A summary of what I have learned and created since I joined the CDBAPosted: Dec 8, 2014 5:30pm
I wanted to post some form of update for the work I've been doing. I sadly had to miss last month's class. Luckily Steve Gurzler helped me make some new tongs the month before (thanks Steve!). Also, the welding is something I'm eager to learn more about, hopefully there will be demos again.
I know this is usually for event updates, but I figured it might be nice to see some of the fruits of the group's efforts.
I have always had an interest in the blacksmith craft. Now older, with a home and kids, I figured I had no excuse to not get into it. In high school and college I made a few bucks on the side making chain mail, and I even did a few short lessons with some armor smiths making plate armor. However, it was cold steel and I really wanted the anvil and forge. I have also recently gotten into straight razors, and had seen people forging them online and the amount of forging seemed quite minimal so it might be a good way to start.
When I started looking, I started at schools, but nothing casual, and more importantly, local. I did however find an online news article from All Over Albany
I figured I would look up the group, and sure enough, you guys were still having sessions. I found this site, and signed right up. My first session was in August 2014 and I went with no equipment, no training, and no idea what to expect. I knew at some point I would need an anvil and fire.
My first meeting was a demonstration by Travis Edgington on how to make axes. I was pretty blown away at the quality of the work, with minimal tools. He basically made an axe with fire, anvil, hammer, borax, a spoon, and a file. I was also very impressed with the spread of attendees. Within the first 5 minutes of the meeting, I had already met Mike Catalado who hooked me up with a sweet anvil. Free of charge, so long as I made something good within a year. I just had to pay for the stand.
Mike also asked me what kind of forge I had, and my answer was "nothing yet!" I could see the worry he had over giving an anvil to some newcomer with not even a forge to his name. He was kind enough to let me know about something called a brake-drum forge. So the next weekend I made a few calls around and found a scrap yard who would sell me an old Ford super-duty brake drum, they seemed confused that I only wanted 1, so if anyone needs a brake-drum, there's a scrap yard way up Hoosick that has just 1. So, with my brake drum I hit up Home Depot for some plumbing supplies, and a trunk full of cinder blocks. I also bought a cheap hair dryer for my bellows. It was about $60 total, plus a few bags of lump charcoal.
This was probably the worst thing I have ever made, but they did work. During all this I also managed to make it into Albany steel, which is less than a mile from my office, so I now find myself running out during lunch to look at their scrap room.
This is the first razor I made before I melted it. When I went to harden the steel, I had gotten it too thin, and I melted it. Turns out a hair dryer and some fire can get reallllly hot. However, the second came out OK.
The scales of this one are made from some oak I had around the house from a mantle I had made over the fireplace. However, when I took it to the next CDBA meeting, I learned a lot about finishing. I realized how bad of a job I had done with the sanding and filing step. So the next razor was going to be much better. It was for my brother. It had Buffalo horn scales and a bone wedge. I was really pleased with this one, and was worried because I wanted to do something a bit crazier for my father.
I was very pleased that his came out even better. His had a high carbon blade, but I copper plated it, and made the scales with purple heart. It came out really cool. I got the idea during Mike McCarthy's finishing lesson. Maybe I'll do a class on electroplating. It was the first time I had ever tried it. After all these razors, I really wanted to get back to more forging, and less grinding. So I made an attempt at the wine glass holder. The first one I made was so bad I didn't even take pictures, but the second one came out pretty good. I gave it to my stepmother, and had to have her take a picture of it, as I had forgotten. Clearly her camera is a bit older.The glasses hang a little far out, but it works. Great lesson Pete!
The only thing I actually made for myself was a wreath holder. However, I still have tons of techniques I want to learn, and I have lots of practice ahead of me. I hope to try and build a small shed in the back yard and make a real forge. Maybe even start using coal.
Thanks for taking the time to read this if you did, I just wanted to post some pictures because I have given all of these things away for the holidays, but I couldn't have done any of it without this group. Hope to see you all in January.
Forging an axe headEvent Date: Aug 24, 2014
Today's demo with Travis was no disappointment. He is one of the few highly skilled artisan blacksmiths in our area, having studied under Bob Cerney and Mike McCarthy, among a few other highly skilled Cooperstown area smiths. Using a bar of wrought iron (recycled from an old bridge or farm implement) Travis skillfully brought us through each carefully explained step of the process of shaping and finishing a colonial style head with a forged welded steel insert/cutting edge. Travis demonstrated a number of techniques which he routinely uses in his work which produce a better and more efficiently created end product, one such technique which was new to many of us, was covering the hot steel totally with flux as a near final step before the final wire brushing. This produces a cleaner piece by essentially melting off any scale which then is cleanly brushed off. A very professional looking piece is the end result. Travis is an excellent teacher and it was a pleasure to watch and learn from him. We hope he will demonstrate again for CDBA in the future.
Metal castingEvent Date: Jun 29, 2014
Mark Feldman 's demo today was a terrific success. Over 25 members attended and were captivated by Mark's easy style of presenting an area most of us have little experience with - metal casting. Mark started off discussing the materials he uses and then quickly got into casting his first piece. This was a small anvil with a hammer, using a soapstone mold made from an old sink. Mark surprised us when he took out the casting and there with raised letters was, "CDBA". Mark then encouraged anyone who was interested to try their own hand in pouring a casting and most everyone ended up with their own CDBA anvil. Mark latter demonstrated sand casting and turned out a highly detailed belt buckle with a dragon on it. A very successful meeting and demo.
A special treat towards the end of the day, planned no doubt so as not to interrupt with today's demonstration, our next month's demonstrator, James Arlen Gillaspie, walked in! Of course, like last month when he also surprised us at the end of the day, he brought along a piece of ancient body armor he was repairing for a client collector. Very special!!
WARNING! DO NOT MISS the July 27th meeting at Breitenback Castle in Altamont. Not only will James be demonstrating his refined and top of the art skill in making and repairing armor but the Castle itself is not to be missed nor is Thom's Blacksmith shop!
Terrific Event and Demo : Noah and Abe are two young and talented craftsmen.Event Date: May 21, 2014
If you missed this meeting, you missed a very very good one and shame on you! Noah clearly demonstrated step by step and measure by measure how he has been making Dutch strap hinges and pintels for a very exacting client who is restoring an early 17th century Dutch farm house. Noah is a clear speaker and a very good teacher so all of the steps and the reasons why he does something a certain way were no mystery. Noah's forge welding of the pintel alone was reason enough for attending as was his simple tip regarding getting the body(strap) and the shaft (pintel) to the same forging heat/color and keeping the shaft facing up so not to burn it away. Paul Crosbey, once again, taped this meeting and might have DVDs again available next meeting as he did of Gil's demo on heat treating from last month.
Noah also brought as a special treat, his long time buddy, Abe Pardee. Abe lives in Connecticut and has been blacksmithing for a number of years. He, like Noah, is an enthusiastic and high energy creative individual. both like trying new things and Abe demonstrated for us how to make a forged and sturdy garden trowel which will last a lifetime from 5/8" stock . The end result was a beautiful spade shaped trowel which, at its' widest, must have been drawn out to around 4". It was a beauty and it was only the 3rd one Abe ever made!
Both of these smiths were a treat to watch and learn from and their collective and individual energy and personalities were like blood transfusions for us older types! Well done guys!
Now, those of you who left right after Noah's demo, missed Abe. Too bad! But those of you who left right after Abe's demo, missed a special and unexpected treat. James Arlen Gillaspie, our July demonstrator at Breitenbach Castle, wandered in carrying with him two 500 year old artifacts he has been repairing for two of his client collectors. He also had with him one of his own creations, a gorgeous fully articulated armor plated gauntlet glove. If you missed James, that was really too bad! What a day, what a meeting!
Write Up of the April 27th, 2014 CDBA Meeting by Jack ConnellPosted: Apr 27, 2014
Lee Harvey’s April 27th’s demonstration on constructing a Jingle bell based on a design by Steve Alling and Bill Clemons was, as usual with Lee, very successful and informative. Lee passed out a number of copies of the article with schematics that came from Clemons’ article. Lee demonstrated and discussed all of the jigs and tools he made to produce these terrific bells and stressed that the material needed to be thick (3/16” or 7 Gage) enough to properly take the required shape. Dough Deleury brought a number of laser cut bell blanks for sale which several members took advantage of as hand cutting these out is a bit tough. We also had a terrific tail gating where a couple of us were able to pass on no longer need blacksmith items. Keep this in mind for our next and subsequent meets.
* Our next meeting will be a week early, on May 18, NOT May 25th. This meeting we will have Noah demonstrating forging Dutch hinges. As many of you know, Noah and his dad are full time blacksmiths and are exceptionally talented ones at that.
** I believe that Jim has sent around a reminder that we need instructors to demonstrate to the Albany school kids this June . The schedule and signup sheet will be at the May meeting. This has been a lot of fun for all of us in the past and is THE reason why we are able to use this site as apermant home. Demonstrating for the few weeks that we do each year is the dues we pay to stay here at this terrific site. So, please do your share and sign up.
*** Lastly, please note that the kitty for coffee, etc. as well as for coal and steel is getting low. We have relied on coffee donations as well as general donations to cover these costs and do not want to have to resort to charging dues. We (all of us!) like to keep things loose and informal. So, in lieu of resorting to this drastic measure, we are proposing that beginning with the May meeting, everyone attending (coffee drinkers or not) put a single dollar in the donation can by the coffee. This hopefully will be sufficient. Also, anyone who has short (foot or so) pieces of steel to donate would also be much appreciate as this will also cut down on our material needs, and thus cash flow.
See you May 18th at noon.