Earth, air, fire, & water – the four elements. Many people are drawn to one particularly, associating certain things with each. One of the things that draws me to metalsmithing is that it uses all four.
- EARTH – Metal ore comes from the earth, is mined from it’s depths. And of course gemstones are just shined up rocks!
- FIRE – This one’s easy. You need fire to smelt the ore and to then shape the metal. You also use it to fuse or solder pieces together.
- AIR – This connection is more tneous. My torch is an acetylene/air torch, drawing atmospheric air into the gas stream. Also, air helps to cool my pieces sometimes.
- WATER – Like air, a more tenuous connection. Some metals (gold famously) are mined using water. A firmer connection is when water is used to “quench” a hot piece of metal. Sometimes this is just to cool it down, other times it’s used in the actual tempering process of the metal (usually steel.)
Then there’s that elusive fifth element of spirit. I like to think that as a creatively inspired work of art, my pieces have their own soul or aura worked into them. But that seems a little more like alchemy than metallurgy…