Listening to Metal

I’ve been taking metalsmithing classes at the local arts center, and after completing three levels of coursework, I’ve finally made something for myself that I can wear. It’s a ring.

Only after starting work on the ring did I begin to appreciate the homonymic nature of the word ‘ring’ in the context of a metalsmith’s studio. From the first day, we were taught to use our ears as a gauge for our technique and progress. For example, when threading the saw with a blade, pluck it with a fingernail and listen for a slight ping — if the pitch is high, it’s tight enough, but if you hear a low, hollow ring, it’s too slack. Then, when sawing through metal at the right angle, the grate should be soft and even, not loud and choppy. The sound of gas and fire comes into play later: when annealing a sheet of metal, listen for a hiss before you light the torch, and when soldering the seam of a ring, the flame should should sound like a heavy wind. It’s all very musical.

So using my fingers and my ears, I turned this:

into this:


4 thoughts on “Listening to Metal

  1. Katie

    I loved metalsmithing!!! I found the most fascinating part to be when the sodder reached the right temperature and just turned to liquid like freaking magic! Sean actually made his own wedding ring for our final project and someone stole it. He was really cheesed off. Glad you’re enjoying your class!

    1. Rochelle Hurt Post author

      Solder is like magic. I love it — especially when it beads up and then just collapses into liquid. That’s so cool about your ring (but sad that someone stole it — they will have some bad juju for a long time, I’m sure).


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