Not Meant to Be: Trying My Hand At Metalsmithing
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me Ruining a Perfectly Good Piece of Steel -- Otsu, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Zachary Braverman
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 3200 — map & image datanearby photos
me
Ruining a Perfectly Good Piece of Steel

During our visit to Pierre Nadeau's smithy in the middle of nowhere of Japan's Wakayama Prefecture, Pierre let me have a go at smithing. He normally makes Japanese swords, but set the bar a little lower for my first try.

He grabbed a length of #3 rebar, which is round with pronounced ridges all along, and told me to square it. The instructions were as simple as the task: put the part you'll work on into the center of the forge and turn on the forge blower. Once the thing is red hot (but before it gets white hot), take it out, hold it at 90° to the anvil, and pound for all you're worth until it cools. Then repeat.

Once I said I understood, he said “okay, call me when you're done”, then he went off to work on the cold forging I posted about last month.

Zak kindly took photos with my camera.

Getting Fired up -- Otsu, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Zachary Braverman
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Fired up
Lots of Pounding -- Otsu, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Zachary Braverman
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Lots of Pounding
More Heat -- Otsu, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Zachary Braverman
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
More Heat
More Pounding -- Otsu, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Zachary Braverman
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 cropped — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
More Pounding

I'd like to say that I was a smashing success, but I was pathetic. I'd pull the glowing bar from the fire and start pounding it flat on top, only to see it inexplicably deform to the side. Inexplicably. You can't explain that. So, I'd turn it on its side to pound out the deformation, only to see it deform further, in all three dimensions and perhaps a few I can't number. Trying to get the steel to act the way it was supposed to was like trying to herd cats, while blind. In a downpour. At night.

“How hard can it be?” I kept thinking, believing that I'd eventually get the hang of it. To his credit, Pierre refrained from laughing at me, mostly.

Furthermore, I now understood why Pierre had given me a choice between a light hammer and a lighter hammer. I scoffed at them both, taking the heavier of the two. It was very light, and I could swing deftly without the slightest bit of effort. At least at the beginning. My right arm was screaming a different tune after hundreds of swings. Of course, I kept a nonchalant tough-man attitude that I'm sure was most convincing.

In the end I should have had a nice square rod ending with a curved hook, but I ended up with something with the general shape and appeal of a snake that had been run over on the highway.

In private shame I laid down the hammer and the newly-minted junk I had just crafted, and retrieved my camera from Zak....

Now Haunted by my stunning display of ineptitude -- Aridagawa, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm — 1/50 sec, f/2.8, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Now Haunted
by my stunning display of ineptitude

While I was there, I took this shot of the automatic-pounder thing that I'd mentioned in the earlier posts, from the user's perspective. It was very dark, all the more because of the strongly-backlit situation, but after futzing around with it in Lightroom, I end up with a gritty industrial feeling that seems appropriate to a 100-year-old smithy...

Aridagawa, Wakayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm — 1/50 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos

One comment so far...

How are you able to hold the hot rebar without hand protection? Does it not conduct heat?

It conducts very little heat in the short time it’s being worked on… it was not an issue at all. —Jeffrey

— comment by James on June 7th, 2011 at 12:15am JST (6 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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