Sonntag, 7. März 2021

Huffing, puffing, Nostalgia and weird stuff

The trail was calling. 

Sounds a bit commonplace. 

But in fact it is not. Nothing is self - evident any more. Having had all my plans, even the B's and C's and D's shattered left me with no money whatsoever. Mountainbiking is for the rich and privileged people, not for people like me. But I spare you the whining. Let us just say, I am reluctant to ride, for if anything breaks or has to be replaced, that is about riding for me, and I maybe will need the bike for bugging out of here when the riots start. On the other hand, much good does it do for you if you hide in a cellar. So I decided that a little toodling around would do no harm and made for the lane. 

Yup, you read right, the lane. I am totally out of shape, so endurance basics it has to be. Might be there will be some trails even in summer, depending on the situation. 

But enough politics for now. I daresay you read enough of the shite elsewhere. And those of you in the know might be able to understand what I mean with that windshield wiper effect. Doing the first turns of the cranks gets you out of Code Black. Some more and you get into that zone. Well, this time there was a lot of huffing and puffing involved before I got there, but finally I managed. Shoulda not eat a big bowl of rice pudding before going outside... ☺️ But it was oh so tasty! Paid the price with two flats, one on the left and one on the right. 😁 But when the fuel finally was processed enough, I really enjoyed the ride, and for a time, my worries and sorrows simply were not there. 

 Went to Witten and passed by the Bethaus smithy. Since Volker has died, the place has changed very much. Now, don't get me wrong, my faithful readers know that the dude sometimes drove me mad. He was quite certainly not a professional. And from a professional point of view, that place has improved hugely. Of course it was only partially accessible due to pandemic restrictions, but someone really knows what he is doing. And actually I was a bit surprised to receive a warm welcome and an invitation. 

But there is something missing, not just someone. Now Volker and I did not part ways professionally on the best of terms, because a lie on his part had cost me dearly (financially), but we remained friends. And of course I miss that strange guy. He was a kind and gentle man, and more, he tried to make it work for everyone. He was the heart of the place, a wild and chaotic and unprofessional heart. This spirit is gone for good. Instead, all the cogs are oiled and everything seems to work highly efficiently. Might be working there would be less chaotic, too. But rant as I may have had, now I ask myself if the old way might appeal to me better. It is just a question, not an answer, and given that they do not want me in the first place (at least noone wants to pay for what I do), it is merely academical. Maybe it is a mix of "don't know what you got until it's gone" and "the grass is always greener on the other side of life". Humans, myself not excluded, are strange. 

But I rode on. And I must still say that even if my bike is a bit beaten up now, even if the wheels are technically too small and the brakes are worn, it never fails to give me a huge grin. The sun was shining, and all was good. I was simply toodling along, taking in the sun, when I passed by a birch tree on the lane, infested with Chaga. Now I had little tools with me and no bag, so I had to improvise a lot. What I had, however, was my Victorinox Locksmith SAK, and that licce fella never ceases to amaze me. I was a bit reluctant with quite a bit of levering action going on, but these knives even stand up to that kind of abuse. Got me some Chaga. It was great. ☺️ 

Just wrapped it in a hanky and rode on. I was a bit lost in thought, and actually did not want to stop every five minutes to take photos, so there are fewer this time. 

Any which way, when I arrived in the town neighbouring my home, there was a guy with a really fucked up commuter bike sitting on a bench, smiling and greeting, and I nodded back. Now he was a bit lost, and, asking the way and me being all shit at explaining stuff to strangers, I agreed to just take him back on track. Dude, that guy had some steam! Friendly guy, too, so it all ended in some extra kilometres and a good two hours of really nice chatting while my buttocks froze from the cold. Turned out he seems to have been a smithing groupie from looooong ago in 'em days in the Bethaus smithy. 

Life walks in circles. 

I am stoked to learn what comes next. 

Samstag, 6. März 2021

Rapatap the birchsap tap rap ...☺️

The birds were singing and the sun was oh so warm. After all the cold and the shite happening all over the world this was really soothing. The woods are calling, and obviously I heed the call. 

What really feels great is that my sentiment of "why bother?" does not involve anything woodsy, crafty or natural. These things still give me the motivation to get out of bed, so to say. Because they make sense. Obviously, I am fucked, but on each outing in the woods I learn more how the woods work. Of course, they are in a sorry state, what with climate change killing fir, spruce, birch and beech, and I plant as many trees as I possibly can, but yup, we are ruled by idiots. That said, I left the politics at home. The birch sap is rising, and I like birch sap. ☺️ 
This creek is running with more water than it has in the last five years. This gives me a lot of hope, actually, that even if we get another summer of draught eventually, the new trees will eventually recuperate. As is, the woods are radically changed. 
The first spring blossoms, too, and something tasty to boot : Violets (viola, in German :Veilchen), with an anti - bacteria - effect, blood - cleaning, calming and anti - inflammatory. Also you can make a tasty tea or spice from it, a wonderful cordial and it goes into my "lawnmower - mead" 😁, Methubrawri in the language of the Dhiudhai na nÍamparaï, a mythic people I invented. Invented the language as well, BTW. ☺️ 
Now if the trees all die, how can he possibly tap a birch, some may ask. First, I very much know what I am doing, and all the trees I tapped are even now still alive, but then there was that stump of a recently felled tree, where the sap rises really strong. So strong in fact, that there was a rare bushcrafty treat. 
But first things first, out came the tools. 
And in no time the birch was on tap. 
In the meantime, I collected some last Chaga (Innonotus Obliquus, in German :Schiefer Schillerporling). And sat down to really savour a sip of tea made from rowanberries and roasted and dried apple I foraged in autumn last year. 

 On the detour then I was in for my treat... Some chunks of frozen birch sap.

It was a really cool outing. Well, pardon the pun. But actually, I could wish for little more. Sipping your sap and your tea from a gukši you have made with your own hands with a knife and a carving hatchet you have forged yourself while preparing the Chaga you have just collected in a dish you have made with your hands is more than just comforting. It is not only strangely soothing in a world gone stark raving mad, it is empowering. Everything of these items was made from junk. From scraps of steel to scraps of wood to food most people do not see. And it is all connected. 

We all need to change. Well, I never belonged at all, so maybe I can exclude myself a bit. A bit, because I still have to learn a lot. Most people think this means a loss of quality in life.

Personally I think, the opposite is true. This is how life is meant to be. I do not say this because I were a guru or something. We need less gurus and a lot of more common sense. It is nothing esoteric or philosophical. It is just getting the good stuff in, and then have a cuppa of the good stuff. And the good things are estimated as junk, and noone cares. But I do. 

I, for one, came home deeply content. It was a feeling you got when you came home as a kid and got a hot cocoa made by your mother. Only that my mother is dead now and I get that feeling in the woods. There is so much good in the world. We need to learn to appreciate more and learn to be humble and grateful... As we were as Kids, when we got our hot cocoa made by our mothers. 

And it feels plain and it feels good. 

Donnerstag, 4. März 2021

Make a tool to make a tool to make a tool .☺️

Now some of you guys might know what I mean when I ask myself who made the first tongs. I have no answer to that question, for it is a bit academical. But I like to ask no less, for it illustrates a lot of what blacksmithing is all about. 

I have been meaning to make myself a decent Tomahawk for ages now. In fact I started to forge this one from an old ball peen hammer in the Industriemuseum Ennepetal. But I was unable to continue for lack of opportunity. I forged with children and had little time to make anything more complex than knives, and while knives are in themselves none too shabby an effort, too, they do not require a lot of tools. 

Now this tool in itself is nothing special, it is a taper and that is about it. It is a drift to prepare the eye of a hammer, or, in this case a Tomahawk. An axe or hatchet drift is made differently, but I wanted the hammer poll of my 'hawk to be fully functional, and you need less bulk for a cutting edge, for you need less effort to cut than to crush, nail or even forge something. So more bulk will not hinder the cutting performance and will enhance the functionality of the hammer poll at the same time. Also I am a lazy bum and I want to forge a hammer as one of the next projects, and I can make an axe drift any time. 
I was lucky, because a friend of mine dropped by and (with all Corona precautions followed, in case you asked) helped along with the sledge, so it worked out well in no time. 

 The drift is made from C60 (which I believe is equal to 1060 steel. That way it is less prone to crack when cooled in the bosh. 

I then first staunched the ball peen to a more regular hammer poll, forged the blade and then used the drift to make the cone fitting for the handle. The 'hawk will be fitted more like a hammer and not in the traditional way, which is a handle is mounted from the top with no wooden or metal wedges. The traditional method has the advantage that the hatchet can be taken apart with no tools for sharpening or skinning chores, but I always carry a knife, too, so no problem. The handle will be longer than that of a hammer, though. Stay tuned! 😁 

Mittwoch, 3. März 2021

Discovering a new breed: The Yakutian style knife

I have heard a lot about a mysterious kind of knife. It seems that these are very popular at the moment with the bushcraft crowd. It also seems that this style of knife originated in Siberia, with the indigenous people of the Yakuts. There seem to be a lot of dyed - in - the - wool bushcrafters swearing by it. Now there are some people who would call me the same, funny as it seems to me, but for the life of me-I had never heard of it until now. Now there is a bit of a special thing going on amongst bushcrafty people. Most of them are just awesome people enjoying nature in this our cozy wonderful way, helping each other and I daresay those are just and outright wonderful guys. (Not to forget the gals of course! 😁) But as is wont to be in these freakin weird times, there is also a lot of hype going on. So I was a bit sceptical. So many designs that were hyped as the next thing turned out to be just crap, especially those "survival" knives. To be fair, these Yakutian knives have little in common with those oversized shrapnels, and so I gave it a try. (wrote about it in a recent Post) 
Now this is a sort of Kunai I forged from an old file. Handle is just a wrapping of fox skin rawhide I got with permission of a local hunter. The fullers leave something to be desired, so to say, but it works. And it was enough to make me understand the type of knife. One side, the side with the fuller, is flat. The fuller in this case reduces friction and makes it easier to sharpen. The other side has a high convex bevel to zero. This layout makes for some really precise cutting and a smaller angle to the edge. Also it can be used similar to a Yarri - Kanna, a Japanese spear plane for traditional wood working. 
The layout got me somewhat intrigued enough to make a more traditional knife, too. I forged it from file steel, too, with a less conservative temper than on the Kunai, which will also be used in harvesting resin, digging and the odd digging for roots. 

 In the process I realized the similarities to Japanese knives. Now it seems to be that the indigenous people of the Siberian subcontinent have a lot in common with the indigenous people of Japan, the Ainu, so I think there will be some further research necessary. ☺️ I love that. 

Any which way, the knife needs a handle. So stay tuned! 

Dienstag, 2. März 2021

No. Just no .

Still alive, but just so. Still alive. I am well and healthy and I still got a home. Not much to eat, no heating, no electricity. 

And just recently, I have to admit, I gave up. Gave in to despair. I mean, I have no perspective and there is no such thing as a future. After the pandemic a worlwide economical crisis will take place, and climate change will take care of what is left. 

Yes, I gave in to despair. Just refused to get out of bed for some days. 

But then it occurred to me, not exactly all of a sudden. 

On the one hand, we are all fucked. I have to pay taxes on money I do not have and will never get. It is a criminal system of corruption, where the rich prey on the poor and if you are rich, you get richer still, and if you are poor, that little money you have is taken from you. 

On the other hand there are the Plebejans shouting revolution, the raving mob wanting to turn things upside down, the intellectuals, too, wasting time and energy on futile and idle discussions. 

And, do not get me wrong. Not technology will save us now. We are faced with a cataclysm. You cannot argue with a virus, and you cannot argue with climate change. 

I have fought for 30 years now to prevent this time from becoming. I lost. I would do everything just the same as I did, could I do it all all over again. I have no regrets, and I am prepared to die. For most of us will die, and soon. Do not get me wrong, I love to live. It is just not very probable that I or the next guy or my loved ones will. 

That said, I am faced with but a really tiny shred of life left. And so I say no. 

I say no to your society, your petty dreams and your blahblah. I wear my mask and disinfect my hands and stay away from people. I care for my loved ones, but everyone else is a potential danger. I also say no to the raving mob and your Nazi paroles, your politics and stoopid endeavours. I say no to your consumerism. You only deserve my utter contempt, because you are not capable of making things with your hands. 

Oh, I still do not wish anyone anything bad. I just do not care anymore. People are, for the most part, toxic and contagious in more than one sense. 

There are things I care for, however. Knowing things can make you rich. 
Now, it was winter, and I collected some Chaga. I seldom drink coffee these days, because I do not get the point why I should bother if I can find something better in the woods. 
When collecting the fungus, I thought "well, isn't it a shame that you have to still drink your tea from a Kuksa you bought? Now do not get me wrong, I bought my Kuksa from a very nice young Finnish lady who dated me for a cuppa afterwards on the expo, and ever since I heaped fond memory upon fond memory into the notion of it, so nothing wrong with it really. I will keep using it, too, it is nothing at all like being dogmatic. But still, I somehow never made myself one, and I feel a bit like it is an apprentice piece for any bushcrafter. I just wanted to know, too. 
So I just fired away and made myself one. I made it in the woods, deep in the woods, in fact, and was at it well into the night, while the foxes were yelping and tawny owls were hooting and I think an odd eagle owl, too. I took this as a sign, somehow. I made the cup from nothing special, just some humble birch wood. Made some mistakes, too, but it still worked out. I also got the whittling bug bad again. There is a kind of beauty to the simplicity of sitting in the woods making things with simple implements. If you get into that zone, if you get into the flow, everything just falls into place and suddenly you realize that life is meant to be this way, not.... whatever the sorry mess is that we created. Life is meant to take place under trees. Do not get me wrong, that does not mean to be idle, in the contrary. It just means doing something that actually even makes sense for a change, hard work or no. 
The other day I went to the woods again, and my despair was nowhere to be found. I prepared some scales out of broom, made myself another baton.... 
... And worked on the kuksa. Now I carved a triquetta in, and oiled it some. 
But, as I said, I got that bug bad again. My laid father did an awful lot of woodworking, even more than smithing, and I grew up with it, and it is a bit like shaking hands with an old friend. And I am really stoked on it at the moment. Also it is a bit of a stinky finger into the face of the world, since most of the tools I also made myself. 
The Kuksa being in good order I also started a small bowl and a dish, and it felt really good... 
To have tea while carving from the cup I just had made. 

Actually I know that these things are not the best there are, but they must not be in the first place. It was all made from scraps. Even my tools were, for the most part, made from junk, as you well know. 

Society has proven through time that it does not want me. A long time I thought this was because I was inferior. 

But the people that kept judging and ostracizing and spiting and mobbing me just now are showing that they are utterly inkompetent at living. They stacked up big time, so much in fact, that the ship is sinking. 

If the ship is sinking, jump. 

Jump and swim, swim as far away from the ship as you possibly can, in order not to be drowned in the downward draft. 

I suggest you ask people who never belonged. Learn from indigenous people, with respect. They have, if anyone has, one key to a possible survival of our species. 

Run from capitalism and communism alike. 

Ask the woods. Help them, for we owe them dearly, and come humbly. 

And do not forget that some things even now do not change. Make something good with your hands. Build a garden, a homestead or a farm, plant a tree, carve, forge or build a house, tile a roof. 

But get a life. Switch off the Phone or Computer. 

 The cranes return. 

Spring is on its way. ☺️ ❤️ 

Take care, care for the elderly, the weak, and for those who had bad luck. Thank you. 

Mittwoch, 25. November 2020

Acorn drink with Chaga

This has been quite a while coming. In the local woods, I came across an abundant supply of Chaga (Innonotus Obliquus, in German: Schiefer Schillerporling), and of course I studied this funghi very, very thoroughly before starting to use it. I knew it were in use in Siberia and Kazakhstan from my Russian mentors, but I did not think it would be growing in our part of the world. Enter climate change, and while this is a sad thing actually, for it ultimately costs the death of a lot of beautiful trees, there is a benefit to be had in harvesting the funghi.

One can faster tell what is not in it. ☺️ Starting with Betulin, Betuline Acids, Polysaccharides, Melanine to organic Vanadium. It is reputed to help with cancer therapy, indigestion, general problems with stomach, liver, kidneys and it supports blood circulation. It is also reputed to help with depressive disorders, and is antibiotic and antiviral. Concoctions of dried and charred Chaga were traditionally used as a wound disinfectant by indigenous people.  Currently there are a lot of medicinal studies by the universities of Moscow and Tokio going on examining the pharmacological properties of the funghus. 

Traditionally Chaga is drunk as tea in Siberia, Finland, the North of Sweden, Norway, Canada, Alaska, as well as China, Tibet and Japan. In the regions where Chaga is drunk on a regular basis, there are very few cases of cancer, which led to the theory that it might be beneficial, so that pharmacological examinations were started. 

Suffering from stomach problems and mild depression I can safely say that I experienced a positive effect by drinking Chaga tea on a regular basis. 

My laid mother used to say "what is bitter for the gums is sweet for your health", and while this still holds true for a lot of implications, it does not fit the bill for Chaga. For it also has a rich vanilla and cocoa flavour. It is indeed a "drink of immortals". 

I like to take one walnut sized piece of Chaga. You have to boil it for at least twenty minutes to dissolve any oxalic acids, which could otherwise cause kidney damage. I add coarsely chopped ginger, one handful of roasted acorns (I look forward to show you how I process acorns in another post), one or two hot chili and three eating spoons cocoa. You can also add one knifetip Tonka beans per litre of water. You can reuse the Chaga up to ten times. If your woods are lucky and not infested with the funghus, you can order it via Web. Just take care that it is harvested wild and in winter. 

I have to add that Chaga is a very potent medicinal funghus. Always use caution when using funghi at all. In the case of Chaga, it is a matter of life and death to boil for at least twenty minutes or use alcohol to make a tincture. I will not take any liability or responsibility for any adverse effects. Use your head.... ☺️ ❤️ 

Other than that, few discoveries I have made have changed my life as much as this humble funghus. It is a fun guy to be around. ☺️ 

Mittwoch, 18. November 2020

Piémontais friction folder


This is one of my favourite knives these days. Modelled after a regional knife of the Piémontais in France, aptly dubbed Piémontais or couteau de montagne, I made it from red deer antler, and a simple blade forged from 1.2842 (O2). Selective temper, of course, including the rivet hole, obviously.
The blade has a steel axle that is peened over brass washers. It is a bit tricky to make them right, because you do not have much room for mistakes. But you need very few tools... this one was made with a Victorinox locksmith SAK period. (Apart from the forge, hammer, tongs an angle grinder (before tempering) and a water-beased grinding stone. Nothing else. ) 

The friction of the antler keeps the blade in surprisingly well, so good in fact that it actually rides in my pocket every day with not so much of a worry of hurting myself. I like that the design is simple and rugged. it makes it not only reliable, but with but a little practice you could make a handle in the woods with just a SAK. Practice makes perfect, and I love to make those at the moment, so I will keep you posted! Promise! ;-P 

Friction folder with a titanium handle

Long time, no writ, so to say. In the meantime, the world has gone utterly, completely and absolutely mad. M-A-D. Off the rocker. Lost its marbles. Yap. 

Most of you know that, and I could not possibly add to anything that has already been said about that. We will be facing autocrats all over the world, maybe WWIV. Yes, IV. And climate change. And poverty and sickness and decay. Yes. 

Of course I am fucked. Being an artist, as I finally have acknowledged to myself, I will suffer from starvation, neglect or even be manhunted. And time was, I panicked. Been through one or the other ordeal. 

You know what? You know what saved me?

Oh, I think you guessed.... ;-). There are lovely people having me and my smithy, and I could start to forge again. On private ground, with my own tools and my own forge, and for the most part, solitarily, meaning, I can actually concentrate on real progress for myself. Forging outside, in a lovely orchard. Not perfect, and not permanently, and I still have to look for a smithy, but oh so good. It reminds me of the time when I took up smithing, way back then in the garden of my old home by the lake, which is no more. But this is new. 

And when I am forging stuff, there are few things to keep me from focusing on the good work. Meaning, I can make some actual progress, and, focussing helps to keep out all the negative stuff. Just the fire, hammer and anvil. A green orchard, a bit of silence otherwise. Perfect.

This is something I am a bit proud of, even if I still have a lot to learn still. I owe a lot to Fabrice Julien Cognot and master Nobuya Hayashi simply for inspiring me. Same goes for my old friend Joel Delorme, who got me started in the first on wanting to make these folders. I have grown increasingly fond of these. They offer almost the strength of a fixed blade knife, are good to carry around, and they do not scream "combat knife" on top of their lungs... ;-) And it is a dead simple design, which, if made carefully, offer a lot of safety, a surprising amount of it, in fact. 

The all-metal design also is sturdy and resilient to boot. Three parts, no frills.

This is a WIP, of course, not peened over yet, and I have to adjust the handle a bit still. Actually, the handle design is inspired by a knife from the viking age. There are several finds from Novgorod and Birka. As an example, this one might do:(

In Birka, there are finds that have the metal handle protrude in front towards the blade, keeping it spring-loaded and thusly in the handle. This works surprisingly well. The knife I am currently making has a titanium handle, which I forged from a round stock of Ti6Al4,5V, which I got on a Marburgian flea market. as I said, the protrusions towards the blade will be adjusted some and will do the job to keep the blade in. If you opened it, the friction in the handle and your hand will serve the purpose to keep it safe. No lock required, and thusly perfectly legal in Germany.
The blade, however, is another novelty for me. I used 1.2842 (O2). I am just beginning to learn the ins and outs of this steel, but as is, it makes for a good compromise between hardness, edge retetntion and flexibility. Of course I gave it a selective temper, including the rivet hole, of course.
Actually, I see this as a beginning of a journey. It feels good to experience a progress, and while I know that this is in no way perfect, I know that another journey just started. And it gives my hands something productive to do and relieves me from code black.
And this , as I hope, is a positive message for my faithful readers around the world. At least, it is for me. The internet is full of the latest bad news and catastrophes, served hot from a press that is meaning no ill but serves its purpose. And there is little we can do. 

What we can, however, is giving our hands something to do. Of course some of you might be confined to your homes, some of you might not be able to get outside or into a shop. But a pencil and some paper, knitting or naalbindning needles, some leather, twine, awl and needles will serve you well, and this is something you can even do in your kitchen or living room. Whatever you do, take your break from the everyday rapidfire of bad news. Give your hands something to do, They are better connected to your heart than your mind can ever be. Don´t try to change things you cannot change. Keep it simple, and put one foot firmly planted upon the earth after the other. One step at a time. And new trails will open. 

Take good care, all of you, and stay healthy!

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