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I Forge Iron

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First Greetings to all as I am new to this forum,


I have recently graduated from a fine art course here in England during which I used several time the forge to produce my artwork.

First for me a great occasion to try myself to a specialist skill, then a way to get to a result intended as the college had sold their foundry, so it was the only way to go heavy metal.

I now have been proposed to create an artwork for a town for which I first have to produce a quote. Once again, for time, reasons and practicality, I will use the forge to help me shapping the metal as desired. This is the reason why I found your forum and I might have to ask you a lot of question before I can relax!

First of all, I am to produce a tree like shape, which will be outdour, I am wondering what type of grade of steel shall I work with, we used to work with constuction type rods like 30mm, 12mmm, 8mm, 6mm and nice little plates like 5x40x100 but now I am thinking I might need something that can weather a bit better than that or that can take a nice finish...I, off course, also have to be cost effective......

So that's my first question and would need suggestion...

Secondly...my second question Is: Can anyone suggest me a good supplier, here in South East England(Kent) or one that can deliver around the country?

I think I will need predominantly some 30mm rods and then smaller size..

Thank you in advance.



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How about a few pictures of your work.  I would just use hot rolled low carbon steel.  Buy construction rods I would guess you are talking about rebar.  I would steer clear of that as the surface ridges may inter fear with any texture you want to add to the piece.   Can't help with a supplier.

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There are all sorts of options for metal that can be used out in the elements. The material you choose may depend on the finish you are looking to achieve. 304/316 stainless might be one option, especially if you want a shiny bright "modern" finish. Cor-ten steel that weathers to a rust finish might be another option. If you plan to paint or powdercoat, just about any steel might do. Then there are nonferous materials like bronze, monel and so on...

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Welcome aboard, glad to have you. It's pretty hard to be very helpful without more information. Outdoor and treelike could be a piece of jewelry or a bottle opener for an outdoor BBQ. At least let us know the general size, concept sketches would be much better. Another helpful bit of info is it's proposed location, a sculpture for a kindergarten playground wouldn't work in a prison exercise yard.


Monel is an excellent material, it'll last for centuries easily but it can be a mother bear to work.


Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks, to be more precise, I will in a way recreate a tree, so it might be about at least 10n feet high, I will space around 12 rods on a circle at the base and will go up from there trying to bring a twisting movement as it goes up. The location is a public space, so for everyone...
Sorry that's a bit sad but I don't know how to post a picture on this type of format...Not really the last generation student...more mid-!

I am not sure I will be able to follow either about the type of steel as each country use their own code...I contacted this company this week but after conversation they started to snob me saying their produce was maybe to high-spec for me

.http://www.smithmetal.com/products/catalogue.asp If anyone wants to check, I don't know if it's any good for me exept the copper, bronze, brass.

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Wow that's some high powered corn your growing there.


Oh come on Postleg, it's just POP corn. <sheesh>


Richard: I have a better idea of what you want to do and your questions are pretty straight forward with that little bit more information. Something that will really help you talk to folk in specialist fields is to learn to be less flowery and vague in your speech. You're adding a lot of elements that have no bearing on what you ask of us without shedding much light on what we do need to know.


So, what you want to do is bid a project. To do so YOU must know what's the best material to use and stay within budget. There are a number of materials that will work well but each with it's own unique characteristics. #1 is expense, #2 difficulty working, #3, appearance, #4 finish.


That's just a ROUGH guide, for instance do you know how to calculate a materials cost? #1 purchase price. #2, how much does the machinery cost to work it, can you weld? How well, do you have the welder? Finish isn't about being done, it's about bringing the material to a finished state for instance hand rubbing and lacquering fine wood, powder coating steel or maybe chroming it.


Were I attempting your project I'd spend time talking to the person commissioning the work with sketch pad in hand. If a tree were what was really wanted I'd find out what kind. Do they want realistic, impressionist, etc.  what finish do they want Rust? paint? What? I'd look over the location, most used paths, vantage points, natural lighting seasonal traffic patterns, daily time of traffic who is the traffic, etc. etc.


So, lets say  they want fairly realistic, natural patina minimal rust. It's placement will be in a small piece of lawn in an intersection in front of a building entrance. The entrance is two ful flights of steps above the installation spot. So, it'll have to look good from above. Coming up the paths it's going to get good lighting from one side during business hours and the background isn't terribly interesting. Weather in the area isn't too severe but gets wind and occasional wind.


Armed with this basic info I know the weather is a factor so it's going to have to stand up to winds, no big leaves or long lacy elements. Lots of rain means mild steel will rust and stain the groud under it so no mild steel or Core-10. This leaves a number of alternative. How good are you at the forge? Ever try forging Monel? Ever hear of Monel? What ever patina you put on it will be relatively unchanged a couple thousand years from now. Patination on Monel is limited though it's FAR from a reactive metal so you can get it to look like various iron patinas pretty easily. You'll need to tig weld it, grinding isn't too hard but it'll gum up wheels so that's an expense. You can electro polish it so you can probably send it to a subcontractor and it'll be shiney for a couple thousand years.


You can forge bronze but it's tricky stuff, too hot it crumbles, not hot enough and it breaks up. the stuff is a PITA but it's plenty doable. Once again TIG welds and it isn't going to like being too flexible in heavy weather, it work hardens and could fail. Clean up and polishing is pretty straight forward, nothing strange there, just lots of sweat. Bronze looks good and is a common sculptural material.


Copper is fun to forge but has it's own characteristics you have to understand and deal with.


Okay, none of what I've written is detailed enough to be very helpful to you in a bid. My intent was to give you an idea of what and how to ask your questions. If you ask a metal supplier your questions like you asked us, the supplier is going to get the idea you don't know enough to understand their answers so they're unlikely to accept the liability of trying too hard. For instance, do we really need to know you want to use 10 rods with a twist pattern to try and represent a "grain?" growth pattern? What that kind of background info does is get us thinking how we'd do it instead. Believe me I wouldn't try doing a 10' tall sculpture that way unless the person buying it wanted it. Maybe if it was a Banyon or similar but even then.


Sorry, I know this has turned into more of a critique than you were looking for but there are no easy answers to what you've asked. I've only TOUCHED on material costs and some of the contributing factors to that cost. Just don't give up, we're pulling for you.


Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks Frosty to go back to the core of my question, which was which material to use and eventual suppliers.


What you describe here makes sense and is helping to solve some questions, some I was aware of and some, that are beyond my boundaries.

Indeed it will endure severe weather condition such as lots of rain, sea salt breeze and wind of the north sea and it's going to have to be relatively child safe and vandal resistant. I also have a consideration for the surroundings, which is a public square hundreds of yard away, behind rows of building, from the sea shore...


Yes, I would be more interested in technical issue, such as steel quality or the finish process, as you mentioned, such as patination.

I called a British blacksmith this morning, recommended by the BBA, who just told me to get some low carbon steel, construction grade, the rest is too tough to work with.

What I want to do with the rods as a starting point is to, in a way, is to weave them, in a quite simple movement, like a rope...to me it make sense, I don't want to reproduce a tree as it is with the bark on the trunk, it has to be quite suggestive or abstract...

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Drawings or sketches would help.


If you want something that braids like rope, how about steel cable? Getting steel rods to braid like rope won't be easy, especially if you are working with long lengths and little to no experience. Work out a basic frame work to support the structure and then wrap it in braided cable. For corrosion resistance, I'd look at stainless wire rope/cable.

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