Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop
by Pete Cecil of Bend, OR
Fabricating steel rings is a common task in my small farm blacksmith shop. They are often used on tie-rings for my customer’s barns, chain latches on gates, neck yoke rings, etc. It’s simple enough to create a ring over the horn of the anvil or with the use of a bending fork, however, if you want to create multiple rings of the same diameter it’s worthwhile to build a hardy bending jig.
If you don’t have access to a forge, you can often find a fabrication/welding shop that has a Hossfeld bender. Provided they have the correct size dies, this human powered machine is designed to bend mild steel into various shapes. The finished product will look like a coiled spring, which can be cut and welded into rings of the same dimension.
Most of the rings I forge in my shop are made from 3/8”, 1/2”, and 5/8” diameter hot rolled round stock. Material bigger than 3/4” diameter takes a lot of effort to work by hand and is better suited to a shop with access to a trip hammer. Many medium to larger sized blacksmith shops have a cone mandrel, a tapered steel shaped cone which is designed to form small to large rings. I’ve found they are seldom used. Forging rings using a hardy jig or bending stock over the anvil horn is much more common.
To make a ring bending jig, I first forge a peg to fit into my anvils hardy hole. I then cut a 1/4“ thick base plate and a section of thick walled pipe that has the inside diameter of the ring I’m wanting to fabricate. The roughly one inch tall piece of pipe is welded securely to the base plate. I drill a 1/4” (or larger) hole in the middle of the base plate so that I can tack the hardy hole peg into position while it’s resting on the anvil. This helps ensure the parts are aligned. Once it’s tack welded into place I turn it over and weld it securely, then grind the weld so the jig sits flat on the anvil. The final step is to secure a stop that will hold the round stock firmly against the jig. This stop or peg is secured with an off-centered bolt so that it can accommodate the various sized round stock that I’m working with.
Hot rolled mild-steel is sufficiently strong for most farm applications. Once the rings have been bent, they can either be traditionally forge-welded or welded with a modern welder. Some rings won’t require the added strength of being welded and can be left as they are. Applying a coating of Johnson Floor Wax or bee wax while the ring is warm will help protect it from rust.
Making same-sized rings is a straight-forward forge process that will help improve your blacksmithing skills. It can also be an enjoyable and profitable part of your small farm forge! Making a variety of bending jigs will help you be prepared for your next ring making project.