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by Jim Gerlinsky I used to regularly give my " your a blacksmith make yourself one" speach when someone mentioned wishing they had a certain pair of tongs. Yes, if your a professional smith it probaly is more economic to buy your tools factory made. I never pass up a reasonably priced pair of antique tongs at an auction or junk shop. But when your trying to learn how to forge I consider tong making to be good practice, and gives you something you can use.
You don't need an already made or purchased rivet for your tongs. You don't even need a rivet header. You can use the tongs you just made as the header. I like a bigger than normal rivet head on my tongs. Take the thickness of the tongs where the rivet goes and add 4 times the thickness to the length. (normal rule of Jim's thumb is one and a half times the thickness to make a head. Since your making a larger than normal head I like twice the thickness, and you need a head on each side so you need 4 times). Guess, use your eye to measure, it's not an engine where the tolerances need to be perfect.
Place the rod in the hole. I use a bolsterplate of the right thickness and a hole a wee bit bigger than the rod size under to keep the rod centred. Give the end of the rod a good blow to sort of start it, flip it and do the same to the other side. I do this first blow on cold metal. Then still using the bolster plate I heat one side of the rivet and make a rivet head, just get a head on it for now. Without the plate I heat the other side and do the same. Now you can finish the head nice and neat.
By the time the rivet is made you will (should) have a nice tight joint. Chances are the tongs will be too tight and hard to move. Put the joint back in the fire, and at a dull heat gently open and close them till they are working, cool. The last step is to then stamp your initials or mark on the rivet head. I have 38 pair of tongs in the shop, 10 of them are ones I made, and I don't think I used the same method to make any of them. I have at least 4 pair made by differnt guild brothers of mine and I don't think the same method was used in any of them. The following examples are of working tongs. You may want to warn the young blacksmiths to look away because some of the tongs are ugly. Even though they are ugly, they still get the job done.
These tongs are made them from 1/2" round using the plans from Ted Tuckers book, I like that method cause you don't need a pair of tongs to make a pair, and for a beginner there is enough to learn without having to learn how to use tongs while leaning hammer control. Overall length 37cm, there is a groove for 1/4" down and across the jaws. tongs
Here are a couple of tongs that I can't remember what I made these from or how. I found the originals someplace when I first started, I found them handy so I made a similar pair, but a bit lighter weight. They have a groove down the bottom jaw, but it's worn and not very useful. My pair is 44cm over all 9.5cm from centre of rivet to tip of jaws. The orginal is18" over all and 4 inches from centre of rivet to tip of jaws.
I can't find any maker's mark on the originals but I think they were probaly factory made tongs that had the jaw reshaped by the smith who owned them ugly
Here is proof that tongs don't need to be good to work. The broken flat ones are the first pair I made, they are made from 1/4" x 1" flat bar, and the bent jaw design is from Ted Tuckers book. I can't believe how crude and ugly they are, or even more that I was proud of them! The other pair is made from a long wagon box bolt, they worked, but not well, the joint area is too weak. I keep them both hanging in the shop to remind me where I started, small scroll rat nose
Here are a couple scroll tongs, the small ones are modified side cutters, I use them for flower work etc. I've a freind whos an electrician and on occassion he cuts a live wire which ruins the cutter. He gives me cutters that are to be thrown away. The overall length is 19cm.
I made the larger ratnose tongs from round stock (probaly 3/4 or 5/8) using the method from Ted Tuckers book. The over all length is 36cm, 9cm from centre of rivet to tip of jaw. Modified
Here are the first ratnose tongs I made. Ther are made them from a hoof nipper, similar to the one in the picture. The hoof nipper I used was the type that had one thicker jaw. This gave me a pair of tongs that has one bigger jaw. I find this useful when bending differnt radius'. I never noticed how handy this is till I made the nicer looking ratnose tongs.
BTW, I forgot to add in the ugly tongs that I made them over 20 years ago using charcol briquets as fuel. Bob's Bob's 2
Here are a pair of tongs given to me for being Bob's gopher at Caniron3 note how wide the reins are, and the way they are finished, these are very strong, and very comfortable tongs. The right angle bend in the jaws allows them to stay paralell and lets you realy apply some torque. Bob says he got the idea to make these tongs after seeing a picture of similar looking ones in a picture of Samuel Yellins shop.