Scottish Thistle Fire Brazier

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Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

According to legend, an invading army once tried to sneak up on an encampment of Scottish soldiers, when one of the invaders stepped on a thistle and screamed in pain, thus spoiling the attack. Ever since, the thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland. This fire brazier pays homage to that humble flower. It might not startle invading Norsemen, but it’ll certainly keep you warm on those cool summer nights.

Tools and Materials

  • Oxyacetylene torch
  • Cross-peen hammer
  • Ball punch
  • 3/8-inch round punch or drill with 3/8-inch bit
  • Ball-peen hammer
  • Grinder or file
  • Speed square
  • Bending forks
  • Welder or forge, optional
  • Riveting tool
  • 3/8-inch rivets

Cut List

From 1/2-inch round bar, mild steel

  • Legs: 65-inch-long pieces (4)
  • Basket ribs: 40-inch-long pieces (12)
  • Bottom hoop: 32-inch-long piece

From 1⁄4-by-1-inch flat bar, mild steel

  • Top hoop: 70-inch piece


Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Forge Ahead

The brazier’s basket is made up of 16 ribs, four of which extend past the bottom of the basket to create the legs. You’ll make the legs first.

Legs

1. Cut the end of one leg piece at 45 degrees, heat it, and spread it using a cross-peen hammer.

2. Curve the leg to match the template on Page 43, starting from the top of the basket. It helps to use a jig. When you get to the foot mark, referenced on the diagram as “F,” measure out 7 inches and cut.

3. Forge a taper in the end of the leg piece, and curl it into a scroll until the length matches the template. Bend the scrolled end at a right angle to the plane of the rest of the basket.

4. Use a ball punch to create a depression in each of the rivet spots marked on the diagram as “R.” Drill or punch 3/8-inch holes in each of those spots.

5. Repeat this process for the remaining three leg pieces.

Basket Ribs

6. Cut the end of one basket rib piece at 45 degrees, heat it, and spread it using a ball-peen hammer.

7. Curve the piece to match the template on Page 43, starting from the top of the basket. Cut off the remainder at the spot marked “rib cut” on the template, and round the edges with a grinder or file.

8. Use a ball punch to create a depression in each of the rivet spots marked on the diagram. Drill or punch 3⁄8-inch holes in each of the spots.

9. Repeat with the remaining 11 basket ribs.

Note: Riveting without a torch will be cumbersome or impossible, depending on your forge. As an alternative, use bolts in place of rivets. Use the bolt heads on the outside of the piece, and peen the heads to match the handmade aesthetic.


Illustration by Mark Coletti

Top and Bottom Hoops

10. For the top hoop, draw an 18-inch-diameter circle on the top of your workbench. Use a speed square to mark 22-1/2-degree increments around the circle. Using medium bending forks, gradually curve the flat stock to the circular form. This can be done cold. Be sure to do small bends along the entire length of the stock, working the same length over and over to avoid kinks.

11. If you have access to a welder, or are proficient in forge welding, cut off the excess stock on both ends, and weld the hoop together. Alternatively, cut one end with 2 inches of overlap on the interior of the circle. Heat that end, and then hammer it flat against the beginning of the hoop to create a tight overlap. 

12. Mark and punch or drill each of the 16 rivet holes for the legs at 3/8 inch.

13. Repeat with a 9-inch-diameter circle for the bottom hoop, using 1/2-inch round stock to make the circular form. Use a ball punch to enlarge each of the rivet spots before punching or drilling the holes. This circle is best made hot.

Assembly

14. Use 3/8-inch rivets to assemble the fire basket. Start with the four legs, and then move on to the basket ribs. Use bolts to assemble the entire basket initially, replacing each bolt with a rivet as the piece is assembled.

Tool Tips

Welder. Perhaps the ultimate timesaving machine, an electric welder will allow you to permanently join metals with the pull of a trigger. MIG welders are easy to use and great for general work. Buy the best quality your budget will allow, but even a cheap welder will quickly become indispensable.

Oxyacetylene torch. An oxyacetylene torch combines oxygen and acetylene or propane into a high-temperature torch flame. It can be used for cutting steel, making precision bends (by only heating specific parts of the steel), making rivets, and even for welding.

Bending forks. Also known as “scrolling forks,” bending forks are indispensable tools for the blacksmith. If you have access to a welder, they can quickly be made by welding two round stock “tines” onto a square stock handle (square stock handles will seat better when clamped in a vise). You can also make a simple fork for your vise by creating a “U” with a piece of round stock.

Chain hold down. The chain hold down is a great extra hand for any project. It’s easy to set and release, and it’ll hold nearly any size of material on any point on the anvil. Old chain can sometimes be obtained free at motorcycle shops. To finish the tool, attach a stirrup to the end of the chain. When attaching the stirrup, insert the chain hook into the last motorcycle chain link and attach the end of the chain to the anvil base. The chain should be attached so that when placed across the bare face of the anvil, the stirrup is approximately 1-1/2 inches off the ground.


Jim Whitson designs and builds hand-forged gates, railings, and sculptures at his business, The Blazing Blacksmith, in Scotland. This project is excerpted from Nicholas Wicks’ book The Everyday Blacksmith (Quarry Books).