Friday, November 7, 2014

Storm's a Brewin'

Well it's definitely been longer than I expected since I last updated ya'll on things. Let me set that aright.

Things were slow for a while, I spent a lot of time reading through some new books: New Edge of the Anvil by Jack Andrews and Metal Techniques for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht, as well as every book on blacksmithing that the library has available (which is three). So my head is fairly swimming with terminology, metallurgical data, and techniques, and I'm super pumped to start putting some of it all to use.

Which will be SOON. A couple nights ago, I went back over to the meet with the folks with some barn space they might be willing to rent out, and we fleshed out all the necessaries and quid pro quo's, etc., and I got a brief look at the specific area they've got in mind for me. I head over again on Monday to, I think, sign a rough agreement and get working.

The past couple months I've been lurking at the Central Oregon Metal Artist Guild (COMAG) meetings and getting to know some of the peeps in this neck of the woods that are working metal. There are a lot of incredibly talented people here, and they've been incredibly generous with their knowledge and advice. To that end, I've been talking more with Hunter and Kellen (who I met back in April, but never had much opportunity to get to know) - two unbelievably talented, hilarious, and gregarious smiths who own/operate at the Orion and Dry Canyon Forges.

I had a chance to go over to Dry Canyon yesterday and meet up with Kellen for a day of tool making. He was mega patient with me and let me work at my own pace, which I was soooo grateful for. His style of teaching really strongly reminded me of climbing with El Jefé. Jefé is a way better climber than me, and I always feel really intimidated and self-conscious of how annoying it must be to have to belay for someone so agonizingly slow and ignorant. But that embarrassment and intimidation is entirely self-imposed - Jefé manages to be effortlessly patient and forgiving of my childish flailing and screaming, and seems to enjoy hanging out with me regardless of the vast difference in our ability levels, which makes it way easier to learn at my own pace. Kellen has a lot of those same qualities, and it was great to be able to make mistakes and ask questions without feeling worried about asking something stupid or not getting it perfect on the first try and I flailed and screamed a pair of tongs into the world.

For grasping square stock in the 5/8"- 1 1/4" range.

Especially in contrast to my first* tong making experience in Michigan, which involved being crowded into a very small garage with a great number of hot objects with an especially grumpy old man, who would frequently become flustered and pry the metal from my hands and try to reshape my mess to match his increasingly terse instructions.

* First actual - as proud as I am of what I accomplished in Oz, the products of my work there are as close to tongs as Atlanta is to Tokyo.

Exhibit A: Tongs
Exhibit B: Panic Tongs
While to be fair, I did spend about an hour and a half on the Michigan tongs and the better part of an entire day on this pair, I think Kellen's attitude and willingness to let me do it for myself is the biggest difference between them.

As an aside, let's get just...balls to the wall, high school drama up here for a minute or two. Now most of you will not be shocked to know that I'm a huge dork. I have Serious Thoughts about freshwater macro-invertebrates. I am easily enraged by poor board game box design. I know more words to camp songs than [musician you think is cool][/musician you think is cool]'s. I make jokes that have a passing knowledge of HTML coding as a prereq. I do pretty convincing pigeon and eagle impressions. I run a Minecraft server.

I'm not particularly worried that anybody know this about me, because I am a generally confident person. I take pride in many of my personal accomplishments. Maybe I should be embarrassed that I've spent days constructing making a 1:1 scale model of Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water in a video game populated these days mostly by 8 year olds, but I'll happily brag about it if you ask (it took forever to get the fireplaces right). However, I am often very worried that knowing this will stop someone from considering getting to know me any further. In the same way that I'm worried that someday Bucket's parents might find out someday that I've donated money to NPR, I find myself moving through a lot of social interactions like I'm made entirely of knees to avoid revealing things about myself that I think might cause someone to narrow their eyes and think, "We are not alike."

Yesterday was a great example. Kellen and Hunter have talked a little bit about possibly extending an "internship" type deal to me - work here and there in exchange for valuable experience and "literally dozens of dollars" - which would be an actual dream come true for me. Now, I don't know a lot about Kellen and Hunter, but they're cool dudes - I'd like to work with them and I'd really like to be friends with them, and the part of me that I'm talking about is worried that if they knew how much money I have spent on virtual space ships, they might decide not to talk to me anymore. Inconveniently, my strategy for concealing this information is torn out of the playbooks of Behaving Like a Marionette-Person, and How to Maintain a Mistrustful Awareness of Your Hands and What They are Doing, and Talking Like You're a Big Fancy Grownup. Especially having spent the past several months interacting almost exclusively with large groups of 2nd-7th graders, I have to be extremely careful to modulate my voice so it doesn't get too loud and/or start doing Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions.

I think probably a lot of introverted people tend to mirror the personality that is expected of them in a social situation and, if it leads to a connection, sort of side-door their actual personality into the relationship as it evolves, but the flaw in this strategy for me is that the personality that I front isn't actually super good at making friends.

Also, jeezy chreezy, I'm so flip flappin' exhausted with being the person in a social situation at a disadvantage. Trying to make friends and network is so hard when you're the only one in the conversation that really needs a connection to form. I know that the healthy reaction to this frustration is not to burrow deeper, but to force yourself to stand woodenly and maintain eye contact (but not too much eye contact); still I'm seriously looking forward to having my own, private space if not just to have somewhere to build my confidence.

Anyway, lest this morph into a Live Journal, the point is that I'm glad I had a chance to work with Kellen yesterday, but I wish there had been 30 seven year olds there because apparently that's really where I'm in my element these days.

Some tools gathering for the migration to the barn.
Que sera, sera. Any way you look at it, things are really clacking along at a good pace now. I'm hoping to pick up some nice Virginia Coal from a fella up in Hood River this weekend, and Hunter and Kellen lent me a coal forge firepot, so it's possible that as soon as a week from now, I might have a forge operational! Name suggestions are welcome. I'm leaning towards something unicorn themed*, but you never know...

*I don't know if this is a joke either.


  1. Que Sera ... a good name for a business