I have been debating what skill would be most efficient to learn next.
Flintknapping? I am in the right geographical area for it, and I can find practitioners to learn from at the annual pioneer-skills fairs or at the Heritage Center. It requires minimal tools and energy input (holding a rock in your hand and hitting it with another rock to make it sharp, anyone?) but carries risk of physical injury (holding a rock in your hand and hitting it with another rock to make it sharp, anyone?)
Luck and networking seem to have brought me another option, though!
I’ve been interested in metals since I did my senior comprehensive paper on the unique crystalline structure of Damascus steel – but I haven’t had a chance to work with it past tiny craft workshops on enameling. So this was a dream come true.
On January 15th, I joined Trampas on a trip to PrairieCon’s Winter Gamesday – where we played Galaxy Trucker and lots of Agricola (mmm, Agricola!) His parents live around there so we took advantage of their guest rooms. Trampas’s dad Cliff happens to be an accomplished blacksmith, and loves sharing his skills with excited newbies. So, with a great deal of help, I got to both forge a knife from a railroad spike AND heat-treat, haft and sharpen a used sawzall blade into a paring knife!!!!
Cliff’s propane forge, Hotsy.
This is forging temp. You WILL singe your eyebrows if you get too close.
Propane turned all the way up, for grins and comparison.
Cliff did the drawing-out with a 7-pound hammer he made himself from a sledgehammer, and I did the shaping and smoothing with the 1-pound wussy girl hammer that was the only one I could control. Even the 2-pound hammer was hilariously ineffective.
Trampas helped shape the point!
This is why you have a hole on both ends of the forge – so you can position the part that needs greatest heating, in the hot center area. Here we were heating the join between blade and handle so I could straighten it back out – it got a bit turned during forging.
Finished forged blade, with scorch mark where I leaned too close to the hilt while concentrating on a detail of shaping. The blade is not entirely smooth – I intended to leave some areas in forged-condition instead of polished to prove that it was a forged knife, but the final polishing and sharpening took them quite a bit smoother than I expected.
And coolest of all, Cliff sent me home with a teeny firebrick forge like the one in the center of this photo, to practice more on my own! This is entirely suitable for recycling used blades – in fact, we heat-treated the paring knife entirely in my own forge.
Yes, it does take a lot of fossil-fuel input – but right now that is available, and practicing the skills with easy heat will certainly not be wasted if in the future I have to use hard heat. Plus, recycling old metal? Heck yes! Now to collect old horseshoes, railroad spikes, dull sawzall blades, and circular saw blades with carbon all the way through…
(The facilitator for the brain-tanning class had made the class wahintkas out of chopped up circular saw blades that he ground sharp. Starting with the right kind of saw blade – carbon all the way through instead of only on the teeth – and heat-treating would have made them a great deal better at retaining an edge. There are elk farms around here that sell shed antlers for hafting…)
I took notes, but there was SO MUCH going on. Can anyone recommend a good introductory text to serve as a memory aid?