Dienstag, 25. Juni 2019

From the flames a beast is born-Seax collaboration

I feel very privileged to have made the acquaintance of Ambar Bahadur Bishwokama, a very accomplished swordsmith and knifemaker from Kathmandu and owner of KC Nepal (https://nepalkhukurihouse.com/). It´s obviously that I have developed a fascination with Nepalese cutlery and with the hard-working craftsmen who are able to create beautiful knives with next to no equipment. This is an inspiration to me, and this is what "Tribal Knifemaking" as we Westerners call it out of a grave misunderstanding, is all about. We tend to see this as romantic, but it is not. It is the way these guys make a living. And in my opinion, they can be very proud. It is not about the fancy tools, it is in the skills that make the knife.

Coincidentally, I also feel very privileged to have made the acquaintance of some Ms. Janet Fischer ;-), owner of www.nordisches-handwerk.de, retailer of fine Scandinavian and bushcraft knifes, materials and fine art in Germany, and chance is, they had a design for a seax lying about don´t doing anything. Some PMs on facebook later and we had a collaboration going, not always easy, but a communication no less (message included for a mad world). In fact, Ambar went outright enthusiastic about the knife and forged away in no time. 

The knives are made from high-carbon spring steel. And next time you whine about not having the equipment to start making knives or tools better shut up- this is how they do it the traditional way. Those are exactly the same tools common in Europe in the viking age. So, while the design of the knife might not exactly be period, the manufacturing process is actually nearly the same as they might have done it in the viking age.

Safety boots? Quit whining! Roughing out the tang... fullering tool? What you need is a hammer and tongs-and skill.

The handle roughly hewn...

...would not stay that way for long!

The finshed product surely does not fill the bill of some showcase viking, and of course it would not do for museum reenactors. Taking some liberties, you could see it as similar to some Anglo-Saxon types (See: Wheeler Seax typology) Image result for Wheeler Seax typology

But keep one thing in mind: In general, you can get a lot of knives for reenactment camp chores. And a lot of them are crap. I am meaning no offence, but there are a lot of smiths on reenactment frairs around thes parts who are better at drinking than at smithing, so to say. This knife is made like a Khukuri and quenched in the same manner. I hope to be able to provide you with a video of a brutal test soon. As far as I can say for now, I am very intrigued by the knife and that does not happen easily! 

You can get them soon from www.nordisches-handwerk.de in the shop or you can write them an Email at kontakt [ätt) nordisches minus handwerk dot de. 

Mittwoch, 6. Februar 2019

Developing a fascination with KC Nepal Khukuris

Now there are a load of Khuk´s around on the market. Some are decent, some are of subterranean quality, so to say. And some are legendary, and some deserve to be. In my humble opinion, the folks at the tiny Kathmandu smithy KC Nepal qualify. Talk is cheap.



And find their website here: www.nepalkhukuri.com

Also take note that I am not getting paid to say this, even if some of you may sense a bit of fish odour ;-). But these folks do it with a passion. They burn for what they do, they work hard, under circumstances most European smiths would mock at. People make fun of me because I use salvaged spring steel and other materials and not some heebie-jeebie-goobalahbah unobtanium steels, and they mock at me for using my hammer, my tongs and not much more, they laugh at me because I do not have hundreds and thousands of money to spend on tempering ovens and wuptity controllers ;-).

Fact is, it´s true. I don´t have the money, of course. But that is not all there is. It does not matter. If you don´t understand the passion, the fire and the fierce desire to always get better, you will not understand. I am fascinated by these guys, not because they are the "significant other". Not even by the quality of their knives, nor the bargain prices they offer. Even if I have little money, I would pay more for their work.

I am just a mere hobbyist, an amateur. But these guys do this shit for a living... and still yet, they burn with a fierce passion for their work. Even if I work with simple tools... I cannot even compare to them. It is not in the equipment, it´s in the mastery of the equipment you have.

Those who know me and have followed my blog know that I don´t just do "Tribal knifemaking" as a mere fashion fad (oh, yes, there ARE people around like that), but had the privilege to have had, one must sadly say, several "true" "tribal" knifemakers (they would whack me if they knew I called them thus) as tutors, the late Mielenko Bednarcz from St. Petersburg and Viktor Paukow, a smith from Kazakhstan, who was a tutor of mine from 2004 until 2014, both of which taught me a lot with sparse words, some brawls, a bit of Vodka and a lot of making me watch in awe.It was definitely no formal training I received. What they taught me, first and foremostly, is respect. 

And thusly, it is not that I would not, with a bit of time and preparation, be able to make a knife that would do similar things. It is not that it is about the "product". It is a matter of respect and modesty.

I don´t like the words, but for me it is part of Bushido. I don´t like the words, because they seem not to apply. Maybe you can see it that way: We live on a planet, and there are several different kinds of human beings on it. Some do what they want, some do what they can, and some do what they must, some do whichever is force-fed to them. 

I do not want to define them, because, even if I have the privilege to call Ambar a friend, even though we have never met in actual and most likely never will, which tells a story in itself, I know that we might have many similarities, but that there are differences, too. But this is exactly the point.

Sometimes I feel a bit ashamed of my fellow Westerners. I mean, while of course there are loads of guys and gals doing a really, really great job with so-called "modern equipment", most of the blades they produce go to fatcat, overweight nocturnal predators who would rather cut their own head off with a knife than peeling an onion. A knife somehow has become sort of a fetish, to be polished and admired, but not for actual use, for the rich. And then there are some of those knifemakers, mostly amateurs like me, who as I said sneer at a lack of equipment.

Try this, BSTDs... I doubt most of them would be capable to make a knife like this with modern equipment, let alone with the traditional setup. Don´t get me wrong... there is nothing romantic about forging that way. It´s back-breaking labour.

I know how it is to forge that way. I know how a herniated vertebral disc feels like. Tried that, tickles.

And this is why this will not be the last you have read about KC on my blog. Because they make excellent knives. Because they burn with passion for what they do. And because they fucking deserve it! 

Donnerstag, 24. Januar 2019

A frosty ride and a final farewell

 Frost covered the hills. I had a day off, and I was reluctant to leave my bundle of rags aka bed, but there was that nagging at the back of my head. I had been sick for a long time, and my bike again stood neglected in my doorway. And I thought to myself, okay, you have to ride... go out, and train, it will do you good, or it will do you no good, but you should ride no less, because life sucks anyway. Why not do something that does not suck? Then my mind went going wild with ambitious plans, doing a singletrail epic and stuff, and then closing down like "it´s too late already, pour yourself another tea and read a book, it makes no sense at all, stay inside, why bother". Maybe you know this line of argumentation. There is a crucial message in it, and I told my brain "f*** off. So no singletrail epic, but we are not in that training condition in the first, so what? So f***** what?. And before I knew it, I had made a flask of tea and packed a blanket and some food, put on some warm clothes and was off pedaling to the hills. And I was taking it real slow, feeling every week of the flu in my lungs... but the air was crisp and cold and it was like a white wine for me. I had to stop frequently, and took a small rest near a little creek, relishing in frost-flowers blossom.
 It is funny, but in winter the creek sings a different song, clearer and like little bells of crystal. Silence covered the woods, and I bathed in solitude.
 It was a bit as if these ice-crystal thorns kept out the feeble and meek... the few people I met were approximately decent... ;-)

It is no longer my favourite season, winter, that is, but there is no denying the fact that its alien beauty touches something inside my heart of hearts...

 Few singletrails, just some plain and ordinary fireroad cruising was what I did. Now you see a lot of radical stuff going on on youtube and facebook and instagram, and you might get the impression that most riders are from a different star altogether. And you meet them in the woods, with the latest enduro bike and helmet and dressed in the latest fashion, no matter how absurd it is to take a 300€ pyjama-style shirt into the woods, with a go-pro on their helmet looking like some alien snorkel protuding from their head. They have no time for greetings, and whizz by with a stern and business-like look on their face. They have no time to listen to a creek or watch a pair of raven fly. They need to best the next guy´s STRAVA time, and they do not have time for stuff like "skids are for kids". In a real race they would not gain a flower pot, but they feel like worldcup racers... and that technical singletrail takes too long, because the lines are blocked? Just remove the rocks from the line. Sanitize the woods!

So some of the technical trails, which, to be honest, have deteriorated much by the weather and have become more difficult to ride, are sanitized in a such a way that they are little better than fireroads.

If I, personally, have my doubts about whether it´s a good day for that off-camber, do-or-die trail, I have a simple solution.

Stick to the fireroads. Do not move rocks or "invent" new shortcuts that make you seem faster-on paper or instagram. It´s the woods, and they are in a balance. Instead, go to the forest bureau and offer your help in trailcare. That´s an altogether different matter. So, rant over and out. I am a chickenshit, and I know. I don´t jump on that radical bandwagon. And I don´t want to better than anyone. I want to be better than I was last season. That´s a difference. 

 That all said and done, I really enjoyed my bike. No, really, I did. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have it. I have ridden it hard for a good year now... and it comes begging for more. It takes me places, and even if it´s just some fireroad cruising, it is a vehicle for my soul. It´s not that easy to explain, but riding is some kind of meditation for me.
 The sun came out of the freezing mists, gilding the hills with warming colours...
 And while ice covered the puddles and ponds, riding was still easy and well enough.

 To the hills of my childhood and youth I came and relished in the rays of the cold winter sun and the reminiscence that radiated from every tree and every brush and every rock and root.

 Often I have sat upon that hilltop, alone and with friends. Often we had a beer after an epic ride and some cool outings, and we laughed, and we talked, and sometimes we just waited in silence until the stars came out. This time is irreversibly over now, some friends are dead, and most friends don´t care anymore... but the hills are there, as are the memories, and they are fond, and I am grateful to have them. And even if I now sit there alone, I also love that solitude.

 On I rode, and chance is, you know that place all too well, and chance is, you cannot bear it anymore, but it´s a place that matters a lot to me.

 And on the crags, beside the technical trail, I sat down...
 To have a cuppa tea, snug as a bug in my blanket.
 Despite the cold weather, there were a lot of bluetits flying about the birchwood grove.
 And I took some deep breaths, and half-closed my eyes, and let my mind drift here and there.
 Then something weird happened. I had drunk my tea, and mounted my bike, donned my gear and helmet, and, standing at the trailhead, I noticed something awkward: Fear. Don´t take me wrong, noone takes a trail like this lightly. And a certain amount of respect will save your life. But what happened was that this fear was of a different quality. It was sort of numbing, and it washed over me for no obvious reason. It was something dark and sublime. Now I have faced a lot of adversaries recently, and a lot of really unpleasant experiences over the years, and yup, I am no stranger to being depressed, as you might have noticed... ;-).

But then I have ridden down this trail for some 25 years now. I shredded down it, raced it with my buddies, I rode it in deep snow, in frost and blazing summer heat. And I politely asked this numbing fear to bugger off, and kicked my arse and dropped in. The fuckers that want to bring me down don´t know what it is that drives me... they cannot know me. And they would laugh their arse off if I would let some numbing fear spoil my trailriding. Not with uncle Fimbulmyrk... ;-)

This was a triumphant feeling. For the fun and the skill simply blasted that fear into oblivion.

 I will remember this experience, I will cherish it, and keep it in my heart for further use.

 Then I came down to the lake I grew up... and passed by the old house, where my childhood took place. It was an odd childhood, wild and adventurous and full of grave dangers and experiences. I come from an altogether different world, a worlsd where a word was a word, work was work and fun and games were fun and games, a knife was a valuable tool as well as axe and spade and shovel and gun. It was a youth of hard work and pride into being capable to do this hard work; of homegrown fruit and greens and good food and dirt and playing in the mud and building treehouses and even forts, some of which still stand to date. This house, however, will soon be gone forever. The corporation, BTW a branch of Vattenfall corporation currently ruining Swedish national resorts for to provide Germany with even more energy to put to waste, drove us out for reasons of accounting depreciation, then let it rot for twelve years. Now it will be ripe for the bulldozer, finally, and they will have their gain. But I know something they will never know. I own something they will never be able to take from me.

It is all those moments, all these times. And maybe I do not have direct access to them all anymore. But they are a part of my character, my personality. They make me blast my numbing fears away, and they will always give me strength.

Most people these days are literally weak of body and character. At this place I learned a lot that gave me strength, and I always wanted to share.  But they did not want it and haunted my days and nights instead with mobbing and bashing and shaming. I did not strike back, for you do not strike at the invalid or the weak.

But I also learned to be hunter and a warrior as well as a farmer there, if this pathetical speaking be allowed for once. I just cannot find any other words.
 So, farewell, my real and only home. They will destroy you, and the place will be void and empty. But they cannot take this, my true home, from my heart.
And, by taking the actual house from this place, they will just succeed to make my strength and my wildness even more unfathomable and indomitable.

Mittwoch, 23. Januar 2019

Thus spoke Hátislár- The Hátislar wars I

cover photo, Keine Fotobeschreibung verfügbar.

It has been told of the idle and cruel ways of the son of the ironforge, and horrifying as it is, this was not all there is to be told of Hátislár, the curse of the green valley, defiler of elves and man. It has been told of the fell deal and the ghastly bond he forged, and, as terrifying as it was, this is not all that has to be told of that fell creature. Lo and behold the becoming of the beast, the birth of the rotting one, the birth of him of the thousand curses, bane of the fair folk-and subject to their avenge! Learn, all ye sages, of the wars of Yore!

For it was thence that a jolly company came to the house near the swamp-ridden pond, ignorant of the things that dwelt beneath the oily swamp. And thusly they toiled and toiled but to no avail. And thusly they feasted and shared their portions with the fair folk as was their wont, but to no avail. For Hátislár the thrice - cursed smiled and wore a friendly mask; but in secret he sat beside the pond every new moon´s night and bemoaned the filth of his wounds, and he raved and howled like a madman, foaming with insanity. And at last, from the disgusting depths of the slimy pond, there rose a creature ancient and of shrewd wickedness, spawn of the maggot of primeval grey. Once it has been what the Dhiudha na n Iámparái called a *gra-atraul or grey-troll, but by wicked acts of magic the troll aquired a shape different to anything that dwelt on Aardeanna, the jewel-like. Now not all trolls are evil, and not all of them adept in a magic as black as this. The name for the troll-race was *Oreamm in the times of Yore, and while in the beginning, the fair folk fought a terrible war that devastated nearly all of the fruitful plains of the East, where lived many of the tribes of the fair folk, it was also the beginning of the history of man and the becoming of the clans of the Dhiudha na nDhuodhai. In the beginning, the *oreamm were fierce and brutal and were devouring their enemies, but then the Dhiudha na nDhuodhai are no stranger to bloodshed either. But the grey saw the trolls and deemed them a suitable host for its primeval Evil. But it rarely succeeded entirely, for most trolls just did not take to the Grey permanently due to their wild and unfathomable brutality and vitality. However, some did, and much Evil came into the world. Many an Evil giant roamed the wilderness, and they have been called a great many names. *gra-atraul they were called, *orc, *huné and *troll, *gra-oreamm, nightwalkers and nightstalkers. But this one was even more different. It is recorded by the lunatic sage that there are the "old ones" lurking in an abyss between the worlds, and while I personally am hard-pressed to believe this, there is no mistaking the fact that there lurked a creature in the swamp the like of which had not ever seen before, possessed of powers of magic and stealth and prowess unknown even to the fair ones. It is hard to describe how it looked like, because it was not of this world entirely, and few did live to tell the tale. Like the Dhuodhai it had become something different. But unlike to the path of the Dhuodhai, who in their despair walked a hard and stern path across the bridge of lunacy into the veil of being itself, this one troll was lured away from the small and silvery line, and by pain and greed fell prey to the old ones, sharing theit might.

This was the God Hátislár prayed to. This was the deal he had forged.

And there came a day when he could no longer wear the friendly mask and his idle and evil ways prevailed; thus the jolly company fled his estate in terror, besmirched by the filth of his greed and hate. And none of them would ever be the same again, and all joy befouled for them.

Again he put on the friendly mask and begged and lured a lady to his estate to take care of the ruins he had made; and at first she came to the smithy with joy and found the place agreeable and pleasing; for she saw how much good could come from the company she build with smiths and craftsmen and many a jester and many a bard. To the smithy they all came, and to honour the fair folk she carved stones with the spiral ornaments of life and set them on the site, into a garden. And the Dhiudha watched and hoped for a new time. They came and gave gifts, but avoided the black one like a pest. And Hátislár knew, for he still held council with the ancient thing in the deep. And Hátislár smiled and wore a friendly mask and gave a little with one hand, while greedily taking double with the other; and, in stealth, he used the fell magic he had acquired to stealthily drive a wedge of satire between the lady and her betrothed and lured him to drink and forgery, and he, being weak, lost what little monies the couple had in games and drink. Thus Hátislár found reason enough to destroy their efforts and drive them from his estate, relishing in his own shrewdness.

All the while he sat by the pond on each and every new moon´s night, wearing a wicked grin that looked as if it were hewn into his face with a blunt axe; and while he plotted and schemed, slowly his body changed. The change he did not notice at first, but the filth of the three wounds began to ooze, and a sweet, but ghastly stench hung about him... his countenance became crouched and crooked and he constantly wore a frowning and sardonic grin. Ever harder it became now to wear the friendly mask of a grandfatherly elderly man, but instead people began to shun him, and little children cried in his presence, and the dogs barked at him and cats would not go near him anymore. When once the place had been full of birdsong and the animals of the woods had come visiting in his father´s time, a big desolation besmirched the valley, and often there would be strange gusts of cold sweeping over his estate. Often did he now notice that saliva was running down his mouth, and his teeth started to look crooked and at strange angles. Hard lines dug into the skin of his face, not the honest wrinkles of mortal age, but the crevices of greed, hate and lust. And he thought in one bright moment if he might still be saved from the deal he himself had forged with the primeval evil, and he sent out invitations to a great feast.

Now there was a sage and knower of songs and tales, a poet of Ansrúth rank and honour whose retinue had deserted him. But as he walked the path of the Yldanach, he was apt in the craft of smithing and woodcarving too. A swordsmith and wordsmith he was and an adept in the magic ways of the woods, and a close friend of the Dhiudha and Dwarven tribes. This man came to the feast, and at once he noticed that this decaying place wanted to be free from something, but, being just a disciple himself, could not put the finger on the thing that was wrong.

And he came, and by his work and by his songs and tales acquired a new retinue; and again there was laughter and joy radiating in the place that knew but hate and greed and lust.

And Hátislár watched. And Hátislár envied. And Hátislár hated, and sent out waves of primeval hate and gathered all the scum he could find.

To be continued....

Montag, 14. Januar 2019

How it´s made-Khukhuri making at Nepal Khukuri corporation

Now those who know me know that I am really fond of the Khukuri knife variety. And now I had the privilege to get to know this guy on the web and exchange some really nice chats which gave me a lot of inside info on how it is REALLY done.
(source of all pictures and videos : Ambar Bahadur Bishwokarma KC Nepal)
Mr. Ambar Bahadur Bishwokarma works for the Nepal Khukuri corporation (www.nepalkhukuri.com) in Kathmandu producing awesome knives. The corporation is Nepali-owned and offers decent quality at awesome prices. Most of the time there are three smiths working in a team. 
 The blades are made from high-grade carbon steel (truck springs). The raw material is cut to pieces
 All of the work is made by hand, with very simple equipment, but a lot of skill. I cannot resist ranting about how it´s not the high-end equipment and heebie-jeebie goobalahbah steel that makes a decent knife, but the smith that knows his trade... and from what I can say, these are really highly-gifted guys doing a really great job!

 The rough shape is hammered out with a sledge-all done by hand, mind you!
The bevel and fullers are ground into the shape of the blade... no harm done, though. The blades are then normalized beside the fire.

The rough grind is ever more refined, all with the simplest of tools.

They also make more modern concepts, like this knife design intended as a hunting or tactical layout...
But this is where they really, really shine, in the truest sense of the word. These traditional designs are lovingly accomplished and come with a lovely lustre.
And, as a sneak peep I can show you these two models that will be available soon on their website:

The Khukuri is a knife that has always fascinated me for its history, its cultural aspects, its sleek and slender lines and, of course, its versatility and cutting prowess. One can easily say that if with an axe you´d be better off taking a saw when wanting to cut a branch of more than six cm diametre in thickness... with a decent Khuk´, you will need to think about hacking twice.. maybe. ;-) Cutting and working with a Khuk´ (or one for each hand... ;-) ) in landscaping I can say it beats a chainsaw when delimbing trees (at least when there´s a Fimbulmyrk at its end, and yes, we DID a contest ;-), and yes, we ARE mad ;-) ). But hacking and chopping is not all there is. I will spare you all the martial aspects of non - Gorkha legends, but even apart from that, its history and morphogenesis is fascinating. This will not be the last about these knives you have read on this blog. For sure. I want to sincerely thank Mr. Ambar Bahadur Bishwokama for all the input and information and maybe you think I am going a bit over the top with my enthusiasm about these knives. But in a world that is becoming increasingly brutal, one can not overestimate the value of craftsmanship, and these guys deserve a lot of respect for the work they do, each and every day. 

Here is a video of the process: 

They are currently looking for  a distributor for Germany. So, if you own a business over here (but also in other countries as well), drop them a line. Other than that, you can also get a knife directly via their website.   

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