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--News & Announcements--
Upcoming projects:
Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Thursday, June 26, 2014


During a conversation between friends in the early hours of the morning following Scott Roush's Shards [of Narsil] Hammer-in, I came to a realization. Listening to the words of the great literary masters such as Tolkien and Lewis and the genre they pioneered, my mind wandered towards the Norse Sagas which afforded them inspiration. As best I know, the last Saga was written in the 13th century, and even then they were but a translation of the oral traditions of a much older root (but of course there were modern translations and interpretations of the originals). In a modern world where such creations as trolls and dragons and giants are discounted as highly improbable, I have taken my own meaning to what could have been the true face behind such fantastical beings. In my own way, I have seen these things embodied in the world around me. Instead of writing about the soul nourishing transpirations of the trip (which undoubtedly would lose much of their zeal and excitement through the cold reflection seen through the internet) I have decided to tell the story through pictures and a saga of my own.

[written loosely in the málaháttr verse adapted for the modern tongue]

Awaken, awake, again to the shore
          'ere brethren beckon northward bound.
In Iron Horse with lung of thunder,
          gallop swift aside silent waters.
Night, tonight, by night we ride
          to steal the sun's great golden pride.
Cast in rocks with roots grown deep
          Ten thousand stars, trapped souls inside.

          Glistening waters waving green
                    to beckon travellers beneath worlds unseen.
          Between aspen and birch with billowing leaves
                    break the treelines to caverns untold.
          A cosmos buried beyond our path
                    born of the drowned and dying land.
          Wisps of colour concealed in the deep
                    whose glistening treasures hide and keep.

          Dusk to dawn the daylight comes
                    o're airy summer skies.
          Through the fire, feasting fiends
                    fly from darkened fetters unbound.
          Pale daemons drink the living blood
                    until the feast has gone.
          To Break of Day again the horses ride
                    with weary rider cast forward in time.

Beasts of the land and sky enthral
          a path through the wilderlands of old.
Yet too the earth holds its secrets close
          of design unthought by the simpler form.
A thread, a thought, astray they found
          the likeness of the winged fiend.
Not alone but brothered pair:
          Odin's thirsting steed in fields masked.

                     Brethren gather beneath the Rock of the Lake
                    for sharing of sagas sung to the hymn of steel.
          Faces found, of friends alike
                    young and old, yet in heart n'er forgotten.
          Sax and sword and spear and shield
                    of maker and maester of Ages gone.
          To the brotherhood long hours beckon night
                    with horn of mead and flame so bright.

          Out of the earth and clay arise
                    the trolls of flame and coal ground meal.
          A grin of delight shines in the foe's eye,
                    unwilling to share its long treasured hoard.
          Smoke billows blind from nostril and jaw;
                    no sign in sight of the treacherous fall.
          Flame against flame, earth against earth,
                    at last the laboured battle births.

          Sparks and cinders and shards escape
                    towards blistering heavens smote.
          Iron, iron, precious bloom,
                    whose power through centuries nurtures 'quest.
          Glowing in flame the earth, devours,
                    not hammer nor herald does might force yield.
          Again to the furnace the voices cry
                    to salvage the troll's treasured soul.

          Feasting beckons and embers flee
                    to the oaken table laden high.
          Meats, roast meats, smoked meats piled deep
                    beside cheese and bread and Kvasir's Mead.
          Shard-bread baked on blistering steel
                    and beast for the belly of smith's mighty bellow.
          Platter of birch and flask of horn
                    filled to rejoice and empty to mourn.

          Ring of steel, song and jubilation sound
                    as champions stand proud to their arms.
          Under summer sun the tournament triumphs;
                    'neath moonlight danger stalks.
          Sundered shields, shattered swords,
                    blood paints red the earth.
          The heavens fall and midnight wanes,
                    fair warriors amend and in oak halls rejoice.

          Hammer lifts and hammer falls
                    to the birth of creation's song.
          Iron moulds to the form of tool and blade
                    with ever the mark of whose hands were made.
          Soul into steel and heart into flame,
                    late hours burn with brothers side by side.
          Sunset, Moonrise, Moonset, Sunrise,
                    again dawns the day, in weary eye and merry mind.

                                        Grey dawn comes and company must part,
                                                  filled with the fond burden of joyous memory.
                                        Back through the woods, away to corners far
                                                  with sword in hand and fleet of foot.
                                        Lo! the journey beckons home
                                                  through rolling hill and misty shore.
                                        In hour late the twilight grows
                                                  until naught but starlight shines below.

                                        Safe so weary the steeds call end,
                                                  but not before longing for return begins.
                                        Upon the backs of eagles fly
                                                  into the blistered eastern sky.
                                        Aweigh fond friends I leave behind
                                                  to the world beyond of dream and song.
                                        To those long days remembered, never gone
                                                  Excitement dawns for the road anew.

                                        Mountain, forest, a cloudscape entwined
                                                  with flowing brethren of sand o're windswept dune.
                                        Racing under wing through hidden voids of worlds
                                                  trapped unseen 'tween the heavens and the earth.
                                        Ten thousand lights blaze stars on blackened ground 
                                                  in night aflame with life refused of passage 
                                                  into the sleep from which I yearn to wake.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A World beyond Worlds

  As spring turned into summer, the mountains beckoned their irresistible call. At the end of May, my folks came out for the weekend, and so we decided it was time to take a few more peaks off the 46.

Cascade and Porter mountains, together around a 6 mile hike, are buried farther north of the giants, falling in the high 30s of the 46 by altitude. For the first time, we had almost perfect weather. Spotted clouds in skies of blue and temperatures in the mid 70s without a hint of rain or the brutal humidity that sometimes comes in the spring.

A curious thing about the mountains I have come to notice of late is that, in a landscape of such a massive scale, there is no end to the beauty that can be found on any level. Around us, the towering peaks of the mountains framed the sky, a mile above the ground and the cities left behind when entering their domain. Yet there exists a world beyond worlds. One that, if you but look to see it, exists beneath your feet and under the treetops, engrained in the rock and lush in the details unseen by the wider eye.

Mushrooms cling to the gnarled bark of elder trees, ferns grow from the loam enriched by decay of the undergrowth.

Undisturbed by the wind and the rain, life thrives where simply it is given the chance to be. Tranquillity, in a word, that fits so  naturally in the realm of the mountains.

Suddenly, the inanimate becomes animate, but in a temporal sense unburdened by the passing of the moon. Moss clings to rock and the rock itself affords a place for it to grow. Trees whose roots burrow deep give way in a spectacular balance that surpasses cognition. To be. That is all that exists here. No wars, no violence nor politics, no care for the worries of man.

Fiddleheads creep slowly towards the sun, unfurling and spreading their leafy fronds.

Cracks in the earth seem to beckon the mystery of what they might hide inside. Creatures of the night dwelling against daylight, snails clinging to the cool, moist rock, a ground squirrel hiding wearily from the boots of passing hikers.

And then suddenly I looked up to see the world sprawling out before me for endless miles, clad in the growth of new spring. Lakes dot the forests and rivers snake the valleys searching for a home amongst the rock. More than anything, the sensation of breaking through the treeline is surreal, and suddenly the hours passed in the calm shade of the trail are unburdened in the deepest calm. Rustling of leaves, the trickle of water, the chirp of birds flitting about in the mid morning sun.

As the mushrooms and the mosses, the snails and the algae, hoary lichens hold fast to the branches of unshod evergreens and spruce whose needles fled beneath the weight of winter's veil.

Two of my favourite things while hiking both seem to occur in tandem. On the approach of the summit when the treeline has passed behind, the early trailsetters laid cairns as waypoints to guide the way. Dry stacked rock built into mounds, as simple as they are, represent something that words cannot rightfully embody. Mountains on the side of mountains, it is a sign to me that says humanity has been here but nature remains its own true master. Not tamed or conquered, but acquainted with a respect that knows the mountains will remain long after we have come and gone.

Cairns may be a device of man, but my other fascination lies behind the hand of a single creator. Rich veins of mineral form roots across the rocky face of the summit, a testament of how long they have endured. Grown from a time beyond our understanding, the roots of the mountains come here to dwell after the labours of their long passage and ascent.

At the summit of Cascade Mountain, the trail winds around the peak gradually to the top, but there also stands a rocky face that was begging to be climbed. One day, I hope to journey into the world of true rock climbing, but until then I must pacify myself with indoor walls and bouldering in shadow of giants.

All along the trail, furry companions joined the hikers on the ascent, undertaking the journey in their own right and experiencing the world as it was meant to be.

A breath of sunlight greeted us at the peak, affording us a brilliant view of the Adirondacks that I have not experienced before or since.

Back down we went until coming to the divide to Porter Mountain close by. Along the ridgeline, the same curious spectacle yielded itself in the details so easily overlooked.

In an unassuming opening to the world around us, the summit of Porter Mountain appeared through the trees.

And this is where our ascent came to an end. A more perfect day I could not have asked for, and in it I came to appreciate more of the world around me, the richness it offers, and the peace that comes from witnessing its beauty.

This marks my 5th and 6th of the 46 High Peaks.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Brotherhood is, as I see it through the lens of the modern age, a word which has come close to losing its meaning. In the passing years, I have come to know a group of people who are unlike any others. Craftsmen. I do not mean to generalize people into two categories, but rather recognize a certain spirit and zealousness that can be found in people who, both professionally and for the pure satisfaction of it (and especially those who fit both of those categories), that is perhaps the most enlightening, invigorating, and joyous thing I have ever witnessed. When a group of common minded people gather together for the furthering of the craft (whichever it may be) and the ideology that surrounds it, something spectacular happens. In a word, I would call it brotherhood.

Set on the edge of a large farm, Nate's shop is an inspiration in itself. And of course, complete with their faithful steed, Leela.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going out to Nate Runals' beautiful home for a gathering of like minded and like spirited gentlefolk that I can honestly say left me overburdened with a sense of brotherhood and purpose that I have rarely known before. Many of the faces were friends met a year ago or more at Dave DelaGardelle's shop at a similar occasion, some new. However long we had known one another, the curious and fantastic bond of brothers and sisters felt as though it had been there a lifetime.

Throughout the weekend, various demonstrations captivated the wide range of craftsmen- bladesmiths and blacksmiths, leatherworkers and woodworkers, artists and artisans of every discipline. Anthony Wilder put on a lecture and demonstration on woodworking, Luke Shearer on welding a multibar sax which will become a collaboration between a few other craftsmen there that weekend. Nathanael Brandt demonstrated the welding of a wrapped axe, and Rusty Zylstra of Mercy Supply gave us a tour of his beautiful shop. Dave DelaGardelle of Cedarlore Forge brought a beautiful sword in progress and worked on the fittings as well as antiquing the blade.

Midway through the weekend, we all gathered for a forging competition with the theme being bottle openers. No other limitations restricted us other than the requirement that, at the end of 20 minutes, they had to open a bottle.

Three worked at a time, in two groups, turning the shop into utter chaos. Luke, Nathanael and I went first, Pete, Nate and Dave second.

In the heat of the forge, time seemed to slip past unnaturally fast, ending the competition in sweat and excitement to see what each other had made.

Judged by the masses, Dave's wolf bottle opener (on the bottom) won the competition, and with it a spectacular leather apron donated by Rusty.

But of course the weekend would not be complete without a little trial of our creations. In the wee hours of Thursday, we forged a collection of spear and arrow heads, hafted and ready for combat. Luke also brought a bow made from PVC and a sling, together making a fearsome arsenal that slew the mighty tin men of the cornfield.

On the night when the sun was long settled beneath the curtain of night, Dave brought out a piece of burning steel wool on a wire for our entranced eyes to behold.

Although those days have come and gone, they have set the stage for a new generation of brotherhood that will strengthen through the years. In the sharing of craft and fellowship, there is so much to be found that I can look to the future with a lighter heart.