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Two stories in one; James Austin's Viking age ax class and my first time at the forge!


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Happy Tuesday!!

I have lurked on here for quite some time but have never really posted except when the sword Ondrej Borsky made that was stolen in transport (grrrrr)!!!

Prior to retiring from the military I had always had an interest in knife making and forging, but unfortunately did not have the time or facilities to pursue my passion. Now that I have retired I have studied/continue to study with Johnny Stout and have a small shop set up where I do stock reduction knife making. I live in a subdivision with a HOA so forging is out of the question.

In addition to the knife making retirement has allowed me to pursue my archaeological interest overseas (I specialize in stone tools) especially Scandinavia. Having a great love of the Viking age and weapons (and spending time each year in Norway) and having the opportunity to examine them up close further stoked the fire...imagine my delight when I found a guy named James Austin on this forum...a couple DVD's and working with him on scheduling I finally arrived at his shop in Oakland, California.

Now a caveat to this whole story is I HAVE NEVER FORGED anything before this class!!!

After all meeting for breakfast we proceeded to the shop where James and his assistant for the class Charlie Hsu, started the introduction and overview to the course....here are a few pictures of the main class forging areas.

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the steps to forging this single handed ax (could fall in the Petersen range of a H to an L). The first photo shows the steps to a finished forge welded (eye and bit) ax.​

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After marking the poll and what would be the cheeks the blank was punched to indicate each area and serve as guides for the initial fullering..

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After initial layout of the poll and the cheeks, the blank was heated and these areas refined to include fullering, or spreading of the cheeks, so to speak, will to start forming the area where the langets will be. After a satisfactory preform is attained the whole thing is heated again to start forming the eye by starting to fold it over upon itself. The front part of the eye will be welded onto the back side of the blade. The next photo is the master himself, James at work demonstrating the eye forming/welding process!

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The eye is now welded! 4.jpg

Now that the eye welded it is further reformed by fitting to a mandrel as well as hot chiseling to get the eye formed more precisely. The body of the blade is further fullered and flattened to spread the blade body. When the desired width is achieved the bit (which was slotted previously) it thinned, then spread and prepared to accept the bit. (Refer to the first picture showing the steps involved...much more involved to the process than the I had time to photograph)

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The bit is fitted then it is forge welded in place....a bit more refinement and here you have it! It still needs further reinement and shaping but here is my first foray into forging!!

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T​he course was started on Friday and culminated on Sunday with the students working in teams with each serving as the others striker. James and Charlie were constantly available and working with all participants. Although a formula was followed, those with experience were allowed the latitude to vary....I of course stuck to the plan!!:0)

In addition to world class instruction and hospitality I was able to look at and handle a good number of Viking age artifacts thanks to Jeff Pringle's generosity sharing a part of his collection and his extensive knowledge on weapons amoungst other things!!:0)

In summary if you are on the fence about attending a course with James, don't be!! I learned a ton (then had James go through kofgari techniques on following Monday)!!!! Those in the class who forge (pretty much everyone) acquired new skills, made new contacts, laughed, ate very well, and may have even sampled some great beer and mead (but I can neither confirm nor deny this) and produced some wonderful axes.

Do not hesitate to study with James...in fact why are you still readying this...get to his site and sign up for a class today!!! Thanks James, Charlie and Jeff!!!! See you again soon!!!

Edited by JWKiernan
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Very awesome stuff! Since you said you studied with Johnny stout, I can only assume you're in the Central Texas area? I've found it difficult to find anyone locally to meet up with and discuss steel of the sharp variety. I've also been very interested in taking some of Mr. Stout's classes.

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Very awesome stuff! Since you said you studied with Johnny stout, I can only assume you're in the Central Texas area? I've found it difficult to find anyone locally to meet up with and discuss steel of the sharp variety. I've also been very interested in taking some of Mr. Stout's classes.

Hey Austin!

Yes I live pretty close to Johnny and have been fortunate enough to take one of his classes and benefit from his close proximity.

Shoot me a PM on here or FB and maybe we can talk sharp pointy things sometime!!! Take care.

John

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Congratulations JW, that's a fine piece of forging. You should be very proud. Welcome to the wonderfully addictive world of hot steel.

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FWIW, I live in a suburban area with a fairly draconian HOA (I get fined if my grass is 1/4" too long). If you use a gas forge and bed your anvil in silicone caulk it shouldn't be a problem. I have the forge in my garage and open the garage door when I fire up the forge. My neighbor's Harley is louder than anything I do in the forge.

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Happy Friday all!! I only wish I had taken more photo's...I was just having too much fun and learning!! :D

FWIW, I live in a suburban area with a fairly draconian HOA (I get fined if my grass is 1/4" too long). If you use a gas forge and bed your anvil in silicone caulk it shouldn't be a problem. I have the forge in my garage and open the garage door when I fire up the forge. My neighbor's Harley is louder than anything I do in the forge.

Jeff is there a possibility you could PM a picture of your anvil set-up? I think if I talk to my immediate neighbors I can probably get away with it!

 

Jim Austin is one of the best smiths and finest people I know, plus his shop is seriously envy-inspiring. B) Glad you went and had fun! Oh, and nice job on the axe!

I concur Alan!! I commissioned him to make me a Petersen's type M ax after I bought his DVD's and seen his tutorials on here...I saw his mastery and attention to detail right away...finally we were able to line our schedules up and I didn't hesitate to hop on a plane and head out there!! It was outstanding!!! Anyone even thinking about attending one of James' classes should do it without hesitation!!!

 

Have a great weekend all!!!

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JW, I do not live in a neighborhood with a HOA, but my anvil stand takes all the ring out of it. It's basically a box made from 2x10 boards set on edge with a plywood bottom and then filled with sand. I then cut another piece of plywood to fit inside the top to set the anvil on. No anvil ring and no anvil bounce. I thought I posted a pic somewhere on this forum recently, but I cannot find it again. So here are two more.

 

Anvil stand.JPG

 

Anvil stand (2).JPG

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The silicone caulk trick is even easier. Just lay a solid bed of 100% silicone caulk about 3/8" thick on the base of your anvil (with the anvil upside down, or caulk the stand instead if you prefer), let cure for about half an hour, then set your anvil on the stand and leave it alone for 24 hours. You can then bolt it down tight and I promise it will not make a noise.

 

My anvil is on a sheet of 3/8" neoprene bolted down, and will ring a bit if struck on the horn. I haven't bothered with the silicone on it because I am not in a subdivision and it is not at all loud.

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