News and Announcements

Interested in learning about blacksmithing? Read this!

--News & Announcements--
Upcoming projects:
Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

As Brothers We Were Born

Stand fast, brothers. Stand fast and remember that we have failed one another as we will one day fail ourselves. By the sword we live and whether through it or our own end, we will all perish. Nameless thousands have fallen upon the field of battle, and we mourn their death. Thousands wither from the slow decay of time, and we mourn their death. By sickness and plague, so many fall, and we mourn their death. Look now upon the face of our brother who has fallen not by the hand of his enemy but by his own. See the black hood that covers his face and know that it will never again be lifted. See his body and remember him, for remembrance is now all that remain of a better time.
            He was one of us. He was our comrade, our brother in arms, a piece of our lifeblood that has been shed. So grim and solemn a reminder may it stand of the evils of this world which compel us towards an unnatural end, that we may be strong but if we are not there for each other we will fall. Even the mightiest of men cannot withstand himself. Let sorrow fill your hearts as it fills mine. Let you bear the weight of what has happened in our midst, for it ought never have happened. Let your minds reach out to our fallen brother, for in life we failed him.
            Family or friend or acquaintance by arms, it matters not. Humanitarian or dictator, it matters not. Enforcer of justice and bringer of peace or corruptor and cheat, it matters not. He was one of us. He was one of us. We are our brothers' keeper. Gaze upon the faces who stand beside you. Take them as your charge as they will take you. We are our brothers' keeper. A great tragedy has come upon us, and never for a beat of your heart may you think it otherwise. In my life I have watched as family die. I have watched as war makes corpses of kings and lesser men. I have watched as time brings its lace of decay and lays it like a veil of the mighty and the weak. I have watched as the winter frost burns out life from once fertile lands and as the burning fires of creation renew rotten fields. I have stood beside my enemy and stricken him down as my enemy strikes my brothers. We are our brothers' keeper.
            This man before us was not one of them. This man before me was not one of them. I knew him well, I knew him not at all. I will never come to know him beyond what my memory serves. Let the trumpets of war sound over our enemy as the bitter songs of grief fill our hearts. He was a hero. He was a patriot. He was one of us, and as one of us he shall be remembered.
            Until the bitter end may we remember this day. Until our own time has come, may we remember this day. Remember those who have fallen and those whose lives were ended by their own hand. Let the tears of sorrow wet the earth and you know that we have failed. We have failed. I have failed every one of you, but most of all I failed him. I was not there; I was concerned with things I thought higher. In war we lose sight of humanity, send it never happens again. Lift up his spirit, to the heavens and beyond. I am sorry, friend. There are no words to describe this loss. There are no words to paint this tragedy nor to tell you I have failed you for the final time.
            For some, this may take time to understand the weight of this news, and for others sorrow and confusion, anger and loss may come more quickly. It is our nature to seek the answers to questions we do not wish to ask. It is our nature to respond with hurt and isolation. A man may see death a thousand times in his life by the sword, but this is so very different. Questions arise that may only be answered on the other side. No one need tell what they know, for that choice is their own to make. Seek if it will pacify you, but this is of no fault of yours. War makes dead men of us all. We have failed, but there is no bringing back the dead.
            Take a moment, I beg of you, an hour or a week, and be strong again. Such loss cannot come closer than this. We are brothers in life, and in death we will not cast them aside. Take a moment and remember him as he should be, in peace not war. In peace with himself and with you around me, in better times and in good company. No man shall die alone.
            Each of you here holds an immense duty. A weight that we alone must bear. You are valuable, to the last, you are. If you do not see it that way, who else will take this charge? If you do not believe it, I will tell you again that I need you, your kingdom needs you, your brothers need you. Someday this weight will lift and our lives return to the way they once were, but we need first find our way. Our enemies count such dark hours as a blessing, and for that I will not stand. Alone in the dark we shudder huddled with only our past and each other to rise hope in a prospect future. Alone we stand, but it need not be. As brothers we were born and as brothers we will stand. Without you, without you we cannot stand. Without you, we stand alone. Alone, we fall.
            Death, the most dreaded  and hated of all faceless evils, is of no concern to us as mortal men; for while we exist death hath no power over us, and when death is present we no longer exist to know the difference.

            Lo there do I see my fathers' hall.
            Lo there do I see my mothers,
            Lo there do I see my brothers strong and sisters fair.
            Lo there do I see my people proud
            Back and back and back to the beginning,
            Lo do they call to me.
            They bid me to take my place amongst them,
            In the Halls of White and purest gold,
            Where the brave may live forever.

I held it like a dream, like a dream I lived, and like a dream watched it slide between my fingers into the shadows of the past. Farewell, old friend, it is a damn shame I never got to know you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tools & Tool Making I- Chainmaille Ring Winding

Around a year ago, I compiled a video explaining how I wind rings for making chainmaille, and since then I have had many inquiries as to how to build the device I built for the purpose. Before I delve farther into that, I will explain why I do it the way I do. First and foremost, it is very easy and consistent. I can wind coils as long as I want, the longest being over 10m. The only limiting factor is how much wire I hold on the spool. By far the most common critique is to why I do not use a power drill. While it is faster, it is neither consistent nor easy to do alone. More importantly, however, the jacob's chuck on a standard drill is not large enough to fit both the rod and the end of the wire. If you are curious as to why the wire needs to be in there too, try it without putting it in the chuck and see what happens. (Hint- you get a spinning rod and no coil).

Now, the basic principle here is to place a spool of wire on the device's arm so it feeds into the coil when spun. The rest of the pieces are for convenience and consistency. Below is the most basic schematic of the mechanism.

The spool goes on the top bit, feeding the wire down onto the bar. This design requires no fabrication and can be made solely out of pipe fittings found in any hardware store. Usually, I clamp the rod in a bench vice or to a table. If I am using a longer rod, I support the free end with a string from the ceiling so it does not fold from the weight.

To be most stable, the X pipe fitting that the bar slides through should have an inner diameter as close to the bar's outer diameter as possible. To make it more stable, another piece of pipe can be affixed to the left side.

Next is the design I actually use. It is a bit more complicated and requires a few simple tools to build. I substituted a T fitting for the X because it is cheaper and I can drill a hole closer to the bar's size for it to slide through on the left. On the right side in line with the bar I screwed a short (~3cm past threads) piece of pipe into the T. This allows me to clamp a bit of copper (or other ductile metal) pipe in place to act as a guide for the wire. A slit in the pipe lets the entire mechanism slide into place once the coil is started by hand.

The middle T piece with another extension on it is a guide for the guide. If that seems redundant, I thought so too. It was not in the prototype I made back in the day, but after using it a few times I noticed that the curvature in the spooled wire was enough to misalign it from the rod. By having a second guide arm in place, it forces the wire to enter the copper pipe at a constant angle and with minimal deflection. The slit in the middle pipe needs to go through both sides, where the copper needs only a single slice in the top.

In practise, it looks a little more messy, but it gets the job done. Here is an image of the one I built back in 2006.

The two washers are for when I use a 6" spool so it does not slide off the end of the pipe.

Because I buy 1/4 mile spools of wire at a time, that is a little too much to manage at once. The weight bends the bar, so I have to transfer it to a smaller spool for the winding. I take an arbitrary amount, but enough to spin a 5m coil at least. To do this, I take advantage of another feature of the design. I unscrew the copper pipe assembly and replace it with the topmost pipe (removing the middle entirely). Securing the smaller spool with a bit or wire or zip tie, I can slide that onto the bar and rotate the two handles fairly quickly.

Here is a clearer view of what it looks like in action. Keeping a constant force on the device towards the clamp will keep the coil tight against itself, helping make the rings more uniform.

For more info and a what it looks like in action, check out the video I made below.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blacksmith's Hooks

Mid March, I went down to Baltimore for the annual 'Fire and Brimstone Hammer-In' hosted by Baltimre Knife and Sword. This is without doubt one of the best hammer-ins around, and naturally draws a crowd of some of the best faces in the craft.

Sam Salvati, who recently became employed by the venue, did a quick lesson on forging hooks which I eagerly watched. The skill and precision at which he works is amazing, and my own feeble attempt a month later really drove it home. My own rendition to be used as a towel hook was my first attempt at purely blacksmithing. Throughout the process, I used nothing more than the hammer and anvil  (excepting the chopsaw to remove the excess stock and the drill to make the screw hole).

Ideally, I would have started with square stock, but at a loss for that I had to use round instead.

First thing was to make this square. Although not absolutely necessary,  I wanted it for the aesthetics as well as the practise. Forging on the bias, I hit one side then rotated 90 degrees and hit on the adjacent face, then back to the original. Had I gone much farther, I would have gotten nice crisp corners, but that started making the bar too thin, so I left it a little rounded.

Squared off for about 6" or so, the next step is to begin forming a point that will later be rolled into a scroll. Again forging on the bias, this is fairly quick. I should have brought the taper back a bit father, as this will be the region rolled and the thinner the better.

 Now that the square goes down to a point (albeit poorly done), I transitioned it to round by first making it octagonal. Hammering on the corners, it brought the sides down to the same width as the original square. From there, I could have gone to full round at the very tip, but I wanted to try having the scroll being a little more angular.

Next I heated up the tip and held it slightly over the corner of the anvil face. Hitting down, it upset the end enough where I could then hammer it back over itself to begin the scroll.

Once that little bit is curved around, I did the same thing but farther down on the bar, continuing to roll the steel over itself. Because it is difficult to hammer past 90 degrees down over the edge, once that initial bit was forged I took it and flipped it up so I could hammer it in from the top. The result is a tight (and ugly, but it only gets better from here) scroll at the end of the bar.

Back into the forge, I heated the bit just past the scroll so I could form the actual hook part of the hook. Much the same way as forming the scroll, I held the bar off the anvil face and hammered down, this time with the loop of the scroll facing up. Since this will be where stuff hangs from, it should not be too tight. Finishing the bend on the anvil's horn, the result is this.

Being a decorative piece, and in the spirit of trying new things, I added a twist to the shank. Back into the forge, after it was nice and hot I clamped the belly of the hook in a vice and twisted the free end with pliers. The number of twists determines the spacing, more being closer together.

This was an instance where it would have been nice to have all square stock, as pliers on a round surface is harder to grip. From here, I had to cut off the excess bar so I could forge the place for the screw.

For there to be enough material around the hole, I have to flatten the end. While it would be easier to just hammer it down, that is uglier, so I upset the area by holding the end over the anvil with everything else off the face. Keeping it steady on the anvil is key to having a crisp line.

A few adjustments for symmetry and to round the corners and all that remains is to drill the screw hole. And with that, the hook is done. Later, I will seal it with beeswax to prevent rusting. This was a great introduction to some of the basic blacksmithing techniques, and was a nice change of pace from the world of knives.