Forging Tongs




What did I make:
Here, I decided to make some blacksmithing tongs. It was over a multiple day process of heating and smashing some rebar. The cool thing about this project is that these tongs are going to go towards more projects, such as forging knives, forging more tongs, or forging some sculptures. With my humble little blacksmithing shop, I am pretty pleased with myself. This is especially considering the fact that my forge is just an upside-down hubcap and my anvil is a piece of railroad track (a darn good one at that).

How did I make it: 
Using the tools mentioned in the instructable, I took a piece of rebar, cut it in half, flattened it out, and forged the arcs. I worked by myself the whole time, and managed to burn my hand on the hot metal pretty badly. As one can imagine, that taught be to always wear my gloves. The idea of this came to me in the desire to have a more efficient way of holding hot metal, other than pliers. The actual design of the project is as simple as I could find, making an awesome first project. 

Where did I make it:
I made these tongs in my humble blacksmith shop, in my backyard of my home. Because I like the idea of blacksmithing, hunting, hiking and travel, making tools is naturally attractive. When I go hunting with my uncle, I want to have a good skinning knife. What better way to know your knife is reliable than to make it yourself, anyhow?

What did I learn:
Other than always needing to wear gloves to avoid 3rd degree burns, I also learned that good charcoal makes for a much hotter forge. I also learned that silicon under the anvil deadens the sound. Finally, and most importantly, that blacksmithing is something I really enjoy doing, and it is a tangible hobby. 

In order to finally be "accepted" as a blacksmith, one needs to make their first set of tongs. I am in that process, and am documenting it for the sake of other aspiring forgers. The things that will be needed for this project are:

1) Rebar or any other piece of thin metal (Note: This guide is made for those using rebar, since it tends to be more readily available.)
2) A Hammer (easiest if a Cross-Peen.)
3) Forge (Here is a good DIY tutorial if you do not have one.)
4) Channel Locks or Vice Grips 
5) Anvil (Railroad track works excellent. It is what I use.)
6) Gloves, eye protection, ear-plugs (Those anvils are LOUD!)
7) Rod for Bolting
8) Axe Head/Chisel  

If you have all of these supplies, you are ready to begin!

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Step 1: Preparing the Rebar

Once you have the rebar, in order to ensure accuracy, measure how long you want each handle of the tong to be. For me, half of the rebar worked just fine, but for some, you may have to do some trimming. Leave yourself some wiggle room, as the process of drawing out the metal will cause it to elongate. 

Go ahead and heat the rebar in your forge on the area that needs to be cut. To save yourself from pain in the future, try to cut the rebar perpendicular to the two seams. For the rest of this project, flatten the rebar along these seams as well, as they will be a natural guide for where the edge will be. 

Once it is cut, you are ready for Step 2.

Step 2: Flattening the Rebar

If you are anything like me, and this is more or less your first blacksmithing project, then this part will be the most arduous. It is more menial than anything else, but critical for having sturdy, comfortable, and functional tongs. As mentioned in the last step, flatten the rebar along the seams to maintain consistency. 

Start from one end, and work your way down the bar by heating, then place it along the anvil, and bashing the heck out of it. 

In the first few heats, you should not need to use anything for holding the hot bar, as long as you have your gloves on. Once you start getting closer to the middle, you will notice some heat and will need to switch ends in order to continue flattening out the bar. NOTE: Do NOT just grab the other end. Even though it is not red hot, it is still hundreds of degrees hotter than your thin little glove is. On the same note, do NOT dunk the hot metal into water to cool it down so it can be used. This will cause the metal to undergo rapid cooling, which will make it extremely brittle and subject to break. Use either the vice grips or channel locks to hold the other end until it is cool enough to handle by a gloved hand. 

Step 3: Twisting for the Bit

The Bit is what you will use to clamp whatever it is you will be holding with your tongs. Here, you will need your Vice Grips and Channel Locks. Heat the tip of the piece or rebar that you want to be the bit. 

Clamp your Vice Grips below the section that you want to be twisted, and use your Channel Locks to twist the metal 90 degrees. It is important that for the second strip of rebar, you twist in the OPPOSITE direction. If you do not do this, you will have to identical pieces of rebar, and when you go to install the bolt, the bit will not line up. Once both pieces are done, move to step 3. 

Step 4: Forming the Arc: Part 1

Once you have the two bits made, now you will need to begin forming the arc for the jaws. Once you are finished with both of the arc's then, when assembled, it will form an elipse. 

In order to do this, you will need to place the rebar so that the now flat end is parallel to the anvil, and the handle is perpendicular to the anvil. Heat up this section in the forge, and round it off. Note that your bit will begin to bend downwards, and will no longer be straight. This is normal, and the next step will solve it. Speaking of, go on once both pieces are done!

Step 5: Forming the Arc: Part 2

It may look like you have ruined the beautiful piece of straight rebar, but you haven't, so don't worry. In order to get everything in shape, you will need to take the rebar and flip it 180 degrees from the last position. Now, the part of the twisted bit that was bent down is now facing upwards. Heat up the next straight part of the handle directly below the curved piece of the jaw, and bash it down. You should only go far enough so that the bit, if placed flat down on the anvil, would be on the same line as the handle. Once you are done tweaking both pieces, it should be able to sit freely, and be a mirror image to the other piece. 

Step 6: Setting the Hole for the Bolt

Now you need to get technical. I tend to eyeball things, but it might be in your best interest if you measure this. Pretend that there is a bolt in place, and place the two pieces of rebar as they would look if they were completed: on top of each other. Mark the center marke where they intersect. This should be the bottom of the elipse I mentioned earlier. Once you have the center mark, you can either heat up the piece and punch a hole in it with an iron stake, or you can drill it. Make sure the hole is either exactly the same diameter as the rod you have for the bolt, or smaller, so that it is a friction fit. Punch or drill the hole for the both pieces, then on to the next step. 

Step 7: Setting the Bolt

Take the the small rod/metal dowel, a small piece mind you, and place it in/into the hole. If it fits just right, awesome. If the bolt is too big, this is okay, too. you will just need to heat the rebar where the hole is to set the bolt in place. Once the bolt is through both of the pieces, move on to the next and final step. 

Step 8: Peening Over the Bolt and Tweaking

Congrats! You are almost done. You will now need to place the entire tong into the forge where the bolt is. Once it is super hot, go ahead and peen out the bolt. All peening out the bolt is, is flattening both ends to permanently set the two pieces of rebar together. Don't go about opening in closing the tongs yet, unless you want to have to go back a few steps. If you do that, you might end up doing what I did, and accidentally twist the bolt until it breaks. Let it cool off before you go about doing this. Do some final tweaking and, voila! Your finished tongs! 

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    15 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Rebar is really soft and is less than ideal for tongs. Not necessarily the worse thing if that's all you have available and you'll also learn something as you're making them.

    Gloves are not a blacksmiths friend. Scale can fall in them and be trapped on your hand and end up worse than not having gloves in the first place.


    2 years ago

    A hubcap for a forge? Doesn't that burn through pretty fast? Have you tried using an old truck brake drum? Might hold up better than a hubcap. One guy I saw used an old stainless steel kitchen sink he got from a junkyard; he lined it with refractory cement. He said that worked really well. I'm working on a brake drum forge myself; I found a local auto repair shop that said "help yourself" when I asked about a brake drum. Didn't even charge me for it. He sort of had a "why the heck would you want that" expression.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I am just as curious, I wonder how well rebar tongs work, I was thinking of making my own.


    5 years ago

    Did you quench the tongs? Or did you just let them cool? I have seen them quenched before and I was just wondering what method you used and how well it's performing. Thanks -Matt

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Quenching will make your metal harden and can cause it to crack if you try to alter it. "Annealing" or letting them cool is both what makes the metal "bendy", a good mix between the two is most likely what you want. Personally, I'd let em cool slowly.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    could you not flatten the entire length of rebar so the handles are round? Great instructable, I have a near identical anvil.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Sure you could, you would just have to bring it to a flat at the portion that is bolted together and bring that flat back a ways in order that they dont bump eachother and loose valuable gripping strength.


    Reply 3 years ago

    You heat up the metal and use the axe-head to cut it by having a buddy (or vice) hold the axe on top of the anvil with the blade upward and then placing the metal on the blade and then striking it with a hammer in order to cut it. And I think by chisel he means a an awl or a hole punch for the metal.

    Yeah, I just riveted! And no, I didn't quench, I let them sit in the ashes of used coals, which lets them cool gradually rather than rapidly.