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Masonry and Metallurgy

From the NSW Freemason Dec. 1992 (Australia)
The Art of Tubal-cain
Masonry and Metallurgy
We, as Masons, know Tubal-cain is depicted as a
blacksmith. We do not know when he lived, but
probably in the days when primitive man used tools
of stone or flint to work naturally-occurring
pieces of gold, silver, copper and meteoric iron
into weapons, tools and ornaments for use in war or
peace. At some stage, man utilized fire to
liberate metals from their ores, and there came
that magic moment, some thousands of years ago in
Mesopotamia, when copper ores bearing tin were
smelted this first alloying of metals launched
the Bronze Age, a great step forward in this
ascent of man. This early metallurgy promoted the
first explosion in international trade, as bronze
coinage formed a novel means of exchange, and
the cradle of civilization in the Eastern
Mediterranean area thus spread to Europe.
There is a definite metallic streak running
through our Masonry. We were divested of money and
metallic substances even before we entered the
Lodge. In the Sectional Lectures, there is a
strong allusion to extractive metallurgy with the
mention of chalk, charcoal and clay as the emblems
of freedom, fervency and zeal. Clay is our 'Mother
Earth', providing both the metals and the
refractories to contain them at high temperatures
from charcoal, we derive the heat energy to smelt
and refine them and from chalk, the flux to alloy
with the gangue and separate it from the ore.
What of metals today? My career as a
metallurgist has embraced the casting, working and
fabrication of metals. and today's readers may be
interested in a short description of the five
principal methods of shaping metals.
1. Casting involves making a mould, a cavity
of the shape required, in a plastic material,
usually sand, and filling it with liquid molten
metal it constitutes the foundry industry,
2, Working includes forging, rolling,
extrusion, rod and wire drawing, and
pressing in many ways. Both casting and
forging to shape date from the days of
3. Machining is only about 200 years old
generally, it includes turning, boring, milling,
shaping and grinding, and is a finishing process
for work-pieces first cast or wrought to a rough
4. Fabricating by assembly and joining, such as
bolting and riveting (the Sydney Harbour Bridge
is a good example), welding and brazing, and
5. Powder Metallurgy is a spectacular
development of the last 50 years, and involves the
compacting of metal powders in a die, followed by
sintering at a high temperature to crystallize
them into union many parts can be produced by
mass production methods, ready for use without
If Tubal-cain were the first artificer in
metals, his disciples today are known as tool
engineers, who provide the expertise to design and
devise the machines, methods and tools to be used.
It is not surprising that nearly all the Working
Tools presented to us in our Craft Degrees are
essential tools in the fabrication of metals one
cannot imagine a tool engineer without the benefit
of the pencil and the rule, and the square and the
Metals run like shining threads through the
whole tapestry of human history besides the
invention of coin age, they have played a critical
role in the invention of printing, the harnessing
of steam and the internal combustion engine, the
discovery and use of electricity, the achievement
of powered flight, and the advent of nuclear
The art of Tubal-cain, now called metallurgy, is
unfolding the secrets of nature and science. The
GAOTU provided the materials in the firmament, and
man's inspired fashioning of them by tools, is, I
hope, stamping our work divine.
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