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Avoiding leaf stems breaking

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Hi folks, for a while I struggled with necking down leaf stems without them breaking, I assume I'm not the only who has run into this problem but thankfully now I've developed a leaf forging process that eliminates the issue. (Due to health problems I haven't been able to get an apprenticeship or study blacksmithing so I'm self taught, as far as I know this tip might be taught as part of leaf making 101 and could be painfully obvious to some, but it's new to me). I've had more than my fair share of help from this forum so when I find something that might be useful to someone else I think I should pitch in...

I'm working on a commission at the minute that requires lots of leaves so I took the opportunity to photograph what I mean. I like to do my leaves with a raised central vein, the hammering angles required to push/pull the vein into position can cause the stem to twist. My solution to help know when the stem is untwisted is to not planish out the corners when rounding up the stem. If you leave the corners alone and leave the planishing till after you've forged the leaf, you can easily see where the stem's twisting. In the pics below the stem hadn't twisted much before I rescued it, but it could have gone much further and become a problem, if I let it.

Another major factor in my process of avoiding the stem becoming brittle is to neck down on the bick, not off the far edge of the anvil. I find that unless your anvil's far edge is very rounded necking down that way is too much stress on one specific point in one go, whereas the bick is a gentler curve and shares the stress better.

This leaf is made from 16mm round bar.

Stem necked down on the bick, corners left unplanished.


Neck starting to twist behind the leaf, as can be seen on the corners.


Stem twisted back straight:


Leaf finished and corners planished:


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I've also found there is an "up" and a "down" to leaves. When doing the 2 turn neck down off the anvil, the body of the leaf faces down. If you go and neck the back down on the opposite side of the anvil with the body of the leaf down, you stress the stem by making it flex a lot. Instead rotate the body to face "up" and now the back of the stem and leaf are supported and flat. Same goes when you spread the leaf. Put the flat back down, and the leaf is completely supported while spreading. If done the other way, the stem either flexes, or material gets pushed under the stem causing cracks.


Noticing this made a huge difference in how many failures I had when forging stems and leaves. Now I just need to work on getting my spreading even each time. About one third to one half of my leaves end up looking closer to 'feathers" after spreading it seems...

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Now I just need to work on getting my spreading even each time. About one third to one half of my leaves end up looking closer to 'feathers" after spreading it seems...

I get that when after necking down the blob I leave at the end is too long. That's another thing I like about necking down off the bick, if after a few blows you think you've left too long a blob you can easily reduce the length of it by pulling back on the bar and reclaiming that extra material into the stem.

The other problem which I always used to run into when I necking down off the far edge was that it would leave quite a hard shoulder, so when I worked on the back of the leaf it was really hard to stop the material from folding backwards and cold shutting ontop of the leaf-to-stem transition point. I don't get that problem on the bick because the transition shoulder is naturally much more gentle. Also, when I come to turn the 4 sided stem into 8, I work on the bottom corner first by hanging the blob face down over the bick and striking on it's bottom corner. By doing that the rounded shape of the bick fullers the material at the back of the leaf forwards. Ultimately the back of the leaf becomes more sloped & the chances of the material folding back & cold shutting are massively reduced.

Edited by Joel OF
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