Metalworking is a practice that is prone to consistent advancement and improvement. This means that there are plenty of now defunct material practices that were once virtually omnipresent. Whether it was employed before or after the advent of machines, many of these techniques still have a life in various circles, either for their cultural value or for their unchanging practicality. In this entry of the Austen Knapman blog, we’ll be covering 5 metalworking techniques that remain in use even in today’s technological world.

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#1 Blacksmithing
In your everyday life, you’ll come into contact with huge amount of ironwork including door hinges, railings and more. Whilst the advent of arc-welding (an electrical process that joins pieces of metal), rendered the ancient art of blacksmithing unnecessary after World War 2, many of today’s iron goods still come courtesy of traditional blacksmithing techniques. Even in the UK, it’s possible to book a weekend training course to learn the basics; something regularly enjoyed by retreating artists and corporate executives alike.

#2 Plaster Mold Casting
For hundreds of years, there has always been a need to replicate and mass produce art works, and plaster mold casting has offered a relatively low work-intensive method that produces virtually identical results every time. The process rose to popularity during various artistic movements such as the Renaissance, Broque and Neo-Classicalism, with their eventual downfall ironically having more to do with changes in artist attitudes than the method’s various disadvantages. Still, contemporary sculptors still value plaster mold casting for its so called ‘didactic value’, and is also occasionally used for making industry parts such as valves, tooling, gears, and lock components.

#3 Mokune-Gane
This traditional Japanese metalworking technique can be used to produce a mixed-metal laminate that is valued for its distinctive layered patterns. As you may have guessed, the process originally played a huge part in the decoration of swords, with its artistic potential surviving today through jewellery and hollowware. The modern form of Mokune-Gane is a highly controlled practice, where a compressive force on the billet allows it to incorporate countless non-traditional components such as titanium, platinum, nickel silver and various colours of karat gold.

#4 Overlay
This surface decoration technique uses soldering as a means to create multi layered pieces of metallic art, with its modern equivalent of cladding being uses to bond layers of dissimilar metals together in order to improve desirable qualities in everything from mild steel to aluminium. Prior to the invention of the modern blowtorch, overlaying required the difficult act of soldering by using a blowpipe or kiln as a fuel source. This meant it was mostly used for the creation of fine silver and high karat gold, and why it still finds use in traditional south western Indian jewellery.

#5 Rough Milling
Milling is the world’s most common form of machining. It removes unwanted material away from the metal in order to perfect it to the precise shape and size required. Whilst modern solutions for this method include new cutting technologies that, say, remove the need for changing machining parameters at each depth, there are many traditionalists who feel there is no replacement for the standard rough insert geometry, as it perfectly suited to the job and saves the new for newer tools and added costs.

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