Support for Working Material
An anvil of some kind is essential equipment and whilst one of many varieties could be selected, it is probable that an improvised anvil made of stone with an iron insert might suffice in an emergency. Some anvil patterns are illustrated, see right figure (click to enlarge).
Shaping/ Deforming Tools
All tools to deform malleable iron or steel consist of clams, hot and cold sets, various tongs for handling the work piece and, of course, hammers. These are illustrated as follows (click to enlarge):
- Sledge Hammer Very Heavy hammer usually used by the blacksmiths assistant to work the large pieces of metal.
- Cross Peen Hammer Smaller hammer with two ends for different effects. Used in most forging processes.
- Hot Chisel Used for cutting hot metal, by striking with a hammer. This tool is not hardened and should not be used to cut cold material, only heated.
- Cold Chisel Used to cut cold material, never hot material. This tool is hardened and tempered so it is sharp and strong so it can cut cold material.
- Hot set Similar to a chisel but with a long handle. It is usually struck by a sledgehammer operated by the blacksmiths assistant. Not for cold material.
- Cold set This is used for cold material as the name suggests. It again has a long handle like the hot set. Again it is struck by a sledgehammer. The cold set looks similar to the hot set apart from its thickness and angle of blade.
- Round Punch Creates a round hole by driving the punch through a sheet of hot material. Alternative to the drill.
- Tongs Used to hole material when it has been hated and is ready for work. These can be made in the forge, for different pieces of work. The heads can be shaped to grip different sizes and shapes of material.
- Bottom Fuller Normally used with a top filler, to create rounds or indents in material.
- Top Fuller Used to make grooves in hot metal. Both the top and bottom fuller can be made from mild steel.
There are many varieties of mechanical tools, which might be useful amongst which are; a flypress, drilling machine, drop hammers and tilt hammers can be used, powered by a motor or water.
The majority of material used by blacksmiths is that obtained from scrap yards and old cars. Sometimes materials may be bought in but often it is not necessary, as there are other materials, which can be reused.
Mild Steel Can be found in sheet form in car body panels, truck chassis and oil drums. In bar form mild steel appears in reinforcing rods on construction sites, although these often have a slightly higher carbon content than true mild steel. You make hoes and hinges from sheet steel and tongs, set handles and sickles (toothed pattern), from bars.
When working mild steel it should be forged at a bright yellow heats as seen in the shade (just below the temperature where it starts to give off sparks) Some minor bending and cutting can be done cold. It is not possible to harden mild steel enough for cutting tools (high carbon steel is better for this) but it is easier to fire weld than other materials.
Medium Carbon Steel Many vehicle parts and mechanical machine parts are made from medium carbon steel. Vehicle shafts, tractor plough discs and plough mould boards are a few but there are others. You can use medium carbon steel for Hoes and punches similar to mild steel, but also Hammers and hot chisels, for when you are making new tools for specific jobs.
Working medium carbon steel needs to be done at a temperature lower than that of mild steel, but still at a heat where it is yellow. The extra carbon I the steel means that it is possible to harden it but no t to the extent of high carbon steel. It can be difficult to fire weld, but with practice it is possible.
High Carbon Steel Sources of high carbon steel can be found in the following, Suspension coil spring, torsion bar, vehicle leaf spring, Anti roll bar, Wood Saw, Large hacksaw. As it is high carbon it can be hardened as mentioned before and so is very useful to make tools from when working I the forge. Tools like cold chisels, cold sets, knives, wood chisels, plane blades, axes, adzes, wood and stone carving tools and tin snips.
High Carbon steel is the most useful of the three steels described. It can be hardened, which means it is suitable to make cutting blades from, which a lot of the mentioned tools need to function. It needs to be forged at an orange/yellow heat, but not as hot as the mild and medium carbon steels. It is very hard to fire weld with this material but it can be welded to low carbon steels with practice.
Practical Approach to Working
Always work out, either mentally or on a piece of paper, the steps involved to make the item to be made. Never start and hope that it will come out right because this is rarely a successful practice. Time spent thinking out the way in which each part of the forging is going to be manipulated will pay handsomely in the long run. It is a question of 95% what to do and 5% doing it.
Once a plan is clearly formed, cut off the correct weight of material and start heating. Remember it is nearly impossible to increase the section by normal anvil work so start with the largest section material needed to reach the finished size required. Be sparing with the use of your hammer: wasted blows only tire you and create bad marks in the workpiece. Never consider a job unworthy of making special tools to fulfill a particular part of the job.
Many items made may be individual creations but repeats are sometimes required and it is good to keep a record of each significant job in note form in a pocket book. Keep a record of any drawings you have made and it may be as well to start a formal recording system.
Always finish off the work you start by filing the rough edges and leaving the piece in a state with which you are proud.
Sometimes a smith is faced with finding out mathematical answers to questions, for instance, how much material will be required to produce a bolt so long? If a sample exists in a similar material, it is possible to weigh the sample and this gives the weight of the minimum material required to forge a replacement. It is wise to add some more material to the minimum so as to allow for wastage and for holding the workpiece, which may be an awkward shape otherwise.
Volumes are being dealt with by the smith all his working life and this means measuring the length, the breadth and the height of a job so as to find a figure, which then needs multiplying by a coefficient factor to obtain a practice weight. Over a short period a smith would then become very proficient in calculating weights and he, or she, should take the opportunity of keeping a notebook of items for future reference.