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Wednesday, February 05, 2003

For this week’s writer’s group we had to do a piece where we described something with all five sense: Touch, Taste, Smell, Sound and Sight. My first thought was to describe a woman using all these senses, however, that piece quickly degenerated into the fair of a Bawdy Romance Novel.

What follows is my second attempt (Which, quickly degenerates into my standard conversational style, go figure!)

Welcome to my blacksmith shop!

Well, ok, it's not a shop, it's just my garage, but. this is where I do my smithing.


The door likes to announce my arrival with its very own protesting fanfare it seems!

Here, give me a hand with my forge, won't you? Errrrrggggg, don't worry if the legs drag a little. How on earth this thing was ever considered portable I'll never know! It must be well over a hundred years old, look how deeply rust pitted the surface of the cast iron bowl is. I love the rough feeling of the cold metal under my fingers.

Now, originally this baby had a pump arm that spun the fan with a rack and pinion system, but the rack shattered on me a few years back. That's what all these bicycle parts about, I've basically created a 1 to 6 advantage for turning the flywheel, which in turn has a 1 to 20 advantage when it spins the fan. Let's see… doing the math, carry the 1, that's about 120 turns of the fan for every time I turn this old bicycle pedal. Ya, it's pretty sticky, half-melted duct tape will do that!

Haul those pails over, one of them is sweet coal and the other is coke. Coke is basically coal that's been burnt for a while to remove the impurities so that it's pure carbon now, noticed how crackled and brittle it is? The main body of the fire will be pure coke and we'll pack sweet coal over it, which will turn into coke for next time.

What happens to the impurities? Well they turn into clinker, which usually ends up clogging the grate that the fan blows through. Here's a piece, see how it's oddly sharp in some places, but glassy smooth in the others? Now watch what happens when I drop it… ya, it clicks against the metal, that's why it's called clinker.

Ok, before we light the fire, you'll need some safety equipment, do you know how to put in the ear plugs? Ya, squish them and they will expand in your ears, feels weird HUH? Now, since your just watching, all you need is this simple dust mask. I'll be wearing this larger mask with the filters, ya see, the trouble with coal is that it contains silicates, which are pretty much little tiny razor blades. They'll cut your lungs to ribbons, which in turns causes scar tissue to form. You're heard of the infamous black lung? Ya, well, that's how you get it.

I'm also going to put on these Didymium safety glasses. No, they're not like standard welding glasses… Well, first of all, you want to protect your eyes from any metal particles. The last thing you want in your eyes is rusty iron. The second thing is that steel gives off both infrared and ultraviolet radiation when it's heated to working temperatures. It'll cook your eyes right in your head without the proper sort of protection. That's where the didymium comes in, protects your eyes against both kinds of radiation.

Ya, it does make the world a little rose coloured, maybe that's why I like being in my shop so much. And yes, I know that I look and sound like Darth Vader.

Ok, time to fire things up, before you cover your nose, just give the coal a little sniff. Sweet eh? Ya, that's why the call in sweet coal, you'll notice just how sweet it is once we've got it lit. Technically it's called bituminous or soft coal, which is different that what your grandpappy used to keep his house warm. That was hard coal, or Anthracite, which isn't any good for forge work.

First we're going to start a little wood fire with that kindling, stand over here, so that that smoke doesn't blow in your eyes. That's another difference, the coal smoke won't sting your eyes like wood smoke.

Warm huh? You ain't seen nothing yet! Once we get the coke burning the fire will be well over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that the kindling is going, we'll stack on the coke, then after that, we'll encase the whole thing in the unburned coal. Grab that bucket of water and ladle, please? Thanks!

Ok, watch out! She's going to blow off some good steam when I pour the water on the coal. Nope, nope, it won't put out the fire and it'll help the coal solidify into coke.

Sizzles pretty good eh?

Keep the fan turning slowly, that's what you're here for, boy. Pretty quiet for being over a century old, eh? Just a quiet whirrrrrrrr…

Well, that should be plenty hot, I'll just poke open a side so we can have a look. Oh yaaaaaa, now that is sweeee-eet, see how all the kindling has burned away? Leaving us a perfect little oven of burning coke, that's just about perfect.

Unfortunately we can't get a really large fire going in this old portable, so it's not very good for bladework, but it should be sufficient for what we have in mind. Can't really complain though, the portable was free, nowadays you could easily spend a couple of grand on a large forge, just a wee bit out of my price range.

Doesn't that smoke smell sweet? I could practically drink it in, it smells so tastyt!

Now comes the fun part! A Chunk of Mild Steel! A 50 kilo Czechoslovakian anvil! A 1 kilo German Cross-pean hammer and a pair of vicegrips. Ok, the vicegrips are cheating a little, but I still haven't found a good set of thongs.

How do I know it's mild steel? Lemme show ya, this'll be a little noisy mind…. Just flick on the grinder for a minute, now watch this… See those sparks and how they have a single head? That's the carbon burning as the steel is ground, if it had a higher carbon content, the sparks would have double or even triple heads, kind of like those fireworks that go off in succession.

Ok, enough of that noise, it's time to make a real racket! Those plugs in good and tight? Exxxxxxcellent!

Now, what we have here is a modern anvil, like I said, straight from Czechoslovakia and no, I didn't carry it all the way here on my back.

In the old days, anvils were just heavy, specially shaped chunks of metal, nowadays they are created much more scientifically. Listen to this…


Friggin loud eh? Ya, that's the secret, did you see how high my hammer jumped when I struck it? Ya, this type of anvil actually returns some of the energy that you invest in your downward stroke. Hehe, in fact, that last one just about pulled the hammer right out of my hand, teach me to show off to the youngsters!

In the old days the hammer would have just hit the anvil with a dull thunk and stayed put, meaning you'd have to lift the hammer all the way back up before your next stroke. Try it the next time you find an old anvil at an action, just don't let Norm catch ya messin' with the merchandise!

Those? Well, the square hole is a hardy and the round hole is a prictal, they each hold different kinds of bending and cutting tools. You'll also notice that this anvil has two horns, which is better for shaping armour.

What's that? Oh, that's an old magnet from a speaker, it sticks to the side of the anvil and helps to absorb some of the noise, that's right, it would have been even louder without it!

Back to business!

We'll put the steel inside the mound, the placement is actually pretty important, too high and the steel will lose carbon, too low and it will gain carbon, you have to get it right in the middle, in the neutral layer.

Now turn the fan a little faster, we want to get things nice and hot, oooooooo, look at that coke glow!

Everything in metalworking is colour, from tempering to identifying the correct temperature for working the metal.

If you try and hammer steel when its too cold you won't get anywhere, too hot and you're literally burn the carbon right out of it. Yups, just like a big ol sparkler, except for your watching your precious work burn and crumble to dust.

Ooooooo Oooooooo I think she's just about there! Yes, take a look at that glow! Just as it turns a bright yellow, about 2300 hundred degrees, perfect working temperature for mild steel. If this was a high carbon steel, it would have to be a bit cooler, more like a dull orange, closer to 1800 degrees, depending on the kind of steel.

Watch what happens when I pull it out and start working it…

CLANG! Clang! CLANG! Clang!

See how fast it begins to lose colour? And that flaky material? That's fire scale, basically a small amount of carbon that burns off each time you heat the steel. You'll notice a pretty pile of it on the floor and stuck to the magnet, since it also contains enough iron to make it magnetic.

They say that if you let it build up on your workshop floor and keep it wet that it will eventually harden like concrete, I haven't been working long enough to find out if that's true or not.

Anyhow, that's why it's important to heat a project as little as possible, don't want to burn out all that carbon goodness!

Let's heat up this puppy again!

This time you can give the hammer whirl, just don't hit my hands or I'll have to… That's right, you git the picture!

You know the shape we're going for, just take it easy, remember to let the anvil do the lifting of the hammer.

Clang! Clang!

Not to shabby kid, Feels good, doesn't it? The weight of the hammer straining your muscles? Nothing better for workin' out your frustrations, I swear!

There, one more heating and we'll be done!

Now it's time for some ice water, don't forget to drink while your working, the heat'll dehydrate ya faster than the Sahara! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, tastes like it just melted off an artic glacier!


Voila! One perfect nail! You can give me a shout when you've got another nine hundred and ninety-nine done!

posted by Kusari 9:26 PM

Some quickies:

Ever wonder about the scale of the universe? Here's a neat little java demonstration called "Powers of 10".

And just for fun, here's the last couple of lines from a poem that I was given to read at tonight's writer's group, (from "Explanations of Love" by Carl Sandburg):

There are explanations of love in all languages and not one found wiser than this:

There is a place where love begins and a place where love ends - and love asks nothing.

Oh, and for some really amusing reading: The Adventures of John T Draper (AKA Captain Crunch).

Here's a very interesting alternate (special theory of) history website. (I met the very interesting and non-linear author at last week's meeting of the Sudbury's Writer's Guild.)

And last, but certainly not least, a neat web comic called "Demonology 101".

'Til Next Time, Kusari Out!

Oh, I was thrilled to note that the Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki website has been updated with several new panels!

posted by Kusari 9:06 PM

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