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Function of swage blocks vs jigs


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A jig is a tool to accomplish a repeated task.  They can be simple to complex, depending on the task at hand.

A swage block is a tool that has a variety of inside shapes that can be used when needed.  They usually consist of different size half circles, V's, half hex, and square or round holes through the body.  Each can be used as needed.  Other swage blocks have dimples, half cones, shovel impressions, etc.  The swage block can be used as an upsetting block for the end of a piece of metal.

Many times the swage block will sit on the shop floor as a door stop or as a hard stop for a pinkie toe, until it is needed for metal working.  Then it is moved to a working height and is used for hot metal.

Swage blocks are most often HEAVY so they can take a beating.    The blocks range in weight from a few pounds to a couple hundred pounds or more.  Just tipping over 90* can cause serious damage to body parts.  The blocks are known for finding pinch points when they are moved or repositioned.  They demand respect and attention so you do not get hurt.

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Swage blocks are bottom dies more than a typical jig. I inherited one that was destined for the scrappers IF I picked it up within the next 30 minutes. :o I was ON THE ROAD!

Anyway, I almost never use it though it's close by. I built a stand for it from old guardrail posts screwed together vertically. The four tall ones hold it at a comfortable working height when laying flat, the lower two posts hole it at my preferred hammering height on edge. I use my yard sale score $2 pinch bar to lift it and turn it. Man I LOVE yard sales! See the pic below for my swage block and stand. As you can see I often use it to hold my various bottom tools it lets me use them in combinations, say: fuller and butcher. In the pic it looks like I was using a swage with a hold fast. 

Frosty The Lucky.

1624504678_Swageblockandlegvise.jpg.766e34bb89a98ab3aa7b766d8a1a40e9.jpg

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Frosty i was looking at that one and i was going to ask you for a top down view. Sounds like you guys down use them often. But it also seems like something i should have around.

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You'd like ME to lift that heavy HEAVY piece of cast iron off the stand to take a pic for you . . . ? Gasp. . . choke . . hack hack gasp. .

Sorry, I had to catch  my breath and my eyes were so teared up from laughing I couldn't see to type for a while there. The timbers are standard guard rail posts pulled when the state was changing for a galvanized post system so I brought a few home. IIRC they're 6" x 8". I stacked and drilled through them and bolted them together without glue. I started the hole with a spade bit to fit the washer on each end and used the long bit I borrowed from work for the through holes. They're bolted together with guardrail bolts we'd removed. The galvy guardrail post system used different bolts so most of us took a coffee can worth home rather than toss them. 

Were I doing it again without the sudden bounty of posts I enjoyed then I'd maybe take a chainsaw to a spruce log or weld one up. I like the step so would maybe try a steel version but expect this one to last whoever wins it at my estate sale for the rest of his/er life. 

I've never weighed that block but it was all two of us could lift and carry. In the shop I have a Garage sale engine hoist (have I mentioned I LOVE garage/yard/etc. sales?) and concrete floors. EZ PZ. :) IIRC it's 18" square and better than 4" thick. A pretty typical Lancaster pattern swage block, cast in Alaska Railroad, shop foundries as student journeyman projects. They were given to highway maintenance camps in the road commission days so every state road maintenance shop has one or more under a bench and a 250 Fisher anvil on a cast iron Fisher stand. 

I tried for years but couldn't talk them out of the anvil even though nobody used it in the 30 years I worked for the state out of the Anchorage camp. They gave me the swage block or it was going to the scrapper. It's been 15 years since I retired and that beautiful anvil is still collecting dust. <sigh>

Frosty The Lucky.

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