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art392, Junemester 2014, mark rooker, rookermd@jmu.edu, o.h. 12-12:30 pm monday through thursdsay, 540-568-6410

course outline:

Bladesmithing; An Exploration of Form and Function

One of humanity's oldest tools, knives are the ultimate illustration of the adage “Form Follows Function”. Most knives are utilitarian in nature, designed with functionality as the primary goal; judged by their ability to perform their intended task. The fact that the task is invariably one of destruction in pursuit of a goal, makes knives troubling and alluring. Also, the intent of the knife may be to prepare food, open boxes, or shave your face, but it can still harm the user, or be used as a weapon. The look and feel of a knife informs the user of it's function. A badly designed knife still communicate its uses, but they may be ones the maker never intended.

All this makes knives rich in metaphor, and artistic potential.

Course goals
  • Students will gain competency in metalsmithing techniques including: bladesmithing, blade grinding, hardenening and tempering steel, handle fabrication.
  • Students will develop their knowledge of materials and metallurgy--the types, their properties, uses, and forms--by exploring them as a medium of personal aesthetic expression.
  • Students will expand their awareness of historical and contemporary movements in metal and the relationship of metal to other disciplines.
  • Students will, through creative and technical experimentation, produce original works of art in metal by applying metal fabrication techniques, design methodology and visual organization skills.
  • Students will cultivate commitment and professionalism through critiquing and evaluating their own artwork and the work of others, on the basis of individual performance, craft, design, and conceptual elements.
Your semester grade will be determined by the following:
  • Project 1,
  • Pin-tang, Flat Grind
    • [10 points, design]
    • [15 points, craft]

  • Project 2,
  • Full-tang, Flat or Hollow Grind
    • [10 points, design]
    • [15 points, craft]

  • Project 3,
  • Tomahawk, Convex Grind
    • [10 points, design]
    • [15 points, craft]

  • Project 4,
  • Forged blade
    • [10 points, desgin]
    • [15 points, craft]

I'll be using the standards for grades as they are defined in the Undergraduate Catalog.

"A" Superior
"B" Good
"C" Average
"D" Passing
"E" Failure
Out of the total of 100 points possible, the grading scale is as follows:
100 - 98 = A+
<98 - 93 = A
<93 - 90 = A-
<90 - 88= B+
<88 - 83 = B
<83 - 80 = B-
<80 - 78 = C+
<78 - 73 = C
<73 - 70 = C-
<70 - 68 = D+
<68 - 63 = D
<63 - 60 = D-
<60 and below = FAILING
Attendance and work hours:

It is important to attend every class, be on time, and be prepared to work. Failure to attend class regularly and/or arriving late suggests poor motivation on the part of the student. Therefore, if more than one absence and/or three tardies are accumulated, it will be reflected in your final grade as follows: 1/3 of a letter grade penalty on your semester grade for each unexcused absence and for every three tardies beyond the two "free" absences and three tardies allowed.

You are responsible for any information missed during an absence. No make-up presentations will be given.

Aproximately one hour of work outside of class is expected for every hour spent in class. Click here for Open lab hours.


Many processes require group participation and will necessitate participation outside of class at specific times for activities such as monitoring kilns. This process will also require that work be done fuly and ON TIME. Failure to do so will most often result in the inability to complete the assignment, causing a significant loss of points.

Group and individual critiques rely on completed work and full student participation, so meeting deadlines is critical. A late penalty of 1 point per class may be assessed on any late assignment. Completed work is to be turned in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. If you are absent on the day the work is due, it must be handed in at the beginning of the next class period you attend. Lost or damaged work will be viewed as incomplete, so protect all completed work with great care.

Office Hours:

My office hours will be 12-12:30 pm on monday through thursday. Meetings can also be arranged by appointment. Feel free to come in during office hours for extra help, or to ask questions.

School of Art, Design, and Art History Policies:

click here for information on Late Adds, Students With Disabilities, First Week Attendance, and JAC Swipe Access to Facilities.

Other Policies:

Failure to read and comply with the safety rules may result in loss of studio access and the receipt of a failing grade in the class. Deliberate abuse of the facilities, tools, or materials provided may result in loss of studio access and the receipt of a failing grade in the class. Click here for a complete list of the safety rules.

There will be a number of Equipment Safety Quizzes throught the semester. Failing an Equipment Safety Quiz will result in your loss of access to that piece of equipment. Quizes may be retaken until passed successfully.

Only currently enrolled metals and jewelry students are allowed to use the studio and tools. "Public" tools may not be removed from the studio or stored in "personal" toolkits. Lost or stolen "public" tools will not be replaced during the semester.

Any art work not picked up by the beginning of the following semester will be disposed of.

If you recieve an incomplete for the course, it must be made up before you will be allowed any overrides for more advanced metals courses.

You may use the drawers in your jeweler's bench to store your personal tools and supplies as well as your current project. Personal items must be cleaned out of the drawers by the last day of finals. After that date, anything found in the drawers will be disposed of.


mark rooker, james madison university