Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Haley's Mastersmith Performance Test

Mastersmith Performance Test done with the applicants forged, 300 layer Damascus, hidden tang chopper.

Shave hair
Cut free hanging one inch rope in one pass
Chop through a 2x4 twice with no edge damage
Still shave hair
Bend in a vise 90 degress without cracking

Now that this part of the test is over the real work begins. Five presentation knives submitted to a panel of Mastersmiths in Atlanta. One being a quillion dagger of 300 layers of Damascus with a fluted, wire wrapped handle. It's going to be a busy winter!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Every man needs his own sword...yep.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A New Year!

And now...on the home front... there's snow everywhere! Has been for awhile now. At first it was that paltry three inches that delighted us with a white Christmas. Then I looked out the kitchen window and the goose feathers were coming down, quickly piling up to a good foot of white at last! Adam rummaged around the shop and turned up our cross country skis and we were off to the lake, frolicking in our scanty hours of daylight. Indeed by the time we were done scampering around the lake and writing notes in the fresh snow with our ski poles darkness was upon us. Gliding home through the silent woods with nothing but a headlamp to compete with the stars was even better. The dogs love to play in soft snow which is great because it's almost as good as giving them a bath!
This is the road to our shop from the house...and this is what peeks out when you knock on the door just before Christmas...a hammer wielding Elf pokes his head out and chases you away! We have to take turns in the shop this time of year and be diligent about cleaning up every scrap of evidence or the other one is sure to guess what you're making for them. Hmmm...acid soaked paper towels around the etchant, must be damascus, or, well look at this leather dust under the grinder, looks like someone's making a gun sling etc. etc.
We started a tradition last year of a Winter Solstice Party. Bonfire...hotdogs N 'shmallow...cider, you know the kind. We even had three small boys to tow around the frozen lake on sleds while their mother and I rode tandem snowboard style on a pallet board drug behind the Yamaha at high speeds. It was pretty hard to top that, especially considering that the previous mail plane had brought us no kids. Awwelll...this year we had a light show! It was the first Winter Solstice in many years, and the last we shall ever see, that had a lunar eclipse on the same day. We all gathered around a roaring fire while Debbie, the only other lady wintertime resident, passed out cheesy buns in tin foil and I concocted a watcha-got-in-yer-pantry version of Hot Buttered Rum. Pretty much consisting of brown sugar, honey, spices, eggnog, hot water and a dash of brandy. This was declared a winning combination...probably because the only thing it had to compete with was Alaska White beer which froze instantly upon opening and climbed out of the bottle in a long white snake of ice. There was much fussing with camera's and tripods to try and catch a good picture of the eclipse, which I never really did....awwell, I can't imagine forgetting the sight anyway, you wouldn't believe how red the moon got at certain points.
We had an Aunt and two cousins in the inlet for Christmas this year. We were able to have almost the entire wintertime population plus three together around one table with enough food to feed an army of Cossacks. The boys concocted a cannibal stew style hotub from half an old wooden, army fuel tank...petroleum being famous for it's skin healing properties you know. So the water was heated in an old bathtub over a campfire and then run through a gravity hose into the fuel tank. A bucket could be dipped out of the 'hot tub' and hoisted into the trees with a pulley to gravity back into the tub over the fire with another gravity hose. GENIUS!! We soaked after dinner with Christmas lights strung above in the trees ( decadently using up precious electricity) and Christmas music floating through the combination of steam and wood smoke.
Then after a week or two it rained...torrentially. The crick had as much water running over the ice as under it. Adam stretched out the hose, fired up the Hond pump and we had a 3" stream of water at the house! I hurried to scrub every funky rubbermaid tote, cooler and bucket I could find. Free water at the house is a washing opportunity not to be wasted. We could finally wash clothes after three weeks now that everything had thawed so that night the house looked like a Vietnamese laundry. We got a dryer this past summer but it takes a great deal of electricity and is quite slow so I do alot of line drying. Adam battled his way to the stove with an armload of wood getting caressed by wet pillow cases and clobbered by swinging carhartts. He's such a sport. As always it's a challenge in our little cabin to find a place to hang the sheets. I hooked one end on a nail above the stove..."Hey, can you pound a nail in for me on the ceiling?" I ask. "Where ya need it?" He says sweetly so I stretch our the bedding full length and declare "Here!" I've decided that dryers are for people who don't have hammer wielding husbands...tsk, tsk, tsk.
And then it froze...hard...I've still got one load of laundry outside on the line and make an executive decision to freeze-dry it. I've heard my Grandma talk about it and figure a woman with 10 kids aught to know just about everything there is to know about laundry. It works! The clothes dry almost all the way and, unlike the usual line dried crunchiness they are gloriously soft from the freezing action. Enough about the laundry...ahem.
We've been 'shopping' like madmen (our term for putting in the knife shop hours) this last month and the finished knives are once again piling up in the dry box. Adam had been making some amazing damascus daggers, this of course requires days of making that amazing damascus to start with. Here he's shaping the rough forged dagger blade in the press.Shaping the curves on the damascus guard...Filing the guard to shape...I have been trying my hand at handle carving and filework. This requires you to 'bed' the handle with epoxy so that you can fully shape it and then take it all back apart for filing or bluing/etching.
Here you can see the handle fully shaped and getting disassembled so the center spacer can be fileworked with a rope pattern and the others gun blued.
Here's the filework begun...you can see the knife and handle pulled apart in the background.

Here it's all put back together again and finished.Same process here except with an ivory handle and the spacers will be left silver. You can see how the rope was left proud of the other two on this one. Something I've been wanting to try for awhile.This was a pretty straight forward handle that I carved with files after it was completely finished. It was great fun, alot less work than those above. I think I'll be doing some more of this.And the end result...About 11:00 on New Years Eve I was on the phone with my family when Adam brought in two buckets of water he'd hauled up from the crick. "Hey I caught a fish!" I was surprised and not too credulous given the fact that our crick was down to a mere trickle and he must have spent 10 minutes chopping through the ice just to make a hole big enough to dip out of. "Welll..." he said sheepishly "I bombed his home" Sure enough there in the bucket was what looked like a little coho salmon. Adam had used a seal bomb to blow a water hole/'ring in the new year' and this little guy had been the casualty. I suppose we could have eaten him but growing up with brothers has given me the experience to know that fish caught with this method are rather mushy. So we treated the dogs with the catch of the new year. Somewhere we've had the time to go deer hunting, bagging three between the two of us. After a few hours of meat processing, which included a husband powered, hand crank meat grinder, we've a nice pile of roasts and burger in our freezer.
We also took advantage of the frozen ground to fall some trees back in the boggy-in-summer muskeg. Adam bucks the downed trees into rounds splitting the bigger ones in half to make 'em girl sized while I load them in the four wheeler cart and we haul it bit by bit back to the house. It's then split with a maul and packed up to the wood shed. Firewood being rather important when it's 6 degrees out.We had a little .22 handgun contest this morning over two days worth of dishes. The water was frozen up yesterday so there was quite the pile. When Adam challenged me to a shootout I was quick to up the stakes to include the dishes. When I got outside all geared up in my wool pants for a hike Adam pointed at a towering mound of firewood rounds. "Ya see that HaggenDaz box settin' there? Just to the left above the ice cream bar picture there's a blue dot. We each get one shot." He said laying down the rules. "For the dishes right?" I confirmed...oh yeah...so here I sit on the couch with a cup of tea writing our blog to post later while my sweetheart 'man-cleans' the kitchen. It's a well known fact that my Walther P-22 is more accurate than his and I suppose we'll have to switch pistols for the next round and I'll lose, but for now...Queen Of The Range and enjoying every shred of prestige that accompanies it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ABS Intro Class

I find that I have been neglecting my lil' space in cyberspace again. Always there's that tension between the excitement in living and the joy in chronicling life...

We've been traveling for the past two months, first of all to deposit our two puppies in the loving care of my Mom and Dad so we could head down south. All the way south to Clyde N.C. for the ABS Intro To Bladesmithing class. This was a necessary class for me to take so I could test for my Journeyman Smith rating in june and Adam came with to help out with the class and buy me ice cream cones...can't get enough of that stuff when we hit town, quite possibly an icecream poverty complex is to blame.

The class was a great time, taught by two good friends of ours, Jason Knight... and Burt Foster.
We all lived the good life out at Bill & Heidi Wiggins' civil war era cabin up in the hills. Jason had picked up a young hitch-hiker named Jeremiah Johnson on the way and he decided to take the class as well and so stayed with us. We enjoyed the stories of his adventures and also his prowess in playing the theme from Tetris on his accordion. We also benifited from his dumpster diving behind the grocery stores, just because it's out of date doesn't mean it's bad! He provided corn on the cob for our nightly BBQ's and even 3 dozen beautiful roses. We look forward to when his travels bring him to Alaska.There were ten students including Adam and I, the facility was amazing. Ten coal forges all in a row, everyone with their own anvil and vise. Our host, Haywood Community College, also boasted the largest plasma cutter I've ever seen as well as a shearing machine, multiple welding stations etc. etc. it was a shop lover's dream!
The first day we arrived Bill took us over to his shop so I could take my JS Performance test. This involves shaving hair with the test knife, cutting through a 2x4 twice, cleanly cutting a free hanging rope in one stroke and still being able to shave hair. The knife is then clamped in the vise and bent to a 90 deg. angle without breaking. We hadn't had time to round up a 2x4 so Bill was generous enough to dismantle an old sawhorse for me to destroy, I was a little worried about chopping into a nail but all went well. After some tense moments with the cheater bar the knife passed 90 Deg and sprang back....whew! Now I just have to make those 5 knives to submit to a panel of judges in Atlanta. We celebrated at the cabin with a glass of wine and passing around my bent knife which Adam decided was our new melon scooper.
It was great to have two weeks with nothing to do but forge knives and to have Jason and Burt to ask questions of. Adam spent some time teaching heat treating and inspiring everyone with his monster blades. He was experimenting with some CruForge V, a new bladesteel that has some surprising characteristics. Every day it seemed he'd put at least one knife in the vise and break it to check the grain structure...that's why we can't have nice things...
We had a great time, brought home over 40 blades between the two of us and met some really good people. Tommy, the youngest and biggest member of our class took a southern-boy-sized swing at a free hanging rope and followed on through into his thigh and calf. After a rush to the emergency room we were glad to find out that nothing vital was cut. He drawled to the nurse on arriving "Ya think ah'll neeead stitches?" she looked at the massive cut and said tartly 'ya think?' 32 staples later he hobbled out on crutches still grinning. He was a sport and showed up the next day, which was the last day of class, to say goodby and get in on some class pictures which unfortunately didn't end up on my camera. THIS priceless picture was however...last we heard from him he was healing up well and still making very sharp knives.
The surrounding area has a ruggedly graceful beauty to it. Old water wheels turn gently by their mill ponds protected by the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. The Last Of The Mohicans was filmed in the area and neighboring Asheville boasts the famous Biltmore Estate which is open to visitors. Weekends in this part of the country cannot be ill spent. Jason even talked us into some Karaoke one Wed. evening and Adam wowed the audience with his rendition of Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue' Our afternoon in Asheville was a charming combination of good coffee, incredibly artsy hats and an impromptu jam session with a dulcimer wielding street musician. I never knew this but mountain dulcimers are tuned harmonically so EVERYTHING you play sounds good! The ultimate knock-around instrument to pass around the campfire. Next time we're in the area we'll certainly be planning more time just to look around.
Photos by Haley D. & Lydia McGhee

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meat Processing @ The DesRosiers

Adam demonstrates the proper use of a damascus chopper and quick clean meat processing all in one!

Monday, September 20, 2010

September Frolics

Golden sun, fish in the crick and our first anniversary...it's been a glorious September thus far. We've been slaying the coho salmon with bow and arrow to fill the smokehouse and just finished the last pressure cooker full last night. 175 cans of smoked salmon are lining the shelves of our pantry and we are now eyeing the lean firewood pile warily, seems it's a never ending chore.

Although it's duck season at last we've not been out blasting holes in the sky as much as we'd like...I think they sense the murder in our hearts. We've only brought one plump spruce hen home, these are well known for a very poorly honed sense of survival instinct.

Oh yes, the mushroom hunting has been fantastic! Our good friends Jim and Maria Rodebaugh were here for a week and we had a fine time harvesting puffballs, hedgehogs and chicken of the woods. We also logged off the most impressive stand of shaggy manes I've ever seen, they were almost too pretty to pick. However if you were to get a chance to try Jim's wild mushroom risotto do it!! We got in some salt and freshwater fishing while they were here too. Just so noone forgets, the girls carried away the record of most dice games won for the whole week and were very humble about it. Halfway through the week the boys hauled off to fetch us forth some venison since we'd been living off fish for awhile and red meat sounded awfully good. Us women folk stayed back at the shop to have the first ever all-ladies hammer-in. There were some finely turned towel and coat hooks coming off the anvil and quite a good time was had by all. Topped off with fresh backstrap and huckleberry pie when our conquering heroes returned. Suffering in the wilderness once again.

We have been working on a few blades in all this. Adam has been twisting every bar of damascus in sight and turning out some real eye candy in preparation for our time in Brazil with Rodrigo S'freddo. I have been working on some 10 inch blades, a bit bigger than I usually create but I'm preparing for my cut and bend test which is my first step towards becoming a journeyman smith. I find the combination of housewife/bladesmith to alloy perfectly...just the other day I tossed a crusted old baking pan out on the porch declaring it hopeless, not worth my time to scrub, let the ravens have it etc. etc. I took myself off to the shop to drown my guilt in the comforting roar of a *KMG when lo and behold I found myself looking around for a shallow metal container to hold the sand for my *blue-backing procedure...proof that God governs in the affairs of men...that's what I say.

* KMG Knife Maker's Grinder, a 2x72 inch belt grinder that allows you to make mistakes at top speed removing perfect plungelines, pleasing profiles and knuckles efficiently and indiscriminately.

*Blue-backing is an extra step to the tempering process. The cutting edge of a hardened and fully tempered blade is protected from heat by damp sand while you apply a torch to the spine. This further softens the blade making it springy and tough while the edge retains the hardness necessary to hack through a great deal of stuff and (as my brother Mark would say) still shave a camel's behind without waking him up...

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's the most wonderul time of the year...

Endless Autumn

Through bewildered meadow-grass

I follow my feet on unmarked paths,

Vibrantly colored alder trees

Eye me shamelessly

Impatient with the plainness of green

They've chased away our timid summer,

Now they flaunt their victory flags

Of orange, and gold, and umber

The grass, long past conspired with the woods

Stiffly insolent in the breeze,

Cream, and honey, and chocolate burdock

As boldly as you please!

A chill rain scolds them both

Speckling the high tide for good measure,

But I can see them shining aloft

Gay and laughing for pleasure

Soaking wet with the merry throng

I'll join the revolution of time,

Who wouldn't trade the faded Summer

For an endless Fall this fine?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Escape From BLADE Mountain!

Ahh...back to the swamp...we'd no more than dumped our Atlanta bags on the floor before we tossed the camping gear together and headed straight up the mountains behind our house for a little R&R. Adam also had a birthday present waiting for him in the mail when we got home that begged for a maiden voyage into the bush. Here's a picture of the precioussss...it's a three barrelled german made gun called a Drilling. This particular one is a Merkel 96K, 12 ga/12ga over 30.06 with a swing mount scope...a gun for all seasons!
I had loaned out my personal chopper so Adam grabbed an unfinished one off his workbench for me. He sharpened it up and whipped a cord handle on it and we were off. It was a bit of a brush crash to climb to the foot of the mountain... then things started looking up... We camped about 50 yds. from the summit the first night. We were up above the tree-line and the crevasses were still brimming with snow. It's remarkable how heavy a pack can feel after a winter of relative inactivity in the shop. It was often steep enough that you couldn't sit to rest either on the snow or grass without sliding down. We wheezed our way onto a little outcropping and called it home for the night. We were eating our top ramen dinner when we heard a SSSHOOOOOOOSHHHH sound and a huge boulder came sliding down through the snow about fifty yards away. The next morning I realized I'd forgotten any tea or cocoa so Adam brewed me up some mountain fare from spruce-tips and flowers blossoms. Then we went up and over to see what we could see!
The view was inexplainable as the top of an Alaskan mountain should be. Massive rocky peaks and snowy slides share the altitude with alpine meadows of moss and wildflowers. It was really the perfect time of year to be up there. Enough snow to melt for water but warm enough for all the fairy sized shrubs and petite flowers to be in bloom. We picked enough fiddlehead ferns on the way up to sautee for dinner. Game was plentiful and Adam was in heaven breaking in his drilling. "I don't mean to brag, but I make a mean weed-rat stew..." Cheers to the second honeymoon!

The puppies were glad to be a family again and with all that moss it was basically a whole mountain of dog-beds. It was hot and sunny and no wind to speak of. We dumped our packs on the summit and spent the day hiking the far ridges and exploring rock crevasses that hold tasty critters.

We also heaved a few boulders off the edge ourselves to watch them slide and spin through the snow far below. There was a sunburn to be had and we got it...here Adam fetches me some snow while I relax, he spoils me until I'm just rotten.

I brought along this little .22 that my grandpa gave me when I was tiny. Remington 'improved model 6' it's only 34" long. A great little rolling block, single shot, it breaks down with one thumbscrew to about 20" I hadn't shot it much in recent years and was stoked to find it's still a tack driver. We wiled away an evening decapitating lupine flowers outside our tent...alaskan 'groundskeeping' at it's finest. That little rifle is all the more precious to me since Grandpa went to be with the Lord recently, he would be proud to know it's still traveling mountains. We camped out the second night on the crest of the mountain overlooking Excursion Inlet. Here Adam prepares to hurl a thunderbolt at the city and borough of Haines for having the nerve to collect property taxes from us without providing any services.It's hard to get to sleep because there's so much more daylight with nothing to throw a shadow on you, expecially this close to the summer solstice it never really got dark at all. We woke up the third day to find ourselves in the clouds. Our world suddenly seemed very small and steep on both sides. The wind picked up a bit and we decided to break camp and get down off the summit and into the timber in case the weather turned bad. It started to rain a tad and we made ourselves a camp down there in the trees and had a wood fire for a change. There was still patches of snow nearby so we weren't short of water.The next morning it started really pouring down rain on us. We went home another way, got to thinking about hot cocoa and crashed down a loooooong steep slope cross-hatched with windfalls and brush. I was taking this picture to try to capture the incline and caught Adam just as he slipped and swung around dangling from this tree. Didn't realize I'd married such a tree hugger!All in all it was a great way to decompress from the BLADE show excitement...we may make it a tradition.