If there was one person in the office who would book a bladesmithing course, it would be Damien, our South African IT mastermind. With his beard, tattoos and uniform lumberjack shirts, we’ve always said Damien is far too cool for IT over here in editorial and were glad to hear he was off to get creative on an axe making course. A member of the company who would definitely not be trusted with an axe, I caught up with Damien when he arrived back in the office on Monday (completely unharmed may I add) to find out more. If you are looking for something a bit more Robin Hood and a lot less Great British Bake Off, have a read of this.
When it came to choosing a course, I wanted to create something with my own hands, and sweat, so decided I would go and learn how to make my own knife. Setting off to Hertfordshire to meet my instructor, Jude Berry, I had a change of heart and decided I was going to make an axe instead – a handy thing to have for camping trips and use around the house.
Into the fire
Jude is a blacksmith who specialises in pattern welding, a craft that goes back thousands of years. Clearly very passionate about what he does, he gave me a detailed account of the material we were going to use and what would happen to it when it was heated. He also told me more about the power of the heat and what this would allow us to do with the material. Well spoken, he clearly explained how to work with metals and forge them.
As the only student, the course was one to one. As axe making was not a course Jude offers, it was also a bit of an experiment for him too. The course covered all the elements of using the forge safely and basic forging techniques, such as drawing out, forging points, twisting and hot cutting. Learning how to make an axe taught me a lot about heating metals and shaping them using traditional methods. This meant I spent a day creating my axe by hand, rather than using a machine that could have easily hammered out the desired shape in an hour. Of course, doing things manually means you spend a day using a 14lb hammer, which I could definitely feel by the end of the day. In fact, two days later, I wish I had realised how physically demanding the action of forging is!
The tools of the trade
The workshop I got to learn in was the perfect setting. It was huge, with lots of things being made by staff around me. It was interesting seeing all the tools that were being used in the different projects, which incidentally were all made in the workshop by Jude himself.
Without a doubt, putting time and effort into making something by hand is a very satisfying way to spend a Saturday. Leaving with my completed axe, I feel if I had my own forge, I probably wouldn’t be sat here, but would be trying to practise my skills and reproduce what I made over the weekend. Certainly some of the skills were a lot easier to grasp first time than I had expected them to be. Despite what you might think, there is a lot more to it than just shoving raw materials into a fire to heat up.
Would I recommend this course to a friend? Definitely.
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.