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DOUBLE TONGS

by LC Melton

Many hard hammer blows were required to thin and sharpen the plowshares used on the large farm plows that were pulled by four horses. The blacksmith's solution to that problem was the power hammer. But holding the large, unwieldy shares up to the hammer was yet another problem. With a single pair of tongs, the smith struggled to stay in control as the day wore on during the busy season. Gripping the share at strategic points with two pairs of tongs, one in each hand, he maintained better control with less effort.

One smith that I knew, a fifth-generation blacksmith long since deceased, went a step further and made what he called "double tongs." He joined the reins of two pairs of tongs by welding a length of round bar stock to the end of a rein on one pair and to the "like" rein of the other pair so that the jaws on both pairs opened and closed simultaneously. With this arrangement, instead of the smith's arms and shoulders being the only connecting link between the two pairs of tongs, he now had two steel rods helping to take the thrust.

This smith had several pairs of double tongs in the rack, each adjusted to fit a common type of share that he serviced. A good student of work efficiency, he told me that the time he spent preparing and fitting the tongs was saved, many times over during a work-week.

Of course with a normal hinge joint, tongs joined in this manner can grip only work surfaces in the same plane or parallel planes. For gripping surfaces at an angle to each other, only one like rein on each pair is joined, allowing the two free reins to operate independently while the one bar maintains some rigidity between the pairs. Surfaces at a ninety degree angle can be gripped with this arrangement.

Also the double tongs were used in some welding operations. By using tong-rings, stock was prepared and set up in the tongs and adjusted to the correct angular relationship then locked into place. The work could be heated and fluxed, then brought up to welding heat and joined while held in position by the tongs.

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