Energy is a limited resource for all of us. For some, it's an extremely limited resource (see spoon theory). Sometimes folks (think: small children, people on certain legal and illegal substances, morning people) don't *seem* to have limits, but then things are quiet for a moment and you find that they've fallen asleep.
It can be incredibly useful to keep in mind that there is a finite amount of work that can be accomplished in a day.
(Okay, yes, I will acknowledge that some of you will find this thought very depressing. That doesn't make it less true, but if you need a minute, please take a minute. It gets better, I promise!)
Alright! Glad to have you back! So here's the good news: Having limited energy, limited time, and only so much work you can accomplish in one day is a great reason to be LAZY.
Yes, that's right. I think we should all be LAZY. But I think you should be lazy in order to get more done. Consciously choosing to do things that save you time and energy means that you can smith for longer.
- Think about the way you hold your hammer. How does your arm feel? How does your hand feel? Are you gripping the hammer too tight? If you are, you're working against your own muscle tension.
- In my shop, we put gravity to work. If you're moving big metal, lift your hammer higher and let the weight of your hammer do most of the work. I know you're very strong and hitting things can be a great workout, buuuuuuuuuuuut you'll burn out your arm and possibly cause injury. And that's not very lazy of you.
- Metal doesn't move as much when it's cool. If you're hitting the metal when it's not glowing, you're almost certainly getting a great workout, but you probably aren't moving a lot of metal.
- Keep your metal as straight as possible for as long as possible. Once you bend your metal, you run the risk of the bent end getting in your way. It's not always possible to follow this guideline, but it's a great way to stay lazy!
- Trying to make a piece longer and/or thinner? Are you still working on the face of the anvil and hitting with the face of your hammer? Use the peen and the horn to move the material faster. It can be scary to use the peen and the horn the first time because you'll first end up with a lot of little divots on your piece. But these can be cleaned up quickly and easily on the face of your anvil. Oh the time you'll save!
- Don't have a power hammer, a treadle hammer, or an air hammer? Buy yourself a sledge hammer (for between $8-40) and invite a friend over to strike for you. Check out this video on striking. In this case you'll be the blacksmith and your friend will be the striker. The striker's job is to ONLY hit when the blacksmith says to. The blacksmith's job is to communicate where to hit and how hard. If you, as the blacksmith, are using a struck tool (like a chisel, punch, fuller, flatter, etc), you can communicate verbally ("STRIKE!") or with a gesture like a head nod. If you are also hammering, you will indicate where to hit and how hard by hitting that spot with your hammer. Take it slow, be mindful of flying hammers, and be sure to give your striker regular breaks.
Blacksmiths are a very resourceful group of folks. They are always on the lookout for ways to save time and energy. Send me your favorite lazy blacksmith tip (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll add it to the list!