Gerald Boggs

Proper tools

24 posts in this topic

What is going on?  Something I've noticed for some time, crappy tongs.  I see folks make beautiful stuff but can't be bothered to make a proper set of tongs to do the work.  Don't folks realize how much easier the work would be, how much more they could do, if the tongs fit the task?   This inconsistency between the work and the tools people will use boggles my mind. 

I have never in my career, made a poor tool, I always made tools to the level as my skill allowed.  So while not all my tools would be called "good" , they were the best I could do.

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How are you defining "crappy tongs"? Are we talking aesthetics, or functionality? 

I've got a few old tongs I've purchased or been given and a couple that I made myself. Of the old ones, I probably use the crappiest-looking ones the most. Of the ones I made, I'm chalking their aesthetic flaws up to inexperience, but they work just fine (for the proper sizes and shapes of stock, of course).

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I see this all the time.... and I lay a good bit of the blame at the feet of experienced smiths that always say the newbies should make their own tongs because it's such a great learning experience.

I usually don't even comment on those posts anymore.  I figure if someone can't bother researching on their own, and "expert" smiths are going to counsel making tools when the person can't even make a decent s-hook, well, who am I to get in the middle of that mess?  

Seems to me folks are terrified of offending anyone and will offer kudos and other positive affirmations instead of calling a spade a spade.  I can't count the number of times I've seen someone post a picture of absolute garbage.... and everyone in the audience applauds, cheering them on, telling them how good it is for their level of experience, etc.  Any excuse to not come across as saying something even remotely "impolite".

And that stuff stays on the internet forever.  Other people do research and see that junk is applauded and even expected, and that posting pictures of the mangled mess will get them all kinds of pats on the back.  So, the cycle repeats, building and building.

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Don't know if 37 years of smithing makes me an experienced smith but I NEVER SUGGEST that a new smith make their own tongs. 

Shoot I have made a couple of pairs but as I have bought many a good pair for US$5 or under---including a couple of months ago. I even bought a pair of Ti tongs for $10.   I suggest people work on their basic skills and then move on to things they want to make.

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The past 4 tongs that I have made were all given away, or are about to be given away. The tongs I made before those 4 tongs at the time I thought were great, but then about a week later they looked like something out of a river bottom. They function great, but look pretty bad. The structure on them is terrible and I'm just waiting for them to fail. The 4 that i have made most recently are really nice, and so everyone has better tools than I, event though I made them.:huh:

I too don't recommend tongs as a first project, second project, or 20th project.

                                                                                                               Littleblacksmith

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Interesting you mention it, was in the back of my mind for a while.

Making tools, make a forge, make an anvil (make your own charcoal :( ) are not for the beginner. And may I add it is not a badge of honour to have made your own tools either. I have yet to make one single solitary tool. Plenty of jigs but not tools.

If I need more tools I go and buy half a dozen. And If I had no money I would buy second hand, auctions, garage sale, just like you find old anvils.

I am sure I can make a pair of tongs, I just choose not to because to me it's a waste of time. If someone enjoys making them, all power to him, but don't tell the beginner that he must make his own in order to be a good smith because that is not true.

In my opinion anyway. :)

 

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I've just started...  I made my first anvil from a piece of RxR track and my forge is nothing more than a tire rim on cinder blocks...  I actually think making and using my tools IS a good experience because I am the only person who can say if THAT tool is right for my hand.  Sure buying tools from a yard sale is awesome but making my own to custom fit my grip and style is 100% better to me.  Sure I'll mess up and have 10 pieces of "oh my goodness!" before I'm done but once I find what I need and will use it will be PERFECT for me. 

 

Just a new guy letting his thoughts be known. 

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I dislike making tools that need to be accurate or well fitted, so I normally scavenge what I can. I once got a 2" wide box jaw tong for free because one of the reigns was busted. My tools are janky as xxxx but they work, and if they work they work.

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Making your own tools when you don't even know what makes one a good one vs  what makes one a bad one is rather a waste of time.  Some experience helps out immensely.  Traditionally someone starting out had massive amounts of supervision to help them start down the correct path.  Trying to do it on your own is a failure rich environment.  Why we suggest so strongly that people get in touch with local smiths.

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I would not recommend making tongs to a beginner, but I myself do recommend learning how.  Maybe not in the first 10 things to learn, but it's a good skill to have.  I've probably got 40 tongs, and it never fails I do't have the one I need at some point and have to make one.  A good place to start is the Quick Tongs.  I know the purist will poo poo them, but it's the kind of idea that I wish I'd come up with.  And if it wasn't for the shipping cost I'd have a dozen or so just sitting around waiting for the next time I needed a new set for something.  That said, I figured its faster and easier for me with a treadle hammer and power hammer to make a jig to knock out what I need than to burn them out of plate with the torch.  I do not particularly like making tongs, but I'm too broke to run out and pay 40$ for a set that may or may not fit exactly what I need it for, and to wait for the mail to deliver it.  I'm also not overly concerned about making them pretty.  I do as good a job as I can, but there are some people out there that have elevated it to an art form, I just want them to be comfortable, hold securely, and last a long time.  I do try and make each one better than the last, but I don't get crazy if it's not quite as pretty as some people's tongs.

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All the kudos for mediocre or worthless crap is, if you notice, largely from beginners or the PC award a participation prize for trying folk. 

I've stopped saying it but no tongs aren't a beginner project. However with supervision a person can walk away from their first session with a pair simply by learning and practicing a few of the basic processes. Set a shoulder, draw out longitudinally and laterally, punch, rivet and bend. All basics and no big deal for a first fire. Put them all together successfully on the other hand is more intermediate sets. If you look closely and know what to look for, the most advanced blacksmith work, Samuel Yellin to pick a name off the top, is nothing but the basics stacked in a precise order and manner. Oh sure the basics are done in a masterful manner but they're still just the basics.

It's difficult to tell someone they "invented" something that won't work as well as a thick stick and not discourage them from continuing. I'm not the wordsmith I was before the accident and I tend to react badly, especially when someone without ANY experience argues with answers. 

Another thing to take into account is what kind of personality it takes to get into blacksmithing. You have to have a desire, need maybe to be independent, to be able to do for yourself and yours, recycling scrap and trash is appealing as well. A person has to WANT to play with dangerous things, fire is hot but our of fire is HOT!  It takes commitment in the face of: frustrations, burns, bruises, sweat and blood not to mention hard darned work. 

A LOT of these poor kids don't know how to actually DO anything, they don't even go outside to play, walk to school or . . . Work for their walking around money?! Oh heavens NO! :o I get one session "apprentices" who've never held let alone used a hammer, never driven a nail. Get me a 9/16" deep socket? No, don't order one on Amazon. <sigh>

What we're doing more than teaching a generation blacksmithing is showing them THEY can do for themselves. Tools, projects and results don't care one bit how you FEEL. Failure doesn't make you stupid, bad or anything negative you were just wrong or not good enough to get it right. Of course being wrong can have deeper and more important meaning. Say being wrong about which end of a bar you grab is cool. Yeah, I teach the kids to hesitate a split second before touching steel anything and demonstrate the badness of grabbing lack hot steel. I use a hot dog I don't char the kid's fingers. More than the black charred tubesteak the smell makes the impression. No seeing a puff of flame come off my fingers where I touched the bad thing  doesn't result in a BBQ pork aroma it just smells like burnt meat.

Frosty The Lucky.

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The important thing to keep in mind in this cases is to avoid polarized thinking at all cost.

Have you ever seen that image of a white cup were the black background resembles two people looking at each other? Our brain can only see either the cup or the profile of the two people, however to ask what is it? a cup or two people is the wrong question. The picture is both, and neither of the 3 possible questions is wrong. 

Is it necessary for a beginner to make his own tools in order to get started? I say no, but someone else may have this image in his mind of a blacksmith that starts from scratch in that particular way. Wrong? Not necessarily, just like it is not wrong to buy everything you can buy ... or ... to buy some and make some. 

The important thing is missing here. It is not that you are wrong or right by making your own tools, or it is wrong or right to encourage beginners with perhaps a tad exaggerated congratulations, what is important for the beginner or rather for everyone is to understand how our mind works and make the best of the learning journey that, by the way, never ends. Everyone learns all the time even the accomplished artist do. And, surprise surprise, we all learn in different ways because we are, yes, all different.

Is it right to be like me or is it right to be like you? :) 

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As Kipling wrote: "There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, / And every single one of them is right."

However untrained people trying to make things where they do not have the background to judge if they are doing it right or not tend to drop out due to frustration in my experience.  Frankly I find Sturgeon's Law covers so very much of what people post as videos.  If they are not asking for critique why post a video of them doing a poor job for others to see?  Me I want to see videos of blacksmithing greats to glean ideas and techniques from; not ones where an hour in a beginner's class would have improved their work immensely!

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Yeah, every time I hear someone narrating a video saying, "This is the first time I've tried this", I cringe. Unless it's someone I know to be particularly skilled, of course. 

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On 2/18/2017 at 4:06 AM, ThomasPowers said:

As Kipling wrote: "There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, / And every single one of them is right."

However untrained people trying to make things where they do not have the background to judge if they are doing it right or not tend to drop out due to frustration in my experience.  Frankly I find Sturgeon's Law covers so very much of what people post as videos.  If they are not asking for critique why post a video of them doing a poor job for others to see?  Me I want to see videos of blacksmithing greats to glean ideas and techniques from; not ones where an hour in a beginner's class would have improved their work immensely!

You are talking about you tube. You tube as it's name indicates is for "you" or in other words for people to see themselves. Probably 10% is useful and that confirms the 90% rubbish Sturgeon referred to 

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lol i love watchen the youtube videos good or bad its just regular guys keeping it going so what if there not indentured by a journeyman or properly trained without them things would die out.I say forge on to everyone cause we all got differant skills and abilities never look down on anybody cause in a heartbeat you could be lookin up at the same person.Heres alittle joke whats the differance between god and a blacksmith ...............God dont think he can blaCKsmth but a blacksmith thinks he's like god cause he can blacksmith lol.

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Good to know that all those hundreds of books written over the last several centuries were a total waste of time and "things would die out" without the internet.  (This is particularly an odd view for all of us who got into smithing *before* the internet existed! Blacksmithing has been part of craft revivals for over 100 years now with no YouTube!  ABANA was founded pre-internet) 

 The internet tends to champion  the concept that expertise is not needed and everyone's opinion is just as good as anyone else's. I do not hold with this. I believe it's better to learn from the best than wander in the wilderness.

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Everyone starts out doing relatively poor work. There are VERY few true savants who immediately excel. That's life. But poor workmanship or work practices should NOT be praised. Instead, those doing that work SHOULD be encouraged to continue, learn, and grow.

 

But the attitude that you are totally independent, CAN reinvent the wheel, and refuse to listen to guidance because you prefer to think "outside the box" is ridiculous. Part of learning should always be learning from those who are more skilled. That attitude is allot of what you see on YouTube. "They say you can't make a good knife out of railroad spikes...BUT I CAN!".....yeah...

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Funny, I just learned that a neighbor works on the railroad; he asked me if I could use any springs as he could get them at what they sell them for scrap at.....

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On 2/17/2017 at 11:06 AM, ThomasPowers said:

not ones where an hour in a beginner's class would have improved their work immensely!

I was just looking yesterday for some videos showing someone forging spurs and found a video that is a classic example of that. I didn't watch the whole thing because my head started hurting watching it.  He was beating on a piece of cold steel almost right from the start and didn't go back to the fire anywhere near as often as he should've. After the first couple minutes I moved along with my search.

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On ‎2‎/‎18‎/‎2017 at 7:09 PM, Michael Cochran said:

I was just looking yesterday for some videos showing someone forging spurs and found a video that is a classic example of that. I didn't watch the whole thing because my head started hurting watching it.  He was beating on a piece of cold steel almost right from the start and didn't go back to the fire anywhere near as often as he should've. After the first couple minutes I moved along with my search.

And some of the worst YouTube videos are ones similar to the description above where the person starts the video with something like, "I'm making this video to show people how to do..."

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Unfortunately many people have trouble realizing that the ability to make a video does not equal the ability to do what the video purports is done.  (And vice versa, I have a few DVDs of master level work being done by people who cannot effectively teach others) 

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On 2/18/2017 at 9:53 PM, ThomasPowers said:

Funny, I just learned that a neighbor works on the railroad...

All the live-long day?

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