September 17, 2006

Good tongs

Ok, so my first pair of tongs aren't good ... but they work. I made some "practice" tongs out of shackle rod. It seems that shackle rod is workable, and not pressed scrap metal like concrete re-inforcement bar (re-bar). I used an article from called simply Tongs. The reins, hinge and jaws are all a bit rough, but I am pleased with them as a first effort. I took them to the September 2006 Saltfork Blacksmith meeting, and reworked the reins and jaws using a power hammer. After making these, I learned 2 lessons: start shaping a round or v bit early on, and don't be in too much of a hurry riveting them together. After they cool down, you will see square corners that need rounding, etc.

Me Holding Tongs

A quick note on this picture. I was wearing gloves because I was wire-brushing my tong to clean off scale. If I am forging, I use 1 glove on the tong hand at most.

A few months back, my dad gave me an old Sears 1/4 hp grinder with a wire brush. I bought a grinder stand at Harbor Freight. Over the labor day weekend, I drilled 4 mounting holes and mounted it up. After donning an apron, gloves and a full face shield, I wire brushed an old rusted hammer head that I found behind my parents' house. It looked so much better that I wire brushed my tongs too!

A blacksmith told me that shackle rod should probably not be hardened, as it gets quite brittle in a water quench. I know this is true for re-bar, but shackle rod does not feel as hard to me.

Below are some collected bits of wisdom:
From "Forge & Anvil": Good tongs have a solid hinge.
From "Practical Blacksmithing": Good jaws are set so they touch at the tip first, and grab completely as you squeeze.
From IForgeIron: A refinement to Riveting your tongs.

Uri Hofi punches and drifts his hinges. This probably allows for a wider range of motion, and a smoother joint.

Ideally, tongs should have an offset in the handle right by the joint that allows them to hang over a 3/8 or 1/2 in bar without the handles spread out. This makes for a neat and tidy shop, and saves space.

September 11, 2006

September 2006 Saltfork Craftsmens Meeting

The Saltfork Craftsmen Artist Blacksmith Association held another blacksmith's meeting at Dan Cowart's shop. If you live in the Bartlesville or Dewey area, you missed out! I forgot my camera, so please accept my apology for not taking pictures. We had 4 beginners there (counting me) and about 14 total attending. I brought a pair of heavy tongs that I had rough-forged from 5/8" shackle rod. Some of the more experienced blacksmiths advised me to draw out the handles more and draw out the bit more too. So, I chiseled off the old home-made rivet and took advantage of the opportunity to use Dan's power hammer to draw out the reins. Wow! I want a power hammer! After re-riveting the tongs, I tried to form a V in the bit. I think that was a mistake. Also, I should have spent a bit more time thinking about that problem - I ended up using the edge where the top plate meets the horn to hold the bits steady and chiseling a small line down the middle, but I couldnt get them to fold into a V - they just wanted to twist. That was a good lesson for me - don't get in a hurry, and think through all of the steps you will be taking. A while later, I remembered the swage block, but I will have to try that at home. After the meeting, I went to a garage sale and found a beat-up 1/4" top fuller without handle, a few ball pein hammers and some older wooden handles. That fuller plus the V edge of my swage block might just do it.

Another thing I did at the meeting was to start on a blunt punch from a car coil spring (probably 4140).

That night, I was looking at power hammer plans (I don't want to spend alot of money on one - this is a hobby). The appalachian power hammer page looks very interesting, and it looks affordable. It looks like I can make between a 15 and 25 pound hammer for less than $200 USD. I already have some trailer over-load leaf springs, a lead on some washer and dryer motors and a source for some of the metal.
I will more blog about the power hammer after I have collected enough scrap to get started.

Some other power hammer links are below
AnvilFire's coverage of a Junk Yard Hammer
I Forge Iron - Power Hammer by Jeff Reinhardt

I will add several more links tonight.

If you are wondering what we do, look in the archives for my blog of the January 2006 and March 2006 meetings.

[edit: added meeting notes]