Composition & Connection
A Modern Metalsmith’s Journal on Forging Education & Sculpture
Forging Focus group shot – Photo: Jarrod Bunk
Forging Focus Weeks 5 & 6
I had given a lot of thought to how I wanted to handle the last two weeks of the Forging Focus asking myself, “How can I make this the most productive time for the students?” Typically, during longer duration educational programs, I like to finish with a more intricate project that involves a complicated assembly with lots of parts that demand a keen attention to detail.
Due to lower enrollment this year, I decided to handle the final two weeks a little differently. We had three students that each had different interests when it comes to forging and I felt like it was appropriate this year to challenge them to design and build their own final project. (I love structure in the forging classroom, so this approach with 8 students could get a little crazy) Design and research played a stronger role in this year’s Forging Focus and I feel it had a lot to do with the success of the workshop. I plan to continue to stress this aspect of the craft through education as a way to create work that is strong both conceptually and technically. I feel like all the student’s final projects were completed with a level of confidence that the design and discussion process helped with.
Jim & Austin looking with a critical eye
Each student searched deep inside themselves and figured out what it was about forging that they wanted to explore. At this point it was my responsibility to help the students execute their idea to the best of their ability. This is both the most challenging and rewarding part of being an educator. It is important to step back and let them take the reins (tong pun there) and play a supportive roll helping in all aspects of designing and building.
During the design process I try really hard to get a strong sense of what the students want to accomplish, this is very beneficial when It comes time to build. Since this is their project and their idea, I feel like my main roll here is to make sure it is within the realm of possibility, meaning they can handle it from a technical standpoint, and our shop handle it. I have been working with them now for four weeks so I have a good sense of what they can accomplish technically, and I know if we have the tooling or capacity to handle their project, and if not then the time to make it.
With sculpture, the concept is just as important as the process and the challenge is to find some sort of blend between the two without letting either sacrifice one another. This is where it really pays to listen to the student and as the instructor not micromanage the project. It’s very easy to just say “Well I would forge it like this” and sometimes that is appropriate and helpful, but sometimes it might take away from the concept, so that kind of feedback walks a fine line. I loved this experience, and how challenging it was.
Sculpture by Austin Rose
Furniture & Functional Objects
This is a completely different animal than sculpture. Although one has to focus on a lot of the same things, it’s much more of a technical challenge than conceptual. This kind of work is a lot easier for me to be definitive about what will work and what will not. The Challenge with furniture also lies in the design and even though the work is not “conceptual” the concept in this case is technique and functionality. For this particular project the benefit I can provide is helping design something that will function to the student’s satisfaction. We worked on multiple drawings which allowed us to figure out things like material sizes, dimensions, and try to anticipate construction complications in order to resolve them before the actual forging began. Following this process I think the strongest roll I played was assisting with layout. Jim had plenty of skills at the hammer and anvil, but was open about uncertainties in the assembly process. This allowed me to share a lot of tricks and tips about complicated assembly and orders of operation to prevent struggle.
Above: James Burr’s completed end table
Below: Zach after being caught in the rain with his newly forged hammers
It was a very rich experience working so closely with all the students and assisting as they researched designed, forged, experimented, and challenged themselves. I know that the workshops are 100% for the students, but I would be remised if I didn’t mention how much I learn about being an instructor, working with individuals, learning about my process, and how to communicate about it. Because of that I would like to thank our students, not only for their interest and support of CMA, but all that they teach me as well. These workshops always leave me energized and inspired!
Of course this whole program is not possible without a strong team. Courtney in our office, keeping everything together as we teach, and Dan and Tim, thank you so much for all your hard work! Thank you all for reading these blogs and for your interest in CMA, here’s to a safe rest of the year and a great 2021!
Composition & Connection
A Modern Metalsmith’s Journal on Forging Education & Sculpture
James Burr working at the hammer
Forging Focus Weeks 3 & 4 – Tool Making
During weeks three and four, our focus was on two things, power hammer forging and tool making. After just finishing the “design your own coat rack” project and having not yet forged anything on the hammers, these two topics were a welcomed next step.
Sticking with my philosophy of having a firm grasp on the basics will serve you well as you advance, I asked them to do extensive parallel forging samples on the hammers. On one bar they forge round to square, to octagon, then to round again, leaving evidence of each section. They pick up on this pretty quickly, having first done it by hand at the anvil. Because of their familiarity with this exercise, students can spend time focusing on lining up shoulders on the hammer and how to use flat dies to efficiently forge the material. Besides the obvious benefits of control and comprehension of forging, it also gives our students an opportunity to run all three hammers and experience the differences of each one.
Power hammer demonstration samples
Following these exercises, we get right into forging basic hand tools. Some of the tools I encourage the students to make are cold chisels, center punches, and 1/4” round and square punches. The introduction of these forgings builds off of the parallel exercises, as I like my tool handles to be faceted, but introduces tapering on the power hammer. This basic toolset covers two sided tapers, four sided tapers, round tapers and I like the center punch to be an octagonal taper.
I enjoy the challenge of transitioning parallel octagonal stock to tapered octagonal, and having the transition be in the same spot on every facet. This is more challenging than one initially thinks. These exercises provide the students with a nice toolset while getting them very comfortable at the hammers. Emphasis is placed on clean forgings done at the hammer then in some cases finished and refined at the anvil.
Finishing and heat treating are also covered and taking care during these steps is encouraged. I always feel like quality work starts with quality tools, and I like to be happy and proud when I look down at my tools in use. I feel like that pride directly transfers into the work that I am creating. Personally, it’s hard for me to make clean work with sloppy tools.
I love a successful heat treat when students use steel to cut steel with their cold chisel. It’s a wonderful moment that gives everyone a sense of accomplishment and demonstrates one of the most special things about forging, the ability to make your own tools.
Zach with his tools
Following basic hand tools is my favorite part of the toolmaking portion of this workshop…..
To me the importance of forging tongs is difficult to describe in a few short paragraphs. Anybody who might know me personally or follow my work on social media knows I’m mildly obsessed with forging tongs. As an artist and someone who enjoys pushing the boundaries of forged steel, I cannot have enough tongs to help me hold all the odd and interesting shapes I like to create. On top of that as a learning exercise they teach a blacksmith a lot about forging at the anvil, power hammer, and hand hammer control. They involve shouldering, tapering, riveting, mass isolation and calculation, knowing how and where to preserve material to achieve strong transitions, and forging multiples.
Forging multiples that are the same is essential to tong making and really drives home the forging multiples exercises we did as a class during the first week. I always like to point out to the students, “Remember when I had you make so many of those boring hooks the same without specialty tools and jigs? It was all for this!” I really think they understand and realize the importance.
It’s not always the case but these students were just as enamored about learning how to forge tongs as I was to show them my processes. Naturally we start off with the three shoulder flat jaw tongs and work hard on all our transitions and preserving strength in them.
1/4″ Flat Jaw Tongs
I express that strong tongs, that hold material properly, are imperative to help you execute your forgings with minimal fighting and frustration, and most importantly for safety. My biggest pet peeve as an educator is students holding material with the wrong tongs. Often students and people getting involved in forging wonder why they can’t forge very well when they’re holding 3/8” flat bar with 1/4” capacity tongs. If you do not have a firm grip on the material you will have a hard time controlling it. As you scale your work up those habits also become extremely dangerous and can damage your tongs. I stress these points and topics as I demo and we have engaging discussions about the importance of these tools and the techniques to create them.
After their fill of flat jaws, (usually students forge about 4 pair each taking their time and making them nice) I introduce a really effective way to forge a very strong box jaw tong. I have researched and come up with a one piece forging that can strongly hold stock up to 3” wide by ½” thick. This is a great exercise and adds some complexity to the three shoulder flat jaw, so it’s a logical next step. Students were up for the challenge and I’m really impressed with the tongs they have created utilizing this method.
Above: Box Jaw Blank
Above: Box Jaw Instructor Demo Tongs
After these we transition, pun intended, to forging V-bit tongs. I demonstrate techniques and tools developed from my research inspired by the industrial tong collection in the historic Cambria Iron & Steel industrial blacksmith shop. For the past three years I have been in awe of the tongs I have found here.
me, in awe of some tongs I found
The tongs left in this shop represent over 150 years of industrial forging in one of America’s most influential and impactful steel mills. The bulk of my research in the shop has been spent figuring out, to the best of my ability, how these beautiful tongs were forged. I sort of reverse engineered the forgings, or rather, gained some insight into how the blacksmiths here made them, and worked hard to develop the tools and techniques to recreate them. All the literature and diagrams I have seen about forging industrial V-bit tongs doesn’t seem to contain the techniques that these blacksmiths were using.
Because I have spent so much time observing these tongs and learning how to forge them, I am very excited about sharing the process. Getting all the proportions where I liked them and preserving strength in the transitions took me quite a while, but I feel was time well spent. I have scrapped a lot of these tongs because they simply haven’t held up, but recently (since making some new discoveries) have been putting some through the paces that are preforming quite well*. The students absolutely shared my enthusiasm and had a blast creating tongs in this style to hold several different sizes.
*I prefer to forge my tongs from mild steel most of the time
Above: 1/2″ 3/4″ & 1″ V-bit tongs
Below: V-bit detail
Austin, @afreerose and Jim, @jbblacksmith76 showing off their tongs in the morning sun
Thanks for reading this and for your interest in Center for Metal Arts! I hope this finds everyone well, staying healthy, and focusing on the things in life that matter most to them.
Hope to see you soon!
Composition & Connection
A modern metalsmith’s journal on education, forging, and sculpture
As the second week of the forging focus draws to a close, I look back at the exercises and experiences and feel great about the growth and accomplishments of the students. As one of the instructors of this workshop, it’s very important to me that no matter what the student’s skillsets are, we start with the basics and move from there at a pace that everyone is comfortable with. My goal is to demonstrate and charge the students with executing a series of projects during the first two weeks that demonstrate they have an understanding of working at the anvil.
One of the major things stressed during this time period is hammer control. Without a firm grasp of this seemingly simple concept, growth as a blacksmith will prove to be difficult and frustrating. In order to demonstrate hammer control we work on parallel forgings: round to square, square to octagon, and back to round again. All these sections on one bar leaving evidence of each section. This exercise is beneficial in so many ways. From the student’s perspective, it gets them moving and working in an unfamiliar shop; using the saw, getting comfortable with the tooling and working at the forge and the anvil. As the instructor, it gives me a strong sense of the students hammer control and experience level. Regardless of your interests in forging a clear understanding and execution of this exercise will serve you well.
I want the students to get the most from their six weeks here. A firm grasp on the basics will only prove helpful when trying to execute sculptural, traditional, nontraditional, expressive, or rule-breaking forgings.
Following theR-S-O-R exercise we get into some simple wall hook forgings. Building off what we have already learned with the parallel forgings this exercise introduces tapering, shouldering, bending, working at the horn, and a small amount of scrolling. What I’m looking for from this project is several hand forged hooks that look the same. This exercise is not about the hook necessarily, but rather the repetition, the muscle memory and the introduction of several new techniques and skills.
Next I introduce the challenge of creating a much more contemporary hook of my design which consists of three forged elements and a rivet. This project is important because it relies heavily on getting comfortable using hand tools at the anvil and is the first project that involves joinery. Elements of this hook include three ¼”square punched holes, two ¼” round punched holes, some hand held fullering to create 90 degree bends, an interesting way to forge a crispy corner, and of course the square rivet so the hook does not pivot. As with the previous project I encourage three of these hooks to be created. It never ceases to amaze me how much better the third one is and how much firmer of a grasp the students have on the concepts and techniques.
At this point, week one has come to a close, and on Friday I introduce the next project which is to design your own three hook wall mounted coat rack. I feel confident I have introduced enough techniques for the students to now try to design and execute their own forgings. I request that they stick within the realm of techniques we have learned, but I encourage experimentation and sampling. They still are not yet allowed to use the power hammer. I don’t like when blacksmiths use the hammer as a crutch, and I love the challenge of designing something that does not rely on its use to execute. As frustrating as it is, it shows them that there are a lot of possibilities and lots of interesting forgings and work that can be created without power hammers.
The shop is closed this weekend, and the students have some homework. On Monday morning I ask to see a presentation consisting of three different hook idea sketches, they need to share five images of forge work and be able to talk about what is inspiring to them about the images, and to present one blacksmith that they look up to and why.
Students then have from after their presentations on Monday till end of the day on Wednesday to complete their designed and executed coat racks. During this time, I work closer with the students one-on-one helping them trouble shoot their forgings and make any necessary adjustments to their design to help ensure success without sacrificing integrity. This is a nice blend of personal exploration and one on one instruction.
This section of the Forging focus is super exciting, I love seeing what the students come up with and helping them through their process. I also really value being able to have two and a half days to work on a three-hook coat rack. This is something the real world rarely affords you and often, as they are encouraged, the students see this project more as wall mounted sculpture they can hang their coat and hat on. The results are always great, and I am inspired by the variety of work they present and the personal challenges they set for themselves and subsequently overcome.
Below: Coat Rack by Austin Rose
Next up is power hammer introduction and tool making!
Thanks for reading and for your time. I hope everyone is well, staying healthy, and we hope to see you soon!
Happy New Year!
Greetings from Center for Metal Arts in Johnstown PA! I hope this finds everyone well as this holiday season draws to a close. As always, I am excited to reach out and share with you some of the exciting things that are happening in 2020. In this newsletter I will highlight both our Scholarship and our Internship Program.
I am thrilled to share with you that our 2020 workshop schedule is posted, open for enrollment, and courses are filling up fast! We work hard to create an engaging curriculum consisting of workshops for all skill levels that represent a broad range of what forging has to offer.
We have scholarships available for both 1-week workshops and our six week “Forging Focus”
Tool Making and Applied Forgings
The Forging Focus workshop is a six week intensive workshop in which students have access to our forging classroom 7 days a week. It is a strong technique based workshop where students learn valuable skills both at the anvil and the power hammer. Full workshop description can be found here.
As the title suggests this workshop places strong emphasis on tool making and how those forgings and techniques translate to all other areas of blacksmithing. Tool making is fundamental to the blacksmiths development at the anvil and power hammer. We will work hard creating lots of different tooling such as tongs, hammers, and hand tools then putting them to use at the anvil creating other works that revolve around traditional joiners techniques.
There will be lots of emphasis placed on clean forgings and refinement both at the anvil and power hammer. Students will be encouraged to take advantage of open studio time to practice, experiment, and work on class projects. This is a great experience for any blacksmith serious about developing their skill and who is looking for a solid chunk of time to focus on forging!
Scholarship applications can be found
6 Month Internship Program
As you think ahead to 2020 please keep in mind that we are also offering one six-month internship from April through September 2020, so if you feel like immersing yourself in all the exciting programs CMA has to offer, want to grow your skills as a blacksmith and learn about what its like to run an educational blacksmith shop, perhaps this is the right program for you.
Our internship is ideal for the aspiring blacksmith who is self motivated and eager to lean and work. This opportunity gives our intern plenty of open studio time to grow their skills as a blacksmith with unlimited access to our forging classroom and free housing during there time at CMA. We encourage our interns to work as much as possible during open studio time as we feel this combined with working with our visiting instructors is an invaluable asset we can offer someone who wants learn about forging. Our interns work closely with all of our visiting artists, audit and participate in workshops and help with all the necessary work behind the scenes that it takes to host blacksmiths, run quality workshops, and maintain an educational forging facility.
Internship information and applications can be found
Thank you all for your time, and thanks to all of you who have supported CMA and participated in our programs. 2020 has a lot of wonderful things to offer anyone interested in blacksmithing. We hope to see you in the shop this year and look forward to working with you!
If you have any questions about any of our programs please don’t hesitate to ask. Feel free to contact us through our contact link on our website or give us a call at 814-418-0409.
Center for Metal Arts
106 Iron St. Johnstown PA 15906
email – email@example.com
Center for Metal Arts: Spring Update
Hot Rivets: A Collaborative Sculpture with Steve Howell
The first sculpture for CMA’s campus was completed during Hot Rivets: A Collaborative Sculpture workshop taught by Steve Howell @ballardforge. The pictures above and below are of the sculpture from our first week long workshop. We are very excited by the addition to our campus as well as the success of the class.
Refurbishing of the First Steam Hammer
One of the main reasons we moved to Johnstown and what initially attracted us to the sight was the preserved collection of large scale forging hammers and accompanying hand tools. Our mission is to preserve and grow this historic art in our Johnstown location by refurbishing these tools and equipment and making them accessible to the artist blacksmith community who otherwise might not have access to industrial scale forging equipment. Thanks to the hard work of CMA staff and a generous donation by Gregg Glosser of Glosser Steel, we were able to refurbish one of the large steam hammers in the Blacksmith shop and run it on compressed air. This 3,000 pound power hammer was last operated twenty seven years ago. The picture in black and white shows the power hammer in operation 1987. The picture beside it was taken May 2019 during its first operation under CMA’s care . This is a large milestone for us and we are excited for the next steps in refurbishment of the historical blacksmith shop.
Fall Workshops Openings
We still have some room in our fall workshops! The below are a small selection of some of the workshops that still have openings. For our full workshop listing or to sign-up for a workshop, visit our website.
Toolmaking for the Metalsmith
This two-day workshop is perfect for metalsmiths who are interested in learning how to make their own forged tools. During this basic tool making workshop, attendees can expect to forge, finish, and heat treat an 8oz cross peen hammer, center punch, and scribe.More Details.
Forging a Meat Fork
In this one day workshop, students will learn how to taper, isolate, rivet, and move steel by hand forging at the anvil. The foundation of this class will be about basic techniques that show the plasticity and capability forged steel can have. More Details.
This workshop is jam packed with hand forging skill development, involves lots of small subtle steps and nuances, and moves quickly. More important than walking away with one or two pair of functional tongs, you will learn the skills and gain the confidence to go home or to another shop and continue to make tongs of all varieties and grow your toolset. More Details.
Tools for the Kitchen
This workshop will focus on the use of forged steel and formed brass to create beautiful, functional kitchenware. Students will be exposed to two different studios splitting time between blacksmithing and metalsmithing. Handle design, basic forging and forming steel will be covered in blacksmithing. Forming, fabricating, riveting, and planishing brass will be covered in metalsmithing. Students will have the opportunity to make both a ladle and a spatula. This is an excellent opportunity to learn a broad range of metalworking techniques and is open to all skill levels.
You’re Invited to CMA’s Open House Party!
Come celebrate the conclusion of our first, one week workshop during our open house party and sculpture viewing! On May 11th, the results of our “Hot Rivets: A Collaborative Sculpture” workshop taught by visiting instructor Steve Howell will be on display on the grounds of CMA. The sculpture is inspired by the industrial heritage of Johnstown and created using the very same iron working techniques this influential city was built upon. The party starts at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 11th and goes till dark! Please join us for a fun and informal celebration, hor d’oeuvres will be provided and feel free to BYOB!
Steve has been immersed in industrial arts all his life. He is currently the director of production at the Sahale fabrication shop in Seattle, Washington. Steve’s deep personal interest in metal fabrication bore fruit in 2008, when he succeeded in recreating a complete set of tools and processes for reintroducing the lost art of structural hot riveting. His background in steel fabrication and testing includes offshore welding in the Gulf of Mexico, quality control and inspection of components for the B-2 Stealth Bomber, the F-22 fighter, and Abrams tanks.
Students will be creating a collaborative sculpture combining forged elements, structural steel shapes, and riveted joinery to break through barriers of perception and monotony. The riveting technique allows a designer to leverage ideas where one rivet is not a big deal, but six million will get you a monument.
Prior forging skills are highly recommended. The class will focus on forged sculptural elements, layout on structural steel shapes, and then will look at creative ways to join the pieces utilizing pneumatic and hydraulic riveting techniques with presses Steve will bring. Come be a part of creating a large-scale sculpture for the grounds at CMA.
This is a unique opportunity to work in the same fashion things were built in Johnstown, PA when steel construction did not involve welders. Be immersed in the city that was home to one of the most significant steel mills in the country and work in the fashion it was built. If you’re interested in industrial forging, structural material, and hot riveted joinery, this is the workshop for you, hosted in one of the most inspirational settings for that style of work.
Thank you, hope to see you there!
Open House: December 1stCenter for Metal Arts (CMA) has been established in Johnstown for almost a year – and now, CMA and the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) are inviting the public to see what they do.
The Center Welcomes Haley WoodwardHaley has been blacksmithing professionally since 2001 and with an MFA degree in blacksmithing from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Currently a forging instructor at Austin Community College, Austin, TX. Haley teaches a variety of blacksmithing courses ranging from introductory skills to tool making, power hammer, and sculpture. Check out his work on his website!
Center for Metal Arts is Moving!We are pleased and proud to announce that The Center for Metal Arts is relocating to the historic Cambria Iron Blacksmith Shop in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Built in 1864, this shop conducted industrial scale forgings continuously from the 1860s until the early 1990s when it closed. The site is a designated National Historic Landmark, having a historically significant and extensive collection of rare, large-scale power hammers and original hand tools forged on site. We are excited to bring this amazing asset back to life and to offer it as a facility for your learning and use.