Michael Spencer
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Artist Blacksmith


Heron wall sculpture, for a client who calls his estate Heroncrest . He initially wanted a life-sized sculpture to stand outside on the reedy shore at the foot of the lawn but wasn't happy with the prostect of diligently and regularly cleaning and painting it lest it rust away. So we went with this interior wall piece.

We usually think of herons as we usually see them, knee-deep in creeks or tidal backwaters, one eye cocked for small fish and other snack-sized creatures. But herons do nest in trees, usually in colonies large enough that their droppings kill the trees. So the heron perched on a leafless branch is right at home.

The heron itself is forge from one piece except for the crest featers and legs, which were formed separately and inserted into drilled and slightly drifted holes in the body.

A first attempt at the frame didn't suit me. After a bit of thought, I made a tool that with which I could forge a half-round groove centered along the edge of the stock, creating something more like moulding. In the detail you can see the individual tool marks which I made no attempt to remove.

If you were at the MBA meet at Scott Hamlin's shop in August, you saw a demo of the jig for creating this moulding effect. And you saw me get the workpiece stuck in the tool. A tool for holding and working hot metal is easier to set up and use if it has a moving clamp to hold the workpiece rather than depending on being   just exactly the right size to hold the stock. Getting a fixed-dimension tool just right is tricky due to variations in work piece temperature, in as-rolled stock size and in the amount of deformation with each blow. But this finished piece is proof that the jig works, give sufficient time, care and stubbornness.

Heron -- Forged and welded steel. About 28 inches diameter.

Original photo by Peter Barss
Created: Mike Spencer -- Sun 24 Aug 2008