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“Work Book of Patterns” (For Repousse’)

Posted by bighornforge on April 18, 2014

Acanthus Leaf Pattern #1

In continuing with my tribute to the late repousse’ artisan Nahum Hersom, I am including some of his repousse’ patterns in this blog.  I do this as Nahum, as well as his mentors Steven Molnar and Valentin Goelz, wanted this process to be carried on.  Here is Nahum’s dedication statement (I will both type this, as well as provide a photo of his actual hand-written statement):

“In fond memory and much appreciation I dedicate this book to these two men who dedicated their lives to this great art of repousse.  Mr. Steven Molnar   Mr. Valentin Goelz.  Both were European Craftsmen of the highest caliber, and the most patient of teachers.  Their motto “If we don’t teach the young craftsmen who will carry on.”  Sincerely,  Nahum Hersom.”

Hersom's Dedication Statement

This dedication was contained in a loose-leaf “book” that I bought from Nahum for fifty bucks back in 1994 when I was under his tutelage.  I believe that Nahum, as well as Mister’s Molnar and Goelz, would wish these patterns, and Nahum’s instruction, saved for posterity…and for all those young craftsmen Nahum spoke of in his dedication.  As I have stated before, I wish to continue in their tradition of sharing and teaching the processes of French repousse’ through this blog.

Please note:  This loose-leaf book was printed at a Kinko’s in Boise, Idaho in 1993 on 8-1/2″ x 17″ paper.  Since my scanner cannot copy anything over 8-1/2 x 11″, some of the patterns may be cut-off.  I will try to provide as many complete copies of those patterns that were cut-off as possible.

This next entry is on the backside of the dedication page, and reads:

“To the Craftsmen”

This “Work Book of Patterns” is a compiling “as not yet complete” of patterns which I have in my shop.  Some of these patterns are approx. 80 years old, others not that old, and a few as new as a month ago. However the design behind these patterns is hundreds of years old going back to Jean Tijou 1690-1710 a French Ironworker, repousse seems to have been developed in France, where it spread throughout Europe.  These patterns are representative of architectural styles and periods of history, and those Craftsmen I have known.  The style of the tools herein lend themselves to making, fine jewelry, to the largest of architectural embellishments or ornaments.  After all all metal work started with the hammer and anvil or stake.  Perhaps ornamental decoration is now in a revival, beauty in iron is a work of art, I for one hope it grows and lasts for a long, long, time.  “Nahum Hersom””   (Circa 1993).

Hersom's To the Craftsmen Statement

I will finish this post with a few more patterns.

…Dan Nauman

Hersom Patterns #3

Hersom Patterns #2

Posted in Decorative ironwork, Forging Processes, Repousse' | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

ABANA Heading In Wrong Direction?

Posted by bighornforge on February 5, 2014


The New Artist Blacksmith Association of North America?

The New Artist Blacksmith Association of North America?

 ABANA Now All Inclusive (short version)

ABANA Now All Inclusive (long version)

This is a discussion regarding whether ABANA should remain true to Article II of the by-laws, by demanding all aspects of ABANA deal solely with forging/blacksmiths.  This would mean that ABANA would not promote other forms of metalworking processes, i.e. electric welding, fabrication, etc.

Click on the “ABANA Now All Inclusive (short version)” above to read the shortened letter to ABANA members.

For the revised and and more complete version, based on feedback, click on  “ABANA Now All Inclusive (long version)”

This was updated on February 8, 2014.

Though we may have different opinions, thanks to all who have responded.  This discussion is long overdue.  I will leave this to ABANA’a Board of Directors, and to the membership to sort out.  I am willing to continue in this discussion.


…Dan Nauman

Posted in Forging Processes | 3 Comments »

Calyx forms for Edgar Brandt Gate Restoration

Posted by bighornforge on February 25, 2012

In August of last year, I stopped to see a potential client in Ohio about a gate resoration. The client, a fabricating firm, was needing someone to reproduce 12 different forms, i.e. calyx/husk forms, acanthus leaves, rosettes, and more, using the process of French Repousse’.

There are two identical driveway gates being restored. These gates were made by the French master blacksmith, Edgar Brandt (1880-1960.) Brandt (below) is known for producing fine architectural ironwork, as well as for the same in the Art Deco style.

The gates are massive, measuring roughly 15’W x 14’H. The gates are signed by Brandt, which is unusual, as blacksmiths of his era did not typically do so.

To reproduce these elements, I have only images and a few remnants of the originals, which have in many cases rusted away to almost nothing. Using these remnants and images, I begin by making a pattern, and then through trial and error, refine the pattern until I have a fine representation of the original. As many of the originals were stamped, I am producing an artisans version of such. The original pieces were made of 18 gauge steel, which is what I am using for the reproductions.

The calyx forms shown here are the first of 510 pcs to be reproduced. There are 16 of these forms to be made, 9 of which I have completed thus far.

The anticlastic bend, is a very stubborn bend to produce, as metal does not want to bend in this manner. The tools used to produce it include a set of top and bottom tools, i.e. a saddle with a depression, and a top tool to contain the piece while bending. French repousse’ is typically accomplished “cold”, meaning that heat is not applied to aid in shaping.

That said, I have found it easier to apply heat to the piece when forming the anticlastic bend. As the pattern for this form is so long, at 29-1/2″, I also found it difficult to work alone while making this bend, as the weight of the pattern itself worked against the process. I needed a helper to support the piece, as to insure the weight would not reverse the desired results.

Since utilizing a helper requires not only another person, but also requires that person from his other duties, I pondered what might be modified to perform the bend without the aid of a helper. The “Fly Press” was the answer.
I simply applied the same tooling to the fly press, along with heat, and I was able to execute the bend alone. See the set-up below.

There are two top tools, and one saddle. The top tools have different radii to accomodate the changing arcs in the form. Using the fly press (and heat) cut the time to produce the bend in half.

Heat was applied using a “gas saver” set-up with an oxy-acetylene torch, with a rosebud tip, mounted in a vise. This way, I can aaply heat readily to specific spots on the pattern.

As with many new forms, I needed to make several new bottom stakes to produce this form, as well as new depressions in a wood stump for roughing out the form. Lead blocks are also used for bottom support for localized details.

Start to finish, including cutting the pattern out from the 18 gauge sheet stock (using a band saw), then finish filing the pattern, there is about 8-9 hours into each piece.

…Dan Nauman

“We’re all proud of making little mistakes. It gives us the feeling we don’t make and big ones.” …Andy Rooney

Posted in Bighorn Forge/Nauman Ironwork, Decorative ironwork, Forging Processes, Repousse' | Leave a Comment »

Norse Style Axe by Tom Latane’, Pepin, WI

Posted by bighornforge on July 28, 2011

My friend Tom Latane’ of Pepin, WI, recently completed the above Norse style axe. Tom and his wife, Catherine (Kitty), visited Norway last year. While there, Tom inspected some locally made axes, and used the axes pictured below as models for his axe.

Axes from Maihaugen Museum Collection, Lillihammer, Norway. Images copyrighted by Tom Latane’

Havard Bergland was the host of the Latane’s, and taught Tom edge tool forging. He also taught Kitty the wood, silver, and leatherwork involved in finishing knives. Havard gave Tom an axe pattern that had been in his family for generations. According to Havard, all farmers were required to own such an axe to arm themselves if they were called upon by their king to defend the country. (Note: These pieces are from the Maihaugen Museum collection in Lillihammer, Norway, and image copyrights were given to Tom Latane’.)

Tom’s axe required 16 hours to complete. The socket was formed by wrapping the pre-formed eye walls around a mandrel and then welding the bottom together. The scarves on the top half (separated from the bottom half), were left protruding, to weld to the blade material, after the tool steel bit had been welded at the far edge. The blade was spread and trimmed after the welding was completed.

Tom will be teaching the forging of this type of axe at “North House Folk School” November 1st -3rd, 2011, and at Tunnel Mill in the spring of 2012. Both classes will be three day classes, so students should expect to work hard to complete the forging , then they will apply the decoration at their homes.

For more info about classes, contact Tom at (715) 442-2419.

If you wish to see more axes of this nature, visit “Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum” in Wausau, WI, as they have a current exhibition entitled “Axe Lore”. See the blogroll at right for a link to their web-site.

….Dan Nauman

Posted in Forging Processes, Forging Workshops, Various Ironwork | Leave a Comment »

Repousse’ I – “Leaf Processes”

Posted by bighornforge on April 12, 2011

The following is one of several installments that I will post regarding repousse’ artist Nahum Hersom’s teachings. This segment of his teaching instructs the student how to prepare and apply a leaf pattern for repousse’ work.

(Note: I am copying Nahum’s words verbatim. Some references he makes apply to other of his writings. My additions are in double parenthesis.)

Leaf Processes

1.) Design and lay-out leaf, using ((Artsist Blacksmith Association of North America’s 10th Anniversary edition of the Anvil’s Ring)) ABANA and ((Max)) Metzger’s books as guides. Use Hersom’s layout “T” tool to help design leaf patterns.

2.) Use copy machine to enlarge or shrink size of leaf (pattern) if not correct.

3.) make and cut out paper pattern. I glue copy machine paper patterns to manilla file folder card and cut out. Punch corners of leaf pattern before cutting out to have good round corners.

4.) Double check segments of leaf to see if they will clear or overlap when leaf is bent to fit scroll or work. Make corrections to open or closed leaf segments to fit design. You can use cut-and-tape “quickly” methods of revamping leaf segments or patterns.

5.) If the pattern is correct, determine method to cut-out leaf: shear, band saw, chisel cut, plasma arc or laser cut. Shop bench shear work is OK for a few leaves but if hundreds are to be cut, check laser or plasma arc, depending on the outline of leaf. Laser cuts very clean and sharp points. Plasma makes 1/8″ cut so is more crude, and needs extra grinding out of edges (with 1/8″ grinding wheel or sanding belts. 2″ belts do fine.) Laser or plasma cut leaves–anneal edges before hammering. Cold rolled leaves have to be annealed–see welding heat treating notes for recommended process.

6.) To shear leaves if more than one or two, cut tin pattern, as edges of paper patterns tend to shred away. Use cheap flat black paint on surface to see scribed line.

7.) To band saw, make multiple copies on copy machine and glue to metal with rubber cement (stationary store) (see band saw blade in supplies.) Set saw blades and speed for cutting metal. Use a 1″ high pedistal when cutting out leaves. See drawing information in workbook.

8.) Before cutting leaf, the inner corners must either be punched out or a hole drilled through leaf to protect corner from splitting when hammering, called “xyz” marks.

9.) A jig saw with fine blades or air craft snips do well on some metals of various thicknesses (see supply sheet for tool catalogue.)

10.) Use a red ((or black)) Sharpie ((TM)) pen for marking leaf work. For some work I make tin segment patterns so I can duplicate lines on work from leaf to leaf.

11.) Tools used to form a leaf are separated from other tools and put in cans near vise. Also, i sometimes mark tools 1,2,3, with felt pen in order of sequence in use. Tools laid on bench tend to pile up and seem to get lost.

12.) Before hammering, file edges of leaves and corners to remove all burrs, as these will start splits and may ruin leaves.

13.) Also by filing edges of leaves, one cleans up contours on segments to make both sides of leaf semetrical and even. To be able to file al segmants and recesses on leaves, you bend segments of leaf out af the way, (you can file corners better if you grind gripper tteth off a pair of simple pliers and round jaw parts.) grind smooth. This prevents scratch marks on leaves–especially on no-ferrous metals. After filing edges, wire brush as it makes a smooth velvet-like finish. In fact, I wire brush as I hammer lines into leaaves so I can better see edges and contours. (Wire brush removes some hammer marks and layout pencil lines and smudges.)

14.) Punch paper on tin patterns with small rectangle slots that will follow lines and configurattions, that will later be hammered into shapes and designs. Place pattern on leaf, after it has been filed and wire brushed to remove sharp burrs. Scribe mark all slots through pattern, remove pattern and connect spots with scribe or red ((black)) Sharpie ((TM)) pen.

((End of this section.))

…..Dan Nauman

“Gold is for the Mistress,
Silver for the Maid,
Copper for the Craftsman,
Cunning in his trade.
“Hark” said the Baron,
Sitting in his hall,
“Iron, cold iron,
Will be Master of them all.”

….From Nahum Hersom’s Collection of Poems.

Posted in Forging Processes, Repousse' | 1 Comment »

Repousse’ Artist Nahum Hersom (1918-2011)

Posted by bighornforge on April 4, 2011

“Nahum Hersom in his shop on Innis St. in Boise, Idaho.” (above.)

Repousse’ artist, Nahum Hersom, passed away on April 1, 2011. He would have been 93 on April 15.

“Grandpa” , as he was known to his students, lived in Boise, Idaho. His shop was a converted garage just next to his house on Innis Street.

Repousse’ is a form of metalwork which uses sheet metal as a medium, and employs small hammers and stakes to form the material into myriad shapes, giving the once flat sheet incredible volume, and often flowing, sensuous curves.

Nahum made a huge contribution to metalwork by preserving, teaching and promoting this artform. In an age of instant access to almost anything, the art of repousse’ stands in contrast, as it requires patience, hours of practice, and deep concentration.

Nahum learned this process from one Valintin “Papa” Goelz, a German metaworker who owned and operated Valintin Goelz Art Metal Works. Nahum often talked affectionately about Papa Goelz. (See the poem Nahum wrote about him at the end of this post.)

Repousse’ is about a multitude of tools, and hand-made tools at that, as you cannot buy these tools from the store or catalogue. So Nahum made tools….LOTS of tools, sometimes he would make a hammer or stake for just one minor detail. Below is an image of some of Nahum’s hammers.

Bottom stakes, typically held in a vise, were even more abundant in his shop. Here again, stakes were made for specific forms, and Nahum had hundreds of them. Below is just the tip of the proverbial iceburg.

Here are some more….

And a few more…..

These are his favorites, but he had a multitude more, all gleaming and stored in empty soup cans.

One thing that many may not know about him was this: Nahum was an extremely deep thinker, quite the inventor, and a fine mechanic.

He made a shears, similar in style to one known as a “Beverly”, which is used to cut sheet metal. It is made so that straight, as well as curved lines can be cut easily in the sheet stock. Below is his version of the shears.

He also made his own version of a “Treadle Hammer”, a foot controlled hammer, which is essentially the blacksmith’s third hand. (Below.)

And below is his veining tool, of which had interchangable top and bottom dies.

Below are some horizontal vise stakes, and some of the anvils and top tools for the veining tool. Note that the top tools and anvils are rounded, so the tools can produce curved veins as well.

Nahum attended Lake View High in Chicago, IL. 1933-36, as well as Chico State College in California.

From 1941-1944, he was a welder for Lockhead Aircraft, Burbank, CA, and a Metalsmith 3/C for the U.S. Navy from 1944-1946.

He was also a blacksmith, and did building and repair of machine tools.

A few years ago, Jerry Henderson wrote a book, based on Nahum’s teachings entitled “Nahum Hersom: Repousse'”. The book is something Nahum had talked about since I met him in 1993. It is one of the few books printed on this process. (To acquire a copy, Jerry can be reached at 35493 Millard Rd., Warren, OR 97053.)

Probably one of the biggest highlights of Nahum’s life happened just a few years ago. Nahum was the recipient of the “Idaho Governor’s Award in the Arts”, the first time ever for a blacksmith to win this award. After receieving the award, he said in his fine folksy manner, “I was amazed that I got it with all the people in Idaho who do art and craft work. On the other hand, this is big craft work, not the rinky-dink stuff.” (Quoted from Tim Woodward, in the newspaper, “The West”.)

Nahum demonstrated repousse’ at many conferences, and also taught well over 50 students at his “Golden Pheasant Art Metal” shop in Boise.

Below is a piece Nahum made for the 2006 Artist Blackmith Association of North America (ABANA) Conference. It is also the cover of the book on his work. (Unfortunately, it is the only image I have of his actual work. If you have an image of Nahum’s work you could share, I would appreciate it if you would send it to me so I can publish it on this blog.)

In 1993, I had the privilege of studying under Grandpa at the Golden Pheasant. It was 102 dry degrees in the shade, but I was unaware as I learned to use the delicate tools of repousse’.

The lessons were one on one, and Nahum was never at a lack of something to show me as we worked. He was big on archiving, and he supplied me with a constant parade of patterns, articles, and images from his many years of study.

“Did ya ever have one of those, ya know, ‘Ah-ha!’ moments, Dan?” This was typical of the way our conversations went, as he would come up with a thought from way beyond left field.

“Those ‘Ah-ha!’ moments may seem to be coming from out of no-where, but they are actually coming from your sub-conscious mind, Dan. Have ya ever been working, and it just isn’t going well, and you get frustrated? Then you call it quits, and go and do something else? Then, when you least expected it, the answer to your problem just hit you between the eyes? That was your sub-conscious mind working. Ya-know, you can learn to use that sub-conscious mind of yours. Put it to work. Your mind works on problems even when you aren’t aware of it. Then, all of a sudden….”Ah-Ha!” (He smiles, pauses, and waits for me to say something. I say nothing, and keep working.) He then said, “You think I’m nuts, don’t you.”

Nuts like a wiley coyote. He is right, it works, if you learn to employ it. Though at the time, I might have thought he was a bit off. After I returned home, I tried using my sub-conscious, and I was pleasantly surprised, and a bit shocked at how allowing one’s brain to work in such a way is very effective. (You think I’m nuts, don’t you.)

I could go on, however I am sure my personal memories and ramblings about him are not as interesting to you. But I hold them dear.

Nahum literally changed my life. His teaching’s allowed me to venture into an aspect of metalwork seldom used in recent times.

Repousse’ was and is a process that opens new doors for a blacksmith. It can enhance the work of a blacksmith, gracing gates, furniture, lighting, and much, much more. Below is a chandelier I made using the methods Nahum taught me.

I could not have even thought about producing this chandelier, (which is actually a re-production of a piece made by Master Blacksmith, Cyril Colnik), without Nahum’s instruction years prior.

Over the past 18 years, I have incorporated repousse’ in several of my own works. I still thrill in watching absolutely flat and lifeless sheet bloom into a flowing, curvacious piece.

Beyond his teachings in repousse’ Nahum’s work ethic and inventiveness also rubbed off on me. He once said that “You’ll never get paid for the hours you put into this style of work. But the personal rewards are plenty.”

Anika Smulovitz, a professor of jewelry and metalworking at Boise State University, was commonly at Nahum’s shop taking lessons from him. “I met Nahum at a gem show and was so impressed that I took a summer workshop from him. Now I take a lesson a week,” said Anika. “His work is amazing, and he’s devoted to teaching…..two people came all the way from Australia to take lessons from him.” (Quoted from the newspaper “The West.”)

And so I continue to ramble on about him. I will stop for now.

What I will do is publish some of Nahum’s teachings and provide some of his drawings from time to time to share his knowledge with you. I am sure he would like that.

That said….

Here is a poem that Nahum wrote about Papa Goelz:

“Divine Journey”

I met a man upon my path
His shop a wonderment to see.
Pieces of repousse’ covered its walls
He peered across his glasses top,
And loud in German accent clear,
He said, “You vant to learn dis vork?”
You don’t know vat you ask.
The vork iss dirty and the pay iss low,
But the art makes vork to last.
You will love the vork with patience,
And a heart that’s strong,
As this work becomes a lover,
It’s passion a life-long song.

“Tools” he said, “you make. You cannot buy.
You will fashion them with love to last a lifetime.”
So as I started, his arm around me came,
“You are now my Sonny Boy,
And I your ‘Papa’, the master of your trade.”

“Why are you so glad to teach me this?”
His answer was clear and true.
“God and the craft pick the man to do the work,
And the chosen one is you.”

He now is gone where craftsmen go,
But sometimes in the night,
When I have hammered hours long,
And something is not right.
I feel his hand on my shoulder,
And hear his voice in my ear,
“Do it this way, Sonny”
And his way is right and clear.

Thank you Papa, for this passion, and its song.
Nahum Hersom (Grandpa) July 31, 1996.

“Thank you Grandpa, for your passion, and for teaching me that song.”

….Dan Nauman

I would like to thank Anika Smulovitz for providing information on Nahum. Anika was also instrumental in helping acquire letters of recommendation for the “Idaho Governor’s Award in the Arts” for Nahum.

“God and the craft pick the man to do the work, and the chosen one is you.” ….Nahum Hersom

Note to readers, April 23, 2014:  Since writing this post, I have published several posts that are of Nahum’s writings on French repousse’.  If you would like to read them, simply do a word search on this blog, using “repousse” as your key word.  Included with the writings are Nahum’s patterns for hammers, stakes, some leaf forms, and more. – DN

Posted in Forging Processes, Master Blacksmiths, Repousse' | 19 Comments »

Lynden Sculpture Garden Bronze Railing Finished

Posted by bighornforge on September 7, 2010

This morning I installed the terminus of the bronze railing at the Lynden Sculpture Garden.

As you can see, the terminus is highly polished, and will need a few weeks to achieve the patina of the other four panels, which were installed earlier this year.

When the patina reaches uniformity, I will enlist photographer George Lottermoser to use his unique eye to capture this railing in ways only he can achieve. Hopefully, the autumn colors will be in all their glory at that time to serve as a fine backdrop.

A few notes as to how this railing was made:

1.) All the 4″ diameter baluster rings were formed by hot splitting the 3/4″ square bronze bar. They were opened up with a cone mandrel. The walls of the rings were forged (cross peened) thinner, and finally shaped into a ring by again using a cone mandrel.

2.) The finish is a natural patina, as no chemicals were added to achieve the color. All the bronze was highly polished to achieve a uniform shine, allowing for an even patina.

3.) All the rivets were made in my shop from 3/8″ round bronze rod. Buying bronze rivets was not cost effective.

4.) The rivet sockets were applied to the balusters by using a ball tool under the power hammer, which not only provided a fine socket, but also a fine accent, as the metal flows out from the parent bar.

5.) The tumbling rings in the terminus were assembled by cutting “half-laps” with a hack-saw, the groove was then chiseled out, and then finish filed. The joints were then sealed by TIG welding. The joints were then finish filed and polished. These larger rings were shaped by using bending forks in a post vise.

…….Dan Nauman

“When I hear somebody sigh, “Life is hard,” I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”

…….Sidney Harris, Author.

Posted in Bighorn Forge/Nauman Ironwork, Decorative ironwork, Forging Processes | Leave a Comment »

Repousse’ Tools for the “Pitch Method”

Posted by bighornforge on February 14, 2010

There is not very much in print regarding repousse’ , especially in any great detail. That said, I am not going to produce a treatise, but rather show the more common tools of repousse’, and how some of them are used. I will also try to address some commonly asked questions.

This segment will deal with some of the tools used for the pitch method of repousse’, often referred to as “high relief chasing.”

Below is an image showing how pitch appears direct from the manufacturer. It arrives in various sized chunks, and is like peanut brittle in its consistency.
If you were to hit it with a hammer, it would shatter into many pieces.

To use it, one needs to melt it onto a firm, solid substrate. I personally use a heavy steel plate, at least 3/8″ thick, with a bar mounted on the bottom that can be secured into a vise.

Other folks use a “pitch pot” , which looks like half of a hollowed out bowling ball, which is then placed in another concave surface (a wood stump would suffice) so the pot can be rotated, yet still have a firm base.

I choose to use the steel plate, as I can walk around the vise as I work.
Note: I have tried a heavy wood board as a substrate, but have found that it is too flexible, and thus, the pitch-bed dislodges from the wood, and then it has to be reset.

Below is an image showing a heat gun that I use to melt the pitch onto the steel substrate.

I use the same gun for removing the workpiece from the pitch. The type of gun is a simple tool for paint removal. I believe I paid about $35.00 for it, and it works fine.

When melting the pitch, be careful not to get it too hot, as it will lose its properties if overheated repeatedly. If it begins to bubble, back off on the heat for a while, then continue. I use a piece of steel with a chisel-like edge on the end to spread and shape the pitch-bed.

When initially making the pitch-bed, you should block up the sides of the bed with bars of iron. Otherwise, the pitch will seek its own level, and all you will have is a big blob of pitch with no depth to it.

Below is an image of a pitch-bed for concave work.

The form of the last piece I worked on, “Jacob Marley” is still visable.

The next image shows the pitch-bed used for the convex work.

Again you can plainly see the ghost of Jacob Marley in the pitch (sorry.)

To lift the workpiece off the pitch, simply heat the area on and around the workpiece, and when the pitch begins to soften, use a pliers to gently lift the workpiece off the pitch. Try not to get the pitch too hot, as the hotter it is, the more pitch will cling to the workpiece. Pitch is messy at best to remove. Some of it may be removed from the workpiece by wiping with a rag while still hot. The residue can be removed with mineral spirits.

The purpose of pitch is to back up the metal, bolstering it firmly while being worked with the punches. When working, the pitch should be warmer than room temperature, but still very stiff. It should not be stone cold, as it is then too brittle, and will crack. Try for the happy medium, which may mean occasional warming with the heat gun, and then a brief wait to cool it down some. If too hot, moist towels may be applied to enhance cooling.

If making a bust such as Jacob Marley, initially sink the metal workpiece in a wood dish, like the one seen below. Use a dome faced hammer to force the material down into the dish.

I choose to use a laminated block, so the wood will be less inclined to crack. The dish is 3″ in diameter, 1 1/2″ deep, and the edges have been rounded. I leave the middle boards a little long, so I can fasten the block into a vise.

When sinking the metal into the dish, concentrate your blows around the perimeter, as you do not want to stretch the center too much, as this is where the proudest features will be located. In the case of a bust, the nose in particular really stretches the material to its extreme, so be careful not to break through by carefully monitoring the workpiece with a calipers.

Below we see the many small punches for doing the detail work.

These punches are made of high carbon steel. When making them, simply make yourself a bunch of punch blanks of various sizes, so when you need a specific shape, all you need to do is refine the end to the desired shape by filing or grinding, then harden and temper the tip.

Below is a bird’s eye view of the various tip shapes.

Mind you, there can be a multitude of punches, but don’t let that fact overwhelm you. Make them as you need them, and eventually you will have quite the fine set.

In another post, I will discuss and show the tools for hammer and stake raising, otherwise known as “French Repousse'”.

…….Dan Nauman

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”…..B.B. King

Posted in Forging Processes, Repousse' | 8 Comments »

Colnik Grille Restoration

Posted by bighornforge on January 13, 2010

In 2008, I had the privilege to restore a very large window grille made by master blacksmith Cyril Colnik. The grille belongs to the “Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion” and is situated on the northern exterior of the building. It measures 66″ x 99″.

The approximate age of the grille is 100 years old, and it was literally falling apart.

Restoration provides a window to the processes used by the masters of yesteryear. This was no exception.

Below are “before and after” images of the grille. (To see a larger view, simply click on the images.)

Colnik grille before restoration.

Colnik Grille after restoration.

Below are some close-ups of specific areas, before, and after.

Center after sandblasting, revealing more corrosion.

View of center after restoration.

The twisted wreath in the center was held in place by friction, which was surprising. Note that many of the leaves of the wreath were missing.

You may have been caught by surprise to see the copper leaves, and the bronze collars. Below shows a close-up of a collar. Notice that it is riveted together, then finish-filed.

The next images are of the lower right corner, before, and after. Notice the corner rosette….or lack thereof.

Below are the “before and after” images of the lower left corner. Notice the missing rosettes on the perimeter.

The perimeter rosettes were actually comprised of four pieces, two on the front of the grille, and two on the back. The originals were all stamped, rather than being made individually by hand.

The intent was to save as much of the repousse’ leaves, and the stamped rosettes as possible. Upon closer inspection, it was apparent none of the stampings could be salvaged, as many were literally being held together by paint. They were all removed. After sandblasting, only the large, two corner rosettes on the top of the grille and three other leaves in the mid-section could be saved. Some leaves and rosettes were missing entirely.

Here are some more images, showing the decay of the piece.

Perimeter rosette corrosion.

Below shows where a calyx once resided. This image was taken after sandblasting.
The "remains" of a calyx.

The next image shows missing leaf lobes just below the middle of the grille.

Many of the leaves were so far gone, that you could poke a finger right through them.

The grille was entirely disassembled in the middle, inbetween the bars that contained the perimeter rosettes. Fortunately, Colnik employed the use of screws for most of the joinery, plus some rivets and a few collars. This made disassembly easier. Unfortunately, many of the screws were stripped or bent, and required heat to extract.

Once disassembled and labeled, patterns were made from the best (that is a relative term) of what was left of the repousse’ leaves.

The original leaves were initially stretched (merely by the process of shaping) when they were made, and were stretched again when flattened out to make the patterns. With trial and error, I found that they had grown (stretched) an average of 8%. Photo copies were made of the patterns, and were then reduced accordingly.

Below is a calyx (or husk) after sandblasting. Note that not only is there a degree of decay, but some leaves were missing entirely. The successive image shows the reproduction.

Each leaf was cut by hand, and formed over stakes, using the French method of repousse’. Note that there is not much detail in the leaves. There are no raised veins, and little surface detail. This is largely due to the fact that the grille is so massive, and mounted at a height where such details would not be seen or admired. In other words, such details would go unnoticed.

The perimeter rosettes were another matter, as there were so many of them. Patterns were made as described above, and were cut-out by laser. The surface details were then applied by hand with punches and chisels. Next, a fly press was used to initially dish them out. A fly press is a very powerful manual press that uses a worm screw to slowly lower the ram in a controlled manner.

These rosettes were mounted in a fashion which I have never seen before. Remember, there are two rosettes on each side of the mounting bars, (a small rosette and a larger rosette on each side.) Each rosette has two 3/16″ mounting holes, just off center, so a half-round 3/16″ staple could be inserted. The staple then passes around the bars to which the rosettes attach, and then through the rosettes on the other side. The staple is then clinched over to lock all four rosettes into place. It was surprising at how effective the staples were in locking things together.

The 3/16″ half round stock had to be made for the staples. This was done by making a 3/16″ swedge, which is a bottom die with a 3/16″ radias in it. A hot 1/8″ bar was placed on top of the swedge, and was then forged down into the swedge with the power hammer. The flashing, (or excess metal,) was then filed away.

I thought long and hard as to how I would hold and manipulate the grille in a one man shop. Below are three images showing a mounting frame that I made that swivels 360 degrees, and can be locked into several positions for easy access to the grille.

This made the work much easier. The frame could also be used to safely pick the grille up off the ground by use of two hooks on the top. This required four grown men (friends) to use the leverage of the rotating frame by pushing down on one side of the frame, thereby hoisting the piece up and into position.

The frame was also employed for transport, and for sandblasting.

The image below shows the grille in the frame.

Many of the tapped holes needed retapping, and most all of the screws were replaced.

Painting was no small task. Initially the grille was spray painted , but two days of hand painting was required to paint where the spray could not reach. Bright lights were used to see into the many recesses. Using two different color primers helped to show where paint needed to be applied.

The project went back together almost without a hitch. Hopefully, it will be sound for another 100 years, if maintenance is provided regularly.

I thank the folks at the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion for entrusting me with this project.

……..Dan Nauman

“You’ll never have any mental muscle if you don’t have any heavy stuff to pick up.”……Diane Lane, actress.

Posted in Decorative ironwork, Forging Processes, Master Blacksmiths | Leave a Comment »

Copper Repousse’, Using the “Pitch” Method

Posted by bighornforge on December 8, 2009

Jacob Marley“; 4″ x 5”, 16 gauge copper, wax finish.

The above image is of a copper face that I completed yesterday, using the “pitch” method of repousse’. Some folks refer to this process as “high relief chasing.”

In April of this year, Tom Latane’ of T+C Latane’, Pepin, WI, came to my shop to guide me through this process. We worked over a four day period. Tom worked on a bust, then I applied what I had learned to my own bust.

The piece shown above was my first solo piece since Tom was here.

Below is a side shot of “Jacob Marley.”

Below is the piece I made with under the tulelage of Tom, which is of a Fawn.

Fawn“, 6″ x 7”, 16 gauge copper, wax finish.

Below is the face (bust) that Tom Latane’ made while instructing me. (He made many faces, but……that’s another story.)

Copper Bust” by Tom Latane’, 6″ x7″, 16 gauge copper, wax finish.

This method is some of the fussiest metalwork that I have ever studied, but also very satisfying. Many small punches were made to form these pieces.

Thank you Tom, for introducing me to this fine aspect of metalwork.

……..Dan Nauman

“Practice makes permanent!” ….Heidi Bernard, Saxaphone Teacher, Las Vegas, Neveada

Posted in Bighorn Forge/Nauman Ironwork, Decorative ironwork, Forging Processes, Repousse' | 3 Comments »