Blacksmithing Information

No matter what your skill level or interest in blacksmithing, the Blacksmith's Journal will most likely have something to offer you.

Our features include tool making, architectural and decorative ironwork, hardware, design and layout, and basic techniques. You won't find another better comprehensive resource about the art of blacksmithing. Our step-by-step illustrations and shop drawings fully explain the task at hand while inspiring creative use of blacksmithing techniques.

Ornamental blacksmiths set up and operate a coal or gas powered forge, anvil, and related equipment to make handcrafted ornamental products of wrought iron and steel, such as ornamental gates, chandeliers, fireplace screens, door hardware, and other decorative objects.

For centuries the art and craft of blacksmithing has been handed through generations

. Even today, buildings graced with masterpieces such as iron balconies, grilles, and gates, which look more like lace than metal, stand as enduring testimony to the art of blacksmiths.

The ancient craft of blacksmithing has undergone a rebirth.

Ornamental Blacksmithing ironwork is in great demand by both private individuals and organizations who are restoring houses, buildings, and historic structures. It is important to understand that Blacksmithing wrought iron craft skills differ from those for producing cast iron. The word wrought means worked. Wrought iron or steel can be "worked" on the anvil by hammering while it is hot, while cooling, and sometimes when it is cold. It is possible to do this because wrought iron is almost pure iron with hardly any carbon content. When the iron is heated, it can be drawn out, stretched, twisted, bent, hammered, thin, welded, and shaped to new forms by means of Blacksmithing.

True wrought iron, however,is no longer made, except in Europe. Most Blacksmithing smiths today work in mild steel, a low carbon steel containing .05 to .20 percent carbon, that is soft and easily worked. Or, one may scavenge pure wrought iron from an old bridge structure or other metal scrap. Ornamental blacksmiths use the same basic tools and equipment as those of the village blacksmith of years ago. The shop has a forge, a tank for water, an anvil, a vise, and an array of hammers, tongs, swages, and other tools for working and shaping the metal. The anvil is a heavy block of steel or iron used as a work surface for hammering the metal.

A forge holds the fire for heating the metal. The fire can be made toburn briskly by means of hand crank blower or electric blower. When they have a job to do, blacksmiths first look at the design in sketches, diagrams, and artistic or architectural drawings submitted by an architect or contractor. They may, themselves be a designer, presenting drawings and plans to the architect for the ironwork to be commissioned. They plan the layout and assembly of the project.

Most blacksmiths buy the raw stock in the shape of steel bars or rods, and sheets or plates of various thicknesses. Some incorporate other metals, such as brass, copper, bronze, and even titanium, into the product. To begin, blacksmiths lay out the reference points on the stock and plan the sequence of the operations. Competent blacksmiths carefully think out their strategy in advance to prevent false starts or operations that have to be repeated. Skill is required to forge and shape two or more pieces of a pattern exactly the same. Blacksmiths heat pieces in the forge to working temperature, which they judge by the color of the metal as it heats. While the metal is hot, blacksmiths take it to the anvil to form the piece to a pre-planned shape. Blacksmithing

It may take several heatings and repeated working on the anvil to bring a part to the desired shape and dimensions. Artist blacksmiths have several hammers. They also use a group of tools to make forms such as scrolls, leaves, and an array of geometric or free form shapes. Different kinds of tongs are used to grip different sized bars of metal. Three other necessary tools are the top, bottom, and spring fullers. These are sueful in drawing out metal to lengthen it or to make grooves, impressions, and tenons. Top and bottom swages help produce bars of desired profiles. Flatters are used for finishing flat areas.

Blacksmiths also have Blacksmithing punches of round, flat, square, and hammer type.

They use a heading tool to make bolt heads or rivets and to complete the first steps of a flower. Cutting tools include hot and cold chisels. A cone mandrel fits into the hardy hole and is useful for working on anything of circular form that can be beaten against it. Forge welding or hammer welding is a method for fastening the pieces together to make the final assembly.

Collars, tenons, and rivets may be used to fasten pieces together, included as part of the Blacksmithing design. Finishes may be applied to the completed piece to preserve it and prevent rust. The smiths scrape or sand blast the surface until they remove all scale. Numerous wax, oil, or polyurethane finishes allow for the addition of color and highlights.

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