November 10th, 2006

Success, failure

Fiddled around with a few projects in the workshop tonight.

First, I took one of my old bronze sickle castings and started to clean it up. Got it profiled, got the worst of the pits and sand inclusions out, and was working on the primary bevel when I discoverd the blade had a crack in it. From the look of it, I'd say that crack had formed sometime during the casting process -- it was pretty heavily oxidized, so it had been there a while. The crack was at the worst possible point, if it had been closer to the handle I could have used the rest of the blade portion as a knife, if it had been closer to the tip I could have just made a very stubby sickle. At least I had the satisfaction of smashing it to pieces before tossing the bits into the scrap pile to be remelted.

I will say that using a small angle grinder with a 36 grit flap disk is an excellent way of working on these bronze tools, it makes the work go very fast, and I've got good control with the relatively light weight of the grinder.

While I was grinding, I had started a small crucible melt to cast a guard for a seax; turns out the crucible, one of the ones included when I bought that metalurgical work station, had a crack in it, too. Fortunately caught that one before I started to pour, but frustrating none the less.

On the positive side, I did rough out three new patterns. A new, more swept and wider sickle, a sword for a fantasy piece I'd like to do, and a dagger based on some designs I've seen at the Smithsonian. If all goes well, I'll fire up the big casting furnace on Saturday or Sunday and do some casting.

Right now, I can taste the bronze, a sort of sour metallic flavor, and I think quite a bit got in my nose -- when I just blew it, the snot came out almost golden. Better looking than the usual black snot after a session in the workshop, but I think I'll change the filter in the respirator if this much stuff is getting through.

Tomorrow, I'll see if I can finish the patterns and seal them with some high-gloss, so I get a clean release when I pack the oil sand. I also have one more unfinished sickle casting, complete with sprues, soot, and burnt sand, that I'll take a whack at getting cleaned up and shaped assuming I don't find another fatal flaw lurking in the casting.

--doug ayen
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