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Montag, 22. September 2014

Forging virtually around the clock;-) a weekend with great people and some catastrophes as spice

 Unrest got the bug bad;-) and thus he sent me a SMS how it would be to do a hammer-In on Friday. We had planned it beforehand to do some barbecueing also. I had organized the event and asked Volker if it would be possible, and it turned out it even was REALLY okay, so we met at 2 pm and lit up forge. Nick was there, Kathrin, Michael, Nele, Volker and myself, and we set up the forge and anvils in a circle (thanks, Nick!). Nele and Michael wanted to make their first knives, and Nick wanted a maximal EDC, meaning a knife at maximum legal blade length out of spring steel. Unfortunately, things were not so good that day and he suffered from some mishaps. Bro, don´t be upset, it happens to all of us! Michael insisted upon  forging his blade all by himself, and I was like "ouch, this might not turn out too well", but I was really impressed. He had to take his time, but this was also the key to his success. He really contemplated every step, and if he was not sure, he asked me. I also was impressed by his girlfriend. In her case, I helped a bit more, but let her do the crucial parts, filing the shape and the bevel and the tang part, and of course a lot of hammer work. We also came across a new technique and forged a hollow-to-convex bevel on the blade, in the case of her blade a bit wayward still, but it turned out so well that I might use this technique on more future knives for bushcraft knife. It certainly makes the knife very slicey without sacrificing lateral strength and edge stability. We did the bevel with what was to hand, but I guess I´ll make myself a tool for it in the future. Then Volker came by and asked me if I could do a children´s birthday party the next day. As usual he had forgotten he had an invitation to a marriage also and also forgot to notify me a bit earlier. We had beforehand appointed that he would notify me a week beforehand if there were any work on schedule, for I try to earn my money with several jobs and have to organize each and every work I do with much flexibility, but as usual he did not manage to keep this appointment. I told him again why this drives me mad, he of course was just one step short of crawling on his belly before me and licking my boots clean, I told him again that I did not want his remorse but a perspective and respect through a tiny bit of reliability. He is a good guy, but someone seems to have beaten him up throughout his entire life. Sometimes he reminds me - no offence meant - a lot of Gollum from LOTR. Nothing gained with getting furious, I simply returned to the good work and the great atmosphere.
 Nele filing the tang. We then annealed it some more, and then Michael prepared a piece of wood by using only a hand axe, we drilled a small hole for the tang and then burned it in to achieve a fit. Then we unmounted the block, ground it to shape, tempered the blade and sharpened it and glued it in.
 Nele not sure what to do next*ggg*. Kathrin lined up to forge a fork and did very well until she suffered some mishap too. But she simply carried on, and when one tip of the fork burned away she simply made an awl out of it.

 I could not resist photographing Michael´s rag T-Shirt. I like the fact that he uses it as a rag T-shirt, for it´s the crew shirt of Zee Aylienz Bike Race my club once organized. Michael was not too fond of some developments (on which we are 100% agreed) of the club I once founded blah blah. Now many people identify themselves very much with this club, which is a good thing, but the bad thing is that they act the Gestapo with people who have broader interests than just bike racing and bike racing alone and thusly do not buy in to their uniform attire mania. Michael also had suffered some verbal abuse from those little dictators, and I find it delicious that he now wears the shirt for doing actual work.;-). I also contemplated that club a bit. Many of them think mountainbiking gives them freedom. And while individual transport offroad really does, the way they do it doesn´t. Mountainbiking can be a great vehicle for individual "rewilding". It can take you places, it can give you a better connection to the woods and your own body. It is a great way to experience flow and therefore a step ladder to feeling flow in forest environments and reconnecting with nature by this. Racing also is a good thing for that, if you know where to start and where to end.

But many mountainbikers buy in to a product subscription by starting their riding. You need at least four bikes to cater for all those generated needs you read about in fancy penny-dreadful high-gloss magazines, plus all the latest clothing and riding gear paraphernalia. You need to buy a freerider, an enduro, a CC-bike, a fun hardtail, a 29", a 27,5" and whatnot in both hardtail and full suspension configurations. You need to ride in the Alps, in the USA, all the bikeparks and trailparks and urbanparks and skateparks and where and when and whatnot, meaning you have to spend a lot of money to even get started.

But it is about life, and freedom isn´t free. Meaning you either join the ratrace to consume and  throw away and therefore have a job that burns you out (every second person in Germany suffers from psychological problems and mostly burn-out depression), meaning no freedom whatsoever just to achieve what you believe is freedom, or you go for it and rewild yourself meaning a hard life with plenty enemies and some really strange friends foraging for your food, working hard making things and ride your bike out into the woods as a vehicle to get more roots, fruit and mushrooms in one turn making for less hard work. For fun, too, for noone says you can´t have fun even when working hard.

This is where blacksmithing and mountainbiking coincides. It is not just a "hobby" in my book, but a method to actually shape your life even in this strange world. Want to go bushcrafting but have no money to buy all the fancy goods? F***ing make them! Can´t afford a fancy car or even the train ticked, but there´s a bike in your cellar sitting behind those garbage bags? F***ing pump up the tyres and USE! IT! Is your drivtrain skipping? REPAIR! IT! You ain´t fit enough? RIDE! Go to the grocery store, ride foraging, practice stunt riding, have fun, but simply pull the plug of this insane society by using your brain more instead of storing it at Big Brother´s place in the almighty web.

The same goes for blacksmithing. Can´t afford a fancy forge? Oh, please, give me a break, in Nepal they forge with a hole in the ground and a grocery plastic bag for a bellows. Ron Hood showed long time ago that you can make a forge even in the wilderness, and I made my first damascus with a hole in the ground and a vacuum cleaner.

Michael is a guy who understands this, and he attacks the fetish of some goofbrains by wearing a T-shirt like it was just that: A T-shirt.;-) I like that very much.

 It was a productive day also for myself. I did some work on my damascus seax and fitted a handle on a concept seax knife I have in the making. In the middle is Nele´s new knife. Top to bottom: Damascus blade, 110x6mm, rebar and 1.2842, 60 layers, Mokume Gane bolster, reindeer antler and yew, spring steel blade, 110x3 mm or so, copper ferrule, oak wood handle, San Mai  blade out of crucible steel I found in the woods, ball bearing steel for  a middle layer (100Cr6) 110x3,8 mm, handle will be reindeer antler with a carving.
 Suddenly, or so it seemed, it went dark, and we were still out like maniacs grinding and filing and fitting. It was a very productive and inspiring atomsphere to me. Nick lit the BBQ fire, and the girls prepared some food (I had brought some mushrooms and a guacamole with a Bavarian spice to it;-), and they filled the ´shrooms with the stuff.
 From one of the pieces of spring steel where forging went wrong with Nick I demoed the technique for a blade. I offered it to him, but he declined, for he wanted to forge it himself. Bro, just keep on trying, and if I can be of assistance, ask me.
 Then a great day subsided into an even greater evening. Volker came by and joined us, and even if we have our arguments to date, we were glad he was there and enjoyed our company and food. And please do not get me wrong when I talk about the difficulties we have: He is a friend. Not a reliable one, but if you  want to be respected for what you are and not what you should be you have to do this to others in the first before you even have a right to make this claim. And it pays off. It was great to feast on great homemade food (Michael brought a delicious homemade loaf of bread, and everyone contributed to the feast). We talked and laughed a lot, drank our share and relished in the evening.
 Well into the night we sat and feasted and made plans.
 Then, at roundabout 2:30 am we parted. I rode home with a warm feeling and but a mild worry about the next day, for I covered some extra distance on the ride home due to some home-brewed beverages;-).
 When I arrived at the smithy with surprisingly no hangover and surprisingly early, I noticed something I had not noticed the day before. Over here wild strawberries are done at mid-summer. Victor now had planted some around the smithy. He loves wild strawberries, and even had planted some at the site of his old employer, the Freilichtmuseum Hagen. This is also where I got to know Volker and him in the first place, Volker working as a hand drill smith and Viktor doing a lot of blackmithing demos for the public. This is also where I got to know some other blacksmith readers of my blog may be acquainted with, Harald, whom I regard as an important tutor. A lot of my humble skills I learned by listening to him and forging with him. Now Viktor had taken this custom of planting strawberries with him when he left, and also planted those at the Bethaus. They still prosper in the lousy weather we currently have.
 I mean, strawberries blossoming in, wait, SEPTEMBER? Then I set up forge. I was prepared for utter chaos, but as it turend out it was even worse. Parallel to the children´s birthday party there also was a guided tour staged. The guide insisted to have the rack wagon you can see in the background. No problem if someone had informed me beforehand, but noone did. So, with the kids thronging for forging, I had to unmount the smithy, they made a big racket and an even bigger fuss in getting the thing out, so much in fact that I finally pushed them aside and rolled it out myself. Then Sylvia came and informed me I had to light and guard a BBQ fire at the same time as well as doing a demo for the guided tour. I solved it by starting an inferno of a fire in the grill, set it beside the forge and tutoring the guided tour how to light a fire without gasoline and explaining about the history of fossile fuel and charcoal while doing so and starting to forge with the kids at the same time relating the forging tutaorial to what I was telling to the guided tour kids. When they went on their merry way to molest other places;-), I continued with the kids alone. Then the guided tour came back, and demanded I´d instantly put the rack wagon back where it belonged. I said: "just put it there, I do not want to put the kids in danger..", and for a change, they put it before the smithy, out of harm´s way. They made a big fuss again and left. I was in the middle of saving the party when it began to drizzle. And to rain. And to hail. So I had to unmount the smithy again to save the wooden rackwagon. It was then that I realized Volker had prepared the floor of the shed for a concrete floor by putting on a layer of sand and mud, only that he did it badly, and the long time it has been waiting for the foretold concrete floor hasn´t helped its structural integrity, to be polite. So, BUMMER, the wheels stuck. With grunting and growling I managed to heave it onto my shoulder and, in the meantime being wet through, carry it across the swamp to put it under a roof, then I remounted the smithy, while the kids stood there with disbelief. I was thinking, "That´s it, I messed it up", but it turned out kids and parents alike were actually fond of me. The floor in the meantime looked as if some wild pigs on synthetic drugs had turned it over, and it did not help in the least that the kids used the funny creeks that were building up, for toy dam building. Anyway, I managed to make all the kids happy. But before they were off, Sylvia and her daughter came in the middle of some complex work with a kid that was a bit special, and she demanded that I close the restaurant and the museum, for they wanted to go home. I managed to stay calm and throw no hammer at them, and I am proud of that achievement;-), and managed to utter through gritted teeth :"Just give me the keys, I´ll take care of that...".

Suddenly I was alone, and while it was still raining and hailing cats, dogs, aand dinosaurs, I took a deep breath. In a rain break I managed to go up, close the restaurant and the museum and get me another coffee and a non-alcoholic beer (which I like to drink when forging, because it´s isotonic and does not consist out of sugars I cannot even pronounce). When I was about to pack up, it started to rain hard again, and I sat there on a stool with a hot coffee, and laughed, and laughed so hard I nearly spilled my java. So, caught under the shed`s roof with the floor slowly floating away, I simply took some ancient spring steel and forged myself a knife while waiting for the rain to cease.
 I forged it with an integral bolster using a nail device and tried the hollow bevel - forging technique from the day before, but driving it to a new level. After forging, the edge was just three-tenths of a millimetre thick at places. I just filed it down to a millimetre and then did a thorough annealing. It was beautifully calm in spite of the pounding rain, I carburized the blade a bit with antler filings while annealing and sat there listening and breathing, and taking a sip of beer from time to time..
 I then heated the tang cherry red and burned it through an antler handle. I removed the handle, filed it some, and then did a progressive edge quench.
The handle then was glued on and the tang peened over an eye-shaped brass disc.

All the while the rain and hail pounded down on the roof, I packed up, for it was getting dark. It was only when I put the forge back into the garage and had all the tools and gear packed into my backpack, that I realized I had a flat in the rear tire again. So it was unpacking the pack, for of course the spare tube was well down below, as was the tire pump.

I sighed, fixed the flat, closed the shop, straddled my steed and rode home through the rain. But when I was in the vicinity of Wetter, things cleared up and the stars came out piercingly bright. I was feeling content and I take pride into the fact that I live where many others can only just so survive. Maybe that I often sit with my arse in the mud, but then the stars shine brighter to me than they do to others. I am not successful, but passionate, and sometimes I have the feeling that I would not want to trade.

I feel alive, and that´s the best thing every living thing can say.


  1. It indeed was a very nice day/evening! :)

    I was SO sorry to discover that I'll have to forge at least one more blade in my life (and soon..!), as THE TWO-HANDED KNIFE has a blade length of almost exactly 12cm.
    "When shall we three meet again?" ;)

  2. thunder, lightning and in rain;-)


Now go on, discuss and rant and push my ego;-). As long as it´s a respectful message, every comment is welcome!

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