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Ask the Guru any reasonable blacksmithing or metalworking question. He or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from January 1 - 15, 1999 on the Guru's Den

New to blacksmithing? Check out our FAQ Getting Started.

The Guru has three helpers that have been given a distinct colored "voice".
  • Bruce R. Wallace of Wallace Metal Work (purple) as of 12/98.

  • "grandpa" Daryl Meier of MEIER STEEL (green).

  • Jim "Paw-Paw" Wilson, of Paw Paw's Forge and official demonstrator at Bethbara Historical Park, Winston-Salem, NC (OD green).

  • This page is still new so there may still be a few bugs in it. Some early MS-IE browsers do not properly refresh as needed. Please report any problems to:

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    After posting and clicking on return, the page will automaticly reload and display your entry. If not then, click on LastPost after the file reloads. Your question will be answered as soon as possible.

    Your input, answers and comments on questions to the Guru are welcome.

    -- guru Saturday, 08/01/98 00:00:00 EDT
    To the guy making curb stakes: Get a table saw with cut-off wheel and cut theses pieces at a steep angle. Works well as is, or forge pieces to shape.

    Chris Kilpatrick -- kilpe4 at Friday, 01/01/99 00:10:27 GMT

    Chris, good practical suggestion, the fellow's shop probably has a chop saw that will do a fair job. Congrats on the first post of 1999!

    OErjan, Happy New Year in Sweden! Just checked the Tub, it was working fine. Had some kind of server trouble yesterday. May be acting up again.

    -- guru Friday, 01/01/99 00:28:05 GMT

    To the guru and all supporters of anvilfire....I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous 1999 and thank's for all your support.

    Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Friday, 01/01/99 03:47:47 GMT

    I'll add my good wishes to Bruce's!

    And a special note of gratitude to Jock, Bruce and Grandpa for all their help over the year.

    I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and that we'll all have the best year of our lives in 1999!

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Friday, 01/01/99 04:17:54 GMT

    Good morning, gentlemen. The sun is slowly rising behind the cloudy skys of Texas, on a new day and a new year. I want to thank you again for this great site...for years I struggled along, thinking I was reinventing the wheel, alone in the wilderness. Then I discovered Jock and Grant and Daryl and Jim and the other fine gentlemen who, with thier questions and answers, broaden our knowlege and sustain the art of the blacksmith. Not many places have I felt I belonged, but when I stand before a fire and an anvil with a hammer in my hand I feel as if I've been there a lifetime...or perhaps, a hundred lifetimes. I resolve this year to make a better pattern welded blade and to forge leaves almost as well as Greenwood.
    Have a great year. May a gentle breeze be always at your back.

    Isn't this a great time to be alive....

    Ken -- kensea at Friday, 01/01/99 14:31:05 GMT

    If I hot jackhammer bits to sharpen them what is the process
    of retempering them?

    Bobby Neal -- bbneal at Friday, 01/01/99 17:54:23 GMT

    Thanks Ken! I know the feeling. We will be working on an article about Josh's leaf forging techniques as soon as he decides how many secrets I can give away! :) He only spent two years developing the tools and techniques you see in the anvilfire NEWS! On the other hand, he DOES do demonstrations and would be glad to come to Texas for a fee.

    JACK HAMMER BITS (Bobby): Keep the heat as short as you can stand then oil quench at a dull red. The famous 10 Minute forge (See 21st Century page) was built for forging bits. Better a little too soft than too hard. Too hard can crack and break.

    -- guru Friday, 01/01/99 20:18:13 GMT

    Do you know of any good internet sites where one can order metal for blacksmithing? I'm not very educated in the choosing of metal for certain jobs so what metal would you recommend for making medieval sword replications?

    Alec -- breimann at Friday, 01/01/99 21:27:58 GMT

    Greetings from central Montana! I've got an anvil I've been using for aqbout four years and thought I'd ask about it.It is about 100#er and says KOHLSWA Sweden on the side. It's really alive and has a fine clear ring.Any info would be greatly appreciated.Thanx for a great site! Dave.

    Dave Neagle -- dneagle at Friday, 01/01/99 22:48:22 GMT

    KOHLWSA Swedish Anvils: My first anvil was a 100# KOHLSWA! They are a cast steel anvil and the old ones were VERY good. Centaur Forge imported them for many years but stopped when there was a managment change and had quality control and warranty problems. Other's must have also imported them because mine was old when Bill Pieh started Centaur.

    Alec, I'll get back to your sword question if grandpa doesn't beat me to it first (I hope). :)

    -- guru Friday, 01/01/99 23:31:13 GMT

    Alec: If you ask 10 smiths you will get 11 answers. I would recommend either 1084 or L6 as steel choices for swords. But even more important than the choice of steel is the knowlege to do a proper heattreat. Read every thing you can find on heattreating. Rest assured that the 10th sword that you make will be much better than the first.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Friday, 01/01/99 23:58:22 GMT

    ORDERING STEEL ON THE NET (Alec): The only place I know is McMaster-Carr (See links page). McMC carries a pretty good range of steels. Most of what they carry are alloy tool steels. They carry a medium plain carbon 1045 steel and a 1075 spring steel in .125" x 1.5" which is OK for a small sword but a little light for a medieval replica. McMC will take your popular credit cards but if you open an account they will send you a catalog!

    If you want the REAL thing (medieval swords were made of laminated and built up steels and wrought iron). grandpa makes some of the worlds finest "Damascus" and pattern welded steel and sells blanks for others to finish. I've never priced any of his material but it IS the best.

    -- guru Saturday, 01/02/99 01:36:48 GMT

    howdy to all! a question on forge weld; does each type of steel need to be at thier own weld temp when welding different grades of steel together? thanks andy

    andy -- andyjwhite at Saturday, 01/02/99 01:55:14 GMT

    FORGE WELD TEMPS (Andy): Yep! Generaly the higher the carbon the lower the temperature. Then if you are doing fancy stuff with alloy steels you need to take their specific needs into consideration. In this case we could give answers about specific steels but you really need to get the ASM Metals Reference Book and a few others if you are going to be doing a lot of welding of tool steels and such.

    -- guru Saturday, 01/02/99 02:02:30 GMT

    Due to proximity of homes in our subdivision, I am using coke instead of coking coal-- a lot less smoke, as you can imagine. At this time, I get coke from a company in Birmingham, AL, but would appreciate any info you have on sources of "really good" coke. Also, since I'm new to this endeavor, do you have references to any articles, etc. on special considerations when utilizing coke. Thank you very much.

    Neal J. Iverson

    Neal J. Iverson -- lamar.iverson at Saturday, 01/02/99 13:08:41 GMT

    COKE (Neal): In general coke is more difficult to use than coal. The big difference being that you must maintain a continous air blast to keep the fire going. If you are already using it you probably you a good idea how it handles. Using coke is similar to using charcoal but it takes less of it (in volume).

    Foundry coke is generaly considered unusable because it comes in brick size lumps and is very difficult to break up in sizes suitable to use. You are brobably using coke "breeze" or fines.

    Coke is produced for use by foundrys so its quality is generaly more consistant than coal. Because the volitiles are already burned out it is difficult to maintain a carburizing fire. Unless you have a deep fire bed (or forge pot) coke fires tend to run oxidizing like gas. Coke also burns VERY hot and can easily damage a fire pot. I do not generaly reccomend lining firepots with clay but it is a good idea when using coke.

    I knew a blacksmith that was using coke he got free for the hauling! The coke was being used as a filter bed at a bottling plant to remove some mineral (iron I think) from the water. It didn't hurt the coke as fuel and the price was right!

    Over the years almost anything that burns has been used as forge fuel. Some are better than others but ALL have been made to work with practice and ingenuity.

    -- guru Saturday, 01/02/99 14:59:01 GMT

    hello! I am a novice toolmaker and I am wondering how to harden tool steel ?Thank you,Al

    Al Saturday, 01/02/99 18:06:11 GMT

    HARDENING STEEL (Al): The short story. . .

  • Evenly heat steel until it is a low red and becomes non-magnetic.

  • Quench in warm air, oil, water or brine.

  • Imediately temper. That is, re-heat to reduce the hardness and increase toughness.

  • Now you may notice I have left out a LOT of specifics. That is because EVERY steel has its own particular needs. If you are doing a lot of critical heat treating you should have the ASM Heat Treaters Reference AND the ASM Metals Reference Book to look up these specifics. MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK is also a good source of this type information.

    Heating until non-magnetic is called the A2 point which is close to the same as the A3 point or Upper transformation range for tool steels (about 1400-1550F. Generaly the higher the carbon content the lower the temperature until you get over 80 point carbon.

    The quench medium varies according to the steels. I have listed them in order of their severity. Common tool steels are described by their quench medium. A = Air, O = Oil, W = Water.

    Tempering temperatures vary greatly but ALL tool steels need to be tempered even air quench steels. The old fashioned way to judge temper temperature was to clean the steel and then watch the colors change as the steel was heated. This is called "drawing the temper" or "running the colors". Most steels have a tempering range depending on how hard you want the finished part. This can vary from as low as 450F to as high as 1,450F or more. Again, you NEED those references. Besides all these specific temperatures there are also "soak" times involved.

    Some blacksmithing books such as Jack Andrews NEW Edge of the Anvil have temper color charts and some more specifics about heat treating. If you need some help with a specific steel and don't have any references available I can look it up for you. See the BookShelf our book review page for info.

    -- guru Saturday, 01/02/99 18:49:07 GMT

    Hey Guru I'm new to blacksmithing. I'm 16 and have a great interest in old style smithing. Right now I'm in the process of building my own forge out of brick and mortar and I already have my bellows made. I am wondering if I should line the inside of the box with some mortar or cement to help protect the bricks. I was also wondering if I should have just one piece that runs from the bellows or make a channel that has multiple openings to blow on the fire.

    Ryan -- skullcracker_666 at Saturday, 01/02/99 23:16:32 GMT

    MASONARY FORGE (Ryan): Old style charcoal forges used one hole comming in from the side using a tube called a twyeer (various spellings). Later coal forges used a fire pot with a "clinker breaker" and ash dump comming from the bottom. See the drawings for the Brake Drum Forge. Something along this line (the ash dump) can be built into your masonary forge. Most ash dumps in brick forges empty into the arch underneith.

    The "firepot" area of the forge should be built with refractory bricks or be lined with refractory clay. The rest shouldn't get hot enough to damage the mortar.

    The important thing in a brick forge is the chimney design. Side draft forges work GREAT if properly built. Are you using someone's plans for the forge or are you planning it yourself? The M.T. Richardson collection Practical Blacksmithing has numerous articles about masonry forges and there are pictures of the new steel side draft chimneys here on anvilfire (See the last pages of the ABANA Edition of the NEWS and the AFC Edition).

    -- guru Saturday, 01/02/99 23:46:57 GMT

    First of all I want to thank you for your information regarding sword metal. I went to the McMaster homepage and found the 1045 carbon steel rounds. I think it is a good idea to start out with a dagger or short sword, also. I went to a very helpful site ( regarding metals and heattreatment. How would you recommend heat treating 1045?

    Alec -- breimann at Sunday, 01/03/99 00:28:45 GMT


    JIM -- JIMSCHIK1 Sunday, 01/03/99 01:35:26 GMT

    Guru: I tried but I am going to let you finish. Fast reading will do it every time.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Sunday, 01/03/99 01:38:50 GMT

    SILVER CASTING (Jim): Try AND Both are jewelery oriented sites and have lists of suppliers and much on-line information on the subject of casting precious metals.

    Alec's SWORD: First, read closely what both grandpa and I wrote. He recomended 1084 or L6 (low alloy steel with 65 to 75 point carbon). THEN, I mentioned that McMC HAD 1045 but that the 1075 spring steel was "OK" for a sword (actually pretty good).

    Standard four digit steel numbers were originated by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). The first two digits indicate the type of steel. 10 meaning a plain carbon steel, other numbers indicating alloy steels. The SECOND two digits are the important ones in this case. THEY are the decimal percentage of carbon expressed as whole numbers. SAE-1018 is a low carbon (often called "mild") steel with 0.18% carbon. 1045 is a medium carbon steel with 0.45% carbon. 1084 is a HIGH carbon steel. You have to pay attention to those numbers AND understand what they mean.

    The amount of carbon in steel determines how hard it will harden AND its strength in general. The more carbon the harder AND stronger the steel. HOWEVER! Fully hardened steel is brittle therefore WEAK! Swords need to be hard AND strong (flexible like a spring) therefore they are made of higher carbon steel than necessary for the edge and TEMPERED (See info on hardening above) to reduce the brittleness.

    IF, you are going to ignore the science of metalurgy when making a sword then don't worry about the material. Make it out of an old leaf spring (a lot closer to what we recomended), or better yet out of mild steel or aluminium. Both the later are easy to work and the results can be beautiful AND good experiance.

    grandpa and others here take their metalurgy seriously. If you are going to make a steel sword (or any other blade) YOU should to. The art of the bladesmith is technicaly the most difficult of blacksmithing. There is a LOT more to know than how to forge or grind a blade to shape. It starts with materials selection, climaxes with the heattreatment and finishes with sharpening (another art in itself). Those who have spent a lifetime making blades will tell you that you can never learn it all. But you must try if you are to succeed.

    -- guru Sunday, 01/03/99 03:59:28 GMT

    Guru Iam making my own anvil and need some help what to useto harden the top.I can hardface caseharden or weld some 4140 on do you have any idea's.

    trev -- winterstrom at Sunday, 01/03/99 04:06:10 GMT

    MORE ON SILVER CASTING: If you have never done any casting of metal the many books by C.W. Ammen are a great resource. Anyone making castings of ANY size in ANY material can learn a lot from Mr. Ammen. His books and quite a few others on making small castings are available from Centaur Forge.

    ANVIL MAKING (trev): Is quite a sophisticated art. See my series on anvils on the 21st Century page. The one on making a built up anvil also has a link to METAL WEB NEWS where Ernie Leimkuhler has a posting of his method of anvil making.

    If you have a soft boddied anvil, hardfacing is the only route. Casehardening with Kasenite or other similar products only penetrate the immediate surface (.010-.015") of the steel and are not suitable. The only suitable method of welding a plate on the top of an anvil is to forge weld it. THEN it must be a high carbon steel (about 75 points) AND be heattreated.

    The problem with hardfaceing is that it is VERY hard, relatively expensive and must be carefully applied and finished. Bill Pieh of Centaur Forge says that most hardfacing rod produces too hard a surface in the context of making repairs. One option is a high strength flux core MIG wire. Some of this is 70 point carbon and would take a nice heattreatment. You would want to build up at least a 3/8" thick surface (this requires a BIG welder).

    First class anvils such as the late Hay-Buddens and the current Peddinghaus anvils have the entire top half of the body made of high carbpon steel which is then heattreated. A 1075 steel could be deep flame hardened and produce similar results. This is the route I would go if I wanted to make a first class anvil. A step down and less tricky to heattreat would be a 4140/4150 alloy steel upper body with flame hardened surface.

    If you are really intrested in making anvils see our review of Richard Postman's Anvils in America. There are several articles with photos and the works from several manufacturers describing anvil making.

    -- guru Sunday, 01/03/99 04:42:12 GMT

    SILVER CASTING (Jim): Hope the guru wont mind me going in to a little detail here. Silver casting is prety much the same as any casting, You need to be very carefull of what you are doing as its easy to spill the hot metal on yourself (or worse on someone else).
    Firstly you need a sutible equipment, Gas Tourch, Crucible, Tongs to handle Crucible, Flux (Borax is good), Carbon testing rod. and something to cast your form into.
    The easiest way to produce one off itens is to use an early form of centrafugal casting, Obtain 2 pices of Cuttle Fish (These are usually used in bird cages for them to grind down their beaks), Mate both halces up and if possible put a metal pin in to stop them slipping sideways when together. (Carve the reverse image of the item you wish to cast in the faces of the cuttle fish). Use some light weight binding wire to bind the two pices together (Make sure they are bound really well and that the two halces mate together perfectly.)

    Twist about 6 pices of binding wire together, about 6 feet should do it, Bend in halve and bind the two ends to the cuttle fish, Again make sure its secure! you dont want it slipping out or off.

    The long pice should now be about 3 feet, Make a loop to hols and twist the rest up to the cuttle fish.

    Heat your metal, When it is starting to melt its is sugested that you add a little borax (just a pinch or so) this will draw any impurities to the top, Once melted use the carbon rod to mix any lumps or unmolten pices up, any impurities can also be scraped to the sides of the crucible with this carbon rod (DO NOT PUT ANY METAL IN WHILE THE METAL IS MOLTEN).

    Ues a small propane tourch to heat the opening you have left on the TOP of the cuttle fish, only heat it a little!, this just stops the silver from cloging the hole!.

    Pour your silver and keep the flame pointed in the crucible, this stops the possibility of the silver becoming solid while you are pouring.

    When you have the molten silver poured (And this must be done within seconds!, Grab the handle/end of the wire and Spin above your head, keep slinning for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to ensure all the silver has hardened (Longer for larger pices).

    Thats is, youre done now cut off the binding wire and see if it worked. If you want me to elaberate further then feel free to send me some email and i will try and explain the process further.

    Andrew Hooper -- andrew at Sunday, 01/03/99 06:07:30 GMT

    Thought I might share my good news with the people that were so much help to me getting there. Welded up my first pattern steel billit today using the 25# LG I rebuilt with the help of a book and you guys(and especially Bill Epps here in big D), on the propane forge I made with the help of a book and you guys and got all of the welds to stick with the help of a book and God, I guess(beginners luck). Next week I start grinding on it on the belt grinder I made with the help of you guys.
    Thanks alot everyone.
    It was a hell of a fun day.

    Ron Hardy -- rhemail at Sunday, 01/03/99 06:23:47 GMT

    To the guy wanting to do silver casting in your kitchen. Start with pewter first its a lot easer to learn with ,cost a lot less, melts at alot lower temp. and looks alot like silver when its polished. No disrepect to Andrew but when your just learning casting slinging 1800 deg.molten metal over your head is ...not wise!!
    If your really interested in learnig casting start with the Aman books and also two books by Tim MaCriet(?)" The complete Meatalsmith" and "Practicle Casting" I have found both books to be very novice friendly and easy to use.

    Ron Hardy -- rhemail at Sunday, 01/03/99 06:31:33 GMT

    Your not wrong Ron, Starting out with another metal is a wise choice and pewter is a good idea, Infact when casting pewter if the item is simple like a person then often there is no need for any centrafugal forces, gravity should do the trick and a couple of nkocks on the side will ensure that the air bubbles pop out.

    Another point is that Pewter can be cast in a mold made from a type of silicone 2 pot mixture.

    It is also a good idea to heed the warning given by Ron Hardy, Thanks Ron, i almost forgot :)

    Molten Metal of any kind will cause SEVERE BURNS! so Be Carefull and Allways wear saftey gear!.

    Andrew Hooper -- andrew at Sunday, 01/03/99 07:33:37 GMT

    SLINGING THE MOLD and MELTED METAL on the END of a WIRE! Good thing I have all kinds of disclaimers on this page!

    Small centrifugal casting machines are relatively inexpensive OR you can build your own. BOTH should have a guard/collection pan. Even then, it is reported that with some models that when a mold leaks (often), you still occasionaly get a spray of fine molten metal! Apron, face guard AND safely glasses, gloves, sleeves, boots are ALL necessary for any metal casting. Boots with splash guards are especially nice when doing small work. Even though you may be working at bench level any stray liquid metal will be headed for the top edge of your shoes!

    -- guru Sunday, 01/03/99 14:41:17 GMT

    I had a nasty shock when melting babbit once and mistakenly tossed WET pieces into molton metal. The hole thing blew up! Luckily I live to learn.

    andy -- andyjwhite at Sunday, 01/03/99 18:17:33 GMT

    What are the basic blacksmithing tools and their purposes?

    Denis -- de007 at Sunday, 01/03/99 19:15:59 GMT

    BASCIC TOOLS (Denis): Hmmm. . . I guess I didn't get basic enough in Getting Started!

    Forge, Hammer, Anvil, Tongs and Vise.

  • FORGE: To heat the metal. Iron and steel become soft enough to work when heated to about 2,000F (orange hot). Forges burn various fuels including coal and gas.

  • HAMMER: To shape the metal. Even when hot the metal is hard to shape AND you can't touch it with your hands!

  • ANVIL: A big piece of metal used as a surface to support the hot metal while hammering. The bigger the better! About 200 pounds is normal.

  • TONGS: These are a kind of pliers for holding hot metal. Blacksmiths have many sizes of tongs because they must fit the size metal being forged very tightly.

  • VISE: To clamp and hold the hot metal when tongs won't do or the blacksmith needs both hands to use a hammer AND chisle.

  • Beyond these a blacksmith will have many tools including almost every metal working tool and machine you can imagine.. There are special tools that fit in a hole in the anvil, special anvils and machines for bending metalspecial punches and chisles for every job. There are special machines for hammering big pieces of metal (See the Power hammer Page

    -- guru Sunday, 01/03/99 20:45:20 GMT

    To the guru,
    Wow. Thanks for all that information. I can honestly admit that I didn't realize that bladesmiting was the most difficult field of blacksmithing. I can also admit that perhaps I tried to run into sword making head first, without proper knowledge of metallurgy (which I really don't want to ignore). Without your advice I dread to think how much money and time I would've wasted on trial and error. Thanks again

    Alec Sunday, 01/03/99 23:11:41 GMT


    If you've never done any blacksmithing or bladesmithing you need to start at the beginning. Simple blacksmithing projects in mild steel, then some tools for yourself (practice hardening and tempering). Work up to the difficult.

    In the Knifemaking business there are TWO schools. Forging and "stock removal". The stock removal guys avoid the mess and learning curve of blacksmithing by sawing and grinding their blades to shape. Many also sub out the heattreating to professionals.

    THEN there is a third school that mixes the two. In the high art of bladesmithing "Damascus", "pattern welded" or "laminated" blades are made by forge welding layers of different steels together creating hundreds of fine layers THEN grinding the blade from the forged blank.

    The grinding reveals the layers which are then etched to show the patterns. Medieval swords were made this way PLUS building the blade from different plain and pattern welded pieces to achieve a blade superior to one made of one homgenous material. The most celebrated artisans of this method produced blades in which words were laminated into the structure of the steel so that if you cut the bar in two it still displayed those words! The person that resurected this almost mythical art in this century was grandpa Daryl Meier. He produced a Bowie knife to be presented to the President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. The blade had the words USA and US flags (with ALL the stars and stripes) repeated 13 times. As far as I know this was the first time in 200 years that someone had performed a similar feat!

    grandpa, Sorry if I have embarrased you or stretched the facts.

    -- guru Monday, 01/04/99 02:14:06 GMT

    Errata: The blade had the letters USA repeated with the flags thirteen times.

    -- guru Monday, 01/04/99 02:21:35 GMT

    Guru: Better to be embarrased than to be unknown I guess.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Monday, 01/04/99 05:26:09 GMT

    Guru, I just looked at the new catalog of owner built hammers. Very nice write-ups and thank you. I like how you modified the framework of the JYH! It looks sort of high tech-y with the angular member. I've been using the MW-JYH for a Garden of Gethsemane table I'm building and it's easily halved my production time of branches and leaves. Paid for itself on the first job! Not bad. The MW-JYH isn't nearly as pretty as the pictures you have nor is it mobile anymore. At #700-800 I'm not wheeling it anywhere at this point. Thanks again! ccccoold in Rochester. Brian Rognholt. Odin Forge

    Brian Rognholt -- brognholt at Monday, 01/04/99 11:34:43 GMT

    Brian, The angular rear member was more of a practical consideration. The original drawing showed a vertical column having two offset flanges. This was not really very good design. The sloped beam still has a short offset flange at the top but the bottom is centraly welded to a heavy flange. Layout was a little trickier (a little trig) but was better because it produced a triangular (more rigid) frame that was actually simpler. Simpler is always better and in this case it looked kind of neat! It is also the kind of flexability of thought you need when building a JYH.

    -- guru Monday, 01/04/99 12:51:03 GMT

    This probably is a dumb question but I will ask any way. :-)_
    I have been a welder for quite a few years and have welded a number of different metals..Mostly mild steel and pipe. What is the difference between regular angle iron and wrought iron if any. Is it just that the name wrought is given to iron that is to be heated and formed by the heat and anvil? I am curious because I want to make things out of angle, tubing, and flat bar and weld them together. Would it be called wrought iron?

    Phil -- cherokee at Monday, 01/04/99 18:12:02 GMT

    I need to buy a small forge. A farriers forge. I want to set it up in NE PA, I live and work in NYC. Any suggestions as to where to buy this item?
    Thank you in advance for any help.

    Richard Lichtenstein -- roberta at Monday, 01/04/99 19:17:44 GMT


    Nope. Wrought iron is a totally different critter than mild steel.
    The guru can give you a better definition than I can, but wrought iron is very low carbon, has slag inclusions, and is fibrous. All of which are different from what you are used to working with. Also, wrought iron is no longer made in the US, though it is made in Europe. What is usually called "wrought iron furniture" here in the states would be more correctly called wrought steel furniture.


    Go to the Links page here at anvilfire. Click on the CENTAUR FORGE link. Call the 1-800 number and spend the $5 for their catalog. You will never be sorry. That catalog is an education in and of itself. Plus it has the forge you need listed.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Monday, 01/04/99 21:41:02 GMT

    MORE about WROUGHT IRON: Jim pretty much summed it up. A lot of the confusion has to do with blacksmithing terminology and the English language. Even in modern metalurgy the term wrought is used to describe metals that have been forged OR rolled giving it an elongated directional crystal structure.

    Wrought IRON is a specific material but the same term also means forged decorative ironwork and is even applied to cast architectual work! The material as Jim stated is nearly pure iron. It has no carbon therefore cannot be hardened other than by work-hardening. The impurities are largely silica inclusions that are spread out through the material in the crystal boundries and help give wrought iron its fibrous character.

    Today if you make decorative "wrought" iron work it is generally made of mild and structural (A-36) steel. Properly handled you can not tell the difference without looking EXTREAMLY close.

    Actually Jim's answer is wrong (gotta read closer). YES, your fabricated furniture would be called "wrought iron" in the general sense by an uneducated public (but no real blacksmith would call it that).

    -- guru Monday, 01/04/99 22:47:38 GMT

    Does anyone either have on their web site or know of a site with pictures of fireplace cranes? Preferably 18th century designs. I have been asked if I would make a couple of them.
    Any help from y'all will be appreciated.

    cool and sunny in Hillsboro,Or

    Ralph Douglass -- douglass at Monday, 01/04/99 23:09:22 GMT

    guru, you GOTTA read closer! (grin) Read what I said in the last sentence of my answer to Phil. I made the distinction between what is called "wrought iron" and what it really is. Guess that makes me a "real" blacksmith. Gee boss, I needed that! (grin)

    Ralph, I'm not sure, but I *THINK* there is at least one fireplace crane on the Colonial Williamsburg web site.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Monday, 01/04/99 23:53:31 GMT

    PLAIN or FANCY? I have a genuine 18th Century cook house fireplace crane that is easy enough to describe in words. The REAL treasure is the wrought iron lintle bar with the surface of the bloom still intact!

    Vertical bar 1-1/4" square with a 6" long rounded end on the top and about a 1" long tenon on the bottom. Overall height about 32". Pierced (long) for the cross bar.

    Cross bar 3/4" by 2-1/2" by about 48" long. About a third tapered to about 1" and turned up slightly (not a definite hook). The back end slightly shouldered in the tall direction to fit the long pierce in the vertical bar. Upset (headed) like a long rivet.

    The diagonal, very plain, 45 from about 1/3 the cross bar. 3/4" octogon section. Bottom flattened to about 1/3 thickness and rivited through the vertical on the same axis as the cross bar. The cross bar end flattened and forged to an almost unidentifiable leaf shape and rivited through the front of the cross bar.

    Top anchor, 1" x 2" bar 18" long punched 1" dia. and swelled for the vertical to fit. Bottom anchor a hole in a stone of the fireplace! Properly designed the crane can be removed by lifting it out of the bottom hole and tilting out (the top hole is pretty loose).

    I've seen a LOT of similar cranes. None quite as heavy nor as plain. Most have some decoration in the vertical bar to make it look like a turned spindle. This is typical Virginia farmhouse style from the 18th and early 19th Centuries.

    -- guru Monday, 01/04/99 23:57:47 GMT

    C.W. has a WEB site? I guess I'd better go look.

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/05/99 00:02:25 GMT


    After you've read the guru's description (where you been hiding that, boss? *I* haven't seen it!) if you still want to look at a picture of one, the Colonial Williamsburg URL is;

    I thought there was supposed to be more than that to it, but I just tried it and it works.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 01/05/99 00:03:36 GMT

    guru, See my message to Ralph (second one) with the URL in it.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 01/05/99 00:04:28 GMT

    Not to change the pace on blacksmithing itself , but does anyone
    know where I can get a chemical or paint?, to put a color on metal projects that I have made. Some projects look better in different colors. most of the projects are of just hot rolled steel that have been forged to shape. some just welded and ground and buffed to finish. Please advise if you would, Thankyou Carl

    Carl Voigtlander -- hiforge at Tuesday, 01/05/99 02:14:31 GMT

    PAINTING STEEL: See my article (Chapter 13) Corrosion and its Prevention on the 21st Century page. If you want your work to be around for Y3K then you want to go for the full treatment, sand blast, zinc prime, neutral prime, top coat. Top coats can vary but automotive finishes are designed for metal outdoors and are colorfast.

    A lot depends on where your work is going to be stored, outdoors, indoors or in a gallery and what kind of durability you want.

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/05/99 03:25:48 GMT

    Another note on casting pewter. If the original is not very very detailed and has no undercuts (or you know how to deal with them) you can use BONDO as a molding materail. It holds up to Pewter melt temps and can be used for multiple castings. A friend of mine got a 100 simple castings out of last week. There are a couple of tricks to it though.
    1.Oil the original - olive oil,WD40,vegitable
    2.Vibrate or tap so the BONDO will flow around the original
    3.If the Orig. is is complicated it can be removed easier when the BONDO is still warm and not full cured.
    4. I've added a little laqure thinner to thin it. I'm not sure if this is the right thinner but it worked.
    BE CAREFULL molten metal is the gift that keeps giving. It burns when it hits you and keeps burning till it cools down and leaves a really ugly scar.Wear protective everything.

    Ron Hardy -- rhemail at Tuesday, 01/05/99 04:31:58 GMT

    WOW! BONDO! (Automotive body putty): I thought *I* was the "bondo king* that had used the stuff for EVERYTHING, including repairing a gas (petrol) tank! Great idea!

    A thought for mold making:

    Depending if you are at the top or bottom of the can (top is always thin, bottom very stiff) to increase its refractoryness when thin and it has more plastic - Mix in some fine sand (before adding the hardener). Talc (talcum powder) is also a good additive for refractoryness and is much finer.

    Currently "bondo" uses glass powder as filler. For most its first decade bondo was polyester resin and powdered marble (mining waste). I much prefered it to the new stuff. At one point ONE manufacturer using sand! That was a huge mistake! Imagine what that did to your rasps and files!

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/05/99 13:11:49 GMT


    Wonder how BONDO would work as a "clay" liner for cast iron forges? How would it stand up to heat?

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 01/05/99 13:27:55 GMT

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! Bondo DOES burn! Ron's example above was for very small castings in LOW temp material that cools very quickly.

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/05/99 13:44:01 GMT

    Oh well!, Not every idea works! (grin) Got a voice phone number you can e-mail me? Need to talk for a short.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 01/05/99 13:51:36 GMT

    Hi, guys, thought you might like to see a quick 'n dirty way to do small castings in non-ferrous metals. Did quite a bit of this when I made jewelry and didn't have access to a centrifugal caster.

    Needed: wax (to make a model), dental investment (not plaster of paris), a chunk of auto tailpipe big enough to hold the model (casting flask), water, 1/2 a ping-pong ball, a tin can about twice as big as the casting flask, some charcoal (briquettes OK) to fill the tin can, your oxyacetelene torch, and enough brass/silver/etc. to make the piece (10 times the weight of the wax model + a little), a raw potato big enough to cover the end of the flask when cut, and some borax or brazing flux.

    Model what you want to make in wax. Roll out some of the wax into wires of about 14 gague. Make a heavy sprue (wax cylinder) and fix to the model. Connect the sprue to the ping-pong ball half with numerous 14 ga. wax wires. Stick the model/p-p ball assembly to a board.

    Mix about 1 tablespoon investment with enough water to make a thick cream and carefully brush onto the model. Make sure that there are no voids next to the surface, and let it harden while you continue.

    Stick the flask around the investment-coated model and seal the base to the board (you don't want leaks here).

    Mix enough investment and water to fill the flask. Fill the flask and let the whole thing harden.

    Remove the flask from the board and pry out the ping-pong ball half. You should see the ends of the 14 guage wax wires.

    Take the tin can and punch lots of holes around the bottom. Put a layer of charcoal in, put the flask on the charcoal, and pack charcoal loosely around and on top of the flask. Put it on a fireproof surface outside and light the charcoal. the torch will work through the holes in the tin can, or you can use charcoal lighting fluid. Leave it alone until the charcoal is nearly completely consumed. The wax will melt out and burn and the investment will be completely dried in about 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

    When the flask is nearly burnt out, get your oxyacetelene torch ready,
    cut the potato in half, and set the metal and flux nearby. Use tongs to lift the flask out and set it on a fireproof surface with the ping-pong ball cavity up. You should see a clean white surface with small holes in it.

    Put the metal in this cavity and start melting it with the torch. When the metal is nearly completely melted, put a pinch of flux on it and continue to heat until it seems to roll or spin under the flame. The surface tension of the metal will keep it in the cavity and not let it drop.

    Acting quickly, remove the torch and press the cut end of the potato over the end of the flask. Press hard -- you're trying to make a tight seal between the potato and the flask. The molten metal and hot investment will generate steam and press the metal into the mold. Holdl the pressure for about 2 or 3 minutes while the metal freezes into the mold.

    Take the hot flask and dump into a bucket of water (NOT the sink unless you like plumbing problems). The investment will disintigrate with some help from pointy objects and brushes, revealing your cast.

    Oh, for dental investment (and wax, including wax in wire guage sizes) look in the yellow pages under Dental Supplies. Should be available in nearly every medium-size city.

    Have fun, and be careful!


    Morgan Hall -- morganh at Tuesday, 01/05/99 15:46:12 GMT

    Dear Guru,
    I was just wandering what is the best type metal you think there is {lightest &strongest}?

    Sorry for such a short question & grammer.

    your friend,Nathaniel Lee Whitman

    nathan lee -- crusader210 at Tuesday, 01/05/99 16:27:23 GMT

    Jim& Guru,
    Thanks for the info about cranes.
    I have looked at that site before. I guess I'll have to look harder.
    As to fancy or plain, that will be up to me, as my client does not care(at least not yet). It would be easier plain, so that means I will most likely go with a fancy type.

    cool and icy in Hillsboro, OR

    Ralph -- douglass at Tuesday, 01/05/99 17:03:26 GMT


    (grin) Go for the fancy! It'll be more challenging! Kindrid spirits!

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 01/05/99 17:45:58 GMT

    BEST METAL: All metals have their place. In general steel is the best for most things that need strength. Then there are Aluminium alloys that come very close to the strength of the lower strength steels. Without them it would be difficult to make aircraft. However, aircraft still have a lot of steel in the engines, landing gear and control systems where high strength and durability is needed.

    Magnesium/aluminium alloys are lighter than aluminium but are also more expensive. Magnesium alloys can catch fire rather easily so their use is limited. Titanium alloys come close to steel and are more heat resistant than aluminium so they are used in spacecraft. Again they are more expensive than aluminium.

    Then there are your corrosion resist alloys Bronzes, Stainless steels and Monel. One type of monel used for boat shafts and chemical pumps is a 50/50 alloy of Chrome and Nickle. It is VERY tough/strong AND resistant to attack by strong chemicals.

    The strongest most exotic steel is the legendary (almost mythical) Damascus Steel! Crusaders found the metal in the weapons of the Middle East and brought back fantastic stories about how it would cut through anything and still hold the sharpest edge. Europeans spent centuries trying reproduce the myth. However, the metalurgical science of the time was not much better than alchemy. About the time of the Industrial Revolution smiths succeeded in producing laminated steels that were very close to the legendary Damascus steel. It was not the same process but laminated steels became commonly known as "Damascus" from that time on.

    Today there has been a great rebirth of laminated steel making by knife and sword makers the world over. (See my post above to Alec, about sword making and ending with an apology to grandpa

    Even more exotic than laminated steels are the new powdered metal alloys. Invented in the 1930's these too have seen a huge jump in their usefulness largely due to aerospace research. Powdered metals are made just like they sound, from powdered metal. The powder is put in presses and squeezed very tight. Often so tight it welds together. Some powdered metals are "sintered" together by melting one of the components (usualy Cobalt) in an oven. Sintered carbides are used for cutters in high speed machine tools to machine other high tech alloys that couldn't be machined without them.

    During the Star Wars research (mostly dropped since the cold war with the former USSR is over), new powdered metals were being developed for use in spacecraft and fighter aircraft. Some of these mixed together metals that can not be mixed in the normal method of making alloys (melting together). Aluminum/Iron alloys were experimented with and even graphite fibres were added to metal mixtures.

    The real problem in metalurgy is that there is no predictive science of alloying. It is ALL done by trial and error. When someone discovers the mathematical relationships between metals and we can then calculate the strongest or lightest combination of any metal combination THEN we will be in the SPACE AGE!

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/06/99 03:00:38 GMT


    Well put! When I was a firefighter at a US Navy research and development (lots of Star Wars research) base most of the new high tech stuff was developed by pure accident. When we would pull up at a lab at 3:00 am with flames coming out the windows you never knew what to expect. When investigating the cause and asked question, "what were you doing." Most of the answers we got would suprise you. Most common was, "we don't know?" We were mixing stuff together and we didn't get a favorable reaction, so we put the stuff in an oven to see what would happen. As my 6 year old son would say, DA! Maybe it was a case of I can tell you but then I have to KILL you. Myself, I turly believe they didn't know what they were doing.

    When it comes to predictive science, I think we have a long way to go to get to the SPACE AGE! not just with metalurgy.

    Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Wednesday, 01/06/99 04:55:51 GMT

    I have it from a well placed NASA source that the metalurgists are know as the "Heat it and Beat it guys"! Hey! Not too far from us!

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/06/99 13:10:05 GMT


    Isn't Clay Spence a former NASA engineer? He's DEFINITELY one of us! Watch him do a treadle hammer demonstration if you get the chance.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 01/06/99 13:46:19 GMT

    I am trying to locate a part for an old machine. It is a " iron worker" and it was made by the Buffalo Machine Company. If you know any distributors or places I can contact please let me know.

    Barry Tennyson -- btennyson at Wednesday, 01/06/99 14:44:50 GMT

    Buffalo Forge is still in business but they no longer make blacksmithing and metal working tools. They make big industrial blowers. You are probably going to have to make the part or have it made.

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/06/99 18:55:09 GMT

    I noticed that a couple of days ago you were refering someone to places where you can buy steel online. You can also go to They sell steel specifically for making blades. Hope this helps.

    Chris Bernard -- cbernard53 at Thursday, 01/07/99 00:17:01 GMT

    Thanks Chris, they look pretty good and carry a line of carbon steels that are hard to find.

    -- guru Thursday, 01/07/99 02:06:03 GMT

    Can you suggest a good book for finishing metals, i.e. bluing, etching, watering ... Appreciated!

    emerys -- ndg at Thursday, 01/07/99 10:13:43 GMT

    I went to the Admiral Steel website (thankyou Chris) and I saw they were selling knife and dagger blanks. I was wondering from an educational standpoint is there any advantage to making something from blanks or would you recommmend starting from scratch. Of course I won't do either until I do some more preliminary blacksmithing projects (refer to previous conversation). Thanks again.

    Alec -- breimann at Thursday, 01/07/99 19:56:45 GMT


    I read in the 'getting started' section of this page that there will be a blacksmithing conference in Calgary Alberta in July of 1999. Where could I find more info on this conference? I have not been able to link to the ABANA page for help on this.

    Thank you

    Neal -- christensen_neal/rmrs_missoula at Thursday, 01/07/99 20:59:19 GMT

    Alec, the profiled knife blanks are for the stock removal method. Still a LOT of work to be done and YES it would be educational. After shaping the the blade it will still need to be heat treated, you still have to make, fit and finish the guard, handle (grip) and pomel.

    For a fast introduction to the world of the bladesmith the 2 part Video by Jim Hrisoulas, Forging Damascus is a good deal. Do not be decievied by the ease at which Jim appears to make the demonstration blade. He is a professional with years of experiance AND he has all the best equipment.

    CanIronII conference to be held July 1-4, 1999 on the campus of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary Alberta Canada. Plans include a full 3 days of demonstrations, (Uri Hoffi, Bill Fiorini, Kirsten Skiles, Susan Hutchinson, Frank Turley, Charles Lewton-Brain and more) auction, gallery, trade show, tailgate sales, and assorted extras - We will have more details about the conference when they become available and a link to their web site when it is up and running.

    -- guru Thursday, 01/07/99 22:31:46 GMT


    annmarie ewald -- JEWALD6876 at AOL.COM Friday, 01/08/99 02:48:22 GMT

    Annmarie, I'm sure someone here will volunteer if you can't find them.

    METAL FINISHING (Emerys): My fovorite book on the subject is simply titled Gunsmithing. I'll get you particulars tomarrow. It has more formulas and techniques for coloring steels than any other reference I've come across.

    -- guru Friday, 01/08/99 03:14:49 GMT

    Could you tell me where to look for plans and instructions on building a propane fueled forge.
    Thank you

    Dick Becker -- tuyere at Friday, 01/08/99 03:43:46 GMT

    Sory for answering the question in your place guru.
    Try ron reils site if you are looking for gas forge plans.
    Heres the address.
    good luck and be careful

    OErjan -- pokerbacken at Friday, 01/08/99 09:48:56 GMT

    Thanks OErjan! Hey, I gotta SLEEP sometime and I'd rather have the qusetion answered promptly.

    Here's something we have ALL been waiting for, grandpa Daryl Meier now has a new web site! Everyone check it out!

    Congradulations on a beautiful web site Daryl!

    -- guru Friday, 01/08/99 13:29:18 GMT


    Nice looking site, but how many people had to hold you down while they strapped on the white shirt and tie? (grin)

    Very nice looking steel, friend!

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Friday, 01/08/99 13:45:23 GMT


    VERY nice work, both the site and especially the metalwork!
    Now all I have to do is get even 1/10th as good...


    ralph -- douglass at Friday, 01/08/99 15:40:22 GMT

    grandpa...I just visited your site . Awestruck is the only way to say it!!! Thank You!

    Andy -- andyjwhite at Saturday, 01/09/99 21:32:43 GMT

    I nee to know the name of the macines used to roll sheet meatal into cylinders or cones.... please help.

    Tom -- Tom at Sunday, 01/10/99 21:28:08 GMT

    FORMING MACHINE or ROLLS (Tom): The more technical term is forming machine but most people call them rolls. The standard type have three cylindrical rolls. Two are adjustable for the the metal thickness and radius. The "Slip Roll" type of forming machine has a split frame on one end so that the upper gripping roll can lifted and work that has been bent to a complete cylinder can be lifted off.

    Small bench forming machines for sheet metal shops are often as small as 24" (610mm) wide and have a capacity of 24ga. metal. These often have wire forming groves machined in one end of the rolls. Most often these are hand powered. By adjusting the rolls out of parrallel conical shapes can be rolled.

    Large plate rolls can form 4" (100mm) steel plate or larger. Both size machines come in slip roll types.

    Much work that is done on rolls is also done on a brake by bending the plate in lots of small increments. Once the amount of bend and spacing is worked out this is often more controllable than rolling.

    Blacksmiths used a very narrow type of rolls called a tire bender.

    -- guru Sunday, 01/10/99 22:08:58 GMT

    Oh gurus of the anceint art...(In the Bible, in genesis, it says that Tubal-Cain, Adams Grandson, was the cheif instructor of the metalworkers) I have a question of the most novice variety. Can you give me and example of an item that you would make with a power hammer. Like what raw stock would you start with, and what could you make? I have never seen one, nor what\how they are used, and all of this talk of hammers makes me want to build one! Why I am a machinery and tool junkie if the state of Texas ever had one. (Am workin' on a forge) Istolavisa... Joseph

    Joseph -- jdelgado at Monday, 01/11/99 02:18:00 GMT


    Power hammers are used to draw out long tapers for architectual work or create custom rail and decorative bar stock. Small hammers can be used for anything you would do by hand. Forging, chiseling, chasing, punching, texturing and welding. Delicate work in 1/4" (7mm) stock can be forged if you like. A good 100 pound (45 kg) hammer can controlably forge stock 1/16" (2mm) thick or work 1" (25mm) stock.

    Makers of laminated "Damascus" steel for knives and swords do their welding under power hammers and then draw the stock out for the next "fold" and weld.

    Hand held "clapper" or "spring" dies are used to make everything from tenons to acorns.

    With a 300 pound (140 kg) or greater hammer you can make a smith's hammer in one heat. A two or three step die is required. Starting with 1-1/2" (40mm) square 1065 steel bar, the first depression shapes the hammer, chamfering the corners and forming the pien. The second position punches the eye, first two thirds through and then rotating the work and punching the "biscuit" loose. The third position (possibly a second machine) parts the bar and viola' you have a hammer!

    Air hammers are considered the most controlable machines but some of the better mechanicals are just as good (Bradley, Fairbanks, Beaudry). The BIG air hammers are designed to be operated by a crew. Usualy this is a three man team. The blacksmith runs the show, the driver runs the hammer (takes two hands) and a third man handles the piece to be forged. See the color picture The Last Anvilmakers in my review of the Richard Postman book Anvils in America.

    The most popular (due to quantity) mechanical hammer, the Little Giant, is probably the least controllable of all the hammers. Yet they are used for forging knives and delicate tool work such as chasing.

    All the hammers have different characters they require getting used to. Many shops that start with one end up with three or more. Power hammers are like anvils, ANY hammer is better than NO hammer!

    -- guru Monday, 01/11/99 03:10:33 GMT

    I am seeking a finish for steel that will fill in the imperfections left from welding after grinding. With continued filling of these pit, lines and dings the piece is growing thin. I want to stay with a "metal" finish, short of electroplating I am sort of lost. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Doug

    Doug -- dagrp at Monday, 01/11/99 14:25:57 GMT

    SPRAY METALIZING or POWDERed METAL SPRAY WELDING is what you are looking for Doug. Many machine shops use the process to buildup or hardface shafts. Talk to your welding supplier.

    The simplest equipment uses a special oxyactylene torch with a hopper for the powdered metal. The surface is heated and the powdered metal dropped into the flame where it melts and is "sprayed" onto the surface.

    The high tech equipment uses a plasma spray process.

    If the work is a sculpture I've seen artists "plate" a steel piece using brazing rod. You get an intresting surface texture and finish but I don't think this is what you are looking for.

    -- guru Monday, 01/11/99 14:59:06 GMT

    I have been involved with the metal working industy for ten years,and
    have recently returned from a two year contract teaching metalworking
    in East Africa(blacksmithing aluminium casting,and sheetmetal work.
    If you know of any web site which deals with smithing in the developing world Iwould be interested.Also if you know of anybody
    that has tried tocast iron on a village level I would also be
    very interested,many thanks,Gwyn.

    Gwyn Istance -- mchafu at Monday, 01/11/99 17:22:53 GMT

    PRIMITIVE SMITHYS (Gwyn): You don't need too look far. The majority of smiths in this country and much of the "developed" world are grass roots do-it-yourselfers. With the decline of blacksmithing in the modern era most of the big industrial suppliers to blacksmiths also declined. Its only in the last decade or so that small businesses have started to fill in where big business has dropped out. However, most hobby or part time smiths still find that new equipment is too expensive and build their own.

    On this page and others linked to it there are instructions for making your own anvils, forges and POWER HAMMERS! The difference here is we have the advantage of living in an industrial (or post industrial) society. However, a dirt and clay lined forge in a wood box works just as well today as it did thousands of years ago (See Blacksmith of 1776, 21st Century page).

    For information on the "backyard" foundry, see the works of C.W. Ammen. His books discuss building small couplas, patternmaking and every other aspect of building and operating a small foundry. They are available in many libraries and from Centaur Forge. Centaur and Norm Larson Books both have numerous references on everything from making charcoal to building your own machine tools using a backyard foundry (see Gingery).

    Although a well equiped modern blacksmith shop or foundry is wonderful to have, the real work and tools are no different than 3,000 years ago.

    -- guru Monday, 01/11/99 18:33:14 GMT

    Has anyone heard of a book called "Practicle Projects for the Blacksmith".

    Andrew Hooper -- andrew at Tuesday, 01/12/99 07:18:31 GMT

    looking for plans and parts for building a polishing / buffing setup for bladesmithing (swords). or if anyone knows any tricks of the trade that might be usefull i would appreciate those as well...

    lochinvar -- iamlochinvar at Tuesday, 01/12/99 08:05:21 GMT

    where can i get a "pocket anvil" and if i cannot get one, do you have plan's on how to make one. thanks.

    Rayner -- rberger at Tuesday, 01/12/99 09:14:08 GMT

    "POCKET ANVIL" is a new term to me, please elaborate. Do you mean a "swage block" or "hollow anvil"?

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/12/99 12:48:39 GMT

    Lochinvar, I know there are plans somewhere on the net for a three wheel "knife" grinder maybe someone will remind us where.

    ALSO - See my article Wheels on the 21st Century page (last article at the bottom). It briefly discusses speeds. I just reviewed it and see it could use some more details but its a start.

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/12/99 12:56:12 GMT

    PRACTICAL PROJECTS FOR THE BLACKSMITH, Tucker, 248 pages is avai;able from Norm Larson Books for $US 19.95 + S&H

    -- guru Tuesday, 01/12/99 13:08:53 GMT

    Mr. Guru,
    My name is Bob and I have a varied backgorund as you do, I am in the U.S. Navy and work as a gunnersmate, basicly I'm a electronics, hydrolics, pnumatics tech/troubleshooter/mechanic. I have held numberous part time jobs as a auto and motorcycle mechanic. I am 37 years of age and have been building/rebuilding/inventing/desinging and basicly working with my hands and all types of materials since I can remeber. I have a small shop behind my house and no one ever knows what might be coming out of it next. I have always been more into machines than anything eles though, Just have to know how it works! Well thats the background, nows here the question. As I have stated, my shop is small, I own a great deal of equipment and tools now but the shop is still large enough for the work I do. what would like is to know if the are any other manufactures of small machine tools, (ie. lathes, milling, shapping) I have looked at the Smithys, the smaller ones, and am intrested in the Granet it is priced right in my opinion at around 2795.00 (not including tooling of course). I have used machine tools in the past, but only very large machines. I have information on building my own but really don't want to wast my time or resources on a machine that will not do what iI need it to. I have recently become very involved in custom Harley Davidson Motorcycles and what to make my own parts. Do you or any one you know have any first hand knowlage of the Smithy machines? Do you think it would be able to handle machineing parts out of aluminum, and stainless? Further, can you give me a line on a company that produces a small foundry that is suitable for casting aluminum parts in greensand. Thanks for any assistance you can give and I am sure we will talk again now that I know you are avalable.
    Thanks again.

    Robert Parker -- dazzy at Tuesday, 01/12/99 16:28:47 GMT

    I am fairly new at black smithing and mostly make weaponary but I have not been able to figure out how to give a finished blade a mirror shine like I see on most store bought Kives and Swords.please help?
    Also could you give me some help on forging a good blade, and constructing a handle? Thank you. Bye.

    jason scott -- scotts at Tuesday, 01/12/99 23:55:26 GMT

    Guru, I have been working iron for 10 years and have recently changed job location.I was unable to bring the pattrns I used for scrollwork with me.Some were over 100 years old.I would like any info you have on making iron scrolls

    Tom Hanley -- thanley1 at Wednesday, 01/13/99 02:11:20 GMT

    SMALL machine tools (Gunner): I'm not familiar with the Smithy line. In another age Clausing made small mills and shapers that were substantial well built machines. Southbend made made small lathes in the same class. Atlas made the lathes sold by Sears (I have an old 6" Craftsman) but Sears got out of the business and the recent Atlas line is not even suitable for small model making. I think Jet makes a line of small machines but I do not know how good they are either.

    Good small machine tools cost as much as bigger "full size" machines (a LOT more per pound). Most of the "hobbist" machines I've had experiance with were very dissapointing.

    BRIGHT FINISHES (Jason): Buffing and polishing is an art that must be learned and practiced like any other metalworking skill. See Polish X and Wheels on the 21st Century page. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms or materials then we can discuss them later. Good quality abrasives in the necessary steps are not cheap but are as important and any other tools.

    FORGING a "good" blade and constructing a handle are topics enough for a complete book (or two) and there are many good ones available. How to make Knives by and featuring Loveless and Moran two of the world's top knife makers is a good start. Step by Step Knifemaking by Boye is also very good. Then I highly recomend the books by Jim Hrisoulas. These books are available from Centaur Forge and Norm Larson books. There are also videos such as the Hrisoulas set on our review page that are very informative.

    SCROLL PATTERNS: Good ones are natural geometric progressions that can be created by eye, layout or mathematicaly. Most scrolls are simple spirals. To lay these out you start with any number of intersecting axies then move outward in even increments on each axis. Varying the number of axies will change the character of the spiral. More sophisticated spirals can be created by the same method but using a multiplier such as square root of two (1.414. . .) or three (1.732. . .) their reciprocals or any other number that suits you.

    Josh Greenwood makes his scroll jigs in sets he calls a "family of scrolls". Each family has the same progression but are in different sizes. Generaly scrolls of the same family are used together. We both layout our scrolls by eye and then make the jig OR bend IT by eye to suit the job. See the article Benders on the 21st Century page for examples.

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/13/99 03:54:01 GMT

    Gunner (on small foundys): Micro foundrys are well supported by the jewlery industry. But like the size machine tool you are looking for the very "small" but not micrscopic, foundry is not very well supported as far as I can find (I may be wrong and will continue looking). The books of C.W. Ammen describe how to build most of the equipment you would need for a small foundry. The materials and crucibles are available from regular foundry suppliers OR folks like McMaster-Carr (See our links page).

    The best material to cast in a small shop is Zinc-Aluminium alloy. It melts at low temperature (less than 1000F), can be poured in a variety of mold types, is nearly as strong as bronze and is a better bearing material. It is also easy to machine. We typically see thin wall die cast parts (carburators and other auto parts) made of zinc but it can also be cast in thick sections.

    It CAN be melted in iron or steel crucibles but it will disolve them in a few melts if they are not refractory lined. I've poured ZA-24 in permanent iron/steel molds with great results. The tricky part is learing how much riser the part needs and how much to preheat the mold (a lot in both cases). Don't forget to stir the melt, as the aluminium rises to the top.

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/13/99 13:39:10 GMT

    Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering what would one use for a blower for a forge, and or how would one make one?

    Heath Lindholm -- Dreams4546 at Wednesday, 01/13/99 18:57:06 GMT

    I've been learning about blacksmithing for about 2 1/2 years now. I can remember seeing a listing of scrap materials (axle, brake drum, valves, etc) and what type of steel was in the item. It was a fairly extensive list, and now I can't find the danged thing. Have you ever seen such?

    George Pacheco -- macp_98 at Wednesday, 01/13/99 20:48:38 GMT

    I'm writting to express an interest in your "JYH" plans for $10.00. plans would take allot of the figuring and quess work out and hence save me allot of precious time.Thanks for the opportunity to express to express an interest...

    C,SOAVE -- CESDAVEYBOY at YAHOO.COM Wednesday, 01/13/99 21:47:47 GMT

    FORGE BLOWER: Not a bother! Any small "squirel cage" fan with 100 to 200 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) flow is sufficient. Hand held blow drier blowers are about right. I use Dayton blowers with a "shaded pole" motor. This means that you can operate the blower on a light dimmer for speed control. See our Brake Drum Forge plan on the plans page for a typical blower arrangement. Centaur Forge sells several sizes of blower. Hand crank versions have also been made of wood and thin sheet metal. In this case the scroll case is cut out of two pieces of wood and the sheet metal bent to fit the outside curve. The runner (fan) is made of a square block with an axel and sheet metal blades. Anything that moves air can blow a forge.

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/13/99 22:07:08 GMT

    SCRAP MATERIALS (George): The best list is the SAE materials list published in Machinery's Hamdbook. Please note that this is a suggested materials list and that if you look closely things like springs and bearings are listed using a variety of materials. Just because ONE manufacturer uses a given steel for a product does not mean that any other use the same. Any time you use scrap or "recycled" materials it is YOUR responsibility to determine the suitability of the material.

    -- guru Wednesday, 01/13/99 22:20:42 GMT

    Hello I'm interested in learning Blacksmithing, but I have no relevant experience. I'm 18, and I live in Forest Grove Oregon. I don't know where to start, so If you have any suggestions or contacts to help me out I would be appreciative. Thank you

    Andrew Black -- Hblack2597 at Wednesday, 01/13/99 23:58:05 GMT

    Andrew, You are in luck. The Northwest Blacksmiths Association is one of the most active ABANA chapters. See Getting Started for more information. Finding anvilfire! was a great start!.

    -- guru Thursday, 01/14/99 00:22:32 GMT

    Well this is one of the very good places to start. Look at the Getting Started area on this page. There are several good books on the subject. Then just do it! The NWBA has a web site(which I can not remember the URL) Also look into the Fort Vancouver Blacksmith shop. We do have a volunteer program where we do show what little knowledge we have. Any how email me and we can discuss this more.

    BTW I only live a few mins away. I am in Hillsboro.

    Ralph Douglass -- douglass at Thursday, 01/14/99 15:50:52 GMT


    I've been out a couple of months and, after reviewing the Anvifire site for Jan. I noticed that I don't see Grant Sarver's input anymore.

    Did something happen while I was away???? What's the story???



    Al Dolney -- al.dolney at Thursday, 01/14/99 17:17:37 GMT

    I'm looking to get started making gates, railings, etc. I would like to find find some pre-manufactured pieces to use along with my hand-forged scrolls,etc., in order to make assembly easier. Do you know of anyone who carries this stuff?

    kevin -- none Thursday, 01/14/99 17:35:37 GMT

    I'm am looking to get started making gates, railing, etc. I would like to find someone who sells various pre-made pieces to use along with my hand-forged scrolls,etc., to make assembly easier. Do you know of anyone?

    kevin -- no E-mail address Thursday, 01/14/99 17:40:24 GMT

    Kevin, Try King Supply Co. They have an extensive line of components. There are others but that will get you started. For more information on suppliers of components join NOMMA (The National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metals Association) and ABANA. The suppliers you seek advertise in these publications.

    -- guru Thursday, 01/14/99 21:37:39 GMT

    Hi Guru, i make a living welding in a rock crushing plant ,i work from my own weld shop and have been welding for 30 years +. i have experience in steel working , but would like too expand my interest to basic blacksmithing skills . i need a forge. i will make one from a large truck brake drum. my dumb ? is,can i use regulated air from my large air compressor,if so what air pressure is a starting point.and also can air be blown in from botton side of drum or must it be blown up from the bottom and thru center. thank you

    Paul Johnson -- shbow at Thursday, 01/14/99 23:26:03 GMT

    Paul, No, its NOT a dumb question. In the past it was very common for commercial forges to use compressed air. Coal, oil and gas forges used compressed air and some still do. It is not so common today because few shops have large air compressors AND it is less efficient then a small blower.

    In coal forges the air must be a gentle "blast", actually just a stiff breeze. Generally the compressed air is blown into an expansion chamber (large pipe a couple feet long) to expand and reduce turbulance. I would use one of the venturi effect devices that increase the volume of air moved by sucking air in behind it thus reducing the amount of compressed air needed. The plumbing would look like the brake drum forge on our plans page except where the blower is the nipple would be longer creating the expansion chamber.

    The advantage of compressed air is that it is easy to control. All it takes is a small diameter (1/4" pipe) valve. Blowers rated at 100 to 300 CFM are used for forges. However, this rating does not equate directly to compressed air CFM. A blower is rated in CFM at inches of water column while your compressor is rated at CFM at XX PSI the pressure often being THOUSANDS of times greater.

    -- guru Friday, 01/15/99 00:36:45 GMT

    Guru, just got my catalog from Admiral Steel referred to up the board. OOOHHH! It's Christmas in January! 6" of flurries in MN brian rognholt Odin Forge

    brian rognholt -- brognholt at Friday, 01/15/99 07:47:35 GMT

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