AIGA Mosiac Workshop

This summer Johannah led a mosaic workshop coordinated by the local AIGA chapter, a community of creative professionals with an emphasis on design. We had about 20 people, so we spread out on the big steel tables that usually serve as workspace for metalworking projects at Phoenix Handcraft.

This fantastic group hung out for about two hours, making small spontaneous mosaics with a variety of materials. Though most were new to mosaics, the results were wonderful! Johannah’s favorite students are those who declare themselves “not creative” or “not artistic.” Given a little direction and lots of freedom to explore, those inner artists can really start to show themselves.

{Click photos to enlarge.}

You can see more photos of our fun event on the AIGA Richmond website.

Forging a Window

Kyle recently completed a commission from a stained glass company for a large window. While the work wasn't fancy, it did require the skills of a blacksmith to bring it to life.

The first section we needed to make for this arched window was a tight curve from thin-walled steel tube. Modern tube benders would distort the shape of the tube. A thicker walled tube would give the window a rounder edge than we were looking for. To get the right look, we constructed the top arch by laminating several layers of rectangular tube, which we pulled hot around a steel form.

My assistant Matt helping me pull the last course of rectangular tube for the arch.

The three layers of curved steel, still warm from the bending process, clamped together to cool.

The upper mullions posed another challenge. The T bar material used to make them can be rolled on a modern roller, but that process requires an expensive set of custom dies, and like the tube steel for the arch, would distort the material. Our solution was to create our own tooling.

I love making tools! This is the T bar bending apparatus I made to help us get the job done.

Top arch is done! Now for the bottom.

This puppy is so big, it took not one but two assistants to get it cleaned up and ready to go.

Off to the sandblaster before we paint it. Thanks Kallen and Matt for all your help!

Meet our flagship tool

Steam hammer, 1943, photo by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information

Little Giant ad

Kyle forming a taper using our Little Giant soon after he finished refurbishing it.

Our refurbished 1918 50 lb Little Giant in the metal studio.

The power hammer is the workhorse of the modern blacksmith shop, replacing the traditional role of the striker in moving and shaping heavy stock. These impressive industrial machines have been around a long time. Trip hammers were known in China and Greece as early as the third century BC. During the 19th century, giant steam hammers were developed alongside steam locomotive technology. Line-shaft powered, and later electric motor powered mechanical hammers have been used by blacksmiths and other metalworkers since the late 19th century. In fact, those very machines are still used in metal shops today-- our own refurbished 50 lb Little Giant hammer was built in 1918!