Where the problem's a nail, one wants a hammer.

I thought to feel the nail-sack carefully, and found there to be a few nails remaining in it. I picked out one of the odd things – mottled blue-black finish, roughly square cross-section, slightly tapering to the blunt-seeming point, and a lumpy head – and tried bending it.

It bent in my fingers as if made of tin.

I took the thing to the anvil, and gently hammered on it, then gathered it and the other two and put them in a small vial.

“No cotter pins,” I thought, “but those just might serve. They certainly are soft enough.”

After lunch – Johannes and Gelbhaar were fitting the rims to the wheels, and looked to finish shortly – I thought to try to 'forge up' some hammer-heads. A substantial number of pattern-welded billets had accrued – not all of them were getting used right away, which made me wonder as to why Johannes hadn't used one of them for his knife – and as I welded the individual billets, I thought, “now how many of these things do I want to make? I'm not a carpenter, and I know Hans and Anna aren't, so perhaps the standard 'carpenter's pattern' isn't the best choice. Then, what about afterward?”

That question, and the others, had no ready answers.

However, the speed at which I 'gathered' the lumps was astonishing, and when I thought to use a drift, the hole was more astonishing yet.

I passed several more drifts, each of which made the hole larger, and between such 'drifting', I flattened the hammer while using the drift as a handle.

After the last drift, however, I thought to 'focus' the heads by making them taper slightly, then applied a slight curve to the head overall, as the hammer-swinging motion was an arc of sorts.

I continued 'gathering' lumps, as I had a feeling about other hammers, specifically those for riveting, and those liked that 'focused' aspect. I'd done enough rivets to have intimations as to what needed to be different.

After making nine different hammer-heads, I buried them in ashes to cool slowly, and then resumed working on the bar-roller. I was now at the point of 'lapping' its bearing surfaces, and as I worked the leather strap on one of its rollers to cause it to turn, Gelbhaar came near.

“Why all of those hammers?” he asked.

“We have some carpentry to do this rest-day,” I said, “and after seeing those carpenter's hammers, I wondered if that style of head was the best for people who don't commonly drive nails much. Those things bend so readily...”

“I know about them bending,” said Gelbhaar, “as I made packing boxes once during my traipsing. I knew about screws, and what the carpenters say about them is bad enough. They must have had better nails than I used, as I thought nails to be Brimstone's teeth after a day or so of bending them.”

“I bent one with my fingers,” I said, “so I am glad those are in that forge cooking. That should make them much harder to bend.”

“If it does,” said Gelbhaar, “then I may wish to do that with some hooks. They seem very soft also.”

“Teeth?” I squeaked.

“Yes, and the hammer bit my fingers several times until I used pincers to hold the nails,” said Gelbhaar.”

After drilling the center hole in the pinion and finding a rod to hold it, I went to the grinding wheel and began 'grinding'. The first portion was the outer circumference, then once that was ground, I began 'dishing' the pinion. My thinking was that way I might get a 'close-to-flat' gear with minimal effort, and after 'dishing' the thing – it was perhaps a sixteen of an inch deeper in the middle – I put it aside. It would need a groove cut in its inner hole so as to hold the pin, and then its teeth would need to be marked out and filed to shape.

The 'gear', however, was proving a conundrum. I had the idea that the thing either needed casting, or I would need to gather a great deal of metal in some fashion, and after taking stock of the remaining pattern-welded rods, I knew I needed to weld up more of them. I thought to go out back and find some likely pieces of both 'common iron' and also the recently-arrived metal containing 'mirror-metal'.

As I brought in a small 'armload' of random-length pieces of iron, I wondered briefly if there was a way to 'speed up the process' of carbon impregnation. I then thought to get some scrap so as to test the matter.

One of the scrap-barrels had what looked like smaller pieces of metal, and upon gathering them up, I recalled what Hans had said about the grinding wheel. I began following its path, and as it led to the side of the yard opposite the privy, I found not merely Georg's buggy-way, but also a tree, his horse-barn, and a great deal of assorted cast-off junk.

The wheel itself, however, had been 'hidden' behind a trio of uncommonly large barrels, and when I found the 'snaky' shaft, I was astonished.

Not only did the thing have a long crank – it was fully as thick as one of those too-big file-handles, and nearly two feet in length – but the shaft still had the charred remains of obvious wooden 'bearing boxes'. I took the shaft, and looked at it carefully – and there, I saw more examples of soft and brittle metal.

The reason the stuff was so brittle was it had a great deal of slag-inclusions, and as I found a bucket to carry it indoors, one of the boys came out to fetch something among the metal-tables.

“What is it you are looking for?” he asked.

“Right now, I'm after some small pieces of scrap metal,” I said. “I wanted to try something.”

I soon had a bucket full of scrap-iron, and once inside the shop, I began to carefully sort the scrap. Most of it was badly rusted, and among the pieces I found what looked like a badly broken chunk of cast iron.

“Good, some combined carbon,” I thought. “Now where are those crucibles? I dug one out for the crucible tongs a week ago, and it disappeared.”

I soon found the crucible in question, and as I looked at it carefully, I discovered that its lid didn't fit terribly well. I would need to put charcoal inside of it as well as outside.

As I began 'packing' the crucible with scrap and powdered charcoal, I had the feeling that I wanted some broken building stone as well. I asked if there was some nearby, and one of the boys went to fetch it.

“Now what are you doing there?” asked Johannes.

“I'm trying to figure out how to get a gear-blank about a foot in diameter,” I said, “and pattern-welding something that big seems beyond me.”

“Does it need to be pattern-welded?” asked Johannes.

“Most of the metal on the premises has a lot of slag-inclusions, which not only makes it weak and soft, but it also makes it brittle. Then, it has a lot of impurities, and very little carbon.”

“And what do you hope to do there?” asked Johannes.

“I'm hoping I can melt this in one of the forges,” I said. “I might, and then again, I might not be able to.”

“We get a welding heat readily,” he said, “and I have heard that is not much less than melting.”

“That was why I thought it might be possible,” I said. “If I get ten pounds that I can pour out... Oh, the sand. We can take a plate and make an open-faced sand mold. Here, let me show you.”

The 'open-faced sand mold' took but minutes to do in what I suspected was a mash-tub beyond its prime, and as I moved the plate around and packed the sand with my fingers, I wondered if the scheme would even work out.

With the crucible heating in one of the forges, I thought to let it 'break in' before hitting it with the blast, and I piled more charcoal on top of it. I moved the mash tub next to the forge, then thought to wait and do other things for perhaps an hour. I then realized what time it was.

It was nearly sundown, and the others were packing up to leave.

While I waited, I gathered the hammer-heads and the last few pieces of the bar-roller that needed finishing, along with my other things that I would need to take home. I lit the candle lanterns, and hung them such that I would be able to gather them quickly 'when it was time'.

However, within moments, I knew I would be waiting a while, and I began grinding the various hammer-heads. Here, I was after very definite contours, and each head needed but a minute or two on the grindstone. There were places that would need rough-filing afterward, then overall finishing.

I still had time to wait after finishing with the grinder, so much so that I dumped the nails into a forge-bucket without thinking – or so I thought when I realized I would need to fish them out, and I didn't want to be groping around in the rancid cooking-oil-and-tallow mix in the one bucket.

“At least this doesn't smell much,” I thought, as I gathered handful after handful of nails. “Now how will I keep these from rusting? Boiled distillate with a little grease?”

Putting the nails into a small bowl and then painting them with distillate-thinned 'lubricant' seemed to work especially well, and I left the grease-mixture to sit in the bowl afterward. I suspected I could either soak it up in rags and let them dry, or simply use the stuff to get forges going in the morning.

“Or spoon it in the one I want to use for melting,” I thought.

I brought the bowl over, and laid it next to some common tongs on a small table, then topped up the charcoal. I then began to steadily pump the bellows, first gently for a minute, then harder. The mold lay ready, along with the crucible tongs leaning next to it. The charcoal was now a glowing whiteness. I paused, then grabbed the bowl with the tongs, and poured the whole of the contaminated grease-and-distillate mixture in the forge.

The slow-blooming eruption of fire was followed by my rapid pumping of the bellows, and amid my prayers, the forge seemed to rumble like an angry volcano. I could see cracks in its sides outline faintly in dazzling white, and as the charcoal began settling, I kept pumping as hard as I could.

Another minute, perhaps two. Pump as hard as possible. White light, white heat, iron and carbon become steel. Please. It's important.

The charcoal continues to settle, and as the lid of the crucible becomes visible, I cease pumping.

The forge is alive with heat, and now, I carefully remove the lid with the longest tongs I have. They are none too long. I gently lay the crucible lid on the forge which has the cooking containers. It still glows white-hot amid the consuming redness there.

I turn to the crucible, and now use the crucible tongs to wrest it from the carbon that has sank down. It comes readily.

One step, another, pause, now tilt the crucible. Gently, it's melted inside. Now pour, one smooth motion...

The white-hot 'iron' flowed into the mold within seconds, and as I put the crucible on the forge where its lid already lay, I noted how 'lit up' the shop now was, as well as how warm I felt. I would need to watch the casting for a while, or so I thought when I came back to the tub with a poker.

“Th-that thing's got to have half an inch of slag on top,” I spluttered. “It must be shielding it from the atmosphere.”

As I cleaned up my 'mess' – I shoveled the remaining charcoal from the forge I had used for melting onto the one that was 'cooking', such that crucible and lid were buried again – I noted the slow-cooling nature of the mold. The surface of the casting now looked like a mottled green and black puddle of melted rock, while beneath it, I could feel – and indeed, almost hear – the slow-cooling metal.

I filed on the hammer-heads for nearly an hour, until the casting was a dull-red color and I was satisfied the shop would not burn down. As I bagged my things, and blew out all save the one lantern, the door to the front of the shop softly opened, and Hans came in.

“I was wondering where you were,” he said.

“Just here,” I said. “I've forged and rough-filed most of the hammer-heads, and I've just got to finish them up early tomorrow. They should be done by early afternoon, if not sooner.”

“That is good, then,” said Hans, as he took the jug and one of the lanterns, which he relit from mine. “At least it is warm in here, if not that well lit.”

“I just poured a casting,” I said.

“What kind?” asked Hans. “Bronze?”

“I think this stuff was steel,” I said, as we went out the door into a pitch-black night. “I did the nails like I said, only I drowned them in water, not oil. I only realized how oil wouldn't work out just as I did them.”

“Why is that?” asked Hans.

“I had to fish them out of the bucket afterward,” I said, “and I don't think I want to stink like rancid tallow and cooking oil. At least the water has little smell.”

I paused, then said, “so after getting them out, I thought 'these will rust', so I painted them over with boiled distillate and some of that grease, then patted them dry.”

“Yes, and how much did you use?” asked Hans.

“Perhaps a cup,” I said. “I'd already had everything ready to try casting this gear-blank, with that mold and the crucible in the forge piled high with charcoal.”

I paused, then felt how 'dry' I was. I really needed a bath, dinner, and then a lot of water.

“So, I start pumping like I'm going to weld something, and after a minute or two, I use tongs to dump that distillate-and-grease stuff in the forge.”

“Yes, and you are lucky you did not light yourself on fire,” said Hans. “Even that boiled distillate is bad that way.”

“It didn't blaze up like I expected it to, though,” I said. “I ran the bellows as hard as I could for a few minutes, and then it was ready to go, so I poured the casting.”

“Yes, and how was it?” asked Hans.

“I think this one will work,” I said. “Most metal at Georg's has a lot of slag in it, and when the casting had cooled for a bit, I could see at least half an inch of slag on top of the metal.”

“Yes, and I hope it comes good, too,” said Hans. “We have dinner almost ready, and the same for your bathwater, so you can bathe and get clean.”

After dinner, however, there was consternation.

“Why did you make these hammers like that?” asked Anna. “There are only three of us, and you have nine of those things.”

“Yes, and no two of them are the same,” said Hans. “Are these for just nails, or are they for other things?”

“Those carpenter's hammers looked to be part of the problem with bent nails,” I said, “and then I've had enough practice peening rivets recently to appreciate what's involved – which is why these hammers are slightly curved and have domed faces.”

“Yes, but nine of them?” asked Anna.

“How much nail-driving have you done recently?” I asked.

“I haven't touched a hammer in years,” said Anna, “and I doubt Hans has used one much.”

“Neither have I,” I said. “At least, I haven't driven many nails lately. I had the impression that soft nails that bend like tin need good hammers that are shaped right so as to minimize frustration and banged fingers.”

I paused, then untied the nail-bag. I reached in, and pulled out a few mottled gray nails, and tried to bend one.

“See, these don't bend,” I said. “I bent one that wasn't cooked with my bare hands, and it was very easy. So, the second portion of the problem is solved. Now, the third one: the handles. Those carpenter's hammers had handles that were odd-looking and too long for people like us.”

“I think you might have some loose rivets, there,” said Hans. “Those people do nails almost every day, and those work good for them.”

“Do the hammers work good,” I asked, “or have they learned to work around their strange behavior like Korn has with that still of his?”

I paused, then said, “besides, you've seen my hammers, haven't you? Do those have too-long handles with this odd bulge at the end of the handle that makes me wonder as to the reason why it's there?”

I opened a drawer, then removed one, saying, “now look at this handle. It's about a foot long, and nearly straight. The handles I saw at the carpenter's were easily a handbreadth longer, and that didn't include the egg-shaped carved lump at the end of the handle.”

I paused, then said, “now, with nine choices, we're more likely to have one or two that we can use. Note that this one here is very similar to a carpenter's hammer, save a little thinner in the striking portion, and then they go in a continuum to this one here, which is close to what one might want for very small and delicate nails.”

“They're a set?” asked Anna. “I didn't notice that before.”

You might call them that,” I said. “I have to confess I've never driven nails like those in that bag there, and I wanted to be able to do my end of the job passably. Hence, I made an assortment of hammers in hopes some of them might serve.”

Hans then looked at the heads, and said, “now these look to need some smoothing still. Are you planning on doing that?”

“Yes, which is why I've got them here,” I said. “I hope to have them finished tonight, then put them in to 'cook' for a few hours, drown them, and then hand them to the carpenters around lunch-time. I'll take over one of my hammers as an example for the handle.”

As I worked over the hammer-heads with files and scrapers – the latter were faster now than using a strap, save for the very final portions – I had further intimations regarding carpenter's hammers.

Firstly, they were bought tools, with the better grades made in the fourth kingdom, and the common examples in the fifth. All of them were fairly costly, more so than one might think.

Secondly, replacement handles were not to be had. If one broke the handle, one was expected to toss the 'dead' hammer, and buy a new one – and woe befall the carpenter who 'killed' his hammer. It often meant one's position, and that regardless of the cause.

Thirdly, possessing one or more such hammers was the sign and seal of a carpenter, and only carpenters were to have them. No others need contemplate their ownership; they could not be purchased without a full apprenticeship as a carpenter and ones' 'walking papers' in hand.

All of this meant that we could not get such handles if we wished, and as I stood up from my stool, I wondered if and how I would be believed. I found Hans carefully 'spooning' a moist grayish-white mass into a friction igniter, and I waited until he had finished it. I then noticed the others, as well as the small pot of melted wax. I suspected they needed to dry carefully before waxing.

“Uh, Hans, are carpenters strange about their hammers?” I asked.

“In what way are they strange?” he asked.

“Do they, uh, think they're alive or something?”

“Now what is this?” asked Hans. “First, you say those things are no good, and now you ask if they are alive. They are wood and iron, and neither of those things are alive when in the shape of a hammer.”

“I did not ask if they were alive,” I said calmly, “but rather, if they were thought to be alive. I had some strange impressions about those things, and if they're right, we would not be able to get that style of handle made, no matter what we did.”

“What are these impressions?” asked Hans.

“First, those tools are bought,” I said, “and they are made in either the fourth or fifth kingdom, with the fourth kingdom ones being thought to be clearly superior to the common things made in the fifth.”

“That is true,” said Hans. “Every carpenter has one of those things, and if he or she does not have one, that person isn't a carpenter.”

“That was another impression,” I said, “and if one is not a carpenter, then one cannot have one.”

Hans looked at me, then said in a tone of voice I could not figure, “I think you are right there, as they do not sell those things should they break them. They think breaking those things is bad luck.”

“Do they speak of 'killing' hammers that way?” I asked.

“I am not sure if they do that,” said Hans, “but I can ask tomorrow.”

“You said of asking for broken hammers,” I said. “Why did you speak of that?”

“I did not remember how they were about those things,” said Hans, “and only now, with you questioning me, did I recall how they were.”

She?” I asked.

“Yes, there are women carpenters,” said Hans. “They are not common up this way, but I know at least two within an hour's travel. They tend to do better furniture than the men do, and both of them are buried for work.”

Again, I had a late night, as I had more than hammers to work on; I had some more lathe-work, this being the 'adjuster' for the first heating lamp, and also, some careful 'line-reaming' for the blocks in which it went. I had kept one bundle of 'lantern-wick'.

With the hammers finished, I bagged them up, and betook myself up to bed. I could hear faint snoring sounds, and as I lay down on the mattress, I matched them with a fainter-yet yawn. I fell asleep nearly instantly once I had closed my eyes.

The morning after, I again was the first to show with my lanterns and 'bag of tricks'. This time, the apprentices were earlier than before, and each of them had their own lanterns. The sight of them reminded me of a strange scrap of doggerel, and as they brought in bags filled with charcoal, it ran like a river through my mind:

High-Ho, High-Ho, it's off to work we go...”

The hammer-heads went into to cook as soon as the first forge – the one I'd lit for both light and heat as soon as I'd come in – had a load of charcoal in it. I then thought to investigate the casting itself.

The thing was still warm as I pried it up out of the sand, and to my astonishment, it had very little sand clinging to it. I took it to an anvil, and began tapping off the slag.

The stuff shattered like bubbly black glass to give a smooth and gleaming 'circle' about eleven inches across, with a roughly centered 'hub'. As I brought out a file so as to test it, one of the boys came to look.

“What is that thing?” he asked.

“This is a gear-blank,” I said, “and I cast it yesterday.”

“That is not bronze,” he said. “What is it?”

“Let me try this file, and I will tell you,” I said.

A second later, I scraped the file across the metal. It was neither wrought iron – it was far harder, though not as hard as the pattern-welded stuff – nor was it cast iron, for it was clean and bright.

“I think this is, uh, steel,” I said. “It seems moderately hard, in fact, and should make a passable gear.”

Further work on the blank showed that it was but somewhat harder than I recalled 'cold-rolled' as being, which spoke of it being easy to work. I recalled one wanted the smaller of a given set of gears to be harder than the larger, and only when I had ground it closer to true did I realize what I actually had.

“That outer surface was decarbonized,” I spluttered. “This stuff is almost as hard as that pattern-welded material.”

Yet still, it was easier to file, for some reason. I began marking out the gear teeth for the pinion, and when the first of the two men came, I had gotten down to thirty-two teeth.

“What is it you are doing there?” asked Gelbhaar.

“Marking out the gear teeth on this one,” I said. “That blank came good.”

“Then it is likely your idea about strange iron is also good,” he said. “Where is it?”

I indicated the disk with my file, then resumed filing the teeth.

May I make soft screws and eat them,” spat Gelbhaar. “Now what is this metal here?”

“I think that is steel,” I said. “I don't think I want to try that again unless I have to, as I don't fancy standing 'fire watch', nor do I like getting that dried out. That stuff needs a mug every ten minutes, it's so warm to make.”

Georg came in half an hour later, and when he came to where I was filing on the pinion, he asked about the other piece, specifically how I had done it.

“I used a forge and a little distillate that I'd 'ruined' by oiling some nails,” I said. “I think I'd best make that one thing first, as that was as difficult and draining a thing as I'd ever done.”

“Yes, for iron,” said Georg. “That speaks of possibly doing small bronze things in a forge, though how you did that casting without molders' tools is a mystery to me.”

“Do you know what those are around here?” I asked.

“They use punched sheet metal for a screen,” he said, “and these odd wooden boxes to contain the sand, and then a bunch of strange metal tools that look more like tableware than anything. Then, there is the sand itself. That needs pitchforking and sprinkling, along with careful packing around the pattern.”

“Where did you find that out?” I asked. “I thought those people were close.”

“They are,” said Georg, “at least, they are up here. It seems they aren't nearly so close in the fourth kingdom, and I found someone who'd watched them some. I got him a jug, waited until he was less dried out from the road, and then asked questions.”

I dug up the hammers out of the forge late in the morning, and quenched them while still red-hot in the oil-tub. Each time, the thick gouting smoke made for choking and coughing, and after I had done the last one, I laid the hammers on the brick 'walls' of the forge to 'draw' their temper. I kept turning them until they began smoking, then drowned them in the nearest forge-bucket. As I fished them out, I had questions.

“What are you going to do with those nasty-looking things?” asked Johannes.

“I need to clean them up some first,” I said. “Do we have some lye on the premises?”

“We do not make soap,” said Johannes, “so why should we have that stinky stuff?”

“It should be in one of the boxes,” said Georg. “I ordered some, as it seems that is used as part of a special surface treatment. How it is used is a good question, but it supposedly is used.”

As I went to 'hunt' for the stuff, I wondered as to Georg's sources of information, as well as his 'trusting' nature that allowed him to be used and manipulated so readily. This so occupied my mind that when I 'found' the box – or rather, boxes – that had the chemicals, I gasped, “he didn't just get lye, he got everything he'd heard about!”

The lye was marked as 'number one first quality lye', and it was in several large tins. I brought that box in, then placed it under my workbench area. I now needed a bucket and spoon.

“Why is it you want them?” asked one of the apprentices.

“I'm going to try pickling these parts,” I said. “A stoneware crock would work better, actually.”

“I found one of those recently,” said Georg. “Let me fetch it.”

I had my 'pickle' heating within a few minutes, and as its fumes began wafting upward, I put the hammer-heads in the boiling mixture. I removed them sparkling clean but minutes later.

“What did you do to those things?” gasped Gelbhaar. “You got all of that black stuff off of them.”

“I think that might have been one of the things they were talking of,” said Georg. “You might want to keep that in mind for cleaning pieces to be copied, as that is easier and will save time.”

Putting the washed hammer-heads next to the forge dried them well, and as I kept turning them with the tongs, I looked carefully at the nearest window. The sky was still unpleasantly dark outside, such that one wanted added light in the shop, and when I began dousing the hammer-heads again, I recalled how one cleaned glass 'the old-tyme way'. I thought to ask about it.

“Could one of you get a rag and some, uh, vinegar?”

“Why?” asked one of the boys.

“To clean some of those windows,” I said. “It might not be so dark in here.”

By the time I had lightly 'oiled' the hammer-heads, the apprentices had cleaned a few of the windows, and the improvement in lighting was remarkable.

“Were those let go deliberately?” I asked.

“Yes, they were,” said Georg. “Hieronymus insisted, though he gave no reasons, and we did as he said. Why do you ask?”

“I thought that was done to make it easier to tell how hot the metal was for forging,” I said, “and it seemed to help when the sun was out. Now it's not, and it's hard to see clearly unless one has candles handy.”

“I ordered more of those like you have,” said Georg, “as well as those things that reflect the light. They're light enough that they should come by the post.”

“Did you order lanterns?” I asked.

“Yes, though not the type that take distillate,” said Georg. “I found that there are some that are much brighter yet, but they cause people to become dim-eyed.”

I put the hammer-heads in a medium-sized cloth bag, and took them over to the carpenters' just before lunch. There, I was astonished.

“Did Hans come here?” I asked.

“Yes, he did,” said one of the carpenters, “and he spoke of those hammer-heads. Now how is it you knew making those things is impossible?”

“I had, an, uh, impression,” I stammered. “I get those with some frequency.”

I paused, then asked, “is it forbidden, or..?”

“First, that type of wood only grows to the south,” said the carpenter I was talking to. He was the one I'd seen working on patterns that first time. “Then, you have to find one of those special limbs, and then thirdly, there's a real trick to working that stuff. It isn't all that good for handles, either.”

“It tends to be brittle?” I asked.

“I'm not sure what it is,” he said, “but I think it goes wormy or something, because after a few years, the inside of the handle goes to powder, and you swing and the head flies off. Then, you're in trouble.”

“The head thumps someone?” I asked.

“Not usually, though it's worse then,” he said. “If you're working for someone who's fond of believing rubbish about hammers, you're likely to be let go, as that's supposedly bad luck.”

“Yes, if you are working for someone like that,” said another of the men. “You have to leave that area, as that wretch will say you killed your hammer, and you are worthless as a workman because the handle became rotten inside.”

“And putting a new handle in?” I asked.

“That might work for someone like you,” said the first carpenter, “but there's a part of that rubbish that's widely believed among carpenters.”

Here, he paused and drank deeply from his mug, then said, “it goes like this: only carpenters can own those, and if a carpenter uses something otherwise for nails, then that person is no carpenter. I used to believe that part myself, at least until I broke one and had to come nearly a hundred miles north before I could find work.”

“Then why are you still using those things?” I asked.

“Because getting hammers for nails otherwise isn't easy,” he said, “and then, it isn't just carpenters that believe that last part. A lot of other people associate those things with carpentry, and...”

“If you use other things, and they see you using them, you cannot get work,” said the third man. “I've heard of shops being burnt to the ground, though that is more common points south.”

“So if you want to work as a carpenter, you need to have at least one,” I said, “and then, you need to regularly replace them, so as to prevent the insects that live in that swollen place from eating the handle. Then, your old hammers must be buried with solemn ceremony in the middle of a graveyard at night, with full honors as befitting the most important thing in your life.”

The reaction of the carpenters was most edifying – their jaws dropped in unison, then the first man I had spoken with said, “that's a good portion of the rubbish associated with that type of hammer.”

“And soaking the thing in brandy before picking it up every morning, speaking to it in tender terms, and then polishing it such that it gleams like a mirror?”

“That's about the rest of that nonsense,” he said, “though no one in their right minds up here has anything to do with brandy, especially that type. Grape brandy, at least, helps with small cuts and scratches.”

“That type?” I asked.

“Some say it is called whiskey in the mining country,” said one of the other carpenters.

“Whatever it is called,” I said, “that potable paint remover keeps those insects from eating out the handle. It might not kill them, but they're too sick from its effects to do much chewing.”

“And the carpenter is too sick to do much work, too,” said the third carpenter. “At least, most carpenters I've seen would be too sick if they did that regularly. There are some, though, that like that stuff and its stink, and they are as bad-tempered as anything.”

“Now, for a more pleasant subject,” I said. “These hammers are not intended for 'carpenter' use, but they need wooden handles. Could you, uh, handle them, and then discretely 'test' them? I'd like to know how well they work, as I've never made hammers before.”

The bar-roller was getting its first coat of paint an hour later when one of the carpenters came with a bag, which he untied. There, I saw a 'well-handled' hammer.

“If people didn't get so nasty, I'd toss what I'm using and use that one,” he said.

“It works?” I asked, in genuine surprise.

“It does, and so do those nails,” he said. “That thing should be called a farmer's hammer, as those people need to do a fair amount of woodworking, and that means pulling, straightening, and then driving nails.”

“Did it try to bend them?” I asked.

“That thing doesn't,” he said. “The regular ones need years of experience and a lot of practice to not bend nails constantly, and they're tiring to use.”

“I suspected that,” I said. “That, and I watched you people using those things.”

I paused, then said, “I hope you spoke with Hans about that part, as he believed that one portion of rubbish.”

While I had no direct reply from him, within another hour, I had all nine hammers setting on the bench, and the bar-roller's parts painted. They would need further painting tomorrow, and then, we could assay stovepipes.

Or so I thought, until I realized I needed a peculiar 'stovepipe-stake'.

I stayed later than the others forging the thing, then left it to cool slow in the ash-pile while I trudged home wearily. I was worn-out tired, and after a bath, I was amazed that I felt so much better. I was not amazed at the reaction to the hammers.

“These might not have much call among carpenters,” said Anna, “but every farmer will want one.”

“Which one?” I asked.

“I think that depends on the farmer,” said Hans. “These are good for the smaller nails, which are what most farmers want and use the most.”

Hans paused, sipped from his mug, then said, “and you were right about those hammers those carpenters use, too. They told me all the things that go on with them, and how they take a long time to learn to use, and then they bend nails a lot, even if they practice.”

“Did they speak of some carpenters 'anointing' their hammers daily with brandy or whiskey?” I asked.

“There is a lot about those things I did not know,” said Hans, “including what happens when those things get wormy and break.”

“Fires, accusations of witchcraft, burn-piles, and needing to leave the area?” I asked.

“Yes, all of those things,” said Hans.

“And the need to select special trees with odd-shaped swellings, then carve them, almost as if they were...”

“Were what?” asked Anna.

“Idols,” I choked.

“Now that idea is strange,” said Anna. “Everyone knows idols are wrong.”

“Then why are those things, uh, carved that way?” I asked. “Why all of that nonsense?”

There was no answer from either person.

At dinner, however, I caught one statement Anna had said, then thought to speak of it.

“Much call?” I asked.

“I would not be surprised if the local ones make a deal with you,” said Anna, “and keep their hammers well-hidden. That nonsense about carpenters being wrong if they use something other than a 'carpenter's hammer' to drive nails is just that.”

“Yes, and I believed that nonsense until this morning,” said Hans, “and if I believe it, then a lot of people do.”

“Which is why they will need to hide it,” said Anna. “Joachim spoke of it being much easier to use, as well as much faster, and no carpenter wants to make do with bad tools.”

“Unless he or she must to stay alive,” I said. “Still, for every carpenter, there are likely to be a great many farmers, and 'easy-to-use' hammers will be appreciated.”

“Especially when they can get them easy,” said Hans. “Lots of farmers do not have those things, so they must either borrow them, or look for the smaller smith's hammers and try to clean them up some.”

“And nails?” I asked.

“Those they want cooked, like you did with ours,” said Anna. “They will have to get them from their usual sources, as Georg's hasn't done nails in years.”

“That, and turning those out in real numbers...”

“They would not have you doing that,” said Hans. “Nails may be costly, but that is because there is much time and sweat in their making.”

“And stovepipes?” I asked. “We might be able to do our first ones tomorrow.”

“Those are likely to be different,” said Anna.

'Different' likely was an understatement, as the whole process was much of an unknown. I suspected that we would need to carefully anneal the sheet metal, roll an edge 'down' for riveting, roll the tube itself, then drill and rivet it – and the process would take more than one person, also.

“It might well need three,” I thought, as I worked on the parts for the first heating lamp, “and I hope we can get that pipe done for the furnace tomorrow. It needs to cure properly.”

When I came to work the next morning, however, I was more than a little surprised to find an assortment of bars laying near the door of the furnace. I thought to check them against the door of the thing, and when I found them to have various chalk-marked places, as well as cryptic instructions, I thought, “are these the straps for the door? How is this to be done, and how do we suspend it?”

I sat thinking about the matter after getting three of the forges lit. Their ruddy flickers seemed to billow behind me as if the flames of hell, while the glimmering of a handful of candles shed light upon my work of figuring. It was easily half an hour before dawn.

I laid out the various bars and 'straps' as to how they were likely to go, and returned to my slates and chalk. I suspected we would want rivets, and I recalled how we had but few of them on the premises. Georg tended to sell every spare rivet we made, or so I suspected.

“And only by my keeping a few of each batch I make do we have any surplus,” I thought. “At least someone's thinking beyond the immediate present.”

The need to hang the door was an even greater conundrum, and as I sat and thought, the idea occurred to me to 'strap' the oven itself, then attach bars to provide the hinge points, as well as a 'latch' that would clamp it closed.

“And it all needs to be adjustable,” I thought. “Bolts, pins, some bronze bearings...”

The recollection of Georg speaking of bronze castings came to me, and they sounded ideal for the receivers of door pins.

“And that means a pattern,” I thought. “And then waiting all day for the stuff to cool.”

The thought then occurred to me to use a simple stick of wood for the pattern. As I looked for a stick to use, the apprentices filed in, and moments later, the rest of the shop.

I now had a problem, for everyone – from apprentices to Georg himself – wanted to either make stovepipe, fit the door, or fit the frame to the oven, and I hadn't yet planned the mess out thoroughly. More importantly, the level of precision needed was grossly incompatible with the observed level of competency in the others. Finally, we did not have enough 'precise' tools to equip more than myself.

The 'enthusiasm' of the others, however, came to an abrupt and screeching halt when Georg attempted to use the bar-roller and found it needed the other portions painted.

“Yes, you all can do that,” I said. “I still need to finish measuring the furnace, then...”

“But we did that already, and cut the pieces,” he said.

“An inch oversize?” I asked. “What do those chalked instructions mean?”

“Those say where they go,” said Johannes. “I was hoping you would be able to trim them to size and have them ready to go when we came in.”

“This sounds like what I thought about Waldhuis,” I thought. “Drop the stuff off late in the afternoon, and expect it to be done early the next morning, and done right, and done pretty as a picture.”

“I had no ideas as to the meaning of the chalked markings,” I said, “and they were almost as hard for me to read as if I'd written them, so I had to test-fit them. Then, I had to figure out just how to mount that door.”

“That part we could not figure,” said Georg. “Now about the stovepipes...”

“The metal needs careful annealing,” I said. “That means a dull red heat, and bury the sheets in ashes for at least an hour or two. Do places that make stovepipes have big mounds of ashes?”

“If they do, they hide them well,” said Georg. “Why do they need to be heated like that?”

“It softens the metal,” I said, “or, in the case of that metal, it reduces its brittleness. They roll that stuff down quite a bit in the cold state.”

I paused, then said, “then, I need to assemble this bar-roller after the paint dries, and I have a few more tools to make today, including a special riveting stake, some heading tools, and perhaps a few others – and then, I need to work out just how the riveting goes. You didn't get any more on people who make stovepipes, did you?”

“No, I didn't,” said Georg. “I was lucky to find someone who knew a bit about foundry work.”

After the machine was painted fully – the others now didn't need much direction, even if I needed to go over the parts with a rag and brush to correct minor errors – it was moved near a forge to dry. I then dug in the 'ash-mound' and retrieved my stake.

“What is that thing?” asked Georg.

“This is a riveting stake for stovepipes,” I said. “The headed rivet is put in a little dimple with tongs, the pipe is slipped on and threaded in, and then the rivet is peened. Unlike the larger rivets, most stovepipe-rivets are finished as they cool.” I lowered my voice, then muttered, “and that's going to take some experimenting. I hope we don't make too much scrap.”

After answering more questions, I showed how to anneal the sheet metal. While this stuff was decent for finish – it looked like a grainy and somewhat irregular version of cold-rolled steel – it was also thicker than I expected. I recalled stovepipe being very thin where I came from.

This stuff was closer to a sixteenth of an inch, with its measurement being roughly three lines.

“What thickness is this sheet?” I asked, as I put one of the pieces on top of the forge.

“The usual thickness,” said Georg. “These are the usual size for common stovepipes.”

“Which means double-riveting them for what the furnace is likely to need,” I said. “I hope people bring in samples for their old ones.”

“There should be gages packed for those,” said Georg. “You might want to look in some of the boxes.”

As I went to look, I had the impression I needed to work 'Waldhuis' hours for the next week and a half, as the others were mostly useless for dealing with the production bottleneck. While they weren't acting as brainless as before, there was still a vast gulf of well-meaning ignorance.

“And at least I know I'm ignorant,” I muttered, “and while I don't have their optimism, at least I try to watch what I'm doing when I'm swimming in the deep end.”

The 'gages' Georg had spoken of had a smallest size, that being labeled as 'common', then there were two others, each an inch larger, then another marked 'oven, kiln, or furnace'. The shape of these gages, however, was a marvel, with one end slightly larger than the other.

“Are these go or no-go?” I thought. “Or is this one an 'inside', and the other, an 'outside'?”

While I set the gages aside, however, I had a suspicion that Georg had ordered sheet metal of a different size, and he had forgotten about its presence. I felt myself growing 'warmer', then when I closed in on a box, I thought to nudge it with my foot.

“This one weighs a ton,” I murmured, “and it's a bigger than common box, at least for those of this batch.”

After removing the lid – and realizing I needed to make a few small pry-bars for the rest-day – I was astonished. I had found 'double-width' stove-sheets.

Removing one showed a noticeably better execution than the 'common' ones, with a dark blue-black finish and faint traces of ashes. I thought to bend one, and the metal bent easily in my hands.

“One oven-sized smokestack coming up,” I thought. “Now how do I get this big crate in there?”

I heard steps, then Georg showed, complete with his bill of lading.

“You found the gages,” he said. “Now what is that box there?”

“Ready-to-go pieces for the smokestack,” I said. “Does this type get braces and, uh, cover?”

“Yes, and I was mistaken about this stuff,” said Georg. “I thought you were further along than you were.”

“I'm most likely going to have to work more days for a few weeks,” I said. “I can see that there's a lot of experimentation needed, and that need – as well as a lot of work that needs me doing it – is holding things up. A lot of the common things aren't happening from now until early next year, aren't they?”

“The usual things, yes,” said Georg. “Those things that need you doing most of the work are a bit less, but not that much less. Is there much we can do?”

“Cook those other sheets,” I said, “head some more of the common sized rivets...”

“Why, will it take many?” asked Georg.

“Have you been saving rivets?” I asked.

To my complete astonishment, Georg said, “I might not save many of those things, but I've set aside one out of every five I sell, and I suspect Johannes and Gelbhaar have been bagging their own private hoards too. It helps a lot to have ready rivets when one has a job that needs but a few, and most work for buggies and wagons is like that.”

“I'm not sure how many this thing will take,” I said. “I'd still try to make some, as we will use them sooner or later.”

The 'dearth' of work for the others had them leaving by lunchtime. By then, they had annealed perhaps twenty sheets of iron, brought in most of the remaining boxes, cut and 'cleaned' blanks for me to pattern-weld, and headed up nearly a hundred decent-looking rivets. I had banded the door-pieces, and was working on cutting to size the frame for the oven proper when not filing on the pinion.

I was surprised more than a little when Hans came in about lunch-time, and as he wandered around, I could almost 'hear' him thinking.

“They've been bringing over the stuff they need for that shed,” he said, “and they are checking to see that it is right.”

“Is it common for trades to work on the rest-day?” I asked.

“No, it isn't,” said Hans, “but this area is not like some other places, so people do that when they must.”

“Other places?” I asked.

“Those are mostly to the south,” said Hans. “In those places, they do nothing whatsoever on the rest-day, and Sunday, they go to church, and little more.”

“What if someone is sick, though?” I asked.

“They do not have people who know medicine in those places,” said Hans, “nor do they have people doing as you do, nor do they have chemists that are any good.”

“Where to the south are they?” I asked.

“Mostly in the second and third kingdoms,” said Hans. “The fourth kingdom not only works longer days, but they are more willing to work more of them if they must, and the fifth kingdom treats every day the same when it comes to work, so they work all of them.”

“Like Waldhuis?” I asked.

“Close, but no Geneva,” said Hans. “I have heard someone say 'it is day all day in the daytime, and there is no night in Kraag'. That is what some call the kingdom house down there, and they burn enough of those lanterns to make that saying believable in places.”

Hans paused, then said, “and, they are using those hammers back there.”

“Uh, pry-bars for bent nails?” I asked.

“Those nails are not bending,” said Hans, “so why do we need them?”

“I don't know about you bending nails, but I'm bound to do so,” I said. “Besides, those are good for more than just nails. I had several where I came from, including one that was quite small.”

Forging out the needed pry-bars went quickly enough, and after 'truing them up' with grinder and files, they went in a cooking container. The short time it had taken me – perhaps half an hour start-to-finish, with filing on the stovepipe-stake intermingled in the process – was such that Hans was shaking his head.

“You are more than paying their bills now,” he said, “and they are eating and drinking at the Public House. Why is that?”

“I need to assemble that machine,” I said, as I pointed to the bar-roller, “then build and adjust the frame on the oven, then figure out how to do the stovepipes. Until then, about all they can do without wasting a lot of time is the simpler things, which isn't much. From what Georg tells me, the common things have more or less stopped until early spring.”

“Yes, because of Festival Week,” said Hans. “I was wrong about when it happens, as I thought it was four weeks when I spoke of it last, and it is now five.”

“Five?”

“Yes, five weeks from today,” said Hans. “The months here are strange sometimes, and I lose track of them.”

“Which month is it now, though?” I asked.

“I think it is the very end of November,” said Hans.

“How long are the months here?” I gasped.

“That is the strange part,” said Hans, “as each month starts with a new moon, and they seem a bit longer than I remember.”

“Is there a known number of days?” I asked.

“Yes, there are supposed to be thirty of those things to the month,” said Hans, “but since that curse, some months have been longer than that. Summer is usually the worst for it, but lately, about all one can do is look up at the sky at night, and watch the moon when it shows.”

Somehow, I had the impression that Hans needed mathematics lessons along with his reading. At least he and Anna were improving, albeit the rate of improvement was frustratingly slow. I thought to ask a question.

“What is sixty-three and thirty-seven?” I asked.

“Why do you ask me?” said Hans. “You do sums without chalk and slate that take me at least ten minutes to figure with both of those things, and they are usually wrong the first time, so I must do them two or three times.”

“You answered my question nicely,” I said. “I wondered about your stating the months as being strange, and I suspected your accounting was flawed due to your skills in that area. Hence, I need to teach mathematics as well as reading.”

“It takes no sums to figure the months,” said Hans. “When you have a big moon, that is the middle, and when it is small, it stays that way two weeks, and then...”

“Yes, so that gives five weeks,” I said. “Do the weeks vary in length, as in more than seven days, or do the number of weeks vary? Thirty days gives four weeks and two days, and you said five weeks from today until the start of Festival Week.”

I paused, then said, “is this just a vague rule you, uh, heard somewhere, or what?”

“I learned it from my grandfather,” said Hans, “and it worked well enough for farming and telling when those northern people were likely to show.”

“Farming isn't that critical as to the day,” I said, “or is it?”

Hans was silent for a moment, then he said, “that depends on where you are, and which crop. Up here, it seems important, as the warm time is none too long, so you must watch the sun, the moon, and the weather. To the south, the warm time is longer, so it is less important, and past the middle of the second kingdom, it is usually warm enough to plant as soon as you can plow your fields.”

“Snow?”

“It only snows regular in the first kingdom,” said Hans, “and it seldom gets thick if you go much south of here. The second kingdom might see snow every ten to twenty years, and that is for its parts that are farthest north.”

Hans paused, then said, “further south, it just rains, and you can plow as soon as your fields do not bog your team and plow. It is warm enough to grow some crops almost year-round.”

Hans left shortly thereafter, and I only left when the light was too dim to work without the candles. I bagged my 'homework', gathered up my jug, and left with a heaped-high forge, and once home, I was astonished to see my tub indoors and the rear door marked with chalk.

“How am I going to bathe?” I asked.

“I've thought about that,” said Anna, “and they left some boards in here. Hans tied them up so that I can hang a sheet so you can bathe.”

“Where are they?” I asked.

“Down here in the basement,” said Hans. “I think it might be easier for you to do that down here, as I have that water boiler thing here already, and it is steaming hot.”

Bathing in the basement, while it was a trifle less private – the sheets worked well visually, but the noise of bathing carried just the same – was much warmer, and once I had finished, I came out feeling far better than I usually did. Hans then came with a foul-smelling mug, went behind the sheets, and returned without it.

“Is that lye?” I asked.

“Yes, a spoonful of the powdered stuff in some water,” he said. “With your clothing like it is, we are using more lye to get those things clean.”

At the table, however, I learned that I not merely had my second pair of 'shop' shoes, but also a cloak of some kind. Touching its fine-weave cloth showed it had been somehow impregnated with a softened species of wax, and as I looked it over carefully, I noted its mottled brown-gray color, wooden buttons, its pockets inside and out, and its hood. It seemed well-made, though only actually using the thing would tell for certain.

“When did that come?” I asked, as I fingered one of the sizable buttons. They seemed lathe-turned.

Today, along with the shoes,” said Anna. “Tomorrow, we will need to go wooding early, and then come back to finish that shed.”

“Finish?” I asked. “Have they been working on it?”

“The whole day,” said Anna, “and two of them will be here tomorrow. Between those hammers you made, and those nails, they figure they saved almost a whole day's work.”

“Why is the door chalked?” I asked.

“So we do not go out through it and get hurt in that shed,” said Hans. “They were extending the roof, and then hanging the door, and adding the little window on the side for light, and then putting on some of those boards, and they were putting things here and there while doing all of that.”

“Hans, we will need to nail those boards tomorrow,” said Anna. “They just hung them, and they are not full-nailed.”

The morning dawned chill and cold, with a fresh dusting of snow on the ground, and as Hans and I went almost directly west – Anna had stayed home, pleading the weather – I noted there were places where the snow seemed to be slowly gathering in hollows on the ground. The aspect of slumber seemed to be thickly abroad on the land, and at the woodlot, the animals seemed absent, or so I thought until a marmot ran for my legs as if it wanted to climb them. I backed away as I dropped my armload of wood, then leaped to the side and drew my revolver as the thing shot over the load of wood and then under the buggy.

“Hans, that...” I hoped he would hear me.

The sudden boom of a musket was followed by the death-shriek of the marmot, and as I finished up my load, Hans muttered about my not shooting it for him.

“That thing surprised me, and I was gathering wood,” I said. “That other time I didn't have a bundle of sticks in my arms – that, and it wasn't trying to climb my legs.”

“These do that,” he said, “which is why you must be ready for them, especially this time of year. The first snows cause them to move around more during the day.”

“Then, it ran under the buggy...”

“I did not see that part,” said Hans, “and I was ready for it, as I had just dumped my load of wood. Now it is ready for the Public House and the stew-pot, as I am dumping its guts.”

The chill weather seemed to put speed into the horses as we 'hurried' home, and the silence of the buggy was still unusual. The sun was still mostly hidden by clouds, if yet low in the west.

“Did you dose the buggy recently?” I asked.

“Yes, after I came over to see what you were doing at the shop,” said Hans. “I got some of that stuff you use for those machines, and I put that in the holes. It is thicker than uncorking medicine, and stays put a lot longer.”

“Will we need to pull the wheels soon?” I asked.

“Yes, after the shed is done,” said Hans. “Once you help me with that, and have lunch, then you can go to the shop and work there on that stuff.”

“Uh, did you ask about it?”

“Yes, and you said the truth,” said Hans. “Most of the business in there right now needs those things for them to do much.”

“Stovepipes?”

“That is much of what they might manage,” said Hans. “Those, at least, they can do some of the work for them. You might well have to watch them close, then fix their mistakes and do the riveting.”

“Which means I'm almost better off doing all of the work myself,” I said. “Stovepipes may be common, but they are far too precise...”

“That is why I spoke like I did,” said Hans. “From what I understand, that is the usual for places that make stovepipes. There is usually one person, with two or perhaps three helpers, and that one person tells the others what to do.”

The shed almost seemed an anticlimax once we had carried the wood back and added it to the still-growing woodpile. The two carpenters were using the hammers I had made, and within moments, Hans, Anna, and I knew our job: drive nails, and those in numbers

The carpenters had marked lines across each thin board, and we went down these lines, driving a nail in the center of each of these boards. I used a pair of pincers to hold my nails, while Hans and Anna used their fingers. I wondered why they did so, at least until I heard Anna yell.

I turned to see her sucking her fingers with a grimace of pain on her face, and offered her the pincers.

“I don't think that would be a good idea,” she said from around her fingers. “I doubt you would wish to thump yourself.”

I was about to reply when Hans said, “I think you should stick to those. I have heard how you almost knock mugs off of the benches at work, and I have seen you have trouble at home that way.”

The nailing continued apace, and during short breaks, I noted the dark-stained door with turned wooden knob and the small four-pane window Hans had spoken of, as well as a small crop of new-looking shingles. The overall dark tone of the wood was enough to wonder about.

“I am glad this wood is treated,” said Hans, “as that way it will not need glue for the nails to hold.”

“I wondered about that,” asked Anna. “Didn't you recently make some?”

“Yes, I did,” said Hans, “thought that was a small batch.”

“It may have been small for size,” muttered Anna, “but it was not small for stink. Did it catch fire on you?”

“Yes, and I put it out easy,” said Hans. “The smaller batches are better that way.”

The carpenters finished roughly an hour after we started, and as we gathered up the unused nails – there were enough to half-fill a bandage tin – I wondered as to the various bits of scrap wood and their possible use.

“Will that scrap wood go in stoves?” I asked.

“Some of it might,” said Hans, “and Anna spoke of you needing some, so they will drop it off at the shop. I heard tell you will need sand-boxes for that casting, and some of those boards are just about right for that work.”

“Yes, for smaller castings,” I said. “I need to do some with bronze. Will these nails help around the house?”

“They might,” said Anna, “though I wonder as to where we might use them. I think you'll want at least part of them for those boxes, as you'll need at least three or four pair.”

Buggy-maintenance went rapidly, and this time, the black 'mess' was much less than prior; instead of tallow, Hans used some of that black bullet lubricant I had recently mixed. I wondered if he was using it in the guns, and asked.

“I have been doing that,” he said. “It keeps the soot soft, so they clean easier, and then those bullets you made are trouble.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“I shot at a deer last week,” said Hans, “and I wondered if I was shooting a roer.”

“Were you sore?” I asked.

“Yes, a little,” said Hans, “and that deer dropped as if hit by one of Willem's guns. Then, when I brought it in, that is when I learned about the trouble.”

“How?”

“Those bullets do not just make holes,” said Hans. “That deer had both front shoulders turned into splinters, and it took them a whole turn of the glass to get them all found and out of the meat.”

“Does a roer do that?” I asked.

“The one I had did,” said Hans, “and they were asking me how I had done that, so I showed them one of those bullets, though without that messy stuff on it.”

“Messy stuff?”

“Yes, like I have been putting on the axles here,” said Hans. “Most people think that anything that is black is either a witch, or belongs to a witch, no matter what it is.”

Hans paused, then said, “and about the only thing that is trouble about this stuff is the mess.”

“How is it a mess, though?” I asked.

“I made up some more of it,” said Hans, “and I turned three rags black getting the mess cleaned up.”

“But that blacking is...”

“Yes, I know,” said Hans. “I think that is one of the reasons that stuff is so slippery, too.”

“Do people know about blacking?” I asked.

“Up here, the only people that know about blacking are some instrument-makers, a few potters, and a handful of chemists,” said Hans. “A lot of people know about it in the fourth kingdom, as it is used for writing dowels, and those are common there.”

“Potters?”

“For their oven doors,” said Hans. “It stands up to heat better than anything else.”

At work after lunch, I assembled the bar-roller, then cleaned it carefully before resuming work on the oven. The sense of quiet and reduced distraction was such that I worked faster, and the single forge I used seemed to burn a shade hotter. I had found the lumber spoken of near my end of the bench, and as I looked it over, I saw that I could readily make at least three pair of flasks. I did not waste time in nailing them up.

One of the other pieces had two off-cuts nailed on, so as to make a 'double-ended' casting, and after a stint at the grinder and touching up with files, I had it ready to go. I then fetched the crucible I had used last, and began loading it.

I had the intimation bronze-melting wanted a reducing atmosphere as well as a little extra tin, and I put a small lump of tin inside the crucible as well as the bronze and charcoal. I then put the thing in the forge, heaped the forge up with charcoal, and began making my mold.

I felt inclined to not merely make open-faced molds, but more than one of them, and by the time the first example was setting on the surface of the mash tub, I thought to stir the melt. I was more than a little surprised to see the bronze glowing within the crucible, and the flames that billowed up spoke of something that I wondered about.

“Was that stuff contaminated with zinc?” I thought. “If it was, then it needs a reducing atmosphere to behave.”

On second thought, however, I suspected the 'flames' to be burning carbon monoxide, and as I continued fitting the pieces of the furnace enclosure, I wondered how long it would take with no blast. I checked again roughly half an hour later, and to my surprise, I was able to pour first the one mold, then a second, and finally, a third. The crucible then went on the ash-heap to slowly cool.

The bronze castings seemed nowhere near the fire-hazard of the steel one, and after two hours, I dug them out and 'drowned' them in the forge-bucket. I then cut one of them in half, and began filing it to shape.

I finished the day with forge-welding more billets of steel, and I left when the darkness inside the shop needed candles, with a high-heaped forge glowing gently and buried cooking containers inside it. I had some pieces that would need filing, lapping, and fitting at home, these being the hinges for the furnace door. I needed perhaps another half of a day to finish the door itself.

At home, however, Hans was doing an extraction in the basement, or so I thought until I came down to find him heating something over the sand-bath.

“This is the end part of that latest batch of fever-bark powder,” said Hans, “and once it is done, then I will need to do this other one that needs a lot of aquavit and stirring.”

“Does that one need stirring?” I asked.

“That stuff that is evaporating, no,” said Hans. “I should get two ounces easy of the powder.”

“Uh, for some of that stuff you may want an extractor,” I said.

“Now what is this?” asked Hans.

“It has three sections. The bottom one has aquavit or water, and is heated, the middle one has the bark or whatever, and the top one has a place where one can put water to evaporate so as to cool it. The whole thing is put over either one of those jeweler's lamps or one of these that I just need to make the fuel container for, and lets it set for a while. Soon, the stuff in the bottom has all the good parts.”

“That sounds like something they use in the fourth kingdom,” said Hans. “Those are touchy to run, and need close watching.”

“This should be neither,” I said. “What are those like?”

“They look like the distilling coppers they use down there,” said Hans, “and they need to have cold water put on top, and the fire must be watched close. Otherwise, they are worse than distilling coppers for burns.”

That evening before retiring – I managed to finish up both sets of hinge-pins, as well as the pins for the latch and some of its other parts – I drew a small 'pressure-pot' about nine inches across. I drew substantial taper, a cast bronze 'screen' for the bottom, and a close-fitting lid with several clamps.

“And that pattern is going to need making at the carpenters',” I thought. “At least it will go on the stove readily, and then Anna can properly sterilize her tools with an autoclave.”

The next morning, I was prepared for something of an adventure, and to my surprise, the chalk mark was still on the door. I suspected trying the new room wasn't wise, so I bathed in the basement again.

After church the next day, I went back to the shop, where within less than two messy, sweaty, and noisy hours – I was driving a lot of rivets – I had the framework nearly fully assembled. The remaining portions needed bolts, and I would need to turn them on the lathe at home. I left at home with the bolt-stock in my bag, and after bathing in the basement – the mark was still there – and lunch, I resumed working.

The next day, the frames went together smoothly, and the door went on well. It latched as intended, with minimal gap. With those things done, and the morning guzzle finished, we could make stovepipes – and there, the trouble commenced with a vengeance.

The aspect of carefree 'hustle' the others exhibited was such that within an hour's time I was a nervous wreck, for they seemed so eager to make the things that their capacity to think had vanished. I felt reminded of that time with the grindstone, so much so that I almost screamed when one of the apprentices nearly fell into a forge while carrying some sheet metal. I had to jump, then grab him before he caught fire.

“Why are you so worried?” he asked.

“You nearly got burned,” I squeaked.

I was surprised he didn't tell me off, and more surprised yet when another of the boys shouted and nearly put me on the floor. He had hit his finger with a hammer.

After sending him off to Anna to be looked after, I wondered what next would happen.

The sense of out-of-control near-mayhem was at its peak when Johannes leaped into the air with a yell. I turned to see Anna swinging what looked like a stout length of broom-handle, and I barely got out of her way when she sent Gelbhaar flying, then dropped Georg like a poleaxed steer. The two remaining apprentices ran for the front door, and she tossed the broom-handle after them, and thumped one in the back of the head. I looked at Anna in complete astonishment.

“I told them they needed to listen carefully,” she said, “and when that boy came with a mashed thumb, I started asking questions. I sent him home, as he has no business trying to cause trouble like that.”

“Uh, he hit his finger?” I asked. “How badly?”

“I wonder why he did that, as he didn't have any business helping with those pipes,” said Anna. “None of these men have any idea as to how to do this, which means they need to listen to you.”

“I tried to tell them,” I said. “I wanted to run through two or three sections so I could learn the tricks to this stuff, as I don't know about this stuff either. They just 'jumped in', and I had to try to keep them out of trouble as best I could.” I paused, then said, “Hans said I might well need to, uh...”

“He told me about what he said,” said Anna, “and I doubt he realized what you would need to do, as there was a place that made stovepipes near where a friend of mine grew up.”

“What were they like there?” I asked. “I was told they were 'close'. Does that mean 'especially secretive'?”

“They were that,” said Anna, “and at least one of those people was commonly drunk and ill-tempered. I wondered about him for a long time, and I wonder less now.”

“Did Hans mean I would need to act like a witch?”

“I suspect he didn't realize it, but yes, I think he did,” said Anna.

“One person, with a couple of helpers, he said,” I spluttered, “with that one person yelling, swearing, chanting curses...”

I looked at the others, who were still laid out on the floor. They were utterly immobile.

“Thump them with a pole?” I asked.

“I told them all I would if they tried doing that again,” said Anna, “and I meant every word. At least now they believe me.”

“I think you might want to check to see if they are hurt,” I asked.

While Anna was not inclined to check – she muttered about hard heads with rocks inside them in lieu of brains – I was, and when she came back with her pole, I asked, “where did you get that?”

“I had it in the big-closet,” said Anna. “Some of those larger sheets need something like this to dry.”

“The new room?” I asked.

“It should be usable today,” said Anna. “They might have cleaned up their mess outside, but they didn't clean it up inside, and I know there were things left that needed doing.”

When the men finally woke up, they staggered toward the door and wobbled out of it. I suspected I would be in the shop alone for the rest of the day, which for some reason, suited me fine.

“That should give you a chance to figure that process out,” said Anna, as she left for the house with her pole still in hand.

I thought to examine what had been done, and the results were not surprising: none of it was usable, at least as stovepipe. I suspected I could use the sheet metal in some fashion – at least, I thought so at first.

However, something led me to do otherwise, and I went to the tool carrier. There, I found my largest hammer, and returned to the disheveled and mounded pile of scrap. I needed to mash all of the scrap pieces of stovepipe up flat and put it on Georg's desk, along with a slate that spoke of not making idols to Brimstone.

I methodically crushed all of the misshapen pipe, and as I did, each glaring flaw seemed to accuse me of failure. The maliciously dull work seemed to burn with rage and stupidity, and each piece I crushed seemed to faintly scream for vengeance. Only when I crushed all of them, and then piled them on Georg's desk and laboriously printed “I will have no idols in this place, no matter their appearance or seeming reason,” did the screaming stop – and with it, the chanting.

“Was that going the whole time?” I asked softly aloud.

I suspected it had.

The peace of mind I now felt, as well as the relative lack of distraction, was such that I could carefully work out the process of stovepipe manufacture, and within an hour, I was riveting my first piece. Here, I found that one normally peened stovepipe-rivets 'cold', as their small size, the finished stake, and the forming punch permitted forming a decent head with a single smart blow.

Testing the riveted stovepipe section showed proper fit, as well as roundness, and after assembling another two pieces, I found that making stovepipes, at least in modest quantity, was fairly easy and surprisingly quick. The gages in the tools seemed to be intended specifically for that work.

By lunchtime, I had assembled no less than ten sections of stovepipe, and as I fitted the pieces together on the floor, I heard steps to my rear. I returned to see Hans.

“Now that is good stovepipe there,” he said. “I think I was wrong about what I said.”

“As in I would need to act like a witch to 'control' my, uh, 'helpers'?” I asked. I had a strong sense that the word 'helper' wasn't the best one, for some reason.

“That too,” said Hans. “Those people down in the fourth kingdom might not do that, but most of them know what they are doing. These people had no idea of that, and from what I understand, you didn't either.”

“Not then, anyway,” I said. “I had some idea how the pipes went together, but I was thinking there would be a lot of special tricks to doing this, and I figured I would make a fair amount of scrap learning them.”

“Did you?” asked Hans, as he pointed to the mound of crushed pipe on Georg's desk.

“That was their mess,” I said. “Thankfully, they didn't ruin too much.”

“Why did you mash it up, though?” asked Hans.

“I felt, uh, led to do so,” I said. “It must have been right, as each piece seemed to scream as I crushed it, just like that smelly place with the rats did, and the chanting stopped when I finished destroying those, uh, idols they had made.”

“Now how are stovepipes idols?” asked Hans.

“I'm not sure,” I said, “other than that one... idol... looked like a big p-piece of s-stovepipe. Is that why?”

“That sounds as good a reason as any,” said Hans. “Now how will you get those things up through that hole in the roof there?”

“Does this thing get a cap?” I asked.

“I have not seen any capped stovepipes,” said Hans. “Why, are you afraid the rain and snow will cause trouble?”

“Uh, yes,” I said quietly. “On second thought, that might not be a good idea. How tall should I make this?”

“Such that its end is above the roof,” said Hans. He almost seemed to be chiding me, almost as if he he'd spoken of something patently obvious.

While that issue was patently obvious, there were a great many other issues that I had asked to be addressed: custom, the need to possibly guy the thing to prevent the wind from toppling it, 'draw' – a natural-draft furnace needed that – and perhaps heating capacity. Hans had supplied none of those things in his 'patently-obvious answer', and I saw that I was completely on my own.

“Are these things riveted end-to-end, or do they just slide together like I did here?” I asked.

“That is fine the way you did them,” said Hans, as he lifted up the assembly, “and if you do about five more, then we can put this thing on that furnace. I think it will need about that many.”

“Five?” I asked.

“That is a tall ceiling there,” said Hans, “and you want at least twelve sections for a good suck on that oven. You do not want much more than twelve, as the stovepipes then stick out too much, and most stoves need at least ten so they can get their smoke out of the house. Twelve is what is common.”

“Stick out too much?” I asked.

“The wind is seldom strong up this way,” said Hans, “but sometimes it is, and you do not want to be up on that roof, even with the usual things to be safe. My grandfather put eighteen sections of stovepipe on, and he had to straighten them out every few years.”

Hans paused, then said, “he fell off the roof more than once.”

“Twelve sections?” I asked. “Suck?”

“Yes, so your stove works good,” said Hans. “Most people know that.”

“Is this hearsay, or?”

“There are twelve sections of stovepipe at home,” said Hans, “and that stove does a good job. My grandfather had an old one in his barn, and he played around some with stovepipes. He did not believe things much unless he tested them, and what I told you is what he learned.”

“Why did he put eighteen sections of stovepipe on the house, though?”

“He felt cold a lot, and more suck makes for a better stove,” said Hans. “He found that eighteen sections gave the best suck, at least for common stoves, but that left six sections outside to be blown on, so he needed to keep them straight. Bent stovepipe means less suck, and the same for bad stovepipe.”

By now, my speed with stovepipe was such that I could roll the seam, roll the pipe, drill the holes, and then rivet the pipes in about ten minutes per pipe. Hans proved a much better helper than the others, as care seemed the primary requisite once the machines were set up.

“That is the problem with those people,” I said. “They do not tend to be careful.”

“That is the usual for blacksmiths,” said Hans. “At least, those in this area.”

Hans paused, then said, “and this is a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

“It isn't difficult, provided you have good equipment, it's set up properly, you have decent metal and rivets, and you are careful and use the gages,” I said. “If any of those things are not the case, it's going to be much harder, and you will make mostly scrap unless you pay very close attention to every little detail.”

“Now why is it you are not heating those rivets?” asked Hans.

“First, their size,” I said. “These are a strange size, roughly seven lines, and then they are carefully annealed and then cleaned. Then, because they are so small, they tend to get lost in the forge when using the usual tongs, and finally, they cool off far too fast to be peened hot.”

“Yes, and these things are not wrinkled, and you only needed to hit each rivet a few times,” said Hans.

“That is the only real 'secret' to these,” I said. “Those first two blows have to more or less set and form the rivet, and the rivets need to be dead-soft and the right length. This rivet-swage has an indicator as to the correct length of wire on it.”

“How is it you knew?” asked Hans.

“One of the gages in that box was for rivets,” I said, “and I transferred its information onto the swage. The rivets they were doing showed no signs of using the gage, so they were bent and badly done, while the stovepipe itself was ruined.”

Getting the stovepipe up into the ceiling's hole needed two barrels, four planks, and both of us standing on the planks to first thread the pipe up through the hole – it fit, with perhaps three inches to spare on either side – and then gently lower the thing onto a strange-looking 'cast iron' fitting at the upper rear of the oven. The gentle taper of the fitting, as well as the notch for the rivets, caused the pipe to wedge into position of its own weight, and as we climbed down, Hans said, “now you can cure that thing with wood.”

“Wood?” I asked.

“Yes, a small fire of sticks in the bottom,” said Hans. “I would plug that hole mostly, so it burns slow.”

“With what?” I asked.

“You may want to make one, with a sliding thing for the air,” said Hans. “That sheet metal looks to work good for it.”

That took perhaps two more hours, and by then, I felt fatigued. It was near the normal quitting time, and as I carefully loaded the oven with sticks, I wondered where the others had gotten to – and more, what was the truth about stovepipes.

With the 'furnace' lit – I had used a tallow candle-stub for a lighter – I put the plug in a few minutes later, with the 'air control' open a crack. I listened to the sound of the thing – it was quiet, much quieter than a stove when turned up – and thought to wait for a short time so as to ensure the furnace did not 'take off'. I suspected that finishing the furnace, as well as learning the tricks of stovepipe, was an 'epoch' regarding my time in the shop.

“And what an epoch means is a mystery,” I thought.

I looked forward to bathing in the 'bathroom', and once home, I was astonished to find not merely the door minus its chalk-mark, but also, two tubs, the boiler, and a small and somewhat old-looking stand. This latter held one of the jeweler's lamps, along with a candle and a soap-tray, and when I looked up at the ceiling, I saw added beams with a number of pegs jutting from each of them.

“Those are for clothing,” said Anna. “That oven seems to heat that room passably with a slow fire.”

“Slow fire?” I asked.

“I load it in the morning with your clothing in the bandage-crock so as to clean it,” said Anna, “and then it seems to stay warm in there all day long. The clothes dry quickly that way.”

The warmth of the place, while not as great as that of the kitchen, was welcome, and once I had bathed and dumped my clothing, I felt much better. I went to bed earlier that evening, for I had the intimation working the hours of Waldhuis, even in an emergency, wasn't something I wished to do.

I needed but two more days to finish the pinion, its shaft, its bearings – I made cast-bronze bearing boxes, which took less time to both file and fill with bearing metal – and fit them to the 'buffing frame'. My stacking of scrap on Georg's desk toned down the lunatic 'enthusiasm' of the others for stovepipes, thankfully; I carefully showed them how to do each step while watching them closely.

None of them wished to try using the machines once I had done so. They were 'my problem', and my problem alone – and thankfully, we were not buried in orders for stovepipe. Georg was quite surprised at the lack of orders for stovepipe, in fact.

I wasn't, for I could sense not merely a sleeping aspect of the community, but also, the relative dearth of money available for 'durable goods'. That would not endure, I knew; spring, at least in my case, would come frightfully early, most likely with the new year. In the meantime, however, I had work to do.

With the pinion on its shaft, I could 'indicate it in' using one of the 'indicators', and then true it up with files. Once I had it 'close', I removed it, placed it in a cooking can, cooked it for hours, and then quenched and tempered it.

I now needed the other shaft, and here, I needed to fit the thing. This one involved a shaft similar to that for buffing, two cross-braces – the carpenters needed to retrofit those – more bearing boxes, and then installation of the 'inertia wheel' in the center, with a treadle on one end, and the gear on the other.

Again, I needed to indicate in the gear for roundness and concentricity, and then file on the thing as I had time. I had other things that needed my attention, chiefly the drop-hammer and its parts, and then also the usual things that I needed to do. I was glad for the new equipment, even if the others weren't up to using it much; it saved me a lot of time.

I was glad for the lack of questioning when I forged up the 'still-stake', then began raising the two halves of the heating lamp. The shape of the thing reminded me more than a little of what was used on those lanterns, and as I began riveting the upper collar in, I had questions to answer.

“This is for a heating lamp,” I said. “It will burn aquavit, so it will not try to explode.”

“What will it be good for, though?” asked Georg.

“Lead-pots, cooking smaller meals, boiling water in a hurry, perhaps sterilizing instruments once I can get this one thing cast...”

“What thing?” asked Georg.

“This pressure-pot,” I said. “It looks like a small cast-bronze pot, with a closely fitted lid and clamps to hold it on, then a carefully adjusted weight that goes on top of the spigot. It's partly filled with water, set on the stove or on a stand with a heating lamp under it with the lid clamped down, and then one can 'cook' one's instruments properly. That makes them especially clean.”

I could almost hear the questioning in the minds of the others, so much so that I said, “from what I've been told, there won't be much market for them, as most who call themselves doctors in this area supposedly aren't very good. Those otherwise will want them, and I know Anna will.”

I could still hear the questions, so much so that I said, “if it saves one life, then...”

“I would make it, then,” said Georg. “It is hard to endure life when people name you a murderer, and nearly as bad when people say you are a witch.”

“When did you hear that?” I asked.

“I have no idea what happened with that stovepipe and equipment,” said Georg, “but we all became just like we were with that grindstone, and the same thing happened as then, with all of us becoming pickled and only coming to our senses the morning after. Now I am afraid to touch that stuff, and that mound of scrap on the desk has given me nightmares.”

“What, that you will make a lot of scrap?” I asked.

“No, that everything I touch will become an idol, and that all that see me will call me a witch,” said Georg, “and the same for everyone in the shop except you.”

“I have no idea why I thought that way,” I said, “only that it seemed important at the time. Do other people know about it?”

“The whole town knows of it,” muttered Johannes, “and everyone thinks I am a witch for causing you trouble.”

“Just listen, think, and be careful, and use the gages and things like I've shown you,” I said evenly, “and you can make stovepipe. Hans managed quite well once I showed him, and you can ask him if you do not believe me.”

I finished the collar but minutes later, and began tinning the inside of the lamp's two halves, then carefully wired them together. I could see I needed a number of clamps of some kind, so much so that I wondered what Hans' clamps were like. I idly drew a picture of a 'C' clamp according to my recollection, then transferred my drawing of the autoclave to both sides of a slate.

“Uh, can one of you take these to the carpenters?” I asked. “I can come by shortly to answer any questions.”

While the others weren't up to 'close' work, they were up to stoking the 'oven', and when I looked up from my drilling, I noticed that the thing was being stoked on a semi-regular basis.

“Is that to cure it?” I asked.

“That and to warm it up in here,” said Johannes. “I've been putting the just-cut bars in there, as the fire seems to remove the scale.”

“For cooking?” I asked.

“That, and it makes them a little easier to hammer out into thin pieces,” he said. “I might take a lot longer to weld them than you do, but at least I can do that.”

I finished the 'fuel container' of the heating lamp roughly an hour later, and as I carefully scraped the traces of tin from the joint, I marveled at it. I wondered if I could rub it and have a Jinn show – it was a lamp – but thought to do so might be seen as unwise. I let one of the apprentices wash it carefully with soap and a rag.

As a break from the filing of the gear, I forged out several blanks for medium-sized knives, then ground them on the wheel. The speed at which I worked now was astonishing, and with these knives, I carefully 'hollow-ground' them for the blades and to contour otherwise. Rough-filing took but minutes, followed by finish-filing and then rubbing with coarse stones and drilling for both handle and guard.

These last had no pommel, and their rudimentary-seeming guards were such that I marveled more than a little, at least until I hardened them. As I began attaching scraps of wood to their handles, I heard a murmured oath, then “what gives with these knives?”

“These are a medium-sized knife,” I said. “I thought that I could wear one of these instead of those huge things most people seem to have.”

“What is huge about most knives?” asked Johannes.

“Those are quite sizable compared to most where I came from,” I said. “This is closer to what seems workable for me. I had one about this size, in fact, and it was quite useful.”

I paused, then said, “now why don't you take one of those nicer pattern-welded billets, and make yourself a proper knife?”

The level of noise in the shop increased markedly within minutes, as both Johannes and Gelbhaar began working on their knives. Again, I could almost feel a level of 'enthusiasm' that seemed to foretell difficulties, but brief glances spoke of them staying out of trouble for the most part.

“It seems that's an issue for unfamiliar things,” I thought. “They appear to be doing passably.”

Or so I thought until I was handed a pair of roughly ground knife blanks.

Their work was of such abysmal quality that only by careful filing was I able to clean up the blades enough to save them, then after polishing them carefully, I thought to assay heat-treating – where I had the distinct intimation to carefully anneal the blades, then check them again. Their forging practices worked acceptably for soft iron, I now realized.

They did not work at all well for the material I commonly did, and as I carefully looked at the blanks, I thought, “and if they tried that with that special material, I have no idea what would happen.”

The blades didn't warp, thankfully, and after a further cleanup to deal with the small scratches that had mysteriously showed, I buried both blades in powdered charcoal, then placed them in a forge.

“Why is it you are doing that?” asked Gelbhaar.

“The surface of the metal lost much of its carbon,” I said, “as it took you two about three times the number of heats I usually need, then you laid the blades close to the surface of the fire, not deep within it. That should repair the damage acceptably, and I'll do them the rest of the way.”

While waiting for their knives to 'carbon-up' – I wanted to wait for hours – I resumed working on the four smaller knives. After a short time, I looked up from my labors.

It was late in the afternoon, and the others had left me to my lunacy.

I stayed behind long enough to heat-treat the knives, then took them and the other pieces of 'homework' home in my bag. I wondered as to what would happen at home, and as I looked to the west, I could see a near-wall of dark gray-streaked blackness steadily approaching. I began running, and as I reached the stoop at home, I turned again to the west. The gray streaks, I realized, were not gray, but only seemed so in the darkness.

The snow had finally come.