At Blue Ox we believe that the most powerful learning experience is to learn about a trade while simultaneously learning the science and history of that trade. True understanding happens through discussions that show the interconnectedness of things. We believe that the job of the instructor is to make the quest for information intriguing enough to inspire in the students the drive to explore and find their own answers. This is how mankind moves forward. The following is a small sampling of discussions that students will be part of as they work on their projects.
BLACKSMITHING... Learn the science behind the making and use of charcoal; why and how did this lowly black material bring mankind out of the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age; what is happening at the molecular level to the wood in the destructive distillation process to make charcoal; how does the heat of the forge weaken the Weak Atomic Force in the metal to make it malleable enough to reshape.
LAPIDARY... As we look at gravel the novice sees rocks, but the person trained in the lapidary arts sees thousands of combinations of minerals that were formed in the cooling process at the edge of the earth’s mantle. What is the attraction of certain minerals to one another to form specific compounds? What are the geologic features that help promote this process and what can be done with these mineral compounds once found.
STAINED GLASS... Was brought from Europe to the “New Country” in the very early 1700’s. What was the heat source for the first three glass kilns, and how could these temperatures be maintained? What are the properties of a liquid in a semi-solid state (which is what glass is). How is this semi-solid state used to our advantage and what are the minerals needed to produce it? What is the function of the “FLUX” in the solder process?
WOODWORKING & LATHE TURNING... What is grain and how can it help or hinder the wood working process. What is the difference in this grain between species of trees? Why do trees grow naturally in certain areas and what is climax growth? With each species having different characteristics, what is the best wood for your project? How are natural stains made and which woods most readily accept these stains. How these stains can be made by the craftsman? What are the “Golden Proportions” and how do these proportions manifest in your project. The Math of measuring and proportioning those measurements.
PRINT SHOP & BOOKBINDING... No other technology in the history of mankind has ever changed the world as much as Gutenberg’s movable type. Suddenly we had printing on a fast and accurate scale and information began to move around the world. Accurate because once the type was set each piece of printed material was the same as every other one. Before, scribes copied written work, making mistakes and then their piece was transcribed with its mistakes, over time the material often became senseless. Now we truly came into the information age and all this happened in 1450! With this new need, the modern art of Bookbinding was developed to hold the information in an orderly format, that could be stored and transported without harm to the document or its order.
CERAMICS & SLIP CASTING... Working with clay and firing the finished product is the oldest trade in the world, with the first example we have found being the statue “Venus,” carbon dated 25,000 years ago. With a tradition this old, many new techniques have been developed, but the basic digging, processing, working, and firing of clay has mostly stayed the same. One notable exception is slip casting. The process was first developed in the 1850s to rapidly reproduce tableware for the military. The breakthrough came with the discovery of a deflocculant (sodium silicate). One of the most complex castings being made today is the flush toilet. We can all now be thankful for slip casting.