By Jennifer Horn CJF, a MABA Member
Scrolls have many uses. They are often decorative elements to a piece as simple as a wall hook or home furnishing. They may be used in items as a way to attach other elements to a piece. Or they may be used as functional elements such as legs on furniture or bases of table tops, for example. Scrolls are often used to fill large spaces. Handrails, both inside and outside, use scrolls architecturally. They become structural and decorative in sign hangers, fences, and gates to name only a few. Scrolls are useful in filling large areas of space and can serve the purpose of closing off a space or opening thereby offering protection from entry.
Scroll projects can be simple to very complex. Utilizing either smaller or larger scroll sizes, stock shapes and dimensions, the finials; additions of multiple scrolls and the combinations of these make scroll options limited only by the imagination.
A simple scroll should start with a tapered end. The drawn out taper should be an even progression and at least 6 to 8 times the width of the stock in length. The goal is a graceful transition. Scrolls can be built off the hammer and anvil by bringing the steel to a yellow heat, setting the stock across the face of the anvil, extending the taper just off the edge, and lightly striking the taper over the anvils edge to form a curve. Continue extending the stock off the anvils edge as you strike the curve. More of the flat bar is pushed into the curve as your hammer strikes. Avoid hitting the same spot twice. When the initial scroll curve develops, flip the bar over, and use even hammer blows to tuck the end toward the bar. Keep in mind to lift and roll the bar with your tong hand as your hammer blows continue to tighten the center of the scroll. You can continue to form the scroll in this manner or use the horn as your fulcrum to progress the scroll. Turning forks and scroll tongs are other useful tools for building scrolls.
If you are creating multiple scrolls for your design then you may want to make a scroll jig as it will be more efficient than if you do each of them by hand and match them against each other.
To make a scroll jig, simply draw the scroll you wish to produce with soap stone on your layout table. My layout table is my shop floor. When deciding what your scroll will look like, keep in mind the rules of Fibonacci.
Leonardo Fibonacci, was an Italian mathematician, considered by some “the most talented western mathematician of the Middle Ages.” The sequence, in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers, as in 1 + 1 = 2 then 2 + 1 = 3 and 3 + 2 = 5 is known as the Fibonacci series. By example: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…and so on. This concept defines the golden mean and golden rectangles. The mathematical approach determining proportions and progression can be found everywhere. This phenomenon appears to be one of the principal “laws of nature”. Fibonacci sequences appears in biological settings, such as branching in trees, arrangement of leaves on a stem, the flowering of artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone.
With your design determined, build your scroll jig to match your drawing. I recommend your first step to building your scroll jig to be forging the end of your bar to a fish tail draw. When you spread the end of the bar to be wider than the rest of your material, you will elevate the center of your scroll jig which will allow access to the center of you scroll jig without the outer larger radius’ getting into your way while working in the center. The thinner center can also make starting your scroll easier. When you are satisfied with your scroll, you can weld a hardy stem to it, weld the scroll to angle iron which can be locked in your vice, or use the remaining stock to fold and bend to fit in your hardy hole. Keep in mind where you will use your jig as you will want to be able to move all the way around it. Scrolls do use a surprising amount of steel and you’ll want to consider the length of material that will need clearance space in your work area.
To build your scrolls, you will first draw your taper, build your finial, or whatever your design incorporates. Begin the scroll over the anvils edge as already described. Heat the section of material behind the initial scroll/finial (cool the end if necessary, so that it locks in your jig and does not change). Place the end of your material into the jig. You may lock it there with vice grips or tongs if needed. While leaning away from your jig, walk the material around the jig to the desired shape. If you are only using a portion of the jig, mark your jig so that each scroll you make finishes at the same spot on the jig. Scrolling wrenches can be useful in keeping you material tight to your jig. Keep in mind while building your pieces, that if you do every step in the same sequence and the same way, they will turn out the same. The more precision you use, the more precise your pieces will be. Eye ball measurements will keep things close, yet uniquely different, which can be very pleasing to the observer and the artist!
Scroll Finials can include but are not limited to: fishtail scroll, split fishtail scrolls, penny scrolls, bolt end scrolls, and leaf end scrolls.
Scrolls can be built from but are not limited to: flat bar, round stock, square stock used on the flat or diamond, square tube, and even rebar.
Scrolls can be of different size and different lengths. If you are reproducing a pattern that is already determined there are several ways to measure. A flexible tape, leather boot lace, or bale wire have served me. I have also learned that if the piece to reproduce can not be brought to the forge, soldering wire can be used to not only measure but also carry the scroll shape back to the layout table (floor) for reproduction with chalk, then straightened against your ruler for length. If you plan to have scrolls on both ends of your stock, I suggest you mark the center of your stock on the edge to use as a reference point. If you plan to draw either or both ends, pay attention to how much growth occurs and figure that into your math for cutting steel.
Another way to determine how much steel will be needed is to design your scroll pattern from test pattern pieces. To build test pieces, you will first need to build a scroll jig. You might just as well make this a nice jig that you’ll keep around the shop for many years. Depending on how many revolutions the jig will accept, will determine how many test pieces you will build.
For this example I built 11 test pattern pieces to fit my jig which was built from about 15 inches of steel with about a 4 inch diameter. First, I cut 11 pieces of round stock all 20” long. Several of these pieces will end up being longer than needed, but I wanted to keep everything the same to begin with. Then, I drew one end on each piece to a taper resulting in one inch of growth. Now all 11 pieces were 21 inches in length. Next I started each scroll as previously described. The first piece I put into my jig and formed became a very short scroll, the smallest scroll the jig would make. The last point of contact for my test piece to the jig was approximately 25% of the first revolution. With my jig in my hardy hole, this meant that my smallest scroll made on this jig would end when the remaining straight stock was perpendicular to the anvils edge. The next test piece was inserted into the jig and formed until the straight stock was at a 45 degree angle to the first piece. The third piece continued to the point where the straight stock was parallel with the anvils edge. The fourth piece went past that point to the next 45 degree angle. The next one continued to the next perpendicular anvil edge. I went on and on, progressing at a 45 degree increase around the jig until I had used the entire jig size. My largest test piece used almost the entire length of 21 inches.
I made a nick one inch from the end. I then flattened out the last one inch without destroying my nick and marked 20 in with my steel stamps on the flat end and drilled a hole at the very end. This hole is used to store my test pieces on a removable keeper ring with the other test pieces. I now know what it takes to reproduce a scroll to be just like my largest test piece around to the nick; I will need 20 inches and make a one inch taper before beginning. I then continued measuring and marking the remaining test pieces. I used 12 inches for the middle size scrolls and 5 inches for the smaller scrolls. Math comes in handy at this point!! Take your initial steel length, determine where you would like your nick mark to be (I suggest a few inches past the last radius), subtract the excess length of straight stock and then mark your test piece for the length of steel it takes to get to your nick.
Now you can use your test pieces to draw your design. For example, to build an “S” scroll with a big scroll on one end and a medium size scroll on the other end, I take the test pieces that suit my design and trace them into my plans with caulk onto my layout table. I mark where my nick is and the length of steel used for that section. When all my pieces are drawn into my design I can add the lengths needed for the scrolls to each other plus or minus the straight section between my nicks to determine the length of steel to build that scroll.
I hope this information has been informative. What I learned about scrolls has come from my experiences at Tillers International with instructor Scott Lankton; some time spent with a Engineer & Blacksmith, Les Armstrong in Tamworth, England; my own investigating, reading, trial and error, and preparing to demonstrate and submit this article for the MABA. I appreciate the additional information that other members have shared with me and I thank MABA for the Scholarship opportunity. Happy scrolling to you all!