I've been blacksmithing for about a month, now. I've discovered I enjoy making tongs from one piece of stock and have made 4 so far. I have settled on 5/8" round stock for light tongs and draw the reins to about 18". I like the fact the tong is one piece instead of having welded-on reins.
I am wondering if a flypress would be suitable for drawing the reins. I've been reading about them and am attracted to their quietness (I work in my garage in a suburb so am concerned about disturbing my neighors). I've never seen a flypress operate though. And I've never seen any mention of their strength in drawing operations. Are they suitable for drawing? Thanks. John
Hello, John. I don't have a flypress myself, but I have used one a little and have seen them in use several times. The main thing is that since it is a hand-powered machine, you get out what you put in (minus friction) energy-wise. So, if you need to have more control over the location of the blows, then a flypress may help. If you are already hitting where you want to hit with a hand hammer, then you WILL be loosing some energy to the press itself. You use your arm in a sideways motion to supply power to the flypress. I'm not sure whether that's better or worse than swinging a hammer for your body. If you want to have some sort of a human-powered machine to make those tongs, think about a treadle hammer. Same thing goes for energy loses due to friction, but you use leg muscles instead of arm muscles to drive it. I like the idea of a having a flypress, so don't get me wrong, here. The guys who use them a lot get a lot out of them. From my observation, they accel at jobs that require tooling and the exact positioning of stock when repetitive operations are being preformed. We once watched a water powered flypress in Austria punch eyes in hatchets. They have been doing it that way since the 1600's, but it's the power source that gives them the producitiivity gain, not the tool itself. A power hammer, such as a trip-hammer or an air hammer would be the tool of choice if you really want to speed up the process and/or cut down on the work content. I know you say you have only been at it for a month or so, but I don't know your background, the amount of space and money you have available, or what your longer term goals are, so I can't say whether it's too soon to think about this or not. Finally, sooner or later you will need to do some forge welding, so maybe now is a good time to get at it. A new guy who has already made 4 pair of tongs sounds like the type of person who will stick with it!
Pete, thank you for the insightful comments. I think you nailed where I am coming from on the head. I'm hitting where I want to with the hammer, just becoming a little impatient at times with drawing out the reins. My background is a hobby machinist/welder. I am definitely limited on space, having my machine shop, welders, and blacksmithing in a 2-car garage (with my wife's car also). I limit myself, moneywise, but that is mostly from being a cheapskate. There's something satisfying about making a tool for a few dollars instead of buying it for a hundred. My goals in blacksmithing are from the tool-making perspective. I don't really have a desire to make iron gates or furniture, my attraction is in making the tongs, punches, etc. that I need to make more tongs, punches, etc. I've banged my HF anvil enough to begin to see the flexibility in a hammer and anvil. I would like to continue refining my skills with them, eventually replacing some operations (like drawing the reins on a tong) with an appropriate machine. My over-riding challenge is noise. My neighbors are very tolerant of me and I don't want to make their lives uncomfortable with banging noises all weekend. Thanks. John
John, I have a #6 fly-press that I use for a whole host of different kinds of work in my shop, cold and hot. I also have a fly-press web page included on my metalworking web site if you are interested. You may be interested in an excellent DVD on the fly-press that you can obtain from
They have lots of other very useful DVDs and tapes about other metalworking techniques also.
The fly-press is an energy storage tool. A hand hammer is too, but the fly-press, depending on size, can store a much greater amount of energy, so it can do a lot more useful work per stroke than a hand tool, and with much greater precision. It uses a flywheel or weights to store the kinetic energy, and applies it to the work through a very steeply pitched ACME type screw. There is no free lunch however, so all that energy has to come from you, and drawing out steel is going to tire you out pretty quickly, but for the time spent, you will get a lot more work done too.
I have a power hammer in my shop, as well as a fly-press, and for heavy drawing I use the power hammer, but I also live on a ranch in the mountains of central Idaho, so the only ones I might bother with noise are the elk and deer. (Grin, I just looked out the shop window and about
40 elk are in my lower pasture at the moment. They are down for calving, and came accompanied by several wolves too.) I just want to add that, not counting hand hammers and anvils, my power hammer is probably the most used forging tool I have, but the fly-press is the most versatile... by far. It can do almost anything you need, including bending perfect circles, straightening heavy stock, punching, etc., and all under perfect control, safety, high precision, and all done very quietly. It can be used to forge weld also, especially Damascus. So a fly-press may be a worthwhile tool for you to look into.
Ron, I will order the DVD. I wish I could install a power hammer, but it just isn't in the cards in my city-garage. If a person could only choose one fly-press, should it be a larger unit? Do you lose a lot of sensitivity with the bigger machines? I'm not concerned about the weight, I have the background/equipment to handle large tools. Thanks. John.
A flypress works fine for drawing. Before I had a power hammer, I used mine with a top and bottom tool made from 1" round (horizontal) for most of my drawing.
You've got the same amount of work to draw a given piece of metal regardless of method, plus any loss in the mechanism. This would make you think that a hand hammer is best, treadle hammer second and flypress third, but there are other considerations. A treadle hammer uses your leg strength, which is much more ample than your arm. A flypress gives you a lot of leverage (about 40:1 on my #3), which is a lot easier on your arm.
I think a flypress or treadle hammer are excellent choices for drawing. Both are useful in many other ways, with the treadle hammer probably the most general purpose tool. Having said that, when I didn't have a power hammer I always turned to the flypress, not the treadle hammer for drawing. With 1" round tools, you can make your drawn piece have a really nice surface finish by moving it maybe 1/8" at a time, which is harder to do in a treadle hammer.
Steve, thanks for the information. What size flypress would you recommend for general work like drawing? If you had to buy yours again, would you buy a smaller or larger one? It seems to me that a larger flypress would be more tiring to operate for drawing operations but, being unfamiliar with them, am unsure. Thanks. John
"John" wrote in news:1114953318.471805.241920 @o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com:
There is an additional option which can be compact and very powerful! a hydraulic press. With a little effort you can assemble a hydraulic press for forging for less than a fly press. I have attached a rendering of my new unfinished forge press.
I've found my 30 ton forging press is extremely useful for very specific things. It truly excells at making Damascus steel. It is very good at drawing and general squishing of metal 1" and up; by the time you get down to 1/2" the metal cools so fast not much happens (mine moves at 1" per second for reference).
Cost depends what you pay for them. My flypress was a bargain at $250; my press cost about $800 including diligent scrounging. I agree that buying a flypress in the US, new or used will probably run more than a well scrounged press project.
Ron Reil mentioned the importance of tying the press down, which I'll second. Anchoring the press *rigidly* to a concrete floor or foundation will easily give you more bang for your buck than a larger press.
I like the size I ended up with, but maybe my opinion would be different if I'd gotten a larger one. I don't think I would choose a smaller one... Try to find a way to check out a flypress in person, either with one of the companies that are selling them or at a major conference. There's no substitute for trying it yourself.
That is a question only you can answer based on what you plan to do with it. I sometimes work iron up to 1-1/2" to 2" in diameter and the #6 press does a great job of it for me. I also do veining in my Repousse' work, and the press is far too large for that kind of delicate work on
20 gage steel, copper, silver, or other metals. I would like to have a #0 for that work but have not been able to get one so far. I tried to get both presses at the same time but the #0 presses were sold out.
For me, it is much more important to be able to handle the big iron when needed. I can easily enough make a veining tool of one sort or another, and have one for that purpose that I made. The #0 press is just a lot more versatile.
This was my take too. I've seen a fast-moving hydraulic press make a damascus billet (but haven't done it myself) and was very impressed.
Two other options: The weightless hammer
Or, splitting the reins. I don't know whether there's a good reason I've never seen this done. Maybe there is. But if you make your tongs from rectangular stock, then after making the jaws you could split the stock for half as long as you want the reins, then "unfold" them. You'd want to leave them UNsplit at the point farthest from the jaw, of course. Don't do an "oops." It would take a little work to hammer the split piece back into a usable cross=section, but probably a lot less than the work of drawing out reins.