Twisting Tools and Twists

One way to make a decorative accent is to twist the metal. Basically, you heat the section of metal to be twisted, clamp one end in a vise, grab the other end with a twisting wrench, and twist. Direction is your discretion, except where the twist has to be made in both directions and then any decision is removed from consideration.

Some twists can also be done cold, but what fun is that.

One excellent source of information is the Old Dominion Blacksmith Association's article on twisting:  The Twist Class

Twisting Wrenches

twisting a piece of metal

War Department Education Manual

Adjustable twisting wrench
First off, you're going to need a twisting wrench (and a vise to hold the stationary end of the metal to be twisted). Twisting wrenches come in two basic flavors: fixed and adjustable. A fixed twisting wrench is an easy tool to make. Using 1/2" square stock, the bar is bent back and forth in the shape of a flattened "Z". One throat is sized to twist 1/4" stock and the other is sized for 3/8" stock. The adjustable twisting wrench is usually a monkey wrench with a bar welded to the top of the tool.

z-shaped twisting wrench

Z-shaped twisting wrench

"store-bought" twisting wrenches

"Store-bought" twisting wrenches

(Personal note: The Appalachian Blacksmiths Association thinks the Z twisting wrench is 10 times better than the adjustable type. I doubt it since an adjustable wrench is capable of infinite adjustment, within limits, to make a better grip. However, metal cools while you are fiddling with the adjustment, so ...).

Twisting Machines

Manual Twisting Machine
latern twisting machine

Lantern Twisting Machine

Automatic Twisting Machine

Types of Twists

There are a multitude of different twists and new ones being developed occasionally. Some of the more common are:

Stages of a Pineapple Twist

Stages of a Basket Twist
braid twist

Braid Twist
rope twist

Rope Twist
twisted rope twist

Twisted Rope Twist also called Corn-on-the-Cob Twist

stages of a stair twist

Stages of a stair twist (and reward in the upper right)
completed stair twist

Completed stair twist

Stair twist (aka Rubik/Cube twist) from the
Central Virginia Blacksmith Guild

More twists from the net (

Barley Sugar Twist

Incised square twist

Here is a tough one. Most blacksmiths are fooled by it but
the general public doesn't see the trick at all.
(Easy actually. It's three pieces. One is ¼" by ½"
and the other two, are 1/4" square. They were forge
welded on each end, and then twisted tightly.

A simple but elegant twist, round and square

Rope twist

This one is heated, flattened where the twist is to be
made, and then twisted a half turn. Simple, I think.

3/8 bar Swaged in a 3/16 tenon swage
on diamond and then twisted

pineapple twist

A wave. Bend bar in half,
taper bent end, unbend

Alligator twist on knife handle

Another alligator twist handle, this one places more emphasis on the texture. I really like that.

Another alligator twist handle, this one rounded more deemphasizing the texture

How to Make a Pineapple Twist

found at Diary of a Wandering Hen

Fig. A - Fig. E, from left to right.

Steps in making a pineapple twist:

  1. Mark a deep groove down the center of a piece of heated square stock. Make this mark on all four sides of the stock. (Fig. A)
  2. Place in vice and make a 3/4 twist. (Fig. B)
  3. Square all four sides on the anvil. (Fig. C)
  4. Punch another groove down the center of each four sides, as in step 1. (Fig. D)
  5. Untwist in vice 1/4 twist. Watch the twist to see if it looks right. True up on anvil with a wooden mallet. You now have a completed pineapple twist. (Fig. E)

Double Reversed Twisting Jig

Source: ABANA/Ron Reil's Page:

double reversed twisting jig
The adjustable length twisting jig is a very useful tool for making double reversed twists in various sized bars. It will allow you to make virtually perfect twists every time, if you have the bar evenly heated when its placed into the wrench jaws. I like to use an old "Ford wrench" to make my double handled twisting wrenches out of. Using a double handled wrench will allow you to apply an even force to the bar and not cause it to be bent out of alignment during the twisting process. Be sure you use the right kind of welding rod when welding the high carbon steel wrench heads to the jig, or the welds will break off the first time you use the jig. I use "UTP-65" for all such welds, expensive, but worth every penny. Also, because your hands rotate under the hot iron during twisting, the hot scale that falls off will land on your hand and wrist. Beginners usually find this uncomfortable, but you will soon get used to it, and it causes no damage.

    Gee Mom, look what else I've found!

"Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs, unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated. But the brave men who took on that mission and risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes. Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive. Mr. Spicer should know that story." - John McCain

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