Lately, the weather in Charlotte has been broken…Okay perhaps that is a bit of an overstatement. It is spring, and rain is to be expected, but it has seemed a bit more like London around here recently than North Carolina. Chilly too, unseasonably so. As a result, when we had some hours with no rain last weekend, albeit overcast, I hustled out to fire up the forge since the weather had thwarted me the weekend prior.
So last time I blacksmithed, I had attempted to make a fork. I wasn’t very successful. It turned out lopsided and covered in fire scale. Fraught with all sorts of beginner pitfalls, I changed my approach to making it no less than three times during the process, and I finished the day frustrated. But frustration and mistakes can be quite valuable if you learn from them, so I began last Saturday with much smaller diameter stock (3/16ths), a new wire brush, and bending forks that were already positioned correctly.
I made a fire.
These charcoal pieces are gigantic, so my fire ended up flaming a good bit and took a while to start. That said, once it was going, it got arm hair roasting hot.
I began just as I had last time – tapering the ends. That said, 3/16ths stock is very hard to taper, especially for a beginner. I did the best I could and resolved myself to using the bench grinder to make them pointy. Step two was twisting. Try as I might, I still didn’t get the side exactly even, despite starting the bend on the anvil rather than right on the forks. The saving grace here was that, with the diameter being so small, it was much easier to manipulate on the bending forks. With a some strategic, not-quite-even twisting, I was able to make them roughly equal.
I would like to say that, this time, I just whipped the fork out and smiled about it. That would be a lie. I actually made two of them. The first was still crappy, but I realized that I was not twisting the arms tight enough. So I shaped the prongs and tried again.
The second fork turned out much better. The numerous twists yielded something of which I was much more proud. That said, it still has room for improvement – getting the initial bend dead in the middle so my twits can be even would be a good start.
Nearly two thirds of the way through the second one, any doubt that I needed different tongs was eradicated. The tongs I have fit ¼ and ½ inch stock respectively. You can squeeze a small piece between the surfaces that actually connect, but the stock still slips. Because it was so hard to get a good grip, my arm muscles throbbed, and my patience was tried over and over again as I twisted it many more times that it predecessors. The whole process took probably three times longer than it should have. Note to self: you need tongs for smaller pieces…and some scrolling tongs would be helpful too.
Nine twits and a little prong bending later, I had a fork – not a great fork but a better fork. After a short visit with the bench grinder, the piece was ready to be a fork.
I’m sorry to say that I haven’t used it yet. It is currently hanging out on my kitchen counter, waiting to be seasoned. But this one, I will definitely use. And with just a little more tweaking, I think I’ll have it where I want it.