Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leaf Spring Knives

   Finally, after two weeks I am finally catching up on some blogging that I meant to do after spring break. (unfortunately I'm not catching up on the lost sleep. >.< 1.5 hours last has been a long day...)
Today's post involves some sharp looking pieces of work that I did for commission work. For one I am going to be paid in American Dollars, the other one will be paid in artwork. (specifically a superbly well drawn picture of a tawny kitten ready to pounce on a couple of flutterbys. [okay, I squealed when I saw it...])

Both knives are forged out of 5160 steel in the form of golf-cart leaf springs. They were specially ordered to be rather thick and bulky, so the spines of the knives are approximately 1/4" thick. They are both double normalized (the survival knife was first annealed) and they withstood my extensive field tests. [note: field test is chucking them against a tree repeatedly to see if they break.]

First up is the survival knife that I forged for my friend Ryan. Overall length measures at about 10 inches. The blade is about 5 inches long and the distance from edge to spine is approximately 1.45 inches at the furthest. Here it is after rough forging it!

The second knife I forged was for my friend Natalie. She wanted a stabby knife for protection, and so I forged it for utmost kick-butt-itude. It had some letters stamped into it from the leaf spring, and I left them there for character. The knife came out looking like a roman gladiator's sword!

 Close up of the knife in the fire:
Ryan's knife is on the right, Natalie's is on the left.
Ryan's knife, leather wrapped and shined up with some forge marks left on:
 Natalie's knife, rough forged and sanded post-grind.
I still have some sharpening to do on them before they are ready, and hopefully I'll find some time in the next week for it. These were a blast to forge and taught me some good things about working with spring steel and thin stock. I know I would make many changes, and I am truly not a bladesmith. These were favors for friends, and they were fun. I have some other pictures of recent projects to show you, but that must wait for another time, dearest reader!
Thank you for reading!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Striking with Nick!

    A thought, as we begin this post. If spinach is so high in iron, why can't I forge with it? I should be able to, all things considered...

On March 13th, I invited my good friend Nick up from West Virginia. He goes to school with me and is a close family friend. Because we were both on spring break, he wanted to come up and blacksmith with me for a bit. (I am afraid I may have ignited that irresistible spark in his heart. You know, the blacksmith spark that is unquenchable?) It was great to have him up for two days, and he helped me a lot with one of my projects. He struck for me, which was my first time working with a striker. I must say, I really do like it. The metal moves incredibly fast. (It makes me wonder about what a power hammer will feel like. However, my Little Giant is many many years down the road...)

Anyways, I did not get any pictures of us striking, but when we weren't doing that, he was steadily improving in the basic techniques of tapering, bending, punching and scrolling.

Nick, hammering away at hot metal while I looked on: 
 He has a great propensity for this art, and has a good eye for proportions.
 We decided to both work on a project at the same time, so we traded off heating and beating our stock.
 Here I am taking a turn with some 3/16" square.
 Nick on the blower, cranking out some heat!
We moved on to the striking soon after, but returned to working on individual projects afterwards.
Giving Nick some pointers on how to properly taper steel.
Heating and beating some good glowing steel:
 Nick began to make some mighty fine tapers! I am proud to call him my student!
 On to bending the hook! He made it out of 3/8" square. I really like the composition of this shot:
 He's got his own unique style, that's for sure. I like it, personally.
 Wire brushing the piece is as important as brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice daily.
 I helped him punch the hole (Which was the first for me, as a matter of fact), and then he applied some hot wax. Here is his first hook:
 The punched hole:
I didn't snap a picture of the second hook that he made, but it was nice. (A little pitted from the heat, but Nick learned all about white sparking heat from that.) All in all, a great learning experience for both myself and for Nick. I learned a lot about how to teach people blacksmithing, and he learned blacksmithing.
The last thing that we did was make a knife. I made a knife out of a short section of 5/8" 1018 steel (railroad spike with the head and point cut off) All the while we talked of girls and school and things of those natures. What else is there to talk about? We ran over the usual guy topics, too, spelunking, rafting etc.
I enjoyed our conversation quite considerably, and here was the product of the labors!

Nothing fancy, I daresay, but I thought I'd leave him with a touch of my handiwork.
Let me tell you, that was some great fun, blacksmithing together. Then, our two day whirlwind spring break got even better. I went down to West Virginny with Nick, to his house, and then over to a nearby hamlet where we went to a tea shop. This was a fantastic revelation to me, because I had never been in a tea shop before. We eat our scones and drank our tea, then went wandering around town. We stopped in a general store called O'Hurley's, where we met Mr. O'Hurley himself. He invited us to come back that night for a St. Patty's day pot luck concert in his store. We came back, and I ate better than I have in months! Irish Soda Bread, Lamb Stew and so much more filled me up as the evening went on. We toasted ourselves by the fire as we listened to traditional Irish folk tunes from the ~20 musicians that were playing. All in all, a great evening!
I was extremely glad to have Nick over to my house, and the way our trip down to West Virginia went was fantastic! 

More adventures from Spring Break 2013 to come, have no fear of that!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feathers in the Wind

   Oh boy did it feel great to get out in the shop yesterday! I almost wasn't able to, for reasons which I will not disclose in this sentence.
The reason why I almost didn't get into the shop was because of my back. I wrenched it our on Saturday while being stupid and trying to free a Railroad Spike from a stump. The next day I was in a lot of pain, so on Monday morning I went to the Chiropractor, and with three cracks of my back I was a new man! There is still some residual pain, but I'm going to work through it and hope it gets better.

Thus, Monday afternoon I was firing up my forge!

I had to get everything out of storage, which took a good hour. But, after striking a match (proverbially, since I used a lighter) I was glad to be back in the saddle (figuratively, in this case).
My first project was one from the book that I was given by my friend Eva (pictures to come later, when lazy ole' Patrick decides to take one.) She painted a nice cover onto a nicely bound book, and filled it with some of her designs. She seems to be a natural, considering she has never worked with metal. Nevertheless, she's got a good eye for design.

I made a small, lightweight feather pendant, which marks my entrance into the realm of jewelry-making!
 The feather pendant is a lovely piece of finely forged and hand-marked work.
 Hopefully I can get the technique down so that I can begin production work with them. I think I'll be making leaf pendants, heart pendants and whatever else I can come up with.
 Manly enough even for me to wear, yet adds a certain flair for feminine wear.
 You could probably stab someone with it, if you really needed to. But let's keep it for decoration only, please.
 I only wire brushed this one, and need to get some clear coat on it. Some rust has already settled in the grooves.

My second project, which was nearly completed (I was actually in the final stages of it when I received a phone call from my friends in Pennsylvania! A welcome distraction, even if I failed to finish the square punch). Here is the square hole punch, a little over 1/8" square. It is made out of coil spring, and it is the first coil spring tool I have made. Tomorrow morning, early, I will be back out there finishing it and a few other tools.

There! That's my first day of forging on spring break! Today I did not get to the shop, a deluge of rain delayed my forging!
Nevertheless, I'll be back out tomorrow! Look for more postings by the end of the week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Philmont-Part II

    When we woke up on our fourth day, we puttered around camp a little bit before we decided to head out from Black Mountain, intent upon our next destination at Beaubien! We had the previous day meddled in rifle shooting and blacksmithing after having arrived late in the afternoon. As I packed up my belongings, I found a suspicious object packed in with my gear. As I took it out, it appeared to be a stone, of roughly 3-4 lbs. Remember what Billy, our crew leader won by dancing all crazy-like at Crater Lake? (If you missed the first part, it is HERE)

You guessed it....


When I remarked about the lightness of my pack on our third day, I did not understand the snickers emitted by my friends. Now, all of that came streaming through my head as I registered that I had just carried a rock for a day. A nine hour day. A nine hour, 8 mile day! A ROCK! As if a 35 lbs pack isn't enough for one boy to carry, I had then added dead weight by carrying a rock!
So, what did I do? I carried it the remaining 65 miles! It was now an honor to carry this lovely lady-er, rock.
Anyways, back to this story. We left at noon and walked a short hike to Beaubien, the Horse camp. When we arrived, I was struck with the beauty of the surrounding valley, and was glad to see ourselves at our first layover.
Here is the lodge where the staffers sleep and kick back, spurs and all!
The valley was absolutely stunning!
Although we got to Beaubien at 2 O'clock, we were not able to ride that day. A thunderstorm came up and violently ripped through the camp. It was only a short squall, however, as is customary for those mountains. After it died down I got my boots and wallet branded with the Philmont horse and cattle brands. We lazed around, got ourselves some good food and went to bed.
The next day...
We awoke, ate a leisurely breakfast and headed off on our eight-mile roundtrip hike to Trail Peak! Don't ask me why it was called Trail Peak, because it wasn't the tippy top of the mountains. But regardless of the reason for the name, it had a beautiful and interesting history.
Here, a valley must be crossed to reach the peak of the mountain.

The way to the peak was paved with, surprisingly enough, cows.

Besides the great view provided by the mountaintop, Trail Peak had a surprising treasure. Back during World War II, on a simple training mission, the crew members of a B-24 heavy bomber were doomed to the worst. In the midst of a downburst and losing control of one of their engines, the crew was scared. As their ship was seized out of their control and into the control of the storm over the mountains, they were forced to take a downward orientation and leveled out mere seconds before impacting the spot known as Trail Peak. The wreckage remains as a monument to their bravery.
The port-side wing of B-24 AAF 41-1133.

The view from the top really is fantastic and provides a skyward oriented memorial for the crew of the bomber.
After hiking back, we consumed a hasty midday meal (or in layman's terms, we ate a fast lunch [and by that I do not mean we ate a cheetah. While that WOULD be a fast lunch, I doubt it would be very feasible in the mountains of New Mexico]).
It was then time to cowboy up!
We got our cowboy boots on and mounted up like a true cowpuncher! Helmets (for 'safety' or whatever...) and glasses and we were ready for a mountain trail ride!
 Here was my horse, named Classy. This horse was legitimately mental. This picture doesn't do her justice, but her tongue was sticking out the whole time as she regurgitated organic vegetable matter.
My tent mate, Jacob mounted upon his noble steed!
As we rode on, we got to a point where the trail narrowed and trees hung low. At this point, Classy spooked and near enough took off! I was nearly jettisoned from the stirrups as a branch snapped me hard in the face. My glasses flew askew as I was almost bucked! Our trail guide (and resident tough cowgirl) sprang into action, catching Classy by the reins and calming her psychotic mind. After retrieving my glasses, we set off again. The vistas provided by this mountain trail were so fantastic that I forgot to snap some photos!
The night we gathered in an open pavilion to enjoy some home cooked chuck roast, cobbler and fresh, flaky biscuits. This was welcome relief from the packaged Mountain House meals! After dinner we headed over to the amphitheatre for some country tunes and skits provided by the cowpunchers at Beaubien.
The following day:
On that day we had a service project planned, and set about it first thing after breakfast. Our project was to spread wood chips on the forest floor to aid in wildfire management. While it may sound counter-intuitive, the reasoning behind spreading easily-igniting wood chips is that once a wild fire come (not if), they want it to spread rapidly and burn itself out. Doing so kills invasive species of plants and bugs while letting the canopy grow strong. It also keeps the fire from burning slowly through the forest, which would kill trees and start huge fires in the root systems of some of the aspens.

After our ecologically friendly project (which was not devoid of shower each other in cedar chips), we were off! We headed to the commissary and restocked our food supply. It was a nice place to eat our lunch, and provided a trading post. I picked up a few luxury items: pickles and Toblerone. I practiced looking like quite the 'bad boy'. (Note: I don't think that I qualify as a 'bad boy'. I don't know for sure, though. Maybe I've got an opportunity to be one!)
Here I also attempted to kill us some minibears for lunch! I was close, let me tell you, and if I had just a little more gumption that sucker would've been mine! Moving on from Philips Junction, we ended our day at Porcupine Creek. By far this was my favorite camp. It was an unstaffed meadow that simply exuded beauty. Hot and tired from the day's trek, we pulled off our shoes and socks and panned for gold in the creek. All of the creeks nearby had the potential for a golden discovery, and some scouts in the past had found some sizable nuggets! Tristan returned to us at around 3 o'clock, very much healed of his altitude sickness...for now......
Honestly, I must go back to the beauty of that meadow. Absolutely stunning! Take a look:

 For dinner we cooked up an interesting meal. The bag only said "BBQ sauce with beef". That's odd, usually we eat meat as the main dish, not as the topping for sauce. I have to say, It really was tasty, if you like that sort of thing. We had dinner in a small hut nearby, because a nasty storm blew up around 4:30 and crippled our ability to eat out of doors.
Saturday, July 31st, 2010:
We hiked...
...we hiked a lot! Clear Creek was our destination, and then up to Mount Philips. We tried to wait out the storm that blew up at Clear Creek, and engaged ourselves by participating in tomahawk throwing, musketball making, and another volley of .58 caliber rifle shooting.

As the sun began to set behind the storm, we began our ascent to Mount Philips. We would climb nearly 1000 feet that evening, if we were to be successful. The lightning was brisk and frequent, and the temperature began to drop. Our spirits dropped along with the temperature and the rain was pelting us, invading even underneath of our ponchos. We were soaked, and the upward trail seemed to lap at our feet, being only mud and rocks. The thunder was deafening, and we were sure that we couldn't make it any farther. We pressed on despite the weather, slipping and grumbling, although the latter was dimmed by the sounds of the striking electricity....
What would happen to us during our harrowing ascent? Tune in next time!