Turbo with his assortment of forged nails and leaves - lesson 1

Turbo with his assortment of forged nails and leaves – lesson 1

For his most recent birthday, His Nerdness (TurboNerd - aka my partner, Bruce) asked to do a blacksmithing course. After lining up all the options for learning blacksmithing in Seattle we both enrolled at the Pratt Fine Arts Center on a 6 week Monday night course, which we finished just before the holidays. If you know me you know that I’m not much into hammering metal, so this was a challenge, that especially in the week before, I was not relishing the prospect of.

Yet I actually had a good time, a great time in fact. As Monday rolls around again I’m feeling kinda wistful that I won’t be back at Pratt, standing in the freezing cold next to a hot fire getting ready to hit some metal. Hard.

It turns out that once you know what you’re doing, four hours of whacking metal can be a breeze. The shakes and aches that followed the first couple of sessions will give way to small gains in strength in the shoulders and arms, making the task more achievable, and enjoyable.

Pratt's smithing studio - the half where I spent my time on the anvil.

Pratt’s smithing studio – the half where I spent my time on the anvil.

On the final night I walked into the studio knowing that I had a half-finished ‘art deco’ style (never in my studies of deco has such a smithed ornamentation passed before my eyes, but who am I to question the northwest blacksmithing community?) ornamented staff in the cupboard awaiting me. I had also been racking my brain all week as to how I could smith a Christmas tree. (On a side-note, it has been a point of pride that Turbo and I have only once had a real Xmas tree over the years – which was last year when we were living the ‘authentic’ local experience and yes, the scent of Douglas Fir is pretty amazing, as is the needle droppage. We’ve celebrated Xmas over an assortment of foliage both ‘real’ and ‘fake’ including a token poinsettia, trees fashioned from copper wire then beaded in different hues of green, folded paper and a carefully decorated cushion bush.)

Some may see a trivet and a coil - I saw a tree in potentia!

Some may see a riveted trivet and an unfinished coil – I saw a tree in potentia!

Then I had a brain wave. The staff was made by coiling round steel, and if I sprung it open vertically instead of growing it out horizontally for the ornament I was supposed to be making I figured it would easily make a tree! I asked Andy, our teacher if it was possible to ‘grow’ myself a tree out of this coil and he said a flat out “No.” I refrained from explaining it further as I figured proof could arrive in the dessert course – with the (plum) pudding. I went back to whacking my coil. Soon after Andy came up to me and said “Oh, you mean pulling it out that way.”- whilst moving his hands. “Well, sure. I stand corrected!” He then went off to find a conical die over which to form my tree.

Me Tree!

Me Tree! (perhaps I could have dispensed with the photo documentation and concentrated on removing the fire scale from the tree?)

Eventually after a lot more whacking and a bit of help from Andy my tree was formed. Over Christmas it sat topped by a koala on the coffee table.  It’s a little on the small side for ornaments – especially the rainbow of paper ornaments I made out of paper for our first ‘real tree’ last year, but as an ornamental tree I think it’s doing just fine.

Happy Holidays ya’ll. Hope your tree stands (or stood) tall!

 

... and a Koala up a steel tree!

… and a Koala up a steel tree!

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Tags: 2013, Christmas, blacksmithing, crafthaus, firescale, holidays, jewellery, koala, ornament, tree

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