The story of steel is never ending. Almost every washing machine will be picked up from the alley, and mechanics never toss broken bolt into the garbage, they throw it in the “scrap pail.” When a bridge is demolished, twisted re-bar is pushed in a snarled pile. Any form of steel can be cut, chewed and smelted into new stock. It is in this spirit of using found objects that I fashioned an archway over the path at the Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park branch.
As a fulltime blacksmith for twelve years, this is the first time I have taken on the challenge of using found materials in my work. All of the pieces used in this archway were collected within a 25-mile radius of my shop, from farms nearby. Most farms have a spot somewhere in the woods for a “multi-generational” scrap yard. These piles are sometimes used for parts, sometimes scrapped for extra income, and sometimes forgotten. As I talked with the owners of these scrap yards, I began to realize I was being trusted with a responsibility greater than merely completing a job. Standing in a field of chopped hay next to an idling tractor, I showed one farmer the things I had found in his woods. He recognized a ring gear from the transmission of his brother's first car, and a crushed grill of his grandfather's Massey Ferguson. All of the iron hauled from the weeds has a story.
To create the archway, some pieces were cut, some were heated and crushed in a hydraulic press, and some remain in the beautiful state in which they were found. A few pieces are probably 100 years old and most are over 50. One of my favorite objects is a wagon wheel rim which I positioned to show the hammer marks left from the blacksmith who welded the rim together and sized it to fit.
The frame of the arch is primarily new steel, hand forged with hammer and anvil. The basic techniques I employed to forge elements of the framework are the same the blacksmith used to forge the wheel rim and horseshoes. Our hammer blows are only about 100 years apart.
Each object has a story to tell – stop by the Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park branch and discover for yourself the beauty in found objects.
If you would like more information about Nathaniel Reinartz, visit his website at www.natsmetalwork.com