Boeotiana

The following are excerpts from the written record of the coins project:

 

IN THE AETHYR

Dies Mars

Luna wn 8%v

3/1/2011

My technical drawings of the tabletop mint design taken to the machinist in March of 2011.

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KHAIRE ARGUROKOPEION BOEOTIA, KHAIRETE!

Sol in Virgo 20*, Luna wn 98%v in Pisces 28*

Dies Luna, Hora Venus (8:00pm)

11/12/2011

 

First iteration of the three-tiered tabletop mint design completed, with die and  collar blanks. Mint body and collars made from salvaged scrap steel. Die blanks and trussel rod made from heat treated 4140 tool steel. Machining by Steve Wise of S&J Manufacturing.

Khaire  Mousai! Helikoniades, Khairete!

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FIRST OUNCES

Dies Jovis

Luna NEW

 

Almost a year after I had been given a recommendation for a good bullion dealer in town, yesterday I finally gathered the cash and went there.  It’s just up the street from West Coast Findings, so I stopped off there before proceeding to the metals dealer and purchased a decent electronic tabletop scale (also on my list for about a year).

I spoke to both dealers in the office, told them John sent me and about what I was looking for- .999 pure silver one ounce pieces. The atmosphere in there was…intense. “Heavy.” Not in a creepy pawn-shop way as I had halfway expected. Both dealers had great stares and shared a short, sharp economy of speech. Extremely reserved but pleasant. Fitting for a place where there are probably loaded guns resting just under the counter top and behind the desk.

The one fellow pulled out a tray of older silver bullion pieces and fine silver 1 ozt gift tokens of many shapes and imprints. He said since I was just going to cut them up and melt them down that he could sell me some of the older pieces at a slight discount since he would have a harder time moving them than the shiny new ones. That sounded fine to me, though I did want one new one. He selected a couple from the tray and pulled a new 2011 round for me as well. Needless to say I was pretty thrilled with the ones I left with, three for $33 each.

 

(dime shown for scale)

 

 

Today I’ll wash, purify them in a salt bed as well as pour out an offering of thanks to the earth that produced them, and to the spirits that were disturbed by their extraction and previous travels. Without denying the history of the material, the intent is to “re-virginize” the silver and realign it to this purpose. On Monday I’ll consecrate with fire by annealing, cut, and weigh out the pieces in preparation for melting them into really large granules. These spheres will be flattened a little with the hammer, and re-annealed in preparation for their striking in the mint.

It’s been a long, drawn-out process and the preparation of this first batch of silver will be a bit drawn-out too. More and more, though, I am coming to understand that there are tremendous advantages to this way of doing things. With time (more for my own organs of perception than anything else) the materials have room to tell me what I need to know in order to succeed.

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VIRGIN SILVER 1

 

Sol in Scorpio, Luna in Capricorn

Luna wx 16%v

Dies Luna, 2:15-2:45pm Hora Jovis

11/28/2011

 

Three one-ounce pieces of .999 silver bullion, preparation for making the planchet (coin blank) “eggs/seeds”: re-virginizing the metal and purification in four stages:

1)The silver was well-scrubbed and bedded in salt (Thursday).

2) It was then taken to a fast-running clear stream and immersed in the icy water, with appropriate addresses to the element and spirits. (Friday)

3) In-studio/temple ceremonial purification and consecration following the invocation of the Eudaemon and the Mousai. The silver, incense, my familiar’s seal were then taken out to our composting (future-) artemisia bed with a plate of raw fish cut into this strips. The fish and incense was offered to the neighborhood spirits. Two crows immediately took interest.

4) Began the process of annealing the silver with acetylene torch and cutting it into smaller pieces for weighing into individual portions for later granulation. The fire gives the final brightness and purification before the formation of the pellet “eggs/seeds”.

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PIECES OF EIGHT

Dies Solis

Luna wx 72%v

12/04/2011

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CHOP CHOP CHOP

Dies Mars

Luna wx 87%v

12/06/2011

Three 1ozt fine silver pieces yielded 31 three-gram portions, with 2.1g left over. Today I am grateful for the PEPE 6″ guillotine shear (one of my first studio purchases). Still, it took me a couple of hours to chop the measured 3g chunks into fine “metal confetti” in preparation for remelting into individual solid pieces.

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FROM THE PITS OF DESTRUCTION TO SHINING SEED

Sol in Sagittarius, Luna in Taurus

Luna wx 93%v

Dies Mercurius, 10:40am-12:15pm Horae Mars-Sol-Venus

12/07/2011

The Pits of Destruction. Hard charcoal brick bound with steel wire.

Eudaemon and Muses invoked, pits sanctified and communion invited, sacrament consumed.

 

Formation of the first “seed” of virgin silver from shredded silver particles with acetylene torch.

 

Ten more “shredded virgins” waiting in their pits for the flame.

 

Ten lenticular seeds, newly-made.

 

An offering of Khars incense on the still burning charcoal brick at the close of the day’s work.

On this day, each of these 3 gram pieces of fine silver are worth $3.13 USD.

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 ELECTRUM ONE

Sol in Sagittarius, Luna in Cancer

Luna wn 90%v

Dies Luna, 3-4:35pm Horae Mars-Sol-Venus

12/12/2011

Ritual openings/offering/communion as usual.

1.6g 24k gold combined with 1.6g .999 pure fine silver producing a 3.2g nugget of 50-50 alloy electrum (by weight).

I snipped up the 24k gold wire into fine (1mm or so) shreds, and in a bit of an excited hurry to combine it with the fine silver, I dug out a new pit in the charcoal block with the ball bur and put all the shreds of both metals in it. I also used a larger torch head since gold has a higher melting point than the silver.

Spent about an hour melting and turning, melting and turning the little blob of metal in an effort to get all the gold shreds to melt into the already soft/flowing silver. Looking back (and after doing a little more careful rereading of sources on the subject) I realize what I should have done is melt the gold to flow first, then add the silver chunks to the already-melted gold for better blending. It should also have been stirred.

Quenched and remelted a total of four times, coating all with flux for the final melt.

Observations:

Initially, the gold bits glowed red long before the silver even began to glow. Each held its form in individual shreds for quite a while, as the charcoal block grew hotter under constant flame.

The silver flowed, and the gold retained its integrity as red grains among a mercury-like flashing silver liquid drop. I intensified the heat and continued turning the bead until I watched all of the gold shreds lose shape and melt into the silver. On the final quench, it was apparent that all had melted together, but was not mixed evenly. There is a fine pale yellow sheen on the drop of extremely bright silver of varying intensity over the whole surface area. It’s likely that most of the gold is concentrated in the center core, surrounded for the most part by a layer of fine silver.

It is beautiful, but it requires stirring. The metals are joined but not fully dissolved into one another.

Being in a hurry to do something exciting frequently makes more work. This time, I do not mind the more work part because looking at the little mirror-surfaced droplet rolling around on the charcoal was wonderful, watching one metal hold tension, then sigh and release into the other is pretty exciting. Fortunately I didn’t do anything that would even remotely ruin the $100+ of materials this time. When I get the carbon stirring rod and crucible, I’ll remelt it and stir the metals together for an even more thorough blend.

But still…. the best rule is to HASTEN SLOWLY! ( and read, re-read, re-read, and re-read again prior to jumping in).

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SEEDS TO FIRST PLANCHETS

Sol in Sagittarius, Luna in Scorpio

Luna wn 20%v

Dies Mars, 8:45-10:25am Horae Sol-Venus-Mercurius

12/20/2011

 

 

 

 

The 3g planchets are very small, averaging about 12mm across and 2mm thick. Striking them to fill the smaller of the two collars in the mint would reduce them to about 1mm of thickness. I have a hunch that this may be too thin and that doubling the amount of silver per coin will be necessary to get a pleasing thickness to diameter ratio. 1.3 mm is about the thickness of a dime and what I initially (arbitrarily) chose. I think 2mm in the larger diameter will  better.

In the mint, it took 6-7 good hard strikes per piece to flatten and work harden it before it would compress no more. The feel of the metal moving in each strike is an interesting sensation. The electrum seed flattened with neither more nor less difficulty than the other pure silver pieces. It was remelted and mixed with the graphite rod  for best blending of the metals before striking today.

What really appeals to me about these small proto-coins is the thickness and the rounded, somewhat organic edges contrasting with the struck smooth face surfaces. The edges billow out gently, containing minute irregularities like a vertical landscape. There are a very few shallow cracks, but they present no obvious problems compositionally or structurally. The flat surfaces have the faint imprint of tiny concentric circles from the lathe when they were turned. I have not polished them smooth and am glad I didn’t until I saw what their imprint would be. The die mark is far more interesting than just a blank smooth surface would be.

They have character. The are “blanks”, but not mute as to their substance or origin. They present an interesting picture of order and chaos, of artifice and organic form. All are similar, mass-produced but are not identical. Just what I had hoped for!

 

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Sol in Sagittarius, Luna in Scorpio

Luna wn 11%v

DiesMercurius, 9:05-10:30 am Horae Luna-Saturnus-Jupiter

12/21/2011

Second annealing and purification of the planchets by fire and acid. All charcoal residue and smudges removed from the small discs.

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EVOE!

Sol in Capricorn, Luna in Sagittarius

Luna wn 5%v

Die Jovis, 7:48-9:50 am Horae Jupiter-Mars-Sol

12/22/2011

The Sun rising behind Mt. Hood, as viewed from the summit of Mt. Tabor:

(photo-Joseph Thiebes)

Several companions and I trekked up to the summit of Mt. Tabor in the sharp frosty morning to watch the first sunrise of the increasing light, the first sunrise after Sol entered Capricorn. The thinnest silver sliver of a waning moon shone in the azure sky in the pre-dawn glow. We invoked and poured libations to the new Sun, and enjoyed the cup ourselves. The Yule Bock danced on the mountain in flaming red vestments with his birch switches. A new lance was introduced to and passed to the hands of its priest and a gloriously clear golden dawn was witnessed by all present.

I brought the hammer, planchets, and the mint, and after the Sun-greeting at the summit, I proceeded to the crater of the volcano for the second round of strikes. There is a small amphitheater in the crater of Mt. Tabor, and the edge of the stage is about waist-high and made of solid cement and stone. I set up there and after invoking the Eudaimon and Mousai, I presented the hammer and poured out libations to each.

I re-struck all the planchets, including the electrum piece. They all moved out well, adding 2-4mm of diameter during this second strike, approximating dime-size a bit more closely. The mint jumped around a bit more on this surface than on the completely smooth cement floor of the previous strikes. The concentric circles are still present, but some faces have several tiny point-dots, looking like little gleaming points in waves of space. I continue to be fascinated by the randomness and uniqueness of each new strike.

I hadn’t really realized how much formal control of the imagery in the artmaking process has been a security blanket for me. The materials are making the surface composition for these first strikes, slight variations create entirely different feels. It’s really hitting home that I MUST leave room for this in future. I can finesse and fiddle and utterly control some (even nearly all) parts of the composition, but there has to be an opening, a field of play for the world to make its mark and speak its piece through the object. It’s a control thing, this clinging to technique no, not really technique. It’s a clinging to the need to work over every single aspect and iota of space on the surface of a piece, to dominate and manually manipulate every visual aspect. I can afford to let some of that go because the gains that may come from leaving space for the world to participate are too potentially great to close out of the process. Like the surrealists, I am also being seduced by the eloquent forms of the material world. It means I have to really look, and put aside certain notions about what any given thing “should” look like while retaining my discrimination.

How many sides has a coin? Three.

electrum second strike, obverse and reverse

 

singular and twin stars, pure silver seconds strikes

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