Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The metaphor of something being refined through heat and fire in reality

Usually used to talk about experiences that separate and expel bad material from a person and make them stronger in the end. Well, I've now seen the process that it's based on in action, albeit in one of the most limited ways it can happen. I was fortunate enough to be part of a class that involved casting objects in bronze. When the bronze pour happened they melted down 150 pounds of the stuff, and in the process had to purify it so that everyone's statues and art objects ended up being made of pure bronze instead of bronze plus contaminants. Not exactly smelting tons of iron, but still a refining process.

What happened was simple: the bronze liquified and the impurities floated to the top of the crucible, forming a kind of scum. Then, the folks doing the pouring took long metal rods that had special attachments on the end and picked up the scum and threw it on a scrap heap next to it. Simple as that. The metal separated into pure and impure when heated to a huge temperature and the impurities were fished out, then the bronze reformed after the pour as solid, much cleaner, metal.

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