Johnny Glades

rebar for tong making?

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Rebar is a lousy material for forging. It is of unpredictable composition. Home Despot probably also sells small sections of steel, but if your place is big enough to have a HD or Lowes, then you can probably find a real steel supplier somewhere.

Classic tongs for hand-forging are usually made of 5/8" or 3/4" square. Mild steel will do fine.

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Johnny: I am glad you are looking to make your own tongs. What are you using for instructions? Do you have someone nearby that can show you? They are not hard, but they are also MUCH easier if you can watch someone make them. There are also some pretty good references in several blacksmithing books. Jr Strasil contributed this tong-making blueprint BP0098Tongs:

http://www.iforgeiron.com/Blueprints/BP0098Tongs100/BP0098Tongs100.htm

which should get you started. I strongly recommend you try making a pair. If they don't turn out, just take some pictures and we can tell you pretty easily what went wrong for you. If they turn out the first time, great! Make another pair! Note that in the blueprints, you can click on the pictures to see a larger image.

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We made a set of tongs today from rebar. It is definately not my favorite material to work with. You must get it almost white hot to work, if you quench it, it will become brittle and shatter. Also, when you are all done, there is no hiding that it is rebar. I prefer to have a more authentic look to my pieces. I made hewing dogs last week and let them cool in the ash bucket and they are not to hard.

A couple of pointers on tongs, remember that both halves are identical, not mirror images. Also, always rotate the tong in the same direction when forging. First draw out the jaw flat, then rotate to the left 90* and make the flat for the hinge, then rotate another 90* and make your offset. You can also turn to the right, you just have to keep going the same way for each turn.

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Apprentice: By "authentic", I think DMS meant that tongs ought to look like tongs rather than bent twisted rebar. Rebar sucks as a forging material. It is meant to be buried in concrete never to be seen again for a good reason. It is scrap junk.

If you are going to spend an hour making a set of tongs to be used as a serious tool to help you effectively hold material to forge, then make them right and make them out of the right stuff.

There is nothing wrong with practicing a technique on scrap with the intention of discarding it when you are done. But when you invest hours on a project, it is counterproductive to gamble that the unknown scrap is reasonable forging material.

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Apprentice man, you are absolutely correct that smiths would have used and recycled whatever they had on hand. They also changed their tools and techniques with each new invention. This is why we have arc welders and plasma cutters and smithing is more of a novelty to most people. I am a timber framer by trade and buy mostly antique tools and do as much by hand as possible. Therefore, I don't want tools make from rebar, or tools that have been arc welded. After all many smiths are into "period" blacksmithing, and everything must be done as it was in that period. If authenticity is not the issue, then I feel that using what is at hand is the best way to make things cheaply, especially if all you are after is a practical tool that you plan on using. Would you make a fireplace set to sell out of rebar? Or would you spend the $5 on some sq. rod? Rebar has it's place, however it's unpredictability and poorer working qualities put far down on my list of favorite materials.

As a side note, rebar is actually very predictable, if you know what all the markings mean. The ridges have a pattern and there are numbers on it as well. If you research it you can tell exactly what it is you are working with. One of the smiths I work with, Jim, aka "the man who knows too much about rebar" has done just that. I have more exciting things to do than learn about rebar.

So, yes, I do believe it has a place in modern smithing, I am just not a fan of it.

Edit: to answer the original question, yes you can make tongs out of it, but you can also get a 3' piece of .5"square rod at a hardware store for a couple of bucks that will make a fine set of tongs.

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when i first started blacksmithing i had to make my first pairs of tongs one pair where made out of flat stock and the other made out of rebar and i never have had any problems with it harding on me and ive also forges a few knifes out of it and not many problems mostly cracking from it not being to hot but id forge rebar anyday

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I wouldn't use rebar for the bits of tongs, but it makes pretty decent reins. #3 (3/8") rebar is nice and springy and lightweight. It only takes a minute or two to knock down the ridges and forge weld them onto mild steel bits.

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I was wondering same about the rebar. Its cheaper. We have a hd and lowes, tractor supply, metal works, sabel...etc. everywhere is darn A36. Good for a dear stand i guess. If i order online i will pay as much if not more for shipping as the metal and since i am relatively new but understand enough i will destroy some good metal at first and 20 to 40 dollars shipping alone hurts.

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The risks of using rebar for making tongs, knives, etc. have been listed quite a few times on the site, including within this thread.  The short version is that rebar in the US is the hot dog of steel.  You never know what you'll get.  One portion may be mild steel and a few inches away it may have enough carbon to harden.  This makes it both difficult to work and unpredictable in behavior in use. 

Quenching mild steel tongs in a slack tub when they get hot doesn't hurt anything.  Quenching medium or high carbon steel that's glowing can result in brittle pieces which can fail in use and cause you to have to try to dodge glowing flying steel. You're better off using known steel for the tools you are trusting to firmly hold incandescent steel in place while you repeatedly beat it with a hammer.  Sure, scars are cool and all, but most of us have a large enough collection without adding more.

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Don't neglect looking for a steel supplier in your area.  I was just at HD and a 6 ft section of flat bar 1/8" x 1" was $10.  You think "Hmm, only $10 that's not bad."  My steel supplier sells a 20 ft section of 1/8" x 1 for $10.  Make sure you ask for hot rolled and not cold rolled steel because hot is cheaper.  The cold rolled steel is of no advantage to a blacksmith because once it goes in the forge you lose all that.  So....you are paying double at the big box stores.

I don't like forging rebar, but I did make a couple of doll stands from it because the piece of scrap I had planned to use was too small.  I had to hammer off the texture which took longer than forging the doll stands.  You'd be money ahead to get a 20 ft section of steel from the supplier and then you have plenty of tong making material.

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22 hours ago, qazzarelli said:

We have a hd and lowes, tractor supply, metal works, sabel...etc. 

quazzarelli, it would help a lot if we knew where you are. Please put your location in your profile settings, and make sure to READ THIS FIRST!!!

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Jhcc, sorry. I have read but i honestly thought i put in my location. Maybe i didnt save it. But if anyone knows of a good steel retailer other than online that hits you with huge shipping or scrap metal with and unknown hx would be awesome.

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I just did a quick google search for your area and found a couple of steel suppliers and metal fabricators in about thirty seconds. Go thou and do likewise. 

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