tempering tongs and the like

My first projects will be to make some tongs. I am wondering how one handles the tempering part of doing this. I imagine it is very easy to crystalize the project if one doesn't know what they are do, like me. Cherry red and bury in woodash and allow to cool to room temperature? Or a liquid type quench?

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Hi Charles,

You don't need to temper and harden tongs, unless they are more piercing pliers.

I'm making some tongs at the moment, two different methods, one method the Weygers method, and another is the one from the TAFE course I'm doing.

I get to make hardie tools also, basically the blacksmith gets to make his own tools.

If you really must heat treat your tongs, it depends on the metal you're using to make the tongs. If it's a low carbon steel, maybe you can case harden them, if it's a medium to high carbon steel them an oil quench is recommended (even if it is a water hardening or air hardening steel).

Tempering again depends on the application and metal, if the metal is to have a cutting application and it's a spring steel then a full blue is nice, if it's a low carbon steel that has been case hardened don't bother tempering.

So my question is what application are the tongs being made for, and what metal are you using.

Btw the tongs I'm making at the moment are for my smithing work, are made from mild steel, and I don't plan to heat treat them at all :-)

Regards Charles P.S. OMG another Charles blacksmith! Oh the humanity... the humanity (sob). :-)

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When you say "bury in ashes", you are talking about annealing. When you say "liquid quench" you are talking about hardening. Tempering is a process applied after hardening to remove some predictable amount of the brittleness of hardenable steels.

So: I recommend you don't do anything special to them at all.

The problem with tongs is that you will often be heating them pretty hot when in use. Chain tongs come to mind in particular, since they get right into the fire. And often, when doing a lot of work, the tong reins get hot enough so you stick them in the slack tub, bits first to cool them off. So, hardening or tempering them generally won't buy you much anyway. If you use mild steel, it won't harden appreciably anyway. You just let them cool in air after forging. Some people make their tongs from alloy steels such a OCS (Old Car Spring). In that case, I don't think they try to harden and temper them either. Even if you did harden them, they would probably loose hardness from the quenching they receive in use.

Pete Stanaitis


charles wrote:

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Since tongs get HOT during use, go with normalizing after forging. I make mine out of plain old hot roll rod. Tongs are considered an expendable tool, so you make lots of them as the years go by. Normalize by heating to cherry red and allow to cool in still air. Hot roll is usually 1025 or thereabouts, not very hardenable. This turns out to be a good thing, as tongs get dipped in the slack bucket a lot to dump the heat out of the handles between usages. Here's a quick trick... to forge the falt for the hinge, heat up the rod and lay it over the corner of the anvil and whack the crap out of it, then do it again on the other corner to form an 'hourglass' shaped flat. This will give you the opening clearance when you assemble the two legs of the tong. Drill a hole in both legs, put in a handy 5/16ths bolt, add a nut, then peen over the end of the bolt so the nut won't ever come off... tongs.

Happy Whacking


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Charly the Bastard

Gday all, Pete, I sometimes find that I quench the whole tongs, and sometimes they get to the red hot stage when working with small objects or odd shapes that I don't want to take the tongs off as they are hard to grab again. I doubt that any heat treating would last very long for working tongs.

If you do a search on "super quench" you will find that you can harden mild steel these days. (If you can't find it, I'll post the recipe:) What you say, where did I get such rubbish?? Ok in the past mild steel was just that, mild and low carbon. But today, its made from lots of scrap steel, including springs and old tools, so it can be low to medium carbon. I have hardened mild before - I have a cutoff hardy made from mild angle, that I Super Quenched, that cuts quite well. Yes I found the directions on the net. That said, if the mild steel is quenched in plain water, you are right it won't get very hard. So for tongs, of which I've made a few pairs, I don't worry about hardening, tempering or for that matter what happens when I quench them.

As to the use of OCS, well why not, but I would be concerned about the effect if I quenched the tong. "Some people make their tongs from alloy steels such a OCS (Old Car

Actually they should get harder from quenching, and softer from being heated while used (ie a form of unintentional tempering).

So back to Charles question. Don't worry about heat treating of working tongs, particularly if made from mild steel, it won't last, just learn to make and modify them. By the way i use whatever mild steel I can find - hot or cold rolled, it don't matter to me.

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Rob Gunter says that he can harden 1018 using his super quench, by the way.

IMHO any mild steel tongs hardened with super quench aren't going to stay hard long if heated, anyway. I see super quench as a method to be used for cold work tools.

Just to clear the air, I don't harden any of my tongs. Sorry if I left the wrong impression.

Pete Stanaitis



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