Iron Tree Forge
Traditional Blacksmithing and Historical Crafts
After purchasing one of my pieces many of my customers ask how to maintain it...
Today in our throw-away culture of plastic and stainless steel few people know how to maintain natural materials such as iron, wood, and leather. If treated properly these materials will last generations, and will patina with age and use to what we expect from the best antiques. On this page I will explain how to simply care for the things I make, but these same techinques can be use on old tools and other antiques.
* I am not advertising the products and brands that are shown on this page, they are the ones I use in my shop and that I trust. If you have a better sugestion I am always looking for new ideas!

Maintaining Iron and Steel

Iron loves oxygen and will rust (revert back to the ferric oxide it was when it was in mined out of the ground). As we would say while I studied at Penland, "Rust never sleeps", this moto holds true for any iron or steel object.
Red rust or FeO3 is the bad kind of rust, but iron will oxidize in other ways. Namely FeO4 which is black and will protect the iron from the bad red rust. This black rust can form a few different ways, one is the heat from a forge fire (where the name blacksmithing comes from), or second with careful maintenence of clean iron to form a patina.

Black iron

Black iron is an object that still has the black fire scale (FeO4) left from the forge. Be it an axe head, fire place tools or art - I treat the finished piece with beeswax while still warm. once cool I often build up additional protective coatings with a good hard drying paste wax.
To maintain black iron re-apply either a stove polish, or a high grade furniture paste wax once a year. Below are the products I use.

Blades or other "white" sufaces

Iron and steel that has been ground and polished after the forging process has had the black fire scale removed. This clean "white" surface can easily rust unit it patinas correctly. This patina or stain will happen naturally with use, though a few procations and careful maintenence will speed up this process and produce a lasting FeO4 patina that will keep red rust at bay.
The key is to keep the blade clean and dry. Below are the points to remember


Wipe off the blade after every use. To remove any stuck on debris that can harbor moisture


Wash the blade with soap and water, scrubbing lightly with Scotchbright or other cleaning pad. To remove grease, oil, fingerprints and other stuck on debris


Dry off with towel then let it completely air dry


Oil with a food safe oil such as Canola or Almond (not Olive oil as it can become sticky, but will work in a pinch)

Keep Safe

Keep safe by storing the blade in a dry place, ideally in it's own sheath, block or box. DO NOT keep it in a drawer with damp things like freshly washed silverware.

This is what a healthy FeO4 patina will look like. Depending how you use the blade the colors of the patina will be different. As proteins, acids, sulfur componds etc will all effect how the patina forms

Maitaining Wood

For my wood work (handles, boxes, etc) I use natural oils, varishes and waxes to protect the wood and bring out it's natual beauty. Why most of the world switched to plastic based poly finishes is beyond me... they scratch, chip, yellow and dont hold up to age and use like the finishes our forefathers used for millennia. Natural finishes are harmonious with wood, soaking deep into its pores, hardening not only a top finish layer but also the wood underneath. My finishes should last a long time of heavy use, but as with any natural material a little maintenence will help it survive.

DO NOT use soap

Soap is made to cut oil and waxes, and thus can cut through natural finishes. Instead use Lemon or Orange oil to clean the wood and finish.
If the finish is looking scuffed and dirty, this is what I use - a mixture of beeswax and Orange oil
If you (or some one you know) has used soap, or otherwise the finish looks to be removed and the wood dried out. Buff lightly with 0000 steel wool and apply a thin coat of this

Maintaining Leather

I wax my leather with beeswax or Butcher's paste wax (above). If the leather is really dirty use saddle soap and a sponge to clean it off then rewax with a good neutral shoe polish

I am more then happy to restore any of my finishes if you dont feel comfortable doing it. please contact me

* I am not advertising the products that are shown on this page, they are the ones I use in my shop and that I trust. If you have a better sugestion I am always looking for new ideas!