Swage Block

 Just as the hammer was an extension of the smiths right hand, so the tongs with which he held and manipulated the work were an extension of his left. He  might have 50 or more pairs of tongs, varying in size and shape of their jaws. There could be hundreds of other tools, each designed to ease the task of cutting,  shaping, smoothing and finishing the metal. Sets were wedge shaped cutting tools. "Fullers" were rounded so that they indented rather than cut . When a piece of metal needed to be lengthened, it was " fullered across its width" several times so that it could be lengthened out with a flatter tool with a broad flat edge that was hit from above with  a sledge. 


Sledge Hammer

Leaf Hammer & Tool


    A variety of " swages" enabled the smith to mould rods of iron into a particular size or shape . Larger pieces were formed on the "swage block", a piece of cast iron pierced and indented with slots,  and grooves. Rigidly mounted when in use, it was effectively an auxiliary anvil . 

Swage Block

Anvil Swage

    Another essential tool was the "mandrel" used for tying up hoops and rings. Some techniques allowed metal to be formed with the hammer and tongs only. Two pieces can be joined by vigorous hammering at " snow-ball heat", while a bar can be made thicker and shorter by “upsetting” it. One end of the bar is heated, then it is held upright, hot end on the anvil, and struck up and down  on the face. If the bar is to be reduced , it is subjected to “drawing down”, hammered on all four sides to keep its shape, it takes several heats as the smith works along the bar. A hard cutting edge could be given or restored to a tool by "tempering". Wrought iron is hardened by rapid heating and cooling. To temper a blade , it is first heated, then the edge is quenched in the bosh. The Smith watches the colours as the rest of the blade cools more slowly, and quenches that at the critical moment. The hard edge can then be ground for sharpness.



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