March 9th, 2007

anvil, ring

Fictional metalsmithing

I have now read the first 2 books of a trilogy featuring a metalsmith- or, rather, a former metalsmith. They're by Patricia Bray (Sword of Change trilogy), and are pretty good- if a mite predictable in plot; the characters are fine, thoguh, and the cultures interesting.

I naturally do have to comment on the metalsmithing. :) It's not awful... but she might have wanted to run the few metals bits by an actual metalsmith.

In book #1, Our Hero puts a new handle on his axe; this goes very well, with lots of truly accurate detail, until he "welds" rather than upsets the rivets. (I will overlook the bit where he took a piece of round copper stock and cut it in half- making, apparently, half-round wire, and then used these for rivets; if the stock was too heavy, hammering it down or drawing it would have been easier, and would have filled the round holes better, so I have NO idea what that was about. Also, copper is pretty soft for such a use; brass or bronze more likely. Or, hell, even iron- it can be worked cold enough to upset- not weld- the ends of rivets.) Welding needs heat, can only usually be done to similar metals, and so would not be possible with a copper/steel mix on a wood handle. Oh, well.

In book #2 it becomes apparent that Our Hero is not just a brilliant blacksmith/bladesmith, able to make the aforementioned huge axe, but a brilliant jeweler as well. (And an enamelist, too.) Unlikely. Both are highly specialized skills, and while it's quite possible that someone would be skilled in one and have a passing familiarity with another, it is very implausible that a young dude could have been a genius in both- or all 3, if you count the enameling... which requires not only more jewelry type skills than black/bladesmithing ones, but also (for multicolored work) a source of specialized colored glasses and ideally a heat source more like potters need than metalsmiths. And the praise that his enamels hadn't faded in a few years- umm, no, they wouldn't, skill or no skill. Enamels don't fade. Ancient ones are unearthed as bright as when they were made (albeit often cracked), and the house plaque I made well over 10 years ago that's been in the sun every day has not faded one bit.

Also, someone was forging copper hot- which is unusual, since it's so ductile cold- and at a far hotter temp than would actually work.

Petty points? Well, yeah. This journal is subtitled "metals geekery," though, so I figured this was an appropriate place to wank about them!

It is hard to find novels with metalsmiths in them. While I haven't read either in many years, the only 2 others that come to mind are Lois McMasters Bujold's "The Spirit Ring," and Peg Kerr (? I think) with "Emerald House Rising."