Friday, July 12, 2013

Mediaeval Scabbard (Old)

The mediaeval arming sword I forged under the direction of Owen Bush was in want of completion.  It was naked, unfinished, and lacked the whole package befitting this thing that wanted no longer to  be a part of me but to seek its own fortune and adventure.  I knew I had to fit it for its journey and send it on its way.  

I started with two materials in mind: poplar and goatskin, hand-dyed with indigo leaves by Jeff Pringle

After I had caved the profile of the blade into two slats of poplar, I glued them together around the edges and shaped the outside of the scabbard.  With file and sandpaper, I matched the fit of the scabbard mouth to the curves of the crossguard.  Next, I cut the leather to a size that wrapped around my scabbard core and used an awl to punch holes along both edges for sewing the seam on the back. 

Adhered first with rabbit-skin glue, sewn on the back with waxed linen thread (which took hours), waterproofed with a beeswax and turpentine mixture, and tightened by contraction over a gentle flame, the scabbard was ready for its belt.  I used a thin burgundy leather for the suspension knot and sewed it to stouter leather belt-stock for the baldric/sword belt. 

I hadn't much experience in coppersmithing, but I was able to whip up the below belt buckle with some inspiration from a Gotlandic original in Jeff Pringle's collection, some light hammering, and quite a bit of tweaking with pliers and files.  The fit turned out nicely, and I'm rather proud of it! 

It was also my first practical application of rivets, and I take a lot of joy in that kind of simple mechanical fastening.  The chape at the bottom of the scabbard is brass, patinated with ferric nitrate.   It is constructed of two halves like the scabbard core, but soldered instead of glued.  This was also my first application of silver soldering, and I found that I liked it very much!  There was a lot of technique introduced to me in this work, and it helped that Jim Austin had a wonderful batch of his own homebrew oatmeal stout on tap!

Rather proud of the rivets on the sword belt terminal:

Less proud of those on the buckle.  I have to confess a much less than sober state during their completion.  It was a merry night. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Time to speed it up

Well, I've spent a long time trying to use this blog to keep a record of my journey into this world of hand work and soul work, but it's really hard to write about stuff that happened last year when there's so much awesome stuff happening this year. 

SO, without further ado, I'll try to bring it up to speed. 

Glad that's settled.

Arctic Fire 2012 - Golden Days of Oakland Part 2

As Oakland's balmy summer of 2012 passed it's mid-way mark, I spent my days polishing blades, striking for Jim on various axes, and drinking his home-brewed beer in return. It felt like it was the place to be, with my mind tuned to internet rumblings in the swordsmithing world, and so much tangible evidence of it around me. 

But it was more than just the exciting murmurs of enthusiasts.  Something was brewing that was going to change the game.  It was announced that, in the finals days of June, visionaries of the craft and art, poet-smiths and makers of artifacts at once new and ancient, would convene in the majestic peaks of Alaska.  Dave Stephens, a very talented bladesmith and unparalleled giver to our movement, was to host them all at his shop and broadcast their esoteric rituals and practices live across the all-permeating waves of the internet-plane.  Jim and Jeff, with their unique insight to the special skill of axe-smithing, enhanced by their in-depth and first-hand examination of iron-age Germanic axes, were asked to contribute a short video for broadcast. 

I had recently tried my hand at linoleum block-printing, and carved blocks to print these shirts, at Jim's request:

I printed them on t-shirts for everyone involved who wanted one, and we got down to business.  Anna Geyer has filmed lots of Jim's smithing videos in the past, and she was all set up to begin.  After a quick glass of Jim's incredible homebrew oatmeal stout to unleash our inner thespians, we took up our positions and played our parts.  It got spliced around a sped-up video of me, Nathan Smith, and Jake striking while Jim leads on an axe of his. It's a great video because the change you see is very gradual, and then all of a sudden at the end there's an axe and you realize how subtly genius it was.  

But honestly, those warm nights under long sunsets were spent doing things like the below: using Jeff Pringle's spare cable-damascus throwing knives on unassuming boxes of Lanesplitter pizza. 

Jim takes his aim, beer in hand for support!

We gathered in the shop, with a projector and massive speakers, to watch the Arctic Fire event!  Captivated by the magical and moving presentations of Dave Stephens, Jake Powning, Peter Johnsson, Michael Pikula, Dave Delagardelle, J. Arthur Loose, we learned a lot and had plenty to talk about.  Overall, the event left us brimming with inspiration and enthusiasm.

Not to mention vicious blows of an ancient blood-feud such as this one, between myself and the singularly despicable Candian: