Extreme Functional Metalwork

One thing I love about metalwork is that there’s so many paths you can walk down pursuing your muse. The same applies to all materials, of course: clay, steel, paint, wood, whatever. But I love steel because there is such a level of commitment to working with something so obdurate.

There’s an artist on instagram whose work I follow, who (among other things) sometimes makes functional reproductions of medieval treasure chests. I’ve seen a number of such chests in museums in Europe (I think there is one at the Met, too) – they were top-notch security in their day.

Naturally, such a thing would fall fairly quickly to an angle-grinder with a diamond cutoff wheel, but they didn’t have those until recently. The weight and obviousness of the box was another aspect of its security.

This is one of the boxes Javos has made:

That’s a lot of steel.

The components of the door latch are all laid out on a test-board to ensure the design functions correctly, and they are made and assembled there before being transferred to an actual box.

The finished door, latched into its frame. These are stills grabbed from videos he posts every so often.

What made him decide to make such things? I would like to know.


  1. flex says

    The precision of Javos is amazing. I find it interesting that the medieval box requires springs to keep the latches closed, but Javos can do it all with cams. Of course, when you are using modern steels, the surface finish can have a lot less friction. Or maybe the springs are just there so the box can be latched shut without using the key?

    Javos’ work does appear to be milled rather than forged. So he might be doing the design, including a working model, in CAD first. That would be a lot simpler than what the medieval craftsman had to do. A medieval craftsman might have templates but the shaping of the metal was probably a lot more difficult.

    Still, it’s very good work, and fascinating.

  2. kestrel says

    So elegant and lovely. If he does mill as opposed to forge he must be so happy with how it works… I’m a big proponent of modern tools.

    It must be really satisfying to figure out the locking mechanism and how to make a workable one. Really beautiful.

  3. Tethys says

    Wow, that is impressive smithing. Oddly enough, this Meister Smith is about 5 miles from my home. His shop has many examples of superb craft. He clearly is inspired by some Anglo-Saxon age artifacts enough to learn to recreate the faces.

    There is a podcast called Blacksmiths Pub that interviewed Jeff Van de Walker aka Javos about his methods and why he makes this particular object. It’s easy to find if that sort of thing interests you, but in short, he bought a medieval lock from the Netherlands to restore it, and now tries to match the ancient skill set by rebuilding them from scratch.

    He does not mention milling. He makes all the hardware and the tools himself. I don’t forge at all, so most of the discussion about power hammer envy was beyond my narrow area of metalsmithing.

  4. John Morales says

    Naturally, such a thing would fall fairly quickly to an angle-grinder with a diamond cutoff wheel, but they didn’t have those until recently.

    I doubt crude force is the only way.

    I’d really like to see LockPickingLawyer have a go!

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