The Webstore is now live

The Podforge Webstore is now open. I don’t have all of the tools listed yet, but I will be adding more as I get photos and descriptions written up.  I will also be adding a couple of jewelry items and the knives that are currently available.

At the start most of the tools will be made to order so there will be a delay between ordering and shipping.

https://shop.podforge.com  (also there is a link above in the menu area)

Currently the store is configured to ship to the USA and Canada. If you are someplace else send me mail and I will look into shipping options and see what I can get set up.

As always, if you have any questions send me email and I will get back to you promptly

If you want to be notified as things get added to the store sign up for the email list.

Sincerely
-Dietrich Podmajersky
Podforge LLC

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An update for Spring 2016

Wow, have I neglected this blog.  Let me be honest, I’m not the best at blogging.  Long form writing just really isn’t my thing.  That said I think it does fill a need every so often.

So almost a year ago I changed around how I handle my web hosting.  I moved the website to WordPress.com.  Less maintenance for me, no need to worry about/apply patches or updates, no checking on the backup scripts or downloading the database backup.  Ok, I should probably offsite backup but hey worst case scenario I rebuild from scratch at some point and won’t be encumbered by the old stuff.   I also moved the email over to Office365.  I was really tired of dealing with email provided through a hosting company.  They always seemed to talk a good talk but never quite got it right.  I wanted enterprise quality up-time and stability.  So it was either Google or Microsoft.. pretty much a “six of one half a dozen of the other” situation and since I already had an account with Microsoft and it was just a matter of adding another license, laziness prevailed.

One of the reasons things have been quiet here on the blog is things went a bit sideways for me last summer.  Lots of stress in the personal life left me exhausted and most likely with a bit of depression.  It pretty much derailed everything with the business for a couple months, and caused me to cancel my table at the USN Gathering (my apologies if you were expecting to see me there).  On the plus side since everything got derailed, I took some time to focus on the engraving.  This was a good thing to do.  I also went to the FEGA (Firearms Engravers Guild of America) show in January.  It was a good show, and I got a chance to take a close look at a wide variety of work and get a better understanding of where my work is compared to folks who are currently working in the field.

Lots of things are getting revamped around here.  I’m in the process of changing how I make things, diversifying a bit, and in general “kicking things up a notch”.   Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more updates about what is going on around here.  Between now and Blade Show things are going to be very busy.

To wrap up this post and circle back around to the first paragraph, while long format posts here will always be a limited thing, I have found I really like the format over on Instagram and have been more successful in posting things there.  you can find my feed here: https://www.instagram.com/podforge/  and I also added the Instagram widget to this WordPress site.

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Web Changes

I am in the process of making some adjustments to the website.  There may be some minor hiccups while I get things nailed down.

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Urushi allergy update #2

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Urushi allergy test update

and 4.5 days later……

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Trying out Video..

I’ve decided to try updates in a video format.  Here is the fist one:

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The Elephant in the Society

I have made the decision to return my JS stamp and not renew my membership in the ABS at the end of the year.

Over the last 3 years at Blade I have witnessed things and had things brought to my attention that I find troubling.  All of these had one thing in common, they all had the appearance of bigotry.  I cannot say that bigotry was the motivation but that is what it looked like from my perspective.

Now before I go any farther I want to clarify something.  This post is not about any specific individual or individuals.   I know many great and generous people in the ABS who are inclusive and wonderful people.  On top of that everyone is human, perhaps what I witnessed was the result of somebody having a bad day.  Nobody is perfect.  That said over the course of 3 years I witnessed enough things that looked and felt like bigotry that I needed to do some thinking.

So the real question is “Does the ABS as an organization promote, condone, ignore or in some other way legitimize bigotry?”  Why is this important?  This is important because bigotry is evil and I cannot morally or ethically support such behavior.   To paraphrase a quote wandering around the internet “Evil flourishes when good folks do nothing”.

So it was time to take a look at things.  Re-reading the updated by-laws there is an anti-discrimination clause which says anybody can join.  This is good.  It would be better if it also included that discriminatory behavior was “grounds for reprimand, suspension or revocation of membership”.

Section 3 General Guidelines for Bladesmiths is an interesting section  in that it has 4 parts and it all pretty much reads as “Stainless is bad” without actually having to state it unequivocally.  Now I know that folks have been forging stainless damascus for years not to mention using stainless in San-Mai style construction.  Frankly that whole section just reeks of intolerance to me.  Since intolerance is the basis of bigotry, that entire section is a red flag in my mind.

The next thing to take a look at is the JS testing.  Why does the JS testing matter in a discussion of bigotry and discrimination.  Because the certification process is the largest incentive for bladesmiths to join.  Also because any process that divides up a population can be used in a discriminatory manner if not set up to prevent such occurrences.  So here is the real big sticking point.  Because the entire Fit and Finish testing for JS is subjective it allows for, at the very least, the appearance of discrimination if not outright bigotry and a method of segregation.

And finally anything that segregates a group of people into “us and them”, has the potential of producing discriminatory behavior.  This is relevant due to the fact that the number of actual “Members” of the ABS will be somewhere between 3 and 21.  The reason for this is that when it comes down to it the only people that have any say in anything relating to the ABS is the Board of Directors.  Don’t believe me, go read the by-laws.  Go to the ABS website pull down the ABS menu and chose the FAQ page.  Fourth question down has a link in the answer.  Now why the by-laws aren’t linked to from the membership page is beyond me, seeing as to how by joining you are agreeing to the by-laws and perhaps you might want to know what you are agreeing to.  Now where was I.. oh yes, the ABS is the board and the board is the ABS. The board is elected by the Board, it is all self referential and recursive.  Holy unaccountability Batman.  Oh and the by-laws state that the board can decide to limit the number of any class of membership if they so decide.  If I remember correctly the previous version of the by-laws only specified that they could limit the number of Master smiths.  Now they can limit the number of JS and MS,  at least by my interpretation of the by-laws.

So in short it is my opinion that the ABS is set up in such a way as to at the very least allow the appearance of bigotry.  It is very possible, intentional or not, that the structure promotes and supports discrimination, especially in the awarding of bladesmithing certificates.  Hence I cannot in good conscience continue to support the organization with my dues nor give my de facto approval for the system by marking my work with the JS stamp I was awarded.

Some people might say “so why don’t you work to fix it?”  To which I would reply; I’ve tilted at enough windmills in my lifetime already, and attempting to change a “good southern organization”, with a board engineered to be unaccountable to the general membership, with regards to their general appearance of being accepting of bigotry, sounds like a windmill to me.

Oh and here is the kicker, when I started talking to folks and saying” you know there seems to be a lot of bigotry in the ABS”  the response was generally along the lines of “well yea there is”.  When nobody is surprised that you mention there appears to be bigotry in your organization, that is a pretty good sign that there might be a problem.

What could be changed to keep me a member?  Make the board more representative of the general membership (more people from different regions including at least one international member and make at least 40% of the board elected by the general membership.  Revamp the JS fit and finish testing to be objective and not subjective (yes it can be done).  Adopt a policy whereby discrimination is grounds for  reprimand, suspension or revocation of membership.

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Step one on the revised workspace

One of the things I needed to add to the workspace, in order to do the Japanese metalwork and engraving, is an adjustable height work platform and Ideally with a turntable.  The reason for this is that it makes it so much easier to work with a microscope.

Yesterday the UPS guy dropped off the welding pipe stand I ordered as a base for this.  Ray Cover uses these in his engraving class and they are a very decent solution.  The only thing is you have to add a flat platform and a turntable to them.  While the current stainless knives were in the kiln tempering today I decided to see if I could knock out the turntable assembly.

So the first thing to do is collect the materials needed:

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That would be some 1.75 inch 1018 round bar a 0.5 x 3.5 inch grade 8 bolt with nut, washer and machine thrust bushing an brass countersunk screw 1/4-20 and a 12x12x0.25 inch plate of hot rolled.  (I wound up not using the set screws)

Net up log 3.5 inches of bar stock.

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Then load up the GCode for an 8.5″ circle into the CNC table software.

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Let the machine plasma cut the circle for the turntable platform.

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Here it is without the scrap.  (I will admit now that the table is slightly out of calibration and I wound up with a mild ovoid.  Such is life)

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To warm up on the lathe work, I took the grade 8 bolt chucked it up and faced it off.  Then I center drilled it, followed by a #3 drill IIRC (0.213 inches) and tapped it to 1/4-20.  No, tapping grade 8 bolts is not fun.

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The bolt is the axle and the screw will hold the table to it.

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The next part was the majority of work.  I had to take the round bar, turn most of it down to the inside diameter of the upright tube on the stand while leaving enough lip to support the piece.  It also needed a 9/16 inch hole drilled through it and a pocket on each end for the 1.125 inch outer diameter of the bearing.  The pockets needed to be .375 deep with a relief cut in the center to clear the inner bearing race.  Here is what it looks like finished.

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here it is fit to the tube on the stand. What you can barely see there on the left is a 0.25″ hole that was already in the tube.  I used that and marked the bearing holder for a 1/4-20 hole.  A thumbscrew will pass though the tube and thread into the bearing holder, thus locking the bearing holder in the tube and providing a spindle lock for the turntable.

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Then, find the center of the table.  This is where I confirmed the slight ovoid nature of my circular cut.   Drill a .25″ hole and countersink it.  Wipe down all the parts and prep for final assembly, with loctite.

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Here is the axle in the bearings installed with the thumbscrew, before putting the table on.

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Holds the engraving ball just fine.

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Works well with the pitch bowl.

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The only thing left to do is get the new chair into the shop and pay with the height and see if I need to shorten the base at all.  I can take almost 7 inches off the bottom of the legs, and about an inch off the bottom of the adjusting tube if I need to. That however will wait for another day.  The blades are finished tempering so tomorrow I grind.

 

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An update for June: Leveling up and Blade show

In this update:

  • Website Changes
  • Leveling up: AKA adding new skills
  • Blade Show
  • What it all means and what comes next

As you may have noticed (unless you read the blog via a feed reader) there have been some major changes to the website.  Overall it is much more simplified, no separate pages for  kitchen, utility or art.  Just some general info, the blog, and links to facebook and my pinterest album of photos of my knives.  Also gone is the price list.    The old site was just too busy and didn’t present the information well, and had pricing info strewn all about the place.  The price list needed to cleaned up to reflect the changes noted in the last update, and rather than have to maintain more pages it was all just simplified for now.  I haven’t figured out a format I like for the updated price list so that is still not available, however the prices haven’t changed.

Over the last couple months I’ve had the opportunity to add some new skills.  I was fortunate enough to take a 2 week long intensive class from Ford Hallam on traditional Japanese metal working.  There are some photos on the facebook page from the class (scroll back to April).  It was quite the transformative experience.  I haven’t had near enough time to practice since the class, but that should be changing soon.  That pretty much ate my brain for most of April.  Then I had a couple weeks of working on knives for Blade Show followed by a 1 week engraving course with Ray Cover.  Another wonderful class, and more things to practice.  If I’m honest with myself it really is the engraved and embellished knives that I want to make.  Additionally, that has been the case from the start of this passion over 30 years ago. It has taken the last 3 years to unwind all the protective baggage and admit that is the goal and accept the risks that come with trying to achieve it.  It has been a good 3 years, but it is time to kick things up another level.

Blade show was interesting this year, having spent the previous 2 months adding new skills but not having any time to use them on knives.  I got some forged knives done, as I have in the past used Blade to showcase the forged work.  I pushed myself a little farther on a couple pieces, adding some fabrication details that I hadn’t had time to try in the past.  I also spent some time on blade finishes taking the time to achieve the exact look I wanted.  Blade is interesting in that you get to see the entire spectrum of knife making from part time hobby makers to multinational cutler corporations.  Seeing as I was already in an introspective state of mind, I spent quite a bit of time observing and analyzing, in order to deepen my understanding of the industry.  I was cataloging things like quality, finish levels, price, embellishment level, design, business model, and a number of other things.  I also spent a bit of time looking at engraving.  Now I know that Blade isn’t the best show for engraved knives but there were a decent number of examples, mostly in dealer cases.  As to what conclusions I came to with all the data I put into my head… I haven’t yet.   I was just stuffing data in my head for future use.  Overall it was an enjoyable show, got to see good friends, talk shop and see quite a number of nice knives, although I have to remember next year not to eat an entire slice of Key lime pie at the Marietta Diner.

What does it all mean.. Well changes are afoot.  For starters I need to rearrange my entire shop and build new workbenches so I have the proper space to practice the new skills.  I’ll be adding some new designs to the lineup and making some minor changes to existing designs to allow for greater embellishment possibilities.  There will be lots of practice of the new skills followed by putting those skills to use on actual product.  There are more efficiency changes in the works for the basic knives so hopefully the skills practice won’t impact output too much.  I’m also going to have to prioritize the special projects I want to do like smelting/wootz making and try and put them all on a reasonable timeline (which if I’m honest it will take longer to get to all of them than I would like, but such is life).

This wraps up another rambling blog post, stay tuned and see where the changes lead…

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March 2014 update: standard catalog changes and insight into why I do what I do

The price lists for kitchen and utility knives is what I refer to as “standard Catalog” knives.  I have decided to simplify the  options.  Effectively immediately I am discontinuing the “Zompoc” finish.   I still have a few pieces in this finish with sheaths (IIRC a couple 5inch camp knives and two or three utilities).  I will also no longer be offering Bolsters on kitchen knives on the standard price sheet, and will be standardizing on 3 handle pins.

Ok let’s take a minute to talk about why.  First off I like offering knives at the price point they currently are, however they aren’t really that profitable.  So in order to stave off a price increase I have taken many steps to streamline the process.   This includes  heat treating as large of a batch as possible each time I do a batch.  There is still a physical limit to how many I can deal with at once and maintain the quality (which I won’t compromise on).  So this means I have profiled and hardened blades around and can theoretically process some orders faster, but it also means I need to have put the proper holes in the tang.  Since none of the holes will line up between a bolster knife and a non bolstered knife and I really don’t like the idea of 3-5 extra holes in a blade I needed to standardize on one.  A number of months back in order to get consistency and speed things up I took about a week and built custom drilling jigs for 3 pin no bolster knives as that was most of what I was selling.   These jigs drill both tangs and handle slabs and have helped speed up production.   Since I had these jigs already built it was pretty easy to decide what to standardize on.

Now let me take a minute and talk about the zompoc finish.  I really like the finish, however it has a couple things going against it.  The knives are kind of finicky to make.  The process is really organic and not always predictable.   I’m also not sure the average person at a knife show was quite aware of the subtlety and nuance of what is going on in that finish.  Knife makers on the other hand really like the finish.  I’ve had shows where a knife maker will spend considerable time trying to get me to tell them how I do it.  So in the process of streamlining it gets dropped from the “Standard Catalog”.

I will still do bolsters and Zompoc finish on request, but the lead times will be longer and the prices will be higher.   The zompoc orders may also sit around until I have enough to justify running that Heat treat cycle.

Naturally this brings up the question of “Why have a standard catalog in the first place?”  From what I have seen most folks that make handmade knives don’t publish a price list, and I understand why they don’t.  I’d like to get more handmade knives into the hands of folks who otherwise might not buy them.  In order to do this I need to have an affordable line that is easily accessible to folks who otherwise might not buy a handmade knife.  In the end it comes down to what my motivation is for making knives.  There is in fact two separate motivations.  One motivation is that I enjoy providing elegant functional tools to folks.  I like it when people enjoy using my knives.  So I believe in having an affordable line of using knives with elegant design.

All of the above mentioned streamlining and simplification has one simple purpose.  That is to allow me more time to meet my other reason for making knives, which is “Artistic Expression”.  You see I have all of these designs for beautiful knives floating around my head and the production knives were crowding them out and consuming all the time.   I needed to adjust things so I can meet the needs I have as a creator of tools AND art.  Yes it would be simpler if I could just do one or the other… unfortunately I’m not a simple person, and Dietrich’s first rule of existence states “Know what you are and be it.”  These changes will make room for me to work on the other half of the story, so to speak.

The result of this shift is already starting to show up.  It means I feel I am able to take the time to accomplish the artistic visions I have.  The last blog post has pictures of the OKCA display award bowie I created for the 2014 show in Eugene, if you haven’t looked at it, take a moment.  The handle on that knife is the start.  Over the next year I’m going to be leveling up my skills and starting to bring more of my artistic visions into reality.   Future posts will detail some aspects of the”leveling up” process, so stay tuned.

 

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