Sunday Sit-down: Blacksmith Michael J. Saari

It looked like Mike Saari was making a brick-oven pizza.

Only Mr. Saari's "oven" was a gas forge that produces 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit of heat.

The "dish" was an inches-long decorative nail, which he made at the spur of the moment from the end of a 4-foot, quarter-inch round piece of steel.

Demonstrating the blacksmithing process in his workshop, Mr. Saari heated the end of the metal for several minutes until the tip turned orange.

After a few minutes of Mr. Saari beating the tip into shape with an anvil, he reheated the steel and beat it again, to draw down the shank away from the original material.

"That'll be the shank to the head of the nail," he said.

Later, he puts the metal in a header, twists it off and produces the nail.

For much larger and time-consuming works, such as the 20-foot tall steel sculpture commemorating the former American Optical complex in Southbridge, Mr. Saari used his coal forge and a machine called a German

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  3. As he talked, he cranked a handle to blow air into the forge, heating the coal fire to over 2,000 degrees. The most interesting thing he's learned so far about blacksmithing, Caudle said, was the wide variety of things that one can make with a hammer

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