Golden Age Forge
Jump to Information About This Basket
I have gone into considerable detail about the techniques used for making some of the pieces shown below. I have done this so a person looking for ideas to try in his own shop will have a little additional information that may be helpful. The casual reader may find some of the additional information of interest too. Enjoy!
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Some of My Work
Here are a few pieces of my work. Click the links, or linked image, for full sized pictures of most of the following pieces.
Firewood Storage Rack
We had need of a wood storage rack for our porch, but I have been far too busy to take a little time and forge the needed rack. It is all made from 1" square solid steel stock, except the two double reverse twisted end bars, which are 1/2" stock. I was pleased with how it turned out because I have not had time to forge any decorative ironwork for the three years since we moved to the ranch. The forming work was initially done cold on my P-6 fly-press, but a mistake in my bending index marks caused me to have to switch to hot forming on the Acorn table. All the stock was first edge broken and worked to give it a nice patina, then it was drawn, formed, and welded together.
Because the rack was going to be painted, which I rarely do to my ironwork, I decided to braze the two end bars into place. Since I didn't have a formal plan when I started this project, just started forming it by eye to match a rough mental image, I didn't know it would have the two twisted end braces. If I had known, I would have used tennon joints instead of the brazed connections. I prefer brazed joints to welds if it will be covered with paint because the braze, if done correctly, results in a very smooth finished joint with nice filleted edges, compared to the rough ugly joint typical of a weld.
Hot Forged Leaves and Iron Roses
They have uses too...an iron rose and another iron rose
Forged leaves are used on a great variety of ironwork. In the example pictured above, these simple leaves were used as key chain pendants for gifts to friends and family. The roses linked below the image are time consuming to make, but the result is worth it. I have made quite a few of these, including one very special piece that was presented to a beautiful young bride during her wedding in the "Rose Garden" in Boise, Idaho. That piece took me three months to make in my spare time. I wish I had an image of it to include here.
Making a "basket-within-a-basket" is most definitely not a beginner's project. I will not go into detail as to how I made it, assuming that anyone who gets to the point where they wish to make one of these will already have mastered the basics. I will only relate a few of the finer points that a more advanced smith might be interested in. If you decide you want to make one, become skilled in making single baskets first. The inner basket inside the basket shown at the top of this page has six 1/4" rods surrounding a short core rod on each end. The outer basket is formed of eleven 1/4" rods, for a total of eighteen 1/4" rods in the whole piece. The innermost "core" rod was cut into 1" long segments prior to doing the forge welds on each end so that all but the end segments would drop out of the center portion when the basket was opened out during the untwisting. The overall piece is 9" long and a little over 3" in diameter. The critical skills to master before attempting one of these are maintaining axial alignment of the piece, and also how to get it to open symmetrically to the diameter desired, both internally and externally. It should also be understood that competence in forge-welding is necessary. The basket shown is just a prototype element, and will not be used for anything other than a shop shelf conversation piece. I wanted to do this one for practice before I begin using these for elements in more complex pieces. If this basket were to be used in a larger piece of work, the rough ends with their parallel forge-weld lines would be forged down to the diameter of the piece it joins to. In the process the lines and roughness would be removed and it would be more graceful. You can plan on spending at least a day to make one of these, and some additional time for clean-up and finishing.
Click here, or on leaf, for full size image of this Steel Ginkgo leaf.
Another Steel Ginkgo Leaf with Natural Pattern
Brass & Steel Ginkgo Leaves
Sterling Silver Repousse' Ginkgo Pendant
Note: The image of the Sterling silver Ginkgo pendant is very poor, making the front side look flat with a flat bend at the bottom. It is not flat, and by looking at the image on the right side you can see the depth and contour of its form. These pictures were taken prior to the final buffing, so its still rough in places, especially the wrapped around stem. It is a far finer piece than the picture would indicate. Working the 18 gage silver was very different from other metals due to its softness, which made the preservation of the patina on the back side more difficult when I worked the front. When it was completed, including the final buffing, its brilliance was beautiful, and it would have been very hard to take a picture of. This pendant was done for a client's anniversary present to his wife. In the beginning I selected a number of Ginkgo leaves from my tree, laid them out on a board, and took a picture. I then numbered the leaves in the digital image and e-mailed him the picture. He was able to select the leaf he wanted put into silver by telling me what number he preferred. The leaf chosen was #6. It made the whole project a little more fun for the client, and for me.
Repousse' is a very special and beautiful French metal art form. Repousse' hammered leaves posses a very special patina that makes them almost come alive. The steel, brass, copper, or silver, surface has a feel that is far different from other finished metal pieces. Repousse' is a rare art form, probably because there are very few commercially available Repousse' tools. Virtually all hammers, stake tools, backing blocks, etc., must be made by the artist himself. So it is almost a necessity that the Repousse' artist first master blacksmithing work. Most Repousse' pieces are worked on one side only, but when making Ginkgo leaves I work both sides of the piece (See the pendant image.), so it looks equally finished on both sides. I do not intend to be a master Repousse' artist, but to use Repousse' techniques in my work when it can add special character to a piece. The stems on the Ginkgo leaves pictured above are continuous with the body of the leave. The stem is hammer rolled into a very tiny tube with a hole in the center not much bigger than the hole in a hypodermic needle. The seam is almost invisible where the rolled metal joins to form the stem tube. The hole is filled with silver solder in the sterling silver pendants to make them one solid piece.
There is a very special split Ginkgo leaf design that was shown to me by Nahum Hersom, see "Repousse' Course Work" below, that I used to make two Repousse' Sterling silver Ginkgo pendants for my two daughters' Christmas presents this year, 2002, and a number of others. Unfortunately, the better I make the finish on these leaves the the more difficult it is to get good images. Whatever, the image below will give you an idea of the way split leaf Ginkgoes are done. This is a spectacular design. I keep heavy gage Sterling silver on hand, so if you want one I can probably get it shipped to you in under a week, depending on my schedule at the time.
Sterling split leaf Repousse' pendant (Click for full sized image.)
Four Sterling Repousse' Split Ginkgo Leaf Pendants
Two more Split Leaf Repousse' Sterling Silver Ginkgo Pendants
Repousse' Course Work
Various Repousse' Pieces
The Repousse' pieces shown above are all "learning pieces" that I made while attending Nahum Hersom's excellent Repousse' course in his "Golden Pheasant Art-Metal Studio." He offers this unique course in his shop behind his home in Boise, Idaho. Some of the above shown pieces are only partially completed because Nahum, or "Grandpa" as he prefers to be called, wants the student to hammer enough to learn the technique, then move quickly on to the next technique in order to cover everything he has scheduled in the very short six days of the course. Nahum offers a 6 day, 8 hours a day, one on one, course that is intensive and of exceptional quality. He not only provides the student a solid beginning in the art of Repousse' metal work, but also provides a large variety of additional gems of metalworking knowledge gathered during his 84 years of living, including some special blacksmithing techniques. The student also becomes acquainted with Nahum's personal philosophy of life, delivered in Nahum's easy going, humorous, manor. Walking into Nahum's shop is like stepping back a hundred years and visiting a German blacksmith shop. You are greeted with literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tools in racks, and on benches, all of his own making, including Repousse' shears, grinders, belt sanders, dozens of Repousse' hammers, hundreds of stake tools, veiners, etc. Nahum has been featured in many magazine and newspaper articles over the years, and they always include pictures of his amazing shop. I highly recommend his course to anyone who is interested in this exotic and beautiful metal-art form. Although Nahum does do traditional Repousse' work on pitch, most of his work is done "in the air" on various stake tools held in a bench vise, such as these Eagle feathers. The beautiful leaves, rosettes, and husks, above are examples of this beautiful art form. Not only will the student gain an excellent hands-on education in the art of Repousse', but he will go home with hundreds of pages of excellent metal-working and Repousse' reference information. I thought so highly of Nahum's course that I had my 19 year old niece, who lives in California, come up and take the course also. She loved it, and will use what she learned in her arts and crafts work in California. If you are interested in taking Nahum's course, you may contact him at (208) 345-9163. Don't delay, his available time slots fill up early. He even has a large park-like area of land next to his shop where a visiting student may park a trailer or camper under the trees if desired. This image of a Phoenix bird is a work-in-progress image I took while visiting with Nahum on 14 Feb 04. It has not been temper colored yet. It is almost 2' in height. This is an example of what can be done once you learn the art of Repousse'.
Horseshoe Nail Wedding Rings
Another Ring Image
I recently had a rush-order for a wedding ring set made of horseshoe nails. I have made many horseshoe nail rings for local kids, but these had to be special. Also, they had to be made to specific sizes, and I wasn't equipped for that. Being under a time deadline I immediately ordered a ring mandrel, but it turned out they were back-ordered, so I needed to find one locally. Fortunately a friend who used to be a jeweler had one and and kindly loaned it to me. These rings had to be better than the average, and after discussing it with the buyer, I decided they needed to be really special. So the rings you see above are the result. I left the nail maker's logo in the side of the nail heads to prove they are actual horseshoe nails. Click the image for a full sized view. I have an image of the two rings on the ring pillow, but unfortunately they are out of focus. I have included it here anyway. :-)
I made two copper bracelets for a Christmas present exchange at our 2007 Garden Valley Fire Department Christmas dinner. Many of my fellow firefighters wear my copper bracelets, and this new twisted design I am now making is very popular, so I figured they would be appreciated by whoever gets them. They are intended for arthritis relief, not for use as jewelry. I have never charged the firefighters anything for these bracelets. You don't charge your brother for something that may help to reduce his pain and make his life a little better. If you are interested in making one of these bracelets, visit my instruction page for making Twisted Wire Bracelets.
The C-N branding iron shown above was ordered by a young couple who are starting a horse ranch and wanted their initials, C for Christin, and N for Nick, incorporated into their brand design. I shaped the C to bring to mind a horseshoe, fitting I thought for a horse ranch. The design is being registered.
(Click for full sized image.)
These little tables are about 4-1/2" high and 6" square. They feature a signed decorative tile that can have any desired scene. I produced a large number of these, see the trivet table legs image, for a company some time ago. The one in the above image was a gift to my younger daughter Natalie.
Forged Railroad Spike Snakes
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Railroad Spike Snakes Back View
A Third Railroad Spike Snake With Partly Drawn Out Spike
Two More Snakes....Front View Back View
These snakes are forged from railroad spikes. The spike's head makes for easy conversion to a snake's head, especially a Cobra. The 7" long spike is first drawn out square to a length of 24"- 28" on the power hammer, or by the "arm-strong" method if an apprentice smith is forging it. It is then hammer refined on the anvil to provide a smoothly finished body and head. The tongue is forged and brazed in, unless its a Cobra. The belly scales are chisel cut, and finally the coils are formed. All fire scale is then removed using an acetic acid (white vinegar) bath, and the metal polished to a bright finish on a fine wire wheel. The final step is temper coloring and brass highlighting. There are no paints or artificial colorings used. Everything is metal, or metal oxides caused by heating. When all of the metalwork is complete I apply a clear protective coating to protect the fine finish from damage due to handing. When these little guys are sitting on a coffee table they tend to get a lot of handling by just about everyone who sits down nearby. :-)
Repousse' Star Clothes Hook
(Click for full sized image.)
Repousse' Star With Decorative Forged Hook
This three dimensional Repousse' star, with brazed on temper colored backing plate, was a "requested" Christmas present (2001) for my daughter Kimberly. The back plate has a "key-hole" hanging eye to allow it to be hung on the wall. The back also has rubber pads mounted on it to allow a compressed mounting against the wall to prevent any movement when in use. The star is 6-1/2" in diameter, with an inch of relief. The hook is 3/8" square stock with chisel cut twist. The colors are temper colors that shade into hot applied brass highlighting on the star points, and on the spread end of the hook. The intended purpose is a wall mounted clothes hanging hook, and the deep bend in the hook is to allow scarves, or other long items, to be draped through the throat of the hook. The star is set correctly in relation to the hook. The photo angle makes it look angled. The steel for the star was old painted and rusted scrap 18 gage steel book shelf metal. The Repousse' hammering removed all trace of paint and rust. The hammering was done cold on stake tools forged from railroad spikes, and on a lead backing block.
Forged Fold-Out Cross
(Click for full sized image.)
Forged "Fold-Out" Cross
forged this cross for my youngest daughter, Natalie, for her 2001
Christmas present. As is the case in most of my imagery, the picture
doesn't do it any favors. The colors range from an intense peacock
blue at the base, to a dark blue on the shaft, on up to a straw in the
center, and ending in the hot applied brass highlighting at the ends
of the cross. The enjoyment of making a "fold-out" cross is reward
enough to attempt this little project. This one was made out of a
single piece of 3/8" square steel bar about 5" long, and a 1-1/2" x
1-3/4" base plate. The cross is one piece, formed by folding out two
perpendicular overlapping saw cuts in the 5" long steel bar, producing
a very decorative and interesting center opening.
I made a door-pull for the "Trading Post" here in Crouch that I
thought was nice enough to add to this page. The way it was made I
think is self evident, so I will not go into forging details. I will
just post some images here to give anyone wanting to make a first
class door-pull some ideas. BTW, the horseshoe is actually mounted
using horseshoe nails.
and the Door-Pull
of Front Piece
on Inside of Door
Triangle Gong, Chinese Bell, & Snub End Scroll Brackets
Dinner Gong & Chinese Bell - Click on Images
Triangular Gong: The Chinese temple bell, shown to the right above, is covered further down the page. The triangular dinner gong was a request 2001 Christmas present for my wife Gretchen. She got tired of running out to the shop through the snow or rain to get me when I was needed in the house and wanted a gong to use to call me in with. I have also learned to "sit" and "roll over" on command.
The three snub-end scrolls were made free-form on the anvil using only three different hand hammers, anvil, and a file. The chalk line drawing on the shop floor, visible under the scrolls in this preweld shop floor layout image, was used only as a very rough guide during the forming. All forming was done hot. The scrolls are made from 1/2" square mild steel rod. The clangor, or clapper, was forged from a 3/4" square bar, and the power hammer was used to draw it down to near its final shape. The scroll ended triangular gong was forged from an old 3/4" stock diameter coil spring. The power hammer was used to draw out the ends for the scrolls, and a bending fork held in the vise was used for the two triangle corner bends. Using a coil spring for source stock produces a much better tone when the gong is struck than mild steel. The tone in this gong is very clear and musical sounding, and will continue to ring long after it is struck. I does need to have a leather insulator pad between the suspension hook and the gong to prolong its ring.
The two welds connecting the scrolls to the mounting plate were done as "blind welds" from the back of the 1/4" thick mounting plate through two holes that were 1/2" in diameter, and counter-sunk to provide easier access for the stinger. The clapper support hook was also blind welded into place. I considered forge-welding the scrolls together, but did not want to risk distorting them in any way, so elected to bevel both scroll elements where the welds would be, weld them together with 7014 rod, and then grind and file the welds smooth and flush with the surface of the scroll. I also welded around the end of the short scroll, over the inside surface of the other scroll, and ground and filed it smooth in order to obtain a smooth unbroken visual line on the interior curve of the scroll. This worked out very well, and the resulting lines for the outside and inside curves are smooth and clean. Even upon close inspection there is nothing to indicate the weld was done as an arc weld. All welds are completely invisible, as they should be on any fine piece of ironwork. Electric welds should never be exposed to the eye on any piece of decorative forged ironwork. Although some purists will disagree with me, I think electric welds are completely permissible, so long as they are covered or hidden from view. When convenient, forge welds are preferable however.
Chinese Temple Bell: I was very pleased with the results of the triangular gong project, so I made a similar scroll bracket to suspend my version of a "Chinese temple bell." The bell is mounted on the house next to my back gate for visitors to ring to get my attention when I am in the shop. The characters on the bell say "Welcome" in Chinese. This scroll bracket, although similar to the first one, is considerably different in shape because it has to bear a much heavier load. I shortened its lever-arm by moving the "hang point" inboard about two inches, and made the large scroll smaller in diameter, or tighter. I also moved the hang point up several inches higher in relation to the bottom scroll. This can be plainly seen by comparing the two images at the top of this section. The bolt plate has three mounting bolt holes instead of two. I also enlarged the upper "blind" welding hole in the bolt plate from a 1/2" drilled and countersunk hole, to a 1/2" x 3/4" rectangular hole for more weld strength. It is still completely invisible, even from the back. I like this second bracket better than the first because the scrolls seem to "flow" better, and have better symmetry to my eye. :-)
The eye fitting in the top of the tank section was forged from 1" diameter wrought iron bar. I used wrought iron only because I have a lot of it, and like to use wrought iron for items that will be for me or my family. I consider wrought iron a cut above mild steel for use in some of my projects. This particular wrought iron bar is very high quality, probably quad refined, so it was like working butter, and made making the complicated fitting easier. The slag strands are visible in the cut end of the bar only with magnification. The neck of the eye is forged to act as a plug to just fill the threaded neck of the tank, and then further necks down to a 5/8" square section rod that sticks down about 4" into the bell. It ends in a thinned portion that has a hole in it to accept the link for attachment of the bell clapper. After I welded the eye fitting to the top of the tank, using 7014 rod, I ground and filed the weld until it was completely smooth, and looked no different than the rest of the machined surfaces on the neck of the tank, other than its at a different angle. The result is very smooth and pleasing to the eye. There is nothing to give it away that this started out as a hydro test failed CO2 bottle. :-)
I made the clapper by fagot-welding six 3/8" x 1" long round steel bar sections around the circumference of a 3/8" bar, and on top of them six more 3/8" x 3/4" segments, with 1/4" x 3/4" segments between each of them, for a total of 18 segments. I cheated, as I tacked the ends of the bar segments together on the shaft with the arc welder prior to forge welding them into one solid mass of steel. After fagot-welding them into one piece, I rounded the resulting cylindrical steel mass into a smooth ball shape on the swage block. I had to be careful not to damage the 3/8" shaft that sticks through both sides of the ball. This was all very time consuming. If I do it again I will use a short piece of round steel bar, say about 1-1/4" in diameter and 1-1/4" long, which I will center drill to fit the 3/8" clapper shaft, then place the 3/8" shaft in it and forge weld it solid, or perhaps just arc weld each end solidly to the shaft. I will then round it up on the swage block. I recommend making the striking ball of your clapper, within reason, as heavy as possible, as the weight of the clapper has a direct relation to what harmonic frequencies are created in the vibrating bell. Light weight clappers will bring out only the higher tones, while a heavier clapper will bring out the deeper more desirable tones. Also, it is much more satisfying to pull the heavy clapper against the side of the bell, instead of having to "whip" a light weight one against the bell.
If you want to see just what kind of tones your bell is capable of producing before you paint it, hit the outside with a 2x4 while holding it up by the neck. That will bring forth the deepest and best tones the bell is capable of producing. It was very impressive in my bell, and scared my poor dog Cooper rather badly. She has a very low opinion of the bell now. Quality of workmanship has no bearing on her opinions in such matters, so send your pooch into the house before you conduct this test. BTW, I do not know what kind of steel a pressure cylinder is made of, but its not mild steel, so a bell made from a pressure cylinder will produce a fairly high quality tone when its struck. I did notice a minor deadening of the tone when I painted the bell. I am hoping that as the still soft paint cures and hardens in the sun this summer it will regain the small amount of lost tone. Even considering the loss of tone, it still has a very pleasing and very loud sound, and gets my attention in the shop easily, unless I am working with a very noisy tool. Update: My dog Cooper has changed her opinion of the bell and is now trying to ring it herself. The lower end of clapper cord is at the extreme limit of her reach, so she has not been successful so far. :-)
If you are reading this page because you are looking for ideas for doing your own metal-work, a word or two about scroll "failures" may be in order. The learning curve for making scrolls is very steep. The first one will be quite difficult, but the next will be much easier and faster. Scroll work, at least free-form scroll work, is 100% in the eye and hand. If you use jigs or forms, then you can easily enough produce well formed scrolls, but so can machines. Of course, if a number of identical scroll elements need to be made, there is no other alternative to using a jig to make them. Free-form scroll work is much more difficult, but also much more satisfying. It takes many tweaking heats for me to get the shape exactly as I want it. Also, things don't always go as desired. This picture is of a snub end scroll element that went badly. The lesson to be learned from this picture is to ensure you do not make the neck of the scroll too thin or it may break off, as it did here. I suggest that perhaps 1/8" is a minimum neck thickness for your snub ended scrolls, and 3/16" would be even better. All was not lost with the scroll element in this picture however. It was one end of a double reversed scroll element, so I cut off this bad portion and was able to use the other end for a single ended scroll element. It became the lower smaller scroll that is blind welded to the bolt plate in the scroll bracket for the triangular dinner gong discussed above.
Rattlesnake Paper Towel Holder
(This hammer is my favorite Repousse' hammer, and the one I used to make the various Ginkgo leaves shown above.)
Flint and Steel "File Steel" Strikers
The following image is of a circa 1880's mini fire striker that I made from a pattern I traced of an orriginal unused striker that was in a museum display case. Like all of my file steel strikers, it is made from a very old file to make sure it is plain high carbon steel and not a modern alloy, and the temper has been hardened and drawn to develop the maximum spray of sparks when it is struck. Strikers made from old files and tempered properly are FAR superior to those made from the much lower carbon 1095 steel that most strikers are made from. The handle temper was further drawn while the rest of the striker was submerged in water, so that it has a softer spring temper to prevent breakage if dropped on a hard surface. Further, I used an ultra powerful rare earth magnet to magnetize it so that if the striker is hung on a thread from the eye in its handle, the left end will rotate and point north. So this striker can both start your fire and guide you out of the wilderness. I like multipurpose tools.
Museum Replica for an
Original "Strike-A-Light" Pouch
Single Striker from Old File, (I use this one)
Titanium Striker on Left, File Steel on Right
C-striker Shipped to
U-striker Shipped to Thailand
Customer comments on above two strikers
Notes on Strikers: I recommend use of old hay-rake tine steel if you need to make a number of strikers, say 30-40 at a time. Hay rake tine steel does not have as much carbon, 95 points, as file steel, 120 points, therefore will not throw quite as good a spray of sparks, but it is much easier to forge, and will function fairly well in making fires if properly tempered. Temper them in warm quenching oil, not water. I preheat one gallon of quenching oil by submerging a red hot railroad spike in it prior to using it for hardening strikers. I am able to forge one striker every 20 minutes, and the oil will maintain its temperature at that rate of production. I do not draw the temper of the striking surface on 1095 steel strikers, but do soften the horns to prevent breakage if it is dropped on a hard surface. Also, be sure to grind off the decarborized steel on the striking surface to obtain the best shower of sparks when in use. I also use a special jig to bend the double tapered striker blanks around to form identical and symmetrical horns. This greatly speeds up the forging process when making large numbers of these strikers.
A Group of Eight Hay Rake Tine Strikers
When I use 3/8" hay rake tine steel, I first hot cut it into 3" lengths, square it up on the anvil, then taper each end, which will be later bent to form the horns of the striker. I also bevel each corner of the squared up steel section to provide the finished striker a smooth soft feel in the hands. Leaving sharp edges on a striker is a sign of sloppy work, and in my opinion there is no excuse for such slip-shod workmanship when its so easy to do it right. I use a special quenching oil sold by "Brownells" that has special additives which remove almost all the fire scale, leaving a clean bright gray metal surface on the striker. This makes producing a high quality striker very easy, and relatively fast to do.
Counting the cleaning, grinding off the decarborized surface, and drawing the temper on the horns, I have about 30 minutes invested in each finished striker. I can't compete with the $3 price that the slip-shod "artists" ask for their sharp cornered, fire scaled junk. But if a customer is offered a side by side comparison between my strikers, and the junk strikers, they will almost always choose one of mine at four times the cost, especially if they try drawing sparks from each one.
of Strikers: I have a copy of a video a friend
of mine made at a recent SCA gathering that shows a woman using a very
poor quality striker attempting to "strike-a-light" to ignite a hand
made river-clay iron smelting furnace. She spends 10-15 minutes
hammering her striker against the edge of her flint before she is
finally able to catch a spark on her char-cloth. Using a good quality
striker, good char-cloth, a sharp flint, and good tinder, you
should be able to strike-a-light reliably in 10-20 seconds every time.
If you are making strikers for commercial sale, you owe it to your
customers to provide them with the best possible tool for their money.
It is tempting to short-cut the work, and expend minimal time and
effort, but you do not do your customer, yourself, or the smithing
community, justice by doing so. Do it right, charge accordingly, and
everyone benefits. :-)
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20 Mar 2012