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I Forge Iron

welding chain links.


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I thought for today's demo I would make a hook like the old ones we have on wool wagons and such. Found a lump of 5/8 round bar and everything went pretty well and I was happy with the hook.  I reckoned it would be good to add a chain to the hook for use over a camp fire or something. Found a suitable old chain in the scrap and cut the end link open with the intention of fire welding it closed. I'm glad I waited till after the visitors left, because it didn't go as planned. (Pic 1)

I flattened the ends slightly and lined them up one above the other. Got it real hot (nearly sparking), fluxed with borax, tapped it together but just didn't take. Maybe not hot enough, but I didn't want to risk fizzling away the loop of the hook.

So, any tips on how to close up a chain link while it's on the eye of the hook?? (Without resorting to the MIG of course). Side blast charcoal forge.

All was not lost anyway - I punched a hole in it and joined it with a rivet. (Pic 2)  Strong enough to swing a billy over the fire.

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I'd suggest not splitting the chain to weld it but make a link out of a material you know you can forge weld to joint the chanin to the hook. You can make it a little larger to make it easier to handle.

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Yes, I didn't consider the possibility of the chain being high carbon steel as opposed to mild. I should have made the link from some 1/4 mild bar. I'll do another hook and try that. Thanks.

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Old school chains were end welded because it makes the chain stronger under load. When loaded, the ends tend to elongate and that gives the chain some give under load. Modern chain is welded on the straight side. The weld is under full tensile loading, no room to give a little. I'm. Always amazed at the size chains they used to forge weld. The welds on those chains are almost impossible to see. Back in the day, they did some impressive work. I can weld up 1/2 in chain but you can see the line we're the weld is.  

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Latticino, thanks for the links. Aspery makes it look so easy.

Petere, we have lots of those old forged chains and hooks at our museum. I keep a few on hand near my forge to show visitors. As you say, the welds on those big hooks and chains are almost invisible. Those old time smiths were awesome.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The bigger the material usually the easier it is to fireweld as it keeps its heat longer, it takes more work to forge the job and longer to take to welding heat and do the scarf but it makes for an more successful fireweld, I'm hopeless at firewelding 1/4 dia rod but I'm fairly successful at welding anything over 3/4 dia. As noted make your weld on the end of the link, they only used to weld on the sides when it got up to about 1 1/2 dia and over.

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I did make a couple more hooks which I was quite pleased with, but another try at welding a link (this time at the top not the side) was unsuccessful. I'm putting chain links in the too hard basket for now, as I don't need the frustration, especially now the tourist season is hotting up and we're getting lots of visitors to the demos. I'll stay with the things I'm confident with.

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