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This is a combination of two old articles that have been updated with some additions and put here in one place to make them easy to find. Now includes Foundry Tongs.

Easy Tong Making Method:

Making your own tongs is one of the first projects someone new to blacksmithing should take on. They are a tool you cannot do without for long and one which will help your forging abilities. This method takes advantage of fullering which is more efficient than using the hammer alone.

For general purpose tongs start with a piece of 3/8" x 1" flat bar about two feet long or a little longer. For small light duty tongs start with 1/4" x 1" flat bar. Difficult to obtain 5/16" by Mild steel (or even wrought iron) is satisfactory for tongs. Do not use carbon steel over 40 points carbon. If you intend to make goose neck or offset tongs start further up the bar leaving extra material to shape after the tongs are assembled. You can always take material off but its harder to put back on.

  • Work one end first (the bar is long enough for both halves). Fuller two notches in the bar as shown. The depth of the first notch should leave a bar thickness or a little more. The handle end fullering should only go half way through and then will taper.

  • Now twist the "jaw" 90°. Wasn't that easy! Remember BOTH side of the tongs are alike. There is NO right and left side or mirror parts. The first time you make this mistake you will remember!

  • Fuller the "handle" end behind the joint. Your fuller depressions should be equally spaced the width of the fullered depression. Then hammer out the high spots. These, being small work easier than forging directly with the hammer. Don't worry about finishing the full length of the reins at this point. About 1/3 will do.

  • When one joint looks pretty good, cool the bar and do the same thing on the other end. This way you don't need a set of tongs to make your first set of tongs! When the second joint is finished NOW finish the reins, which are now in the middle of the bar. Remember, the reins should taper from about half the joint height (bar width) to an octagon or round equal to the bar thickness. On long tongs you may need to cut the bar in two before finishing the reins but on small general purpose tongs there is no need.

  • You may punch or drill the rivet hole. Hot punching leaves a little more material in the joint but is hard to control if you are not a practiced smith. My rule of thumb is to use a rivet about the same diameter as the thickness of the bar you started with or one size bigger.

  • A useful trick from Bealer's The Art of Blacksmithing, is to put a layer of heavy brown paper (grocery bag) in the joint when you rivet the tongs. When this burns out it leaves some clearance in the joint. If the joint is too loose it is easy to tighten but if it is too tight it is hard to loosen. The only way to loosen a joint that is too tight is to heat the rivet with a torch or heat the joint in the forge and then work them back and forth.

  • When your tongs are finished they must be adjusted. Find a short sample of the material thickness you are going to work with. Heat the jaws and the joint up to the taper in the reins. Grip the sample in the tongs and either clamp the jaws and the sample in the vise or tap the jaws square to the sample on the anvil. I like using the vise because then you can spread the reins to a comfortable distance. When adjusting on the anvil you must hold the reins apart or use a little block of wood with two holes drilled at the right spacing.

  • Copyright © 1998 Jock Dempsey, Updated 2011

2. Goose Neck Tongs with a Twist

These are a heavier tongs than the ones above. They start with 3/8" x 1" stock for medium tongs and 3/8" (or 7/16") x 1-1/4" for heavy tongs.
Goose Neck Tongs step one
The forging starts with fullering the jaws, forming the joint to one side, then starting the back of the joint. Avoid thinning the the neck. It is better if it turns out a little wider than the thickness of the bar. The hole is punched using a round punch with a chisel point. Working the hole from both sides with the chisel point punch makes a hole without removing any material.
A twist of the Goose Neck orients the jaws 90° to the joint. If the neck has been rounded the twist will be almost unnoticeable.
Finishing the Tong Joint
Bending the neck is done first over the edge of the anvil then over the horn. The jaws can be formed in a swage after forming the neck. The last step is to flatten the neck to the thickness of the original bar. This makes the neck taller than wide and thus stronger in the gripping direction.

Jaws can vary in section depending on what is to be held. To make welding tongs and foundry tongs flat bar is welded to the jaws. Foundry tongs may need the jaw blank drawn out to make extra long goose necks. Jaw section Options

The tongs above were forged from 5/8" (16mm) square bar stock using a power hammer.

Foundry Tongs

The lifting tongs above are modified goose jaw bolt tongs that the jaws had been accidently burned off when I found them (scrap tongs). The remaining jaws were reshaped and then 1" x 1/8" (25 mm x 3.2 mm ) flat bar was arc welded on and shaped to fit the crucible. Crucible tongs need to be carefully fitted to the crucible so that there is a wide smooth area of contact. Crucible lifting tongs are only used for removing the crucible from the furnace. A pouring shank or pouring tongs are used to fill the molds.

Crucible lifting tongs should fit about 1/2 to 1/3 of the way down from the top of the crucible. On standard crucibles the tongs should fit just below the "bout" or largest part of the curved sides. On A-line crucibles such as the one above about 1/3 down from the top is correct. Note that crucibles lose strength at working temperature so fits should be smooth. Crucibles also expand from the heat and tongs will fit lower on a hot crucible than on a cold one. This is not noticeable on small crucibles but can be significant on large ones.

The pouring bowl "tweezer" tongs are made from 1" x 1/8" x 32" (25 mm x 3.2 mm x 810 mm) mild steel flat bar and were cold bent in a vise and over the anvil horn. The resulting tongs are 15" (380 mm) long and fit both small crucibles above. For small crucibles these are much more convenient than other types of tongs. Using a light weight refractory lift body furnace these tongs can be used for the entire casting process. Many jewelers and other doing small castings melt metal directly in the pouring bowl using a torch and also do not need lifting tongs.

Note that early and primitive smiths used wooden tweezer type tongs with a leather hinge to handle hot metal for forging. While these do not have the leverage of modern tongs they do get the job done. It is something to keep in mind if you need tongs and nothing else is available.


McDonald Tongs

Fullers and Fullering
Basic forging techniques and tools.
McDonald Tongs

More Tongs by Hugh McDonald
Non-traditional ways to make tongs. Bolt tongs, reverse (spreader) tongs and welding tongs.

McDonald Tongs

3 Ways to Make Tongs Bill Epps Demo illustrated by Andrew Hooper.

McDonald Tongs

EZ Tongs Demo by Sean Connor.
Primitive tongs that make a good first project for kids or the Boy Scout Merit Badge.

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