METALLURGY - AN INTRODUCTION
Whilst METALLURGY (the science of metals), does not feature as the most exciting part of creating art and design, there is truth in the notion that the scientific criteria (applicable to engineering and other branches of metalwork) applies equally to sculpture, architectural design, jewellery and decorative items created in metallic materials.
Having a basic understanding of what metals are and appreciating the how's and why's of material behavior is important for all kinds of reasons - from the fundamental (selecting a metal product to make a design for it’s specific physical and mechanical properties), through to the relatively superficial (a surface is pleasing) and of course all shades between.
For the professional maker, having at least an empirical understanding of the composition and behavior of the materials they work with is essential; the coppersmith ANNEALING beaten copper plate, the blacksmith QUENCHING wrought steel, the jeweller TEMPERING chasing tools for cutting. All these activities stem from modifications in [or the need to modify] the metallurgical structure of the material being worked. These activities are not carried out for the sake of it, neglecting to modify the metallurgical structure of a work piece can result in it cracking, bending, shattering and so on, potentially rendering a design or work tool useless.
The next few articles are designed to provide a basic introduction to some of the metallurgical issues that creative metalworkers are likely to encounter. The detail is stripped down and simplified to ‘bare bones’ limiting the detail to general principals rather than focus on specific materials. Where individual materials are discussed, these are limited to the most common materials used for general fabrication and sculpture casting processes.
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