Forging A New Distraction.

I have never purchased a subscription to a woodworking magazine. I typically like to pick and choose what I see on the newsstand to whatever tickles my fancy in a bi-monthly cycle. I did win a subscription to Fine Woodworking in a contest not to long ago and it has been showing up in my mailbox.

The most recent issue has a nice article about building a blanket chest by hand written by Andrew Hunter. Touted as a web extra is a video of the author forming his own gimmel or snipe hinges. These period hinges are difficult to come by and fairly expensive if you can find them, but for a lot of the medieval up to 17th century style pieces I like to build, they are what's called for.

A pair of proper gimmal hinges (snipe hinges). This picture was judiciously lifted from Peter Follansbee's Blog Joiner's Notes. 

I've tried to make a go of modifying cotter pins and I've even had a black smith acquaintance from facebook lined up to forge some along with some nails and he never followed through. The video finally lit a fire under my ass to just go make my own. I wanted to be able to make more than snipe hinges, I wanted to forge nails and real hinges as well. To accomplish that I would need a little more than a propane flame in the open air.

I'd heard about soup can forges before but I dived a little deeper and found THIS GREAT VIDEO on youTube. Go ahead and watch, I'll wait for you to come back.

Yesterday while running some other errands we stopped by a craft store and the home center for the supplies. All total, I spent in the neighborhood of twenty dollars to build my own version of the soup can forge.

 It went together pretty quickly, I'd say about an hour of dinking around to get to finished. The toughest part was waiting a few hours for the mixture of plaster of paris and sand to dry enough to fire up the first burn.

It worked!

Of all the things I do have is an actual, full size anvil and some forging tools. More presents from my father In Law from my wife's family's past. This morning I went out to the shop and picked it up off the floor and hefted it up onto the hewing stump. Then started heating the metal and beating the metal into submission.

I have some ideas I think can improve on the forge I built. but this morning it was satisfying to pound out my own gimmel. Like any thing new it will take some time and practice to refine what I'm producing. I'm certainly not planning on becoming the next Peter Ross but being a little more independent and flexible in my hardware choices will be a welcome change to my shop.

Ratione et Passionis

P.S. See the Fine Woodworking video that started me on the path HERE.


  1. I look forward to your blog posts, but this one is just fantastic. I'm going to have to get this setup.

  2. Nice job Derek; they look great. I made a paint can forge a while back while making some chisels and it worked like a charm. I'd really like to get into a little bit of smithing. Need to be on the lookout for a proper anvil. What was the raw material you used for the gimmels?

    1. I cut lengths from a piece of 3/16" round stock I also picked up at the home store. A paint can is a pretty damn good idea as well,

  3. Be sure to pick up some O1 drill rod and you can start making your own carving tools. MUCH cheaper than buying. If you are not that comfortable with the metal stuff, get "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" (There are a few sources for PDF versions but this one is a real keeper.) :)


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