Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blacksmithing 101

I had my first real blacksmithing lesson today. I got Joe V.'s number and gave him a call on Sunday. Joe V. was once the resident blacksmith here at D Acres. I told Joe that I was interning here and that I was interested in learning about blacksmithing. I asked hime if he would come to D Acres and give me a crash course in the smith shop. He gladly agreed and seemed excited for the opportunity to get into the ol' shop with a few willing to learn sets of eyes and ears as an audience.
Now, I've spent a small amount of my time here at D Acres cleaning up and re-organizing the blacksmith shop. Which was in a bit of a disarray having not been used much since the chill of winter set in. As my mind makes some sense of the small clutter, I begin to find all sorts of small trinkets and knives and decorative S-hooks and other random pieces of art. Stopping what I'm doing to take time to examine and appreciatte each piece. Each piece forged right here in this shop. Each with its own story to tell. In a sense, (being somewhat of an artistic metal worker myself) you could say I kinda already knew Joe before I actually met him.
I'm a welder by trade. At least for the past 3 years or so. However, I first started welding about 12 years ago with my buddy Looney who makes extraordinary works of art with recycled scrap from the junk yard. We ended up becoming roommates shortly afterwards, so hanging out in the alley agter work was a daily occurrence. With a mig welder, some acetylene torches and a fresh new load of old exhausty pipes and other precious gems piled every which way into the ford festiva we used for work each day. We would create the most wonderful things. Ahh, those were the days!
Today I was back in that alley. As we all stood in the skin biting cold, huddled around Joes instantly raging forge fire, (which, mind you, puts off ZERO heat unless you are directly above it and inches away) he taught us everything from fire building to forge welding. We watched as he transformed a rusty steel rod into a beautifully hand crafted piece of traditional, functional art for every day use. He showed us how to temper steel and how to use Borax as a flux for forge welding. Each step was explained to us in detail. For each question, a knowledgeable answer. One of the best "classes" I've ever attended.
After a little over 3 hours of trying to see through our own breath, we decided to call it a day. Which was pretty good timing because I couldn't feel my fingers or toes anymore. Nevertheless, it was worth every freezing second. I walked into that shop today as a student. I walked out as a somewhat slightly amatuer blacksmith kinda but not really, yet, and I feel pretty darn good about it! Thanks Joe V.

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