Working hard and being good stewards..

I have worked for the government in some sort of manner for the last 28 years. (Holy crow, has it been that long?)

I have seen some really good things happen, some bad things happen. I’ve seen good procedures, and bad. I’ve seen people do some amazing things with nothing, and have seen people waste resources.

I have always been one to try to do the best work I can with nothing. I like the challenge. Anyone can throw money at a problem and hire some one else to fix things. I like to be the fixer, and the one to make things happen.

From my last post I told you all that I have been working mad hours at my day job. I am still working my normal 42 hour a week schedule. Adding to that another 35 to 40 hours working on the department’s assets. Those assets will be a huge plus, and will be able to save lives and property.

The best equipment for that job is (unfortunately) is 35 years old. That means that they will require some love and attention. In the past, things like this would be “farmed out” to be repaired, painted, and generally set up by outside businesses. I think that during that time is was necessary, and became the rule. Unfortunately, as things grow and progress it becomes an antiquated way of doing things. Myself and a few others are working to change the thought process. Our department has grown over the years and we have a large group of diverse people that come from a wide range of backgrounds. Those folks bring an amazing set of skills with them from a huge pool of skills. Its my belief that we can be good stewards of the tax payers money by utilizing skills and experience that we have in house.

I know that just with this current project we have spent a few thousand dollars, but if we hadn’t done all of the work so far ourselves that we would be closer to twice that amount or more. I’ve got one partner that I work with and so far we have done some great work and purposely kept the bill to a minimum.

The rough part is that we have 2 vehicles now, and have 1 more on the way. None of them “require” us to spend a ton of money. What they do require is time, and lots of it.

Once we are up, equipped, and fully operational, we will have the ability to go nearly anywhere at anytime. This opens the door for us to help the citizens of this county in a myriad of ways. During natural disasters and between storms.

Here are a couple of photos just to give you an idea.

Unofficially we call the black one MadMax, and the green one Fury. Those are the two we have now.

We are supposed to be getting one more that looks similar to the one pictured above.

All three we will be painted black (our normal car color department wide), they will have blue lights, work lights, and striping and graphics as well. By the way, we did the paint job on the Max, it was tan.

That one is called an MRAP, we unofficially call this one MMkay.

Military mechanics tend to be a little weird, and stay that way the rest of their lives, hence the naming. Lol

So, we will have some fantastic assets to save lives and support the rest of operations. If we can continue our plan of action, we will make that happen for a fraction of the cost that it could.

So, I’ve been working some mad and crazy hours, but I think I’m doing the best that I can to do my part for public safety while still being a good steward of the tax payer’s money.

I hope you all have a great week.

All the best,

Chad

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Sleep? HA!

Hey everyone! We’ve really missed you all. There has been quite a gap since my last post. Things have been busy!!!!!!

Maria is working her tail off with her day job and this being the time of year where tie dye sales pick up. She has been sewing and dying as fast as she can mix up a batch of dyes.

For me, I haven’t been in the forge much at all, nor up to the farm for the last couple of months. I still have a cardboard box full of brand new hydraulic lines to put on the back hoe. Still not done.

At my day job as a first responder (specifics purposely withheld, sorry) I have been working 75+ hours a week. We , as a county, learned some hard lessons during hurricane Florence. It had been brought up, discussed, and dismissed to have vehicles capable of deep water rescues and resupply.

We needed them and didn’t have them when Wilmington became an island.

We have some now, and are working on a couple more.

I got tasked with this project because I am one of the handful of people that had a Motor Transport MOS in the military within our agency. Of those handful, I believe that I’m the only one that was maintenance and not just a driver. Since these vehicles are military surplus they require a familiar touch. This might not seem that exciting to most people, but these trucks are like old friends to me. Lol.

We currently have two M923 5 ton trucks, and an MRAP possibly on the way. Each of the M923s are capable of fording 78 inches of water, and the MRAP is capable of 36 inches. They all require some initial repairs and sprucing up to get them operationally ready. After that I have to keep on top of them on a regular basis. They are tough, but at the same time they are low level maintenance divas.

Meet “Mad Max”

And “Fury”

Those are my two new babies for now. Max came and had a sleep over once, as I had to replace a windshield frame and steering wheel. With all of my tools here in my shop it was better to bring it home.

We haven’t got the MRAP yep, but it should look very similar to this one that we went to look at. It was just received by a neighboring agency.

They are alot of work up front, but a labor of love for sure. They will be used for much more than just storm rescue, but when a storm hits us again they will shine like diamonds.

Here’s a little shot of me using the flame wrench to adjust the tailgate on Max.

I will try to keep you all up to date on things, hopefully I can get to the farm soon to shoot some more video. We hope you all had a great Paddy’s Day.

All the best,

Chad

I’m liking the new route…

I really do enjoy our blog. I enjoy our business happenings, milestones, and the creativity. I also enjoy working on the farm. I have gotten a little more creative with the go pro camera and learning to better edit video. I think this will go well with our business plan and of course, our blog.

I think, I will continue to make some forging videos, and as I get work done at the farm.

I spent the weekend at the farm. I needed to take the backhoe attachment up there and hook it up to the tractor. I got it there, hooked it up, and ran it for a grand total of 6 minutes and blew out 5 separate hydraulic lines. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t a total surprise. I could tell that some of them may go, they looked pretty sketchy. So I spent the rest of the weekend removing and measuring lines. Isn’t homesteading fun?

So, I decided to film some while I was there. You can have a quick tour of the main cleared area and see what we are working with. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, feel free to check it out. I’d love to see some comments, all the feed back I can get would be great.

Our laser engraver is due to arrive tomorrow, we are looking forward to that adventure!

All the best,

Chad

New video complete..

We’ve been able to get some projects done lately.

I finished up the punt gun rack and the client was ecstatic!

I was also able to get a knife finished up for another fella, this one was a bit different though. He wanted the city crest from the town in Switzerland where he and his wife were married. I took the blade to an engraver and they did a great job, but, then I started thinking. I thought “Why can’t I just do my own engraving?”. That lead to several hours of research and a conversation with Maria. We then ordered our own laser engraver. We’ve got a few more days before it arrives, but soon we will be able personalize all kinds of things. Be sure to look for those types of items in our etsy shop soon, and offering this service for the knives I forge.

Here is the knife that generated the inspiration.

So now to subject of the title for this post. Today, I had a set of holdfasts to make for a customer and I’ve been wanting to add more YouTube videos to our channel. So I filmed as I made them. I had my photographer friend help some. I realized that you can just about quadruple the time it normally takes to make an item to film AND make it!

I also spent a couple of hours editing. I’m sure that will speed up as I go but for now it took quite a while.

If you have about 6 and a half minutes of your life that you don’t mind not getting back, have a look. If the link doesn’t work, just search “holdfasts project video” on YouTube.

We hope you all have a beautiful week, STAY WARM!!!!

We’ll keep you all posted on the laser engraving adventure,

All the best,

Chad

Right place at the right time…

I made my trades and got some treasures the other day, but today was the ultimate.

I made the trade with the truck,

That I traded for a rifle…

I didn’t really need a rifle, but it can be locked up and won’t lose value in storage. Unlike the truck that would eventually for sitting outside.

I had to pay cash (not much) for the next deal…we got a backhoe attachment for the three point hitch on the tractor! Look out tree stumps!!!!

These were decent trades, but like I said, today was the ultimate. I was at the wood shop were I get the exotic woods for my knife handles and I met a guy there and explained what I do. He then said that he had a bunch of scrap that would probably work for handles and I could have them for free. I went to his place a little later and got all of this..

16 different species of exotic lumber!! Nearly a half a truck full. That will keep me in knife handles for a long time. All for free!!

I was super excited about that score. In the spirit of my trading spirit, I plan on trading a portion of it to some other bladesmiths for different, hard to find, types of steel.

Awesome find of the month!

I also finished the rack for the Punt gun.

Again, if you aren’t familiar, a punt gun is a huge shotgun from the late 1800s to early 1900s when people were harvesting wild ducks for commercial purposes.

Now, I don’t own one, as I think its a bit (ok, a lot) ridiculous, but I got a commission to build a display rack for one. Its over 10 feet long and weighs about 87 pound. I had to build it strong enough to hold the gun, look rustic, and be able to be locked up. The build wasn’t particularly challenging, but the engineering plan was quite the job. It’s laying flat in this photo, but it will be mounted on a brick wall.

Good times, good times. Things are going well in the forge. I have 3 custom knife orders to complete and this weekend I have two classes to teach. Now, if I could just hurry up and get to August 24, 2022 (retirement date from “the day job”). Then I could get some really heavy duty work done, lol.

Hope you all have a great week, and we’d love to hear about any good deals you gotten lately, especially with trade or barter.

All the best,

Chad

Mud work and goals..

Being the beginning of a new year, I suppose its normal to make plans and set goals.

In 2018 we didn’t spend much time at the farm. This happened for a few reasons.

1. We have been really busy making things and working our day jobs.

2. We had the pleasure (sarcasm, of course) of riding out and working in the middle of hurricane Florence.

3. Until its paid off, we aren’t allowed to build anything permanent on the land.

So, for goals this year.

1. Hope to have the land paid off. The sooner the better. If we hustle, I think its attainable.

2. Add some drainage to the open and cleared areas of the farm.

3. Get more land cleared and graded.

Getting the land cleared should get a bit easier. I have found a deal for a backhoe attachment for the three point hitch on the tractor. The most difficult aspect of clearing is removing stumps. None of them are big, but there are a lot of them. Now I will be able dig them out quicker.

The drainage might be a must. Here on the coast we had 102.4 inches of rain in 2018. The neighbor a cross the road from the farm has lived there since 1978 and he says that he has never seen it that wet. He said that during the snowstorm a couple of weeks ago there was 16 inches of snow. With a clay heavy soil, things don’t drain too fast.

Yesterday, a friend of mine rode with me to retrieve our older truck and bring it back to the beach. That truck had been sitting there in the woods for almost 1.5 years. A quick jump start (dead battery) and it was ready to roll. Here’s the problem. That 946 foot driveway that I have cleared was a slick, clay, muddy mess.

It took nearly 30 minutes and a tractor to get our 2 wd truck out to the road, here’s how she looked after.

The old truck is 4 wd, and didn’t require the tractor. I got it out in about 10 minutes, but I was slinging mud like a fiend. Here’s what that one looked like after.

Now the reason we retrieved it was so that I could trade it. A friend of mine wants an old truck to use as his hunting truck. We really don’t need a second truck, so I agreed to trade it. He wants to trade it for an AR-10 rifle. Now, I don’t really need the rifle either, but, it can sit in the safe and not lose value. If that truck continued to sit out there in the woods, it Damn sure would lose value quickly. So the trade will be made.

I’m still in the middle of the huge shotgun rack commission, but I needed to make a flat platen attachment for my belt grinder.

I know that little video probably isn’t very exciting to most, but I was really tickled with how it came out.

So, more knives will be made soon, to help pay off the farm.

Just remember, custom requests are welcomed and encouraged.

We hope that you all have a wonderful year.

All the best,

Chad

Making new bolts look old…

I have said over and over that I LOVE custom orders.

I had a great time making a super sharp bill hook for some really great folks. Check out there wonderful blog.. https://whollyholyliving.com/

This week, through a friend, I got a commission to build a gun rack.

Now, you might ask what’s so special about a gun rack?

Well…it’s for something called a “punt gun”. Prior to this I had never heard of one. Apparently, during the late 1800s and early 1900s some people would commercially harvest wild ducks and other birds. As with any commercial operation these guys wanted to increase their yield.

Somewhere along the way, someone went to a gunsmith and had them create a muzzleloading shotgun that is over 10 feet long and weighs over 85 pounds! The barrel itself is 2 1/2 inches a cross! This allowed them to shoot a large number of birds from a great distance. Seems a bit unfair to me and I’m glad that its now a display piece, but its still really interesting.

This one is estimated to mid 1800s.

That brings me to the challenge, and the title of this post.

I have to make hooks that mount to a board (prettied up, of course), and then mount that board to a brick wall. Gret big ol’ blacksmith engineering challenge. I started the hooks for the board and will have some photos later as they develop. He wants the whole thing to look a bit rustic, so we couldn’t just use regular store bought looking lag bolts to mount it to the wall. I took 8 lag bolts and converted the heads to be pyramid shaped in the old decorative style.

I really like the look of old bolts like that, and if I had my choice, all bolts would look that way!

So, even though they are new, they look nice and old fashioned now.

With me year coming up, here’s to you and here’s to hoping 2019 is a wonderful year full of challenges and success. Challenges are what builds us.

Happy New Year and all the best to you!

Chad

Busy, always keeping busy

First, and foremost, Maria and I hope that you all have a very, Merry Christmas!

As always, we have been busy. It’s something that we just seem to always be. Dealing with our day jobs isn’t nearly as much fun, but all the rest that we do doesn’t seem much like work.

We finally found time to run up to the farm. I haven’t been up there since summer and had no idea if the camper, tractor, etc..was even there. Luckily, everything was there and looked in pretty good shape.

Maria took a few photos on the way up. We aren’t quite in the mountains, but there are some hills nearby.

We talked to Mr. Brooks (who lives a cross the road from the farm) and he said that during the big snow storm last week there was about 16 inches of snow there on the farm. And we missed it!

Back in the forge, I took the knife that our online scammer had tried to get me to make for him and made something different. I turned it into a chopper type butcher knife, perfect for barbecue.

I also completed the steel and G10 sheath for the red and black hunter.

And, of course, that last photo still has a big fat thumbprint on the blade. Lol.

I was also able to finish up this beauty.

But, its not all about knives. I also came up with a flat platen attachment for my grinder. All fabricated by me. I have ordered some aluminum idler wheels for it as I just don’t trust the skateboard wheels. They weren’t designed for those rpms or that much force. But a true blacksmith makes as many or more tools than he/she buys.

Again, we hope you all have a beautiful Christmas, and we are looking forward to a new year. (Just that much closer to retirement from the day job, lol)

all the best and Merry Christmas,

Chad and Maria

Online scammers, and shuttin em down.

WARNING, POTENTIAL FOR STRONG LANGUAGE

As many of you know, Maria and I have a shop on Etsy.

She sews and makes the most beautiful and vibrant tie dye I’ve ever seen, I on the other hand sell knives and other blacksmithing projects.

We believe that Etsy is a wonderful venue for small businesses that hand make their own items, sell vintage items or craft supplies.

Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, we occasionally get contacted by someone claiming that if we send then an item for free they will do a review for us. Mostly by Instagram, YouTube, etc. Well, this week I got one of those requests, again.

He sold his story well, claiming to be affiliated with a YouTube channel that specializes in survival techniques and equipment reviews with 300,000 subscribers.

I checked out the channel, and sure enough, they have that many subscribers and the videos were just as described. I was still very skeptical and told him so. He continued to reassure me that he was a post production guy.

So, I started work on the knife. I kept him updated by e-mail. He continued to be picky and particular. That in itself isn’t a red flag for a customer, but I continued to feel weird about it.

Maria finally said, “This dude just doesn’t sound right”.

I agreed. So I did a little more research and found that the company that he pretended to be representing had a web site. I contacted them and explained the situation. Big surprise…they had never heard of him.

Now, normally, I don’t care one way or another where our customers are from. We’ve had some great buyers from Hong Kong, Australia, Norway, Canada, Italy, and all over the U.S. I think that they are probably great people and we have actually had some wonderful correspondence with some.

This douche nozzle is not one of them.

I kept along with him and he sent me an address to send the knife to. I then did a little research.

I might not be as deadly or dramatic as Liam Neeson, but I too…have particular set of skills. Some of you know what I do at my “real job” and some don’t. Lets just say it involves figuring out what happened, who did it, and where they are.

I know all three about this punk.

He was arrested in 2015 for fraudulent use of a credit card and elder abuse because he tricked an 80 year old man into giving up his credit card info and then racking up $3000 in online purchases.

This time he picked the wrong one. I have been in contact with his hometown police department and expect a follow up to the investigation from them tomorrow. I am also exploring the option of swearing out felony warrants here in NC for obtaining property by false pretenses. They won’t extradite from California, but if he ever comes this way….got em.

With most homesteaders having some sort of small business as either their only income, or to supplement their income protection needs to be in place. With a lot of small online businesses, we are afraid to question someone. We fear that we will scare off that person. Here is a little secret though, if they are asking for something for free, they are not a customer.

Any legitimate entity that wants to do any kind of review of your items or products is generally willing to purchase them to review.

Take care of your customers. Maria and I try to go the extra mile for everyone that orders from us, but we will not be duped if we can help it.

Don’t let these pieces of…..well, you know, get over on you. Vet them out, if they are legit, then cool. If they are not, shut them down as best you can.

I debated with myself about including this d-bag’s photo and personal information. I decided against it. He knows who he is, he knows (or soon will) how much trouble he is going to be in. I think that’s enough for now.

I have, for years, been trying to break some bad habits that were formed and developed during my Marine Corps years. Swearing being the biggest. I think I have done pretty well, except when these….kinds of people crawl out from under their rocks. Sgt. Hollar then makes a reappearance and they get an ear full.

Bottom line, he picked the wrong one.

Maria and I hope you all have a wonderful week. Stay warm.

All the best,

Chad

Strengths and weaknesses….

Every person in this world has some things they are really good at and some things that they are not.

I have learned that I am good at metal work, and decent at wood working.

I have also learned that I am terrible at leatherwork, and nearly as bad at photography. Unfortunately, both of those things are needed to compliment, and ultimately sell the items that I make that I am good at.

Luckily, I have found a few people that are good at the things that I am not.

I have a guy that I work with at my day job that does excellent leather work and has made a few sheathes for me. Hopefully when he gets time he will make more.

I have two fellas that I work with that are photographers with nice cameras and a talented eye to match.

One such fella is Jason Williams (known as JD). He has taken a few product photos for me and filmed the outstanding YouTube video that we posted.

Unfortunately (but understandably) he moved away from the coast to the mountains. That puts him out of commuting range for product videos or photos.

Another friend though, Nathan Ramsey, has begun the journey to be a photographer. He came by the shop today because he wanted to practice some “action type” photography while I was working. It worked out because I was working on a bill hook knife for a custom order. I like making farm and homestead tools as much a I like making anything else.

Here are a few of his photos that he sent to me. Keep in mind, he went home and altered some of them with his editing software to learn and experiment.

He also did a silly “movie trailer” with some photos. The video quality isn’t the greatest, he said that he did this one on an app on his phone. Despite the video clarity, its still pretty good.

He took one of my knives on a road trip a couple of weeks ago to take some great photos.


I am very fortunate for my wonderful customers, especially the great folks looking for a custom order. I am also very lucky to have friends that are capable enough with others skills to help me complete those orders in the very best way I can.

Thank God for good friends and for both our strengths AND our weaknesses.

We hope that you all have a wonderful week!

Chad