Posts Tagged ‘blacksmith’

Regular readers of this little corner of madness will be aware that I’m a historical re-enactor. As part of that, my husband and I have a small business that caters to our fellow re-enactors. It’s little more than a hobby right now, with just enough income to pay for our supplies and attendance at events. Sometimes we come home with a little more than expenses and that goes into the kitty for as-yet-to-be-determined outlays.

The hubby plays with metal. He’s a blacksmith who uses a charcoal forge and beats steel into submission. He makes all sorts of camp necessities such as stakes and hooks; accessories for open fire cooking like tripods, trammels, and utensils; armor bits (we do pre-1600 Europe); and just about anything else he can think of. His long term goal is to move into larger items like doors, gates, and stair railings and work full time for himself. The biggest obstacle to that is work space, or lack there of. Working out of a residential garage in SoCal suburbia doesn’t exactly lend itself to expansive projects. So he putters away at what he can for now, as we work toward our long-term goal of leaving California. Here are some of his projects:

Decorative items:


Hand hammered broaches in brass.



Hand hammered broaches in copper & chainmail chain in mild steel.



Twisted torc in mild steel.



Simple penannular broach in mild steel.


Camp items:


“Portable hole” in rebar and mild steel. Because the gophers never put a hole where you need it.



“Gravity hook” in mild steel. The jaw goes around a tent pole and then you can hang items like a lantern or coat from the hook.



Ridge pole hook in mild steel.





Trammel in mild steel. Large hook over a horizontal pole and hang your cooking pot from the small hook. Adjust up or down using the holes. The closer to the fire, the hotter the temperature.



Long handled soup ladle in mild steel.



Long handled strainer in mild steel.




Simple elbow cops (armor for your elbow joint) in mild steel.



Viking boss (hand protection for a shield) in mild steel.




Blacksmith tongs in mild steel.


And while my husband is outside playing with metal, I’m inside playing with string. I do various forms of needlework (cross stitch, black work, embroidery), and narrow-wares weaving working a lot in wool and silk because those were the primary fibers in our period of study. I sew our costumes using mostly linen and cotton because they are so much nicer to wear in our lovely desert climate than wool would be. I call myself a survivalist seamstress – I sew well enough to do basic garments, but don’t have the talent or desire for the more complicated stuff like full Elizabethans or Landsknechts. Here are some of my favorite projects:



Cross stitched game board in cotton.



Blackwork pouch on linen in silk with glass beads.



Blackwork pouch in cotton.



Cross stitch with cotton on linen. Viking apron for my wedding dress (still in progress 14 years later!).



Embroidery in and on cotton. I braid all my own cords and make all my tassels.



Cross stitch in and on cotton. Pouch, bookmark, needle book and scissor fob. Braids and tassels hand made in cotton also.




“Patriotic” belt tablet woven with wool.



“Spider” belt tablet woven with wool.



“Strawberry” belt tablet woven in wool.



“Fishy” belt tablet woven in cotton.



“Diamonds” trim tablet woven in silk.



“Ladder” trim tablet woven in wool.



Chirurgeon’s (Medic) belt tablet woven in cotton.



“Flaming Squire” belt tablet woven in wool.



Special projects:


Large pouch embroidered and cross stitched in and on cotton. Donated for a raffle at specific event.



Large pouch embroidered in and on cotton, with appliqué. Donated for a raffle at specific event.



So that’s some examples of how we avoid the real world around here. Hope you enjoyed them. I’m off to my next project, already overdue, of course, but, hey – I’m an Artiste!




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Last week my husband and I journeyed to Eureka, California for the expressed purpose of witnessing my middle niece graduate high school. The same high school I graduated from thirty-five years ago. While I’ve been back several times over the years (even attended the 20th Year Reunion of my class, for reasons largely unknown to me now), it’s weird to walk the old campus and sit in the old stadium. In fact, it was kind of weird in general, because so much has changed despite so much staying just the same.

I’ve spent most of my adult life far too many miles away from home. I did my undergraduate work in Texas, and moved to Los Angeles in 1986 to work on my graduate degree. I’ve been in Southern California ever since. The expense of traveling over 700 miles has kept my visits home to a minimum. Something I am continually frustrated about, especially as my mother gets older and other family issues keep cropping up. And it’s not just that my family is there (and north into Oregon), but I just really love the area. It’s green (not as green as usual since the drought has touched there as well, but still far more than in SoCal) and cool, with ocean breezes, clean air and a sun that doesn’t feel like you’re under a microwave.

The area is home to some of the most beautiful examples of Victorian houses:


The Gingerbread Mansion               Ferndale, CA                

And some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet:


Coastal Redwoods, Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park            

It used to be a hub for the fishing and logging industries, but those were eco-regulated into near inexistence in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Now economically depressed, the area staggers along as a tourist destination, but it’s lost a lot of its charm and independence as it sells its soul to survive.

This is the first time my husband has made the trip with me. He’s never been to the Pacific Northwest and since we’ve been talking about moving north, I thought it would be a good idea for him to see for himself just what we’re likely getting into. While the temperatures were much nicer than down south, the usual fog and rain never made an appearance during our visit. That was the first noticeable sign that things just weren’t the same anymore. I really miss fog.

And since my husband hadn’t seen any of the area before, I made it my mission to play tour guide and exhaust us both exploring all my favorite places. On Monday we hit Old Town. The area was far less appealing when I was a kid, but there has been a concerted effort over the last two decades to clean it up and bring in nice businesses as part of the area’s effort to attract the all-mighty tourist dollar. I discovered that a couple of my favorites were no longer in business, but I made up for it by spending too much money in the ones that were still around:


Ciara’s Irish Shop   Old Town Eureka, CA



Yarn (yes, that’s actually the name of the place) Old Town Eureka, CA

There never seems to be enough money…

On Tuesday we visited the Blue Ox, an historic millworks combined with a community school that teaches various hands-on trades to at-risk youth. My husband the blacksmith was particularly interested in their resident smithy:


Blue Ox Blacksmith   Eureka, CA

He groused about its setup and organization, but given that all tools and materials are donated and the teacher is barely out of school himself, I’d say they at least get points for the effort.

On Wednesday, we made the sojourn to Ferndale.


Main Street Ferndale, CA

A lovely little town, I was particularly dismayed to find several of my long time favorite shops out of business. Most of them were owned and run by locals who have now retired and had no one to pass or sell the shops to. Even more sad, they were replaced by less artistic/crafty more touristy places. My husband was happy to see the blacksmith shop I’d spoken so highly of was still there, but admitted to being underwhelmed by the rest. It does still have one of the most beautiful cemeteries you can find, though, despite my husband’s superstitious refusal to visit it.

We made up for our disappointment by visiting the Loleta Cheese Factory on the way back to the hotel. They have a viewing area where you can watch them make their wares (during our visit, it was cheddar), and free samples for nearly all their varieties. Every one of their cheeses is fantastic, but we managed to hold our purchase to only four different ones. It will be hard to control ourselves once the eating starts…

Thursday found us at my most favorite place: Fern Canyon.


Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

To give you some perspective, that’s my 6’ 3” husband in the middle of the picture. As you might expect, the area is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Besides the usual insects, we also witnessed a lovely garter snake, a fledgling bird still figuring out how those wing things work, the ubiquitous banana slug, and, most striking of all, these:


Roosevelt Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

We encountered about a half dozen Roosevelt Elk grazing along the side of the road out of Fern Canyon. They are protected and have obviously become used to us tourists snapping pictures of them. This one was only about fifteen feet away as we drove along, and barely paused his grazing as we stopped for our photo op. Later as we came to the exit of the park itself, we encountered a much larger herd of about forty animals. They were a bit farther off the road than this guy, and in tall grass so those pictures didn’t turn out very well.

It was a good bit of walking down the canyon and then we took one of the short hikes into the forest itself. I huffed and puffed my way through it, getting my feet wet (literally) in the creek, tearing my jeans on a broken branch, smacking mosquitos (Mosquitos?? Here?? Wow, things have changed) and loving every second of it. I’d be a whole lot happier and healthier if I had that to walk in everyday, but I guess I’ll just have to make due with what I have in SoCal for the time being.

Ended the day at a great BBQ place, where we shared food and conversation with my dad. He had made the trek from San Antonio for graduation and it had been years since we’d actually seen each other, so it was awesome to just sit and chat. It’s amazing and depressing at the same time how fast time flies, and how much we miss when we can’t be close to family. Gotta fix that.

The end of the week brought us to graduation:


Albee Stadium, Eureka High School

My niece has grown to a lovely young woman and will be continuing her education, looking to do something with interior design. She’s talented and determined so I have no doubts she will be successful in whatever she decides to do. My only regret is that her father couldn’t be with us to see how beautiful his daughter has become. I’m sure he would be the proudest father on Earth.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Saturday found us making the arduous twelve-hour drive back to our abode in SoCal. This return trip seemed to be hardest of all. Not because anything out of the ordinary happened on the way, but because I was leaving the one place I’ve always felt most connected to once again. After all the years of moving because of the Air Force, all the new schools and new kids to get to know, and new houses, my family finally settling in Eureka gave me the one constant in my life I’ve been able to hold on to for almost forty years. It’s lush greenery and huge trees and fresh, cool ocean breezes embraced me from the moment I set foot there and has never let me go, no matter how far away I’ve always been. I love my husband and I love the house we share and the life we’re trying to build together, but Eureka, despite its changes and its struggles, will always be home.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

All photos by Cheri K. Endsley.

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I am self-employed these days, working out of my home. It’s a lot like being unemployed, in that I’m not making a whole lot of money. But the benefits are pretty nice. Thanks to my hard-working husband, I get room and board and medical coverage, and can work pretty much on my own schedule without some myopic manager hovering over my shoulder. Though sometimes the boss can really be a bitch.

But there seems to be a perception in our culture that people who work at home are lazy, bon-bon snacking, soap opera watching lay-a-bouts who only pretend to spend a few minutes actually doing something. At least, that’s a common feeling I get from people when I mention that I don’t work at a “normal” job anymore. Stay-at-home parents (which is an oxymoronic term, if you really think about it) have experienced this for decades. I’m not a parent, – largely because I’ve watched my friends and family and their children and learned the dangers – but there’s nothing easy or leisurely about keeping a household running while changing diapers, chasing toddlers and keeping your working partner fed.

I think it’s really about jealousy. While the “regular” workers are spending the average of 25-45 minutes (depending on your source) trapped in a compact car and stuck on a polluted freeway commuting to their offices, I spend about 30 seconds walking down stairs. I deal with cat toys and dog hair rather than flat tires and traffic. Instead of the drive through and $5 for one drink at Starbucks, I casually stroll through the kitchen and put on a pot of tea. For $5 I can have tea several times a day, every day, for a month. And my version of casual Friday consists of ditching the sweats and t-shirt in favor of pajamas. Given those points, I can understand what people might be seeing.

But the fun ends there. Being self-employed actually takes a ton of self-discipline and planning. While I’m good at the latter, I suffer from a dearth of the former. The first few months of unemployment were pretty much wasted because I had no exterior motivations to get anything done. I caught up on about 20 years of sleep and about a dozen DVD collections of shows I’d always wanted to watch but didn’t have the time for. I read a lot, too. And killed many, many things on my computer. But I didn’t really get anything constructive done. I might as well have been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas.

So I developed a new plan of action. It took some time, but over this last year I’ve settled into a routine that allows me to be constructive, while also allowing me to work on my normal nocturnal cycle.

Most days the alarm goes off at noon. Yes, you saw that right – I set an alarm. I’m very cat-like in my desire for sleep, so I have to set an alarm to get my ass out of bed and get to work. Here begins my first part-time job: housewife. I handle the chores, run any errands, pay the bills and deal with any other administrative tasks that might come up. I make sure my husband comes home to a cooked meal and we spend a little time together before he retires to his lair for the evening.

My second part-time job begins once the hubby is recharging for the next day. One of the things we’ve been doing over the last couple years is trying to build a side-business based on some of the skills we’ve developed for our historical re-enactment group. He blacksmiths, does decorative metalwork and builds armor. I do needlework and weaving. Because we’ve specialized in areas few others are handling, we’ve begun to develop a nice little following. So far it’s netting us enough money to keep us playing in our group. Pretty much the only social life we have at this point, so it’s been nice to do. We want to eventually get to where we have enough income from our “hobby” to live on, which means making a ton more stuff and then selling it. To that end, my evenings are spent either at a loom, or holding an embroidery hoop. Okay, so I’m watching TV and dealing with an old cat who thinks my lap is preferable to any other place in the house, too, but I’m still knocking off about three hours a night of handwork.

I head to the office once the late news is over. That’s where I have my third part-time job, writing. That’s the job I really like and the one that gives me the most joy, as well as the most frustration. For an embarrassingly long time, I would fritter the hours away by watching bad science fiction on Hulu, playing computer games or otherwise finding reasons to avoid doing the one thing I said I wanted to do. I’d go to bed about dawn feeling guilty and full of self-loathing, while all those characters and scenes I should have been putting on paper swirled chaotically around in my head, screaming at me for neglecting them.

Finally I had enough. I can’t really describe what went on inside me (sorry, even the best writers are at a loss for words sometimes), but one night I went into the office and took up my fountain pen and started writing. Even if it’s just a few sentences, some notes on a scene, or a character description, I write SOMETHING every night. As Jim Butcher has said in a number of his interviews, even one word is one word closer to finishing. The new novel is now over 30K words and going strong. I’m not going to be one of those writers that can push out several books a year; I’m too slow for that. But I will keep going until it’s done, while entering contests, submitting short stories and plugging steadily away at the one thing I’ve never been able to do without.

So the next time you hear someone’s “self-employed” or “stay-at-home,” think of me. Think of coming home to a freshly vacuumed house, a hot meal and clean underwear. Think of what it’s like to hear the bills are paid, a paying commission has been finished, and the paperwork for a new selling venue has been filed. Think of reading the book jacket of a new novel, and realizing you know that person.

Being self-employed isn’t for the faint of heart. But given that I’m finally past all the negative crap in my head and making progress in my chosen career, it’s a road I’ve gladly taken.

© 2013  Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.


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