Thursday, September 26, 2013

How I Make a Blow Poker

The blow poker is an Item I make again and again because they sell well in the gallery.  Most sales are during the log burning season but they sell throughout the year too.

I didn’t know anything about them until a client asked me to make one for a Christmas gift.  The client had been using one for years.  I think she got it while living in England.  She let me use it as a model and I came up with a working version and now it is my favorite fireplace tool and one of my most frequently made products.

This is designed to be a “light-duty” tool and is not meant for moving heavy logs.  It is for moving coals and kindling and starting a roaring fire from a tiny ember.  My standard blow poker is made for indoor fireplace or wood stove use.  If camp fire use is intended a longer and more “heavy-duty” version is made.

There are four elements to the standard construction; the push-pull tip, the collar, the shaft tube and the mouthpiece.

The shaft tube largely determines the weight and stiffness.  I use the smallest tube/pipe I can get for the standard version.  It has in inside diameter of about .25” and I use 26” lengths.  The campfire version uses 3/8” black pipe in about 40” lengths.

A collar is needed on the standard version to join the shaft to the tip.  I cut a 2.5” length of tubing which closely fits the shaft.  I cut two slits or notches on each end of the collar to allow a larger MIG weld bead to be applied.

The Mouthpiece is a 4” piece of pipe or tube with about 1/2” inside diameter.  One end is forged down to fit the shaft and the other end is flared and peened to resemble the typical shape found on wind musical instruments.

The push/pull tip is made from 5.5” of 1/4” square bar.  Tapers are forged on each end and the piece is heated near the middle and bent into a tight hairpin. The bend is forged closed and welded, fire, MIG, TIG, whatever, for about 3/4”  Then it is forged to a flat taper the easy way.

The only somewhat tricky part of the project is getting the poker fitted properly so that it is securely joined while preserving the air exhaust ports.  That is where I found making the top and bottom slits in the collar useful in getting stronger weld attachment. Plenty of weld remains after sanding smooth and there is plenty of open space on each side of the tip for air to exit.

After cleaning up the welds, I forge the shape of the poker arm and the hook arm.  Then the piece is firescaled, tumbled and the finish applied.  The last item is to blow and test the air flow.  The tool is much more effective than a bellows.

When it is ready to take to the Gallery, Betty attaches the price tag with a card explaining how it is used, as a lot of people have never used one.

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