Had another awesome class today. Well, okay, not everything about the day was awesome – I forgot the cardinal rule of No Touchy Hot Things and managed to burn myself, but I’m pretty sure that if you don’t burn yourself at some point while learning blacksmithing, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not a serious burn and while it hurts a little I can type, obviously, and I was able to finish the class. Basically I just sucked it up and dealt with the pain.
Today’s main project was a chisel. One of the things I find awesome about metalwork in general and blacksmithing in particular is the fact that, starting with a hammer and some tongs and an anvil, you can produce pretty much every other tool you would want – more hammers and tongs (we’ll be making another set of tongs later in this class), other items like punches and the chisel I made today. It really makes me aware of the history of this skill. Aside from the fact that my forge is run on propane instead of coal, (and that I cheated using a belt grinder to get my point) I’m doing this in essentially the same way it’s been done for thousands of years. Heat metal, bang on metal, cool metal off. Repeat.
So today I used my tools to produce a new tool, and now I have a chisel to go with my tongs. It’s pretty amazing to me.
Since the chisel has to be strong enough to cut through other metal later, we learned how to temper. Tempering is a surprisingly precise process for something that’s done almost entirely by sight. Basically, you heat the metal to just above the temperature where it stops being magnetic, and then you cool the point you want to be hard, and then wait for the heat of the rest of the metal to seep into the hard part, and then cool it again.
(It’s easy to miss the right moment – this is where the phrase “lose your temper” comes from.)
Adapting to change makes metal hard. It can do the same for people – if you do it right, anyway. If you don’t let the stress get to you. If you don’t lose your temper. If you file off the scale and let the inside shine through. And if you do it wrong, you crack.
I know someone who’s having a hard time with change right now. She’s dealing with a lot of stress, and she’s cracking. Frankly, it’s hard to watch, because someone who I thought was my friend is descending into dangerous and irrational behavior. I want to be there for her, but she’s pushing everyone away.
When it comes down to it, I can’t control her temper. She has to be the one who pays attention to what she’s doing, because if she doesn’t adapt, she’ll shatter.