Picture of Blacksmithing Ancient Egyptian Copper Chisels
Tina and I were asked to make copper chisels for a television show about Ancient Egypt (here is the show; oddly, I haven't seen it yet so I don't know where the chisels play. We also built a lot of the sets and props for the reenactment parts and the Pharaoh statue was molded off my mug!!! :). The premise was that they wanted to test to see if pure copper (very soft) chisels could chip away at granite. Our good friend Steve at Bazay Blacksmithing helped us out. We spent an evening at his smithy and poured molten copper into ingots and then hammered them out into the shape of chisels. They tried the chisels out and it turns out that you CAN split rocks with them (they just have to be re-sharpened often!!). I'm going to plagiarize some tech spec info from Wikipedia to help explain the science behind the processes.

Also - I'm entering this in the INDESTRUCTIBLES contest, if you like it please vote and I will appreciate it muchly (I'm after that silver sparkly motorcycle helmet!!!!!!)! I figure we're still finding tools the ancient Egyptians made (pretty indestructible stuff there, fellas) and I'm hoping my chisels will also be found thousands of years from now (and some archaeologist will try to figure out why and how they were used... :)
xXLab_ManXx2 years ago
Good Job! The photos you put were beautiful! You know how its done! :)
kz12 years ago
Were you guys pouring that molten metal on a concrete floor? I was under the impression that was a big no-no since the moisture in the concrete turning to steam could possibly cause an explosion resulting in fragment and hot molten bits flying about.
damianzuch (author)  kz12 years ago
Good eye! No, the actual pour was on top of the welding table, directly into the sand cast mold. The remainder in the crucible was poured into an ingot box that WAS on the floor, to be saved for later pours. If you look at the first batch of photos you'll see a volcanic spatter of molten copper; a small tap on the surface of the crucible was enough to make it react like that (moisture in the air plus the pressure of trying to shove more copper pipe into the crucible).
Here's an unrelated but amusing story of the dangers of molten copper.
Kiteman2 years ago
Come on, let's see the rocks being split!
damianzuch (author)  Kiteman2 years ago
I haven't seen the show yet, I was told afterwards that the chisels worked. It's funny, T and I build quite a number of props for shows that we never end up seeing. I always thought it was weird when I heard that Harrison Ford had never seen the Indiana Jones movies until I started working in this business; you just get really busy and then don't end up seeing the shows. I hear it's pretty common for people that work in the industry...?!
OK - maybe add a YouTube clip when you can?

I recall reading some time ago that Egyptian masons worked with teams of metal workers who maintained batches of chisels, sharpening the ones that the mason wasn't using.