Contemporary blacksmith Andy Hopper AWCB used Coldur-A®, a proprietary alloy from Columbia Metals, to design a staircase handrail that was awarded the prestigious Tonypandy Cup by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths.
Andy was initially approached in 2009 to design a staircase handrail for a property with an original Georgian exterior and a modern interior. The property featured a river running through the estate, which provided the perfect inspiration for the final design. After careful consideration, Andy chose hot forged and polished stainless steel and bronze as the perfect choices of material for his creation, The River Flows.
“I specifically chose Coldur-A® silicon bronze from Columbia Metals for its outstanding forging properties,” says Andy Hopper. “This bronze offers reliable and predictable characteristics when heated precisely in a furnace with a digital thermometer. It is a quality material boasting a very high copper content of 96% and 1% manganese which adds hardness. It has excellent flow when hot forged due to the 3% silicon content. I found that, with caution, it can be forged into a black heat. It takes punishment under the power hammer and can be totally trusted to perform very willingly overall. The work hardening properties can be exploited to give immense strength where necessary.”
Andy’s design started with a 2.8m length of 40mm diameter Coldur-A® round bar. This piece was forged out to 13 metres of finished section which then went through the bending and curving processes.
“The bronze had to be forged from round bar, to flat bar, then forged out to the required profiles,” continues Andy. “This was effortless as the alloy is a real pleasure to work with.
“The finished sections were rectangular and taper in both planes. I then set the first curves in the flat plane under the 50 ton hydraulic press. After fine tuning the profiles, the sections were polished all the way to a mirror finish. The material polishes to an ‘old gold’ colour – and totally gorgeous at that.”
After shaping and polishing, the sections were heated and shaped with a rawhide mallet. The sections were Tig welded together and to ensure perfect colour match for the bronze, Andy forged his own bronze filler wire from the spare stock.
Andy completed his masterpiece in 2011 and was recognised by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in 2014 when The River Flows was awarded the Tonypandy Cup.
“After all the hard work and careful preparation, the work fitted like a hand in a glove,” recalls Andy. “This piece of work represents the struggle of life through adversity. I dedicate the work in loving memory of my late partner Lisa.”
About Andy Hopper
Andy Hopper is an internationally renowned blacksmith specialising in the hot forging and forming of bronze and stainless steel. He was awarded the 2014 Tonypandy Cup by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths for his stainless steel and bronze staircase handrail The River Flows. Andy is also Vice Chairman of the British Artist Blacksmiths Association (BABA).
Coldur-A® is a silicon bronze alloy renowned for its combination of strength, corrosion resistance and formability. Its attractive golden bronze colouration makes it a firm favourite with designers, sculptors, metalsmiths and fabricators alike. Columbia Metals holds stocks of Coldur-A® in the half hard condition in sheet form and from 1/4″ to 2” diameter.
Photo credit: Andy Hopper