Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Forging Wheat...

Recommended Posts

Hello all,

I want to forge some realistic-looking wheat from ½” square stock and am having problems. I’ve looked for tutorials here and elsewhere, to no avail, so now I’m asking for help.

I start by putting a blunt pyramid on the end and then slightly flatten the stock for three inches back from there – this will be the 'head'. I then fuller it at the point where my flattened area meets the square stock and draw it down to a bit under a 1/4“ for a couple of inches. Next I use a chisel to put a deep cut down the centre of each face of the head. So far so good.

My attempts to give the appearance of grains in the head have all been poor, I’ve used a butcher like cutter and a straight edged one, no luck. The ‘grains’ are not pronounced enough and work on one side flattens the opposite too much.


Thanks in advance for advice.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like you have the gist of it right, long time since I did any.

What I would recommend is that you don't try to do the grains in one go,

Mark the front face first and then match on each side face,

Repeat, once or twice, deepening the grooves to form the grains outline,

It may also help if you complete them when cool using a cold chisel and a soft cutting/backing plate underneath (aluminium, lead or copper) this will give a better defined point to the individual grains

Also are you trying to do the grains on four sides?,

Normally they are done on the front face, and the top of the two side faces, that is not to say you can't do them on all four faces, just need to take more care and use the soft backing plate to finish them

I have a couple of samples at Westpoint, I will see if I can get a picture this weekend when I am up there

Hope this helps,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well P., those look good but they look twisted - am I right? - the ones I want to do are all forged and chisel-cut. When (if... ) I finish one to my satisfaction I'll post a pic' and you'll see the difference. Thanks for trying though. G.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I only yesterday posted my Gichner's 2011 pictures on Flickr. I had a picture of a wheat head done by Jonathan Nebhor that you might get some ideas from.


You can also find some pictures of how to cut one step-by-step in "The ABCs of Blacksmithing" by Fridolin Wolf, pp 96-97. We can thank Judy Berger of BlueMoon Press who worked with Fridolin Wolf to consolidate two of his German volumes into a single English translation.

- Doug

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is great piece of work Doug, it looks 'alive'! But, it is the chisel-worked type I'm aspiring to. I'd not come across that book before your post, I'll see if I can borrow a copy to see how I get on with it. Thanks for the post. G.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that Jeremy; good stuff but, sadly, not what I mean - these look 2D not 3D. I've only seen what I am trying to do once before, at a county show a few years ago, no camera on my 'phone then and I don't know who the smith was.

But... John B has seen it and done it, I'm waiting on him for a pic' to be posted. When it is you'll see it's realistic rather than impressionistic. I hope my own final efforts will be as good and will post pic's if I triumph.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the only way I can see to effectively cut the grains in on all four surfaces without damaging the underside each time, is to cut them at the same time. maybe make a guilotine tool (or spring swage) that will cut both sides? Even shears would pinch on a groove that might not look to far off?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can make tooling to produce these as four sided element, but you tend to lose the randomness of the individual pieces, and it is not often you actually need to produce a four sided piece, if you want to do that, go with the twisted bars method, even if the grains go alternative as opposed to all laying in one direction

If you accurately want to produce these, cast them in lead on an iron rod as our predecessors did

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks John, that is exactly what I have in mind, but with all four faces worked if possible. I shall try once more this week. Thanks again.

After incising it and marking it for the individual grains, work it cold on a lead backing block, anneal if necessary.

It can be critical in relationship of the marking out and chisel angles (on the chisel itself) as to how the final piece turns out.

By incising this way you are left with the sharp points sticking out that give the appearance you are after.

Little and often in a regular order is the way to go, and you may need to use four different areas on the lead block to allow these grains to develop to give the sharpness you are looking for.

You can get a powerhammer/treadle hammer dies to produce these but they are thinner and require dressing IMHO after use http://www.isys.co.uk/glendale/pages/pshape.htm

Have fun
Link to comment
Share on other sites

For those interested, here are some pics (warts and all) of the stages in developing this particular style of wheat ears, meant to be viewed from front and side, back remains flat.

It should be done hot, unfortunately this one was rushed through inbetween doing other things, most of it done cold, which is not to be recomended, and so is not of the best standard, as too is the photography, but you should be able to get the gist of doing it.

Step one form a three sided taper on the end of the bar


Step 2, isolate the head area by necking in and starting the form for the stem,


Step 3 is to incise down the centre on front and sides (lightly at this stage, deepen later as you develop the grains.


Step 4 Lightly incise for the individual grains on the front face in a herringbone pattern,
(pay attention to the spacings, as this spacing and the chisel shape used to deepen these marks later,define the crispness and shape of the grains on the finished ear, this one was done just using a cold chisel)

Step 5 Lightly incise the sides to join up to the incised lines on the front face

Step 6 Deepen the side incised lines

Step 7 Deepen the front face to form the grains, this one shows the effect, warts and all.

Not the best example, and you may have to repeat the stages to get the definition you require, and make your chisel angles to suit to give you the diamond look/effect of the grains, doing it hot will make it easier

When you have done the incising you can arrange a curve or two to give a naturalistic form.

I had some problems loading this and so it may not come out as I intended, any questions feel free to ask.

Have fun






Edited by John B
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks once again John. I'll be very happy with something looking like your last pic'. I hope to have a go on Wednesday or Thursday - work etc. allowing, if not it will be Saturday.

Thinking on what you, and Dave, have written... I'm minded to try another method too. I think for this way I'll start with pretty deep cuts down the central lines and I'll leave the necking at the bottom of the ear until last. That will enable me to put a fair sized lump of metal between vice jaws and - working with progressive heats from the top down - use a butcher like chisel to cut and, hopefully, open out each grain at the same time. Once I get to the bottom I'll put a neck on it and draw down the stem.

Fun, as you say, but I suspect a fair amount of frustration too before I'm done!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

A brief update... am still unable to achieve the desired features on more than two sides.

Have tried using lead as a back (as in John's suggestion) without much success. (Obviously my skills are no on a par with his)

Also tried the very slow method of incising each grain while the iron is in a vice on the vertical, moving up a grain at a time.
This was less unsuccessful but still not much good.

Am considering a shaped recess to hold the correctly forged two faces while I work on the last two. Am waiting for a couple of small burrs
to allow me to grind out the correct shape. My 'two sides' have all been pretty uniform (until the opposites are attempted) so, if I allow room
for the grains to sit without touching the bottom of each hollow, I hope they will not deform.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...