October 3rd and 4th David Tuthill will be teaching Hot and Cold Forging for Jewelry at Danaca Design. This class aims to initiate students into the hot and cold manipulation of non-ferrous and ferrous metals for jewelry and other small scale objects. Using brass, copper and steel students will employ a variety of hammers and other tools to forge squares, tapers, spoons and utensils, twists, fullers, decorative rivet heads and other ornamental details.
But what is the difference between hot forging and cold forging? And what sort of jewelry can you make by forging?
Forging is one of the oldest known metalworking processes dating to at least 4000 BC and most likely earlier. Metals such as bronze and iron where forged into hand tools and weapons, but the earliest recorded metal used seems to be gold. Traditionally forging was done by a Smith using metal heated in a forge and formed with hammers on an anvil.
The industrial revolution replaced traditional forging techniques by developing some of the first electric powered hammers. Today most industrial forging is done with computer-controlled hydraulic and air hammers. But there are still blacksmiths that use traditional techniques when making one of kind items such as decorative gates and forged jewelry is made much the same way as it was millenniums ago.
Difference between hot and cold forging
Forging is the process of shaping metal by using localized compressive forces. The blows are delivered with a hammer or a die.
Cold forging is when the metal is hammered or formed at room temperature (or cold) and annealed periodically to soften the metal. Metals such as silver, brass, and copper can all be cold forged fairly easily.
Hot forging is when the metal is hammered or formed while the metal is hot normally just after being removed from a forge. Most steel and iron needs to be hot forged.
Many types of jewelry can be made in whole or part by forging. Forged rings and bracelets are very commonly seen but you can also forge pendants, belt buckles, earrings and more. You can use the technique to make very industrial jewelry out of steel or fine and delicate jewelry from silver or gold. Forging has unlimited potential only limited your imagination.
Bill Dawson is one of our talented instructors here at Danaca Design. He teaches a variety of classes covering hollowware, forming, forging, metal inlay, engraving, fabrication, and tool making. We also sell a variety of his chasing and forming tools here in the shop. Bill got his start in metals with blacksmithing at the University of Oregon, and has been a working metalsmith and teacher ever since. Recently Sophie asked him a few questions. I loved reading through his responses, especially his take on functional art and artless objects- it definitely made me want to take a class with him!
Okay, here you go!
What’s your background? Is it in art, or something else?
I never really imagined doing anything much beyond art, because I never imagined being able to hold down a job. My childhood hero was Georgia O’Keeffe, and I wanted to grow up to be more or less just like her. I started out as an oil painter, at around four years old. Though I no longer have it the first painting I can remember making was of a grey dog on a green background. I do however have the first metal sculpture I created, an iron pony I made when I was eleven.
You work in all kinds of mediums and styles, what are your favorite materials to work with, and why?
I divide creative work into four broad categories: Additive, assembly, fabrication, etc; subtractive, carving, stock removal, etc; transformational, casting, and shaping; and ephemeral, performance and time based art. I’m going to give you a favorite for each. Painting is the medium with which I have worked the longest, and is my favorite additive art, though textiles come a close second. Each new painting is a unique challenge, and they never become routine. I like to carve all sorts of material: bone, amber, jet, antler, stone and so forth, but if I had to pick just one to work from now on it would be cedar, and specifically Port Orford Cedar. It is a variety of yellow cedar that grows in Western Oregon, and has a texture similar to redwood. I love its smooth strength, carveability, and smell. .999 silver would have to be my favorite transformational material, though there are many metals that I love working, including copper, bog iron, and high karat gold. The thing about pure silver is that it is just about the ideal material for so many techniques: forging, inlay, casting, etc. It is both beautiful and profoundly workable. I don’t do much ephemeral art, but I do enjoy playing music. My voice is not much to talk about, but I like playing woodwinds, especially playing early music.
Everything from tools to jewelry to sculpture to wood, you do it all. As a bit of a Renaissance man; what aspects of your artistry do you enjoy the most?
I most enjoy seeking the balance between the functional and the artistic. I find that mass produced functional but thoughtless items have no life to them, and art without function is a bit like hothouse flowers that are inedible. Making a beautiful tool is what I consider the highest form of creativity. I don’t think of myself as a Renaissance man, but more an Arts and Crafts man. I take far more inspiration from Hubbard and Morris, than from Brunelleschi and DaVinci. I love to do a good job of creating, but I want others to be able to do that good work as well. I think that the most exciting times are when I am working to rediscover some lost technique that I can revive and pass along to other artists.
What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?
The main themes in my work are place and history. I very much believe in the importance of context, and creative honesty. Much of my work is either rooted in the Pacific Northwest, or steeped in history, or both.
Aside from the skills outlined in your class, what do you hope to bring to your students?
I could go on about this at length, but I will try to keep it to something reasonable here. The first thing that any creative person needs is the courage to start a project. Modern society tells us to fear making mistakes, which are part of learning anything, but too often that fear kills the creativity in us, before we can even get going. The next thing that we all need is the humility to pay attention to our materials and change plans as they dictate. You can’t force your work to be something that it is not, and if you listen the nature of your materials will come through in your work, just as your creativity will be expressed through your materials. The final thing I want students to develop is the grit to see a project through, not to rush it, but to stay with it until it comes to a natural conclusion.
In what kind of environment do you work best?
I do most of my best work alone, even when working on a collaborative project. It is not that I don’t want people around at all, but I like to have a direct and intimate connection to my materials, and this is easiest in private. When I take breaks I like to get out of the studio and if possible outdoors or on the water. I find that a long walk, a ride on the motorbike, or a paddle on the canoe helps clear my mind so that I can come back to my work ready to give my best.
Bill is currently revamping his website, but you can still visit and check things out while it’s under construction: http://billdawsonmetalsmith.com
We’ve also started a new class series with Bill, Hollowware Fundamentals Beginning Series. Look for our Spring quarter schedule to see what’s next in the lineup! Join our mailing list for early access to each quarterly schedule: http://www.danacadesign.com