Introduction: Forged Heart
Do you have a special valentine this year? You don't need to have a special valentine to make this heart, it's a great gift for any occasion. I gave two of these hearts to my aunt and uncle as a wedding anniversary present. It is pretty easy to make, as long as you know basic blacksmithing techniques. Remember to be safe! You will be working with extremely hot metal and if you are uncomfortable with that, I do not recommend making this.
Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools
Piece of steel (I used a piece of barstock that was about 1" x 3/8")
Anvil (Or any piece of hard, flat steel like a sledgehammer head or a piece of railroad track)
Hammer (I have a couple of hammers, but I mostly used a 1.8 pound rounding hammer)
Tongs (Vise grips also work, but tongs work best. I used vise grips and 1/4" Jim Keith flat jaw tongs.)
A way to cut metal (Hacksaw, angle grinder, hot cut hardy tool, etc.)
Wire brush (I used a steel wire brush during forging and a soft metal brush when I finished to clean up some of the extra fire scale)
Step 2: Cut and Mark Your Steel
Cut your steel to 15 inches long. I used my angle grinder to cut my steel. After you cut your steel, find the center. This should be 7.5 inches. Mark it. You can mark it with your angle grinder. All you need is a very small mark on it, just enough to be able to see it a little. I marked the 7.5 inch mark with a welder's pencil, heated the steel up, and then used my hot cut hardy tool to mark the center. Once you completely finish the heart, the mark will barely be visible. You can't just use a pencil or sharpie because it won't stay around when you put it in the fire.
Step 3: Bend Your Steel in Half
Once your steel is hot enough, find your halfway mark and put it on the far side of the anvil. Hammer the steel on the far side of the steel until it is bent in half. This part took me a while to get even because I forgot an important step. You want to make sure you only keep the halfway mark hot. This means that you should only have about one to two inches of the steel glowing. You can do this by spot quenching. To spot quench, you heat up the halfway mark. Then, you quench the steel in water until only an inch of the halfway mark is hot. It doesn't have to be exactly an inch, just a small section of the halfway mark should be hot. Do not forget to spot quench or else it will be uneven and take you a while to get the bend correct.
Step 4: Square It
Now that the steel is bent in half, you need to square it and make it all straight. To do this, put the steel on the far side of the anvil. Now continue to hammer the corners right at the edge. This will flatten the corners and give it a good right angle.
Step 5: Make the Bends for the Heart
This is the hardest part of the project. Put the tip of the elbow of the heart on the horn of the anvil and slowly move it forward while hitting it with the hammer. This will curve the steel into a half heart shape. Do this again with the other elbow. This took me a while to get even curves. Just take your time and it should turn out good. Lastly, heat up the middle of the heart (where the two halves connect) and squeeze it as hard as possible with the tongs to close the remaining space, if there is any. Just a tip, make sure you pay close attention to how hot your steel gets or else it will melt. I got close to this happening on one elbow and there is no way to fix it after it melts too much. That is what caused the pits in one of the elbows. Luckily, the heart still looked decent enough to give as a gift.
Step 6: Finishing
Use a soft metal wire brush while the steel is ROOM TEMPERATURE. All you want to do is clean up some of the fire scale from the heart. The fire scale is what makes the heart look black. If you want to make the heart shiny, you can grind the fire scale off, but I like the look of the heart with the fire scale on. This next step is optional but it does give the heart a nice protective finish. This is the same process you would use to season a cast iron pan, so I am not sure if it is the proper way to finish a piece of decorative metal work. First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Then, you clean the heart with soap and water. Dry it off good after this. Next, you apply a thin layer of vegetable oil on the heart all over. I think you can use different oils, but my aunt and uncle were coming over for dinner and I didn't want the oven to smell like burnt oil. Put a large piece of aluminum foil below the rack to catch any drips from the heart. Finally, you put the heart in the oven. Bake it for an hour. Turn off the oven after the hour is done and leave the heart in to cool completely with the oven.
You are now done with the heart! You can give it to your special valentine or as a gift for any other occasion. I had dinner with my aunt and uncle and decided to make this the same day. I had the hearts in the oven cooling while we were eating dinner! Let me know if you make this and who you give it to!