Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ta da! Ta da! Ta da forever!

I made sort of an ultimatum with myself that I wasn't going to indulge in blorging about side-projects and distractions until I had glowing hot twisted metal to report too. So it gives me great pleasure to cut the official/proverbial red ribbon on SHF (or as I like to pronounce it, "Shuff") with two milestones passed: First "real" forge built and fired, and first sale to a complete stranger. Here's a condensed list of what I've been up to for the past month or two:
  • New floor! - I picked up and moved just about everything out, hacked the floor up with a pickaxe, and (along with the surprise help from one D-Millz) covered the ground with some pavers.
Credit to D-Millz for the photo. If anyone has a Fuji X-Pro1 lying around, I'll buy it from you.
  • Made an anvil stand! - From cinderblocks to Cinderella story, the anvil has come a long way up the social ladder. I traded a favor to a local sawmill in exchange for a beautiful, rough-sawn block of black locust. Add a bunch of scrap metal from Swift & Mcormick, and ta da!

  • Restored a post vice and built a work stand for it! - I picked this vice up for a song on Craigslist, and after a little love and tenderness it has come back to life and helped tremendously with many of these projects. Big thanks to J-Loo for help with the welding and the pipe. Getting this 7/8"x4' thick plate into and out of Greg's truck by myself sure was a fun treat for my body.

  • Bought a stick welder! - For years now, I've been trying to work around the problem of welders being balls expensive by making one. While in principle, this project isn't complicated (at least in terms of moving parts, wiring diagrams, raw materials, etc.) it is extremely dangerous, and I didn't trust myself enough to actually use the damn thing. It wasn't too hard to salvage some transformers, rewire them to my purposes, and hook them together, but without a way to control the welder's output it would have been a really limited tool, and adding a variac would have brought it in line with the cost of buying a new welder (and if you think using home-wound transformers sounds dangerous, then don't even google homemade variacs). Anyway, the point is that suddenly I came across this beast of a beauty and snapped it up.
    This monster weighs more than twice what I do, and sucks up 220/440 volts at 84/42 amps, and J-Loo (my senior welder advisor) tells me it could handle 1/4" rod, which, I mean, I've never even seen welding rod that large for sale, though it's very possible I didn't understand what he was saying (I often don't).

    Also if moving that plate for the vice stand sounded like fun, imagine me trying to get THIS out of the back of an F250. Thank the gods my neighbor, O-F'sho, came along to help me belay it off the barn's overhang. 
  • Made a(nother) forge! - I've gone through about ten or fifteen different forge bodies and about half that in burner designs, and I finally made one that WORKS. I had some really grand plans for sourcing all the material from scratch and making this badass, bronze age looking temple of fire, and I haven't given up on that dream, but I did frankly get sick of not forging and had to throw some real money at the situation. WORTH IT.
    For this edition, I went with a pretty standard ABANA approved Ron Reil design, and though it will eventually plug into a lovely C-shaped pipe forge that I'm still working out how to put a hole in the top of, for now it's shoved right into a hole I drilled into the top of a firebrick.

  • Worked for some actual blacksmiths! - The guys at Orion Forge in town gave me the wonderful opportunity to help them out with some work for this year's Winterfest here in Bend, and besides getting to work with them on some of the larger pieces they were making/bringing to the festival, I got to prep for and lead a bunch of hands-on blacksmithing demos during the whole weekend. We made wall hooks! I'm hoping to continue "interning" with Orion in the future, but we'll see.
Here's the booth where we set up shop - that's me in the grey apron in the back. It started to get really busy once people were drunk. Fun fact - when it comes to how drunk you are, there's an inverse relationship between one's confidence in blacksmithing and the ability to do blacksmithing. Also you will begin to find the phrase "quench the tip" increasingly hilarious and your eyebrow wagging and elbow throwing will reflect this.

I got to cut a lot of the square pipes and plate covers for this guy! Once we finished building it, we took the whole thing over to a powder coating company where they have RV garage sized ovens where we heated it up to 300-400ºF and then painted wax all over it. 

For the coronation ceremony I got to light the propane flames that shoot out the top, which didn't seem to impress the awkward dude they hired to be the Fire King this year too much. Super weird moment.
  • Sold a cocktail sword on Etsy! - Some dude in GA bought the sword I listed on Etsy! I was really surprised because I totally didn't put my heart into the listing and it was kind of a joke/experiment. In fact I originally intended it to just be the first little sword I made in the Nail Forge, but I totally I forgot about that when he asked me how many I have, so I told him I'd make them to order. Then he went and ordered the sharpened and blood-runnelled options I listed, which grossed me $8, but meant I had to go and make a new one. Anyways, I spent a day massaging the process a little more and worked out some manufacturing kinks that were holding me up from making more of them and got one in the mail to him. After hugely miscalculating postage, I netted a little less than $2 out of the sale, but I had fun and it felt good to have a legit customer. Expect to see a lot more stuff showing up on my Etsy page now that I'm starting to understand how it works. Speaking of...
  • Started making more Etsy-able items! - Starting with dice! Also now that I'm practically a master hook maker post-Winterfest, I'm going to be listing a few different hookish things.

One of my first tool projects is making more/better punches so the pips aren't quite so wild. I did these ones with a drill press (crazy generously donated to me by Hunter over at Orion Forge).

A very early hook in my hook-making career. It lacks the spit and polish of many of the later ones, but I like its shape more than most of them.

One of my most recent hooks. I made it for some dude who showed up at Winterfest about ten minutes before the whole festival ended and asked if I'd make a hanging garden basket hook type thing, and though he was exceedingly drunk and wanted to trade me a "yoga" swing in exchange for it, I figured why not? 

He vanished into the night, but the hook does a great job of holding up my 5 gallon bucket-o-tools.
  • Made a solar forge! - This was a quick little side project that ate up a day. I picked up a free 55" projection screen TV and used the enormous fresnel lens on it to make a giant death-ray contraption! I haven't tested it again since early January when I built it (and back then it couldn't really do more than get your hand really uncomfortable and smoke wood since the sun wouldn't get much higher than like 65º), but hopefully by summertime this thing will be up to forging temperatures.
    One thing I do wish I was still in the south for; this guy would melt steel if it were in Georgia. I'll be interested to learn how powerful it will get up here in Oregon.

    Note the strange brick sculpture I made for one of the many forge bodies I tested and rejected. Thankfully this has been replaced by a much more sturdy metal table thanks to my welder.
Anyhow, things are shaping up nicely, and I'd like to think that by the end of next week I'll have figured out some way to attach my new burner to something a little better than a pile of firebricks. For now, here are a few more pictures of where I'm at today.


Thanks so much to all of you for your support! It's such a relief after half a year of work now to be actually DOING the thing I set out to do a couple years ago, even if it's just little stuff like dice. I can't wait to dig in and start cranking stuff out!