ThomasPowers

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I get a lot of folks started; my beginning projects are all things that are difficult to mess up so badly that they can't be used; because many people feel that if they can't achieve perfection right out of the gate they are a total failure.  Remember the old saw: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"  I also tell them that *everything* they are doing to make an S hook, (first project), is needed to make a blade (and they can learn to do it right by having lots of usable S hooks rather than a pile of useless scrap blades.)

Shoot Saturday I was teaching at an SCA event and had a new smith burn off the end of a 3/8" sq stock S hook by not following directions.  Luckily it was my piece.  So I cut off the burnt end then flattened a section and punched a hole in it and bent it 90 and made it into a J hook to hang on the renaissance kitchen's tent poles, this "failure" was so bad that I was asked to make 11 more by the head cook!  We even brainstormed a crossbar system to hold dried herbs between two of such hooks.

So pick out a skill you need to improve and come up with projects you can succeed at to improve it!

Using the college analogy: you have to learn calculus before you go on to advanced physics and the better you are at calculus the easier the advanced physics will be!

Colleges often have folks with forges around them, you just have to ask around (check with the local SCA branch for instance, look for an ABANA chapter).  No reason not to learn the basics while at college.

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I am curious if you have an ordered list of projects that would be good for developing the basic skills. I ask because I come across good beginner projects, but I'm not sure what order they should be done in to avoid developing bad habits that will have to be unlearned later. Currently, I'm still obsessing over casting, but I expect that I'm going to swing back to beginning to blacksmith about winter time; my current plan is to start with making tools for myself. I have a store-bought hammer, but I dislike the weight and feel of it for anything where I am not simply beating as hard as I can, so I think I'll try to tackle a hammer. I also need some tongs, so I think I'll try to make some out of rebar, which seems like a fairly simple beginner project. I have an ASO, namely a cheap small cast iron one from Harbor Freight that mainly serves for the little silversmithing I do, so I also need to find a piece of railroad to grind out a passable anvil. Are these reasonable projects or should I just focus on turning out nails for a while? Are there other ones I should add or substitute?

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If you dislike the weight and feel of a hammer, I'd suggest you either find another, or rehandle what you have. Many times a "bad" hammer may only be due to the handle that's on it that doesn't fit you well. I'm not sure what your experience with a hammer is. When I took my first long week long forging class years ago, I knew right away none of the hammers in class were for me. I swing a hammer daily doing carpentry work, and the fact I was starting a beautiful set of blisters in an odd place on my hand told me right away that those hammers weren't fitting me. I went out to the truck and finished the day out swinging my normal Estwing 3lb sledge. Very next day bright and early I was in the supply house buying new handles for a few hammer heads I'd collected as well as 2 hammers with broken handles the school had. 1st thing in class I was fitting handles on hammers.

Now if you aren't familiar with swinging a hammer, you're probably going to need some time to get used to it. Also many people don't swing a hammer well if they are inexperienced. They swing awkwardly and hold the handle in strange ways, both can make a hammer feel "bad". Too many try and take on a hammer that's bigger than they can handle. Many store bought cross peen hammers may be a bit too heavy for a new smith who's not used to swinging a hammer. Fatigue sets in and they get sloppy and that effects their swing.

Myself, I'm always looking at hammers, whether in the store, at flea markets/yard sales etc. I'll try as many as I can at the forge or on a job site. If I find one I like a lot, I'll buy it or try and figure out who made it so I can keep my eyes open for one for myself. A good hammer is an investment. You'll use it all the time, so don't skimp if you find one that really feels right to you. As a lot of it's about fit and balance, there's no right or wrong answer. What may be perfect for me won't work for you.

 

As far as tongs, I wouldn't really rate them as beginner projects. They aren't all that hard, but it does take some skill to do more than the most simple ones. Rebar is a poor choice for material for one though. I used to do concrete for a living, I have access to probably 2-3 tons of free rebar in different sizes. I don't use it for much of anything. Again a good pair of tongs can be a good investment. If you usually work one size regularly, say 1/2" bar, it may be worth investing in a really nice set of tongs for that size. Then you can safely work the material. If your tongs don't fit well, you won't be able to hold stock securely. That can be a hazard, and it makes it hard to really learn to forge well if the stock flops all over the place as you try to hit it. Use those as you work to improve your skills to the point where you can make tongs. It also gives you a good benchmark for what to be shooting for.

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Some of the cheap import hammers are basically a piece of stock with a handle stuck in it.  Dressing them substantially can help a LOT!  Also check when you buy them that the handles are not canted (unless you like a canted handle...)

As for projects:  many blacksmithing books have a list of projects in them for the beginner.   What I like to do is to select projects that are useful, (even if just for christmas gifts) and very hard to mess up and provide practice for one of the basic skills:  so out here I start with S hooks, then make fancier S hooks, Chile peppers from pipe, etc which practice hammer control and drawing out, twisting, straightening, etc.  A common project after that is to make a tripod for campfire cooking---and suddenly that handful of S hooks becomes a need!  Then work on toasting forks, bottle openers, camp cooking gear.  When they have control of the hammer and their metal we might do a simple camp knife or eating knife for SCA use.

I have never liked the "make 30000 tapers and discard" type of class; I would at least make nails from them!   What I want the student to do is to not be flailing all over the place on random projects; but progressing along a straight path that makes use of the skills they were using/learning on the previous projects.

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Thanks for the responses; it certainly is a cheap hammer of the cheap brand big box store variety. I think I originally picked up for driving things when a full sledge would be impractical; I find myself usually reaching for my decent ball pein for the limited shaping I do from time to time. I think my first intention for fixing my heavy hammer will be to rehandle it and see how that works. I try to keep an eye out for hammers, but it is rare for me to come across any that aren't mass-produced claw hammers. I'm also working on acquiring other tools sets at the moment; looking to pick up a little MIG today, planning on tackling blacksmithing tools in the Fall/Winter.

As for tongs, I was planning on following this youtube video for making them from rebar, which seems pretty straightforward, although I can see myself needing to spend extra time getting the alignment right. They certainly wouldn't be a long-term tool, simply something for practical and initial grasping. Additionally, I have an ulterior motive for the rebar tongs, namely that I have a relatively crude set of large crucible tongs (see attached) that I am frankly not comfortable using for heavy pours (and haven't yet), so I want to set about improving them, a key improvement being to correct the loose hinge point (held together by a screw that has wallowed out the channel!) on them similar to the hinge he makes in the video.

Thomas, do you have any recommended books? I know there are stickies on here with that sort of thing, but I am curious as to what your specific recommendations are, especially ones with a good track of beginner projects. You also, DSW, although you didn't mention books specifically. Thanks a lot for taking the time, I really appreciate it! I know this isn't the best thread to be discussing this, but the tail-end of it seemed to venture into it.

s-l1600.jpg

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Check you local public library and ask if they have ILL Inter Library Loan  and if so what it entails.   My local library can access books from over 80 different libraries including a bunch of university libraries, each search costs me US$1  and I can borrow the book for 3 weeks.  This is a great way to go over the different books listed and see which ones work best for you and THEN pay the $ to buy them (I tend to buy used on abebooks.com).   The book that helped me get started was "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" by Weygers,  (well the Modern Blacksmith; but they republished it with his other two thrown in; but you can ignore those parts that are not germain...)

As for hammers I find them all the time at fleamarkets, I especially try to buy them without handles as any handle in a used hammer is suspect and doubles the price.  Bought a heavy ballpeen last week for $1 hardly used as the harsh bevel around the sides was still pristine and ready to be dressed.  I turn down a bunch of hammers cause I'm cheap and have a gracious plenty and will buy only when they are cheap---save for old and unusual hammers in which case I have gone as high as $10 for a 7# straight peen sledge with the british broad arrow and date stamp on it...  I'll probably bring a bucket of ballpeens to quad-state to sell on.

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I think I checked at the library for blacksmithing books when I took my toddler there last; I haven't picked up a physical book in years having largely converted my reading onto my Kindle, but I did just order Lorelei Sims The Backyard Blacksmith on the recommendation of JME1149. I'll see if I can scare up a copy of Weygers's book as well.

I suppose I probably should start spending more time around flea markets; hard to find the time though with two toddlers. Like I said, I see plenty of old claw hammers at yard sales, so I think I might start picking them up just to have some metal to play with on hand. That'll also spur me to keep a better eye out for good hammers. 

Do you have any recommendations for improving those lifting tongs, aside from fixing the loose hinge point that I'm planning on doing? The arms on the end loosely pivot, being intended to let the tongs also pour, but I am thinking of locking them in place to function only as a set of lifting tongs and welding together a rebar basket for pouring; that seems like it would be a lot safer.

EDIT: Also, I'm reading through the ABANA Controlled Hand Forging PDFs.

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Did you check the 100 or so libraries that might be tied into your library through ILL?  Here in small town New Mexico I was able to my hands on a book I had had on Amazon Search for 5 years with no hits using ILL.  As I said it's a cheap way to look before you buy.  One reason I like Quad-State; I'll be able to look over a lot of stuff that I've seen online and find out if I want to buy it sometime in the future.

Consumer electronics and smithies tend to not play nice with each other.  I have had several students damage their phones so far, at least one of them putting a new spin on why the horn of the anvil is better off not sharply pointed. (They were warned!)

I took my grandson to the fleamarket last weekend; but he's going into second grade so less of a problem than toddlers...I also find tools at the scrap yard---especially when someone has done a garage cleanout and just dumped everything.  Rust doesn't bother me; so a 20 cent a pound rusty hammer with a rotten handle suits me fine.

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I'd have to dig thru my library to come up with book titles. Both books listed are on my shelf though. There have been plenty of threads here on books to buy. A bit of google fu may bring those threads up easier than the sites search engine does. That's usually how I search for older threads.

I'm not impressed with his quenching the rebar. I've seen too many things made out of rebar and quenched snap like glass. That includes welding as well as forging. To me it's just not worth it for the effort you put into the piece. Mild steel is dirt cheap if you know where to shop. I get mine from a couple of local places ( and I know of at least 10 to 15 more I could probably shop from if I wanted to be bothered going into a new place). I buy a full length for about what you'd pay at Depot/Lowes for a short 4' piece.

 

As with Thomas, I'm always on the look out for hammer heads. On a nice spring weekend, it's easy to find yard sales to browse. I've also figured out where most of the bigger flea markets are and when they are open. Pawn shops are another possibility. There used to be a great used tool shop near me. You never knew what people would bring in and try to sell. Many times he'd buy up whole garages of old tools dirt cheap when people were clearing out houses of deceased family members. He got to know me fairly well as I'd stop in once or twice a week to browse and would set things aside he knew I might like. Because I was in often, I usually didn't need to spend forever in there. I already knew most of what he had and just looked at the new stuff. 

I usually gloss over framing hammers, but ball peens are moderately common. Old roofing hammers or hatchets make good cheap handled hot cuts.Occasionally you can find wood, leather or brass/lead soft mallets.

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Trolling through the trade marks register, is a fun way of encountering all manner of lovely names that we would not have thought of otherwise. Don't copy them, just modify a good name or phrase to your purpose and run with it. The register is at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office web site.

Just my suggestion,. no royalties, and no charge.

SLAG.

My browser has just  changed my font yet again. It has no mind and never asks permission. Isn't Microsoft wonderful?!?!?!

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bet you were going for a capital I and hit control i instead. I have fat fingers and make that mistake on a regular basis  

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1 hour ago, ThomasPowers said:

Did you check the 100 or so libraries that might be tied into your library through ILL?  Here in small town New Mexico I was able to my hands on a book I had had on Amazon Search for 5 years with no hits using ILL.  As I said it's a cheap way to look before you buy.  One reason I like Quad-State; I'll be able to look over a lot of stuff that I've seen online and find out if I want to buy it sometime in the future.

Consumer electronics and smithies tend to not play nice with each other.  I have had several students damage their phones so far, at least one of them putting a new spin on why the horn of the anvil is better off not sharply pointed. (They were warned!)

I took my grandson to the fleamarket last weekend; but he's going into second grade so less of a problem than toddlers...I also find tools at the scrap yard---especially when someone has done a garage cleanout and just dumped everything.  Rust doesn't bother me; so a 20 cent a pound rusty hammer with a rotten handle suits me fine.

I meant to add a sentence about trying the ILL through the library; sorry, but I apparently left it out. 

I would bring my Kindle, or my phone, into the workshop except maybe across the room on a side table. If I need to reference something, I'd probably just print it out for the added bonus of easy note taking. 

Rust doesn't bother me too much either, but it seems like all of the scrap yards in the state don't sell anything, at least not to individuals. They seem to only buy, consolidate/smelt into bulk loads, and sell commercially. I'm lucky if I can get any of them to do anything other than hang up the phone.

 

1 hour ago, DSW said:

I'd have to dig thru my library to come up with book titles. Both books listed are on my shelf though. There have been plenty of threads here on books to buy. A bit of google fu may bring those threads up easier than the sites search engine does. That's usually how I search for older threads.

I'm not impressed with his quenching the rebar. I've seen too many things made out of rebar and quenched snap like glass. That includes welding as well as forging. To me it's just not worth it for the effort you put into the piece. Mild steel is dirt cheap if you know where to shop. I get mine from a couple of local places ( and I know of at least 10 to 15 more I could probably shop from if I wanted to be bothered going into a new place). I buy a full length for about what you'd pay at Depot/Lowes for a short 4' piece.

 

As with Thomas, I'm always on the look out for hammer heads. On a nice spring weekend, it's easy to find yard sales to browse. I've also figured out where most of the bigger flea markets are and when they are open. Pawn shops are another possibility. There used to be a great used tool shop near me. You never knew what people would bring in and try to sell. Many times he'd buy up whole garages of old tools dirt cheap when people were clearing out houses of deceased family members. He got to know me fairly well as I'd stop in once or twice a week to browse and would set things aside he knew I might like. Because I was in often, I usually didn't need to spend forever in there. I already knew most of what he had and just looked at the new stuff. 

I usually gloss over framing hammers, but ball peens are moderately common. Old roofing hammers or hatchets make good cheap handled hot cuts.Occasionally you can find wood, leather or brass/lead soft mallets.

I'm going to give the ILL that Thomas mentioned a try and I have at least one book on the way. I also have "Blacksmithing for Beginners" by Josh Kinney sitting in my Kindle, as well as a couple of books on sand casting, forming copper, and forming silver; I haven't gotten to the Blacksmithing book mostly due to the sand casting one being more pertinent to my current activities and my casual reading time being taken up with The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

I think I gravitated to the video mainly because of its simplicity and its applicability to those lifting tongs. You make a good point about just getting some mild steel; I'll have to go across town and pick some up. I'm tempted to simply make a new set of lifting tongs (the pictured set I bought on eBay), but given my limited tools, I suspect that that might be beyond my capabilities. I could ask the professor at the university where I took my metal working program last spring if I could come into the shop and make them, but even though I'm sure he'd say fine I'd feel like I'd be taking advantage. 

Yeah, I think I simply need to find a way to go to more flea markets and garage sales; might just be something that has to wait a couple of years. I hadn't thought about using roofing hammers or hatchets as hot cut tools; that's a good idea, thanks! I'll have to keep an eye out for those as well. I have a Neoprene mallet, but I certainly could use some softer ones; I might try to cast one when I do another round of bronze castings. 

 

1 hour ago, SLAG said:

Trolling through the trade marks register, is a fun way of encountering all manner of lovely names that we would not have thought of otherwise. Don't copy them, just modify a good name or phrase to your purpose and run with it. The register is at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office web site.

Just my suggestion,. no royalties, and no charge.

SLAG.

My browser has just  changed my font yet again. It has no mind and never asks permission. Isn't Microsoft wonderful?!?!?!

I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are talking about.

"I would* bring my Kindle, or my phone, into the workshop except maybe across the room on a side table."

 

*Wouldn't

Sorry, for some reason I can't edit.

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14 minutes ago, David Durman said:

.. given my limited tools, I suspect that that might be beyond my capabilities. I could ask the professor at the university where I took my metal working program last spring if I could come into the shop and make them, but even though I'm sure he'd say fine I'd feel like I'd be taking advantage.

Maybe he could use an unpaid shop assistant? In many ways that's how I have access to the weld lab at the tech school. I was originally asked by the night school instructor to come in and help teach the class. In return, I had access to the shop in the winter months to practice welding in prep for taking a cert for a job I was looking at. It's sort of morphed into me helping out most of the night instructors teach. If I have a need to use their track torch, iron worker, plasma cutter, or one of the bigger welders, I can as long as it doesn't interrupt the class and no one else is using them. I know the college is sort of similar with their forging studio. Only problem is they already have enough assistants to cover classes. It doesn't stop me from reminding them that I only live 5 minutes down the road, and I'd be happy to help in exchange for the ability to use the facilities.

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The situation here is similar in that he has plenty of graduate students to help him. He's already let me go there a couple of times to use the shop but I know that the head professor would have a problem with it and I'm certain the Fine Arts college would have a fit over the liability issue. I'm sure he would let me use the shop again, but I don't like taking advantage of his willingness to stick his neck out.

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David: That is a terrible instructional video on a number of points: First . . .Rebar, there are more than enough posts here talking about rebar's shortcomings I'm not going to list them again. Second, he shows very little skill at the anvil, he's flailing away at stock I'd put back in the fire to heat back up. Okay, low level knowledge and skill, another good example that all someone needs to call him/er self an expert on the internet is a camera and connection. His forge is poorly built but can PROBABLY be improved to a working unit. Another good example of his lack of knowledge is quenching tongs. I've never run across a situation where tongs need to be hardened, it's about as practical as hardening the fenders on your car. Pointless exercise in urban myth.

Just about everything about how he makes his tongs is the hard way and the finished product is pretty poor. Might work but it's so much easier to do it right and the finished product is so much better.

There is one thing on that video he got right, his anvil is an excellent example of an anvil. That's something to emulate. Forget the rest except as an example of how NOT to.

I believe Slag's post is a reply to another thread and a general gripe about using a computer keyboard. I'm always hitting either the CTRL key or one of the scroll arrows. have to stop go back, change my font and or size back to what it's supposed to be or whatever. Feel free to ignore that post unless you have a helpful tip. :)

If you pick projects that require one skill and make a few till you have a handle on it, then pick another and repeat. After a while you'll have a handle on enough basic techniques to start combining them into . . . stuff. Tongs are a few basic techniques combined in a fairly precise construction. For a first couple pair twist tongs will do.

When I'm showing folk the basics I don't let them use a hammer heavier than 32oz. I prefer and recommend a 32oz. "Driller's, or Drill" hammer. They're short handled, smooth faced and heavy enough to do serious work. The short handle is much easier to control so a beginner can do more precise work. They're heavy enough to be effective but not so heavy they tire you our too quickly or injure your arm. Believe me swinging a too heavy hammer can do serious even permanent damage to your soft tissue.

Ball pein hammers are blacksmith's hammers since long before folk started calling cross piens blacksmithing hammers. They're a LOT more useful in general and are easily modified to suit.

No need to go grinding on a piece of rail to make it into an anvil, maybe shine it up a little but that's plenty. NO a flat face isn't necessary, not even desirable really, the natural crown in RR rail will act as your fuller and it changes radius with distance from the edge. Yes, grind the burr off the edges but that's all you really need to do. A horn isn't all that necessary, heck I rarely use one except doing a widening draw but rail has a nice radius for that process.

Mounting rail on end makes an excellent anvil, you only need a face a little wider than the hammer and all that steel directly under the blow really helps move the metal. That's called depth of rebound.

Ah I've rambled on long enough. Build a fire have some fun. Buy some stock to play with and cut pieces long enough you don't need tongs. S hooks, tent pegs, fire pokers, etc. are good camp tools and good practice. Seriously, who doesn't want to poke the campfire while sitting around it?

Frosty The Lucky.

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Books, here are two free downloads that will serve you well as a guide to the craft, 

http://www.hlcollege.ac.uk/Downloads/cp_wrought.html  and  http://www.hlcollege.ac.uk/Downloads/cp_blacksmith.html 

Print off what you are going to do, and it doesn't matter if they catch fire or get disfigured, you can always print off another replacement page.

Remember there is no right or proper way to make something, just what works for you and do it safely. 

Have fun and enjoy.

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Thanks, Frosty! I did think it was weird that he quenched them. Like I said, I thought the video might prove useful in fixing those lifting tongs. I think, if I am going to make some tongs, I'll start with the kits that Thomas mentioned. The rest of your comments are taken to heart as well.

 

Thanks, John!

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Dr. Thomas Powers

has most probably provided THE answer to my problem,   as usual.

I am very tempted to pop the control key off of the keyboard.

But my beloved spouse would probably kill me.

Marg!!!  I was just kidding, honest.

SLAG.

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52 minutes ago, SLAG said:

Dr. Thomas Powers

has most probably provided THE answer to my problem,   as usual.

I am very tempted to pop the control key off of the keyboard.

But my beloved spouse would probably kill me.

Marg!!!  I was just kidding, honest.

SLAG.

If you pop the key off and cushion it with some electrical tape around the socket, you can make it harder to accidentally push; might need to fine-tune the amount, though. Good mechanical keyboards are pretty reasonably priced nowadays and their keys are fairly stiff enough to prevent that as well.

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If you take DSW's advice and seek out a school or program doing metal casting and volunteer you can copy their crucible tongs or make some to the instructor's specifications and take a reject pair home.

I haven't done any casting except to assist a few times in probably 40 years and things have changed considerably. The high school melter was a Johnson Appliance metal melter and IIRC the crucible was a little bigger around than a 3lb. coffee can. The instructor used a pair of tongs to reach straight down around the crucible, lift it out and set it on a soft fire brick then used another pair of tongs to pour.

In more recent years I much prefer the system where the main barrel of the melter lifts off the bottom and you can slip the pour tongs under the crucible and go straight to the molds. The less you handle a dangerous thing the less chance there is for things to go wrong.

About the keyboards. Can I do that to my lap top? I don't have any problem with my "regular" keyboards, cable or wireless but those keys are taller and want a little more motion. The lap top keys are really low profile, less than 1/8" high with a similar minimal need to depress them to activate.

Deb gets really twitchy when I talk about getting the hot glue gun out and making tits I can feel, including ones on the shift and cap lock keys.

Frosty The Lucky.

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9 minutes ago, Frosty said:

Deb gets really twitchy when I talk about getting the hot glue gun out and making tits I can feel, including ones on the shift and cap lock keys.

Frosty The Lucky.

Oh there's an interesting statement taken out of context...      

 

erniefp.png

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It must be my day for dropping bad straight lines. For the life of me I can't think of a context where Deb wouldn't kill me. :wacko:

  Frosty The Lucky.

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PLEASE; Dr Powers is my Daughter the Vet; who's already threatened to have me put down once...

I'm just a "less than 10 fingered typist" who's had that particular issue a BUNCH of times...

(and Frosty, what's it worth to you to not have that post pop up in her inbox someday....Bwahahahahahahahaha)

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1 hour ago, Frosty said:

If you take DSW's advice and seek out a school or program doing metal casting and volunteer you can copy their crucible tongs or make some to the instructor's specifications and take a reject pair home.

I haven't done any casting except to assist a few times in probably 40 years and things have changed considerably. The high school melter was a Johnson Appliance metal melter and IIRC the crucible was a little bigger around than a 3lb. coffee can. The instructor used a pair of tongs to reach straight down around the crucible, lift it out and set it on a soft fire brick then used another pair of tongs to pour.

In more recent years I much prefer the system where the main barrel of the melter lifts off the bottom and you can slip the pour tongs under the crucible and go straight to the molds. The less you handle a dangerous thing the less chance there is for things to go wrong.

About the keyboards. Can I do that to my lap top? I don't have any problem with my "regular" keyboards, cable or wireless but those keys are taller and want a little more motion. The lap top keys are really low profile, less than 1/8" high with a similar minimal need to depress them to activate.

Deb gets really twitchy when I talk about getting the hot glue gun out and making tits I can feel, including ones on the shift and cap lock keys.

Frosty The Lucky.

I actually took a program back in the Spring that covered several different basics, such as casting (I made some bronze ingots), welding, and a touch of blacksmithing. That is where the aforementioned professor comes from; I've spent the intervening time building a furnace for more bronze casting with the little spare time and money I have after home and kids. I should finish tooling up for that around September; I bought a small MIG today so I think I can fix the issues I have with those tongs. I am very, very tempted to modify my furnace to be a lift-off version like you mentioned, but I am hesitant over the possibility of accidentally tipping over the crucible. If I could figure out a passive safety feature to avoid that, that would be my preferred method.

Without seeing your laptop I couldn't say, but I strongly doubt it. Most laptops are going to have a soft keyboard (under the keys there is a soft silicone mat for all the keys); even if it has actual mechanical keys, cracking the case on a laptop is usually a pretty bad idea. Modifying a desktop is fairly easy since everything is modular nowadays, but laptops are generally pretty integrated. It's one of the reasons I usually recommend people build a desktop of their own since it is drastically cheaper and much easier to customize to your preferences. You can disable the function of those keys, but it's something I've never done so I'd have to look it up and get back to you.

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David, I would  add to what Frosty said about the video and working cold. I would keep the metal hotter also when starting. There is a temptation to try to save time by not heating enough and to go on hammering after it is too cold. The result is earlier fatigue and sometimes bad results (structure). Fatigue decreases conrol of the hammer, gives lousy results and is sometimes dangerous. In my part of the world there is a saying that cold-smiths end up in a very hot place.

Many simple things can be made from long stock that can be hand held. If you do not have a hot cut you can cut off the piece when finished by using a sharp corner on the anvil. I always try to figure out a way to avoid tongs.

There are much better tong videos. Especially the "twist tong" video mentioned in a different thread. If you do not have a fuller, use the edge of the anvil and put a round piece of something on top of the anvil to smoothen out the nick if the anvil edge is not rounded to fit the work.  

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