Guillotine Fullers

Guillotine tools are used to fuller grooves & shoulders, draw out accurate square and round tenons, and make square cuts. As such it is an indespensible tool for a blacksmith shop. They are also know as "magic magicians" and there are plans galore on the Internet. Word of Warning: make sure that your dies are hardened! I bought one and the dies were mushrooming after the first couple of uses. Didn't make any difference immediately in their operation, but made me the butt of jokes from the other demonstrators. If they aren't hardened you can always harden them yourself.

Varieties of Guillotine Fullers

My newest from GS Tongs
(click on the photo to go there)
Mojave Southern
This relative affordable, smallish portable version, dubbed "Smoosh-a-Matic" is available from Mojave Southern Machine Works
Mojave Southern
This shows the available dies for the Smoosh-a-Matic
Happy Haven Forge

"Today I finished off making my Bill Epps Style Guillotine tool at least that is where I got the design from originally. Bill Epps has a lot of neat posts out there on how to make some great tools and projects all at the anvil. Look him up if you aren't familiar with him already. This is my general purpose go get em' tool that I have used for years both at home and work. Unfortunately this one is made from regular old mild steel and will not last as long as a good lawn mower blade or leaf spring does, but like always it is what I had on hand and it will work. If all you have is mild steel keep a spray bottle of soapy water handy and spritz it between uses. It's what I did with the first one I ever made and I was still using it ten years later. Of course leaf spring is much better."

Bill Epps Style guillotine tool

"You might be wondering why I left the end of the top blade long, two reasons. I use it to flip it open and I also use the end to make indentations on pieces. I will post a picture or two in use for those who are curious. I always try to get a second use out of a tool whenever I can. This also makes a great nut cracker."

"I finished off my scroll starter as it seems I will be making a good number of them here. People like them here and I need a place to get started as we all know I haven't been able to repair my anvil face yet. Patience, Paaatiiennnceee. The scroll started is made from the same hex bar that the small mushroom stake I made last month or the one before. Tough stuff! Small anvil and only a 3 lb hammer makes me work. "

ABANA's Easy Guillotine Tool
Guillotine tool from ABANA

´┐╝Guillotine tools are great things to have in the shop, especially for the smith who works alone. For those of you who've never seen one, a guillotine tool is simply a frame that holds a bar of tooling that slides up and down. Jerry Hoffman's Smithing Magician is a good example. (See Volume 1 Issue 9 of the Blacksmith's Journal for other ideas) The frame can be any design that you want, but it needs to be fairly strong. The tools that are held in the frame need to be as snug as possible, yet still slide freely.

I've made several of these tools, each with varying degrees of usefulness.One was a complete failure the frame wasn't strong enough. Another that I built works great, but the design didn't leave enough clearance for wide stock on edge.

I developed the following design after seeing a similar one made by former ABANA president Lou Mueller. His was by far the better tool but Lou has extensive experience in the machine shop and has access to equipment that I wouldn't know how to turn on, let alone use. I needed something quicker to build yet still work fairly well. This tool seemed to fit the bill.

´┐╝Most of these dimensions can be adjusted to suit your particular needs, although I'd caution you about making the tool much bigger. Most folks who make these overbuild the tool. That's not such a bad thing when making the frame, but if the dies are too big they'll resist your hammer blows due to the mass of the die. If you're working one inch thick stock with a sledge, by all means, scale it up a bit, but for most work it should be built the size shown or smaller.

The most important thing to remember is to start with the die and build the tool around it. Tool steel is not necessary for these dies, since most of the work will be done hot. They're certainly not necessary for fullering dies at any rate. Use tool steel for the cutting dies if you must. You could even arc weld spring steel faces onto mild steel bar stock and be nice to your hammers.

I've used hot rolled bar stock for the dies before, but cold rolled would be better. The hot rolled dies tended to slop around in the finished holder, perhaps by as much as a sixteenth of an inch, which was more slop than I'd prefer. They were built tightly, too. I had to really wail on it to drive out the bar as I was building it. The tools I used were a torch to cut out the C-shaped frame (a plasma cutter would be better) and a cheap Harbor Freight drill press vise to clamp it together during assembly. Don't use a good one, you'll get weld splatter all over it. You could modify this design with shims, bolt-on adjustable guides, etc, but I wanted something that I could build quickly and get on with my work.

Now you need to drive the die out of the tool. The newspaper helps a little bit, but you'll have to take a short piece of 3/8" thick bar and hammer the die out over a vise opened a bit over 1/2". If it's really tight and you can't get it out, try heating the tool. This will expand the metal just a touch, plus it'll burn out some of the newspaper and should give you enough slack to remove the die.

Once the die is out of the tool, clean off any bits of newspaper and test the die for fit in the tool. You'll probably need to sand, file, or possibly grind off any burrs or spots that bind. When I made dies out of hot rolled, I had a lot of mill scale that was causing binding and had to grind the dies. After I was done, the fit wasn't quite as good as I'd prefer, that's why I suggest using cold rolled for the dies, and probably the front and back die support plates as well. (I used cold-rolled for this example, and the fit was much better.)

Once the base plate is welded on, all that remains is a mounting piece on the bottom, either an appropriately sized piece of square stock to fit your hardy hole, or a piece of bar stock for use in the vise. I went with the hardy stem, most of our vises are too high for this tool. You could use a piece of bar steel that fits diagonally across the hardy hole to work both as an anvil tool or a vise mounting, but I've never tried this.

When you fit the die, you're looking for a snug, sliding fit, but you don't want the die to stick. If they do, the tool will be difficult to use, although a slight sticking would probably be OK. The dies should break in as the tool is used and slide a little easier.

Once you get the dies fitted the way you like, wire brush what you've done so far. (Sandblasting would be better.) Drill a hole through the base where the bottom die will be, this way if a die gets stuck you'll have a way to push it out.Weld the tool onto the base plate. Again, it helps to clamp the tool down to keep it from shifting. Tack weld all four corners first, then chain weld the side plates onto the base plate, and the front plates. I put the die bar into place before welding, just to be sure the holder stays in alignment.

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