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basher

Counting heats.

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There is a lot of talk here about counting heats a way measuring the amount of time it takes to get work done.

 I find this strange, I never work a full heat but try and keep my work on the boil and work it hot.

I find the term "heat" as a measure of how long something takes as strange as using tanks of petrol as a way of measuring distance or time .

 I have always timed work, sometimes with a stop clock.

 I will in general make one piece on its own to get a base line time reference (ie the long time it takes taking into account all the heats and the  forging until its finished. say one hour 15 minutes for a well worked rams head poker.

 However I normally never work one piece at a time, so with 2 or 3 pieces in the fire the heats become irrelevant as I work constantly on the hottest piece and rotate them. I almost always put them back into the fire hot (red or orange) this speeds up reheat and I am working material while its hot and soft (which after all is the point). So 5 of the same pokers may take 3.5 hours to make keeping work on the boil.

 

 so I ask these questions.

 

1, why would you count heats as opposed to counting the time a piece takes Including all the heating up and working or in the case of batch work counting the forging time for multiple pieces working pieces out of the fire.

 

2,does no one else think that trying top get as much work done per heat is a wast of energy, rather put it back in the fire and get it hot so you are doing the work with less effort and less forging time over more heats.

 

3 what heat?(what forge) what section? when do you stop how long is a piece of string.

 

 I think that the use of heats as a reference is misleading, ie leading people in the wrong direction.

 

 I have never looked at smithing as a race, or at least if it is a race its the long race where the tortoise beats the hare...work steady work hot and look at the pile of work done at the end of the day.

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Amen! The only time I'm conscious of "how many heats" is when I'm punching and drifting a bunch of holes.

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Can you make a 3" ball in one heat? Or would it take 6 minutes? Which would explain more about your skill with a power hammer? 

 

Number of heats is a way to track improvements in skills. Many on these forums are not professional smiths. 

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I think that this is all an artifact of the gradual demise of small scale commercial smithing during the 20th century, and the rebirth of it as a hobby/art mostly practiced by self-taught amateurs in the 1970's. More recently, backyard metal casting and iron bloom furnaces have gone the same route, trying to re-invent the process by reading dusty old tomes and obscure eye witness accounts, and trying different things. 

 

There are probably 100 purely hobby smiths to every person who does this as a part-time source of income. The ratio is probably closer to 1000:1 for full time ornamental ironworkers and knife makers. And absolutely none of the pros that I know in my area ever go on-line and share anything they know.

 

A few individuals offer private classes. Schools are expensive. Hammer-ins are far and few between. So, we are left with books, the verbal descriptions and very occasional photo on the internet, and our old pal, youtube. All totally unedited, unfiltered or peer reviewed for content and accuracy. This medium is convenient for time and distance, but absolutely terrible for clarity. Folks, if you do not understand something, ask for a clarification or restatement. Bad manners help no one.

 

Add to that the kinds of folks who are rejecting any sort of modernization, standardization or conformity in the craft that they are drawn to, and insist on 'Tradition', as defined by themselves.

 

So, we end up with a culture of the blind leading the blind.

 

And in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. Even if he is not a great communicator, or a gifted teacher, or a man of letters.

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It's just a measurement, not a means to an end.  And the utility of that measurement certainly depends on the type and volume of work you do and the tools available to you.  Production run? Get the pieces hot and keep a stack of them hot.  Time the run not the heat for sure.   One of a kind piece you want to minimize scaling on?  Get what you can out of a heat.  

 

It also gives us a reasonably objective baseline we can talk about when not face to face.

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All good points, everyone.
Knowing what you can accomplish in any given heat also gives you a way of measuring what to charge just like keeping track of time. Finishing as you go and moving on to the next area will also reduce the scaling, as mentioned above, and produce a cleaner finish. You can see the difference in a hammer, for example, that took either one heat, ten heats, or twenty heats.

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Greetings All,

 

I have been watching this topic for a while and decided to add my 2c...   In my 35 plus years of blacksmithing I have been privileged to have watched the best of the best at demos and presentations.  Whittiker..Hoffi .. Ross... Dixon... and others...  I never remember at any time did any refer to the amount of necessary heats to complete a project...  I believe at some point some want to be in the back row counted the forge time and heats for his own mental ruler or scale to evaluate his own skill level...  I think this is true today..  Evaluation of your skill level is not relative to the amount of heats...  I know for a fact that I can accomplish one of my favorite elements in less heats if put into competition with other professionals..  Daaa all it proves is in that area at that point in time I am faster..  Hone you forge skills and the required heats will diminish..  I think the only thing that haste makes is a bigger scrap pile..  Where is the savings or efficiency in that ???   Someone smarter than myself once said.. " work like you don't need the money and you will reap the rewards "

 

 

Forge on and make beautiful things

Jim 

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The customer buying your product will not pay more just because ti took 5 heats instead of 2 or even 3 heats. They pay for finished product. The amount of heats depends on many things. How hot was it when you started and how how was it when you felt it needed reheated, the size of the stock being worked, power hammer vs hand hammer, 2 pound hammer vs 4 pound hammer, and the variables go on. Your shop, your physical build, your experience moving metal also play a roll in the number of heats. Heats can be used as a measure of sorts, but it is the finished product vs time spent that matters in my opinion. Finished product being most important.

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Jim, I missed Whittaker in person, but have seen the others, plus Tom Clark, Brian Brazeal, and Mark Aspery, and have learned something from all of them. I once took a class from Bill Moran, and even though he was half my size and twice my age, he could hammer rings around me.

 

There is a certain zen-like flow that comes from constant practice that the rest of us will never have without that day in, day out work schedule. In my line of work, AWS Certified welders have to re-qualify in each process every six months, or lose their certs. Use it or lose it.

 

A wise man once said "an amateur does it until they get it right once, a professional does it until they can't do it wrong."

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Sadly, ... the modern world is run by "Beancounters", ... and their obsession with "measurable productivity" has distorted and poisioned our thinking.

 

I've sat in a "ton" of "Production Meetings", ... without ever hearing a "Beancounter" ask a question about the QUALITY of the product.

 

Because "Cheaper is always BETTER", ... right ?  <_<

 

 

 

.

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Dr John,

 

LOL ....  After many years watching the best including TC I have come up with what I think fits.....  When you reach a point where you are confident with your hammer skills you reach a degree of ..".SMOOTH"..   Every thing seems to go like butter... Hence the name...   Agree?

 

Jim

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Absolutely! That is why someone at the top of their field always makes it look easy, they have poise, confidence, and not just some skills, but content mastery. Computer programmer, professional athlete, hammerman or chef, the smooth flow of knowing where you are going five moves ahead like a chess champion only comes with the many, many hours on the same task.

 

From the Gems & Pearls thread: "Some people hit it and watch where it goes; I know where it's going to go before I hit it."  George Ernest, an early California smith.

 

I tell my students that once they leave the classroom, their real education begins. Many come back after a few years in the field, happy to show off how good they are now, with a few thousand hours of practice under their belt.

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I agree, that said, when I was an industrial smith everything was one heat. If a piece required more it was another operation and I find myself thinking through a job that way especially when I'm pricing out a larger job.

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I tend to be conscious of how many heats I am using when I am demoing.  Cause I am always saying, "and I've lost my heat, back into the fire now, and then I will..."  But I don't tend to do simple quick items, I prefer work with lots of complicated cuts and punch marks:  making dragon heads, goats heads, steers heads, dogs heads, horse heads, trammels. You ever try to forge a woman's face on the end of a bar? I have it isn't easy, and I haven't been successful yet... ;-)  I like doing production work in a gasser and getting into the flow and just watching the pieces develop.  I like watching the steel, almost being unconscious of my hammer, except in how it changes the surface of the steel.  I like not thinking about the hammer, just knowing how the steel is going to move and change according to my will

 

I like the impressive way Uri Hofi, and Brian Brazeal can move the steel using the techniques they have learned.  It is terribly impressive to watch Brian pinch a horse head off the last 2" of a 2" square bar. I would like to incorporate more of their techniques into my own forging style, to improve my efficiency, and expand my capacity. But ultimately I don't really care how many heats it takes, I want the process to dictate that, and I want the finished product to reflect on the skill I have and the beauty of the design. 

 

I care about process and product, but I am not overly invested in speed. When I was apprenticing, I watched a big named farrier work out of my bosses shoing rig, this other guy was a hurry up kinda guy. He was slapping the shoe all over he place and throwing tools and trying to get done in a hurry.  He just looked sloppy to me;-)  I was unimpressed, but I watched to see if there was anything I could learn from him.  I learned I really didn't like the way he worked... ;-)  I like watching someone who is truly skilled work.  Efficient work can be graceful and beautiful.  The Japanese value quick efficient work, you don't want to be hasty, sloppy, or careless, but you don't want to be thought slow.  In general that is a good goal, quick and efficient.

 

Using a heat as a ruler occasionally to test your self and be able to compare skill levels is fun and informative, and can help with production, but ultimately its get it hot, hit it hard, get some work done;-)

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Funny, Joel OF, punching holes is the only time I might count heats as well. It's kind of a fun challenge.

As to counting heats otherwise, well, it's either hot or it's not.

Little point in beating on dull, hard iron, and it'll take longer to heat up again, too.

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I get more work per heat as I become more efficient . The first hundred are the rough ones.then I realize I've been doing it wrong.

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I really only use a 'heat' as a way to track my improvement as I learn.  also my embarrassment when I watch the person doing the demo bang something out in one heat and im still puttering around with it at 5 and 6... gives us new people something to aspire too, if we were ok with accomplishing simple tasks in 5 heats we would never progress, and our products would always be hideously scaled and tortured with cracks (not that I would know anything about that.... :ph34r:)

 

but it is highly rewarding to realize that the first few hand tool struck ends I did took 4 or 5 heats, and now I can do it in usually two, sometimes 1 if I didn't get sloppy.  that would be exclusive of hot rasping too, just getting the struck end taper and the index forged.

 

I am beginning to understand where Basher is coming from though (on the 5th reread...) and I have come to agree that you wouldn't want to invoice a project as a 12 heat item, but knowing that it took you a total of 12 heats to do it, and knowing the distribution of heats per task or element will give you a baseline that you can try to improve on (or extrapolate to other new projects that have elements in common).  and if by chance you are able to streamline a process, or make a better tool that knocks off one or two heats you just saved yourself that much time by performing some portion of that project a little more efficiently.  that time saved directly equates to a greater profit margin on that project.

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I am beginning to understand where Basher is coming from though (on the 5th reread...) and I have come to agree that you wouldn't want to invoice a project as a 12 heat item, but knowing that it took you a total of 12 heats to do it, and knowing the distribution of heats per task or element will give you a baseline that you can try to improve on (or extrapolate to other new projects that have elements in common).  and if by chance you are able to streamline a process, or make a better tool that knocks off one or two heats you just saved yourself that much time by performing some portion of that project a little more efficiently.  that time saved directly equates to a greater profit margin on that project.

 

I think part of what Basher might be saying is that number of heats does not necessarily correlate to time.

For instance, John might want to take three heats in five minutes, Jack might want to take two. As long as the both get the job done in the alloted time, there is little odds between the two.

There is also the issue of forcing the issue, and your body. The hotter it is, the easier it is to forge.

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