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 We also benifited from his dumpster diving behind the grocery stores, just because it's out of date doesn't mean it's bad!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