Building a Wrought Iron Gate



The gates at Clarendon Court were made in europe and shipped to the U.S. in the 1920's. Originally the gates were fitted with wrought iron acanthus leaves, but by the 1970's the leaves were severely rusted and they were replaced with copper then guilded in gold. I had never seriously looked into making this kind of leaf before so I searched the internet for information. I found a few articles about making acanthus, but nothing really comprehensive so I began experimenting.  
  I started with a page from Googerty's 1890 book on blacksmithinng along with an old copper leaf, which had been floating around in my shop for several years. I flattened on half of the old leaf so that I could get a better idea of the cut out shape, but unfortunatly the tip had been broken off long ago. Early in my experiments, it became obvious that all of the folds and ridges were made to actually shape the leaf by shrinking the out side edges. I will begin by cutting a few leaves from 1/16' thick copper and we will see where it goes.    
  After developing patterns, the shapes are traced onto a sheet of copper and cut out with snips. The edges are filed down to the trace lines and the peice is annealed. The first hammering movement is to raise a center spine. This spine stiffens the leaf and provides a reference line for all of the curved lines to merge into. The jig is a simple welded rabbet and a tapered peice of steel. The annealed leaf is squeezed between the two peice jig and the spine is accurately pushed to one side of the leaf, this becomes the face. The lobes are sketched in pencil and the lines ard roughly hammered in with small steel punches.    
  The leaf on the left has had the outlines hammered in and the backside has been bumbed up. At this point the leaf is returned to the fire to be annealed again. The right hand leaf has been relined and the back has been bumped up higher with a smaller ball peen hammer.

The following photos show the leaf being fitted to the iron scroll work, After securely clamping the leaf in place it is fomed around the scroll with a wooden mallet