Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Olifants Wilderness Trail May 2010

Olifants River

The rapids just above the trails camp are a great spot for sundowners, especially with the river being so full this year. The whole character of the river feels different with so much water and the rapids add to that feeling of raw power. It is hard to get trailists back to camp before dark as they enjoy this situation so much.

The southern bank of the Olifants heading away from the confluence of the Letaba and Olifants. On this trail we learnt about 65 new trees in the two days walking, thanks to the group and their keen interest in everything botanical. This meant we also took our time and were rewarded with a close sighting of white rhino, we also saw buffalo, elephant and a great deal of general game.

The rapids just west of camp could provide some great rafting and paddling! Just have to think about what lies in wait below.

The island created by the two great rivers meeting.

Trails are about being in the moment, enjoying the solitude, the chance to let your mind rest and to realise in wilderness there is only you and your surrounds. It's this that modern man is getting further and further from and because of that, we are drawn to it all the more.

Trails Rangers A Frame.

The early mornings and the banter around the fire at night means rangers see little of their rooms and who really needs more.

Blade Smith Course June 2010


A weeks worth of work for two apprentices and a Master Blade Smith.
From the top: Damascus Kevin Harvey Master Blades Smith
Utility/Hunter by Kevin Harvey Heavin Forge
Biltong Knife by Heavin Forge team
Hunting knife by Anthony Miles Student
Damascus Dirk by Anthony Miles
Hunting knife by Sean Pattrick Student
Damascus Green River Skinner by Sean Pattrick


There is a lot of finishing that is done by hand and eye. Taking out all the scratches left by the grinder using finer grit sandpapers.

The belt grinder takes a lot to master and can quickly ruin all the hours of work up to this stage, just one second too long or the wrong angle! Any excessive heat will result in a blue colour on the blades and the end of the heat treatment. Blue tips are hard to avoid! as there is less steel and it heats up fast. Short strokes and sensitive fingers are the answer.
Two Blades For Finishing.

The blades have been shaped and refined as much as possible on the anvil and are now ready for the grinder and handles.

The pre-formed Damascus blades, just out of the wood ash were it was cooled slowly but still retains some heat hours later! Hard to imagine the finished blades when all you have are grey blobs!
Heating a billet.

The steel is easy to move when heated and gives off a ringing sound when too cool to move under the hammer blows. A number of heats may be needed before the smith is happy with the shape. The more experienced smiths make this look easy and controlled, they also take far less heats to achieve the desired affect.
Pre-Forming the shape.

From the block or billet of steel the basic knife shape is formed. It is then normalised to take the stresses out of the steel created by the forging process, before being ground on the grinder to the final shape.
The steel in the forge!

This is Damascus steel being heated to be able to fold the three pieces of steel onto one another. The mix of the different steel types gives this steel the magical patterns once the blade has been etched. This Damascus has about 184 layers and is in a pattern known as heart beat.

The beginning and the end product!

A block of 1070 high carbon steel which gets welded onto a metal rod to hold it in the forge and be able to handle it at high temperatures. The block is about 10cm long and 3cm wide, the knife at the end depends on how thin you forge the block and if you are able to move the steel into the shape you would like. As a novice this can be a bit hit and miss! Excuse the pun.