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I Forge Iron

Going small


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I’m working on a piece that has brass inlay in mild steel. The inlay is fairly intricate and I got to thinking how small could I forge something. I find that working on large( r ) pieces it is not that critical when it comes to heats and forge welding and how the piece holds the heat. But on very small forgings, all these things become very critical. I decided that after this project is finished I would try to miniaturize some of the things I forge for the fun of it and see what happens.

I didn’t have any tools to work very small stock so I set out to make some. I wanted a verity of chisel for cutting steel (cold) and some fullers that would shape steel (and brass) cold. I also wanted a chasing hammer and I thought that making one was more rewarding than buying one.

I started with a verity of old saw files that my cousin gave me. First I wanted to determine if the files were W1 or something like O1. I would first harden the tang of the file and then temper it quenching in water. I put it on the anvil and smacked it with a hammer. If it shattered, I marked that file as O1 and would heat treat in oil. Later I would mark those tools with a yellow paint band so I would remember in the future to heat treat in oil.

The hammer started out as 1” round 4140. I upset the hammer head then necked it with a spring fuller, and refined the head. I squared the body and rough shaped the peen. I annealed it in vermiculite overnight and then refined it with files while spinning in a lathe. I milled, rather than forging, out the eye to lighten the hammer. Heat treated in oil. I turned the handle out of maple on the lathe. Hammer weights just under 5 oz. and the handle is 10” long overall.

The chisels and fullers are nothing special but the hammer,I think, is a keeper.

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Those look great...especially tke hammer!

Was at Smoky Mt Knife Works back in the fall. In their museum I saw some really small tongs...looked just like full-sized tongs but only aboyt a foot long and made from what I guessed to be 1/4 inch square stock. Thought about making some tho I dont know what I'd use them for.

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Well I just couldn’t resist going into the forge and trying out some of those tools. I forge a good number of ram’s heads so I thought I would try one in miniature. Here are the results. It looks like he was in a bar fight. Unfortunately, a cold shut claimed his right horn but I finished him for practice. I also have a few more mini-fullers to forge as what I had did not do the job

How small can you go?

This is forged from ¼” round and that is a 5/16 nut supporting him. Made in a coal forge.

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Nice work. I've been wanting to make a chasing hammer, and that one's a beaut. Thanks for the blueprint, so to speak, although I don't have a lathe so I'd have to finesse that part.

What do you to keep from losing a piece that small in a coal fire? Set it on a steel plate? I was working on a little slice of wrought iron much bigger than your ram's head a couple weeks ago, and I had to rip the fire apart at least twice to find it.

I do have one question about your HT practice: it sounds like your criterion was that if freshly water hardened, untempered steel shattered when hit with a hammer, then you called it oil hardening. How come? Fully hardened, untempered, high carbon steel should be brittle. All that proves is that you made lots of martensite -- and that's good!

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Answering your first question, the forging is at the end of the ¼ “rod that is locked into my tongs. Just holding it in the fire for less than 30 seconds brings it up to forging heat. I never let it out of the tongs.

On your second question, I hardened in water then tempered in water. At that point, if it shattered, I knew it had to be oil quenched.

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Since tempering temperatures are much hotter than the boiling point of water how do you "temper in water"? I'm usually tempering between 375 and 600 degF

Perhaps I should have said that I stop the temper in water. I suspect you knew what I meant.

And for those that might not understand: I heat the tang to critical temperature and quench only the tang. I use a stone and quickly scrape the oxide off the tang. The heat remaining in the file begins to travel up the tang. I watch the oxide colors traveling up the tang and when it reaches the temperature I want, I quench in water (or oil) to stop the process.
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I heat the tang to critical temperature and quench only the tang. I use a stone and quickly scrape the oxide off the tang. The heat remaining in the file begins to travel up the tang. I watch the oxide colors traveling up the tang and when it reaches the temperature I want, I quench in water (or oil) to stop the process.


Ah, sorry. I see what you're doing. I should've caught that. But shattering after tempering still doesn't indicate that you have an oil hardening steel. It just tells you that you may need to temper a little more.
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