Sunday, May 10, 2009

Funny thing happened... not 'ha-ha' funny.

I was in the shop yesterday, forging broadfork tines, and I had a little slip of the hammer which resulted in a brief touch of knuckle and 1600 degree steel. It would have hurt if the steel wasn't hot; the impact alone was what made me scream.

When I do such things to myself, I have an autonomic response to the situation and blurt out a string of vile obscenities in obscure languages. It seems to help for just a moment. The words mean nothing to 99% of the planet's population, but would make grandparents blush in several small, distant countries. I trained myself to respond like this over the past couple of decades of burning, cutting, abrading, bludgeoning, and otherwise causing pain to myself with power tools and hot, heavy objects.

Being a one person business, I have to be very careful, and I am. I always wear boots, an apron, safety glasses and ear protection. Gloves are not safe when doing certain operations, because they make you clumsy, particularly when holding hot tines with tongs. I tell people that you really have to wear gloves either all the time or never so that you don't have to think about whether they are on or not. 

Rule #1: Assume everything in the blacksmith shop is hot until proven otherwise.

Rule#2: Everything in the blacksmith shop is out to get you.

I haven't had a 'real' burn since the Great Burn of '88 when I seared the entire palm of my right hand and had my first prescription narcotics soon after. These little burns happen pretty regularly just due to the nature of the job and are forgotten about quickly.  

Now, here's where it gets funny... Since I always wear ear protection, I don't know how loud I talk (or scream) in the shop. I must have let out a particularly blood chilling scream, because my wife heard me, and came running to see what happened... and she brought her CAMERA! She arrived with the scent of seared flesh still heavy in the air and recorded these photos. Here's a close up where you can see a piece of mill scale stuck to the burn and see the singed hair on my finger.
I'm glad she came to check on me, but grabbing the camera was a bit strange, even for her.

A burn doesn't necessarily hurt. Sometimes the nerves are fried and you can continue for a while before the pain comes on. In a couple of minutes I finished the last tines, and went to the house for the cure. I typically apply ice directly for a half hour, then aloe vera, which is amazing on burns. Top it all off with a shot of tequila, and get back at it in the morning.

These broadforks really are hand made.

Be careful out there,