Forging and Welding
Eric Dennis of Roundhouse Blacksmithing Welding a Praying Mantis Sculpture
I hate doing all the many stages that go to creating the finished object; some of them are agonizingly difficult, some are exhausting, some of them are very, very boring; a lot of them are all three, it’s your perfect microcosm of human endeavor. What I love is the feeling you get when you’ve done them, and they’ve come out right. Nothing in the whole wide world beats that.--K. J. Parker, on welding
The first fold is just a lot of thin rods, some iron, some steel, twisted together then heated white and forged into a single strip of thick ribbon. Then you twist, fold, and do it again. The third time is usually the easiest; the material’s had most of the rubbish beaten out of it, the flux usually stays put, and the work seems to flow that bit more readily under the hammer.
It seems to take forever, and you can wreck everything you’ve done so far with one split second of carelessness; if you burn it or let it get too cold, or if a bit of scale or slag gets hammered in.
You need to listen as well as look—for that unique hissing noise that tells you that the material is just starting to spoil but isn’t actually ruined yet; that’s the only moment at which one strip of steel will flow into another and form a single piece.
I lose track of time when I’m welding sculpture. I stop when it’s done, and not before; and I realize how tired and wet with sweat and thirsty I am, and how many hot zits and cinders have burnt their way through my clothes and blistered my skin.
When you’re grinding, you’re the eye of a storm of white and gold sparks. They burn your skin and set your shirt on fire, but you can’t let little things like that distract you.
The joy isn’t in the doing but the having-done. Everything I do takes total concentration. Probably that’s why I do this job. I hate all the steps on the way to perfection, the effort and the noise and the heat and the dust, but when you get there, you’re glad to be alive.
--K. J. Parker, on welding