Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tharwa Forge Day

Tharwa Valley Forge One Day Introduction to Blacksmithing

Making Stuff

I spent today on the hammers. It started early, getting up at 6.30 to start by 8am. I met Kalim, and my instructor Dean, and we got straight into it. First up was a fire/ coals scraper, as this covers the basic techniques: Rounding; flattening; drawing to a point, curving and twisting. The first three were done on the hammers, curving was done with a hardie hole tool, and twisting was done with a vise and tongs.

Fire / coal scraper
  After this we moved to the tongs. The techniques remain much the same, the stock was somewhat heavier. As ever with this sort of thing, the basic shape was fast, but marrying, grinding and matching the scissor motion halves took a fair bit of time. We did the holes with punches, as I knew how to drive a drill press, and wanted to do this technique old school.
The rough tongs, before the rivet hole was punched
One of the lovely things about the forge is that it is in a little artist precinct away from a town of population of approximately 80, so it was quiet, and their were roaming chooks. They didn't come into the forge, but they would wander close and have a little look-see.
Forge Chicken Foraging
After lunch the tongs were put together. Next standard part of the day was to make a hammer. We went for an armouring hammer. I went for a design that would help me do some preparatory work when making flutes (fold in metal). At the same time, my custom project was to learn how to make collars/ sockets for wooden shafted tools or weapons. I understood the principle for spear heads, but socketing had escaped me. Dean had not done one, but understood the principle. We made the mockup head, and went for the tricky bit. After some time on the 25kg power hammer, the stock was spread, and it came time to bring it around. The thinning had made it too long for the available cone mandril, so we chopped it, and chopped it again, but it did not seem to be working, We started making a tool for the job to sit sideways on the vice, but it would not stay stable. We worked on a quick fix, but it was very resistant. I was given the tool, and the unfinished work to play another day.
Flute hammer, Basic Tongs, Fire scraper, unfinished collar, unfinished collaring tool

Techniques and Tools

The main forge was about a size 12 mens shoebox internally, and was LPG (propane). Tharwa firge build them for about $650 ready to connect to the gas bottle. I was thinking maybe a size smaller, which adds 1/3 more life to the gas, and save $100. I don't forsee one I owned being used by four students at once like their could be at times.

The hammer rack was filled with about 70 hammers, I think the minimum additional buy for me to start would be about eight. There were about forty sets of tongs, you would need about eight of those as well.

I got to use an electric induction forge - that is real "techno magic" stuff - put metal inside the copper loops, press the foot pedal, forge ready hot quicker than I could type this sentence. Simply amazing. Extra care has to be taken not to touch the delicate copper loops, it was incredible to use.

They had a properly set up belt grinder, they said the name, I forgot, but it was similar to the gameco noob grinder. Very good for what needed doing there. They also had motorised grindstones.

Interesting technique difference: Dean insisted that you take your gloves off to grind with the rotary tool, on the theory that if it bit with gloves on, the catch would tear the glove around and rip your finger off as well. I followed shop rules, it was quite surreal grinding with no gloves on - Twenty plus year of doing it the Jordarn/Corny/My way I had no accidents, and the gloves help me work longer with warmer objects, and I still have all my fingers. Interesting safety theory difference.

I used power hammers - very impressive bits of kit. They would save massive amounts of time on any job. I drove the 10kg device acceptably, and I soon got to use Cookie Monster - the bright blue 25kg hammer to which they added googly eyes. It was a powerful beast to control, however with a few moments learning good touch, you could go from gentle love taps to incredibly powerful blows way more than any human could deliver. Dean said I had the touch with the power hammers, and my spreading with the spear end stock was extremely good and much better than he had ever achieved. 

It is not all bragging, as my tong work is terrible. I have mainly worked cold as an armourer, my gloved hand holding the work. This is impossible for a molten piece of metal, so tongs are a must go. I think I got up to 'merely bad', and it is somewhere I would hope to improve when I do more.

The swage block got a good work out. They have a "John Deere Tractor Swage Block" which is the sort you received when you got a Tractor or Dozer, which was to allow a decent smith to re-manufacture ground down or broken parts. It was about seventy kilos, and had about half the options of my loaned 130kg swage block. They also had the 'fire sweep options' swage block, the 40kg one with the distinctive fire shovel shape, and the two sizes of camp cooking spoon shapes. Good resource to remember, as one day I want to get a more complete set of camp cooking gear.

I was a moderately good hammerman, and was a steady punch holder. 

Overall I had a great day, I think it would be my most memorable Christmas present, and I would heartily recommend spending the $450 and heading out for an amazing day of learning and hard yakka with Dean out at Tharwa Valley Forge.

You also get to post cool grotty blacksmith photos!

Bart; Cookie Monster; Spear; Dean

When I say grotty, I mean grotty


Wil fitz Symon said...

As a PI lawyer I can understand the logic of grind with gloves off and save a finger. Gloves get caught in rollers. They are generally there to save burns and abrasions.
As with all safety issues there is always a balancing of risks. Sounds like a fun day and hard work! Well done and happy smithing.

Wil fitz Symon

Bart Beswick said...

Cheers Wil!