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My artisan metalsmithing site
My original Celtic designs in various media, including jewelry
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March 9th, 2007

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05:10 pm - 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."

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:March 10th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
I am the same way about book binding, book repair, and libraries in general. :)

I love hearing other people go on about their areas of geekery.
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Date:March 11th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
Interesting points, and not stuff I'd have caught. Thanks for mentioning them. :)
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Date:March 11th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you for letting me know about the books! I had not heard of them before.

Book #3 did not have any metals stuff, so I have nothing more to add. I did enjoy reading about a metalsmith- even one no longer practicing!- and Bray did get a LOT of stuff right, which made it more fun.
[User Picture]
Date:April 20th, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
Yep, Peg Kerr, that's right! Lois and I actually ended up in the same writers' workshop group and worked together for years, but believe it or not, we wrote our respective metalsmith books before we ever met. It was Pat Wrede (Patricia C. Wrede) who suggested that I read Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography as part of my research; she was the one who introduced me to Lois, and she was familiar with how Lois also relied on Cellini's work because she'd critiqued Lois' book.

I've done no metalsmithing or jewelcutting myself; everything was research and talking to smiths.

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