A Farewell to Winter

There is a singular feeling of whispered joy in the air. It is both a memory of times that came before, and the expectation of life to come. It is the feeling of spring, and I love it.

(Last week I got the opportunity to see my reflection in a mirror. Aside from the dirty coal black of my hands, my skin has an odd white glow like some of those fish that live in deep ocean trenches. I am looking forward to feeling the sun again!)

My days have been filled with such variety and depth of work that the time has whizzed by. In the last month I have been busy working with Alex, as well as taking time to visit several other smiths in Devon. My forging ranged from production work (100 hooks, 50 woodstove handles), to axe making (a throwing tomahawk), to flint and steel strikers, to helping fabricate rocket stoves for refugees in France, to making bodkins and bowl-carving adzes, to producing components for an outdoor railing, and visiting a 600 year old house to make a model for a spiral stair railing. Whew!


My tomahawk.


This design was made by folding a strap of mild steel around for the eye, inserting a tool steel cutting edge, and forge welding the whole lot together.


The flint strikers I am making for Alex.

On my travels I worked with Jon Snow of Windy Smithy for four days, where I dipped my toe into the world of steel fabricating. It was challenging and precise work, and very valuable to my education as a blacksmith. Our task was to make 14 wood burning cook stoves for refugees in France. I mostly helped with grinding, cutting, and bending, but also chipped in with some nonessential welding. For hot work in the forge I got my first experience of forging out stainless steel, and began a dozen or so poppies for the Ypres WWI memorial later this year.


Some of the rocket stoves getting ready to ship out.

The next stop was the woods of Dave Budd. Dave is a dedicated tool maker who forges in an off the grid workshop in a patch of woodland not far from Dartmoor. I helped out with some basketry tools and started some adzes, alongside many good discussions and lessons in a variety of topics. Camping in the woods alongside the resident roe deer and myriad other creatures as the moon waxed towards full was a beautifully peaceful time.


Dave’s workshop in the woods.

My path then led me to Rob Hills’ workshop near Newton Abbott. Rob is a fantastic architectural and artist blacksmith, who takes on many different styles of project. I was amazed at the scale of what he produces working alone, and was glad of the opportunity to help him out for a day. He led me on my first foray into Dartmoor, a ruggedly beautiful area that holds on to some of the wildness of medieval Britain, at least in my imagination. Because there are now so many people on this small island, it is rare to find an expanse that is sparsely populated, at least this far south. It was the openness and emptiness that put me in mind of earlier times, and set my spirit searching.


My neighbors one morning.

As I look ahead, there is another full month of travel on the horizon. My next trip will bring me a little further north, with new sights and sounds and adventures. And of course a healthy portion of the unknown. I wish the best of growing life and exciting opportunities to all who read this, and may the joy of spring fill your hearts.


Some women’s knives.


Flux spoons for the workshop.


End detail.


My most recent stab at tong making.