Ancient Art

While I’m a little sad this post isn’t about climbing the uber famous Ancient Arts spire, I spent last Saturday learning the ancient art of blacksmithing under the expert eyes of Jeffery Funk.  Jeff saw it fit to auction off a blacksmithing seminar to support AERO (which seems to have a habit of bringing good things to my life), and despite not having a job at the time, I bit the bullet and raised the bid.

The man in his castle- Jeff's shop is completely awesome.

"You can't touch this work...." so your hammers are your hands.

The day started with Jeff saying “I can make a hammer faster than I can drive to Kalispell and buy one.” So as a demo, he made one, out of an old piece of truck axel.

The big power hammer moves a 500# head... and makes reforging a 3" thick steel bar look easy.

Jeff emphasizes "it's quick work, you have to do it while it's hot." -- with just over an hour of work.

Grey, but still too hot to touch comfortably.

Later in the morning we got to scheme about projects, and get a feel for swinging the hammer ourselves.  At first we made standard round tapers (out of square bar stock), and then formed them into hooks (game hooks, bike hooks, name it).

My first few swings.

Everybody's gettin down to business.

You figure out why anvils have their shape once you start bending the eyelets.

Most people were pretty excited to make hammers, but Jeff had said we could do other stuff, so I opted to try my hand at the fine traditions of climbing heritage.

The best recollection I had on the spot for some basic piton designs.

Yvon Chouinard got started in business hand forging pitons, and by the end of the day, I realized that probably also did wonders for his grip strength.

The first practice round, made out of junk steel bar stock.

While I was practicing, Bryan and Matt were having lots of fun with the sledgehammer.

After a few practice rounds we were running short on time, and I had a whole new respect for the precision that one can wield with a hammer and hot metal (which I had not yet developed).  Fortunately, Jeff was more than generous with his advice, and I started to get the hang of it.

Tie rod from a 1972 International truck. Perfect piton stock.

Jeff likes to make morst of his work out of found/salvaged materials.  When the world ends, guys like Jeff are going to be the ones that do alright.  You can make most anything in his shop, and make it out of most anything.  You might remember his bicycle powered apple cider press?

Getting down to business with yours truly on the medium power hammer.

In the last few minutes of the day I made the last few dents, took off the burrs, and left Big Fork with the first piton in my collection.  The work is gritty, hard, and real.  The results are as tangible as they come.  To some, it might have been an exhausting day in the shop, but to me, it was a perfect Saturday.  Many thanks to Jeff and AERO for the opportunity.

It needs a little more time under the grinder, but is pretty much good to go. Stayed tuned for the first placement.

4 thoughts on “Ancient Art

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