Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oakland Part I: Continued

But forging one sword blade was not all I did in those few months!  I like to think I got up to some other stuff with Jeff, Jim, Nate, Nina, and others in the forge and outside of it.  For instance: I took a lost-wax bronze casting class at Studio One in Temescal, which was awesome!  I met a bunch of great craftspeople and learned to do something that takes very specialized equipment and materials.

The wax for a runic ring I never cast

 Unfortunately, the class ran out of time and I never got to cast any of my waxes.  At least I learned to make them!

Viking-inspired pommel cap, also never cast

I explored some more with abstract Scandinavian art forms:

 And reaped the benefits of Jeff and Jim's tireless practice in finding a method to reproduce the legendary "koftgari" overlay method, characteristic of Indian and Persian blade ornamentation.  This is my practice piece of 32 ga. fine silver wire on mild steel, perhaps 1" x 3/4":

Beautifully fun.

I attended many sundown smelts, a few of the more intensive bloom-iron variety at Jim's shop in West Oakland, but usually of the crucible-smelt kind at Jeff's house in North Oakland.  This type of smelt is a whole different animal, and I'll go into it in more depth later, but it's much easier to set up, you can basically sit back and crack open a beer or three while it's running, and then really just turn it off and see what you got.  The result of a crucible smelt will be what's often called wootz steel, a difficult term to define, but I'll try my best soon enough. 

Jeff and his crucible furnace

Jeff also took me to my first fancy arms auction in San Francisco, where I learned to keep an eye out for antique shamshirs, tulwars, kards, and Khyber knives forged of wootz steel, as well as intricate gold koftgari in impossible applications.  Here I am holding an insanely beautifully inlaid middle-eastern matchlock musket:

Bein' greasy at a classy auction

All in all, it was full of adventure, work, and relaxed California-ness.  Then, one day in January (more or less), I decided to go to England.

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