This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol3: Stair Building, Ornamental Ironwork, Roofing, Sheet-Metal Work, Electric-Light Wiring And Bellwork", by The Colliery Engineer Co.. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
56. All the work considered up to the present time has been purely structural. Such ornament as has been necessary in elevator fronts or office partitions has been of a conventional character, and is confined to strap-iron grilles. Now, however, we come to the consideration of another kind of ornamental ironwork - the execution of leaves and flowers in sheet and bar iron, by means of forging and working the metal. No machinery is required for this work but man's own ingenuity and skill; however, artistic intelligence and dexterity of hand in the use of simple tools are indispensable in the production of satisfactory results.
In this branch of wrought-iron work, the designer must be intimately acquainted with his material; he must know how much working his metal will stand under certain conditions, and how much working his design will require to bring it into shape. He must know at what point and under what conditions forging will be necessary, how much of the work can be formed cold, and what details will have to be executed with the metal at a red or a white heat. Wrought-iron leaves are usually executed in sheet metal and hammered into shape; flowers sometimes require both sheet and bar metal; while designs of foliated grille-work require sheet, bar, and strap iron in varying quantities, according to the character of the work.
57. In Fig. 78 is shown a finished leaf as it would appear when placed in the position it was to permanently occupy. To reproduce this leaf in iron, it will first be necessary to make a developed drawing of it - that is, a drawing of the leaf as it would appear if flattened out to the original shape of the metal when first cut out, before working in any manner. It is hardly possible to lay it out exactly - and, in fact, such accuracy is not required, as, the general dimensions being correct, the other parts may be worked into shape in subsequent operations. In Fig. 79 is shown the general appearance of the developed drawing. This drawing should now be carefully traced on the sheet metal and cut out. The crude iron leaf is then placed upon a block of soft metal, such as lead, and cold hammered into the general shape required. As constant hammering is likely to make the metal brittle and hard, it is sometimes necessary to anneal the iron in the forge several times before the leaf is finished. Special forms of hammers are used to shape the work, two of which are shown in Fig. 80. The one at (a) is flat on both faces, and is used in the general shaping of the leaf; while the one at (b) with its spherical head is used to produce the curves of the lobes and indentations, and to bring the leaf to its finished form. The flared face opposite the spherical head is brought into service when sharp indentations or veins are to be expressed, though other tools and punches are used in connection with the work for this purpose.
58. In designing leaf work for a grille, a gate, or a railing, consideration must always be given to the appropriateness of its position in accordance with the utility of the device and the architectural style of the building. For instance, in the elevator cars and enclosures heretofore discussed, we have given little or no consideration to wrought-iron leafwork, because an elevator is essentially a utilitarian device, and such ornamental features as we express in its design should be a part and detail of the necessities of its construction. The grilled sides of the elevator are rendered ornamental simply by twisting the iron straps and bars of the frame filling into geometrical forms; but where a grille is inserted in a transom light, or over a gateway, simply as a finish and ornament to the opening, the design may be elaborated with leafwork, as the purpose of the grille is not utilitarian but ornamental. Again, the heavy gates of a carriage entranceway require some leaf decoration to harmonize with the design of their surroundings, but they must at the same time preserve their identity as a purely utilitarian detail. The leaves and tendrils must not be delicately modeled in thin metal, but must be boldly hammered from sheet iron of from 3/32 to 5/32 inch in thickness. There must be no feeling of frailty in such a detail, and the ornament must be as strong and serviceable as the main structural details of the gate.
59. In Fig. 81 is shown the design of a panel suitable for a light railing, or a protecting grille over a glass screen. The lines of the design are too delicate to permit of its use in a position where it would receive hard usage, and its details may therefore be of very light materials. The main framework, it will be observed, is composed of substantial bar iron, while the filling and leafwork is of very light gauge. The treatment of the panel shown in Fig. 82 is the reverse of this. Heavy framework filled in with substantially proportioned scrolls and bars forms the general scheme of the design, while the leafwork is applied to the parts where the scrolls unite, and thereby render the points of forging more pleasing to the eye. The leafwork in this design plays no part in the structural strength, but renders the structural necessities artistic, by combining and uniting them under an artistic form.
These two examples, Figs. 81 and 82, are intended to show the two principal conditions to be met in leafwork design. Fig. 81 shows a framework full of ornament, possessing little strength and mainly intended for appearance. Fig. 82 shows a strong frame and rigid grille-work, certain details of which are emphasized with leaf design. In Fig. 82, strength is the main consideration, and the ornament clothes the utilitarian details in artistic forms.
60. In Fig. 83 is shown a piece of wrought-iron work which exceeds, in elaboration of design, anything heretofore considered. It is a design for one panel of a railing, and is intended to be supported at each end by a heavy stone pier or post. The top rail a and the bottom rail b extend from one of these posts to the other in an unbroken line, while the inner rail c is broken by the lines of the main scrolls, and is worked into a fret design in the corners.
As the filling of this panel is nearly all leafwork, it follows that the leaves should be wrought in a heavy gauge of iron. The delicacy of the design will in no way be impaired by such treatment, as the parts must possess an appearance of strength sufficient to fulfil their several functions.
The main lines of the ornament in this design are composed of heavy iron bars, to which the leafwork is secured by forging. The double lines of the large scrolls forming the scheme of design at each end are filled in with a fret ornament of light iron. The iron of the main scroll being wider than that of the fret, the latter is protected from injury, but is raised from its support on button washers, in order that it may be more readily seen. The same may be said of the guilloche ornament on the left side of the center scroll, but the stem-and-bud ornament on the right side of the centerpiece is bent in place independent of the surrounding bars.
The leafwork is forged to the structural details as shown, and therefore seems to form a natural part of them, though the style of leaf is of an exaggerated system of design which is not highly artistic from a strictly architectural standpoint. The example serves to illustrate, however, the extremes to which wrought-iron-work designs may be carried, and the tasks which a skilful workman may be called upon to carry out. Fig. 84 shows another design which, though less ornate in its leafwork, is equally complex in the arrangement and management of its scrolls. The main scroll lines break and change their direction suddenly, thereby leaving some points improperly secured, and necessitating other scrolls to secure them in place. The centerpiece is executed entirely in sheet metal, the drooping leaves being secured to the surface of the vase with rivets. The main leaf of the scroll on the right-hand end of the rail is somewhat similar to the one shown in Fig. 78, though larger. In this position it forms an ornate finish to the panel, and at the same time serves as a floral calyx out of which the lower lines of the scroll appear to naturally grow.