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Burnt Fingers

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So, I’m making a set of tongs,... as we do. First half goes to plan (thank you Mr. Dempsey) and then onto the other half. All going good, right up until I pick up the first set (with my hammer hand), to measure against the second set, forgetting that the last thing I was heating, prior to working on the second set, was the Reins of the first set.....son-of-a....and straight after that thought, before the half tong has hit the ground is... “You Idiot” ..and on the way to the tap, which is only three paces away, the question arises again in your mind, Fingers under the tap......I’m in the tropics-the waters about blood temperature-this isn’t going to work-something cold...Aha! The cool room!... right beside the shed. ..Bee-line for the cool room where I know I have a carton of beer ...grab a can...Ohhhh Yeahhhh...much better, and I held it for probably 20 seconds...Nah, maybe 10, before necking it, so I had to grab another...I took the third, or mite-a-bin the forth one back to the forge area and then realized I had the presence of mind to turn off the blower. Surprised me too...anyhow, I continued on, turned the blower back on and with many clutching of cold cans, got the tongs to an almost finished state before calling it a day.

Anyhow, this is how they turned out....(the short rein got melted)

..some things I realized while belting the reins down to size were- why the village Blacksmith was the strongest bugger in town and- I really, really, need to finish off that power hammer...

I then went on making more of them. The ones on the left were my first efforts awhile back

and the others are a combination of hammered out reins and welded on reins. I need to come up with a jig to get the goose necks even, or just practice more. I still find the old reo bar ones handy for a lot of shapes, and am coming to understand why those old photos of a smithy showed about 2 yards of tongs hanging on the wall, right beside the yard and a half of hammers.. :rolleyes:

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Usually when I start applying beer cans to my finger's and their contents to my stomach it's time to quit for the day before worse happens. I come from the Ozarks in the USA which is home to generations of "Hold my beer and watch this!" type of folks---many of them related to me...

One thing you might think of for the mismatched lengths is to lengthen the *long* one a bit more and then curl it over to hang a tong ring through to make that set "self holding" and then you tell folks you *planned* it that way!

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I feel your pain, literally. After a long day of forging a while back and using the same tongs repeatedly, I set the iron back in the fire and wiped the sweat from my brow with the tongs still in my hand. I managed to brand my opposing bicep quite nicely.

Nice job on your tongs!

Mark <><

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My forge is set up so there is a table (of sorts) beside the forge (the hot table) and another table (work table) just beyond the anvil, one step away. EVERYTHING from the forge/anvil goes to the hot table. TONGS ARE ALWAYS USED to grab anything on the hot table, put the piece into water, and then into your BARE hand to be placed on the work table.

I do not care what it is, it goes from the forge/anvil to the hot table, then into the water, then into the bare hand, and ONLY THEN to the work table. As the smith, I have control of the area between the forge/anvil and the hot table. I do not have control of who can get to the work table when by back is turned. SO, they can not get hold of any piece of metal that I have not first had in MY bare hand.

This path for hot metal has served me well for many years.

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Journey333, The metal is well below black heat and well below 200*F before it gets to the work table. Hot is relative and the metal on the work table may indeed be "hot" to someone not accustomed to "blacksmith warm" metal. (grin) Point is they CAN NOT get burned.

"Moose Ears" is the term we use when someone automatically puts both hands up to their ears, fingers fully extended. This usually involves hot (to them) metal, or electrical shock such as contacting broken insulation on a defective spark plug wire, engine running of course.

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Ah-ha, yes, fun-ny buggers...Thomas, loved the 'Red-neck' comment and I also like the advice on the 'self-holding' business, Thanks.

Mark, Oww I can imagine that too well. I wear heavy clothing, long sleeves, trousers, boots etc, so normaly not a problem (though I did brand myself through my seat-soaked uniform with the barrel of a hot MG a number of years ago)

Glen, a 'Hot' table. Mate, that's a bl.....really good idea, I'll take that onboard. Thanks.

Treble 3, thanks, appreciated.

MO, you're a funny bugger too. Thing is, per capita, I think only the Germans drink more beer than us...and I'm in the tropics. This is a thirsty place. However, hear what you're saying.

1forgeur, yup, I can relate, it's often fatigue that drives me from the shed..

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Glen, perhaps we can come up with a 'Heat Chart' to describe Blacksmithing temperatures? We all know if it's red it's HOT. I was thinking more along the lines of a slidinging scale from just under red, down to cold.

We can fit 'Moose ears' in somewhere and what I did in the above post could perhaps be termed 'Burnt Pork'? 'cause that was the smell, and then you've instantly got those off-white stipes across the fingers and for the next week of two it feels like there's dried super glue on your fingers........

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Lessons in Blacksmithing Seeing Colors
Aug 15 2007 04:06 PM | Glenn in Lessons in Blacksmithing

Lessons in Blacksmithing
Copyright 2002 - 2007 IFORGEIRON, All rights reserved.

LB0007 Seeing Colors

Explanation of colors:
I divide red, orange, and yellow (the colors of heated metal) into 3 groups each. Start with black then low red, medium red and high red, low orange, medium orange, and high orange, low yellow, medium yellow, and high yellow, then white heat. This is followed by sparks. The lower temperatures have more separation in heat colors than the separation in heat colors at high temperatures. The difference is suttle, and everyone sees color differently. The same colors are different temperatures in bright sun then in shade and may differ by as much as 2, 3, or 4 color levels. You need to standardize to your conditions. The 12 color divisions (black to sparks) are enough for discussion purposes, and are repeatable under YOUR conditions.

This is the time you need to find a steel yard and purchase some NEW mild steel stock. Put the metal into the fire and get it hot enough to throw sparks, just like a 4th of July (USA) sparkler. This is usually when the metal is beyond high yellow or white in color. You have now successfully burned the metal, don't do it again as that is TOO HOT. Cut the burnt end off the stock to where there is new material.

Put the stock back into the fire, heat to high orange or yellow, and hit it with a hammer. It will move a certain way under the hammer each (every) time. When the metal gets to low orange in color by loosing heat, it will stiffen a bit. Warm it back up and do it again at orange in color, hammering the metal while it falls to medium red in color. Put it in the fire and bring it only up to showing low red in color. Hit it with the hammer and feel how it moves (or doesn't want to move). Back to the fire and then repeat at yellow. Feel the hammer when it hits the metal at different temperatures. If you see the color of the mild steel as red stop and take another heat, get it back up to working temperature.

Different types of metal act differently at the same heat color. Some metals have short working temperatures, meaning that they only should be worked at medium to high yellow for instance. If it gets to low yellow quit and take another heat. This is something you will have to either learn on your own or seek the advice of others that have worked this type steel.

Your eyes see colors differently then how others see and label the same color due to age, glasses, and life experiences. You are building YOUR heat standard for YOUR forge under YOUR smithy conditions.

During the next week, look at different objects in your part of the world and “see” the color. Then label that color as black, reds, oranges, yellows, white. The practice will aid you when you get to the forge and being able to tell the sometimes suttle differences in colors. If you really want to know what temperature a specific color represents, or what temperature a piece of steel has been heated to, purchase a temperature measuring device called a pyrometer. There are also wax pencils that can be applied to the steel that will melt at a specific temperature. Both work well and are more than accurate for use in blacksmithing.

A temperature chart for mild steel is as follows.

Sparkler - burning the metal
White heat

High yellow
Medium yellow
Low yellow

High Orange
Medium Orange
Low Orange

High Red
Medium Red
Low Red

Black heat (1000*F +/- down to room temperature)


Black heat can be 1000*F or more depending on the ambient lighting.

From black, to room temperature, to freezing, the metal looks the same. This is why everything on the hot table is considered hot until it goes into the water, then into the bare hand, and only then onto the work table.

The best way I have found to get a "black heat" temperature reading is to turn the hand palm up and DO NOT TOUCH but just pass the back of the hand across the metal. Start at about 6 inches or so and lower the gap with each pass. The back of the hand is not calloused but tender, and sensitive to heat.

That is 12 levels of heat. If you divide 100% by 12 that is 8% repeatability at each heat level, or about 150-200 *F

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As I was being finger printed fo a concealed weapons permit in Florida, the officer mentioned that I must be a hard working man because of my lack of finger prints. I told him I was a blacksmith. That should tell you how many times I've picked up hot, black iron:)

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