Have you ever wondered how mild steel products are hand-forged? Hand forging is also known as blacksmithing and it is one of the simplest forms of forging. It is a great option for low volume products as these can be made more cost-effectively by hand than other production methods. In this blog, we’ll look at the tools used as well as the seven techniques for hand forging ironmongery.
The practice of blacksmithing has been around for hundreds of years and the tools used in hand forging have largely remained unchanged during this time. So, let's take a look at the essential tools that are needed to hand forge ironmongery.
Anvil – The anvil is a versatile and essential piece of equipment which has a flat face and rounded horn for shaping and bending metal as well as a step for making cuts and holes for placing tools.
Hammer – A blacksmith’s hammer is used to shape the metal during forging and can be used with punches and chisels to create holes and cut metal.
Tongs – There are different types of tongs all of which are used to hold a piece during the forging process.
Swage block – This is a mould that is used on the anvil for shaping metal as well as bending, forming and heading.
The seven techniques used to hand forge ironmongery
Before hand-forging can be carried out the metal to be forged needs to be heated to the right temperature. For mild steelwork, most work is done when the metal is bright red or bright yellow in colour.
Drawing down – This is the process of lengthening a piece of metal by hammering on the flat anvil face or curve anvil horn. A fuller can also be used to help speed up the drawing of a thicker piece of metal.
Shrinking – The opposite of drawing down, shrinking is used to reduce the size of a piece of work while making it thicker.
Bending – When iron is heated to a yellow heat it can be bent as if it was more ductile. This can be done on the horn or by using a bending fork placed in the square hole.
Upsetting – Making the metal piece shorter is known as upsetting which creates thicker metal in one dimension while shortening it.
Punching – Punching is the technique used to create a hole in a piece as well as adding a decorative pattern.
Hot cutting – This is commonly carried out using chisels while the metal is at a bright red heat. The metalwork is placed on the step of the anvil or a suitable metal shield and cutting is done with a chisel and hammer or sledgehammer, depending on the thickness.
Welding – Used to join two metals together, welding is the process of heating two metals to welding heat which is intense yellow with white sparks. During the welding process, the blacksmith takes great care to avoid the oxidization of the metal which will weaken the join. Hand forging ironmongery requires a lot of skill and the use of a combination of the techniques above as well as finishing to produce the final product. The result of hand forging is mild steel products which are stronger, more durable and longer-lasting than machined or fabricated products. They are also generally more in keeping and are often a requirement for listed buildings.