Some times a chunk of steel just wants to grow into something. I think of it as a form of inanimate self actualization. This chunk of steel wanted to be a vessel!
Today I made another video to show more of the process of blacksmithing, aka, metal displacement. I chose to show how I make a 1 piece garden trowel out of a 3/4" solid round bar. The metal is directionally pushed into the direction I want it to move--the trowel part is opened wide and the tang part is stretched length wise. This video is sped up to be very fast, in a few cases it looks like i'm hammering very slow--the reality is the opposite of that. Also, if I make this look easy, I've made a few hundred of these in the past ten years. I got a lot of practice!
Making a hook is often one of the first projects a new blacksmith tackles. It is one of the simplest projects you can do. A bend and a flat section with a hole or two in it. In all the years I've been forging, it is this very simplicity that has always troubled me. The hook, with so few design elements, forces you to have a perfect execution of hammer control, design and functionality. It is easy to make a hook, but one of the most difficult projects to do beautifully.
In this video I use the 50# Little Giant hammer to rough forge a hook from 1/2" solid steel. The metal is heated to about 2200 degrees, then stretched. This video only shows the forging part of the process, the finishing part is way too boring to video, but compromises a major part of the process.
Ever just in one of those weird moods where every idea you have seems worn out and trite? A few months ago every idea I had was answered by, "that idea is stupid, why, Mike, are you wasting your time on these stupid ideas?" Every single idea I had was answered by that thought. Finally, one day I thought, "I should write a book". About what, I didn't no. I'm not a writer. I don't want to be a writer. I'm a metalworker. So it went, I decided to make a picture book, written in metal. I was stumped about the contents for a bit. By "a bit" I mean for about 2 minutes. The word "Pornography" was echoing in my head. I was going to write a pornography.
Now, let me take you back a bit. Before the idea of this book ever seeded I had a conversation with my girlfriend about porn. She asserted that the visual demonstration of sexuality to me would be broken down to motion, lines and shapes and visually observed as an emotionless interaction of aesthetic elements. When I decided to create a book of pornography I had this in mind. I was interested in the combination and interaction of forms as both a beautiful, lewd and human experience. I wish I could articulate my idea better than my words do, but i'll have to use the crutch of my actual artwork because I am better in expressing myself in metal than in English.
One of my favorite things to do in the winter is to experiment. I try to use the "down time" to push design and technical skills to their limits. This last winter I focused on learning how to work small pieces of brass, copper and silver in the same ways I have been working steel. I also focused on how to combine the different metals while still keeping their heat patina's intact. Shown are a few of my favorite pieces which range in size from about 12" x 3" to about 4ft x 2ft. What is NOT shown in the scrap pile I accumulated while doing these experiments. For every success there were ten failures. But, as I got better and understood the materials more, less and less pieces were trashed. The trick was learning how to minimize physical damage of mistakes (which is hard on small pieces). All in all this was one of the most educational winters I had ever done.
A few weeks ago something like this was making its rounds on facebook. I was constantly being tagged, "Mike! Make one of these!" After being tagged about a million times I thought, "okay, i'll look at this thing and consider doing something people actually want, for once". When I looked into it, the ones for sale were tiny, flimsy little things. I decided I could do better. I could make something that would: 1. Last forever. 2. Actually stay in the ground and be sturdy, and 3. Be chair height. And now, these exist. Except, it's hard to keep them in stock long because they actually sell, so you might not see one if you visit the shop.