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I Forge Iron

Replica Viking Tongs from Wrought Iron

Matthew D

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I finished my replica Viking Tongs tonight.  These are made from 7/8 inch wrought iron square bar which I picked up from an old cattle  ranch bone yard.  Overall length is 17 inches with 12 inch reins.  The reins have plenty of flex and they are comfortable in the hand.  

See this link for a picture of the Viking era tongs I use used to make the replica.


I didn't really have any sort of scale to go by, so I printed the photo a couple times until I got a scale that seemed about right.  The challenge was getting the two sides equal, but I got them pretty close.  I can see from the original tongs that the two halves are not entirely equal either.  The tongs work really well gripping flat stock, like a knife.  I may adjust the reins or the jaws a little more so the reins are not so far open when holding something about 1/4 thick.  


Overall it was a fun project.  I'll definitely use them around the shop and they will be an interesting piece to talk about with other blacksmiths.   



See my two other topics on old world (African) pattern tongs and wrought iron:

There are some photos in there of forging the viking tongs and a pair of African style tongs.  





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Matthew those are totally awesome. You recreated a tool that lived a thousand years ago. Nice. Now onto recreating those hammers, although there not as pretty as the tongs. How about those tongs they found . Looks like they could still be used today. Wouldn't that be cool to use a thousand year old tool today. I'm getting goose bumps thinking about it :-)

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Thanks for the compliments.  They are pretty cool tongs.  Overall they took me about 4 hours to make.  I can't even imagine how long it would have taken an ancient blacksmith to make a pair, if he was starting from ore!.  Making his own charcoal, etc.  A pair of tongs like this would have been a very valuable tool.  

It would be cool to use an ancient pair like that.  I am sure they could still be use.  I would like to get in touch with the museum who has them to get accurate measurements.  A photo or something like that.  


So far I really haven't had a chance to use them.  However, they are to date the best functioning tongs I have made.  I really took my time making them.  I think my drawing out, tapering and barring skills grew by 300%.  Going from 7/8 to 3/8 was moving a whole lot of iron.  But it was all good experience.  

I believe there will be a learning curve to using tongs like this to do flat work with; knives, hoes, spatulas, etc..  There must be all sort of techniques to skillfully using them.  But I will start learning.   I tried them out on a chef blade I recently forged.  They do grip flat material very well.  Plus you can do some neat things with them. Like hold a blade on the spine and use the tips on the tongs as a stop and put the edge of the blade on the edge of the anvil for tapering the blade.  By grabbing the blade the middle with the tang going past the boss you can work the edge of the knife without it getting loose.  

What I would like to do is get skilled at using them and then do an informative video.

I still need to make a better pair of African style tongs.  I will post an improved pair in my other thread.  


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Matthew: I'd expect a skilled Viking blacksmith to make a pair of tongs like those in maybe 20 minutes unless he had to weld a few smaller pieces together, then add maybe another 20 minutes. The blacksmith didn't mine nor refine his own ore except in probably very rare cases.

This is a little speculation based on the buried find yours is based on and the Mastermyr tool kit. Both tongs are similar if examples of individual smiths and probably common uses. Looking at the weight of iron in the bits leads me to think the smith had no compunctions about forging them for special jobs, there's plenty of iron there.

Drawing down 7/8" stock would have me plugging in my power hammer immediately, well before putting the stock in the fire in fact. I'm not taking a shot at you, we've all done it it's part of the learning experience. We all have the idea isn't not as much work drawing thick stock down as it really is. 5/8" rd. or 3/4" sq. has plenty of meat for good stout tongs and to let you experience serious drawing down. ;)

Coil spring or 4140 bar stock makes excellent tongs. It's harder to forge because it has a higher carbon content and is just plain harder. However you can start with lighter stock and make your finished tongs thinner and lighter for the same strength. After a few years at the anvil you'll learn how nice lighter tongs are. The extra twang in the reins means a keeper clip holds the work tighter without having to squeeze the handles as hard in the first place.

The down side of using medium or higher carbon steel is managing the heat. You don't want to let them get red hot if avoidable or you need to let them cool slowly, if you quench them in water at red heat you take the chance of making them too brittle to survive work at the anvil or heck a bit might snap in the slack tub.

Here's to you getting to use your tongs soon, I await your after action report. :)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Iron has been a trade good since before the Iron Age officially started; look at the "currency bars" that have been found.  Now there is a few examples of smiths who smelted and forged; generally on remote norse farms and of course at L'Anse Aux Meadows.  Even in the far east the swordsmiths didn't run the bloomeries but purchased their product in Japan.   It is in *modern* times when we have the luxury to spend time on a lot of different things leaving our other tools idle.

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Thank you for the original link, that was an incredible article to read! I absolutely love history and old world/primitive technologies, particularly weapons and tools. Your tongs look fantastic, and i'm very impressed with your determination in drawing them out. I personally prefer learning how to do something the hard way first, and then going with the easy route, but that's just me. Great job and thanks for the post!


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  • 3 weeks later...

Of course these tongs are not based on the Mastermyr ones but on the more recent discovery of a viking era smith's burial out under a guy's patio IIRC.

What is your opinion of the Mastermyr chest though?  I believe that it was not originally intended as a tool chest and just got used for one later.

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You are probably right on that thought Thomas,

A set of metal workers tools from the saxon period were found at Tattershall Thorpe near Lincoln in the remains of several wooden boxes having locks on them. There seems to be a pattern of reusing chests and boxes for other purposes, one of the best I know of is the Saxo-Norman burial ground excavated at York Minster some years ago.

I need to double check my notes but if I remember correctly six or seven chests had been reused as coffins with all the fittings and locks attached, the best bit I found about this site is that one of the reused chests had been too short for the body so they had knocked one end out to make room so I have visions of this chest/coffin being borne through the streets with a pair of feet sticking out of the end......

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

So, just an update on the usability of my viking style tongs.  They work very well for holding flat stock.  The trick is learning the proper technique.  Let me explain what I learned (some of you probably knew all this though)

1. When holding flat stock on edge position the tongs over the top of the metal so it does not rebound up and escape the grip you have on it or come flying at you.

2. Use the tip of the tong as a stop against the anvil. This will allow you to work a certain part of the edge of the bar.

3. Use some tong rings to grip the work piece, sparing your arms from getting so tired.  A proper tong ring makes these tongs into practical vises.  

4. Everyone who uses them in your shop will want a pair...

I'll take some time in the future to post some demo photos.

Make a pair and post some photos.  

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4 hours ago, Matthew D said:


1. When holding flat stock on edge position the tongs over the top of the metal so it does not rebound up and escape the grip you have on it or come flying at you.

Yes, I at least am one who has learned that. The hard way.


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