For the Love of Craft

That's what this all comes down to for me. Shaping, welding, filing, sanding and polishing. I love it. Start with a flat, lifeless piece of aluminum and start pounding on it, curving it, making it organic. Smooth it a bit with the English wheel and evaluate the shape. Not quite right? Needs a little stretching here. More curvature, a little tighter curve on this edge. Trim it with the shear. Keep refining and refining until it's very close to the form I need. Then make another piece and weld the two together.

Now you're starting to get somewhere. That weird curved piece is becoming a tank, a fender, a fairing. A few more pieces and you've got the basic shape. Now it's time to do a little metal finishing. Grind down that weld, file it with the vixen file. Sand it a little. Now you can see the bumps and ridges created while forming. It's time to tap and tap and tape with a metal spoon or wooden slapper. Tap down that bump, raise up that dent. Now sand a little more. Ah, it's starting to look smooth and elegant, assuming I've conceived the part well. 

This part is more than a little tedious but you're driven on by your vision of the finished part. You work over every square inch of the part, starting with the big dents and bumps and working down to the small ones. Double check that you still have the overall shape right. Are there any big flaws that you've missed while working on the small ones. Is this side the same as the other side? Is that curve flowing? 

And it's not just metal shaping that I love. I love welding too. It's a pure craft, a tremendous skill. You're controlling the arc of the tig gun like a musician. More heat, less heat, move over here just a little to get the metals to flow together. You're melting and then dabbing the filler rod into the puddle of molten metal. A little bead forms, you move the torch down a little, melt again, dab again. You're trying desperately not to wobble with the gun. Don't slow down too much or move too fast. Keep adding rod as consistently as you can. What a dance! Does anyone every write about welding in this way. Well, it's how I feel about it. I love it.