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Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Blacksmith's Hooks

Mid March, I went down to Baltimore for the annual 'Fire and Brimstone Hammer-In' hosted by Baltimre Knife and Sword. This is without doubt one of the best hammer-ins around, and naturally draws a crowd of some of the best faces in the craft.

Sam Salvati, who recently became employed by the venue, did a quick lesson on forging hooks which I eagerly watched. The skill and precision at which he works is amazing, and my own feeble attempt a month later really drove it home. My own rendition to be used as a towel hook was my first attempt at purely blacksmithing. Throughout the process, I used nothing more than the hammer and anvil  (excepting the chopsaw to remove the excess stock and the drill to make the screw hole).

Ideally, I would have started with square stock, but at a loss for that I had to use round instead.

First thing was to make this square. Although not absolutely necessary,  I wanted it for the aesthetics as well as the practise. Forging on the bias, I hit one side then rotated 90 degrees and hit on the adjacent face, then back to the original. Had I gone much farther, I would have gotten nice crisp corners, but that started making the bar too thin, so I left it a little rounded.

Squared off for about 6" or so, the next step is to begin forming a point that will later be rolled into a scroll. Again forging on the bias, this is fairly quick. I should have brought the taper back a bit father, as this will be the region rolled and the thinner the better.

 Now that the square goes down to a point (albeit poorly done), I transitioned it to round by first making it octagonal. Hammering on the corners, it brought the sides down to the same width as the original square. From there, I could have gone to full round at the very tip, but I wanted to try having the scroll being a little more angular.

Next I heated up the tip and held it slightly over the corner of the anvil face. Hitting down, it upset the end enough where I could then hammer it back over itself to begin the scroll.

Once that little bit is curved around, I did the same thing but farther down on the bar, continuing to roll the steel over itself. Because it is difficult to hammer past 90 degrees down over the edge, once that initial bit was forged I took it and flipped it up so I could hammer it in from the top. The result is a tight (and ugly, but it only gets better from here) scroll at the end of the bar.

Back into the forge, I heated the bit just past the scroll so I could form the actual hook part of the hook. Much the same way as forming the scroll, I held the bar off the anvil face and hammered down, this time with the loop of the scroll facing up. Since this will be where stuff hangs from, it should not be too tight. Finishing the bend on the anvil's horn, the result is this.

Being a decorative piece, and in the spirit of trying new things, I added a twist to the shank. Back into the forge, after it was nice and hot I clamped the belly of the hook in a vice and twisted the free end with pliers. The number of twists determines the spacing, more being closer together.

This was an instance where it would have been nice to have all square stock, as pliers on a round surface is harder to grip. From here, I had to cut off the excess bar so I could forge the place for the screw.

For there to be enough material around the hole, I have to flatten the end. While it would be easier to just hammer it down, that is uglier, so I upset the area by holding the end over the anvil with everything else off the face. Keeping it steady on the anvil is key to having a crisp line.

A few adjustments for symmetry and to round the corners and all that remains is to drill the screw hole. And with that, the hook is done. Later, I will seal it with beeswax to prevent rusting. This was a great introduction to some of the basic blacksmithing techniques, and was a nice change of pace from the world of knives.

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