Blog

How to Make | Forged Flint Striker

IF YOU HAVE A FORGE AT HOME…

These instructions below stem from back when we used to teach this at our forge in County Wicklow, so you may find that certain parts are not explained through and through. But if you have already done a little bit of blacksmithing I’d say you should be able to figure it out and make your own alterations to the ‘recipe’. Remember that small isn’t necessarily easy; size combined with the fact that the material used is carbon steel, means shaping is harder and it’s trickier to get sufficient heat in the correct area. (If you want to introduce your kids to the craft a flint striker wouldn’t be a good place to start!) We still run courses, you can sign up here.

THE STRIKERS & THE FLINT

The flint striker designs are based on archaeological finds. From the Iron Age forward and prior to the invention of the friction match, the use of natural flint & steel was one of the most common methods of fire lighting. The flat side of the fire striker is struck at an acute angle against a sharp edge of a piece of flint. Direct the sparks onto char cloth or other flammable material which should be held directly under or over the flint. Flint strikers will ‘work forever’ so if the sparks stop coming – it’s time to collect some more flint! I am originally from Denmark, where flint is so plentiful that it’s literally used to pave (gravel) roads. In Ireland I believe the best places to find big flint nodules are the beaches along the north coast of Antrim (especially Ballycastle) and south Wexford (around Kilmore Quay). In the midlands you can find chert – which has a brown appearance – but although it has very similar properties to flint it isn’t as easy to use in my opinion. The main think you need to be aware of is that small found nodules aren’t any good as the edges have been softened over time. You will need rocks as big as possible as the first thing you will need to do is to pop on those safety specs and split the rock with a hammer. This will create shards with those razor-sharp edges you need to strike a spark. It’s not the flint itself that sparks, it’s the high pressure exerted on the steel which causes a small particle to peel off, meet oxygen and spontaneously combust. (this happens when you angle-grind metal too by the way!)

MAKING CHAR CLOTH

Get a small flat metal tin and drill a small hole in the top. This will allow smoke and pressure to escape without the oxygen burning the cloth completely. Cut small squares of 100% cotton or linen fabric (an old t-shirt or shirt is perfect) Place the tin on some hot coals and let it cook until the smoke subsides. Let it cool completely, and don’t open it for several hours (the cloth will catch flame and burn to a cinder)

THE OBJECTIVE

To retain a flat and smooth steel edge to strike the flint. To gain width, i.e. get your fingers on a distance of the sharp edge of the flint. To have a decorative object in your pocket to light the fire with! The three flint striker designs (Irish / Scottish / Viking) are sort of standardised… There would have been thousands of variations of same / similar / totally different shapes coming from different makers. This means of course that you ought to invent your very own trade-mark striker. And as you do this you can keep in mind your available material and making ability (i.e. make it easy for yourself for Gods sake!)

FORGING THE FLINT STRIKER

I use a starting material of 15mm of 75x6mm flat 01 tool steel (or an old file forged to same proportions) Round bar is no good – unless you hammer it into a flat rectangle first of course. Mark accordingly using the hardie or a chisel (a light mark will do)

THE HEAT TREATMENTS

Anneal after forging is complete and before hardening. Harden in water at a relatively high heat (bright orange) A flint striker is not tempered so avoid quenching the delicate scrolls and ‘arms’ of the strikers. Simply hold the edge of the striker in the water till you see the heat go from the upper more delicate parts. Your striker is ready!

DO’S AND DONT’S

The more carbon the lower the melting point – O1 tool steel will literally crumble if over-heated! Carbon steels can’t be quenched to localise the heat (like you do with mild steel) – so position in the fire is key. Use lots of re-heats. Don’t touch it with the hammer if its dull red or black as it might otherwise crack. Forging small objects like these require well -suited tongs which must be quenched regularly. Remember that a-symmetry really stands out so be accurate with your measurements. If the striker doesn’t work, try to lightly grind the edge (bottom /flat part of the striker) If you are used to using shop-bought ferrocerium rods – which easily creates a shower of much hotter sparks (3000 degrees as opposed 800) – you might not want to have your life depending on these old-school strikers as it ain’t that easy…

Further recommended reading on the art of fire-lighting: www.survivalsherpa.wordpress.com or www.theartofmanliness.com

Read More

Matter | Tool | Maker

THE BEAUTIFUL GREAT TRUTH

‘I discovered that the whole of reality is made of matter. Then human beings cover it temporarily with words. But nature is a material state, and will exist before and after us, when our words, spoken or written, are only dust in the wind. After, when all the humans are gone, the “beautiful, great truth” will be forever available for those who come, written on stones under the light. “Matter was, and always will be, speaking its own language.” This is the principal on which I base my life as a sculptor.’ ‘My English maestro, the late sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, told me in a recent letter that a sculptor has to be obsessive with his profession, “you have to live sculpture, think sculpture, dream sculpture”. I agree, but in order for that to happen, the sculptor has to first live matter, think matter, dream matter, just as a poet has to live words, think words, dream words.’ [1]  Francisco Gazitua

THE FIRST MOVE

I became familiar with the term ‘moving matter’ during a lecture in 2011 by Chilean sculptor Francisco Gazitua, who creates monumental sculptures expressing his lifelong search for a ‘Language of Sculpture’. I realised that that’s exactly what I have spent most of my life doing: moving matter. It started when I was 13; a friend showed me how to carve spoons. Saw an arm-thick branch off a tree. Split it down the middle with an axe. Carve the piece from either side to create the general swooping spoon-curve. Carve the handle, and whittle down the actual rounded eating-part, which must be hollowed out as much as possible.

THE TOOLS

My mum kindly provided the little axe, having bought it specifically at the hardware store for my new-found hobby. (Being a single mother, she was the type of woman capable of solving any issue with whatever tool was about – not always appropriate that is – I recall a lot of bike mending with a nut-cracker for example!) So there I was, axe in hand, an eighties child in suburban Denmark. Sitting on the covered terrace of a bungalow – moving matter for the first time.

THE BUBBLE

I remember it very clearly as a little bubble. In this bubble was just the carving block in front of me. The tools and the object I was carving. In the periphery were the tiles of the terrace and the bushes and plants ahead of me, red brick behind my back. Complete focus. On the wooden branch – ‘the matter’; the relationship between the tools and the matter. For the first time spellbound by the unfolding of the Idea by way of the process; mesmerized by the emerging end-result. Chip, chip, chip. My own sense of being somewhat blending into this process, almost disappearing.

LIVING MATTER

Later on, once school finished, I decided to do an apprenticeship in horticulture. The work placements were spent on organic farms in Denmark and Norway. All small holdings, lots of organic vegetables produced for market, fields to plough, manure to spread, weeds to pull. In short: lots of matter to move.
Working soil demands tools and it was by way of this particular perspective I was introduced to metals. Ploughing the fields with horses and a one-furrow plough, the tip of the plough-shear broke. What to do? Not much according to the Norwegian farmer. Just carry on until we get another plough, perhaps on an auction in a few months.
Farming is of course a craft, connected with – and depending on – the other cornerstone crafts. The working, creation and restoration of objects made from stone, wood, metals, fabric, glass etc. It’s like a big web of matter, shaped specifically to our utilitarian and artistic needs. I started learning about metal, first welding and later on an art-college based course in 3D design crafts / blacksmithing in Hereford, UK.

LEARNING TO SPEAK IRON

Welding is the closest a metal sculptor comes to feeling like a surgeon. The steady hand, the white gloves, the intense observation. There is something very exhilarating about this dangerous closeness to electricity and the intense heat and glare of the melting pool. Metal sculpture is often constructed in a collage of many individual components. Like a patient in an operating theater the sculpture is gently stitched up and comes to life. Your own delicate heartbeat somewhere in the mix – precariously close to this circuit of current – to which you and the sculpture are interconnected by means of wires, clamps and rods.

FORGING MATTER

Once you are familiar with blacksmithing there is something very natural about it. You find yourself moving rhythmically between the fire and the tools, perhaps a little like a worker-ant; entranced by the work. All earth’s natural elements are present in a forge, but you don’t necessarily notice, as the fire over-power the scene with its hypnotic qualities.
You can never be sure that you know everything there is to know about metallic matter, as it’s not the sort of substance that can be calculated entirely by intelligence. Like any art form, it’s the intuitive knowledge which moves the hand holding the paint-brush, chisel or hammer.

Metal appears predictable; submissively mirroring the tools or work surfaces is comes into contact with during its plastic state. Mastering the art of working metal hot is among other things to know its breaking point, its extremities. A fine line of which you become familiar, through a myriad of encounters with the broken and mangled form: the large pile of rejects lurking under the hearth. The aim is perhaps not to perfect this art of coaxing, but to co-exist with the matter. As Gazitua says: ‘to let it speak its own language’:

Opposing our transforming human strength, which comes out of our hands and tools, is another equally potent force – the self-assembling, ordering energy of stone, something not unlike blood that circulates inside of it, that swells from its interior. I have felt, carving in my workshop, that creating sculpture generates an exchange similar to that of the undertow and the wave – where the same mass of water, in movement, struggles with an opposing current – moving it inside and out at the same time. Human strength against the open sea of matter, the strength of the shore against the rising tides. I believe, therefore that we have something in common, hidden within me and hidden within matter.’ [2]

Sources:
[1] http://franciscogazitua.com/pdf-francisco-gazitua/artandscience_saras2013.pdf
[2] http://franciscogazitua.com/pdf-francisco-gazitua/Matter.pdf
Further recommended reading : http://franciscogazitua.com/pdf-francisco-gazitua/Interview%20Anthony%20Caro.pdf

Read More

How to Make | Candle Lanterns

IF YOU HAVE A FORGE AT HOME…

This is a lovely little project and I find the candle lanterns to be a nice present – after you’ve filled up your own house and garden first of course! The instructions below stem from back when we used to teach this at our forge in County Wicklow, so you may find that certain parts are not explained through and through. But if you have already done a little bit of blacksmithing I’d say you should be able to figure it out. Do make your own alterations to the ‘recipe’. After all it’s when you have to fill in the gaps and make your own making-choices that you really start mastering this craft. You might find it helpful to take a look on our facebook page for images from one of the candle lanterns courses back in 2014.

THE SPIRAL

Cut a 80cm piece of 6mm round steel. Hot-bend the end – about 2cm or so – to a right angle. Next heat 5-10cm of the bar above the bend, and clamp this right angle in a vice. Start a tight scroll by pulling to one side; remember that it will flow naturally if the heat is slightly higher furthest away from you. Keep scrolling till you only have 20cm left of the bar (use chalk to mark this). Keep the scroll tight and even by quenching the inside after each heat. Take it slow to avoid the layers over lapping, use a small hammer to tap it down flat on top of the vice. Next heat the entire scroll as evenly as possible. Clamp it in the vice again, though this time horizontally, and pull towards you to turn the scroll into a spiral. You will need two pairs of tongs to keep it from getting too long or uneven. The very inside of the scroll usually needs another heat before you can tease it out into a point.

THE RING

The spiral complete sit your glass tea-light holder into the spiral. (They sell these in Ikea) At the point where the steel travels past the top of the tealight holder mark up with chalk. From this point measure 17cm with a bit of wire (works for most wine bottles but you might find that you need less) and use this to gauge where to cut the bar to length. Taper the end and make a tiny scroll using scroll pliers. Next slightly bend the end ‘in over the centre in a smooth curve’. This bit is hard to describe so you just have to give it a go! Basically you are looking for the spiral to hang down centre to the ring. A small ring is made from 3mm steel – a welding rod works quite well. I use a piece of 25mm pipe as a mandrel but you can also just free-hand-shape it over the beak of the anvil.

THE HOOK

Cut a 50 to 60cm piece of 6mm round steel. I think it’s quite nice if the hook lengths vary a little once the candle lanterns hang side-by-side. Forge a short taper on each end. The lower end needs a tight bend to fit through the neck of the wine bottle so use a 3mm sheet as a spacer. The top hook is shaped free hand. Have a look at the pictures and you will hopefully see what I mean.

THE BOTTLE

Hot-cutting glass bottles with a 16mm round steel bar heated in the fire is great fun. The type of bottle that makes the nicest candle lanterns (in my opinion) is the ‘Burgundy style’ wine bottle (corked as opposed screw-cap) The clearer the bottle the better the light. Remove the labels first. 2mm glass cuts with one heat, whereas 2.5 to 4mm needs a couple of heats. I havn’t had much luck with say vodka bottles; they tend to be too thick or uneven. Beer bottles are too small.

HOT-CUTTING THE GLASS

The scoring created by the hot bar makes a split in the surface of the glass – which encourages the glass to break along the score. When you hot cut, the important thing is to have a way to hold the bar dead steady, vertical and be able to rotate the bottle on top of a smooth surface (so hopefully your anvil is smooth!). You’ll need to make your cut a little ways above the base to avoid the protrusions some bottles have. All bottles vary so it’s good to be able to adjust the height. Watch the score-line as it develops, if there are any breaks in this line its important to go back over these. Keep going around until the bottom comes loose with a small ‘tink’ sound.

DO’S & DONT’S

If your scoring-bar needs reheating, lift the bottle vertically off the anvil and store on cardboard. Do not leave the bottle on the anvil and do not lift the bottle horizontally as this could encourage a premature break – if the score line is not yet complete, that’s usually how a bottle will crack! Let the bottle cool, then use a fine grade wet sand paper to polish the edge. Make sure to have plenty of spares as there will be breakages as you learn to master this. I find that it’s important to wire-brush the scoring-bar before you use it, and that cutting is easiest done if you heat the scoring-bar up to a near-white heat.

Good luck making!

Read More

Public Seating Commission – Dickens Heath

Public Seating and Durability

With public art and public seating, the concern is often durability. During a recent visit to Dickens Heath in Solihull, UK, it was great to see that the seating we made 12 years ago still look exactly the same as when they were installed. Calnan & Anhøj were commissioned by Sisk & Son UK in 2006, to create seating for the waterfront at Dickens Heath new village which adjoins the Stratford Canal. The seats were made from forged and fabricated steel, which was hot-dip galvanised, a very durable combination. Irish / Danish design duo Michael Calnan & Gunvor Anhøj also specialise in forged cor-ten steel and forged bronze.

Dickens Heath – not just another development

Only three miles from Solihull town centre, Dickens Heath new village, consists of 1672 dwellings and is the home to a population of about 4,000 people. From the outset, Solihull Council decided that Dickens Heath would be special and wouldn’t be just a large housing estate in the country. The Council decided that the new development would be based on the model of a traditional village, made up of shops, offices, restaurants, and homes as well as a school, library, village hall, doctors’ surgery, pub, village green and country park. The first phase (‘Market Square’) of this prestigious mixed use development, included the construction of 117 apartments, and 26 retail units centred around a High Street. The second phase ‘Waterside’ was completed in 2006 and included a selection of office, retail and luxury apartments fronting onto a contemporary styled water feature and canal quayside.

The Design Brief

For this design brief we felt it was appropriate to make models. Most designs involved a slab-like seating area, somewhat cantilevering off sturdy forged elements at ground level. The idea behind the cantilever seat originated from our years in Art College, where Michael’s final brief involved a seemingly precarious perch. The seat involved just two components, each weighing over a 100 kg, cantilevering off each other in a strikingly pure composition. Such arrangements makes one analyse the simple act of sitting down, something we usually take for granted.

The Making

We enlisted the help and expertise of artist blacksmith Alan Evans. A man with an extensive portfolio of contemporary works, to mention but one the spectacular Saint Paul’s Cathedral treasury gates in London (1980).

Transforming the models into seats. Michael and Alan at work at Alan’s workshop in Whiteway, Gloucestershire.


Alan Evans using his power hammer to forge a taper. Forging can produce a piece that is stronger than an equivalent cast or machined component.

Using a press to create the mooring-post-type elements of the benches.


One of the finished benches installed at Dickens Heath New Village, Solihull, UK 2006.


Three seats in the foreground. Dickens Heath Waterfront.


Barry Chinn Associates were the architects involved in the development of the Village Centre at Dickens Heath from its original conception through to completion. The challenge was ‘to unify the development and give a clear identity to the public realm through the use of imaginative hard and soft landscape solutions’. The Waterside development was the winner of the ‘Best Mixed Use Development’ category for the UK Property Awards 2009.

Read More

Make it Yourself

Art is Art – Everything else is everything else (Ad Reinhardt)

At the studio we have a very straightforward way of distinguishing between art and craft. We do the Art – you do the Craft. Essentially what that means is: if the object of your desire has a function, well then we invite you to make it yourself (with our help of course). Having said that we seem to have run out of time lately, it seems that there simply isn’t enough hours in the week to devote to the human endeavors in tool making. How did that happen?

Objet de la Fonction

Homo sapiens affiliation with tools goes back millions of years. That people are still preoccupied with it – I have proof of. Since I started teaching how to forge objects of function back in 2010, people from all walks of life just keep coming – men, women, young and old. About 1500 participants so far over the years, what a blast! Our 2010 to 2016 blacksmith-course series evolved on a demand / supply basis… Once I realised the interest, my creative brain went into overdrive and the ideas just kept coming. The following are images of some of the projects you could sign up for on our courses (some are still going strong don’t worry!) The principle is simple, what man needs – man makes:

Starting with the basics. Need to chop some wood.

Need to carry the logs.

Need to light a fire.

Need a Fire Brazier.

Need to rake the fire.

Need something to eat.

Need to cook it

And serve it.

And eat it.

Im thirsty.

And a little superstitious…

Open the door please

I’ll clean my boots first

Can’t see

That’s better

Better again

And now for somewhere to hang up my hat….

And my scarf…

Soul

Yes, it needs to rake, to hold the candle, to the carry the logs. But the most important factor is that if you made it, with your own hands, it’s no longer just the function that matters, its the fact that IT HAS SOUL. The object may not be worth much in monetary value and it may not be pretty, but that’s not the point. The point is it’s yours. For that very reason you will keep it, use it, cherish it for the rest of your life, maintain it, hang it on the wall, admire it, boast about it etc etc 🙂

Creation

From the right side of the anvil its easy to judge why there’s currently such a flurry of interest in artisan products and the making of them. But the fact is that I am myself incurably addicted to making. Just try and keep me away from the forge for a couple of weeks and I become gloomy, bad-tempered and frankly bored. I’m not surprised to find I’m not the only one! Homo Sapiens are not meant for monotony and re-petition, for office chairs and laptops. That’s for sure. I personally got bitten by the making-bug already as a teenager when a friend of mine showed me how to carve a spoon from the branch of a tree…

Keep Up The Making

As mentioned earlier our studio has become busier creating art these days, and so for us the golden era of function indulgence has diminished…  So if you find yourself ‘desperate to make’ I strongly recommend a forge at home.  Fill your house with functional art! I will be posting the occasional how to / make it yourself on this blog, based on the above mentioned course projects. I am hoping this will inspire you to keep up the making. If you partook in any of the workshops over the years:

WE THANK YOU ♥️

You can still participate in a workshop at the Calnan & Anhoj Forge (narrowed down to the three most popular ones). But beware… you might get hooked!

Read More

The Ding-Ding And The Dong-Dong

Capturing our studio on film

RTE KidSpeak!

Growing up with both a father and a mother being metal sculptors calls for not just a lot of metal in your home, but also some fun opportunities for our kids. Our little daughter Isabell, then 5, jumped at one of them in 2012 when RTE’s ‘Kids Speak’ team came to film at the forge. Kidspeak, is a series of 30sec – 1min films showing Irish children engaging in everything from abseiling to zoology, and was directed by Julian Hills who came out to the forge and ‘interviewed’ Isabell. She told camera man (and very large camera) about her mummy and daddy both being ‘blacksmithes’ and how she used to say ‘ding-ding’ whenever she saw stuff made from metal when she was only two years old… It turned out the cutest film ever!

The Angelus Rose

The 2015 Angelus films were produced by Kairos Communications. The brief was of course ‘reflection’ (religious or non-religious), so it was Michael’s idea to show the forging of a rose, which is a really delicate object. The two gents from Kairos spent the day filming for this 1 minute clip which turned out lovely, especially the end part where the ‘Angelus rose’ is cooling down. Now every Wednesday at 6pm on RTE you can admire the man in the green shirt contemplating a rose.

‘I like the bongs. I don’t have a religion. The one on Wednesday evening of the man forging a rose was rather relaxing to watch, more of that please.‘ From ‘RTE revamping the Angelus slot’ on boards.ie

RTE News

Also in 2015 we partook in Oliver Gormley’s sculpture exhibition at Russborough House. RTE came out to film for the One News. The short clip includes Gunvor showing off our studio which is of course on the grounds of Russborough, and giving her two cents worth. Trying to summarize why art is made… not bad for a Dane – given that the gallery owner gets away with just eating a sandwich!

Irish Craft Studio Experience

13 professionally made films from studios around Ireland facilitated by the Crafts & Design Council of Ireland back in 2013. Amazing colours… awful choice of jumper…

Read More

Nostri Plena Laboris (full of our hard work)

Award-winning Sculptors

When you have worked to perfect something for twenty odd years, it’s great when some of your hours of toil gets recognized by means of awards! The first of the combined four Calnan & Anhøj awards went to Gunvor back when we were still in Art College in Hereford, England. The Stanley Allcard Cup is awarded by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths for ‘outstanding ability in the traditional craft of the blacksmith’. It’s awarded annually to a student – nominated by the tutors – in this case Adrian Legge LWCB,FWCB, Dip.WCF himself, our tutor on the HND Design Crafts course. Some would argue that Adrian was simply afraid of Gunvor 🙂

The Stanley Allcard Cup

The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths is one of the oldest City of London Livery Companies and receiving the award was a fine affair. What to wear at such an event which involved a train journey to London accompanied by Adrian Legge and a dinner at The Painters Hall? Despite Adrian’s warnings ‘You’re Not wearing That on Wednesday Gunvor’ I arrived in style wearing what students wear best, coupled with what Michael called ‘fish-slippers’ on my feet. After a long and elaborate ceremony involving fur-coats, staffs and recitals there were several toasts to the Queen – and finally it was my turn. We had been seated quite close to the award master, but I was told to approach from a different angle. Alas… I got lost! I walked and walked to get to the top of the tables, the maze of people and tables getting more complicated by the minute. In the end everybody started clapping and cheering! Mortified I finally arrived at my destination…

Royal Dublin Society Craft Awards

As entrants of the Royal Dublin Society’s National Crafts Awards since 2010, we are proud winners of both 1st and 2nd prizes at this prestigious showcase for excellence in Irish crafts. In 2011 Gunvor won with her piece ‘In Memory’.

A friend passed away last summer. He is gone but will be kept in memory. The forked apple portrays the chosen one. The pip denotes my friend, caught in our memories and unable to return to life‘.

Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s Purchase Award 2012

Michael won his award in the Contemporary Metalwork Category of the Royal Dublin Society’s National Crafts Awards with his piece ‘Herding Bull’. He received The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s purchase award, so the piece is now in CCOI’s permanent collection.
Herding Bull is forged from a gorgeous piece of wrought iron, a 200 year old piece of Russborough fence…

The 2015 Mill Cove Award

Every year at the annual Sculpture in Context Exhibition at the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin, the Mill Cove Award is awarded by the Mill Cove Gallery for a sculpture of distinction. Gunvor was delighted to see her piece ‘Fish’ win this prestigious award presented by John Goode.

Read More