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I Forge Iron

The Original Christoph Friedrich's Split Cross

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I happened to spot these elegant crosses hanging on the wall in Christoph Friedrich's forge in Switzerland a few years ago when I dropped by for lunch. 

I think these were the trial runs for his demonstration at the ABANA Saint Louis Conference in the early 90s which introduced and popularised the split cross.

The photo is not that good but the differences between the band saw / slitting disc method of producing the centre and making them on the anvil by hot chiselling can seen.

The chamfers on the face of upright left by the chisel cuts and the use of a curved chisel to give the sweep in and leave the foot block form and visual mass at the base, means that the texture and modelling comes from the forming process rather than having to be applied afterward. 

Using the hot chiselled process means it can also be formed on the end of a longer piece for use as a processional cross or left free standing.

For me, the blacksmith's hot work processes contribute so much aesthetic "added-value" to a piece that no extra decoration or applied texture is necessary. I find applied surface decoration can often distract and detract from the piece.



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Thanks Alan. It'd take a blacksmith to see the difference in technique right off, the foot of the cross says it all. I'll have to give it a try and see if I like my results. While I could reproduce the foot using my band saw it'd add a couple steps and take it right off the marketable list.

Thanks again, good little tutorial.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I suppose I posted it as a bit of prompt for a discussion about the "why" rather than the "how". The effect of, and contribution to the final piece different processes make and have.

But yes, you could put a bend into the bar before sawing and then straighten it out to give you the little swept out foot. But what you would still be missing is the joy of the slightly random wobble of the spine and shallow chamfers running up the vertical element which catch the light and are given to you for free by the hot chisel process. 

The hammered dimples I have seen on many of these crosses which cover up the saw marks (or don't in some cases) I find take away from the magic of the unfurling trick. If you can trace the clean lines of the edges through the centre you can see the movement that produced it. The viewer can witness the plastic quality of hot metal recorded in the final piece. That clarity of provenance is often lost through over enthusiastic hammer work.

I am not by any means saying there is a right and wrong way to make these crosses. I know and believe there is no morality in technique. But if t'were me and the piece was cut using a bandsaw I would tend to leave the saw marks visible...



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