Forge welding is an ancient way of joining two pieces of iron together by heating the iron bars together to a white heat in a coal fired forge. After welding heat is reached the bars are removed quickly from the fire and hammered together with light and fast blows. It takes many years of practice to perform this process effectively. Flux is a borax based compound which is sometimes used to seal the heated surface of the iron from oxygen and iron oxide scale which could prevent a weld from being successful.
The collar is not only an integral part of ironwork but it is also a decorative part as well. Collars are bands of iron used to grip two or more members together and are held together by pressure. Some collars are extremely ornate made in the shape of moldings and some with decorative chisel work incised on the surface. Other collars are made of triangle, oval and half oval cross sections.
Twisting is a method of ornamenting a square cross sectioned bar by heating a measured length of material and turning the free end evenly until the tightness of the spiral is reached. Many different decorative effects can be achieved by incising the surface with a number of lines or patterns which can add detail and interest to the overall feel of the finished piece.
Scroll work in traditional ironwork is used more often than any other component. The beauty of a scroll depends upon its proportions. Scrolls are long bars of metal that have been hammered into many different styles of terminations, and then curled into spirals with “S” or “C” configurations. The best scroll is made by hand with precision hammering and superior eye & hand coordination.
Decorative iron uses many forms of ornament. The most beautiful and naturally alluring are the organic forms of the forged leaf and embossed sheet metal leafwork.The forged leaf is an ancient organic form that is forged directly from the bar of iron. It can be very simplistic or highly ornate with chased and incised lines and details.
The Water leaf is another style of leaf that is used in English ironwork. Its design may have come from Italy and went through a long process of development. Historically it was not sheet metal foliage but a forged leaf formed and fire welded to a scroll or bar stock in the shape of a single rippled leaf or double leaves sometimes called husks.TheEnglish preferred these leaves because they suited the harsh wet climate and were more stable than the repousse sheet metal acanthus leaves of France which were formed of thin sheet iron.
Undoubtedly the most beautiful and voluptuous of all leaf work are the embossed sheet metal acanthus leaves of the Baroque and Rococo period. To execute such Floral ornament takes great skill and dexterity. The process involves the use of many different types of special hammers called raising hammers and other tools that are held in a vice, called forming stakes. These tools resemble rounded blunt metal chisels of different widths and radiuses. The stakes are used to raise up ridges and make the leaf blank take on a more life like appearance. It takes many hours of precise hammering to produce just one of these types of leaves.
The final step is a process called PLANSHING. This process involves smoothing out the surface by hammering the leaf with even glancing hammer blows over a round ball shaped stake. After the leaf is planished it is then riveted to the scroll or bar stock. Most often these leaves are finished with gold gilding to add a dramatic effect, or they were painted with vivid polychrome or paint which also added richness to the over all color scheme and elegance!