Hey everyone! Here is a short recounting of the last few months work and travels. I already showed you guys my final project for graduation, but here is the rest of what I was up to when I should have been working on that specific project.
I have a love affair with home made steel. Bloomery, hearth, wootz, whatever it is I love that ancient grain. I have been learning to make my own steel for some time now, with the help of some great fiends and mentors, and make steel whenever I have the opportunity to do so! Last winter I made steel with my good friend Dan Waddell,
later that month with our favorite Jeff Pringle,
and then a few days later with Jesus Hernandez, JJ Simon, and Matt Venier!
I was challenged by JJ to make a bowie knife a summer ago, and finally had time to work on the blade we had forged together. It is my first bowie knife and has a frame handle, hollow ground bog oak scales, and 80CRV2 blade. The guard is mild steel and the pins are stainless. I had a bunch of issues with fit and finish and the bog oak was unstabilized and rather chippy, but overall I am very happy with the result! A good friend of mine and Nihonto collector ended up falling in love with the blade and traded me a wakizashi for it, so I finished a sheath for it using sting ray skin as a nod to our shared passion for Japanese swords.
I then did an aboutface and made a few seaxes, one for a client, one for a collaboration in the works with my good friend Eli! The first is 1075 with a nice autohamon and a twisted bar in the center. My favorite detail was how the twist ends and then turns to straight laminate for the very end of the blade, that is a touch I will certainly come back to someday. The second seax is mostly old material, with a little 15n20 thrown in for interest! Hearth steel edge with an iron spine.
I made a sheath for a beautiful seax Zeb Deming made, and finally finished a collaboration we had started a while ago. The tooling is similar to the small seax I own from Zeb.
So this was all happening during school, my last year, which you would think is when I would forsake all fun and get down to work right? Not so! I got a call from Kerry asking if I wanted to shoot Man at Arms with him and the gang, and I took a few weeks off from school to go shoot with them! We shot a season of the show for the El Rey Network, Robert Rodriguez's network. We made historical weapons based on different cultures and it was a total blast!
Jesus and I worked together on a few of the builds and had a lot of fun being 'outsiders' on the set seeing how practiced everyone was in front of the camera! I filmed there for two weeks before heading home, and spent a lazy day at school before being flown out to Texas for a promo shoot with Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez.
So i came home and got back to 'work' which I have to put in quotes because whenever I'm making I'm almost always having a blast! I got to a client's commission for a broad seax with amber. I had the idea of inlaying it into the pommel with a hole all the way through so both pieces of amber would glow as if lit by fire. That was a lot of fun! 1075 and wrought for the blade, carved moose, maple, wrought iron, silver, and amber for the handle, and leather and brass for the sheath.
I took the opportunity while I was in the mood for leather work to make a sheath for the Garnet Seax I made a while ago too
At some point later my girlfriend decided she really loved this knife, and as the carvings were originally meant to be for a hair pin, I decided to make one for her as a surprise. I asked Dave DelaGardelle to share his carving mojo with me and I think I did okay! Projects like these are something I really love, a day project that turns into something really wonderful for a loved one.
I made a folding knife for the wife of my good friend who collects Nihonto! Made from pattern welded steel and mammoth ivory, with decorative pins. She fell in love with this one during the graduation show I had, so it was hers.
I did some mourning work for him, and worked on a tanto he had, making the tsuka and fitting the samé and the rest of the tosogu.
I made a kitchen knife out of mystery steel that has cracked or broken on me every other time I had tried to use it since. I quenched this particular knife in water directly after forging and normalizing and haven't had any luck with the steel since then. Water buffalo horn, maple, iron, and mystery steel. It has one of the favorite hamon I've ever made and I am perplexed as to why it happened.
Last year sometime when I was waiting to board a plane for Forged in Fire I got a call from Nick Rossi asking if I would be willing to teach a seax class at the New England School of Metalworking. I had heard really wonderful things about that school ever since I began to smith, and I agreed immediately to doing the class! I prepared several slide presentations and brushed up on some history and hoped for the best.
It was a total success! The students made some amazing work all around. Of the students I believe only one had done and pattern welding before and only a few were experienced in forge welding. I showed them a cross sectional photo of a six bar seax with patterned bars on each side of it and they really hooked onto the idea as a way to forge a blade of regular thickness with the eternally sought after star pattern in the twists. My initial idea was three bar seaxes about 6 inches long with an edge bar, a twist, and wrought iron spines. Every single student overshot my highest expectations and made some wonderful stuff. I split people into two groups for most of the work, with the first group starting to fold edge material to ~300 layers and the other group drawing out bars for twisting. Dereck and Nick had previously done the work of drawing out the wrought iron for the spines. In the photo above you can see the cross section of the demo piece I made in between running around to show them the six bar construction.
Here is the blade Aidan made after rough forging
And him and Coulton working together to burn in the handles
Working together (do you notice a trend?) to wet form the sheaths
Stephen drawing and wrapping wire around his seax handle
A photo of Coulton's war monster. He wanted a subtle etch to bring out the pattern very lightly and man is it beautiful.
Here we go!
First is Nick's seax, a continental style seax with some sweet counter twisted and offset bars and maple and moose antler. A beautifully light and thin blade, this thing was demonic in it's sharpness.
Nate's seax, a set of twists framed by wrought iron and made into a wicked broken back shape. Antler and mahogany (?) handle
Stephen's seax, beautifully wrought with a gently flowing pattern. Silver wrapped black walnut handle with red tail deer antler
Jeff's seax, counter twisted bars done cleanly and with control, framed by wrought iron and patterned steel with a stout handle of antler and maple.
Coulton's war seax. I'm not sure how large the pictures make it look, but it was HUGE. Wide powerful blade with beautifully matched twists and a subtle pattern.
Aidans giant orc seax! Seven bar construction with hamon (show off)
Last is my own demo piece! Forged from six bars of the steel we prepared. In only six days we forge welded billets for edge and twist bars, layered the edges from 11 to 300 layers, twisted and prepped billets, forge welded, drew to shape, ground, heat treated, ground and polished, roughed and fit handles, did final assembly, and even made sheaths! I am in awe of the dedication and teamwork each one of the students showed, and the pieces they each walked away with are testaments to their work ethic and willingness to not only make, but learn about these amazing knives. The seax is one of my favorite knives for a reason, and the work that each student put out is exactly why. I left feeling extremely rewarded. It was an intense week of work and learning but the camaraderie and hospitality shown to me by Nick and Dereck made me feel at home in a shop I had never even seen before.
I came home and had to finish a sword in a week! A good friend, kindred spirit, and client was to receive an SCA award for excellence in making and this was to be the surprise. He was told the sword would be done in another month or so, maybe in time for Pennsic, maybe not
He named the sword Virtu. It is a type XV based on the Fastolf sword. I brought it to Zack Jonas' to visit with Peter Johnsson while I worked on it, and he gave me his blessing saying it was a good blade. That was the push I needed to go back home and finish it for good!
The blade is shear steel quenched in water with a wrought iron guard and pommel. The guard was my first foray into files guards, and was a pleasure to do! I hope to do more of that in the future. The grip is different from the sword it was based off mostly for reasons of comfort. In doing a test the original sword's grip must have been awful to grip without a serious glove. I was so short on time I received help from my friend Oliver in turning the wrought iron for the pommel. I then ground the hollow on the perimeter of the pommel freehand and spent an eternity polishing away the marks. Eli helped me polish the blade. I spent a few frantic days working on the grip and sheath, having to wait of course for the glue to dry and the linen to be ready for the leather wrap. The tooling was accomplished at 2am the night before the delivery of the sword was to be done. The moons represent many late nights, immortalized now in leather! The rest of the carving is a lattice pattern (not pictured) and the client's coat of arms.
I co-taught another class at Hampshire during the summer. Three of the students that came last year decided to come back and take the course again, wanting to continue their projects and learn even more! It is such a gratifying feeling to have been able to show them enough that they decided to come back and work in the same smithy again.
Cole had started a sword on his own, having set up a shop at home since last summer, and he bought it with him, where I showed him how to grind the fuller and he spent days polishing. We cast a set of type H fittings I had carved a long time ago for my ULFBERHT build and finished it before the two weeks were done. It is a great pleasure to watch students of the flame grow and improve in their own projects and this was no different!
Last but not least I have been playing again with home made steel, as all things are cycles. I have been fortunate enough to be entrusted with antique Nihonto and allowed to re polish and play with them, and have had much fun and success, as well as learning. I quenched a hearth katana during the eclipse with my great friend Matt Berry and then a small norse sword/seax and then also a viking sword later on, there are photos of those but for a later time! For now, steel-magic and rest, because if you're not weary after reading then you truly have a greater attention span than me! I leave you with tamahagane and bloom made by myself and Jesus polished by a mix of old and new ways.
I hope you guys enjoy! And again, like the title says, I am sorry for writing so much!
I am so surprised I didn't surpass some sort of photo limit...