One Heat

Small stock heated in the forge cools quickly. This short video shows the shaping of an HF-19 ring grip. The cusps have been forged on each end of the stock and the screw holes punched.

The shaping of a grip is quickly done with the proper heat and tools. We start out with two batches of six grips in the fire. One batch is heating as we work on the other batch.

After the grip is formed it is reheated to pull apart the legs and again to flatten the ends. The final leveling of the grip is done cold before the grips are heated a final time and finish is applied.

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9 Cabinet Hardware Pieces To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

What would Thanksgiving be if it weren’t for Plymouth Rock, football, and the Macy’s Parade? Probably just a bunch of overfed relatives and corduroy skirts that do nothing for your figure. Oh, and editorial lists reminding you what you have to be thankful for this year.

Hey, just because I blog for a reproduction cabinet hardware company doesn’t mean I can’t get in on the “to be thankful for…” editorial fun. In fact, I’ve come up with a list of almost 10 pieces of Horton Brasses cabinet hardware that will inspire you to pause and be grateful for all that Horton Brasses has added to your Thanksgiving celebration.

1) The Beehive Knob

You will be happy you kept a few extra on hand for family gatherings such as this. The grooved surface provides and improved grip over traditional smooth knobs. Is your 12 year old nephew looking to show off his juggling skills? Forget the tennis balls he brought with him. Now’s the time to recognize his impending manhood and allow him to use the heavy artillery. Just be sure to push the glass coffee table out of the room.

Need to prove your entertaining chops to your mother-in-law, Ms. Wanna-Be Martha Stewart herself? Screw The Beehive Knob onto the end of an unsharpened pencil (I recommend using a #2) and impress everyone with your craftiness. You’ve just fashioned a honey dipper. Can you say “upcycled?”

2) Polished Nickel Latches

Remember when you were a teenager and your aunt would hold an entire conversation with you with spinach stuck in her teeth and you were horrified that she had spinach stuck in her teeth because how could she not know she had spinach stuck in her teeth? Or maybe it wasn’t spinach. Maybe it was a big glob of lipstick on her tooth. I still don’t understand that one. But seriously, as I near forty, I have become the aunt with spinach stuck in her teeth.  Like, all the time. Even when I haven’t eaten spinach!

And let me tell you, my husband is no helper. Either he doesn’t notice the spinach stuck in my teeth or he thinks it’s supposed to be there because he doesn’t say anything to me.

Thankfully, you don’t need a husband because you have the polished nickel cabinet latch. This latch will tell you if you have spinach stuck in your teeth so shiny you can use it as a mirror. Do so. In between dinner and dessert, before you serve the coffee and laugh gratuitously at your Uncle Donny’s jokes.

3) Queslett Appliance Pull

Isn’t Thanksgiving great because you get to get dressed in all sorts of autumny clothes. Cable knit sweaters and corduroy skirts and textured tights and turtleneck cashmere. Oh no! You wore all that together? And your sister just bought a new DSLR and thinks she is going to photograph every family moment of coziness? Does this outfit make my butt look big?

Yes, it does. But fear not. The Queslett appliance pull does quite the opposite. It’s hefty brawn is the appliance handle equivalent of dating a line backer. Stand next to it in the family photo and look miniature by comparison.

4) The Bakes Pull

Tired of all the meaningless small talk at Thanksgiving? Want to stir up some meaty political debate at the holiday table but having trouble diverting the discussion from Demi and Ashton’s divorce?

The Bakes Pull allows you to easily segue into a relevant political debate without interrupting the flow of conversation traffic. Just put on your best British accent and say, “Excuse me Goody Amber, but have you noticed this kitchen hardware from Goodman Bakes?” At this point Amber, being only 11 and thus having never read The Crucible, will be rendered speechless by your affect and the adults can then regain control of the dinner conversation.

5) Crescent Pull

No calories, unlike those crescent rolls that went straight to your hips (see #3).

6) Antique Brass Pulls

Is that patina on that bin pull or did your daughter-in-law just all together give up cleaning? This intentionally aged looking hardware finish will send your mother-in-law into a housecleaning tizzy. Enjoy a hard drink while she coyly tries to snoop through your cabinets for the brass polish.

7) Ring Pulls

Who formally entertains these days? Hardly anyone, thus the disappearance of the formal dining room. But you’ve worked so hard on the Thanksgiving meal. Do it full justice and honor your guests with cloth napkins. Pull it together last minute with this cabinet hardware that will do double duty as napkin rings.

8) Forged Iron Knobs

Vegetarians coming to dinner and don’t know what to feed them? Me neither! Fortify their meal with iron and avoid the pasty pallor of malnourished pilgrims at your table.

9) Extra Hardware

Did you order two or three extra knobs and pulls when you did your remodel? Yeah, so did I. What a waste of money since this stuff is solid brass and won’t break. Re-purpose those leftover pieces by creating a centerpiece even Wanna-Be Martha Stewart (see #1) wouldn’t think of.

Fill hurricane glass with the leftover hardware and set it in groupings of three on your dining table. Basically, anything shoved into hurricane glass and grouped in threes equals “décor.”

Blacksmith’s Riveting, Brazing and Welding, part 2

In our previous post we talked about how we use mechanical joints, brazing and electrical welding to fasten metal parts together for tools and jigs in the shop. In the work we do for Horton, we use only riveted fastening: we head pins for hinges much like we’d head a rivet, and in making Suffolk latches we rivet the thumber into its slot.

While riveting is perhaps the most common type of fastening in period hardware, other types of connection were also used. We’ll be looking at a lever latch with lock, much like the one mentioned in our post on books. It’s much like the one illustrated in the Sonn and Streeter examples in that post.

This is the back of a German-style lever latch that also included a simple lock. The back plate to this latch is held in place with four nuts.

Each nut has filed decoration, even though this part of the latch would not be seen. The nuts and threaded posts are each individually sized. No nut will fit all the posts.

On the other side of the back plate a spring that holds the bar in place has been riveted.

This is the latch and lock with the back plate removed. There are only a couple of moving parts: the lever and its spring, the tumbler which holds the bar in place (the tumbler spring has broken), and the bar (note the filed decoration at the end, again this was hidden from view). The broken spring for the tumbler would be easy to replace; it is held by a rivet. Studs for the latch spring and tumbler were riveted to the front of the case, as were the two guides for the bar.

The latch handle, as you can see in the above photo, consists of a forging with a handle at one end and, after a ninety-degree bend, a bar that rises in and out of a catch in the doorjamb. The handle’s pivot (where the pencil rests) is a round piece with a square hole (to hold the handle for the other side of the door). The pivot rides in holes cut into the front and back plates of the latch. This pivot is brazed to the handle, in this case using copper instead of brass.

Brazed joints are also found in tools. The vise shown in the post about artifacts has a bit of brazing. In this case, rather than try to tap a thread for the vise screw box (or nut), what they did was wrap a piece of square wire around the vise screw and insert it in the box or nut. The vise screw was carefully removed leaving the wire in place. Brass filings were sprinkled inside and the whole was heated in the fire to braze the wire to the box.

Cutting Steel Hot

Blacksmiths cut hot for centuries because it was quick and the tools were more easily accessible. Blacksmiths could make their own. Hacksaw blades were expensive and not easy to obtain and the only shears we’ve seen used in contemporary prints of shops were those used where water power was available or were for extremely thin metal like tinplate.

Hot cutting is done with a chisel or tool configured much like the common cold cut chisel, except the blade is much thinner and sharper. A cold cut chisel is shown to the left and next to is a hot slitting chisel, both of which are meant to be held in the hand and struck with a hammer. A handled hot cut chisel is shown next. To use this another person must be added to the forging operation either to hold the chisel or to strike it with a hammer while the blacksmith holds the hot steel to be cut in tongs on the anvil. The tool furthest to the right is a hot cut hardy, whose stem fits in the hardy hole of the anvil to hold the tool upright and secure there.

Here the hot cut hardy is shown in use.

This tool allows the blacksmith to work alone, heating the forging and resting it on the cutting edge while striking the forging with a hammer. In this case, the forging is rotated between blows. If the bar is not rotated while the cut is being made, the cut end will be sloped at an angle.

This is a half inch bar with the cut partially completed.

The final blows are struck to one side of the hardy’s edge so the hammer’s face won’t be marred by a misstrike. The final blows must have enough power to complete the cut, but not so much that the cut off piece goes flying to the other side of the shop!

This is the end of a  1 1/2 inch bar that was cut hot using a hot cut hardy tool. As can be seen, there’s a rough area in the center. We used hot cutting in this instance for making a hardy tool for the anvil.

The half-inch bar has been reheated and its end is being struck repeatedly by the hammer to dress the end, making it smooth.

This is the dressed end of the half inch bar. Dressing is required to prevent a flaw in the forging from occurring from the rough hot cut end. Several heats were used to cut and dress the stock but if we did this all the time we could probably get it down to one heat.

Cold cutting is still faster and more accurate and that’s what we do except when cutting the slot for Suffolk latches.

The Blacksmith’s Library — Artifacts

This is the first of two posts giving a quick overview of the types of reference material blacksmiths accumulate over the years. Reference books are important to serious blacksmiths and that will be the topic of the second post. This post is about the original objects blacksmiths acquire for study.

Our own “library” has objects ranging from those used domestically to hardware and tools. Amongst the domestic objects we have are the pie crimper and sugar nipper shown here, both nineteenth century. The pie crimper has a walnut handle, brass ferule and wheel, and a forged and turned shaft to hold the wheel. Sugar nippers were used to break pieces off the large chunks of sugar that were standard in those days before granulated sugar. This pair was made in England.

Early wagons were mostly of oak with a iron fittings. The t-hook at the top is interesting because of the forge-welded eye. The rams’ horn nut on the bolt is typical and well done.

We don’t have nearly enough examples of early hardware for close study. This is a spring latch with a night latch made in the early nineteenth century. The latch was operated by a brass stirrup-shaped drop handle or a round knob.

This is a German-style lever latch, with a night latch, still graced with paint. This again is from the early nineteenth century. These are found in dwellings in areas settled by Germans in areas of Europe where artisans were influenced by German-style hardware. Pressing on the knob or handle releases the lever by raising it from the catch (not shown).

Here is one of a pair of strap hinges with pintles we found in Western Ohio years ago.  The hinge is 13 3/8 inches long. Below the hinge is a pintle which passed through a post and was held by a large nut. This probably was used in a barn for a door.

Precision metalworking tools were made in the Lancashire area in England in the late eighteenth and into the nineteenth century. These tools have a high degree of polish and a distinctive styling, even though a number of makers might have used the same pattern. This is a nineteenth century hacksaw frame with a rosewood handle.

This is a small Lancashire pattern vise meant to be screwed onto a table or workbench. There’s a small anvil on the vise chop flange, and if one looks closely they’ll see depressions on the ends of the jaws. These are for holding one end of a bow drill bit, where the bit rides in the depression, a wheel on the bit is driven by a bow, and the work is held against the bit as it is turned.

This and other objects in the collection help remind us of a time when everything was literally made by hand. We have the greatest respect for those who, with simple tools and well-developed skill, produced items of such usefulness and beauty. It’s humbling.

The Blacksmith’s Hands – Tongs

We’re right handed so we hold the hammer in that hand. Even though the tongs are held by the left hand, that doesn’t mean that dexterity isn’t needed. During a forging tongs are raised and lowered, shifted right or left, turned slightly or continuously. Like an athlete or a dancer, a blacksmith must hold many things in awareness at the same time. Tongs hold the hot stock and what they do is just as important as what the hammer does.

 

Forging is impossible to do well if the stock isn’t held well by the tongs chosen. Depending on the size and type of stock or how the tongs are used, a number of different tongs can be used for a specific forging.

 

 

For forging and shaping a thumber we use 4 tongs, and another pair is used to manipulate the stock in the fire. From left to right are fire tongs for removing pieces from the fire, a pair of v-tongs to hold the round stock, a pair of ½ inch flat tongs for holding the tail of the thumber during forging of the thumb press, and two tongs for holding and shaping the thumber around a jig.

 

 

The stock for thumbers for HF14 Suffolk Latches is 3/8 inches round, 3 ¼ inches long. We use the fire tongs (to the right in this photo) to manipulate this small piece of metal in the fire. The stock is being drawn out of the fire and will be handed off to the waiting v-tongs held in the left hand.

 

 

The v-tongs hold round or square stock extremely well. The end that will become the thumb press is held while the tail of the thumber is forged.

 

 

The ½ inch flat tongs are used to hold the thumber tail while the thumb press is forged. Tongs for holding flats have a distinctive shape. One jaw has a u-shaped end the width of the flat (in this case ½ inch) and the other jaw has a “pusher” to hold the stock in the “U”.

 

 

Thumbers, after forging, are shaped on a simple jig. The tongs to the right hold the thumber to the jig and the tongs on the left (a pair of ¾ inch flat tongs) is used to bend the tail to the shape of the jig. The parts of the jaw of the shaping tongs that are used are the pusher and the base of the other jaw, behind the “U”.

 

 

 

Tongs can be adapted by reshaping the jaws so they can be used for particular tasks. We filed a single groove near the ends of the v-tongs so we can hold grips, like this HF20.

The Blacksmith’s Hands – the Hammer

 

Blacksmithing is one of the few crafts where the creator doesn’t actually get to touch the medium during the act of creating – at least not during forging. Glassmaking is another craft where the heated medium prohibits touch.

 

What the blacksmith has, in lieu of hands, are hammers, tongs, and a variety of tools and jigs. The most elemental are hammer and tongs – one held in each hand by the blacksmith.

 

In the shop we use a variety of hammers for most hardware made for Horton. Generally we use the lightest possible and for forging, that is about 2 pounds.

  

 

Four hammers are used in making a thumber for the HF14 Suffolk Latch. They are, from left to right, three 2-pound forging hammers with faces of slightly different contour, and a flat-faced hammer.

 

 

The three two-pound hammers we use for forging have faces ranging from fairly flat to fairly rounded. This is the flat-faced hammer, which has rounded edges. This hammer is used for finishing drawing out the tail of the thumber and for creating the little curl. Since the hammer’s face is nearly flat the forging is smoother and more even than if we would use a rounder faced hammer.

 

 

A hammer with a slightly rounded face is used for upsetting the thumb press forging in the vice. This hammer works well for upsetting (changing the mass to a shorter, thicker shape by forcefully driving it) because of the weight and rounded face.

 

 

The hammer with the most round face is used for forging the thumb press. It is also used for preliminary drawing out of the tail of the thumber. The rounded face moves metal quickly and is less likely to mark the piece. This is the hammer most generally used for forging cusps on latches.

 

 

This hammer is an old-timer purchased at a blacksmith meet. The face is perfectly flat with almost no rounding of the edges. This hammer is used for finishing the forging of the tail of the thumber, right next to the thumb press, because it can get in close. A few seconds of forging here saves time in filing the thumber to fit the slot.

 

 

All of the hammers used for forging the thumber have German-style cross peens. Other forging hammers we use have round peens or French-style cross peens. We even have a straight peen hammer where the peen is parallel to the handle, and have seen custom-made hammers with diagonal peens. The cross-peen is used to initially spread stock for the thumb press forging and it is important in the shaping of cusps for the Suffolk latches we make. Because the surface area of the peen is limited, it enables the smith to move metal more quickly and in a chosen direction. This peen is fairly broad, not narrow, so the forging isn’t marked deeply. Wear can be seen on the lower half. Periodically, hammers need to have their faces and peens redone. This is done by careful grinding and polishing.

 

 

We use woodworking tools to custom shape all of the hammer handles in our shop to fit our hands (we both have smallish hands) so we can have a comfortably relaxed grip. They are oval shaped, which helps align the face when picking up a hammer. This is the end of the old-timer hammer’s handle. The elongated oval is often seen in 19th century hammer handles.

A quick forging video

When Molly and I are forging hardware our time at the forge has two components – actual forging and tending the fire while the metal becomes hot enough to forge.

 

We shot a quick video of a simple forging so viewers can get an idea of what happens in that all too quick time between pulling a forging out of the fire, taking it to the anvil and forging it while it is still hot.

 

This forging is of one of the ends of an HF20 grip. The stock is 3/16 inch round, the smallest stock we forge. The metal cools quickly while we forge it – 15 seconds is all we have to do the work needed. Thicker stock holds heat longer.

 

Preparation for the forging was grinding the corners off of the ends of the 6 inch round bar so there weren’t any sharp corners.

 

When you watch the video, pay attention to how the hammer tilts slightly as the blows are made to create the round form. The blows are quickly made with the eye directing the hand based on what is seen and based on experience.

 

The stock was heated to a yellow heat and you see the part on the anvil quickly change color as it cools.

 

We often have the radio on while working, listening to West Virginia Public Radio, and you’ll hear a little classical music in the background.

Wrought or forged?

Many people today don’t realize the difference between hand forged iron and wrought iron. And why would they? Industrialization coupled with marketing have succeeded in selling the consumer an efficiently produced product at an attractive price. While a select group of people have always had an interest in traditional craftsmanship, that group is increasing with the current trend towards supporting handmade works. And while the functionality of the finished products may be the same, the process that shapes the raw materials differs significantly. This, of course, alters the subtle beauty of the piece.

Hand forged iron is made the old fashioned way, requiring a coal forge, a hammer, and an anvil. A blacksmith uses intense heat and tools to shape the hot metal. Hand forged iron is the purest form of iron with the lowest carbon content. As you might imagine, this process requires a set of specialized skills that only someone with proper artisan training possesses. Wrought iron, in actuality, refers to a very old method of shaping iron. These days, authentic wrought iron is scarcely available. The term now refers to mass produced iron work possessing decorative embellishments.

The terms wrought iron, hand wrought iron, and forged iron hardware are often used interchangeably. But, as I’ve pointed out, they are not the same.  Wrought iron once referred to the process of refining the iron ore. However today, both forged and wrought iron are referred to as being formed, but really, forged iron means the metal was shaped under heat.  Wrought iron or just plain forged iron means shaped cold, or with a machine. Much of the products sold as wrought iron today are arc welded together from iron parts cut by computerized laser. This is a key difference. Molly and George, a pair of blacksmiths that make hardware for Horton Brasses, have a great pictorial titled “Shaping a Grip.” Follow that link to gain a proper appreciation for the art of hand forging. Molly and George’s photographs of different fire types and temperatures, as well as the finishing work done cold with hand tools, clearly illustrates the beauty of this dying art and enhances the beauty of the finished product.

Of course, work done by actual human hands will cost more. Hand forged iron is not mass produced. Molly and George’s post shows that. It costs more because each piece of hardware is made one at a time, shaped from a continues piece of iron. There is no cobbling together of parts.  The metal takes on a rough “scaled” texture.  The edges are beveled out by hand.  The quality is immediately evident.  Each piece is unique and reflects the individualized warmth and depth of handmade work.The black color does not come from paint–it comes from heat and linseed oil. This is traditional craftsmanship and, thankfully, there is a market for it. Without conscientious consumers who value the beauty of the process as much as the details of the finished product, this traditional art would be lost.

Unfortunately, the industry is not regulated to the extent that there are no guidelines regarding labeling and marketing. Iron hardware is available in a wide range of prices, however, the consumer is often confused at the disparity. Much of the iron products available are simply steel that has been stamped to a shape, bent, and and then painted black.  Many companies pass off machine made hardware as forged or wrought hardware.  They are not the same has hand forged, or hand wrought hardware and the price often reflects this.

When you purchase Horton Brasses hand forged iron hardware, you not only purchase a superior product, but you support traditional craftsmanship. Our products are forged with integrity. The entire process is overseen by skilled blacksmiths. When you receive a Horton Brasses hand forged pull or grip,  be confident that you are receiving an authentic, one of a kind, hand produced piece that took hours to create.

To learn more about the production of our hand forged iron hardware, check our blog regularly to see what Molly and George are up to.

A Blacksmith’s Finish

 

There are a number of finishes available for forged work including traditional finishes like paint or wax. The one we’ve found best for interior locations uses a mixture of raw linseed oil and beeswax. We mix the linseed oil and beeswax in the shop, blending them by heating them together in a baking pan over the forge. We use raw linseed oil because boiled linseed oil contains heavy metal driers which are toxic.

 

 

 

For larger items, such as latches, the forging is heated slightly over the fire and dipped in the warm, liquid finish. The forging is then held again over the fire to ensure that all surfaces are completely covered by finish. We allow the forging to cool to a temperature that is comfortable for us to handle before we wipe off excess finish. For smaller items, we apply the warm, melted finish (it feels like melted candle wax) with our bare hands. After a few minutes we wipe off the excess.

 

Temperature is important in applying the finish. The wax must be hot enough to be liquid. In the winter, the finish can solidify in less time than it takes to hear Ravel’s Bolero on our shop radio — just a few minutes. If the wax is too hot, or the forging is too hot when the finish is applied, the finished surface has a strange “caramelized” appearance.

 

 

 

 

 

It is the linseed oil in the finish that transforms the gray scale on the surface of the forging to black. Beeswax helps create a barrier to the environment. Beeswax is extremely stable and has been found to protect items for centuries.

 

 

 

We let the finish dry for at least two days and then the items are given a final paste wax (using Johnson’s). A day later the items are given a second buffing. After a final inspection they are ready to ship to Horton.

 

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