What I didn’t know

When I decided I wanted to become a blacksmith, I began with cycling around town and asking actual blacksmiths questions that I thought would give me a hint about what life at the forge feels like. It was a very good idea, and I am glad I did it. But of course with actual experience of 6 hours I had no chance of asking ALL the right questions. Here are some of the answers I didn’t receive.

Blacksmithing is not a job for people who value their skin too much. Unless you intend to constantly work in gloves, which will be uncomfortable, make you less precise and give you that special feeling of swimming in your own sweat, you will be exposed to scale falling off the metal, bits of burning coal flying around and occasional “oh fuck I thought this was cold” moments when you grab something that’s no longer red hot but quite hot enough to give you a nasty burn. Having said that, it’s better to grab something red hot than black hot, because at temperature of 600 Celsius the wound will immediately clean and cauterise itself, and at 200 it won’t.

Good advice I read on Facebook recently: when you get a burn, immediately stick the body part affected (unless it’s your nose, then maybe not) into your water tank and proceed to hold it in there for 10 minutes. The heat has to go. If it doesn’t, it stays in your body and continues to do harm. This is not medical advice, this is advice coming from a blacksmith with years of experience (not me obviously) and I am willing to follow it next time I get a bad burn. Small burns — you grunt, growl, mutter “fuck” under your breath, then go on. If you find the idea of heat and pain terrifying, avoid blacksmithing.

Do not stare into the fire. I love fire, and I find it hypnotic and beautiful. After a while of staring at it — especially at forge welding temperatures, when heat gets white — I started noticing an odd problem with my eyesight. A bit as if I had a small object constantly in front of my left eye, obscuring part of the vision. I had tests done which showed nothing. The doctors were of the opinion my eyesight is perfect (well, other than wearing lenses). Well, seeing through my own eyes I could confirm exclusively that it wasn’t. It took me a bit longer to understand that fire was the problem. Don’t stare at it, same as you don’t stare into the sun or at the hands of a welder. Fortunately after a few months my eyesight is ALMOST back to normal.


You learn very gradually. In my head somehow I had this vision that I study for, say, 3 years, then one day I wake up and I am a blacksmith ready to begin professional work. Er, no. After a month I knew much more than before that. After three months I knew more than two months earlier. After a year things that used to perplex me became easy enough that I could discover a whole new range of things to perplex me. I am nearing three years, and things that used to confuse the hell out of me two years ago couldn’t possibly be easier, yet there are still things I just don’t get. I bought myself a book about making animal heads, which is invaluable, fantastic, crap and terribly made, by which I mean photographs have the amazing quality of third xerox copy and descriptions assume you’re a professional that doesn’t need any more advice than “with the small half round chisel, form the lower lip”. I am proud to say I understand that sentence and know what to do with it. But if you are a beginner, you don’t know what a chisel is, what does small mean and how does half round apply to whatever a chisel is. You probably know what a lower lip is. And this is okay. It honestly took me months to remember the difference between a punch and a drift and even longer to be able to identify tool steel from mild steel — maybe I’m a slow thinker. But once you learn those things, you don’t unlearn them, you discover new ones that you need to learn. Like with any art, you improve with each completed (or not) piece of work.

Blacksmithing is hard work. By now I am over the “OMG FORGE” period, over the “this is so hard I will never learn” period and I entered the loving relationship where we order Indian food over and watch TV together period. Sex isn’t as good as it was in the first weeks when I couldn’t keep my hands off that hammer (do you still follow my metaphor?) but we’ve learned what the other one likes best and know how to drive each other crazy — even if breakfast comes above sex on the list of priorities. By all this sex talk I mean I now know for sure I am not quitting this job. It doesn’t bore me; it doesn’t matter that occasionally I get burns; it doesn’t matter that occasionally I just get bloody frustrated, drown in my own sweat, break a thing that required just that one last heat (and that actually didn’t really require it, I was just being a bloody perfectionist). Once you stop the romantic bullshit of a medieval blacksmith in a leather apron (I hardly ever wear that bloody apron) you find out that it’s a job like any other — except, if you are like me, it isn’t a job like any other, it is THE ONE. And again, like with the person you get married to, it will piss you off sometimes, you’ll have good days and bad days, you’ll want to throw it all away and leave, but you never do because it’s THE ONE. But, like with the person you get married to, you never know if it’s THE ONE unless you try.

Interview: Rory May (Part II)

Without further ado, here’s part II of my Rory May interview

Tell me about Dragon Forge. How many other people work there? What is your main type of work?
Dragon Forge LTD, http://dragonforgeltd.com, is my father’s company. He has built it for the past 30+ years. Most of the time it is just me and him. We hire other people at times and its always interesting who works out and who doesn’t. Dragon Forge LTD does high end, architectural iron work in the form of hardware, railings, lighting, fireplace doors, etc. Mostly in the ski areas of Colorado but this past year have been forging items and mailing them nationally. This company is my focus and where most of my energy goes into. I would not be able to do any of my side projects if it was not for Dragon Forge. That being said I do everything I can to help take care of it and make sure the presentation of the work is the best I can do.

What do you — personally — most enjoy about your job?
I love working with metal. There is a limit when we hit that 80 hour work week and I need to leave, but I typically only last 3 days until I start wanting to get back to it, back to that fire, the tools and forging. It is my soul food and I really don’t have hobbies because I enjoy the craft so much. Well fishing…I really like fishing…that’s the closest thing to a unrelated activity.

Your dog Axle is obviously a professional model, but what else can you tell me about him? Doesn’t he get scared of all that banging and grinding?


Axle is 5 years old. I bought him from a shelter across the highway from the shop. He figured out the rules quickly and has a couple places he is allowed to hang out in. For the most part he stays out of the way. We have a large 250lb Little Giant Power Hammer that he is not to fond of and he leaves when I turn it on. He is not a fan of canned air either…can’t say I blame him.

Dutch artist blacksmithing tradition is almost dead. Do you feel the American one is doing well (enough)?
I have the perception that the awareness of blacksmithing is pretty small and the national groups only advertise to other blacksmiths. The media has no clue we are here and unfortunately are OK with that. I do everything I can to demonstrate publicly, share on social media as much as possible and constantly inform and share information to the public. There are US smiths whom give themselves the title but are welders, which is frustrating and complicates the perception of the craft to the general public. So when it comes to work, and where I am, it seems that the term “blacksmithing” gets very blurry. I think it is doin alright in the states. I would love to see it do better as in other parts of the world. Participating in local art shows, there is a small underground scene near me that I attend when I can and of course the social media. Constantly I am sharing with my local media outlets any articles, video or anything related to me, Craig or Dragon Forge in hopes that an idea sparks over there. All of which contribute to sharing the craft of blacksmithing.

I’ve got two years of education/experience so far and I feel like I barely made my first steps. When did you first think of yourself “yeah, I’m a professional blacksmith now”?
It took a long time to change how I thought about being a professional blacksmith since I grew up in the forge. It was our lifestyle, it was what we did. There was a moment when I was speaking with a couple of smiths at a conference. The topic varied from blacksmithing techniques, running a business and marketing yourself. At that time I didn’t realize how much I had to say about those topics and was surprised that these grown men, ones I had idolized growing up since I was a kid, were so far off track of what I thought they were really doing. When I challenged their way of thinking and approach to modern day smithing is when it clicked that I had arrived to a level that went beyond where they were at.


Do you have a dream client/job that you would love to do?
Oh man….do I! The most common one would be hired to do a series of large sculptures for an establishment, like a golf course, and they have a budget that can support me for a very long time…ha!

You got married last year — congratulations! Does your wife also work with metal?
Thanks! She has come to the shop a few times and I have shown her what I do. So far she really enjoyed the day we did some copper fold forming. I get all excited when I see her forging and want her to continue. She just laughs and says I am cute.

Rory on Instagram: http://instagram.com/dirtysmith

Interview: Rory May (Part I)

Rory May of Dragon Forge LTD is one of my favourite blacksmiths. Not just because he makes fantastic stuff, but also because he finds and posts a lot of fantastic stuff that I greatly enjoy. His online presence is unmissable and his Dirty Smith fashion line (yes!) is my favourite choice of clothing. Also, he has wicked sense of humour. It was a no-brainer to pick him for my second ever interview with another blacksmith.


Without further delay, here comes part I…

Do you come from a family with blacksmithing traditions?
My fathers side has a line of farriers and ranch hands. Craig, my father, was the first to really break away from horseshoeing and get into architectural metal in his early 20s. My mothers side has no connection with forging at all.

How did you become a blacksmith?
Growing up I did not like babysitters and mom had an office job, which was boring to a 6 year old. So I hung out at the shop with my dad, Craig. When I was large enough to actually do something, probably 8 or 10, I started to play around and forge misc things. Nothing to complicated. The shop was also where you went if you got in trouble. Getting “grounded” was more than just a psychological experience but a physical one which included working with dad. When I was 12 Craig gave me an assignment, to forge a set of fireplace tools. He wanted me to write down all the steps before I started and then follow the directions. I fulfilled the project and he actually bought them from me. Fast forward to when I was 15 a friend and I “found” a dump truck and took it for a joyride along the lot. Long story short we ran over a shed. Later that night the police showed up at my house –they simply followed the horse tracks from the crime scene. That shed ended up costing a pretty penny and for the next 2 years I worked off my debt to my father in the shop. Little did I know at that moment this was the beginning. I graduated high school in 2000 with an associates degree in liberal arts and in 2002 went off to college at the Art Institute of Colorado.

I understand you have a different sort of education as well… what is it?
I have a bachelors degree in “Media Arts” which is really advertising and some Animation. I was a different kind of student in college; in that, I always attempted to make my assignments out of metal. That did not go over well at a college that was primarily focused on 2d material. The teachers were expecting projects to be done on construction paper and pipe cleaners. I showed up with a 15lb piece of steel wrapped in copper. When I graduated I was attempting to get a job as a conceptual artist for a video game company. The competition for such a job was ridiculous and most recent graduates were willing to work for nothing. I did get offered a job animating children educational videos for $25k a year, which after a brief moment of a deep thought, I thanked them for the consideration. Later that week I sat down with my dad and we discussed future plans as well as Dragon Forge LTD. He offered me a partnership with the promise of more responsibility. I added to his list that I wanted to take over their marketing and branding, which encompassed everything from photography, brochures and most of all the website.

Tell me your biggest secret (I assume) — how do you come up with those amazing quotes, designs, ideas for t-shirts and stickers? I’m jealous about your creativity! You’re hands down the most social media-savvy blacksmith I met so far.
Haahaaa! Well I am glad someone likes them! I have a large dry erase board at the shop. If something comes to mind while I am working I will draw it down quickly and come back to it later. Most of my ideas come while I am working. Its odd thing to be forging and out of no where an idea creeps up and starts growing. I have read that this occurs when people are mediating and their minds are focused on only the present. To me when I am forging that is exactly that, a mediation of technique and process of the now. Sorry if we went a little off track there…

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I use social media to get feed back but do it a subtle way. If you see me post a blacksmithing line that is different or funny, typically I’m fishing and seeing how it does. I am pretty engulfed in the craft and not only working the long days, I am constantly checking out what other smiths are doing. I try to keep a heart beat on whats trendy and what people are sharing if its in the form of memes, pop culture topics, etc and at times attempt to marry the two topic of blacksmithing and pop culture.

This is of course related. How and when did you come up with Dirty Smith trademark?
I really don’t know how the name came up. I do remember thinking about it and seeing if the URL was available and surprisingly it was. So I registered it and Dirty Smith started to slowly grow from a fun name, making some fun blacksmithy swag, to appealing to a world wide market of incredible people that we all share something in common, blacksmithing / metal work. I think it is incredible and love the connections I have made and given back to the craft in the form of awareness.  Currently I am in the works of doing a video blog for Dirty Smith, The Dirty Smith Show –real original I know… But hope to answer common questions maybe some short tutorials.  I plan to keep it strictly about the craft and any personal questions about myself, Dragon Forge and dirty smith.


Next week: part II, in which Rory tells us more about Dragon Forge LTD, his dog Axle (future dog supermodel) and his dream client.

Shorts (March/April 2014)

Time for some shorts!

  • Edward Tufte’s Sculpture Forgings — I don’t even know why, but I adore the main artwork on this page. It’s sort of very simple but at the same time gorgeously elaborate. The page also includes video.

An interview with a very cool American gentleman coming up next!

Mister B sculpture (part 2)

In the last episode we finished with a pre-cut ring. It was now time to drill holes in a steel ball made of unknown type of steel (well, shiny). It proved to be enormous fun. You can probably imagine how enjoyable it is when you attempt to hold a metal ball really tight, BUT without scratching it, and then drill symmetrical holes on both sides exactly in the centre.

One of the holes already existed, which made it slightly easier for me, but it was very tiny and had to be expanded anyway. And that was when I discovered the metal drills weren’t quite cutting the, um, mustard. The steel this was made of obviously contained some additives — possibly to ensure the thread inside the original hole would be preserved for a long time. Whatever it was, it made drilling even more painful, and not in a pleasant fetishy kind of way.


To avoid welding, burning materials and doing other similar funny things, I put the “piercing” together in exactly the same way you would put an actual piercing together: squeezing the ball between the ends of the ring. But — would you believe? — making a 16 mm thick ring open up just a bit so the ball can get in is actually quite difficult. I ended up making a special “tool” out of wood, burning a round hole in the middle, so that it would hold the ball in place; then used a vice to push the ring, wrapped in a cloth, around the ball. After approximately 50 attempts I finally succeeded and was able to stop swearing for a bit.

I finally had all the main parts for the top of the sculpture, but still had to work on the base. I used a center punch to create the irregular logo shape (fortunately it was understood that I’m not going to be able to copy it super-precisely) and letter punches to add the text “20 YEARS – SINCE 1994″.


Next step was cutting the “poles” connecting the top and bottom parts, then welding all the bits together. Luckily it all went well and I managed to avoid having excess metal dripping all over the ring or the base. Sorry about the mess by the way.



The final part involved removing some of the excess weld and adding the finishing. Some of the beeswax/lint seed oil finish has already been in place on the wings, but of course melted away during the welding, so had to be reapplied. In quite large quantities as well, since it also acts as a separator between normal and stainless steel (to avoid rusting). I heated up the sculpture part by part, keeping the ring cool, and applied the wax.

To cut the long story short, the final recipient seemed quite happy with the result.



Aaaand this concludes the story of my Mister B sculpture :)

Among the forthcoming website updates you should expect an interview with the amazing Rory May; website redesign (once I sit down for long enough to do it); a Shorts post (I’ve got a whole list of things to post) and some information about my first weathervane (see progress pictures on Instagram). I’m also doing some modelling for an amazing photographer, Dorota Kozerska of Dandelion Studio, so there’ll be more beauty shots coming ;)

Mister B sculpture (part 1)

I have been asked to work on a commemorative piece for the twentieth anniversary of Amsterdam’s best known fetish brand, Mister B. A store started by an unemployed guy living in what he described as “a floating shoebox” now has shops in Berlin and Warsaw in addition to Amsterdam, and is one of the best known fetish-related brands in the world.

The idea I came up with was to take the logo — pierced angel wings — and turn it into a three-dimensional version. The client asked me rather than a goldsmith or someone that would laser-cut a perfect etching on a gold plate because they felt the store’s image was more rough and brutal than clean and pretty. This influenced my choice of finishing and work techniques — but I’m jumping ahead of myself here.

First I produced visualisations using the Illustrator format logo. Frankly speaking I only didn’t draw because it took less time to use the Illustrator files and make those instead.



This was approved and I began work.

Something that troubled me was very easily solved. I wondered how am I going to produce a nice replica of the piercing. Turned out that the store sells, among many other things, massive stainless steel rings and steel balls (don’t ask what they are used for unless you’re ready to hear the answer). This only left me with one problem — how to put those together, ideally without welding. But I was pretty sure that problem was easily solved (with help from Casper).

I began by gas-cutting shapes that would later become wings.


This was the fun part. The filing that followed was slightly less exciting.


While filing and grinding in the lines I decided to also do a finishing test. I heated the wing up just this tiny bit too much and applied beeswax with lint seed oil to it. I was going for the temperature that actually burns the wax just a bit, leaving it as dirty and black as possible. When the wing burst out in flames twice I knew I got it just right.



Here are the two wings.

At this moment I had a few more conceptual problems left. First was: how do I cut the hole for the piercing? If I cut exactly the size that the ring was, I’d end up with the ring sticking out at 90 degree angle, which was definitely not what the logo shows (but then, the logo is a drawing, so it can show anything regardless of whether that is actually possible in 3D). If I cut a big gaping hole, I might end up with something that just looks ugly. Also, stainless and non-stainless steel shouldn’t really contact, but how do I avoid that?

The hole problem was solving by making two smaller holes and turning them into larger, vertically-shaped ones. This allowed the ring to go up and down but not left and right. I made the holes the size that when the wings were at 45 degree angle the ring was horizontal (so the ring and the wings created a 45 degree angle as well). Now, though, I just had to stick the ring in and follow with the ball.

Cutting the ring was terrifying to be honest, because those things aren’t cheap and I really didn’t want to ruin it. I needed to cut just enough and not too much to create a piercing shape. I decided to avoid welding and try to insert the ball exactly the same way it would be done in a real piercing: drill rounded holes in the ball, round up the ends of the ring and push the ball using force between the ring ends.


The ring was, well, round, which made it pain in the ass trying to get it to stay on the table, not ruining its smoothness and also making sure that the stainless steel doesn’t turn blue or brown from grinding (temperature changes the colour of the steel semi-permanently). Fortunately I managed, although it’s good you couldn’t hear me swearing in Polish while I was doing that. I thought the difficult part was over. Little did I know that it was only beginning…

Part 2 will follow in a few days, including finished work photos. If you can’t wait, check out my Facebook!

Two years!

It’s been more than two years now since that first workshop in Kampen and my life has changed enormously.

I have done things I would have never dreamt of doing and made things I would have never dreamt of making. I’ve made a chair. I’ve made a hanging lamp (not hanging yet due to my laziness — needs finishing). I haven’t updated the blog much, because I’ve been busy actually doing things.


I still suffer from my long-term illness; I always will. Blacksmithing has been the best cure I have found. It keeps me happy, occupied and gives me an amazing feeling of accomplishing amazing things. I am slowly starting to think about how to start a forge of my own — probably not very soon, but it is now a very realistic perspective within a few years rather than an impossible dream. And in 2011, when I saw a blacksmith for the first time, it wasn’t even a dream. It was just a “whoa”. Then when I did my first one-day workshop it turned into instant obsession.

Now there are times when it’s work. Those times come when it’s a particularly hot day and I have 14 rivets to make. (I know it’s possible to buy those, but I figured out I might as well learn first, buy later.) It’s not really possible to be excited while making 14 identical parts that can be a bitch when it comes to keeping them nice, round and centred. There are times when I am trying to make something really, really flat using my anvil which is not really, really flat and I just get frustrated because to hell with it. There are times when I get a particularly nasty burn. Yet I still go home, arrive there, collapse on the sofa and wonder why am I tired after a day of having amazing fun and think I should do some work now.

Plans for 2014 include: more paying customers! I have a few now and it feels pretty brilliant to be honest. There are people who want to give me actual money for what I make! (Not a lot of money — let’s say it’s not going to pay a mortgage QUITE yet — but it’s got like a zero here and there and covers the costs of me being at the forge, coal, steel etc.) I’d love to design and build my first gate for someone. Or start modestly by making a table. At the same time I want to make more art, because it’s, well, great fun. I’ve made some small plants, I’d love to make a big ass one. I love making tools — and the goal is that within a year I have a complete set of all tools, all of them self-made. So I am unlikely to get bored anytime soon.

Another plan is a major revamp of this website. Since I now have some stuff to show, I will be adding a gallery section. I will also be redesigning the whole thing — it does look a bit 2008 — and giving less prominence to the permanently unupdated blog and more to Instagram and Facebook where you can find me much more often. But most of all the plan for 2014 is… go on. Keep on keeping on. Strike that iron while it’s hot. Because that’s what we blacksmiths do. Blogging, designing websites and posting stuff on Instagram is a bonus.

I leave you with this song, a seasonal greeting and a Happy New Year!

Some updates

I haven’t been around for a while [what’s new — Ed.] largely because the forge has closed for a few weeks of vacation, but I am back now, and I resume work next Monday. Can’t wait to get new burns, cuts and drop heavy objects on my toes! (In other news, I am a strange person.)

In the meantime I have visited a blacksmithing festival in Wojciechów, Poland. I stood again in front of the forge where I took my initial course last year, and I shook the hand of the master blacksmith who owns the forge. I watched (and filmed hands of) a group of master blacksmiths with their apprentices working on competition pieces, and I saw demonstrations of bladesmithing (not very exciting — nothing I didn’t know yet) and traditional method bronze casting (super exciting — the demonstrator was wearing period clothes, using hand bellows, and the quality of the finished piece was nothing short of amazing). I spoke to a few very cool people and ate an awful lot of delicious food. I want to go again, and — more importantly — I want to cast bronze myself now!


Find an image gallery on my Facebook.

In the meantime, I have been learning basics of drawing, and I swear that it’s harder than the forging itself. Not because I find drawing so difficult — not at all. I seem to be rather talented and it comes to me quickly and naturally. Unfortunately though, “quickly and naturally” is a relative thing. And I find drawing as exciting as I once found playing guitar. By which I mean “not at all”. I am not a very patient person when it comes to learning things that don’t excite me. Welding excites me enough for me to sit on my sweaty ass, swear repeatedly and make more and more terrible welds hoping that one day they’ll become less terrible. Drawing just makes me… want to do something else. I haven’t quite found a solution for this yet.

In the coming weeks I have three things to make. A chain connector for a friend (this should be easy and quick), a warthog-shaped iPad stand (I now have an idea how to do it, but I need to… ahhh… draw it) and a weathervane (I have no idea yet what it will look like, but I’m done with the research). Irregular updates will be posted in due course.

As time goes by

Funny how time flies when you’re having fun: without me even noticing I have reached almost 18 months of practice as a blacksmithing student. I am out of the love affair period where sweeping the forge is superbly exciting because OMG FORGE and I have entered the long-term relationship period where we sometimes quarrel about who’s going to do the dishes and we order Chinese food in.

I don’t want to use any cliches along the lines of “and what a journey it has been” but it bloody has. I have learned a lot and practiced a lot; I produced my first commissioned piece, I started learning to draw (more work to be done there, I admit), I learned a bit of welding and got quite a few burns on my hands. And blacksmithing turned out to be different from what I expected it to be in many ways, as I discover now.

To begin with, it is much less muscular work and much more intellectual than I imagined. It also requires more precision, which I am not terribly good at, it turns out. I’m an impatient barbarian sometimes, and I just want to brutally hit things with a hammer, which Casper generally allows me to do for a bit before pointing out “this could be done in 1/10th of the time you spent by using this simple trick”. Which might have occurred to me had I not been busy acting like a little boy in the toy store.

Multi-part objects require careful planning. You have to measure every part, both on its own and in relation to other parts. You also have to plan in which order to do things. This can, I guess, only be learned by experience. I was working on a tulip recently, simply because I now feel confident enough to do new things, and I didn’t plan it carefully enough, because I feel over-confident I suppose. I ended up making something which was a very failed tulip (see below) because of my bad planning. Who knew this wasn’t just about brute force and getting really dirty?

(I’m going to re-do the top part.)

I worried at the beginning that perhaps I’d get bored of the work as time goes by, or I’d contract an injury of some sort, or I’d prove to be too weak to perform it. None of those have happened. What I mean with the long-term relationship joke I made before is: this no longer feels like incredible excitement every time. Sometimes it’s just work. And it can be hard, demanding, irritating work that doesn’t give results as quickly and with as high quality as I’d like. It’s still incredibly rewarding work. But it’s work. And that in a way is the biggest discovery of all. Even though all of it remains my biggest passion ever, it can also mean I arrive home tired, irritated because I burned something, and all I want is to plop my ass on the sofa and be served dinner.

The future is getting more experience. I feel it is time to make a proper big piece next; maybe I can try to document the process every week or two instead of, like now, posting every few months. (Apols.) I’m thinking of a chair, or a bed. With all the abilities I now have it is almost mindblowing how much I feel capable of doing. And that mindblowingness brings along a bit of mental block; it’s scary to think of the… responsibility I have been given. After all, blacksmith is the only professional who works with all four elements, and if you add welding to the equation it truly feels like I’ve been given divine powers.

In the nearer future, I will be redesigning this website very soon. I have also opened my very own Zazzle store with mugs, t-shirts, mousepads and playing cards, and next in line is an Etsy store with items I forged, some of them featured on this blog already. And this is the final surprise, which I realised a while ago already: yes, it takes 2-3 years to become a proper professional blacksmith, but it doesn’t mean that for 1 year and 364 days you are entirely useless and then one day you wake up and you’re perfect. I’m perfection in the making, and possibly I always will be. ;)

Crown (Part II)

I finished part I with all three elements of my crown nicely placed next to each other on the table. (Well I actually finished with a promise to post every week and look how well that went, but we won’t get into that.) Next turn was putting them together, which was done using brazing.

Brazing (in this particular case) is a process of connecting pieces of steel using melted brass. Brass comes in form of long, thin rods; the steel is heated up to red heat, and then the melted metal from rods is applied. The metal is generally “sucked” towards the direction where heat is, therefore the steel has to be cleaned up before starting the process and then heated up from all directions including bottom to ensure that brass penetrates and holds pieces together via capillary action. Here’s what it looks like when it’s done.

The pieces are held together using clamps, which also have to clamp the whole thing to the table. While heating up the pieces, you obviously don’t want to heat the clamps, especially the painted bits. This is just as comfortable as it sounds and I was very happy to have Casper’s help available. But let’s not think this was the last hard bit, because what comes next is bending, and now while bending we can’t heat up the steel too close to brass — because brass melts at much lower temperature. ARGH. I will freely admit this was a scary bit, but it went fine too.

Note the front is flat. That is because the bending was nowhere near finished yet at that point. There was no point bending the crown without having properly measured Weary’s head. By Casper’s suggestion, I first measured (more or less) the width and length looking at my model from the top; then I drew a (more or less) sketch on carton; then I cut it out and proceeded to adjust it while putting it over the top of Weary’s head. And then I prayed to Thor that this works indeed as deadline was approaching.

One more thing that had to be done and taken into consideration was the fact human heads have this flaw where they are not made of metal and as a result you can’t put a metal crown on them and expect the skin to escape unscathed. Therefore we added a layer of thick felt, which was glued inside the crown. And while the glue was working its magic, the crown looked quite… un-regal.

After a dress rehearsal… I mean trying it on we found out that the method has worked! The crown fitted Weary’s head and so he was ready for his crowning a few days later. But first, I had to do the finishing, which consisted of shiny black W, shiny silver edges and shiny red insides. Generally, crowns are kind of expected to be shiny.

It was the first proper blacksmithing job I had, and it was great fun to do. The scariest bits provided the most lessons, so they were definitely worth it. And I can now go ’round town and tell people I have made an actual crown, and I don’t mean a dental one. You can like the life you’re living, you can live the life you like!