Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter's Work

When December came, I left the lively glow of University for the snowy sleep of my childhood home in New Hampshire.  In a place where nothing seems to change and the weathered timbers of hand-built houses measure their breaths with the expansion and contraction of seasons, I had neither workshop nor means to get from place to place other than my boots.  I spent many of those short daylight hours alongside the river, in the woods, and by the fire.  After many months of movement, action, and decision-making, the time had come for reflection and, hopefully, the tying-up of loose ends.

I was, however, unable to resist some projects.  Sewing, leather tooling, and a little carving and sanding remained within my grasp, and I was able to make some small progress on the projects I had brought with me, as well as some new ones:

My westernized take on the Persian kard I made in Boston in the spring was now housed in a scabbard of cherry wood encased in leather I tooled simply and sewed and wrapped with waxed flax-thread.  The antler handle now worn smooth and dark stood out against the truer white of the ice and snow along the yet-unfrozen Contoocook River. 

What more?  October had seen me take a rough-ground blade to the West Coast for a great gathering of smiths, where it was hardened and tempered, and brought  back with a great deal of knowledge and inspiration from craftspeople of all backgrounds.  Now back in my native New England I had finished the blade and begun to hilt it with American walnut and a cast-off deer antler my dad found in the woods.  Here are some pictures I took in the school workshop:

The farriers' rasps my uncle had given me the previous year went to good use and gave me a beautiful pattern. 

Pencil marks preceded carving and dying, and the fitting of fittings.  

Design and heavy work finished, I took my blade home with me to my world of books, windows, and woods.  Here is where it began to take its final shape and a life of its own. 

That blade still waits to reveal its own story, and that's for another time.  The other blade weighing on and illuminating my mind was another I had forged in Boston and done more work on elsewhere.  Hardened with the more or less traditional Japanese method under the instruction of Matt Venier of Venier Forge and demonstrator at Hampshire College in November, its spirit shows through in the hamon: the ethereal hardness line reminiscent of clouds and lightening at once:

The day I etched it, this blade said something to a dear friend of mine who has just gained a degree and a great deal of opportunities.  I felt it wasn't my place to stand between them, and my progress on the blade continues with his name on it.  This one has been telling me what it wants, or perhaps what he wants, but it's led me to my first handle of birch bark, among other firsts:

She too has much more to reveal to me, and so does the winter.