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How to Twist Steel for Decoration in Metalworking

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There are many techniques necessary to make ornamental metalwork. Twisting hot steel allows the metalsmith to create wrought iron, ornamental jewelry items, fashion accessories and ornamental hardware. This article assumes that the reader has some metalworking experience and has access to a fully equipped metal shop. It is also assumes that the reader is familiar with the correct, safe use of metalworking hand tools, torches and safety equipment.

Place the bar of steel in a vise and tighten. Adjust the two wrenches to fit loosely onto the square stock with just enough play that when the steel heats and expands, you can still slide the wrench onto the steel.

Put on your tinted brazing goggles and heavy leather work gloves. Fire up the torch. Heat the section where you wish to make the initial twist until it is bright orange. Hang the torch on the torch rack, taking care that the flame is not pointed toward you or anyone else, and that it is not going to set anything nearby on fire. The torch remains burning because you will need to use it any time the metal loses its orange color or becomes difficult to twist.

Take one adjustable wrench in each hand and twist the metal before it cools. If it changes color while being twisted, or if it becomes difficult to twist, use the oxy-acetylene torch to reheat the stock to bright orange and continue twisting. Twist toward you for right-handed spirals, and away from you for left-handed twists. Twisting in both directions allows you to make fancier, more ornate twists. The twisting process causes the steel bar to become slightly curved in the twisted area, so it will have to be straightened.

Reheat the twisted section of the steel to red. Lay the heated steel on an anvil or striking plate. Tap gently along the steel while turning it, until the steel has returned to true, which means that the steel is straight again. Allow the steel to cool to room temperature.

Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until you have enough stock twisted to make your desired ornamental ironwork. Weld the pieces together as desired. Use twisted steel to make wrought iron gates, stair rails, knife handles, ornamental jewelry items and ornamental hardware.

About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.

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