Definitions of Traditional Blacksmithing Techniques

Forge_weldForge Weld
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.

200xleafLEAF WORK
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!

This is an ancient technique that adds mass to bars. It is accomplished by heating a cross section of a bar and hammering the end or bouncing it off the anvil to create swelling in the area that has been heated to a white heat. It is then finished either by hammering the surface of or with the use of a rasp while the iron is hot. Right angle bends with sharp 90 degree corners do not come natural to iron when bent. There is a need to add mass to the rounded corner of the bend as a result upsetting is the practical solution to help alleviate this problem.

Dividing iron into either even or uneven sections for scrolls or basket twists can be achieved by splitting A very sharp broad chisel or hot cut tool is used to sever the material while the metal is hot. A hot cut is a tool that has a handle and looks similar to a thin axe and is used to cut into the hot metal by striking the top part with a hand hammer

Fullering is a term that means , to create deep concave grooves in the surface of iron either crossways or parallel to the stock. The tool that is used to do this process is called a Fuller, the tool looks like a blunt ax with a smooth rounded edge. This implement is used by holding it on the iron and struck with a hammer to sink the blunt edge into the hot metal. There is a companion tool that is used in conjunction with the hand held tool, it is called a bottom Fuller, It is held in a square hole in the anvil. Fullering tools can be used to change the cross section and control spreading of the stock. These tools together can also be used to neck down stock or create deep concave grooves around the circumference of the stock.

Repousse is a process that is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The art form dates back to the dawn of metalworking. Every known ethnic group of people has used this process to enhance sheet metal surfaces with modeled and raised designs. The term REPOUSSE is derived from the French verb repousser literally “to push again;”Simply put repousse is the art of raising a design in relief on sheet metal by working from the back of the material with small punches that are struck with light weight hammers.

CHASING is a term that is Sometimes associated with and is often confused as the process of repousse. But chasing is the modeling and sculpting of the front surfaces of sheet metal with the use of punches and hammers as well as the use of matting tools. These punches are used to create textured surfaces on the metal. It is essential in repousse that the metal has some form of backing material while the embossing is taking place to prevent it from caving in. Some types of backing material that can be used include pitch which is a resin based substance that is held in a cast iron bowl and the metal is fixed to it while it is worked. Pitch is a excellent backing for copper brass and thin steel sheet. Lead is another backing material that works especially well for work in iron and steel sheet metal.

For REPOUSSE to be done masterfully it takes many years of training and practice. Sheet metal details that adorn master piece locks and jewel chests are some of the outstanding examples of repousse in historical ironwork A very refined raised decoration in a variety of forms comprising of acanthus leaves, husks, masks, festoons, were used in the masterful style of the French baroque, and in the English ironwork of the17th& 18th century and can still be duplicated today using the same tools and techniques by experienced master blacksmiths.

chamfering_piercingsmChamfering & Piercing
The chamfering process can be achieved with a hammer by using overlapping blows on the corner of any stock with an angle not exceeding 30 degrees. Filing is another way of accomplishing this process especially on small pieces such as locks and hardware. This process adds to the decorative quality of the piece as well as softening any sharp edges and adds light catching quality and interest. Piercing is basically the removal of pieces of material to create negative space of a design in sheet metal. This can be accomplished by use of chisel and hammer or with a fine toothed jewelers saw and then filed to define the design.