Introduction: Mastering the "J" Hook
The "J" hook got its name for an obvious reason, (shaped like the letter J) you can also make a "S" hook following the same methods and repeating on the opposite side of the iron. "J" hooks can be used to hold tools, flower baskets -or really anything you need a hook for. You will need a drill that can cut iron in order to punch the hole at the top of the hook in order to hang by nail.
Step 1: Forging a Basic "J" Hook 19th Century Style
Okay so first I would like to make sure that I completely and honestly state that I am no professional blacksmith. I was recently hired by a living heritage museum to preform simple demonstrations. HOWEVER I felt like I was probably the best person to explain the process to a beginner since I myself am still a beginner (which means I wont use too much terminology).
Finding your iron.
At the living heritage museum I work for, we have all of our iron supplied to us wholesale in convenient cylinder strips varying in thickness. I typically use anything around 1/2 inch but really its up to you. (of course thicker iron takes longer to heat)
After you have chosen the iron you will be using for this project place it in the fire and heat! (I was always told the iron should hurt when you look at it! In other words it isn't hot enough until it is a bright buttery yellow)
Step 2: Hammering
After your iron has heated up to the proper temperature (that bright yellow I was talking about in the previous step.)
you are going to want to taper the end of the iron to a sharp point. (similar to a spear or the end of a toothpick)
How thin you decide to make your taper is completely up to you, do remember the thinner it gets the weaker it grows. I personally like a thin taper (when it turns into a finial) I like the way it looks but really it all depends on the project, the blacksmith and how comfortable you are with the hammer.
Take your hammer (I use a 2-3 pound cross peen hammer) and strike the tip of your heated iron causing it to stretch and make a point. Hammer each side twice then turn your iron 90 degrees -thus resulting in only 2 turns (although your taper will have 4 sides your hammer only needs to meet 2 of them the anvil will take care of squaring out the other two sides.)
(I have included a finished picture of an "S" hook to show what else you can do with the "J" hook. In Order to turn it into a "S" hook you repeat the "J" hook steps on the opposite side of your iron)
Step 3: Creating a Finial
After you have tapered your iron to your desired length and thickness, It is time to create the finial. This is my favorite part of the entire process.
Its pretty simple but adds a great touch to the hook (it is decorative and also makes sure no one jabs themselves on pointy ends.)
To make a finial simply heat your taper bring your iron to your anvil and hang the desiered length of your taper over the end of the anvil. lightly tapping (using your hammer) tap the tip of your taper that is hanging off of the anvil face causing it to bend at an almost 90 degree angle.
Then flip your iron so the bent point is facing you and lightly tap the very tip to curl it into a almost circular point.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO AFTER YOU HAVE YOUR FINIAL IS COOL IT IN WATER. MAKE SURE TO COOL YOU FINIAL BEFORE HAMMERING IT.
Step 4: MAKING THE HOOK
So after you have made your finial the final step is making the bend for your hook.
Reheat your iron. (Make sure to cool the finial before hammering it) Make sure your iron is hanging off of the anvil as far as you would desire (this choses the size of your hook , and will be where you make your bend for your hook) and that the finial itself is facing the ceiling- the hook will be bent the opposite way of the finial. Then lightly tap the COOLED finial cause the iron to bend, bring the half bent iron over to the horn of the anvil to give the hook its circular shape. (you can make the hook as opened or closed as you desire.)
Now that you have completed your "J" hook you can put a simple decorative twist in the hook (I was also told this makes the hook stronger) you can do this by simply placing in a vice hook down and twisting the base with a pair of plyers. Keep in mind if you want to make the decorative twist you will need to either use square stock or square off your circular stock iron.
Thank you for reading and I hope this may help someone new to the trade!