Step Three – Surrender, it is easier
On my way to the blacksmithing course this morning, I got lost trying to take a short-cut and was set upon by employees of Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, who were under the impression I was a scab. On a Saturday, as well. This place is well odd. So far, I’ve been waylaid by 1. a rogue horse, and 2. the Revenue, and it’s not even been 48 hours!
Determined to bear up better than yesterday, I went in with a wan smile (supposedly a devil-may-care grin, but you never can tell), looked everyone in the eye, made Chat and generally tried to carry on like I didn’t give a toss about yesterday’s disastrous performance. I then went at it hammer and tongs, as it were, making beautifully crescent-shaped ends of the bracket-base, until I got a bit over-enthusiastic, and one of them came off in the fire. Like what we were told on no account to let happen cos that’s the whole thing buggered.
I did my best to look nonchalant about it. Look, that has to be the worst thing to happen, right? I mean, unless I accidentally got really badly burned, or something.
At which point we were told that, later that day, we would be doing the Fire Weld. And shown what it entailed.
By this time, abandoning the hanging basket bracket, we were doing the ram’s head toasting fork. It starts life as a simple metal rod, which gets hammered flat and hot set’d at one end to split it, and then the split ends are gently curled apart over the anvil, and you put points on them. (I was actually good at that part. So good, that this is an important ‘point’ for later! Oh god, I’ve just ruined any cred for having a sense of humour with that one.)
Moving swiftly on; then you make the face at the other end. After you have applied a hot set (ahaha, once again, I am rubbish) to bend back the end of the metal bar over itself, you need to fuse both bits together. To do this, you need to stick it in the fire for far longer than is sensible – until it is emitting fat white sparks and sizzling like the world’s pudgiest sparkler – take it from the fire, turn to the anvil and smack it really hard with the hammer, while it spits white-hot metal shards in all directions.
Okay, this is going to be the most terrifying part of the whole terrifying weekend.
I made damn sure I was one of the first to get to that stage. And that I didn’t scream. And that I smacked it incredibly ferociously indeed with the hammer, gigantic sparks flying everywhere and mercifully not into my face, because if you screw it up, you have to snap it off and start all over again and I am not going to be last dammit, although I have no earthly idea why this is important any more. Jesus, I am actually Arnold Rimmer. The one who wasn’t held back at school. I hate finding out things about myself.
Well, blind panic can sometimes accomplish miracles. Who knew.
It did not help me with the ram’s head horns, however. Because this required skill as well as brute force, and here I was gubbed. Well, I strongly suspect that here I was gubbed because ‘here’ was nowhere near my actual equipment. Behold! Seven set-ups were set up so you held the thin, pointy horns of the toasting fork in the fire until they were no more than orange because they are thin and will snap off like that far bigger bit you already managed to snap off, pillock. Then you quickly grasped the other end in the tongs, turned sharply on your heel to where your vice was, furiously clamped the toasting fork in, and got to work with the pliers, twisting them only a few times because you had mere seconds to put a curl in before cooling commenced and you’d snap the ends off instead.
My set-up was number eight; the one for southpaws. Where you hold the horns of the toasting fork in the fire until they are no more than orange, turn sharply on your heel, take two steps round your anvil, three very careful steps round the anvil of the guy next to you because he’s still doing THE FIRE WELD OH GOD SHARDS OF WHITE-HOT METAL FLYING ALL OVER, two more steps to your vice and clamp furiously and take up the pliers… and put them down and take it out again because it’s gone cold*. Return to forge and repeat, for forty minutes, while flash builds up on the metal. Clench teeth in desperate grimace attempting to indicate ‘having a great time here thanks, honest’. Despair inwardly.
Oh look, a bad workman blaming her tools like anything.
(*NB, this does not mean ‘cold to the touch’. Black metal things still scorching, as I discovered when I got a bit hasty on days two and three).
Tools down. Bright light. Stagger to train. Break for beer, to break up the four-mile stagger. Stagger. Shower. Moonshine. Bed. One more day, and this nightmare is over.