*Vlog in Ireland down below complete with blacksmithing footage!
Just before I returned to Europe at the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to go to the MET museum in NYC with a friend who is an intense history buff. He’s not only able to appreciate the art with me, but to fill me in on the missing details in my knowledge bank. We walked through the exhibits housing medieval weaponry and he identified the different styles of smithery whether it be Spanish or English no sweat. I received a great education that day and suddenly had an interest in blacksmithing. Once I got home he sent me a video of someone who went spent his weekend making a bronze age sword. Fast forward a few weeks later to Galway, Ireland for their annual culture night. It was just my luck that one of their events was a blacksmithing demonstration. My original plan was to just take a few photos and leave, but nope, I ended up on the anvil myself! As difficult as it was, I kept pursuing adventure. Here are 5 Blacksmithing Lessons from Ireland:
1. Work, physical work.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Cool, I thought. Just pick up a hammer and start smashing. After a good 30 minutes the question ringing through my head was, “When was the last time you took a metal hammer and started swinging it for more than a minute?” Not only is the head of the hammer heavy, but so is the wooden handle. I was tired pretty soon, but my teacher Michael kept pushing me. If I was going to start, he wanted to see me to the finish.
Without it, you can’t even get started. In order to shape metal at all, you have to wait for your object to be heated red-orange (called forging) before you can begin work. That can take at least 2 minutes! If you pull it out early, your work will be in vain, and your metal will quickly cool back to its hardened state. These days food is made in 5 minutes, we have instant messaging, travel is faster than it ever was, and the list goes on.
Patience is the word that describes smithing and holds everything in place. Without it, you’re not going anywhere, a sword can’t smith itself.
3. Proper Technique.
They often say there are many ways to get to the top of a mountain. That may be true, but I think it’s a loaded statement. To be realistic there can be a round-about way, a straight up climb, a scenic route, etc. That said, having technique in anything is really important! Where you hold your thumb on a hammer can be the difference between another 10 minutes of endurance, or giving up. Bouncing hammers on the anvil to bounce your arm up for another swing also relieves tension. How high you lift the hammer, the way the hammer hits the metal, and where are things to consider. All these little facts and ideas will eventually be seen through the end product.
A lot of people give me blank stares when I tell them I study the guitar with a breath of, “That’s it?”As you read above, I literally thought smithing was as simple as heating the metal object and beating down with the hammer; couldn’t be further from the truth. You need to be familiar with the tools in your shed, of which there are many. The anvil has it’s distinctive shape because each part has a different purpose. You need to know your metals! Because every metal has different chemical compositions different techniques must be applied in the form of extra patience and maybe more physical force!
There truly is nothing like the feeling of making something with your very own hands. In this day and age, people experience it less and less. Being a Boy Scout allowed me to experience things like making bonfires from scratch, participate in building a climbing tower, surviving in the wilderness and constructing my very own shelter. Each and every one of these experiences was euphoric, just the idea of “I did this all by myself!” made it all worth it. You’d think that me playing guitar would produce the same result, but after writing this, I’ll try veering my mind to think in that direction!
Thanks for being patient and reading to the bottom. Before we go (and after you watched the newest vlog, lemme ask: when was the last time you physically made something with your own hands? Let me know in the comments below!