Forged in the Fire: Philosophical Musings on Forging Steel

Blacksmiths live irregular lives. When you are forging steel to make your livelihood, you find yourself keeping odd hours, for one. When it starts heating up in the summer months, I forge all night and sleep some of the day. When it’s cold outside, I come out of hibernation like a bear blinking in the sunlight and light up the days with fire and heat. We don’t keep the shop air conditioned, preferring to forge in synchronicity with the seasons and the weather.

As anyone who’s ever tossed and turned knows, you can get into a fog after a night of no sleep. Keeping normal relationships with diurnal folks means you just may not sleep at times…for longer periods than most are used to. Yesterday, after noticing in dismay as the morning sun was lighting up the sky, I began thinking about the meaning of life in a insomnia-induced waking reverie as I pounded steel. With sheer force I tried to induce the steel into the shapes that I deemed appropriate whether it’s functional, a piece of art, or a little of both.

The idea for this blog popped into my head and I started thinking about writing in general. With writing, you pluck words out of the air and arrange them neatly into sentences, limited only by your creativity and confidence. With steel, it’s like the words haven’t been invented yet, or even the letters. You are taking something that vehemently does not want to be moved and forcing it to yield with fire and a massive hammer. There is nothing neat about it as we struggle with nature ever time in a sort of primordial battle, reinventing nature’s rules with each blow.

This got in my head as I pondered in my hypnagogic state the meaning of the work that we do at Matrix. We make stuff from material that puts up a fight, daily, nightly, year after year. It’s my job and my passion. But it wears on me, that constant resistance renewed daily.

But then again, when you heat, deform, and finish a piece of steel, the metal is transformed. It can withstand extreme pressure yet still maintain structural integrity under stress. Forged metal is harder, stronger, and more durable than cast or machined metal. It’s the pressure that makes it so. Forging in fire is so transformative that it has become an idiom that means something has been made stronger by the process—figurative or literal—of applying heat and pressure. It’s easy to draw a parallel to life in general.

 

This steel is kicking my butt, but in the process, it’s fortifying both me as a person, the product that we make at Matrix every day, and our team at large. We are getting stronger, more creative, bigger, and better. We are creating art and tools and fixtures and more from the hardest thing in the world from which to create—stubborn, assoholic steel. But then again, I can’t say we would have it any other way.

So, with a renewed appreciation and optimism for all the exciting projects we have coming down the pipeline, I want to thank Matrix customers for the opportunity to create something meaningful with an obstinate medium. We look forward to a long, hot, grueling, and transformative summer.

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