Friday, November 21, 2014

Firsts and Futures

Time was, so I'm told, when a body could open up a shop with naught but brow sweat and boot strap exercises and still come out with enough change to pop down to the barber shop for a mustache trim. Times they are a changin', my friends. Yesterday was a day of many firsts, one of which was the forking over of my first thousand bucks of "skin in the game". I feel safe declaring myself officially "in the game".

Of course, $1k is small fish on the grander scale of business investments and I'm sure that those my senior are having many a knowing chuckle and head wag at my childlike innocence, but considering I'm both living off and investing from my savings, scant to begin with and rapidly becoming scanter-er, perhaps I may be forgiven.

However for all my hyperventilating in the Lowes plumbing isle over $2 pipe fittings, yesterday was a day of many auspicious firsts as well. BEHOLD!

 Wait, that's not the right one...

Tada! Tada! Tada! Tada forever!
The fruits of Nail Forge 1.0.2, a pair that only a mother could love. Nevertheless at least one of them is not so ugly that it didn't prevent me from canvasing the internet with my new business. The astute and/or slightly creepy of you may have noticed that since yesterday, you can now find me on Etsy, Facebook, for some reason Twitter, as well as, I'm sure your favorite, here. Which brings me to the part where you may have noticed that the forge proper has got a proper forge name now! If you're curious as to why Sweet Hollow Forge rather than a different combination of letters and sounds, it doesn't have a huge story. You may recall that it took a while to get the details in order and paperwork drawn up for the space, but I did get a "contract" eventually. In there, G&J (the owners) agreed to rent me space in "The Hollow". And I was like cool, the barn has a name I guess, but The Hollow is a little forbidding and dirge-like, and initially I was going to go with Fox Hollow (on account of my home turf in Georgia) but I'm not positive there are even foxes around here, and if there are they probably aren't very good blacksmiths. Anyway, Sweet Hollow has a nice kind of faintly southern ring to it, and so do I sometimes*, so there it is.

*I seem to have a southern accent in direct proportion to the southern accented-ness of the people I'm talking to.

But before I get too far ahead, let's get back to that first picture.

The worst meringue.
Pretty wild, huh? So I mixed up some of my freshly cooked water glass...

Almost the exact same consistency as those corn syrup hourglasses. Notice the deformation in the plastic - fun fact: peanut butter jars exhibit fascinating behaviors when you fill them with scalding hot liquids and then panic and dump them out again really fast.
...with ~100ml water and a quart of rough pumice to make a sort of cement. However, lacking aluminum oxide (which apparently nobody in Bend possesses or has heard of - there are a lot of fun "standing in a store being stared at blankly" stories behind that sentence), it thus lacked quite a lot in terms of refractory properties. But heat resistance be damned, I was going to whack flat some nails come hell or high water, so I crammed it in a tomato sauce can with a bit of pipe and a drill bit.

The drill bit was the only 1/2" thing I could find that I could put in the oven. I'm not crazy.
Now water glass cures by simple gas exchange so at that point I had three options to set it up: let it sit and dry for a week, inject it with compressed CO2 or heat the everlovin' jessy out of it. Lacking patience or a Soda Stream, I opted for the oven.

Nail Forge 1.0.1 was a real beauty. I wish I had pictures to show you, but in my enthusiasm to make progress, I forwent documentation. Suffice to say that after an hour of as-close-to-broil-as-possible treatment, the cement cemented. It cemented hard. Too hard. It fused to the center form and burner tube form like something out of The African Queen, and no amount of hammering, cajoling, sweating, or desperate scrabbling was going to persuade it out. At one point I literally tied a rope to the center form, tied the other end of the rope to Big Bgog's trailer hitch, and spent ten minutes yanking on it stubborn-loose-tooth-when-you-were-a-kid-style. Eventually though, I did get it free at the expense of cutting a hole in the bottom of the can and hammering it back and forth until it pulverized 50% of the rock and came out. There was about a 1/4" of cement stuck to the form that I could only get off by flattening the pipe with a hammer. C'est la vie, but at least it wasn't much work to whip up another batch and try again.

Unfortunately, being the disenfranchised, Recession Era, twenty-somethings that we are, Bucket and I only have one tomato sauce can to our names, so I had to repack the same can for Nail Forge 1.0.2 (as I said previously, taking the precaution of greasing up the forms this time around). The unforeseen complication introduced was, to quote Dear Henry, there was a hole in it. A quite alarming amount of that hard-earned water glass percolated out the bottom, oozing and boiling into that fantastic goo you saw earlier.

Undeterred, I cleared Nail Forge 1.0.2 for duty and got to forging.

During operation, the propane torch is lovingly crammed into the side of the forge. 
Soaring new heights for the non-literal use of the phrase "baby steps".
It took a lot longer than I expected to preheat the little sucker (close to 15 minutes), but once it was up to temp, I had fun experimenting with the duplex nails, seeing what kind of swords I could turn them into. I opted to start with the traditional Flat Duplex Nail style, and then moved on to a more conventional Sword An Extra Might Be Given to Hold in a Period Piece style. After that my mind started simmering with ideas of how to do this better (a simmer which, lucky me, boiled over at around 3am today with dreams of katanas, sabers, and epees), but before I could play around too much, I started to get worried about how much the forge was melting and smoking. Though ventilation was good and every measure to make this safe was observed, the forge started degassing some sort of tomato/pumice miasma after about an hour of duty, so I decided to shut things down until the snow clears enough for me to move into... The Hollow†.

† sotto Batman voce

Speaking of which, here's a quick peep tour of the space. I went over on Monday and did a little work clearing it of petrifying horse poop and forklift pallets, and doing my best to level out the ground a bit.

It's hard to tell how much like standing on a 1:1000 scale model of the Himalayas this is, but I promise it was Not Good before I shoveled my little heart out on it.
An arial view of my brilliant dirt layout of the space. Labeling to follow. 
I'm colonizing the right side to start, but theoretically I'm allowed to expand anywhere under the eave... 
...Or, as I said under my breath when I thought G couldn't hear me, "Everything the eave our kingdom."
Tentative layout labeled for your convenience.
That's it that's all for now. Bucket and I are off to St. Louis for Thanksgiving today, so enjoy your weeklong reprieve from my prolixity.


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