Category Archives: Lighting

Functional lamps with a nature theme

Practice your Power Hammer skills, kids

I’m posting this relatively recent video (2015) as a source of inspiration for all you industrial metal workers out there. Chinese blacksmiths are making pipe flanges with the biggest power hammer I’ve ever seen.

Watch there teamwork and the movement of each worker around the power hammer. Watch how they maneuver their bodies with their tools. This kind of fluidity and strength is indicative of consistent practice under a probably arduous and competitive demand for product.

If you work in industry, the grind may get to you, but your labor is also your art. These blacksmiths are an homage to that.

Stainless Steel Bowls

Stainless steel is an expensive but desirable alloy because of its resistance to corrosion and extreme heat. You’ve certainly cooked with it or seen it in a bathroom, because it won’t rust (or it takes a very long time to rust) depending on if the metal has been contaminated during the forging or fabrication process.IMG_1891

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Stainless differs from carbon steel by the amount of chromium present. Chromium oxide forms on the surface by a process called passivation which coats the metal in a kind of protective shield against corrosives if there is enough oxygen.

Stainless steel bowls
Stainless steel bowls

Stainless requires a high forge heat and hard hammer blows. The metal is tough and takes a while to move. I don’t recommend forging it past a high red heat because it has a greater tendency to crack and splinter if forged cold. After some wire brushing and grinding, it produces a beautiful, shiny finish; and after some direct heat, it produces the temper colors very vividly.

temper chart

 

Coffee table

This is the second table I’ve built and I have found a lot of joy in the process. I had uncharacteristically taken my time in putting together the bottom layer of the table, carefully assembling  the pieces as I went and forgoing all former designs I initially drew out. Sometimes not going with what you’ve planned ends up working out better.

Designing the bottom layer as I go.
Designing the bottom layer as I go.
Welding
Welding

It is also the first time I have played around with color. When I TIG welded the tablDSC01883e together, I loved the blues and deep purples that came out from the discoloration. I painted the angle iron a blue matte to bring out those colors and create a deeper contrast between the grind marks, blacks and grays. To be honest, I don’t think I would go with this particular coloration again, but it was good to experiment.

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For the top, a carpenter friend of mine is helping me create a redwood border, then I will fit a piece of glass on top. The redwood will also add a splash of color that I can’t foresee yet.

Roses

Making of Atoke Bells

Finished bells
Finished bells

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.

Layout for the Atoke bells
Layout for the Atoke bells
Cut pieces
Cut pieces

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.

Adding texture to the inside of the bell
Adding texture to the inside of the bell
Curving of the sides
Curving of the sides
Shaping a "banana" curve
Shaping a “banana” curve
Tools used in the shaping
Tools used in the shaping

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Tooling

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Dies for guillotine used to shape tube stock.
Dies for guillotine
Dies for guillotine

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.

Tools used to sculpt eye sockets
Tools used to sculpt eye sockets

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.

Hot cut for a blacksmithing class.
Detail of color change that occurs during heat treating.

Lighting

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Detail of roots and wood trunk
Detail of leaves and acorns
Detail of leaves and acorns
Oak tree lamp
Oak tree lamp

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.

Bamboo lamp
Detail of bamboo
Layout of leaves
Layout of leaves