For a change of scenery this afternoon, we indulged ourselves with a visit to Eben's workshop to see how he goes about forging Damascus steel for his incredible knives.
This surely represents The most extreme departure from our clean room & the delicate world of optical alignment & testing. Showers of sparks don't tend to burn holes into our clothing while we do what we do...
Titanium's the way to go if you prefer white sparks!
The flash & smoke as Eben started welding a handle onto the billet produced a shot that I'll claim as my best attempt at astrophotography to date.
Into the >1200 degree Celsius forge it goes!
This ferocious contraption's a stamping machine that takes all the pain out of hammering - for the human anyway.
The temperature of the steel's around 800 C at this stage.
Cooling down to about 600 C on the anvil after a vigorous encounter with a wire brush, soon to be put back into the forge.
After a couple of rounds of this, a grinder's used to remove the dull outer layer...
& then a dip in a bath of ferric chloride etches the surface & begins to reveal the patterns in the steel.
After some polishing, the piece's ready to start being shaped into a blade.
There's an endless variety of complex, beautiful patterns to be created.
Just one of Eben's many amazing works of art :)