Tongs are one of the most fundamental tools in the blacksmith’s workshop. A good set of tongs will effortlessly grip your stock and thus become an extension of your will.
Experienced smiths will often hand craft tongs that are perfectly fitted for each project. They will bring years of expertise into the creation of each tong.
But what do you do if you are just starting out? What do you do if you don’t yet have a pair of tongs?
When you are first starting out, it’s easy to fall victim to paralysis-by-analysis. There are a lot of options out there!
So which type should you buy? A quick glance at most blacksmithing stores reveals that there are DOZENS of different types of tong jaws. A few of these jaw types include:
- Flat Jawed
- Straight Lipped
- Side Lipped
- Round Nosed
- Bow Tongs
- Bolt Jaw Tongs
- And more, as many tongs are custom made!
What Is The Best Blacksmithing Tong For Beginners?
While I go into great depth as to why these 3 tongs are the best options later on in the article, I know some people just want my top recommendations ASAP, so here they are:
So which one is “best?” Which type of tong can be described as the much sought after pair of universal blacksmith tongs? The most accurate answer is the dreaded “it depends” – but I know that is an unsatisfying answer, so I will just go ahead and say that I usually recommend V-Bit Tongs to beginning blacksmiths.
V-Bit tongs make it easy to work with both round and square stock. This might not seem like a big deal, but trust me, being able to easily switch between round and square stock is a HUGE convenience.
In addition, these tongs are very convenient for knife making, which is an interest to many new blacksmiths.
You want to be able to hold on to your stock, both round and square, as easily as possible. 2-3 hours of death gripping your round stock with a jaw type made for square stock is unpleasant.
To hammer the point home:
Death gripping your tongs sucks.It sucks in the short term because it forces you to quit early. It sucks in the long term because you can end up with repetitive stress injuries in your wrists, forearms, and elbows. Trust me, you HAVE to take care of your hands, Hand health is paramount to your well being.
How Long Should My Blacksmithing Tongs Be?
Tongs can vary in length from 15in (38.1cm) all the way up to 36in (91.44). You can of course make your own tongs that are longer or shorter than this. How long your tongs need to be will largely come down to preference. Longer tongs keep your hands farther away from the forge and provide more mechanical leverage, but they are heavier.
Naturally, shorter tongs force your hands closer to the fire, provide less mechanical leverage, but weigh less.
So if you’re shopping for tongs, how long of a pair should you buy? I recommend a pair that is between 15 and 20 inches. I like mine a bit shorter, but it’s ok to buy a longer pair as you can always trim them down later if you don’t like it.
How Helpful Are Tong Rings, Tong Clips, And Other Tong Accessories?
Even for shorter forging sessions it’s important to use an ergonomic pair of tongs, but the question soon becomes: are a good set of tongs enough when you engage in really long forging sessions (8 hours plus?) Some people think so, others do not. People that fall in the later category will often augment their tongs with a ring or clip that helps hold the handles of their tong together, thus reducing their workload even further.
These tong accessories can come in a number of varieties such as:
- C hook
- S hook
- Rein Rings
- Chain Links
- Custom Solutions made with whatever scrap is lying around.
All of these varieties are easy to make yourself, although you can buy pre made solutions if you wish. My only word of advice is to think through whichever solution you choose.
If you choose chain links, you don’t want the links long and dangling so that they catch on corners or whatever equipment you may have lying around your shop.
With hooks and clips, make sure they are securely fit and won’t slide around.
The main idea with all of these solutions is that you don’t want something that will slip or get caught on something else, which could cause you to drop your very hot stock.
As with most things in blacksmithing, I recommend playing around with these solutions to see if they are right for you. Building S and C clips is a great starting project for beginner smiths; they allow you to gain some comfort and experience around the forge, and will provide you with something that is immediately useful.
Talk, Talk, Talk! Which Pair Of Tongs Should I Get As A Beginner Blacksmith?
Alright, alright, as I have said before I really like the v-bit style blacksmithing tongs. They are highly versatile and can be used with both round and square stock which makes them great for a first pair of tongs. I recommend this pair from amazon
- These tongs are 18in (450mm) which puts them right in the sweet spot I described earlier.
- They are lightweight weighing in at about 2 pounds (.907kg).
- These make for great bladesmithing tongs.
- They can be used for round and square stock
While I truly believe these would make for a great pair of starter tongs, There are pro’s and cons to every purchasing decision. So what are the cons in this purchase? For starters, it’s expensive – if this is a concern for you, I have a section on cheap tongs later in this article.
Another good option is the “z-type” v-bit tongs. These tongs have a little more “throat space” and provide additional utility when grasping your stock.
Tell Me More, What exactly is a V-Bit Tong?
As the name would suggest, a v-bit tong is a tong that has a jaw in the shape of a hollowed out v. This allows for easy gripping of both round and square stock. For square stock, just place the edge of the stock into the v notch of the jaws for a tight fit. For round stock, you simply grip the stock with the corners of the notch.
While you can get tongs that are specifically fitted for round stock, or conversely square stock,these tongs tend to be more sensitive to the size of the stock.. If you make the jaws of a pair of tongs that are intended for round stock too large, it can be hard to hold on to smaller stock.
V-bit tongs are more forgiving in regard to stock size. This makes them a great for newbies who are looking for a one size fits all solution.
Why V-Bit Tongs, What Are V-Bit Tongs Used For?
I think I have actually already covered this pretty well. They have the following benefits:
- Can Grip Round Stock
- Can Grip Square Stock
- Can Work With A Higher Range Of Stock Sizes
- Great Starter Tong
V-bit tongs are my go-to recommendation for new smiths. While you can always make your own pair of tongs, most people get into blacksmithing to make cool stuff like weapons, armour, and unique ornamentation.
Buying your first pair of tongs will allow you to get to the fun stuff quicker. Start your smithing career today by getting a pair of V-Bit Tongs here
Can I Use A Pair Of Cheap Kitchen/Grilling Tongs For Blacksmithing?
Technically yes, you can use a pair of sticks if you are hell bent on making things difficult. But these tongs are not built for the heavy duty purpose of forging. Blacksmithing tongs are not just built thicker and with stronger materials, they are often a different type of lever all together!
Blacksmithing tongs are squeezed from behind the fulcrum with the fulcrum placed up by the jaws (double class 1 lever), as opposed to most BBQ tongs that are squeezed in-between the fulcrum and the jaws (class 3 lever.) Class 1 levers have a Significant mechanical advantage over class 3 levers.
Remember how I said death gripping your tongs sucks? Well, if you buy a cheap pair of tongs that have a class 3 lever, you will be working much harder.
If you do go the route of using a pair of impromptu tongs, make sure they are not galvanized. I can’t think of too many kitchen supplies that are galvanized (they are usually stainless steel instead), but this is always worth mentioning as burning the zinc coating of galvanized utensils/tools can cause a medical condition known as metal fume fever. Metal fume fever is no bueno, and should be avoided.
Best Wolf Jaw Blacksmithing Tongs
While I personally enjoy using v-bit tongs, another great options for your first pair of tongs is the wolf jaw blacksmithing tong. These tongs are great generalists tongs that will allow you to work with differently sized stock (both round and square)! This versatility makes it a great starter tong, as you can then use it for most projects within reach of the begining smith.
What Is A Wolf Jaw Blacksmithing Tong?
A wolf jaw blacksmithing tong is a tong that has multiple sets of differently sized “teeth” surrounding a jaw designed to grip round stock. This combined set of features gives the wolf jaw tong incredible adaptability.
Along with the v-bit tong, they are an incredibly popular type of tong, and for good reason.
Many smiths swear that the wolf jaw tong is the only tong they need!
What Is The Best Pair Of Wolf Jaw Blacksmithing Tongs For Beginners?
As mentioned before, wolf jaw tongs are a versatile pair of tongs that will allow you to quickly start making fun stuff. It’s important to take on projects that excite you…
So tell me, what sounds more exciting to build to you?
- A Dragon door knocker, or a pair of tongs?
- A paperweight in the shape of velociraptor, or a pair of tongs?
- A lion pendant, or a ….you get the idea.
Obviously if you stick with smithing for a long time, you will end up making a pair of tongs. But I just don’t understand the smithing guru’s that start people off with utility based projects.
I think it’s much better to just buy the basic equipment and start making cool stuff…you can customize your tooling later when you actually know what you are doing and know what you want in your tools.
So what is the Best pair of Wolf Jaw Tongs?
I recommend these Bad Boys
These tongs are great! These tongs are about the same price as the V-bit tongs I recommended earlier and they are made out of great material. They are 16in (40.64cm) long, putting them in the sweet spot for length.
Like all wolfjaw tongs, They can be used to grab stock end-on, or crosswise.
One thing I really like about this particular product over the V-bit tong recommended earlier is that it has many more positive reviews. Quality control on any one particular product is always tricky, especially when ordering over the internet.
I can order the tong myself and get a pair in perfect working condition, while someone else may not! The large number of positive reviews makes me more comfortable recommending this tong to others.
Overall, this is a fantastic tong that has the following benefits:
- Perfect length for forging (for me at least)
- A great starter tong for newbies
- High quality to provide a long working life
- Durable rivet jaws to clamp onto stock securely.
- Will allow you to focus on fun projects immediately.
Get yours -> now
Best Bladesmith Tongs For Knife Making
There is a lot of overlap between blacksmithing and knife making. Anything that works in blacksmithing will work for knife making. However, because bladesmithing is a bit more focused than the broad category of blacksmithing, it makes sense to consider tools that are bit more specialized for the purpose.
If you are a bladesmith, and you only plan on making knives, you should consider a few other varieties of tongs. For example, box jaw tongs make for great knife makers tongs. These tongs are not as versatile as the V-bit and wolf jaw discussed earlier, but they can easily and snugly clamp down on flat bar stock making them great for knife work.
Box Jaw Tong For BladeSmithing
Is the box jaw tong right for your bladesmithing? There are a number of important factors to consider:
What Is A Box Jaw Tong?
A box jaw tong is a tong that has the standard straight lipped tong jaw for the bottom portion, and a wide jaw for the top portion that fits over the sides of the bottom straight lipped jaw.
These jaws are great for knife forging and provide a snug fit onto the stock IF you are working with stock of a consistent width.
These jaws clamp down alligator tight on proper sized flat stock, but they really struggle with stock that is wider or narrower than the jaw width. While this makes them a bit limited for general purpose smith work, they can be great for knife smiths who are working with a consistent size of stock.
What Is The Best Box Jaw Tong For BladeSmithing?
As stated earlier, the best box jaw for you will be one that is properly fitted to the stock you will be working on!
So should you buy a pair of box jaw tongs? I honest to god recommend you just make your own pair if you are looking to use a box jaw tong for bladesmithing. This is because they are quick and easy to make, and I generally recommend buying a general purpose tong when first starting out.
You will also need multiple box jaw tongs of different widths unless you are doing some highly specialized operation. It is expensive to buy this many. I just recommend setting aside a sunday afternoon to hammer out 3-4 of these bad boys with different jaw widths.
After all, research on learning shows that beginners learn best by focused repetition (making the same thing 3-4 times in a row), while experts learn best by by doing a variety of different projects in one day or by taking on a difficult highly creative challenge.
V-Bit And Wolf Jaw Tongs For BladeSmithing
The v-bit and wolf jaw tongs discussed earlier will work perfectly well for blade smithing. In fact, if you look at bladesmiths on youtube, you will see that many of them use one of these two varieties.
Getting your first pair of tongs is a great start to a fulfilling and lifelong hobby. With these tongs you can make your own tools, utensils, ornaments. Everything you make will be an extension of your creativity, and will bear the subtle marks of its creator. And who knows, you might even turn it into a gig, and make some extra money while you’re at it!