This blog will describe one man’s journey from being a professional programmer to becoming a blacksmith. How it came to be, why it came to be and how I progress in this profession. Will I succeed or will I go back to my comfortable computer chair and sweet little cubicle with 8 levels managers on top of me in 6 months – that is the question to which future will give answer.

Little background. I started to study computers in 1995 at technical school. In 1998 I started to work as a technician after school – building PC’s, troubleshooting Windows problems etc. At that time I also became interested in Linux. Next job was user support and admin assistant in one TV station, which went bankrupt few years later after I left. After that came web programmer in one little company. There I became leading developer after some time. Mostly we used Apache/mod_perl/Embperl/MySQL (later we switched to PostgreSQL) for developing websites.

In 2003 summer I went to army, where I served for 7 months, instead of the required 11, because I had kidney surgery so they released me after that (that New Year’s Eve I spent alone in hospital drinking fanta and watching fireworks, how cool is that?). From 2004-2006 I worked in Estonia’s biggest telco. There I mostly programmed in perl and did all kinds of stuff from web-sites to MPEG video stream parsing (one of the most interesting projects I’ve done). In that time period I also became interested in lisp, thanks to Paul Graham’s essays and Eric Raymond’s “How to become a hacker” which says: “LISP is worth learning for a different reason — the profound enlightenment experience you will have when you finally get it.” – I got it enough to start liking it a lot.

Then came the government job. I let one guy talk me in to it. It was from 2006 to 2007. It was Java. It was Enterprise. It was editing 7 different java source files to change one SQL query. It was filling 2 forms with 7 signatures to get one day off. It wasn’t too much stress. It was good salary. I didn’t enjoy it. They offered me lots of money. I quit.

Then came 3 months working from home doing perl web development (it ended at 16th of March at 11:36). I got to choose how much I did, what I did and when I did it. This kept my skin warm, but still not much enjoyment. This also gave me time to think about life in general and what I want out of it.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • I don’t need lots of money to enjoy life, I need to learn to enjoy basic things in life – spending time with people I love, talking, listening, being alone, food, wine, running, movies and so on.
  • I want to work for myself, not for others and earn their living
  • 7+ years of working daily behind the computer made me realize that I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I’ve always been good at doing ‘stuff’ and enjoying it too, this could be an alternative.
  • I want to live in country. City has its perks, but I’m not made for citylife. There’s just too much stress, noise and people in the city. And besides, isn’t 12 years in the city already enough? Which is better – while eating breakfast you see from your window other houses and busy city traffic with big trucks and lots of noise or see pack of wild goats also eat their breakfast near woods, running around and enjoying life?
  • I want my life to be fulfilling

I think Universe had perfect timing for me. Just a little while ago my father rented out his company and started to make Japanese style swords as a hobby. He was also sick and tired of running the company just as I was sick and tired of working for others. He already had from good ol’ times lots of hardware needed for metal work. So he build a coal forge, bought an anvil and a good hammer and off he went (as of now he already sold his first sword made from old Volga springs for quite a nice price).

Then I decided – I’ll become a blacksmith/bladesmith too. I start to make knives and other things with blades – daggers, swords, scimitars, axes, you name it. Especially I want to do Damascus style blades. I know they’re not easy to do (well), but I have the time. I’ll start with knives, of course.

Here’s a picture of my very first try to make a knife blade. It is far from being finished and being perfect, but it might give some idea what will the results be in the future.

First knife

I’ll keep you updated with my trials in the workshop.

In the future I plan from time to time give away knives that I’ve made, so be sure to check my ramblings.

19 thoughts on “Past, present, future

  1. I wish you success!

    In fact I’m currently leaving my day job as a software developer, too (for similar reasons).
    I really love programming and I want to keep doing it but only as a hobby (just for the sake of learning and doing fun stuff).

    I have no idea what I’ll do but I’m sure it will be better.

  2. Same here. I think programming stays as hobby, especially I’d like to learn non-mainstream languages starting from lisp, haskell, erlang etc.

    As one friend of mine said who learned jazz saxophone and started to work in real estate – I better be good amateur than bad professional player.

  3. dang thats cool. I think being a smith would be great. We are in the country too (i commute 1hr each way to grind my programming job), if i could pay for my mortgage + family running a gardening nursery or marketgardener/vegetable grower i would…

    there is no small amount of envy here on my side 🙂

    good luck with future endevours

  4. Dude! Go for it 🙂 It’s funny though that us Programmers have a tendancy to want to run away from software development screaming after doing it for a few years. It’s either do something else or go buy a heavy assault rifle 😛

    Keep us posted m8. You are now bookmarked.

  5. HuBBa: indeed that’s interesting. Some time ago I thought I’d do this forever, or die trying. But now I’m on the way learning something I didn’t even imagine a year ago. One very similar story was with a guy here that had also been in IT for many years. He led the development of implementing ID-Card in our country, and it was success. This year I voted for our government behind the computer using this ID-Card, transportation uses it for tickets etc. But what did the top IT guy do? He started to write cooking books. Call that a turnaround, or what.

    stu: thanks for your support! Breaking away from old life isn’t easy indeed. I’m just so fortunate to have supporting wife and parents. They understand that very well – if a guy doesn’t follow his dreams it could just eat out his soul and leave empty shell who pays dutifully his taxes. It was how I kind of felt when doing this java job for a year. Zero enjoyment for the most of my day. Then I just missed perl 🙂

  6. Do you realise how many people dream of doing something like this? Please keep up the blog, I’d be fascinated to know how you progress.

  7. I did much of the same thing. Spent a long time as a professional programmer, finally screwed up the courage to quit my government secured job. Left and started my own business. Now I live debt free, do whatever the hell I want, live simple, live cheap and work whatever hours I damned well please. Screw a “job”. Jobs are for fools (seriously). Work for yourself and never look back. Live within your means (lower your expectations). I’ve made a shitload of money, way more then my GS-12 position I held, but I only spend a portion of it. The rest go into my own private ‘investments’ (not stocks, the markets are for more fools). I buy stuff that always goes up in price due to demand. I take all the time off I want too. Self employment is the only way to live. Screw the goverment.

  8. I’m just getting into programming and really enjoying it so far… Right now my goal is to just move to the country, have lots of land, and start having kids with my beautiful wife.

    Eventually if I get sick of programming I’ll probably pursue some form of writing as that’s always been a passion of mine. But for now, I’m okay with programming! I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog. Good luck!

  9. You have courage. I’m struggling with the same situation. Fairly low stress for a programming job, but it just doesn’t interest me anymore. My dream is to start my own company making fine furniture and maybe some artistic wood turning. Soon, I hope. Good luck, and please continue the blog.

  10. Sweet!

    My dad’s a blacksmith (www.turleyforge.com) and I’m a software developer. However, I am planning to be a teacher eventually, not a blacksmith.

    But you are absolutely correct to follow what you love. If you can get away from the whole material desires thing, then you are on your way to being free and happy.

  11. Cool. Good luck with that. That is pretty cool that you are quitting your day job to do something that you find more fulfilling. I am glad that you decided to keep track of your trials and triumphs. Anyway, this is a cool idea for a blog. I think I may be reading your blog.

  12. I left Occidental Life, L.A., commuting on the Harbor Freeway every work day. Started horseshoeing with an experienced mentor. Later, I became an ornamental ironsmith, toolsmith, and maker of architectural hardware. I opened a blacksmithing school in 1970 in Santa Fe, where I offer short courses. Come join us?

  13. Thanks everybody for your great comments!

    Frank: I would really love to come and join, or at least check out your school, but I live in Estonia. And that means I’m on the other side of Mother Earth.

  14. Just want to wish you the best of luck with the future! You are very brave, and deserve to fulfill your dream.
    Wishing you all the best!

    Love Andrea

  15. Good luck man. I’m in a similar situation. I still enjoy coding, but I’m very tired of the office environment. I’ve had thoughts along the same lines, except I’m looking into writing. It’s complex trying to get out of coding, but I hope I can within a year or so.

  16. Wow, good for you for having the courage to do it.

    I’m a developer currently saving for a year long carpentry course. I shall be leaving this rat-race for my own workshop just as soon as I can.

  17. Excellent blog!

    Well done for making the break and sorting out what **you** want from life and not doing what **others** think you should be doing.

    I’ve just subscribed to your rss feed.

    Once again, great blog!

  18. I agree with you completely. Ihave also worked for 12 years in the government and now work for myself it is a challenge, but for peace of mind ,you can”t
    beat it. I am currently working in home restoration and as a knifemaker. All praise to we craftsman who refuse to die out!

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