Monday, August 17, 2009
Trial By Hammer: Day 1
The front door of Mandala Creations, my bastion of forging for the next two weeks.
Today's introductions went something like this:
Andy, meet Power-hammer Stryker 165.
Power-hammer Stryker 165, meet Andy.
The pleasure of acquaintance was all mine. Up till now, I've only used a 50lb Little Giant Hammer, a hardy device fashioned in the 30's, but still forging true. However, using a modern powerhammer opened my eyes to the glossy world of piston-driven hammers. Chris owns two Power-hammers: an 88 and 165 (the numbers refer to the weight of the sledge. The machines are actually thousands of pounds), and I became intimately familiar with the quirks of these wonderfully mechanized crushers. The heavy 165 hammer is a paradox of material, function, and operation: it stands seven or eight feet tall, weighs an ungodly amount, FLATTENS huge chunks of metal, yet it can deliver light, feathered blows with finesse. It's almost as if the operator must be as subtle as the machine is powerful. Here's some lessons from our day of forging railing pickets:
1) Consistency. Keep blows evenly spaced, and with consistent power. Also, pull the hot metal under the sledge at an even rate, like a machine.
2) Relax. Don't fight the hammer. Gripping the tongs on the metal overly tight causes you to misread the metal's registry on the hammer.
3) Don't manhandle the hammer peddle. The difference between ponderous, heavy blows and light chamfering blows is infinitesimal. I've never felt so intimately connected to a machine. It's kind of... shall we say, mech-erotic? Sorry, that was weird.
4) DRINK TONS OF WATER. The temperature outside today was in the mid-90's, with gobs of humidity, and the shop was a good 15 degrees hotter at times with the forge going. I gulped down a gallon of water, but I still feel like didn't have an ounce of liquid in me. My piss wasn't just yellow; it was dark orange. Tomorrow, I'm bringing salt packets to keep my water down.
For dinner, I had a Stella Artois and a spectacular salad with goat cheese, brussel sprouts (I introduced Chris and Rowena to roasted sprouts), and myriad other delectable chunkies. Now, to bed. Tomorrow I meet the hammer again.
Thar she is, the 165.
Chamfering the edge of the railing pickets.
Chris is very, very talented with the power-hammer. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
Some forged pickets, before final finishing and polishing.
A decidedly sweaty me.