The Forge

 

The wind is up, rain pelts relentlessly and I am finishing the autumn’s work and starting my winter projects. Over the last year I’ve been focusing on honing my drawing and painting skills alongside my work as a swordsmith and sculptor. The act of painting an idea is a much more fluid process for me than forging, carving and casting. It starts out with a seed and then slowly progresses until suddenly, after a day of engrossed painting, I realize it’s done. It’s an interesting and healthy counter point to the obsessive process of bringing a sword from the folds of my dreams into the world of edges and balance and polish. The artifact of the dream is always a compromise, always a point where I realize reality has set into the object and there’s no more I can do.

I’ve just finished a self portrait titled “The Forge”. The flaming smith who forges the phantasm of dream stuff into ordered reality in the grove of my imagination.

 

“Helvegr” is another single edged Norwegian Viking sword I’ve finished recently. I love the acute bog-grass-like blades on these swords and the fact that they are rarely represented in contemporary depictions of the Viking Age. I made a pattern welded sword in this style last winter called Vidirhrafn – Willow Raven.

 

Now I go back to the forge to start fire welding a pile of nineteen billets, which I will forge out into strands for making pattern welded swords. Some of them will be folded to high layer strands that will shimmer and refract light like figured wood once they are polished. Some will be left at nine layers of contrasting steel which I can twist and manipulate to form bold patterns down the fuller of the sword blades. This will be the steel for all of next years work. I have ten nine layer strands fire welded and ready to draw out.

 

Forging is an opportunity to touch the place where the body and the mind connect in a visceral way. There is no place for language here, only the instinct that comes from familiarity with a process and material. In order to successfully fire weld the layers of steel, you have to communicate with the steel on a molecular level through controlled heat and force. It’s a funny process, some days if you hold your nose wrong nothing will weld, success in forge welding seems to have to do with calmness.

Late autumn swirls outside, bare purplish branches dance and sway in the cutting wind. Time to be in shelter by a fire. Frost softened pumpkins slump into withered jelly by the doorstep and the nights come early, before the days work is done.

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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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