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I Forge Iron

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Hi everyone!

I've spent the last couple of years building a small sailboat in my garage. It's a Sunfish-like critter (aka: Clonefish) made of wood, epoxy & varnish. The hull is done, now it needs hardware. For this boat all the hardware will be bronze. They don't make much bronze hardware for small boats any more so I'll be beating bronze rod, bars and plate into submission.

My background? I'm a retired software guy who appreciates the opportunity to do something besides stare at a screen all day. I've about ten years experience in my rudimentary home machine shop. Back in 2019, when we could do such things, I took a one-day course in blacksmithing and a one-week course in "Metalworking for Boatbuilders."

Right now the smithy is a Larry Zoeller burner and a NC Tools anvil. That's enough to get small bronze bits the dull red that I need and hit on them. Once the boat is sailing I have a few chores around the house that could use some smithing and will probably make myself a small forge.

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Chenier:  As you probably know, the real trick to forging bronze is not to let it get too hot.  You cannot use color to judge forging temperature like you can with steel.  Copper based metals like bronze just get dull red and then melt.  When I forge bronze I measure the amount of time the metal is in the heat source.  If I am using a coal forge I count the number of turns of the crank, e.g. 2.5 turns is enough for this size metal.  If I'm using my propane forge I let it come up to temperature and then count to myself, e.g. one one thousand, two one thousand, etc..  You'll probably have some failures as you balance time and how soft the metal is. 

I find forging bronze more demanding than steel because you have to give it your FULL attention.  If you are distracted at all you will melt your work.  I cannot interact with anyone while I am forging bronze.  Even having the radio or music on is a risk.

There are different alloys of bronze, some are more suitable for forging than others.  I have found that brazing rod works well but you may have to order larger sizes from the internet.

For marine use you may want to look into various protective finishes to reduce your maintenance time later.

There may be some fittings that are better cast than forged and that is a WHOLE 'nother craft with its own skills and hazards. 

Welcome aboard and keep us updated with your progress.  We LOVE pictures.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

 

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Thank you, George.

One of the reasons I'm using *only* a burner and no forge is to help me keep the bronze from getting too hot. Two days into it: so far, so good. But I'm sure mistakes will be made.

Ain't doing no casting!

>> We LOVE pictures. <<

I know. :P  I've read Glenn's blurb on how to post pictures, which is a bit convoluted. Once I figure it out, I'll post them. I have a few ...

ps: If I don't have a forge and I'm pounding on bronze am I allowed in "I Forge Iron"?

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Yes, non-ferrous allowed.  This is Liberty Hall.  You can spit on the mat and call the cat a XXXXXX.  Just don't violate the terms and conditions that will get you crosswise with the moderators.  The discussions can swing pretty broadly.  No politics or religion and be nice.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

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Welcome aboard. The best crab cake I've ever had was in your fine city, way off the beaten path. The naval academy was an awesome visit, too. Don't be a stranger, and don't forget the pix.

Steve

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Here's a shot at pictures (fingers crossed!)

This is my primitive smithy in the driveway. You will see a Zoeller 3/4" IV Burner hiding in the shadows.

856532129_ATheForge.JPG.5c52f9f9cbc802ab80f23eae89d2f34c.JPG

Because this is a residence, the propane bottle has to stay outside. Everything else goes inside when I'm done for the day. And, yes, the sun is a problem. Fortunately this time of year that spot only gets about an hour of sun in early morning and late afternoon. There are other shady spots I can move to if needed, but this one has the convenience of being right outside the garage I use as a shop.

Here's the first creation:

1784570122_CPadeyesbeforeandaftermachining.JPG.2d07c49760de7627111d73fb8ac898a3.JPG

It's a pair of padeyes to hold the sail bridle. The sail bridle is essentially a piece of line ("rope" to landlubbers), each end of which is tied to one of these padeyes.

Here they are finished and cleaned up. The workmanship is a bit crude, but they're shiny! :D

2081875791_DFinishedPadeyes.JPG.09aa558fd209f357d91eed0955c9ab82.JPG

 

Dang, it worked!

Almost forgot. Here's the boat:

752343482_331OnDolly-SideView.JPG.5f5b1787a66f72d7476e76feb313e6bf.JPG

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Pretty decent looking forgings. Shiny is good. 

Landlubbers? Even an old landlubber like me knows you don't TIE a line, maybe anything but a shoe lace, on a boat, you make them fast which is the root word for "Fasten." Heck I think I remember the difference between: stay, line and tackle. :P

I don't see anything primitive about your set up, you have everything you need where you need it and it's portable. It looks just right from here. 

Joking aside, well done.

Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 2 months later...

Hammered out a couple more doodads for the boat:

1173231567_356OpenFairlead.JPG.24589e40d73b869b251080acb091c446.JPG

This is an Open Fairlead. Basically a hook that you loop the mainsheet under. This is old school, the way Sunfish did it back in the Sixties. Nowdays the use a block (pulley).

1777048482_360RudderGudgeon.JPG.45a481e232e98256e719eb8475563855.JPG

Rudder Gudgeon. A bracket that holds the rudder onto the back of the boat. It turned out my anvil was just as wide as the gudgeon needed to be long. That made shaping it a lot easier than I expected.

 

 

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You seem to have forging bronze down pretty well. I've only tried it twice and it took a few failures before I could get it right either time. 

Pnut

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Nice pieces, Chenier. Keep up the good work! 

(Also, "gudgeon" is a kind of fish, isn't it?)

My old teacher likes to forge 464 brass, also known as "naval brass". If I ever do any nonferrous work, that's definitely something I'll contemplate.

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Looks good Chenier. It puts me in mind for a shop name, "Doodads for Boats." Getting requests from other boaters or aren't you telling anybody at the marina? 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks all. I'm tackling these projects in order of (anticipated) difficulty. More to come.

Pnut: One of the tricks to forging bronze is don't let it get too hot. Dull red is the max. That's not hard when your heat source is an open-air gas burner such as I'm using. I was able to get the 1/4-inch rod for the padeyes to show some color. Not so much the gudgeon. But that got hot enough to be workable.

JHCC: Yup, gudgeon are fish, too. 

Frosty: No requests yet. All of these doodads are available off the shelf in plastic or stainless for way less than I'd charge (if I were making a business of it, which I'm not.)

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I find the best way to control the heat when forging bronze is to ignore color and to keep it in the heat source for a certain time.  On my hand cranked coal forge I will use the number of turns of the blower crank as a timer.  In my propane forge I will count ("one one thousand, two one thousand, etc.")  If you see color in bronze or copper you are getting very close to a melting failure.

Saying a phrase to yourself as a timing device is a long accepted technique.  I have seen medieval cookbooks which may say something like "Let it seeth (boil) for as long as it takes to say a pater noster ("Our father . . .").

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Oh NO, it's not about price or YOU would have bought the doodads and they'd be unremarked hardware on your boat. No? You're forging them because you WANT to and doing a nice job because it's who you are. 

Chenier's custom forged boat Doodads are NOT practical hardware, people will buy them BECAUSE they're unique, expensive, HAND FORGED doodads they can brag about. 

Boat and yacht people don't deserve anything but the BEST bragging rights you can con them into. Hmmm?

When I was a kid we had an 18' inboard outdrive we used for fishing, water skiing and generally driving around local lakes. Just a fun ride. One of my jobs was washing and waxing it. Dad insisted I use Boat wax. It was, SPECIALLY, formulated for fiberglass, metal and all woods in marine environments, so it was the BEST. The guy at the counter told him so, so it was THE BEST. The stuff cost at least 5x what Meguires most expensive car wax cost. 

Unfortunately Dad would put a little polish on it and if he noticed I wasn't using BOAT POLISH/WAX I'd have to strip the whole boat and apply the Dad approved wax. Dad was a funny guy, I miss him constantly but boy could he be a PITA. That was my quandary, Meguires was a MUCH better product and less expensive but it wasn't boat wax. So, in steps Shannon my little sister. Shan had maybe still does extraordinary penmanship. She used a felt marker and wrote, "Marine Formula," on the lid then added, "Special," at my suggestion. 

Done deal and the Meguires was WAY better than the stuff Dad liked. I would've preferred a liquid polish but bought a tub of paste wax. Kept THAT lid for years for new cans of Meguires "Special, Marine Formula," wax. I sometimes wondered how many people bugged the boat supply people looking for Meguires Special Marine Formula. Heck, maybe Meguires started labeling their own can lids, there's a market you know.

Sorry for the ramble there are so many great memories around that boat the voices take me on memory trips. <sigh>

Frosty The Lucky.

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It does indeed.

Yes you've talked about how you forge them before. I recall parts of the discussion and that sort of memory usually stays hidden in the wrinkles in my dented brain. 

Probably because I've forged bronze a few times and can identify with the difficulties involved. 

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here are the last two bits of forging for the boat.

A bracket to hold up the center of the splash coaming:

96933841_363CoamingBrace1.JPG.d8a5bc9bf304d019cfef392b66d4b573.JPG

And a bow handle:

1009126392_366BowHandle.JPG.9776ca75ac67d578891dbbe39e3f07bf.JPG

I'm going to resist the temptation to forge the mast and boom so I'll be off carving wood for a while...

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