I repaired a silver bracelet yesterday for a friend and once again it reminded me that engineering is in our DNA, it is part of us.
The reason that I have the various bits and pieces needed for silver soldering is not because of some random arts and crafts desire. It is not a hobby or anything that I particularly enjoy doing. I have the kit because I needed, at some stage, to solder some silver and how hard could it be?
So on Sunday I set about finding the appropriate tools, which had conveniently found their way to the furthest reaches of their respective locations. Having assembled the required kit in the kitchen I clamped the vacuum vice to the work top, it ejected itself so I swore at it and installed it again. This routine continued for the duration of the task as one would expect.
Next up was trying to flux a joint so small that I needed an eye glass to see it. Much frustration later an assembled joint lay awaiting the heat. Of course the torch that I use for jewellery won’t light from a lighter so I had to dig out the standard blow torch as a ‘pilot light’. The first time that I got to flux melting point the vice popped again dropping the new silver and eliciting more obscenities.
Second time lucky, the heat softened the tiny scrap of silver as it fluttered in the stream of gas looking like it was destined to fly off. In the briefest of moments the metal softened and adhered to the joint before being drawn in to fill the gap. As I removed the heat the fluidity of the new silver disappeared instantly and the new joint was made.
For all of the swearing and annoyance the point when you win, when you make the material do what you want, is worth it. That is why we are engineers, because of the pleasure of making the physical world do our bidding.
I have developed ninja style skills with the Dyson, my weapon of choice. I stalk my flat silently and with deathly stealth. My prey remain unaware of their impending demise until they are vacuumed into their prison. The prey that I stalk? Flies, a seasonal distraction for those that live so close to the sea.
I have now honed my skills to the point that I can watch the fly as it’s wings are drawn towards the cleaner. Balancing the gap just right allows the victim to cling on until the pulling air annoys it too much. When they release their grip on the surface they realise too late the power of the air stream. The decision over direction of flight is not theirs to make, it’s mine. In a blink they are transported to the enclosed environment of the dust bin.
As you can tell flies are an emotive subject in my flat, often driving me to distraction. But flies are part of a bigger tableaux of nature and it would seem wise not to forget that. On Sunday morning I was busy sorting domestic chores and wandering around the flat. As I left the living room I stopped and did a double take, something had caught my eye. There, standing on my sofa, was a sea gull.
I reversed slowly into the room wondering what the etiquette for such a situation is. I dismissed the Dyson as an inadequate defence to a full grown bird and started to ponder alternatives. The thought of scaring the thing was equally quickly dismissed, make no mistake I have seen the fire power of these beasts. I am certainly no Dr Dolittle but I am pretty sure that we shared a similar chain of thought. I looked at the bird and wondered why it was there and I think the bird was trying to answer the same question.
After what seemed a few minutes, but was probably only tens of seconds, the bird realised it’s error and departed. As a house ‘guest’ it was not impolite, leaving just a couple of feathers behind. Was this some angry big brother of the flying world? Had it come to warn me that my campaign against its smaller cousin had not gone unnoticed? Perhaps but I doubt it, after all birds and the like are in Mother Nature’s domain not the spiteful Ms Nature.