Tag Archives: blacksmithing

Give ALL the Thanks

Why does pie say more about Thanksgiving than turkey?

Why does pie say more about Thanksgiving than turkey?

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday, and not just because of the pie. The latency in posting about it was more about the fullness of the giving rather than the lack of things to give about. Per typical, there was a lot of eating. Thursday morning, Paul and I went for a run with Ky and Amanda (in from Bellingham!) and Brian, Jenna, and Claire at Blue Mountain. After cleaning up and cooking, we both headed to Harlequin Farms in Arlee. I got my winter share vegetables from the farm and a few friends were gathering to celebrate. When all your friends are foodies, Thanksgiving turns out awfully tasty…



Our stay changed from an afternoon into two days because, well… it was awesome so why go home?

Part 2- home-made pizza factory. Simon and Paul get after it.

Part 2- home-made pizza factory. Simon and Paul get after it.

After all the eating though, I needed some movement. Bad weather meant that I spent Saturday with Ky (in from Bellingham!) and Brian and Simon in the climbing gym instead of outside, but with that quality of people- I had no complaints. Sunday was a little more typical, with another short gym session and the real treat of seeing “Catching Fire” in the theater.

After the long weekend and pre-holiday professional potholes smoothed over, work felt more relaxed. When Martin pointed out that Lost Trail was going to have an epic opening, I took it as a sign to take things a little less seriously. Thursday was way better spent in the mountains than at my desk. I don’t often resort ski, but it was -11F when we left the car at 9am, and I was thankful for a warm lodge to duck into between runs. The day never got much above zero, but the snow was perfect, and I was psyched to have two solid companions (Paul jumped at the offer of a ride).

Is this really happening on a Thursday?

Is this really happening on a Thursday?

I finished off the week with a rad day in Big Fork, MT with my good friend and AERO support Jeffrey Funk. I wrote more here about one of his workshops in 2012, but this year the group was smaller, and the project a little more complicated. I may never actually get any better only practicing once a year, but hammering some iron sure is a lot of fun.

We each turned the small block on the left into the garden trowel on the right.

We each turned the small block on the left into the garden trowel on the right.

Oh yeah, and sunset at Jeff & Betsy’s is not to be missed:

Mission Mountain Magic.

Mission Mountain Magic.

I’m thankful to write this. I’m thankful somewhere in the week, I really enjoyed this TED Talk on gratitude. I’m especially thankful my life is full of so many awesome people. Keep your eyes wide open. Stop. Look for things to be thankful for. Then go- with the action that is inspired by your gratitude.


Ancient Art

While I’m a little sad this post isn’t about climbing the uber famous Ancient Arts spire, I spent last Saturday learning the ancient art of blacksmithing under the expert eyes of Jeffery Funk.  Jeff saw it fit to auction off a blacksmithing seminar to support AERO (which seems to have a habit of bringing good things to my life), and despite not having a job at the time, I bit the bullet and raised the bid.

The man in his castle- Jeff's shop is completely awesome.

"You can't touch this work...." so your hammers are your hands.

The day started with Jeff saying “I can make a hammer faster than I can drive to Kalispell and buy one.” So as a demo, he made one, out of an old piece of truck axel.

The big power hammer moves a 500# head... and makes reforging a 3" thick steel bar look easy.

Jeff emphasizes "it's quick work, you have to do it while it's hot." -- with just over an hour of work.

Grey, but still too hot to touch comfortably.

Later in the morning we got to scheme about projects, and get a feel for swinging the hammer ourselves.  At first we made standard round tapers (out of square bar stock), and then formed them into hooks (game hooks, bike hooks, name it).

My first few swings.

Everybody's gettin down to business.

You figure out why anvils have their shape once you start bending the eyelets.

Most people were pretty excited to make hammers, but Jeff had said we could do other stuff, so I opted to try my hand at the fine traditions of climbing heritage.

The best recollection I had on the spot for some basic piton designs.

Yvon Chouinard got started in business hand forging pitons, and by the end of the day, I realized that probably also did wonders for his grip strength.

The first practice round, made out of junk steel bar stock.

While I was practicing, Bryan and Matt were having lots of fun with the sledgehammer.

After a few practice rounds we were running short on time, and I had a whole new respect for the precision that one can wield with a hammer and hot metal (which I had not yet developed).  Fortunately, Jeff was more than generous with his advice, and I started to get the hang of it.

Tie rod from a 1972 International truck. Perfect piton stock.

Jeff likes to make morst of his work out of found/salvaged materials.  When the world ends, guys like Jeff are going to be the ones that do alright.  You can make most anything in his shop, and make it out of most anything.  You might remember his bicycle powered apple cider press?

Getting down to business with yours truly on the medium power hammer.

In the last few minutes of the day I made the last few dents, took off the burrs, and left Big Fork with the first piton in my collection.  The work is gritty, hard, and real.  The results are as tangible as they come.  To some, it might have been an exhausting day in the shop, but to me, it was a perfect Saturday.  Many thanks to Jeff and AERO for the opportunity.

It needs a little more time under the grinder, but is pretty much good to go. Stayed tuned for the first placement.