Allen Corneau

Tooling direction... need advice.

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Howdy folks,

My partner in crime and I are slowly getting our tooling made (chisels, punches, fullers, tongs, etc). We both are working on all kinds of beginner projects like bottle openers, hook racks, etc. but I'm finding myself drawn to more complex projects. I already dove in the deep end and made a brazier (medieval fire basket) with some old rusted steel that I got my hands on for free (picture below). I'd really love to learn how to do mortise and tenon work and other multi-part/riveted/collared pieces as well.

There are tools I'm starting to look at to help me head in this direction; swage blocks, simple spring tools, adjustable swing-arm tools, bottom/top tools (hardy/handled), guillotine tools, and on and on.

So here is my quandary... Which version of tools should I focus on making or buying? If I'm going to eventually end up with a certain tool system because it's just the best tool for the job, I'd rather start heading there now instead of accumulating a bunch of tools that will eventually just sit unused in the corner of the shop.

I know it's a rather vague question, but I'm looking for advise on what tools you may have started with and eventually abandoned for your "I should have gotten this right from the beginning" tools.

 

Oh, and as promised, a couple of shots of the brazier I made last month...

 

IMG_0006.thumb.jpg.d9c8620c84e6326ded7f09f366567ce6.jpgIMG_0043.thumb.jpg.804c270bd7365871f68018f85d69f4b7.jpg

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Good Morning, Allen

Welcome to our world. You will need the Tools that will do the job that you are trying to achieve. There is no, I have to have this do-dad or that thing-a-ma-jig. Make your own Tools as you see fit, when you see a need to do something. The problem is, You will never have all the Tools!!!  Start simple, think simple, work simple!! Use what material you can pick-up, from the scrap pile, someone else's scrap pile, a business' scrap pile or from your local Steel supplier. You will have lots of time to learn about what Steel does what job. Get a copy of 'the Blacksmithing Primer' or something similar. Follow the suggestions. Find a local Blacksmith group in your part of the world and join in. The mind only functions when it is OPEN!!

Merry (almost),

Neil

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5 hours ago, Allen Corneau said:

Which version of tools should I focus on making or buying?

 You will never have enough tools and tooling. Learn how to use what you have. Make the tools you need as you need them. The practice will worth the effort, and do not be afraid to modify them or even make another one that will work better. 

A good place to start is making tongs that actually fit the size and shape of the metal you want to hold. 

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You're always going to have to make tools and jigs to suit one off jobs, there's no way around that unless you only make a certain range of items.

Although it's a slightly different answer to what you may have been hoping to hear and is possibly a little way down the road for you yet...fly presses are very versatile tools. You can in theory use them for riveting, making collars, punching, forging tenons...

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What we all want to do is have it all, now. Barring buying a winning lottery ticket or inheriting a fortune, that's not going to happen.

A barn full of tools does not make you a master craftsman, anymore than owning a katana makes you a Samurai. We are all born with hands and feet, but it takes tears of training to become a Black Belt.

What you need to do is acquire skills, basic and advanced. Fancy jigs and power tools just help you make more mistakes faster if you don't know what you are doing wrong.

Take classes. Join a group. Go to hammer-ins.Texas is full of those things. Save your pennies and go to national conferences.

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Although I suspect my smithing skills pale in comparison to many of those who have responded, there is a philosophy regarding your question that I can speak to.  I see often where passion for doing something is satisfied by accumulating the hard, physical objects associated with the pursuit.  Big box sporting goods stores have made fortunes from people who spend a couple precious days each year hunting and fishing.  Build it and they will come is a phrase that sort of fits here.  My suggested philosophy is to focus energy on the heart of what you want to do and not the peripheral things.  The great joy of blacksmithing is you can do that while building a tool collection. The great dilemma though is finding the time to do it. While we have dreams to build cool stuff for others to use and admire, doing a quality job takes lots of time to master all the techniques.  We can master them by making tools, seeing what works, how it works and how to apply that knowledge to the next conundrum.  If we can be satisfied most of the time with little successes by making quality tools, the time spent making the really rewarding projects will become increasingly more productive and better spent.  My scrap pile is full of things I didnt have the skills yet to build.  Otherwise I dont have much to add to the wisdom shared above. 

I like your brazier by the way. Never heard of that before.  I appreciate your effort to get all the curved pieces to match, particularly the rolled ends at the top.  

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I really like that brazier. I had never heard of one until your post, now I have to make one. Thank you!!!

As to your question, I think you could benefit from Mark Aspery’s third book on traditional joinery. He shows many tools and techniques, so it may help you to narrow your focus on what tools you may want to make in the near future.

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3 hours ago, CWest said:

... I think you could benefit from Mark Aspery’s third book on traditional joinery. 

Thanks, I've got that exact book sitting in my Amazon shopping cart, just haven't pulled the trigger on buying it yet.

I guess I should be a little more specific on the things I'm talking about. If you needed to make a tenon and could use any tool you wanted, would you use a swage block, hardy-mounted bottom swage tool and handled top tool, a spring swage tool, a guillotine tool, or something else? I've read many statements on the guillotine tool threads here saying that now they have one they couldn't live without it. So should I take their advice and just head towards the guillotine tool, bypassing the others?

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Your tools and tooling and my tools and tooling will differ greatly. Both will differ depending on the project.

Depending on the style and shape of the tenon your making, and how many, dictates the type tooling. I would suggest the simplest tool first and see if you can get it to work for you. Make tool number two and use it. Then make tool number three and use it. Most likely you will like one over the other so use it.  Making the tools is part of the fun. Learning what each tool does well is for future reference.

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Working by myself, I would use a hammer, anvil, butcher tool in the hardy hole, and a monkey tool to shape the tenon.

But there are probably half a dozen other ways to do it, depending on how complete your shop is, and what your time is worth.

Are you primarily interested in making money thru production, and blacksmithing is simply a means to an end? Or are you interested in the art and science of blacksmithing, and making stuff and having to sell it to support your hobby is a necessary evil? Somewhere in between?

The fastest way to make money from metal is to buy a CNC plasma table, a cheap MIG welder to use as a metal glue gun, and buy items from an architectural catalog to bodge together to sell at flea markets and the like. Soulless, lifeless, and I see hacks selling $10K worth on a Saturday. 

The fastest way to go broke is to buy every tool offered on the market, hoping this next one has the the magic inside to make you an artist.

Or, you could learn the basics, and work your way up thru the skill levels a little at a time. The traditional way, making a hundred of everything util you get it down pat, then moving forward. Then you would know if a tool or jig would help you make a better product, and why.

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On 12/22/2018 at 6:46 PM, Allen Corneau said:

If you needed to make a tenon and could use any tool you wanted

I use 3 tools to make tenons.

1: a hot cut. This has one vertical side, and one beveled side. This starts my right angle between tenon and parent stock, and separates the mass for the tenon from the parent stock.

2: I use a multi holed spring fuller to forge down the tenon mass to the proper diameter and length.

3: I use a monkey tool to set the right angle and shoulder of the tenon. The face of my monkey tool is slightly concave.

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On 12/23/2018 at 1:46 AM, Allen Corneau said:

If you needed to make a tenon and could use any tool you wanted, would you use a swage block, hardy-mounted bottom swage tool and handled top tool, a spring swage tool, a guillotine tool, or something else?

A guillotine tool because it's the most versatile. By changing the dies you could butcher the shoulders with 1 set, draw the tenon out on another set, (or at the anvil), then round up the tenon on a final set. You'd still need a monkey tool though to dress the shoulders back, though. If your dies were wide enough & you had a specific size of tenon you were repeatedly making you could just use 1 set of dies for butchering the shoulders & rounding up the tenon by fabricating the dies to do both jobs. You'd need to draw the tenon out at the anvil though.IMG_20181224_054149.thumb.jpg.2382cb4ea2af0b6b473a005710558e3b.jpg

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