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I Forge Iron

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Need to bring some life back into this subforum :)

Figured i would share this weeks project with you, despite it being about 60% failure, perhaps some outside insight can help.

The intent was to be able to take regular round copper and brass wire, 16 gauge, uniformly flatten them without a rolling mill, and use them to create a small billet of mokume.

So to start i picked up some 1/2" square steel tube(1/16" thick) and some 3/8" square bar, which by the numbers should have telescoped, but i ended up spending quite a bit of time cleaning up the interior of the tube and ultimately knocking off the corners of the bar to get them to slide freely. These were used to cobble together a sort of miniature guillotine set up that i can create dies for as needed to flatten or change the shape of wire, fuller, cut, etc. Here you can see the upper portion of the guillotine with the flat anvil die still in it, the round edged flatter/fuller to the left and the resulting flattened wires stacked up in a clamp.


I cut some narrow pieces off the 1/8" steel bar i used for my original QSOkume jig and filed some grooves in the back for tie wire to sit in, you can also see the strips as flattened, 3 copper, 3 brass, ended up a little over 1/16th wide and if i had to guess somewhere between 1/32 and 1/64 thick but not very uniform.


I cleaned up the strips with 220 grit and then spent the next hour trying to stack them and keep the stacked while getting the whole jig into the vice, finally had success using a collar of really thin sheet brass bent into a long U to keep them from sliding all over the place. stuck it in the vice and cranked it as hard as i could and tied it up with some steel binding wire.



Took my various materials and tools outside to the patio, you can see my 'new' anvil to replace the 13.5# HF bench vice, a 55# Record Tool A55, 99% certain its cast iron. Used the fractured corners of my firebrick to create a 3 sided refractory 'forge' which worked pretty well but was starting to melt the bricks already so isnt very sustainable. i ended up stacking the tray on a metal tub so i could actually see what was happening without needing to be laying on the ground.


So the result! you can see the fired billet and should be able to make out that instead of being nice horizontal stacks the layers slipped and ended up forming an overlapping doublestack, which only partially bonded and started to fold up on itself when i tried to square it up. Also a magnified shot of the end where you see the diagonal layers.




im going to keep trying to make this work, i just need to be able to fabricate flat dies for the guillotine that are better than what i have been able to make so far. The ones i have now are slightly domed in the center, which was making the strips slightly concave, which made sanding them evenly impossible. i think through the sanding process the strips became convex too which is what made stacking so difficult, and ultimately caused the stack to collapse when i tried to consolidate it.

How would you guys approach making a flat edge on tool dies? Any other suggestions to streamline the process? (mounting the anvil and building a proper forge are already on the list, as well as getting/making some better tongs)

Thanks for taking the time to read this, it got a bit wordy...
(edited to fix photo placement....twice...)

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I don't know but those are kinda narrow strips to be stacking easily. May hap wider and shorter would work better and then draw then out if you need longer. A jeweler I know uses 1" w. X 2" l. with silver and copper and he gets good results on his ceramic soldering pad and steel bench block. For a heat source he uses and O/A with a rosebud tip. His usual layering is copper/silver/copper/silver/copper.

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yea i have done quarters with some success, especially when i had some time with a proper forge and anvil at Adam's Forge. i agree that the strips are probably too narrow, but that was the principle i was trying to experiment on, if i could flatten wire out into a uniform section and go from there. i have been trying to avoid the requisite saw time necessary to prepare sheet metal. the end result for this project is to make something akin to a 16ga square wire of copper and brass that can then be twisted and formed.

i had more success stacking the quarters after planishing the edges off, that lip around the circumference makes it near impossible to get them lined up and provides a very effective entry point for oxidation between the layers =/

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dont know if ill be able to hold them very well if the sanding block is fixed and the metal is oscilated, but i will add that to the list of things to check out. im planning to revisit my sanding setup anyway. i carved a shallow channel in a block of wood and set the metal in the groove to restrain it, but i hand held the sand paper instead of backing it with a block. so i will make sure i use a sanding block next time and do a better job flattening to reduce the number of recessed areas.

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My wire starts at around 12" long and grows a bit longer and gets to be nearly 3/8" wide. My flater has a 2" square face that has been made flat, no curved face on this one any more like you see on some of them. The saddle just fits the width of the anvil and goes over both edges so you'll need to make one to fit your anvil. It, too, it is ground flat. As I forge the copper down it is important to keep the edge squared up and to try and keep the whole thing looking even. I was trying to help a fellow out who was trying to figure out how goldsmiths made wire and sheet before the invention of rolling mills and draw plates, he said that what some of them did was near impossible and I said that all it took was superior smithing skills. There are abundant examples dating to the beginning of metal working that show high examples of such drawing out skills so why wouldn't it be possible with our superior tooling today even without draw plates and rolling mill? It is just a learned skill like any other.

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very true, i need to address the abundance of round and curved faces in my tool inventory and continue to sharpen up my hammer control =/

do you have any radiused edges on either of those or just sharp corners all around? if sharp do you flatten progressively in several stages to mitigate forming sharp shoulders that can fold over into cold shuts?

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I have a small radius on all of these tools, otherwise you end up with these sharp nicks in the copper wire/ribbon you are forging. Remember to anneal often.Yes, you need to flatten progressively since my flatter is only 2" sq. and my copper is 12" long. I do have a rolling mill but it is over a hundred years old and needs to be set each time with feeler gauges since things are a little worn, it would save time to use it but I like to use the hammer, I really like moving metal under my hand, it brings great satisfaction. With care in forging and use of the flatter there is little need for use of the file and sanding except to clean the metal.

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yea thats what im striving towards, i have spent a lot of time behind the [needle] file in my time, as for small projects thats my #2 tool behind my jewelers saw for shaping, so id like to avoid it on large projects unless absolutely necessary :)

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Just a quick note to pass along an idea from my shop-
I flat sand and belt sand many small items that are hard to hold- I just make a small 'handle' from scrap wood and use a hot glue gun to attach the handle and the item to be worked. Let is sit for 20 minutes, then sand away. When you are happy with the work, tap the handle sideways with a sharp rap and it will easily release.

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thanks for the tip wind, dont think i can use that to clean up parts for mokume due to plastic'y residue being left afterwards which would necessitate a secondary cleaning, but i will definitely keep that in mind for other small part applications! :)

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  • 1 month later...

Managed to get out to the forge again a few times recently, got some pics of the stuff i tried out.

expiremented with inlaying copper into steel, still fine tuning the process for better control without the copper too heavily, polished up and heat blued that one to see how it looked.

got a stack of 10 or 12 quarters to bond, drew it out into a stubby bar, trimmed it and cut it for a split cross on the band saw. next time i want to try a quarter twist through the overlap zone to see if i can get the cut parallel to the layer grain like you can see on the arms of the cross, instead of having the vertical stripes like the center

the two sticks are my first drawn out bar of quarters twisted and then sawn in half, the one on the left i cleaned up with some sandpaper and heat oxidized briefly to bring out the pattern.




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