Mushroom Hunt Pictures – Larch Cones

Larches do not throw off just the cones, but whole twigs. So during a dry spell, the forest floor under larches is just like a huge tinderbox just waiting to burst into flames. That may be one reason why larches also have very thick bark that is capable of resisting flames for quite a long time, similarly to the bark of for example sequoias or cork oaks.

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Project Badgermascus – Interlude 5 – Making New Tools, Learning New Skills

I tried to make two sheaths out of crappy leather first, and it is a good thing that I did, because not only the measurements did not fit the first time, but the stamping and carving were not very good either. Who woulda thunk that making the basketweave pattern is a lot harder than YouTube videos made by master craftsmen make it look like?

The second time I got actually better, but I think I will make a third one before going to the good leather for the final product. Although I did cut a piece of good leather for experiments too and it does work differently (better) than the old crappy one.

In due course, I have made several new tools.

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I had to make myself several new tools because those that I bought did not cover all I needed. I want to make a basket weave pattern on part of the sheath, but the store where I bought the rest had none and on other stores, I could not find one that I liked. Also, the beveler was a bit too big for some of the works that I need to do and the set lacked a mule foot tool, so I made one of that too although I do not intend to use it right now.

I have made all this using a hammer to drive the stamps, and that turned out to be not optimal. Apart from mushrooming of the tool ends and flaking off of the chrome-plating, I thought that the hammer hits unnecessarily hard. So I took out my lathe and started to make a mallet.

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I took an old furniture leg from beech wood for this, although it is not optimal. It is hardwood, but not nearly hard enough. I will probably have to replace this soon as it gets chewed up fairly quickly, but it should last at least for one project. I have already an idea of how to make a new, better one with replaceable head, but that will have to wait for now – for that I first have to find out if I can buy or find suitable materials. If not, I will either try to find or glue-up a big enough piece of jatoba or black locust, since those are a lot harder and thus can withstand more abuse.

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And since building the lathe for just one thing is not worth the hassle, and I need to learn lathe work anyway, I have also taken another furniture leg and turned myself a burnishing tool, from beech wood too. Sycamore, black elder, or cherry would be better for this (they have smaller pores and are more homogenous), but I did not have a suitable piece of any of those quickly available, and this should suffice. Next time I have the lathe on the table, I will probably make a burnishing wheel for the drill press, but with the amount of leatherwork I am currently doing, this is enough. I soaked the mallet and the burnisher in boiled linseed oil and they are drying now. One cover should suffice, so tomorrow they should be ready to use, at least the mallet. The burnisher won’t be needed for a few days yet.

 

Dakota Access Pipeline -Finally Some Good News

Court ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down for the time being and do all the environmental impact studies it has neglected.

-click-

This was hard-won, and hopefully, it won’t be temporary. Humanity needs to wean itself off oil, and as long as the USA doesn’t do that, nobody will. The USA really is leading the world – by example. Unfortunately, a bad example.

Project Badgermascus – Interlude 4 – New Tools

I have decided to make a sheath for the knife, but since the blade and the fittings are quite fancy, a plain leather sheath would be unbefitting. So the time has come for me to learn some fancy leatherwork. As you know, I am quite fond of making my own tools, but this time around I have decided to bite the bullet and buy some basic stuff for starters.

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These are really just the basics – a swivel knife and six basic stamps, a beveler, and a groover. The cheapest ones there were to find.

I will surely make some of my own tools in the future, but these should, hopefully, suffice for a start. They do not allow me to make anything that cannot be done with the tools that I already have – but they allow me to make those works much easier, more consistently, precisely and quicker.

Now I am going to cut up an old leather handbag and test some design ideas.

Mushroom Hunt Pictures – The Finale

Yes, this series is starting at its end, in my kitchen.

Today I took a day off of knifemaking. And by that I mean completely day off, I tried to not even think about knives (at which I failed). I went on a long walk to the forest to look if there are some mushrooms to collect. And there were, enough for me and my father to have a big lunch and a whole bunch that was cooked and put into the freezer for future use.

I did take my camera with me, but we already had a series of mushroom species. And anyway, what I collected was about 90%  blushers and other species were sparse or not there at all yet – the true season comes in August/September.

Blushers are one of those mushrooms that have their own very specific taste – a bit like meat. So the recipe that I have used was very simple – I chopped them up, salted them, added a bit of cumin, basil, oregano, and a tiny amount of ground pepper bolete. Then I softened some onion on lard, added the mushrooms and I stewed them for at least thirty minutes with frequent stirring until most of the water was gone.

So if you cannot expect pictures of mushrooms, what can you expect? Well, I made random pictures of flowers and roadside stuff that I will post one-two a day until I am done. Unfortunately, there were not that many interesting insects around either, but that might be because I was looking for mushrooms, not for bugs. Do not expect some great art, but some of those pictures would look quite good as a screen background, in my opinion.

Project Badgermascus – Part 9 – Almost Done

The knife is done about 95% now. I have peened and ground flush all the pins on scales without some major failure, although there did appear one tiny crack near one of the pins ‘sigh’. I have sealed the crack with super glue and sanded it over, there is nothing else that can be done about it.

I did not do a very good job at the pins, I must say. I think the mistake that I make is leaving myself way too much material to move, which leads to a lot of problems later on. I must remember that for 3 mm pin it is quite enough to peen less than 1 mm material into a recess just 0,5 mm deep. It is not as if the pins need to hold extra-strongly.

But, it is done and it is what it is. I applied a little bit of patina to the pins. Not to make them black, just to make them ever so slightly aged. Funnily enough, the patina has highlighted some of the imperfections – and that made the whole assembly to look actually better. Only you must forgive me for now for not revealing the whole knife yet. There is still a lot of work to do before I consider it publication-worthy, do not expect that very soon.

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I am thinking now how to best seal the surfaces and the patina. Either beeswax, or drying oil. Or both. Any suggestions? I have zero experience with patina on metal jewelry, which essentialy is what this is.

Project Badgermascus – Part 8 – To Peen or Not to Peen…

Today was very stressful, although I did not, in fact, do too much work. But I was agitated about it so I procrastinated a lot, putting off each step for fear of mangling the work and losing a lot of progress. That will also be the case tomorrow.

Today was the day of gluing the scales to the tang. And because I wanted to peen the pins from the beginning, I also had to prepare for that.

For I lack proper ball-peen hammer for this kind of job. I have a wide variety of cross-peen hammers, but only one, big, ball-peen hammer. And that is way too big and chunky for 3 mm brass pins. They are not sold in any stone shop around here, and ordering one online would again put me in the age-old problem – is it worth buying something if the shipping costs more than the product?

So I have to make do with my smallest cross-peen hammer and a few thingamajigs that I have made myself to make the job easier and, hopefully, better.

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Peening pins in bone is kinda dangerous. Bone is hard, but not particularly strong and it can easily split. To try and reduce the risk of splitting I have therefore pre-peened one side of each pin before assembly, so the pins are shorter and thus less likely to bend when I am peening the other side. To make a better job of this I have taken a piece of mild steel from a failed attempt at burner diffuser and I drilled in it 3 mm hole, chamfered to about 5 mm recess on one side. Then I held the pins in a vice and peened one end into this recess.

The second tool that I have made is from an old hook-nail. It is very old and therefore good medium carbon steel, hardenable, although not to the highest degree, and very tough. If the tool works, I am going to carburize the surface and quench it.

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First I have cut off the hook and the tip. Then I have center-punched the center of the square where the tip used to be and dished it out first with a 3 mm bit and then 7 mm bit in a hand-held cordless drill. Then I put a big diameter ball burr for die-grinder into the drill and rounded the inside of the dish and I ground the edges round with a file. I have tried it and it seems to work well when used after the hammer for the final touches on the edges. So I hope to get nice round peened pins tomorrow.

With that done, I have also repaired one of the scales – two holes were a few tenths of a millimeter off so I could not put the pins comfortably through all holes. Not a big problem, I have filled the two holes with quick-curing epoxy mixed with bone dust and drilled them new. You would not notice there was a mistake there if I did not tell you about it.

Then I was ready for the job that I was putting off – the glue-up.

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I have used slow curing epoxy, with work-time 1,5 hours, instead of the 10-minute one that I have used previously for kitchen knives. The reason for this was not only to reduce stress and the possibility of a complete fuck-up, but also the fact that this simply could not be done quickly. Mixing the epoxy, slathering it over the tang and attaching the pins and the scales was simple enough, but after that came the difficult part – to clean all the squeezed-out epoxy from the fileworks. I have used first small pieces of kitchen towels soaked up in denatured alcohol to wipe out the biggest excesses and then a toothbrush soaked in the same to tease-out glue from al the nooks and crannies. I do hope I have made a good job because there is no way back now except either take it as it is or to drill out the pins, smash and grind out the bone and start with the handle scales all over again, which would not be fun at all.

Project Badgermascus – Part 7 – The Pinkening

For the next attempt at the patina, I had to think of a more fool-proof way to mask the areas of the assembly that are not allowed to come in contact with the chemical solution. I have used plastic packaging tape in the past, so I tried it this time. But the one I bought this time is extremely difficult to take off because the glue is too strong. That makes it also difficult to apply tightly around the blade since once it gets stuck, it cannot be corrected. And, the masking around the filework was a major headache-inducer, there the tape was totally insufficient.

So I needed something that is resistant to water and water-soluble chemicals both acidic and basic, hot and cold, something that will show me clearly what is masked and what is not, something that can be applied with high precision and good adhesion to complex surfaces and simultaneously can be removed easily later on without damaging the patina.

And after some thinking, I did come with a solution that worked really well. I made everything pink!

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That is the cheapest nail varnish that I have seen at the local drugstore (2,-€ per bottle). Afterward, I have added the packing tape on big surfaces, but I think it was unnecessary and just me being overcautious.

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I proceeded to make the patina on brass fittings by alternating between acid bath (HCl, very diluted) and polysulfate bath (with occasional brushing with a soft brush under running water) until I have received a color that I was content with, which is sort of metallic blue/brown/dark gray, very similar shade to the oak-tannin patina on steel.

Cleaning off the varnish was a bit of a hassle and used up a lot of paper towels and acetone, but the important bit is that it could be done, could be done well (it was easy to spot uncleaned places) and did not scratch the patina on either the fittings or the blade. I will probably buy heaps of cheap nail varnish, it opens up great possibilities.