WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and 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 8 - 15, 2009 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Bending tube:
They also sell springs that go on the outside of the tube. I've used one of those and they work pretty well, at least for the 1/2" tubing I was bending. But I would think a tight radius would make it tough to slide the spring off.
   - Marc - Thursday, 01/08/09 08:23:17 EST

Arlo was the Rothenburg ODT or one of the other Rothenburg in Germany? I have a couple of german smithing books I can look into but they probably predate using angle iron.

Josh; prices range widely depending on condition and location---two things you have not mentioned in your post.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/08/09 10:53:21 EST

My brother asked what to do with old worn out files, more mill files than rasps.
I thought I'd ask here and get a list of uses and ideas to pass on.
Happy New Year all!
   blackbart - Thursday, 01/08/09 13:47:33 EST


Those are usually good high carbon steel like 1095 and good for things that need sharp edges like knives, scrapers, gravers, chisels, etc. These can be made either by stock removal or forging. If you're going to forge the files into something else, first grind off the teeth or they'll end up causing cold shuts in the forging.

Files also are good for steeling wrought iron tools like axes, tomahawks, hammers, etc. You would want to draw the temper back further for these uses than you would for cutting edges, of course. For a hammer face, just normalizing would probably be satisfactory.

Old files are also one of the steels of choice for making strikers for flint/steel firemaking.

I have two burnishers that I made from old files, and a number of gravers and chisels. All work just fine.
   vicopper - Thursday, 01/08/09 14:06:13 EST

I use old files to make my knives, i get them pretty cheap at tag sales. only thing with a carbon knife is that they rust unlike stainless steel knives, so if you use them for a knife be sure to keep it oiled and you should have no problems.

I havn't posted in awhile and was reminded of this when I saw this list tell me if you see anything strange here.
The Best and Worst Jobs
Of 200 Jobs studied, these came out on top -- and at the bottom:

The Best The Worst
1. Mathematician 200. Lumberjack
2. Actuary 199. Dairy Farmer
3. Statistician 198. Taxi Driver
4. Biologist 197. Seaman
5. Software Engineer 196. EMT
6. Computer Systems Analyst 195. Roofer
7. Historian 194. Garbage Collector
8. Sociologist 193. WELDER
9. Industrial Designer 192. Roustabout
10. Accountant 191. IRON WORKER
11. Economist 190. Construction Worker
12. Philosopher 189. Mail Carrier
13. Physicist 188. SHEET METAL WORKER
14. Parole Officer 187. Auto Mechanic
15. Meteorologist 186. Butcher
16. Medical Laboratory Technician 185. Nuclear Decontamination Tech
17. Paralegal Assistant 184. Nurse (LN)
18. Computer Programmer 183. Painter
19. Motion Picture Editor 182. Child Care Worker
20. Astronomer 181. Firefighter

Can anyone tell me why Iron worker and sheet metal worker ranks 191 out of 200 worst jobs on a list that 1 is best and 200 is worst I highly dissagree who else is with me on this one
   matt - Thursday, 01/08/09 15:26:24 EST

The list was probably put together by pinheaded pencil necks that rate how well a job is based the on physical labor and risks in relation to the amount of cash you rake in, as opposed to the actual experience of it.
I would rate mathematician as one of the worst jobs, I absolutely hate math, also unless some one is a genius they would probably have a teaching job which isn't very fun either. Also how old is this list? Computer programmers and software developers aren't that great any more, you'd have to be something special to be doing well.
   Nabiul Haque - Thursday, 01/08/09 17:01:57 EST

Matt, It sounds like a dorky list. Studs Terkel wrote a book called "Working: People Talk about What They do all Day and how they Feel about What They do." The book conveys much more than a simplistic list.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/08/09 19:15:42 EST

Matt and all, Some college educated idiot has made up these ratings. I'm a new hobby blacksmith but I've made my living as a Sheet metal worker and press operator for 30 yrs now. The men in my family were all blacksmiths from my Grandfather on back. Most all my people are tradesmen. The satisfaction is in the solving of problems, the creating, the fabricating, the repairing of items people need.The world values what we do even if these ratings people don't.If these jobs were so bad why do families do them generation after generation ? just my thoughts
   gary shaw - Thursday, 01/08/09 19:21:16 EST

If I googled the right study, the five factors were: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. I guess they defined a clean indoor environment as good, and physical labor as bad. When you add the facts that the manufacuring sector is going downhill, and that pay for most blue collar jobs isn't as high as while collar ones, it's not hard to see how they came out the way they did.

Interesting that lab techs and paralegals made the top 20, but doctors and lawyers didn't. Maybe that's where strees comes in . . .
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/08/09 20:50:43 EST

This list was obtained and just released today, I think its dumb and it probably refers to money and work related danger. I think i'd rather use my hands to make somthing rather than write down math problems in a cubical all day.
Nabul I like the classy Freddy blassy referance and Frank your rite it is dorky.Where do they get lumber jack as the worst job and iron worker not far below it? If you ever watch dirty jobs there are far worse jobs than lumber jack. All those in favor as Iron work replacing math as best job say I
   matt - Thursday, 01/08/09 21:22:52 EST

sorry mike re read your post and you are rite
   matt - Thursday, 01/08/09 21:24:18 EST

I have a question for all those knowledgeable in chemistry and metallurgy.

What exactly causes the oxidation colours of steel over varying temperature ranges?

This has got me wondering what steel would look like if heated within other non metal elements near oxygen on the periodic table.
   Nabiul Haque - Thursday, 01/08/09 21:29:29 EST

   matt - Thursday, 01/08/09 22:04:02 EST


Here's how I understand it: As long as the oxide film is very thin, it's close to transparent. Some light reflects from the surface of the film; the rest goes on through and bounces off the metal itself.

The light that travels all the way to the metal (and back) travels further. This means that the light waves from the two separate reflections are no longer in synch. When the additional path is exactly half the wavelength of the light, the two waves interfere with each other (cancel each other out). This happens when the film thickness is one quarter the wavelength of the light (since the wave has to travel through the film twice).

White light, of course, contains a number of different wavelengths. As the oxide film thickens, it first reaches one-quarter the wavelength of blue light (the shortest). With the blue cancelled out, you see the longer wavelenths (reds and yellows). As the film thickens, it eventually blocks the long wavelengths (reds and yellows) and leaves blue. After that it gets too thick to be transparent, and you just see the blue-gray color of the oxide (scale) itself.

So the answer to your question is that with other iron compounds you'd either see the same temper colors, or none at all (if the compound was too opaque or didn't form a smooth film).

There are some metals (including titanium I think), that have a second set of temper colors. This, I assume, is because the oxide film is more transparent. It that case, the second set forms when the extra path length is 1-1/2 times the wavelength of the various colors of light. At most, you might find an element that would give that effect when it forms a compound with iron.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/08/09 22:07:00 EST

How many philosophers are employed in thier field? I will bet damn few.
Remember that there is a difference betwen having a PHD in philosophy and teaching about it and actually being a philosopher.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 01/08/09 23:16:43 EST

That list is silly. Being a blacksmith is a wonderful job!
Some people are just not mature enought to realise it.
   - John L. - Thursday, 01/08/09 23:45:24 EST

I have a Scandanavian Air Tight (steel) wood stove that I use for heating every winter. I was wondering how well that may work as a forge? I am only a hobby beginner at this point. I have read the getting started page, and fortunately I do have cert. in gas/arc welding. I love to weld, and have a real passion for metal working in general. My father was a molder in iron/aluminumun foundries all his life. It's in my blood!!

My wood stove is fire bricked inside, and I had a 4-6" ladel that I made an extended handle with re-bar. I generally burn oak. I slipped the ladel into the HOT coals of the fire through the door. Leaving the door open just enough to get my handle through. In the ladel I placed an old brass fitting. However, to my surprise it only 'softened' the brass.

Maybe coal, with the introduction of a better, more direct air flow system...

Is a wood burner a feasible way to go..I'm not sure?
   Stephen Marks - Friday, 01/09/09 01:15:45 EST

Ahhh of course, thin film interference of light. I got stuck in the usual 'metal is opaque' mindset.

   Nabiul Haque - Friday, 01/09/09 02:13:39 EST

In the list something I don't see is commercial fisherman, which, as I understand it, is one of the highest risk occupations - right up there with logger. The Alaskan crab fisherman may do well but it is a very seasonal, high risk, job with relatively few job openings. I also don't see farmer.

But, yes, in looking down the list it seems to be predominately inside (office) vs outside (worksite) jobs. Until I retired I had a rather well paying office job and simply hated it. Through retirement check/farm/shop work I probably gross out about the same, but am a heck of a lot more content.

Heck, if you are a city (and union) garbage collector you might well earn more than a Historian.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 01/09/09 05:33:17 EST

I think that list is silly. According to it, I am giving up a "best" (computer systems analyst) in order to pursue a "worst" (blacksmithing isn't on there but it would probably be bad based on 188,191,193). It is probably based upon demographic statistical data that none of us probably fit into.

On another topic, I just saw part of the Scorpion episode of "Weapon Masters" on Discovery. I walked in while Chad was working with a smith to make some scorpion bolt heads. I didn't catch the smith's name, though. Does anyone know?


   Rob Dobbs - Friday, 01/09/09 08:13:04 EST

Guys, as for the list, its been over 30 yrs since I made a living on a Dairy Farm, and the industry changes constantly.
The hours are long, the pay is low, some of the working conditions are tough. However, Dairy farming has a wonderful rythm to it. You're on YOUR farm, with your family working the land and dealing with livestock. If your teenagers are milking cows and feeding calves they are not hanging around on street corners getting into trouble. I have days when I still miss it. HUMBUG ON THAT LIST.
   gary shaw - Friday, 01/09/09 09:08:34 EST

Dave- I suspect that if you asked a philosopher if they were employed in their field they would say yes no matter what their actual job was. Also, I've done both a little bit of logging and some roofing and can say that logging is MUCH more enjoyable.

Back to metalworking- I have a few very specialized pairs of tongs that I've made for specific operations that get quite abused during normal use and I would like to upgrade them from mild steel to something tougher. I can get both 1050 and 4140 without much trouble locally. Any opinions on steel choice would be welcome.
   Judson Yaggy - Friday, 01/09/09 09:51:27 EST

Shall we move this over to the hammerin?
   - Mustystuff - Friday, 01/09/09 10:33:33 EST

Best and Worst Jobs List: With a mathematician listed as #1 you KNOW this list was created by some over paid executive that used to be a statistical analyst that looked down on ANY job that required manual labor. Then he looked a pay scales and health risks.

But there are many jobs that you MUST love to be in them. A true mathematician is one. Jobs are either very high pressure high security government jobs or in academia where pay is not very good and there is more politics than work. You have to love it.

Most Sociologists (#8 on the list) work in social services (see Child Care worker #182) dealing with battered women, abused children, elder care and the worst or saddest of society. They go into it for love of the work and have a very high burnout rate. Any job that has a high burnout rate is not a good job. Same with many Nurses and Teachers. Teachers are not on the list so they must be in the unlisted middle. However, to be a teacher you have to LOVE IT. The pay puts it near the bottom I suspect.

So the list must be speaking of an academic Sociologist who never deals with real situations

The Ironworker listed is probably a modern high steel construction type. These jobs used to be sought after back when they paid $20/hour and minimum wage was $1.50. Forty years later it pays about the same while minimum was is almost $10 and the cost of a pickup truck has gone from $4,000 to $30,000.

A lot of construction jobs have gone this route and crews are now filled with immigrants, migrant workers and illegals. 40 years ago middle class white folks wanted these jobs because you could make a good living at them.

Modern categorizers do not have a CLUE what to do with a modern blacksmith. Perhaps it is because we are actually entrepreneurs, mostly self employed, have no reportable "normal" pay scale or anything statistical to pidgin hole us. To be in this field you HAVE to love it. A lot (like low pay) can be overlooked when you love what you do.

They listed "lumberjack" at the bottom of the list, probably due to work hazards. But I've known lots of these folks and they love working outdoors in the fresh air with beautiful scenery. Yes, it is hard work and does not pay highly. But the folks that do it could not be paid enough to sit in a little cubicle without windows all day long. They would consider that torchore not a job.

Engineer should be at the top of the list. However, in recent times engineer pay has dropped to about that of a school teacher. At one time engineers were very well paid to do creative work in a good environment. Schools have cranked out way too many engineering students and in a post industrial period there is much less need or prestige in the job. Should be #1 on the list.

In the end it is all subjective and depends on your point of view. Today when many do not have jobs, any job better than working at a fast food restaurant is a good job.
   - guru - Friday, 01/09/09 10:44:12 EST

Thank You everyone for all the bending information.

Guru the Blacksmith Book arrived yeasterday and is great. Thank Sherri for me.
   - RustyMustystuff - Friday, 01/09/09 10:49:49 EST

I wonder if roustabout = roughneck? Oilpatch jobs tend to pay well but when I was in it I was told that a career oil worker had a 20% chance of major injury during their career. I was lucky being a geologist. Good pay but brutal hours and at least I got to huddle in a nuce clean warm logging unit in bad weather---save for when I had to pull samples from the shaker.

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/09/09 11:54:58 EST

I've been using thick brass door hinges for knife components and such. It forges horribly. Just a slight bit above critical temp it melts. Worked any cooler and it splinters apart (when attempted to be drawn to a point). In your best opinion, what grade of brass is most easily forged? I know this has come up in the past, I just never paid it any mind because we weren't talking steel.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 01/09/09 13:18:42 EST

Also, I've heard contradictory advice on annealing brass. One source says quench in water, another says slow cool in vermiculite. Is this dependent upon grade of brass? I was under the assumption that non-ferrous metals can't be hardened by quenching.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 01/09/09 13:23:10 EST

Should we move the job list chatter over to the hammerin?
   - RustyMustystuff - Friday, 01/09/09 13:44:44 EST


When printing information off the Den is there an easy method to make th background white instead of gray?

I notice when I cut and paste into word it is gray.

Thank You again everyone for all the bender snowshoe and copyright info.
   - RustyMustyStuff - Friday, 01/09/09 13:54:06 EST

Printing: You can tell the browser print routine to print OR not print backgrounds.
   - guru - Friday, 01/09/09 15:51:49 EST

Brass Nip, See our FAQ on brass and bronze. Yes there are more forgable varieties and forgability is defined with Naval Brass being the easiest (at 100%) and everything else less.

You normally quench all non-ferrous to anneal. However, there IS a heat treatment to harden silver that is listed in the Brass FAQ or the Heat Treating FAQ.
   - guru - Friday, 01/09/09 15:58:39 EST

There are a few heat-treatable copper alloys. I think these are precipitation hardening and would still anneal on a quench. But that might not be true for all of them.
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/09/09 19:34:15 EST

Can a green or red patina be achived without using paint
   Brandon - Friday, 01/09/09 21:32:44 EST


For a red patina, leave a piece of steel out in the rain. For a green one, do the same thing with a piece of copper. Now, if by "patina" you mean stable finish, the short answer is "no."
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/09/09 22:16:26 EST

Thomas: Roudtabout = Roughneck? NO and dont ever suggets it to a roughneck. Roustabouts do all the miscellaneous, usually lower skilled jobs around a rig: maintenance, lumping, painting, cleaning etc. Roughnecks do the hands on drilling.
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/10/09 06:04:44 EST

Another skill I don't see listed there is rodeo rider. I've heard those studing the bones (and damage thereto) of ancient man have compared them to modern man and the closest match is rodeo bull rider.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 01/10/09 08:34:16 EST

Check out this e-bay listing. Bit of a haul to get it for most people but a really neat anvil. 220342443111
   Robert Cutting - Saturday, 01/10/09 11:05:57 EST

Looks like a Peter Wright to me, but might be a Henry Wright or from Sweden. Listing points out the need for putting items in the proper category. Antiques/Metalware/Brass isn't it.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 01/10/09 13:09:42 EST

Jim Hrisoulas talks about being able to weld mild and 1095 to make a damascus at the orange temperature with flux. He also states that burning the 1095 is not difficult to do, what color would 1095 burn?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Saturday, 01/10/09 20:27:17 EST

Burning Steel: Jacob, "Burning" is a nebulous word that covers a lot of conditions. It is the rapid oxidation in the presence of fire but not necessarily the fire of the object being burned. . . Oxidation of most metals including steel occurs at all temperatures above the freezing point of oxygen zero and accelerates with the increase in temperature. Oxidation also increases with the amount of oxygen present. In a forge fire you can have NO oxygen, very little OR quite a lot. In the perfect forge fire all the oxygen has been consumed and no oxidation of the metal occurs. However, this is rare.

What happens in a forge is high temperature oxidation "burning" the steel (any temperature that produces scale). This is far below the temperature where steel burns in a self sustaining manner (sparkling heat). Decarburization (burning the carbon out of the steel) also occurs at these temperatures and is a serious problem for blade and tool making.

The point is to make welds at as low a temperature as possible. I think Daryl Meier was welding at 2400°F at the 2000 ABANA conference and said it could be done at 2300°F (1260°C).

Bladesmiths have also found that they get better cleaner more consistent welds by enclosing the billet and using a deoxidizer (kerosene) to cleanse the welding atmosphere. With clean steel and zero oxygen you can get welds at much lower temperatures than in open air or typical forge atmospheres.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/11/09 01:21:33 EST

Does any one know how cold steel makes their swords? What do you think of the quality of their work?
   Michael - Sunday, 01/11/09 19:02:42 EST


Cold Steel like any modern knife cutlery uses a stock removal process. They are die punches from sheets of stainless or carbon steel. Then heatreated in a furnace. After that are ground on CNC grinders.

I can not say for certain on today's quality. Many years ago some Cold Steel products were top notch and others were not so nice. It depended on who they contracted with to have certain patterns made. Some knives were once made in China and some in the USA. Many of the contracts have since been pulled and items produced overseas. I suspect it is the same. Some items quality and some not.
   - RustyMustyStuff - Sunday, 01/11/09 19:50:14 EST

Naval Jelly?

I'm having trouble finding anywhere that sells good old Naval Jelly, as my last gallon from 10+ years ago has finally run out. All I'm seeing now are non-phosphorus chelating nontoxic and noninspiring mixes. Not inspiring much faith, that is. NJ was easy and left just the finish I'm looking for... what happened to it?

What else produces that light phosphorus coating?

Looking in Columbus, OH, but will buy online if available.
   Marco/Mike - Sunday, 01/11/09 20:16:36 EST


You may have found this already, but if you Google "naval jelly" one of the first hits is a page on the Loctite website that lets you search for distributors for that specific product. Unfortunately, you have to search by state, and the two I tried had no results.

It does look like all the big consumer hardware chains have it in pints.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 01/11/09 20:38:34 EST

Thanks Peter; when I was in the oilpatch, deep Anadarko basin, back in the early 1980's I don't recall hearing the term roustabout used; course I got to sit in my nice logging trailer rather than being up on the drill floor.

   Thomas Powers - Sunday, 01/11/09 21:03:09 EST

Naval Jelly: If all else fails try McMaster Carr. They have it as well as the other type products you mentioned. They discount cases of 12.

I have personally never had much luck with Naval Jelly. Oshpo (one of those rust converters) seems to work well (it is mostly Phosphoric acid). I think Naval Jelly is phosphoric acid plus some sulfuric acid and glycerin (or something else) to make it a "jell".
   - guru - Sunday, 01/11/09 23:15:42 EST


IT's not 100% finished (some debugging of the menus and support pages to do as well as a ton of indexing). But its ready to debut. Note that its location may change so DO NOT hurry to book mark it or link to it. I have some more work to do and decisions to make.

Working in Metals eBook

This is a pre WWI era "Boys" book about metal work and covers a great range of material from non-ferrous to blacksmithing. The blacksmithing section is as complete or more complete than many newer books. Frank Turley mentioned it and I picked up a copy a couple years ago. This would have been a big hit if it had been reprinted in the 1970's!

This the first of several planned on-line books. At 430 pages it was a rather ambitious first attempt.

To complete the work we need to create small keyword text files for all the pages (a ton of work). Then I can setup a search routine. If the book had come with an index we would have used that. . but like many books it did not. However, as-is we have the Table of Contents linked to those sections making navigation reasonably easy.

   - guru - Sunday, 01/11/09 23:50:38 EST

Pretty cool Jock! What format is it in? Is there a way to download the whole thing? Can it be downloaded to E-book reader? I've never seen that book but it looks good. Good show!
   - grant - Monday, 01/12/09 01:07:52 EST

Whatwould be the approximate weight of a swage block 20" x 20" x 7". I have some weights and if they are in the same ratio as blocks get bigger I think I would be looking at 500 pounds which seems very heavy!
   philip in china - Monday, 01/12/09 01:17:58 EST

Swage Block Weights: Phillip, if solid it would weigh 746 in CI and 796 in steel. Subtract about 30% for holes and edge features in an well designed industrial block and you have something a little less your 500 pounds. But hole size and density make a big difference. Most blocks that size are 4 to 5 inches thick which also makes a big difference in weight. However, I have seen old blocks that were proportionately very thick.
   - guru - Monday, 01/12/09 01:27:57 EST

The one I was looking at was the Vaughans one which comes in their Essential tools and equipment kit. Their stuff seems to be as good as any available. Certainly from the pictures of their blocks they look very strong with plenty of holes but no thin spots. I agree a 7" block seems quite thick but I suppose it would last for ever.
   philip in china - Monday, 01/12/09 01:50:41 EST

Book Format: Currently it is a page at a time graphical format. The idea is to have people read it HERE. However, we may offer it in PDF format in the future.
   - guru - Monday, 01/12/09 01:51:52 EST

Book format:
Thanks, Jock for setting that up. This looks to be real useful. I don't know about InternetExploder, but using Firefox, the page is zoomed in pretty far. However, if anyone is using Firefox, you can download an Image Zoom add-on that lets you zoom out so that the entire page is on your screen, and it's very readable. But you have to do it on every page.
   Marc - Monday, 01/12/09 08:35:47 EST

Marc, The pages resize with your browser window. On an 850px wide screen the window needs to be full screen to see the pages at their full 640 width (see About the Book). At that size the pages are larger than the originals on everything but a very small laptop monitor. If they are too large you can reduce the window size but the JPEGs do not like being undersized. Maybe I need to reduce them more. . .

NOTE: I just changed the path to the book folder to "eBooks" with a capital B.

Working in Metals eBook
   - guru - Monday, 01/12/09 11:41:09 EST

Philip In China

Tha Vaughn swage blocks are cast steel. The other brands offered in the US are class 30 or 40 cast iron. Some are class 60 ductile iron.
   - RustyMustyStuff - Monday, 01/12/09 13:58:50 EST

GURU: If you don't mind could you please tell me what a reasonable price for an original copy of Working in Metals in fair user condition would be. Thanks.
   Robert Cutting - Monday, 01/12/09 14:33:51 EST

Guru, or perhaps P -tree himself, how about a little detail explanation on the clutch mechanism for that spring helve JYH? Also, some detail maybe on the ram guides? And how would you compare that spring helve to a dupont linkage in terms of efficiency?
   - vorpal - Monday, 01/12/09 17:06:05 EST

I'm not sure you'd want to use glycerin in naval jelly. Maybe it's okay as long as you stay away from nitric, but mixing glycerin and acid sounds scary to me.
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/12/09 17:20:53 EST

Philip in China

For future reference, steel is approximately 490 pounds per cubic foot.

Before you buy that large a swage block, consider what your real needs are and how you will be using it. A block of steel that large is extremely difficult to move around. If you will want to use more than one edge of it (top, bottom, or any one side), you will need some way to lift and/or turn it. Unless you have some type of base that lets you rotate and turn it, you will need a lift from above to move it. From my perspective, and experience, the most useful swage block is one you can move yourself..., probably 125 lbs or less. The one I use weighs about 65 lbs. It's approximately 7 x 12 x 2.5 inches in size and sits on a small cradle on the side of my anvil stand. I lift it up onto my anvil when I use it.
   - djhammerd - Monday, 01/12/09 17:48:32 EST

Book Prices: Robert, I paid $8 plus shipping for my first copy in fair good condition. The one I just bought cost me $35 plus shipping and it was the cheapest copy available that day. Others wer going for up to $50. Today I saw a complete set of 11 books listed as in Very Good condition for $250. However, due to the quality of paper and the age of the books I do not think there are any copies you could call VG (very good) unless they had been sealed in an air tight box.
   - guru - Monday, 01/12/09 18:51:45 EST

Are nickel welding rods pure nickel?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Monday, 01/12/09 19:32:18 EST


The 99% nickel rods generally run around 99% nickel. They also make 55% and a bunch of other alloys.
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/12/09 19:46:38 EST

Clutches: The original clutch was simply a belt with a tensioner. You can do this with V-belts but they are graby and burn when you try to slip them to control speed. Flat belts are the way to go but require pulleys with side rims to keep the belt from falling off. The replacement clutch was a tire hammer clutch using a mini-spare and moving the motor with about a 3" diameter flat pulley against the tire.

These work quite well but the wheels and tire sizes vary like crazy. Wheels have various offsets and hole patterns. VERY difficult to be specific AND if you specify a certain wheel finding them is also difficult. Due to the expense of new mini-spares and the fact that folks run them to death, used ones are difficult to find. I was looking for a specific type/size and had to go to three yards in two counties before I found a matched pair.
   - guru - Monday, 01/12/09 19:55:10 EST

guru, I published a book on HF Welding of pipe and tube several years ago and to do the index, I used MS Word and did a word seach of the final document. It found every entry of a list of terms I used in the book and it became the index. A simple way to do it if you can tolerate using MS Word.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 01/12/09 20:16:26 EST

Vorpal, I must strongly disagree with the Guru about the compact spares, at least in my area. I went to the junkyard, and a compact spare, new enough to still have the rubber "Tits" on it was $5.00. I have bought a number of spindle bearing hub assy from the rear axle of Gran Caravans. They are a nice heavy tapered spindle roller bearing assy with seals. I paid $40 for a pair of the hub asy. (I bought these about 3 years ago)
I stripped the brake drum and brakes etc off, and used the threaded holes on the hub assy flange to bolt the assy to a frame added to my hammer. The motor uses a 2" diameter steel friction wheel. It feathers well and gives excellent control. I have been using this set up for almost 3 years now and the tire looks great. The spare wheel gives extra flywheel effect which makes the hammer much smoother. The yard i went to had a pile of perhaps 300 compact spares.

To compare the spring helve and the Dupont types I have run, I see NO DIFFERENCE. They both must be adjusted for stock height to get to the "Sweet spot". The long leaf spring distorts and yeilds a snap that is in my opinion the same as the dupont. I have now used perhaps 6 different LG's with dupont style mechanism, some were not in good tune, but several were in very good tune.
I think having built the spring helve that I can reccomend it as the simplest to scroung and build and tune.
Do not build any spring helve without a safety hood to contain any flying parts a spring break will make. But then the same is true of a LG or any spring equiped hammer.
Email me if you need any more details.
   - ptree - Monday, 01/12/09 20:25:36 EST

Guru- Kudos and excellent work on the book. Thank you for all your efforts.

On another note does anyone have a report on the Gitchner meet? I'd love to hear the highlights. Thanks.
   Judson Yaggy - Monday, 01/12/09 20:38:29 EST

Indexing: QC, The problem with word processors and scanned eBooks is graphic pages have no words. . . Anyone have a GOOD batch OCR progam? (I know google does. . .) To make the pages searchable I have to read each one and type up a list of keywords. So far I have done the 30 chapter heading pages and just added the warning pages about lead and cyanide salts. I doubt that all 418 plus pages will get key worded.

I've used Wordperfect to create indexes that were press ready but it took a bit of tweeking the word list. Automatically generates the index with each edit.
   - guru - Monday, 01/12/09 21:36:20 EST

As I was looking on the internet the other day for some technigally deep information on the metallurgy and science of forge welding, I was disapointed to find there is less information on the wonderful blacksmith phenominom(however you spell that word)than I would like. I was hopeing somone here could answer a few questions I have? One source on the internet refers to a forge weld as only semifusiuon vs. liguid processes as producing complete bonding? Also, how do the differnt processes(forge/Ark/gas) compare in strength and Metallurgy? Does anyone know any more about the Kerosene techneque use do inprove weld quality? Last but not least. How come rust bleeds into a forge weld joint and oxidizes where the scarfs were? Example(old rusty tongs in a shed - you can clearly see where the reins were welded to the jaws)? Thanks in advance!
   - John L. - Monday, 01/12/09 22:09:10 EST

OCR Progams

be sure to check out


   - Hudson - Monday, 01/12/09 22:33:14 EST

I'm currently a student at an arts college and I have recently become more interested in blacksmithing and I wanted to know if there were any places were I could work over the summer.
   Brian - Monday, 01/12/09 22:44:00 EST

Definitely check out http://freeocr.net !! I just fed the web interface pages 3 and 4 and here are all the errors it made...

HAT a pretty copper box, John. Where

"Y0u made it?”

“I’d like to do something like that. D0 you

" N0t:very long if you begin in the right way. I’ve

“You d0n’t need a large room for your workshop,

Not bad for two pages, and there was only one 0 (zero) that should have been an 'o' on all of page 4. It is a lot better than the last time I looked at OCR.

   Rick Widmer - Tuesday, 01/13/09 00:08:48 EST

OCR: Rick, OCR can do fair on good straight uniform text. However, this book was hand typeset using decorative capitals that are a different font than the body text and captions that are yet another font. The font is not a particularly readable one for OCR there is worn type (occasionally broken - I've STUDIED and repaired a bunch of these pages). On some of the pages the plates were out of square (I thought it was the scanning until I looked). AND some of the pages WERE scanned crooked. However, I suspect the higher resolution images with the background removed OCR could do better. But I have spent my wad on image processing on this job. . .

Years ago I read an article that said IF OCR has only 2 to 3% errors then it is cheaper to pay a typist (in S.E. Asia) to type a manuscript than to correct the OCR mistakes. Professional typists result in less than 1% errors and are often perfect. . . Finding and correcting errors is MUCH more expensive than paying someone to do a better job than the machine.

Now what is pretty amazing it the Adobe voice engine that reads a document. It has nothing to do with OCR but it is nifty technology.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 00:50:36 EST

Jobs: Brian, First, find your local blacksmithing organization. See ABANA-Chapter.com. Then look in the yellow pages under Ironworks.

Depending on where you are you may have a few hobby smiths in the group OR you may have a large group with both hobbiests and pros. Either may need help on a large project or over the summer.

Note however that most blacksmiths work alone or with just a few skilled helpers. Very few can afford to train their help, especially when they are temporary.

Fabricators (the guys who make welded railings and such) are more likely to hire part time unskilled help.

The things most smiths (and almost any other metal working shop) will need help with are NOT the glory jobs. Forging is a very small part of the business and THAT is done by those that are efficient at it. The rest of the work is similar to any production shop job. Cutting stock or baby sitting a machine that does it. Hand deburing cut stock or finished parts. Cleaning parts, painting parts. LOTS of schlepping stuff from here to there and back again. Add the janitorial work and that kind of sums it up.

The worst job in the metalworking shop is deburing parts. In the blacksmith shop that often starts with a power wire brush, then a hand grinder, files, back to the wire brush. . on maybe hundreds or thousands of parts. While on one hand it seems like boring mindless work if you don't pay close attention and do it well then it goes back to the smith that made the parts and he/she is worth a LOT more than the newby and you are out of a job. . . I've almost always had to do my own parts. It often determines the final quality of a job and the difference between being done right and ruining parts is very little. It takes a good eye, attention to detail and a memory for what was specified (by example). It is probably why old fashioned apprentices were chained to the filing bench for about three years.

The thing about ALL this boring and menial work is that if an employee thinks it is beneath them (they often do) then the smith ends up doing it themselves and they have absolutely NO use for someone that thinks ANY part of the job is beneath them.

When I've got money I've always got work for folks to do. But it is darn hard to find first class schleppers (or deburrers or rerusters or landscapers . .) that will stick to it.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 01:39:26 EST

John L. Too late tonight. . . Bleeding at welds is from trapped flux (usually a bad weld).
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 01:42:37 EST

Thanks Guru, I figured that If you took the time to post a book here then I should have my own copy too. I got it for a fair price, luckily. There's just something about the feel and reading off paper that I just don't get from a screen. Then of course there's the smell of old paper that just seems to be soothing.
   Robert Cutting - Tuesday, 01/13/09 03:17:32 EST

Working in Metals format:
Thanks, Jock, I see now how it resizes. It seems to resize based on the width of the browser window. In other words, the text gets smaller as the window gets narrower. However, on my screen here at work, which is 1680 X 1050, I still can't get the entire page without scrolling. But I only need to scroll a little bit, so it's not bad at all. A tad smaller would be better for me, but it's still very usable, and useful, as is.

Thanks again.

   Marc - Tuesday, 01/13/09 07:51:37 EST

Page Size: Marc, I understand the problem. That is why I have a NEXT button at the bottom of the screen as well as the top. I had originally resized some images smaller and lost a lot of definition. I was also testing some pages from other books that were completely unreadable if smaller. This book happens to have fairly large type and I was hoping to come up with a format that would suit more than one project.

Book Price: In a few months the price of used copies of this book will probably skyrocket due to demand put on it from here. While there are decent copies to be found the best have gotten very delicate due to being nearly 100 years old and the relatively low quality of the paper. They are a little better in quality than "book club" books which are cheap hardbacks that book shops almost cannot give away.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 09:41:09 EST

Brian -

Check out the summer craft school circuit. Haystack, Peters valley, Penland, Touchstone all have smithing shops. They all offer work-study or studio tech positions. While they don't pay it will be some of the best time you ever spend. You will be treated to back to back weeks of some of the best instructors around (in all mediums, not just steel)and work with folks of your same aspirations. Some of them will probably be attractive to you and like beer. What I mean is great fun will be had as well and all of the campus's are in terrific natural settings.

It helps to get a letter or two from someone teaching there but do what you can to get in, the exposure will change your life.
   jamie - Tuesday, 01/13/09 10:32:02 EST

guru, guys...
thanks for the site, it's always my first go-to when something iffy comes up that I need to find a work around for. Hopefully in the future I can help out some.
I have a question of technique, sorta. I've got some rod stock, high carbon, about a foot long, that I want to draw out into chisels, for stone cutting. The rod is about an inch in diameter. I've been heating and then hammering it with the flat face of my 3 pound straight peen, rolling and striking the end at an angle. It's starting to narrow some, but the end is puckering. Am I doing this right? How would I get that end pucker to true up?
   josh - Tuesday, 01/13/09 11:08:45 EST

John L.
A blacksmith replys, not a metallurgist. A guy could write reams or a thesis in response to your question about forge welding, also called hammer welding, fire welding, bonding, and solid state welding. One of the problems is semantics. Fusion welding is understood presently to mean that the metal becomes molten, usually called a puddle in welding classes and welding books. In forge welding, there is no puddle, but there IS bonding, or we wouldn't call it forge welding. The authors of a 1930's British book, "The Value of Science in the Smithy and Forge," looked at photomicrographs of forge welds, presumably coal forge welds. They found that nearly all forge welds had tiny "slag inclusions," in other words dirt and ash. The welds also had grain growth along the line of the weld, the large grains being created by the near-molten heat required for forge welding. I think that some of the grain growth problem might be helped by normalizing and/or annealing after completing the weld. The authors concluded that for the most part, forge welds were weaker than gas or electric fusion welds. If you're worried about strength, we use the cowboy adage, "I don't care how weak it is, as long as it's strong enough."

That brings up the question of, "Why forge weld in 2009?" Present day smiths forge weld, because the weld is forgable. A fusion weld is liable to crack or break when forged, because the grain is different than the grain in the native material Another reason to forge weld has to do with aesthetics and is found where two pieces are joined as in a stem and a branch. You wind up with a nice looking "vanishing point" where the two are blended.

Welding up a fagot for pattern welding as an enclosed or partially enclosed "package" may be easier than doing a lap weld, because there is normally more oxygen excluded from the fagot. I have had quite good pattern welding bladesmiths who showed off their blades before class started. Later, when we got to lap welding, there were tears and hair pulling by the same people, because when two separate pieces are brought together, it requires a practiced "dance."

"Cold" welds have been done in outer space where there is no atmospheric contamination. I don't have the specific references, but I think this has been discussed in past issues of "Scientific American."

Daryl Meier who resides near Carbondale, Illinois, may know more about forge welding than anyone on two hind legs.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/13/09 11:12:03 EST

Brian; first of all WHAT COUNTRY ARE YOU IN? The advice given so far assumes you are in the USA and will not be very good for Australia, England, South Africa, Hong Kong or other english speaking places, (based on your command of the language).

Next what skills do you have? Lots more openings for people who can do high quality welding or use machine tools than for someone who does not have any training.

Now if you don't have such skills; give considerable thought to using your summer to gain them. Yes, you will take a hit on income *this* year; but you may come out far ahead in the future as you are not only more employable; but you also can command a higher pay rate!

Finally if you *really* want to get into smithing taking Frank Turley's class will catapult you to where a working blacksmith shop might be willing to hire you as a *smith* rather than "help".

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/13/09 11:12:35 EST

Forge Welding: may I commend to your attention "Solid Phase Welding of Metals" by Tylecote to answer your questions about forge welding. You should be able to ILL it from your local public library, if you are in the states, for free or a nominal ammount. Much better than net info!

As for rusting of welds, well the joint is where any crud that didn't make it out is and there is nothing like crud for helping rust along---electro chemical cells, holding moisture etc. However in a lot of "working tongs" I have seen the welds were never dressed down a lot---waste of time and money for a using tool.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/13/09 11:21:01 EST

I am working with the historical groups in Lonaconing and Mt. Savage, Maryland, on their 19th century iron furnace facilities, and with the C&O Canal group and the park service on cramps that were built for the canal stonework and gates.
As the iron furnaces produced pig iron, I need some help with
value-added products that could have been made a forges.
   Pat Stakem - Tuesday, 01/13/09 11:26:59 EST

Pat Stakem,
The pigs were converted into the material, wrought iron, from which many things were forged. See the book, "Hooks, Rings, and other Things." Let your search engines look for "finery hearth," "anchony," and "chaffery."
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/13/09 11:54:27 EST

Hi, I am in the process of boring the babbitt bearing in the pulley, journal to spider on my 50 lb Little Giant. Richard Kern suggests .002 for grease clearance in his book, but I was told .006 is still not quite enough, what do you know is the best dimension here?
   hammerhands - Tuesday, 01/13/09 12:02:32 EST

RE: babbitt bearing clearances--in the old gasoline engines with babbitt bearings, bearings that run in oil have clearances of .0015"-.006", bearings that run in grease .003"-.010". This is quite a range, I know, but this is what has been reported by those who have rebuilt more of these low RPM things than I. Fitting bearings on these old gasoline engines is a sort of by guess and by golly. Some rebuilders do not measure clearances at all, but fit the bearings till tight and then add a shim. If it binds up at the torqued down point, it is too tight. Some use the 1/2" strip of newspaper method--two strips should bind, one strip should drag. At the initial start up, the bearings are monitored--if they heat up they are too tight. The babbitt bearing may need to be scraped to fit the bearing (that is, to fit the bearing so the shaft is running in contact with the bearing and not running on the high spots). If the shaft is not round, of course that will foul up your clearances and fit. These clearances, of course, are checked in the torqued-down setting. I do not know how to set and check clearances if this is a bushing bearing.

David Hughes, who rebuild a 1927 McCormick-Deering 3 HP 600 RPM engine which started on the first crank after not running for 50?? years (many years before I got it, at least). New rings, new con rod bearings, fitted all the bearings by handscraping, polished the crankshaft by hand, repaired old dammage, made new shims, adjustments to spec such as they are. Impressed the hell out of me when it actually started.
   - David Hughes - Tuesday, 01/13/09 12:38:11 EST

Brian: Should you find employment a tad of advice. The biggest single thing you can do to impress your boss is to be on time. If your workday starts at 8AM, that means at 8AM you are at your workstation ready to being. Next thing would be to do what you are told to do THE WAY you are told to do it.

It also wouldn't hurt to do refresher training on basic math, such as fractions, percentages, how to use a tape measure and such. I don't know what percentage of businesses in the U.S. use metrics now.

At least in my case Guru is correct. When I hire someone to do shop work it is what I call 'grunt' work. Predominately cutting metal to size and then grinding off the edges and operating the drill press. Right now the two I use are retirees looking for pocket money - one man and one woman. I have been less than impressed with what is available in the local market with folks say 18-30.

To find a list of schools with at least one class in basic blacksmithing go to www.abana.org, RESOURCES, then Schools.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 01/13/09 13:34:47 EST

Ken: Right on Brother!! Preach it!!
   - RustyMustyStuff - Tuesday, 01/13/09 13:47:12 EST

"value added products" for just cast iron tend to be simple castings like hearth backs, weights to tie reigns to, etc.

As Frank mentions you can't forge cast iron and so need to convert it to wrought iron before you can use it for all the stuff you can forge.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/13/09 15:45:06 EST

Bearing Clearance: A lot depends on the condition of the shaft (finish, straitness, taper). Machinery's Handbook says hot and running the clearance should be .0015 to .0035" for a 2" shaft running slower than 600 RPM. However, they also call for a lubrication analysis and trial testing. The LG clutch bearing is quite long and I would go for reaming to .005" but if machining I would go for less as the surface is not going to be flat using a boring tool and it will rapidly open up in use. I've seen LG bearings that had 1/4" or more play and still worked. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 16:10:42 EST

Dear Guru,

My knowledge of blacksmithing is not very deep. I live in Dallas Texas and took a course with my grandfather from a guy in his shop in Buffalo Gap Tx. I learned alot but the quest to become greater is always present. My grandfather had this homemade product to apply as a finish to our work that I think was made of Bee's wax. The way I was taught to apply it was I took whatever my finished work was and lit my accetylene torch with only the accetalyne burning and worked over the finish piece coating it with the soot from the flame. You then used a rag to apply this waxy solution to the finished piece which gave your work a bare metal looking finish with out allowing the metal to rust. My question is this. Have you ever heard of this process, if so is it just a style of finish. Finally, do you know of a similar product to use or how to make this stuff? I know that sounds vague and I was trying my hardest not to be yet here I am. Hope to hear something soon.
   Deelow - Tuesday, 01/13/09 17:25:15 EST

DeeLow, There are a number of homemade beeswax finishs that run from plain beeswax to adding Johnson's Paste wax, turpentine, boiled linseed oil and Japan dryer.
All are homemade attempts to make varnish. Some work better than others and all are less than a quality factory made finish.
That said, I use straight beeswax on many things, and use a beeswax, Johnsons, boiled linseed, turpentine and japan dryer mix. The beeswax seems to be a little stickier than the other, but both perfom about the same in my experience, and both are indoor use only.
   - ptree - Tuesday, 01/13/09 18:35:45 EST

Hi, I am currently a senior in high school, and I have always been interested in starting minor blacksmithing as a hobby. Much of this has been due to my interest both in history and the military. I was wondering generally how large of an area you would need set up to do minor smithing by yourself.
   Ian - Tuesday, 01/13/09 18:53:11 EST


You can easily set up to do small-scale blacksmithing in an area as small as 6 feet by 8 feet, possibly a bit less. You'd have to keep things compact and modular so you could set up to forge then move that aside to grind or weld, etc. When doing public demos where I'm doing just such small scale forging, I am usually set up in an area about that size. I don't do any grinding or welding under those circumstances, but could if that equipment was made to move in and out as needed.

An area 10 feet square would be considered pretty lavish by many smiths in third world areas and many hobby smiths working on their apartment balconies, too. If I was really determined, I could do bladesmith-type forging in an area no larger than an office desk, including the grinding.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 01/13/09 19:27:21 EST

Bees' Wax Finishes: Deelow, there are many recipes for beeswax finishes. The simplest is to heat the was in a double boiler to melt it, remove from stove or and open flames, add about 20% by volume turpentine or mineral spirits, mix and let cool. This turns the wax into a paste that "dries" leaving the slightly sticky beeswax bind. It is a marginal finish.

As Ptree mentioned as soon as you add drying oils, harder waxes and Japan drier you are manufacturing amateur formulated varnishes. You are better off to buy paint and varnish.

Note that many floor "waxes" are no longer wax but a thinned down acrylic paint.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 19:31:01 EST

Ian, As VIcopper noted it does not take much space. Most apartment balconies are big enough. However, you DO need good ventilation for the fire or forge exhaust fumes. And noise, particularly the pounding transmitted through the floor rules out that balcony.

The space needed is somewhat proportional to the work being done. Some smiths specialize in doll house furnishings and can get away with the space that a students desk takes up. If you stick to making small items you can get away with very little space. Unless you buy all your steel at a hardware store (not recommended) steel comes in 12 foot and 20 foot lengths. If you do not have it cut at the warehouse (they charge a little for this service) then you will need to handle those lengths. Cut in half or thirds you end up with 6 and 7 foot pieces. THEN if you want to make even a small gate you should have a bench (or table) at least as big as the gate.

While you can get away with vises mounted on heavy blocks they are best attached to benches that are attached to walls and or floors. Benchwork includes layout, sawing, filing, grinding with a bench grinder, bending, painting and engraving.

If your shop is outdoors it can be fitted into a corner that is normally wasted. However, tools are valuable and security can be an issue. Some smiths store their equipment in a garage or storage shed and roll out the whole shebang when it is needed and put it back when done.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 20:01:53 EST

Acetylene soot is a form of lamp black, which is an age-old pigment. Mix it with wax and you've got old fashioned stove polish. I don't think lamp black is used much in modern finishes, though.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 01/13/09 20:09:59 EST

Lamp Black: It is just not listed as "lamp" black any more. It is still used in paints and automobile tires are black and UV resistant because of high quantities of it! Graphite is also used when a silvery sheen is needed in a black finish IR for high temperature paints.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 20:31:50 EST

Workshops and Tools: One of our corespondents from Sweden who we have not heard from in a while used to have a shop in a ground floor or basement type room that was not very secure. After having had all his tools stolen (twice I think) he carried his entire outfit including a 100 pound anvil in a small cart behind a bicycle to and from the shop space.

Another, from Norway, had his "shop" on a small island (I think it was a public space) where he hid most of his tools but everything else came and went by row boat. His "bellows" was a 5 gallon plastic bucket with plastic sheeting duct tapped to it. Valves were flaps of plastic duct tapped on. . .

Early jewelers work spaces for casting and forging were literally a raised hearth in a domestic living space. Small bellows raised the temperature of small charcoal fires to silver and brass melting temperatures.

The famous James Nasmyth claims in his autobiography that he used the draft from his childhood bedroom's coal fireplace to melt brass for casting. He made green small sand molds, melted and cast brass in his bedroom!

So, if you are seriously interested in a craft you will find a way to do it.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/13/09 20:31:58 EST

Small safety guy note:
Lamp black is carbon black, a pigment. It is a listed carcinogen. It has been in use since the cavemen, but I think that carcinogenic properties would be for high workplace exposures.
   ptree - Tuesday, 01/13/09 20:57:40 EST

I sarted forging by draging my setup out of the wood shop under a Persimmon tree to work, hence the name. My first enclosed shop was 9' square and was used for about 4 years. Tight but worked. I did not then have a powerhammer or many tools.
   ptree - Tuesday, 01/13/09 20:59:17 EST

MKArmory.com was started in a basement shop 10'x10' with 2 men doing everything except the forge work inside. The forge was in the corner of my garage with the anvil next to it, giving about a 4'x4' working space in open air. The basement shop had all of the following set up all the time with room for 2 to work:
Small gas forges [brick and plate styles], welding station, bench and post vices, 2 bench grinders, 4 motor/arbor/open wheel grinders/polishers, one 2x27 belt grinder, beverly shear, anvil, hammer and tool rack, planishing hammer, air compressor, bead roller, taig lathe, stock rack, sheet stack, and fire extinguisher. When necessary, a large cardboard box folded flat against a wall opens into a spray painting booth.

Nowadays Krieger [co-founder who now runs the show] has a shop that's actually smaller than mine as he doesn't need the sheet metal tools.

Its all about working with the space you have, and planning for safety. I can move blindfolded from one any station to another in my shop because I thought ahead about the layout. Well, actually, my elder daughter is an interior designer, so I let HER think about it, and trusted her. Some changes happen from time to time as I learn better ways to set things up. Krieger and I are about a foot different in height, so when we no longer had to share a shop space, lots of vertical movement occured.

On the other hand, allmot all of my armoring tools fit in one wooden bench chest, 2'x2'x1' and I've worked cold within a 4' square on the ground several times.

If I wanted to get really space efficient, I could cut the basement shop floorspace by half and still work safely.
   Marco/Mike - Tuesday, 01/13/09 22:42:51 EST

To anybody looking for an entry level job, remember what I used to tell the privets in my squad when they were assignd to a detail they didn't like "There are no sh** jobs in the Army privet, just sh** attitudes"
These lack luster jobs still need to be done and if the owner of the shop had time to do them him/her self then they wouldn't need you so, you can see how vital you are to the company already, right?
Sawing and deburring stock isn't a low life job, It's a great job! probably the easiest in the industry. Unfortunatly it doesn't pay as well as CNC programing and tool and die work so I'll stay with that but, some days I wish I was back on the saw...
The shop were I work has just purchased and taken delivery of a CNC vertical mill that will take parts up to 125"X78"X39" and 20,000lbs. I have been assigned to run the machine on the weekend shift. That means Friday Saturday and Sunday from 6am to 6pm. Sound like a drag?
Consider that I only have to work 36 hour and get paid for 40. I never have to work over time. I have 4 days off every week. I am basicly my own boss as there are only 4 other guys in the whole plant during this shift. There is also a substantual shift premium for this position.
Those so called entry level positions are were one starts out and then can work up to higher stations.
I still asspire to be called a "blacksmith" by those who are known as accomplished blacksmiths themselves. It would be pretty dam good company from humble beginings.
BTW Guru, I spent 10 months doing nothing but bench work ,at the start of my apprenticeship, that was taught by the shop master. That was after three months of "learning how to clean up" first.

Also Guru, I just wanted to say that if the e-book sample is any indication of what you could do with less time required devoted to maintaining the web site(read that as a "format change")then I say CHARGE! What a gem of a book!
   - merl - Tuesday, 01/13/09 22:55:30 EST

Merl, Thanks! I'm reviewing some other materials. But I am also still tweeking and perfecting the eBook system pages. It took over two man-weeks to create (I paid help) but it could take months to fully index and comment on. I'll accept voluntary commentary on the pages (warnings, updated methods). Just send a note and a page number.

Future works SHOULD be easier as I will have a system. But indexing graphical pages is still a huge job.

Our forum updates have hit a snag or two. Have to upgrade to a new server for a variety of reasons, among which is we are running out of space.

Workers: Recently I've had a number of teen age workers and it is really difficult to keep them busy OR on task. But I have had the same problem with adult workers. They will be standing around shuffling their feet in the dirt on the floor wondering what needs to be done next. You would think the cloud of dust choking them would be a hint.

When I worked in a service station there was NEVER a shortage of things to do. Everything from washing the floor to ceiling windows and concrete floors to reloading the drink machines. I worked in one station that I lowered the floor under the lift 3" and found a dozen wrenches and a floor drain in the process. One of the other workers thought it was a dirt floor! In any metal shop cleaning and derusting the machines is a constant task. Ways on machines need to be oiled heavily and the slides moved to loosen chips and crud that build up under them. Then the oil wiped off, replaced and the slide worked again until no more chips or grit shows in the oil. I spent about 6 hours the other afternoon derusting and storing a hand full of tools. There are machines we put many hours into last spring that need derusting again. . . Much is my fault but there is only so much time. . . I've got enough to do in the shop that I could quit everything else.

SO. . I get a little testy when I detect those looking for a job that think they are going to get to do the "glory" work and a free education when what I need is someone to crawl under the weld platen and clean out all the wasps nests, then pull weeds by hand around the buildings, then. . . well. . you know the routine. But I could REALLY use a SLAVE that desperately wanted to work their way to freedom!
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/14/09 00:36:25 EST

I check you Junkyard Steel charts and could not find the part I have questions about. I have some pins or shafts that are used for gear reducer shafts. Do you have any idea what type of alloy this may be? I think the manufacturer is Boston Gear.
   - Mike S - Wednesday, 01/14/09 07:17:14 EST

It is economical to hire labor when their total cost is less than your own alternative labor return. Say you hire grunt labor at $8.00 hour paid under the table. While they are employed you work at jobs which average a net of $20 hour. You are ahead $12 hour.

In my particular case both of my knees are going out to where I am looking at a knee replacement on them within the not too distant future. I figure I do little better than breakeven on hired labor, but it does help my knees situation.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 01/14/09 08:30:45 EST

Ken, There is always other factors. I'm too our of shape for landscaping and standing on concrete for many hours has been out for a number of years. . . On the cost/return it is often difficult to get someone efficient enough that at even minimum wage is worth as much as yourself at menial jobs. Often you have to start at 20 to 30% efficiency then figure if the aggravation of an employee is worth while. Even at less pay an employee made product must sell for more than one made by yourself. But if you can no longer do the work at then things change.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/14/09 09:00:36 EST

Shafting: Mike, the majority of that type stuff is mild steel. Unless it is highly stressed and needs to be light weight (such as in automobiles and aircraft) power transmission shafting is a good grade of mild usually SAE 1018-20 steel. When it is highly stressed it may be 1040 or 1050. High performance shafting MIGHT be SAE 4140 if shop made (rarely in high production today).

Anything that has the same size shaft and keyways as standard motors and rated at the same torque can be mild steel. For durability keys are rated at a max of 9,000 PSI so the gear train can also be mild steel and cast iron. The exception as noted is in higher performance areas where weight is a concern. In industrial applications durability often comes from over building or lightly stressing the parts so the are heavy, but less expensive than heat treated alloy shafts and gears.

As always in the junkyard steel business you have to test. If a manufacturer gets a deal on a truck load of annealed SAE 1080 steel they may substitute a run of mild steel parts that are not going to be heat treated and take their lumps on the reduced machineability if it saves them money overall. You never know.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/14/09 09:13:48 EST

In bladesmithing you get a continual parade of folks who want to "apprentice" to you---not realizing that for it to work for the maker the "apprentice" should do about 10 hours of unsupervised grunt work for every 1 on 1 hour with the smith.

Unfortunately most single man operations don't have that much grunt work and even the stuff they do have is often "rest" or "thinking" time for the bladesmith.

Couple that with the "single authorship" meme for blades and a "free" apprentice starts costing a bladesmith a considerable ammout of money.

(However a lot of folks get all huffy when you ask them how much they will pay you to be your apprentice...the net is not helping with people realizing the costs of skill and experience---I've seen a number of websites and videao on "how to do XYZ" by someone who has no clue on how it's properly done and some folks will fall for it and get mad at you if you try to tell them it's BS and NOT BlackSmithing)

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/14/09 10:45:04 EST

Sounds like you need a good ole Yankee worker. You would get everything you asked finished in half the time done right, then 10 others things you didn't ask to be done because they needed doing and finally you will find that your pillow was fluffed for you when you went to bed. All you would have to do is pay the person a fair wage. BOG ;)

This was Tongue & Cheek for fun
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 11:04:04 EST

Labor Costs and Trades: Most folks don't understand that 10:1 ratio but that is the difference between the Master who can produce $100/hour of work (over $200 in a well equipped shop) and the $10/hour of a minimum wage newby. The menial laborer also rapidly starts to cost more than the $10/hour when you need materials to keep them busy. Even if working for "free" those materials cost.

AND there is breakage. One of our friends told me recently that "NOW I KNOW why you keep preaching about people not respecting YOUR tools." There was something to the effect of brand new wood working chisels used to cut nails. . . If it not their's (anything from heavy equipment and vehicles to shop machines or small hand tools) it will get treated like there is and endless supply of replacements.

This is true especially in our business where we often use carefully maintained antique tools for which there are no parts or replacements and tools we built at great expense that also cost dearly to repair or replace. Breaking one machine can often cancel ANY benefit of having a worker at any cost. It can cost the job, it can cost your business.

I was reading an article about one of the famous 19th century lock manufacturers and part of their success was the series of hand made specialty precision machines made by one of the worlds leading machine makers before he went out on his own (Henry Maudslay). The manufacturer said it was a huge investment that he could never replace. Those same original machines were in use until well into the modern era of precision machines.

I have built machine tools and tried to idiot proof them but the fact is every machine of this type has the capacity to destroy itself. The fact is there are also people that break things. Maybe it is unintentional but I think subconsciously they like to prove that their superiority over the machine by breaking it. Whatever the reason, there are folks that can leave a wide swath of destruction in your shop in no time at all and it makes the cost of them as a worker unbearable at any cost.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/14/09 11:23:23 EST

Anyone know where to purchase Potassium Permanganate? I have tried Home Dept and Agway.
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 14:08:29 EST

I also tried Tractor Supply formerly known as central tractor. Farm supply store.
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 14:12:41 EST

I guess I don't need help after all. I found out Lowes carries it. I couldn't not find it with any Farrier Supply. How strange Lowes has it. Not that there is a Lowes out here in the sticks.
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 14:26:26 EST

Labor etc: Yeah, and it really becomes an investment when you're standing there the whole time "walking" him thru it for the umteenth time. In that situation he's the only one making money! And he's keeping you from making money. And here in Washington we have the highest minimum wage in the country - around $8.50!
   - grant - Wednesday, 01/14/09 14:40:57 EST


I think there is an Apprentice program through the Government that will cover a portion of the apprentice wages. The down side likely is you have to follow the government protocal, reporting and testing. When I reviewed them around five years back I saw one for Blacksmithing. Maybe Guru can shed some light in this area.

When I apprenticed in Machining it was as Grant mentions. I was paid 5.00 and hour. My mentor was taken away from his work at times. You need to structure your training that once you teach a portion of a skill they can accomplish alot of work and practice in that area before moving on to the next stage. Then you are not tied up all the time. After a level of education in a skill set is reached then that aprrentice is making you money. It isn't all a loss.

You can require an apprentice to work for low wages along with some other things in return. You can not expect anyone to work for free because they need to afford basic need items as well. Shampoo, toothpaste, soap, clothing, boots, gas, insurance, tools, a roof over their heads unless you provide all of it etc...

I see both sides. I get a feeling that Blacksmith's want to have people work for free when learning. It is ok if it a weekend or hit & miss deal. Not a daily apprentice structure, however. Then the Smith is being cheap and unfair.
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 15:12:46 EST

I used to repair stamping dies after fairly remedial operators who were real good at smashing thousands of dollars of tooling. Some of it was intentional so they could sit and wait while it was repaired others were just plain incompetents. When I tried to get them fired I was labeled as a trouble maker and generally mean. I should have known better than to try and get any of the "good old boys" moved out the door.
   Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 01/14/09 15:14:39 EST

Sabotage: One of our first anvilfire queries was about broken tongs. Bruce Wallace was making large tongs for a zinc galvanizing plant and they started coming back broken. At first we thought it was zinc penetration (it DOES eat steel when liquid). But then almost brand new tongs came back broken. The plant repositioned an already installed security camera. . . sure enough, a worker was breaking them on purpose so he could get the day off with pay. He was promptly fired. But without the camera who knows how long it would have gone on. AND it was reflecting on another man's work.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/14/09 15:53:23 EST

Actually the blacksmith knows that the apprentice is costing him money and so doesn't want one even free. They want a worker who can produce already!

Even back in the old days there was usually a charge to apprentice a person to a master craftsman and that's with a solid contract for the person to work for the master for several years *after* they were making more than they were costing.

Nowdays an "apprentice" wants to quit and go into business in competition as soon as they learn anything.

(My wife teaches spinning and had one student that started giving spinning classes herself after *1* class session---and then my wife had several of these "damaged" students that she had to fix because their original teacher was clueless)

And I did work a years apprenticeship with a swordmaker for free + 2 meals a day with the family---lived off my savings. I still feel guilty about how much I cost him for my "free" labour.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/14/09 17:02:44 EST

Thomas, surf the net and see how many "blacksmiths" and "bladesmiths" are trying to sell their wares before they have any idea what they are doing. Look for the S-hooks with uneven bends and "high carbon" RR spike knives. YouTube has a home video of an amature smith, heating the metal in a BBQ pit over Kingsford charcoal, pounding on a piece of flat plate with a claw hammer. OK, you make do with what ya got but you are probably not ready for prime time yet. It's just so romantic!
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 01/14/09 19:00:33 EST

I don't understand *why* they think that everybody needs to see their learning experiences. Bragging about being clueless?

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/14/09 19:14:57 EST

Labour rates and skill levels is the age old argument of quality v quantity. These days there really is less and less unskilled work about. Most companies need somebody with skills or who is capable of learning quickly and asking the minimum amount of questions but asking when it is necessary. This is no different in almost any industry not just metal working!
   philip in china - Wednesday, 01/14/09 19:20:45 EST

What you whinning guys need is a good bride:) They do all the dirty work, take no salery, and make you look good most of the time!
Just ask mine!
   - ptree - Wednesday, 01/14/09 19:30:37 EST

Ptree; You have one of the good ones, and She knows it too.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 01/14/09 21:34:20 EST

Thomas P.

I am not so sure about your statement.

"Nowdays an "apprentice" wants to quit and go into business in competition as soon as they learn anything."

I know some pretty loyal apprentices who have stuck with there Mentor's even though they can leave. I am also speaking outside the Blacksmith realm. These Mentor's have encouraged these folks to start business in a close proximity. They can add value and help each other.

Some of you guys are all about yourselves in the apprenticeship Paradigm. I don't think you really understand the purpose of an apprenticeship to begin with. You are all about the money/time to yourselves and no other values. I have to keep in mind some of you are not making a living at Blacksmithing and are business administrators going from a corporate modern capitalistic view. I don't think you all understand the guild system and your duty. Just hobbiest talking. Even though most of you are hobbiest I know you do very wonderful and skilled work.

The Amish for example could teach most of you alot about the philosoophies of apprenticeships and value of time spent and given to the apprentice. There is much reciprocated back and forth. It isn't just about the Master. There are many layers or multidimensional.

Just face the fact a large number of us are just cheap buggers!

   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 22:07:19 EST

I think I need to get a name change. It should be Simon Cowells.
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/14/09 22:48:31 EST

In any discussion of the cost of labor, it is necessary to cnsider the "actual" cost of that labor, rather than simply the wages to the laborer. While I know that many advocate paying a laborer "under the table", that is a case of being "penny wise and pound foolish", in my opinion and experience. With any employee comes the requirement for paying into Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Worker's Compensation Insurance Fund, etc. All of these costs add up to about half the amount the employees is making hourly. This adds to the out of pocket cost for said employee, so many small employers elect to either pay under the table or to claim that the hourly worker is "contract labor" and therefore responsible for paying his/her own SS, FUTA, WC, etc, in order to save these expenses. Failing to pay them, however, can cost far more than the deductions if the employer is caught by the IRS or worse, if the employee is injured on the job.

If you, as an employer, fail to pay into the Social Security fund as required, the penalties are enormous and jail time is not out of the question. If your employee is injured on the job or worse, disabled, you could easily lose your business, home, personal possessions and future income, if any. All to save a few dollars? Pound foolish, I say.

If you are operating so close to the bone that you must pay an employee under the table to make ends meet, you would be far better off to take a second job, rather than risk all you own betting that an unskilled worker operating dangerous equipment won't get hurt and won't sue your shorts off when he does.

Thhe foregoing may sound harsh, but I have seen a couple of friends lose their homes and businesses just this way, and one who is still in business, but paying over $28K/yr to a former employee who is on disability for life after not using required safety equipment on the job. I would really hate to see someting similar happen to anyone here.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 01/14/09 23:50:18 EST

Absolutely right vicopper. All apprenticeship programs should be accredited and on the books paying into the insurances and SS.

A good guage. If you pay someone 10.00 an hour you will actually be paying 20.00 an hour in wage. This include amounts paid into the appropriate systems.

Again I feel guaging the value of an apprentice by what one pays is missing the entire point of a guild system.
If you feel you are wasting valuable production time and a small wage to teach someone a skill then you are the wrong person to do so. You will only cause resentment due to your attitude problem not the person learning.

Basically a shift in thought is required. You get out of a person what you put into a person. Again on all levels not just labor output. Seems Americans are so capitalistic all they think about is profits and time value of making them. Miss the hole darn point. Those profit/time values are only important to a certain singular level and are not concrete.
   - Rustystuff - Thursday, 01/15/09 00:26:09 EST

Is there any practical limit to the length of hose I should use on oxy acetylene? I have just bought two rolls of hose and then wondered if I should use it all. I HATE hoses too short (welder cables ditto) but am I missing some rule?
   philip in china - Thursday, 01/15/09 01:05:57 EST

Q: What do you call of businessman who doesn't pay much attention to the bottom line (profit)?

A: A former businessman.

When I was doing budgeting work for the Air Force the out-of-pocket compensation costs were 29%. That is, 129% of the employees salary would be what they would cost you. That would, of course, vary by industry. For example I suspect the factor would be significantly higher in a UAW-controlled automobile plant with better benefits.

One option is to hire only through a temporary worker agency so they are responsible for all of the bookkeeping involved. You pay them, not the employee directly. They take out the deductions from the employee's pay and match them as required.

One of my BILs in FL had a H&A/C business and employed two of his sons at one time or another - but through a temporary service. He said it made it sooooo much simplier on him.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/15/09 08:10:08 EST

I've never taken a business course, but I was born into a family business and have been in charge of payroll and billing since 1998. I can tell you emphatically that unless you know how much your business earns per day, you can never know how much you should pay your employees and your bills. For example, I have a store location that on any Sunday is open for 5 hours. I pay two employees, insurance, taxes, utilities, cost of merchandise and supplies for the 5 hours. If that location does not do enough business for us to come out even, we are paying too much for any one or more items billed. There is NO laws in the US that demands employers to pay benefits for health, dental or days off. Unemployment insurance, workers comp, taxes and other items MUST be paid by the employer. If not, not only can you get audited, but fined, noticed, even shut down. You can be scrutinized to the tiniest detail if the system wants to.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 01/15/09 09:38:21 EST

I think a large part of what the Gurus were saying was also about the QUALITY of the apprentice as well. I know that at least in my career field, there are people that hardly know which end of a hammer to hold, or that (no exaggeration, I was witness to this first hand!) you need to adjust the Oxygen and Acetylene while ARC welding... As I once heard from an old instructor: "You can polish a turd all you want; in the end, it's still a turd" I can understand why some smiths would be hesitant about letting a potential walking liability into their shop where said person could wreak untold havoc on tools, projects and themselves...
   MacFly - Thursday, 01/15/09 09:54:08 EST

Hose Length: Phillip, There is pressure drop in all hose and the longer the more pressure drop. However, the drop increases with velocity or flow rate. At a very low flow rate there is not much drop but at a high flow rate you can lose 50% pressure in 100 feet of hose. In oxy-acetylene systems the drop in acetylene pressure is rarely apparent over 20 to 30 feet. But on the oxygen when cutting the drop can be significant, especially with heavy cutting. The problem on the acetylene side is the starting pressure is 15 PSI or less MAX.

I've used oxy-propane on 100 feet of hose but the propane can be run at higher starting pressure than acetylene. Unless you really needed that length the hoses were a pain. 50 feet is a good length but I would not go over that. Pressure drop starts to become apparent at that point.

Hose diameter is also a factor. When the distance become great a larger diameter can offset some of the pressure drop. But then you have a lot of gas in the hoses. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 09:58:33 EST

Pat Stakem:

Since you're working with C & O, you could probably get further information from Hopewell Furnace in Pennsylvania ( www.nps.gov/hope/ ) and Saugus ironworks in Massachusetts ( www.nps.gov/sair/ ). Give them a call and see if they can provide further insight once you follow-up on Frank's suggestions.

By the way, are you my old friend from the NAR, or another Pat Stakem?
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 01/15/09 10:12:07 EST

hand made engraving punches:

well i've gotten lots of help from here before so i'm here again(with poor spelling and everything, lol).

the problem this time is that i work in an armory(working on becoming full fledge gunsmith). our machineguns have to have the serial number of the weapon stamped on a dogtag that is attached to each of its 2 barrels. this is because the headspace for that gun is only checked with those barrels.

so we had a crappy dog tag machine that was so inneficient and horrible that we threw that out. we also had a nice set of numbered stamps or punches that worked fantasticly. however somehow some way someone replaced a few of the numbers in the set with numbers we already have. so now we are stuck with a dremmel tool scratching numbers on dog tags.

i know i could prolly find some more punches online but i thought it would be a fun project to do but i DO need help. the issue is twofold.

i plan to annel the steel before working on it. ive read of anneling before but never performed it. the processes i read before described heating the metal and then submerging it in a bucket of ashes for 24 hours to let it soften. could you guys give me a quick crash course in such an operation?

the other is how to make the numbers on the stamp. the only 2 ways i could think of are 1: anneling the steel and using a dremel to shave off the exess metal. or 2: annel the steel, use a hard chissel to cut the number or lettering in a piece of concrete(deep recess) and then hammer the softened point of the punch into the concrete hopefully forcing the metal to take the shape of the recess(and potentially spreading out the flat surface area on the head as well...). what do you think of these two ideas? is there a better way to get it done?
   Lcpl Johnson - Thursday, 01/15/09 11:03:11 EST

Punches: Lcpl Johnson, note that you use punches to "stamp" and graving chisels or burins to chisel engraved markings. THEN there are machine engravers that use a small rotating cutting tool and are guided by template or computer system.

Many of these tools have been hand cut. It is done under great magnification using all manner of die sinking tools and fine sharp edged grinders as well as flexible shaft machines like Foredom tools, Dremel or die grinders.

See our iForge demo #65 on Matrix Punches. to start. This has a number of hand methods including hot work.

Others such as Grant Sarver use EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) to cut the dies for making the punch or the punch itself directly. The dog-Tag machine you scrapped was intended to deform thin sheet metal, not stamp into solid.

The steel used for figure and letter punches varies with the grade of the tools but the best are made of steel like S-7 and carefully heat treated. It requires a temperature controlled heat treating furnace to achieve the 20 or 25°F/hr cooling rate to anneal.

Making good punches of this nature is a real specialty and the commercial products comparatively inexpensive (to making them on your own). If you need a special inspectors or makers mark that is one thing but I would not waste my time making tools that are made MUCH BETTER by specialists.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 11:56:53 EST


Everyone you have all good and valid perspectives. I am enjoying them.
   - Rustystuff - Thursday, 01/15/09 12:01:07 EST

Dang Ptree you're lucky---mine takes *all* my salary!

Rustystuff; I am probably a bit out of date on how the guild system works as I have been studying it's presence in the medieval, renaissance, and colonial timeperiods for the last 30 years; but nothing later than that.

During much of that time it was used to control competition, quality and prices and there are well documented examples of it trying to limit innovation too, (See History of Western Technology, MIT press for the troubles a Nuremberg "red metal turner" got into for inventing better lathes during the late renaissance).

I think we are having a problem of terminology here. In blacksmithing/bladesmithing we get a lot of people NOT in an official program which has stated contractual rights and duties that want to trade labour for training; only they rate their labour at a much higher worth than is probably warrented.

I teach/mentor for free as payback for what I have been given over the years; but I run my smithing as a dead-loss hobby than a business---that year working for a swordmaker taught me that I enjoyed it much more as a hobby than as a business. Any money I make in it goes for buying big ticket items for it---books, tools, propane...

However I do not have "apprentices" as that to me involves a much more rigerous relationship. I have friends and students at my forge. I someday may take on an apprentice; but that will involve sitting down and working out the rights and responsibilities and duties of *both* of us as it will be a job for me as well as them.

The idea that we have a duty to spread and preserve information would be totally *un*-guild like during most of the existance of the guilds! (and is one of the things I treasure in the modern blacksmithing world!)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/15/09 12:12:11 EST

Employees: These also include people you don not pay directly but are in the position to manage them. While you have less bookkeeping responsibility you have their safety in your hands.

Employee Safety: Often it is your job to instruct an employee in the right or SAFE way to do a job. We had a fellow in the shop that was using an angle grinder in a dangerous manner (grinding in a notch) and I told him not to do it as the grinder could kick back and hit him in the face. I had to tell him this twice. There was no third time because the inevitable happened, the grinder kicked back, went through his face shield and hit him in the mouth breaking his jaw and taking out a number of teeth. It also knocked him out. We were very lucky one of the other guys came by because he would have bled to death.

This brings up a point on employee safety and YOUR liability. I had told this fellow NOT to do what he was doing. The second time I should have written it up and had him sign a copy that said he understood this was dangerous and had been told NOT to do it.

This was the first and only time I have had to deal with OSHA and an injury lawsuit. The employee insisted he was told to do the job the wrong way. . . Lots of affidavits and letters. The employer had to pay quite a bit. I was in the middle.

SO, If folks insist on doing dangerous things and you have warned them, record it, send them home, or both.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 12:23:33 EST


thank you for the word. i knew that i could buy them cheeply(only a few bucks honestly) but i thought it would be a nice project to further improve my crafting skills with metal. now the dog tag machine worked but aparrently it took way too much time adjusting and manouvering the primitive workings so it would stamp the dog tag going on the barrel just right....

i'll just buy some new punches sometime and then later down the road try to make my own as an exersize. right now my facilities are a tad bit limited... i can heat the metal to annel it but i cant really have a "proper" forge and workspace to keep heating metal as i work on it. at this point i am essentially limited to anneling metal on the weekends and then working it however i feel durring my spare time at work.
   Lcpl Johnson - Thursday, 01/15/09 12:49:34 EST

Good tool steel usually comes annealed and if you do not heat it can be worked by cold methods as-is. That is part of the high cost of many tool steels, its ready to machine.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 12:52:15 EST

NOTICE! webmasters with anvilfire server accounts:

We are moving to a new server in the next few days/week. I've tried to contact everyone directly but several contact emails have failed.

Updates made in the next few days or week may be lost and need to be reloaded. Be sure you have a full backup of your web site.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 14:19:48 EST

Hello I have been soaking some bolts in muriatic acid to remove the zinc before forging. The acid is now about dead. My question is where did the zinc go? Are the fumes or acid toxic at this point? thanks
   coolhand - Thursday, 01/15/09 16:29:20 EST

Acids: Coolhand, There are lots of variables in your question.

The zinc has become part of the hydrochloric acid probably forming zinc chloride or zinc hydroxychloride and releasing hydrogen. If the acid is completely killed you have zinc hydroxychloride and water with various hydroxy ions. Since the zinc compound is acidic you still have an acid. To kill it completely you can add sodium carbonate (Baking soda).

Now you have a hodge poge of zinc salts and who knows what. It is not highly toxic but it IS a heavy metal waste.

Look up zinc chloride and Lewis acids.

   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 16:42:27 EST

Lcpl Johnson: I hope you checked to see if someone had signed for that machine before you tossed it or the next time inventory comes around somebody is going to get their pay deducted. Butter bars don't like it if you tricked them into signing for everything and then it gets lost and they have to pay for it.He,He,He.
   Robert Cutting - Thursday, 01/15/09 18:23:30 EST

Acid pickle baths. The sludge of every pickle bath I have ever tested to allow legal disposal has been found to meet the legal requirements for a "Hazardous waste" The sludges have leachable heavy metals, meeting the "characteristic" of "Toxicity". They are almost always low enough in Ph to also meet the characteristic of "Corrosive"
Now this is for Industrial entities. I surely would not pour this stuff out on the ground, as the zinc is toxic, even if you are not an industry.

For those running pickle baths, please do be aware that a good active pickle makes hydrogen when used. This is how a pickle works. The acid creeps under the scale and so forth and makes hydrogen in the chemical reaction with the metal. The hydrogen pops the scale, paint etc off. Zinc plate usually makes a vigerous boiling reaction and liberates lots of hydrogen. And since hydrogen is very flammable (See Hindenburg airship) be very careful of ignition points.

Safety guy out.
   - ptree - Thursday, 01/15/09 18:36:46 EST

Ive been using coke in my forge and ive been using, even for welding, a shallow fire and this is causing oxidation bad enough even with borax it makes welding tough... If i were to use more coke with less air, would the fuel consumption rate be the same?
   - Jacob lockhart - Thursday, 01/15/09 19:44:12 EST


White vinegar will do the same thing as muriatic acid, just slower. Overnight as opposed to an hour. No worries about spills or breathing it in or splashing. Still has the sludge to deal with thou.
   Judson Yaggy - Thursday, 01/15/09 20:11:21 EST


Forget the notion of having an amployee sign a notice, waiver, warning, etc. My friend who is paying $28K/yr to keep someone not working, is doing so because that employee claimed disability due to skin problems caused by not wearing gloves. She had been directed to wear them, both verbally and in writing, and had signed a waiver stating she chose not to wear them and releasing the company of liability. NOT! Worker's Compensation most emphatically told my friend that employees cannot legally waive the use of safety equipment and he was liable. Worker's Comp told him that he should immediately terminate any employee who fails to use safety equipment.

So, when employees insist on doing it unsafely, your best recourse is to document the infraction and terminate them on the spot unless you really want to support them for life while they watch Oprah and eat bon-bons.
   vicopper - Thursday, 01/15/09 20:17:30 EST

Dave Boyer and ThomasP, I know that yes indeed i have one of the good ones and yes she does indeed take all my salery. Of course does does pay all those pesky bills with same:)

I actually had quite good luck with 3 out of 4 kids as far as working in the shop. One had no interest but the other applied themselves and tried both to learn and to work hard. I did have a policy of paying them, and much like in life, I told them the more you know, the more you earn. I started them at 6 or 8 picking up small iron bits from around the shop. They got a little money. Once they could help by holding things they got a $ an hour. when they qualified to run the saw after I set the stops, they got $2 an hour. When they could measure and cut, $3 an hour and so forth. Once they got pretty compentnet, they paid for the materials, contributed to the shop expenses for consumables and sold the products and kept the difference. Not too many 13 year olds that earned that much. It taught them leasons they don't learn in school.

I have daughters that can measure and cut steel to the 32nd with a tape measure, layout and drill holes to the same. I don't expect them to smith all their lifes, but it empowering, and every good parent wants that for their kids. My oldest daughter helps her male friends with their cars! My sons got the same, and while I thought it was pretty standard stuff for boys from my own youth, it is not. They are considered gifted mechanically by their peers:) AND Scott can swing a mean 14# sledge for striking at my anvil.
   - ptree - Thursday, 01/15/09 20:17:40 EST


Hard to say. Theoretically, less air would burn less coke. But then, you obviously aren't using up all the oxygen now. Even if the deeper fire burns more coke, you'll still come out ahead by not needing multiple attempts to weld (or to go back and start from scratch).
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/15/09 20:18:01 EST

For a very hot welding fire for small pieces smiths used to use a heavy cast iron cylinder (short section of pipe) on top of their fire filled with fuel. The gases coming off the cylinder get hot enough to weld over the fire rather than in it.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 20:49:15 EST

IS it ususal to be charged a "haxardous materials fee" for welding consumables? I picked up a few odss and ends the other day, about 30 ucks worth including abut 5 bucksa worth of mild steel filler rod. The invoice came out a little high so i took the time to look at it in detail. Sure enough it included a "hazardous materials fee of almost 5 bucks. The sales guy told me it was because of the copper coating on the filler rod. He then waived the charge when I told him I would just go with coathangers. What's up with this? I've never heard of such a thing, and he backed off on it pretty quick. IS this a scam or what?
   Peter Hirst - Thursday, 01/15/09 23:03:33 EST

Lcpl Johnson, one way to make the punches you are talking about(from your name it sounds like you are in the USMC, why don't you just order a complete new set from supply?)
is the methode I used to make my I.D. stamp when I was an apprentice.
I was given a piece of .5X.5X3." long S-7 and told to scribe what would be my particuler "symbol" on the face of it, bearing in mind that it had to be reversed to show up correctly when in use.
After I did this I was given a set of small "prick" punches and shown to carefully mark around the perimeter of the design with the smallest of the punches and make the out line of the design lower than the surface of the design its self. Then with the next larger punch I would repeat the prosess over and over untill I had "raised" the surface of the design by a 1/16 "
Also you will note that the sides of the charictors on your stamps are slightly tapperd or "wedge" shaped. This is for strength and wear resistance of the charictor shape its self.
This was acomplished by the use of the progessivly larger points of the punches I used.
Most all marking punches made today are done by a CNC engraving machine the can be programed with any design, letter, number,or symbol you want.
As the Guru has stated tool steels come in a relitively soft state and, can be worked as is with good tools and then hardend for use.
I was an armorer in the old ARMY of the 80's and 90's. We never put ID tages on the M2 barrels(wear would you attach it with out damaging the barrel?) we just had our gun crews use the quick methode of turning the new barrel all the way in and then back out two or three clicks.
The M60's had their own spare in the spare barrel bag carried by the A-gunner.
   - merl - Thursday, 01/15/09 23:10:14 EST

Peter-- my welding boutique ("our motto: we don't care if you live or die") charges a haz mat fee for just about everything and if they thought of it, they'd add demurrage for figuring out the bill.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 01/16/09 00:13:48 EST

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