Saturday, January 05, 2008

Modern Skills applied to Ancient Craft?

Right now the Artisan Blacksmith Association of North America (ABANA) is going through some problems. From my vantage point, I see this as:
- too much cost against too little value
- too much stress on schmoozing
- remote and extremely costly annual events with limited direct education
- stress on demonstrators with fame - but little communications skills

I only ever was a paid member one year (1990) and that mainly so I could attend the conference that year - held in Alfred NY (near Rochester). My final cost for the four days was about $500, and I got very little value against that expense. (I would have gained more by using the money for a week at the Campbell Folk School, or spending it on books.)

Right now ABANA is seeking directions via an on line opinion poll. You don't have to be a member to submit. If you work in forged metals you might consider adding your comments

One of the thing that has plagued ABANA (in my opinion) is that it is basically a self enrolled special interest group. Many of those most active in setting the conduct of the organization are actually not skilled or active as actual blacksmiths. You pay your money - you get membership. Balanced against this is an often artificial measure of what constitutes skill. It is so often not based on past work - but dominated by modern machine process. (The Ontario Government has been looking at some kind of definition to 'Artisan Blacksmith'. I've seen the prototype skills requirements, and they include knowledge of plasma cutters and CNC machines!)

For your interest - here is what ABANA posts as the required skills for a basic level journeyman blacksmith:


Blacksmithing Standards developed by the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association, an ABANA Affiliate, and registered with the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, United States Department of Labor.

1. Drawing Out: Draw a bar to a point or dress an edge or point a tool.
2. Upsetting: Upset to at least 1-1/2 times the diameter or width of a bar on the end and in the middle.
3. Bending: Make a ring out of bar stock or flat stock; forge a square corner right angle bend in square stock.
4. Drifting: Make a drift and use it to smooth, shape or enlarge a hole.
6. Mortise and Tenon: Make an assembly from at least two separate pieces using this technique.
7. Collaring: Make an assembly from at least two separate pieces using this technique.
8. Scroll Work: Make two different types of scrolls.
9. Splitting: Split a bar with a hot cut in the middle or at the end of the bar.
10. Fullering, Grooving, Veining, Set Hammering: Show examples of each or if used as an intermediate technique, describe how and why the techniques are used.
11. Riveting: Make two assemblies from at least two separate pieces for eachassembly using hot riveting and cold riveting (pop riveting is not acceptable).
12. Forge Welding: Show at least three different techniques.
13. Arc Welding, Brazing, Soldering, Oxyacetylene Torch Welding: Show an example of each.
14. Hot Rasping, Filing: Hot rasp the torch cut end of a bar to reasonable straightness and evenness; show a workpiece which has been filed to a smooth, flat surface; describe the types, care and use of files.
15. Sinking, Raising, Metal Spinning: Make or show a hemispherical or hollow object made from flat sheetusing any one technique.
16. Grinding: Know how to use a body grinder (portable grinder), pedestal grinder, belt grinder, sharpening stones and abrasive papers; know the types of abrasives and how they are graded and classified; show an edge tool that you have sharpened.
17. Drilling, Tapping, Die Work and Threads: Drill and tap a hole, thread the end of a bar with a die; know the common thread classifications; know the common drill size classifications and the care and use of twist drills.
18. Heat Treating, Hardening, Tempering, Annealing, Case Hardening: Know how to properly anneal, harden and temper carbon tool steel; know how to case harden mild steel, know the colors for tempering; make or show a tool you have made that has been heat treated that will cut or forge mild steel without breaking or deformation on the working end.
19. Heading: Head two bolts, one square headed and one hex headed; head a nail; head a rivet.
20. Cutting and Shearing: Know how to use the hot cut, cold cut, hacksaw, tinsnips, bench or floor shear; know how to use the oxyacetylene torch for cutting and demonstrate each technique.
21. Swaging: Swage a tenon or make the end of a square bar round using a swage.
22. Twisting: Show two different twists in a square bar.
23. Shop Safety: Know first aid techniques for cuts, burns, abrasion and other shop related injuries; describe methods of hearing, sight and body protection and why they are necessary; know power tool and machinery safety including welding equipment safety.
24. Basic Metallurgy: Know the properties and use of wrought iron, mild steel, carbon and tool steels and their classifications, cast-iron, brass, copper, aluminum; know sheet and plate gauging for ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
25. Fire and Fuel: Know the constituents of good shop coal; know the different types of coal fires and fire maintenance.
26. Jigs and Dies: Make both a jig and a die for doing repetitive production work and show examples of work produced with them.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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