Animal Eye Punches by Mandell Greteman
The following article is from the SCABA September Newsletter and I asked the editor to share it here. Click here to find out how to get their newsletter, www.saltforkcraftsmen.org.
There are a lot of different ways to make animal eye punches. This is the method I use and it has worked well for me.
I make a base plate guide with different partially drilled holes sized to match the punch stock I plan to use. The holes don’t need to be very deep. About 3/8ths to 1/2 inch (or even less) is plenty deep enough. It just has to be deep enough to serve as a guide for setting the punch stock and a deeper hole just increases the chance of upsetting the hot stock and sticking in the hole.
The 60 degree drill point makes a perfect depression that is always centered on the punch stock. This depression is ideal for holding an old ball bearing that will be used to form the reverse impression for the center point of the eye. And by using the guide, the ball bearing is held in place so that it won’t get away from you during the punching process.
Also, by using the guide, the punch can be reset as many times as necessary to get a good eye impression. The guide automatically centers the ball bearing and punch stock every time so that there won’t be any shifting to ruin the impression on follow up attempts.
Using this guide method, the ball depression is always centered on the punch regardless of the eye shape. This aids in setting the eye on your animal head later on since you always know where the center of the eye is.
I used a scrap piece of 4140 tool steel for the guide base which I went ahead and hardened. But it is probably not really necessary to use tool steel or to harden the guide.
I keep a small container with various sizes of old ball bearings and select the best fit for the size of eye that I need. To make the impression, just put the ball in the correct guide hole then place the heated punch stock in the hole and strike the hammer end.
You don’t really want to heat the stock so much that the end wants to upset in the hole. Just hot enough to get a good impression is all the heat you need. This judgment takes a little experience and depends on the steel you are using. You can put a slight taper on the very end to help minimize the upsetting.
If you don’t get the depression deep enough on the first try, you can always give it another follow up hit. Both the ball and the punch stock will be “registered” in the same place.
Once I get a good ball impression, I then take the punch to the grinder and grind the outside portion of the eye shape as needed. The shape can be round, which just takes a round taper a little larger than the ball impression, or it can be a single or double teardrop shape. (Or whatever other shapes you can come up with for your specific application.)
You can get creative and come up with your own unique eye designs. Someone asked me what it would look like to put an eye punch impression in the center of larger eye punch.
It’s a form I have never had a need for and the best way to find out what it looks like is to make one. This one was just a larger round eye punch made as described in this article but with a the follow up step of using a smaller eye punch on the larger one as if it were the final piece.
I am not sure what you would use this for. Maybe an octopus or a chameleon.
Once you are finished with the punch, you can harden it as desired. I often use sucker rod. To harden, heat to a good red heat (to the non-magnetic critical temperature), quench in oil, then temper to a dark straw or brown/purple color. You can also just use the punch for many impressions without hardening it at all.
Good Luck! -Mandell