I am a lot more of a machinist than a blacksmith. However, I sometimes
beat on hot steel. I have borrowed a 25# LG hammer and I want to make
some wall hooks with a ball on the end, out of 1/2" square bar. So I
need to make a 1/2" ball swage. I have a 1/2" ball-end end mill and a
milling machine. Would anyone like to take a stab at writing out a step-by-step
as to how to make one of these?
Ok I'm no expert, in fact I'm just a raw beginner myself but I will give
it a shot. First mill two pieces of tool steel (if you have some scrap
mild steel you can play around with it first) to identical size, then
mill a 1/4 deep pocket in each piece in the same location (when they fit
together both pockets form a spherical mold), this location should be
near the edge of the piece (say maybe 1/8" to 1/4" from the edge), fit
the pieces together (like the pages of a book) mount in vice (or
ficture, actually thinking about it drill two through holes in each
piece that line up and use dowels to position accurately) and drill/mill
a hole (1/8 or 1/4" or whatever size you feel is right for the hook bit)
into the spherical pocket (the hole must overlap each piece equally).
Heat Treat. Use. I'm going to try my best to use ascii characters to
draw pictures here.
__ __ _____
| I | | | <-(top piece)
| O | |--O--|
| . . | |_____| <-(bottom piece)
Inside view (top or bottom piece)
. <- Location holes for proper positioning
O <- spherical pocket
I <- hole drilled into spherical pocket
- <- spot where the two parts fit together
o <- hole drilled into spherical pocket
You may also wish to mount some kind of holding system on the bottom
piece (so it fits in the hardy hole or a post vise), identical thickness
of each piece is not required, but it is probably a good idea to have
them at least an inch thick as both have to take a fair bit of impact).
This is just a rough idea if you want clearer drawings and instructions
I'm a bit busy to provide them right now.
The way it is usually done is to start with a ball. Put the ball between
two die blanks (which are very hot), smack it. You now have two
hemispherical impressions. Before you can use it as a two sided die to
form balls, you need to relieve the edges with a die grinder. If you
don't, you will get flash on your balls.
You could machine it also (it will take a lot longer). If you do, you
still will need to relieve the edges.
Grant Erwin wrote:
Not all swages have springs, it all depends on the design. if you want
a spring go find a chunk of leaf spring at the wreckers, bend it to the
right shape and weld it to the die blanks (remember to heat treat this
Not all swages have springs, it all depends on the design. If you want
a spring go find a chunk of leaf spring (from a car or truck) at the
wreckers, bend it to the right shape and weld it to the die blanks
(remember to heat treat this as well).
Can I weld this with 7018 rod? (That's a low-hydrogen electrode.)
What do you mean by "weld it to the die blanks (remember to heat treat
this as well)". Do you mean it's important to heat the spring metal to
a nonmagnetic red heat and quench it? Why? Or do you mean that the
heat of the welding might screw up the heat treating?
That's why I'm looking for an actual step-by-step. Like you were describing
it to a computer. Or a 15-year-old.
Ken Vale wrote:
Ok I'm just a beginner here so I only know a few bits and pieces of
information here, what I've said is a combination of information and
some guesses. Ok for the spring to be springy it needs to have a certain
level of heat treating done to it, if you heat it up to bend it you lose
the heat treating that was done to it (but if you don't heat it you
probably can't bend it), thus the spring has to be heat treated. If you
generate enough heat in the die blanks from welding (unlikely, though it
could happen, depending on how you do it) you will ruin the heat
treating that has to be done for the blanks to be effective as swages
(now you might get away with not heat treating them if you are only
doing a few coat hooks, like 5 or so). So I guess my answer would be yes
to both parts of your question.
I know next to nothing about welding so I couldn't tell you the right
type of rod to use (I have a very small amount of smithing background
and about years worth of machining background), but the leaf spring will
be probably be 5160, once you know what type of die blank you will be
using ask the people at the welding supply store for the right type of
rod to use.
I don't think I've got enough experience to guide you through this step
by step (especially since I'm pushing the limit of what I know about
welding and heat treating). I hope some others here can answer the bits
about welding and heat treating because I can't. If I wasn't swamed by
school and my brother's wedding right now I could give you the step by
step machining instructions (if you can wait just over a week or so I
can provide those).
Of course any machining instructions I give you will depend on the type
of swage block you want to make (spring or no spring, anvil or vise
mounted, one piece or two, if not spring then hinge or two piece handle,
power (trip) hammer or man power). Lets take it back a step, what
exactly do you have access to in your shop? Mill I assume. Anvil? Power
hammer? Forge (or Torch)? Welder (MIG, TIG, etc)? Post (leg) vise?
Well Grant since none of the old pros chimed in, I will add my piece to
the pile here.
When making ball end hooks, you have to start by swaging down the area
of the bar just back from the tip.
Take a 1/2" bar and make a chisel mark arcoss all four sides of the bar
1/2" from the end of the bar.
Heat the bar.
Using the chisel marks as your guide.
lay the hot bar on the anvil with the 1/2" marked end extended off the
Swage the area behind the line until you have effectively a long
tapering point with a 1/2" cube on the end.
Heat the end.
Now work the cube by hammering the points off it.
Keep rotating it and working all sides until you have a ball.
Now if you want to do this faster you can make a set of a swaging dies
that has 2 stations.
The first necks the taper down and the second swages your ball, but you
will have to grind off the flash afterwards.
Since you are a beginer I would recommend doing as much hammer work as
Use the little giant to do the necking and form the ball with a small 1
Honestly the best training for hammer control is peaning rivets.
I think, Ernie, that you have hit on an excellent point. Grant, you'll
have *much* more luck with the power hammer if you can crank these out
by hand first. Also, with the amount of messing around you are going to
do getting your dies to work, and getting your spring to work right, I
bet you could turn out 15 or 20 of them by hand in the same time.
I just use mild steel for most dies for use under the hammer. As long as
the workpiece is hot the tools do not deform. I also make all the handles
out of mild steel strip 30 X 5mm and 50 X 8mm depending on the size of the
There are safety advantages to using mild steel. Unless you know exactly
what tool steel you are using and can reproduce the manufacturer's heat
treatment procedure exactly you are risking injury.
I do not like home hardened and tempered tool or spring steel under the
hammer. The hardest thing that I use is Progen for hot sets which I have
oil quenched to toughen it a bit.
If you are starting from 1/2" square you should be able to get about a 5/8"
ball and from 1/2" round at least 9/16" just by knocking in the corners on
the end of the bar and going straight into the ball tool.
The ball tool should have a 1/8" hole out of the end to allow excess out
and have a tapered (conical) entry point which can catch the full size of
the parent bar (in your case 1/2") at the widest point. This cone acts as
the necking device Ernie referred to.
I forge and file (dress in the lathe) the pattern.
Make up a pair of blocks welded to a flat strip handle. Heat the blocks to
an orange heat and placing the pattern between the blocks belt hell out of
it under the hammer turning the pattern the while.
The handle gives an approximate location/alignment, the workpiece does the
final centring/alignment itself. Do not bother with guide pins they just
make for unecessary work and get bent and jam if you get a miss
hit....simple is best.
The big advantage of forging the dies is that they are ready relieved to a
certain extent. Provided your ball size is right relative to the bar size
and the necking cone is relieved well, you should not get any flashing
provided you hit once quarter turn hit once quarter turn etc. You should be
working the metal at welding heat which should shut in any flashing anyway.
If I remember to take the camera to the forge tomorrow I will take some
shots of the ball tools and results.
I have put together some images of the ball tools and products and have
posted them to the drop box together with a slightly more detailed how to
They are listed under balltools1.jpg to balltools5.jpg plus the
Hope they are helpful, Alan
I didn't see the video, but I make balls up to about 3/4" diameter in
one heat easily. Remember, when you are hitting hard, you are putting
energy back into the work.
Martin H. Eastburn wrote:
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