Both steam bending and blacksmithing are ancient techniques that change raw materials shape and function. One craft created the wheels of horse carts, the other made the swords of warriors. Although seemingly worlds apart, the two areas share common ground. Early ironwork is thought to date back to 1500 B.C. with some sources believing it may even be as early as 800-500 B.C. Initially, tools would have been crude and likely made of stone. Work would have been crafted over a campfire until the invention of bloomeries in 3000 B.C. which were effectively beehive looking furnaces made from rock. Hundreds of years later, these were replaced with industrial furnaces of which blacksmiths still use today. Like steam bending, which was thought to predate ancient Egyptian times, the process has evolved but its reliance on fire and extreme heat remains. For more about the history of steam bending, you can read our blog here.
Both metal shaping and timber bending are lengthy processes that require careful heating and well-rehearsed timings. A blacksmith forges with swift and precise hammer blows and works quickly to seal the desired shape. Similarly, a steam bender must work whilst the fibres is still soft and bend the timber around jigs before the wood cools and risks splitting. Where a blacksmith uses a furnace to directly heat and shape the metal, steam bending utilises the heat and moisture of steam to temper wood. Once the timber fibres are soft, the wood can be steered, and jigs are put in place to ease it into a new shape. After many hours, the wood is cool and fixed into its beautiful newfound structure. Like steam benders, blacksmiths contort, squash, and twist their material, freezing it in time into a new shape. Beautiful Victorian railings, Georgian balconies and Gothic gates all exhibit the skill and charm of a blacksmith’s handiwork. When seeking inspiration, Steamed Studio looks to history, nature and across craft disciplines to be submerged in creativity and endless design ideas. The inspiring and intricate work of blacksmiths can sometimes be seen reflected in our designs.
Contemporary steam bent and iron forged structures are special and built to last. Mixing ancient techniques with modern design makes for timeless pieces that we can love and enjoy in our home for generations. As people look for something less ‘off the shelf’ and more artistic, as with steam bending, blacksmithing is experiencing a resurge. This means new creatives are learning the old ways and put their artistic spin on their work.