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Great I love digging into the history of the craft; particularly the medieval era.  ( I had to look up the history of arc welding though I remember it being mentioned for welding of WI in "Wrought Iron It's Manufacture, Characteristics and Applications) 

 

The problem with most "traditional" things is that they in fact only go back to the 19th century or less than 10% of the time smithing has been going on.  (BTW the earliest "power hammer" I know of was a tidal run tilt hammer built prior to the year 1000; personal communication at the Medieval Technology Conference, Penn State,  1995)

 

In addition we in the USA usually filter our ideas though an american viewpoint---so the only smith in a frontier town might work much differently than a member of the guild in a European town with a bunch of different smithing variations around. (and often strictly controlled by the guilds...)

 

One way is not necessarily better or worse; just *different*.  My great grandfather in a small AR hill town could point a plow for the local conditions excellently. I cannot.  I can make a pattern welded knife.  He could not.  We could each learn the skills of the other; but for what reason as we are suited to our times and places.  I know he didn't know any more of the history of smithing than probably the mention of Tubal Cain in the Bible...(My wife refused to let me name any sons "Tubal Cain"  or any daughters for that matter...)

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A couple pics from online shop of the late Ken S, of Poor Boy tools on fleaBay.

 

post-114-0-96824600-1395796518_thumb.jpgpost-114-0-84609100-1395796574_thumb.jpg

 

And some more traditional looking welded tongs.

post-114-0-87672800-1395796977_thumb.jpgpost-114-0-58849800-1395796869_thumb.jpg

 

My "excuse" is, that I teach welding, have access to a state of the art fabrication shop, but can not burn coal at work, or burn anything at home. So I can either cry and moan, or work with what I got. I don't work by rush light or whale oil lamp, either.

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So if it's not your way, it's an "excuse"?


I am also very disapointed in Mr Brazeals responses. Normally he has offered great information on this site. But here he has blatantly ruled out hundreads of years of common practice in English forge work and gone as far as in insult others for giving perfectly fine answers. Making fun of other respected smiths and being rude is no way to teach ironwork to others

Mackenzie
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It is interesting to note that Alexander Weygers, trained as smith in Europe, mentions making tongs avoiding welding and drawing out the reins to be light, thin and springy. ("Modern Blacksmith" pg 155 in my edition)

 

"Practical Blacksmithing" circa 1890, volume 3 page 11 has instructions of forging tongs again without welding.

 

Moxon, "Mechanick Exercises" pub 1703  mentions tongs but not how they are made.

 

AHA!  "Hand Forging and Wrought Iron Ornamental Work" Thomas F Googerty 1911 mentions making tongs with mild steel or swedish iron bits and welding them to the reins which can be of "common iron"

 

Anyone have access to the complete "Diderot's Encyclopedia" ;  An early Encyclopedia Britannica or the 13th Edition of Machinerys Handbook?

 

Most of my research library is 3 hours away and I won't get to it till the Weekend; but I don't have the 3 works mentioned above...sigh

 

More modern works:

"Country Blacksmithing" Charles McRaven  no-weld tongs. pg 64

"The Art of Blacksmithing"  Alex Bealer; pg 164  welded tongs

 

Anyone want to glance through the COSIRA books and see what they say?

 

How about any of the German works on smithing?

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I bethought another reference "The Mastermyr Find"  unfortunately I can't tell if the tongs are possibly welded or if what I see are the welds left from processing bloomery iron into usable form. (Late Viking age)

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I've done both ways. Students can try the forge weld for practice forge welding. It's kind of a lunch eater for them. I lap weld reins for practice. I've drawn them with the trip hammer. Beginners using the power hammer will often get the reins too thin. "If you lose the necessary mass, you got nothin'," said Rolando De Leon (RIP). I don't think large industrial tongs ever had the reins welded on. A forge weld is weaker than the parent stock 99.9% of the time. In industry, you don't want broken reins in the middle of a job. I've drawn reins with the hand hammer in the old days, but now at my age, that is not the route to go for me.

 

Sometimes, after welding on round sectioned reins, I will run them cold under the power hammer to give them a 'capsule shape' and more spring.

 

The older wrought iron tongs that I've seen with welded reins had the faces of the scarfs on the flat, so that when the weld was completed, it was stronger than if welded "on edge." For example, if you use the three shoulder method of jaw making, the face of the scarf was often on the same side as the second shoulder. (the small oblique shoulder at the base of the jaw).

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Power hammers and new students:  yup I well remember the plaintive cry of "put it back" from new powerhammer users with a lead foot...

 

(in general I didn't mention the books that didn't mention how tongs were made; gotta draw the line somewhere!)

 

Thanks for the picture of Ken S's tong kits tongs.

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It is interesting to note that Alexander Weygers, trained as smith in Europe, mentions making tongs avoiding welding and drawing out the reins to be light, thin and springy. ("Modern Blacksmith" pg 155 in my edition


Huzzah! Just the fact that the auther would mention not to do it that way clearly shows that it was common enough practice to forge weld then on. Just because the auther thought it was wrong does not mean it did not happen

I am not arguing that tongs should or should not be made this way. Nor am I saying they were always made this way, certainly not. But I am quite sure that it was a common method used by some smiths for a large part of forging history. It is exstreamly common in English work when ever there is a large cross sectional change in bar mass for there to be a forge weld big bar to small bar.
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in one of my books written in the 1910 it talks about using high carbon steel for the jaws and low carbon steel for the reins. an other source prior to the 1800 most bar stock was square and not round but there is evidence of the reins being welded on. Maybe they were striving to make better tools.

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Burning down homes for nails in early colonial America is a myth. Ask any of the smiths from Colonial Williamsburg. And just think for yourself how hot does a building get that's burning? More than hot enough and the burn time long enough for little nails to oxidize and flake away.
The smiths there also teach forge welding reins on tongs as a common way of building them. Certainly all tongs in history's were not made this way. Smith all over the world make things many different ways. But I do know that at least in Britain for the past 300 something years it has been a common practice used. Yes this is short in the total history of iron, but hardly modern.

So are you saying Eric Sloan is incorrect? 

 

post edited with permission

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I just asked for reasons why to weld on reins, and now there have been some reasons given and some references, also. Thanks for the responses. I especially liked Bigred1o1's response. I've seen horseshoes welded from bailing wire, but farriers colleges don't teach that as part of a curriculum.

I consider the last 300 years as the start of what I'd call modern. Since man began to make iron and steel more efficiently. They began to use more and make heavy gates with light ornaments gilded with gold. I understand the need to teach that style in Europe, since they require continual maintenance. But forging steel for its economy of use has not changed where it is a necessity. Man has only gotten bigger and better. Just look at the industrial forging done today.

I apologize Gerald, but I'd still consider the reason of it being faster and easier as an excuse and not a reason. I've had teenagers come here that can forge tongs faster and easier than most adults. I don't have people attempt tongs or other things until they get familiar with techniques that move metal. I use "old" techniques to move metal with ease and efficiency, and it is not "hard". I was shocked when I first got around other blacksmiths and saw them banging away at metal on the flat face of the anvil, and I call that the modern tradition that got started with associations. I've been called a "traditional smith" but I don't call myself one. I'm a general blacksmith and I forge with techniques that are as old as when they started forging iron and steel. Some call them my techniques, because they are different from most of what you see out there, but it don't call them mine. I forge the "old" way in this modern day with no tradition to guide me.

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So are you saying Eric Sloan is incorrect? 

I never knew the man, and I am not going to assume he intentionally lied. But if his book says it was common for Colonial Americans to burn down homes for nails he's wrong. Take a look at any common sized house nail of the time period, it just wold not hold up in a house fire. It's wrong.
Speak with the smiths from Colonial Williamsburg, I am sure they have a greater collected knowledge of Colonial American iron and practices than any other place or person. They will all confirm that homes were Not commonly burned for nails.

This myth started very much the same as "Sherman's army destroying every single anvil in America" just wrong. The idea sounded kinda good to a few people that did not have a strong knowledge of blacksmithing and anvils. And those people spread the idea very fast. But Sherman did not destroy all the anvils in America, horns and heels just snap off older wrought iron anvils under heavy use. Just a construction flaw

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As I recall there is *1* law on the books forbidding the practice in american colonial times.  So probably not common,  OTOH you generally don't go to the trouble of passing a law if nobody is doing something anyway...

 

In history there is a third state between truth and lies and that is "misinformed".  I have an "Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages" edited by a famed medieval scholar that has the victorian canard about knights needing to be lifted onto horse back with cranes.  Unfortunately the noted medieval scholar was an expert in social aspects of the middle ages and not the physical culture and so missed that.  (I had a friend who was special forces in Nam and he told me he was expected to carry and fight with up to 40 pounds more than a suit of renaissance armour weighed!) 

 

When I visited the smiths at Colonial Williamsburg in the early 1960's I was told several things I now know were misinformed and am happy to hear that their level of scholarship has improved over the last 50 years!

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In history there is a third state between truth and lies and that is "misinformed".  I have an "Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages" edited by a famed medieval scholar that has the victorian canard about knights needing to be lifted onto horse back with cranes.  Unfortunately the noted medieval scholar was an expert in social aspects of the middle ages and not the physical culture and so missed that.  (I had a friend who was special forces in Nam and he told me he was expected to carry and fight with up to 40 pounds more than a suit of renaissance armour weighed!)

 

The film maker's for Olivier's Henry V were specifically told not to do that by the curator and staff of the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London when they were researching for the film.  They did it anyway, for the French (Henry himself jumps into the saddle wearing armour). 

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Yes it was a problem that some people would burn down old rotting building. This was mostly done for the reasons of clearing the land for a new building or simple to remove the old one. It was a problem because it could easily set other building on fire in close proximity. And simply dangerous in a town setting.

It was common to strip old building for usable materials before destruction, this would include good wood beams, dressed stone, and iron hard ware. But nails were not that expensive and would no be salvageable after a building fire.

Colonial Williamsburg has come a long way in the past 50 years! I heard there was a time they would forge tiny horse shoes and stamp guests names into them then spray paint them black, hahaha many many years ago. CW is now at the for front of historical accuracy in its time period. Some things have been modernized to meet federal laws and state codes, but over all they strive for high accuracy.

And yes entertainment films probably show the worst myths and misinformation about iron of everything out there.

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To understand this era, consider the lowly nail. In 1800, a blacksmith made nails, one at a time, at a rate of perhaps one per minute. Nails were expensive. Lumber, on the other hand, was becoming cheap. And as lumber got cheaper, people wanted to live in houses instead of log cabins. A way to make cheap nails had to be found and it was--the nail factory. "Cut" nails were turned out in all sizes from spikes to brads because the typical Victorian house and its trim needed about 400# of nails to hold it together. Nails were so scarce and expensive prior to 1800 that some states had previously enacted arson laws, not to criminalize arson per se, but to prevent people from burning down sheds, barns, and houses just to sift the nails from the ashes! Factories such as Wheeling's LaBelle Nail Co. (1852, and still operating in 2010) met the demand for nails. And they forever removed one of the blacksmith's product lines.

 

http://www.appaltree.net/aba/hist2.htm

 

[1] Regarding the burning of buildings to recover nails, Bobby Floyd of the Old Dominion Blacksmiths Association submitted this Act of Virginia's House of Burgesses passed in 1645.

"And it is further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid, That it shall not be lawfull for any person so deserting his plantation as afore said to burne any necessary houseing that are scituated therevpon, but shall receive so many nailes as may be computed by 2 indifferent men were expended bout the building thereof for full satisfaction, reservinge to the King all such rent as did accrew by vertue of the former grants or planting of the same from the expiration of the first seaven years." [This law is further described as: Persons deserting their plantations not to burn the houses, & to receive as many nails as were expended in building it.] See this webpage for the House of Burgesses Acts -- http://www.vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-12.htm#page_291

 

I don't think they had to make laws against it because it wasn't happening. 

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Well, nails were not usually done by general blacksmiths but by nailsmiths and as a by job for farmers during the winter as the fire for warmth also produced enough coals to heat nail rods (One of the products of the Saugus Ironworks were nail rods).  During the winter in New England farmers were not out in the fields much and *liked* a job where they had to stay close to the fire!  (Caveat: new apprentices may have been set to forge nails whenever there were not any more profitable work they could be doing...)

 

For an interesting viewpoint on making nails Thomas Jefferson did a business case for opening a nail making business at Monticello and it still exists in his collected writings: Costs, production estimates, sales points and profit.

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If drawing out reins takes less time than welding them on, you need to work on your welding.

 

In the more distant past, when pre-rolled round stock for the reins was not available, or not as available, smiths might have forged rein and bit from one piece.

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It is interesting to note that Alexander Weygers, trained as smith in Europe, mentions making tongs avoiding welding and drawing out the reins to be light, thin and springy. ("Modern Blacksmith" pg 155 in my edition)
 
"Practical Blacksmithing" circa 1890, volume 3 page 11 has instructions of forging tongs again without welding.
 
Moxon, "Mechanick Exercises" pub 1703  mentions tongs but not how they are made.
 
AHA!  "Hand Forging and Wrought Iron Ornamental Work" Thomas F Googerty 1911 mentions making tongs with mild steel or swedish iron bits and welding them to the reins which can be of "common iron"
 
Anyone have access to the complete "Diderot's Encyclopedia" ;  An early Encyclopedia Britannica or the 13th Edition of Machinerys Handbook?
 
Most of my research library is 3 hours away and I won't get to it till the Weekend; but I don't have the 3 works mentioned above...sigh
 
More modern works:
"Country Blacksmithing" Charles McRaven  no-weld tongs. pg 64
"The Art of Blacksmithing"  Alex Bealer; pg 164  welded tongs
 
Anyone want to glance through the COSIRA books and see what they say?
 
How about any of the German works on smithing?


"Blacksmithing" by James M. Drew, was copyrighted in 1935 and recommends forge welding 7/16" round rods to 3/4" bits as being the "best way to make the handles" on reins. However, this reference may not have sufficient provenance to answer the original question.
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