Ever since human kind smelted gold and formed it into objects the craft of metal work has grown to encompass art and industry bringing them hand in hand. As the metal worker has shaped his wares he has shaped our world. Metal touches every facet of our lives from the car we drive to work to the pots and pans with which we cook our dinner. It has been used to beautify our surroundings with art, improve our lives as tools and forged into weapons to end life all together. The history of metal work is a long one dating before 6000 BC. Later came what are known as the metals of antiquity.
These seven metals are quite literally the foundation for which civilization was based. Later over the centuries more metals were discovered and there are now 86 known metals and countless alloys that are derived by mixing those.
"Otzi, The Iceman"
Pictured here is the 5,300 year old body of a neolithic (Copper Age) man. Pictured next to him is a copper axe and knife found in his possession.
Man learned metallurgy and it is one of the earliest applied sciences. So important was metallurgy to the development of our civilization that archeology identifies the three stages of mans prehistory after The Stone Age as: The Copper Age 3500-2300 BC, The Bronze Age 3500 BC to 1200 BC, and most recent prehistory The Iron Age, 12th century BC to about 500 AD.
The earliest metals that were smelted from rock were gold and copper, both very soft and malleable in their purest form. Once man realized that he could mix metals together while in their molten state he was then able to manipulate it, taking the desirable qualities form each metal to create a new one. For example, when tin was added to copper it became bronze, It was harder and stronger, it propelled civilization into the Bronze Age.
As the skills of the metal working craftsman grew being passed on from generation to generation metal work improved to an art form. The Blacksmith was born. Forging armor, weapons, housewares and horse shoes alike. The trade grew and evolved.
Metal was joined by forging it together. It was heated in a coal fuel forced air fire to a plastic state and then hammered repeatedly until the two pieces fused together. This is known as forge welding and it is the earliest form of welding.
Blacksmiths helped build the industrial revolution. It is debatable which is the oldest profession the likely oldest trades are: Blacksmith, Cook, Stone Mason and Prostitute.
Blacksmithing is the way metals have been formed and fabricated for thousands of years.
Very few real blacksmiths remain in the US or world today.
The foundry has evolved from a simple hole in the ground to large mechanized facilities. Foundries have been casting sculptures, machine parts, housewares and ornamental components for thousands of years. They heat metal to very high temperature in a large furnace until it reaches a liquid state. The metal is placed into a large heavy pot called a crucible then poured into molds made of various materials. In years gone by within the US foundries speckled the urban landscape. But for the last 50-60 years one by one they have been closing unable to compete with foreign markets.
Comparatively very few foundries remain in the US.
In the mills steel and other metals are cast into large ingots that are drawn through huge rollers under tremendous amounts of compression. The steel is rolled back and forth through these rollers until the length of material is complete. All manor of different profiles and extrusions are formed this way and they serve many purposes. Some shapes include square and round bar, channel, I beams, angle iron, pipes, etc.
The steel mill was once the pride of American industry. It made us the economic giant that we are today. We led the world in production of not just steel but other metals as well. Now the mills are all but gone in this country, most stock shapes of steel and other metals come from overseas.
The steel mills in the US are all but gone.
During the nineteenth century welding became easier with the advent of acetylene. Torches were devised that mixed gas and oxygen to concentrate and vigorously increase combustion. The torch was used to melt the parent metals and then a filler metal rod was introduced by hand that formed the weld. The two pieces of metal became one.
Later Nikolai N. Benardos and his compatriot Stanislaus Olszewski developed a form of welding that used an electric arc. A carbon electrode was used to to carry an electric arc to the parent metals being joined and a filler metal rod was introduced by hand to form the weld. As the technology was developed an electrode holder was devised that held the filler metal rod. This rod became both the electrode and the filler metal. When the arc was struck the rod becomes consumed and forms the weld. This was then improved by coating the rod with flux that stabilized the arc and protected the pool of molten metal from atmospheric contamination.
Welding took over as the most common way of fabricating and joining metal. During the the early part of the twentieth century welding grew in the US as we became a manufacturing giant. During WW2 the US built ships and tanks at break neck speeds and it is one of the reasons the war was won. During the war many welders were women.
These women welders and all of the workers during that time did their part in the war effort making it possible for the Allies to defeat the enemy.
Could our generation do that today?
A DIEING ART
While metal working reaches into almost every area of manufacturing and construction it is fading away in this country lost to cheaper manufacturers overseas. My love lies with ornamental and architectural metal work. Ornamental and architectural metal work in its custom form is fading fast as small shops find it hard to make any profit applying their art. There are not many out there and that is why it is called a dieing art. I really love designing and building railings and staircases. For builders and homeowners the temptation is there to install the least expensive option possible. But what most of them don't realize is that ornamental metal work can fit into a budget and can in many cases cost as much or less then wood.
I hope to help keep the craft alive buy offering quality craftsmanship at a realistic price. I try to contribute to the community of craftsmanship by doing my part to advance the metal working craft. I love my work, there is almost nothing that satisfies me more then working with homeowners, architects and builders bringing ideas to life. Creating houses that not only display craftsmanship but even stand alone as a work of art. Railings, stairs and gates are like jewelry for your home, they can be an element that creates a statement about the individual. These elements can set a home apart from the others.
( by Capozzoli Metalworks)
Contemporary glass and stainless steel railings.
(by Capozzoli Metalworks)
It is my dream that the craftsmen in this country will survive to pass their craft onto the next generation. I also hope they find a younger generation that is willing to learn. The craftsmen are a big part of what made this country great. Lets not let them fade away, what would we do without them?
In the posts to come I will share my love for my work. I hope to share descriptions of welding, fabricating and installing of ornamental and structural metal work.With this blog I hope to share ideas and information to help keep the art alive.
Thanks for stopping in and reading, please check back for updates!