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Working in miniature?

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Hey Folks,


So, I was wondering how many of you have forged things on a very small scale, or 'miniature'; and if you can give any tips, tricks, etc.


I have a couple of different projects I've tried, and am getting frustrated by it.


The issue, is not having any good way to handle the very small parts while they're hot.  I've tried a set of very long handled needle nose pliers, but the pieces move around too much.  I also have long handled vise grips, but if they're tight enough to hold securely, then the teeth mar the parts.


I need a long handle, because the heat / flame on my gas forge comes well out from the door.  Parts sit on a firebrick that forms the floor of the forge, and I can't get my hand any closer than about 6" from that brick.


I've seen some great photos on this site, particularly amongst the knifemakers, of some very fine, small sized work.  So how do you actually do it?  How do you effectively handle very small pieces?




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Greetings Neil,


I'll pass on what I do for very small forgings...  Normally I form a stem like a leaf and use it as the handle while forging.. Later I cut it off...  I do alot of treadle hammer work and this sure works for me...   I have a whole series of small tools and backing media for the treadle hammer which also helps.... I also use my flypress to control debth on some parts...   I guess it depends on what you have to forge ... Every situation is different... 



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can you give an example of some of the types/shapes of things you are forging? i have done about as much small scale forging as i have large scale, and as i dont have very much in the way of personal equipment i have had to make do with standard scrolling tongs for the most part.  the reins are long enough to navigate the dragon and the tip is small enough that it can pick up and at least give a good show of holding the piece.  i have used this to re-forge 20d cut steel nails, little bits of steel into skulls about or less than an inch long, and small stacks of quarter mokume (12 stack or less). the quarters were actually the hardest to forge because i need to flatten them evenly, which is not conducive to shuffling the piece around with tongs to rotate.  i eventually ended up using a plate that was about 3/8" thick and had a series of increasingly large pentagons cut into it, locked that to the anvil with a hold down and then just plucked the quarter stack from the fire, dropped it into one of the holes and went to town on it with a small diameter top tool.


i have also tried the long nosed vice grips and decided to seek better means because they are indeed very aggressive and the leverage generated can easily mar your piece.  if you are going to be doing a lot of the same/similar projects you could file off the teeth and/or file in a center groove to hold round or otherwise reform the end to be a tiny wolf jaw.


otherwise it just sounds like a job for some purpose built mini tongs, or a set with long reins and transfer to your shorter forging tongs on the way to the anvil.

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Without knowing what your projects are it is difficult to give advise on how to hold your work.

One solution that works for me is to weld a piece of 1/8 or 3/16 rod to the work piece and do the forging. When most of it is finished, cut off the rod and finish forging.



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Blacksmiths; you all have suggested some good workable solutions.

I am approaching the issue from a slightly different approach, which is a product of my experience.


When I forge small parts, I use a small “Hot Box”. Only when forging several small parts. 

A “hot box” is what I learned to call it, and it is only a flat peace of stock with sides welded onto each side of it.

The box looks like a box with low side walls and no top.


The side walls are necessary so when you lay small objects on the piece of flat steel they will not roll off

or be knocked into the coke of the fire.


When you are forging small parts, the hot box is kept in the forge fire, and it is always kept up to heat.

The advantage of making and using a hot box is that you can place or remove small parts rapidly in the

hot box without losing them, plus they will reheat uniformly without burning them.  


I have used this method successfully in a coke fire and in a gas forge.


I am not the one who thought to do this. It was something that I was taught somewhere

along the way that has been useful to me.


Hopefully this idea added with the mix of other ideas will work for you!


My best to you!

Ted Throckmorton 

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Ted i am intrigued by this idea, can you post a picture of your hot box and how you use it in a gas forge?  or more specifically, what is the configuration of the gas forge that you have used it in?


i kind of like the idea of utilizing the hot box as a sort of cookie sheet in a gas forge, with a handle or a lug welded onto one end so it can be slid in and out of the forge to retrieve and deposit the workpieces. otherwise i think im missing the advantage of the containment system in a gas forge.

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 You need long tongs sized to fit wot you are forging. And since small stock loses heat fast you may want to think about a thick pice of hot metal laying on top of anvil. Forge small parts on it. And don't forget you can turn the gasser off to remove a hot item from it. Welded on handles work great!

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Forging small Parts

I apologize; I can see that my explanation has a lot to be desired. :blink:

There are too many assumptions left to the imagination.  

I will attempt to stumble over it again!  


Please keep in mind; that it is a very simple concept that I did not explain well,

and it should not be given to “Over Thinking” about its use.


It is indeed as simple as a cookie sheet with sides on it

so the small objects will not fall off and be lost in the coal or coke.


Control, Heat, and Manage Small Items.

A hot box gives you a means of controlling the heat (for many parts at the same time) just

by simply placing the hot box sensibly with-in your coke/coal forge, or in your gas forge just

by pulling it to the front and then pushing it back under the burner.


There are a few more subtle, but simple aspects of this process that I will not attempt to

confuse anyone or myself with such as having to do with thickness of the box,  combining, pre-heating, and walk through.


When I used a hot box in a gas forge, I used my single burner forge. The goal was to save on gas!

Although; when I was a government blacksmith I just set the hot box in the coke!


The objective is to be cost efficient when forging small items as well as if you were forging large items.

But; early on I found that forging a lot of small parts at one time can

be akin to a “skill with-in a skill” to forge efficiently.


To be successful at forging many small parts at the same time,

a number of factors line up that need to be considered, prepared for, and simultaneously combined.


Note: I just backed up to this point and cut off  some of the “Over Thinking” part of my post!  It was boring. <_< 

My mind rushes back over a 60 year period to too many situations similar to what we are talking about.

So as not to digress, I will say: The End! -_- 


My best to you as you enjoy the greatest craft to the ones that it is.

Ted Throckmorton  

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How miniature and how true to life?


Jerry W. of Devine, TX, posts occasionally, and I'm told by the grapevine that he does exquisite miniatures with working parts, like a tiny leg vise. Perhaps he'll chime in.


Personally, my thought would be to do quite a bit of the work cold with die grinders and small files.


I use pincer tongs for holding small round lengths, end-on, as in forging a scratch awl. The jaws curve to meet and butt, The end of each jaw has a small, right angled vee notch. The vees hold the stock.

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The hot box concept works well.  We had a project calling for 500 grapes 5/8 diameter.  We used a box made of perforated stainless about 1/8 thick formed into a box about 3 in x 4 in to heat 10 at a time before texturing.  The stainless has a higher melt temp so sticking to the balls was not a problem and the perforations allowed the balls to heat quickly.

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