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I Forge Iron

Wing Dividers

Timothy Miller

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I have been wanting to make a pair of dividers for years. Its the sort of project for me thats ones mind drifts towards during idle moments. I did not have a proper understanding of how they were originally made in the 18Th and early 19Th centuries so I waited untill I could figure it out. The first attempt was a failure and resulted frustration. I manged to gather together the info of how most kinds were constructed in a general way from catching part of a Peter Ross demo. I Also by looked at my collection and pairs for sale on eBay. I suppose I could have sawed or milled the joint and taken other short cuts, but I wanted to do it in the way they were made during that time period. These have steeled points (old file) and the wing is tennoned and riveted over. The holes were punched hot. The joint is made up of 2 pieces forge welded together then forge welded agian to the leg. In all there are 5 forge welds. I made this from 5/8" mild steel. They are 20 1/2" long, I made them big so I could fully explore the forms involved. I hope to make a few more pairs over the next coming months, so I may further explore the forms and try my hand at more whitesmithing. I see this object as a art object first and secondly as a tool. 95% of the work was done by hand with out the aide of power. I have about 12 hours of forging and filing in this project. This pair is my own design taking elements from many pairs I have looked at over the years.

I am obsessed with dividers. I have amassed a collection of over 40 pairs all different sizes and patterns. I don't know what it is about them that I love. I guess it is how they gracefully swing an arc sort of like a dancer sweeping the floor with her foot. Also how one can use them to make and lay out precise measurements with out numbers and or mathamatics.







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Great piece Mr. Timothy! Great!

Hey if you do another pair sometime, would you mind documenting each step enough for a blueprint. Seems like that would be a great educational piece for the members, and I know it would help me out alot.

Also, check out the work of Elmer Roush. He does some great authentic pieces including dividers. http://www.elmerroush.com/

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  • 4 weeks later...

Good job Tim, I'm sending some pics not as a critique or a one-up, just to show how I lucked out while in Chihuahua, Mexico, with my co-author, Marc Simmons.....and so we all can continue our research. I found a set of tools at the Chihuahua flea for a super reasonable price. Each tool is stamped M.H. The dividers are 20.5" long overall, and the double calipers are 28" overall. I've found a good use for dividers is to measure twist lengths while hot. In that way, one avoids center punch marks on the ornamental work.
Simmons and my book was published in 1980, and was reprinted in 2009: "Southwestern Colonial Ironwork", Sunstone Press, Santa Fe.




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Thanks Frank. Your book has been an influence on me. I was truly fascinated by the history covered and how blacksmithing was a thread that ran through all of. It was the first really good book I got my hands on about blacksmithing. it really set my head straight to the importance of the blacksmith in times past and the diversity of things made. There is a dog eared copy on my book shelf I got about 15 years ago as a Christmas present. I have read it at least 4 times. I have coveted those dividers and calipers over the years wondering how something so finished came off of an anvil. It was one of the things that motivated me and inspired me.

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well sweet is the word ! anyone who is obsessed about dividers has the thumbs up from me :) - theyre fantastic timothy, i love the care that youve taken to make this tool a thing of beauty, they will be as good to look at and hold as they will be to use to measure. i also like that there is nothing complicated and mathsy about this tool, it is elegant and simple and functional. and you have made yours easy on the eye too. a lovely project :) my favourite bit is the rose bud like endy bit ( dont know the real name) and the key. obbsession is the best isnt it ? :)

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