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I Forge Iron

Making tongs


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Here's my version of the three shoulder method. I know I have a long way to go to get a pair thats real nice. But I will be making more now that I see the right way to do it. I have a working pair of tongs. They are still rough by any measure of quality, but they do work. I guess thats the final test isn't it?

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Welded Tongs:

I have seen huge industrial tongs with welds at critial stress points. Industrial forging is hard on all the equipment involved. We don't use tongs to hold work any more; it is all done with mobile manipulators, but even those machines (capable of picking up 50,000 lbs) still break and wear out. Forging is a tough buisness and requires constant maintainence (including welding) on the tools.
I have used and will continue to use tongs with welds under my own hammer. The trick is keeping the work parrellel with the dies. If you are out of square so bad that the tongs could break you are also very likely to get hurt from the hammer driving the tongs down into your hands. When I make my own tongs I forge complete from one piece of steel, but that is becasue I like to make the tongs with reins that taper over their entire length. When I buy used tongs I check them over carefully for bad or failing welds. I find that most old, forge welded tongs are made of wrought iron and are very clunky, so I tend to pass those on to other people because they are not comfortable for me to use. But I'd have no qualms about repairing them if I thought they'd be useful to me.

Keep in mind that Lilico's book is geared towards industrial smiths. Even tools for hand work were used much harder than most of us will ever use our tools. Take a look at some of the footage online from the turn of the last centery and watch closely how the hand tools are being used. Flatters, hot cuts, fullers etc were a consumable item. You had blacksmiths in those shops who made the hand tools for the guys doing heavy forging on industrial products. So if those guys didn't have a small steam hammer or it was tied up doing heavy work then hand forging was the way to go and welding on a jaw forged from large stock to reins made of ligher material was the most efficient way to keep the rest of the shop going. When you have access to hammer, then you can make a single piece tong with tapered reins fairly quickly. This gives a set of tongs that is comfortable and well balanced, but hand forging the same item is just not efficient.

By the way, we do use a lot of what Lillico shows in out forgings at work. It is an eccellent reference for anyone, even hand forgers, becuase it helps you think of what you can do with metal beyond just bending a scroll or tapering a picket.


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