Make a letter opener from reclaimed rebar using traditional blacksmithing techniques! Blacksmithing is an excellent way to upcycle reclaimed metals and make both functional and sculptural objects. Before using just any reclaimed metal, make sure you know what you're sticking in the forge, some metals are treated with substances that could release toxic fumes when heated. Always wear eye and ear protection and keep in mind that you're working with hot metal and this can be a dangerous activity. Avoid wearing synthetic clothing and be aware of your surroundings. Happy making!
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Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials!
You will need:
1. A forge (propane, gas, or coal will work)
2. Blacksmithing hammer
6. Adjustable Twisting Wrench
7. Rebar (5-7 inches long)
8. Safety glasses and earplugs
9. Steel Wire Brush
10. Finishing Oil or Beeswax
Step 2: Draw Out a Taper
Place piece in forge using tongs and heat until yellow-orange in color. Create a short taper that is about 1" in length and comes to a fine point of about 1/16" thick. To taper, place the piece at 45 degree angle at the far side of the anvil and strike the piece with hammer at opposing 45 degree angle (see drawn diagram for visual of this blow).
Step 3: Square Opposite End
Place other end (non-tapered) of the piece in the forge. When hot, strike the rounded end flat on anvil, rotating 90 degrees each strike to create squared end about 2" in length. Flip piece around again and place tapered end in forge.
Step 4: Add Twist to Rebar
When hot, remove piece and place taper down in vice. Tighten vice and use adjustable twisting wrench to grip squared end. Rotate piece full 360 degrees to add twist in piece and create texture on rebar. Place tapered end back in forge.
Step 5: Round Out Taper
Round out the taper! All tapers begin square. To round the square, the taper is placed on its edge and corners are struck down until it becomes an octagon. Use even random hammer blows to remove all edges and create a smoothed and rounded taper. Flip the piece and put the square end in the forge.
Step 6: Taper Squared End
Once heated, taper the square end to about 3 1/2" in length and to a fine point of about 1/16" thick.
Step 7: Flatten Taper to Create Blade
Place your new squared taper on the anvil. To flatten, work both sides and along both edges with consistent overlapping blows. Pay attention to the thickness as you flatten and make sure the blade does not become thinner than 3/16".
Step 8: Bevel Flattened Letter Opener Blade
Beveling a blade requires the blade to be held at a consistent angle close to the edge of the anvil. Hammer blows are consistent and overlapping at an angle to the edge (see drawn diagram). If the blade slips flat, stop hammering and re-position the blade at the same angle it was before. It is best to work the blade at an orange to reddish color. Return blade to the forge whenever it cools. With each pass of the hammer the bevel line should become more defined. The blade will start curving and you must continuously rotate blade to keep the edge of the blade near the edge of the anvil. The bevel should be at lease 1/4" wide. When bevel is complete, flip piece and put handle in forge.
Step 9: Add Shape to Blade
When piece is hot, place the back side of the blade on the horn of the anvil (rounded side) and work a rounded curve into the bottom of the blade with the rounded ball peen side of your hammer. You can also add shape to the handle by either placing handle in pritchel hole of anvil (hole in face) and bending it with the tongs or adding a curl by hitting the end over the side of the anvil.
Step 10: Brush and Finish Piece
Heat piece in the forge. Remove when hot and use steel wire brush to take off loose scale (scale is the thin film which forms on the surface of iron and steel in the process of forging). While piece is still very hot (beginning to turn from cherry red to black) add beeswax or vegetable oil finish to prevent rust. Solid beeswax can be held to the hot piece and melted on or the piece can be dipped in and out of a vessel of vegetable oil. It will smoke heavily and turn dark in color. Let the piece cool and wipe excess oil off with a rag. Open all of the letters you've been saving for your forged letter opener!!!