Metal & Wrought Iron Decor Accessories
The uses of metal and wrought iron as decorative accessories in the home.
¶ In a room decorated according to Craftsman ideas, especially if it be furnished with Craftsman furniture it is of the utmost importance that the metal accessories should be of a character that fits into the picture. We found out very soon after we began to make the plain oak furniture that even the best of the usual machine made and highly polished metal trim was absurdly out of place, and that in order to get the right thing it was necessary to establish a metal work department in the Craftsman Workshops where articles of wrought metal in plain rugged designs and possessing the same structural and simple quality as the furniture could be made. We began with such simple and necessary things as drawer and door pulls, hinges and escutcheons, but with a work so interesting and so full of possibilities as this one thing inevitably leads to another, and our metal workers were soon making in hand wrought iron, copper and brass all kinds of household fittings, such as lighting fixtures, fire sets, and other articles that were decorative as well as useful, and that showed the same essential qualities as the furniture.
Homemade Metal Furnishings
¶ Since then we have not only made all manner of metal furnishings ourselves, but through the pages of "The Craftsman" we have warmly encouraged amateur workers to do the same thing and have given for their use a number of models as well as full directions regarding methods of working and the necessary equipment for doing all kinds of simple metal work at home. Under the inspiration of these suggestions and directions, a number of readers of "The Craftsman" have set up little home workshops and have succeeded in making many pieces that show originality and merit. In fact, metal work is one of the most interesting of the crafts to the home worker who possesses skill and taste and, above all, a genuine interest in making for himself the things that are needed either for use or ornament at home, and anyone who takes it up and discovers its possibilities is likely to go on with it indefinitely.
¶ Instruction in the technicalities is easily obtained from any blacksmith who can teach the rudiments of handling iron, or from any working jeweler or coppersmith who is able to give the necessary personal supervision to the first efforts of a worker in brass or copper. Given even a little ingenuity and handiness with tools, it might be possible to dispense even with this instruction and to work out each problem as it comes up; learning by doing, in the simple way of the handicraftsman of old.
¶ It ought to be possible for such home workers to make everything necessary for the fireplace, including shovels and tongs, andirons, fenders, coal buckets and even fireplace hoods, although the last named might be a fairly ambitious undertaking for an amateur. One needs but little imagination to realize the interest and charm that would attach to a comfortable fireside nook that had been furnished in this way, and the same principle applies to every one of the smaller articles of furniture in the home.
Other Metal Furniture
¶ For example, it is not at all hard to make from either brass or copper a tray or an umbrella stand, a simple vase or metal jug or a jardinire, and the decorative quality of such things is really wonderful; that is, if the worker takes care to confine himself to simp1e good designs that meet as directly as possible the need for which the article is made, and then makes it just as well as he can, keeping free from the temptation so common to metal workers of artificially heightening the hand wrought effect by putting hammer dents where they have no business to be, leaving the edges rough and generally exaggerating into crudity the traces of workmanship which, if rightly used, give to a piece such a human interest and charm.
Finishing Metal Furniture
¶ Much of the effect depends upon the way the metal is finished. For example, all of our wrought iron work is finished in a way that has long been known in England as "armor bright". This is a very old process used by the English armorers, whence it derives its name, and its peculiar value is that it finishes the surface is a way that brings out all the black, gray and silvery tones that naturally belong to iron, and also prevents it from rusting. This method applies to both wrought iron and sheet iron and is the only thing we know that accomplishes the desired result. The process itself is very simple. After the iron is hammered it should be polished on an emery belt; or if this is not at hand and it is not convenient to borrow the use of one in some thoroughly equipped metal shop, emery cloth about Number 0 may be used in polishing the surface by hand.
¶ Then the iron must be smoked over a forge or in a fireplace, care being taken to avoid heating it to any extent during this process, as the object is merely to smoke it thoroughly. It should then be allowed to cool naturally and the surface rubbed well with a soft cloth dipped in oil. Naturally, the more the iron is polished the brighter it will be, especially in the bigger parts of an uneven surface, which take on almost the look of dull silver. After this the piece must be well wiped off so that the oil is thoroughly removed, and the surface lacquered with a special iron lacquer.
Brass & Copper
¶ To give the copper the deep mellow brownish glow that brings it into such perfect harmony with the fumed oak, the finished piece should be rubbed thoroughly with a soft cloth dipped in powdered pumice stone, and then left to age naturally. If a darker tone is desired, it should be held over a fire or torch and heated until the right color appears. Care should be taken that it is not heated too long, as copper under too great heat is apt to turn black. We use no lacquer on either copper or brass, age and exposure being the only agents required to produce beauty and variety of tone. All our brass work is made of the natural unfinished metal, which has a beautiful greenish tone and a soft dull surface that harmonizes admirably with the natural wood. Like copper, it darkens and mellows with age.
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