Andrew Crawford liked what he saw. The steel bar had a squiggle in its middle.
“It’s an E!” Crawford said, turning the bar this way and that to get a look at the curves. “A magic E! … And if you turn it sideways, it’s a W!”
Crawford is used to examining bent metal. He’s a blacksmith. The 46-year-old, art-school-trained smith makes his living by heating metal and pounding it into new things. Soon, this bar with the squiggle in the middle will be part of a bench Crawford plans to make for Springmont, a Montessori school in Sandy Springs.
The twists had been added by Adem Wijewickrema, one of five Springmont middle-school students Crawford was teaching how to heat and pound and twist flat steel bars into new shapes. Crawford’s 11-year-old son, Edward, an elementary school student at the school, joined the class that took place in a Springmont parking lot where students and teachers gathered around a flatbed truck fitted with a red-hot, propane-powered forge.
Crawford volunteered to instruct the students how to work with metal in classes planned over four Mondays. His first class featured videos and a chance to make shapes out of metal by bending wire. For the second class, he took his students straight to the forge.
Fitted with safety glasses and thick gloves, they took hammer and tongs to hot metal to create twists and points and curves and, well, E’s and W’s from steel.
“This is the coolest thing!” Springmont art teacher Theresa Dean said. “What’s not to like about fire? It’s just great.”
Students seemed to agree. “This is pretty fun,” student Christian Lubsey said.
“I like it,” student Oliver Schouest said. “I like the excitement of it.”
Crawford, who started his Atlanta blacksmith shop in 1993, argues the class teaches his students more than simply how to pound hot metal.
“It’s good experience for the kids, just for learning how to work together,” he said. “It’s a really good way for kids to learn skills and planning, looking ahead, visualizing a process. It’s taught me a lot of lessons in my life.”