The 'Original' Creative Crafting Magazine written by Crafters, for Crafters

Creative Crafting magazine began in August/September 2009, when a group of crafting friends on the Creative Connections network decided that it would be a good idea to raise awareness of the crafting community. From this point they started work and the first issue of Creative Crafting was published in October 2009 and are still publishing today.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

GET IT HOT AND HIT IT!

Get it hot and hit it!
Written by Doug Miles
Published in issue 23, June 2013

 
I had already arranged a day off from work and found myself getting out of bed with a spring in my step because today would be the first day of a three day Blacksmithing course.  I admit that the primary reason for me going on a three Day Introduction to Blacksmithing Course is so I can write this review, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it! While it would be fair to say I am looking forward to the course, I still have some concerns; Will I be able to make something useful? What if I don’t like it, the review could be a tough one to write, then! So, taking my sandwiches, coffee and brand new leather apron, I head off to Westpoint Forge, just outside Exeter, to find out.

Westpoint Forge Premises, just outside Exeter on the A3052

I arrived at the specially fitted Westpoint Forge just before 9am on a cold February morning. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I walked into the warehouse style building to discover a room filled with blacksmithing tools, hammers, tongues and row of hearths with anvils.
Around the building were tables covered with various demonstration pieces. This place was clearly serious about what it did, it was a workshop and it would be my classroom for the next three days.


 Introductions are completed and the relevant Health and Safety warnings are issued, then we got down to business. There are seven of us and John, the teacher. John is descriptive and instructive, but there is no teacher that can replace practical experience, so before long we get busy actually making something. 
Our skillful and experienced teacher describes a basic principal of Blacksmithing, drawing down, the art of hammering out a solid to a point. We use this new skill on our first piece, to make a spiked end for our beer glass holder.



After we have all tackled this, the lesson continues with John demonstrating how to form a scroll end, a circle and a 90 degree bend. We all head back to our hearths and try to replicate what we have been shown.
The day continues in this format, instruction and demonstration followed by practical and we proceed to make our own versions of a toasting fork and a picture hook.

 John is always on hand to guide us with as much (or as little) help as we ask for. By the end of Day One I am tired, but quite surprised that I have been able to create three pieces of work to an acceptable standard. I have learnt drawing down, hot cutting, forming a twist and punching a hole. Above all, I am relieved that I was able to make something and I liked doing it. On my way home I realise I can’t wait to come back tomorrow.




The bracket comprises a ‘Flat back’, a ‘Support Bar’, with ‘Hook End’, a ‘Curved Brace’ and a ‘Collar’. This is an excellent way to experience many of the skills required to make a wide range of ironwork.
The work is hard and a key point I learnt today was that I had to hit the metal much harder, while still being accurate.It is much easier to get it right the first time than to have to correct a mistake that is made due to rushing. My mistake (lesson), today was the one about not allowing beautifully curled thin ends of a Fleur-de-Lis to get too hot in the fire and burn off!


By the end of the third day we have all made the component parts for our brackets, mine includes a fish-tail scroll and a decorative leaf.



 Now John shows us the final step, shaping and fitting a collar. This (along with the tenon joint and the rivet) pulls the disparate metal shapes into one completed piece and with it I suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of achievement.

  We are all comparing work as we have throughout the course, picking up pointers from each other and wishing our work was as good as the next persons
.


My back bracket and support bar, before assembly
 The truth is, we have all learned a lot. I am intensely proud of the skills this course has taught me and I think the other students are too. I am aware that there is much more to it and that my paltry four items are just the tip of the iceberg, however this course has not just given me some new skills, it has provided me with a new ambition.

  I want to keep doing this, I want to embrace the idea that almost any bit of scrap metal can be re-worked into something useful, I want to create using metal.




   I am already planning a small hearth in my back garden, I won’t be spending a lot of money on it, I hope I can get it working for nearly no financial outlay, this will give me a chance to practice and hopefully improve the techniques I have been shown. Perhaps one day I will move up to a bigger hearth and may even make some money doing this?

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
Barry, Steve, Sue, Anthony, John, Andrew and Chris
I can wholeheartedly recommend this course to anyone who has an interest in working with metal. If you choose this, or one of the many courses offered by the Blacksmiths Guild, you will definitely learn something that you can use, but there’s more to it than that. Maybe you will find a new joy in your life, maybe you will open your eyes to a craft that has played a part in the formation of our culture, because Blacksmithing is not just “get it hot and hit it”, it is a way of thinking. Planning, designing, accuracy, skill and experience, but above all enjoyment, are the core components that make any craft.
  I am determined now to make blacksmithing part of my life and in that way, this course has changed my life and maybe the lives of the other students too.
Go on, give it a try.



If you feel like having a go at this, why not visit www.blacksmitsguild.com
You will find course availability and prices with a brief guide to what each course entails






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