Monday, 26 March 2012

Fire welding and the art of truthful metal

Fire welding is one of the fundamental, defining methods of the blacksmith. It involves the bringing together of different pieces of steel or iron at the precise temperature that the surface of the steel is molten. these pieces can be carefully, quickly and accurately brought together to form a joint with quick, light hammer blows.

Only a human being can do this.

and for that reason it is important that the skill survives.

 It is, in some senses, an obselete method. As a  throwback to our earliest ironworking traditions, some would say, it has no place in modern precision fabrication, engineering- they are right, it does not. but all true crafts people do what they not because it is the most efficient, the most expediant or the easiest way. For me, craft is a celebration of our human cleverness. it fills me with great joy to know that the simple movements I make when welding in this way,(gently manipulating the fire in a way that is unique to me, turning the pieces, one in each hand so they heat up at the same rate in the sun-bright forge) have been experienced by literaly countless ironworkers before me for over two thousand years. I am connected to them in that most basic understanding of iron and fire. we all move together. I am supprted by their knowledge, their developments and I move with their knowing.

 we choose our methods and we endevour to make beautiful things. that is all craft is.

I choose heart, love and belief in this tradition and i will take it with me always.

I am proud of this way of working and it is this pride that I refer to when I say the art of truthful metal as the product of this method should describe it's manufacture to the trained eye and also stand out as made by hand to the lay- person. this does not grant the maker the right to be lazy in finishing, or inaccurate in manufacture. It means that the scars of making that a piece may bare on it's surface should not be erased or hidden from view but rather be evident and proud. Be truthful, do not deny how you achieve something. love it, be proud.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


The landlord of the farm, where my workshop is, has been clearing a field recently which turned up a bunch of scrap including a Wrought iron gate and This old plough

I cut some strips off the sparked as very high carbon. I then cleaned and etched one of them and it showed some slag content so I  suspect the matierial is old shear steel.

Im saving this matierial for now, but it might become something pointy and patternwelded later...

Friday, 16 March 2012


I have been travelling around the uk for two years meeting and working with many great smiths and now I have returned to my workshop to find my own voice as a craftsman.

A few weeks ago i did something fundamental to bladesmithing. I made carbon steel.

the method i used was to add carbon to Wrought Iron by packing thin pieces of wrought in a case with charcoal dust. This was "baked" for three hours at well above critical temperature. The iron soaked up this carbon to produce what is known as shear steel.

This steel was then "piled" and then fire welded together and folded numerous times to produce a useable piece of matierial.

the character of this steel comes from it's laminated structure as well as the small inclusions of slag that remain even after the refinement process.