Saturday, July 5, 2014

Illuminated Tools: Getting Started

First I did 1:1 sketches of the tools.

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These aren't exact blueprints, just scaled examples of where the project is headed.

Since I've had a hard time finding high carbon steel in my area I used a local metal reseller for most of my steel. She had some nice new 4340 available in bars for $1.50/lb, so I cut that into coupons and tacked them together without any fill rod, and forge welded it into one block.

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My first "forge" was a stack of fire bricks that I pointed my O/A torch into, I have since built a more respectable forge.

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I built this small press to help with forging and forge welding, it uses a 20 ton air-over-hydraulic cylinder. It's a bit slow and I'll definitely build a better one when funds allow.

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For the wrench I used a car coil spring, straightened and upset on one end. I used an air chisel to cut a slit in the upset, then opened it and wrapped it around a rod (sorry, no pics). Then I filed the open box by hand to fit a 3/4" bolt.

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Then I forged a taper on the other end and cut 1/4"-20 threads, this is how the handle will be affixed.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Illuminated Tool series

As I near the end of art school I'm expected to take more initiative and to find my "voice." Part of that is  doing an Independent Study, a semester long project of my own design. I'm currently working under Constance Dejong on a series I'm calling Illuminated Tools.
You may be familiar with illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages, hand produced books highly decorated with illustration and gold leaf.


I will be applying this methodology to hand tools, items that have come to be considered dirty, low class, and low value. Any good tradesman knows the value of a quality tool, but somehow a country built by tradesmen has allowed the production and sale of cheaply made and disposable tools to take over the market. I suspect this is directly tied to the lack of appreciation given to labor and craft based occupations and the decline of the middle class. But I digress.
My goal is to present high quality, hand made, usable tools that are obviously precious by their polish, adornment and fine materials.
I'll be making four items overall for this project, a hammer, a wrench and a drafting set (a compass and straightedge). These items represent what I believe are the three major stages of human industry that led us to where we are now: forming, such as smithing and hand working raw materials; the industrial revolution, when work became more about operating and maintaining machines than making products; and design, when concept and creation became separated.

I will be making everything but the raw materials by hand for this project, and many of my tools will be homemade as well. I'll also be learning completely new skills like smithing, forge welding, electro-chemical etching, and wood turning. I will also be practicing skills I don't normally use like polishing and drawing. Most of the materials will be forged steel and cast bronze.
This will be my primary project for the next few months.