I have a few things on hand at present, so this post is coming quite later than we had planned. Some things I am able to write about and some would not make good print. One thing I am happy to be able to share with you my dear reader, is an accomplishment that though small, has made me feel very great in new ways. If you give me your attention for just a moment, I will endeavor to explain.
We always struggle, as human beings, with the elusive element we call “control”. I am no less afflicted than any of my fellows. For most of our lives, we are totally out of control. Some one is always dictating what we must do and how. For very good reason, they are out of control too. Our parents, our teachers, are all held by certain needs, we all have to eat, we all have to poop, we all have to pay the bills. Our children usually are not aware of what paying the bills and putting the food on the table have to do with each other. Until they get older and have their own to pay. All the people we are paying bills to, they have bills to pay too. All of these people create needs we must conform to. We cannot control their needs any more than they can themselves. We can satisfy but one little part of their need with our work.
So when I am in my element, where I feel good and in “control”, I hate it when things go really “wrong”. I was in the forge over the course of a few days. My wife wanted some shelving in the laundry room. As I have some half inch bar, I will make some brackets for a shelf. These shelves, (you see how it pluralizes?), since they are to be in the laundry room, I would like them to have some hooks. Good smooth ones. I still think of laundry bags hanging up for some reason, though I doubt my wife uses them. Hooks to hang things are always good where you need shelves, so I will make them with hooks.
“Perfect is the enemy of good.” I heard this said, I am not it’s origination. It is attributed to Voltaire, who got it out of a book most likely. It stuck with me when I read it most recently. It has been an invaluable mantra. It could also be written, “perfection’s desire is the enemy of accomplishment”.
I find I am very able to let my desire for perfection to impair my ability to complete a project. It is something I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Well, I have this problem, but I do not know how to solve it. So I keep throwing myself at it. Right up against the wall. My life is a Warren Zevon song. I dive right in.
You can see above that I had moved along a little before I started taking pictures. My hands were full for most of this process. I have some pictures, but I do not feel that they really document things very well. My wife managed to get some of her own pictures while I was unable to take any, in between her own duties. She really is my anchor.
These you see are still mine. Forming was done to produce the hooks you saw above. I draw down the material a bit, forming a small tongue, flaring this into a wide leaf shape and concluding with a stem for the leaf. The “stem” is really quite thick, I want it to have lots of beef. I curl the “tongue” or tip of the leaf which is about a quarter inch tapering up, over the edge of the anvil. Once the curve is begun you do not have to focus much on it. When you curve your broad leaf around the mandrel, it is very easy to continue the curve of your leaf tip in this same working.
During these heats five holes were drifted through the stock, three into the wall arm, and two into the shelf arm. I center punch on cool metal, (relatively cool that is, after the forming, I must wear leather gloves for it), to mark my holes. Then after I have marked my hole sufficiently, I take another heat. I take a up tool made in our shop. It is a sharp drift. It is made from a bit of truck coil spring. I drive down a certain depth into the steel, cooling my tool as it heats up in a cup of water I have set by.
Driving down until I see my button of dark material on the opposite side I flip my stock and begin enlarging from the other side. Soon I can accommodate an 8d nail into the hole. The head will sink into the surface of the bracket and there will be nothing too much to snag on.
My wife was able to come out in the evening while supper was cooking and use her better phone camera to take these pictures. She does a good job by my eye!
The pictures were taken during a heat. This air blast was created using the electric shop blower, it is much too powerful. So a slight pull of the trigger, then you let off. Once the fan spins down, another press delivers the right amount of air. Otherwise, hot, burning fuel is blasted out of the hearth and all over the shop.
The heat is quite intense. I must be careful not to overdo the air with this powerful fan or else I risk burning my work. For drifting and forming I aim for a bright yellow to white heat, around 2,000° Fahrenheit. This is very close, in heating terms, to sparking or welding heat. Why such heat? Much heat is lost the moment the work is taken from the hearth. More heat dissipates into the anvil. By starting at the top end of the spectrum, these losses are mitigated and I am able get a good amount of work done in each heat.
Below are a few pictures of me cutting and dressing the stock. The steel is nicked all the way around on my anvil tool.
With the steel apart I may dress the end of my work.
Supper was waiting and I let the forge go cool. I like to work at night, when it is cooler. Having children running about the house however, the best laid plans may go awry. Instead I came to it fresh the next morning.
Next day I finished forging the brackets. They are still quite hot at this point. I kicked them into place for this picture. I let them cool for awhile. There is much to do here besides metalwork!
The rough forging complete, I worked on cleaning lumber until I had enough. Catching up the work it was cool enough to handle with gloves on. Now I can move on to what really takes up much of my time. Finishing.
A coat of wax was applied after the wire wheeling. I heated the iron just a little and applied a coat of wax once the wax melted to touch on the work. I do two coats because I have found it easier that way. I have done it all in one coat before and it works alright. The change in color is from heat, according to my chart the steel has reached around 450° Fahrenheit. You can let it be as in the above picture and there will be only cosmetic difference. The oil still penetrates. I apply a second coat later and in doing so bring the steel up to about 800°. The black-grey finish on the brackets you see at the top and bottom of the article is the steel changing color from this higher heat. As I do this I use steel wool and tongs to apply more wax. The original coat is lost, but as it is, I find ash and cinders stick to my work less in applying the second coat.
I encountered interruptions and problems. Many were of my own devising. Drifting straight holes, aligning them, twisting and bending, all went wrong at some point. I threw things, I swore, I lost my composure. Carefully, slowly, I coaxed them back to form and function. When confronted with failure the first thing my mind wants to do is give up. I know I am not alone in this. Coming through failure and finding success in it, has been the real achievement for me. When I began rambling at the beginning of this article, I asked for your patience. I thank you for having it, and reading this far. If you are confronted with a problem or obstacle that seems insurmountable, take heart dear reader. You are not alone.
You can survive, you can overcome. You can make something you have wrecked beautiful again. “If you aim at perfection son, you will find that it is a moving target.” This was said by my father, who I know must have struggled with his own desire for perfection.
So I am aiming for “good”. Not “good enough”, mediocrity is still something to rise as far above as I can. Yet, in my pursuit of “good”, I have found beauty. The things I create are often flawed in my eyes. Looking at them through this new lens of perspective, I see that despite their flaws, they really are quite beautiful. Not perfect, beauty and perfection are never found together. Not even in the so-called “natural” world of which we form an integral part.
Dear reader, I thank you again for your kind attention. This article has turned into something of an editorial inside of the story. I will not promise to refrain from this in the future. Each time I come to write these articles I do not do so lightly. I hope to be of help to you in some way. If all I may do is inspire you with the desire to make your own beautiful things, then I am content.
If you are enjoying the journey, please feel free to send us an email. You can leave a comment as well. I look forward to hearing or reading from any of our friends out in the wide world who may wish to contact me or my wife(I know some of you really come for her recipes!). The support from our small audience has warmed my wife’s and my own heart more than words can express, either in print or spoken aloud.
I will say it the best way I know how: Thank you, readers, from the bottom of my heart.
P.S. There will be a new page up soon! We have some things coming up in the future we are very excited about.