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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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.

Strap hinges with style

Strap It On!

My mother-in-law just left after a weekend visit, returning to her DC home. While staying with us, she and her husband admitted to feeling some kitchen envy for our new remodel. That being said, she is hesitant to tear out her 40 year old kitchen and trade up to something more contemporary. One of the things she doesn’t want to part with: the copper functional strap hinges adorning her cabinets. They have definitely retained their classic beauty, despite the years.

Now, I know most people are not running to the hardware store and clearing out the bins of strap hinges when it comes to updating their kitchen hardware. The majority of strap hinges tend to end up on barn doors and hope chests, bought by men who wear their Wrangler dungarees and plaid flannel shirts in a not so ironic way.

But does that mean you shouldn’t consider these bands of hand forged stylishness for your remodel? Of course not! You are not a kitchen trend follower but rather a style setter. How many European bar pulls must be tolerated to spite the expression of individual personality in the kitchen?

Sure, not every application may suit the strap hinge. You may feel that a complete kitchen outfitted in strap hinges….or even the strap hinge’s less lean cousin, the butterfly hinge….may be a bit too period for you. Still, you can use these traditionally styled, hand forged iron hinges to quirk up the joint–adding some visual interest to an otherwise standard and un-noteworthy space.

This vintage Kohler sink photo should be added to the inspiration file of anyone contemplating a period kitchen remodel for an American farmhouse kitchen. The cast iron apron front sink is just one aspect of perfecting that early American look. Iron strap hinges decorate the cabinets and add beauty to the pared down decor of this functional kitchen.

An updated take on that same traditional style can be seen in this photo from Morgan Creek Cabinetry. All modern conveniences are on hand with a high end range and new fireclay apron front sink while keeping period inspired details like a beadboard ceiling and functional strap hinges mounted on the custom cabinetry.

The clean and modest kitchen of this British cottage rental has a neutral palette and limited cabinets. However, the pantry door adds charm to this otherwise staid space. The large strap hinges and iron knob elevates this cottage kitchen to the expectations of patrons by infusing it with a shot of authenticity amidst the contemporary utilitarian design. 

This kitchen by Karin Blake, as it appeared in Architectural Digest, is a  tableau of simplicity, classic Americana and modern design. A mix of inset slab front drawers and wainscot doors, the vintage style lab stools, farm table and windsor chairs all add to the smooth, seamless allure of a style indicating New England old money when, in fact, this home is Malibu new construction. One of the key details that makes this look work are the barn-style cabinet doors finished with forged iron strap hinges.

While a Karin Blake kitchen may not be in your budget, such a look is definitely attainable with stock cabinetry and the right hinges, of course! Whether your cabinets are inset, overlay or frameless, you can rock this designer look by either using real functional strap hinges or dummy hinges. And don’t forget the other hardware to compliment your look. There are a variety of handles sized to create the perfect drama in your kitchen. At Horton Brasses, there are the oversized Suffolk Grips as well as the modestly sized Iron Grips.

And check out these matching knobs from Horton Brasses. Honestly, this stuff is not just for period kitchens! Imagine how appropriate these would look in some kind of industrial modern space. Like I said at the start of this post, ditch the European bar pulls, people! Nothing screams modern more than industrial. Just think lab coats and beakers and all that mad science that went on, marking a new era. Forged iron is not just barn. Below is a pic of a  kitchen from 1966 that merges the suburban colonial look with modern stylings. This should definitely get you thinking outside of your forged iron box!

The above picture is a great find for anyone with an older home and a budget. There are many ways to update a kitchen, but if you cabinets are in good shape, the most cost effective way involves soap and water and maybe a fresh coat of paint. Strap hinges were definitely more popular in decades past, but hopefully this post will have you embracing your older hardware with a style savvy gaze. Or, even better, taking on that full remodel with courage to add some spark to your kitchen with some well chosen accent pieces. Karin Blake would be impressed!