How to make a steel black waxed heart.
Start the fire
Use 25mm x 6mm x 495mm steel bar.
Find the half way point which is the centre point between the 2 curves.
Centre Punch Dot
Make a centre punch dot by hammering a centre punch on the cold bar at the centre point at the top which can be seen when the bar is hot.
Heat it up in the middle and use the scroll wrench combined with the anvil horns to bend it into a V shape.
Use the hollow bit tongs to hold the end.
Heat up again and hammer the V shape flat with no space between the bars.
Heat up off centre quite deep on both sides until the surface is wet and molten – exploding sparks shows it’s at melting point but be quick so it doesn’t burn – then hammer to fuse the atoms together.
Join the metal an inch up.
The bar is now fused by an inch up to the crack.
Creating the curve
Heat up the welded end and put it in the vice.
Bend the two ends out.
Cool the end in water.
Hammer both ends into points.
Don’t creep over the edge when hammering.
Once both ends are pointed warm up the whole bar.
Get two smaller gap square scroll wrenches for more detailed work and bend the bar into a curve.
Lie it flat and draw around the heart to make it symmetrical.
Bend the other side into shape using the anvil horns and the scroll wrenches.
Descale it using the electric wire brush.
Black wax the heart.
Today the anvils are so cold I’m having to work much quicker and heat up the bar more frequently as the anvil is sucking the heat out of the bar.
First I need to finish dressing the bar to make the sides smooth and flatten out the dents.
Then cut off the end with a grinder – so it’s square not oblong – followed by rounding off all 4 corners of the indent before the twist.
Lock the rod into the corner of the anvil to round the corners with the hammer
Round off the ends next to the square
Warm up the bar
Put the end in the vice
With pliers twist the rod 90 degrees
The end is now on the left hand side and needs to be centred
Heat the rod and put it on its right side with a hammer and a crisp blow moving it across to the middle
Rounding the square with a swage
Now warm it up and make the square 7-sided
Make sure the bar is square on the anvil
Use a 5/8 inch swage to help round it
Only round the edges of the sides not the corners as need to be a crisp geometric disc
Always hit onto the anvil and roll gently levering the bar so it makes an even circle and the anvil is doing the work.
The first 2 hours of making a half penny snub end scroll
Find a flat bar 20mm by 10mm – almost the same thickness bar used for a horse shoe.
Hammer a dent 20mm in from the end – leaving a square before the dent – using the edge of the anvil and hammering the narrow side hard at 45 degrees.
It’s now at ‘rough forging’ stage so the bar needs ‘dressing’.
Get the corners nice and straight by even hammering on all 4 faces.
DO NOT OVER HEAT and burn it or you end up with a blistered bobbled end and you have to start again.
Do not cry – as many men have been known to do apparently – instead, using the square cut off hardy tool, heat the rod and hammer each side until the metal is almost cut in half. Then bend off the end with pliers so that the end doesn’t shoot off and get embedded in a wall.
Finesse the metal by hammering gently on all sides until you end up with a straight metal rod similar to when you started.
Start the whole process again creating a dent 20mm from the end.
Reduce the angle of the cut
Finally create the taper behind the snub end scroll by hammering between the dent and 2cms further along until you’ve made a straight line between the top of the dent and the point on the rod.
Dress the rod
This is what I’m aiming for next week…
During a storm
– Avoid flying swirls of soot and sparks in your eyes
– Ignore horizontal rain
– Dodge being stabbed by dangling shards falling off the roof
– Using the correct tongs is imperative
– Keep metal orangey-yellow or the metal will fracture if too cool
– Do not let the metal get too hot or it becomes a sparkler
– Once it’s become a sparkler file out the burnt black stuff and weld in more steel
Cutting through metal
– Use the hardy square
– Heat steel and hammer the rod making incisions – rotating
– Use tongs to twist it off when near to the centre
– Do not hammer right through the metal or the end will shoot off, embed into something and then set fire to it
Parts of the anvil
– Hardy hole (square)
– Pritchel hole (round)
Making a loop
– Use round nosed pliers so not to mark the surface
– Twist to make a loop and gently hammer in the end.
– Hammer the leaf on the end of the beak to create a curve.
Chiseling leaf marks
– Hold chisel at an angle
– Hammer incisively with one blow
– Do not chisel horizontally or the mark will be too long
Finishing the leaf
– Use metal brush to clean up the leaf and make a nice shine
– Remember the brush is the most dangerous tool of all at 11000rpm as metal hairs can embed in your skin if loose
– Spray with WD40 to stop it rusting.
These are the lessons I’ve learnt after a further three hours in the forge:
Create a volcano shaped fire
Don’t dig too deep
Don’t touch the clinker
Keep the anvil clean
Keep the metal yellow
Don’t immerse metal in water unless you really have to
Wear glasses so you can see what you’re hammering
Don’t use too heavy a hammer or you’ll get tired and inaccurate
Hammer from 45 degree angle
Keep your thumb behind the handle
Keep you hand two thirds down the hammer until you’re any good
Only have your hand at the end of the handle to give heavy blows
Try to hit hard and accurately
Don’t make the metal too thin or it will fall off and you have to start again…
My first lesson in blacksmithing
I had my first blacksmithing lesson last week in the forge at Surrey Quay’s farm on the bank of the Thames in Rotherhithe.
For years I worked in fabric trying to defy gravity until I realised I needed metal frames to support the structures I was making. Since then I have worked with engineers, technicians and a blacksmith who have fabricated the structures I’ve drawn.
Monkey’s Cooking Pot
Whilst making my sculpture ‘Monkey’s Cooking Pot’ for the British Council funded exhibition Monologue Dialogue 3 (MD3) in June 2014, I felt inspired by my assistants who were bending, grinding and welding the steel through the night for my 12 meter chandelier which I then wrapped in ribbon.
Once back in London I realised I wanted to do this myself and Kevin Boyss, my blacksmith, gave me my first blacksmithing lesson on Saturday.
I was in my element heating up steel in the forge, watching it turn amber, then hammering it into a point followed by the beginnings of a leaf.
Leaf versus weapon
I was so slow but I feel in love with the process and can’t wait for my next lesson when I’ll learn to flatten the metal into a leaf shape and add veins. I just don’t want to ruin the dangerous weapon I created last week.