From the design brief called “Destruction and resurrection” came the idea for making cutlery. I wanted to make something challenging for this second project, especially considering we only had 3 official project briefs this year and this one was going to the one that was longest in length. It was now or never to make cutlery. So I did.
The concept behind the design centred on the idea of: “What if we lost the ability to communicate?” The ebony body on the sides represents the current and traditional ways of communicating (spoken, written, body language). It was a very refined and elegant form of communication until it was all lost and humankind had to pivot to create a new innovative way of communicating which is represented by the titanium and the asymmetric bend in the utensil heads. The triangular profile along the utensils represents the Greek letter Delta which is the mathematical symbol for change.
I designed the utensils to be a set of dessert cutlery. Slender in shape with a triangular profile along the body, so that it can also double as chopsticks (how else are you going to fish out that piece of fruit that falls into the chocolate fondue!?) A thin strip of titanium runs through the centre of the body is encased with long strips of black ebony wood. The utensils tips are forged and filed from titanium rod. Looks “simple” to make from the rendered drawing below right? Haaaaaaa.
Little did I know this project of 3 utensils would ultimately take me 3.5 months of intense work (and during the design phase, I was naive enough to hope that maybe I could make multiple sets!) This meant going into the workshop 5 days a week and sometimes even 6 days just to get it ready in time for selection day for the end of year exhibition.
Starting off with a circular titanium rod of 16mm in diameter, I used the lathe to turn the diameter down to about 10mm. A lathe is a huge machine Then this was where the fun part starts: the forging!
Forging the cutlery heads, involved using a large oxygen-propane torch to heat the metal up until it was cherry red and then hammering it into the desired shape. If you haven’t had much experience with titanium before, it’s an incredibly strong metal, equal in strength to some types of steel alloys. So just imagine trying to hammer something that’s originally a circular rod into the shape of a knife… and a fork and a spoon. As you may guess, it took many, many
days? weeks of heavy pounding to get it to the right, basic shape! During this time, I discovered new arm muscles I never knew I had and felt pain where I had never before, haha. But it was worth it – they were finally starting to take shape!
As I hadn’t done any real forging before, I did some cutlery samples in copper to test out how exactly I was going to forge the rods into the desired shape.
Then it was time to start work on the actual titanium pieces! After getting into a bit of a rhythm and becoming more used to the weight of the forging hammer, it was actually fun! It’s not everyday, that you can pretend to be a blacksmith, hammering away at a piece of metal that’s cherry red hot! hehe.
Another progress shot of all the utensils finally forged into its basic shape! Now comes the awful part of filing… The filing and shaping of it to its final shape probably took the longest time, because titanium laughs in the face of anyfile you use and virtually no material gets removed.
HAHAHA, you’re trying to file material away from me? Good luck with that buddy!
The only thing titanium is scared of is the metal linisher (a machine that has a flat sanding belt – the belt spins round and round and when you place a piece of metal on it – will sand it flat) and when linished, titanium produces sparks if it gets hot (kinda scary dealing with sparks).
After maybe 5-6 weeks of filing non-stop (and filing the utensil heads into a triangle!!), the titanium bodies and the little posts that will hold the ebony body on the sides are welded together to their respective utensil heads. Ebony is a dense, black coloured wood so it’s a really beautiful contrast in colour to the grey coloured titanium. The Ebony also took a long while to file into shape, from a long rectangle shape into a triangle (because come on, as if I’d ever make anything easy for myself…)
After 3.5 months of work, my cutlery is finished!! YEY!
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