Sunday, August 22, 2010

Women take back the smithy! (and plans for a $20 forge!)

I'm just returned from that huge Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) campfest, Pennsic. A camping trip with 11,000 of your best friends, hundreds of craftspeople, hundreds of musicians, an endless street fair, plus a re-enactment war between real live kingdoms of the world and their royalty! A gobsmacking time was had by all.

I always seek out the smiths in the SCA. Depending on the period they re-enact, the SCA smiths can teach you Viking smithing, Roman smithing, Norman or Japanese or Middle Eastern smithcraft. It is a joy to meet so many crafty and historic-minded people. This year I went to a wonderful beginner's workshop on smithing, with a Viking re-enactor. Master Bovi ran a class for absolute beginners, and despite my own forge experience I loved the class. Master Bovi has built ground fire Viking forges, but for this class he showed off his $20 forge.

Wonderful for me, more women than men turned up to try a hand in the smithy. And did this change dynamics at the forge! With 11,000 people, obviously all the men and women at Pennsic may not themselves be feminist, however the organization itself is not only in its nondiscrimination clause opposed to sexism, it is in its deepest history (the SCA was founded for Marion Zimmer Bradley's birthday some 40+ years ago) a place for women to defy gender roles. (Watch women in full suits of armor on the battlefield, and you know that women can do whatever they want!) So women in the smithy make sense, and I was delighted to see more women come explore blacksmithing.

And the numbers made a difference. All the men who came were nice, but they lapsed into the usual discussion of what they want from women, sigh, and instead of needing to snap my tongs evocatively close to tender male bits (and I am still not accomplished enuf with tongs to do this as evocatively as I should want), the ladies and I present all made eye contact, rolled said eyes, and told the men "enough," while proceeding to discuss the use of crochet on garb (garb being the SCA name for your olde medieval recreated costumes)

The result: a blacksmithing experience with fairly mainstream men that did not become uncomfortable for me or any other woman present. Numbers make a difference gentle readers, so I again encourage and implore Bridget-identified women to get out and learn smithing! It is sacred to Bridget, and it is totally fun!

And Master Bovi's forge is worthy of exploration. Concerned you can't smith due to costs? Well see Master Bovi's forge above, made from scrap parts by his own hands. Don't have an old forge blower as shown? Get a hair dryer. Don't have an anvil? Try a granite rock, or old railroad ties. Don't have old bits of metal in your garage or shed? Well hit an old scrapyard.

The important parts of the above forge are the concrete over the 2 by 4 structure, made with quickcrete, the firebricks which are cheap at any building store, and the pipes for the blower. Ask if anyone needs more pics to build their own forge. I will happily oblige.

However with this set up, I hope to be forging for Bridget this fall. I need to scrap together some parts, but look forward to hitting the flea market world. (Once you start smithing, scrap metal becomes far more interesting!) Once my own forge is built, I will post its pics!

And in the meantime, ladies, please, try your hand at the fire!

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