Understanding metallurgy isn’t an absolute necessity in farriery, but a working knowledge of how steel is made can save you some headaches.

Longmont, Colo., farrier Jim Quick says tongs are an excellent example of the importance of understanding how tools are made.

“Almost all horseshoers use tongs, and most guys are using tongs that are poorly adjusted and don’t work well,” he says. “A good quality pair of tongs that are properly adjusted just make the work so much easier. Being able to make your own tongs is a great skill to have. I’ve had times when I stopped in mid-project and made a new pair of tongs, then went back to the project with the right tool for the job.”

Understanding the type of steel in a tool also comes into play when repairing or adjusting tools, Quick says.

“One of the critical things about 4140 steel is that if you quench it while there is still any color in it, it will get really hard,” Quick says. “That means it gets brittle and it can snap.”

Tongs often are made from 4140 steel. Quick says if you heat up a pair of tongs to adjust them, you need to let them air cool. If you don’t, they’re likely to snap the next time you use them.

For more farrier tips, read “Metallurgy: How Much Do You Need To Know?” in the July/August 2017 issue of American Farriers Journal.