How to Forge a Leaf for Beginners 2021 [Updated]
Leaves are awesome projects for beginner blacksmiths because they allow you to get comfortable with basic skills like heating, hammering, and basic shaping.
New blacksmiths are sometimes told to make many leaves over and over again to improve their technique and formulate their own artistic style.
The following leaf making tutorials are suitable for complete beginners and more advanced beginner smiths.
The first tutorial shows you how to make a standard small leaf that can be used as a pendant or key ring. It is worked from a very manageable piece of metal and uses very basic hammering techniques.
The second project is a larger leaf that is suitable for those with a bit more forging experience simply because it requires forging a greater amount of metal. Work the larger leaf takes more strength, patience, and a few different techniques than the smaller one, but is still suitable for advanced beginners.
What Tools are Needed to Make a Leaf?
- Turning Bending Scrolling Fork -- Fits in a 1 inch Hardy hole in an anvil or can be used in a vise....
- Creasing Tool Stake -- Fits in a 1 inch Hardy hole in an anvil, or can be used in a Vice. Perfect...
- Hot Cut Tool -- Used in the anvil or clamped in a vise to cut hot metal. Use a hammer to push the...
Both leaf projects require similar tools and equipment, most of which are common in backyard forges. If you have been working metal for a while, you likely already have most of these items.
For these projects, you will need:
- 3/8 inch square bar (any length that can be cut down to make a proportional stem)
- anvil or other heavy metal work surface
- treadle hammer (optional)
- wire brush
- bronze brush (optional)
For the large fork (more advanced option) you will need all the above items plus:
Project 1) Forging a Small Leaf (Beginner)
Heat one end of your square bar and draw a short taper no longer than 1/2 inch.
Create a shoulder right behind the taper and hammer the metal behind the shoulder to approximately 3/16 square. Reheat the piece as needed during this process.
Round out the stem right next the leaf by hammering around the stem and removing any angles.
Reheat the piece and stand the leaf up on the diamond, and begin hammering to spread the tapered end out into a leaf shape. Spread evenly to achieve a symmetrical appearance. Make the edge of the leaf thin and delicate but not sharp.
Place the leaf in your vice and file down the edges of the leaf as needed. The better work you do at the anvil, the less you will need to file.
Chisel veins into the leaf by hand, or with a treadle hammer if you have one. Walk the chisel down the center of the leaf and then work cross veins in as desired. Be careful not to chisel too deep or you might split the leaf, especially at the tip.
Using a surface with a depression, such as a wood block, hammer the leaf into a domed shape and then bring the tip forward to give the leaf a natural, curved shape. This gives the leaf more life and dimension.
Cut the leaf off the of the stem using a hardy. The stem should be around 1 and 1/2 inches long.
Draw out the stem of the leaf with your hammer. Round it out to 3/16 of an inch or less. When working on the stem, be careful not to squish the leaf between your tongs.
Work the stem from a square, to an octagon, to round by taking out all ridges. Reheat as necessary.
Take the stem to the horn of your anvil and bend it around the horn into your desired shape. To make a key ring or pendant, wrap the end of the stem to the front of the leaf to close the loop up.
Wire brush the entire piece to remove any scale buildup.
This step is optional, but gives the leaf a really organic appearance. Brush just the leaf with a bronze brush while the leaf is at a black heat. This will leave a bronze patina on the surface of the leaf and will give it some color and dimension.
Brush the entire piece with wax and wipe off any excess.
Project 2) Forging a Large Leaf (Advanced)
Working with a 1/4 inch by 1 and 1/2 inch metal bar, heat the end and cut it at an angle on your hardy to make a point for the leaf.
Drive the point down with your hammer and to center it.
Isolate the leaf from the stem by hammering or pressing the stem right below the leaf. This will make a defined point where the leaf meets the stem. Cut off excess metal from the stem to be discarded or used later.
Refine the stem by hammering it to 3/8 of an inch round.
Take in the stem near the base of the leaf and round it out with your hammer.
Heat the leaf and round out the corners at the base of the leaf to give it a more organic join with the stem.
Hammer the surface of the leaf until it measures approximately 3 inches wide. Start in the middle of the leaf with a cross peen hammer and work in one direction towards the tip of the leaf, then from the center of the leaf to the edges.
Hammer the surface with a round hammer to smooth out some of the cross peen marks and work any thick edges of the leaf until they are thin and even.
Because the leaf is very thin at this point, chiseling in a center vein would likely split the piece, so to make the vein, place the leaf in a vice and hammer one side down flat to the vice. Remove from the vice and hammer the leaf in half on your anvil.
Pinch the fold together on the anvil, then open the fold again on a hardy. Continue opening the leaf on the edge of the anvil, working with a rawhide mallet.
Once the leaf is opened and the vein has been made through the folding process, use your cross peen hammer again to make striations on the edges of the leaf. Work your way around the leaf and make whatever type of pattern you like best.
An optional step is to reattach your leaf and short stem to a larger one. If you prefer, you can keep the leaf as it is.
Make ripples in the leaf by hammering it on a swage block. Bend the leaf with a rawhide mallet near the stem and at the tip to create a lifelike shape.
Wire brush the leaf and stem and apply a wax coating or any other finishing product you like.