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Hello Arisia Attendees!

Reminisce for a moment about Arisia past -- perhaps you remember your trip to Never-Never-Land, or when we met the Robots at their exciting party last year? The producers of these fun and entertaining events are at it again! We wish to extend an invitation to you. Take off your hat and put on your space helmets, step on board the rocket, because this year we are traveling to --


Yes, my friends.... This year we take off on the I.S.S.S. Arisia and begin our tour of the interstellosphere. Be entranced by guests from the planet Blixel. Meet your counterpart from the moons of Zorch! Wonder in amazement how we actually got the sentient cloud-forms from Jupiter to make an appearance!

This Saturday party is fun for the whole family! From 8PM through till dawn on Charon, we are visiting thrilling and unique alien landscapes. There is no alcohol on our spaceship, so it is open to all ages.

We may even have special guest performance from a very special Earthling, Kelsey Jarboe. Her website can be found at: http://www.toomanyfeelings.com/

Of course it is impossible to make this journey without the support of the community, and therefore we are obliged to ask for help with a few things:

We are looking for old Christmas lights for decoration, with preference to the high density grids or icicle lights. We can pick them up anywhere in the Boston area.

As running a space ship is expensive, we are also obliged to ask for donations. Including room, decor, and food, rocket propellant, extra Oxygen, Universal Translators, and a whole bunch of other nuts and bolts (usually metric), running a party can cost in excess of $400.

You can paypal me at watermosaic [at] gmail [dot] com. We will be incredibly thankful, and you will be part of a great community effort.
04 July 2011 @ 10:16 pm
Just a quick memory from July 4th -- When I was in Ukraine, visiting Sergiy Polubotko and Olga Polubotko, I was feeling a little homesick when the 4th rolled around. Luckily for me, my Ukrainian family and I went out for a cookout at their friend's beautiful house, with partial intention to celebrate for me. We cooked sausages over the fire and picked berries (I forget what type). It was a wonderful, open act of hospitality -- like I encountered all across Europe.

I always think of my international family, that amazingly strong community of blacksmiths, on days like today. If there's anything that a sense of patriotism inspires in me, it's a desire to be open and welcoming for friends entering my country and my culture as others have been to me.
28 June 2011 @ 10:03 am
About a month and a half back, I was asked to help restore an old sign frame from a historic building undergoing renovation. It's a decent sized piece. I'll do a few photo-posts about the process of restoring it.

Here's a (very poor) photo of the whole thing -- almost 4' wide and 8.5' tall.

It looked like it could have some issues, with rust and damage to the lamp brackets.

You can see serious rotting in the bottom post

The cap for the post had some rust issues

When we talked about the project, we were pretty sure the lamps were retrofit -- the wire was cloth-taped to the frame and painted over many times. The brackets were bent and in need of replacement. We decided I would re-forge them out of thicker material, keeping the same shape so to keep the historical accuracy. (This leads me down the whole path of thought about what's important to save and celebrate, versus things that are clearly not durable, but that's a subject for a different post.) There was a question about when the retrofit happened. When I pulled off the wiring, I discovered it was not plastic wrapped wire as I'd originally believed, but cloth wrapped copper in lead conduit. How exciting! It placed the lighting at easily 70 years old.

It's getting sandblasted, repaired, and the bracket replaced. Following that, I'm going to have it hot-dipped in zinc, for weather protection. I'll replace all the hardware that needs replacing, and then paint it with a nice strong outdoor paint.

The next update in this series will be about sandblasting, the new lamp bracket, and what happens after that!
23 June 2011 @ 09:28 am
I've gone and added a Commissions link on my website, explaining what's possible, and how our process works. Here's a preview:

Blacksmithing is an incredibly versatile craft, as humans have had thousands of years to figure out all the different types of things that can be forged. Many people are most familiar with the popular depictions of blacksmiths -- shoeing horses or making knives, swords, and armor. This focused slice barely reveals the surface of the well of possibility available to the contemporary blacksmith. So you know the possibilities, here is a selection of the wide range of custom and unique metalwork we are prepared to do:

fences, gates & railings
balustrades & handrails
staircases & spiral staircases
grilles & screens (for windows, fireplaces, or interior divisions)
furniture - benches, tables, desks, chairs, stools
lighting - chandeliers, sconces, standing lamps
corporate sculpture - interior & exterior
signs - flat & shingle
wall decoration
hardware - drawer pulls, door knockers, hinges
public sculputure & memorial

As you can see, the possibilities are limitless. If you have an idea, we can make it happen. We use any materials that make sense. Metals we use include steel, stainless steel, bronze, brass, copper, silver, titanium, and anything else that achieves the vision.

More on Commissions.
21 June 2011 @ 12:29 am
Hey, sorry I have been really slow to make new posts! It's quite embarrassing to have this public journal that people comment on, but not write in it. I have this problem that when I sit down at the computer there are a million other things that take my time, many of them actually related to doing business! I know, weird -- right?

I want to share with you some of the work I've been doing recently! It's really exciting and long overdue.

Here's a stool prototype. I just threw this together the other week while waiting for some other checks to come in. It's definitely got some problems, but overall the concept is solid. When I actually make one for someone it will be amazing. It also comes in table format, with a broader base and top.

The sketch on my shop's floor.

The stool. You can consider it a sketch in iron.

Foot detail.

Midsection detail

Remember back in like February (The work, it begins!) when I talked about forging some foxes? Well here they are! The base is still looking a little rough, but I hammered that big piece of plate into the draped shape today, and wasn't that an experience! These foxes are in the home stretch now. It's only been on the table for six months! They'll be painted when all is said and done -- hopefully I can complete them before July!

I want to make a series of posts about why we choose to hot form metal in addition to or as opposed to fabrication processes, but I haven't had a chance to sit down and actually sketch out my thoughts yet. It will happen though. Stay tuned!
Current Music: Forging once, forging twice, forging chicken soup with rice
03 June 2011 @ 12:03 pm
The other month I found this amazing fly press craigslist, and I've been dying to talk about it, what it can do, and the tooling I am making for it.

The fly press, in my opinion, is one of the essential forging tools in the shop. It's a fast action hand operated screw press. Inside there is an acme screw and some bushings. When the handle up top is rotated, the die in the mouth of the press lowers with surprising force.

Imagine a venn diagram of all the work that a hydraulic press, a trip hammer, a power hammer, and a sledge hammer can do. The fly press operates a nice circle overlapping all of those. It is incredibly versatile -- we can use it for a huge number of hot and cold processes, and it can accept completely custom tooling. It is slow moving enough for precision work, and can exert a controllable amount of force.

I picked up this handy "little" tool from an ebay. It seems to be an older model. On the side it says "Patented 1898" and it's a #3 from the Mossberg & Granville company in Rhode Island, which was well known for its various mechanical presses, and apparently typewriters.

I'm not going into the specifics of particular tooling for you, but I've made some dies already, and it's helped a great deal. Here are some photos for you.

A multi-purpose bending tool. We can use it to bend and straighten stuff cold or hot. This is a very useful tool.

Flat dies for forging. It's not really as efficient to forge under this press as it would be with a power hammer, but I can save a lot of energy on hefty tapers like this one pictured. I can only imagine what it would have been like to hammer out by hand.

This is a fullering tool. Because the press works on a force over surface area basis, tools with very small impact areas move a whole lot more metal. This tool, and its matching bottom die are very effective.

I'll be talking more about the dies and processes I use this press for, as I use it. I have a project upcoming which should prove interesting.

(All these posts are cross-posted to my website: www.jacoblefton.com)
29 May 2011 @ 09:33 pm
Well, it's definitely been two months since I last posted anything substantial. What have I done in those past two months? Here's a short list:

-- Hosted Henriette, a German blacksmith
-- Traveled to Kansas and back
-- Worked on a massive gate project while there
-- Visited the Metals MFA program at Southern Illinois University: Carbondale
-- Met a whole bunch of amazing blacksmiths
-- Cooked some really tasty stuff
-- Got my shop much more organized (with help!)
-- Made a bunch of cool things (also with help, pictured below!)

Here's some quick photos of what we worked on. I've added more of these to the galleries:

This wine rack was a gift for Walt and Ruth Hull in Lawrence, KS, with whom we stayed for 3 weeks or so. Their hospitality was incredibly generous, so Henni and I decided to make this for them. Our collaboration was awesome. I am definitely in the wine-rack market now.

We just finished some monster-themed coat hooks for commission. Here is one of the hooks that was included in the final piece. He's part of a larger set which I hope to get photos of later. I definitely want to do more of these.

I made this grille sample back in March. It's really a cute piece of work, especially since I punched the holes the hard way.


Now that I'm back, and business is picking up (f-i-n-a-l-l-y), I hope to update more often.

01 April 2011 @ 08:06 am
I stumbled across this fun presentation entitled "How To Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon, by way of the great webcomic Lackadaisy. Enjoy!
23 March 2011 @ 11:43 pm
I'm a very politically oriented person -- I can't help bringing this up, especially in light of my love of public art: Taking the organized labor battle another step in the direction of truly absurd and farcical, Governor Paul LePage is taking down a mural depicting Maine's workers' history. The mural, residing in the state's Department of Labor, is 36 feet long and three years old, and is apparently a dangerous commie plot, according to some random guy:

A spokeswoman said Mr. LePage, a Republican, ordered the mural removed after several business officials complained about it and after the governor received an anonymous fax saying it was reminiscent of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.” (New York Times)

I generally avoid politics as much as possible in this journal (these days), but this is directly affecting my interests. I really think that attacking and censoring art, rather than engaging with it and providing alternatives and more art, is an incredibly cowardly act. It's the canary in the coal mine telling you that you're in big trouble with rising totalitarian trends in your politics. I get really depressed reading and watching the news these days, with the Republican insurgence across the country. Yes, the Dems are ineffectual and sometimes wrong, but the Republicans are simply wrong in damaging, divisive ways. Removing public art because of your political motivation is really disgusting and cowardly.
22 March 2011 @ 08:51 am
Last night, I hosted the first Amherst Artists' Open. Although an experimental event, I'd say it went quite well. It was inspired by my friend Lee's Illustrators' Open in Portland, OR. The idea is to create a social gathering place for the particular community of self-employed, freelance, and other artists to support each other in a number of different fronts. In our group we came up with three completely different areas to start with -- marketing, creative inspiration and feedback, and lifestyle.

Everyone I've talked to says they got something out of it, which was the goal. Last night was apparently a marketing-themed discussion, as we continued to sidetrack and dive back into it despite our best efforts to engage other subjects.

A number of people felt it would be helpful for the Open to hold them accountable to making progress on their projects, and act as a place to show progress and discuss it. We decided next week will have a loose theme of creative inspiration and feedback. We invite people to bring in projects they are working on to display and discuss. If there's something you're interested in getting done, you can make a commitment to have a certain portion to bring in.

The next Open will be April 11th, again at my house from 6-9pm. The following one will either be May 16 or 23rd, so stay tuned. If you are interested in coming, drop me a line. If you think that you know someone who would benefit from this, please let me know and let them know.