Apprenticeship Session 10

Today is the day when we turn from making links to making an actual chain. The thought of forging a link together while there are a couple of other links hanging off of it seems daunting. It’s often the case that we struggle to get the piece shoved into the fire as it gets hung up on the bits of coal or other obstacles. Adding a couple of links hanging off the end seems like it would only complicate that.

In addition, today was the day that Troyd Geist from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, the sponsor of our grant, was stopping by for a site visit. He certainly picked a good day! Because of his schedule we started a bit later than usual, which wasn’t a bad thing. Doug had done a nice job of setting up a table of beverages and snacks as well as a few of his favorite books, some of which we hadn’t seen before (and ordered on our way out the driveway!). It was really nice to finally meet Troyd and having him in the shop on a day when we were forge weldingwelding Welding is a process that joins metal by using high heat to melt the parts together and allowing them to cool, causing fusion. Welding is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal. was a good choice.

So we started to combine our links into a chain. Take two completed links and hook them together with a U-shaped link and weld that up. Seems easy enough, right?

Actually, after much trepidation, it was pretty easy. Or at least no more difficult that doing a standalone link. The extra links hanging off didn’t really interfere with it much and sometimes actually might have made it easier as the extra weight balanced things out.

The most challenging part was not letting the join area of the link get too thin. It’s easy to want to just pound on it to get the weld to stick, but if you don’t do the overlap with enough metal it can get think in a hurry.

After doing a couple, it became much easier and we were off and running. Forge welding is hard, but it’s also a lot of fun! We got two sets of seven links put together. The MĂ„stermyr chain had 26 links. This is going to be quite a long chain when it’s done. But making links / chains is something a person could enjoy doing a lot of – and they probably would have done a lot of them back in the day.