There’s no hardware store in the back of beyond. The farther out you live, the more you need the ability to make your own bolts, pins, hinges, hooks, hasps, latches, shackles and such.

Forty years ago, my in-laws at the time moved to a ranch in Central California that was, on a good day, a day’s trip to and from the nearest hardware store. In winter, when the creek was running high, you couldn’t get off the ranch without a helicopter. They didn’t own one.

If the hitch pin for dragging the disc harrow behind the tractor busted, they had a choice—wait for the creek to go down and waste a whole day going into town, or fire up the little farrier’s forge, fetch a chunk of steel from the scrap pile and hammer out what was needed. It didn’t have to be pretty. It just had to fit and hold.

Sometimes you can be out of luck even if you’re five minutes from the hardware store and the creek is bone dry. Before it went out of business, the little hardware store in our town was sure to have whatever I might need—until I needed it. Then I would hear, “A fella just bought the last one we had.” Or, “We used ta could git ’em but not anymore, not in years.” Or “Hmph, never even heard of such a thing.”

Sometimes you need something that actually doesn’t exist, or something that is made but not as big or small or as strong as you need. Or it is something that is just different enough that available things won’t do. Or it is a part for an antique piece of equipment that you’ve tried to find and cannot, or that you’ve found but can’t afford.

So, for this issue, I’m going to make a piece of hardware that might be useful around your off-the-grid property for hanging, light lifting, pulling or whatever. It’s an extended D-shackle with punched eyes, a rotating pin and a pivoting eye bolt. Making it involves many of the skills—drawing, punching, drifting, bending and heading—involved in many small hardware items you may need in a hurry, or when the creek’s up.

Now, let’s get to it.

Pivoting Eye Bolt

  • Step 1: Heat one end of the 6-inch rod of 7/16-inch-diameter steel to cherry red. Quench all but the last 3/4 of an inch. Quickly clamp the rod tightly in a vise horizontally with just an inch protruding, as shown. Hammer quickly with moderate blows to upset the end.
  • Step 2: Reheat the upset end of the workpiece to cherry red. Insert it into the countersunk side of the 7/16-inch hole of a heading tool placed over the Pritchel hole in the anvil. Using moderate blows, hammer the workpiece to form a head. It should look like it does in the photo.
  • Step 3: Heat the workpiece and forget a short, blunt taper on the opposite end of the workpiece.
  • Step 4: Heat to cherry red. Working over the horn, use a hammer to bend the un-headed end of the workpiece into the shape shown—a sort of question mark. Put the partially completed workpiece aside and make the shackle.


  • Steps 1, 1A: With a prick punch, mark the 10-inch flat bar for punching at the center and 3/4 of an inch in from each end. With a cold chisel, lightly mark reference lines at 3/4 inches on either side of the center punch mark and 3/4 of an inch inward of punch marks at either end.
  • Step 2: Heat to cherry red. Over the horn, fuller between the two reference marks as shown, stretching the workpiece. Do both ends. Keep workpiece at a constant 7/16-inch thickness as you neck it down. Hammer to keep shoulders rounded and maintain gradual, not sudden, changes in thickness.
  • Step 3: Reheat end of workpiece. Over the anvil face, round the corners of the first end. Maintain the 7/16-inch thickness and avoid obliterating the punch mark.
  • Step 4: Reheat the end of the workpiece and quench all but the very end. Drive the end into the concave slot in a swage block, as shown, to finish rounding the end. If you don’t have a swage block, stand the workpiece, cold end down, on the anvil face and, using light blows, finish rounding the hot end with your hammer.
  • Step 5: As you work, use calipers to check the distance between the center punch mark and those at either end. Fuller as necessary to maintain equidistance.
  • Step 6: Heat one end to yellow. On the mark, pinch a 3/8-inch hole through the workpiece. Quench, reheat and repeat at the other end. Quench, reheat and repeat again in the middle, as shown. Note that the punch is tilted to the side while aligning it over the punch mark. Doing so helps to align it precisely. Check your work with calipers.
  • Step 7: Heat one end to yellow. Using successively larger punches, enlarge the end hole to just under 1-inch diameter. Quench, reheat and repeat at other end.
  • Step 8: At a bench grinder, or with a file and a vise, dress both ring ends and the center area of the workpiece. The rings should be evenly thick, all around, as smooth as possible.
  • Step 9: Heat the center of the workpiece to red. Drive a 7/16-inch punch just far enough into the center hole to chamfer and enlarge it slightly, about halfway through. (Note: This is done better with a countersink or “bobbing” tool if you have one.)
  • Step 10: Heat the workpiece to red. Working over the face (as shown) and the horn of the anvil, chamfer the straight portions of the workpiece, changing their cross-section from square to octagonal and then to round. File, grind, then smooth.
  • Step 11: Heat to red. Over a mandrel, as shown, use light blows to round both the inner and outer edges of each end. You can also use a ball-pein hammer to work the inner edges over the anvil face. Be careful to enlarge the holes only slightly. They should end up with a diameter just a hair over 1 inch. Use calipers to check your work.
  • Step 12: Heat to dark red. Squeeze the workpiece straight between the jaws of a vise, as shown.
  • Step 13: Install the partially completed eye bolt in the shackle workpiece as shown. Make sure the chamfered (countersunk) sides of the two pieces nest together.
  • Step 14: Heat the pivot bolt to cherry red with a torch. (Or heat it in the forge before doing Step 13.) Clamp the headed end of the eye bolt in the vise and, with scrolling tongs, as shown, close the eye into a loop.
  • Step 15: Heat the assembled workpiece to yellow. Clamp one side of the shackle in the vise and, with hammer and tongs, bend the shackle into a “U,” as shown.
  • Step 16: If necessary, reheat and use a length of 1-inch-diameter bar to bring the two arms of the shackle into alignment, as shown.


  • Step 1: Heat one end of the 6-inch piece of 1-inch-diameter rod to a yellow heat, clamp it horizontally in a vise and hammer to upset it as shown.
  • Step 2: Reheat the upset end of the workpiece to a cherry red. Drop it into the 1-inch hole of a heading tool positioned over the Hardy hole in an anvil. Make sure the flat side of the heading tool hole, not its chamfered side, is up. Hammer, as shown, to head the pin.
  • Step 3: Insert the headed pin through the two holes in the shackle arms. Mark for cutting, leaving as much of the pin protruding as you need. Here, I have left about an inch.
  • Step 4: Cut the pin to the desired length and chamfer the edges. Here, I’m using an angle grinder. A hacksaw and file will get it done, just more slowly and with more sweat.
  • Step 5: File or grind a flat on the protruding portion of the pin. Then, as shown, mark on the flat with a prick punch where you want a hole to install a cotter.
  • Step 6: Drill a hole for the cotter. The pin is now complete.
  • Last Step (Not Shown): Wire wheel all the parts to remove slag and, if desired, paint them. Install the pin and secure with a cotter pin. There’s nothing left to do now but use the device.

This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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