Shaping Metal with a Hammer

"... Verdigris; where engineering becomes art ..."

forged steel Art Nouveau gate forged bronze door handle Forged steel Art Nouveau gate

Unlike some fabricators, who buy and use ready made components, we forge all of our work from raw materials; usually steel, though other metals are used. First they are heated in a forge, then beaten to shape with well aimed hammer blows. A variety of specially shaped blacksmith's hammers, and other tools, are used to control how the metal moves when hit. These blows give forged steel a rich natural texture, and an elegant sculptural quality unseen in mass produced work. Some stages in this process are illustrated below.

Art Nouveau Shape

This is the piece that will be forged; an organic shape often seen in Art Nouveau style work such as stained glass.

rough forged taper

The forging starts by heating a wide strip of steel. This is tapered to a blunt point
using a power hammer which forms a series of steps as the taper is roughed out.

smooth forged taper

Softer blows with a hand hammer smooth out the steps and move the taper off to one side.

fullered shape

A notch is formed just behind the evolving shape by fullering the steel. This helps to isolate and preserve the previous work as the stem of the shape is forged.

forged and thinned stem

Heavy blow on the power hammer quickly thin the bar to start forming the stem. By now the embryonic shape can be seen on the end of the bar.

blending the stem in to the end

Careful hammering widens the stem. This is blended into the end section, helping to define it more.

roughed out shape

Now the end is worked by hand hammering again. Note the texture, which is sometimes left as is. However, for this work it will be smoothed out by rapid soft blows; aprocess known as planishing.

final forged shape

Planishing takes place at a dull red heat to prevent the blows marring the work. The steel is now almost cool and the finshed shape can be seen.

final forged shape

The stem is then bent round to make a flowing shape. Negative space is always important when forging shapes like this.