Many of us will have heard parents or grandparents talk about the local blacksmith using his muscle power to shape the red-hot iron, in deep concentration, using a hammer and anvil. The sweet ring of the hammer as it made contact with the anvil often inspired people to take a peek in the dimly lit forge.
This may seem like a nostalgic vision, but to people who know the Dujardyn brothers from Oostrozebeke, this is still very much a reality. Steven and Brecht’s career started forty years ago, in the small forge of their father, Wilfried Dujardyn, where he restored his collection of old carriages. This was the spark that still fuels the fire today, awakening the passion for the centuries-old, traditional blacksmith’s trade, in the brothers’ hearts.
To quench their thirst for old techniques, both Steven and Brecht enrolled in blacksmith’s training programmes at the age of 15 (such programmes are relatively rare in Belgium). Drawing, sculpture, aesthetics and art history are all part and parcel of a blacksmith’s training. After they passed the entrance exam of the world-renowned Compagnons du Devoir, Brecht became a blacksmith there at the age of 19. This French guild for craftsmen and artists can trace its origins all the way back to the Middle Ages but is still very active today. The school is renowned for its traditional teaching techniques.
In 2001, they established their traditional artisan forge, called Dujardyn artconcept, where they bring matter to life. We are at our clients’ service, from the design stage right up to the delivery and installation!
Artisan ironwork has various applications. We can produce tiny details as well as large masterpieces. “Forging can come in handy for various things”, says Steven. “Door handles, tension rods, bolts, keys, cupboard pulls or window openers are some of the smaller objects we produce. But we can also produce larger items, such as awnings, a forged fence with cast-iron posts and even automated gates, if necessary. We also produce real works of art, such as chandeliers, into which crystal has been incorporated, or a forged or bronze garden sculpture.”
The demand for artisan ironwork for household objects has increased steadily in recent years. Steven does not find this unusual because iron or bronze objects that are forged in fire in the traditional manner hold a unique appeal. “Artisan ironwork is unique and unrivalled”, he explains. “People go in search of something specific that they can’t find anywhere else for their interior or for the outside of their house. They want something more interesting than an industrial ornament that has been reproduced tens of thousands of times. Also, they may also have spotted something while on vacation and want something similar for their own home. This is perfectly possible with artisan ironwork because everything is drawn and designed to the client’s individual requirements.”Process
To maintain our outstanding reputation as ironworkers, we strive to use old techniques for contemporary, sleek ironwork and the restoration of heritage pieces, in particular. We therefore find it very important to use the right tools to execute our ironwork according to the highest standards of our profession. Many of the hammers and anvils in our forge were handed down to us by our father and grandfather. Several forging hammers from Ateliers Demoors of Drogenbos are still in working order. In the early 20th century, this company was reputed for its metalworking machines, such as lathes and mechanical forging hammers. Many of our tools, such as swage blocks and embossing hammers, are centuries-old and were sourced from old forges. In our artisan smithy, raw and auxiliary materials are always available because we always try to reuse them as much as possible.
Wrought iron, brass, bronze, or copper: each of these raw materials requires a different approach. “Just like in cooking, metal glows in different ways and some metals glow faster than others. Forging bronze, for example, is a very complex process because the glow can be difficult to observe at such high temperatures. This also explains why our forge is so dimly lit. You can only clearly distinguish between a gentle glow and a white-red-hot glow in semi-darkness. A piece can be heated perfectly to the point at a given instant but may melt five seconds later, as a result of which all your work was in vain.”
Machines are arranged across the shop floor.
From the sketch to the finished productOur work
As artisan blacksmiths, working in the construction industry, we want to use our knowledge and skills to enhance the cultural value of the environment in which we live. And help preserve this heritage for generations to come. That is why it is so important to understand the material used to produce old ironwork and the techniques used by traditional craftsmen. Current building practice relies heavily on steel and countless alloys, such as stainless steel and aluminium, compared with the past when wrought iron and cast iron were widely used. Different production methods are used for old ironwork and steel. When crafting something from wrought iron, the metal resembles bread dough or candy taffy, whereas steel and iron are liquid. This results in significant differences in terms of composition and structure. Old wrought iron has a layered and fibrous structure with slag, in addition to a low carbon content between 0.02% and 0.07%. Steel has a homogeneous structure. You need specialist knowledge and experience to disassemble the joined forgings, treat them with care (we choose a new finish based on colour research) and re-join them, in accordance with the original technique. During the restoration process, any missing or excessively damaged parts are re-manufactured from wrought iron.More info
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