Thursday, March 25, 2010

Springtime in the Alaskan bladesmith shop...

Today was sunny and gorgeous so we spent it inside breathing grinding dust and forge fumes. Adam clothed two of his finished choppers in leather sheaths and I pounded away on a skinning blade for a friend in Kodiak. This last week has seen the addition of a high temp salt pot to our repertoire of shop toys. Adam went scrounging at the cannery junkyard and returned victorious with the last parts needed and went to welding...

This has got to be the most low tech, high tech heat treating operation in the world! (The fancy controls will come later) Having a high temp salt pot allows us to evenly heat our blades with absolute control over temperature. This is critical in the heat treat process to get the performance out of steel that we need to behead dragons, cut brush, fillet fish, skin bears etc. etc.
This Sunday we took a sunny skiff ride up the inlet with our two dogs on lookout. It was so good to be out on the water again and have it be above freezing for a change. We saw some old pilings on the beach and landed to investigate. We found an old water powered sawmill and the remains of a huge iron planer. On our return hike we stumbled over the real treasures... the remains of a blacksmith shop were barely poking up through the mossy forest floor. There was a coal forging tray and one complete forge with a large treadle run blower and a beautiful cast iron flywheel.
It had been abandoned so long that the nearby spruce trees had entwined it with roots, some up to six inches diameter!
We spent the afternoon prying and poking and chopping to get it free. The tree won the first round but we'll be back... and we know there just has to be an anvil sleeping somewhere in the moss.

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