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    Howard County, Maryland
  1. I took that class this past November. I really enjoyed it. The instructors (Walter, Dave, and Bucky) were able to find that nice balance of letting you do the work yourself and knowing when to step in and do some hammering for you (before you made a complete mess). I left the class with a mostly finished knife (still need to do some polish on the blade and treat the wood handle) that I was really proud of. My only criticism is that they tried to squeeze too many people into the shop. There's plenty of room to forge but when you move into the finishing stages things got really bottlenecked and slowed everyone's progress down. But all in all, great shop, great teachers, and a great class.
  2. Mete, thanks for the information on the fencing blades. Just more evidence that an old fencing blade ought to be retired rather than used as a blade for beginners (which is often done in clubs). You're absolutely right about the fault of the injury belonging to the fencer. In our case the guy was fairly new and was falling back on his football instincts and charging in. When the blade snapped he didn't have enough control to stop his momentum and his oppoenent (also new) just went headlong into him. The snapped blade pierced his shoulder cleanly, entering about 3 inches. It was a good reminder to both keep control on the strip and to really, critically inspect all of our blades.
  3. That's very interesting, B. I'd love to see pics of those handmade foils if you still have them lying around. Thank you for the detailed description of them.
  4. Yes, I agree, using a handmade fencing blade in a fencing bout would be asking for trouble. I am more curious about the doing-of-the-thing, than the pratical use of the finished product. When I fenced in college we had a blade snap during a bout and the momentum of the football player who was wielding the broken blade carried the stub right through the shoulder of his opponent. That industrial blade didn't snap cleanly but had a very nasty point on the end of the broken piece. It wasn't a top of the line, FIE quality blade, but nonetheless, a dangerous object when it failed under use.
  5. Has anyone here ever tried to forge a modern fencing blade (foil, epee, or sabre)? I ask because I am curious how you would go about getting the proper properties of the blades: foil: very thin blade, lots of spring, should be able to be bent in a "U" shape and snap back to perfectly straight epee: thicker than foil, much less spring/flex to the blade but should still be able to be bent to at least a 45 degree angle out near the end of the blade and still snap back to straight sabre: thickness between foil and epee, very "whippy" near the tip but stiffer at the base Clearly it would take quite a bit of forging skill to hammer out such a long, thin blade and I suspect that the properties of the blades come from a combination of the cross-sections of the blades and proper heat treatment, but I'd love to hear about any first-hand experiences people have had with a project like this.
  6. I'm not that well versed in early Celtic history, but I have read pieces of several of the surviving Roman accounts of their interactions with the "barbarian" peoples to their north. Based on that reading, I'd say that looking to primary texts for descriptions of celtic weaponry isn't going to yield much useful info. The Romans tended to either speak in very general terms, very exaggerated terms, or both. As for archaeological texts, I would guess that looking for books is also not going to yield many results. Most of the research in that field is put into print in the form of journal articles. I'll use my university's online journal database to do a search for you and see if it comes up with anything useful. I'll let you know what I find.
  7. Aaron

    who are you?

    I guess I'll jump in and post something about myself, even though I don't post very regularly. I grew up in a very small town in Northern New York, up in the Adirondack Mountains. I grew up, not really realizing it at the time, having a very "outdoorsy" childhood--camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, chopping wood, etc. I left there after high school and went into the Air Force, going to the Air Force Academy in Colorado. I left there after 2 years since my vision wouldn't allow me to be the one thing I was there to be...a pilot. So I transferred to Syracuse University, where I met my wife, and finished my Bachelor's Degree--focusing more on said-wife than on said-degree. I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad for nearly a year in Japan. Unfortunately, I wasn't yet interested in bladesmithing so I didn't look into visiting any bladesmiths while I was there. I had a brief stint in the world of high finance on Wall Street, but nearly suffocated from the oppressive capitalism that fuels that place. I'm currently living in Maryland, outside of Washington DC, and am working on a Ph.D. in medieval European history (specifically rural life of 14th and 15th century England). I sometimes teach classes on world civilizations or british history. I also work full time as an editor for my university's press and for an academic journal. That's what keeps me busy and, sadly, away from the forge more than I would like. I'd say that my interest in the past and in pre-modern societies is what drives my interest in blacksmithing. I have also always had a fondness for making things myself, from scratch, with as few aids as is feasible. Additionally, I feel that getting out and pounding hot steel into recognizable shapes and using hand tools keeps me tied to my blue collar roots and helps keep me grounded while I brave the world of the Ivory Tower. I hope to be able to someday teach a basic blacksmithing class for whatever university I find myself teaching at, in addition to teaching history (I see them as connected). I've only been blacksmithing, with blades being the bulk of what I have crafted, for only two years off and on. But once I get settled somewhere I hope to build my own shop and be able to forge on a more regular basis.
  8. Oh, I agree with you, but there are, however, philosophical camps that would come up with the opposite answers. For me, I think the steel becomes a knife once it is sharp and can perform the action that it is intended to do--cut stuff. A handle is superfluous to this activity as a tang can be a handle, in a pinch (albeit an uncomfortable handle). You might ask, "from this point of view, does a dull knife cease being a knife?" I would say that, yes, it does cease being a knife if it can no longer cut things; of course, we will still call it a knife because that is simpler than saying "knife-shaped piece of steel." An example might be: I call myself a bladesmith because I can and do forge blades, but if I were to lose the ability to make blades due to some debilitating accident then I would cease to be a bladesmith, as I no longer would make blades. I was once a bladesmith but would now be a former bladesmith. I would agree with Giuseppe that a knife-shaped object that is never intended to cut but rather to be used as a ritual object would be simply that, a ritual, knife-shaped object. A good example here being the Athame of modern Wiccan ritual. I would call it an Athame, not a knife. An athame is knife shaped, but not a knife since it is never intended to cut anything (as far as I know) and is made for this specific purpose and this purpose only. A knife with a black handle could be used as an Athame, but that is a different matter.
  9. So, if a knife or sword is defined by its purpose, then does a well-made, sharp knife/sword that just sits on a shelf as decoration still qualify as a knife/sword? Does it not become a knife/sword until it is used for its intended purpose? Then, if it is the use to which an object is put that defines it, does a sharp piece of stone that is randomly picked up and used to slice open a rabbit become a knife? Or is it just a sharp stone being used as a tool? Likewise, if a knife/sword was once used for its intended purpose and is then put on a shelf as decoration, does it cease being a knife/sword? Just thought I'd add some confusion to the discussion. **no animals were actually harmed in the making of this post**
  10. Wasn't there a news story a few months ago about a German woman who burned down her garage while trying to kill spiders with a homemade flamethrower fashioned out of a hairspray can and a lighter? That would be ironic....blacksmith shop burns to ground, not from forging but from insect removal.
  11. Let me play Devil's Advocate for a moment. In cases like demos or classes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of attention spent." If you're very concerned about legal action against you for accidents happening at your events, then you should go above and beyond to make sure your work/demo space is as accident-proof as possible. Requiring safety glasses, aprons, gloves, cotton clothing, and steel-toed shoes is not, perhaps, enough. Take a long hard look at your work space. Is there anything you can do to make it safer? Are there any trouble spots where an accident is just waiting to happen? I was a student in a basic bladesmithing class held by the region's blacksmithing guild last month. We had to sign a waiver for that class too and they had all the safety requirements you usually find (goggles, gloves, and even a rule not allowing us to have a sharp point or edge to our knives-in-progress while we were at the class). However, the shop was really unsafe in many ways, and in ways that could have been prevented. Students and teachers alike left tools lying around on the floor, there were only 3 teachers and 8 students so you had "beginners" working with very powerful belt sanders unsupervised, in-progress-knives left sticking out of students' vises unattended in a crowded shop where someone could have accidentally backed up into one, pretty poor ventilation, power tool cords lying around waiting to trip someone, and so on. Don't get me wrong, it was a great class and I learned a lot and the two days were accident-free. But the teachers of the class could have done a lot more to prevent accidents. I've been to demos where the same was true. Allowing people to get too close to the work area, trying to do (perhaps) needlessly dangerous things like forge welding, allowing children to "try blacksmithing", etc. Again, I'm mainly playing Devil's Advocate here, but take a critical look at your demo or class setup and see if there are any areas that you can make safer. Then, perhaps, you can feel a little more comfortable with a waiver as legal protection, knowing that the chance for an accident to happen has been reduced. And I'm no lawyer but I think if you documented your "Safety Plan" that you could present that to a court as evidence of you doing everything reasonable within your means to prevent an accident and that any accidents that DO happen were simply the result of the inherent danger of this activity, as outlined in your waiver. Just my two cents worth.
  12. Great work, Robert. I especially like the contrast between the clean, polished finish of the blade and the darker, rougher metal of the handle...it really captures the diverse characteristics of the steel. Nicely done.
  13. Thanks for the information, Randall. I was aware of the process of stabilizing wood but I've never worked with stabilized wood nor handled a knife whose handle was made with stabilized wood, so I was really unsure how to treat it while working with it or any benefits using it might have. For my Black Walnut handle I think I'll try the linseed oil/mineral spirits/beeswax combo. Thanks again.
  14. Thanks for the response, Randal. So the stabilizer is enough of a sealant for long-term wear and tear on the handle? What sort of finish does that mix of natural materials give after you finish it? Is it slightly tacky in the hand after you've handled the knife for a while?
  15. I'm curious what products people prefer to use on their wood handles and why. I've seen all sorts of things suggested...linseed oil, various wood finishing chemicals, etc. I'm also curious about finishing a stabilized wood handle versus a non-stabilized (would that be the right term?), just dried hardwood handle. I have two knives waiting for me to finish them: one with stablized wood for the handle (to be scales that will be pinned and epoxied on) and one that is non-stabilized black walnut (threaded hidden tang secured by a pommel). Handles seems to be my stumbliing block for finishing knives. :banghead:
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