Making Tongs and the Beginner Blacksmith.

A thought on tongs for a 1st project. I offer this advice up quite often so take it however you wish.

What are tongs to a blacksmith? Well, they are a tool that aids us in holding material. Tongs are usually meant to hold specific sizes and shapes of material in a specific orientation, although some variation in all these can be found. You're not gonna hold a 1/2" round stock in a pair of 1/4" flat jaw tongs very well. Tongs are the killer of the blacksmiths budget in my opinion. A few hammers can do everything we need, but you need tongs for all those shapes/sizes and goofy ways to hold that material..

With that said, lets look at what goes into a set of tongs in regards to forging techniques. We often see some drawing out of material, tapers, upsetting, punching holes, and multiple bends. Also, tongs are two parts, so each of those pieces must be pretty close to identical.

Often the first timer attempts to make them, with really no fundamental understanding of the forging techniques that go into them and the results are often not what the person was expecting. Some are happy with them in some cases and if they work for you, forge on! Personally, I feel the only thing worse than tongs, are tongs that don't work well. They should pretty much lock your material in the orientation you wish, with very little pressure on the reigns.

So what can the beginner do? Practice of course, learn to get good repeatable results working on projects that offer repetition in those basic forging techniques.

Get two pieces of 1/2" square material, can you forge and draw them out to even lengths of 3/8" round stock? Forge identical tapers? Make two of something, like hooks, and if you can make them identical while incorporating all the techniques needed to make your tongs, you will have much better results and more success.

My philosophy is, make it ten times. After your first, write down the things that didn't go as planned or gave you trouble. The make it again, focus on 1-2 of those things and work to improve them. Once done, write down what didn't go as planned again, then repeat. Till hopefully that list of things gets shorter and shorter...

More important than anything get to the anvil and mash that steel. Keep on mashing and smiling!

-JG


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