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I Forge Iron

First attempt at hinges.

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I'm making a set of sawhorses that requires 10 hinges, and figured I might try to make them myself. These took about an hour per, but there was a bit of fumbling around and a few pieces ended up in the scrap bin. :P Hopefully by the time I'm done, I'll have them down to a reasonable rate.

I hacksawed down the center two inches, split it on the hardy and the anvil corner, then kind of upset down to try to get a nice flat "T". It seems to work fairly well, though I did have one that split right open on me, which was wierd since it was still hot, so I'm going to pretend that was a defect in the metal and not my fault. :D

At first I tried splitting them over the horn and leaving a nice round opening, but I couldn't seem to get it to work out to be remotely symetrical. Though, I bet if I took the time to figure that method out it would be faster than flattening into a T, because that took a few heats. Or maybe either way is fine if you learn to do it quick enough. I'll stop rambling now. Any suggestions? Any thing you guys do/would do differently?

Oh, and they're made from 1/8"x1" bar stock, finished 8 1/2" long, with a 3/8" rivet.


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There are several ways. The wide barrel looks OK, but you could've left it as a one inch barrel length, making a little less work. You'd still have three knuckles, albeit smaller, and probably a smaller pin, 5/16" or 1/4" D.

You can cut and separate into the two knuckle strips with the gap in the center before rolling them hot around a mandrel. Same way with the central knuckle, but you must experiment with finding the correct length for the strips before bending. This is very well shown on the www.youtube film, "The Manuel Guerra Lockmaking Shop," 2:07 minutes to 3:20 minutes. I have made hinge barrels by rolling and completing the entire barrel lengths BEFORE ANY HACKSAWING AND CHISELING. The knuckles are then sawed making an allowance for the kerfs. Filing is done for final fitting. Besides rolling and tucking without welding, I have forge welded the hinge barrels before hacksawing, and I've done it on 1/8" thick stock and larger. On the 1/8" thick, I often drift with a 1/4" pin. In the Guerra film, the hinge forger is using a hammer with a somewhat sharp peen so that he may better tighten the barrel around his mandrel. On knuckled hinges as opposed to pintle hinges, I anneal the pins and peen up each end cold on the barrel itself, rather than first making a headed rivet for the pin. The resulting upsets are rather flat, which is OK. If the resulting hinge is immobile, use a red heat to ease it.

Nowadays, we usually make as much barrel on one strap as another. For example, if the middle knuckle is 1" long, the other two are each 1/2" long; proportionately 25%; 50%; 25%. For some reason, in the U.S. Eastern colonial days, this wasn't the case. Some of the colonial hinges were closer to 30%; 40%; 30% in terms of length.

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We can thank Helmut Hillenkamp of Germany and Santa Fe, who went to Cuenca, Ecuador, several years ago, and was able to visit the Guerra shop for filming and still photos. To me, the locksmith shop is amazing, almost like a time warp. It looks like the 16th century except for electricity running the grinder and a few other tools. Lots of hand work; lots of openwork on the sheet metal.

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That was a great video, thanks for the link. I tried making one your way today, rolling the barrel then cutting. It was a disaster. Well, it wouldn't have been a disaster if I had done as you'd said and filed to fit, instead of trying to hammer the middle barrel down in size, requiring me to redrift and realign and re... you get the point. Regardless of any setbacks, I've been having a blast making these hinges. I'm going to complete the ones I need for the sawhorses in a uniform style just so I can get one thing down and learn to do it quicker (three in two hours today!), but I look forward to experimenting with different styles of hinges and different design elements afterwards. Also, I need to get better at hacksawing in a straight line :P . Thanks again.

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