Do I use heat?
It's one of the common questions people ask me at shows. People wonder how I reshape metal objects, how I twist them into surprising new forms?
The answer is that it's complicated. Yes, I use heat, but I never reshape metal when it's hot.
I forge metal - hammer, twist and bend it - only while it's cold. I rely on simple tools, hand strength and lots of practice. Goldsmiths and silversmiths, like me, hand forge our work using a different method than a blacksmith. Perhaps you've seen a blacksmith forging glowing hot iron? Those blacksmith techniques are great for shaping heavy iron, but they would destroy my more delicate materials.
So... if I forge metal while it's cold, when do I use heat? I use my high-temp torch for two important techniques:
Soldering - joining pieces together
Annealing - applying a heat 'pre-treatment' that softens the metal. Once cooled, the metal is easier to bend and less likely to break than before. I can anneal and then wait a few hours or years, and the metal will stilll be more more supple and malleable because of the annealing. It will then become more brittle and harder as I work it, though. That is, it gets 'work hardened'. I might need to anneal multiple times when creating a complex piece in order to protect the metal from breaking and allow maximum flexibility for intricate forging.
Here's a pic of me using a high-temp silversmith torch.
Want to watch a 2-minute that shows how I create spoon rings? Click here.