Chickadees and Fire

As I consider the rumpled clouds, (white, gray, blue) a clump of five chickadees whirs up to the barren rose bush I’m standing next to. They rush about from branch to branch yelling chick-a-dee-dee-dee. I go in the house and come back with my camera. They wait for me and continue their frenetic display, curious, inquisitive, or maybe they’re telling me to leave their rose bush alone. I love the little chickadees and wisht at them.

The weather is turning colder, flurries are forecast. The landscape is bare, shriven of leaves and coloured in a bruised pallet of purples and browns with hints of green lingering here and there. I start the day in darkness and before I’ve shut the forge down it’s dark again, winter will begin soon.
This week I’ve been putting my head down and muscling through a bunch of heavy forging and grinding. By the end of today I’ll have four billets of over 600 layers and ten nine layer billets all ready to be drawn out into strands for constructing pattern welded sword blades. It’s an interesting process at the beginning of making a sword. Although it is brutish work, it’s very important to keep track of making sure every billet is perfectly welded, or it will come back to haunt me weeks later with inclusions and ruined blades. I’m building the steely foundations of the next several months of work. I enjoy the hardness of this work, a balance to the delicate tedium of polishing steel and carving intricate patterns that will come later. Wind rattles poplar and honeysuckle leaves about on the ground by the smithy door, a billet heats to glowing yellow in the forge. There’s work to be done.
A thirteen layer billet cut up and stacked, ready to be re-welded into a sixty two layer billet.
A sixty two layer billet ready to be drawn out.
Drawing a billet out on the hydrolic press.
Cutting the sixty two layer billet up.
Sixty two layer billet stacked and ready to re-weld.
The billet is precariously stacked and heating up in the forge.
310 layer billet forge welded.
Two 310 layer billets stacked on top of each other and ready to be welded.
620 layer billet ready to be consolidated and drawn out.
620 layer billet after I’ve made sure it’s welded and drawn it out a bit. I’ll wait to draw it out into a long strand until next week.
Billets loitering.
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Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.

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