What I like about steel
What I like about steel #1
Steel is an intriguing material. It is mineral, like clay and glass, and it behaves like them.
When it is white hot it can be pushed around like clay. Take a hammer to a chunk of tough clay and it deforms just like hot steel. You can bend it at the hottest point by simply wedging one end in a vise and pulling on the other end.
Cold steel is malleable, it can be worked mechanically with simple machines using leverage and rollers and hammers. I call it dancing the steel. It can be reheated, ground down, built up and welded repeatedly using an automatic girth welder. That allows me to stop and think. I like the marks of the processes so I don’t obliterate them, I just try to do them well.
Mild steel is a coarse uneven mix. So, an 8 foot long 1/8” x 1” flat will yield at some specific point along its length as It is twisted. Somehow I can tell where it is going to happen. I’ve tried to figure out how we spot that. What signal is the steel giving out? Does it hold still or slow down just right there or does the interval in the ridge start getting shorter?
Steel is historic and enduring, and totally new all at once. The mild steel I use is at least 60% recycled material. Some portions of the mix have been recycled many times over. Your grandmother’s breadbox, a DeLorean, the Brooklyn Bridge, any or all of that could be in the piece of flat stock twisting across the top of the arbor. And it may have been recombined, melted, poured and formed last week.
It has an enormous vocabulary. It has been weapons and cooking pots. It can curl like Louis XIV or stand like Richard Serra
If left exposed long enough, it will return to the earth as the constituent minerals.