These pictures represent the process of making Atoke bells, a forged iron bell used in West Africa, particularly from the Ewe nation in and surrounding Togo. The bells are held in the palm of one’s hand and played by striking the edge with a metal rod. I was asked to make some bells for a local band in Oakland that plays traditional African music, as well as a mix of funk and blues.
The most challenging part of making these bells was to make sure the intonation was correct and in sync with the other bells. I figured the easiest way to play with the tone was to gradually decrease the thickness of the walls, but this process proved to be very slow and tedious.
A knife from the beginning to the end.
Making one’s own tooling is one of the most amazing and inventive aspects of blacksmithing. This post only shows some of the tooling I’ve made over the years, but in reality I’m constantly making my own tools and feel excited to use the personalized tools of other blacksmith-friends.
The history of tool making is amazing and diverse. Many anthropologists and historians still question how humans were able to develop the skill of annealing, hardening and tempering metals to make efficient and long-lasting tools. The history of this science is interwoven in alchemy, war and trade, which I hope to touch on in depth in later posts.
I like my work to be both functional and beautiful, which is why lighting and furniture for the home seems like a good avenue to explore.
Oak trees and bamboo stalks are some of my favorite types of plants. With the advice from a blacksmith-friend in North Carolina and some trial and error, the stalks (1 inch pipe) were heated a few inches apart with a torch, then compressed with a press. Straightening the stalks out took some control and time.