“Griswold speaks of The Anvil of Fury – a legendary artifact long searched for, but never found. Crafted from the metallic bones of the Razor Pit demons, the Anvil of Fury was smelt around the skulls of the five most powerful magi of the underworld. Carved with runes of power and chaos, any weapon or armor forged upon this Anvil will be immersed into the realm of Chaos, imbedding it with magical properties. It is said that the unpredictable nature of Chaos makes it difficult to know what the outcome of this smithing will be…”
This past weekend I spent two days learning about the magic of smithing on an Introduction to Blacksmithing course. As you can see by my portrait, at the side, I looked pretty epic as a blacksmith. So how did I end up on a Blacksmith course? Well this will come as a bit of a shock to many of you but in the dwindling months of 2013 I celebrated my 30th birthday. And yes I can hear you all calling me a “liar” and “it can’t be true” because “you look so youthful” followed by the realisation of “if you look like that then why has fate dealt me this face?!”. All I can say is my diet consists solely of Dodo eggs, beer and the nourishment I get from the air.
So back to my 30th, my parents – due to a suggestion from my wifey – decided to book me onto a two-day Introduction to Blacksmithing. Now, Blacksmithing is something I’ve always wanted to have a go at for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m a bit of a geek and so love the romanticised view of the historical Blacksmith; creating armour, swords, tools and being an essential part of society. As the years have gone by my view on why I wanted to try my hand at Blacksmithing have matured, slightly. My job, increasingly, is very PC based, there’s a lot of thinking, planning and effort that goes into it but I get no physical end-product to show for it. There’s nothing that I can hold in my hand and say “I did that, I created this, look at me for I am man”. I’ve realised, especially over the last year, that this is something that I need to have, whether it’s writing poetry, painting miniatures or trying Blacksmithing, I need to have something physical at the end to stand testament to my effort (could is this be a realisation of my own morality and a desire to create something that will outlast me in some small way or is it a gradual rejection of our disposable society?). The final reason for wanting to try my hand at Blacksmithing is that blacksmiths are cool, they hit red-hot metal all day with a hammer, what’s not to like?!
There were seven* people, including myself, on the course so it was a very small group. After the registration and a brief classroom based lesson on mechanics of the forge we went straight to it. We were going to be making a poker as our first item, as a poker contains a lot of the basic Blacksmithing techniques, apparently. I won’t go into the details but it was a really intense two-day course both physically and mentally. Blacksmithing is physically demanding as you’re beating hot metal most of the time which is tiring. You also have to really concentrate on your work to ensure that your hammer blows are accurate as you don’t want to waste energy by having to re-do a section you’ve messed up. After a day at the forge my first poker was complete – apparently professional blacksmiths can make a poker in 20 minutes (the show offs) – I tried to keep my first piece simple and I have to say that I’m pleased with the results.
*For the first day we had 8 people – but by day two someone had fallen by the wayside….so why was this? Well, I mainly put it down to their inability to read. Most people would read a course description that used the words ‘blacksmithing’ ‘forge work’ ‘iron’ ‘safety boots’ and ‘smithing’ and think ‘this course looks like it might have something to do with blacksmithing’ you’d be wrong for thinking this. Someone believed the above words meant ‘jewellery making’. Now this wasn’t the thing that annoyed me, well it did a little, but the thing that really annoyed me was why quit? You’ve paid for the course, you’ve completed half of it, so why cry off? Anyway, I’m ranting like Steve Coogan after he heard a buzzing on his phone whilst he was chatting to Hugh Grant.
On day two we had the choice to make a rams head poker or paper knife. The rams head would teach us two new techniques. The first technique was to split the top of the metal in half with a chisel to create the horns. I’m not going to lie about it this was hard as my hammering arm was already tired. The second technique was the very dramatic fire welding which involved heating the iron up to just below burning point and then hitting it to fuse the two sections of iron together which caused a big shower of sparks. I also went for a double twist on the second poker which is created by heating and cooling different segments of the poker.
I would have been really happy with this poker except for the fact that I made the face too long so instead of it looking like a rams head it now looks like Jar Jar Binks – which wasn’t the desired effect. My only consolidation is that if Jar Jar Binks* did ever turn up on my door I now have something handcrafted, by me, to beat him to death with. The jury might also smile when they see it as evidence in the trail. On a serious note I really enjoyed my two-day course, it was great doing something new and it’s definitely something I’d love to have a go at again.
Ohhhhhh yes and here are the two finished pokers together in all their glory!