I've just finished an article for the OABA newsletter, and wanted to share it here. I posted a partial version of this a little while ago, but here's the final version.
About a year ago, we had a demonstrator cancel at the last minute for an OABA meeting, and I was asked to fill in. I had none of my tongs, hammers, punches, or other equipment, and I found it very awkward to use the ones in the shop. There was nothing wrong with the shop or its tools, it just didn't have the kinds of things I was used to. The demonstration was more or less successful, but not quite what I would have liked. After that, I decided to put together a portable set of tools that I could keep in my car for demonstrations. Over the last year, my toolbox has gone through several changes, both in its content and in the ideas behind it. Its still a work in progress, but I thought I'd share where this project come to so far.
If I had wanted a set of tools to do one demonstration, I could keep it pretty simple. If I went to a shop that had a forge, and anvil, and some steel, I could do several demonstrations with only a handful of tools. For example, a demo for a bottle opener would require a hammer, a pair of tongs, and a punch/drift. For a pair of tongs, I would need a hammer, a punch, a chisel, a rasp, and a rivet. I think with these sets I could do the specified demo, but if I wanted to work on something else I would need to look for other tools. If I was going to be demonstrating for an afternoon at a public event, I'd like to be able to work on whatever took my fancy. So, what I would like this tool box to be able to do is:
· Hold sufficient tools for several and various demos
· Contain most of the tools I might want to work with when borrowing someone else's forge
· Have most of the tools I might need for any surprise projects or repairs whenever I happen to be.
However, I have two constraints I want to stick to:
· These tools must fit in the tool box I have decided to use for it
· The toolbox must weigh less than 40lbs total.
The tool box, on the left, is one I picked up at Iron in the Hat a while back. I could fit a lot more in another toolbox, but this one fits pretty well in my back seat. The weight constraint is a bit arbitrary, but after lugging that thing around when I had it completely crammed, I think that 40lbs is probably as much as I would want. There was also the problem of over crowding the toolbox. I've had times when I just spent too long hunting through a crammed box trying to find the tool I was looking for, and when I was done it was a jigsaw puzzle to put everything back together.
So, with that in mind, I have reworked my tool box to give me the widest range of options while still keeping the weight and the clutter down. This is still a work in progress, but I think I’ve got a pretty good set so far.
1 and 3: V-bit tongs
Two sets of v-bit tongs, useful for round or square stock from 1/4" to 3/4", and not too bad on stock up to an inch, or on a lot of bar stock. I find these to be my favourite style of tongs because of their versatility and stability.
2: Farrier tongs
All around useful tongs, especially for bar stock. I also find them handy to smaller twists and picking up sheet metal pieces.
4: Collapsible Coal rake/poker
I like having a very long coal rake, because I find that when I lean over the forge to pull more coal towards the centre, I tend to light my head on fire. After a few times, you start to think of alternatives. It's also handy for poking the forge or saving yourself from a bit of extra back strain.
Great for most of my forge maintenance. Helps for pulling clinker, raising up the coals, or for digging through to find that one piece that was too short and got lost.
6: Twisting wrench
I made this by welding a piece of scrap onto the end of an adjustable wrench. The two handles make it easier to twist whatever you're working on and keep it straight.
7: Cross Peen Hammer
I use this hammer for pretty much everything. It’s a 2-1/2lbs cross peen hammer with a nice long handle. I’ve changed my hammer for this toolbox several times, and have no problem changing it up when the fancy takes me, but I think I’ll stick with cross peen hammers for this toolbox because of their versatility.
8 - 9: Files and rasp
I find that a heavy farriers rasp, a rough square file, and a rough round file do pretty for most jobs I might do at the forge. I might include a half round file or something thin to get into small places.
10: Golf ball
This is the handle for the files (8-9), and it works very well. I drilled a few holes in it of different sizes, and it fits most file tangs.
11: Small swage block
I have one of the small swage blocks from John Newman, and it works very well, but it would be too much weight for the toolbox as I’ve planned it. I made this small block for minor jobs and for supporting bundle welds.
12: Needle nose pliers
Handy for little tweaks. I might replace these with heavier scrolling pliers.
13: Heavy flat bristle brush
I find these work better and last longer than the softer wire bristle brush. The flat steel bristles are far more aggressive, and remove scale much easier.
This used to be a punch, but these days I find it's better to have my punches and drifts as separate tools. I forged this one out of 4140, and its been working very well for me.
Useful when trying to measure distances using standard and common divisions of length, such as inches, or perhaps centimetres. Larger units of measurement may require math (not pictured).
16 and 17: Short punches and punch tongs
When I started trying to bring the weight down in the toolbox, I took a look at the number and size of the chisels and punches I had. Most of my chisels and punches were about 6” long, which added a lot of weight to the toolbox. I decided to make a set of short punches, like ones I’ve seen before such as this one http://bit.ly/10oeb1m. I wanted them to be simple and simple to hold, and to not slip or move in the tongs that held them. What I came up with was slightly flattening the side of the punch and putting a round divot in the main body. I then made a pair of tongs just for holding the punches which has an angled jaw for holding the punches, and a wing bolt that I can adjust up and down to sit in the divot to hold the punch in place. The jaws of the tongs are forged from an old crowbar, and the handles are mild steel. I used mild steel for the handles because I wanted to be able to use the back of the handles as a set of fullers for pinching down pieces from the top and bottom simultaneously. I've been really happy with this set of punches so far. These are all made out of 2" of 3/4” 4140, and together weigh less than one of the punches I took out. I feel there will be many more to come.
18: Centre punch
Very handy, especially if I have to drill anything after forging. This is much more convenient as a thin long punch, so I doubt I'll replace it with a shorter one.
19-20: Hot cut chisels
Nice thin hot cut chisels. I have a few short chisels in with the punches, but I wanted to keep two long chisels in the box. The first one is just a flat chisel, and the second one is for slicing a hole through a bar.
21: Leather glove and Safety goggles (not pictured)
Usually just for my left (non-hammer holding) hand. I don't normally wear gloves, but sometimes its handy. As for the Safety goggles; Never forge without them
For not hearing with.
23: Anvil Devil
I used to have a hot and cold cutting hardie in this box, but they didn’t always work in other people’s anvils. Fred Johnson told me about the Anvil Devil he had picked up at CanIron VIII, and how it worked as both a hot and cold cut, and had held up very well. I picked up one from Canadian Farrier Supply in Orangeville for about $6, and so far its working just great. This is the perfect tool for a portable box, as it took the weight down by three pounds while not losing any functionality.
24: Touch mark
I made a touch mark a while back by simply notching a standard letter punch. Those interested in learning which letter I chose could consult my name for a clue.
There is usually a busted piece of chalk or two somewhere in the toolbox. Generally handy, and much more reliable than paint markers and silver pencils.
Various rivets in an unfortunately round container. Looking to do better.
There are some welds that the Iron Mountain isn't great for, especially bundle welds, so I like to keep some ordinary borax around as well. I like old pipe tobacco tins for this, as they're pretty good at keeping moisture out. However, again, it's not the best shape for saving space, so I'm looking for something better.
A simple finish for a lot of pieces. I keep it in a ziplock bag just in case it gets too hot in the car.
29: Iron Mountain flux
An anhydrous borax flux with powdered iron for filler. Makes for some pretty easy welds, but if you're not carefully it can also lead to bad habits.
Okay, that's it! If you have any suggestions that might help, just drop me a line at [email protected]
If you’d like to take a look at what I’ve put together, just ask next time you see me at an OABA meeting.