Saturday, October 8, 2011

Life and Times in Afghanistan

© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon

I must apologize for not posting more frequently, but operational issues have kept me from being able to access anything that would allow me to get on Blogger.

I appreciate the comments I have received, and when I finally get out of here, you can bet I will be commenting and sharing ideas with all of you.

Here are a couple of things to think about:

As it turns out, the blacksmith is a respect tradesman here in Afghanistan. The only problem is that when you ask about one, it seems that everyone has heard about the fellow over the mountain, or in the next valley, or on the other side of the following village. My guess is that the cheap Chinese and Pakistani goods that flood this meager market, have displaced many of the smiths. The "Art Blacksmith" is unlikely to exist here either, with all "ornamental" work being done with electric welding devices.

Woodworking is likewise relegated to rough and ready work. As far as I have been able to determine, there is no finish carpentry, no artistic tradition, and no furniture making in the western sense. It's a hard land with little need of comfort or beauty.

Hopefully I will be able to contribute more often in the near future. I am permanently based (for the time being) and this allows me a little more flexibility to write and work. I look forward to continuing our conversations!

Post Tenebras, Lux
Dirus Canis
The Wolf and Moon

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blacksmithing: How to Get Started

Blacksmithing, Ideas for Getting Started
© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon™

Before you get excited, this won't have any pictures of me doing any kind of smithing. As much as I would like to get back into researching methodologies and getting burned and sweaty in front of the forge, this discussion stems from a comment I left on Terran Marks' blog DIY Blacksmithing. He has a post, Makeshift Anvils, and I commented on a method used by bladesmiths to make a serviceable anvil.

I wrote: "Another option is the scrap metal yard. Search for a piece of 6X steel as long as you can safely handle... I intend to do a tutorial on the subject when I get home. (I'm in Afghanistan right now...)Too many people have the potential skills to do constructive work, but no materials or wherewithal to do it with."

This is a line of thought that has been with me for some time now. There are young men and women out there that have the knack or potential to do something creative, something positive, if only they had the tools to exercise that potential.

We are a society that discards so much material, wastes it because it is easier (and cheaper!) to toss it away, than it is to recycle it. At construction sites, (the few there are...) the amount of material that is left over as cutoffs, damaged, or excess is phenomenal.

Let's make a list of left over material that you can likely pick up for the asking.

Rebar can be forged into any number of things. Granted, there is no telling what the carbon content is exactly, but most of it will harden to a serviceable level. The carbon range can be extrapolated or estimated  from the sparks. Anvil stakes, spikes, and tool handles come to mind as potential uses. Long pieces of #8 can be forged into tongs, and if you happen to bump into the really big stuff, it can be forged into hardies and other chunky tool items.

Scrap lumber is useful not only as lumber, but the shortest cutoffs are easily made into charcoal. A retort is easily constructed from either 30 or 55 gallon drums.

Busted up Concrete Masonry Units or Block, can be used as filler when you've dug your foundation's footers and are laying in some gravel before you tamp it level. Smash it up with a hammer one evening, and you will save hundreds of dollars in costs with that alone.

Scrap metal yards have a cornucopia of steel items ready to be turned into something useful. Large pieces of 6 inch square or round steel are pretty common. A length of that will make a better than serviceable anvil once ground or machined flat. It will be a while, but sometime in the future I will be posting on creating an anvil from a chunk of scrap 4140.

While you're there you might find a bar of 1.5 inch square material that can also be turned into other tooling.

Yard sales will always produce large numbers of sledges and ball peen hammers. If you are fortuitous, you may also find cross peens and straight peens.

There are dozens of references and forums that describe how to put together a forge from little more than left overs and castaways. Japanese style box bellows are easily constructed by anyone with a modicum of woodworking ability, and for those that have the space, a set of bellows can also be constructed. Hair dryers and vacuum cleaner blowers are used frequently by smiths everywhere.

Refractory for your forge can be made from Portland cement (1.5 parts), silica sand (2 parts), perlite (1.5 parts) and plain kitty litter (2 parts). All common items but likely to have to be purchased.

Again, it is just a matter of looking around at the things we waste and discard, and putting them back to use.

Remember, there is a certain satisfaction from doing what you love to do, as opposed to doing what you think you must. Take it from me, it is far better in the long run to work at something you love, that way you will never work a day in your life!

If any of my readers are blacksmiths, what are your opinions on the subject? How can an amateur set himself up at a minimum of expense?

Post Tenebras, Lux
Dirus Canis
The Wolf and Moon

Friday, April 29, 2011

Afghan Woodworking Planes and Tools

Afghan Woodworking Tools: Handmade Planes and Saws of Afghanistan
© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon™

Roughly Made, Muscle Powered Afghan Hand Tools

While organizing and directing the flow of Local National personnel entering the base I work at, one fellow caught my eye. It wasn't because I suspected him of some nefarious plan, but rather I saw the fishtail handle of his saw jutting out of the bundle he was lugging into the base. Actually I saw the bundle first and I immediately thought he was up to no good, but then I saw the saw...

Anyway, as he cleared the inspection and search area I pulled him aside and asked to see his tools. He gladly (Like he had a choice...)allowed me to take a few pictures, probably wondering why I was intrigued.

It's not an Disston, that's for sure...

The handle is rouhly carved out of 3/4" pine, and the plate is pinned in place with a cut off and pounded 8 penny nail.

The plate itself is likely heavy gauge sheet metal rather than spring steel, and the teeth are roughly filed out in an aggressive pattern sure to lop through wood... or a misplaced finger.

This plane is a rabbet plane made out of a piece of red iron angle!

The sole is crooked on two planes to be sure, but it serves the purpose they put it to, and that is chiefly to plane any right angleish corner they deem neccesary to chew down.

The tote has been bedded very carefully...

Here is a fairly familiar pattern:

Wooden Smoother

The sole is pretty beat up, the mouth wide enough to slide a couple of quarters through, but again there is nothing like fine furniture making in this country so a plane is called upon to gnaw a bump or wave down into submission.

As in most things Afghan, their tools are rough, ready, and somewhat servicable. They prefer to use muscle to refinement. If it works, albeit poorly, that's good enough for them. It's a shame, this land deserves better.

Post Tenebras, Lux
Dirus Canis
The Wolf and Moon™

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Coming Soon! Planes of Afghanistan

© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon™

Within the week, I'll post a pictorial of some of the woodworking tools and planes of the Afghan people! I'm working on the pictures and the post itself.

See you soon!

Post Tenebras, Lux
Dirus Canis
The Wolf and Moon™

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Brooklyn Saw Co. 15" Panel Saw

An 1890's Harvey Peace made Brooklyn Saw Co. Panel Saw!
© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon™

The Wolf Finds some Treasure in the Attic!

While visiting my parents recently, I noticed an old saw handle peeking out from under several layers of yellowed newspaper. I remember the saw; I think it hung from one of the innumerable nails in the rafters of the old Victorian we lived in back in New York City. Lord knows how many other things hung from those basement rafters, far enough away from curious hands that they survived those earlier years, only succumb to the ravages of a preteen's use. Somehow this saw had survived, unlike so many other tools I would gladly kill for now.

I pulled the saw out of the milk crate it was unceremoniously stored in. The first thing I noticed were the split nuts. Split nuts indicate a saw likely to be well over a hundred years! Split nuts were commonly used by American saw manufacturers from about 1780s through the 1880s.

The next thing that came to mind was my friend Matt Cianci of The Saw Blog. Matt is a saw specialist, and much like myself, an inveterate treasure hunter. He is always on the look out for old iron that needs resuscitation.  My wife would call it rusty junk collecting, but that's why I'm the tool connoisseur and she's not! Regardless, I immediately emailed Matt on my fortuitous find and awaited his response.

The handle, was at one time a nice piece of rosewood... I think, though it might be cherry or apple for all I know.The bottom horn has been broken off and poorly repaired with hot melt glue. Obviously my dad has a penchant for trying out all the newest adhesive crazes known to mankind. I just wish he had tried it on something else! On the other hand, it does make the future renovation somewhat easier.

As if the hot melt glue wasn't enough, paint splatters besmirch its once proud finish, and it now had the look of a chew toy for a particularly naughty puppy. Oh the trails and tribulations it must have been subjected to over the years!

 The plate is in pretty good condition considering what it has more than likely been a very harrowing existence for this poor saw. There are several pits where rust has taken hold, but overall its better than ok. There is a minor warp on the top edge of the blade, but it should not be too difficult to resolve.

The heel is marked with the pitch, in this case 10. Personally, I really like the way the teeth don't go all the way back to the heel like they do in modern saws.

The plate also has an etch, which is how I identified it in the first place. Unfortunately I haven't been able to photograph it clearly enough to make it visible, but I am trying to render it visible by using a photo editing program.

The teeth are a nightmare! I don't think a worse job of sharpening has ever been done to a piece of spring steel. Teeth are all over the place, high, low, unevenly spaced; even the file that did it must have been dull because the metal removed is a burr outboard of the gullet it was gnawed out of!

But even though there are a litany of concerns, it is still a lovely piece of late 19th century tool work.

Matt got back to me with much cheer and encouragement. Through his extensive archive of material concerning all things saw worthy, he forwarded me the following information:

"A quick update....I identified the make of your Brooklyn Saw Co was definitely made by Harvey Peace. I found one in the 1890 Harvey Peace catalog...No. 101 etched with "Brooklyn Saw Co.". Its a panel saw (small hand saw) and the catalog mentioned it was available in 14 to 28 inch lengths. It was def a lower cost model, but a nice saw nonetheless."

My plans for this panel saw are to refurbish it to its former working glory. I will more than likely limit the repair of the tote to cleaning it and then regluing the horn, and leaving it as is. Since it is my first classic/vintage saw, I want the teeth joined and recut to its original 10 point. I'll clean up the plate following Matt's instructions and guidelines on The Saw Blog and this should yield me a nice saw worthy of the time and effort put into it to make it serviceable again.

I suppose I'll have to make a wall of glory like Matt now...

Post Tenebras, Lux
Dirus Canis
The Wolf and Moon™

Related Posts:
A Little Tillotson Saw

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Introduction

Woodworking, Metalworking, and Steampunk: A New Era Arises
© 2011 Canis Dirus and The Wolf and Moon

An introduction: The basis of civil discourse and discussion.

I'm a soldier of fortune roaming the hinterlands of Afghanistan waiting for the day when I am no longer needed. That day may or may not be far off, as there is no one sage enough to determine the needs of governments or the corporations we have allowed to dominate and run the institutions our forefathers left in our care.

My interests are more mundane, if you can call them that. As you assuredly noted in my profile, I have an interest in not only woodworking, but metal working and steam power too. I prefer to work with hand tools rather than noisy and indelicate electrical gear, though I will use them as circumstances dictate.. Much to my chagrin, I must admit that I would love to own a proper mill and metal lathe regardless of how they are powered. The accuracy and dependability of good American iron cannot be disputed, and as such I still consider them to be indispensible in the creation of quality items. I do not doubt though, that one day I will have the opportunity to build a steam engine and power my equipment with it.

Here is what I propose we should do together. I wish to explore with you, not only a practical and attractive competence in woodworking, but an adequate understanding and ability in metalworking, one that we can share and build upon. I fear that there is coming a reckoning that many of us are unprepared for, and I want to learn as much from you as I can, while in turn teaching what little I know in return. Perhaps between the two of us, we can insure that we are better prepared and ready for the next rise of America.

My posts will be sparse at first. Until such time as I have, well, the time to share things with you, projects and ideas, I will be limited to past items and ideas. None the less, the road to victory starts with the first step.

This step.

Post Tenebras, Lux