Last evening of blacksmithing
Today was the fifth and final session of my intro to blacksmithing course at The Crucible. In today's session we learned about hot cutting: using a tool to cut steel when the steel's hot. Start with a flat piece of metal, work most of one end into a handle, then cut the other end into a Y and work the ends of the Y into narrow tines. Bend these tines around and make: a fork.
Class starts with us warming up (usually finishing last week's project), the instructor gives a demo of the project, then we have the rest of the time to complete the project. Tonight the demo took a long time -- probably 30-40 minutes. By the time we got started on our own it was 8:30. And Chris (the instructor) is always faster at the projects than we are, so I didn't really see how we'd finish any forks on our own. Turns out I was right.
During warm-up I finished my two spoons. They're not beautiful in any way but they're sorta cool. Especially because *I* made them and I can say "well, *I* made them; can *you* forge your own spoons? didn't think so." if anyone mocks me. I could have done a better job but, really, I just wanted to actually _complete_ the project, rather than get it 85% of the way and 90% looking good. Durning warm-up I also worked a bit on my knife-cum-letter opener, bevelling the blade edge a bit more.
During open work time I worked on my fork, just one this time (not two at the same time, I knew I wouldn't last with that much hammering), and got as far as working a really good handle out of most of the metal. I didn't actually get to any hot cutting, though, I just ran out of time. It was okay, though, because Chris showed the class (well, me and another guy) how to use the wire wheel tool to remove the scale from our forged pieces. So rather than cut my fork and still leave it unfinished I cleaned up one of my spoons and my knife. The wire wheel tool is fun! I felt very handy using the power tool and making sparks fly around to clean up my bits of forged steel.
I also learned how to use the grinding belt to sharpen the edge of my knife. Using it wasn't too exciting, except for the part where Chris suggested using your finger(!) as a spacer when holding the knife against the belt. You need _something_ to hold the back edge of the knife off the table and you don't want to hold it freely, it'll wander and not make a nice edge. Wearing leather gloves this trick isn't all that scary. Chris wasn't wearing gloves, though. He's tough.
Speaking of tough: I wore a short-sleeved shirt today, unlike the last three sessions when I wore long sleeves. Small mistake. Turns out the little bits of metal that fly off when you're hammering hot steel -- they're still pretty hot. I have a few very small blisters and one curious divot caused by bits. But I *look* like I ought just came out of a blacksmithing, and looks are oh so important.
Final tip from the smithy: to give a rust-resistant coating and black color to your forged pieces, heat the steel to hot-but-not-red, and then rub with vegetable or linseed oil (vegetable if you're going to eat with them). This gives a nice carbonized coating, it's black, it's attractive, and it'll prevent rust. I sorta like the look of the raw steel, myself, but I'll keep this in mind. And now that I've written it down I'll remember about it.
Will I ever finish my fork? Probably. It turns out that The Crucible has "lab" time as well as classes, and because I've taken a class this summer I can get discounted lab time in the fall. During labs the equipment is available for use but there's just no instructor. I'll look in to signing up for a blacksmithing lab in the fall. I can finish the fork and maybe even make a few other little projects, just bending and twisting metal. Or just take out frustration on an unsuspecting slug of steel.