Down'n'dirty Blacksmithing/Drawing

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(Note: Some smiths refer to a method of tempering medium sized objects by applying heat, as from a torch or hot object, directly to the part to be tempered, as "drawing.")

Drawing, or "drawing out" is the process of lengthening a piece by forging. This is one of the most basic operations in that it is very simple to explain and perform, at least in theory. It does, however, form the basis of many related operations that are not so well defined.

To "draw out" a work, it must first be heated to working temperature. This takes patience, and practice, to recognize the right color changes and other signs. Once that has been done, move the piece to the anvil and (assuming it is a flat sided piece) place it flat on the anvil face. you want to strike the piece squarely, so that the hammer face doesn't gouge into the piece. This takes practice.

It is very important to work quickly and above all carefully. You will want to really pound that metal, maybe make some sparks fly like on the USMC advertisements. Don't. It is much more important to control your strikes than to drive the hammer straight through to the anvil. Go easy, and work your way into it. Your arms and shoulders will thank you too.

Now a strike or two (maybe 5 or 6 if you are really taking it easy) and you may start to see some change. It's high time to change sides. I think it is probably best to strike once or twice, flip up to an adjacent side, then go to the opposite side, then the (former) "bottom". That's my opinion, and if you stay at it you'll soon find a method that works, both for you and for the metal.

Work your way down the length of the area to be drawn until you have the desired length and thickness.

There are several pitfalls to basic drawing out that make the practice much harder than the theory. One is the tendency of the metal to "turn." This is where, due to uneven striking, uneven metal qualities, or uneven cooling, the piece starts to bend while being drawn. This can usually be corrected if caught early, by simply adjusting where you are striking to even it out. Don't let it go on too long, though, before correcting.

Another common problem is bowing(?) which is where the metal on the striking face begins to mushroom. This often happens when the piece has a relatively narrow face adjacent to a broad face. (Rectangular for example). Again, catching this early is the key to salvaging it. Usually this is a direct result of striking too hard or spending too much time on the narrow face. Fix by alternating between broad faces for awhile until it smooths back out.

The worst problem, and the hardest to "fix" is gouging. striking at an angle and/or too hard will cause the edge of the hammer face to dig into the work. Slight indentations may be buffed out later, or hammered out now, but deep gouges are all too often unfixable.

Next Chapter: Exercise 4: Freehand bending