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Thread: Swage block

  1. #1
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    Swage block

    I have been working on some blacksmithing projects, which include a lot of surface forming, and it has all been over a standard anvil. The carbon steel skillet that I recently started is a project that I have found difficult to form perfectly without a swage block or the right sized mold. In this regard I have designed a swage block on fusion 360 and plan to have it milled by a friend of mine. The only problem is I need to find the stock for this project, the size is one square foot and three inches thick. The price of metal has really escalated and I don't really want to spend $400 on this project. I do have some 1" steel plate that is the right size for the swage block, only I would have to stack three pieces together.
    What would be the best way to fuse three stacked 1" mild steel plates? I have thought of forge welding them with my triple burner propane forge, but I don't think it would get hot enough to forge weld so much metal. Would a series of slot welds over the top down to the bottom plate, and four but welds around the perimeter be a good way to fuse the plates evenly without them warping, to create a block solid enough to mill?

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    Re: Swage block

    I have no idea what a swage block is, but................ I laminate plate quite a bit. If you're making a round form, drill the 3 plates, cut pins on the lathe for a press fit, cut them to length so that you can plug weld them in once they've been pressed through the 3 pieces. This allows you to machine around the edges without running afoul of any perimeter welds. I have pics somewhere if I can find them.

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    Re: Swage block

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    The 4 pins hold the whole thing together extremely rigid. The more pins, the more rigidity. The built in error in all the drilled holes grabs the pins like a vise in addition to the press fit. This assembly was machined with no problems.............no movement, no warpage, and the finished part works very well. It's a very tough assembly.

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    Re: Swage block

    The part underwent significant stress during machining, and did not develop a parting line. The halves are almost undiscernible.

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    There's absolutely, in most cases, no need to buy expensive solid stock when lamination will do nicely. It's not for everything you make, but it certainly fills a gap.
    Last edited by farmersammm; 5 Days Ago at 01:00 AM. Reason: added last sentence

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    Re: Swage block

    I looked at some pics of swage blocks to actually see what they were. Do a perimeter weld if the forms you want are in the middle. Do the pins/plugs if the forms you want are on the outside.

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    Re: Swage block

    Hopefully some of the more experienced blacksmiths will wade in on this one . I can't help but think there are better techniques with your traditional anvil that would be easier than building a form/swage to fit the project. It sounds like you already have enough experience to know that a laminated block is not going to have the rebound that a solid block will, but there's no reason why it can't work. If you were going to go ahead with it, I think Sam has a good plan. Assuming you will be machining out a lot of the center, you could pin it along the outside edges. Another method that would work with the 3 layers of laminate would be to drill the 2 outside pieces and plug weld them to the center one, and bevel the connecting edges and weld them along the perimeter. You are working with a lot of metal, and should probably use your forge to pre-heat it before welding and cool it slowly.
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    Re: Swage block

    Ah yes, that makes sense, the pins would hold it together with high friction along with the fusion and shrinkage of the plug welds. I would need to use a heavy hammer to install the pins, as I do not have a press. what is the rating of the press you would need to press in the pins with enough friction, would a 1 ton arbor press work?

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    Re: Swage block

    I have many smaller swages on the bottom of the block, but the most important one is the 10" concave cavity on the top of the block.
    After welding the block I would probably need to anneal it in the forge to allow the mill to machine the outside for the outer side swages.
    Last edited by ChrisCramer; 5 Days Ago at 01:28 AM.

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    Re: Swage block

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisCramer View Post
    Ah yes, that makes sense, the pins would hold it together with high friction along with the fusion and shrinkage of the plug welds. I would need to use a heavy hammer to install the pins, as I do not have a press. what is the rating of the press you would need to press in the pins with enough friction, would a 1 ton arbor press work?
    I don't believe an arbor press would work. If you have to use a hammer, try to protect the ends of the pins so they don't mushroom. On second thought..........if you heat the plates, a lightweight press might work.

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    Re: Swage block

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisCramer View Post
    I have many smaller swages on one side of the block, but the most important one is the 10" concave cavity on the opposite side of the block.
    After welding the block I would probably need to anneal it in the forge to alow the mill to machine the outside for the outer swages.
    No need to anneal if you used mild steel in the first place. A carbide end mill will have no problem machining either a MIG, or 7018 stick weld. Don't use self shielding flux core, it's too doggone hard to machine without ruining some inserts.

    Any alloy probably won't be weldable anyway, or will need preheat, and some stress relief. I don't mess with alloys, so what I say might not be accurate. Check out the weldability of your alloy to make sure............if you're using an alloy. (Hell..........I guess you might want to use something that can be hardened......I'm a dummy when it comes to this particular kind of work)

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    Re: Swage block

    I don't think I would need to use an alloy for this that could be hardened so much more. I wouldn't be forging any alloyed metal other than stainless sheet metal over the swage block. All of my wrought iron is mild steel, and there are many blacksmiths that just use a carved stump to shape things like a skillet. It definitely makes sense that a laminated block would not have as much rebound as a solid block, but this is only my first swage block that could be improved in the future.

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    Re: Swage block

    It's a good project to get your feet wet. The learning curve isn't very steep. Make sure to bevel your edges if you're going for a perimeter weld. The bevel gives adequate penetration.

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    Re: Swage block

    I envision you dishing this out so you can for the skillet? The feather edge might become an issue... It might break. How hot do they get during work? I could see possibly separating layers since they taper to thin. How close will your plates fit? That may improve rebound if they could be flattened before welding.

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    Re: Swage block

    That is one thing I need to do, is make sure the plates are perfectly flat. I never thought about the fact that the edges of the plates after they are milled would be left with tapered tips. if the plates are fused close enough together then I don’t think they would have enough space behind them to break off, but better safe than sorry. I could cut off 1/8” of the tips, weld them to the plate below, and grind/polish the bead.

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    Re: Swage block

    You don't need a swage block to make skillets.

    Holland Anvil makes a nice swage block with dishing hollows already in place. For the money, it'd be a better investment than trying to make your own.

    You can also use the bottom of a O2 tank or similar cylinder. A "metal stump" is very handy to have in the shop and we've discussed this in the sticky thread on blacksmithing tools.

    Black Bear Forge has shown how to make a skillet without a fancy swage block. Most of the problem is just getting used to doing it since working sheet isn't something most people deal with regularly.

    If you have a welder, you can make forms from bar stock and weld the seams together.

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    Re: Swage block

    Quote Originally Posted by VaughnT View Post
    You don't need a swage block to make skillets.

    Holland Anvil makes a nice swage block with dishing hollows already in place. For the money, it'd be a better investment than trying to make your own.

    You can also use the bottom of a O2 tank or similar cylinder. A "metal stump" is very handy to have in the shop and we've discussed this in the sticky thread on blacksmithing tools.

    Black Bear Forge has shown how to make a skillet without a fancy swage block. Most of the problem is just getting used to doing it since working sheet isn't something most people deal with regularly.

    If you have a welder, you can make forms from bar stock and weld the seams together.
    ...and when I said experienced blacksmith, there's a guy you should pay attention to.
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  21. #17
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    Re: Swage block

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisCramer View Post
    I have been working on some blacksmithing projects, which include a lot of surface forming, and it has all been over a standard anvil. The carbon steel skillet that I recently started is a project that I have found difficult to form perfectly without a swage block or the right sized mold. In this regard I have designed a swage block on fusion 360 and plan to have it milled by a friend of mine. The only problem is I need to find the stock for this project, the size is one square foot and three inches thick. The price of metal has really escalated and I don't really want to spend $400 on this project. I do have some 1" steel plate that is the right size for the swage block, only I would have to stack three pieces together.
    What would be the best way to fuse three stacked 1" mild steel plates? I have thought of forge welding them with my triple burner propane forge, but I don't think it would get hot enough to forge weld so much metal. Would a series of slot welds over the top down to the bottom plate, and four but welds around the perimeter be a good way to fuse the plates evenly without them warping, to create a block solid enough to mill?
    Won’t a carbon steel pan warp?

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  22. #18
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    Re: Swage block

    I was going to mention the Holland anvil swages....pretty nice for the price and a lot easier than trying to make one.

    For the folks asking about rebound...swages don't require rebound like an anvil as you're not doing that sort of work on them. Many were made of cast iron, ductile iron, etc. As noted, stumps and big chunks of wood with shapes carved out can serve as a swage for many projects.

    I don't think you'd be too happy with the product if you try making one out of a laminate that size. Welding along the perimeter is probably enough heat that it's not going to be flat/square afterwards, which is going to increase the amount of machine work required to get it square again. First you'd have to get the plates perfectly flat, weld them together, then get them flat again, then machine in the shapes...and it still might not turn out that well. I'd be worried about how thin the top plate would be in the areas you dish out the most.
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    Re: Swage block

    Quote Originally Posted by farmersammm View Post
    [The built in error in all the drilled holes grabs the pins like a vise in addition to the press fit. .

    HEY

    "Built in error" is an exclusive feature in all my projects.




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    Re: Swage block

    Quote Originally Posted by VaughnT View Post
    You don't need a swage block to make skillets.

    Holland Anvil makes a nice swage block with dishing hollows already in place. For the money, it'd be a better investment than trying to make your own.

    You can also use the bottom of a O2 tank or similar cylinder. A "metal stump" is very handy to have in the shop and we've discussed this in the sticky thread on blacksmithing tools.

    Black Bear Forge has shown how to make a skillet without a fancy swage block. Most of the problem is just getting used to doing it since working sheet isn't something most people deal with regularly.

    If you have a welder, you can make forms from bar stock and weld the seams together.
    What Vaughn said^^^^ but for those unfamiliar with swage blocks....




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  26. #21
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    Re: Swage block

    hmm, that does get me thinking about how I designed my swage block on fusion 360. Lots of the smaller swages on the bottom are machined as deep as 1/4” from the main cavity on the top. It was designed out of a solid square foot 3 inch block, so I can now see me running into several issues with the shapes of the swages because of any bit of missing material throughout the entire block.

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    Re: Swage block

    Chris, I think you are over-thinking and over-engineering this.

    Vaughn had some good suggestions. You will be forming thin steel, probably around red hot. Many smiths just make skillets cold-formed! The "swage block" can be just plain mild steel. You can form your skillets, hot metal or cold thin metal, without any kind of alloys or heat treating of the block. I form my dish shaped items on a hollowed out stump! Don't worry about rebound; you are not forging thick stock. Stack your three plates, weld them together along the edge seams, have your friend machine out the curved depression to your specs, and forge away! If you are worried about ridges forming on the outside surface of the skillet from the inside seams, run a bead around the inside seams, grind and polish. The gentle forging you will be doing won't destroy the beads if they are thick enough.

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    Re: Swage block


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    Re: Swage block

    Would olympic style weight work for swage. Can they be machined and beat on? Comparably cheaper than steel. If you find a scraper, then really cheap.

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    Re: Swage block

    Cool idea, Vaughn!

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