Majesty

The world is changing. The earth is coming alive with minute shoots of green, the air has a new potency to it. Whether this should be happening in mid-February is hard to say, and the beautiful sunny days have a sinister quality to them. Still, the birds are happy, and so are we.

I have felt a slow deceleration in the forge. Between running out of coal, several windy days, and preparation for the future, I have been spending less time pounding iron. Still, I am pleased to keep the thread alive, and have completed some exciting projects.

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The handle end of a fire poker.

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And the handle itself, an experimental “half Rubiks” twist.

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Seeking to find beauty in simplicity.

Knifemaking has been a substantial part of my work, and I’ve been focusing on laminated blades. This is the process of taking a high carbon core and forge welding mild steel on the outside, creating a three-layer blade. It is simple enough, and adds just a bit more durability. As with any technique, there are some dos and do-nots, and it has been fun to explore these. Refining my handles has also been a main goal. This is my least favorite part of making a knife, so finding the patience and techniques to keep improving is an important, but challenging task.

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The border between the steels

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And a handle, out of purpleheart wood.

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Another laminated blade, with a hidden tang. I burnt this one into its handle, a new process for me.

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And a sheath I made, the first informed leatherwork I’ve done. Many thanks to my friend Kevin Schilke for all his help on this one.

In between the forging there have been numerous lovely experiences. One highlight was baking kardemummabullar (Swedish Cardamom Buns) for New Year’s Eve. Yum! They made me think longingly of Sweden – just in time! In a little more than a week I head back, and I couldn’t be more excited. Many more adventures to come, I’m sure.

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As I approach my final days in this landscape, I am struck by the majesty of the world. The skies which are forever changing, an unimaginably huge expanse. The mountains which seem to grow in stature every day, their snowy peaks newly chiseled against the crisp air. The red tail hawk keeping a weather eye out for a meal from the top of the cottonwood tree. There are too many facets of this world to really appreciate, too many stories to ever grow tired of listening.

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(Lyra, the newest addition to the farm)

The Journey Into Winter

As the weather finally turns colder, the feeling of winter has materialized for me. Through the challenge of windy days in the forge and frigid mornings getting started with work, I have struggled quite a bit. But I am starting to feel that this is actually really cool! The privilege to work with the world, and not insulated from it, is one I am grateful for. Although it reduces my productivity, I think I gain a greater feeling of belonging, of knowing just where my place is, or isn’t, among the remarkable workings in my corner of the world. A little esoteric sounding, I know, but with very real indicators in my life. Knowing the temperature, the timing of the sun, the moon, the direction of the wind, all these small pieces of the world that seem in fact to be the foundation of my experience as a human.

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I had to warm up the anvil this morning with a block of hot steel. It was 14ºF (-10ºC). Brrrr! 

 

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A pretty good view on my walk to work in the morning.

Even with some obstacles, I have felt pretty productive in the forge. It has been a curious sort of productivity – I am careful to let myself get distracted with new ideas and experiments. I am well aware that I am in a sort of grace period, when I am working because I choose to work, but without the expectation of making money. So, when something new strikes my fancy, it is go time!

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Women’s knives, or Viking knives as we’ve been calling them here.

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Grinding free hand is always a challenge, but it’s one I force myself to face. No jigs on this one!

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Some more collaborations with my brother Neal. The handles were beautifully crafted by him out of wood and leather.

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I have made a handful of knives recently, and my current obsession is with kitchen knives. Finding both an exciting approach from a design perspective as well as trying to achieve the ultimate kitchen tool is a challenge that I don’t think I’ll ever quite solve. But thanks to my work with Fredrik (and a love/hate relationship with the epoxy resin I use to attach the wooden handles), I’ve been trying to think outside the box a bit.

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Single-piece, steel chef knife.

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Yep, it’s done! Nothing to be added to this handle.

Besides knives, there have been a handful of other bits and pieces. I used some old and some new items to put together an offering for a winter fair in town. Not as much stock as I had imagined, but still good to have a reason for making things, other than the selfish urge to just forge.

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I think often about why I do what I do. Recently I have decided that it is more important how I go about my life rather than what I fill it with. For me the small details are important, but for my impact on the world it is the intention that I bring to my work and my interactions that has power. I hope that I, and everyone else, can find a way to leave our marks on this world and our history in a way that leads us towards greater fulfillment and meaning in our lives. It doesn’t whether those marks are large or small, just that we leave them with a smile and a hope for the future.

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Natural Rhythms

In the frost of dawn, there is a hushed chill in the grey air. With the first haze of light in the east, however, the world starts to shrug the sleep from its shoulders. Once the explosion of the sunrise accelerates the life all around, warmth finally seeps into the crevices of night, breaking them wide open.

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Colorado sunrise during a morning in the forge

I have been lucky enough to experience many such mornings as this, adding the fire of my forge to the light just before dawn. Work on the farm starts early, and without much artificial light in the evenings in the yurt, I find it best to take advantage of every minute of daylight. With each day that passes I grow more obsessed with blacksmithing, and have loved working in my small outdoor forge here in Colorado. Candlesticks, a fire poker, a damascus chef knife, and many hooks have been in the works, with a long list of projects yet to make. Working in such a minimalist forge is both frustrating, and highly instructive. It sometimes takes all my ingenuity to solve a problem without the correct tool, a great mental exercise.

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The set-up, looking east.

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One of the candlesticks for a winter fair.

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Some new fittings on the barn were in order.

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A blade I made, artfully fitted with a stacker handle by my brother Neal.

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A damascus chef knife for a local chef.

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Using primarily hand tools, many hours went into this one!

Outside of the forge, the busyness of life rushes on. There is a never-ending amount of work to be done on the farm, all exciting in its own right. Wood splitting and stacking for winter is well under way, animal pens are being built, goats are butchered and processed for meat, and trees are trimmed for their winter weight of snow. Of course, it has been a scorching October and beginning of November, with daytime temperatures in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s at times (Fahrenheit). I’m starting to wonder if winter is in fact coming this year…still, we are just about prepared!

 

 

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Bjorn, the farm dog, has his winter coat on!

Just about two weeks ago I took a road trip to Nebraska, visiting members of my extended family there. It was as much a trip through time as it was through space, as I learned much more of the story of my family history and what brought me to where I am now. The highlight was visiting my grandpa, and hearing about his full life. As I think on these rhythms we have, from the sun every day, to the seasons gently shifting and the years gliding by, all the way to the span of a life, I am inspired and humbled by the continuous change that is the world we know. More and more I learn to be grateful for this constant movement, for the excitement and opportunity it brings. We live in a pretty stunning world, filled with a diversity of experience, both easy and difficult. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Me and my Grandpa.