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I Forge Iron

Making Frying Pans

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I've seen the video on making a frying pan centering it on an 8 in diameter press and allowing 1- 1 1/2" hang over on each side. By heating it with a torch a hammering it down to the angle wanted.

I'm looking for an easier way to make them.

The above way would put too much work into it, to make worth selling to re-enactors who already pay way to much for equipment.


The Civil War Blacksmith

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I helped make a skillet with a torch(es) as you describe for a demo. It now lives in my kitchen and cost me a pretty penny :D

I get skillets from my friend Bob at Upper Mississippi Valley Mercantile CO.

He only shows completed skillets on the website. He also sells them without the handle so you can make your own. 9"X2" and you can get them with two holes, three holes, or no holes. Reasonable (to me) price and he gives you a break on ten (IIRC) or more.

Tell him I said howdy and that you heard it here on IFI.

Edited by skunkriv
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I demonstrated making a smaller frying pan at the Great Lakes International Iron Fest a couple of weeks ago. I make my pans for spiders, either round bottom, semi round bottom or flat bottom as well as flat bottom pans.

I had a large cylinder of tool steel cut by a machine shop to act as a big swedge and used it for years. Then someone told me about oxygen cylinder bottoms. They work great and come in different depths and are normally very cheap. At first I had them cut to the same height as my anvil. I now get them cut about 4 inches from the bottom and weld a stud to the inside of one wall, this stud fits in my hardie hole and the big swedge does not take up floor space, fits into a drawer or underneath a bench. I also made a couple of special hammers. One was from a blank that would have been made into a hot or cold set. The intended striking end was easiest grind smooth and rounded, the intended cutting end was square and took a little more work to grind, but not too much. Most commercially made hammers for embossing and planishing I found to radical in shape and not long enough to reach inside. I made another hammer for the really deep pans that looks like a very large (auto) body hammer. Something that is a 2-3 pounds in weight is good for this work so that you are dropping the hammer and not trying to force it into the work, etc, reduces your fatigue.

I like to work with 16 gauge for smaller pans, 6" up to 14" in diameter. If you go bigger, I suggest going to 12 gauge.
I also suggest that you start with 8" diameter of 16 gauge. Depending on the size and my mood, start either in the center and work out, or from the outside and work into the center. You have to go back and forth a couple of times. Do not try to take it all the way to the bottom immediately, it can actually cause a tear. Most of the time I start on the outer edge, going all the way around and spiral into the center, then back out. Stop and take out the wrinkles when they appear. For all pans, I make into a bowl shape, then flatten the bottom by pushing it back into the pan with a light hammer and more rapid blows. You need to flip it over frequently to take out the wrinkles that start to appear in the bottom. . To flatten the sides, (take out the curve or cupping shape,) I do this cold and I frequently use a post vise. Close the jaws and hold the side of the pan to be worked over the closed jaws and flatten out the cup shape.




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Terminology: these are not jigs, nor fixtures. Technically they are oxygen cylinder bottoms being used as swedges. I heat the disks up and pound down into them, trying not to hit the bottom of the swedge very hard. This is something I can probably type 3,000 words to explain. You just have to give it a try and learn from mistakes or come to my shop for a lessons. Also shown are the primary hammers I use for making frying pans, ladle bowls, and wax catcher cups for lighting devices.The large body shop looking hammer is only used for really deep bowls and frying pans. It is very unwieldy to use.
An 8" diameter pan takes me about 30 to 45 minutes to finish, especially if I don't have to cut it. Larger pans take an hour or so. I now buy most of my disks already cut by a local fab shop that has a computer controlled plasma cutter.





Edited by Jymm Hoffman
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Would these skillets have been mass produced by spinning on a lathe back then? I'm sure they would have had that technology.

Understandably not in the field, but if they were issued with their gear, I can't imagine making that many by hand. I really need to get into this market.

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Excellent questions. As this time period is not in my area of expertise, others should have more definitive answers.
I do not know the history of when spinning was used for making frying pans. Most of the antique pans from the late 19th. century and earlier that I have seen, have been very impressive in being very difficult to see any tooling marks, including a few spun pans I have seen. Were the spinning marks worn off from use and cleaning? Maybe. On earlier pans that were made by a local smith and marked, it is very difficult to see any hammer marks. Again could this be from cleaning or were the hammer marks removed by the maker? How late were local smiths still making products such as frying pans? That depends on location and customers' demands. The originals I have personally examined showed excellent craftsmanship, much better than many "reproductions" I have seen. A coppersmith sent me a reprint article in a periodical from the early 18th. century, unfortunately I can't lay my hands on it. In this article, the author states that there were only 2 pan makers left in England and they made pans stacked 3 or 4 at a time. I can't remember any other technique being exposed. I do not know when pans were commonly stamped in presses. My question is were they being stamped in either a drop hammer, or forged while stacked. I have not tried stacking several disks to forge them out. This may also be appropriate by the time of the American Civil War.

Now as to issued equipment, again, this era is not my area of expertise. I would venture to say that frying pans were not issued to every soldier as part of a mess kit. During the 18th. century, British and American soldiers were strongly discouraged (even ordered, ) not to fry their rations, they were to be boiled. On campaign, they were normally issued camp kettles, sheet iron, sometimes tinned, straight sided kettles. There were several standardized sizes. 6 - 8 men were to form a mess, partially depending on the size of the kettles they received, able to hold about 2 - 3 gallons. Cast iron pots were normally only used by the military in permanent locations: i.e.. forts or ships. Some officers were able to get camp kettles with lids that were sometimes used to fry food, but that is not typical/common soldier stuff.

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Spinning of real wrought iron was not the technology of choice! I would believe that helve hammers with dies would be more likely for "factory made" ones.

Another good hammer for hot dishing can be made from a rail road dome headed bolt (NOT a spike, bolt!) I slit them back in the screw threads and drift for a hammer handle. Putting a curve in the bolt shaft helps for deep dishing as it will follow the arc of your swing and hit true.

For shallow dishing you can take a old ballpein hammer and forge the "flat end" into a gentle dome and grind and heat treat for a very nice dishing hammer---Weyger covers this in "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" BTW.

As has been noted the pein end will leave dimples as it's too "sharp".

Now the quick and dirty method is to buy a cheap pressed steel frying pan at the fleamarket for a dollar and rivit legs and a handle on it...

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This design is a fairly easy stamping - which was available at least as early as the 1830's. They probably weren't using progressive dies and coil feeders but they could have easily blanked the circles out of sheet from a rolling mill and finished them under a drop hammer with a male upper and female die. Depending on the draft, you might need a stripper mechanism to remove them - or maybe not...

Not sure about stacking several since that would generate slightly different patterns within the stack of parts. I think it would be pretty fast to do one at a time if it can be done in a single hit.

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