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I Forge Iron

Nail Headers

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I have made headers from mild steel that have produced a BUNCH of nails with no apparent wear. My nails are started at yellow and by the time the header sucks out the heat, I finish the same nail at low red to black heat.

Practice to get "the dance" down first. This may take several heats so don't worry about it. Form the taper. Play with the amount of material you need to form the head of the nail. Usually 1-1/2 to 2 times the diameter of the stock is a good place to start. Hot cut the stock leaving only a small portion of material left, just enough to hold it on while taking another heat before forming the head.

Set the hammer on the anvil in the proper position to grab it fast. Pull the stock from the fire, put it in the header, give the stock a twist breaking the small connection from the nail to the parent stock. PLACE the parent stock somewhere where it will not get into trouble. Put the header over the hardie hole and with a forceful and direct power blow from the hammer SMASH the nail into the header. A couple of additional blows to drive it home then finish with one angled blow to the N, S, E, and W, and one to the top of the nail to make a 5 flat head.

From there it goes into the slack tub to harden the nail a bit (quenched) and to also cool the nail and shrink it so it just falls out of the header. This cools the header so it never gets much more than uncomfortable warm at the working end.

Nails are fun to make and great practice for blacksmithing. Make 50 nails, each better than the one before, then go back and see where you can improve your technique and timing. After that make 10 hails first thing when you fire up the forge. Those 10 nails are a GREAT warm up exercise to start things off at the forge. By the time you finish, you and the fire both are up to operating temperature and ready to go to work.

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Here is a question. I have a line on some material that may be good for making a nail header but I know nothing about it past the name...and I would hate to be "head"ing down the wrong path here...

It is AR PLate (AR=Abrasive Resistant). This is the stuff they use to make plow blades, etc. From my understanding this is super tough stuff. I am thinking of forging this into a header but am looking to see if anyone out there can help me with:
Forging Heat?
Any advice would be great! Lord knows I need it! :-)


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The majority of my tools are formed from broken manure tines from out of a feed lot. However, it can only be formed at bright yellow to yellow heat, and only requires hardening at a low heat and a standard straw temper. Everything from punches to my nail and rivet headers are made from this material.

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