Hand Made, Hand Wrought ... definitions

Fabrication

I have been of the thought that hand made or wrought was a form made with no mechanical assistance at all ie "machine tools". That the resulting object was made entirely by hand tools ... hammers,punches,gravers,stakes,wood blocks, etc. And that you would stamp your art as so created. This is a big difference from other artists working in metal, as the process takes MUCH longer. Your thoughts?


Rich Waugh's picture

Jim, I understand your point

Jim,

I understand your point of view, though I can't say I agree with it. To me, hand made or hand wrought simply means it was made by a craftsman using methods other than mass production, wherein the craftsman controls the outcome every step of the way. For instance, I make "hand made" forged work from stock as big as 2" square bar. There is simply no way I can forge that with a hand hammer - I have to use a power hammer. However, I am the one controlling what the hammer does, it is open die forging (that is, not in a mold), and each piece is unique. Wouldn't it be sort of over the top to say it was "hand and machine made?"

If a woodworker makes a piece of fine furniture does he have to fell the tree with an axe, hew the boards with a broad axe and then plane them with a hand plane before he even starts the piece? If he starts with finished lumber it is the product of a saw mill that is probably fully automated - would that disqualify his work? I think you see my point.

I certainly do not think that mass-produced junk stamped out on a press punch qualifies as hand made, even if an operator is there tripping the punch for each one. Where is the craftsmanship in that?

It's an interesting point you bring up and one that may call for more than just one or two labels to define the work. For instance, when I make a piece that has a number of forged elements that are then assembled by TIG welding and/or riveting, I say the piece is "hand forged and fabricated." If there are no forged elements in it, or only a few that are of no great significance then I'd say that the piece was "fabricated." Not that much of anyone other than another blacksmith would pay any attention to the distinction, of course.

I'll be interested in seeing what other have to say on this question. Thanks for raising it!

Rich


Ries's picture

"Machine Tools" of various

"Machine Tools" of various sorts have been around for between 1000 and 2000 years.

Power hammers, for blacksmithing and sheet metal work, go back at least 1000 years, water powered helve hammers were in use that far back.

Lathes have been around a long time too- primitive bow lathes go back a long, long way.

A mill, for grinding grain, is a power tool.

I think YOU, personally, can make things however you wish, and certainly can advertise and promote them based on how you do it.

But in many cases, there is NO difference in quality, between, say, a hole drilled by hand, and a hole drilled with a drill press. Or a taper, that is forged hot, by a hand hammer or a power hammer.

And if there is no detectable difference in finish, quality, or craftsmanship, only in technique, then it becomes more an issue of philosophy than practicality.

A really good book on this subject is "The Nature of Art and Workmanship", by David Pye. Its cheap, pretty short, and really well thought out, and he talks a lot about what hand workmanship really is, and why its important.

Personally, I really enjoy finding ways to creatively misuse tools, and think the range of things you could do with machine tools still leaves a lot of really creative things yet to discover.

Today, I was running the 4'x8' plasma cutter, the power plate rolls, and ending up with conical shapes that would be very very hard to duplicate using only hand tools.

In fact, most sheet metal work, which requires english wheels, rolls, shears, rotary machines, punches, and brakes, simply cant be done with hand tools.
There is no hand technique I know of to put a 4' 90 degree bend in a sheet of 1/8" plate, for example.


ScottTheSculptor's picture

why label?

permanently marking stuff you make "hand made" seems kinda crass - just sign it/stamp it.
hand making usually leaves traces in the form and surface - some prefer that esthetic. Hopefully enough to overcome the difference in price. It also mitigates the need for a stamp.
If it was hand made to the accuracy of a machine made item then you'd better come up with documentation, and hope for a patron of the arts to discover you :-)
If it's art "hand made" is assumed (even if the foundry did most of the work)


Rich Waugh's picture

You bring up an interesting

You bring up an interesting point, Scott. Most hand made work does, in fact, tend to show evidence of its origin. A hundred years or more ago though, craftsmen doing metalsmithing work labored mightily to leave no traces of their forging in the finished piece - a lot of labor was expended on filing, scraping and polishing to leave the finished piece as smooth and perfect as possible. Of course, that was before the Industrial Revolution and thus *everything* was pretty much hand made so there was no question.

After the industrial revolution and the ubiquitous mass production of most items "hand made" became more of a cachet for one-off custom items and with that a desire for the items to be visually discernible as hand made. This trend culminated in that horrible effect during and after the Arts and Crafts movement of clobbering a piece with a ball pien hammer to "make it look hand made." So now all the mass-produced junk coming from factories in third-world countries has a "hammered" surface that was applied with a stamp in a press. The millions of Wal-Mart customers plunk down their $3.95 for a hat rack and know no better - all they care about is the price point.

We artists/craftsmen are faced with making work that can be seen to be hand made without looking anything like the schlock that comes from those third world sweat shops. We need to educate our clientele to the difference and strive to excel in our design work and craftsmanship so that it is evident that no machine and dollar-a-day operator could have made it. The burden is on us to set a new paradigm.

So how do we do that?

Rich


Frank Castiglione's picture

Focus

Scot and Rich,
Wow, some conversation that makes me think... Thank you.

The task of restoring a prewar Italian sports car requires leaving the hammer marks.

If something is original and successful,it doesn't matter what brush got used.

As far as the pieces history, visual(perceptual)evidence speaks volumes.
Happy Holidayz
Frank


Rich Waugh's picture

Yes, prewar Italian cars

Yes, prewar Italian cars were a bit on the rough side, weren't they? Ditto for prewar British autos - I had a couple of old MG's that were interesting to work on. The tinwork was amazingly good, however. It was just that they leaked from very pore...

Prior to the Industrial Revolution the art of whitesmithing (finishing of forged goods) was a significant profession in it's own right. Sadly, most blacksmiths these days spend little, if any, time on filework and fine finishing. I have a number of old blacksmith's tools that are from before the Civil War and most people are amazed at how fine the finish is on them. They look machine made though they are completely hand made - much time was spent finishing them, obviously. I like to see that sort of thing, it represents care and craftsmanship to me.

Rich


visitor's picture

Whitesmithing

Thanks for that Rich. I thought whitesmiths were those who worked pewter and silver. I didn't realize there was another definition. John Christiansen


Rich Waugh's picture

For some reason John, in

For some reason John, in recent years some people have started calling anyone who works in metals other than iron "whitesmiths", which is incorrect. Silversmiths work silver, tinsmiths work tin, etc. The whitesmith was/is responsible for taking the black forged piece to a state of finish where it was "white" and smooth. Admittedly, that designation is from some centuries ago...

Rich


ScottTheSculptor's picture

The pinnacle of early hand

The pinnacle of early hand made goods was seen in the precision of the orthogonal angles and perfect planes.
Only high quality goods were perfectly flat, straight, parallel, smooth, uniform, etc.
Such things were out of the everyday experience for most people until the industrial revolution.
Only the rich could spend the money to spend the time to get it perfect.
So the paradigm of the time was that perfection and it help to drive industry.

Post industrial revolution the curvy, asymmetrical, textured, and unique is the out-of-the-ordinary.
We're surrounded by perfection.
Now the rich spend extra to have things that are the opposite of the previous paradigm.

It's now hard to sell hand made perfection (except as watches).
The unique is gaining ground.

Lot's more rich people around lately . . .


Giusseppe's picture

love and passion

If you really want to distinguish yourself from the mass produced ......label your work "sweated into being with love and passion"
Giusseppe


Rich Waugh's picture

You silver-tongued devil,

You silver-tongued devil, you!

Rich


fciron's picture

The meaning of 'wrought' is

The meaning of 'wrought' is fraught with hazards as well. 'Wrought iron' is used by most blacksmiths to indicate a specific material as well as our final product. To the general public it means practically any piece of metal with black paint on it.

Combine that confusion with the whole 'blacksmiths shoe horses' issue and I think Guisseppe has the right answer. Describe the work and thought that you've put into it, because most people have no clue how you made it anyway.

The value of your work comes from the effort, mental even more than physical, that you put into it. It's the care that goes into the design and creation that a discerning buyer can see. A person with a good eye can tell a mass produced design from a unique design even if they know nothing about metal working processes.

All kinds of boring junk is labeled 'hand-forged', I prefer to use 'custom made' when describing my work. (I like the english term 'bespoke' but would not want to have to explain it all the time.) When I do production work I put my name on it. Having the name of an individual, rather than a company is going to mean more to the buyer than some poorly understood process.