DMW Forges ahead

So, I recently took up blacksmithing. Specifically, I began forging metal into functional tools, and hope to eventually do art in the medium. Now, I am by no means an expert, and this is a craft that stretches back to the bronze age, and so it is amazing to think how little thought of it is in this day and age. First off, some appropriate music for a last stand in a righteous cause. Smile

First off, I'm a rank beginner. I am consciously aware of my ineptitude. Which means I don't burn myself much, I work slow, carefully, and listen VERY carefully to anybody giving me advice and instructions. I picked up at least half a dozen books on metal working, to ensure that my information was accurate and applicable.

With that in mind, there's an exhilaration in metal working that I cannot express. The first time I ever worked with metal I was a child and made toy soldiers via vulcanized rubber casting. Admittedly working with a small fire and low temperature metals, but still had the same scent and joy of transformation.

And that really is the greatest appeal. There's certain mindsets that are a part and parcel of blacksmithing which transform thought in new and interesting ways. For example, the attitude towards garbage changes. Bear with me. Garbage for me falls into two categories. Workable and unworkable. Workable garbage involves things that can go back in the fire and be useful again. I have my pair of tongs that I love, which were made out of basic garbage. Two pieces of mild steel, beaten at angles, and yet giving incredible power in application due to their construction.

Perhaps it's a further application of my disconnect mindset, but it's amazing. Social media... NEVER. Websites, Once a day. Phone, Downgraded to a flip phone. Computer, Home built with help from friends.

The most interesting thing is that Judo is an incredible aid to my blacksmithing. The LAST thing you want to do as a smith is stiff arm the hammer and wrap your thumb. You'll screw up your arm after an hour. The Judo grip also uses a thumb less grab to ensure maximum power and mobility. Putting the two together means hammering is EASY for me. Especially when I remember to maintain the Judo mindset of maximum efficiency for minimum effort. In depictions of smiths you'll often see them presented as especially tough because they cold hammer iron. That's not tough. That's fucking STUPID. You'll crack your metal, put in air bubbles, etc... it's just bad. If there's one thing Hollywood gets wrong almost EVERY time, it's blacksmithing. You want a steady, almost meditative piece. You work while the metal is hot, you clean and plan out your next move while the metal heats.

And I might as well mention my favorite part. I love twisting metal. A Basic blacksmith twist I managed on my first attempt and LOVED it. I've got a TON of ideas involving it and art that I haven't seen much in modern works. Eventually I also hope to take a glassblowing class because once I have a forge up and running I can use many of the same skills and tools to work glass as well and it fascinates me almost as much as metal work. There are some amazing things you can do with the combination of the two.

And so, I come down to the political part of this. While this art is non-political, it has been made so by the toxicity of our culture. Blacksmithing is heavily involved with cowboy and historical re-enactment culture. So guess who's involved with it? That's right a LOT of conservatives. Specifically the Weapon Category. I admit, I love the artistry and skill involved with making weapons. I'm a huge fan of the show "Forged In Fire" for the craftsmanship, camaraderie and general nerdiness of the competitors. I learned some techniques from a winner of the show, and he was the kindest and most patient teacher I've had the pleasure to take instruction from.

With that in mind, guess who is considered dangerous. Yep. You make weapons, guess what the media and pigs are going to watch you like a hawk for? It's an excuse for them to put you away for a long time for political views. One of the other reasons I stopped being politically vocal. I don't need the trouble. While I would love to forge my own dirk, because honestly, I could use one around the forge and the kitchen, I won't. (Seriously, I need a good chopping knife for meat, and the mass produced cutco crap is ok, but the only reason it works is the serrations. I'd much prefer a clean edge.)

I want to work on my glass, wire and steel sculpture ideas and be happy. I'll make tools, of course, because that's the wonderful thing about blacksmithing. You make your own tools for the most part. Wink I won't attach photos, because... well, my phone is a pain in the ass with regards to photos and sharing things. I picked it deliberately. It was funny, I qualified for a brand new free phone with that helpful little AI assistant, they helpfully informed me. I picked a flip phone that doesn't even have a touch screen. Fuck you Alexa, burn in hell along with all the other imaginary demons. I will not share confidence with a proven oath breaker.

So who knows, maybe one day I'll have my own workspace set out like I want. (4 burner forge, French Anvil (I like being able to move the thing), Granite surfaces and nice open space to work glass.)

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Thank you or telling us about it.

I had caught one of the episodes of that show and was surprised that so many are still interested in blacksmithing.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@HenryAWallace I admit it's pretty neutral as far as my writing goes, but they always say the personal is political and all that.

The only thing I do hope is that my eventual theoretical shop looks a little cleaner than many of the ones I work in. After cringing about putting hot things down on tables I wasn't sure wouldn't catch fire... well, many smiths are not the most tidy folks. I would at least hope my place will look like a smithy and not a scrapyard.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

@detroitmechworks

seek to depict life in America in a bygone era.

https://www.osv.org/

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detroitmechworks's picture

@HenryAWallace from an Amish smith. Was reading a 1921 manual on making wagons, shoeing horses, etc. Absolutely fascinating stuff, and You can do a LOT with just basic forms and shapes. Hell, nothing is IDENTICAL, but you can make things uniform. (You know the US Army still has a milspec manual on Farriers? They know what they'll be doing when we run out of gas, I hope the rest of us are ready too...)

But I ain't giving up my heavy metal. Smile Working metal while listening to metal is AWESOME.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

QMS's picture

Good to hear you have found a creative outlet. Think it's an important exercise to make things real from a mental image into a 3D object by using your hands. These skills are becoming more valuable as trade changes into artificial digital intelligence.

I work mostly in wood, but am branching into brazing with copper and brass. The two can work together in some pieces, soldering and such too.

Good luck with your art. Charleston and New Orleans have an amazing array of wrought iron work on fences and porch railings. From a very long time ago. The work survives.

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Listen to your higher mind.

detroitmechworks's picture

@QMS Copper is interesting, and I adore the look of bronze. Especially with a faint patina. Smile

The funny thing is that automation has, in my opinion, destroyed the value of what it produces. Disposability is becoming more and more scary to me as a mindset. Every time I see things getting flimsier and simpler it worries me. "Black Box" style technology scares me, to be frankly honest. Even something as basic as tongs I want to have a general understanding of WHY it works.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

QMS's picture

@detroitmechworks
J. Geils Full House Live

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Listen to your higher mind.

thanatokephaloides's picture

@detroitmechworks

"Black Box" style technology scares me, to be frankly honest. Even something as basic as tongs I want to have a general understanding of WHY it works.

That's one reason I use Linux and BSD. Being Open Source, if you want to know how something works, you can (theoretically) find out.

It's why I avoid Apple gear, too.

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"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

enhydra lutris's picture

express yourself. Interesting that you divide garbage on the basis of workable vs unworkable, but, doesn't that depend upon the size of the forge?;-)

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

detroitmechworks's picture

@enhydra lutris But I don't really have any metal garbage at this time that won't fit into a 4 burner forge, so I'm fine there. When I start visiting the scrapyard as all smiths do... THAT's when I'll start having the issues. (But interestingly enough a little metal goes a lot farther than you think.)

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Lookout's picture

https://www.theironforgefire.com/post/choo-choo-forge-chattanooga-tn-810...

...that a couple of my buddies use. They are also farriers.

Hope you're using ear protection with your new hobby!

Good to see you around the site, and glad to hear you're doing well. Hey to the family.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

detroitmechworks's picture

@Lookout to a couple of my fellow apprentices at Judo last night. (There's an interesting overlap in interest with some of my fellow Judoka)

A co-op forge in Oregon could solve a LOT of our problems.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

mhagle's picture

Smile

Forging and glass blowing seem to bear the keys to personal recycling. Also the ability to rework plastics.

Glad you are having fun with this. More essays please when you have something new to share!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

detroitmechworks's picture

@mhagle Although I doubt I'll be putting much online as far as photos. However, If I do get a space I plan on opening it up to anybody who wants to learn. As cheap as I can reasonably charge. (Ideally Cost.)

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

snoopydawg's picture

Good to hear from you again and happy to hear that you have found some fun things to do that help center you. As to this:

(But interestingly enough a little metal goes a lot farther than you think.)

It sure do... Hoping that you are wearing eye protection every single time you pick up the hammer. The metal coming off a struck object is super heated and it can enter through your corneas without your knowledge and do some awful damage and since you're already working on super heated metal...

I saw some awful eye injuries during my days that could have been prevented. Just a friendly FYI

Take care.

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The public has been conditioned over time—in ways that would make Pavlov’s dawg seem like an in independent thinker

Deja's picture

@snoopydawg
And I was wearing safety glasses. Had I been wearing goggles, it wouldn't have happened.

Even though it happened to me, I didn't even think about it until I read your comment lol. While reading the essay, I did recall a coworker who got a sliver of metal embedded in the bone at his thumb joint. All he did to cause it was hold his stamp with one hand, and hit it with his ball peen hammer, to mark his work. We all did that exact thing, multiple times per day, though I hit my thumb with the hammer more than anyone else, I'm sure lol.

The Veterinarian (Company Doc we called The Veterinarian) couldn't get it out either. The trusty old-school, and just flat out old, country doctor used both hands and pliers to pull it out of the bone after several days of it being in there.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Deja Got better fast. Smile

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Deja's picture

As I was reading, my mind kind of wandered to glass blowing, which has always fascinated me, and viola -- you'll be dabbling in that as well.

Too cool!

I have a blown glass bird, from the 60s. It's a Murano, created on the Italian island by the same name. It's clear, with a red ball in the center, but under a blacklight, it glows green. Murano, the company, used to commission artists back in the 60s and each was allowed to let their own style shine through.

Too bad we don't get to see pics, but I respect your phone decision, and will likely follow the same plan when my current demonic tracking device dies.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Deja One of my most vivid memories is of a glassblowing studio in Carmel. It's gone now, of course, along with every other "Lower class" establishment.

However, that cold morning combined with the heat of the fire and the alchemy of moving material is intoxicating. Or it isn't. I know LOTS of people who are horrified by the idea of getting covered in scale and calluses, and think that a loud studio is the WRONG place for "true" art.

I say fire up the metal, and put metal in the fire. Smile

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

In upper New England smithy is still a thing. I knew someone who was restoring a sleigh and they found one to make runners and some fittings a while back. So many endeavors needed a blacksmith on hand. I once found, in an old logging camp, a horse shoe that had been straightened and turned into a spike. I asked around, and found someone who knew what it was. When a team of horses was pulling a sled of logs, and they went downhill, the sled would want to overrun the team. The spike was driven into the tail end of a runner and the driver would stand on it hard to act as a brake. Chains, rings, spikes, hinges of all sorts were a big thing too.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Snode It's a bit like solving puzzles with only a few moves that you're able to make.

However, each and every move you can make has a dozen variations. I'm finding that many of the most effective things in general are very simple but it is the application which determines effect.

I also admit that I may have been reading a bit about Archimedes recently. Amazing how much he was able to do with very simple tools. Enough to scare the hell out of the Romans...

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

There are so many bladesmiths there! And in Oregon in general. Murray Carter is someone I admire. I don't know what he's like in person, but he is certainly very knowledgable and talented.

Maybe it's the rain and the humid cold and darkness of winters here?
Standing in front of a hot forge and creating something fresh does sound like a good thing to do right about now, it's been raining for several days, and a good windstorm and more rain is on its way

I don't know much about smithing. My hobby is wood, but mostly with handtools. When things aren't going well, I just drop everything and sharpen all the things. Chisels, plane irons, kitchen knives, hatchets... It is so satisfying. Unfortunately, working metal in a woodshop is not a very compatible endeavor beyond a bit of sharpening. The one artist that I know who is proficient at both has two massive shops separated by about 50ft. I'm a bit jealous of you both.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@peachcreek Still trying to find one. However, my son is actually really into woodworking and wants to take classes in it. (He's been reading about composites and laminates, such as those used in composite bows. Interested in learning more about tensile strength, etc... I'm of course encouraging the hell out of this even though I find it rather uninteresting myself. )

Honestly, general fabrication is something I have always liked. Was thinking about Ikea, and if I had only a few more tools... I could have cut to the chase and just bought wood and steel. Smile

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.