From the NSW Freemason Dec. 1992 (Australia)
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.
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,
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 Tubal-cain.
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 shape.
Fabricating by assembly and joining, such as bolting and riveting (the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a good example), welding and brazing, and soldering.
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 machining.
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 compasses.
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 energy.
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.