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I Forge Iron

Tempering a Scythe with Pre-Industrial Technology


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Hi! I work at a 19th century museum forge, and have some pieces that'll need tempering, but are too big for either the shop's tempering oven (it's a little toaster oven) or my own home oven. It definitely makes me wonder how tempering was accomplished before the advent of temperature-control ovens! Even the country blacksmith needed to make and repair scythes and wagon springs.

Do y'all have any suggestions on techniques I should look into, or better yet any books written with the pre-industrial-revolution blacksmith or even swordsmith (scythes are close enough to swords) in mind? Currently my research has been a dead end. The local libraries are rather scant on blacksmithing information beyond the basics, and the answers I tend to find online and from folks I know is "buy a heat treatment oven" which I neither have the budget nor space for at the museum.

I am absolutely willing to sit over a fire for an hour moving a blade back and forth, if that's how it was done. That's all I've been able to come up with so far.

Otherwise, if anyone knows anyone in the Baltimore area who can do a heat treat on 1075, that'd be fine, but would remove the learning experience. (I know Carey has his shop in Catonsville but they're pretty busy right now and can't do it. My friend works there.) Thanks in advance!

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Yes, you can temper by moving a long blade or item back and forth over a heat source like a forge fire and watch the tempering colors.  Or, you can dig a trench build a fire in it (charcoal may be best) let it die down to an even bed of coals and put the blade or tool on the coals and watch the tempering colors.  I'd do it in the twilight or on a cloudy day so that you can see the colors better and not be dazzled by the fire like you would in full dark.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Cool, thank you George! We have a big firepit at the museum that's typically used for historical cooking, I'll see if they'll let me temper a tool there when it's not in use. As much as the forge boss would love to have some outdoor workspace, we have a power pole right where that would be. Sigh.

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Of course, Steve, I do this all the time with smaller stuff like chisels, draw knives, hatchets, etc. It's not too hard to get an even enough heat on our coal forge, and I usually just quench stuff in a can of oil and temper it in the little toaster oven in the back (we have our electric tech like bench grinders and the mini fridge tucked away out of sight). This is the biggest piece I've worked with so far, and I'm already realizing its size is going to present different challenges.

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Traditionally, weren’t scythed mild steel with the edge peened to sharp work,hardening them in the process? I imagine 1070 would work harden pretty quickly.

David

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Altho I've heard that as well, I'm of the belief that a dinglestock was for field dressing or owner sharpened at the ole farm forge. I've always "assumed" that new ones were heat treated. Notice I said assumed,,,

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