What is Architectural Blacksmithing?
Custom designed iron works that serve architectural purposes can be forged by architectural blacksmiths. Many of the same techniques and tools used hundreds of years ago are still employed today. Pieces that would fit the category of architectural blacksmithing would include iron gates and fences, lighting fixtures, hand-forged hardware, railings, iron furniture, fireplace tools, iron ornament, and grilles. But they aren't necessarily strictly structural or functional.
Architectural blacksmiths will work closely with your architect, interior designer, or builder. Some homeowners may choose to work directly with the blacksmith shop. Custom architectural pieces may incorporate design motifs to coordinate with existing elements of the design. The goal of a good blacksmith is to unlock the full potential of the piece. You may also wish to read Useful Welded Art. Architectural blacksmithing can beautify a personal property, home, garden, or place of business.
Who does it?
Architectural blacksmiths may employ traditional blacksmithing techniques as well as modern fabricating methods. Labor intensive traditional blacksmithing techniques require specialized equipment and skills. A good blacksmith is also an artist. Ornamental iron projects require both artistic and technical goals to be met in architectural pieces. In the architectural blacksmithing process, wrought metals are heated in a fire and formed over an anvil. Timeless pieces are created from generations-old tools and techniques.
How to Choose a Good Blacksmith
A good blacksmith will work closely with their clients to create the pieces they envision. High quality pieces made with traditional forging methods can be either traditional or contemporary. A skilled craftsman is not limited to traditional motifs. Detailed pieces are produced through joinery techniques including rivets, collars, hot-punched mortise holes and forged tenons.
When choosing a local blacksmith, take the time to visit their studio. Ask for a tour, to see samples and photos from previous projects. Your blacksmith may work primarily at their studio, but will also need to visit the project site for dimensions, to finalize design, and to install the piece. Ask your blacksmith for a cost estimate, an expected date of completion, and if there are fees for design or prototypes, if necessary. Your craftsman should be flexible in the design, reliable, and have a commitment to the detail and finish of a piece.
A blacksmith should be able to reproduce architectural hardware for those looking to regain an original look in their home. Homes on a historic register must have restorations matching the specifications. The English, for example, had strict standards for their ironwork. Consistency was – and is – critical. If you're building a new reproduction house, look for an experienced blacksmith. If you need builder's hardware, ornamental iron, hand forged wrought iron, fences, gates, door hardware, shutters, windows, latches, or hinges to match the look of your period home, you need an architectural blacksmith. With photos, drawings, examples of other pieces, and a little research, your blacksmith can reproduce quality hardware to match both the regional and historic specifications of your home. It may be virtually indistinguishable from the original, if done right.