The students at Greenwood, Northwood’s Democratic Teen program, are becoming bladesmiths this semester.
As part of their self-designed Elven Skills class, they’re working sewing elven cloaks and forging swords and daggers. Since none of them had worked a forge before, we decided to start with a smaller project; to get warmed up. So this wednesday we learned forge safety and protocols and heated ½ in square stock mild steel to about 1,500f. In fact some of us got it considerably hotter, and learned the hard way that metal can burn!
Once it was hot, we learned how to twist it in a vise. We came to understand deeply how it twists more easily where it’s hotter, and how hard it is to get an even spiral over a few feet of metal. Then we worked on stretching the end out and rounding the square metal into a graceful, round point. Once it was pointed, we worked it over the anvil’s horn into a hook. Next week, we will finish them off and put holes in them, creating unique, beautiful, wrought iron coat hooks.
The process of working a forge is not easy; it’s hard, hot work that’s often painful and always exhausting. Despite that, or perhaps in part because of it, there’s a deep magic in the process that speaks to the heart of some people. While several of us did it purely because we wanted the finished product, a few of us found a real passion for working hot metal. One student, covered in sweat and coal dust, holding a 6 lb hammer high above her head shouted gleefully “This is what I was always meant to do!”
We quickly learned that with two anvils, the maximum number of people who could safely be at the forge was four. Since this left six of us watching, the students decided to sing while the others worked. In the video, you can hear the beautiful, potent music of the forge blower, the ring of hammers on steel, and the raised voices of the rest of the community, singing in support of the hot, hard work.
Moving forward, we’ll finish our hooks and move on to blades, where we’ll learn about tempering and annealing. Beyond the forge, Greenwood continues it’s academic studies and exploration of the larger community, uncovering hitherto hidden passions and skills in ourselves, and honing them as we grow both personally and as a community of excited learners.
Enjoy the video, and we’ll see you in the woods!