I’d Rather Be A Hammer Than A Nail


So here then is the latest entry in my chronicles of playing dress up.

I’ve already written about being a Civil War general, a MASH surgeon and an astronaut for the museums I work at. My latest “pretend” adventure — blacksmithing.

And this time, “pretend” is in quotes. After my work acting as Buzz Aldrin as Huntsville’s EarlyWorks children’s museum, I was asked to come do some work at the third museum in the group — Alabama Constitution Hall Village.  The Village is a living history museum, where visitors can learn more about what life was like in the city 200 years ago. But here, the workers don’t just talk about their subjects, they demonstrate them. I didn’t just pretend to be a blacksmith, I actually forged some nails for visiting students.

That said, I have a long way to go before I could say that I was a blacksmith, in quotes or not. I gained a real understanding of why it would take years to go through the apprentice to journeyman process. Nails are probably the simplest things you could make, and while mine were functional, they weren’t what you would call “good.”

Still, it was a crazy lot of fun to get to play with the toys. It was a very unique experience, and I was blessed to have the opportunity to do it.

And, it resulted in possibly one of the manliest moments of my life. Curious to learn more, I decided I wanted to step beyond just making nails and experiment with the process. There was an example of a knife on display in the shop, and one of the students asked about how it was made. I explained the process as I understood it, but, then, when I had the shop to myself, I decided to try the technique myself, focused mainly on beating the metal flat into a blade-like shape.

I succeeded in making a knife-like thing that you could use, although you probably wouldn’t want to. But at one point in the process, I actually had a decently sharp blade on it, which unfortunately was dulled in the process of finishing it.

But while it was still sharp, I stupidly decided to use my thumb to see how sharp it was. Stupidly not only because it was a sharp knife, but also because, even though it wasn’t glowing anymore, it was still pretty hot. I discussed with people a couple of times later during the day whether the wound looked more like I had cut myself or burned myself.

The best answer we came up with was that I had cut myself and at the same time cauterized the cut, using a burning hot knife I was in the process of forging myself.

Pretty cool, huh?

As much as I look forward to finding a better-paying, career-driving job again (hint, hint, world), I despair that I will never again have a job where I’ll be able to say that. Museum work can be fun.