Sore wrists and new shapes

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Since my last post, I’ve spent a ton more time at the forge, although I had Thursday off to rest my wrists, since they were sore enough on Tuesday night that I needed to ice them. This week I learned to make several new shapes, and I also got to observe a variety of other projects. I took some videos this week which are linked throughout, and just like last week there are some links to pictures and pages from the web for the sake of explanation. I'll also put a link at the end to a Picasa album with all of the pictures I've taken so far (plus captions), and I'll update that from now on even before I post each week.

 
On Tuesday, I came into the shop, and was introduced to Arnon’s friend and fellow blacksmith Nitzan. He and Arnon both lived in Isarel, were both apprentices of the same smith (Uri Hofi), and they even frequented the same movie theater in Jerusalem, but they only met about nine months ago. They seem like great friends, and having a third person in the shop makes everything much more lively. Nitzan is also a skilled smith, and sometimes he gives me tips that Arnon didn't mention, or shows me another way to do something Arnon demonstrated. Having an extra smith in the shop has also given me an opportunity to see them working together. On Tuesday, they worked as a team to forge some hammer heads, and made the work go very quickly and smoothly. One person probably could have accomplished the task, but having two people made it much more efficient. I filmed them forging a couple of the hammer heads, since it was pretty interesting. To make it clear what's going on in the video, the basic process went like this: Arnon brought the hammer head out of the forge, and placed it on the anvil. Nitzan would then place a shim into the hammer head to both facilitate holding it, and to prevent the space for the hammer handle from getting squished. Arnon would then hammer it in, take it to the power hammer, shape the part that grips the handle, take it back to the anvil, and knock it off of the shim. Finally, Nitzan would quench the shim in water (since it absorbed so much heat from the hammer head), while Arnon would put away the finished piece.
 
I also got to see Arnon and Nitzan demonstrate team forging (video here). It was very impressive. Arnon held the piece with tongs, and hit it with a one handed hammer. Then Nitzan would hit the same place with a sledge hammer, and they'd go back and forth like that, with Arnon directing the blows and Nitzan providing most of the power. It was really mesmerizing to watch—they established a rhythm and stuck to it. Occasionally Arnon would need to take a moment to look at the work or turn it, so he would lightly strike the anvil instead of hitting the steel, and Nitzan would do the same to keep the rhythm. That rhythm is essentially the only form of communication they use while forging as a team. It's almost a kind of song that they make with their hammer blows. The practical reason for forging as a team is that it makes the metal move much faster than one person with can with one arm. As you can see in the video, they turn a thick steel bar into a long, squared point. Material that thick would take a single person a long time and a lot of force to forge.
 
Having both Arnon and Nitzan around also makes things more fun at the forge. They both take their work seriously, but there's also a lot of humor and messing around. They're both trained in martial arts (from their time in the Israeli military, I presume), so occasionally they'll just start sparring in the middle of the shop. They also make jokes and mess with each other. For example, yesterday while Nitzan was using the hydraulic shearing machine, Arnon came up behind him and threw his banana peel into the machine. We also have great conversations, especially at lunch. We've talked about movies, food, technology, death, the attractiveness of blacksmithing to the opposite sex, and even what it would be like if women in the eighteenth century threw their underwear at pop stars at a concert (imagine a corset hitting Justin Bieber in the face). It's a ton of fun just being around them in the shop. Sometimes when they're working on something, they'll randomly switch between speaking Hebrew and English, since they both speak both languages.
 
In terms of what I learned to forge this week, there were a few basic shapes. First, I learned the more complex version of the leaf, which has an actual stem, and a more defined tip. These were the shape that Arnon's master had him make ten of each day (rather than the simpler version I mentioned in my last post), which makes it even more impressive. The process of shaping it is similar, but before you fan out the leaf shape, you squash part of the rod into a stem, and then flatten out the pointed end (leaving the tip of the point intact). To finish it, you can use the peen of the hammer to make some indentations to mimic veins in the leaf, and it looks really nice when done properly.
 
On Wednesday, I learned how to make nails. This was fairly exciting, because nails are one of the few things I've made so far that actually have a practical application. To make a nail, you forge a square point, and then cut it off almost all the way, leaving a little bit of unforged rod between the square point and the cut. Then, you heat the piece, put the taper through a tool with a square hole, break it off of the rod, and hammer on it as hard as fast as you can, in order to squash the little section of rod into a nail head. That part of making nails is one of the most intense things I've done so far, because you have to be very quick. The moment you stick the nail through the metal tool, it starts losing heat just like if you touch it to the anvil (because metal is such a good thermal conductor). You have about ten seconds or less to turn a half inch tall cylinder into a flat nail head, so you pretty much have to just hammer on it like you want to destroy that nail and everything it has ever loved. I don't think I ever got it flat in one heat; I had to take it out of the tool, reheat it, place it back in the tool with tongs, and finish the job.
 
After making nails, I also learned how to make a decorative hook, which tied into my work yesterday. To make the hook, I first curled the end of a long, rounded point into a small spiral to make the end of the hook look nice. After that, I bent the rest of the point into a hook shape using a bending fork, punched a hole (so it can be hung on a wall), and cut it off.  Yesterday I learned to make "scrolls", which are essentially just nice looking spiral shapes (I guess they're called "scrolls" because they're rolled up sort of  like a scroll). You can see them everywhere in forged pieces, especially gates (like this and this). The goal is to make something like the golden spiral, which is a spiral that gets wider as it goes on, and can be approximated by the Fibonacci sequence. It's a very natural looking shape for that reason (Arnon gave the example of a seashell). Not all scrolls have to be this particular spiral, but for these, that was the goal. On paper, it seems like it should be easy; all you have to do is slowly curve the steel, starting with a tight, small circle and gradually bending it less and less. In practice, it will make you tear your hair out as a beginner, because it's easy to tell if it looks right or wrong, but it's not easy to see how much to make it turn as you're forming it. It's not even so much a problem with being able to move the steel the way you want it, it's just very hard to visualize (for me, anyway). I made a few that were "acceptable", but not quite as nice as Arnon's and Nitzan's.
 
There were a few other things I got to see, such as the process of heat treating a double sided hammer head. You have to quench the ends quickly so they're hard, but you want to keep the middle part softer. To do this, he dunked one end in water and sprayed the other with an air powered sand blasting gun repurposed to shoot water. Arnon and Nitzan also forged some bowls with texturing on the outside using a variety of tools.
 
Next week, Arnon said that we'll start making my knife, since it will take some time. I'm excited to do that, but I've also been having fun forging random decorative shapes for practice, so hopefully I'll get to make more of those. I've been experimenting with attaching my GoPro camera to myself to get first person footage of forging, and I'll try to put up some video of that next week.

Links:
Picasa album with ALL of my pictures in large resolution, plus captions to explain them
Arnon squashing some pipe
 

Comments

Improvement!

You're definitely getting better!
Also the sheer strength required is impressive, to be able to just hit things with hammers all day.
Also the hydraulic press is *awesome*. Opens whole new realms of possibilities.

Math! Yay!

It would be cool to mention those mathematical spirals when you do your presentation! I think we talked about those in precal, yeah?
I am especially wondering who buys the spikes, nails, and hammers...
This is one of the most interesting senior projects I can ever remember. I am not surprised your wrists are sore. I wonder how Arnon and Nitzan feel at the end of a day at the forge - they must take a lot of Advil!
Good luck with the knife. Yoko and I will find a time to visit!

I like the song of the team forging

Thank you for the links. You are making me want to come and work at a forge...