Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Using Porter Bars

I’m not sure where I learned this technique or it’s name. I don’t think I made it up but I do hear other people using it and when I tried to look it up on the internet I couldn’t find anything matching my usage of the term.

The dictionary defines a porter as a person hired to carry burdens or baggage, as at a railroad station or a hotel. In this case it is the steel bar that carries a work piece instead of a pair of tongs.

For routine forge work I use tongs but there are occasions when I’m in a “production mode” and need to work a number of awkward pieces. This is when the porter bar favors faster work.

The first ones I recall making were pieces of 3/8” and 1/2” rebar with a hairpin bent into the end for a grip. Later I added a coil of sash cord stuck to the handle with silicone caulk adhesive which is quite heat resistant. My current preference is to use 24” of 5/16” round and bend the handle grip in a jig with torch heat. I weld a 3” label plate of 1/8” x 3/4” flat bar. That is what is shown being cut in hydraulic forging press on my 25 June post.

This label plate gives me a place to write instructions with a presto pen and also prevents inserting fingers through the loop which is dangerous. Sometimes it is several days between the time I prepare porter bars and when they are forged. Also I have many projects going at once so it is easy to forget what I intended to do with some of the stock. Writing specific instructions on the bars avoids confusion.

Some handles eventually get permanently attached to something. In those cases I stamp the name into the label bar so it too is permanent.

This attachment of a porter bar with a MIG weld bead has been a routine practice for several years. Anything which isn’t very easy to grasp with tongs is treated this way. The weld is place at a point which will be forged out or sacrificed or otherwise easily erased. The sash cord handles are used only for heavier work, for multiple heat work and for work which will not be placed in the tumbler with handle attached.

I’ve made quite a few porters over the years in various styles yet I seem to need to make more a couple of times a year. Fortunately with the cold stock shear, the jig and a torch I can make 15 more in about as many minutes.

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