Since the goal of the blacksmith's work is to forge objects which are seldom ever straight and uniform, the smith must learn to place unwieldy iron objects in the fire without damaging or packing the fire. Take a large scroll for example, placed in the fire with the scrolled end standing up so to be able to heat the straight section immediate next to it to continue bending. The curved section would be shoved through the fire breaking and shoving the top of the fire towards the opposite side of the forge as the scroll is pushed forward. The section lowest in the fire presenting an inclined surface that would climb and pack down the coke in the fire as it was shoved forward each time. Sometimes large disturbance of the fire is unavoidable but good fire tending skills will overcome the problems encountered here.
When possible the smith should always try to insert the iron into the fire in a way that causes the least disturbance or damage to the fire. For example; a straight bar of 1/2 inch square stock should be pushed straight into the side (front) of the fire, and it should be pushed in point first. By contrast many beginners and hobbyists make the mistake of trying to force the bar horizontally down through the top of the fire. The latter method causes immediate problems because it packs the fire down tightly which restricts the air blast up through the coke, and it also breaks up and crushes much of the coke into fines which will continue to restrict air flow even after loosening the fire with the poker.
Duke Gilleland, (1/13/06) of the Wagner and Griswold Society:
Greg Stahl, (3/14/04) of the Wagner and Griswold Society:
Marty Zielke (3/15/04) of the Wagner and Griswold Society:
The rake is used to assist the placing of unusual irregular shaped pieces in the fire. As for the scroll example above, the rake would be used to hold the top of the fire in place while at the same time shoving the iron object through the fire. The rake held in one hand while shoving the work into the fire with the other allows the smith to control the disturbance to the fire. The rake is also used to pull fuel back onto the fire, which would otherwise be shoved off the edge of the far side of the forge each time a long piece of iron was shoved through the fire. And the rake is used to pull the top of the fire open in preparation of laying a very large irregular shaped piece of iron in the fire, followed immediately by raking the fuel back over the top of the iron in the fire.
Once removed from the fire, the iron cools quickly. It takes longer to heat the iron to red-hot than it takes for it to cool. Blacksmiths work more efficiently by having multiple pieces of iron in the fire heating simultaneously. In that way, the Smith can always have a piece of iron red-hot and ready for hammering. The cooled piece would be returned to the fire if it needed more hammering.