Ornamental ironwork is the working of metal to form decorative or aesthetically pleasing effects. Bending is one of the key processes. Metal can be angled, twisted or bent into curves and scrolls to create decorative elements for gates, doors, railings and other areas. Four main tools are used in the process.
You can do ornamental ironwork with cold metal, but having access to a forge will be a great help. Heated metal is much more conducive to being worked. A forge need not cost the earth. You can buy a brand new 24-inch diameter forge firepan with fan assembly and slide valve for just over $1,000 as of March 2011. Preowned forges can be a lot less. Considering the amount that skilled craftspeople can command for ornamental ironwork, buying a forge could be a very good investment.
The anvil is the iron workhorse of any blacksmith's shop. The pointed section is called the horn and also referred to as the beak. The horn is an ideal shape for bending metal, either hot or cold, being, in essence, a succession of different sized, curved formers to shape the metal around. You can use the horn to form a snub-ended scroll, which is a curve that almost completes a loop, with a squared end.
Blacksmiths and others who create ornamental ironwork make great use of their hammers. Try several hammers until you find one that feels good in the hand and has the right weight. A hand hammer often has a square face and a wedge-shaped heel. A ball pein hammer has a round face and a dome-shaped heel. A cross pein hammer has a round face and a wedge-shaped heel. You will probably use all of these, but one is likely to become your favorite.
Tongs are gripping and lifting tools, usually having long handles so that you can keep your hands well away from the flames of your forge. Many different types exist, including closed-mouth tongs for narrow sheet metal; pick up or dandy tongs for ironwork that you have already bent; and rivet tongs that are designed to accommodate metal that has been joined together with rivets. Tongs can also be used to hold metal in place on your vice while you bend it.
- "Cognition and Tool Use: The Blacksmith At Work"; Charles M. Keller, Janet Dixon Keller; 1996
- "Blacksmithing Basics for the Homestead"; Joe Delaronde, Jess Leonard; 2008
- "The Backyard Blacksmith: Traditional Techniques for the Modern Smith"; Lorelei Sims; 2006
Frank Luger had his first educational resources published in the early 1990s. He worked on a major reading system for Cambridge University Press, became an information-technology adviser and authored interactive whiteboard resources for "The Guardian." Luger studied English literature and holds a Bachelor of Education honors degree from Leeds University.