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forged steel candleholder with raised sides hold one taper

Mendocino Candlestick

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Doug Carmichael, hand-forged steel Mendocino Candlestick, 5.5 inches diameter by 1.5 inches high, holds a standard taper.

There are many things that are very satisfying about hammering hot metal. Forged steel is a very strong material. The fire tools, joist brackets, candlesticks, chandeliers and sconces that I’ve made over the last 37 years will very likely still be working hundreds of years from now. The artisan blacksmith trade has a long history and tradition. Many of the tools, techniques, and motifs I use originated hundreds of years ago; some were invented by my own teachers one generation before me. A few tools and processes I have invented myself. Most entrancing is the process itself. Plain lifeless metal bars begin to glow a dark red in the forge. As the steel is heated further it changes to lighter shades of red, then orange, then yellow. At this yellow heat it is very ductile and behaves like stiff clay and can be shaped with hammer blows, curved, twisted, and chiseled much further than at room temperature. Watching the steel change shape and come to life while glowing hot is very exiting; it is the main reason that I pursue a demanding occupation of loud, hot, hard, dirty, fun work. There is always more to learn. Developing new designs, learning how to use new tools and equipment, and learning how to work other forgeable metals keeps things interesting. When you change from mild steel to forging copper, bronze, alloy steels, silver etc., everything changes. The working temperature, annealing techniques, and machinability are different. The behavior of the metal is determined by changes that occur on a molecular level.

I was quite fortunate in meeting Carl Jennings, a master metal smith with 50 years in the trade, an inventor of tools and metal working processes. In trade for labor on his round rock and mortar home, he taught me basic, then advanced forging techniques. Very helpful was meeting and watching metal smiths from across America and around the world demonstrate at conferences. Also helpful was an odd collection of engineers, scientists, sailplane pilots designers and builders that would frequently meet in our home when I was a child. Doug Hammond, my high school drafting teacher, helped me land a part-time job in the space program at age 16, and steered me toward mechanical engineering school in San Luis Obispo. My mother always encouraged craft projects, no matter how messy. Also, I was allowed to take things apart, even if they did not need fixing.

It pleases me to know that beauty, function and timelessness come together in the work that I send out to the world.