Latest News

09
Jan
2015

Hello folks and welcome to the latest blog from Ferric Fusion.

Apologies – we have problems with our website at present – it may be a hosting issue. It wont let us upload photos onto the blog. We hope to get it sorted ASAP, in the meantime you will just have to make do with words alone and click links where appropriate. We hope to be able to post lots of images once the issue is sorted out.

We like to do a little ‘off at a tangent’ content now and again – blacksmithing oddities, stories, legends – that kind of thing. Our theme this month is blacksmiths, love and marriage. February saw us celebrating St Valentine’s Day of course and prior to that on Jan 25th the Welsh St Valentine, St Dynwen. We are probably a little late with this and should have blogged on this before Valentine’s Day but romance has no time constraints. And don’t forget this February is a leap year – the year that a woman may traditionally propose to their man. (Why not book yourself a blacksmithing course and make him an iron heart like the one below – or go for the easy option and order one from Pembrokeshire Creations for just £5. http://www.pembrokeshirecreations.com/Valentines/Hand-Forged-Iron-Heart/392/display-product.aspx guaranteed never to break and, like your relationship, designed to last a lifetime.

The anvil priests of Gretna
Blacksmiths are associated with weddings in Scotland through the famous Gretna Green marriages. Here’s a little bit of detail from Wikipedia; (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gretna_Green)

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages”, meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as “anvil priests”.

Gretna’s famous “runaway marriages” began in 1753 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was passed in England; it stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then parents had to consent to the marriage. The Act did not apply in Scotland where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent. Many elopers fled England, and the first Scottish village they encountered was Gretna Green. The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as an attraction as early as 1887.

Iron wedding rings
Most people know about the blacksmiths of Gretna but did you know that it was blacksmiths who would have made some of the earliest wedding rings? http://www.weddingringorigins.com/ has some interesting background on how wedding rings developed. In the second century B. C., the Roman bride was presented with a gold ring. But this she wore only in public. Such a ring was much too precious to wear while tending to household duties; and so the groom gave the bride a second ring – for use in the home – which was usually made of iron and had little knobs in the form of a key. Of course, these “key” rings were weak and could open only those locks requiring very little force to turn, but their significance, in that the wearer had the right to seal up the giver’s possessions, was strong. In times of war iron rings have resurfaced. In Finland, when war was imminent, people were encouraged to give their gold wedding rings to fund the war effort. In return they received rings made of iron. There were two types – one for air defence and one for sea defense.http://theberrypickers.blogspot.com/2011/11/war-donation-ring.html has a photo

Lucky in love?
Iron is considered a lucky substance. In the Italian culture, the groom has to carry a piece of iron in his pocket to keep the evil eye (mal’ochino) away from he and his bride. The iron is supposed to reflect the evil spirits and banish them. http://www.worldweddingtraditions.com This belief in the protective nature of iron is probably how the UK custom of carrying a horseshoe at weddings developed too.

Here at Ferric Fusion we do a lovely line in miniature horseshoes for use as wedding favours or small gifts to be carried by the bride, bridesmaids or page boys. Small enough to fit round the stem of a wine glass, every one is hand forged. Available boxed or unboxed and with a choice of ribbon colours, the year or initials can be stamped on up to 10 shoes for a small extra cost (hang it above your door and you’ll never forget your anniversary). The mini lucky horseshoes also make great 6th wedding anniversary presents (6th anniversaries have a theme of Iron and Sugar – a horseshoe and a lovely box of chocolates perhaps?). Contact us for costs and we can send you a photo (the horse shoes range from £5.00 to £8.00 each depending on what you want and how many you want)

And finally to end our little love fest here’s an ancient English ballad which only goes to show that not all blacksmiths should be trusted – no matter how good they look with a hammer in their hand!

A blacksmith courted me nine long months and better,
He stole my heart away, wrote to me a letter,
His hammer all in his hand he looked so brave and clever,
And if I was with my love, I would live forever.

My love’s gone across those fields with his cheeks like roses,
My love’s gone across those fields gathering sweet posies,
I fear the scorching suns will shine and spoil his beauty,
And if I was with my love, I would do my duty.

Strange news is come from abroad, strange news is carried,
Strange news is come to tell that my love is married,
There is no truth in man, nor in father nor in brother,
And since I have lost my love, I will seek no other.

Right, enough of this soppy moon gazing. Back to business.

Emma Kennedy visits Ferric Fusion
We have been as busy as ever with courses and sales. We were lucky to have the lovely Emma Kennedy in the forge recently. Emma is a comedy actor and writer, author of the hilarious book “the Tent, the Bucket and Me” and the Wilma Tenderfoot series. She is also a travel columnist for the Guardian. It was in this role that she came to visit us. Emma’s regular series “Emma’s Eccentric Britain” reports on Emma’s adventures. She had a great time in the forge and made a lovely poker for her dad which she tweeted us to say he really liked. She was so pleased with what she had made she said it made her feel like a GOD!. You can read Emma’s Guardian piece at http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/jan/27/emma-kennedy-blacksmithing-carmarthenshire-wales)

We also featured again in Men’s Health Magazine this month http://www.menshealth.co.uk/living/travel/testosterone-breaks

Artisan media
Artisan media are a new business that we have recently started working with. They are an independent production and publishing company specialising in books and films featuring heritage crafts. They have done some fantastic woodworking DVD’s and textbooks and are now branching out to look at other fields. The thing that made Artisan Media really stand out when they approached us was the passion with which they talk about crafts. They really do listen to craftspeople and are a joy to work with. The quality of their production is superb. Photographs offering a taste of their forthcoming film short featuring Aaron can be found on their website http://www.artisanco.com/ which also has interviews with stone carver and calligrapher Ieuan Rees, Martin Ashworth, leather craftsman and master thatcher, Alan Jones.

Practical blacksmithing tips
We know that many of the people that read our blog are also blacksmiths so we like to include some practical aspects of smithing. This month our top tips are on fire welding but before that a bit of safety advice.

Health and safety in the forge
We recently got our knuckles rapped (and quite rightly so) by an eagle eyed member of bladeforums

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/883951-Blacksmith-Apparel who had spotted that in our web picture our daughter was wearing a necklace in the forge. We are usually very careful about apparel – no fabrics liable to burn or melt, sensible boots, no long hair and no dangly jewellery. We have to confess that the shot was staged. Our photographer happened to be available so we said – “hey Pearl – stick a work shirt on and get in the forge for some photo’s (please)”, completely missing the fact that she was still wearing her (pearl) necklace. (It’s always nice to have someone else around to photograph apart from Aaron – and you won’t get Trudi in the forge when a camera is present for love nor money) We have been half waiting for someone to comment on it for ages. But we love the picture so we are keeping it – but just to reiterate – don’t wear dangly jewellery in the forge! Also be careful with turn ups on cuffs and trousers – they can sometimes catch hot bits of metal. Eye protection is essential – we know loads of smiths that have ended up in hospital having bits of metal picked out of their eye balls – there’s no need for it. You only get one pair of eyes – look after them.

Fire welding
Fire welding is a real skill and one that Aaron is often asked about. It is basically joining two pieces of metal together using just the heat from the forge (as opposed to an external source). The old smiths were experts in fire welding. If you look at the fire welding on old gates it is often done to amazingly high standard. Fire welding gives a cleaner line than gas or electric welding which leaves a bead of extra material at the join. For restoration of old ironwork fire welding is essential (though you can ‘tack’ pieces together using other means).

The thing with fire welding is that it looks tremendously easy but, like many things that look easy when conducted by someone who can do it, it is actually much more difficult to do than it looks. Learning to fire weld successfully is a traditional skilled technique that many beginner smiths strive to do.

A clean fire is essential for a successful weld. (Aaron was told a story, by an old smith, of a blacksmith who wanted to get his own back on one of his rivals and threw a copper penny into the forge – the penny melted and the smith was unable to fire weld a thing). You need to ensure that the metal is at the right heat. You want it so that it is at a ‘white’ heat colour. There will be the presence of small sparks from the flame. Modern (mild) steel is harder to work with than traditional iron as it has a narrower temperature range – you need to be quicker because it doesn’t retain the temperature so well. Thicker/ bigger pieces are easier too for the same reason – the heat is retained a little longer. Make sure that you scarf the joints before attempting the weld. A flux may be used. Make the join quickly. Practice, practice practice – it takes time to get it right. (Don’t forget these old smiths had apprenticeships that went on for up to a decade) There are some really good U tube clips of smiths fire welding. To see a short film of Aaron fire welding a heart visit http://vimeo.com/30688712 this was filmed by Dai Evans who made our website.

OK that’s our blog for the month, thanks for reading – hopefully we’ll post again in about a month or so. Take care,

“Hwyl Fawr am nawr!” – Bye for now.

Trudi & Aaron Petersen, Ferric Fusion