Wrong steel for making tongs?

Discussion in 'Hammer & Tongs' started by RichSwinson, May 18, 2016.

  1. RichSwinson


    Jan 7, 2016
    Hey guys I work in a tech shop for semi trucks and large tractors. On the back of a semi there are square steel bars that are used to hang mudflaps. I'm told they are spring steel. So I've gathered several that were replaced and were going to be scrapped. After cuttin both ends off your left with about 25 inches of half inch square. So I thought I would try my hand at forgin some tongs. Things aren't working out. The first two attempts they broke right at the neck and boss area. So after looking at a couple tongs that I bought I narrowed it down to me making the neck too thin. Something else I noticed is how hard they are. Has anyone tried making tongs out of spring steel? I mean tryin to draw out the reins is really tough. I'm just wondering if these are in fact spring steel. I thought it would be a good experiment and good practice since it was free steel and about the right length and size. Most videos I've watched about making tongs they use either square or round stock about the same size I'm trying these at but they don't say what type of steel they're using. So I'm wondering if practice is all I'm goin to get from my mystery steel or will they make a decent set of tongs. Any advice would be great.
  2. Boogaloo


    Jun 20, 2013
    1/2" square seems a bit small as parent stock. I made a pair with RR spikes which are about 5/8" square and the boss still seems a bit fragile. If you do indeed have spring steel, beware of water quenching as you will harden the steel doing s, leaving it brittle and prone to breaking. Also try to avoid any sharp corners which will produce stress concentrations.

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  3. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    Spring steel means any steel that is used to make springs .That covers lots of territory !! You want a hardness of not much more than HRc 50.
  4. RichSwinson


    Jan 7, 2016
    If you had two identical sizes of square. As on this case 5/8 (Boogaloo I measured when I got home) about 25 inches long. One being actuall spring steel and the other mild steel, would it take the same effort to draw and round them? Or would the spring steel be harder? I was hoping for some really durable tongs but if its that much harder to draw out then I might as well use what would normally be used for making tongs. Which I'm not even sure that mild steel IS what is "normally" used. Not too mention the tongs I do use (if they are mild steel) are probably 20 years old and hold up well. I was hoping I hit the jackpot when I got all these mudflap hangers lol.
  5. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    It's always nice to know what steel you have ! A 1040 or 4140 makes a nice tong.
  6. Bo T

    Bo T

    Feb 12, 2011
    Did you check to see if the steel is magnetic? I'm guessing that good hangers are not a mild steel, but more along the lines of a stainless steel. They may have to be forged at a much higher temperature than 1018 or 1040.
  7. Boogaloo


    Jun 20, 2013
    Alloy and mid carbon steels will indeed be harder to forge than mild steel.

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  8. GHEzell


    Nov 14, 2001
    I have a few of these, judging by spark and quench tests they're 1095 or thereabouts... I've made a few punches and chisels out of them, but they would not be my first choice for tongs.
  9. Matt River

    Matt River

    Oct 1, 2012
    Spring steel covers a huge range as stated previously. 5160 feels very solid under the hammer, mild steel is way way different. Molybdenum and tungsten steels can be very hard even at high heat. Another factor in repurposing steel is work hardening. Rolling, forming, pressing, and repetitive stress create issues. My solution is a soak in the forge, make sure evenly heated before hammer. If you need more thickness at the hinge point, use controlled heat and upsetting technique, thicken the hinge point through compression. Mild steel will not make very good tongs, no spring.
  10. coldsteelburns


    Aug 2, 2010
    Mild steel can be, and is used by quite a bit of individual smiths to make tongs. They may not be top of the line, but they work just fine for plenty of people. :thumbup:

    It's always good to make sure you have enough meat around the boss and jaw areas. Using 5/8" round (or square) stock can make a good pair on tongs, and as Matt mentioned, you can always do a bit of upsetting on the end of the bar before begin to forge them to have more steel to help avoid too little thickness at the boss and jaws.

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  11. A.McPherson

    A.McPherson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 27, 2012
    I just made my first set of tongs and I very nearly broke both bosses, I did break one and had to start over. I think the main problem (for me at least) is trying to forge too cold. When steel is really hot, it's quite plastic and moves easily, but if it gets too cold and you still forge on it, you are introducing serious stresses into it. especially around the "neck" of the boss where it's very thin and gets moved around a lot. Think of a paper clip. bend it back and forth a whole bunch and it will heat up and break. I believe the same this is happening at the "neck" of the tongs.
  12. CrookedPath


    Apr 22, 2014
    I would never use tool steel on tongs. As you can see they are prone to break. It's easy to forget they are made of tool steel and you water quench them and they break. Use mild steel. They will bend instead of break, and you just bend em back. I do a lot of straight blacksmithing, and the only time I've really seen tool steel used for tongs is for hammer making, and other similar uses.
  13. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    I've used sucker rod and found out rite quick that it didn't like to be forged too cold, cracks everywhere. For most of my tongs I use regular 1018 cold rolled, either 3/4" or 1" stock and draw down from there. I have seen a maker use 1/2" rod and an upsetting jig to upset the boss area to 3/4". I've got a few tongs I've made from sucker rod, once I figured out not to beat on it too cold and forge it hot, that are good for hammer eye tongs and such where I want a little "spring" or extra toughness. For most I like plain old 1018 cold rolled, primarily because when they get hot I have no issues about dunking them in the slack tub to cool them down where as 1045 or 4140 you might be getting them a bit too hard dunking in water. Not to mention 1018 is easy to form and modify to fit my needs, medium and high carbon tongs take a bit more care.

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