Friday, April 12, 2013

Blacksmithing and Pottery: Two Great Tastes That Blah Blah Blah

I've been watching a lot of blacksmithing and forging videos on YouTube lately, I've been talking about building myself a forge for several years now, and I think the time is approaching. I already have a quantity of kaowool and soft fire-bricks for the insulation, all I need from there is a stand, a burner (propane I think), and an anvil.
During my research I've seen some beautiful and very informative videos, some just plain impressive demonstrations, and some more... eclectic fair. The main thing I've noticed, though, about forging steel, is just how similar to clay it appears to be. Hot steel seems to have a similar 'plastic' stage as clay where it can be worked and shaped, even the ay the materials move under pressure is similar. Just watch the first two-and-a-half minutes of this industry video:

And now watch this woman throw a clay bowl:

Not only does the potter have steel-worker arms but they use basically the same process to manipulate their materials. A quick web search reveals that I'm not nearly the first person to think of this similarity, but it's good to know that I can draw on some of my experience to inform how I work with the iron. Of course there will be discrepancies in the transition: I clearly won't be able to handle the iron in the same way I sculpt clay, no hands or fingers doing the detail work; the iron will need to be at the proper temperature for this to apply; and while clay has the same malleability over its entire volume the iron will only be malleable where hot, which can be a localized area.
All these things important to keep in mind when it comes time to start working, but the main reason I ring this us is that it illustrates the importance of having a broad skill-set. I hadn't ever worked with clay when I first got it in my head to start forging metal, but between then and now that I'm actually about to start I've learned something new which is going to ease my entry into a new craft. I've essentially learned a "craft-and-a-half" in playing with ceramics. So never turn down the opportunity to learn something new, you never know how useful it may be, and even it it isn't, at least you've expanded your mind.

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