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I Forge Iron

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I'd like this topic to be about the PHILOSOPHY of forging.I've been thinking of starting it for a while now(we even (loosely)discussed it with Gerald Boggs once,but never got around to doing it).The reason that it's here,vs the Gen.Discussion is that,as many of you know by now,i'm an annoyingly opinionated beast,and here i mean to base things on my own work,about which i want to say all sorts of mean,nasty,degrading things,without having to pussy-foot around someone else's feelings.
There are a number of things that i see as very important as far as FORGING is concerned.I've not the intellectual capacity to put it all in a streamlined train of thought,but hoping that at least a few will surface in the course of the discussion that i very much hope to see develop here.
Many here can,and do,put things out there that much better illustrate those hazy notions that crowd my pea-brain.One such person is John B.,and i'd like to once again thank him for the views expressed in this thread here,in particular :

To list a few things that i consider a MUST for any work that hopes to be considered as FORGED:

It must be forged...As in,NO factory stock visible,or even apparent.That is the whole point of forging for me.Now,i don't care if it was MiG'd,water-jetted,or cast in polymer,but it MUST appear forged.
There's a number of reasons for this.One is that as a craft,forging is under a lot of pressure to simply survive.So,using many of the "traditional"(loaded term)joinery technique one makes it difficult for the folks that fake forge-work for the mass-consumption market.

I'll think of other weird views by and by,but for now i'll post a couple of photos of recently completed candlestick.
My accompanying comments would be as follows:
Overall,i'd grade this about 5 or 6 out of 10.The main reason would be that it was a silly to create a straight/rectilinear design,and then intersect it with a clashing line out of art-deco,or wherever;inapropriate,and clashing.

One of the design ideas was to emphasise the weld-lines/seams:It succeeded beautifully!I was out of my skill level by a large %,and am lucky that the whole thing held together at all :)

So,true to form,the whole reflects my scatter-brained essence,not exactly something that i'd want to impose on a future owner of a,supposedly,decorative piece.

I do like some of the design elements,and will attempt to use them again,as i get better at it.I like how it worked out functionally,the thing is easy to adjust up and down and to rotate,and it stays there.So,as a practical item it didn't fail.

It's a couple of feet tall,assorted mild steel,my usual ninja-style technique,no swages or devices(too lazy to make any).Wood charcoal,as i'm too poor to afford coal any longer.The finish,as we say here in Alaska,"looks like it was made by a stoned hippie with a chainsaw".Appropriate for forge-work,however.20 hours.

So,getting back to the original idea.This is,even though it worked out poorly this time,the path to quality forge-work(for me,naturally):Where the method of manufacture,the joinery used in forging, determines the aesthetic.





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I think people blur the meaning of forging to make themselves feel better/validated. There are those who come from a welding background who think hot bending is all they ever need to know to do forge work. There are many people on here who just do this for fun this is just play for them. They do not have not a deep seeded quixotic need to make their art or show the world how iron should look. Honestly I think one should learn how to forge before they learn how to weld. Preferably 3 to 4 years experience before they pick up a Mig gun. There are those who come from a welding background who think hot bending is all they ever need to know to do forge work. They would never think to do a forge weld even if it were the fastest way. You have to make some hard choices if you are going to stick to the true path. Like dental care, home ownership, health insurance and high maintenance women. The vast gaping chasm of knowledge and experience takes years to acquire to get truly good. I grapple with these issues on a almost weekly basis. I have come to a comprise on this issue. I use techniques appropriate to the work and the job. Some jobs get forge welded and riveted some welded and ground. When there is time to do real forge work the customer wants it, pays for it and understands. I take the time to explain to them the differences, some metal workers just give up and assume customers don't care how you do it. One must push for what they want out of life or you will never get it. Last week I forged wrought iron all week, this week I polished an aluminum rail.

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So let me understand please. If it is to be true forging, then we must smelt our own iron? Or if we do forge something, we need to take a piece of commercially made steel and make it look as if we smelted our own iron? Or are we only to use recycled items that once came from a foundry? Or are gas forges not allowed to be considered for use in forging since they are fairly modern in relation to solid fuels? At what point in history do we go back to and say, "This is how it should be done."

Personally I have no real use for philosophy. But y'all keep it up, somebody has to do it. I reckon.

Too intense for me. I am but a budding hobby blacksmith learning as I go and selling some small things. Everybody has to start somewhere. I'm going to go outside and fire up some coal.

All deep thinking aside, I Think your candle holder looks great Jake, thanks for the pictures.

Mark <><

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Hi,guys,thanks for responding.I'm on lunch break,so will only answer very briefly,for now.(Southshoresmith,you've said much,i can't address it all right now,but sure would like to,point by an important point).

Mark!My point is extremely simple:
You are a hobby smith,great!What,initially,attracted you to the forged work?Castings?Carvings?Stone arrow points?No(forgive me for answering for you),chances are,it was the FORGED work that you found,and find,appealing!

Well,somebody,somewhere,FORGED that stuff.And i'd almost bet that you like the old(-er)work especially.It would be reasonable,as there was more hand-work the further back you go.We won't go into why,or whatever.

Now,the entire appeal of forged iron,lies in it's LOOKING(if not actually being)Plastically Deformed.Technically,too,that's what forging is.

You say that you like to sell some small thing on occasion,great!Are you aware,that in your very own box-store,you can buy a genuine hand-forged hook,for $1.98 ?

That,to me,means a number of things:
1.Just barely "hand-forged" no longer cuts the mustard.
2.The reason that they can do it so cheap is that they cut so many corners.
3.I become aware that these *** are actually educating the consumer,as to the very idea of what "forged" means.

If things keep going the same way,the next generation may not even have a conception of what forgework is.And it won't be good for anyone,hobby smiths included.And,so,i simply compete,by raising the bar!I make it a point to do what won't pay for the fabricator,the stamp-mill,et c.,to mechanise,or even attempt to.(Ian,and your army of MiG-wielding Shri Lankans,this means war :P ).

This thread is simply to discuss the different possible approaches to the problems that the forge-work experiences today.

And,i can understand you not interested in bs,believe me,i'm neither.No more than the doctor is particularly interested in colon health,but,here we have it...

I am interested in what makes ironwork appealing.Extremely so.It is my profession,and my great love.But that is a different part of the story.We've many a complex issues here.Peace.

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Jake; I appreciate your philosophy, though I don't necessarily agree, at least not wholly. I do like to remove most traces of factory surfacing on most of my work... this often leads me to start with rebar and forge out all the deformations before beginning my forge forming work. I do not regard this as imperative though, I just prefer the look. I am not averse to allowing a wee bit of shadow from the ancestral deformations to persist in the work where it is attractive or insignificant. I DO much prefer deliberately preserved hammer marks to ground or sanded surfaces though I will sometimes use the contrast between the two to good effect. I LIKE the look of scaled surfaces too! I have been known to take a scaling heat for strictly ornamental purposes.

I VERY much like this candle holder design. IMO you have a remarkably artistic eye! I like nearly all of your work!

This is slightly off topic but I think worth including here: I have been rather busy around the farm lately and have found myself needing a few S hooks with little time for starting a fire. So I have been cold bending them from mostly 1/4" round stock. This works pretty good though not very decorative. I have discovered though, that I like the finely textured surface that results when I cold bend a rusted rod. Except for a centerline, where the stock is relatively immobile,the rust powders off and leaves a nicely browned finish. Apparently rust does NOT flex well. I have not come up with a practical application for this, but I find it interesting and intriguing.

On a last note I will say that I rarely polish most of my hammers, sometimes I purposefully choose a rough or rusty one to make my textures more interesting.

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I would say your piece is hand wrought in the strictest sense the meaning, not machine wrought. Most folk seem to forget that for something to be "wrought" means to be worked and no it does not only refer to a particular type of iron. The ancient archaic meaning of the word from Anglo-Saxon times merely means to work, therefore we can have wrought iron, copper, silver, gold, steel, well name a material and if it can be worked or wought by hand, even wood can be hand wrought in the aspect that a craftsman takes a tool in his hand and modifies the nature of the wood into a useful product. That is what Jake has do with these chunks of steel, taken a minimal number of tools and made a wonderfully expressive candle holder, with his own hands, it is hand wrought steel at it's best by "Jake". Well done! B)

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Like the candle stick. As for the philosophy. Unless I'm mistaken the philosophy of our forefather smiths was to make everything look factory made. It was a mark of pride in work and excellence not to leave hammer marks, scale or anything else that even remotely smacked of 'hand forged'. The average person back then wanted to be considered wealthy enough to show that they could afford factory made or imported goods and not something made by a local guy who needed the work and was trying to feed a family.
Nowadays the philosophy has changed and everyone wants something in their house that looks handmade. As in 'look at us, we can afford to hire a craftsman to make this especially for us', even though the craftsman probably had a dozen of the same items in his/her shop for sale.
SO the question is, do we change our philosophy to fit the times, or do we stay true to the time honored traditional philosophy of our forefather smiths and spend as much time with file and sandpaper and removing every imperfection in our work we can find as we did forging the item in the first place? Bearing in mind that some of us are trying to make a living by black-smithing and must give the customer what they want.
Its very hard to be philosophic when you are behind in your bills and your kids are hungry.
Just another look at a very interesting subject.

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Blacksmiths were the factory of the day though they were specialists one made vises another made hinges another made table knives and so on. The idea of a general smith is a small village/frontier phenomena. They had water wheels to power their trip hammers bellows and grinding wheels to finish the forgings. They worked with the technology of the day but they were productive and highly skilled. This came through years of hard work starting at a very young age by our standards. People worked quite hard but were generally fitter. Goods were highly finished because it was what was what people wanted and expected. Forge shop owners were aware of fashions and fads and adapted their work to suit. If one did rough work you would be branded a botch. If you look at old work that is highly finished you see a pleasing asymmetry, file marks and hammer marks on the unfinished surfaces. I would think a skilled crafts person who thought about why he or she was doing what they were doing and how they were going to do it would be more able to feed their family not less.

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Thank you guys,again and again,for agreeing and disagreeing both.,hese are hard times for our trade,and it'll take a LOT to make it through,IF the blacksmithing is to survive at all.
Willis,i think Southshoresmith has put it better than i ever could.There were all sorts of different types of forging,and that frontier stuff was but a brief phase.
He put it very accurately that much old work has considerable imperfections.
What still made it WAY cool was(among other things)that OVERALL it was balanced by an EYEBALL of someone who had much intuitive EXPERIENCE.
THAT was one major point that i wanted to bring up.I think that it's crucial:To train one's eye and hand to feel iron,to roll with it.Occasionally,often,really,i bootleg a piece of old work just to do it,to practice the Zen of forging.
That's just what i did yesterday(a stove poker,7 hrs),and today,a set of tongs,5 hrs.Both are loosely based on Don Plummer's famous book.Both were strictly winging it.
Here're the pictures,and i've got to run again:Now that i'm on charcoal diet,the moment the forging's done,i have to start burning tomorrow's charcoal...

(shoot,i forgot that i didn't load/process the tongs photos yet.i actually took a few of the process itself,if anyone's interested)



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I actually don't have access to a copy of Plummer's book,only those few pages on googlebooks(thanks to whoever posted that).So had no idea how that box-type joint's supposed to work.Not that it matters,it was just an exercise,but it was fun to forge it in(the tenon,using the mortise as a swage).



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Jake, regardless of the differences in ideas that make us all different (we were forged and not factory made :D ), you do some really beautiful work. Thanks for sharing your opinions and your work. Nice twist on the poker.

Mark <><

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Hey Jake, very nice candlestick. Nice work on the firetools too. I think I have some pics on the process for that box joint when I copied it out of Streeter's "Professional Smithing". I'll try to find and post them, the 'official' method comes out a bit tidier, but yours looks like for fun. ;-)

Do you want to talk philosophy of work or philosophy of forging? I don't think that there is any real argument that forging is the plastic deformation of metal, the argument would be about how much deformation per piece is needed to qualify as blacksmith work. I readily admit that not all of the work I do is forged. At the moment I do not believe that even most of it is forged.

I think one of the important points that you make is the need to make an extra effort to get/sell/promote forged work. I was really pushing the forged work in my business. When someone brought in a picture of something they liked or a drawing, I would respond with my own drawing using forged elements that I was interested in and an appropriate price. (Most of my work is with interior designers.) Things were going along pretty well and I was doing a reasonable amount of mostly forged work. Well I hit a rough patch in my personal life at about the same time as the economy hit a rough patch, so I wasn't promoting the expensive stuff (and forged work is more expensive) and no one was hunting down the expensive stuff. A couple of years later and I wake up one day and realize I haven't lit the forge in months and I'd better get on the ball.

I am curious as to how you reconcile the desire to educate the populace about forging with the fact that forged work is a luxury item in this day and age. How is Pottery barn 'wrought iron' with a forged ornament on the end any worse than the same thing made strictly out of unforged bar stock? One could argue that by hammering a lumpy point on the end of the bar and adding value, that Pottery Barn (or Pier One or whoever) is helping to make forging a mark of prestige and desirability. (I think you said something pretty close to that.) Even so, how many people can afford to buy a 20 hour candlestick?

It seems unnecessary and possibly unwise to look to the past for clarification of the modern smith's role. (I share Jake's and Tim's interpretations of the past, but that's not the point.) Very little of what we make has to come from a smith (with the possible exception of industrial forging). I think that the movement from practicality into art frees the metalworker in several ways; first, it allows us to do and promote things simply because we like them. Punched holes and tenoned connections are not just a joint, they're a decorative element. If my work is judged as art then I do not have to say that joint is stronger or faster or cheaper, I can say it's cooler, or sexier, or that is speaks to the function of the piece, visually punctuating each connection and illustrating the forces between each of the steel members holding up the table. Second, it frees us from the confines of technique, (Jake, you've addressed this too.) we can use whatever technique we deem appropriate, arc welding, flame cutting, grinding, and more become available when we are freed from working strictly with hammer and anvil. Many shapes and structures that are otherwise impractical can be made by combining techniques. Jake allowed for the use of other materials and techniques in his original post, but required that it looked forged. I don't see that necessity, I think there is room for some continuity in the scale of metalwork.

Ok, it's past my limit for arguing on the internet and I'm still not sure I've defined for myself (let alone anyone else) the question I'm trying to answer.



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Exellent,Lewis,just a wonderful bunch of info.I'd love to address(or re-address,rather)so much in what you've said,but my brain is toast right now.(I thought that once i get tomorrow's charcoal under control i'd write some more here,but i overestimated my capacity for bs! ;) ...pardon,philosophy :) ).
The important thing though is the very valuable ththoughtss you've expressed are down,they're here for all of us to ponder upon when the time's right.

I'll just say this.One of the reasons i'm bringing all this up now,is that i've been accepted into this artisan/craftsman show/sale,at the museum of the U.of Alaska,Fairbanks,on Nov.18.
It sounds glorious,but in actuality it's simply a Christmas bazaar.Or,that's what THEY think.I signed paperwork that obligates me to fill an N-th space with work,but i'll make nothing for that event that'll be items for sale.Instead,it'll be an educational display about the potential,the possibilities,of forging.I'll try to throw everything i have at it,everything that i've learned in the 10-some years practicing blacksmithing.

OK,thanks again everyone,for all these incredibly valid things that were touched on today.One last photo of a simple trammel from earlier this week,over and out.


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Exellent,Lewis,just a wonderful bunch of info.I'd love to address(or re-address,rather)so much in what you've said,but my brain is toast right now.(I thought that once i get tomorrow's charcoal under control i'd write some more here,but i overestimated my capacity for bs! ;) ...pardon,philosophy :) ).
The important thing though is the very valuable ththoughtss you've expressed are down,they're here for all of us to ponder upon when the time's right.

I'll just say this.One of the reasons i'm bringing all this up now,is that i've been accepted into this artisan/craftsman show/sale,at the museum of the U.of Alaska,Fairbanks,on Nov.18.
It sounds glorious,but in actuality it's simply a Christmas bazaar.Or,that's what THEY think.I signed paperwork that obligates me to fill an N-th space with work,but i'll make nothing for that event that'll be items for sale.Instead,it'll be an educational display about the potential,the possibilities,of forging.I'll try to throw everything i have at it,everything that i've learned in the 10-some years practicing blacksmithing.

OK,thanks again everyone,for all these incredibly valid things that were touched on today.One last photo of a simple trammel from earlier this week,over and out.

Hi Jake,
Thank you for your kind comment at the beginning of this sojourn, but I would just like to inject another controversial point from a village blacksmiths point of view,

I would regard your "Simple trammel" as a de-luxe model,

This is a simple one

Two bits of as it comes stock, with minimum work to do the required job.

The reason the old timers worked the stock was that it was not available in an appropriate size, and they had to work it down to the sizes the wanted, this may include forge welding many bits together to produce the required dimensions. They would have killed for the stock sizes that we have available to 'smiths today.

Then, as now there was a varied market for products, look at a store shed for simple work, or a Bishops Palace for high end work. Value added is put into the piece for the market it is aimed at.

Two last comments,
You do very Nice Work,
I applaud you for trying to educate the public into recognising what forged work is about.

Keep the faith the road ahead in education is long! (It's tough being a missionary)
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John,thank you,and all this is very important:

Wonderful trammel(Again,i envy especially you in England,because the objects are more ambient around you guys,longer and deeper entrenched in the lore).
You say it's stock,ok:The main,wide part had to be punched at such short intervals,that between that and just the heating/straightening action that whole is forged,(100%),and it looks it,and is very pleasantly irregular(it's subtle,but it's there;it affects a person intuitively,smith and layman alike;it's automatic B) ).
The rod is stock,too.And,darn it,i do think it would've benefited from some gentle sorta differentiation,shall we say-won't you agree?And it would take so little,maybe,2-3 contemplative heats,while one gathers one's thoughts for the next stage.

Thanks for the historical note.It's something,i think,that is important,not necessarily in any linear way(i'm NOT a purist,i think it's clear by now),but it is.
IF i may add a bit,it would be this.I gather(From John Sturt,among others),that the tyre iron,in 20' by 3"-4"-5" by 1/2" or so,was common for what?4-500 years?
The scrap,lengh left over after a tyre was made,was sold back to the steel merchant,by the pound.
Or,not.That is what was often used for household stuff.Would i be far off to suppose that a chunk for your trivet would be hot-cut from a tyre leftover,using a couple of apprentices as strikers?
The smaller,round rod would of course be drawn out of something bigger.
Before that,when people used blooms,the initial forgings from bloom were about the mass,and even shape,of your trammel(viking currency bars come to mind,for one).

And yes,forge-welding floor-scrap!What can possibly entertain and challenge smith more? :D The stuff welded like a charm,it was good economy,i'd imagine,AND it was fun!(Why not,now?Especially now that for many forging carries no economic imperative?It's challenging,satisfying,and you get this cool collage of welds :blink::D

One of the reasons that this MAY be important is that by reverse-engineering we may come across the proportions,say.Ones that were selected and polished by generations of smiths and the users of items.

The difference that you mention between the forgings for the fifferent economic levels of society always fascinated me(as an old commie(just kidding :) )
Actually,surprisingly(to me),the hoity-toity had a taste for pretty crude ironwork!Many old European castle trappings were really black and lumpy(just the way i love it best B) )Really,much of all that the rich,as well as the poor used out of iron was quite primitive.
And irregular,and well balanced.Much of it had this "ineffable quality",straight out of Yellin's legacy.

(This insomnia will kill me,surely,,,).Lewis brings up this terribly thorny point,above.Can't get it out of my mind.Who in the world can afford to compensate some dimwit for 20 hours of labor,for a candlestick that performs on the level of an empty beer bottle,or a piece of tinfoil.
No one.No one i know,no one in their right mind.The exclusivity of forgework have stuck in my throat always,one of the most difficult issues.
It's very tough to resolve.(Even though iron is so durable,and given the life of it's service...But even that means little).

One way of looking at it is the coolness factor.Starve all the crazy craftsmen,and you'll regret it.Life will become dismal.There are people whose product,their contribution to society,is even more ethemeral;poets,for an example.
I don't know the answer,sadly.When i was younger,i'd have enjoyed some moronic thought like "they'll pry this hammer out of my cold,dead fingers".Now that i'm an old,broken-down reprobate,and don't enjoy being contrary for it's own sake,i still believe that one must persevere in all that is so apparently,manifestly cool,and should have a place under the sun.It deserves it!Like the good ol' Lao Tsu put it:"How do i know that it is so?By means of it!" :)

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...And it would take so little,maybe,2-3 contemplative heats,while one gathers one's thoughts for the next stage.

Now you've doubled the price of the trammel. :-p Contemplative heats are for evenings and weekends, when I'm trying to pay the bills I gather all my thoughts before I light the forge.

Interesting point from my business, the one job I do regularly which best fits your definition of forged are tongs for use in an industrial forging plant. There is no indication anywhere of the size of the starting stock but it is a purely functional product. In contrast, almost everything I make as 'wrought ironwork' contains a significant proportion of factory stock, but it is marketed for it's aesthetics.

One of the designers I work with showed me a table, probably from Mexico, and asked if I could build one like it. She was getting them for about 1/4 the price that I could build them. Do we want to educate people about the possibilities of forging, and thus encourage the demand for cheaper foreign labor to do forged work, or do we want to encourage people to get locally produced, unique work, thus promoting our own business? Perhaps Jake wishes to be an evangelist for forging from all sources?

(I actually think that encouraging higher quality work from out foreign competitors is a good thing because it decreases the price gap and raises standards. I do think that the importation of cheap ironwork has raised the demand, but it has kept a very low price point. The difference between locally made forged work and cheap imports is a factor of ten or more, so we are producing a very high end luxury product. It think there are a lot of people out there who would buy something locally produced if it were 4 or 5 times the price of an import, but don't buy our work now because it's 10-20 times the price. A rising tide lifts all boats.)

I've attached a couple pictures of my box joint and a couple of production type items that always seem to cost just a little more than we can sell them for. The box of the box joint is dressed using a piece of flat bar as a drift and the tang is forged using a butcher to set the shoulder and a little file work at the shoulder as well.





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Beautiful,Lewis!Thanks a lot for those hinge close-ups,exellent work,by the way:Those two sq.corners,and the transition to round,together,look very good(couldn't be simple to do so clean).
The two-toed candle things are cool :D Something dinasaur-like about them things!
And the fire-place tools look interesting,hope that they're jumbled like this only for the photo-i'd be sure to dump the lot trying to extricate one(it IS the way i keep all my tools,though,so nebermind :huh: ).

Lewis,all that you say is well thought-out,wish that i could think and put things that clearly.
The economy is something i've not even the mental tools to deal with,it's one of those things that need to be figured,but i don't even know where to start.Please,if you've any way that you further wanted to develop those thoughts on that,it would be very interesting to hear.

Art...Art is good,for all the reasons that you say(annoying at times,as one likes to think of oneself as doing something useful,indispensible,et c.,but,oh,well).
It is THE direction,i agree.What do the designers say about it?Do they have a tough time fitting the forged surface with the super-slick modern materials,for an example?
Do they see a future for forging as sculpture,et c.?

Here again i fail to contribute any substance,in practice,for sure.I'll go ahead and say the following,though(unfortunately,pure theory,so back to bs..).

A very good friend,a post-modernist painter himself,told me his opinion recently.He thinks that the only real value that the artist brings to society is in education.
It teaches a person to think creatively,and hugely contributes to really all branches of human knowledge/science/business-related thinking,you name it-the study of art(and music)has been found to be extremely constructive.

Now,forging,that for so long has served to prepare machinists,engineers,so many other constructive trades,is one of the most educational of plastic arts.There's simply no end to how much one benefits from both the physical and the mental parts of figuring out the turns of the forging path.

There's got to be something that one can do with it all...

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Jake you seem to be defining the craft the way you see it and excluding other possible views---when I get an order from a stone mason for a set of specialty chisels they generally don't give a **** about if the shanks are forged they want the custom ends (often both!) done they way they want them. It's the hobbyists that seem to want the whole thing forged and pay extra for it and will probably never need to sharpen them...

I got into smithing because I wanted items that could not be bought at a local store. Now many of them are historical---but many of the historical pieces would have been made in a 19th century factory---but are no longer commonly available. The medieval ones tend to be items that would have taken care NOT to leave tooling marks on them---hammer blows on a sword blade is liking working over a Ferrari's body with a ball peen nowadays!

I very much admire the work of Yellin who specified triply refined wrought iron and would have all stock hammered all over by taking off sized/shaped stock and having it made into the size shape that was needed. (e.g. make 1" round stock by taking 1" sq stock and forging it rather than just taking a piece off the rack) But his work definitely shows the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century. Most folks won't pay for that level of work.

I think there is room for many different views of the craft and when it gets down to it the old debate on what it means to be "hand made". This has been discussed many times and boils down to "Workmanship of Certainly vs Workmanship of Risk" where it is the *skill* of the maker that determines if the piece "succeeds" and not whether he's using a powerhammer or a hand hammer (like the difference between closed die and open die forging---one takes minimal training and the other a lot!).

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Thomas,thanks,your many points are well taken.

I'll try to add a little from my funky position:

In regards to the stone chisels:It isn't the forging marks that i keep harping on(i hate deliberate texturing with a passion).It is the fact that you're an experienced smith that produces the superlative tool!It is the time at the anvil(turning sq into rd,and vice versa),that programs the brain to PROPERLY interphase with steel in general.THAT's where the quality comes from.(Quality,here,is the exellence of the tool as experienced (even!)by another craftsman).

That's the thing about the old swords,not the hammer-marks,although the imperfections,as southshoresmith said,were there.It is the overall BALANCE of the piece.

One example of that,(maybe):I was recently discussing those 1000-year old pattern-welded spears with some guys.One of them,a man of insane experience and skill level,has shown his work,which far exceeded,in technique,anything that them vikings even dreamed of,control-wise.
I hated to do that,but just to be honest i had to tell the man that i like the old crap much more:That control,that perfection,that he exercises,has cost him the "life",the organic-like,psychedelic subtleness of impression from the originals.
(I'll leave out IMHO,it's implied in everything that i say,naturally).

You're right in that ALL this has been chewed over many,MANY times.I'm sorry for that,i hope that i'm not just bringing this up out of some weird compulsion.
The Arts and Crafts were very important,in part because it was a reaction to the conditions of the times.
If anything,things have only gotten harder since.

Granted,"Most folks won't pay for that kind of work".It's a fact.Yet,as a craftsman,I can't afford to pay attention to that.The logic is flawed here-if my judgement is based on what folks can afford,then everything starts rolling downhill.
It sounds stupid,even to myself,but it's true.The "affordability" of stuff is a different dimension from mine,an anti-matter,of sorts :)

(This way of thinking,is that why i'm starving,by chance?Or am i just a worthless smith? :D)

I'm not saying that it doesn't matter wether you eat or not,i'm just pointing out that it's NOT a parameter for the choices/decisions that i make within my world of working with material,iron in this case.File it under faith,if need be.The decision is between my God and I.The consumer is totally irrelevant here.

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Remember that what we consider "life" to a piece might have been considered very bad in other times. It is very easy to push our perceptions back on older times and most often very erroneous!

My wife runs into this with spinning; people often spin a very slubby yard to give it "historical character" when in fact the anglo saxons spun to a very fine and even standard indeed! No factory today produces linens as fine as the best mummy wrappings of 3000 years ago; but we have this belief that old items must be crude. (some of which is preservation bias---what survives the centuries a crude chest hacked from a log or a dainty one that could be crushed by someone sitting on it?)

When we look at a historical piece we also have to look at artifacts of preservation---in both directions! Some items are much rougher in look that would have been the case some are also much nicer! (In Treasures from the Tower of London" traveling exhibit it mentions that one of the gloriously polished suits of armour had been delivered "rough from the hammer and black from the forge" and almost 600 years of care has made it how it looks today.

"Primitive Vigour" has it's place and I often tell students it's better to stop there than to overwork it to ruination.

I need to dig out a book I have that was published in 1929 that lists various styles in ironworking over the centuries including one where having the iron worked like it was wood was considered "proper"

Also another example: New Orleans balconies made of cast iron look quite heavy and opaque compared to wrought iron work; yet many people expect wrought iron work to be like cast iron work because that is what they have been exposed to!

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