Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ring Cycle

Every once in a while I get a call from a reporter or publication wanting to include me in an article about what they perceive to be what I do. -- Try to say that three times fast. – The last call was from a guy who was doing an article with a “green” angle.  This brings me to two things that I believe deep down.  The job of reporters is often to make news where there is none, and there is no such thing as “green” as defined by reporters.     

Art, manufacturing, business, even humanity are inherently not green.  It is impossible to produce or consume without destruction and waste.  Always something must die to feed the life of some other thing.  You may not be surprised to find out that I didn’t end up in the article, but it made me think about my approach to my work.  I am pathologically averse to waste.  This doesn’t make me “green”.  It makes me …….well, probably crazy.  
I make a lot of hardware.  I make a lot of drapery hardware.  I make a lot of curtain rings.  Sometimes, as you can see,  I line them up to make pretty patterns.  
unfinished rings

              Making curtain rings involves bending straight rod around a round arbor. 

1/4" rod around 1-3/8" arbor

Because the rod needs to be clamped at one end and held at the other, there is waste involved.   

Rod and arbor in clamp before bending.

Formed rings before separation.

Drapery rings mid process

Set to weld tab ring

Rings in tumbler

Finished rings on rack drying
The waste from forming ring

It is possible for me to carry these small cut off bits to the recycling plant.  They would become the raw material for all new steel bars or sheets or whatever was necessary.  Recycling is green, but smelting steel is not.  It takes huge amounts of energy to bring steel to the melting point and huge amounts of energy to form it.  And though it takes less energy to recycle steel than make it from ore it still isn’t easy on the environment.   
It’s also a bit of a trek to the nearest scrap yard.  I don’t think driving twenty miles each way with five hundred pounds of steel scrap in my tiny truck could be classified as entirely green either.   So instead, I make things out of the cut off ends. This can only be classified as green in that it possibly takes less energy or is less wasteful than the other options.  But I like to make things so that is what I do.  
The process of making curtain rings is cold.  At least these curtain rings.  That is to say, I don’t use heat to do the bending and forming.   There is also, for the snobs in the audience, electric welding involved.  But the curtain rings are commissioned.  Their size, shape color and finish are predetermined.    Set by the designers and non negotiable.  The things I make out of the end cuts are hot formed and have no welds.  This is for the purists which I can sometimes be.   They take shape as I work them and often I don’t know exactly what they will be until I finish. 

Sometimes they become rings.  

Forged steel ring

Forged steel ring

The process of transforming small bits of debris into objects is fairly simple.  Heat and beat.  The result can be surprisingly sweet, and the process surprisingly therapeutic. 

Heat to begin work

Heat after straightening

Forming ball end

Ball end formed

Drawn rod

I know that one day rust will wash away everything I have made.  There will be no evidence left of my work or life, but for now and for as long as I have remaining, I will enjoy my contribution to “green”.

Bottle opener made from ring ends

Now back to work……..