Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Forge Welding


I had been experimenting with blacksmithing for about two years before I ever went to a meeting and saw a smith do a forge weld but I had read about it and tried to do it without success. In the fall of 1999 my shop building was finally completed so I had the setup to start working seriously but still no luck.

I joined the GPBA group, now CSMA, http://gpba.abana-chapter.com/, and went to a meeting at Matt Will's shop in Conway Springs in November, 1999. I saw a lot of interesting things, met some nice fellows and generally had a great day but what stuck in my mind was the forge welding demonstrations. Enough time has passed that my mind has probably edited the actual events a lot but this is my current version of the story.

I'm sorry that I can't recall the identity of each of the three demonstrators. The first one went through what I think if of as the standard teaching - form the scarfs, heat to orange, brush away the fire scale and flux, heat evenly to welding heat, quickly get to the anvil and mate the scarfs, tap lightly to tack the weld and extend the weld area with gradually increasing force blows, reflux, take another welding heat and complete and shape the weld. It made a nice weld.

The next demonstrator did essentially the same thing but proved it wasn't necessary to use flux. Again a nice weld.

The third demonstrator showed that he didn't need flux or scarfing to make a nice weld.

I started thinking that I should be able to do this and tried it every time I had a chance to work. I didn't have much time to forge in those days, still having a very time consuming job. I started each forge session by attempting a forge weld as the warm up exercise. I tried to carefully think about each step. Still no luck but as time passed I think I stopped thinking so much and just relaxed and watched what was happening and suddenly I could weld.

The type of work I was doing didn't really require any forge welding but I did want to get better at doing it. Bob Patrick, in April, 2000 came to Kansas and did a forge welding workshop which I attended. Unfortunately, I had injured my right shoulder rotator cuff the week before and had a difficult and painful couple of days but it was worth it.

I still don't do much forge welding in my work but I do a lot of welding with a MIG tack followed by torch heating and completing the weld with hammer on anvil. Mostly this is small stock 1/8" to 3/8" round or similar. I don't use flux.

A few years ago my friend, Clell, visited and had no blacksmithing experience at the time and still just forges a few times a year. I told him I would teach him to forge weld. It was literally the first forging he had ever done. I guided him through each step and on his first try he made a weld. Now, when we're together and the subject of blacksmithing comes up, we manage to work around to where it fits for Clell to say that most of his work has been forge welding.

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