andreas

making metal look "medieval"

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Greetings all!!

First posting here.
I have been asked to build a display case for a replica knights helmet and broadsword. The requirement is that the metal look "medieval", by that I guess they mean really old and not made by modern machinery. I had planned on using 1 1/2 x 1/4 flat bar for the frame of the case and just hammering it with a ball pien to distress it a little and then riveting to put it all together. Are there any suggestions?

Cheers!!

Andreas
Guelph, Ontario Canada

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Have you thought of using the face of the hammer to scallop the edges and instead of just dinging it all over with a ball pien using a straight or cross pien lightly at various angles to give it some texture then perhaps a nice rusty finish.

Woody

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I don't think medieval smiths could buy flatbar. They would get a lump of 'merchant bar' and pound it into flatbar. Depending on time, budget, and how many friends you have that can swing sledges, I would try forging 1 inch round into approx. 1/4 x 1-1/4 flat. It has a whole different look than storebought flat. If thats out of the question, try grinding some thin lines into an old flea market hammer. It makes a vine-like texture that's pretty nifty when forged into store bought flat.

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I would consider ageing it with mustard or vinegar to give it a little patina then buff with 0000 steel wool to give it the "worn out " look. and coat with a clear laquer or Danish oil. Also I learned a neat trick recently, collect a hand full of the fire scale that builds up around the anvil. Place a few pinches of the fire scale on top of the anvil and place the red hot "face " (the side that will show) over the piles of scale and hammer away. Working the scale into the face of the bar (something we normaly try to avoid doing) gives a nice rough 3 -d effect that may be just the "medieval" look you are trying to acheive. Beating the red hot bar stock into gravel or a rough rock like granite will give a neat effect too. I'd Suggest playing with some scraps, give each a different surface treatment and see what the customer likes or wht you like.

Have fun

Jens

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Andreas
I agree with Woody, you can take a heat on the flat stock and lightly break the sharp edges with a hammer to give a piece that hand forged look. I have never been a fan of using a ball pien or other method of just abusing metal to give it a fake texture.

Or if time is not a factor, forge it from round stock as mike mentioned.

Just my opinion though. :-)

BT

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Thank you all for the suggestions!!

The case I have been asked to make is going to be about 4ft long by 2ft high and 2 feet deep, about 24 linear feet for the frame, so I am liking Woody's scalloping of the flat bar, seems it will be faster and more in line with my forging ability. I also like Mike's idea about grinding lines into an old hammer for that "vine" effect. Great ideas!!!

Andreas

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A client wanted 8 strap hinges 4" wide x 36" long (for a door) fully textured and liked the look a ball pein made on the metal. The entire surface was distressed with out a single area of the original finish left untouched. Never again.

If you want a pitted look, put the center point into an air chisel and go at the surface of the flatbar. It gives a little different type of texture, and can be adjusted from light to deep indentations, and from here-n-there to full coverage. The air tool does a lot of work in short order. Do a test piece first to see the effect.

Combine several of the techniques suggested to arrive at an unique texture and product.

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texturing by hand is alot of fun. getting a cheap hammer and texturing the face works good, I've taken them and welded different weld blobs one them then softened any sharp edges with a sanding disk on a grinder and have had good results quickly, I normally texture the stock before any other forging is done.

I've made similar texturing dies for my powerhammers, makes quick work of it.

Another option that works well is finding some really rusted pitted metal and using it as sort of a flater or placing it on the anvil and hammering the heated stock into it.

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I think "texturing" or "stressing" hand-forged work is relatively pointless and usually obnoxious. In "Wrought Iron in Architecture", Gerald Geerlings in 1929 railed agains the same thing. Apparently lazy fabricators were taking a ball pein hammer and beating on dimensioned iron to make it imitate forged work 80 years ago also.

If you have the time, your iron really benefits from "re-forging" as several people have said already. By taking one size and forging it to the best of your ability to another size, you are forced to touch every part of the metal with your hammer. The difference between your goal of perfect, and the reality of the new piece, is the beauty of many subtle reflective surfaces that give wrought work its character. Try REALLY hard to make it smooth and beautiful, though.

I just made another pilgrimage to the National Cathedral to look at the iron again. Once again, I was startled to see how much I disliked a particular gate set. On closer inspection, I could see that the whole thing was "distressed" to make it look "authentic". There were other issues with the gate, but that was the most glaring violation of good forging practice, in my opinion.

Back to the original question: Andreas --- forge the work to the best of your ability. If every part of the steel is forged and done cleanly, it will look authentically forged and clean. That is what they strove for in those days and so should you. Stray hammer marks were a sign of inferior work. It may look "new" rather than medieval, but with the right finish it will look like restored, well-preserved work from that period.

ANY hammer will do, by the way. I use power hammers and treadle hammers whenever possible. It is the PROCESS of forging that counts.

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I have to say I completely agree with Ed Thomas here. I would never do anything like hammering the steel with a ball pein hammer just to get a different structure. If you have the time and the energy, forge the flatbar out of roundbar and then forge down any sharp corners slightly. That would be my suggestion.

Whatever you choose I wish you the best of luck with your project!

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I'll agree with actauly forging it all..... but the customer with the $ usually has the last say and for some reason a great deal of them like that hammered texture. I have in the past hot chiseled a border all around a piece and only textured the center, this makes it look more like it was meant to be a textured finish.

One rule I have and I feel its a good one is that none of my work is allowed to have factory stock edges, it cannot have that grabbed off the shelf barstock look.

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Hi, my first post here. Anyhow, I'd just take the edges off cold. The layout and assembly will be so much more straightforward. If you do it hot, just texture it lightly or the metal might get more distorted than you planned on, and it might be harder to get everything level and square. Flattening out 1/2" round would look cool, but that is like 4 times the amount of work/fuel/time. Just my 2 cents. You also might consider using some copper or brass rivets, but I don't know if that would qualify as medieval.

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Like Chris said, the customer with the $$ has the last word. In this case the client wants the textured look as I guess that is their idea as to what looks "medieval". There is also a time element involved, and beating flat bar out of round stock just doesn't fit in with the time restraints. Also, the case will have tempered glass sides and the flat bar will make fabricating and fitting up a lot easier for me anyway. I think I'll throw in some rivets, that may help with the look the client wants.

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I would try creating a small sample of both and letting the customer decide which one he'd rather pay for. That way it was totally his decision and you still get a bit of experience with something new. And of course you have no clue what it would cost you in labor untill you had done the sample anyway.

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If you are going for an overall aged look in your finished piece then perhaps you could incorporate some wood along with the iron into the design. I would poke around in an old barn for this provided you can secure permission to do so. Look in an old chicken coop and you won't find a straight edge anywhere in the place, especially the boards accross the front of the hen boxes- always very worn down. The best thing about artistic design is there are no rules. Good luck and keep on hammerin':)

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One other method nobody has mentioned: find old rusty pitted stock to work with. I once had a comission to make a pot rack and to make sure that we were speaking the same language I mocked up an example in miniature (size of a door pull) since it was a "throw away" I used a piece of nasty metal that looked like it had been under a manure pile. The customer *loved* it and wanted the full size one to be made out of the same stuff.


Unfortunately folks get mad when you tell them that the hammered look is mostly from the arts and crafts movement of the early 20th century and so unauthentic to medieval work.

Thomas

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To ''make It Look Medivel'' Take The Flet Steel U Choose Heat Up Hammer The Bar Brake The Corners And Take Away The Industrial Straight Lines , Take A Chisel And Incise With The Chisel Lines On The Two Sides Of The The Flat Steel 3/16-1/4 '' From The Edge Along The Bar Make A Rivet Joinary Brush With Steel Brush In Low Rev , And When Finished Wax It, Good Luck Hofi

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Nobody came up with my suggestion, shame on you Thomas;-) Use wrought iron... and as Thomas suggested the nastiest rusty wrought you can find, and as Mike suggested forge round bar into flat stock. I would power wire brush it Hot, within an inch of its life, and then also etch it with vinegar, then throw it back into the fire and scale it lightly, hand wire brush it till black heat, then wax/linseed oil, then allow to cool then burnish to a shine. And if you find someone who is willing to pay you a decent shop rate for this kind of work let me know I would like to meet them;-)

Nothing ruins a traditional design quite like factory edges, and uterly consistant demensions...

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there's the big problem no one wants to pay what it's worth at least in my neck of the woods and thats why I'm just a hobby blachsmith. I refuse to something for nothing

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And just why should I be suggesting he waste real wrought iron on "faking" something that is obviously not medieval to begin with?

Thomas

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LOL ;-)

Because if you do it right, it's nolonger faking it;-) and I love the grain of wrought iron. I feel like we need to educate the customer as much as we can, medieval means a lot of different things to different people, and covers a huge time frame, and diverse cultures and artistic styles. People don't need to stay uneducated about art history. They also need to be educated that good work by an artist blacksmith will cost more than something fabricated in a welding shop. (I couldn't make a living as a welder or a fabricator, I am too slow, and too poor a welder;-) This is not a critique, or a slam against fabing, but the prices are very competative, unless you have a really good name and more work than you can do... It is too easy for a client to look in the phone book and shop a project to more than one shop. Most of the clients that a blacksmith sees, he is probably the only blacksmith that the client knows. (rich computer savy clients, and collectors excepted ofcourse;-) So consequently he is the only one able to produce the finished product, with the handmade/traditional look that the client desires. I don't want to give that type of work away for WallyWorld prices. I want to be paid like a skilled artist craftsman, who produces work of rare quality... (Atleast that is what I aspire to do, right now I am still selling mainly the cheap stuff;-( but I turn a pretty fancy S-hook on the diamond, and I make a few items you cannot find anywhere else!;-) If you caught my class Sunday morning in the open demonstration area at Sofa you saw some of them... ;-)

Good point Bruce, again we need to educate the public. There are two things a blacksmith can do that will ultimately cause himself to suffer, one is working cold iron, and the other is not charging enough for his work.

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