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MaxwellB

T-Stakes for Tongs? Maybe?

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In the past few days I've been tossing garbage out of my garage to make room for a little workshop. In the corner I found a bucket with some odds and ends, like some conduit pipe and broom handles, things like that. One pair of items caught my eye. They were t-stakes (like this, but not exact, but similar enough to get my point across of what they are.

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Many many moons ago we used to have a garden, and we had a chicken wire fence to keep bigger critters out. We used the stakes in the garden, probably close to 30 or so. I know for a fact I have more that are in the dilapidated shed in my yard. These are well over 20 years old, probably pushing 30. The questions I have are as follows:

- Some of the reading I've done have some of these made with galvanized steel and then powder coated. Is there a way to identify if these happen to fall under that category without sticking one in my forge and waiting for white smoke after the paint burns off?

- Would something like this make a passable set of beginner tongs if it's safe to work with? I ask because they've got a channel in them already, so making a pair of bolt tongs wouldn't require more than bending the steel between jaw and boss, flattening for the boss and reins, and punching for the rivet. I think. Unless I'm in the wrong frame of mind. These could then be used to make "real" tongs, as I'm pretty sure they're not going to be too comfortable for extended use due to the nature of the bend, and trying to fold it onto itself isn't going to be a key to longevity.

I'm probably WAY out in left field with this line of thinking, but I just saw those two stakes and the idea hit me. I wanted to get the valuable input of those who might have tried this before.

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Those are fence posts, called "Drive or T posts." Sure a lot of work forging the various features down though. They're forged in a long continuous piece through rolling mill and cut to length. It's like watching a steel mill make structural shapes like angle or channel iron, like orange hot spaghetti shooting out of the rolls at 100 mph. 

They're decent steel and strong enough to stop cattle, horses, etc. Might work, give it a shot and let us know.

Frosty The Lucky.

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One source I read (don't remember where) said that a lot of T-posts are made from recycled railroad rail. Now to find out what that is...

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If they are fairly new, they are junk, have had cows rub up against them and they snap in two.  Have pulled out old old ones from the mountains that where made of good steel and are stuff as nails.

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They're definitely not new. But they aren't real thick. I stuck one in my forge, brought it up to orange, and was surprised at how easily I was able to flatten it. It moved EXTREMELY easily under a 2lb hammer wielded by a guy who knows squat about smithing. I would probably guesstimate that it's 1/8" thick, tops. 

My next off day I'll tinker with them some more and report back on any successes or failures.

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If you want to make them into tongs, try folding them over width-wise and making a set of my bedrail tongs. 

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JHCC, that's really really close to what I was planning on doing. The channel in the stake is the reason I thought I could make a quick and dirty pair of bolt tongs out of one of them. The channel for the jaws is already there.

I'll definitely give it a go. Like I said, I'm pretty sure I've got a ton of them in the shed, so if I screw it up three or four times I won't be mad that I pooched material I paid for. 

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7 hours ago, Reeltree said:

If they are fairly new, they are junk, have had cows rub up against them and they snap in two.  Have pulled out old old ones from the mountains that where made of good steel and are stuff as nails.

I'll second this...there is a big difference between new, 20 years old, and 50+ years old on these.  Variations in size also come into play.  Size for size, those old ones tend to be a LOT stiffer implying much better material.  That being said, all you can do is give it a shot.  If it works, great:  If it fails, you learned something useful about T posts and can move on to using them for more appropriate projects.  

Because of the non-useful (as in annoying) initial shape, my general vote is to scrap the surplus and bent ones and use the $ to either trade for or buy more appropriate material.  T posts are great for fencing and mediocre at best for most smithing projects.  How much fuel cost and time will you be wasting trying to get them into a usable shape in the first place?  I know smiths often feel like salvage metals are "cheap" but sometimes they are a huge loser when you add in time and fuel.

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I have found that there are basically two types of T-posts one finds these days. One, the cheaply made, tend to be made from a thick sheet metal, folded and stamped to shape, and light weight. The other is a heavier, solid steel post apparently either forged or extruded.  Some of the so-called "new" posts are just as heavy and serviceable as the "old" ones.  I only use the heavier, solid steel ones.

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I went out and looked in our t-post pile after reading this post. The cross section of the newer ones have thinner arms with boulbus ends while the arms of the older ones of the same size are thicker but straight. Like the drawing.1313533199_Screenshot_20190318-1736092.thumb.png.f853a474d42c316b6650b9f5c440a150.png

The older ones are definitely heavier and stiffer. But I think it's just the extra material instead being made of "better" material.

I have seen both old and new ones snap. I think it was based more on where the force was applied, usually pushed on by the cow near the ground, instead of near the top of the post. I've also seen trees that fell right on top of some and though they didn't break, they were so bent they weren't salvageable.

Maxwell, I had the same thought as you about using a t-post for tongs when I didn't have any. While I was working on building my skills to make them I got a set of wolfjaws as a gift, so I never got around to trying. When I took a tong making class where we used stock closer to the final product, I realized the amount of work it takes to get a halfway functional pair, so I agree with the others saying that it'd be more work than it's worth to use a t-post.

If your a scrap artist I have seen some pretty cool uses for them. Spinal columns for skeletons or dragons, twisted with round or square stock in the grooves for table legs, or Luna moths with the T arms peened into wings and the "tooth" on the t-post cut into antenna

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Save your bent-up T-posts.  They are fixable.  A friend brought over some T-posts that had been bent over when a dozer ran over them.  Put them in the forge, heated and straightened them out.  Good as new....

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My go to unbending fork is a tree with a crotch in it, if it's a stubborn bend I slip a pipe over the post to get more leverage. I've straightened hundreds this way cold, and there is usually a tree like this within walking distance of the fence line

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I slip the pipe over the post while it's still in the ground. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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