Friday, May 7, 2010

Scavenger writes:
And that is why there exists Helm's Law #4: People are limited by Helm's laws #s 1 and 2, but they are not limited to Helm's Laws 1 and 2. They can rise above.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Death and...

Scavenger writes:

It is interesting, as a self-employed craftsman just starting out, to figure just how much of the price for which you sell a hand-crafted item has to be set aside for taxes. It is interesting to then connect that with what those taxes pay for. It is then interesting to see what new things each session of Congress cooks up that taxes pay for. You then try not to think, as you pause to brush the sweat off your brow while hammering red hot iron into beautiful and useful items, how much of that sweat is going to various programs. It's not a good thing to do for your blood pressure or ease of digestion.

Probably the most useful item of information I learned in high school was the concept of TANSTAAFL. I learned this in one of my social studies classes, and I found out years later that that particular way of phrasing it was coined by Robert Heinlein. I am grateful to that teacher for teaching the concept. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. The segment of the population that feels they benefit from governmental spending does not see the whole picture. If you do not earn enough to pay taxes, why should you care? Well, who does pay those taxes? Where do they get the money to pay those taxes?

Let's take the example of a grocery store. Everyone has to eat. You pay the tax that the store owner pays to the government. The store pays the taxes that the supplier pays to the government. The supplier pays the taxes that the farmer pays to the government. The farmer pays the taxes that the diesel company pays to the government. And so on, ad infinitum. And so you, the end consumer, end up giving enough of your money to the store that all of the people in that long, long chain can pony up their portion to the government. Whether you pay an income tax or not.

How much of your efforts go to support what the government pays for? How many government salaries for the people that administer all the programs are you paying for? What could you do with some of the money that ends up going in that direction?

Do you want the government to do more? If so, it means that you, ultimately, do with less. Everyone, ultimately, does with less.

I, as an independent craftsman, sell items to people who have enough discretionary funds that they can afford to pay me for them. Nothing I sell is something of vital importance that cannot be done without or gotten by with something from a Communist Chinese factory. I make beautiful, durable goods that will outlast the original owner if treated well, but none of it is something that can't be done without. The less money that people have of their own to play with, the less inclined to buy a handcrafted, beautiful knife made with the sweat and ingenuity of an American they are and the more to buy something cheaper that will not do as well or last as long or feel as nice in the hand froma country with a lower standard of living and less freedom. The more I have to struggle to make it.

Just a thought as I set aside money for taxes late one Sunday evening, when our wonderful government has decided to take control of 20% of our economy to make sure that a small percentage of the population who does not have insurance has it whether they want to or not.

Well, America was nice while it lasted.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Songs on the Radio

Scavenger writes:

For no particular reason, I was thinking about a song I heard once on an independent country station. I usually don't care for much country music (outside of Johnny Cash) or what gets passed of as country, but this was a good song. I'd never heard it before, and I've never heard it since.

There are two parts of the song I remember. It talked about how the singer was going to be walking on the moon tonight, and invited the listener (I believe a romantic interest) to join him is she so wished. He sang, "I'll be walking on the moon tonight, a million (or eight million, not sure which) miles away."

The other part said, "I wish I had a good flat stone, the best that I could find. I'd skip it off the surface of the waters in my mind."

I can't remember anything else. A little of the tune that goes with the lyrics I remember. That's it.

I'll probably never hear the song again. Searching the Internet turns up nothing. But I think of the song every now and again. The lyrics and the sentiment of it are so...poeticly, longingly romantic. It's like some of Bradbury's writing, or that of one of my friends. It taps into a longing of mine, one that started back in high school: the longing to take a slow, quiet walk in the country night with the woman I love, gazing at the stars and the moon and the countryside silvered and given a gentle beauty by the soft light.

I at last have found the woman I love, but we have yet to take that walk. School and work keep her very busy. It will be a good long while yet before we get to amble, unhurried and serene, through the night air with no one around, no particular time we have to be back, no particular destination. But some day, we will.

Just a bit pensive tonight. Y'all take care.

Friday, January 15, 2010

First Kiridashi

Scavenger writes:

Things have been somewhat whirlwind with me for various reasons, and I haven't gotten as much work done as I'd like. Today, rather than twiddle my thumbs and look glum while waiting for adequate power to be installed in my new shop location to run my big belt grinder, I made my first kiridashi. These are Japanese woodworker's knives. They apparantly used to be carried by Japanese schoolchildren to sharpen their pencils and use for craft projects. I've been wanting to make some for a while.

Here's a quick-and-dirty picture of the kiridashi.

It is 4 1/4" in length, with a cutting edge of approximately 1 1/6". The steel is automobile coil spring quenched in vegetable oil and temper drawn at 350 degrees. It is chisel ground for a lefty, with a long primary bevel and short secondary. It shaves hair. I'll either make a Kydex sheath or a wooden case for it. I'm working on a righty kiridashi, too.

These things do get carried in various degrees of traditional/tactical by Westerners as utility knives and last-ditch self defense.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Scavenger writes:
I've been busy since the beginning of October getting set up in my own work space. Since I started blacksmithing over 10 years ago, I haven't had really adequate working space. I started out in a horse shed that must have been made for Shetland ponies. Add coal smoke to a low ceiling, and you have all kinds of unpleasant black boogers. So I ended up outside under a shade tree. That of course has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but at least I could work without asphyxiating. Since then, I have had to do my work either outside or in other people's workspace. Which means moving equipment and materials around a *lot* and always feeling like you're in someone's way. I was coordinating materials and tools in five different locations. I now have it down to three. :-)
But I finally am renting space in a former architectural millworks and have set up shop. This knife is the first piece of work I've started and finished in my new work space.
It is a commissioned blade based on my basic work knife design. It is forged from leaf spring with a minimal amount of grinding to clean up the profile. The cutting edge is filed by hand. It was hardened in vegetable oil. The wrap is 20 gauge jeweler's copper wire with cotton cord Turk's head knots on the end. The wrap is sealed with amber shellac. The sheath is Kydex.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Wow, this is cool. I just stumbled across this a few minutes ago when I did a google search on creative writing. Essentially, you have thirty days to write a novel of 50,000 words.

I have always secretly hoped to become a writer but have 'never gotten around to it'. I'd imagine that is how it is for everyone. It's been an on again off again thing; mostly off. Recently I had to write a newsletter for work and I had fellow employees proof it for me. One of my co-workers remarked, " Wow Feral Man (name changed), you really are a writer!" It got me thinking, maybe I am. Funny how one comment can impact our thinking, especially if it is something we have always believed deep down.

So, I am going to do this if at all possible. I want to write; to make people feel and think and laugh and cry and shake their heads in wonder. To say, "That was so cool, I wish I could come up with something like that! You've got to read this." Sometimes I want to roar like a lion or howl like a coyote because there are these things inside of me trapped and trying to get out. Maybe it is part of my feral nature, a bit of the beast that seeks freedom. Honestly, I find some liberation in writing, though few or none may read my words.

Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation". Well I won't be quiet and I won't be desperate! I will seek my muse and try my hand at this thing and see what I can do.

Here is to hoping that we may each find our own paths.

-Feral Man

Friday, August 14, 2009

18th Century Hunting Shirt

Attached is a photo showing the collar of an 18th century hunting shirt I made about two years ago. I used the measured drawing in Beth Gilgun's book, "Tidings From the 18th Century." The directions were easy to follow and the pattern is simply a series of squares, rectangles and triangles of various sizes. I began hand stitching using a backstitch (shown in an early chapter) and did the front seams and much of the collar in this way. It was challenging and it made me realize that if something takes you that long to do you had better do it right. You come to understand the saying about a stitch in time saving nine as well. You are much better off fixing the problem before it gets severe, possibly necessitating the construction of a new garment. If goods were so hard to come by in our time people might take more pride in their work and take better care of what they have. Craftsmanship is a rare skill I think.

I ended up finishing this shirt with my wife's Singer sewing machine, but there were still a few spots that required hand stitching. It's a good skill for a woodsman of any century to have.

Enjoy your journey.

-The Feral Man