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I Forge Iron

Big hinges.

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Small confession here, almost 10 years of backyard smithing and I’ve NEVER made any hinges. So, when my buddy Bill embarked on a wooden gate project and asked for help forging the hinges, it was a perfect opportunity to give it a shot. Big stock, 2 inches wide by a quarter inch thick. Bill has worked at my forge before, making the odd hook and tool, but not hinges, so that makes two of us.   Started by  rolling the hinge barrel, much easier than expected. Thinner metal wants to  fold rather than roll when starting scrolls, but in quarter inch stock, the mass of the metal helps the roll. Started over the anvil edge, then turned the strap and hammered it shut. Once both barrels were pretty close to done, drove a drift pin that matches the 5/8 lag pintle from the hardware store.  I’m pretty sure the drift is really an old tapered axle from some sort of industrial cart, but it makes a good drift. Hammered the barrel closed again where the joint opened up with the drift in the hole and knocked it out.  Glad to have read that butted hinges can be appropriate, since my welding skills need work and I didn’t want to use up the limited time we had at the forge trying to make two welds if we didn’t need to.

Bill had very specific design ideas for these hinges. Specifically, the decorated leaf of the hinge was to be on the outside of the gate, but the gate must open inward. That necessitated a right angle bend, half the thickness of the gate, on both straps.   Measured and marked 2.25 inchs from the barrel to the bend, first one was fine, second one about a quarter inch too wide. Squelching ideas for slightly offset upper and lower hinges to make a self closing gate, I took over from my friend to upset that annoying extra quarter inch back into the corner, bringing the two hinges into line with one  another.  And that hard part was done.

I may not have mentioned that Bill was using some of his grandad’s tools, the 2 lb engineers hammer  and a hot cut he just got, rehandled and dressed, from the cleanout of gramps workshop. The design he’s pursuing on the hinge strap is of a pruned tree branch, a series of angled cuts in the hinge, the point cut off and the “branch” upset back into the stock to make it a little thicker.

I told Bill he’d be directing the cut and I’d act as striker. We were running out of time so we got one little branch done so he’d have an example to show the lovely wife, and he may try to saw the rest of the cuts so we can just work on the upsets of the cutoffs and the single veined leaf that will be decoration on the end of the hinge strap, we did a little shaping with a wide fuller (also grampa’s) just behind the branch to make it look a bit more organic.  
Bill’s hoping to get back up to my smithy this summer (he’s over an hour away) to finish up the decorative work, which I think will take longer than working part of the hinges.

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That ought to be pretty darned nice when finished. To give it more depth, a ittle more 3D you can use a fuller on the inside over a wood block. A channel in the block is faster or a swage if you have one.


At least you should have time for progress pics. You know us and pics. <grin>


Frosty The Lucky.

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One thing that might help you on future hinges is to thin the strap just a little at the end before you roll the barrels.  That helps to minimize the flat at the end of the strap on the inside of the roll (by thinning the metal just a little there you counter the effect of the low leverage that tends to create that flat area).  I also try to roll that tip area first as it is easy to reopen but very hard to tighten after the roll is mostly complete.  These are refinements but not hard to incorporate and you'll like the results I think!  I find that even thinning down to 3/16" from 1/4" is helpful and has negligible effects on the hinge strength.

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