Snow-Mist and Forging Strands

Late November brings snowstorms. The field behind my forge turns white and grey, obscured by pencil lines of snow. Ground freezes and propane is sluggish and recalcitrant in the mornings.

Then as the month turns, it becomes warmer, snow turns to mist, the ground thaws. Creatures come out of their dens and sniff the air. When it’s not overcast, intense light covers the land in honey colours as the westering sun sinks into fuming spruce forest.

I am over half way through forging 158 lbs of steel from billets into long strands. It’s challenging work, physically grueling. The edge billets grow to over six feet in length making it very difficult to get them in and out of the forge and they get hot, burning my hands. Once I’ve drawn them out into long strands and straitened them, I can see hints of the pattern showing through the fire scale. The nine layer center billets are easier to forge out, but I have to be constantly aware that I’m consolidating the welds as I forge. It’s important to keep the steel at welding heat, this means keeping it in the forge for as long as it takes for it to be glowing yellow white. While I wait I draw and write on my anvil, forge, and fume hood, eventually I realize having a sketchbook in the forge would be a good idea. Drawing wile I wait for steel to heat up keeps me creatively engaged and I bring the fresh energy it gives me back into forging the steel out which can become daunting with a big project like this.

I wear a forced air fume hood, it keeps me from getting woozy from too much carbon monoxide and borax dust.

Five hundred and eighty five layer billet being drawn out into a strand.I use a 25 ton hydrolic press for this work, each billet weighs approximately 20lbs and is around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit when it comes out of the forge.

straitening a long edge strand.

a nine layer center strand in the forge, you can see the layers.
If you look closely you can see the pattern in one of the high layer edge strands.
two edge strands drawn out and ready to be straitened.

The edge strands are over six feet long, the late sun is coming in the shop door and blinding me.

After a long day of forging, if you look closely through the forge… you can see the dwarves at work on the other side!

Over half of the billets drawn out into strands. Next week I’ll finish drawing out the nine layer billets, and start constructing composite pattern welded sword blades.

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Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.

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