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need help with tongs!!


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Alright guys, how should I start this....... I am terrible at making tongs!!!! I have read and reread websites describing how to make tongs, I have taken notes, pictures, mental notes etc.... I have read several books again and again about tongs, I have watched bill Epps videos and Brian brazeal videos so much that I know what move they are about to make before they even know! It all makes sense when I am reading or watching so I go to the forge and anvil with fresh steel in hand and I fail, again and again. I tried making a pair tonite and they came out looking like a rainbow trout ( I am still not sure how that happened) any and all help/tips/pointers are greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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im not sure anybody will be able to diagnose trout-itis of the tongs without some kind of visual aid here :) at what point in the process are you considering the effort a failure?

 

have you tried working through the steps on a lump of clay molded into the shape of the parent stock you are using?  its really quite revealing when it comes to figuring out the required steps to get from A to B.  you can also readily compare your product to say Brian's from his video as you are going along, without burning a hole in your computer screen :)

 

otherwise, I don't even know where to start with recommendations =/

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I've never heard anyone refer to their failure as being trout-like, so you've got my attention.

 

Honestly, Brian's video is about as clear as can be, and it really made a difference in how I make my own tongs.  What parts aren't you understanding?  Are you following along with Brian's example to the letter, or are you trying to "mold" his technique to suit you wants and desires?

 

What type of tongs are you trying to make?

 

Are you wanting hammer-finished tongs, or are you just not filing and grinding because you feel that you should be able to get tongs with nothing but a hammer and some heat?  There's absolutely nothing wrong with grinding and sanding the steel until it looks store-bought.

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Problems.

Not taking a bright lemon or welding heat for each of the 3 shoulders. Jaws unequal. Make a soapstone mark on the anvil face showing where to hold the steel. Not giving the piece a full 90º turn. Getting a twist in the work, especially when forging the second shoulder. If twisted, straighten in the vise right away using your wrench. If the jaw gets cattywampus, straighten as needed. When starting the third shoulder, envision a square in your mind's eye. Don't begin the third shoulder until the boss gets flattened in that area.

 

The Japanese tongs that I have seen do not have a third shoulder, so there is no circular boss on their tongs. They simply taper from the boss into the rein, and it works. Just a different approach.

 

If forge welding the reins, the face of the scarf is usually on the second shoulder side.

 

After riveting, learn how to fit the tongs hot to a sizer. I will most often squeeze the hot jaws around the sizer in the vise. The tongs are horizontal and have enough heat in the boss/rein area that I can adjust the reins at the same time.

 

Sayings and Cornpone

"Laugh at yourself before anyone else can."

     Elsa Maxwell

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The biggest problem I am having is in the boss area, I can get the jaws the same and the reins the same but I can't for the life of me get the boss area the same and the tongs grind against one another or don't shut all the way because of twists or something of that nature in the boss area. And vaughn I don't care a bit to grind and file, in my opinion the invention of the angle grinder and bench grinder should be rated up there with how to harness electricity! Lol

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sounds like the boss is not being dressed flat or there may be excessive scale in the rivet or between the bosses.  if they do not shut all the way the angle of the shoulder at the transition to the jaw may be off, causing the root of the jaw to conflict with the opposing boss edge before they can close.

 

again, pics=1000 words :)

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Any chance your hammer and/or anvil needs dressing?  Getting things to come out exactly the same is easily one of the better indicators of developed skill. After all, a single shot is always a "perfect group"!  Aiming small is how we get to missing small.  Applying that to Blacksmithing, I've tried to get the pairs matched each heat along the way.  It's not easy for me either.

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Adjusting the jaws to fit a size of stock as Frank described usually fixes the jaws not closing all the way/evenly.
As for grinding, fist try a bit of valve lap compound or a file. Bolt the halves to gether and work them with leaping compound (abracive and grease) also, if its just rivit drag, heat the joint and Quench wile working the halves against each other to fit the joint.

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One thing I've done when doing final fitting/tweaking of tongs is use a nut and bolt to temporarily fit them together.  I can give them a test drive, see where I need to make adjustments, take them apart and apply the fix, and then put them back together and lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

 

Once they get to the point I think they are 'done,' I rivet them together.

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Something that helps getting the bosses flat and smooth is finishing them with a flatter. forge them a little thick and using kiss blocks of the desired thickness on both sides drive the flatter down with a heavy hammer. This will help produce a uniform flat boss of whatever shape you desire. As a little extra help you can use long stock for the kiss blocks and bend them so one hangs over the anvil's edge at an angle to match the shoulder on the bits. That way when you strike the flatter the part that hangs over the edge will refine the bits to match the outside of the boss. It will also help match both halves of the tongs.

 

When watching masters tong making videos they tend to make it look so easy we get discouraged it isn't REALLY that easy. I've watched Brian do things in two or three blows it took me 10 or more to do wrong. There are some tricks to some of this stuff but the most important aspect is a good attitude. It's only steel, highly refined dirt and I, sure as ice cream is sweet, ain't gonna let it get the better of me.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I once drove over 200 Miles to ask Mr Witticer (sp) how to forge a leaf back towards the leaf stem. He looked at my leaf samples and said "son black smiths use files a lot". Gave me something to think about on the long drive home. It was a long day.

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One thing that has helped me with the boss area is to sneak up on the final fit. What I mean is constantly correcting all the planes as I form the boss. I use layout marks on the anvil to get everything similar in size. If you over forge one area it is hard to make them line up and work with the other half. I look at it as chasing the finish all the way around the boss, bringing it all together at the same time. Rain offset, jaw offset, pivot offset... 1-2-3, 1-2-3, round and round with little corrections in between until voila! Its done!

 

I don't know if this makes sense... Its how I do it

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Good Morning,

 

It is difficult to see where and when there is a problem with your Tong Construction technique.

 

One way;

Start on the near side of the anvil, forge the initial jaw shape.

Turn 1/4 turn left, hold the jaw at about a 30-45 degree angle, on the far side of the anvil. This starts the hinge area and leaves an angle where the two pieces will come together at the base of the jaw.

Turn 1/4 turn left. On the far side of the anvil, 90 degrees to the edge of the anvil, hold the material with the length of the hinge boss beyond and at the edge of the anvil, half faced blows to complete the hinge area formation length.

 

This means make all your turns between sequences ALL LEFT or ALL RIGHT. Normally if you are right handed, turn left and if you are left handed, turn right.

Swing your pardner, doe-si-doe, all the men left, etc................

 

Relax. Don't make it a chore to make tongs. Some tongs are like snap ring pliers, the jaws expand.

 

The skool of hard knocks have a certain memory value. There is more than one way to skin a .......... :) :) :)

 

Neil

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Thank you guys so much, I will try to get some pics of this evening of my most recent pair. The things you all are saying make sense and I will add a lot of them to my journal! Thanks!! And L Smith, when my grandfather was still alive he asked if i could make a new cabinet door for his cabinets in his old house, well he has made the cabinets himself years and years ago, ( he was a carpenter) well the doors have a simple design along the outside edge, so me being me, always making things harder than they are I bought a couple new wood chisels and planed/Sanded the door and went to work carving the design. It took me half a day just to lay out and sketch the pattern, then I started the task of chiseling it out! Well I worked on that door for three days, carving until I had blisters on my hands, the entire time my papaw would.come down to the shop and check on me every so often and never said a word. Well, I finished the door, gave it a finally dressing, stained and varnished it and added the hinges, pap came down to give it his approval and I will never forget what he told me " looks good son, there is a router and bits over there on that shelf though, for future reference" moral of the story, don't make things harder than they need to be, and i think that is what I am doing here!

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Hello nankbrown i to have been strugleing to forge tongs and have the exact same story...i have watched all the youtube vids bought Bill Epps tong dvd and watched all these videos countless times and at the end of the video feel the same way you do,as though i couldnt have the steps any more clear in my head when i rehearse the steps in my head i feel as thiugh i already have the tongs made but as soon as i lay the hot iron on the anvil and start to lay down the hammer blows i quickly realize how new i really am to Blacksmithing i have tried the Brazeal way and all the Bill Epps methods for a total of about 6 tries useing 5/8 sucker rod wich is hard as a brick bat even when good and hot..well finally i have managed to forge a useable pair of small flat bit tongs from 1/2" mild steel they arent the greatest looking tongs but they work and hold 1/4" really nicely they took me a good while to get them done and ready to use probably far longer than stock that size should but they were great practice and i figure working with the smaller stock would help hone my skills for bigger ones but anyway i used a machinest speed square the kind with the slideing rule to make the mark to start the first set down for the jaw area and the made a 30degree mark across the anvil for the second set down for the boss area once these areas were laid out i went through them a couple times to make sure they were shaped nicely and clean them up a little once that was complete i then forged the third set down for the rear of the boss on the second tong half lay the marks down on the anvil again in the same exact spots and reapeat the prosses except on the last set down for the rear of the boss heat it up and quickly hold it next to the first side to try and make sure you forge the rear of the boss in the same place as the first either eyeball this really quick or try to make a mark nefore going to the anvil then if you get all the right try not ruin them when riveting them wich i almost did i used 1/4" for the rivet becuase i was scared anything else would be to big and i had a heck of a time with that task especially being my first time makeing a rivet but anyway sorry for such a long post and hope it wasnt to much rambling on but seen i am in the same sitiuation i figured i would at least try and help one other thing check out the dvd A Blacksmithing Primer 2 its where everything really seem to come clear for me on tong forgeing his way of teaching is really clear as is all the others who i have watched but for some reason that ine last vid seem to really bring it to lightfor me...at least i think so anyway! Lol. Have a good one and Forge on

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One thing Brian does accomplish...without any fanfare is: NEVER LETTING THE MATERIAL GET OUT OF SHAPE!
So what does that mean? You watch the Youtube and the pics do not show all of what is going on. Folks, watch the shine line to see where the hammer just fell. And do not try to move too much metal in one dimension. Watching Brian and you will see the metal jumping out leaving a shine line where it was just hit. The hammer has already left the scene but the shine line is still there.
And about moving too much metal in one dimension: See Brian turn the tool over back and forth several times, keeping the planes of action true or repairing as he goes. He does not go too far. Then when it come time to finish, by "forge to finish" there is a little metal left to square up, or round up the edges, yielding a perfect job.
But Brian is a master in what he does. We can learn to do the same by Not getting into trouble...Not moving too much metal so there is non left to make the repair...Not advancing our shine line properly as we forge.
And I still have trouble too...because I am not a master....but I am getting better.

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when I first started making tongs I had the same problem. if you do the jaw fine then do the boss cut it off and do it again. repetition is the only thing that will help in the machinist hand book  you can find the section on line it will give you the dimensions you are aiming for. Most people make the boss to big and to thin. work at flat jaw tongs first when you get it the rest will fall into place. it wasn't until I switched to 3/4" stock then it clicked for me 

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nankbrown,

 

Being a beginner at blacksmithing, tongs at first were a bit intimidating to me what with all the various styles.  The experienced smiths here might not agree with me, but I started with a very simple style of flat jaw tongs, using the Dempsey method.  After a couple of those, you will find you gain confidence and then go on to make the more detailed, intricate Brazeal, Epps, etc. styles.

 

Word of caution on the Dempsey style which uses bar stock with a twist on the jaws:  make sure your twist is with your metal orange to yellow and make it slowly.  If it's too cool and/or you twist it too fast, cracks are almost a guarantee.

 

Also, one write-up on the method has one making a series of fuller notches down the bar stock when drawing out the reins.  I made the mistake on the first set by hammering the fuller notches even after they went to dull red.  Result...cracks on every notch except where I stopped hammering at a bright red.

 

Good luck on the tongs...hang in there!

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Nank, I 200% sympathize. For months I went through the exact same situation as you with the YouTube videos/books/anvilfire and I've only just figured out where I was going wrong.

 

You know the process so I'll just share some pointers that were key in me finally understanding where I was going wrong

 

Don't do too much in one go

- get the basic shape first, don't do more than two 90 degrees in one go and don't make each turn perfect before moving onto the next turn

- because you've moved from one the another doesn't mean you can't go back and tweak the previous turn, in fact it makes it easier

- swiveling your wrist 45 degrees when working on the hinge does a lot to create the shape

 

It's not a crime to stop and look at what you've just done.

- quench and look and the underside of what you've just done, it's the only way to fully appreciate what's going on with all the 90 degree turns and 45 degree swivels

- if you follow the processes in the videos you're always working from the outside of the hinge and you never see what's going on inside the hinge which is the most important area, so quench and look up close!

 

What isn't in contact with the anvil face is just as important as what is.

The nearside of the anvil can be just as useful as the far side.

 

Hope that helps!

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I would suggest if you can find someone who is competent that you get that person to forge one jaw one step at a time while you do the other jaw right behind him. Then the same with each following step. Do not let them just make the tong 1/2 in front of you, you need to follow, they will need to go slow.

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I know the traditional way to make tongs, and it just isn't for me. If you have a welder and some flat and round stock you can make a pair of tongs in a few minutes if you don't mind grinding a little bit. The best part is that this way you can get tongs that mate perfectly.

It's good for making a specialized pair of tongs quickly.

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I would suggest if you can find someone who is competent that you get that person to forge one jaw one step at a time while you do the other jaw right behind him. Then the same with each following step. Do not let them just make the tong 1/2 in front of you, you need to follow, they will need to go slow.

 

I'll add my testimony here. Mark has made so many tongs it takes him longer to find the right pair than it does to make a pair. He is GOOD and not just at making tongs. His is take it to the bank advice.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I can't say I'm a proficient tong maker. I have made close to 30 pair is all with I don't know how many junk pieces to go with them. I can say it takes practice, patients and a good teacher. I like Mark's advice about making a side following in the foot steps of someone who is good at making tongs making the other side. After that, spend some time just making blanks to really "send it home" what you have learned. Tongs really are pretty easy once you have the moves down and know what stock to begin with so you end up with the right sizes to hold the work.

 

I did a pair of flat jaw tongs the other day out of 1/4" stock. That could be an easy way to just practice getting the moves right. I basically made both sides in 2 heats. 

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