine if a rider likes doing backflips over 73-foot canyon gaps and loves what he does, but I strongly suppose it´s more because he has to eat something and pay for his huge pickup and the 10 bikes in his garage (or get someone to pay for´t) than for the love of it. This rider fulfils a simple business marketing task. When he does backflips over 73-foot canyon gaps and drinks a soft drink afterwards, people buy soft drinks because they can feel as mad as he is. Talking to a former acquaintance of mine at the marketing of a big soft drink and media corporation on that guy doing a free fall parachute jump from the orbit, her saying was: "Yeah, even if he had died, the marketing effect would be so great that the cost would be justified". Wait, what did that cost? A million? Consequentially, the marketing corporation was even fond of the possibility of the guy smashing himself to pulp on a rock, because that meant an even bigger marketing return. Back to consequences. The "normal" cyber kid sipping his or her energy drink watches that stunt on the internet and sees that there are no consequences other than a "high five". That the freeride biker and the parachute guy are highly focused and extremely dedicated athletes escapes his or her attention, since its  (intended wrong use of pronoun) attention span is lower than that of a goldfish anyway. So what remains is a kid just so being able of balancing on a bike throwing "it"self down a violent chute and stacking up big time. We all hope all is good and he or she recovers from the stack-up well. If there is someone tutoring her or him, even better. Parents were the ones doing so in those fairy tale days... now teachers shall take this part. Mkay... that makes sense to me... NOT.

What adds to the equation is that a human life (and that of an animal) is not worth a fart in this world. Money and attention is all what counts, adding up to the lunatic layout of society. No, I am not a communist, in case you ask. In order to achieve money and attention, kids are trained "to use their elbows" aggressively. Violence, however, is despised and put under taboo. Now it´s in the very nature of kids that they need someone to look up to. This one should be of some integrity, but is not. So they distrust everything. They do not experience consequences or even sequels or something of logical order. Thusly, even the taboo on violence becomes a point of discussion. And why, they think, should they listen? They have to act aggressively in order to get attention and/or money. Why not kill? It seems to them to be the most effective way of getting rid of their competitors, and to be quite honest, in the animal world this is often the case.

But man is the most dangerous animal on earth, a natural catastrophe to say the least. Only social restraints keep us from wreaking havoc upon everything. And of these the most effective are the tight girdles we put upon ourselves. Oh, yes, I own a lot of knives and could forge a sword for myself that would be very effective. And I know how to use all of this, from firearms to bow and arrow, to a sword and knives down to my fists and feet, head and elbow and even rump. The culprit is, that I would not do harm to anyone. There was one occasion where I was beaten up with a knife on my belt, and I just defended myself against permanent bodily damage, because I did not want to hurt the guy doing this to me irreversibly. Because I knew I did not want to bear the consequences. You need to train yourself in a non-violent mindset. Each and every day you have to work on it. It is hard work, but well worth the bothering. For it adds quality to one´s life. That does not mean anyone could act the asshole with me. To set borders straight with stern consequence is a part of this. In effect, not ending up in a riot every time someone makes fun of your nose, makes for less stress. That kid who killed the nine-year old would have been far better off obstaining from it. And even if he acts cool around the press, trust me, I cannot quite believe someone can stay that stone-cold when entire Ruhr region chapters of Hell´s Angels and Bandidos agree to unite to hunt him down. He could have spared himself all the fuss if he did not do the shite he did. Of course he is rabid, and one might argue that you just shoot a rabid fox in the head to prevent the disease from spreading. But then rabies is a way of life nowadays. And here the dilemma shows best, because we are moving in circles.

I do not like running in circles. I never belonged at all into these vicious cycles of want and have-tos, and a long period of my life I lived a storybook. I experienced an alternative. And the alternative is simple. It lies in nature, in a honest sweat, in believing into things and trusting, in developing oneself and adapting to problems. It lies in winter, spring, summer and autumn, in the passing of the years, in good food and drink and in making good things. In being subtle, and moving swiftly and gracefully, weaving through the thicket. In becoming of age, and not so nimble anymore. In love and loss, in pain and joy. I don´t know if that sounds a bit esoteric to you, and I don´t know if that makes sense. In fact, I don´t like the "get a job, asshole"-phrase much, but in another translation this is what I mean: "Try to do something useful and prosperous-for you and your loved ones. Get to know what and who is around you. Try not to be an asshole. What goes round, comes around. Do unto others as you wish to be treated yourself. Do what you want but don´t work harm for anyone", and so forth. Not coincidentally there are quite a few of the Hermetic principles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kybalion) involved-because they work for me.

But all of this is just gibberish. Each and every one of us has to work. Hard. To become a part of the world again. Society is becoming a bedlam. And please take note that I do not buy into all of these conspiracy theories. Oh, yup, there might be a world conspiracy going on, or maybe not. But if anyone feels the need to conspire, this is a sign of lunacy in my book, so this would be a poor fellow, too, even if he or she does grave harm to human society.
 



 But the holly could not care less.






....and the wood...
 
...grows in patterns...
 
...as it has always done. 

German hunting knife on the bench

Currently in the making: My interpretation of an all -time favourite of mine, the famed German Jagdnicker hunting knife. Made from an old lathe chisel fragment I found in the woods, 97x6mm long and thick. Selectively tempered. High convex bevel to zero. The handle is Sambar stag I got from Hubertus corporation, Solingen www.hubertus-solingen.de . The Ritter family is a good acquaintance of mine and also hold up the flag of this traditional knife design. Sambar stag is very rare because the only stuff you can get is from historical Solingen storage contingents. It´s lovely because it has next to no marrow and has a wonderful colour. The tang does not reach all the way through the handle, but it is some hefty 9mm rectangular at the base and fades to 6mm towards the end. Since Sambar stag has next to no marrow and the epoxy is as strong as it is, there should not be any problem even when submitting the knife to abuse.
I carved this owl wood spirit into the integral bolster.... hope the idea shows... ;-)
Bit of filework on the spine...
and in riverso. The blade takes a polish quite well and seems to be stainless. It´s not taking as good an edge as the Wootz blades, but is still hairsplitting sharp ;-). It´s also very ductile in the edge. I slammed it into an iron rod with but minor dents that could be removed with a strop. Do I like it? ;-)

WAAAAY! ;-)

I am currently contemplating what precious stone or mojo to glue into the butt of the handle, and then it´s off for a sheath.

Cheese Bannock with wild herbs, olives, carrots and potatoes



Yet another bannock recipe... I really like Bannock, because it´s just so versatile... and the cost for this delicious dish is under 1 €, it is nourishing and does you good.

I took:

7 tablespoons wheat flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon curcuma
1 teaspoon jeera
1 teaspoon fenugreek
1 handful nettle seeds
1 tablespoon lesser celandine, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lungwort
a slice of Gouda, one finger thick, finely rasped
two slices of gouda, ca. 1 cm thick per cake
1 teaspoon pepper
1 handful of green olives, finely chopped
2 medium-sized peeled raw potatoes, finely rasped
1 small onion, finely rasped
1 piece of garlic, finely rasped,
1 big carrot, peeled and finely rasped
Water
salt to your liking
Sunflower oil for frying

Mix flour, soda, potatoes, carrot, onion, olives, garlic and rasped Gouda with the spices and herbs. Season with salt to your liking. Mix with water until you have a thick, but even dough. In the meantime, heat an iron pan. Add oil generously, until sizzling hot. With a spoon make cakes and fry swimming in oil at medium temperature from one side. While doing so, add the gouda slices and smear uncooked dough over them until covered. Turn the cake and fry the other side, too, until golden brown.

Enjoy!

You can also prepare them and just warm them by the fireside.

Donnerstag, 9. März 2017

From the flames a raven

 



 ...is born.
 A Celto-Dacian sickle loosely inspired by a find in Varna (after Georgieva 1992)
Made from some crucible steel I found in the woods, I just forged it out because I wanted a sickle for harvesting herbs and because I wanted to know how versatile the design would be. In China sickles are used for just about everything from harvesting to shaving. Viktor, the Kazakhian senior blacksmith in the Bethaus smithy, also used a sickle for woodworking, harvesting, mushroom hunting and much more than I´d care to mention. Likewise I would think of a use of these  historical knives. For iron, and steel, were precious, and the tools at hand were put up to multiple uses to save resources. When you look at the original, you can see that it has a relatively short tang, which looks like a full tang. Since the blade is some 10 cm long and the handle just some 5-8cm it can be argued that this is the case either to save steel or because there was some law to be abided by. I could not find anything about this. What is safe to say, however, that this sickle type was a variant of the famed sica of Dacian provenience.

The sica gained fame as an everyday tool as well as the weapon of choice of back-alley cut-throats. Also, there are implications that smaller versions were used as kitchen knives in the Roman empire. This would not have been the case if those blade shapes, albeit with a more pronounced tip, were not practical. With ùlenklawe,
 
I found out that it gives you an almost frightening amount of purchase when cutting and slashing while still providing the possibility to do precise cutting such as dicing onions and stuff. It cuts 1.5 cm branches in one go! It was modelled after the knife in the picture second from below:
 
Roman soldiers carried varies types of knives.:
(source: archive.worldhistoria.com)
 
I am thinking about making a more accurate reconstruction of the sica found at Varna, but for starters, I look forward to just testing the general cutting capabilities of the knife I just made.
 
In any case, I fear you have not read the last of this style of knife... ;-)

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