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Ranchmanben

You guessed it, another tong material question!

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I’m trying to figure out what material would be best for farrier style tongs. Ideally I want the springy durability of 5160 and the forgiveness of 1018 when it comes to cooling the tongs off while they’re too hot. I know I can’t get both so I’m hoping someone knows of a happy medium.

Thanks, 

Ben

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Learn to keep your tongs cool. There's no rule against having duplicate tongs in your kit, when one set gets hot throw it on the ground and use the other. Chill them off before they get close to critical and they won't get brittle. Lots of ways.

4140 is less heat sensitive than 5160 as it's lower carbon. I like 5160 but I have a decent pile of coil spring and potato chain bars running about 1045 - 1050.

Frosty The Lucky.

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What's wrong with plain old mild steel for tongs?  Am I missing something or are people really hard on their tongs?

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Beter materials make for lighter tongs for the same strength. An 1018 tong is more likely to bend than a 6040 or 4060 tong, so you can forge a lighter tong, not an issue if you are hanging the tong from a gimble so as to handle that 6" bar, but an issue handworking 1". Around these parts suck error is a good choice.  

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Thanks for the replies. This question is more from a selling stand point. So for the tongs I’ve sold are to people I know and have a pretty good idea about how they use their tongs. The ones who get them too hot before cooling off are getting 1018 and those who don’t are getting tongs made from sucker rod. I personally like the springiness of the sucker rod tongs but am leaning towards just using 1018 so everything is the same. 

 

Thomas, where’d you round up the commercially made titanium tongs?

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As long as they don't get them hot enugh to glow, sucker is fine. I quench mine all the time, as a shoe coming out of the gasser is all orange, it didn't take but a choke if heats befor the reigns if the tongs get warm. Not as much an isue with the solid fuel forges as the heat is localized to either branch of the toe. 

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Charles, I guess I might need to do some more experimenting with what sucker rod will handle. I’m nervous about selling something that will break with misuse, even knowing I can’t control that. Like everyone else, I want to put out the best product I can.

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Quad-State; fellow had a pile of grungy old tongs with "$10 choice" as that was above my buy price I was walking past and suddenly stopped and said I'll buy that pair for $10. I recognized the colour... Short reined just like I like them!  

Another Quad-State someone had a big ammo crate of stuff with $5 choice on it; I dug down to the bottom and found a bunch of Lynch Collection hammer heads; I actually told the person these were misplaced; but he said no---so I bought 11 of them.  

Seems like every time I go I find something that makes me happy to turn loose of some dollars...  One year I bout a 6.5" post vise and a 3.5" postvise for $75 (total!)

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2 hours ago, Ranchmanben said:

Charles, I guess I might need to do some more experimenting with what sucker rod will handle. I’m nervous about selling something that will break with misuse, even knowing I can’t control that. Like everyone else, I want to put out the best product I can.

Just use 1045. They can quench them when hot and most likely nothing will happen. Some known tool makers use 1045 for their tongs with great results. Tough, yet forgiving. And doesn't mind the water quench. Do some testing and see what works best for you

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7 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Another Quad-State someone had a big ammo crate of stuff with $5 choice on it; I dug down to the bottom and found a bunch of Lynch Collection hammer heads; I actually told the person these were misplaced; but he said no---so I bought 11 of them.

I have heard you mention this story often, but after googeling them and looking on ebay, I have come up with no results on what a hammer like this looks like or why they are special. could you point me in the right direction to find information on them or a picture.

                                                                                                                                            Littleblacksmith 

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Picture requires me being in my shop up north; I'll try next time I'm there.  I have a few of them down here as they tend to be my favorite hammers.

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On 12/5/2017 at 3:36 PM, Hotshoein4 (Mark) said:

Just use 1045. They can quench them when hot and most likely nothing will happen. Some known tool makers use 1045 for their tongs with great results. Tough, yet forgiving. And doesn't mind the water quench. Do some testing and see what works best for you

Mark, 1045 sounds like what what I’m after. I’ll have to see if I can locate a piece to play with. I hadn’t thought about that steel for tongs, only hammers. 

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I really like 4140 it will get brittle if water cooled when to hot. I think Grant made his from a steel that would need care not to harden I have talked to 2 names you would know who were making farrier tongs who both changed from good steel to mild steel as their customers were careless, the new comers will be your problem customers, and it is human nature to blame someone else, we have been doing it since Adam and Eve. If I were making tongs for a regular market I would send a card with  them warning the customer and I would make them from nice steel. the tongs you made that I looked at here look very nice, I hope you do well in this. I guess that I should say I think the reason the 2 guys went to mild steel is you do get a bad wrap when you get blamed for the careless and the mild will cost less to use.

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Thanks Mangler. I’m working on going the direction of the farriers tongs. You’ve basically outlined the problem. Use better steel and risk breakage through misuse or use mild steel and produce a tong that might bend or prematurely wear out. I’ve gotten to be friends with the owner of an online shoeing supply store and it would probably be in my best interest to get his opinion on materials. 

 

Mark, For most people, if you remember not to get your tongs too hot or let the naturally cool down, this won’t be a problem. Like MetalMangler said, it’s human nature to blame someone else. If someone quenches a set of tongs I made when they’re too hot and then the jaws snap off when they go to grab something, likely they’ll blame the tongs and the maker before owning up to their mistake. I’d rather not have to deal with telling someone this is their fault and here’s how I can tell. It’s going to happen but I’m going to do what I can to avoid it. 

 

Right now it’s between 1045, if it can be sourced at a reasonable cost, and mild steel. 

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I've made lots of farrier's tongs for sale. I used A36 which is sometimes named "mild steel." None of the tongs were returned, and the reins all had spring. Some had forge welded reins, some didn't. A more respectable steel should be selected if making large industrial tongs, for example 4140 or 1080, and with no forge welded reins. A tenet in blacksmithing is to NOT let your tong jaws get an incandescent heat. The only exception I can think of is to heat the tong jaws if they are to grab tool steel to be quenched, thereby not withdrawing any heat from the tool steel.

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10 hours ago, Frank Turley said:

The only exception I can think of is to heat the tong jaws if they are to grab tool steel to be quenched, thereby not withdrawing any heat from the tool steel.

I've heard of tempering tongs, but "quenching tongs" (even as an unintended or unwanted effect) are new to me. Thanks, Frank.

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If you were working one of the alloys that air quench I can see that being an issue---cold tongs would be way too fast a quenchant!

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I've always kept my tongs out of the quench water figuring it would harden them and make them brittle.  Perhaps the K.I.S.S. principle comes to play with tongs.  The old smiths didn't have all that much steel to contemplate what to use to make their tongs I'm guessing, so they must have used whatever they had on hand.  Most of my old pairs I've bought look like medium carbon steel.

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I’m with Frank on this but didn’t chime in because my experience base is less personal and more theoretical.  A36, by spec, has between 20 and 40 points of carbon.  Having spark tested a lot of it I find that it tends to be toward the higher end.  I have compared it to 1018 and it hasn’t even been close most of the time.  Still, it won’t harden appreciably.  Heck, it is spec’d for structural properties that are just as desireable in tongs.  Maybe I just like it because I can get it in any shape I desire for a decent price!

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On 12/7/2017 at 5:42 AM, Hotshoein4 (Mark) said:

Why would you want to make tongs out of a material that's known to get brittle when cooling in water? 

It takes quite a bit of abuse to make 4140 brittle, it only has 40 pts. carbon but it is a chrome molly so if you try you can do it. 

Even a beginner who makes a habit of quenching glowing tools in water should either learn better or get used to it. The few pair of tongs I've made are coil spring except the pair Metalmangler walked me thorough which may be 4140. I've only had ONE pair ever break and I kept adjusting them cold. They're hanging on my tong rack so I don't forget to leave my stupid in the recliner.

Frosty The Lucky.

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