Meanwhile… Metal

As well as eschewing home economics in favour of woodwork, I also managed to wangle metalwork instead of the also-compulsory-for-girls needlework class. Perhaps if I’d hung around long enough to discover embroidery, patchwork, or tapestry, I might have stuck it out; but to the 12yo-tomboy-me, needlework meant “mending”, and I rebelled on principle. Besides, Metalwork offered opportunity for even more dramatic personal injury than woodwork, particularly when the forge is involved (just because it’s not glowing red anymore, doesn’t mean it isn’t still hot…), and the chance to make screwdrivers, candle holders, and Pretty Decorative Items With No Purpose. Which was fine with me.

Metalworking is known to date back to the neolithic age, with the oldest piece found being a copper pendant, left in Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq about 10,000 years ago. Technically, this pendant isn’t “worked” metal, but a polished piece of copper ore. However, worked metal certainly existed by 9,000 years ago, in the form of awls, hooks, pins, and beads found at Cayönü Tepesi in Turkey.

Other metals used by early people included gold, silver, lead, tin, and iron, and with the discovery of alloys, such as bronze (made from copper and tin) about 4,000 years ago, more complex metallurgy was born. With these developments came increasing variety of tools, utensils, decorative items, and of course weapons. There is now a wide range of metalworking techniques, including: “casting”, moulding molten metal into pre-determined shapes; “chasing”, where designs are chiselled or scratched into the surface of a metal; and “repoussé” in which metal is hammered and punched out from the back of the piece, forming a low-relief picture on the front.

I got to develop my metalwork skills a little further, going on to university (to study engineering) where I made a plumb bob, a square, and a coal chisel amongst other things (two of which are still in my toolbox); but there it ended for me, and I’ve grown shy of metal through lack of opportunity. I confess I miss the smell of swarf.

Update: check out my Metal board on Pinterest:

A piece in steel, by Jordi Diez Fernandez.

A piece in steel, by Jordi Diez Fernandez.

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