Friday, February 17, 2017

Keen Kutter Mystery Tool


Twenty plus years ago I had a lot of fun stopping at antique stores and flea markets looking for blacksmithing tools and artifacts as we traveled.

Back then prices were very reasonable and the supply of interesting finds was plentiful.  In just a few years I found everything I needed to get started setting up my blacksmithing shop.

Most of the time I was well informed about what I was buying and could make wise choices.  Occasionally i would see something unfamiliar but intriguing.  A tool collector I knew had advised me to buy anything interesting which i had never seen before it it was in good condition and affordable.  That advise never failed me that I am aware of.

This may the the exception to the rule.  I don’t know that this object was supposed to do and it might not even be authentic.

Only recently did the memory of this item creep back into my consciousness.  Quite by accident while doing a Google image search for something I got off on the Keen Kutter path.  As I scrolled down through jillions of images I realized the only thing I owned with the logo was probably on my forge room wood bench and I could not recall handling it for a very long time.

I found it and inspected it closely for the first time and noted a previously unnoticed detail. I’ll get to that at the end.

A couple of times I’ve actually used the tool.  When I was gardening a lot I used it to slip over the top of a rebar stake and it helped make the driving easier.  At least once in the shop I experimented with using it to assist in upsetting the end of a bar.

Information I found on this site gives some information about the logo trademark.








So, let’s have some fun.  Who knows what this tool is called?  What is it supposed to do?  And finally - what is the deal with the Swastika?

Zen on - go find where the maps end.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dealing With Clients #1

I’ve been thinking about sharing some opinions formed from my experience working with blacksmithing project clients.  My experience is limited in several dimensions, so use my generalizations with caution.

I’ll plan to do this a little bit at a time as a thing occurs to me and tag them with a “dealing with clients” label so they can eventually be grouped by sorting if anyone desires.

This first installment is inspired by a current experience - a request for a handrail bid.  Unfortunately, I didn’t read the name carefully enough and thought it was a request for repeat work, as I had already made a handrail for the person I had in mind about ten years ago.  In actuality, it was coming from a relative of that client.  I did respond promptly but included some references to my earlier work which were irrelevant.  Great start.

Thankfully, the potential client graciously emailed with additional details and didn’t highlight my mistake.  So, I suppose, my first piece of advice - Rule One - is to pay careful attention and think.

My broader perspective relates to staying organized to prevent misunderstandings in correspondence.   My wife handles all the incoming email and passes on to me what is appropriate.  My strategy to handling the back and forth is to label each computer file with a number which keeps the correspondence files in chronological sequence.  I can review the entire sequence again and again to make sure I am comprehending all the serial changes in the plan.  Rule Two - find a method to archive all correspondence in entirety and in chronological sequence.


The subtitle of Dealing with Clients is My lectures to Myself.

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.