And We’re Off!

by Kevin

So the autumn session of Iron Brush classes has come and gone. It was a typical autumn in New Hampshire – rapidly changing leaves and a crispness that reminded me of autumns growing up. We even had a small flurry of snow to see us off on the drive to Logan airport.

I’ve been a little lax in posting, but that’s solely to do with the fact that when “the crew” gets together we tend to stay very busy. A typical day is packed with classes and evening extracurriculars – sometimes it’s seated around a table with some good bourbon, but most times we’re up in the shop producing tools or other pet projects. This time we managed to churn out a Japanese-style raising stake, some experimental ingots of wootz (crucible) steel, various hammer, chisel and scraper blanks, a couple of little knives and even a billet of pattern-welded stainless steel. A talented and driven bunch to be certain! (See my Facebook and Instagram feeds for more on those…) But now things have calmed down somewhat, and I’m in England seated at the dining table at Chez Hallam. A tasty Sunday roast is in my belly, a frosty beer is close at hand, and I’m having a look at some of the posts I’ve started in an effort to cobble something together and get into a writing groove.

There’s so much I want to say about so many things. I have old drafts dating back to when I made my first NBSK competition entry in 2015 (which will see the light of day, I promise), and have been keeping notes about what we’ve been up to since I got to England.  But I’ve come to realize that there’s a common thread running through them all, a thing that is keeping me from finishing and hitting that “Publish” button – rather than merely telling a story, I’ve been trying to find meaning and get all metaphysical with things that have happened. As Ford often has to tell me: Stop Thinking and Just Feel It.

Alright! A story with occasional amusing anecdotes it is, then.

I’ve only been in Torquay for four days, and we’ve packed an astonishing variety of things into those days. The apprenticeship has technically started, of course – even though we still need to sort the work visa paperwork and a myriad of other little details – but it does seem a bit like we’re taking time to get used to all being in the same house and in each others’ space. I’m so used to living on my own and not having to answer to anyone regarding common spaces that I need to relearn a bit about respecting those spaces – so I’m appreciating the relaxed transition. Being a “monjin” is a lot different than merely sharing a workspace!


The view from my little attic bedroom.

That’s not to say we aren’t doing much, far from it!

One of the primary mandates we have at the moment is getting the new teaching space set up and ready for the class scheduled for November 11th. Ford is finally in a position where he can teach students in the UK and Europe (or anyone who wants to make the trip, for that matter), so we’re converting part of his house into a teaching studio. We’ve been working away building benches, organizing the purchase and shipping of all the little “bits” needed for the new space, cleaning, organizing and planning. We’ll be taking delivery of a very large bench top tomorrow, so hopefully by this time tomorrow night we’ll have the bench assembled. I’m particularly excited about the teaching space, and we’ve spent much of our first few evenings making plans and bouncing ideas off one another about the studio, the classes and the revamped Iron Brush online shop (yup, keep an eye open for that).


Building the students’ communal bench.

Yesterday we welcomed a collector of Japanese sword fittings for whom Ford acts as a consultant on occasion. I’ve met him before, and seen a few of the pieces in his collection that were being restored or otherwise studied. He came down with some pieces to be assessed for shinsa submission, but I’m a little suspicious that my “education” was a topic discussed previously, as he also brought a large selection of some high-end work. I spent several hours poring over tsuba by some big names, and wishing desperately that I had more time and a microscope on hand. So it goes.



As the autumn school resumes tomorrow and Chez Hallam returns to a normal schedule, I suspect things will become a bit more structured and straightforward. Time now to finish up tweaking some Iron Brush “motivational” posters (check out the rough mockups on Ford’s Facebook page) and get a good night’s sleep. I suspect I’ll need it.

And just maybe we’ll build MY bench tomorrow. 😉