Wednesday, April 16

An Original Power Couple - The Smith And The Striker

Before there was Brangelina or Bennifer, two individuals defined what it means to be a power couple: The Blacksmith and The Striker. They worked so closely and so well that few words were needed to create amazing pieces of work.

A Combination of Finesse and Strength

It's not uncommon for people to assume that blacksmiths rely more on raw power than a series of well-placed, lesser blows. They see paintings of Hephaestus and Vulcan with their gargantuan arms, pounding away at massive hunks of metal and the picture sticks.

And it's partially correct, but in practice blacksmiths often limit the amount of heavy hitting by utilizing the strategic strength of the forge's strong man (or woman), the striker. Equipped with a heavier hammer and guided by the rhythm set by the head blacksmith, the striker delivers timed blows directly to a piece of metal or to reinforce the placement of flatters, hot sets, punches, and other tools.

Four Hands Are Better Than Two...Sometimes

If you've ever been standing at the anvil with a pair of tongs in one hand, hammer in the other, and a piece wedged between your legs, you can see the value of an extra set of hands. The piece will slip and you'll lose your heat in no time. Projects take longer, frustration builds.

With a person acting as striker, you're free to set up the piece and adjust it to direct the blows rather than wishing you had a third hand.

Falling into a rhythm and cementing the communication between you and your striker can take a long time. One way modern smiths bypass the need for all that communication is relying on the exponentially greater force and direct control of a power or trip hammer.

The power hammer becomes the striker, leaving your hands available to make adjustments while your foot controls the force applied to the piece. The initial cost of the power hammer is eventually outweighed by the efficiencies it allows in terms of time saved and less wear-and-tear on you and your heavy-hitter.

For a taste of the traditional method, here's a great instructional video of a lead blacksmith and two strikers making a hardie:



More examples can be found with a YouTube search for "Blacksmith Striker".

2 comments:

  1. Great article, Terran. I come across this frustration every time I need to punch or split something. I find myself trying to keep my tongs securely on my material by wedging the tongs between my legs only to lose the grip and have to start over. I sometimes only get on or two strikes on the material before I lose it. I need a striker!

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    1. Ha, yep! The punch or hot set starts skipping around and you either get an uneven, ugly blow or it's back into the fire. Thanks Benton.

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