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Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

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Tonight's blacksmithing lesson was upsetting. Upsetting is how you take a piece of stock and sorta quash it on one end in order to make it thicker. The blacksmithing lessons I'm taking start with a demo then move to us doing the task. The task for the evening was to upset a 4" long 1/2" steel rod stock to form a 5/8" or 3/4" bulb about 1" in length at the end.

Upsetting has been my favorite part of the class so far, mostly because you really get to wail on the steel to make it work. Heat your stock in the forge (or kitchen oven, if your kitchen oven can be set to 800F and isn't also made out of the same steel you're working with) and taper one end slightly. Now, for the rest of the night: heat the piece; quench all but the last 1" or so in the water barrels we have handy; put the remaining hot end on the anvil and really wail on the now-cold other end. The bulb slowly grows. And, if you're like the rest of the class, the bulb also tips to one side and frequently needs to be straightened out. Clean up the end of the bulb so the very end is smaller than the bulb (eg, taper 3/16" on all four sides around) and put the piece back in the forge. Repeat.

Another classmate, Chris, picked up the trick last week of working with two pieces per night and I did the same tonight. It worked really well -- I nearly always had some bit of hot steel that needed hammering. I also felt a lot better about hammering, probably because swinging the big hammer in big swings uses muscles I already have, not the little wimpy ones needed for moving the big hammer only a little bit.

The only weird thing is that my left thumb joint feels out of sorts. I may have been abusing it to hold or open the tongs ("Tom Tongs"!) but I can't imagine that'd have done it. Hm. I'm sure it'll be better in the morning.

Next week is session 4 or 5. We'll use our upset rods to complete the project: making spoons. I also still need to work on the bevel of my knife/letter opener, and grind the edge to a nice blade. Just gotta fight through traffic and get to the Crucible a bit before class to do these things.

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