It used to be that every farm had at least a small forge and an anvil so the farmer could repair his equipment and make his own tools and hardware. We continue that tradition here at Elkhorn with a small “smithy” (blacksmith shop) in the barn and it comes in very handy, especially for repairs.
Last week, I had a critical mass of items that needed fixing on the farm, so I fired up the forge and set to fixing the things I’d broken.
The first item was a broken hay hook. I’d forged the hook some months earlier out of mild steel, but I was in a hurry and didn’t temper it, leaving the metal hard, but also brittle. Tempering is a heat treatment that involves slowly reheating the metal and then quickly cooling it by quenching in liquid. We think of tempering as adding toughness to the metal. In this case, I just forged the hay hook and cooled it by plunging it into water. Over time, the hook bent repeatedly and finally broke off. Instead of running to the feed store and shelling out $10+ for a new one, I heated and reshaped the broken hook with a hammer and anvil. It’s a little shorter than it started out, but works just fine. And of course, I was in a hurry again and didn’t temper it, but that’s okay. Tempering can happen any time and doesn’t have to occur when the object is forged.
The second item I needed to fix was a tow hook. I forged a bunch of these and attached them to feeders, waterers, and shelters with deck screws so I can tow them around the farm. This one got torn off when a shelter decided it didn’t want to move after all. This is an example of a hand-forged item that is easy to make, but would be difficult to buy. You won’t find this at Home Depot. Rather than throw it away, I reheated it, and hammered it back into shape.
The last item that needed fixing was a homemade bracket that screws onto a board that I use as a loading ramp for my ATV. The bracket was originally flat, but I decided it needed a slight bend. Since the forge was already hot, I heated up the bracket and added a bend using a simple bending jig in a vice. Fast and easy.
Having a forge on the farm is very handy and a lot of fun. I get to mess with fire and beat on metal with a hammer, how could I not love it?