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Tongs: Roll your own or Buy them?

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Do you make your own tongs or buy them? I have always made my own, unless I found a nice pair priced reasonably.. I use to think that is was funny to buy tongs when you can make your own but Ive questioned that thinking lately..A couple of full time smiths told me they just dont have the extra time to stop and make tongs thru a busy day so they just order them to save time and money..It got me curious, what do you think??

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I started out using big pliers, channellocks, and the one pair of flat jawed tongs that dad had.The first few pair of tongs I made didn't come out so good, so I started looking for tongs at fleamarkets and antique shops. Most of those weren't as good as I thought they were when I bought them.
I have bought some nice BIG tongs.........but I seldom use those.

At that point, I guess I had decided I wanted to have tongs to fit my hands and grip what I wanted to grip. Since it hadn't occurred to me, at the time, to just order new tongs to my liking, I kept at it until I got several pair made that grip flat, square, round, and other stock.

I don't think I've ever made a really pretty pair of tongs.....but they work for me..
And I find that I like making tongs!

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I make them if I need a size or shape I don't have. If I find some at a flea market or antique store or garage sale or what not, and they are priced OK, then I buy them. I did pick up a pair of Off Center tongs and a conference a while back, and they were worth every penny. I'm probably about 50/50 on made versus purchased.

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it takes time, materials, and effort to make any tool. if someone else can make it better and at a cost to you less than what it would be if you tried it...then you should buy it. Don't spend $100 of your effort for a $25 tool to be had elsewhere. There is no shame in buying something like that, just good sense. Some blacksmiths have specialized in making tools, whether it be tongs or hammers, because they can make and sell a better product at less cost than if the buyer tried to do it infrequently themselves.

Edited by rthibeau
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Good points Richard BUT it all comes down to why you forge. If you are into making stuff for money buying tongs and other tools would makes lots of sense because time is money. However, if you are like me and forge for a hobby then simply making the tool is a great project in itself and if you make a set you can stand looking at because they are not too ugly and the two pieces are similar if not the same then you are making real progress.

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I'm looking forward to developing my skills to the point where I can make any type of tongs I need depending on what that need is. I'm not there yet. I know you only learn by doing, but it's hard to juggle work, family, home and time for my smithing (including having forge time since I still don't have a home set up). One of the things I love about IFI is the Blueprints section which has some great tutorials on making tongs. My problem has always been not knowing how to start. I'm hoping to get more practice soon.

A great find I came across this summer is a blacksmith selling tong blanks. They were plasma cut steel blanks that had the rudementary reins and head shape and were pre-drilled for the rivet. All you had to do was draw out the reins to the desired shape, shape out the jaws to the desired shape, twist them 90 degrees and rivet together. The blanks take out half the work and have enough material that they can be custom shaped to whatever tong you need. I'm hoping to practice shaping reins and jaws with these and then move to making tongs totally from scratch.

I also think these blanks are a great idea for making quick tongs (even if you're a seasoned smith and can make tongs in your sleep) and for practice for the beginner smith. I'm hoping to buy a bunch of them every year, so long as this smith has them.

Almost forgot, I bought the blanks from Irontreee forge (thought I should give them a plug).
Love it.

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I make alot of my tongs but I also buy tongs from flea markets, yard sales and such. I am proud of the tongs I have made and they are my favorites:)
But just like this site I find I have less time to spend here or making what I want/need in the smithy. Orders come first.
I have over a hundred pair of tongs, some I know what they are used for some I do not yet. Do I use them all? No but it seems I am always pulling another off the rack because they fill the need. I also buy hoof nippers and convert them to scrolling tongs and spike tongs.
I bought six pair of tongs this last weekend along with a 25 dollar horizontal band saw that after some minor repair has alraedy spent two 10hr days cutting stock. I wish I had bought one sooner. I can forge while it cuts bundles of stock.
Anyway I do both and it works well for me>


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I can't stand tongs - using them or making them. I hang on to the metal to the bitter end as I prefer to work that way but they're a necessary evil so I'm equal on buying or making. Just depends on the situation

As far as a smith always making his own tongs - Do what works for you but I have no problem giving a fellow smith my business and supporting the community in that way.

I'm really lucky to be good friends with a fella named Glen that makes outstanding tongs (gstongs.com) so we barter back and forth - works out really well.

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This is an interesting debate. Of course it comes down to personal preference or circumstance.

I like to make my own tongs. I probably pay more for them if I work at a shop rate (which I do) than if I bought them directly from a supplier.

My skill development and maintenance is strong when making tongs. My first few pairs were pretty rough and hopefully still buried in a secret location.

These days my tongs are what I want them to be: left handed for at the anvil, heavier and right handed for at the power hammer, spring reins, tools steel or mild depending upon the application and perhaps the most important thing - the jaws are oriented correctly for the job in hand.

Too often do I see someone using diamond bit tongs where box jaw would offer a much better working circumstance. In these cases the user saved time and money initially by buying the tongs but then looses much more of both while using the tongs in an ineficient manner.

The skills of isolating material and manipulating it to your desired specifications is a strong one. Making the jaws what you want them to be.

The old addage of;
"If you can't hold it, then you sure as xxxx can't hit it" is a good one.

Making tongs is the language of a journeyman smith. Blacksmithing is such a broad term, it's like calling someone a scientist. What sort of scientist are they?

Our common language is one of hammer and tongs. Regardless as to our style of smithing, we all appreciate good tongs. I get a little more out of it because there is a good chance that I made the tongs myself.

A frustrating experience at first, making tongs is a very good way to develop your blacksmithng skills.

Looking at the word count, this may be 3 cents worth!

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Back to the shop? You had a busy last couple of months there didn't ya? As to the tongs... I understand both views. For me ( a novice / hobby smith), I think you use all of the basic skills of blacksmithing in the production of a nice set of tongs, and look at their creation as both practice at those skills, and as a way for me to evaluate how I'm doing. I only have maybe 25 sets of tongs on my rack and can order them chronologically and it actually kinda makes me feel good. The last few tongs I've made I don't think anyone would be ashamed of using in good company. Welcome back Mark.
Mike Limb

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Actually making your own set of tools was one of the tests for Journeyman as you would need your own set to "journey" with them.

For me I can make a pattern welded billet and forge out a knife in about the same time it takes me to make a pair of tongs---guess which one is considered to be worth more $$$ in the open market?

I buy tongs when ever I can find them in good shape and less than US$5 as "tong kits" and reforge as needed. My favorite bladesmithing tongs cost me a dollar and a half at the flea market.

I have made a set of tongs to get a special type---forged a set of Ti tongs about 8 years ago for use in the gasser as the reins resist heating up longer.

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My argument is one of pragmatism.

Sometimes the only tongs that will do the job are not available commercially. Certainly I can try and adapt an existing pair of commercial or flea-market tongs, but then I am starting to invest time and money.

I have spent the time to develop my tong making so that when I do need a pair of specialist tongs, I can make them without too much gnashing of teeth or sharp intakes of breath.

I am developing some Acanthus leaves at the moment. In order to form the box for forge-welding, I have a couple of options. The more traditional is to close the box over a mandrel or...

I can make a pair of collaring style tongs. The tongs have two different jaws. The top one in the picture allows the sides of the box to come up without interference.

The lower jaw is the same as the material to which the leaf will be welded. This allows me to close the box without too much time involved.

Without these tongs, I would be spending too much time closing the box to make it worth the customers while. The tongs make the job!

These style of tongs have to be made or adapted.



Edited by Mark Aspery
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I tried to make tongs a few times but was never that happy with the out come and back in the 60's and 70's they were very cheap for the old ones so I bought lots of them for $2-3 each. Now most have been "borrowed" away from me from when I shared studio space with various fellows over the years. You see fresh grind marks where your stamp was and a new one there and "Oh, yeah it's mine, had it for years" and they didn't start forging until they started sharing space with you.:rolleyes: If I need a special tong now I weld it up.

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I've made one tong or something that looked like a tong.... anyways, I bought a few from Ebay and even though I got one interesting looking tong that is highly adaptable, I got stuck with a farrier's nippers and something that resembles a nut cracker with a reign at the end... but my point is, even though I see pictures on the blueprints with instructions I still couldn't grasp the idea of the tongs until I actually held a real tong, then it kinda clicks. anyways I think I'll be making more from now on :-p

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