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What is the difference between a heading plate & a bolster

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What is the difference between a heading plate & a bolster

I have used the terms interchangeably throughout my career as a smith.

I think that -'Wind direction during use'- is probably the single most important factor determining the use of one name over another that I have seen.

Does anyone have a definitive definition?

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FWIW, this is my personal definition:

A bolster is any sort of support under work. In the blacksmithing world, it could be a piece of material bent into a "U" which is put under hot work to support a drifting operation.

OTOH, a heading tool has a defined internal dimension (but not required to be round) to support a specific heading operation.

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I agree with the opinions stated. I think Nett's is closest to my own opinion.
But it's just that, an opinion.

I was really looking for chapter and verse.

Even in older text I cannot find a definition.

A heading plate to me was/is a flat surface with a hole in it. A bolster is anything other than a flat surface with a hole in it.

In the photos attached I am drifting over two different plates.
In fact one was used to make the other (as shown in photo).

I know what I WANT to call each piece, but I cannot find anything that offers a definition.




Edited by Mark Aspery
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I believe this restates Hollis's definition.

Header; One who, or that which, heads nails, rivets, etc., esp. a machine for heading.

Bolster; To support, hold up, or maintain with difficulty or unusual effort; -- often with up.

A Header is a special case of bolster - supporting the heading operation. In this case it is the use of the support that defines the tool.

Mark, both of your supports are bolsters as they are shown in use.


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I would still be inclined to follow the lead of Mr. Lillico and call them bolster and swage bolster

Of course, I could be wrong, flipping through some books and quoting them doesn't make one right :-)

Thanks Gerald,
I've followed Lillico for a long time now - I see no reason to abandon his council at this stage!;)

Good research - thank you.

Can you give me chapter and verse (page and paragraph) please.

Thanks to all who have contributed.
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In my experience in industrial Blacksmithing a Bolster was used to support material in some matter, such as bolster blocks in a power hammer which supported and anchored the various hammer dies, or in the use of a 'Header' machine. In the header machine the bolster clamped the material in place and a 'Header" struck the protruding end of the bar and formed the head shape. This is the same type of machine used to form button head rivits or hex head bolts etc.


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