Making Your First Forge Weld
Richard Hanson (c) 2003
Foreword: The art of welding in the forge is a simple process. Yet inspite of it's simplicity, it seems to be a difficult task for many smiths to master. There exists much myth, superstition, legend and yea even alchemy concerning the subject. I will attempt to reduce the process to it's most basic scientific principles and establish easily followed steps which will allow anyone with even rudimentary smithing skills to produce a passable weld. Remember that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Clean metal, clean tools, clean smith and relatively clean smithy will facilitate your welding endeavor.
Preparation of the Smith: The smith must be clean both of body and of mind. The smith must bathe his body in clean water from a pure source not of a slack tub. Spring water from the South Face of a tree-covered hill is preferable however, a quick shower with tap water will suffice as long as a sufficient quantity of Pure Ivory Soap is used. After bathing, the body must patted dry with a clean towel of the finest Terry Cloth.
NOTE: Do not use the good towels which are kept for company, least you incur the Wrath of the Domestic Goddess who will not directly cause your weld to fail, but will make your life a living hell and may cloud your mind with thoughts of failure which can have a direct consequence upon the weld as we will see later. It is also prudent to clean up the mess you made of the tub for the same reason. After the body is thoroughly dry, anoint the body with sweet smelling unguents such as Right Guard of Gillette or Speed Stick of Mennen and also splash upon thy face sweet smelling lotions so as to cause the Domestic Goddess to cast favorable eyes upon you and wish you speed and success in your endeavor so that you may return quickly to her side. NOTE: Go easy on the unguents and lotion, use only enough that you might not offend Vulcan the God of Blacksmithing with your funky odor causing him to cast impurities into your weld and making it fail. Too much of the lotions and unguents may cause the Domestic Goddess to require you to dally by her side thus sapping your strength as well as your desire to weld metal. Over indulgence in the use of lotions and unguents can result in you smelling like the resident of a San Francisco Bordello which may attract nefarious individuals called after by the name of the weld we will make which can effect your mindset and causing not only the weld to fail but also putting you in need of large sums of cash for bail bond and in need of a Right and Proper Barrister. Once the body is cleansed and properly attired in clean, if well worn, work clothing, the mind must be properly prepared also. Wagner's "Flight of the Valkeries" should be played at a suitable decibel level so as to occasionally rattle the windows, but not cause the neighbors to call the local constabulary down upon you or to offend the Domestic Goddess should the smithy be in close association to her abode. You must meditate while listening to the music and chanting "Ima gonna forgeweld" to remove all thoughts of failure from your mind. Should Vulcan detect even a hint of doubt in your mind he will send his son, Murphy the result of a brief dalliance with a Leprechaun Lassie, to cause your weld to fail miserably in front of the largest audience possible. Now that you have been suitable prepared, mind and body, it is time to gather your tools and prepare for the welding experience.
Preparation of the Smithy: The smithy should be gently aired to remove any funky odors and lightly swept to remove any dead rats that have accumulated in the corners. This light cleaning should not however disturb the layer of dust that has settled on nearly everything nor should it be so thorough as to reveal long lost tools. After cleaning, the smithy should be purified with smoke from the Sagebrush Plant. (hey it's a Native American Thing and it smells nice). All the while the previously mentioned chant should be continued.
Preparation of Tools: Used tools are perfectly acceptable provided they are cleaned and purified. Tools must be free of oil and contamination. Wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water (Ivory Soap preferred) and rinse in scalding water. Dry thoroughly to prevent rust. You must heed the warning listed below against using tools made by Hong of Kong and all his relatives. These tools cast a very bad Karma that can easily spoil a weld.
Anvil: Select thee then a proper anvil. The anvil should have a ring as sweet and pure as the Bell of Liberty and the rebound of a double sprung valve in a 427 Chevy with a roller cam such as those made by Peter of Wright, Hay of Budden or Mouse of Hole. Also acceptable are anvils made by
The Hammer: Use a hammer that is of a comfortable weight. There are those who attest that it takes mighty blows from a hammer of eight pounds in weight to effect a proper weld. It is the opinion of others that this equates to 2 pounds of necessary and 6 pounds of ego.
The Tongs: Make sure your tongs are properly fitted to the size of your material or you may suffer a territorial dispute in the space time continuum (your nose and a piece of red hot steel attempt to occupy the same space at the same time) and you shall surely rank no higher than second place in such a contest.
The Flux: There is much discussion on the use of flux, the proper flux to use and if flux is necessary at all. While the most accomplished smiths can effect a weld without flux, we will assume that the novice will most likely need the assistance of a good flux. There are many recipes for flux and each have their champions. There are commercially available magic elixirs such as Cecil Swans Magic Flux, which is said to cause metal to fuse at no more heat that, is emitted by a 40-watt light bulb. The most common fluxing agent is Borate of Sodium from the
meets the hot metal, it will create a stench and abomination in the smithy, which can permeate the adjacent abode of the Domestic Goddess. This will cause your bed to be cold for an indeterminate length of time somewhere between a month and a year; and further, will cause the Goddess to lament loudly that she should have followed the advice of the Wicked Witch of the West, her mother, and married Joe Bob Computer-geek instead of you. She will further lament that Joe Bob made a fortune in a dot com company, now vacations in various garden spots of the world the year round, is attended to and cooked for by beret wearing lackeys from the land of wine, cheese and perpetual surrender while she has to exist on ground Ox and boiled tubers that she has to cook herself.
The Steel: Use clean new steel from which the scale has been thoroughly removed. If you must for reasons of economy use junk yard steel, remove all traces of rust and other contaminants.
The Coal: Use the finest available smithing coal. That from the Pocahontas #3 seam has been highly touted but any coal of high BTU value with a very low content of the stone that burns (sulfur) will do nicely. Charcoal made from hardwood such as Oak will also suffice.
The Forge: Clean out the forge, remove all traces of previous fires. Once again purify everything with Sage Smoke. Throughout the entire preparation process, you must chant the sacred chant "Imanitwit, but fusesteel Ican"
Practice: Next practice all the moves you will make in the welding process using cold steel until they can flawlessly and without hesitation. Should Vulcan detect any hesitation or erratic movements on your part during the actual welding process, he will descend upon you Murphy and his entire horde who will cause the weld not to take, and slag to fly into the Buick Chariot of the Domestic Goddess which you failed to park at a safe distance from the smithy. Which will once again bring upon you the curse of the Joe Bob lament and a case of malaise that can only be cured by a 6 month visit from the Wicked Witch of the West.
Timing of the Weld: To make the perfect weld, correct timing is essential. The first consideration is Moon Phase. A full moon is essential to the development of the weld. The weld should take place at exactly of the full moon. If it can be so arranged as to be done under the light of a Blue Moon, as the 31st day of June changes into the Jubilation of July, a more symmetric fusion can take place. NOTE: One should make a quick check of the calendar, as modern calendars only have 30 days in June. This allows for a convenient alibi should the weld fail to make, however, I believe some old Druid calendars did have 31 days in June and if one of these is used this alibi is forfeit, and should you attempt to use it, you will be cursed and find out why Stonehenge was really built. For the absolute perfection in a weld, it must be made at exactly the stroke of under a full moon on the Vernal Equinox when the Ying and Yang of day and night are in perfect harmony. So much welding is scheduled for this time that it has given rise to the phrase "I have welding out the Ying Yang".
Mouth Position: The position of ones mouth is of great importance. Anyone knows that to perform any task perfectly, you must hold your mouth right. More welds have been ruined by improper mouth position than any other factor. If one is to strike true and fuse the weld, the head must be held exactly level. To assure that the head is level, check to see that the spittle from your chewing tobacco is running equally out of both corners of your mouth. Now having a level headed approach, you must make the ugliest face possible to frighten away any evil spirits that may be lurking around the anvil waiting to spoil your weld. Grunting like a Boar Hog in full rut is not entirely necessary, but has been known to be successful in frightening the more stubborn evil spirits.
Building the Fire: In the center of the forge directly over the tuyere, place a small ball of the scrapings from the inside of the bark of a virgin white oak. Over this place a wadded up piece of clean parchment and over the parchment place small slivers of seasoned oak or other suitable hardwood gradually increasing the size of the kindling until you have a teepee of wood about the diameter of your ittle finger with one side open to the ball of bark. Into the bark introduce the spark from flint and steel. When the ball of bark ignites, gently but gently introduce the breeze of a bellows as the kindling ignites, slowly add a few small pieces of fine coal. As the fire builds, add more coal around the outside gently raking the coke s it forms into the fire. Sprinkle with Sagebrush and other sweet smelling herbs to purify the fire. Slowly increase the amount of bellow breeze to the fire and bank up a large quantity of coal around the outside of the fire and sprinkle it with pure spring water to keep it moist and allow it to coke up. When a goodly quantity of coke has been produced and your fire is burning clean and pure, you are ready to start the welding process. NOTE: During the coking process, it is a good time to heat the metal used to warm your anvil.
Animal Sacrifice: Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to sacrifice small animals. Although this contention is quite popular, it is a myth started by a colonial blacksmith in the early 1700's. In procuring cat hair for flux, he snatched 3 from the black cat owned by his Domestic Goddess. To get even for this ungainly intrusion the vile beast defecated in the smith's favorite slipper. When the smith discovered this in the early light of the morn, he dispatched the beast with a quick throw of the hammer much to the chagrin of his Domestic Goddess. If you must, for reasons mentioned above, engage in this practice, be smart enough to do it out of sight of the Domestic Goddess and dispose of the body quickly.
The Welding Process: The weld we are making is called a Faggot Weld. The name of this weld is not an epithet for a gender confused resident of