Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

by Mark Aspery of Springville, CA

Stock: For this example 8 inches of 3/4 inch square A36 Hot rolled bar is used.

Rationale and Method

Box jaw tongs offer a number of advantages over open jaw tongs under most circumstances. Primarily the smith can take a relaxed grip on the tongs when forging without fear of loosing the piece. The piece will not shift during the forging process when secured by the box. Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs example A

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs example B

There are a number of skills used in making a pair of tongs. An understanding of the Cow Poop theory of Blacksmithing is a must.

The Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Imagine a freshly placed patty of cow poop at your feet. If, per chance, you were to jump into this with both feet, where would the poop go? Out! 360 degrees out. If we call the face of the anvil the field and the hot metal the cow poop, your hammer becoming your feet; striking a blow on the hot metal with your hammer will yield the same effects as jumping in with both feet. The metal will spread in 360 degrees. If you were aiming to draw a taper on this piece of metal, then the metal that did not move in the direction of the taper will have to be hit again in order to force it to cooperate.

Let us go back to the cow poop. Suppose that we now hit the cow poop with a Cricket (baseball) bat. Where would it go now? We may get a little on our gloves, but most would move perpendicular to the bat. We have directional control of the metal.

We can apply this to our forging in a number of ways. a.) Forge the piece over the bick or horn (a built in baseball bat), and b.) we can use the peen of our hammer (a smaller baseball bat), or c.) we can draw out with a fuller, or any combination of the above. In this way we are limiting the amount of metal that we have to move twice. We do more with less effort.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Figure A

When you drive a piece of metal into the corner of an anvil (as in Fig. A) it yields the same result as driving a fuller into the metal. The fuller is shown for clarity. You will be using this technique in the first step in making these tongs. The jaw of the tongs will be only as wide as the parent stock, 3/4 inch, thus any gain in the width will have to be forged back into the stock. In using the corner of the anvil in this manner, we employ the baseball bat side of the “Cow Poop” theory and keep any growth in width to a minimum.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Figure B

In Fig. B the piece is held flat on the anvil and a half faced blow is delivered. This results in the metal supported on the anvil being spread 360 degrees and the metal that is unsupported being driven down the side of the anvil. The result is termed a “set transition,” as if it were put there by a set hammer. You will use this, the “both feet” use of the Cow Poop Theory when you set down the boss or hinge plate.

There are a number of ways to make a pair of box jaw tongs. Some have the box extending all the way down the jaw. Others have half the box on each jaw. In this example, the box is about 3/4 inch long. In having a sufficient gap behind the box we can pass stock in from the side, as shown in example B. This is useful when we want to hold a bar for upsetting purposes etc.

In the following example it is assumed that the smith does not have an abundance of tools. There are other ways to achieve the same end results, but they are more tool intensive.

Hammer control is an issue during this project, and the smith is advised to make sure that the hammer being used is well dressed, with no sharp edges. That will aid in delivering blended, overlapping blows and improve the overall finish of the piece. The measurements given are approximate.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Step 1, A thru C

1 – Working on the near side of the anvil, place a chalk mark on the anvil at about the 1 1/ 4 inch mark. Place the end of the bar against this mark, lower your tong hand and match the angle of the stock as you deliver the hammer blows.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

SmallFarmersJournal.com is a live, ever-changing subscription website. To gain access to all the content on this site, subscribe for just $5 per month. If you are not completely satisfied, cancel at any time. Here at your own convenience you can access past articles from Small Farmer's Journal's first forty years and all of the brand new content of new issues. You will also find posts of complete equipment manuals, a wide assortment of valuable ads, a vibrant events calendar, and up to the minute small farm news bulletins. The site features weather forecasts for your own area, moon phase calendaring for farm decisions, recipes, and loads of miscellaneous information.

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Woodstove Cookery at Home on the Range

An Illustrated Guide To The Wood Fired Cookstove

Illustrated guide to the wood stove and it’s accoutrements.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Basic Blacksmithing Techniques

Illustrated guide to basic blacksmithing techniques, an excerpt from Blacksmithing: Basics For The Homestead.

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

Storey’s Guide To Keeping Honey Bees

It is well known that the value of pollination and its resultant seed set and fruit formation outweigh any provided by honey bee products like honey and beeswax.

Timing the Bounce

Timing the Bounce: Resilient Agriculture Meets Climate Change

by:
from issue:

In her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate, Laura Lengnick assumes a dispassionate, businesslike tone and sets about exploring the farming strategies of twenty-seven award-winning farmers in six regions of the continental United States. Her approach gets well past denial and business-as-usual, to see what can be done, which strategies are being tried, and how well they are working.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Old Man Farming

Old Man Farming

Long after his physical capacities have dwindled to pain and stiffening, what drives the solitary old man to continue bringing in the handful of Guernsey cows to milk?

Making Buttermilk

The Small-Scale Dairy

What kind of milk animal would best suit your needs? For barnyard matchmaking to be a success, you need to address several concerns.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Apples of North America

Freedom has been called the ugly duckling of disease-resistant apple varieties. But that shouldn’t detract from its many merits. These include the freedom from apple-scab infection for which it was named, a high rate of productivity, and an ability to serve as a good pollinator for its more attractive sibling, Liberty.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Journal Guide