Put to the Test

An arc welding.
Image via Wikipedia

Last week in class we learned to split metal. That meant using the chisel I made last week. That’s the ultimate test of a tool you make, of course – using it. I put the point against the cold iron, and hit the soft end, and really hoped I’d done it correctly in the first place.

It held up! So my first tool-creation exercise was a success.

I noticed a pattern this week during my forging time. I tend to start out slower than many of my classmates. Most of them have quite a bit of experience with welding and some of them do have blacksmithing experience as well. In addition, the time spent doing the initial work on the metal is almost always the slowest part of the process for me. For example, I found myself spending much longer on the splitting process than many of my classmates.

In the long run, though, it somehow worked out. I was almost the last person to notch the fork before starting in on the hook on the opposite end. And yet by the time I was done narrowing that end and creating the hook (another perfect freaking curlicue, in case you were curious) and starting in on shaping the handle, I seemed to have caught up.

By the end of the day, I was one of the first ones to finish.

As far as I can tell, I’ve got a pretty good eye and I don’t have to stop to straighten things up or even them out very often. I’m not afraid to take my time, either. By now, I expect to be behind everyone else and I’m not worried about it anymore. It stopped bothering me.

Oh, and for the record? Stopping it from bothering me was not easy. I’m a competitive guy by my nature, especially in a classroom setting. One of the most intimidating parts of this process was being willing to take a class I knew I wouldn’t be the best at, and that I might not even be good at. As it turns out, I’m passably good in a class that includes people that retake this class every year for the fun of it. (This is the case in my welding class as well.)

If I still worried about being the best, I would have dropped the class by now. But instead I made myself focus on the end product, on what I was producing and whether I was satisfied with it. And to be honest, it helps to know that my grade in the class depends primarily on attendance and participation, instead of a specific level of skill. I think my skill’s coming along okay, but if I felt like I had to catch up with people who’ve been doing this for years, I would be too worried to enjoy it.

What I’m learning is that my success does not depend on other peoples’ lack, and that slow and steady really does win the race! Who would have thought?

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