Greetings Everybody, This year started off with a trip to Arizona in January, just after New Years, I headed out for two weeks, and then, a return trip in Late February. My plans were to visit the Wertz Family Gourd Farm, and Shop of Travis Wuertz,... home of the TW-90 grinder; and then head South to my Bladesmithing Mentor Tai Goo, spending time with him, his wife Julie, do some forging and camping, and met some of his family who were coming to visit, including his new-born baby grandson.
As some of you may know Tai Goo and I have been working together for 10-years now. Neither of us can hardly believe that ten-years have passed since my first visit out there to learn bladesmithing and to forge my first knife in 2006. For those of you who do not know, Tai Goo is a Master Metalsmith; meaning that, his knowledge base is more complete than a blacksmith/bladesmith. Holding an MFA and trained as a jeweler, Tai understands & offers so much more than I could have ever expected. My background in casting metals and working as a sculptor, blends with his interests and practices in the non-ferrous and ferrous realms, in a really amazing way. Plus we both enjoy music and cooking and we share a common interests in philosophy of life, religion, spirituality, art, and knives. So when we spend time together, it's truly a full experience of connection and life.
First stop on this trip, the Shop of Travis Wuertz, creator of the TW-90 grinder! Travis is truly a guy who many consider to be genius, and rightly-so. Travis is one of the most intelligent, generous and creative people I have ever known. His demeanor is caring and technical in the ways that I have never experienced in another person, and he also is an accomplished knifemaker/bladesmith & craftsman. I went there to learn more about how to use the TW-90, focusing on the surface-grinding attachment for the most-part.
Below are images of the Wuertz Shop visit. I stayed for about 4-days to learn more about the TW-90 Surface Grinding Attachment, and then after my visit with Tai, went back to do one more day to be sure I had the calculations and techniques in my head....... Spending some time, learning, evolving my craft. In these images you will see a few shots of the shop; see Travis doing one his many tasks, connecting with customers via phone. Moving from one thing to the next, welding, teaching me, instructing his new employees, Travis is an energetic ball of fire! Ernie is one of the TW-90 production crew members; a valuable employee of the TW-90 team, seen here doing the task of setting very powerful magnets into their frames...a tricky and difficult job. Outside, the scenery around the shop is wonderful. I met Brad the cat & we became new friends. And of course, there were gourds and sheep. Casa Grande is a beautiful part of Arizona Surrounded by mountains, and felt really cool and crisp while I was there; in fact, it rained quite a bit on that first trip out.
Next stop is about as opposite of a world form the Wuerts Shop than any of you could imagine.
I was so excited to arrive at my good friend and Mentor Tai Goo and his wife Julie's home. Tai and I have been looking forward to getting together for some time, and this was a really special trip, because we really had no plans, but wanted to hang out & figured that we would for sure do some blademsithing and cooking, but mostly really just wanted to visit, and relax.
Tai and Julie were expecting family to arrive in two days, Julie's daughter was bringing her new baby boy, their 1-month-old grandson to visit for the first time, Tai's Daughter and his grand daughter who was so excited to meet her new nephew were coming over, what a lovely time with family!.......so we spent plenty of time cooking, relaxing and did manage to squeeze in some forging as well.
Tai has an amazingly simple studio, mostly all hand tools in his outdoor smithy, and next to it, a totally sweet camp-set-up, complete with outdoor kitchen! We had a blast to say the least. Tai had some pozole soup going when I showed up, I had some corn bread and veggies to add to the mix.......so that first meal we had was amazingly awesome! AND..... We enjoyed that pozole, and a fresh batch of cornbread, the next day while playing some of the records they had, many of the great vinyl that we all miss so much. Leadbelly, pork-shank pozole and cornbread...what more could you want?!
Tai showed me some of the local cactus fruits off the barrel cactus, the seeds of which are super-nutritious, full of protein and minerals, the flesh of which is a bit lemony tasting...... and SO...... I had the idea of making some honey butter with the seeds and a bit of the lemony-tasting-flesh from that fruit to smear on the cornbread! It was brilliant if I say-so-myself. Later that night for the family, we made steamed rice, and from scratch made sweet & sour pork with some fried broccoli to boot!
When we did get down to forging, Tai introduced me to some new, and highly refined blacksmith-knives he had been working on. He made me one called a "Bush-Bug" forged out of .75" round W2, and really wanted to show me how they forged-out, and we got down to forging one. Enjoying some time in the studio while it rained outside, only the sound of the forge, rain and hammer. It was a blast to see what a fine knife you can create out of such a small piece of steel. Later that day, before dinner, we shared some of the knives we had both been creating, did lots of test cutting with a new geometry on a chef knife I created at the Wuertz shop, and cooked some more, cut some, talked plenty and enjoyed life to the fullest, right in his desert oasis with family and fire.
We wild-harvested Ephedra to add to the ginger tea I was already preparing, created a tincture out of creosote to make incense, and played with tree saps, sage and other desert aromatics to burn by the fire...so much fun! We even played some music, Tai on his Ektara, that he made out of a gourd from...you guessed it.... The Wuertz Family Gourd Farm, and me on my Native American Flute.
Many fires were shared at night over those days, started with a weed-burner (the same one he uses to run the little coffee-can-forge) because the rain had really soaked-in to the desert in a beautiful way, including the wood we gathered to burn.
This trip is best experienced in the image below....I could write volumes about it, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words....and in this case, lots of pictures! Enjoy & be sure to continue-on to see the second part of my Arizona Journey.
PART TWO * FEBRUARY 25th - MAR 1st
It was so gratifying to spend time with Tai, and to truly sink into the desert-vibe, I felt that a return trip would happen sooner than later...... Well..... as it ended-up, it was sooner.
Tai proposed that I assist him in doing a team demonstration at the Wuertz Hammer-In at the end of Feb. where we would demo how to forge a "Bush-Bug". I said YES! So we proposed this to Travis, who gave us the thumbs-up, and it was ON !
The Wuertz Hammer-In is a fantastic and really mellow event with some of the best knifemakers and bladesmiths presenting. I consider myself really blessed to be considered as one of them. The line-up of teachers consisted of Owen Wood, Mike Quesenberry, Tim Hancock, Travis Wuertz, Tai Goo and myself, and a few others that jumped-in to so some fine presentations.
There was fun with live sword, forging damascus, hawk forging demonstrations & much more. It was a great time for Tai and I to reconnect again and enjoy camping and more fun by the fire. Overall, it was a BLAST!
Again, pictures are worth a thousand words. Thanks for taking the time, taking the journey, and for letting me share some of what makes my life as a Bladesmith really gratifying!
Blessings of Heath an Goodness to All of You
Below are two short videos of our demo for you to enjoy
Bush-Bug and Bird & Trout Models
For more information on how to get a similar knife, please visit TaiGoo.Com