Blacksmith’s Helper (BSH)lewis.yoole
Article written by: David Grinter
“It was something I had been meaning to do for some time, but put off until I needed it for a particular job.”
The smithin’ magician, guillotine tool, blacksmith’s helper (BSH) are some of the names you will see online for this tool. For those who don’t have a striker, a power hammer or three arms, this piece of equipment is a must for general blacksmithing. It is also very useful for the swordsmith or knife maker who forges blanks – for fullering and isolating sections of stock. For example, for a through tang where it is desirable to precisely form a shoulder behind the ricasso before drawing out the stock for the tang.
There are many designs out there that vary in design and utility. They’re all good in their own way, but I needed something simple and basic that I could make from materials I had with my available tooling. I had the use of a milling machine to shortcut one of the steps, but a drill press and patience would also have done the job. The dimensions were essentially arbitrary and depended on the materials I had.
The brief: A guillotine tool to form a cinched waist in pipe for candle holders. (among many other potential uses)
Materials: 12 mm plate x 145 x 230 (2), 16 mm plate x 145 x 330 (1), 8 x 50 mm high tensile bolts and nuts (17), 3x cut-off wheels, 8 mm drill, 0.7 mm sheet metal for spacer. 75 x 16 mm mild flat bar for tooling (see Fig 1).
I wanted it sooner rather than prettier, so I went for a simple three-piece design to fit into a vice. The time needed to make it to fit into the hardy hole was unnecessary for my needs and because of the size and the amount of hammering needed to cinch so many pieces of pipe, would have stood too high and placed too much strain on my shoulder – would have stood 300 mm or so above the anvil surface.
I wanted the finished tool to be robust so I used 12 mm plate for the outers as it was the thickest I had available in the quantity required and 16mm for the spacer and dies because I wanted a decent radius on the cinch (and I had some).
The concept and process are straightforward – the idea being to make a sandwich of the three pieces. The inner piece forms the spacer and the tang for holding in the vice. The outer two pieces contain the dies and form a stop on the vice jaws (see Fig 2)
I took the 12 mm plate and cut it to desired finished dimensions. In my case 145 x 230 because that was the size I had. I used a shell mill in my milling machine to cut out the centre pieces (see Fig. 2). It could have been done using gang-drilling or using a thin cut-off disc and finishing the corners with a hacksaw, and that is what I did for the inner piece (see fig 1.).
When the three main pieces were cut to final dimensions, I tack-welded them together for drilling so that accuracy would be maintained. I ground the welds off when the drilling was completed.
The dies will not fit unless they are thinner than the channel, so I added a 0.7 mm shim or spacer to allow the dies free movement in the tool.
I could have welded the parts together, but I didn’t want my BSH with scale build-up and deformed dies (from forging too cold) made useless because it could not be dismantled. Time will tell if this was necessary or not
The tooling consists of top and bottom dies. I have used radiused fuller dies for the intended job. I will also be making butcher dies, tenoning dies and whatever else I need, but probably not until I need them. Dies can also be made with ‘kiss blocks’ incorporated to achieve precise dimensions.
The finished BSH may be rough and ready, but it is exactly what I needed. It is held in a spare vice that sits on my swage block. This is a good height and does not place undue strain on my shoulder (see Fig 6.)
The BSH worked perfectly for the intended task, producing a perfect 16 mm radius waist on the pipe stock (see Fig. 7).
I’ve seen some great designs with side access for forming longer or wider stock and when I need one, I’ll make one. For now, though, this one does the job and is all I need. I may get around to milling the sides and painting it a nice machine grey, but …. probably not.