A Visit to Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley

On a recent vacation, I had the opportunity to spend time in Death Valley.  While there, we took the opportunity to visit Scotty’s Castle in the Northern Area of Death Valley not far from Ubehebe Crater.  If you have never been to Death Valley National Park, take the time to go but not during the summer!!  There is a reason it is called Death Valley, it can be amazingly hot with temperatures in the 120’s during the summer months.

Custom Detailed DoorCustom Metal CandelabraMetal Dragon StandCustom Iron Works

While visiting this scenic National Park, take some time out from exploring the badlands, narrows, canyons and abandoned mines to tour the grounds of Scotty’s Castle.  Scotty’s Castle was built by Albert Johnson back in 1920’s and 30’s.  Be sure and make reservations for your tour and save some extra time to explore the grounds.  When viewing the castle, consider seeing it with the eyes of someone who loves and appreciates the beauty and craftsmanship of iron art.  I was delightedly surprised to find “iron candy” at every turn.

 Iron ChandelierWood and Iron GateIron Decorative Lamp PlateMetal Outdoor Lamp

The tour guide informed us that all metal works were crafted by an artisan blacksmith that was located on the property at the time of the build.  The metal would have been shipped in and then hand forged for each custom piece.  You can tell by the detail and beauty of each piece that the master craftsman for this job was quite talented!!  There are literally hundreds of amazing pieces to look at and I had to wonder who this person was and how much time they would have spent on each piece.  It did take over 9 years to build Scotty’s Castle, so I am sure the blacksmith was quite busy during that time.

Decorative IronDragon AndironsCustom Iron Curtain Rod and Finials

Custom made Radiator Cover

Decorative iron plates, custom detailed chandeliers, dragon andirons, satyr andirons, outdoor lighting,  metal intertwined with wood for an ornate gate, a twisted metal curtain rod with finials and holders, candelabras, ornate radiator covers, a dragonvase base and more.  Everywhere you look you see the embellished work of an artisan blacksmith!!

Custom Andirons

 It was amazing.  If there was ever an opportunity to do some restoration work on any of these custom iron pieces, Noble Forge would jump at the chance to work on such spectacular pieces or even better yet, we would relish the opportunity to produce pieces of quality similar to those seen at Scotty’s Castle.  We have done similar pieces before and are always looking for an exciting challenge to put the art of blacksmithing to the test.  Whether or not you are in the market for pieces like the ones you will see at Scotty’s Castle we hope you can appreciate the fine work and detail that went into making such beautiful iron pieces.  Blacksmithing at it’s finest.  Something Noble Forge and our customers truly appreciate.

The Iron Art of the Great Heron

Great Heron in Metal

Birds have been used since the dawn of man in art.   You can find pictures of birds on cave walls in petroglyphs as well as in Egyptian Hieroglyphics.   It is not surprising then that over the years, Noble Forge has created custom pieces that have included birds in the design.  One particular fireplace screen was the setting for the Great Heron.  Found among the cattails and tall marsh grass, the great heron hunts for food.  Herons are known in ancient folklore and on totems to be a symbol of patience, balance and grace.  If you happen to come upon a heron, they are captivating birds to watch.  Tall and gangly, yet graceful, the heron is a hunter that displays an intelligence and deep concentration when considering its prey.

Reeds of Great Heron Fireplace Screen DetailWhen bearing in mind these facts, being able to embody this bird on a custom fireplace screen makes sense.   The ability to capture the scene of a heron standing in the marshes awaiting the opportunity to catch a meal in metal was a challenge but one worthy of our trade and artistic nature.   Imagine each time this customer walks in view of their fireplace, they are rewarded with the art of the heron found in his reeds, awaiting his next meal.  The art does not end with the heron but in the detail of the cattails breaking across the frame of the screen, the tall grass bent at an angle, the swirls located along the bottom of the custom panel representing the water.  Branches hang low, camouflaging the hunt while forming the outline of the custom piece.

Great Heron in Metal Detail

Iron art at its finest found in the marshy wetlands scene of a great heron on in the hunt.  There are a multitude of natural scenes that can be found in functional art.  Noble Forge can bring that scene to you in metal for your custom screen, door, gate, stair rail, balcony railing or wall art.  The possibilities are endless when you have an idea and the right craftsman that can create it for you.  Phillip Bowling is a blacksmith that creates art with a forge and a hammer.  Contact Noble Forge for the opportunity to bring a vision to life in metal.  Noble Forge is synonymous with iron art.  Patience, balance and grace, like the heron, can be discovered in metal.  

The Garden Trellis

Garden TrellisOften times when creating a stunning garden, different heights and textures are introduced to enhance the natural beauty while adding function.  There are many different structures that can accomplish the task.  Garden structures include:  pergolas, gates, fences, arbors, and trellises.  Most of the time these structures are made from wood but there is an alternative to wood, iron.  When treated properly, iron garden structures can last for generations and add an intrinsic beauty to any garden.  Iron adds a contrasting texture, natural beauty and durability that wood does not.  Of course, we are biased because we at Noble Forge love metal.  Perhaps you love metal too and would love to love your garden.  You might consider adding custom iron pieces to anchor the design idea of your dreams.

Custom Garden Trellis with Roses

“Can you make a custom iron trellis?”  A customer came to us looking to add some height and structure to their backyard in the form of a rose garden trellis.  The iron trellis would need to be beautiful and functional, allowing roses to grow up the trellis distracting from a large white brick fireplace found in the back of the house.  The customer also wanted the piece to have contrasting colors enhance the detail of the piece.  We designed a custom garden trellis that could be planted in the ground and allows the roses planted in the front to grow up the trellis.

Garden Trellis with baseNot long after, a friend of the first customer saw the garden trellis Noble Forge had built wanted a similar design for their house.  However, they wanted it with a base to be placed on the patio with potted plants nearby, more a custom metal sculpture than a trellis.  One of the many benefits to having a custom built garden structure is that you can make modifications to the design to meet your particular needs.  Base, no base, color, height, etc. can all be changed for you.  That’s what custom built and handmade is all about.   Custom iron structures in your garden might be the exact thing you have been looking for to complete that vision.  If you have been searching for an alternative to wood and all the maintenance associated with wood, consider iron.  Those living in a hot, dry climate, or wet, moist environment know that wood tends to fall apart quickly, or is in constant need of repair.  Iron, when treated properly, does not require a lot of maintenance to stay looking beautiful for an extended period of timel.   It gives a whole new meaning to garden art and garden structures when you consider custom iron works.

Below are additional photos of the two garden trellises with the detail of the metal work as well as the different colors of the metal.  Noble Forge is ready to design and build your custom garden structure in iron.

Custom Iron Garden Trellis Detail  Garden Trellis Twist Detail

Custom Garden Trellis Detail  Custom Iron Garden Art

The Village Blacksmith

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

At Noble Forge we pride ourselves on crafting metal using the ancient art of blacksmithing that Longfellow refers to in his poem about the village blacksmith.

You can read stories of how Longfellow as a boy would watch the blacksmith working under a chestnut tree, hammering metal on the anvil.  He describes the life of the local blacksmith in his poem:

Blacksmith in the past

Ancient Blacksmith Shop

 

The Village Blacksmith

Under a spreading chestnut tree

The village smithy stands;

The smith, a might man is he,

With large and sinewy hands;

And the muscles of his brawney arms

Are strong as iron bands.

 

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,

His face is like the tan;

His brow is wet with honest sweat,

He earns what’er he can,

And looks the whole word in the face,

For he owes not any man.

Artist Blacksmith Phillip Bowling

Phillip Bowling Shaping Metal

 

Week in, week out, from morn till night,

You can hear the bellows blow;

You can hear him swing his might sledge,

With measure beat and slow,

Like a sexton ringing the village bell,

When the evening sun is low.

 

And children coming home from school

Look in the open door;

They love to see the flaming forge,

And hear the bellows roar.

And catch the flaming sparks that fly

Like chaff from a threshing floor.

 

He goes on Sunday to the church,

And sits among his boys;

He hears the parson pray and preach,

He hears his daughter’s voice,

Singing in the choir,

And it makes his heart rejoice.

 

It sounds to him like his mother’s voice,

Singing in Paradise!

He needs must think of her once more,

How in the grave she lies;

And with his hard, rough hands he wipes

A tear out of his eyes.

 

Toiing, — rejoicing, — sorrowing,

Onward in life he goes;

Each morning sees some task begin,

Each evening sees it close;

Something attempted, something done,

Has earned his night’s repose.

 

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,

For the lesson thou has taught!

Thus at the flaming forge of life

Our fortunes must be wrought;

Thus on its sounding anvil shaped

Each burning deed and thought

–           Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Noble Forge

Noble Forge Stamp

At Noble Forge we may not be working under a spreading chestnut tree but it still takes muscles and brawn to forge iron.  It takes sweat and hard work to make a living as a blacksmith today, just as it did over one hundred years ago.  The sledge is heavy, the forge has flames and an anvil is used to shape the metal.  Shaping metal over an anvil using a forge continues to be a craft to be admired and many can appreciate the historic preservation of such an art.

Today’s Artist Blacksmith continues to prove to be the source of many unique forms of metal artwork that will stand the test of time and will become a legacy for tomorrow.  Noble Forge  using the art of blacksmithing is able to incorporate a design vision into pieces that provide the esthetics , function, and texture required by todays projects.  Grand gates, beautiful furniture, and graceful architectural elements in homes and buildings have redefined the blacksmith as an artist for all ages.  Perhaps, just as Longfellow, you too appreciate the work of a blacksmith.  If you are interested in a custom piece of iron, contact Noble Forge.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth “The Village Blacksmith” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [online resource], PoemHunter.com, Accessed March 31, 2014. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-village-blacksmith/

Mahogany Table and Bench

Custom Mahogany Table Top

Have you ever found a beautiful piece of wood or collection of tiles and thought, “What a great piece of furniture this would make!”.   It could be a chair, table, bench, or piece of wall art, I just need a way to capture it.  That’s where Noble Forge comes in to help.  We make custom furniture and hardware for your residence or commercial property with your design elements in mind.  It all starts with an inspiration.  In this case, it was a beautiful piece of mahogany.  

Custom Mahogany Table Drawing for Custom Table

Our clients had a stunning piece of wood that they wanted turned into a custom table and bench for their outdoor living space.  They had a vision.  The clients contacted us with drawings for the base and legs for both pieces.  Drawings for a design don’t have to be ornate, or complicated they just need to contain the right information to portray the dimensions and detail involved to create the piece.  Once we have that information, we may need some clarification and to discuss the color or texture but other than that, we know how to bring your vision to life.

Mahogany Bench Drawing

One of the benefits of working with an artisan blacksmith.  The drawings for the table and bench base and legs were captured in these drawings.

Noble Forge has been making custom made pieces of furniture for years.  We have a level of expertise, a desire for the highest quality and craftsmanship that our customers have come to know and appreciate.  Made in America of the highest quality is the foundation of our work.

Custom Mahogany Table by Noble Forge

We can build your vision.  Based on the drawings provided we forged the base structure and legs to allow these amazing pieces to come together to make an incredible outdoor patio table and bench.

Custom Mahogany Bench by Noble Forge

It is furniture that is unique, functional and built to last.  Do you have an inspiration?  Do you need custom hardware to make a valued piece captured in such a way that it provides function and design?  Perhaps you want to display an artistic piece with beautiful hardware?  Whether functional art or design only, your custom piece will add beauty to your home or work space.  Noble Forge can build that custom piece or hardware that will last the test of time, while honoring your taste and creativity.  We can forge the specific hardware you need to hang, display, give life to your vision in metal.  Contact Noble Forge whenever you are in need of some custom metal or iron work.  We can help you!!

Custom Mahogany Table and Bench

Gate Solutions and Repair

gate repair solutions Recently Noble Forge had an opportunity to do some gate repair at a home in Echo Park.  The client was having a problem with people reaching through their current gate, opening the gate and as a result some damage was done.  They asked Noble Forge to help.  Yes, we do custom iron works and hand forge metal but we do more than that, we know metal and we can help you with all your metal work projects.  This includes gate and door repairs, restoration as well as custom designing a piece for you.

Gate Repair, Gate SecurityIn this case, we performed some repair work to the current gate of the client then attached some expanded metal screen to the gate, welding it in place.  The result was an updated, functional gate that allowed for the visibility the client wanted while increasing the security of the gate and fence work.  We at Noble Forge can help you with your problem areas.  We can provide solutions to your metal work issues that are functional, attractive, and performed in a timely manner at a reasonable cost.

What does it mean to Forge Weld?

Phillip Bowling, Noble Forge, Artist Blacksmith

Forge welding is a solid-state welding process, joining two pieces of metal by heating them to a high temperature and then hammering them together. That’s right, HAMMERING!  It’s simple but it’s not easy.  Forge welding has been used for thousands of years. Forge welding is versatile, being able to join (heat, melt, intermingling the two metals and then cool) a host of similar and dissimilar metals. Unfortunately with the invention of electrical and gas welding methods during the Industrial Revolution, forge welding has been largely replaced.  Why?  Because it’s quicker, easier and less expensive.  But is it better?  No!  It’s like margarine.  Sure, margarine is good for some things, like baking but it is not butter.  If you are having an exquisite meal at an exclusive restaurant, do you think they are serving you margarine or butter?  Butter!!  Why?  Because margarine is an imitation of butter.  Butter is authentic.  It comes from the milk of a cow and is churned, margarine is mixture of oils and flavors.   The texture, quality and feel of metals when forge welded are like butter.  Forge welding is the original and all other processes of welding are a replacement for the original method.  When you think of forge welding think of butter and all the other types of welding are margarine.

When we forge weld similar materials, a solid-state diffusion occurs (think “one solid piece”). As a result, the weld consists of only the welded materials without any fillers or bridging materials. Two pieces have been joined to create one piece.  “Fillers” – we hear about fillers all the time in our food, they are additives.  The main purpose of fillers is to reduce the cost of the products and it is true for metal works as well.

Hammered Metal, Phillip Bowling, Artist Blacksmith, Hammered Metal

Forge welding between dissimilar or different materials causes a lower melting temperature between the materials. There is a fancy science term for this type of reaction called the Eutectic system.  What is important to know is that this type of weld is often stronger than the individual metals independent of each other.

The temperature required to forge weld is typically 50 to 90 percent of the melting temperature. Different materials have different melting points, for example, steel welds at a lower temperature than iron. The metal may take on a glossy or wet appearance at the welding or melting temperature. Care must be taken to avoid overheating the metal to the point that it gives off sparks from rapid oxidation, otherwise you are just burning metal!!  We don’t want to burn metal, we want to heat it, then shape it and make something amazing.  That’s why we like to forge weld and use the ancient art of blacksmithing at Noble Forge.

Bed Knob Post, Custom Iron, Custom Metal, Forge Welded, Artist Crafted

Depending on the application, all types of welding can be very good.  You have to decide which is better for your situation…butter or margarine?  We recommend forge welding when crafting, shaping and forming metal but Noble Forge can do all types of welding.  Noble Forge works with metal, that’s what we do.  We appreciate forge welding because it allows us to use the craft of blacksmithing.  Using the forge gives metal a quality, texture and authenticity that other types of welding do not.  However, when it comes to metal and working with metal think of Noble Forge.  Noble Forge knows metal and Phillip Bowling is an artist blacksmith.

Why Custom Fireplace Screens?

Fireplace Screen with Scroll BorderOther than designers, most people do not think of a fireplace screen or fireplace doors as an opportunity to enhance the beauty of their home or workplace.  However, when you think about sitting in front of a fireplace, mesmerized by the heat and flames, you can imagine that if you were to have a unique and stunning screen or door in front of that fireplace, you would look at it all the time.  What we are talking about is a functional work of art.  When there is no fire in the hearth, you have the gift of elegance and splendor.   A beautiful fireplace screen transforms an ordinary fireplace into an extraordinary experience. With Noble Forge’s custom fireplace screens, you can create a stunning focal point in your home or lobby that radiates beauty and warm hospitality, elevating the enjoyment to both you and your guests.

Noble Forge has been creating custom works of art since 1996 and is known for its exceptional hand-forged products. Custom made fireplace screens, doors and accessories are an example of those products.  Custom fireplace screens allow for the customer to develop a design style that is complementary to the specific design needs of each fireplace.  Whether classic, contemporary, an arts and crafts, traditional or eclectic, a custom fireplace screen adds an additional layer of symmetry, balance and beauty to any room or lobby.Fireplace screen with Bedknobs and scrolls with flower tip design

All of Noble Forge’s custom fireplace screens are hand-forged by skilled artisans in our studio located in Los Angeles’ North Hollywood area of Southern California. We have created unique and magnificent fireplace screens for homes in Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills, Canoga Park, Estes Park, Pasadena, Century City, Brentwood, Hidden Hills, Los Angeles, Palos Verdes and more.  Each piece is carefully crafted using proven, centuries-old techniques. Our priority for every fireplace screen and fireplace doors is the same for all of our products:  “the highest quality, no matter how long it takes.” This unique focus is what makes our pieces stand out in a market saturated with low-quality, mass-produced items.

Custom fireplace screens, fireplace accessoriesOur artisan blacksmith, Phillip Bowling has thoroughly studied the art of hand-forging techniques as well as chemical treatments, patinas, and painting.  He has extensively researched the history of original metal designs as well as newer techniques traveling throughout the United States and Canada studying other artist blacksmiths and researching up to date design methods. His passion and dedication to the excellence and authenticity of each piece he creates is clearly reflected in the quality and design of each Noble Forge product.

An investment that will last for generations, custom iron hand-forged fireplace screens from Noble Forge bring much more than beauty and character to your fireplace:

  • High-quality fireplace screens protect buildings, family and guests from the dangers of flying embers.
  • Our screens are functional works of art – easy to use, that last for generations.
  • No more struggling with stiff, squeaky doors, rusty mesh curtains or embarrassing soot stains.
  • No worries about shattered glass and dangerous shards.
  • Customized fireplace screen sizes and designs are available to meet your unique needs, ensuring you always get exactly what you want.
  • Depending on your design needs, select a hinged door fireplace screen, a single panel fireplace screen, 3 panel screen or L Fireplace Screen with Three Panels and Brass Rivetsshaped fireplace screen

Our mission is to create unique pieces for your hearth, whether home or hotel lobby, that are beautiful, sculptural and functional. Our reward is seeing the joy they bring to you as well as the opportunity to continue carrying on the ancient craft of blacksmithing. For more information, fill out our contact sheet at www.NobleForge.com or send an email directly to info@nobleforge.com.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are interested in stopping by the studio, feel free to visit us during working hours or call to make an appointment, 818.765.5004.

Can you make this?

Often times we have clients approach us with a simple question “Can you make this?”

Which is typically followed by a rough sketch or drawing of an object that they would like created.  The answer is “Yes.”

Then the question is followed by another questions…”What if…”  “What if I want to have bronze work in this area here”,

Drawing of Fireplace Doors

“Can you put a scroll in the middle with a basket weave pattern around it”, “Could we have claw feet and a dragon head coming out the flower pot?”

Yes, Yes, and Yes.  If you can dream it, we can build it.  It’s undoubtedly a matter of what the client wants and the budget for the item.

We want to build for you your vision.  Maybe you don’t really know exactly what you want.  We can help you there too.  We can develop plans to complement your design and architecture.  Of course, your input is always taken into consideration.

Let me give you an example…We had a client come to us with a drawing.  “Can you make this? ”

“Yes, we can make these intricate fireplace doors.  But what would you like to do about handles?”  We suggested a scroll leaf design in copper

Custom Fireplace Doors In Progress

to accent the piece with complementary accents to draw all the details together.

The next step

  is to build it.  In progress, the fireplace doors look like this…

After completion of each piece the custom fireplace doors are assembled in the shop.  These particular fireplace doors were made from steel, measuring 8 ft by 5 ft, using copper and hand rubbed oil, with gold leaf ornaments.

Once complete, the custom fireplace doors were installed in a private home in Hidden Hills, California.

Custom Fireplace Doors

Beautiful and functional artwork, the fireplace doors add an additional dimension to an elegant fireplace that can stand the test of time, hand forged by an artist blacksmith, Phillip Bowling of Noble Forge.

Back to the original question, “Can you make this?”.  The answer is, “YES”.

How to become a Blacksmith?

When people think of blacksmiths, they think of “Horse Shoes”.  But the job of a blacksmith is much more complicated than horseshoes.  Of course there is nothing wrong with making horseshoes, but to become a blacksmith is much more involved than many might imagine.  Deciding how the craft of blacksmithing is applied in modern day uses has come a long way.  Phillip Bowling Artist Blacksmith

Blacksmithing involves heating metal with fire to forge, making repairs or restoration and creating welds. A lot of blacksmiths work takes place in a manufacturing environment.  Blacksmiths are typically members of the Boilermakers Union as well as other Blacksmithing organizations, both locally and nationally.  If you are more artistically-inclined, you can use your skills to creating decorative pieces of metal including: railings, gates, furniture and sculptures from metal. Noble Forge falls into the second category.  We are a creative group that applies artistic interpretation to custom metal pieces.  Being a blacksmith requires not only physical strength but a lot of training and practice to developing the necessary skills to achieve the desired result.

Before considering blacksmithing as an occupation you might want to read books about the profession and art of blacksmithing.  If you are still interested, consider attending a local community college or vocational school that specializes in blacksmithing to learn basic blacksmithing skills.

Get some basic skills on how to work with metal, like a beginning oxy-acetylene (gas) welding course.  You will learn things like how to light a torch, how to safely handle hot metal, working with tanks and what safety equipment is used when welding.  Additionally, you will need to learn how to control the heat in the forge, and experience working with a gas fired forge.

As you advance with your skills, you will become familiar with blacksmith tools, such as an anvil, hammer, tongs and punch. Train using the different tools of the trade.  In order to obtain skills such as drawing out, brazing, cutting, riveting and upsetting (putting metal back into itself) takes a lot of practice.

There are courses you can attend to learn more about modern metal-working and the skills that are needed to become a well-rounded blacksmith and the best techniques for welding based on the materials being used.  Example of Metal Shaping on an Anvil

Become an apprentice whether with a blacksmith or through a blacksmithing program where you can refine the skills necessary to become a blacksmith.  There are blacksmithing organizations that can help you find apprenticeships as well as becoming a member of your local Boilermakers Union.

You must demonstrate a level of competency in blacksmith skills before becoming a blacksmith.  Once you can demonstrate your proficiency, you can join organizations for blacksmithing in your area and around the world.

Always look for ways to advance your skills.  Learn a variety of styles by working with architects and other blacksmiths to design details for new and old construction.

Determine the type of blacksmith you would like to be.  Based on your skills you can find a job as a commercial blacksmith working in manufacturing or you can establish your own blacksmith shop.

There are a lot of costs associated with setting up your own blacksmith shop.  You will need to purchase blacksmithing tools, such as various weighted hammers, an anvil, forge and tongs. These tools and supplies are available at specialized blacksmithing suppliers and online but you can also make your own tools.  We at Noble Forge like to make our own tools whenever possible.  Pick an area of specialty and start forging.

No, it’s not easy to be a blacksmith.  It takes time, training and dedication as well as an artistic eye to use a drawing or make a drawing and turn it into a three dimensional piece of iron that exceeds customer expectations.  Noble Forge can do all of that and more.  That’s why we have been in business serving the Los Angeles, Orange County, Santa Barbara areas and beyond for almost 20 years.  Blacksmithing is our trade, bringing beauty to metal is our craft.