A debut for the cornelian cherry staff.
I ́d like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Michael Harbarth. I trained to be a shepherd in the 80s. One problem among shepherds were the tools of our trade, like the one I ́m leaning on right now, of which we used up two or three a year, since they were only of more or less good quality. Then someone said to me: "Michael, try to find Cornelian cherry. Cornelian cherry wood is the material that won ́t break, you can even pass it on to your descendants."
I started searching, and it took almost two years for me to find one such shrub which would yield a suitable stick. Here I have such a simple tool for work. Each centimeter counts, back then, I left the shepherd staff just as long as this one. The problem was, when September came, it got cold and wet, and under my rubber rain cape, the water ran into my boots and my hand was freezing cold when I longer reached out of my cape.
I then tried to whittle away at the staff with a knife, I swung it a concrete edge, but it didn ́t break off. I repeated the whole process two more times, and then it finally worked.
This experience was the reason why I refused to make anything out of this wood for anyone, be it a shepherd ́s staff or a walking stick, simply because this wood is very hard and very durable and dulls the tools.
Today, when this wood is cut down in public parks, it destroys the machines they use. I myself have the problem that the teeth of the saws I use to cut the wood in winter break off due to the frost and the hardness of this wood.
I gave my shepherd stick away to a young girl who came to me and said : "I want to herd geese, give me the staff." So I gave it to her. I didn ́t make anything for a long time after that, at least not out of this wood.
What ended with a young woman, however, also started again with a young woman. This young woman, a shaman, who ́s in contact with Midgard, which means "middle-earth" in the old Germanic language, came to me and said: "I want a shaman stick."
I promised to make her a staff the like of which noone had ever seen before , using all of my skill and knowledge, from the best wood. So I did, and I got a thank you letter, which I have read over 100 times, and which gave me the impulse, motivated me to and continue.
I worked as a tool and die maker in steel working, in engineering and in the glass industry, and strangely enough could, wherever I worked, was to get varios tool skills. (For this Wood.)
Thus, some other beautiful things, which we will certainly show in this video, came into existence. Returning to this staff right here: At first, you need to find this wood. You can see a smallriver behind me. Its bed consists of scree, in this case, limestone scree. The easiest way is to follow the course of this river, maybe for 10, 15 or 30 kilometers, and search for the wood along the river edges, or up the hills, respectively.
I was told that it looks like old bark, like from an old tree, the bark on this wood is very flaky. I have to admit, though, I kept lookingfor two years and I just couldn ́t find this wood. there were a very old shepherd, Reinhold Krieg from Bergsulza, 83 years old at that time, and had stopped working as a shepherd, but still bred dogs and did some woodwork. He showed me the wood in his area, this is his legacy to me.
Recently, I went to visit the area for the first time in over 30, or maybe even 35 years, and it still looks just like it did back then. Only little wood has grown back, nothing usable.
If you see a piece of this wood of this quality anywhere, you have to wait for 30 years or longer until it has regrown.
I ́d estimate you have to travel 300 km by car, 30 km by foot, and if you ́re a beginner who has never worked with this type of wood before, invest about 100 hours of work.
I ́m now going to briefly describe what this work looks like: In the beginning, you always have to leave the bark on the wood, like here. Don ́t remove any of it, but leave it in a dark, a basement with sandstone walls, if you have access to one, though a cave would be even better. That ́s how it was done here in Ziegenhain, which I will get back to later. Ziegenhain is the place where the Ziegenhainer's were made.
The last free native American living the traditional lifestyle in the USA, Ishi, also used to store the wood for his bows and arrows in caves for up to five years.
I do it is I store the wood for one year. After that one year, I take it out and weigh it. It needs to have lost at least 25% of its weight then. Then it comes into a stainless steel tube.
You can also use a bed of sand for that. In this case, you ́d light a fire on the wet bed of sand. Once you have boiled the wood for 45 to 60 minutes, you can take it out and bend it.
Bending. In my early days, I used a vice, but after tearing a vice from the wall together with a workbench, I now have two of those. You can also use the fork of a tree. It is also important to do this by hand, and not to use a machine. The wood has continuous fibers, which are connected in a ladder-shape. This is what makes it so durable. So when you bend it, always put your hand on it, using a glove, of course, so that you can feel how far you can bend it. Once this is done, but the wood is still not straight, I use a steam cleaner, or a similar device.
I have a wonderful colleague who knows a lot about wood and uses a steam iron. To be more precise, he takes two wooden boards cut to shape for the iron, puts the iron on top of this construction and the staff under the iron, and bends the staff point by point where necessary. This results in a rather straight piece.
What ́s important next is to have enough discipline not to start whittling right away, but instead allow the wood to rest for another year.
Only then can you start with removing the bark. I still do this today as I did before, with a simple shepherd ́s knife, which we also used to manicure the sheep ́s feet. If possible, use the beststeel you can find for this. I have here a blade of powder metallurgical steel which is very hard and tough and retains its sharpness for a long time.
Once I ́ve removed the bark, I take some water and wetten the wood. Any remains of bark can then be easily removed with your fingernails, you can just scratch them off. You can also use a piece of horn or another piece of wood.
The question now is how you want to work the wood. A tried and tested method is the use of iron acetate. One advantage of iron acetate is that it can be made quickly. I just take one of my wife ́s iron cleaning sponges from the kitchen, anneal it at full flame and then put it into a glass with vinegar. It ́s important that it ́s actually a glass or ceramic container because iron acetate will eat through any other material and end up all over your garage or on the floor in any case, which is not so good. Allow the vinegar with the iron to rest for three weeks.
I even let it rest for three months. Old screws, nails and also the iron wool will completely dissolve in there. There ́s a neat trick, which is to seed the iron acetate by just putting a rusty piece of metal in it.
Keep the bark of the wood, it contains a lot of tannins. The tannins are then applied to the wood with a paintbrush. I do that up to three times, on three days in a row. Work wet in wet, that is, as soon as the wood has absorbed the tannins, I apply the black iron acetate, three times as well.
Make sure you wear old clothes, and rubber gloves if possible, and do this somewhere outside, where it ́s not so important if you spill a little.
You now have a wonderful, black surface. The best is not to touch it at all, but let itrest for a week. A layer of rust will then develop on the surface, which sounds weird, but that ́s whatit is. After 10 or 14 days more, you ́ll get iron crystals, proper, beautiful iron crystals, which you canwash off with water.
Don ́t forget your rubber gloves! You ́ll then be able to see the processing marks on the surface. In the end, I use mare ́s tail and magnifiers, my glasses that it. At a certain age, you need glasses. I then make sure that no scratch or anything is visible on these surfaces.
Notwithstanding the hardness of the wood, this ladder-shaped structure I mentioned, it is also rich in lignin, which is the substance that gives the wood its elasticity, and that also accepts color, though in this case, I use wood stain, which is absorbed deeply into the wood if you work wet on wet.
The reason I do this is simple: For normal woods, like blackthorn, or hazel, or whitethorn, you can use a small flame and singe the wood at some points, like here, here and here, which results in abeautiful leopard pattern. That doesn ́t work with this wood. I have tried to make this wood valuableby giving it a beautiful surface.
For the staff the shaman ordered from me or asked me to make, I went all out. The color yellow has a special significance, so I made her staff yellow. The standard I had for this staff was that noone should be able to tell whether a native American or I had made it. So I used natural colors, natural glue and a natural abrasive, which was mare ́s tail in this case, just like our ancestors used, and like many bow-makers in Germany, or, more generally speaking, in Europe still do.
That yellow color was berberine. Berberine is also known from horticulture, from the plant called wallflower. I cut its root into small pieces and mashed them. The method is otherwise the same, you first apply the tannine, then the wood stain. Berberine only works if it ́s hot, so you apply hot on hot.
What you can ́t do with this wood: I always get people who ask me if Ihave some wood for them for whittling or carving. There are also people who ask where you can find the wood. I get a lot of mail. The most grave mistake you could possibly make with this wood is to sit and the sun and whittle away. Sunlight does not agree with this wood, and neither does draft.
I have a small garage where I can work, which is also where i store the wood. I have sealed the windows and the door twice, just to have constant temperatures. If you want to work with wood,it is the principle not to start with Cornelian cherry right away, but with something else, like the aforementioned hazelnut or blackthorn.
You could compare blackthorn to glass fiber, it is comparably easy to work. Cornelian cherry would be the high-end product in this analogy, to be compared more to carbon fiber in its elasticity and quality. A staff like this can withstand several tons of pressure without breaking or splintering when it comes to thrusts, which is why spears were made from this wood in antiquity.
Two names come to mind regarding this: Alexander the Great, and, looking at lyrics, Homer. The city of Troy was protected by a grove of Cornelian cherries, which was sacred to the god Apollo, who was also the god of archers.
Little-known fact: many bows were made from this wood. I would also like to make one at some point, maybe we can then show it on here. I have already made the preparations, in any case.
When you ́re working on the wood and you ́ve already removed the bark, always apply a layer of oil, or if there ́s no oil on the wood, take a few drops of water, just shake them from your hand into a plastic bag. I use large bags from the building supplies store, which are normally filled with heavy sand. Those are called "heavy duty bags". Put one on the top, one on the bottom, so that the wood has its own micro-climate. It ́s important to perforate the bags at the top and at the bottom, so that there ́s some airflowand no mildew will grow on the wood. This is one of the most important requirements, and, as I said: discipline, discipline, discipline.
Don ́t just whittle away, wait, wait, wait. Adhere to the required years. Wait one year, bend, let it rest for another year, then see if the wood kept its shape. Bend it point by point where necessary, and only then can you start whittling. Always put the wood in plastic bags, or work with oil, which is what I would recommend.
I really like to use linseed oil, which has the characteristic that you can polish it, and no matter how smooth the surface of the stick, the warmth of your hand is enough to soften the oil just a bit, making the staff stick to your hand. I can catch a sheep with this, I can use it for martial arts, for fencing, the staff will stick to myhand like a frog to a slate of glass, it ́ll never slip. As I said, I use linseed oil, others use gunstock oil, you have to try that out for yourself, that ́s for you to decide.
There ́s a legend about this wood, which says that it will sink in water. The wood is very heavy, it has about the same density as water and floats below the surface or just slightly above it. We can give that a try and show it on the video. That won ́t harm the wood.
One more, very important thing: I said that I wanted to use natural glue for the shaman ́s staff. I have put this into practice by now, I use birch tar for that, the scientific name is suberin. It can be traced around 30.000 years back, so this glue holds forever. It ́s important to slightly singe the wood first when you work with this kind of glue, so that it will combine with the resulting charcoal.
There ́s no nail or screw on this one. I also use it as throwing aid for corrective measures. I still have dogs and sheep as a hobby, and I don ́t always want to send my dog if, for example, the sheep start eating my neighbor ́s flowers.
There are about 50 rose-bushes on the premises, and for some reason I don ́t know, sheep seem to like those. So in that case,I take a pebble or a little earth on this end and toss it in their direction, which works like a charm.
I hope you ́ve enjoyed this video, thank you for watching, and maybe until next time!