Adventures in Blacksmithing: Day 8

Lucky as I am, I had a blacksmithing assistant two weeks in a row. On Blacksmithing Day 8, Mike was present and accounted for. Though we still have not been able to get my bending fork and cut tool fitted to my anvil (Yeah, we probably need to break out the bench grinder), Mike did a temporary mount of his giant bench vise to the second platform of my anvil stand, and this vise was capable of holding the bending fork firmly.

Vise set up (temporary)
Vise set up with the anvil (temporary)

A couple days before since we both had Friday off, Mike and I had made a trip to Freedom Metals on Vanderbilt Avenue here in Charlotte. They let us pick stock from their scrap piles out back, and I will definitely be going back…though not for quite some time. I got plenty to last a while and only threw down $40. Among the pieces I brought home was a half inch piece of round stock that was five feet long. Not long after Day 2, once she had seen my first scrolling piece, my friend Sarah had told me she wanted a flower basket stake, “the one that looks like a shepherd’s crook”. Until I got my anvil anchored, the project was impossible; the anvil would move around too much. And because I didn’t feel I could make the scroll tight enough only using the anvil horn, I needed to use my bending fork so had decided to hold off attempting it. But by Day 8, the anvil wasn’t going anywhere, and while my bending fork still didn’t fit in my anvil, it was anchored. The half inch piece’s destiny was determined.

The biggest challenge I faced with this project was heating the stock. Half inch just takes longer to heat than the 1/4 or 3/8 inch pieces I’ve been using. My patience was tried, but I kept reminding myself to resist the urge to pull it out and whack it. While it was not an easy wait, rather like Christmas is for Mike, the time I took to bring the metal to orange coloring was time well spent.

I began my first scroll, the tightest scroll, on the horn. While I’m sure I could have started it with the forks, I wanted a nice uniform curve and was afraid that putting it directly in the forks would give me straight spots. After ensuring the entire end was curved, I returned the stock to the fire. Upon getting it back to forging temperature, I moved to the forks.

Heating 1/2 in stock takes time
Heating 1/2 in stock takes time

Wow. I couldn’t believe how easily the metal bent and curved. Yes, I had to put pressure on it, but it was not hard. The more I do this, the more I realize that if the task is physically straining I probably didn’t get the metal hot enough. (Of course, I have yet to forge weld, so I can’t speak to that process at all.) So after several trips to the fire and several trips to the anvil horn and the bending forks, the scrolled part of Sarah’s basket stake was complete.

Scrolling done!
Scrolling done!

And then I realized my mistake. A flower basket stake obviously needs to stick into the ground, and for ease of placement, I realized I should have tapered the end that will stick into the ground. (It’s a stake. Duh!) Of course, I still tapered the end. However, half-inch stock that is now awkwardly weighted to one side is not easy to control, so my arm muscles were screaming by the time I was done. Lesson learned – think it all the way through before you start.

Flower Basket Stake
There it sticks in the ground. That’s better…Flower Basket Stake.

So my first project for someone else is almost ready. I decided that I wanted to texture the stake because I jut prefer that there be hammer marks all over it. Unfortunately because of the make of my forge, I couldn’t get the metal in the middle close enough to the fire to heat it. No matter, we manipulate metal, right? With the good ol’ grinder, Mike has now made another forge modification to allow ease of heating all lengths of metals (Hey, it’s a work in progress.), but it will be next weekend before I can finish the stake. Oh well, serious progress was made…and no one got burned.

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