Mike Spencer
Artist Blacksmith

Crawley Things

Cry "Havoc" and let slip the crawley things!
-- Frosty


We have a wonderful bunch of spiders in my part of Nova Scotia. The yellow & black argiopes are are my favorites -- yellow abdomen with a sort of death mask in black on the back -- that weave characteristic orb webs near the ground. On the other hand, there's always one or two of the fat, squishy-looking orb weavers that create webs spanning six or even 10 feet. This steel spider is a composite. The abdomen and cephalothorax are based on one sort with a fat abdomen and large fangs. The legs are taken from another spider with a strikingly long front legs and a characteristic gesture: she would reach one long leg tentatively forward as if to detect suitable prey by light touch. Only after several of these "braille" readings would she snatch the prey into her jaws with those remarkably long front legs and devour it.

About three feet across the legs. Body is 16 ga. raised steel. The legs and other extremities forged and chiseled steel. The legs are welded to a bridge inside the cephalothorax. The welds are concealed by repoussé plastron that is removable if repairs are needed. Collection of Arthur Weyhe.

A friend hand-carried this critter to a show in Massachusetts but there was no easy way to ship it back. So a couple of years later I picked it up myself on a trip. You may easily believe that I drew some comments travelling by bus and ferry with this strapped to my back-pack.

Oh, yes: This is a male spider. You can tell by the mitten-like pedipalps, those feeler-like things near ths jaws.


This was one of those wonderful commissions where the client says, more or less, "I have this much money to spend. Make me something neat." Commissioned by fellow artist George Allanson who is also a computer enthusiast and technology manager.

In the summer of 1963, back when it was meaningful to speak of "the computer" at MIT, a friend had a summer job as a programmer on the time share system there. She reported that someone had created what today we would call a virus which, at random times, connected to all the hard-copy terminals (the only kind there were then), printed out "I am the unknown glitch. Catch me if you can" and relocated itself in the system.

This piece is George's Unknown Glitch (which he's had for long enough now that it should no longer be so very unknown.) Based loosely on a family of wood-boring marine isopods known generally as gribbles which are pursued by the owners of wooden boats and marine structures with the same vengeance and hostility as computer glitches are pursued by hackers.

Raised and planished 16 ga. steel, forged extremities. Numerous parts assembled by welding, welds concealed by a planished plastron or underbody piece. About 18" long.


You didn't want to know about these guys. Because there really are things like this. They live in the cracks in floor boards, in the detritus under seat cushions and are sometimes lines up in row like cars in a parking lot on the undersides of the wing covers of beetles. Some of them look pretty much like this one. Some have more spines or hairs. Others look like little science fiction battle tanks so that those legs in the front emerge from what appear to be armored doors. All are rather smallish but you can see them with a good magnifying glass. A 10x or slightly stronger field microscope is better.

This one was made from a piece of 16 ga. that had spent several years as the fire-resistant surface on the floor of my first shop, so pitted with rust that it was hard to sink the shape without perforating the metal -- but what a nice surface texture that gives the little critter. Done before I took Chris Ray's workshop, I didn't know about raising on stakes so this was done with a couple of ballpiens and cavities burned into the end grain a wood block.

This was supposed to be a one-off but after it sold, two people who had seen it came to me and commissioned similar ones.

Steel sheet, forged steel, welding, about 16" long.

The Great Bug Contest

Well, it wasn't all that great a contest but it was fun. Once upon a time, Pancho Peterson dropped by on his travels from Arizona to points unspecified (does anybody know what happend to Pancho?) and spent a few weeks here. One day, I took him to visit another metalworker, a silversmith and jeweler, and over coffee we agreed to have a Bug Contest . We'd each make a bug that day and compare results in the evening. Pancho and I went off to my shop where I had two forges. Pancho made a very creditable dragon fly. And I made this.

Alas, the silversmith pooped out on us and didn't make a bug. But we all had a good time over coffee in the evening yakking about metal and stuff.

War Bug

And then there's Robert Asprin's
War Bug .

Original photos by Peter Barss
Updated: Mike Spencer -- Mon 25 Feb 2008