Start With Color, Temperature

From white heat to black, you should know what you can and can't do at certain temperatures

You're working on a horse and it’s time to upset the steel on a heavy stock shoe. Instead of waiting for the steel to turn a bright lemon color, you jump the gun and pull your shoe when the steel takes on a cherry tone.

Knowing what it means when the steel is lemon-colored rather than cherry can be the difference between getting a job done correctly and having to start on a shoe all over again.

Bob Schantz, owner of the Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop in Foristell, Mo., has expertise in the area of forging temperatures and colors. He can tell you what you can and can’t do when the color of your steel goes from white heat down the spectrum to lemon, orange, cherry, dull cherry and black. 

But be careful, as colors will change when there is a change in light. In the bright sunlight, the steel will be much hotter than it appears and vice versa.

White Heat: 2,400 Degrees F And Up

When the heat takes on a white color, forging with high carbon steel can be difficult. Most farrier tools, like pritchels and forepunches, are made from high carbon steel and can be damaged at this temperature. 

“Greater heat does not help welding,” Schantz says. “Viewing many sparks may make for great photos, but it makes for poor welding.”

Lemon Heat: 1,900 to 2,400 Degrees F

When it’s time to do work on heavier stock steel, get the steel up to a bright lemon…

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