TECHNOLOGY I: AE 685
THE BLACKSMITH: TOOLS AND
TECHNIQUES IN WROUGHT IRON
As they pertain to Architecture and
ironwork of America In the 17/th and
Peter F. Dessauer
March 12, 1976
I wish to thank Ted Crom of Melrose, Florida, for
allowing me to research his collection of blacksmith tools
which appear in the slides and photographs of this presen-
tation; his cooperation made it possible for me to inves-
tigate sources in his private library which proved much
more informative than the meager and limited selection
available in the University of Florida Library of Art and
Architecture. Without his help this paper would not have
been completed to my satisfaction.
I also extend thanks to David Rigney, a colleague and
fellow student in the College of Architecture- Preservation
Option Graduate Program, who so kindly volunteered his time
and services in assisting to photograph blacksmith tools and
other needed materials.
Peter F. Dessauer
KING SOLOMON AND THE SMITH
When Solomon, King of Israel, heard that the craftsmen
building the Great Temple were quarreling amongst themselves,
he called them all together before him.
"What is the cause of this commotion among you?" asked
Solomon, to whom one bold craftsman replied, "We argue among
ourselves about which of us here practices the most important
At this the King pondered a moment, and then asked
each craftsman who had made his teels; all replied in the
same manner-- "It was the Smith".
Solomon sent fer the Smith who arrived hot and sweaty
from the forge, tongs and hammer still at hand.
Solomon asked him, "Who made your tools?"
"I made them all:myself," was the Smith's reply.
This being said, Solomon rose from his throne and
proclaimed the Smith as Prince of Craftsmen, for it is from
him that all tools and these of all other trades are made.
1 Donald Smith, Metalwork, p. 21
"But Iron- Cold Iron- is
Master of them all".
I. INTRODUCTION: THE SMITH
1 The Shoemaking Contest: From Guptill's Norman Rockwell:
Under a spreading Cnestnut tree,
The village smithy stands:
The Smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands,
And the muscles of his brawny arms
are strong as iron bands.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The smith has always been pictured as a paragon of
strenght and power, as tough as the metal fiber that he
hammers and welds. The word "smith" comes from the Anglo-
Saxon "smite" meaning "to hit" or "blow" and became the
general term for the "man who strikes" or works with a
hammer; the prefix "black" in blacksmith came from the
reference of iron as the "black metal"; in general the
name."Smith" came to mean anyone who worked in metal while
"Blacksmith" particularly designated work in wrought iron.2
This paper is a presentation about the blacksmith
forge, how it functioned, and the tools and techniques
used in preparing wrought iron hardware for architecture.
2 Eric Sloane, Museum of Early American Tools, p. 90
2 Greek Smithy: Black Figure Greek Vase from 6/th century
B.C.; Singer, A History of Technology, p.50
The Iron Age began in the Ancient Mediterranean
circa 12/th century B.C. although it had begun somewhat
earlier in China, Persia, and Central Europe. The Meso-
potamians called iron "the Heaven Stone" probably because
they had found deposits in meteors. All ancient civiliza-
worshipped Fire and its origins, the working of metals
being coupled with some diety or religious cult; for the
Greeks, Hephaestus was the god of Fire and Smithying; for
the Romans, Vulcan, who had his forge under volcanic Mt.
Etna where he made thunderbolts for Jupiter. The patron
Saints of metalworkers are Saint Eloi of France and Saint
Dunstan in England.
3 Blacksmith Designer: Fireback from Ted Crom's Collection.
The name "Smith" included all the following special-
ists who worked in iron:
Decorative Work Military. Utilitarian
Silversmith Armor Smith Blacksmith
Goldsmith Gunsmith Coppersmith
Pewtersmith Swordsmith Tinsmith
4 Blacksmith- Hammer and Forge: Fireback from Ted Crom's
"The word 'wrought' comes from the word
'work,' or the past-tense verb 'worked',
an old English derivation from the origin-
al words 'wyrcan,' or 'wircan'. Reference
to it in literature dates back as early as
the thirteenth century. When applied to
metal it meant worked, fashioned, formed,
hammered, or beaten into shape. An object
made from wrought iron, in the original
literal sense, meant that the object ;was
made from a particular type of low carbon
iron that was hand hammered, or fashion-
ed into its final form."3
"The term 'wrought iron' has two mean-
ings. First it is a type ofiron that has
been processed in a furnace until, at the
climax, it 'comes to nature'--that is, it
acquires the peculiar characteristics
which give wrought iron its fibrous struc-
ture, its workability and its high resis-
tance to rusting. Second, wrought iron
means ornamental work, such as a railing,
gate or grille, made either from wrought
iron or mild steel."
5 Blacksmith- Working Iron: Fireback from Ted Crom's
The Smith worked metal in the following ways:
1) Fusible and Cast- melted by heat and rehardened
into certain shapes.
2) Metals are Malleable- hammered into various shapes
when hot or cold.
3 D.J. Wilcox, "Robert Bourdon, Blacksmith in Wrought Iron",
Amtrican firtit, Vol. 32, January 1968, p. 34
4 Eugene Clute, "Techniques in Wrought Iron", Craft Horizoni,
Vol. 14, Augtst 1954, p. 25
BLACKSMITH AS A
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HAMMER AND FORGE
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- -' "
THE AUTHOR TAKES
A TURN ON THE ANVIL
3) Ductile Methods- Drawn and bent.
4) Welded, Soldered, Brazed- Metals joined
In the 18/th century the French were the masters of
decorative ironwork used in architecture:
"The ornamental ironworkers of France
were as superior to those of England as the
forge and foundrymasters of England were to
their French rivals. Indeed, the term
Serrurerie has no exact counterpart in English.
It embraces in a single trade fine work in
iron: structural parts for architectural use,
ornamental grillwork, and locksmithing." 5
5 Diderot, Plate 165
II. CHARCOAL AND WROUGHT IRON
6 Mining Iron Ore: Diderot, Plate 83
The earliest and most accessible way of mining
was the surface strip method. Figure 3 in the slide,
the miner loading the cart, rejects the nonferrous
7 The Charcoal Burner: Eric Sloane, American Yesterday,
Until the early 19/th century smiths' forges
were heated by charcoal fuel. Charcoal was manufac-
tured by a slow burning combustion method which
required a great pile of wood packed in an earthen
furnace. The process was slow and inefficient, requi-
ring constant attention to control combustion and
yielding only a small amount of charcoal:
"The amount of charcoal used was
staggering, but the amount of wood used
to the make the charcoal was almost
beyond comprehesion. In 1840 the small
town of Salisbury, Connecticut, was using
five thousand cords of wood a year in the
manufacture of iron. This amount is
hardly more than a mathematical figure,
but if you visualize it in the form of
one pile of wood in cord-width (4' x 4'),
such a woodpile would be over seven miles
long. This. multiplied by the hundreds of
iron-producing towns if that time, made
a pitiful gap in the forests of America
and cleared the farmer's countryside of
every available tree. 6
8 Smelting Furnace: Ibid., p. 120: also known as Blast Furnace
From ore to wrought iron metal went through two
purification stages. The first, illustatrated here,
was the smelting furnace; the slide shows a two story
shaft furnace; the upper part was filled with iron ore
and the lower part with charcoal; the furnace in this
case was fed by a bellows operated by a water wheel.
During heating reduction took place carrying o-ff some
impurities in gases and smoke; at the bottom of the
furnace a sponge~ bloom of molten metal formed, topped
by a thick layer of slag.
9 Mtking Pig Iron: Taping the Furnace; Diderot, Plate 91
Once every 12 hours the furnace was tapped to
"sow the piggs", the molten iron cast in a furrow of
Figure 1: The furnace aster pulls] aside the
gate at the bottom of the blast furnace;
the molten metal flows into a mold of sand,
where it ccols and hardens into an oblong
shape called a pigs.
Figure 2: Th* worklan tosses layers of ashes on the
red hot molten surface.
Letter G: Bar laid across the mold to catch and skim
off sla;. and impurities.
6 Eric Sloane, American Yesterd.ay, p. 119
10 Making Wrought Iron: Diderot, Plate 95.
In the second purification process the pig iron
is taken to a smaller smelting furnace where it's
reheated and hammered into a compact mass, an operation
that was repeated several times to draw out all the
slag and create wrought iron.
"True wrought iron is a commercial
form of iron containing less than 0*3%
carbon (usually less than 0.1%), and
carrying 1 or 2% of slag mechanically
mixed with it. Mill steel, on the other
hand, contains anywhere from 10-20/100%
carbon, but is readily available at a
Wrought iron, as opposed to mild
steel, has several advantages to the
blacksmith. The low carbon content of
wrought iron makes it softer, and
therefore more malleable under the
hammer. This low carbon content also
acts as a rust inhibitor. Early
ground pipe was often made from
wrought iron for this very reason.
Another advantage of wrought iron
is that it contains a liberal amount
of silicon, whichacts as a built-in
flux for fusing." 7
11 Metal for the Forge: Diderot. Plate 166
Wrought iron was delivered to the smithy
in the form of long rods.
7 D.J. Wilcox, op. cit., p. 33
12 Forge in Actien: Diderot, Plate 165.
When the iron is hot and has reached it malleable
point, the blacksmith must work quickly. The color of
of the heated metal indicates different temperatures
and metallic behavior:
Blood-red Hot: To be used when iron has
already assumed its final
'form but needs a'little
hammering to smooth it.
Flame, or White Heat: At this heat iron
can be forged into
any form by the hammer.
Snarkling, Welding Heat: To fuse two pieces
13 Blacksmith Forge and-Products: Eric Sloane, on. cit.,
Until the industrial revolution and the perfec-
tion of cast iron, civilization depended upon the
blacksmith for all utilitarian metal items:
tools- axes, saws, hammers, scythes, pitchforks,
knives, hatchets, gunbarrels, hoes, anchors.
Architecture- nails, bolts, hinges, latches, doorhandles,
knockers, locks, gates, railings, fan-
lights, fences, balconies, weather vanes,
Household- Everything for the kitchen and fireplace:
fireirons, pokers, tongs, shovels, ovens.
utensils, cookingware, hooks.
III. COMPOSITION OF THE SMITHY
14 Colonial American Blacksmith Shop: Edwin Tunis, Colonial
Living, p. 58
This scene depicts a blacksmith shop of the 18/th
century in Colonial America. The main elements of the
shop are: the forge and chimney, large double chamber
bellows, tempering bath, anvil, and myrids of hand tools
for specific purposes.
15 Pipe Bellows: Henry Hodges, Technology in the Ancient
World, figure 262, p. 277
:The earliest type of bellows was the blowpipe,
which was still utilized by metalsmiths in the New World
when discovered by the Spanish in the 16/th century.
The disadvantage of the blowpipe bellows is the weakness
of the human cheek and jaw which cannot sustain a constant
smooth source of air.
The picture shows the smith blowing directly into
the furnace, giving enough air to raise the temperature
of the furnace for smelting gold, silver, and copper ores.
The furnace is housed in an oven with an opening at the
bottom to tap the molten metal.
16 Drum and Tread Bellows: Ibid,, figure 133, p. 141
This scene of an Egyptian foundry cLrca 1500
B.C. taken from the relief on a tomb shows, in the
upper leftt- hand corner, men working the bellows,
rocking side to side, treading their foot on one
bag to expel air into the fire while raising the
skin of another by string or stick to refill it,
ready for the next tread.
17 Drum and Tread Bellows: Marcus Christian, Negro
Ironworkers of Louisiana, p.48
This painting published in 1687 in the Istorica
Descrizione Degli Tre Regni Congo, Angola e Matambo,
by Monte Cucullo Cavazzi, shows a Congo king playing
the part of the master smith while an assistant works
a tread and stick bellows.
18 Drum Bellows of Primitive Rhodesia; Henry Hodges, op.
cit., Figure 135,
The bellows are hand operated stick drum devices,
one chamber each, which blow air through a tube into
the fire. A somewhat constant but not so smooth flow
of air would result when two such bellows were compressed
and raised alternately.
19 Single Action Bellows: Alex Bealer, Art of Blacksmithlng,
The single action or chamber bellows was an inven-
tion of the 4/th century A.D. It worked on the principle
of compression; when the bottom board was pressed down,
-pressure opened the valve and air flowed into the
chamber; when pulled up, pressure in the chamber kept
the valve shut and forced air into the forge through
20 Double Action Bellows: Ibid., p. 57
1) Bottom board drops, allowing chamber to fill with
air through lower valve.
2) Lever and chain lift bottom board, forcing air
through upper valve to upper chamber and out
through the tuyere.
3) Bottom board is allowed to drop and chamber is
refilled. At the same time, the upper board drops
of its own weight, forcing air from the upper
chamber through the tuyere. A continuous stream
of air is ejected while the bellows is in
21 Bellows ADparatus: Aldren A. Watson, The Village
This view shows a section perspective of the
double chamber bellows, how it is connected to the
8 Alex Bealer, The Art of Blacksmithin, p. 57
forge and how by means of a ceiling hand lever the
bottom board is raised to compress the chambers and
blow air through the tuyere.
22 Four Elevated Bellows: Diderot, Plate 174
This rendering from' the Diderot Encyclopaedia
shows a large smithy of a farrier, a blacksmith who
specializes in horseshoes, which has four double
chamber bellows hanging from the ceiling. The far-
rier operated the bellows by pulling down the chain,
which in turn pulled the lever, and forced the bottom
23 Hydraulic Driven Bellows: Singer, A History of
Technology, Figure 555,
1588- Water Wheel and suffisticated gearing
drive the bellows of this forge complex.
24 The Forge: Fire and Pit: Alex Bealer, "Blacksmithing"
Craft Horizon, October 1970,
Four methods of arranging the forge:
1) Shallow Fire- Packed flat on top; for tempering
and working small pieces.
2) Trench Fire-
3) Charcoal Fire-
4) Pot Fire- Deep and narrow for heating large
pieces or welding.
25 Tempering Bath: Ibid., p. 45
The double tempering bath has one small tub of
brine and the large full of clear stagnant water.
Brine, a hardening compound of oil or salt, is needed
to harden thin blades such-asknives or saws which
would otherwise "spring" if immersed in water.
S"Contrary to popular opinion, the term
tempering is not applied to hardening steel,
but rather to controlled softening after the
steel-has already been hardened by bringing
it to a cherry-red heat and quenching it in
a brine bath. Hardening is the essential step
before tempering. Proper temper is often
determined by the color of the oxide created
in a second heat. The iron isshined with a
small worn file before heating so that the
oxide may be plainly see." 9
26 Immersion: Ibid.,
Immersion was necessary to harden a blade or
worked piece of iron and to arrest the heating and
oxidation process of tempering
27 Anvil and its Accessories: Aldren A. Watson, op., cit.,
These are the principal features of the 18/th, 0.
9 Alex Bealer, "Blacksmithing", Craft.Horizon, October,1970,
1) Horn- For doing rounding work.
2) Square- For heavy sledging on center.
3) Hardie Hole- For hardie fuller, swage,scroll
fork, and mandrel.
4) Pritchel Hole- For punching.
28 Bending on the Anvil: Alex Bealer, po., cit., p. 44
This illustrates how the Smith made use of
different parts of the anvil for bending:
1) The Horn- For a round or circle bend, a bend
into chains, or into shoes for horses.
2) The Square- For making arcs and handles.
3) The Scroll Fork- For decorative work;special
pieces could be inserted in
the hardie hole for specific
29 Bench Vice:Charles F. Hummel, With Harner in Hand,
Plate 169, p. 203. Dominy Collection)
Large objects to be cut, filed, bent, or simply
held in place for a period of time required the use of
a fixed heavy bench vice.
30 Hammers'and Anvils: For the Blacksmith and Farrier;
Eric Sloane, NMuseum of Eariz American
Tools, p. 90
This illustration dates different types of anvils;
The next section discusses types of hammers and tools.
IV. BLACKSMITH TOOLS
31 Hammers: Ted Crom Collection
Right- Ball and Peen Hammer
Left- Cross Peen Hammer
32 Sledges: Ted Crom Collection
This was the Smith's most popular hammer,
appearing in various weights and sizes, the smaller
versions used most often. Working iron is essentially
a molding process which requires controlled force and
delicate technique in application of that force. When
iron is yellow or white hot, it is soft, highly mal-
leable, requiring only a few well directed blows to
work and shape it.
33 Flatters: Ted Crom Collection
Flatters were used for smoothing and flattening
hot iron on the anvil.
34 The Swage Set: M.T. Richardson, Practical Blacksmithing,
Volume I, p. 151
Ideal for rounding bolts and for shaping,
smoothing, sizing round forgings.
BALL AND PEEN
'' ? "'* .
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FULLERING ON THE
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THE SWAGE SET
34, 35. 36
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35 Top and Bottom Swages: Ted Crom Collection
Swages were used to shape iron into circular
or rod patterns.
36 Top and Bottom Swage Set on Anvil: Ted Crom Collection
The bottom swage fits into the tool or hardie
hole of the anvil; when a heated rod is placed bet-
ween the upper and lower swages, hammer blows compress
the metal into the diameter of the swage.
37 Swage and Chisel: Eric Sloane, op., cit., p. 91
Examples of old swage methods.
38 Chisels: Ted Crom Collection
These are Hot Chisels, used for splitting and
cutting pieces of hot iron (at orange or white heat)
parallel to the long axis. "Because pure iron is com-
prised of long parallel fibers, a hole is often punched
in the iron before splitting, at a point where the
split will end. The hole prevents the split from
continuing inadvertently when the iron is being
worked later." 10
10 Ibid., p. 43
Short pieces of hot metal can be cut cross-
wise on the hardie.
39 Types of Punches: M.T. Richardson, Practical
Blacksmithing, Vol. I, p.. 148-49
Round, square, flat, and hammer varieties.
40 Punches: Ted Crom's Collection
"Punching can be quite easy; however,
on iron more than one-eighth inch thick,
heat is required, and the thicker the
stock the more heat is needed. The punch
should be driven three quarters through
the iron on one side. Then the iron is
turned over and punched again from the
other side, at a point where a darker
spot is observed in the red-hot iron."11
When using the above method, it is best to
punch over the pritchell hole so the burr will be
forced all the way through.
41 Example of Fullering: Watson, _p. cit., p.40
Fullering is used for drawing out pieces.
of hot iron; after fullering, the uneven face is
smoothed with a heavy hammer or flatter.
42 Fuller Set on Anvil: Ted Crom Collection
Can also be used to thin a piece before
43 Tongs and Farrier's Tools: Eric Sloane, oo. cit.,
Tongs were for holding hot pieces of iron in
the forge, in the bath, or in the anvil. Types of
tongs include: Flat Bit, Crook Bit, Hammer Tongs,
Hoop Tongs, Round and Square Bits. The names for
these vary according to source. Farrier Tools:
knives, chisels, and scrapers were needed for shoeing
44 Pincer Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
Most popular type of tongs; used to hold heavy
round pieces of iron.
45 Sauare Hollow Bit Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
To provide a good grip on long pieces with a
square cross section.
46 Link Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
47 Flat Jaw Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
Good for pulling hot metal.
48 Hammer Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
With wide jaws to size and hold large, heavy
pieces of iron being forged or reshaped; large enough
to hold sledge hammer heads being fashioned.
49 Bent Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
For holding flat pieces.
50 Bullet Ball Tongs: Ted Crom Collection
Finding no formal name for this, I can call it
the "Bullet Ball Tongs" because of the two corresponding
semicircular grooves, one in each of the matching jaws.
51 Tong Types: M.T. Richardson, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 143
Hollow Bit Tongs- Square and Round
Round and Flat Bit Tongs
SQUARE AND BOUND
HOLLOW BIT TONGS
LINK TONGS 46
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FLAT JAW TONGS
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BULLET BALL TONGS
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V. TECHNIQUES IN WROUGHT IRON
52 Robert Bourdon, "Robert Bourdon, Blacksmith", D.J. Wilcox,
American Artist, Vol. 32, January
1968, p. 32.
Robert Bourdon (born 1916) is a native Vermonter
who has taken up blacksmithing as a hobby since 1963;
he has a blacksmith shop in a barn on his 235 acre farm
across the valley from Vermont's tallest mountain peak,
Mt. Mansfield. He forges the swivel latch in the following
A. MAKING THE SWIVEL LATCH
53 Swivel Latch Beins From a Rod of Steel: Ibid.
The bar Robert Bourdon chose is 1/4" thick by
54 Bar Is Heated to A Light Yellow Color: Ibid.
At this degree heat the metal is malleable.
A blacksmith tries to finish a piece with as few
heats as possible. "Too many heats affect the quality
of the metal and oxidize the surface enough to cause
up to one per cent loss by weight per heat".12
12 Alex Bealer, "Blacksmithing", Craft Horizon, Vol. XXX,
October 1970, p. 42
55 Thumb Press ODening Is Punched Through The Bar On
Immediately withdrawn from the forge, the yellow
hot iron is punched- a hole created for the thumb press.
56 The Top Cusp Is Formed With The Hammer: Ibid.
With hammer in hand and metal on the anvil face,
Robert Bourdon forms the cusp- flat surface at the ends
of the handle in which will be inserted the thumb press
57 The Cusp Is Then Trimmed On A Head Cutter: Ibid.
This finishes the cusp to its proper shape.
58 Length Of Latch Handle TO BE CUT: On what appears to
be a Fuller or blunt Hardie, Ibid.
A point on the bar is reheated, then cut.
59 Now The Second Cusp Is Formed Like The First: Ibid.
60 Handle Begins To Take Shaoe By Flattening Its Center
61 Edges Of Latch Handle Are Formed On The Anvil: Ibid.
The metal is reheated. The smith then has to place
blows accurately here in order to prevent buckling the
metal. A small sledge hammer is preferred for control.
This action resembles "upsetting" making dimensions
larger rather than "flatting4 or "drawing out".
62 Inside Of Curved Handle Catch Is Smoothed With A File:
"The arc of the latch handle is formed by hammering
the developing bar against the tapered end of the anvil
and then bending it in a vice. The combination of bend-
ing and hammering creates the required arc."13
The round face of the handle is formed by hammering
the arc into a swage block, an accessory tool in the
shape of a "U" that fits into the Hardie hole of the
anvil; this acts as a form against which the handle is
"The final step of the latch handle is to again
heat the.metal and punch nail holes into the cusps where
the latch is attached to the door. This procedure com-
pletes the latch handle but, before the unit is finished,
Bourdon must forge and hammer the accessory parts: thumb
press, swivel latch pins, and finally the 5 clout nails
that hold the latch in place on the door." 14
13 Wilcox, D.J., "Robert Bourdon, "Blacksmith in Wrought
Iron", American Artist, Vol. 32, January,
1968, p. 37.
63 Latch Thumb Press Is Beaten To A Smooth Fit Into The
"The saucer-shaped thumb piece is pinned through
a mortise punched in the handle, and terminates in a
curved lift." 15
64 The Finished Latch: Ibid.
The final product of the eleven illustrated steps
which explained the techniques used for its creation. This
swivel latch is 9" long and took two hours to make; Bourdon
finished the piece with a 50/50 mixture of beeswax and
linseed oil rubbed into the open pores of the iron when
the metal was still hot. This finish highlights the texture,
acts as a rust preventative, and adds a slight patina or
film to the exterior.
B. ORNAMENTAL DECORATION
65 Partial Splitting Operation: Figure 1: "Techniques in
Wrought Iron", by E. Clute, Craft Horizon, Vol. 14,
August, 1954, p. 26.
"Figure 1 shows a partial splitting
operation, in which a chisel cut is made on
a slant in the edge of a hot iron bar and the
operation is repeated at intervals along the
length of the bar. Then the bar is heated at
15 Ibid., p. 34
the point to be worked on and the points
are bent over. The iron, heated again, is
modeled freehand with a hammer on the anvil
until the result seen in Figure 2 is
66 Design: Figure 2: Ibid.
The slant cut sections are worked with hammer
on anvil into the following design.
67 Punching: Figure 3: Ibid.
"Figure 3 shows a punching operation in which
a punch is driven into and through a bar of red hot
iron. Modeling with hammer and chisel produces such
rings as are seen in the design in Figure 4.i17
68 Design: Figure 4: Ibid.
"In this design is seen also a motif that is
produced by a variant of the partial splitting oper-
ation, shown in Figure 1." 18
69 Twist Design: Figure 5: Ibid.
"A twisting operation is seen in Figure
5. One end of the bar has been heated for
several inches and placed in the square hole
in the'holder' which has a lug at the bottom,
16 E. Clute, "Techniques in Wrought Iron", Craft Horizon,
Vol. 14, August 1954, p. 28.
17 and 18 Ibid.
fitting into a square hole in the anvil.
Before the bar is inserted in the holder,
the very end (about one inch) is dipped
in water to cool it, so that it will not
twist. Then a fork is placed on the bar.
By bearing down upon the handle of the
fork, the craftsman twists the bar, mak-
ing a quarter turn, then removes the fork
and replaces it in a position to make
another quarter turn. When the iron cools
off, it must be reheated. When one section
has been twisted sufficiently, water is
poured over it to cool it. Many variations
of the design of a twist can be achieved.
For example, if diagonally opposite corners
of the bar have been removed, the effect will
be different. There are many other ways of
making the twist more interesting, some of
which are not so simple." 19
70 Making a Scroll Form: Figure 6: Ibid.
"Making a scroll on a form is shown in
Figure 6. When more than a few scrolls of
one design are required an iron form is
made. The iron bar for the scroll is heated
(cherry red) and it is then wrapped around
the form as seen in the photograph. The eye
of the volute is forged on one end-of the
straight bar and acts as a lock when the bar
is bent." 20
71 Example of Wrought Iron Scroll Work: Marcus Christian,
Negro Ironworkers of Louisiana:
This unique railing graced a raised double
cottage at 3346 Dumaine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana.
72 Fire Welding: Figure 7: Ibid, p. 27
Shaping ends to be welded, beveling them for
a neat joint.
Fire-welding is shown in Figure 7.
The two pieces of iron to be welded are first
prepared by shaping the ends to be welded,
beveling them so that they will make a neat
joint. The pieces are placed in the fire and
a cleaning compound is sprinkled on the ends.
They are then brought to near-white heat, re-
moved to the anvil and hammered together with
fast strokes. The weld is smoothed up subse-
quently by reheating and further hammering.
A finished weld is shown in the foreground."21
73 Scarfing: Blacksmith Welding Techniques: Alex Bealer,
"Blacksmithing", op. cit., p. 42.
1) Normal Scarf
2) Butt Scarf
3) Simple Scarf
4) Scarf for the Stock
"Now a fire can be brought to welding
heat within a minute or so if the bellows
are pumped vigorously, but such action also
pumps an excess of oxygen in the fire. When
this is done the iron oxidizes so thickly
that a weld is impossible. The air must be
fed, with restraint, until the fire grows
The iron, of course, is scarfed before
the welding process starts. It is important
to have the scarfed surfaces convex rather
than concave, so that any flux and oxide is
forced from the joint with the first hammer
blows. Otherwise the joint welds only around
the edges of the scarf.
The iron is placed at the top of the
fire until it turns red; then it is removed
and flux is sprinkled over the surface to be
welded. Flux not only coats the iron; it
melts and flows into the tightest cracks,
removing any oxide already formed.
It is possible after long experience to
know that iron has reached welding heat by
observing its color and the texture of its
surface. Pure iron can be welded in a state
from an oily, almost white yellow to incan-
descent white with the sparks erupting from
the surface. With steel these sparks indicate
that the metal is burning and perhaps will
be impossible to weld. Carbon steel and mild
steel weld only at an oily-yellow heat." 22
74 Making Leaf Forms: Figure 8, E;. C1-ute, "Techniques
in Wrought Iron", Craft Horizon, Vol. 14, August 1954.
"The manner in which parts, such as
leaves, can be formed by cutting them from a
flat sheet of the material, as a developed
design, and hammering them into a special
form is shown in Figure 8. The final shape
is given to the part outside of the form by
It is good practice to join the parts
of wrought-iron work by welding them together,
by binding them with a collar of the material,
or by riveting them, as may seem best under
the circumstances. Much of the character of
craftmanship in wrought iron comes from the
methods of joining.,
22 Alex Bealer, "Blacksmithing", oD. cit., p. 45
75 Assemblage of Wrought Iron Tools: Figure 9; Ibid.
"Some of the tools used by the .wrought
iron craftsman are shown in Figure 9, to-
gether with a chalk drawing of a scroll done
on a sheet of iron, so that the hot metal
can be laid upon it to see whether the work
has the desired shape. Besides the usual
tools, the craftsman has special tools
which he makes for particular jobs." 23
76 ExamDles of Blacksmith Decorative Wrought Iron:
Marcus Christian, op. cit.
Examples of elaborate architectural wrought
ironwork in New Orleans, Louisiana.
77 Wrought Nailmaking Forge: Eric Sloane, Museum of Early
American Tools, p. 92
Showing the following styles of old nails:
Rose Sharp, Rose Flat, Clasp, Horse, Plancher, Brad,
"Machine-cut nails taper only on two
sides' wrought nails on four. The most
common 'rose nail' had four hammer hits
( if done by an expert .); the head of the
'clasp nail' had sharp downward sides to
cut into the surface;'plancher nails' had
T- shape heads to hold down flooring; the
'scuper' nailed leather (as for a bellows).
Though our 'brad' is a small needed nail,
the word once meant 'broad' and the 'brad'
was such a nail for planks.'\ 24
23 E. .lute,_oT..cit., p. 27
24 Eric Sloane, Museum of Early American Tools, p.92
The Five Clout Nail:
"The 5-clout nail, by the way, gets
its name from the technique by which its
head is made. A skilled smith like Bour-
don hammers the nail head once on each
of the four sides, with the fifth clout
reserved for the top surface. The result
is a square, 5-clout nail head. In the
late eighteenth and nineteenth century,
this 5-clout nail sold for five cents
per nail, and was often the most expen-
sive single building supply in the con-
struction of a house. For this reason many
Colonial houses were put together with
handmade pegs. In the early 1800's, five
cents was a prohibitive expense for one
nail, as it would be even today in the
building trade. 25
78 Nailers Tools and Anvil: Eric Sloane, oD. cit., p. 93
Showing the method of cutting nail sizes
from nailrods with the Hardie and shaping with
the Headers (Bores).
79 Wrought Iron Tools: For Drilling Oil; Marcus
Christian, op. cit.
Hats off to the negro blacksmith who forged
these bits to an early oil drilling machine in
25 Wilcox, D.J., "Robert Bourdon, Blacksmith in Wrought
Iron",. American Artist, Vol. 32,
January, 1968, p. 37
80 Blacksmith Shop Preserved: "Village Blacksmith",
by A.J. Kauffman, Antiques, June, 1955. pp. 496-98.
Nineteenth century blacksmith shop reproduced
at the New Jersey State Museum at Trenton.
VI BLACKSMITH TERMINOLOGY 26
To Draw Out- To make a thick bar or rod thinner, usually
by spreading or flattening it.
To Upset- To make a bar thicker.
Punching- Using a punch and hammer to force a hole through
a piece of hot iron.
Drifting- Enlarging or shaping a hole with a drift.
Cutting or Cleaning-
Cutting off a bar or rod with the hardie
by striking it with a hammer or with a
hot or cold set.
Scarfing, Chamfering, or Beveling-
Hammering the end or edge
of a bar or a rod to
create a diagonal surface.
Refers to joining.
Flux or Welding Compound-
Powdered borax or a mixture of
borax and salamoniac used for 27
welding mild steel or carbon
steel. The function of flux is
to glaze the surface of the metal
to prevent the oxidation which
makes it impossible to join two
pieces of iron even at welding
Using the fuller set to "draw out" a piece of
By heating or series of heats to bring to the
right degree of softness.
26 Alex Bealer, IR. cit., pp. 42-45
27 Ammonium Chloride, NH4CL, a white salt.
A. Blacksmith Tools and Techniques:
The Art of Blacksmithing
Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1969.
Briggs, Martin S.,
"Ironwork", Chapter VII, A Short 690.9
History of the Building Crafts, B854s
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1925.
Negro Ironworkers of Louisiana,
1718-1900, Pelican Publishing
Company, Gretna, 1972.
A Dideret Pictorial Encyclopaedia 603
of Trades and Industry, Dever D555
Publications Inc., New York, New v. I,II
Wrought Iron in Architecture, 729
Charles Scribner's Sons, New G298w
Hummel, Charles F.,
With Hammer in Hand, University 680.65
Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, H922W
Littlefield, James Drake,
Notes For Fore Sho 682
Practice, Taylor-Holden L781
Nelson, Lee H.,
"Nail Chronolegy as an Aid to Dating
Old Buildings", Technical Leaflet,
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Practical Blacksmithing, M.T.
Richardson, Publisher, New
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American Yesterday, Funk &
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A Museum of Early American Tools,
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Blacksmiths' and Farriers' Teels
at Shelburne Museum,The Shelburne
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Metalwork, B.T. Batsford,
Senn, Albert H.,
Early American Wreught Iron,
Charles Scribner's Sens
New York, 1928
Publishing Company, New York,
Watson, Aldren A., -
The Village Blacksmith
Thomas Y. Crowell Co.
New York, 1968
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"Techniques in Wrought Iren", Craft
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"Werkshep: Blacksmithing", Craft
Horizon, Vol. XXX, October 1970,
"Village .Blacksmith", Antiques,
Vel. 67, June 1955, pp. 496-8
"Rediscovering the Techniques of
Early European Blacksmiths", Archaeology;
Vol. 16, December 1963, pp. 234-42.
"Forged Metal in Germany",
Craft Horizon, Vol. 24,
January 1964, pp. 12-17 FA ARCH
"Early Wrought-Iron Hardware:
Spring Latches", Antiaues,
Vol. 66; August, 1954, pp. 125-27
"Robert Bourdon, Blacksmith in Wrought
Iron", American Artist, Vol. 32,
January gTB, pp. 32-7
"New Orleans Ironwork", MaRazine
of Art, Vol. 41; October, 1948,
C. HISTORIES OF TECHNOLOGIES
A History of Technology And
Invention, Volume I, Crown
Publishers, Inc., New York,
Technology in the Ancient World,
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1970.
A History of Technology, edited by
Charles Singer, E.J. Holmyard,
A.R. Hall, and Trevor I. Williams;
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1956.