In the fifteenth century a new fashion emerged requiring new techniques, no longer were scrollwork and plant forms designed and executed, the inspiration was now wood and stone carvings.
Forged elements were attached to sawn, chiseled and filed sheet iron, sometimes one sheet was placed over another to obtain a three dimensional tracery pattern, the design was then incised with a punch and chisel mark pattern, the process became known as ” benchwork” ( the technique of working iron cold).
The image above is a smoke alarm cover, and the design is a staffordshire knot repeated three times.
Up until one hundred and fifty years ago a large part of the blacksmiths work would have involved making hinges, the average residential home would have had at least half a dozen doors and also chests, cabinets, gates, outhouses and cupboards , all requiring a pair of hinges and pintles and a latch to keep them closed, the most simple of latches needs a bar, staple and keep, so per door we are looking at seven seperate pieces , thats forty two forgings per house.
A hinge and pintel takes at least a hour and half to make , the ironwork for a door including the latch could be four to five hours work depending on the size of iron available, nowadays hinges and latches are stamped out on machines hundreds at a time , which makes them very cheap and identical, but a century and half ago before the industrial revolution every hinge and latch was handmade by local blacksmiths.
Below are 12 coins made for the queen elizabeth diamond jubilee wood project commissioned by the Woodland Trust.
The coins are 8″ round and 1/4″ thick, they were made by forging away the background metal and leaving foreground metal standing up, this was achieved by use of various shaped punches being hammered into the metal while it was hot. The coins were then fixed into blocks of sandstone by pouring molten lead into the recess between the metal and the stone.
Anglo saxon coin.
Early medieval coin.
Stuart period coin.
Elizabeth ll coin.
Diamond jubilee coin.
One of the problems people face when renovating a period property is finding genuine authentic ironwork,
especially if they are looking for bespoke handforged blacksmithery, the majority of
“off the shelf” metalwork is flimsy and soul less and has no individualism about it.
One of the worst offenders are smoke alarms, which are totally void of design that is pleasing to the eye,
The smoke alarm covers above were made to hide the plastic in a room which is full of bespoke oak and ironwork.
Until about the year 1250 the majority of door hinges were the c hinge and strap design , we then begin to see the norman influence appear with the use of geometric motifs and wovern interlocking circles, one of the most striking examples for me, is the north door at little hormead church in hertfordshire.
Inspired by the little hormead church door and tasked with making the hinges for a pair of small oak doors,
with the brief being “something no one else has got” i came up with the design of the door hinges below.
Above is a sliding bolt and swivel catch made for two different size and style loft hatches,
both were designed so the dragons heads look down at you from the ceiling.
If you have ever fitted a suffolk latch, then you will know that the handle can only open the door away from you, because the bar can not pass the frame, so what is the answer? if you want the handle opening towards you,say like on a toilet or cupboard door , where space is at a premium and you need the door to open outwards.
So heres the answer its called a Quadrant Latch, it fixes where the bar would usually be, and as the thumb lifter is pressed the quadrant swings to the side, thus missing the door frame and allowing the door to open towards you.
On closing the door,the quadrant strikes a small wear plate fitted into the jarm, and then drops into a recess,simple but effective.
Here is the video of the latch working https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmQbopn2qm8&feature=youtu.be
Recently ive found an interesting array of horseshoes dating from celtic through to saxon times , known as the wavy-rim shoe, due to the nail stamp bulging the outside border of the shoe during the making. The top left shoe in the photo is the oldest, the middle top is only 3 1/2″ wide ,so shetland pony size, you can see how the style of the shoe progressed by adding folded-over calkins and as the shoe developed during the norman period(1066) the bulging became less dramatic (bottom right) due to the change to the T-headed nail and the wider section of iron used.
Whilst metal detecting one tends to find lots of iron, mainly in the form of horse and ox shoes,and also lots of broken shoes, like the example above, this style of shoe can be dated to the fourteenth century and is called a dove shoe ( from its discovery in the river dove in staffordshire).
The shoe is a very similar to the earlier celtic shoe in shape, but the main change being the style of nail which now is a one sided T headed nail( note the depression of the nail hole in the photo). We can assume that the shoe is likely to have been made of charcoal iron, and its not every day you get the chance to forge some iron thats been made using charcoal, so just to prove that scrap iron 600 years old , can be recycled, here goes;
The first task was to straighten the shoe out, this gave an idea of the quality of the iron, which turned out to be very good.
After folding and forgewelding the iron approx six times , every time forging more and more impurities out of the iron.
This is what i was left with, a very refined useable lump of metal measuring 1/2″x5/16″ about 3″ long.
So what to do with this newly forged piece of iron, this is the part that really does it for me, turning something useless into something useful, so i forged a tee spoon , which i use every day in the forge!.