Among other things, my uncle is a farrier. He trims and shoes horses for people all over the area as well as the horses at the stockyards where he works. A couple of weeks ago, I came home to see this portable forge fired up on the porch and "sharp shoes" being made. Really simply put, sharp shoes are like cleats for horses. Why would horses need cleats? Well, unlike Florida, they get a lot of ice out here... and ice gets slick... so shoes that will bite into the ice are necessary to keep working horses from slipping and falling in rough conditions. They also work well in areas where the horses are worked on concrete a majority of the time.
After watching both him and Angie make shoes, I decided I needed to give it a try. So, Monday night, when he fired up the forge to make a couple of pairs, I grabbed a pair of gloves and volunteered to do it. First things first... make sure you've got good gloves! The shoes get super hot (DUH) and the tongs get hot as well! It was kind of awkward at first, but it got easier the more I did. Evidently, if you keep making them, you eventually learn how to work the tongs with one hand... me, not so much!
The shoes are made by adding chunks of drill-tech to the toe and heels of the shoes. Drill tech is a mixture of tungsten carbide in a brass-nickel matrix. (Yes I copied this definition from another site) It comes in coarse, medium and fine particle sizes (we use the coarse because it has larger carbide chunks and they "bite" better) and look like fat welding rods. The rods get chopped up into 1/2 inch chunks.
Each shoe goes in and out of the forge about 6 times each. (This forge is pretty small, so you can't do the entire shoe at one time... you have to turn them to get the heat on the part you're working on at the time.) You have to pay attention so that you get the metal hot enough to melt together.
Once you get the metal hot, you bring it out and put it on the anvil. Borax is used as a flux to help the two pieces melt together. )See it's not just for doing laundry!) Confession: There's a small part of me with pyromaniacal (sp?) tendencies, and seeing the borax sizzle on the hot metal is actually pretty cool! (I know...weird)
Once you get the borax on, it's time to add the drill tech chunks. I think this might have been the hardest part for me because you had to get it centered, and the horseshoe was too hot to touch, so you had to use the tongs to put the little pieces on the points of the shoes where the nails don't go.
Then it's back into the forge until you see the metal start to puddle. I don't really know how to explain it, but I know I have some welder friends who can relate. It's just one of those things that when you see it, you know it! Once you see it, the shoes come out and the puddle gets spread around so that it makes a nice little cleat on the toe and heels of the shoe.
Once they're done, the shoes get dunked into a bucket of water to cool. I use the term cool loosely, because what it really does is make the water really hot really fast! Like I'm talking boiling!
Here are my first 6 shoes... which are now being sported by some happy horses at the stockyards!
Disclaimer: Any false information is my fault... I got a thorough explaination from the Uncle, so if I messed it up, it will be ok!
Until Next Time!