A new activity to be introduced after the spring-Forge metal using charcoal, which we will also produce at the woodland.

Earlier this year I visited a good friend who lives in France, near Bordeaux to be more precise. Pierre gave me a charcoal forge some years ago but I wasn’t able to bring it home with me at the time so when we visited this year in the camper van it was an opportunity to retrieve the old forge. The temperature that the charcoal burns at is controlled by air flow, which increases by turning a handle, unlike the one I already had that has a built in bellow, which also works well when you know how to use it.

After chatting with my friend Nic Westermann, who’s a very well known tool maker in the greenwood working community, he offered to visit The Milkwood Project and teach me how to use the forge and run a knife making workshop. We had no trouble enlisting a group of keen participants for the pilot workshop and the day soon came when we very successfully forged, heat treated and tempered some very good quality blades. The whole process using just charcoal on the old riveters forge and my newly acquired forge, which is quite a skill as keeping the metal at exact high temperatures to a tolerance of just a few degrees can be challenging.

Once the blades were forged we then used an electric belt sharpening system powered by batteries through an inverter, batteries which are charged by a solar panel so the whole operation was done off grid without the use of fossil fuel. We made handles for the knife blades at a later date.

This activity did need a fair amount of competence and ability to use hand tools, but another activity that followed was far easier and more therapeutic. We took a group of men from an organisation called Mens Shed in Haverfordwest. They joined me at the woodland to forge coat hooks. Again using charcoal the participants of varied abilities quite quickly became familiar with the process and by lunchtime had all made at least one hook from the metal provided. We had a very relaxing lunch break after which all men were keen to have another go and by the end of the day everyone made more than one hook and again the feedback was very positive.