FROM WORDSMITH TO BLACKSMITH
I knew absolutely nothing about metalwork when I wandered into Invictus Forge, the blacksmith shop of Ray Bowen. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d end up as an apprentice. It all started when I wanted to turn some scripts I’d written into stop motion videos. I needed a shooting table. But in order to build it, I would have to become a blacksmith.
A SHOOTING TABLE SEEMED EASY ENOUGH
Then I plunged into the details and saw the complexities of securing the camera. With stop motion, the danger is accidentally moving the camera. It needed to be locked into place, but I still wanted the option to adjust its position quickly. I tried altering a tripod. I tried configuring a u-bolt. And then I tried one disaster with wood and glue that nearly tipped over once I attached a heavy DSLR camera. The staff at Home Depot didn’t know what to do, either. But they knew a blacksmith who might.
GRITTY TOOLS, ELEGANT RESULTS
Ray had an answer in two seconds. “Just make a metal camera mount,” he said. To my surprise, he turned me loose in the shop to make it. I’d never used a drill press, a sander, or a die grinder — the name says it all — but I quickly learned this shop runs on self-reliance. I carefully drilled a hole in the brass cap for a screw, which would hold the camera. Then I removed the tee’s inner threads to make room for the pipe. Another screw at the base could be loosened easily to allow the camera to move, or tightened to lock it in place. And just like that, I’d made my first metal piece and survived the die grinder to tell about it.
LIGHTS, CAMERA MOUNTED, ACTION
The rest of the table came together quickly, and soon I was shooting videos on it. I was proud I’d made this table, but I realized Ray’s metal camera mount solution would not have occurred to me — I hadn’t worked with this material before, so my mind didn’t think in those terms. Fortunately, the opportunity to close this experience gap was right in front of me.
“MIND IF I COME BACK NEXT WEEK?”
For the next two years, I came over to pitch in on projects and build a few more of my own. Ray generously shared his time, tools, and expertise with me, and I was grateful for this chance to absorb all the wisdom the shop had to offer. That’s him above on the left. And that’s me on the right, welding a sculpture and trying to be a badass, too.
MY KINDA RESTORATION HARDWARE DECOR
Ray eventually closed the shop and left Atlanta, so I set up a workstation at home. I sent Ray a picture of it fully integrated into my daily life, which is a nice way to say it sits on top of my fridge when not in use. “Just don’t drill past midnight,” he wrote back. “The neighbors might get suspicious.”