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Blacksmithing Processes--Part II

by Fred Holder

[Reprinted from February1995 and the November 1996 issue of Blacksmith's Gazette. ]

In the last issue we discussed the processes of Squaring and Rounding stock, the two most basic processes in blacksmithing in my opinion. In each case the steel or iron is brought to a red/orange heat and is hammered upon the face of the anvil to achieve the desired shape. In this issue, we'll be discussing drawing to a point and drawing out to make the steel longer and thinner, wider and thinner, or both wider and longer and also thinner. We must remember that if we change one dimension that we will also change another dimension. There is only so much material in a piece of stock, if you make it longer, it must become either thinner or narrower. If we make it thinner and retain the width, then the workpiece must become longer.

A very descriptive experiment can be carried out using modelers clay. One can quickly see how the hot iron will change when we strike it by shaping a piece of modelers clay to the shape of the piece of steel with which we will be working. Now, by pressing down on a spot with our thumb, symbolizing the hammer blow, we see the clay move and change shape. If we put the clay in a mold to hold the width the same, then we see that the length grow, but the clay becomes thinner where we pressed with our thumb and at the same time it becomes longer. Personally, I prefer to experiment with a piece of hot iron on the anvil. After all, that is what we're striving for, to hammer hot iron and eventually to make it do what we want it to do by striking it in the proper place. Right!

When we were squaring or rounding the workpiece, we kept it as flat on the anvil face as possible and hammered always in the same spot on the anvil. We're still going to hammer in the same spot on the anvil and move the workpiece under the hammer. I might add at this point, if you learn to move the workpiece under the hammer while hammering in the same location, you'll find it fairly easy to learn to use a power hammer, which always strikes in the same location. In any case by hammering in the same location, you'll develop better hammer control.

Pointing

Pointing is best carried out with a piece of square stock. If you start with round stock, then you must first convert it to square stock in the area to be pointed. You can then make the pointed section round in the same manner as rounding a piece of regular square stock. Once the workpiece is square, lay it on the anvil with the end almost to the far side of the anvil or even overhanging a bit. Raise the end that you are holding in your hand or tongs so that the workpiece is at an angle to the face of the anvil as shown in Figure 1. A flat faced hammer is best for the pointing process.

Forging a point Figure 1

Figure 1. View showing the workpiece at an angle to the face of the anvil. Note that the hammer is no longer striking flat with the anvil face but now at an angle, one reason why the end of the workpiece must be placed at the far side of the anvil. With the hammer angle, it would be very easy to strike the anvil face and either damage the anvil or the hammer.

As you strike the workpiece now, there is an angle formed between the hammer face and the anvil face. The amount of this angle determines the angle at which the workpiece will be formed. Make a practice of rotating the workpiece 90 degrees every few blows to ensure that the point is being drawn out nice and even. While hammering, move the workpiece back and forth under the hammer so that a smooth angle is formed. As you hammer, the workpiece will begin to form a blunt point as shown in Figure 2.

Forging a point Figure 2

Figure 2. As you hammer the end of the workpiece begins to form a wedge with an angle similar to that formed by the hammer face and anvil face. The angle may be steep in the early stages of forming the point. Always rotate the workpiece 90 degrees frequently to ensure that the point grows equally on all sides of the square workpiece.

If you want a short blunt point similar to that shown in Figure 2, you will maintain the angle between hammer and anvil faces until the workpiece is hammered to a point. The point may need to be extended over the edge of the anvil to allow working of the entire area being drawn to a point. This is especially true if you are drawing a long taper on your point as shown in Figure 3.

Forging a point Figure 3

Figure 3. The point is extended over the edge of the anvil as the taper is lengthened.

When your workpiece has been drawn to a point and the taper has been dressed to as smooth a finish as possible, you may use a rasp or file to further dress the surface or refine the point if necessary or desired. The workpiece can be filed easily while it is still at a red heat. Don't file hot metal with a new file; however, it tends to dull them. Use an old file! If your original workpiece was round and you want to point to be round, you may round the point in the same manner as rounding any square workpiece. Hammer it to octagon and then hammer the points off to form more points and so on until the workpiece is as round as you can make it with hammer and anvil. A tapered swage block will be a great help for the final finishing. Again you can use a file or rasp and hot file to do final smoothing and rounding of the point.

On a heavier workpiece, it may be desirable to do the early stages of drawing the point over the anvil horn because the rounded surface will tend to push into the workpiece on the bottom side and help the drawing out process. On a small workpiece, this is hardly necessary.

Drawing Out

The process of drawing out a workpiece generally means that the width is maintained and the workpiece is made longer and thinner. As we draw out the workpiece, we must regularly turn it 90 degrees and dress the side to keep it from growing in width. A more rounded face on the hammer is better for the drawing out process; however, the rounded face does tend to push the material out in all directions. Better control of the drawing process can be obtained by using the pein of the hammer to make a series of small indentions as shown in Figure 4. These little valleys push the material out in length with very little change in width. Start hammering at the end of the workpiece and then feed the workpiece under the hammer to make indentions for the complete section that has been heated.

Drawing a taper Figure 1

Figure 4. Using the pein to make indentions in the workpiece to aid in drawing out.

After making a series of indentions, the workpiece is then hammered to remove the effect of the indentions as shown in Figure 5.

Drawing a taper Figure 2

Figure 5. Hammering out the indentions made with the pein of the hammer.

The idea is to reduce the thickness of the workpiece to an even amount for the entire length of the heated area. Rotate the workpiece 90 degrees and bring the material back to proper width (the width of the original workpiece or the width desired upon completion). Once again return it so that the peened side is up. Hammer until smooth as shown in Figure 6 and then check to determine if you have reduced the workpiece to the desired thickness and the desired length.

Drawing a taper Figure 3

Figure 6. Hammer the workpiece until it is as smooth as possible and of a uniform thickness. Here a flat faced hammer or a flatter is useful.

The object in drawing out is to reduce the original workpiece to a specific thickness with a specific width. This may be for the entire length of the workpiece or for only a portion of it for a particular length. If a step is require as shown in Figure 6, you will need to rotate the workpiece 180 degrees and shoulder the workpiece up to the close edge of the anvil, allowing the edge of the anvil to form the shoulder as shown in Figure 7. You may also use a set tool to refine the shoulder, especially if it needs to be fairly sharp. I recommend caution here, a sharp shoulder gives you a place for the metal to fatigue and break more easily. It is better to have a rounded transition in the bottom of the shoulder area to avoid the tendency to crack.

Drawing a taper Figure 4

Figure 7. Using the edge of the anvil to form the shoulder in the workpiece.

I've used the pein of the hammer to illustrate a manner of extending or drawing out the length of the material with minimum change in the width. There are a number of other methods of obtaining this same result. For example, by hammering the stock over the horn, we obtain a very similar situation. The indentions are on the bottom side of the stock and are much wider, but the end result is the same. You can also use a fuller in the hardy hole of the anvil. Here the indentions will be smaller and perhaps deeper than those made by the anvil horn. Or if one has both a bottom and top fuller, indentions may be made on both sides of the workpiece at the same time, thus speeding the process of extending the material. You then have indentions on both sides of the workpiece to smooth up. I have even used the rounded edge of the anvil to make small indentions on the bottom side of the workpiece at times. I don't recommend this as a regular habit, because you don't want to take chances of damaging the rounded edge. Keep it in good shape for bending, a process we will discuss in the next issue. This article was originally published in Blacksmith's Gazette. It has been edited to fit the format of our Blacksmith's Gazette Internet Site.

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This page was last updated on October 30 1996.