Thursday, August 4, 2011

Too Hot To Forge

It’s been over 100º almost every day for about three weeks and 112º yesterday. I was about to say, “I wish it would let up”, but that would leave the opening for someone else to quip, “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.”

In the past I had a rule that I wouldn’t forge on days when the temperature was predicted to reach 90º at 3 PM, the usual peak forging time. I’m far enough behind schedule this year that I’d be willing to raise that to 95 º but haven’t found one of those days recently.

It has been necessary to turn to other small jobs which can be done cold or with torch heat. At least it’s an opportunity to make the things I put in the Prairie PastTimes gallery. I only make a few items in the category of “Colonial Reproduction” or “Old Time Ironwork”. They aren’t big sellers on the Great Plains, so far removed from their main historical base. There are a few pieces like the sawtooth trammel, sticking tommy and the fat lamp in which I see a sort of primitive engineering elegance which appeals to me. This week it was time to make fat lamps.

I make one simple style with an open pear-shaped pan, rived to a vertical bracket which ends in a swivel made from a forged square nail attached to the hook/spike hanger. I works as poorly to produce light as any of the similar historical types. These crude, but portable, lighting devices, burning a tallow soaked wick, were first made of pottery and later bronze and iron and spanned a lot of history from the campfire to the oil lamp and candle.

As this is a project which is repeated and made in batches, it is heavily jigged. I first made a die set to use in the power hammer to forge the pan and later adapted it to the hydraulic forging press. That was the only fairly hard part to get perfected. Now I can deep draw the pan from either a 16 or 14 gauge mild steel blank which is heated in the coal fire to scale. The perimeter excess is trimmed away and I use the press once more to true the form then tumble. I touchmark the bottom of the pan and punch the rivet hole in the back of the pan directly opposite the wick trough.

The other components are not complicated but I’m not an expert when it comes to making square nails so that is more time consuming than it should be. I have found every part of the project to be easier to accomplish with torch heat except for the pan forming. Doing anything this repetitive can get boring for me so I work at it off and on between other design and test work. This week I managed to complete 18 lamps.

It doesn’t appear that the coming week will be any cooler. Maybe that will be sticking tommy week - anything to stay cool. I heard that a fellow saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking.

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