The Crucible: Taste of Industrial Arts

I had the pleasure of taking Taste of Industrial Arts Experience at The Crucible.  This covered MIG welding, sand casting, and blacksmithing.  It was a great way to get hands-on experience with topics that are seldom encountered in (most people’s) everyday life.

The Crucible is an amazing place, filled with a Dwarven mountain’s worth of heavy industrial machinery, cavernous rooms, red hot kilns, and the smell of machine lubricant everywhere.

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First up was MIG welding.  Of course I had to make my moniker r3cgm (just r3 for short). They have a nice collection of scrap metal out back that you can use for projects.

We also learned how to use a plasma cutter. You definitely don’t want to get your fingers anywhere near that thing unless you like getting them heated up to 20,000°C.  Toasty.

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By chance I ran into a former neighbor who was also taking the same class.  She did a nice artistic display piece.

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Next was blacksmithing and I guess it goes without saying it was friggin’ HOT.  Even under normal conditions I deal poorly with high temperature. It felt like a sauna in there and I was constantly perspiring.

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We learned how to take an iron rod and heat it up in the kiln until the metal became soft and malleable, then strike it with a hammer on an anvil and forge it to our will. Our modest project was an S-hook, which you could use to hang a plant from the ceiling. Making this involved both bending and twisting. It’s very satisfying to hear the clank, clank, clank of the hammer.

Last up was sand casting. The basic deal here is that you start with a block of solid sand, carve out an impression, then pour in molten aluminum and wait for it to cool and solidify. To scoop out the sand we used anything we could find as a tool, such as a spoon or the end of a metal hanger. They gave us an hour to create a form and the rest of the time was spent filling it.

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The precision required with my design idea outpaced my ability to execute it and I wasn’t entirely pleased with the results. I thought to do a medallion featuring the three things I learned to use that day: a welding torch, hammer and anvil, and a casting ladel. You can sort of make it out?

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Here we see the instructor heating up the aluminum. The melting point is 660°C.

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I’m not really sure where my plan went wrong but the results were not crisp and you couldn’t really make out the pattern. Hey, that’s okay. The point here was to learn something new and have fun. In that sense it was definitely mission accomplished.

I went home that evening tired, dirty, sweaty, and very satisfied.

Thanks for taking a moment to read about my experience. Hopefully it will inspire someone else out there to try something new or visit The Crucible.

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