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.
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.
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.
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.
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?