Friday, May 21, 2010

Firey Friday, How I Forge a Nail

Hi it's Zach. I'll be taking over the Fiery Friday blog post from now on and plan on showing you more about what can be done with a hammer and some hot steel and how to go about doing it.
Last Friday Jennifer showed you the toolbox I made for the MABA (Michigan Artist Blacksmith Association) toolbox raffle. To attach the corner brackets to the wooden toolbox I made my own nails. To make a nail I start off with 1/4" square bar stock. 

The first step is to get it hot in the forge. Although I have a coal forge I usually use a homemade propane forge. (In the future I plan on sharing detailed instructions on how to make your own coal forge without the use of a welder.) My propane forge gets to about 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a good forging temperature for mild steel. With the 1/4" bar red hot I start to taper the end with angled hammer blows while rotating the stock 90 degrees every couple of hits. This ensures an even taper.
I will continue to do this until the end of the bar has a nice point and the tapered section is about the length I want the nail to be. Usually I can do this in one heat
as long as I'm not trying to make a long nail. When the bar gets to cold, it has to go back in the forge for more heat. Mild steel can get brittle and can crack or fall apart when it is forged too cold.

This is a nice even taper and should make a good nail. Once I am satisfied with the taper I make sure it is good and straight and quickly put it into my nail header for a test fit.

While the stock is still hot and in the nail header I line it up over my cut off tool making sure to leave enough material on the untouched side of the taper to form the head of the nail. If there is too much material the head will bend over instead of mushrooming down. If there is too little material the head will be too small to be usable or may even pop right through the hole in the nail header. Since I made my own nail header it took a bit of trial and error to get this right.

Trying to conserve the heat I'll quickly pull the nail header out of the way, keeping the stock in the same place on the cut off tool and begin to strike the top of it. Once I am nearly cut through on one side I'll rotate the stock 90 degrees and cut through that side until I have just a small corner holding the two pieces together. Then it's back into the forge to get red hot again.

Once hot again, I take it out put it back through the hole in my nail header and twist the bar until the nail breaks off and stays in the header. Keeping the two pieces together allows me not to have to use tongs to retrieve the tiny soon to be nail out of the forge. When using a gas forge, this isn't usually a problem, but when you use a coal forge that little piece can easily get lost and end up getting burned up.

 Again, working quickly I put the header over the pritchel hole (round hole in the anvil) and strike the top of the tapered stock forcing it to collapse over the nail header and thus creating the head of the nail. This usually takes about 7 or 8 hammer blows.

    Finally, I'll quench it in water which makes the hot steel shrink and releases it from the nail header.


wanderer said...

How did you make the nail header?

Unknown said...

fantastic! after looking through this and watching a video on how to make a header, i've decided that the door to my blacksmith will be hand made with my own forged hardware to assemble and hang it.

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