First day of school..

Today was the very first class for our blacksmithing school. I had two students, Anthony, and Shane.

They were great students and did very well.

We spent a good bit of time discussing shop safety and tools selection. Especially after hearing about the knucklehead from upstate New York who burned down half a town by trying to forge a blade in a burn barrel with a 30 mph wind.

I had a great time teaching and I think they had fun learning.

We finally posed for a “graduation” photo.

You can’t see it very well in that photo, but this is the first project they made.

These guys did a fantastic job, and both expressed interest in continuing on with more advanced classes.

So, things went great, and I believe that this is a good start to something wonderful.

Maria and I hope that you all have a great Christmas.

Chad

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Great weekend of work on the farm!

We’ve been continuing the work on the 12’x21′ shed/cabin/sewing studio. It gets 3 names because that’s the order that it will be used.

I finally got the rest of the floor framed. I put the floor joists at 12″ centers to make things a little beefier. I was able to finish that just before dark on Saturday. That was really the only plan for the weekend, but since I got it done in a day I decided to make the 45 minute drive back to Lowe’s for the sub floor decking. It gets dark around 5:30 and Lowe’s doesn’t close until 9 so the trip wasn’t too bad. Although after loading 2x6s into the truck, dragging them out, framing the floor, and then loading 8 sheets of 3/4 inch chip board, I was pretty tired. So that made the fact that the generator was able to run all night due to the auxiliary fuel tank was a blessing. Heat all night and coffee maker in the morning without having to refuel. If you are using a Honda EU2000 generator, I would highly suggest the BERG system add on fuel tank. Super nice.

This is it framed out, pay attention to the orange dots in the surrounding dirt, it will come up later in this post.

All sheeted and covered with a tarp until I can start framing the walls, a ton of work to drag those sheets of chip board out of the truck.

Now, for those orange marks. I had marked all of the stumps in the area with pavement marking paint so I could find them later. As I was framing and sheeting the floor I had to continually walk back and forth from the truck to work site, about 20 yards. All while carrying heavy, awkward boards and sub floor. Needless to say I tripped over stump after stump on each trip. This was beyond aggravating. By mid day Sunday I was completely done with the floor so I hopped on Darla Deere the tractor, hooked up the single row plow and went bat shit crazy on the stumps. I was hooking and hopping on the tractor. Working the clutch and the hydraulics like a madman. Poor Darla was on 2 wheels more than she was on 4. It can be very dangerous to pull stumps this way and I don’t recommend it. The tractor can quickly flip over on you if you aren’t quick on the clutch, luckily I am. I was able to tear out about 20 of them Sunday afternoon.

Then I changed implements to the cultivator rake and raked out all of the roots and stump pieces. Then another change to the grader blade to smooth it all out.

Remember the orange marks? Nearly all gone! And I only broke 1 shear bolt in the plow! Now, all of this was a great weekend of work, I drove a ton of nails, and more deck screws than I can count. I got it done, but I AM SORE!

It’s a good sore though, a satisfying soreness that I know that our homestead is coming around.

We hope you all have a great week!

Chad

Stupid broken tools!!!

Been quite a day in the forge today. I finished up the anvils stands for my students, finished the handles and polished two knives I had for a custom order, and worked on a fabulous order of 19 bar tap handles made from railroad spikes. An Irish pub in Quebec ordered them for their bar.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/256302190/beer-tap-handle-customized-handforged

I’ve made these for years and don’t normally cause me a problem. They wanted them personalized, which I happily do, each with 9 letters, I twisted each one, and drilled an inch into the ends of each one. Then the trouble began.

I tap threads into those holes so that the handle screws onto the bar tap. I hand thread them with an Irwin brand tap. Normally, Irwin taps are good quality and work well, not this time. I have one old one that has dulled over time, so I bought 3 new ones today. I figured that these would keep me going for quite a while. NOPE

I proceeded to break all 3 of them! (Insert prolific Marine swearing) Once they break, buried in the hole of course, you can’t drill them back out because of the hardness of the steel in the tap. So, those three handles that I made with 9 letters stamped in each were junk. For the remaining ones I went back to the old thread tap and fought through. I gave up for the evening knowing that I have to remake three of these. It’s the nature of metal work, some times things just break. I hope that Irwin hasn’t changed the way they make taps and this was only a fluke.

The knives came out great though, so at least it wasn’t a totally crappy day.

First Blacksmithing class is fast approaching! December 9 will be the first, remember, if you are ever near Wilmington North Carolina and would be interested in a 4 hour basic class, let us know!

All the best,

Chad

Homestead work continues..

As tiring as it is, there is a huge satisfaction in being as busy as we are. With the first blacksmithing class to be taught fast approaching we still have other work to do.

This weekend we drove up to the land to swap trucks and go get some lumber to begin building the shed that will eventually become Maria’s sewing cabin. We swapped trucks because the one I have been driving is the ’97 4×4. When we bought it the odometer had stopped working at 252000 miles. It has taken that 7hour round trip to Virginia many times since so there is no telling how many miles are actually on it. It still runs good, but the transmission seems to be getting a little weak, it just doesn’t seem to have the pep on the highway like it used to. Plus, it only has a 6 foot bed and we needed to buy 12 foot boards. The ’04 is two wheel drive, but it is sporting the 5.4 litre triton v8 and it’s got a regular 8 foot bed. We have to keep one parked at the farm all the time because we lack the space in town, hence the swap.

So, my initial calculations for purchasing lumber was way off. Either that or the prices are much different in Virginia. I had planned on about $250 to $300 for half of the floor framing. Wrong…$124. Better to mis-calculate in that direction.

I began framing and getting things level as Maria had to return to town.

Then as you can see it was getting dark quick. So I shut things down and prepared for a cold night in the camper.

It got down to 22 degrees Fahrenheit Saturday night. I have an electric space heater, but unfortunately the generator can’t run all night. So about 1 am the generator ran out of gas and things got chilly. I have a really good sleeping bag from the military and it served its purpose. Its the same model I used when I went to Norway with the Marine Corps. It got down to 50 to 80 below on that deployment, so 22 was nothing. I will ,however, be ordering the auxiliary fuel tank for our little generator that increases the run time by about 12 -18 hours. A little extra comfort can’t hurt.

So after a frosty wake up, I continued to frame. It was then that I realized that I had left the entire box of 10 penny nails for the hangars back at the house, 3.5 hours away. I started googling hardware stores that were open on Sunday. Not many at all, I can tell you. I did figure out that nearly everything we need is about 20 miles away in one direction or another. I felt like George Clooney in O’ Brother Where Art Thou…a true geographical oddity.

So luckily there was a Tractor Supply within that range, so I beat feet up and got some nails. So finally here is half the sewing cabin floor framed out.

With much more to come, Maria and I hope that you all have a glorious week.

Chad

Blacksmith school nearly ready..

I have decided after some universal pushing to go ahead with teaching the skills that I have been blessed with.

After contemplating it and putting out some really short feelers, I have 4 students lined up already. I’m only going to start with 2 at a time for now until I can acquire more equipment.

We did order 2 new 70 pound “Big Face” anvils from NC Tool Company. I am in no way affiliated with them (other than being a VERY satisfied customer), but if you are looking for blacksmithing, or farrior tools then they are the go to. I now have 3 anvils, and one gas forge from them. Their prices are very reasonable, including shipping believe it or not, and the tools are top notch.

This afternoon I built a stand for one of the anvils and I’ll build the other one when I get back from the farm this weekend.

I am starting new students off with a 4 hour, beginning course that covers:

1. Shop safety

2. Tool identification/ use

3. Square stock tapering

4. Scrolling

5. Twisting

At the end of the 4 hours they will be hot, sweaty, and tired. But they will also understand the value of working with your hands. They will also get to take that project home that THEY made.

This “S” hook is the project I felt would appeal to the average student and still give them a good beginning taste of the trade.

I have come up with follow up courses for more advanced techniques, and I will offer those only to those that have taken the introductory course, or show proof that they have had training elsewhere.

Two of the four students I have lined up have indicated that they are interested in participating in long term apprenticeships. That will be discussed after they sweat for the first 4 hours, lol.

So….if you have plans on being in the Southeastern North Carolina area and want to simply check off an item on your bucket list, or you want to start a new hobby or trade, shoot us an e-mail at chadandmaria_nhif@yahoo.com

The first class is scheduled for December 9th and is booked, but after that I plan on holding them on alternating Saturdays and Wednesdays after that. More dates may be added if the demand is there.

Pricing, for now stands at $100 for the 4 hour class. All materials, tools, and safety equipment will be provided. All you have to bring is a good attitude, and appropriate clothing.

I should have a ton of photos and good stories to tell after that first class, so stay tuned..lol

As far as the farm goes, this weekend’s plan is to frame out the floor of the shed. First building starting!!!! I’m super excited about that.

My lovely Maria and I hope that you all have a beautiful weekend.

Chad

Universal slap upside the head..

If you’ve been following along with us, you know that I’ve been contemplating a career change as we look to make the move to the farm (at some point).

I explored a few possibilities, but came back to teaching blacksmithing. As I said before, I had a friend ask me months ago about it and I kind of put him off. But it kept coming back to me. I then started seriously thinking it out. I was worried about whether or not I would have any other students than just him.

Then, the other day, I was grading a training exercise when another co-worker who works in another divisionof came up to me and said ” My 18 year old son watches Forged In Fire religiously, and now he thinks that you are some kind of celebrity now, and was really excited when I told him that I know you”. Then he delivered that universal slap upside the head by saying ” He really wants to learn how to be a blacksmith and would love to learn from you, just let me know what you would charge and I’ll pay for it”.

Well, if that wasn’t a sign then I don’t know what is.

So, I’ve got the majority of the paperwork in order, put together a lesson plan for the first basic class, and ordered a few small supplies.

I will hold that first class with 2 students. When, I don’t quite know yet, but soon. I have decided to pick up a couple more anvils. Even if, for some weird reason, I don’t keep teaching, I can still use the anvils.

I decided to go with the NC Tool company for the anvils. I can pick up two 77 pound anvils for just under $500

There are a number of brands out there, some good, but some bad. The main point I look for is steel vs cast iron as they stand up to abuse better and have a better rebound.

My current anvil is a NC Tool company “Cavalry” model at 112 pounds. I am super impressed with that joker. I have beat hot steel on that thing for hours on end, including using a 10 pound sledge hammer with a 12 inch handle (don’t ask, but good luck swinging that beast one handed for long!)

That’s my everyday shop buddy!

So, just a little more equipment to acquire and then I can get the show on the road. Slowly, but rolling.

So I guess thefarm point, is that sometimes, even when things seem off track, there can be a sign so obvious that can walk away with a concussion if you don’t see it coming. I didn’t see mine coming, but I’m aware of it now.

Hope you all have a beautiful week!

Chad

Evaluating the next step.

Awhile back I posted about a possible career change and making that leap. I had thought about possibly going to Auctioneer school. I’ve always been fascinated with auctions and that chant. The problem that I’ve come up with is that even with the lessons and exercises provided, I just might not have the aptitude for it. And you know what? It’s ok.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection lately. Involving thought, meditation, prayer, and personal honesty.

I really believe that it is time for me to move on from my current career. At the time that I started it and for the last 13 years it was a good career. Overall it still is, however, it’s also a career that is dangerous and stressful. It is one of those careers that if your heart and head isn’t in it 100% then you can become a liability to yourself, and your workmates. My head is still there and I’m in the prime for performance, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. Before I become a liability and make things more dangerous I think it is time to move on.

The Auctioneer route was a thought, but my skill set doesn’t really mesh with that. I realized that my first step is to take stock of my strengths and skills. Here is the basic list:

1. Leader (currently supervising now)

2. Teacher (also currently doing that now as an FTO “field training officer”)

3. Blacksmith

I was discussing these strengths with a good friend and he suggested I teach blacksmithing. Wow, talk about a lightbulb coming on! I like teaching, passing the knowledge and experience that I have on to others to help them succeed has always been an enjoyment.

So I have been studying some and exploring the possibility. This seems very viable. Its also very portable so moving to the farm wouldn’t really disrupt things.

The issues I have to work out are:

1. Lesson plan.

2. Creating different classes to offer for further skill levels.

3. Advertising.

4. Pricing.

5. And the biggest, just starting.

I have another friend who actually asked me a few months ago if I offer instruction. He has been curious about the craft for awhile and after seeing me on Forged In Fire he started asking. At the time I told him that I hadn’t really thought much about it. I think that once I develop my plans I’ll teach him some for free and let him be an evaluator for the class plan. The advantage to this is that I know he will give me an honest opinion and critique.

I’m definitely going to give this one a lot more thought and Introspection, but I really like this idea. The most difficult hurdle is pricing for instruction. I would keep classes small (4 students at a time, max) so that each student gets the necessary attention.

This feels right. Not 100% convinced yet, but that could also be the anxiety of making that big career jump.

Who knows? If anyone has any input on lesson plans, pricing, or anything else, I welcome all comments.

The safety and liability side of it has been figured out, now I just need to figure out the rest.

All the best,

Chad

P.s. I don’t normally write two posts in a day. Sorry if I seem a little chatty. Writing seems to help me process things in my head.

Creating a park and some sneaky #$@%&* deer..

We had a good weekend of work on the farm this trip.

We had been wanting to get a “road” cut down to the creek. The brush is thick everywhere on the property, but just at the bottom of the hill to the creek it gets particularly heavy. The trip before last I had cut a road with the bushhog and chainsaw down to the creek. The terrain down there is much different than the rest of our property. The soil is comprised of more sand than clay and the vegetation is different as well. When the logging company came in and stripped the parcel a few years before our purchase, they couldn’t log within 30 yards or so of the creek because of that soil. The good side to that is that the trees there are bigger, creating a heavier canopy and preventing the briars from taking over. Because of that, between the trees was mainly just tall grass. Once that road was cut, I couldn’t really maneuver the big tractor and bushhog around down there. And that tallare grass was a tick haven!

Anyway, we took our normal suburban riding lawnmower this trip. Maria turned into a slalom, road course driver and mowed all over that bottom land. The amazing thing is that when she was done it looked like a park! We joked that we should open it up as a small campground.

How nice is that?

Now we can use and enjoy this area without being carried away by the ticks.

Now to those dang deer…

Sunday I spent all day driving Darla (our John Deere tractor, Darla Deere) I continued to rip out roots and stumps in the house/barn area. Then, I decided to run the cultivator down the driveway again before I packed up to head back. I really want it to be as smooth and well groomed as possible before we start spreading gravel. Well, after moving dirt with the rake, I swapped out for the grader blade to smooth it. It was really looking good.

Once I got that done, I went to take a little break in the camper (ok, the air conditioning, lol). I was only in there for about 20 minutes with the generator running. I then decided to take a walk, get some good photos and then start shutting down and locking up.

When I walked out to the driveway and started taking photos, I happened to look down and saw a fresh deer track! I was 40 yards away with the generator running!

It wasn’t very big, but geez…you talk about sneaky!

Broad daylight, me nearby, engine running….and that deer tip toeing by. Next trip I’m putting the game cameras back up. I’m super curious now!

We hope you all have a good week.

Chad

Stink bug jamboree and sleeping in the cold..

So, a beautiful weekend here on the farm. High temp about 72, low around 44.

Great weather for working! Except….

I get to the pop up and find out that a swarm of stink bugs have tried to evoke some squatter’s rights. I knew what they were and knew better than to squash them. Bad idea in case you didn’t know.

But holy Jesus they were everywhere inside.

I did a little research and found out that they are Halyomorpha halts, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug. They are an invasive species that came from Asia and landed in Pennsylvania in 1996. They feast on fruits and berries. I guess they really LOVED our huge covering of blackberries.

Anyway, in the fall they look for a place to over winter and this group decided that our camper was the spot. WRONG. I caught and released over 200 of them and then I realized that the ones I had released were getting back in. So I fired off a couple of bug bombs. I set one can inside and rolled the other under the camper like a grenade. The last person you want to mess with is a pissed off Marine, lol. It didn’t kill most of them, but they sure beat feet like their heads were on fire and their asses were catching. Not in my house!

I hated to kill any, but I was overwhelmed. I really have changed as I’ve aged.

Got a ton of work done today though.

I was able to get a trail cut wide enough through the trees to be able to get the tractor and bush hog down by the creek tomorrow to mow that tick infested wonderland. It really is beautiful, but the ticks can get really territorial in the tall grass.

Oh yeah, and the furnace in the camper won’t light, so I shall be sealed up in my sleeping bag nice and tight as the temp drops to the mid 40s.

In spite of all that, I still love building and creating our homestead!

Maria and I hope you are having a good weekend, where ever you are!

All the best,

Chad

Contemplating a new career..

Maria and I have been looking for just about any way for us to leave the area we live in now and get nearer if not ON the farm. That, of course, would require a career change. The farm itself won’t be ready for at least 2 more years to help provide any income.

Our online business isn’t doing bad, but its not to the level of being able to support us even with the meager lifestyle that we have. On a side note, if you like to visit to look for great gifts for the ones you love head on over to http://www.noharminfarmin.com

Ok, back on track after that short commercial break.

We’ve both been coming home from our day jobs everyday for quite some time now with the first thing out of our mouths being “we’ve GOT to get out of here”.

Both of the day jobs we have are high stress, moderately to highly dangerous (depending on the day), and have become very unfulfilling. We both feel that the productivity just doesn’t exist anymore despite better work practices and greater knowledge. Basically, the world is changing and so are we. That we have out grown them.

I won’t mention what the jobs are mainly for security purposes, but we both believe it’s time to move on.

Brainstorming has become commonplace in our household. I actually stumbled across an old desire that I had as a kid….

Being an auctioneer!

I went to farm auctions as a kid with my Dad and I was always fascinated with the auctioneer. I had always thought that it would be the coolest job ever. But, life got in the way and that dream had been filed away, until a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve started looking at different auctioneer schools and licensing requirements. Even if I don’t just flat out quit my current job, I might go to school and get licensed.

Now, I know that in a past post I lamented about having too much to do and this would be one more thing to add to the list. But, I think that if I add this one to the list I can clean that list up and remove some other things. Thus, getting us closer to the farm and still afford to live.

This whole plan is still in the thought stages, but as I compare pros and cons I lean toward this kind of plan more and more everyday.

Have you ever figured out that the job/career that you have been doing for years is suddenly not where you should be and made a drastic change? If so, we’d love to hear about it. If you think I’m just bat shit crazy, I’m ok with hearing that too. Lol

Maria and I hope everyone has a great week.

All the best,

Chad