I really want to manipulate and get to know a material. Never does something reward you quite like heating and then hitting it repeatedly with a big hammer. The permanence of the result and the power your feel from manipulating hot metal, is a very compelling feeling.
Before I took part in the workshop I had a keen interest in the process of how metal is used and how blacksmiths work. It started when wanted to create a metal rose for my girlfriend I looked into how I could do it, and even emailed a blacksmith for some advice, he was nice enough to draw out a basic template for me, though I never made the rose in the end this little foray made an impression and I stayed interested.
I found a few videos on youtube that really captured my interest. Tony Swatton a blacksmith with a 30 year pedigree, forging for films and TV releases a weekly video of him making a weapon from gaming, pop culture or fiction. Each build appears to challenge him and are very different from the last build. The original designs of these weapons were never intended to be real or functional, so its interesting to watch a professional try and realise them as functional pieces. Some of the techniques he employs such as damascus steel forging and chemical etching really show what you can do with metal and its exciting to see the broad scope of there applications.
My first experience with forging outlined that the process was a lot more about patience and effort than how many times you hit the metal with the hammer. There was a lot of understanding where to hit the metal to loosen or strain a specific part to make it bend a certain way, your experience can entirely depend on the materials tolerance of your treatment of it. Although I made a few mistakes that were correctable, I certainly could see that there would have been a point of no return and the piece would have been ruined.
Im looking to do some more forging for my future projects and keep the process firmly in mind for my next designs.
The Forging workshop
The first thing we did was cut off a piece of steel bar, then heat up the forge. If I recall the forge can be heated to 900 – 1400 degrees. We would allow for the steal to go white hot. positioning of the bar in the forge was key for the section we wanted to bend.
Using the Horn section of the anvil, we hammered the bar around it and started to create a fold, which we then refined on the face of the anvil to create a loop. it was interesting to learn how each section of the anvil has its own particular uses for manipulating metal.
The final step was twisting the metal, such a surreal feeling to actually twist metal. we would heat specific ares of the bar by making sure the correct section of the bar was getting the heat from the hottest part of the forge. Whilst the bar was hot the end of the bar was secured in the clamp and using the new loop we made on the horn we began to twist the bar to create these swirl patterns, it was important to keep the bar straight so constant adjustment was required.
Swattons website: http://www.swordandstone.com/the-show
This was a nice introduction to forging, interesting to see how the metal feels to mould. I was given a handbook to further have a look at some techniques, there is one or two I am keen to try.