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I Forge Iron

Tong mental blank

Ted Ewert

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Before starting to build anything, one should have a clear mental picture of the end product and the means to get there.

For some reason my brain didn't like to think about making tongs. It wouldn't sequence the simple set-downs with any clarity. It was like trying to get a horse to jump over a fence. My brain would go full tilt right up to the set-downs then throw the rider.

I watched a bunch of how-to videos on tong making to show my brain there was nothing to be afraid of. I then went through the three steps several times at the anvil. So far so good. Let's try it hot.

Set down the jaw, easy. Roll it to the left 90 and set the boss. Brain is starting to get skittish, didn't like going across the anvil. Keeps asking if we turned it the right way. 

Mind overrides brain and makes the set-down. Brain takes offense and vows revenge. 

Take a heat and finish flattening out the boss area. Next heat, find the square and make final set-down for the reins. Vindictive brain springs the ambush just before the set-down by quickly suggesting that the jaw needs to be on the opposite side of the reins. Mind then puts set-down on opposite side of jaws. Rider thrown.

Mind then has harsh words with brain. Brain is unrepentive. Mind vows to take control, and the next try goes perfectly.  Mind then becomes smug and unwary. Starts the second half and everything is running smoothly. Mind begins thinking about how to further refine the jaws, then hits the dirt face first on the third set-down again. Brain is chuckling. 

Mind starts to reconsider blacksmithing as a healthy pastime. Brain suggests making tongs on the power hammer. Mind stupidly accepts. 



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Heh, heh, heh. Bad Brain, NO COOKIE!

You have to "trick" your brain sometimes and making tongs is one of those times. Here's my trick.

Make both halves at the same time. Set the jaws 2x, set the bolsters 2x, set the reins 2x. Refine the shapes 2x. Punch and rivet. 

When I make tongs I have two pieces of steel in the fire placed a few minutes apart so you aren't burning one up if you aren't fast at the anvil yet. That way when #1 is ready #2 is just turning red when I'm finished with #1 and lay it in the forge #2 is ready. 

Each time I place or remove a piece from the fire it's laying right next to the other half and I can compare them to make sure I'm getting the sets right.

I don't make enough tongs to be good at it, I struggle every time. Good thing I have enough.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Good advice, thanks for sharing! I made a couple of sets on the hammer, which is tricky, but a lot quicker. 

I've made 6 sets in the past couple of months so it's getting easier.  Another 20 - 30 sets and I may become proficient. 

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Quite right. I’ve found that every time I try to forge directly to the final size and shape on the first go, the finished piece ends up being too small. It’s also a lot harder to get matching pieces close enough to identical. 

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  • 1 year later...

I watched on internet that good starting stock is 3/4 round for usual tongs, than saw its good to use 3/4 squere, but last time i saw its good to use flat bar 1/2 by 1 inch wide that way you have less work to do?

Well i never tried to make V bit tongs out of flat bar.

What's are expirences?


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Good Morning Nat,

"watched on internet that good starting stock is 3/4 round for usual tongs, than saw its good to use 3/4 squere, but last time i saw its good to use flat bar 1/2 by 1" flatbar."

The truth of the matter is, 'It Doesn't Matter'. You can make Tongs with whatever material you have available. 3/4" square has more material than 3/4" round. If you are making BIG Tongs, that is the size to start with. Larger starting material equals more drawing out to get your final size Tongs. I make V-Bit Tongs from 1/4" x 1" Flatbar. You need to follow the instructions for "Poz-Tongs", starting with the jaws, you are upsetting the mass to give you more material so you can split the jaws, don't forge the hinge area thinner!!. These make small but comfortable size Tongs. I like 8mm x 30mm, about 10-11" long for each rein. You can make Tongs from 1/2" round, you just need to upset for more mass in the Jaw and hinge areas. There is 'NO One Perfect Size', they can all be made to work. Start with mild steel!!! Do not use re-bar (concrete reinforcing bar), it can crack at the worst time (just when you thought you are finishing).


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On 10/24/2022 at 6:45 PM, swedefiddle said:

. I make V-Bit Tongs from 1/4" x 1" Flatbar.

Me too, 1/4 by 1 or 1/4 by 3/4 flat bar.  Been teaching someone (over zoom no less) this method and drew up a sketch for their benefitTong Sketch.pdf

the isolation fullers are defined by thirds of the starting stock material, so it doesn't really matter what size you start with, though I don't like to go thinner than 1/4 inch on the smallest dimension, or you're fighting the material folding a lot.

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Good Morning Michael,

Thanks for your sketch.  This type of Tongs are what I call "Poz Tongs", apparently from Richard Pozniak (New York?). It looks like you made a slight mistake in your sketch. Top sketches are correct. If you squeeze the handles together in the lower sketches, the Jaws open up. Just a mistake which side your Reins are on.

Thanks a Lot, Neil

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Michael's sketch is for a more conventional bolt-jaw tong; Poz tongs do have a bit of a bow, but are closer to V-bit tongs.

Black Bear Forge has a good pair of videos about making Poz tongs: here are PART ONE and PART TWO

There's also an IFI post from several years ago about Poz tongs; here's the link: 


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Thanks for the catch Swede, I'll update my sketch.  I took this from method from an ABANA Article, written by a Nebraska smith, making a version of a Toby Hickman project.

Had this printout banging around for years and like many smithing tutorials, it took me a while to get the skill set for the project to make sense. Kind of like 'save some coke from your last fire to smokelessly start your next fire' and 'seeing the colors run across the polished edge and quenching at straw'. You know, that knowledge that comes from doing.  This tong method just clicked a while back and I've made a few sets of them, enough to try and teach it one on one.

Those POZ tongs are next though. Thanks for the diagram.

Tong Tutorial.pdf

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