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Tong Selection Advice


gmbobnick

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Still early in the learning process.  I have been working with various round and square stock between ¼ and ¾ inches…and some 1” x ¼ or x3/8 bar.  So far I have just worked with the end of the parent stock at 2’ to 5’ long and cut it off when ready.  However, for various reasons…not the least of which is safety with handling long red-hot pokers …I really need a good selection of tongs to work with smaller pieces.  I am not ready to invest my precious few hours at the forge struggling with making tongs, so I plan to buy what I need.  I suspect there may be some overlap on sizes, and various levels of utility.  I am thinking of buying the following:

 

V-Bolt tongs:  3/8, ½, 5/8, ¾

Wolf Jaw (smaller size)

Box Jaw: 1"x1/4”

 

Is this overboard?  Is there something I am missing in my choices?  Advice on what should be in a good basic set of tongs?

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People vary in opinions here but my take is that your plan is the way to go.  Although it empties one's wallet a bit, It's better to buy a starter tong set and use those to learn rather than to battle with making your own before you are anywhere near ready.  It's not like tongs wear out every two months or become worthless after a few uses--that initial cost isn't a loss at all, it just puts your cash in the "bank of FE" for a while.

Quick & Dirty has a nice starter set for 200 bucks.  Their stuff is excellent quality.  It varies a bit from your list but not hugely.  You can't really go wrong with your starter list and can always add if you find the list needs tweaking to suit your needs.  Were I to "change" their starter set, it'd be to add the box tongs you mentioned.

The time to make your own tongs is when you've learned enough to have an educated opinion about what features actually work best for your needs.

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I would make things like shelf brackets, some tools such as special punches, bolt headers, marking tools and drifts, scrolls for furniture ornamentation/bracing, cabinet handles, hinges, hasps, drawer-pulls, various small scale art-work projects, hooks, and knives.  Not a comprehensive list, but should provide the flavor.

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It's not a bad spread of tongs but you're missing a couple really useful ones. Flats and side bits are good general use tongs.

Check out Centaur or one of the other suppliers and see what they offer for a beginner set. I feel they have a good handle on what a person is going to use most when starting out.

Regardless I try to start folk off using stock long enough they don't need tongs, 2' - 3' is usually more than enough, 5' is a little much unless it's a long project. Your grip on the stock is never as good as it is in your hands, everything you put between you and the work costs you sensitivity and control.

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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6 hours ago, Frosty said:

Your grip on the stock is never as good as it is in your hands, everything you put between you and the work costs you sensitivity and control.

While I agree with almost everything Frosty said in his last comment, I do take issue with this one detail. While it is generally true, those of us with big hands can sometimes find a well-fitting pair of tongs better for holding small or thin pieces.

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I think your list pretty well covers most of what you could use. I would suggest you pass on the 5/8" size, since the 1/2" or 3/4" will probably hold any 5/8" stock. Use that money for another type of tong to fill out your wish list.

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Y'all

Thanks for the input and suggestions.  I never see tongs at auctions, craigslist, pawn shops etc. in my area...so not much opportunity for low cost experimentation.   However I am already way ahead in the expense column thus far, so there is definitely room to get some good tools.

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On the v bit tongs it may not be a bad idea to just with 1/2 and 3/4, or 3/8 and 5/8 ....saves you some money and you can always get a good grip on stock with slightly undersized tongs, or just toss the tongs in the fire and adjust them slightly for the perfect fit

 

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  • 1 month later...

Learning to make tongs has value. You gain the experience and skill of hammer control. Then as you grow in your ability you make and acquire more tongs to fit the projects you are working on.  With each set you will see improvement.  Before you know it you will have a bunch of tongs and you will make new ones to replace your first ones.Then there is the money you save by making them your self.

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Gmb,

You may want to consider the blanks sold by kens custom iron. Those blanks are a good start for a beginner to smith them into the size and shape that you may want. It beats hammering out a pair of tongs from scratch. The smithing of the blanks requires some basic smith procedures and hammer control. Which is a good place to start. A little time after that you should be able to make a pair of tongs from bar or rounds, and do a decent job of it.

Cheers,

SLAG.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Likely the OP has already done what ever he was going to do, I would change his list to either flat jaw or farrier tongs for the 1/4 x 1 as the 1/4 tongs would work well on all 1/4 thick stock and often I grab stock from the side. If you know you will be on the end most of the time then the box jaws are better just a thought.

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9 hours ago, metalmangeler said:

Likely the OP has already done what ever he was going to do

Took me a minute to spell out “OP” and conclude that I was not to be offended.  Thanks for your input!

 

I bought 3/8 and 5/8 v-bolt, 1x5/16 box, small wolf jaw and scrolling tongs. 

 

I have been using the box jaw some and see their limitations but also their benefits.  Because I find 1” (by about ¼ or 3/8) stock so versatile and useful for many simple beginning projects, I still think they make a good addition to the set, particularly when working with pieces that are really short and need good control for touch-up, decorative marking etc.  However, I do believe the flat jaw could frequently replace them.  I am slowly working on making a set of flats for comparison.

 

Of the v-bolts, the 5/8 seems more useful to me than 3/8.  It handles ½ round ok, which I use a lot as well, and as was mentioned are ideal for RR spikes.  I use these the most of all the tongs I bought so far.

 

The wolf jaws seem like they should be more useful, but I am using them mainly for pickup tongs.  I find that I do need pickup tongs, so still no regrets.

 

I have not used the scrolling tongs yet, just because of the projects I have been doing lately.  But I had a set of long nose pliers I rounded for that purpose previously and they were too weak.  I think these will do much better when I get back into scrolls.

 

In summary, if you are just starting out I would say try and limit your material to 3/8 thick or less rectangular bars, and round or square less than 5/8.  These are cheap to buy as new mild steel, and common as scrap.  These are small enough so inefficient hammering isn’t punished too bad, and you can learn an awful lot with that material.  Then with ½ or 5/8 v-bolt and either 1/4 flat or box jaw, plus a set of pickup tongs you will get well down the road of learning a good long ways before feeling the need to add tongs.

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  • 5 months later...

May I interject- off topic of tongs a bit, that I recently had to do a 4 sided double taper on 1" square bar, recreating a hold-down hardie. I found that the size and mass was so tiring to hold any way but to rest it flat on the anvil. Hearing and feeling it clunk flat on the anvil was excellent training for me to keep it flat. The mass of the bar also shielded my arm from the shock of a miss, much more than it does on thinner stock.

That brings me back to the tongs discussion. On other threads, guys talk about lighter tongs being better later on. I think this is absolutely true, after a smith develops good accuracy and control with both hammer and tongs. 

A friend let me use some really heavy hammer eye tongs, and I had a total newbie want to forge a viking bearded axe. We grabbed a discarded head of a ball pein hammer and went to work. It was then I learned the same thing I discovered with the 1" bar. Heavy tongs don't jump as much when you miss.  They don't shock the hand as much. They also don't jump open as easily as smaller, lighter tongs. 

 

maybe I should have started my own thread  for this observation but thanks for letting me share anyway.

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