Friday, January 13, 2017

Sail on, O Ship of State

I just came across this old poem once familiar to me in high school years.  That was long before I developed a special interest in blacksmithing so I didn’t recall the several lines which refer to forge work.  It’s clear that Longfellow was familiar with the craft and held it in high regard.

The Building of the Ship

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! 
Sail on, O Union, strong and great! 
Humanity with all its fears, 
With all the hopes of future years, 
Is hanging breathless on thy fate! 
We know what Master laid thy keel, 
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel, 
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope, 
What anvils rang, what hammers beat, 
In what a forge and what a heat 
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope! 
Fear not each sudden sound and shock, 
'Tis of the wave and not the rock; 
'Tis but the flapping of the sail, 
And not a rent made by the gale! 
In spite of rock and tempest's roar, 
In spite of false lights on the shore, 
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea! 
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee. 
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, 
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, 
Are all with thee, -are all with thee! 

The Village Blacksmith.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Australian Miner’s Safety Hook

I don’t recall how I stumbled upon to this little example of elegant design and simple forging but it fascinates me.  There are many varieties of safety hooks but this is the only antique forged one I have found.

According to the article - “Safety hooks were important for safely hoisting buckets of dirt and rock to the surface from shafts where miners remained below.”  Scroll down to see the hook image.  

Recently I changed the design a bit and forged one to keep as a shop example.  I plan to make a copy of the original image guessing the parent stock was 5/16” round.

Other examples of hooks:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Some Crook Hook Theory

If you do a Google image search for shepherd’s crook you will find quite a variation of shape in what people consider a crook.

For some reason I always thought of a hook as being shaped like most fish hooks - a simple J hook with the shank leading into the end hook on the tangent line.  To me the name changed to a crook when there was a kink bend at the tangent point to bring the shank into a line pointing to the center of the hook arc.

Usually when I need a short hook I make an S hook.  If I need a long hook I make a crook type.  These extended hooks are almost always used outdoors to hang nest boxes, feeders and garden ornaments.  The largest use 1/2” round stock and have approximately 5” diameter crooks and are 2’ to 4’ in length.  The throat opens enough to pass over the limb being used.  I use them to hang large nest boxes. Tis has been a great predator deterrent.

My smaller hooks are made from 5/16” round.  I make them in various lengths to hang feeders near the house.  Having a collection of various lengths makes it easy to adjust the height for easy filling and the best viewing.  The end crooks on these are approximately 3/4” diameter.  The throat opening just 3/8” or so.

Anatomical terms can be confusing when describing the crook.  Is the gap in the ring the mouth or throat?  Is the open center of the hook the eye?  It may be best to describe the opening to the hook in degrees from the center of the radius - open 60º or open 100º etc.   Or we could use the clock-face analogy.  Most of the hooks I make have an opening between 2 and 10 o’clock or between 1 and 11 o’clock.   Just measuring the opening may give the clearest description. 

I went into quite a bit of detail about making S hooks but I don’t have much to add on crook hooks.

One difference is in how I deal with the tip.  The S hook tip is just a plain round taper.  In a crook hook I start the taper where the arc begins and usually often end with a tiny lip curl.

Probably more than you’ll ever need to know about sticks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Some S Hook Theory

Making an S hook may be a good way to start off with a beginner.  It involves the basic processes of tapering and bending and it provides an opportunity to discuss some design details.  Even this simple project involves issues of the functional physics and the visual impact of the finished form.

The basic geometry is usually two partial circles connected by a straight line segment.  They are oriented to suggest an S shape.  Commonly the tips point toward each other and the opening to the hook is about half of the hook diameter.  A lot of variations are possible and some look more appealing than others.  Again, I used the SketchUp drawing program to play around wit h some ideas.

A vocabulary is needed to say much about anything.  If I haven’t been taught one I just make something up and move on.  

Some parameters which contribute to variation include: the diameter of the parent stock, the length of the straight run of the body vs the length of the tapers, the diameter of the hooks, the distance which separates the hooks, and the ratio of the length of the hook to the width.

Most commercial S hooks end with blunt cross-section tips.  It doesn’t look very interesting but the maximum strength of the stock is utilized by not including any taper.  Our intuitive sense of physics suggests the full diameter of the stock should extend as far as the hang points.  Starting the taper before that point of the arc can make the hook look flimsy.  Starting the taper somewhat beyond the hang point makes it look more robust.

My preference is to keep this simple object rather simple - round stock, no special ornamentation of the shank and tips which point toward each other and don’t curl in or out.  Later I’ll write a bit about crook hooks where my opinion differs.

I tried to recall projects in which I used S hooks.  Pot racks and chandeliers account for most.  My largest commonly made hooks are about 6” long and most are 2” - 4”.

The stock I have used in those runs from 1/4” to 3/8”.  I tried to come up with a rule of thumb about the length-width ratio that looked best and concluded that it looks tolerable between .3 and .5 and best between .37 and .42.

When focusing on the hook diameter I decided that when the stock diameter is about a third of the hook diameter the hook will look robust and when the stock diameter gets down to about a sixth it can look frail.  Perhaps delicate would be a kinder interpretation.  Starting the taper no earlier than the hang-point also give a more stout look.

As a first-forging experience with a 60 penny nail the beginner has something impressive to take home and say quite a bit about.

Taper Length Aesthetics

Years ago I was told that a taper needed to be at least an 8:1 ratio to look good and 20:1 would look even better.

I just tucked that note away and never gave it much thought until I started playing with the taper maker extension tool in SketchUp.

After playing around with the idea a bit I can’t make much out of such a rule.  I think the person must have been describing some special case.  It doesn’t seem to make sense to me as a general rule.  I don’t plan on spending any more time thinking about it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

New S Hook Jigs

S hooks are one of the simple products I offer in the Prairie PastTimes gallery.  I make a batch of them and eventually they sell out and I have to make another bunch.  There are four standard sizes of stock (nails) and the are formed into four different lengths.

The process is straight-forward, not very interesting but not really unpleasant just repetitive.  I may make about 20 of each size at a time.

Step one is to hack off the head a the common nail with the hydraulic forging press.  That leaves a nice flat taper just like cutting off over the hardy.  The press work is done cold and it is nearly effortless.  A round taper is forged on both ends with torch heat.  I have a special swage block dedicated to such small stock taper work.

The hook is finished by pulling the end curves on a jig.  Each size stock has its own jig.

The reason I’ve bothered to post this is that it relates to the last post about creative dreaming.  When I set out to make this batch of hooks I could only find a couple of old jigs so I figured I’d make new simple ones and get them collected and stored together, once and for all.  As It turned out I did the designing of the new jigs in that awakening dream state.

The new jigs are all made with vise tangs of 3/16” x 1.25” x 3.5” angle.  I have a whole drawer full of these on hand most of the time.  If I run low I have a fabrication shop cut a 10’ stick with their Piranha shear and get another 34 of them.  That saves a lot of time and bandsaw blade wear.

In this case I used two of the angle pieces to make the vise tang.  They are paired in an offset that lifts the working face away from the vise jaw and gives me space to clamp the tapered stock with a slim nose vise grip.

Offset Tang Allows Clamping Space
I cut some short tube sections for the radius mandrels.  It seems nice to me to keep the MIG weld bead inside the tube so there is no interference with the bending.  If the diameter of the tube is small it may be necessary to cut part of the wall away to make that weld.  Torch preheating make the result nicer too.
Checking Length and Marking the Center Point

A small notch on the front edge of the jig makes it easy to place the straight tapered workpiece and use the correction pen or silver pencil to put a dot at the center point.  The workpiece is then positioned and clamped.  Torch heat is applied and the curve is swept with the dedicated lever.

Localized Heat to Bend
One nice thing about a rather mindless job like this is that it allows time to think about other things.  In this case I thought about what goes into S hook design.  More about that soon.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Creative Sleep

Typically I go to bed between 2100 and 2200.  I guess I’m lucky in being able to fall asleep almost immediately and sleep soundly for six or seven hours.  I usually awaken around 0330 and go to the bathroom.  Nowadays, I get back in bed and start thinking about the projects I’m working on and their design issues.  When I had a regular day job I would usually get up and do computer work instead of going back to bed.  

I’ll spend a hour or so working in a creative visualization mode.  I probably develop most of my best new ideas in that state.  I’ve been aware of this tool for many years.  Long ago I described it to someone who knew something about psychology and they told me it was called lucid dreaming.

Recently, I read the Wikipedia article about it. I suppose there are many variants and I have never experienced some of those the article discusses.  What I experience has some dreamlike characteristics.  I’m resting comfortably, eyes closed and seeing visual images.  In contrast to my dreams which usually are composed of wandering and irrational, ridiculous images, the lucid state is completely in my control and rational.  I can work through a project from stock selection to finished object in a stepwise manner.  What is different is that I seem to think of more options or variations than had occurred to me in previous planning.

This phenomena doesn’t happen every day.  I’m most aware of it when I am actively working on designing projects.  It might be more common during the long dark winter nights when I’m inclined to stay in bed longer anyway.

I’m in a pretty creative phase right now so I am experiencing the creative dreaming regularly.  I think it may be something like a self-fulfilling prophesy - the more I believe in it the better it works.  But, then again, it might just be an excuse to stay in a warm bed an hour longer