I got these calipers years ago while clearing out the basement of an old farm house in Buxton Maine. Some friends and I were hired to clean the space which had been converted into a pretty stunning workshop by the recently decease craftsmen and husband to the woman who hired us. She wanted his tools and equipment to be donated to my school and we were there to catalog and move them to their new home. When it was all said and done, I got to keep everything that my school already had, which ended up being a great score.
I haven’t had much need for these calipers until I began learning machine work in my new(ish) job at the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. This was also a great opportunity to practice my woodworking skills by building a custom case for them.
Ok, so you think standing in front of a hot fire, holding a 2000 degree piece of iron, and swinging a large hammer all day is hard work? Try doing it without safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves, or even pants for that matter.
Add in the distinct lack of tools, such as an anvil, and what you have is a humbling experience for anyone who might consider themselves to be a contemporary blacksmith.
The unbelievable badass work of the smiths in this video is a powerful motivator and a testament to the industriousness of people.
Back in 2012, my collaborative group was commissioned to build a land-drivable version of the Nautilus from Jules Verne’s 20,000 leagues under the sea. I designed and built the top hatch which involved making a custom rack and pinion lock system and two, large circular handles for the inboard and outboard handles.
I found this video of me bending one of those handles while cleaning out an old hard drive recently.
If you have been reading my blog, then you would know about my Tones piece and how I have been exploring the world of sound with a series of vibrating stings. In that exploration I was naturally drawn to other vibrating objects and what followed was my DIY tuning fork experiments.
Sadly, they did not immediately produce the sounds I was hoping for. However, they were a lot of fun to make and the process helped me to understand the mechanics of vibrations a little more than I did before the experiment.
Who knows, with some fussing and tuning perhaps they will be just as accurate as the store bought ones.
That, however will have to wait because right now I am moving forward with my DIY gear project which is part of a new sculpture that I am very excited about.
I found this gear on the side of the road a few months back and placed it on a shelf in my shop. After looking at it for some time I had the idea to press it into a block of hot steel to see what kind of impression it would make.
My small hydraulic press does not push hard enough to work on this scale and so I brought this to the Crucible last night to use their 15 ton press. It didn’t give me the depth I was hoping for, but it still looks pretty cool. Now I have to find access to a press with more tonnage.
Ok, so the cog & chain that I posted about last week has been sitting on my floor ever since. In that time it has been whispering to me what it wants to become and I’ve been listening.
The two pieces together have so much potential for interesting movement that it would be a down right shame if they didn’t become kinetic in some way. In order for that I reckon that at least one more cog will be needed.
Years ago, my friend and colleague Ben Cowden figured out a clever method for DIY gears. I used his technique to duplicate this cog in a plywood template. Next I’ll transfer the pattern to a steel plate and mill the new cog.
I don’t remember which I found first, the massive cog or the 6′ of burly chain, but the day I found that they mesh I was happier than a pigeon with a french fry.
Sadly, that excitement was shelved, along with the chain and cog, for a while as other, paying, projects passed through my shop.
As any horder sculptor can tell you, the compulsion to save things of value sometimes conflicts with the efficiency of storing them. What follows is both the disappearance of cool stuff into the depths of one’s work space, but also the occasional joy of re-finding them.
This is exactly what happened last week as I unearthed the forgotten cog and chain out from behind a stack of buckets underneath my drill press.
I was so happy to see these objects again that I decided to put them directly in my line of sight for the next week or so to see if I can think of what to do with them. This usually encourages my inspiration and I really am looking forward to seeing what happens.
Sometimes a job comes along that requires a tool that I don’t have. Sometimes that tool is specific in such a way that might make it hard to find and buy. Lucky for me, blacksmithing is a profession that folds custom tool making right into the core of its process.
I made this bending fork set recently because I had donated my previous one to the Crucible Blacksmithing dept.