Saturday, 31 May 2008

Tool repair with a portable forge

At the recent meeting of the Sussex and Surrey Coppice Group, we saw a demonstration of tool repair by Ian Swain. You can visit his website at

The really neat thing was that he used a portable forge to heat the tang of the billhook blade until it was red hot, allowing it to burn a shape for itself in the new handle.

Here's the portable forge. The lid is only shut in transit - the blower on the top can be packed inside it. The protrusion at the back of the firebox is where the jet of air comes in from the blower.
Lighting the forge was simple - paper and wood to start:
then crank the handle to get some air into the fire:
the next step was to load it up with charcoal and keep cranking:
Only 5 minutes from lighting it was hot enough to put the billhook in:
Ian took care not to let the main blade get too hot, as that would affect the properties of the steel.

While the tang of the blade was heating up, Ian got the handle ready, fitting a metal collar onto it:
Once the tang was glowing red (hard to see in daylight), it was hammered straight:
then inserted into the handle:
this needed hammering on, and you can see the smoke from the hot metal burning into the wood:
sometimes the metal has to be reheated and put in again to burn a large enough hole to reach through the other end of the handle. Once it was through, a washer was slipped over it and Ian used a hollow centre punch to bang it down firmly:
At the request of one of the people watching, Ian finished this one off by hammering the end of the tang over while it was still hot:
although what he normally does is saw it off and then hammer it so that it "mushrooms" and grips the washer firmly:
A while later the charcoal was still hot enough to get another one in there:

1 comment:

La Ferme de Sourrou said...

Great stuff!

That's one thing Fabrice and I know nothing about. It's a great skill to have and the portable forge is a lovely idea.

Thanks for the photos.