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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Bigger the better. Just make sure it's fastened down HARD.
When you're swinging 2 cwt at 30fps, you don't want it coming loose.
That means if you swing it at half the speed, you get 4x the sensitivity.
Your hands can detect 1/1000", so thats more sensitivity than you will
ever need - once you practice a while.
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
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
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
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.