On material and finishes
Many metals are conducive to forging, and I have employed hand wrought stainless steel, silicon bronze, naval bronze, aluminum, copper, steel, and wrought iron in both my architectural and sculptural work. However, among these metals, true wrought iron is best suited for expressive forge work. Wrought iron is not the same as steel. It is characterized by extraordinary hot malleability, natural resistance to corrosion, and exceptional resistance to fatigue in service. Unfortunately, this ancient and versatile metal that combines innumerable fibers of siliceous slag with a very pure iron is no longer manufactured in America. I have invested in a large quantity of antique material made in the United States from virgin ores around the year 1900. It is a highly refined structural grade that can be readily forged to any size stock I need. And its corrosion resistance is well proven, having been exposed to the elements for over one hundred years and showing essentially no signs of corrosion.
The finishing of forged metalwork is an entire subject in itself. The approach I take here is that the surface ought to be worked to its final form under the hammer whenever possible, and that the finishing process should be simple and honest. I use light oxidation treatments in most cases followed by an organic coating of some sort: wax, oil, or lacquer, depending on intended exposure. In rare circumstances paint is an appropriate finish. The combination of hand working and hand finishing results in surfaces that cannot be matched by machines or modern manufacturing.
Among the many advantages of using true wrought iron is that it is one hundred percent recycled. More accurately it is simply salvaged since no re-melting is required. The manufacture of iron is an extraordinarily energy and material intensive process, as well as a major contributor to CO2 related climate change, and reusing this old material avoids unnecessary waste. And because it is so much better than conventional steel for anything forged, the labor saved more than makes up for its greater initial cost.