Adventures in Blacksmithing: Day 12

For the first time in a month and a half, I lucked up with a sunny Saturday. Though Mike rented a stump grinder and we had some work to do cleaning out the woods, blacksmithing was definitely in order. I had two projects on the agenda for the day. 1) Finish two forks, and 2) attempt a hanger.

So the past few blacksmithing days, I have been preoccupied with making forks. Most of them haven’t turned out so great. This can be attributed to two factors – my inexperience and my gigantic tongs. I have a pair of 1/4 inch tongs and a pair of 1/2 inch tongs. Neither of which are well suited to working with 3/16 inch stock. So after some frustration and a conversation with Mike, I decided to shape my next forks cold, and with such thin stock, it was a very doable strategy. Using Mike’s vice and a pair of needle nosed pliers, I shaped two of them. For the twist, I folded the stock in half around a 1/4 inch round piece. After it was folded, I placed it in the vice, cinched it down, and twisted the two arms, being careful to use uniform force on each side. With the pliers, I shaped the prongs, and rather than trying to taper the prongs on the anvil, which really didn’t go well last week, I just used the grinder to sharpen them. The second fork was better than the first.

Fork in the forge
Fork in the forge

With the fire built and Mike in the woods grinding stumps, I heated the first fork. My goal at the anvil was to flatten the piece, albeit only a little, and to give the handle that curved shape characteristic of forks. I used the less shapely fork first. The process was still challenging because my tongs are still too big, but by being strategic I was able shape it with relative ease. The second fork is smaller and was a little harder to manipulate but turned out even better. I was pleased, and my mother has now requested a dozen.

The good fork
The good fork

Forks done, I moved on to the hanger and realized very quickly that actually making one was a little harder than I anticipated. I began by tapering both ends of the stock. The scroll to accommodate a rod was fairly simple, but my stock was too short to make a full size hanger. So I was left trying to make a small one that might hang ties or scarves.

Making a hanger
Making a hanger

My first mistake was not bringing out the vice and my bending forks. Instead, I attempted to shape it using the horn. My curves were not as exact as they would have been with the forks, so I ended up having to reshape a couple different times. In the end, I had excess stock and had to go back in the garage and cut it off with the grinder. Back at the anvil, I tried to smooth the final twist, but the result was less than satisfactory to me. Finally, in frustration, I called it a day because the hanger was as good as it could get in the circumstances.

Mike declared that it was fine, especially for a first attempt, but in reality, it was not the version I had in my head when I started. Oh well. Live and learn. Next time, I will bring out the bending fork, I will need longer stock, and I may try some stock that is smaller diameter as well. It was, after all, a pretty hefty hanger, especially if I am to be hanging scarves from it.

The hanger
The hanger

Though the end of the day may have been more frustrating than I would have liked, I still got to play with fire and bend metal. What do I really have to complain about?

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