August 10th, 2011

The Forging Hammer

Last November I was commissioned to create an outdoor sculpture relating to the concept of the ‘tree of life’, or my interpretation of the growth and cycles of our natural world. The scale of this sculpture provided a rare opportunity to acquire a piece of equipment that has had a remarkable impact on my sculpture and metal forging capabilities: the power hammer. A power hammer enables the blacksmith to manipulate hot metal with more artistic potential and efficiency than the hand-powered process of  hammer and anvil. Utilizing a foot pedal, the blacksmith presses down on the hammer’s treadle, engaging the tremendous force of the ram in a very controlled manner.

Over the course of a couple months I purchased the hammer from an amazing artist blacksmith Jorgen Harle who works and resides on Orcas Island.  I installed the machine and began preparing to create a work of art that would have previously been impossible.

With the capability to work with larger material I also needed to construct a new forge (heat source) that was able to get the material hot enough to work. My new forge design has an emphasis on being very fuel efficient and is versatile enough to work stock of any size.

With the facility ready, the design finalized, and a team assembled, we were ready to forge the pieces that would later be assembled into the sculpture. My objective was to create a piece of art that evoked a sense of growth, balance, transition and cycle in a very concise and intentional way. The final design was comprised of 6 similar pieces, proportionally related to the spiral of the Fibonacci sequence or ‘golden mean’. Starting with salvaged 2.25” solid steel bar, sections were heated in the forge and then brought to the hammer to be worked until cool. Straight pieces were curved into a textured arc by hammering or ‘fullering’ primarily one side of the bar, thus lengthening one side in comparison to the other. Over the course of five days, the bars were shaped into spiral arcs and the pieces created. In the weeks following the forging stage, I assembled the pieces into the form that would define the finished sculpture.  This was an intricate process of allowing the interplay of the pieces to define their own language and design.

The addition of the power hammer to the shop through this project has greatly enhanced the possibilities for scale and technique in sculpting metal, leaving me inspired to explore its creative potential.

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