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Why I Repurpose Metal?

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

If you have followed my work for any length of time, you know that the vast majority of the metal I use is repurposed. Some people refer to it as scrap or more eloquently, junk. I look at it like the old saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man's treasure’. I see it not so much as what it is, but what it can be. Maybe it’s my stubbornness to throw nothing away. My father-in-law would say, ‘you never know when you might need that’. Growing up in southern Appalachia, we found uses for everything. We didn’t have much, so you got creative with what you did. Appalachian Engineering is what I like to call it.

I don’t do it to ‘save money’. I live about an hour away from my ‘local’ scrap yard. By the time you take in travel time and gas and treasure hunting, it would probably be cheaper to just buy it at the steel supplier. There are times I find absolutely nothing. And there are those times where I can load up my car. It takes me most of a day to go shopping there. So it is really not much of a cost saving to do it.

I think I do it for a few reasons. Good ones, too. I hate to waste stuff. Any stuff. To me, it’s disrespectful to the world I live in to just cast something aside. Take the wood I use, for instance, (this will be another story), I don’t waste it, any of it. Think about what that tree had to go through to provide that piece of wood. Think about all the energy that it took to make that piece of metal. So in a way, I refocus that energy into something else. I think that also helps with the magic of it as well.

Then there is the creative side to it. Looking at something and seeing the potential of it. Gee, what could you be? What do you want to be? I have been known to just simply grab some metal and start at it. After a time I can look at it and say, ‘Oh!, so that’s what you wanted to be’. It has helped me to listen. Many a time I have started forging with an idea of what I needed and come out of it with something rather spectacular. I am sure She has a hand in some of it as well.

And then some items just have a story to tell. What it was to what it is now. I have made knives for people out of old hay rake tines. I mean, how cool is that? That metal worked in a field for no telling how long, to feed someone's family. To feed the cows so someone could have milk with their cereal. To help provide the hay so someone could mulch their garden. And now it gets to have a new life as a knife for WORK or a fire striker or, or, or…..

To me, my WORK is so much more than just hammering out doodads. There’s work behind the WORK. I take pride in knowing the story of a thing. In a way, as I co-create something, it also has a part of me as well. So yes, I could very well diddy bop on down to the steelyard and get some freshly made material. All spiffy with not a speck of rust anywhere on it. Neatly stacked by size and steel type, (yes, there is a boatload of steel types. Think of the crayons in a big box). That just feels empty to me. Doesn’t that sound boring to you? What are your thoughts?

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