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From atomic structures to theories about magnetic forces, scientific progress has given us a good understanding of the properties of many different materials. However, science can’t tell us how to measure the temperature of steel just by looking at it, or how to sculpt stone into all kinds of shapes, or what it feels like to blow up a balloon of glass. Handmade tells the story of materials through making and doing. Author and material scientist Anna Ploszajski takes readers into the domain of the makers and craftspeople to understand how our most popular materials really work. Their accumulated knowledge through hands-on trial and error has been built on by generation after generation of experimenters and tinkerers, and they understand the materiality of objects far more than any scientist with a textbook.
This book offers a fresh and entertaining perspective on materials science through the eyes of a young woman who is at the forefront of the field, as well as the craftspeople who have built their careers around working with certain materials. Each chapter is dedicated to an everyday material and features Anna’s accounts of learning from masters in the craft. Along the way she builds a fuller picture of materials and their place in society. She visits a female blacksmith artist to see, hear, smell and strike steel herself, explores how working with one of the most primal of materials, clay, has brought about some of the most advanced technologies and delves down to the atomic scale of glass to find out what makes it ‘glassy’. By the end, readers will have a new understanding of the materials they encounter every day and an appreciation for the skills needed to form them into the objects that are perfectly suited for the jobs they do.