Below is an article I thought worth a discussion. Does it matter? Do you work in an industry that distinguishes a level of competence? If not; Do you wish you did? Read the article below and give it some thought.
Editorial by Dan Nauman, Editor- The Hammer’s Blow
For ABANA’s The Hammer’s Blow, Volume 24 #4
Today, if you want the title of blacksmith, all you need to do is have business cards made stating your name, followed by the word "blacksmith." However, the word blacksmith is an ambiguous title. Many define a blacksmith as one who forges. Others believe electric-welding, cold-metalwork, auto-body repair and more fall under the term "blacksmith"...so essentially "blacksmith" is a wide open job title.
Thus, blacksmith does not pinpoint a specific discipline, because most who call themselves blacksmiths combine other metalworking disciplines in their work. However, the words "forge" and "forging" do refer to a specific discipline. Yet, defining one's level of forging experience is also ambiguous.
For example, if you sign up for a forging workshop, often the registration form will say the curriculum was designed for a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced blacksmith. It may even state, "Forge-welding experience helpful," or "Joinery experience required."
Everyone knows what a beginner is. However, when does the beginner become an intermediate blacksmith? When does the intermediate become advanced? These titles are also ambiguous, so the truth is...we really have no idea what they mean. Further, what defines "enough experience" in forge-welding or joinery?
Since there is nothing to measure one's forging experience, even the forging instructor might very well be under-qualified to teach the curriculum. That is a frightening thought.
Without forging guidelines, definitions of sound forging processes will vary greatly from one person to the next. So, when you register for a workshop, (unless you are a beginner), how do you know what your experience level is? Again we must answer: "We really don't know."
It is human nature to want to know about our personal growth. It is also our nature to better ourselves. In order to do so, we must have targets, and methods to determine whether we have achieved our goals. To satisfy this, today's K-12 schools have proven curriculums and grading systems. At this point in time, there are no such useful tools when learning to forge. For instance: What (and who) determines a sound forge-weld or a well-made tenon?
Concerning the thoughts above: It may be time to have a serious discussion so that those who forge have well-defined forging standards, followed by certifications of experience.
Standard forms of measurement and references are essential to evaluate our progress. They help us to define where we need to focus.
However, a curriculum without established, proven and clearly defined standards of process and workmanship is questionable. It needs something to measure student progress. In metalworking disciplines such as electric welding, sheet-metal, and metal-casting, there are industry standards, as well as certification processes. In contrast, the discipline of forging has neither.
Other metal-working disciplines have standards written so there are guidelines to measure the level of one's progress, also insuring that the structural designs and processes used in manufacturing produce sound products, protecting the end user from poorly made items and potential failure.
Over the last 20 years of discussing this topic with others, I have heard many thin arguments against establishing standards and levels of progress. I have heard it said that, "My portfolio is evidence enough of the quality of my workmanship; I don't need standards to tell me how to forge." I counter that building codes (which are different than standards) can influence style (i.e. the 4" baluster code).
However style (aesthetically speaking) is not the focus here. Standards are more about processes, structural design and structural integrity. Further, an image cannot prove the integrity of anything. For example, consider that you spot a nice-looking coffee table in a gallery. However, you walk over and find that it wobbles miserably. Thus, merely looking at the table (or an image of the table) cannot reveal its integrity.
Similarly, a guardrail with mortise and tenon joints may look great, and even appear solid when tested. However, tenons cannot be visually inspected once the railing is assembled. If the tenons have cold-shuts (laminations), the railing may weaken with use, as laminations can form into cracks. Those cracks may lead to failure, potentially putting someone's life in danger.
To properly develop forging standards and a certification program, they should be written by a dedicated committee of accomplished metalworkers. This will likely take years of development and refinement, however the benefits will far outweigh the time invested.
Both programs would mainly apply to architectural work. However, these programs would further serve to define levels of workmanship, benefitting anyone interested in increasing their skill levels...no matter if one is a hobbyist, dedicated amateur, or accomplished professional in any aspect of forging.
• Forging standards should be written before a forging curriculum, using accepted guidelines to certify levels of workmanship.
• Standards and certification will prove valuable to the craft of forging, helping to insure product integrity in architectural work.
• The standards should deal only with process and structural design; not aesthetics.
• They can provide the information needed for problem solving.
• Knowing one's level provides sound information one may need to progress to a higher standard.
• Students will better know whether their level of workmanship is applicable to a class or workshop.
• Workshop instructors would be able to post their level of workmanship to their students.
For some people, standards and certification may not be popular programs, however for many artisans and their clients, they may be very beneficial and necessary. ■