SilentForge

Function of swage blocks

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I was just wondering about the importance of a swage block in a blacksmiths shop, I have been doing fine without one and I know some guys who have them but the hardly use them. What do y'all use them for?

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Depends on the block.  I have a small Salt fork block that I sometimes use for dishing stuff like flux spoons and rounding reins.  I have a slightly larger one that works nicely as a bolster plate for punching axe and hammer eyes.

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Good Morning in the Netherlands,

A Swage Block can be any size and shape, you can make a swage block from anything that is large enough to take a form. They have multiple shapes that you can use to form a specific shape when you are in need of a helper. There is no such thing as a "BEST" Swage Block. The best Swage Block is the one that helps you forming a shape or punching a hole or forming a dish/bowl/spoon. You will not use a Swage Block very much in General Forging, unless you need it and then it is Priceless!!!

The proper answer is 'absolutely, definite, positive, Maybe' Maybe it will help, maybe you won't need it!!

Neil

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I was given a swage block by the heavy duty shop to save it from the scrap bin. I was the only blacksmith they knew of so they asked if I wanted it. NO they didn't want to turn loose of the 250 lb Fisher anvil, everybody knew what an anvil is. Nobody used it or knew how but it'll be there till . . . ?

Anyway, I rarely use my swage block but it's hard to top when I do need it. It's GREAT for punching and drifting through. Setting shoulders on bottom tools don't risk it like the tail of an anvil. The hex swages work a treat for setting the edge angle of a Brazeal style punch or slitter. The half round swages are good for tenons and the round through holes could serve as a monkey tool to set the shoulders on said tenons.

Just it's weight makes it very stable on a simple timber stand without hold downs. Below is the best pic I could find of the swage block on its stand. Sorry about the leg vise in the pic. The swage block can be moved from flat on the top to on edge on the step with a pinch bar. insert it into a hole near the far edge of the block and pry it over till it stands on the step. To turn it slip the bar through a hole on the side you want to bring up and lift the block it'll pivot on the bar. It's a LOT easier to move around and position than it sounds. Honest.;)

I don't use it often but when I do it works very well. I doubt I'd spend the money one like mine would cost though.  

Frosty The Lucky.

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I used to wonder what they are for but over the years I have found mine quite usefull.

Mine has a dish in it and I have in the past made 1000"s of candle sconses, I use the V and large half round swages for sorge welding sword tips into . and closing bird mouth welsa. The other half rounds are great for supporting round stock that needs forge welding or cleaning up. I have modified the edges of some of the half round swages to use for turning the swaged handles of little blacksmiths knives I make. I have mine mounted high it makes it much easier to work.

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thanks for all the answers! I've got a better idea of the use for swage blocks. How much would you give for one if one came by?

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I don't know what I'd give for one now. I can work around everything I use my swage block for. I have no idea what a 200 lb. Lancaster pattern swage block is worth on the market.

Less than I'd take for it though I'm sure. Maybe when I decide to stay in bed till I die or maybe make Deb an offer at the estate sale.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Good Morning,

I wouldn't go looking for a specific Swage Block. I have many and I use them rarely. If one comes along for a price you think you can handle, go for it. If you need a swage block for doing something special, you can make one using a small block of scrap. Larger Fabrication Shops and Steel Suppliers will have 'Drops' or 'Off Cuts' that you can purchase quite cheap, grind it smooth and make the shape you need. You could hold it  on top of your Anvil or in your Vice. If you drill and tap a thread, you can bolt a leg on that will go into your Hardy Hole. If you weld a tab onto the side, the tab will stop the swage from moving down when in your Vice and you Hammer on it.

just a thought,

Neil

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In the end i'm still a blacksmith so why don't forge them?:P I won't be looking for a swage block as obsessed as for anvils now, I'll just look what I would want to give for one if I ever come across one. I really like IFI, it helps me a lot with a lot of questions so thanks for responding!

Damian Stil

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Nothing wrong with forging bottom tools as you need them, 1/2 round swages are easy, you can either drive a piece of round bar into a HOT steel block or cut a piece of heavy wall pipe in half lengthways and brace it underneath. For swages 1" and smaller I just drill between to blocks of steel and have two swages. Put them on a spring aligned and you have a spring swage, perfect for truing up tenons or to be threaded.

If you need a 90* V block weld two pieces of thick angle iron flange down (upside down V) touching side by side. If you want a 60* V weld two nuts or hex couplers side by side touching. If you NEED a hex swage drive a hex nut or piece of hex bar into a HOT block of steel. 

There is no shape on my swage block I couldn't make myself but I have it. If you notice in the pic I posted I'll use a bottom half round swage in a square hole in the block. Why? I needed a helper to hold a long bar while I hit it with a top tool and hammer. Behind the bottom swage you'll see the hold fast I made to work in the swage block. 

Blacksmiths MAKE tools if they don't have one they need. 

 

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there is no short on swages on my anvil, the upsetting block forms a nice 90*, the stepped horn forms a nice swage to and the feet form big round swages. the 60* is a handy tip that I will use definitely. I don't have a welder yet any suggestions on a relatively good somewhat cheap welder?

Damian Stil

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Not in your part of the world Damian, I don't know what welders are available nor their relative merits, sorry.  A 60* swage is as easy as driving a nut or bolt head into a block of HOT steel.

Here's another one for you. Blunt. grind a curve and gently round the edge of a chisel. A rounded edge like an axe makes chiseling or chasing straight lines much easier than a flat edge. Anyway this is the model I use for veining chisels to chase veins into forged leaves. Yes? Easy peasy.

Now chase leaf veins into a block of HT steel. Make them branch off a central vein but don't worry about an outline and it's a good idea to chase a deeper area to represent the stem. 

Now when you forge a leaf, rather than chasing veins lay it in your leaf die and drive it down. It takes practice, the piece will want to jump out of the vein marks but you can feel when it drops back in. 

Now you have a leaf with positive veins like the naturals. If you brush a leaf like this with a brass brush the veins will REALLY stand out. "Pop" Why yes I speak art or can fake it if I have to. 

Oh weld it to a shank for a bottom tool if you wish so it can be right there on your anvil when you make leaves.

Hmmmm?

Frosty The Lucky.

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Mostly I use my Saltfork swage block in my garage when beating copper bracelets and leaf key rings, but occasionally I carry it out to the forge. The only part I haven’t really found a use for is the shovel form. 

As for a large one like Frosty’s, I’ve never seen one for sale outside of eBay, and there they are very spendy. Really large ones are listed for over $5K. I assume this is because as Frosty said, people didn’t really new what they were. I expect more than a few were sold as scrap. I expect a number were melted during WWII.

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Or worse!  At a VoTech on the east side of OKC they had a cast iron swage block stand with the original swage block in it laying flat; they had torched out the center of the block to make it easier to move as they were using the combo as an anvil stand.

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I suppose it was theirs to abuse as they saw fit, yet still a stupid thing to do. Especially for people who should have known better.  

Other than a hot cut and a simple spring swage (which hasn’t turned out to be as useful as I expected it might), I haven’t made any Hardy tools. Primary reason is I haven’t yet worked out how to hold something thicker than an inch while shaping it, and I am worried about breaking the heel off will doing so. My anvil is small, about 97 lbs, but being a Mousehole, the heel is pretty sturdy. Still it isn’t something I want to risk. I have quite a bit of drill pipe and will probably use some of that and other scrap I have to make what you guys call a “portable hole”.

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I do most of my hardy stem forging using the face of my anvil and then my screw press to true it up with parallel opposing sides, (Often more parallel than the hardy hole in earlier anvils...)   Others arc weld the stem on. Don't let some method prevent you from making things that other methods will work as well or better!

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I wouldnt go looking for one. Like has been said, One will come your way at a right price. 

When one adopted me I learned right quick that it was great for making hardy tools. It always freaked me out upsetting and setting the shoulder using the hardy hole on my anvil. It is unsupported and I feared breaking off the heal whilst using a 6# hammer.

Since then, Ive found many uses for it. The latest is forgewelding a leaf and tendril combo. One done in a vee groove and another done in the half hex for a variation. Two top tools, one for each, and makes it a simple detail.

 

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I welded a shank on, or I should say my dad did. He is the big guy in the middle. The boy on the right is my grandson, and the fat guy on the left holding the guillotine tool.  The goat is just The Goat. (He serves no real purpose that I have ever personally witnessed.)

I have no idea what the scrap I used for the shank is. It is just something I picked up a while ago that looked like it was about the right size for my Hardy hole. It appears to be a high carbon steel of some sort. Since the shot, I have chopped it to length, but haven’t worked on it to make it fit yet. I figure I will just shave a little off the sides with an angle grinder till it fits. 

C3D5B958-7FEE-419B-9801-0618C1920EDD.jpeg

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