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SJS

horse bits???

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I have made bits for horses in the past, and just used mild steel. I think I remembered some manufactures referring to their bits as sweet iron, and someone claimed that stainless tasted bad??? Just wondering if someone with some actual experience in this area might be able to chime in. I have AS36, some 1018, wrought iron, some 300 series stainless, as well as 440C, plus some others;-)

If I make and sell a fancy bit I would rather not have it rusting, but I can oil the snot out of it, I was going to have to do that to the arms anyway...

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Galvanic action on copper and carbon steel make horses salivate. Some folks believe this makes for a better bit. I'm not a big fan of A36 as you don't know exactly what it is, but then again I don't hesitate to make eating utensils out of it. No sense using anything medium or high carbon for the bit. The the rings or cheek pieces can be stainless or carbon steel as you see fit.
Lots of ways to skin this cat, but as horses have different mouth widths I recommend using joinery to make curb bits, as it makes it much easier to forge the bit, separate from the cheeks, so you can cut the bit down, untile it is the right width before riveting the tenons. You can also make up different port heights, bit thickness and width. Also you can make up cheek pieces for different lengths. Tho some designs of cheek pieces have scrolling that allows you to adjust them.
As to snaffle bits, If it has leverage cheek pieces i recommend a lose bar across the bottom to prevent fools from pulling back with both hands and pinching the horses jaw, potentially breaking the horses jaw.

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IIRC, the term 'sweet iron' was a corruption of 'Swede iron', or imported wrought iron or low carbon steel made with wood charcoal and not coal.

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I've got plenty of wrought, so I will likely just use that. I was going to carve up some rasps for the cheeks. Wanted to make some more stuff for my demo in June at the IBA conference.

I made a mid 14th century Italian curb bit for a Percheron with a 5 1/2" mouth. The drawings I was using had fittings on the ends of the cheeks to attach it to the bridle so I forged those out too. Also made some brass cheek bosses. Somewhere I have pictures on a floppy disk;-) probably easier to get it off of a disk than my windows 8 desktop...

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Small mouth for a percheron, tho big for light horses. The ones I work with isualy take a 6" snaffel. Ive seen some reproduction 14centiry saddles, interesting technolagy.

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I can't think of a single reason NOT to use Stainless, ... and a lot of good arguments in it's favor.

 

 

 

.

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One could write reams about the different bits used over the centuries. In the U.S., for riding horses, you have the West Coast spade bit with its loose jaws and tall mouthpiece to low curbs and plain bars on "Texas style" fixed jaw bits. and of course, snaffle bits.

 

Grumpy's take on the term "sweet iron" is interesting; I hadn't heard that before. My take is that the Spanish word for wrought iron, the material, is hierro dulce, which translates literally as "iron sweet," therefore "sweet iron." I was thinking that the early Hispanic bitsmiths translated the term, literally, to their Anglo apprentices and counterparts. By itself, dulce does mean sweet, but it also means "soft and ductile," as regards metals. The question arises as to why the Spanish used dulce to mean soft and ductile. A student of semantics might be able to answer that. In English, we use "mild steel" to refer to low carbon steel. Both sweet and mild may be construed as culinary terms, but we use them without giving it much thought.

 

A36 can be listed nowadays in catalogs as mild steel, but we know that it is, technically, structural steel. The composition may vary slightly from one batch to another, but there are limits. The carbon content will not exceed 0.27%, and there is a higher manganese content than the old plain carbon mild steel.

 

SJS, In terms of the steels you mentioned, any of them would work, but I'd avoid 440 and save it for a hardenable tool of some kind.

 

A few bridle bits were made of monel metal. a 68% nickel and 27% copper alloy.

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I know this subject was over a yr. ago BUT  when moving this past fall I ran across a bucket of "horse stuff" so I dumped it on a table and got these pictures just to show random styles and sizes the top one is leather rapped and of course the hackamore on the right. They just surfaced today while downloading other pictures.  like many things I just can not throw out a bit goes against my grain presume that is why it took 18 months to move all my stuff other than household items.      

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A few more bits. I long ago purchased quite a few ring bits as an antique collection. They were used in New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico, quite a lot in the early days. Instead of a curb strap or curb chain fitting the horse's chin groove, the iron ring acted as a curb ring as well as being run through the mouthpiece of the bit. I've since sold the ring bits, but had these photos stored. The one on the left I got in a trade. It is beautifully crafted. The photo with many items is part of my Spanish colonial collection of ironwork, now sold to the Golondrinas Museum near Santa Fe. A ring bit is shown at the top.

When I bought the ring bit collection, the owner threw in a number of more recently made bits. I've shown a few. The little one, upper left, has a 4" mouth. The "Texas style" cowboy bit, lower right, has a 4 5/8" mouth. The large bit in the center is stainless steel. Most Western riding horses nowadays are somewhat larger than, say, turn of the 20th century horses, and many have 5" or 5 1/4" mouths.

 

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nice stuff Frank, hopefully I'll get my collection sorted out after moving and consolidated and get some photos.  Need to plan a new home for them as well at some point. 

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Have you contacted Frank Turley at the Turley Forge in Santa Fe NM; co author of "Southwestern Colonial Ironwork: The Spanish Blacksmithing Tradition from Texas to California" And runner of a blacksmithing school since the 1970's?

He's still supervising the work done at the smithy; but due to health issues he's not smithing much directly; but he would be my first though to get such a restoration done right!

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On 1/10/2015 at 7:37 AM, SmoothBore said:

I can't think of a single reason NOT to use Stainless, ... and a lot of good arguments in it's favor.

 

 

 

.

Horse bits are best made of copper with sweet iron running a close second. Yes, sweet iron will rust but not if its wiped off and kept clean. Reason for these materials is to encourage the animal to salivate. This helps keep a good soft mouth.

Stainless can be dangerous to weld or forge due to the hexavalent chromium. OSHA recently lowered the permissible exposure levels of the stuff. I'd recommend guys do their homework on the stuff before messing with it.

George

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