Forge Your Own Iron Bookends

Modernize your shelves with these iron bookends. These bookends have a contemporary, industrial look that differs from traditional scroll designs.

By Robert Thomas
Photos by Sully Sullivan Photography
July 2018

art craft blacksmith cover
Cover courtesy of Quarto Publishing.

In The Art and Craft of the Blacksmith: Techniques and Inspiration for the Modern Smith, Robert Thomas provides readers everything they need to know to take on blacksmithing as a hobby. The book introduces readers with the fundamental tools and techniques to modern blacksmithing and provides how-to projects for every level. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4, "Projects."

A great chef once told me to try to cook dishes without using garlic and olive oil because it would make me a better cook. Although the combination makes everything delicious, it's also ubiquitous. Constantly relying on the garlic and olive oil combination prevents the cook from exploring a multitude of other flavor combinations. Free from the shackles of conventional cooking, true breakthroughs are possible and signature dishes can be born.

The scroll is the garlic and olive oil of contemporary ironwork. The scroll is perhaps the most popular iron design element of all time. Originally used as gussets, iron scrolls have been used by designers and architects for millennia to both tasteful and occasionally excessive ends. The scroll is a ubiquitous symbol for ironwork, but, like the old garlic and olive oil one-two punch, relying on it as a design element can put your creativity on sleep mode.

Unless specifically requested by the client (which is often the case), we rarely design ironwork with scrolls. I have nothing against scrolls and actually really enjoy forging them since they are such a great exercise in fluid forging and forming. When we do design with scrollwork, we often try to incorporate the bevel scroll because of its flowing lines and three dimensionality. It's also a very tricky forging, which keeps the smith engaged and challenged.

These bevel scroll bookends are designed to be a modern take on an old classic. The simple L bracket frame and cylindrical standoffs have an industrial feel in sharp contrast to the delicate bevel scrolls which act as the gussets.

iron book ends

Materials used:

  • 1" x 3/16" (25 x 5 mm) flat bar, 26" (660 mm) long, two pieces
  • 3/4" (19 mm) round bar, 1" (25 mm) long, four pieces
  • 2" x 1/2" (51 x 13 mm) flat bar, 17-1/2" (445 mm) long, two pieces
  • 1/4" x 17/8" (6 x 48 mm) rivets

Tools used:

  • Power hammer with flat dies
  • 3/4" (19 mm) round power hammer fuller
  • Drill press
  • Hand forging hammer
  • Anvil
  • Scrolling pliers
  • Bending forks


Step 1: Fullering and Bending the Frame Pieces

  1. Mark and fuller the 2 x 1/2 inch (51 x 13 mm) flat bars 6-3/4 inches (171 mm) from the end of the bar.
  2. iron book ends

  3. Hammer the fuller 1/4 inch (6 mm) into the bar and then create a 90 degree bend at the fuller mark.

Step 2: Forging the scrolls

  1. Forge a 3 inch (76 mm) taper on the edge of the 3/16 inch (5 mm) flat bar and scroll it until it forms a J. Do this in 2 to 3 heats, working back and forth from the face to the horn of the anvil.
  2. iron book ends

  3. Once the shape is created, forge a bevel into both edges of the scroll using the rounding side of a farrier-style rounding hammer.
  4. iron book ends

Step 3: Forming the Three-Dimensional Bends

  1. This is the tricky part. Carefully bend the end of the scroll in the opposite plane over the horn of the anvil while gradually twisting the workpiece to create a bend and twist simultaneously.
  2. iron book ends

    iron book ends

  3. The resulting shape gradually twists 90 degrees while it bends into a scroll shape.
  4. iron book ends

Step 4: Forming the Remainder of the Scroll

  1. About 6 inches (152 mm) from the end of the bar, complete the 90 degree twist and scroll the rest of the bar parallel to itself using the scrolling tongs and a drawing as a guide.
  2. iron book ends

    iron book ends

Step 5: Assembly

  1. Line up the scrolls, standoffs, and frames and mark for rivet holes where everything comes in contact.
  2. Drill the 3/4 inch (19 mm) round standoffs in the center and drill corresponding holes in the scrolls and frames.
  3. Countersink the holes on the back of the frames so that the rivets can spread and remain flush on that side.
  4. Using the horn of the anvil for a bolster, hammer over the rivets to complete assembly.
  5. iron book ends

Project forged by JP Shepard and Matt Garton.

More from The Art and Craft of the Blacksmith:

Excerpted from The Art and Craft of the Blacksmith, by Robert Thomas. Published by Quarto Publishing, © 2018. Used with permission from Quarto Publishing.

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters