Black Bear Forge we are blacksmiths and, to the extent possible,
strongly favor traditional
blacksmithing techniques over modern substitutes. So, what does this mean to our
customers? Quality, character, design, and authenticity.
Blacksmithing is defined by the process of forming hot
metal, generally between the hammer and anvil. Materials, mild
steel in most cases, are first heated in either a coal-fired forge
or propane gas forge to 1500-2000 degrees. At this heat the iron
becomes plastic and can be reworked (forged) into new and exciting
shapes as elements of the project.
These elements are then joined using hand-forged methods such as mortise
and tenon joints, rivets and hot collars. Hot forging in the
traditional blacksmith's manner gives the iron more life and depth than
other more modern methods. While a railing, for example, can be
built with pieces of iron cut by a computerized laser and arc welded together, it will not have the warmth
and depth of good hand-forged iron.
Another way modern
decorative iron objects are made is through fabrication. Fabrication
generally involves cutting bars to length, arc welding them together,
and adding stock decorative elements ordered from a catalog. Blacksmiths generally refer
to this type of work as "cut and paste". It is nearly
impossible to achieve the same look in a purely fabricated piece as in
the hand-forged piece, even if both are made from the same
design. This isn't meant to say that fabricated iron work
doesn't have its place. Some fabricators do wonders without
forging. Often it is economical to use fabrication for the
assembly of hand-forged elements, saving the cost of traditional
forged joinery yet retaining the beauty of hand-forged iron.
Hand-forged iron will almost
always cost more than modern fabricated ornamental iron, But, if you
want the very best for your project, we feel that quality custom forged
iron work is the only way to go.
iron work is often called wrought iron. However, wrought iron
actually designates a material that is no longer made in any quantity today.
The only source I know of for real wrought iron is a historical site in
England that is still making it the old way. However, the cost of shipping
this wrought iron to the United States makes true wrought iron far too expensive to work with today. Our
material of choice, then, is mild steel -- readily available
and a stronger, more predictable material.
forge-welded corner joint is made possible only by traditional