Where possible, I tried to get some first-hand experience of the topics I was researching and writing about for The Knowledge. So for Chapter 6 and the discussion of crucial materials including metal, I went with a friend to spent the day in the Much Hadham village forge in Hertfordshire. We worked by the traditional blacksmith’s coke-fired open forge that has been preserved in the village, learning different techniques to work red-hot iron with hammer and anvil, and the principles of tempering and quenching steel.


My project for the day had been to make something useful – a knife that I created by reappropriating a mild steel file as the blank. Although it may look like a relatively competent job, I unfortunately hammered the base of the blade too much and there’s a deep crack that’s threatening to sheer-off the whole handle. So after getting home late I used my hand-made tool just the once to make a cheese toastie before putting it safely on the shelf. I’ll be laughing in the face of adversity if the apocalypse were ever to arrive…


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