Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"You're THAT guy!"

Members of DARC have been swapping their 'most memorable moments' from the recent Vinland trip. This is one of mine:

Now a (long) number of years back, I had attended a lecture by Philip Baldwin of the New England Bladesmith's guild. In that, Philip de-mystified a number of blacksmithing methods, relating these back to modern metallurgy. One of these was the 'truth' about forge welding. The popular (and it turns out incorrect) wisdom is that the pressure of the hammer increases the temperature of the metal to above the melting point, and this is what fuses the two pieces. The actual situation is different. If two pieces of iron metals are *perfectly* flat and *perfectly* clean and *perfectly* intimate in contact, what happens is that the atoms on one piece bond across to the atoms of the other - essentially creating one piece of metal. Although this might seem kind of a trivial difference, the practical application is that it is *clean and flat* which make for a successful forge weld - not *temperature*. This effects the way you approach the whole process of forge welding, and how best to control it.

I think it was the day before smelt, near the end of the day anyway. An older fellow, quite distinguished looking. Struck me as originally from India, with white hair and beard, maybe trained in England from his speech, now an American from hints in the conversation.
Anyway, in the conversation about smelting, with which he was certainly familiar with the outlines, the topic of forge welding came up. He mentioned (rather off hand) that he had developed this theory, years ago, on how to perfectly flat and clean metals would bond if placed in close enough contact.
I think he was very gratified that I not only knew and applied the theory, but that I was excited to meet the man 'responsible' for the knowledge. "I teach that method to all my students!"
Sadly, he had to rush off to catch his tour bus right at that point of identification.

Its not often you meet someone responsible for a major shift in understanding in your working field.

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

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