Forging Steel Handled Punches
The photos below were taken at a hands-on clinic hosted by Jim Smith in New Hampshire. Making a hand held punch involves much the same process but you don't have the complicated process of welding and heat treating that is involved in the steel handle tool. If you decide to make some steel handled punches keep in mind that these basic forging steps are only the beginning. The most critical steps are the welding and heat treatment steps. In a future article I will discuss some of those steps.
I like to use S-7 for most of my punches. This is a personal preference but I find S-7 to be a good steel for punches. I use 5/8" round stock for most punches, but would suggest 3/4" for punches used for heavier work, like gaited or draft shoes.
The photos show the steps. I strongly recommend the use of a heavy hammer when beginning the forging of the punch. This allows you to get the work done - maximizing your results and reducing the number of heats. You have to be cautious about the heats. Don't work tool steel once the color has gone to red. You also need to make sure you are using tongs that allow you a good hold on the steel - without having to squeeze the reins. Round tongs may be best but there are other types of tongs that are designed to hold round stock. The important thing is to control the material. You can also see that most of the work is done at the edge of the anvil - this will help you avoid damage to the face of the anvil.
You need to keep the work balanced - work both sides and angles so that you keep the tool in a good ratio. If you work it above the 1:3 ratio (width x thickness) you can develop cracks in the material.
S-7 is also an air cool material. Don't quench it in water!
You can forge the tools to the dimensions you are looking for. Check the dimensions as you get close to the end by using some kind of template. Don't leave forepunches with a flat tip. Put a diamond tip on so that you will reduce the resistance when working the tools. Final adjustments to the punch can be made on a belt sander using a 100-120 grit belt.