You Should’ve Seen Their Eyes

My boys love hitting stuff. Especially when something breaks thereafter. Even though I can’t say that I’ve cultivated this particular obsession of theirs, anytime an excavator is within site or a chainsaw within earshot, my three men come bounding out of the woodwork to gawk at the excitement.

This has actually made my early attempts at blacksmithing a little difficult, because the first few blows on the anvil seem to bring them running. But around Christmas time, I had to forbid their prying eyes from the forge because I was busy making them froes – a gift I knew would be right up their alley. They have an insatiable urge to impose culture on nature, but they’re much too young for hatchets. They needed some means for splitting wood.

I forged the froes from a couple of hefty old files. Spring steel would have been better, but I figured I’d work with what I had on hand. After tapering the edge of the blade, I flattened the eye end and bent the eye around a pipe, hammering the flat to the blade. I then proceeded to make my first failed attempts at forge welding the eyes shut. It was hotter than I’ve ever had steel (just shy of sparks); I poured the flux and hammered it quick and hard. But to no avail. The weld didn’t stick. I contemplated trying again a few more times but decided that the kids’ labors likely wouldn’t even require a weld (this has so far proved to be true). I allowed the steel to air cool so as to remain as soft as possible, then ground a blunt edge on them.

I shaped wooden handles at the shaving horse and whipped up a couple of mauls.

You should’ve seen their eyes on Christmas morning – I was a superhero. They raced over to the wood box and began right in. After only a few swings, I promptly diverted them out to the side yard where the firewood piles are.

My wife and I were delighted to watch how intent and serious they were in this mighty work of kindling making. We tried to get them to bundle up with hats and mittens, but they were unresponsive to anything but riving. I couldn’t have been prouder.

These two now spend much of their days in front of the woodstove, splitting and debarking all our firewood. It’s an absurd mess requiring constant sweeping, but Julia and I are believers in hands-on education, and we can’t bring ourselves to dissuade their enthusiasm.

Except at 5:30 a.m., when several of us are still in bed.

– Joshua


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