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It’s Technically Spring

March 27, 2011

The calendar says spring, the thermometer says winter (which, of course, is spring around here). Spring means my brother’s birthday, and this year was Owen’s 50th. My little bro is fifty years old now. I thought this called for a special present. I won’t get into what an amazing character my brother is here, but here are a couple links to give you an idea.
U of Maryland
If you check out these two sites you will get some idea of the breadth of his interests.

So for his fiftieth I made him a walking stick covered with a real cobra skin. I got the skin from Tandy Leather Company. They sell all kinds of leather and exotic skins. As often happens, I learned a lot making it. The biggest thing I learned was to use Duco Cement rather than Gorilla Glue. I chose Gorilla Glue because it expands and I thought that would help fill in gaps. Unfortunately, it puffed up under the skin in some places where I couldn’t keep pressure on it, and it made some of the body bumpy. The Duco Cement worked much better and I should have gone with it from the beginning.

Cobra walking stick - head

Cobra walking stick body.

I got down to the farm last Saturday and it was sunny, but the Ice Pond had a thin layer of ice and Bessie did not get to swim. I began the day by hiking around a bit. My cousin Justin had mentioned that they were cleaning out the Tomato Barn and that he had set some stuff aside for me to look at. They had also moved some old farm equipment down to the turn around (a sort of de facto graveyard for old equipment). I got some nice pictures of the woods growing up and through these old tools.

Old plow hiding in the twigs

Closer shot of the same plow

An old hay rake, well camouflaged

An old hay rake, well camouflaged

One of the things that was really interesting was the hay wagon. The bottom is made of metal slats and the trees are growing right up through the floor of the wagon.

Hay wagon

I can’t say that I’m thrilled about these tools rusting away, but it is impressive to see nature absorbing these things that, once upon a time, seemed so substantial. And it also impressive to see the work Justin and the others are doing to get the farm cleared and cleaned up.

I ran into the farmer who mentioned that they like me to make a yoke to carry two watering cans when it comes time to start watering. While this struck me as optimistic (it is so wet down there that the idea of watering seems far off indeed) but I was glad for a little project. I had what I thought was a very promising twig in my shop, so I cut it down to size and shaved the bark off with the drawknife.

Two yokes

In fact, the curvier twig was quite uncomfortable. The bottom twig, with two relatively straight ends meeting in the middle at an angle is more comfortable and that’s what I’m going with. Now it’s always fun to find just what I’m looking for and making something faster than the person who wants it expected, but what was really great about this day was that I fired up my small forge to make the hooks.

Close up of forge

Forge in action

The forge worked great. I keep it in the oxbarn to be out of everyone’s way, but I need to take it down to my grandfather’s old blacksmith shop where the anvil and all the tools are. The blacksmith shop is now a shop for working on tractors, etc. now. The old forge is buried under tools and parts, the chimney is blocked up to conserve heat in the winter. So I put my forge onto a cart and rolled it down to the shop.

Forge in transit

The blower worked perfectly and it only took one match and some newspaper to get the coal lit and a good little fire going. It took a few minutes to get back into the swing of things, but I made a pair of respectable little hooks that will be fine for hauling watering cans.

So all in all it took about an hour to make a yoke and two hand forged hooks from scratch starting with a tree and some bolts. Next time, I’ll bring some metal I’ve got lying around here and see what I can do with it.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert B permalink
    March 28, 2011 6:59 am

    Pretty cool, Malcolm. By the way, I have a small forge blower (I’d intended to try it out someday, but it seems pretty unlikely at this point) and tongs if they are of any use to you. Let me know.

    • malcolm permalink*
      March 28, 2011 7:58 pm

      Glad you liked that post. Why don’t you think you’ll use the forge?

      • Robert B permalink
        March 31, 2011 8:16 am

        Well, that’s just it: what forge? I’d intended to make one, but never did, and now that the few parts I did pick up have been sitting in my basement unused for a decade (and my list of hobby-related projects has grown unabated) I think it unlikely that I’ll get back to it any time soon. Just like to see the stuff go to someone who’d use it, that’s all!

  2. malcolm permalink*
    March 31, 2011 4:13 pm

    Well, i’d be happy to take a look. One of these frisbee days why don’t you bring ’em by if they’re not too heavy.

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