My blacksmith shop slows down in the winter so in 2019, I endeavored to have an inside project to satisfy my brain chemistry. In 2020 I chose the challenge to build an Hopkins & Allen Underhammer Rifle.
The Stock for the rifle is a Remington 870 shotgun stock I found on ebay. It needed some surgical filing and TLC while sanding to match up to the Underhammer action.
The ramrod had to be custom made to fit this rifle. A drawback to these rifles is that the ramrods tend to be a little short due to the fact they don’t extend into the wooden stock of the rifles like other more common flintlock and percussion rifles. So to solve the issue, I just made it hang out the end a bit more. I have had no issues, and appreciate the extra length when field loading.
My old eyes love the pistol red dot optic. For that reason, I did not add any traditional buckhorn sights. Iron sights are still something that may be added in the future.
It was a fun and challenging project. I seriously doubt I’ll build another one. I’m too busy shooting this one.
It might be based on my life experiences in the military and as a civilian contractor living with little to no support in the Middle East. But I’ve always had a hard and fast rule to always wear shoes you can run for your life in and of course, never be without some kind of cutting tool.
As I get older, I find my “go-to” every day carry is my SAK (Swiss Army Knife) and a light of some kind. I’ve finally got around to making myself a leather sheath for these two items. I’m not a fan of the pocket clip style of knife. For my life-style and work, a belted sheath knife is more practical and comfortable.
In my travels, I find most craftsmen and artists aren’t just skilled in their chosen craft or medium. They are also leather workers or wood workers as well.
The only way to get really good at something is by doing the thing you want to be good at.
And then prepare to fail epically at it. And fail a lot!
If you’re around other artist’s, craftsmen and creators you’ll quickly find that they all talk a lot more about their failures than their successes. I suppose it has something to do with the camaraderie that’s built by having something in common with your fellow creators. That one thing that we all have in common being…failure. Epic failure!
Inspired by helping my good pal and professional Blade-smith Tony Roed teach “Knife Kit” classes, I get to learn more about the art of knife making.
Putting new handles on old blades I find at flea markets is my “cheaper” way to practice my “fit & finish” skills.
It’s a win even if the project doesn’t turn out 100% because it makes for another unique, usable knife in the kitchen drawer. And you can never have too many knives…right?
If you’ve ever wanted to make your own knife, I recommend you save yourself lots of time and money and first start out by taking a knife “kit” class.
Professional knife makers know that the magic of knife making results because of great attention to the “fit & finish” of the knife. It’s the part of the knife making process where you attach the handle and file, grind, sand and polish to fit.
This is the most important part of the knife making process.
Because this is a vitally important part and incidentally often the most overlooked by would-be knife makers, it’s why Tony Roed and I (Jeff Olson) have developed a class to teach this skill.
We provide our students with pre-made knife blanks, rivets and custom knife scales (handle material).
Students go home with a complete knife and leather sheath.
In our course, students will have the opportunity to select their own handle material for a provided knife blade. They will learn to affix the handle material via epoxy and rivets. They will also learn how to shape the handle with 2×72 belt grinders and finish off the day by making a leather sheaths for their new knife.
We’ve developed the class so there’s no experience needed. Students work closely with professional instructors.
Instructed by professional knife maker and “Forged in Fire Contestant” Tony Roed along with co-instructor, artisan blacksmith Jeff Olson.
We’ve chosen the Russell Green River Ripper, Dadley and Hunter knife blanks for our classes. These were one of the most common knives used during the North American mountain man period of exploration and expansion in both the U.S. and Canada.
These high carbon steel “Green River” blades are identical to the ones used by our forefathers. They have been made by Russell Harrington Cutlery since the early 1800s, and feature proven designs used as working knives for almost 200 years.
We like these knives because they end up being the most used knives in the house. They stand the test of time and that’s why we use them in our classes. We want to send the students home with a working knife they’ll be proud to say they made.
Jeffrey M. Olson is a metal artist who uses a forge, anvil and traditional blacksmithing tools to create ornamental sculpture and jewelry. Jeff has been creating contemporary works of art since he returned home in 2009 from working as a civilian contractor in Iraq.
* Jeff has created custom jewelry for New York fashion designer Mathew Sabatino owner of Barnaby Black American Wilderness Products.
* Forged medieval costume pieces for the video game giant Blizzard Entertainment.
* Has been a primitive technology consultant for 2 seasons of the Discovery Channels survival show “Dude You’re Screwed.”
* Jeff is the co-founder of two organizations in his home town of Fosston, MN.
#1 – Fosston Area Metal Arts, a nonprofit organization that holds blacksmithing and knife making demonstrations as well as classes throughout the state. One of the main focuses of FAMA is to reach out to addicts and those suffering from PTSD to introduce them to the therapeutic art of blacksmithing.
#2 – The Pine to Prairie Folk School. A school that strives to preserve heritage trades and foster community through experiential learning and the teaching of traditional crafts.
* Former president of the Northern Minnesota Metalsmith’s organization. Currently holds the position of secretary for the NMM.
* Jeff sat for 4 years on the Fosston, MN Arts and Culture Commission that make recommendations to the city council on the development of the communities art and cultural activities.
*Created an 8 foot tall, interactive sculpture of a Viking Ship for Fosston’s sculpture garden along the cities Fit Trail.
More of Jeff’s work can be seen at the links below.
“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the student to learn is like hammering on cold iron”
The ONLY way to really get GOOD at something.
Soak up every piece of information that you can, so you can be better at what you want to do.
If you are not prepared to wake up everyday, to in many ways, screw up having a “normal” life. If you’re not willing to turn down dates, skip hanging out with friends, skip happy hour and all these other distractions, then don’t do it.
If you want to be an artist, a creator or whatever it is you want to do, you have to just do it. You have to make it your life. 24/7 – 365.
It’s that simple. MAKE IT YOUR LIFE and then share what you have learned.
Anyone who’s a genius at what they do or amazing at what they do has sacrificed a LARGE part of their social life, emotional life and mental health.
Honestly to reach that high level, and if you want it and do it right. It can be worth it.