Introduction: How to Forge a Bottle Opener
A bottle opener can be one of the most important tools in anyone's shop or garage. This bottle opener would be an excellent gift for a friend or the perfect addition to the ultimate man cave. It is also easy to make. With only basic metalworking skills, this bottle opener took me about an hour to make.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
3/8" scrap round bar
-One 4.5 inch section
-One 9 inch section
18" of 12 AWG copper wire
-Not all of the wire is needed, but excess wire gives better leverage when wrapping it around the bottle opener.
Dremel with grinder attachment
Brass wire brush
Normal wire brush
Use tongs that can grip the metal tightly. I modified a set of curved jaw clenching tongs to handle flat or square metal. I found it was hard to grip the round bar properly with those tongs, so I used Vise Grips before the metal was squared up.
Blacksmithing is a fun and rewarding hobby, but it can be deadly if you do not use caution when forging. The forge is VERY hot, and the metal you are working with can also be very hot even if it is not glowing red. Handle the forge and its accompanying equipment with care, and use the proper safety equipment at all times.
Step 2: Squaring the Iron
This step consists of transforming the scrap metal into something a bit more useful. Both sections will be formed into a square at this point. After heating up the metal to an orangish-yellow color, hit it two or three times with the hammer, keeping the face of the hammer parallel to the surface of the anvil. Rotate the metal 90 degrees and repeat. Gradually work your way down the length of the bar, checking for squareness as you proceed. Also, make sure the bar is straight as you work. Having it straight makes it easier to properly form it into a square. As you heat the metal, fire scale will start to form. Brush this off after every heating since it can get embedded in the metal while hammering.
**For this particular bottle opener, I could have used a square bar and skipped this step. There are two reasons for not doing this. First of all, I like the slight irregularities caused by hand forging the entire section of metal. It makes each piece unique, adding interesting textures to the finished product. Second of all, this round bar is what was available at the time. The only limit to what you can create with the forge is the limit of your imagination.
Step 3: Forming the 8
Now that you have a square bar, you can form the main body of the bottle opener with the 9 inch section of iron. This is a fairly simple step provided you are careful and patient about it.
Once the metal is hot, start forming the first loop of the 8 by holding the tip of the bar over the edge of the anvil and carefully hammering it down. Gradually slide the metal farther off the edge of the anvil, keeping the hammer blows in the same spot relative to the edge of the anvil, and the curve will start to form. Try to make a uniform curve, having the end of the bar meet the middle of the bar. As you form the curve, occasionally check it to make sure it is flat. If it is not flat, you will end up with a spiral instead of a loop.
Once the curve starts to form, you will need to free form the rest of the loop by hitting the bar at different angles on the face of the anvil. You can also use an anvil horn to help shape the loop.
If the metal is not taking the shape you want it to, be patient with it. Reheat the bar and continue to work it in different ways until you get the shape you want. Taking pictures for this Instructable distracted me from forming one of the bars, and that 8 turned out a bit crazier than the others. I reheated it, hit it some more, and it turned out to be the best one out of the bunch.
Step 4: Forming the Hook
Now it is time to take the 4.5 inch section and flatten it out. Doing so is easy. Use heavier hammer blows to flatten it more quickly, but be careful to keep the surface even. When flattening the bar,occasionally check to make sure it is straight and that the sides are also even. If not, then just give the sides a couple of light hits with the hammer on the face of the anvil.
Once the bar is fully flattened out, give one end a slight taper. The taper can be formed by placing the bar flat on the anvil and angling the hammer blows. The taper will allow the end of the hook to reach under the bottle caps and grip them more snugly. After forming the taper, create the small hook in the same way you made the loops of the 8. Make sure it fits around the bottle caps.
This is a slightly difficult task if you are doing it for the first time. If this is your first time blacksmithing, I recommend practicing the opener hook on some scrap first.
Once that is done, make a larger hook on the other end going the opposite direction. This hook will loop over the base of the 8. Again, this may be a slightly difficult task, but after some practice, it should come naturally. Make sure the hook is large enough to completely wrap around the base of the 8.
While completing this step, I recommend having a complete 8 nearby to reference as you make the hooks. This will help with forming the hooks more accurately.
Step 5: Attach the Two Parts
Now that the two sections of the bottle opener are done, you can join them together.
First, heat up the hook that will go around the base of the 8. After that is hot, drop the 8 into place and start to hammer the end of the hook down.
You can use the tip of the anvil horn the bend the hook all the way in. Once the end starts to bend, place it on the tip of the anvil horn. Strike the hook on the end opposite of the anvil horn. I labeled the first picture with the orientation of the anvil horn and the hammer blows.
Then, hammer the opener so that it sits flat, taking care not to bend the opener hook or the 8 out of shape.
When I made the bottle opener, the opener hook was still a bit loose on the 8. Since I was giving these bottle openers to friends and I wanted them to last a long time, I did not want to solely rely on the 12AWG copper wire to keep it in place. I put a small tack weld on either side of the middle of the 8 to keep everything in place. Welding it is optional, but I definitely recommend doing it if you want the bottle openers to last longer.
Step 6: Clean, Sign, and Finish the Metal
This is my favorite step.
After the two sections are formed and attached, the next step is to clean the bottle opener. This consists of using the Dremel grinder and the mini files to grind off welding slag. Try not to use the grinder and files on too much of the bottle opener since it will take out the small dings and dents of hammer blows. If you chose not weld the two sections together, you will probably not need to do any cleaning since a majority of it was taking off welding slag.
As with any art, the artist should sign the work somehow. I chose to inscribe the small symbol as my signature on the bottom of each of the bottle openers. The Dremel grinding wheel was nice for creating the small lines in the signature.
Now the bottle opener is ready for the finish. I chose to finish it with a thin brass coating. In order to coat it with brass, it must be hot enough to melt the brass, but not hot enough to burn the brass. Since the forge easily gets hot enough to burn the brass, I used a propane torch to heat the bottle opener while it was clamped in the vise. This avoided the risk of burning off a previously completed finish. I recommend finishing one half of the bottle opener at a time.
Now is where the brass brush comes into play. Clamp the bottle opener in the vise and pass the blue flame of the propane torch over it for about 30 seconds or so. Grab the other end of the bottle opener with the tongs and release it from the vise. Scrub the hot end with the brass brush for about a minute or two. You should start to see the metal picking up a slightly golden finish. Make sure to scrub the top and the bottom, along with both sides. Once you are satisfied with the finish, quench that half in a bucket of water, and repeat the process with the other half of the bottle opener.
Step 7: Add Some Pizzazz
Add some 12AWG to put the finishing touch on the bottle opener. I wound the wire around five full times and tucked the ends in on the bottom. Having more wire than needed will definitely help with winding it on since the excess wire will give you better leverage.
Tucking the ends in is a difficult task. Cut off the excess wire, making sure the end of the wire is not sharp. Carefully tuck it in where it will not catch on anything. I ended up using a small round punch and gentle taps with the hammer to fold the ends of the wire in.
Step 8: Enjoy!
This is the most important step. Show it off in your man cave or have it readily accessible in your shop. Either way, enjoy your new, hand-crafted bottle opener!