Category Archives: Blacksmithing

Playing with fire: Steel black waxed heart

How to make a steel black waxed heart.

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Start the fire

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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.

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Heat it up in the middle and use the scroll wrench combined with the anvil horns to bend it into a V shape.

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Use the hollow bit tongs to hold the end.

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Heat up again and hammer the V shape flat with no space between the bars.

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Fire welding

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.

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Creating the curve

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Heat up the welded end and put it in the vice.

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Bend the two ends out.

Cool the end in water.

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Hammer both ends into points.

Don’t creep over the edge when hammering.

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Once both ends are pointed warm up the whole bar.

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Get two smaller gap square scroll wrenches for  more detailed work and bend the bar into a curve.

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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.

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Descale it using the electric wire brush.

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Black wax the heart.

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Playing with fire: Creating a half penny snub end scroll

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.

Rough forging

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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.

Occupational Hazard
DO NOT OVER HEAT and burn it or you end up with a blistered bobbled end and you have to start again.

Starting 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.
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Reduce the angle of the cut

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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

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This is what I’m aiming for next week…

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Playing with fire: Don’t stand under the hole in the roof during a storm

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

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Useful tips

– 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
– Face
– Body
– Beak
– 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.

Playing with Fire: My first lesson in blacksmithing

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.

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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.

First lesson

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.

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.