This was the lamp bracket when I started.  So how did it go?  Let's see...

  2019 February 10    Metal & Shop   Blacksmithing


In Part One I tried fashioning a very simple bracket.  It was supposed to hold a lamp, but as we saw in that article, it wasn't quite ready for that task.

The thing sat around for a year or two, until I got tired of looking at it.  So I thought perhaps I'd make it into a better lamp bracket.

CAUTION: Working with hot metal can be dangerous.  Improper heat-treating of metal can be dangerous.  Please read the Disclaimer, and make sure you wear proper safety gear when doing any type of metalworking.

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In This Article

The Original Plan

What Went Wrong

Blacksmithing Knowledge Gained

Back In The Shop

Attempt At Fancy Stuff

Forge Welding

Completing The Project


The Original Plan

Instead of arc-welding an angle brace, I'd decided I was going to Super Quench the right-angle portion of the bracket. 

First, though, I got this brilliant idea to "re-shape the metal a bit" first... 

I was going to hammer it into a taller and narrower cross-section:  like a piece of flat stock set on edge.  This, I thought, would make the bracket more resistant to bending.

That, plus Super Quench... what could go wrong?

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What Went Wrong

There were two main problems.

One, I drew the metal out too thin at the 90-degree bend.  Now it would probably bend under its own weight:  not good for a lamp bracket.

Two, some of the metal folded over onto itself without forge-welding.  That's not especially good, either.

By this time I realized it wasn't going to work as a lamp bracket.....

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Blacksmithing Knowledge Gained

Up until recently, my smithing experience had been mostly "mini blacksmithing":  simple stuff, very small scale.  More recent projects have taught me some new things.

First, blacksmithing is hard.  Some of the skills take ten minutes to learn, but tens or hundreds of hours to gain proficiency. 

Two, some things should be done EARLY in the sequence.  Such as, drawing out square tapers.  You can't really do that after you've put multiple bends in a workpiece.

There is a third thing I learned here.

That is, it doesn't have to be a lamp bracket.  If you mess up, make it into something else!  And that's what we're going to do....

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Back In The Shop

Lamp bracket didn't work out;  let's make it into a coal rake.  I've tried making them before, but there's always reason to make another.  Besides, the bracket had the right shape and size to be a coal rake without too much re-working.  So here we go.

Step 1.  Straighten the bent metal to allow forging it into a square taper.  Without the bends, it will also heat more easily in the "pile o' broken bricks" forge.  (WARNING:  the way I have this forge set up at the moment may not be safe for your circumstances or level of experience;  any attempt to duplicate it, or anything else on this site, is completely at your own risk.  Disclaimer.)

This photo was actually taken before I made the metal too thin, but the basic idea is:  heat up the metal so it can be straightened out.

Step 2.  Square taper.  That 5/8" round stock was too heavy for a coal rake.  Shown here:  the square cross-section has started to take shape;  now it's in the forge for another heat:

This was in the early stage of rough forging.  Later on, you refine the taper so it looks better. 

Making a long square taper from round stock is time-consuming.  The hardest part is making it uniform.  There's a huge difference between something like this, and simply bending a straight piece of stock into an "L" shape.  The piece of bent stock could take five or ten minutes to make.  The fancy one could be a multi-day project.

Step 3.  Hammer the other end flat.  After the square taper was mostly complete, I hammered the other end into a flat handle.  When you're trying to work fast at a blacksmith forge, it helps if you can orient the tools quickly without even looking at them.  Leaving a handle square-- or worse, round-- makes the workflow that much slower. 

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Attempt At Fancy Stuff

Since it was shaping up to be a multi-session project anyway, I tried adding some decorative features.  I notched the flat handle section on either edge, starting a finial that would eventually be round. 

This would get hot-punched through the center.  Here's the improvised pritchel that I used;  you might recognize it as the improvised "rivet header anvil" that I used for the Toolbox Drawer Pull project:

Here's a photo after working the flat handle section to make it more uniform.  Notice the round finial, now with the incorrectly-punched hole in the center.  Some of the metal bunched up around it.  Why?  The hot punch that I had was too dull and pitted... so I used a center punch. 

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Forge Welding

The working end of the coal rake still had the holes I'd made for lag bolts, back when it was a lamp bracket. 

So I thought I might try forge-welding metal plugs into the holes.  It just so happened I had some metal I'd hammered out to the right diameter, a scrap from another project.

Cut to length, de-burr the edges, hammer into place:

First attempt at forge-welding, so I won't say this was a great result.  This was also one of the more difficult things I could possibly have chosen to forge-weld.  There's no overlapping metal here;  instead we're trying to mash a steel circle flat, hoping the edges spread out enough to weld into the surrounding steel.  Difficult, but I figured it might be worth a try.

There's a lot of scale and pitting, and maybe it's not a complete forge weld, but I think it'll hold.  When the metal was at red heat I applied borax, then heated it to bright-orange yellow where the metal looked sort of waxy.  Few light taps;  the only thing I might have done differently was not to put the metal on the anvil before hammering, because that might have cooled it down too much. 

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Completing The Project

That long square taper needed something decorative, I thought.  Bright-red heat about a 3" section, clamp in vise, twist with an adustable auto wrench:

Later I heated the metal near the working end and put sort of a recurve bend in it.  This is is one of those classic design elements where I have no idea who invented it, but when you see it, it just sort of looks "right".  For the mandrel or stake, I used a piece of 1/2" round stock clamped in the vise.

So there it is! 

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Originally I was trying to make a basic, crude lamp bracket into a better lamp bracket.

That was kind of a failure, but it was a good opportunity to make something else. 

While the result is not perfect, I'd say it's a big improvement over what I started with.  I learned some new things and am happy with it overall.  So I would call that a good day in the shop.

Thanks for reading!

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