I’ve had the forge for about a year now and wow what a process it has been. Over this past year I have learned so much about the craft and myself while getting to create so many things with my own two hands. The whole forge set up has certainly improved bit by bit and I don’t have to chase my anvil around while I’m working anymore.
I feel really proud about how the whole set up has come along, I’ve got a much more solid and efficient work space with storage for materials and tools. At some point before Spring really set in, Shannon and I were able to pick up one of those two drawer metal filing cabinets that the forge can sit on while it is fired up. With the forge no longer sitting on the ground when I work so there is no more crouching or bending to get metal in and out of the forge and that is something my body is happy about. The anvil also went through a few upgrades from a small block of steel, to a small Harbor Freight anvil, to now a piece of railroad track. I was also gifted a mini jewelers anvil by a dear friend to add to my little set up. Another good friend helped me build a small but sturdy workbench out of pallet wood that I designed. It keeps the anvil at a much better height to hammer, though I still find myself leaning in and over the work it is not nearly as much as I used to when I was using a stool for a workbench. I know it might not look like much but this set up feels like a long way to come from trying to hammer on a steel block on the ground that would jump with every strike.
I did not work on a lot of bigger projects this year, focusing more on small items for repetition and getting down the basics. I only made two tools for myself over the year, a hot cut and set of tongs. The hot cut allows me to cut through hot metal. It is very rudimentary and doesn’t have the right kind of heat treatment to be a very solid tool but is a lot easier to use and more functional than a railroad spike or small handsaw. I’ve used it a few times and the edge rolled a bit but it still does what I need it to do. I was also finally able to finish the set of tongs that I started working on at the beginning of the year. Working on that set of tongs taught me a lot about having to adapt ideas from an initial plan due to skill level and lack of tools. At first I had planned to make every piece of it and do it all through forging. In the end, I drilled the holes for the rivet and used a machine made bolt for the rivet itself because I just did not have the resources and skills to make all that happen with just forge work. I have plans to spend more time making tools this new year to be able to try out some new projects.
There was a lot that I learned along the way and there is just a way that going through this process that my brain really likes. I get to practice problem solving in the moment as well as making plans and sketches ahead of time. Working at the forge I can’t be in chaotic brain space, if I am I either need to step away or I need to take a breath and slow down, focusing on one step at a time. This craft is teaching me to be present in the moment. It is also teaching me about transmutation and alchemy. It is also teaching me about refining the energy of raw emotion to fuel a process that creates something. Each time I get out the forge I learn something more specific about what I don’t know. It helps me form better questions to go find answers to. My learning process involves a lot of trial and error and research. Sometimes I am a bit too excited and jump right into trying to do something before spending the time to make sure I’ve researched the right questions and have the steps down in the right order. There are definitely some times where I am not working efficiently and just giving myself more work to do. So I am trying to get into the habit of taking a minute to check in with myself and walk through my steps before firing up the forge. I really am excited to spend more time with this craft and to forge myself in the process.