April 22
I am an OS reader, and an occasional OS writer.


JANUARY 21, 2010 1:34PM

Metal Open Call: Before Casting Iron

Rate: 12 Flag


“A PATTERN may be defined as a model of anything, so constructed that it may be used for forming a mold or impression in damp sand or other suitable material. This mold, when filled with molten metal or substances that solidify, forms a reproduction of the pattern and is known as a casting.”  

-Joseph A. Shelly, 1920
Instructor in Patternmaking and Woodworking

 Before Casting Iron 

A line of steel calipers

Pinned to pegboard

Delicate stems spread

Above the workbench

Dulled by fine wood dust.


Pine or mahogany or oak

Hard and soft

Lumber lays heavy in the rack,

One board upon the other,

Segregated by grain

Ready for choosing.


The apprentice marks the rough side

With a fat pencil

Table saw screams

Bites with thick teeth

Wood consorts with steel blades

Jointer blades peel the wide edge then

Yellow glue on surfaces settle together hard

Forced by bar clamps

Dry tight.


(In a dark corner

The Bridgeport is nearly silent

Under the work light

An oil fog hovers

Hushes the blade


Too fast to see

Short brittle curls of soft aluminum

Fall under boots.)


Hours or days later the lathe whirls shavings

Blow back

The journeyman’s hand is steady

Steel point rests against the rack

Stripping in long curls

Form revealed

Calipers measure, call for edits or



The apprentice carves

The gate from soft pine, draft: 3 degrees

Fine dust of the disc sander filters

Afternoon’s sunlight

The shank of the twist drill bit descends

The counter sink craters

A shelf for the head.


Number 14

Wood screw expansive threads

Draws in the long grain to plywood

The ratchet screwdriver fits the slotted head of

The flat head and drives steady

Rhythmic slowly through the board below

They are joined.


After, the apprentice

With a sharp steel knife

Cuts leather

Lays fillet into the crevice

Pushing the steel ball

Then brush

Paints the form the gate the leather

The black lacquer dries.


In the foundry the form is lowered into sand

Vibrating pounding fills


Then frees the pattern 

Bucket swings

Over the impression

Molten iron flashes blinding light into the gate

Sand hisses

The iron is cast.

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WOW! That is beautiful, powerful, so descriptive. You did an excellent job of drawing pictures in my head. Now I'll read it again, without holding my breath.
Very, very good. I loved how certain images just popped out. I could see the lathe shaving coming out and heading to the floor for example. Bravo!
Wonderful! Your writing so poetically highlights the artistry of these trades.
Like this very much. Great imagery.
McKenna--Thanks very much--I appreciate the Wow!

Dr. Spudman 44--Thanks so much for your comments--I am glad to know that certain images were created for you.

Smithery--Your observation about the artistry of the trades means a lot to me. It feels like a lifetime ago that I did this type of work, and I wanted to convey that sense.

Scarlett-Thank you.

WSFTC-Good to know that the sounds and textures came across. Thank you for stopping by.
I could see it all. What honor you have done to the craft of casting metal.
Ann, thank you. I mean it as a tribute to my father (for whom I worked for many years--I suppose one of the few of my gender who learned the trade of patternmaking) as well as the trade.
Wonderful writing! It reminds me of hanging out in my dad's workshop.
Brian--thanks. Those who have been there definitely get more out of it.
See - who better to describe the process of forging art than a poet!

on a technical note, I liked the use of hard consonants and trochaic sounds... very appropriate.... *rated*
NOVAcatmando--thanks for your kind comments and I appreciate the technical note.
Artistry is everywhere when seen through an artist's eyes. Thank you for the view.
Mimetalker--thanks for taking a look.
I love this. Thank you for it.
Kathy, glad you liked it.
"An oil fog hovers
Hushes the blade
Too fast to see
Short brittle curls of soft aluminum
Fall under boots.)"

Made my hair stand on end, my cadence slowed down, I was with you all the way. Gorgeous.
You have sparse but solid imagery. The picture you create lives.
What I meant was, you build much with few, powerful words.
Sparking--my own favorite

LMR--much appreciated.
OK, so you are also a very good poet - and craftsperson. What can't you do?
Seriously, this was a blast, spending some time on your blog. very fulfilling, and I am glad to have "found" you!
I had to look up a lot of words because woodworking, as a skill with its own language, is simply beyond my particular skill set but what I liked about this poem is this: it points the very democratic nature of that anything can be written about and made poetic. you definitely did that with this piece.
This is gorgeous. So glad to have found you. rated.