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 21 - 31, 2009 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Ty Murch,

What Michaelangelo was talking about is the ability of a good painter to use light properly in his paintings. At the time ol' Mike was working, pigments were not nearly so bright and pure as they are today and there was only lead white, no titanium white. The best painters could depict light in such a way that the things they painted appeared three dimensional and "natural" because of the proper handling of light and dark, highlight and shadow, transmitted and reflected light. Remember, in that time the artist ground his own pigments and compounded his own paint, a skill that had a strong influence on his ability to get clean and bright colors in his paintings.
   vicopper - Thursday, 01/22/09 09:34:17 EST

Greetings! I have an old free standing coal forge with a blower. What is a fair selling price?
Rolfhank you!
   Rolf & Annick & Bernon Helbig - Thursday, 01/22/09 09:53:20 EST

Rolf et al; I have a 2 door car what is a fair selling price for it? Think of all the questions you would need answered to give a fair price for my car and they are pretty much waht needs to be known to answer the question about your forge: make, model (size, shape) how it's equipped, condition, *location*, etc.

As it stands all I can do is give you the range of prices I I have run into for forges, the cheapest being US$2 and the most expensive being US$1500 (for a *mint* unused buffalo RR Forge with original hood, blower and all the bells and whistles even the original *paint*! It was government surplus that was finally dug out of some dark corner and sold and had *never been used!)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/22/09 10:39:08 EST

Mike's paintings: there was an art historian who published a lot on how Mike's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel were sculptural and how he had used the dark colours and grey to mimic sculpture---then the ceiling was cleaned and it turned out the dark gray colours were all dirt and the original paintinges were almost gaudy in it's colours---pretty much threw a spanner in that guys career...

Reminds us to be cautious when considering what we are looking at today from the past and the corollary be careful of works in translation!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/22/09 10:47:10 EST

as far as a spanner in his career, if memory serves me correctly he was actually forced to paint the Sistine chapel. i like ol mike. thanks for the replies
   - Ty Murch - Thursday, 01/22/09 12:39:10 EST

So Ty, You taking Art Appreciation 101 or Art History? I think this was your second art question. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 01/22/09 15:37:53 EST

Not bad work for eight years of forced labor. Looked really great after they cleaned it. They were starting to work on the walls below it when I saw it and it's probably all done by now. I'd love to go back and see it again.
   Robert Cutting - Thursday, 01/22/09 15:38:10 EST

no i just like art. i started blacksmithing 5 years ago, got into forged sculpture a few years after that, and now i'm picking up painting because i don't have a shop right now.
   - Ty Murch - Thursday, 01/22/09 15:40:46 EST

i'm taking machine tool technology and cnc specialist btw.
   - Ty Murch - Thursday, 01/22/09 15:41:47 EST

I knew I could count on your knowledge. I appreciate the info. It is a very good start in the right direction. Thank You
   - Rustymetal - Thursday, 01/22/09 15:43:31 EST

Art Painting: Ty, I spent a lot of years painting (age 9 - 18). The drawing skills and use of color are good for many other fields. I worked in oils early on then changed to acrylics as they were faster to work and supposedly more durable. I broke a lot of rules and have acrylic paintings over layers of old oil paintings and vice versa. The acrylics over old oils are holding up fine 40 years later. . . I worked wet in wet, washes over dry. . and entirely with a pallet knife. I was pretty good when I got out of high school. Still love art, did not want to do it as a business.

I worked a lot on 1/4" Massonite panels. We prepared them with the cheapest "ceiling white" latex paint we could find ($7/gallon on sale). Applied two coats brushing in opposite directions to achieve a slight canvas texture. We divided most sheets up into 18x24" panels but also 16x18's and 12x16's. The trick is to get as many panels out of a 48x96 without waste as possible.

The problem with Massonite is it is heavy and the corners get damaged easily. My son, who has a degree in painting has done a lot of work on wood panels including plywood and old raised panel door panels.

My brother who has a Masters in Oil Painting used to make most of his own stretchers out of scrap lumber to save money. He says he could not have made it through art school without the old table saw he picked up somewhere. Besides stretchers he also made the required minimum box frames to show his paintings.

I also like the feel of a stretched canvas. Note, NEVER, EVER use substitute materials like old window shades or unfinished canvas. Cheap materials yellow and rot. You never know when one of your paintings may be something really great that you want to hold on to for a long time.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/22/09 16:24:12 EST


Unless I'm imagining things (which is always a possiblity), I've read about evidence that many ancient Greek statues were originally painted with gaudy colors. The "classic" marble finish is just what was left after the paint washed off. So maybe your art historian was right after all. . .

If I tried to paint on an old window shade, it would certainly be a waste -- of an old window shade (grin).
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/22/09 21:20:17 EST

The old window shade was one of my Dad's really bad money saving ideas. The result is one of my best paintings is on material that just barely touching it pokes a hole. When I get a chance I will laminate it onto something less delicate.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/22/09 21:28:42 EST

Has anyone here done any "thermite welding"
If so how large can the pieces of weld material be in the thermite powder. Also what is the ratio used of thermite
powder to the filler material.
   - tmac - Thursday, 01/22/09 21:54:04 EST

Thermit Welding
by Richard N. Hart
reprinted by Lindsay Publications
40pgs lindsaybks.com

   - Rustymetal - Thursday, 01/22/09 23:14:53 EST

My favorite technical book offered by Linsay Publications is:

How to Extract Your Head From Your Butt!
by Durt E. Phorseps

   - Rustymetal - Thursday, 01/22/09 23:19:52 EST

It has been a live altering aid to me recently.
   - Rustymetal - Thursday, 01/22/09 23:20:35 EST

Speaking of thermetic welding, I had found some old leftover pieces of thermetic weld rod (about 1-1/2" thick) a while back while walking the rails. Under the advice of someone here at the Den, I made some knives from it as it supposedly etches like damascus. Of the knives I've made, I noticed particularly in one a grain like appearance in the direction of the forging. I have no etching fluid, but have used a gun bluing acid and a gold patina acid, neither giving much effect. All the Radio Shacks I've been to never heard of ferric chloride.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 01/22/09 23:25:56 EST

Thermite Welding: Have you looked at our current NEWS?

Old volumes of Machinery's Handbooks (see our general review for which) had introductory articles on the process. Most decent welding text books have a section on it as well. At one time you could buy thermite in different grades for different strength steels just like welding rods. No more. Note also that the Thermit Corp no only sells kits for Rail Road use to industry only.

Fairly large castings were repaired (saved) in foundries in another era using thermite. It is also used to weld terminals on copper cables using a non-ferrous mixture and reusable graphite forms.

While the process can be done in a rather primitive manner you will see in our NEWS article that a mold with risers is needed, significant preheat, a large volume of material in a one-time use crucible. Even when you go low tech many manuals do not dwell on the preheat. When hand crafting the molds you need to understand risers, venting, slag runoff.

For many years it has been considered a destructive tool used by the military so buying the materials it much more difficult than it once was. Many folks making it also process their own iron oxide. Aluminum powder is available for mixing with plastics and paints. Either a magnesium strip, fuse or a powder igniter (gun powder with powdered metal) is needed to start the reaction. The guys in our new used a special heavy duty version of a sparkler to start the burn.

I had thought that thermite would be a good way to make the waist weld on an anvil. However, it is MUCH MUCH cheaper to use electric welding and not go for a full penetration 4x6" weld. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 01/22/09 23:59:15 EST

Hey nippulini - look up an E - bay seller named quartzpegmatite. He sells anhydrous ferric chloride. You can mix it up just like iced tea but don't drink it! Worked well for me, was cheap, and easy to store dry/mix a small batch of when needed. Then add some citric acid for the "edinburgh etch" to get a strong bite with good definition!
   - Vorpal - Friday, 01/23/09 03:22:11 EST

For those who plan to attend Quad-State 09: The theme of the exhibit/judging will be Birds - anything related to birds. Item must be at least 60% metal.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 01/23/09 05:52:27 EST

Vorp, thanks for the contact info. Just sent him a message. I have lots of citric acid for passivating stainless, I findi it interesting to see how it will work with etching.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 01/23/09 10:59:23 EST


Where do you get the Citric Acid, and What % strength do you use. Do you warm the solution? (I'm in PA, too, if your source is local to you.)
   Dave Leppo - Friday, 01/23/09 11:19:23 EST

Don't expect the Radio Shack folks to know it by Ferric Chloride; it's sold as Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Etchant. Our local one only carries it because the owner like custom knifemakers no one else in town uses it...

TGN those thermite sprues sometimes will look like a wootz due to the coarse crystalline segregation during cooling; but heavy forging to size should eradicate that.

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/23/09 11:21:42 EST

TGN, someone over at armourarchive.org was looking for some blockhead props and I mentioned that you would be the source of choice if I was trying to find such items!

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/23/09 11:23:17 EST

Nipp, Almost any acid will etch ans so will strong alkalies. Differences are in rate of etch, sharpness, and resulting color. Ferric Chloride just happens to leave a nice black on iron AND it was commonly available for etching circuit boards.

Radio Shack has become more of a retail electronics store than a hobbiests supply and many no longer carry boards, chips, capacitors, diodes. . But many electronic stores have taken up the slack. In my home town I found the "Battery" store handled that stuff when I needed some resistors to modify a digital input. In the past I had replaced industrial memory ROM chips and built DC power supplies including repairing my welder with parts from Radio Shack.
   - guru - Friday, 01/23/09 11:27:54 EST

More Thermite: A friend who is an experienced and qualified sabotage demolitions engineer tells us:
"Thermite is the nastiest stuff in the world. Anybody who has to ask basic questions is NOT ready to use it or even think of using it. If you want to use thermite join the Royal Engineers, USACE, or the special forces. Do their demolitions course and then think about it. I would sooner have unprotected sex in a Bangkok brothel than be within 10 metres (33 feet for the Americans) of a beginner playing with thermite."
The problems with thermite include the fact that as it creates superheated liquid metal which the burning charge may follow the path of that hard to control liquid. It can cut through steel plate and concrete. Controlling the flow can be difficult requiring the proper refractories (another specialty in itself). Once the reaction starts you cannot stop it. It needs no air and water WILL create an explosion. In controlled welding applications the liquid metal is held back by a metal gate that melts at the proper time. Determining the the size and thickness of this gate is important as well as requiring much testing.

While there are a bunch of idiots on YouTube playing with thermite it really IS something that is very dangerous.

Also note that any chemistry text book will tell you the necessary proportions of the materials by calculating the molar values to fit the equasion. That is the place to start if you are serious about making your own.
   - guru - Friday, 01/23/09 12:00:07 EST

I recently bought an old looking anvil and need help identifying it.

According to the markings stamped into the anvil it is made in Sweden and weighs 141Lbs. I can't, however, make out the manufatures mark. It looks like there are three letters followed by Co. The first letter is definitely an "S" second is illegible but has a virticle line like an L, H, N, M, etc. which is followed by another "S". These letters are inside and towards the top of a rectangle with forty-fived corners. I assume it's a rectangle but I can only make out the top and both sides of it. The anvil itself looks like they used a Peter Wright as a molding model. It even has the flat step on the feet. There is only one handleing hole under the heel. The casting is pretty rough. I can't see any other marks on the anvil. It is definitely one cast piece and has a nice ring and a decent rebound.

Any ideas who the manufacturer is on this one?

Thanks in advance!
Rick Baum
   Rick Baum - Friday, 01/23/09 14:44:41 EST

Hi Rick
Sounds like you have described a Swedish Kohlswa or Soderfors Anvil. They are a very nice quality cast steel anvil. Enjoy!!
   - Rustymetal - Friday, 01/23/09 15:21:40 EST

Rick, The major Swedish anvil makers are Kohlswa and Soderfors. Kohlswa anvils have very clean modern lines and most found in the U.S. are what we would call "American" pattern from the narrow waist. But there are no distinct clamping flats. The body curve blends smoothly to the corner of the feet.

Kohlswa Photo by Jock Dempsey

Centaur Forge also had anvils cast by Kohlswa to their pattern for a number of years.
   - guru - Friday, 01/23/09 15:30:12 EST

Ferric Chloride -- If you go to the Radio Shack website and search on "etchant," it comes up. Click on "find it near you" and enter your zip to see which stores have it in stock (if the system's accurate, all the stores near me have it). You could always print out the page and bring it to the store.
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/23/09 22:05:47 EST

I have seen one large Kohlswa with the tso clamping flats on the base.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 01/23/09 23:39:02 EST

The one above is 300 pounds. The largest they made in that pattern at the time. But they have many patterns.

Most of the Kohlswas I have seen had a rough brushed surface texture. I think it is from applying a coating (wash) to the sand molds with a brush. The texture often obliterates the relatively faint markings.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/24/09 01:14:27 EST

Dave Leppo, this link is a good place to get started on playing with etchants. http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showtopic=9333 I want to try that saline sulfate etch! Oh, and citric acid can be commonly bought as a food additive from some nutritional stores, and definitely online. E - bay, even.
   - Vorpal - Saturday, 01/24/09 03:49:53 EST

Citric acid powder is also to be found at winemakers supply stores.
   ptree - Saturday, 01/24/09 07:34:33 EST

AH! That was one I forgot my Chemistry set had. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 01/24/09 14:29:05 EST

There was also a small amount of alcohol and a lamp made from a special cap and which that fit the standard little 2oz chemical jars. It did not last long and we got a regular laboratory alcohol lamp and a quart of alcohol. I remember it was a big deal as everyone was worried I would drink the denatured alcohol. . . The lamp was used to bend glass tubing and heat chemicals on a tripod.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/24/09 18:30:47 EST

will bronze and other hard copper alloys clog a grinding wheel?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Saturday, 01/24/09 19:10:49 EST


Yes, they will. Much better to use an open abrasive device such as a belt grinder or sander. You can get greenback sanding discs for an angle grinder in all sizes and grits at most automotive paint supply places. You'll need a hard rubber backing pad for the discs, but they'll grind the non-ferrous stuff cleanly without clogging much at all. A bit of grinding lube on them will almost eliminate any clogging.
   vicopper - Saturday, 01/24/09 19:44:34 EST

Jacob, Never gring soft metals like copper, brass, aluminum or such on a grinding wheel made for steel. The soft metals do clog the wheel and can cause overheating, a prime cause of Failure in grinding wheels. Failure in grinding wheels = exploding wheels!
   Ptree - Saturday, 01/24/09 19:48:34 EST

If you're using a 4-1/2" angle grinder, the masonry wheels (silicon carbide, I think) are sometimes recommended for non-ferrous metals as well. Not really sure why you'd use one instead of an abrasive disc, though.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 01/24/09 19:56:37 EST

I use the flap discs on angle grinders on non ferrous, they get some material stuck to them, but keep cutting. These don't leave the "edge marks" that resin fiber discs sometimes do.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 01/24/09 21:55:01 EST

AND. . when you clog a good vitreous wheel such as on a bench grinder use a wheel dresser (either the star type or diamond) to clean and restore the wheel. Not only is a clogged wheel hard to grind with it can be dangerous due to the blocks of clogged metal flying off and possibly taking pieces of wheel with them.

On copper and bronze a file OR a carbide rotary file in a die grinder is best. Use abrasives only after the rough work is done.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/24/09 23:55:10 EST

vi cooper:

Question about water filters the other day got me thinking. Where does the fresh water for the VI come from?

Second question. Who is your market there? Do you do any tourist trade?
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 01/25/09 08:41:55 EST

Of course, a hammer works pretty well for shaping copper and bronze, too (grin). (Never seen one of those clog.)
   Mike BR - Sunday, 01/25/09 10:40:05 EST

I helped build a set of all brass gates with a friend. He had forged all the parts and needed someone to weld all the parts together. I braze welded all the pieces then used a rotary file (ovoid tiped tree shape) to to clean up in all the curves, an angle grinder with a friable wheel on the flats, did a lot with hand files and sand paper.

If you use the edge of the angle grinder wheel properly (not on the flat) a soft aggressive wheel will not clog on brass. However if you use a hard "long life" wheel or at slow speed then they will clog just as bad as any grinding wheel.

When possible I do dress brass forgings hot with a hammer. On a number of projects where I've braze welded brass bars together with a torch I've reheated them and forged to dress the weld. Much cleaner than grinding or filing.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/25/09 11:26:59 EST

About a year ago I found a steel/iron (not sure) ball near a railroad in Cloquet, Minnesota. It looks like a slug or something from civil war times. I was wondering what the best way would be to drill a hole through it. Cobalt bits perhaps? Thanks
   Jason - Sunday, 01/25/09 14:44:50 EST

Some civil war munitions one needs to use extreme caution. They still can live unstable explosives. I would let someone who knows these items inspect it before drilling a hole in it or moving it.
   - Rustymetal - Sunday, 01/25/09 14:55:15 EST

I am not sure what size item you are refering too. When you say slug do you mean just a small round from a rifle?
I was thinking a larger object in my above post.
   - Rustymetal - Sunday, 01/25/09 14:57:55 EST

Many of you amy have seen this, and sorry if I'm posting it on the wrong forum, but good lord! What an amazing resource this is: http://www.damascusknowledge.com-a.googlepages.com/home
   - Vorpal - Sunday, 01/25/09 17:16:15 EST

sorry, typo, "may" have seen this...
   - Vorpal - Sunday, 01/25/09 17:16:42 EST

Hey, the ball is about 3/4 inches in diameter, i don't think it is a round from a rifle because I found another ball that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. It could be iron because that railroad may be used to transport iron ore coming down from the iron range in N. Minnesota
   Jason - Sunday, 01/25/09 17:51:01 EST

A 3/4" ball would not be an explosive round. Found along RR rails it is most likely some kind of scrap, a ball bearing or ball mill ball. Either would be very hard and difficult to drill. A bit to do the job if it is one or the other would cost much more than a common steel ball to replace it. Large bore rifle bullets and ball were lead, not iron or steel.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/25/09 23:19:23 EST

Ken S.

Fresh water in the VI comes from one of three sources: wells, cisterns or desalination plants. Virutally all homes in the Territory are built with cisterns beneath them and rainwater is collected on the roof and carried to the cistern where it is then pumped to supply the house. Additionally, perhaps 5% of the properties have a well or access to a well water. The water in most wells is pretty hard, and in some cases brackish. Lastly, a modest percentage of the homes in the town areas are on the local utility-supplied potable water system. Thisis supplied by condensate water from the power plant and desalinated seawater. Pricey, and not that sweet, in my opinion.

I prefer cistern water over all others and would never build another house without a cistern. Once you get used to pure soft rainwater it's really hard to go traveling and use over-chlorinated municipal water in motels, etc.

Most of the work I do here comes from local architects, designers and builders, with a smattering from individuals. I do no work for visitors/tourists, as my work is not geared to off-the-shelf items suitable for souvenirs and the like. Lately, I've been doing a lot of lighting and furniture items, but these things come in spurts - one month is lighting, the next is doors, etc. I've given up trying to predict what is going to come and I stay busy enough that I don't really have time to make things on spec, so to speak. All that could change overnight, too. Life is fraught with uncertainties. :-)


I'm not a historian, but I am unaware of any ACW battles fought in Minnesota. Probably old bearings of some sort, and harder than woodpecker lips if so.
   vicopper - Monday, 01/26/09 00:13:47 EST

hey all i was wondering if anyone could explain what a "jump weld" is im makeing a rose for my Girlfriend for Valintines day and am useing the demo in the IFORGE section.
   samw1 - Monday, 01/26/09 08:50:18 EST

Here's another crazy idea pitched to meby a performer. The stunt is called "hot soup", where the performer has a bowl of fuel (usually Colemans or NAPTHA), then dips a spoon into the bowl, the spoon picks up some fuel and the performer puts out the flame by putting the spoon into the mouth (similar to using a Kevlar wicked torch). The situation the guy is having is that by the third or fourth "spoonful", the metal has reached a critical temp that causes burns to the mouth and makes the spoon too hot to handle. The performer then tells me that he assumed (very wrongly) that an aluminum spoon wouldn't get hot as fast. He learned real fast. So, barring the use of ceramic spoons, what would be the least heat conductive metal for me to forge a spoon for him? Is there a chrome/ceramic powder coating that would be helpful?
   - Nippulini - Monday, 01/26/09 08:56:04 EST

samw1, Yes, no, and maybe.

The rose demostration was done by Bill Epps, who also is a farrier, and farriers get in the habit of saying they "jump" almost everything together. It comes from the old method of forge welding on a toe calk where there is no scarf preparation. To a working blacksmith, a jump weld is usually thought of as a vertical bar or rod going to a horizontal flat plate. In this instance, there is scarf preparation, and it is considered a tough forge weld to get just right. Another "jump" is what I see on old wrought iron Mexican branding irons where the connecting rod(s) are welded to the top edges of the stamp stock.

For the rose demo, I'm not altogether sure what Bill does, but my approach is to leave a 3/8" x 3/8" lump on the stem as you're forging it to a smaller length dimension, say 5/16" or 1/4" D. This extra thickness is where the weld will take place and should give you enough material for scale loss and hammer reduction. I put a "simple scarf" on the end of the leaf branch. It is three short tapers. The flat of the tapers which was not touched with the hammer, goes against the stem thickness. Now, to "jump" these together as a "form of lap weld" is something for as adept to accomplish. It is not impossible, but it requires mucho practice, and it is desirable to have a holder-helper. Metal of that dimension will lose its welding heat much faster than heavier stock.

In preparing the alignment of the two pieces, I believe it is helpful to have them straight in length. Fine tuning the curves can come later. One approach is to perform a small tack weld with the oxy or arc welder, and normally on one side only is enough. You're attempting to hold them in a proper relationship while taking the forge welding heat. Use borax for flux for the forge weld.

Another old timey approach is to hay-wire the two pieces together. In using this method, it is best to use two wraps near the leaf end, and they should be twisted down tightly with a pair of pliers. The wire should be nowhere near the weld, because if you hammer it into the weld, you'll have an ugly mess to clean up, or better yet...start over. The problem with this method is that the wire wraps will expand when they get hot, and the two pieces sometimes twist out of alignment.

The reason we're forge welding is to give the nice "vanishing point" where the stem and branch meld.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 01/26/09 09:53:41 EST

Jump Welds, Working in Metals p.259

Yet another ancient method: In the wrought iron era. Steel parts would be held to wrought by forging a tiny point on the steel then driving it into the hot wrought iron. This held to two pieces together while welding.

I saw dozens of headers at the Old Millstone Forge Museum in Millstone, NJ that the steels were applied this way. The steels were forged to a tear drop and the point bent at a right angle. The point was driven into the potion of the header that blended into the shank. I think a small hole or punch make had been made for alignment. It made a stylish assembly. I had never seen or heard of that type weld before. Then I saw it in the book Working in Metals which we recently put on-line (can't find the page today. . ).

This method MIGHT work in steel to hold the pieces together.
   - guru - Monday, 01/26/09 10:30:44 EST

Yes, what the guru is talking about was often done on toe calks. The little sharp, bent portion we called a "nib." In horseshoeing, the room temperature nib which had been normalized,is driven into the yellow hot shoe. Then, a slow rising heat will bring them up to the correct welding temperature. In the 20th century, these calks with nibs were manufactured in the U.S., most often for farm draft horse shoes.

Sometimes, smaller calks termed jar calks, were made of high carbon steel with nibs, driven in the same way, and then forge brazed. On the harness tracks, triangular-section calks (grabs) were fit into swages on the shoe and brazed (no nib). "Brazing tongs" were used to hold the harness calk in place in lieu of the nib. The tongs would fit the shoe branch as normal, but the top jaw had a arced extension whose tip touched on the ground surface of the grab, holding it in place.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 01/26/09 10:51:38 EST

Post script. Ref placement of the nib, it is sometime important, as in putting two similar jar calks on the two branches of the horseshoe, exactly opposite each other. Then we do mark the entrance of the nib on the shoe with a center punch or a small pritchel.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 01/26/09 11:19:49 EST

First of all, thanks to Rustymetal, Guru and Frank turley for your responses to my question regarding my anvil. you all were very helpful. Thank you all!

I have an update to the ID of this anvil...

I was able to rub chalk into the markings and get quite a bit more detail to show up. It is marked "S.I.S. Co. otherwise known as a SISCO anvil. Apparently SISCO stands for Swedish Iron & Steel Company. Under neath the SIS Co line of text I could make out "SUP..." Apparently this is the first part of "SUPERIOR" that is part of the marking. I found all this out through a gentleman that has a copy of Anvils in America. He said that in all the years that Postman did his research for his book he only ran into 5 of these anvils. I guess that means that I have number 6.

Now to put it to the work that it was intended for... :)

   Rick Baum - Monday, 01/26/09 13:54:36 EST

Rick, I've added that to the AIA page list.

Welding "nibs" AH! That's were I saw it in "Working in Metals"., Under making a horseshoe!
   - guru - Monday, 01/26/09 14:19:24 EST

Rick: No necessarily. Anvils in America was published some ten years ago now. Many additional anvils have shown up since. I can't remember name, but another Swedish anvil exporter has been found.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 01/26/09 14:38:19 EST

Ken, Sorry, I should have put a wink after the number 6 comment. I was only joking. I realize that there is no possible way for that author to have taken a complete inventory of all of the anvils in the United States.
I think the other Swedish anvil you may be thinking of might be “North Star”??? Does that sound right?
   Rick Baum - Monday, 01/26/09 16:15:45 EST

Hey thanks for the help with the jump welds i think i will be able to manage. But on the cupping tool would a section of pipe locked in the vice do in its place or should i seek some other methode.
   samw1 - Monday, 01/26/09 16:32:40 EST

samw1, You don't really need a cupping tool if you use the torch tip and needle nose carefully.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 01/26/09 16:40:58 EST


I think stainless steel has the lowest thermal conductivity of the commonly available metals (titanium is pretty low too). Maybe you could use a high-conductivity metal (silver would be ideal) with a very heavy handle to act as a heat sink. Eventually the whole thing would get too hot to handle, but with a heavy enough heat sink "eventually" might be a long time.
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/26/09 17:14:29 EST

Ti would be my first thought for such a spoon.

   Thomas P - Monday, 01/26/09 17:46:22 EST

It's not only the handle, it's the spoon portion as well. I don't think colemans gets too hot.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 01/26/09 19:10:32 EST

Rick Baum: No. I'm pretty sure it is NOHAB. They were a quite large manufacturers of heavy equipment, railroad engines in particular.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 01/26/09 19:13:28 EST

Magic Spoons: Maybe a spoon with a few cooling fins in the handle as part of the design?

A hollow spoon with a coolant to gas off . . It would have to be non-flammable and non-toxic.

Non-metallic is way to go but I'm not sure what material you would use. I used to make wooden spoons and they are great for eating hot soup because they do not have the density to hlod or conduct heat. But in this case you would need a non-flammable, solvent resistant, sturdy non-metalic, low density. . unobtanium.

But in the spirit of a magician's act I would think that the EASY way would be to use slight of hand to swap out the spoon every couple "heats". Just as long as his pocket doesn't catch fire. . . OR make it part of the act, trying different spoons to see which one is "just right" in a Three Little Bears motif.

   - guru - Monday, 01/26/09 19:52:27 EST

Spoons: Hollow spoon, filled with water and frozen?
   quenchcrack - Monday, 01/26/09 19:58:13 EST

The ideal material for the spoon would seem to be ceramic. Almost zero heat conduction. I did some testing years ago with ceramic rods. We were using them as core pins to cast a ring of stellite in a valve body. A 6" long pin was set in a pilot hole, the stellite powder poured in and induction heated the entire forged valve body to weld temp for the Stellite. The induction was dropped, and as soon as the Stellite hit solidus, I pulled out the core pin. I could hold the pin in my bare fingers with the opposite end glowing hot.

I would think the fuel burn would not heat the ceramic bowl much and the handle would not heat at all.

Try a japanese porcelin soup spoon for a trial.
   - ptree - Monday, 01/26/09 20:09:22 EST

Hi. I'm building a blacksmith shop in my backyard and I was wondering what I should use as a floor. I have heard that a mixture of sand, gravel, and clay is good at keeping the sparks from skidding too far. I have also heard about limestone dust.Is this true? Any downsides to these? I want to use something other than concrete.
   Ed - Monday, 01/26/09 20:17:48 EST


If we're thinking of the same Japanese spoons, they have a trough-shaped handle. That might let enough air past one's lips to support combustion . . . . Also, I think the most common ones are melamine. But ceramic's a good idea.
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/26/09 20:18:44 EST

NEW Coming SOON!, The anvilfire Magic Council!

A trade secrets forum. . . :) hah hah ha. . .

   - guru - Monday, 01/26/09 20:28:49 EST

I'm with Ptree. Find a glassblower that can get pyrex or similar.
   Judson Yaggy - Monday, 01/26/09 20:37:00 EST

Heating the spoon: Keep in mind that the spoon is being heated by radiant heat.

If it is made from an insulating material, the spoon will still get hot, but will not conduct that heat to the handle.

The handle will be cooler, but the spoon itself will be hotter.

IF the hot part of the spoon has insufficient thermal mass, it might not burn You if it touches any skin.[big IF]

Perhaps He should limit the time the fuel burns before putting it in His mouth, and let the spoon stay in the fuel long enough to cool it down before doing it again.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 01/26/09 21:29:33 EST

Maybe you could put water and ice in the bottom of the "soup" bowl and float the fuel on top of that. That might provide a way to cool the spoon quickly on each dip. Of course, things could get *real* interesting if you left things long enough to melt the ice and boil the water.
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/26/09 21:55:44 EST

My son is self taught in knife making, I was wondering how or who would I contact for him to be able to get actual instruction, this seems to be a passion for him and considering he has had no formal training he turns out very nice products. Any help in this would be great. I am looking for something around the Edmonton Alberta area.
   Sue Knight - Monday, 01/26/09 22:43:25 EST

Am working on a manuscript with the main character who makes cold steel swords and knives for collectors and movies. I have no knowledge of it and would like to know if anybody has any idea of how long it takes to make both. Have read the "how to" and know the equipment she needs.
   Holly - Tuesday, 01/27/09 02:00:24 EST


Try to make contact with Gil Hibben, a knife maker who makes knives for movies. He can probably give you exactly the information you're looking for. Try www.hibbenknives.com for a starting point.

I'm not certain what exactly you mean by the term "cold steel" though.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 01/27/09 02:35:34 EST

Sue Knight: Try contacting: Western Canadian Blacksmithing Association, Founding Chapter, Bill Reynolds,
14707-115th Street, Edmonton, AB, CANADA T5X 1H7,
(780) 456-0786, freyno@telus.net.

Perhaps someone knowledgeable about the American Blacksmithing Ass'n might know if Canada has an equivalent organization.

   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 01/27/09 05:16:08 EST

Oops, meant to say American Bladesmithing Ass'n.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 01/27/09 05:16:54 EST

Thanks for the "revolutionary Blacksmith" book, my daughter is enjoying it very much.

I have a question on heat-treating an adze that I have made from an "Armstrong" brand 2# ball peen hammer. I forged the scoop blade out of the hammer side if the head.

I have put a handle in it to check the basic shape and balance etc. but it appears to be a bit soft. It receive no heat treat other than what it might have happened during the forging process. I did not quench it in anything other than still cold winter air as it cooled to touch on the edge of the forge.

Does Armstrong use a well know alloy in their heads or am I going to have to do some experimentation.

Thanks for any advise.
   martin - Tuesday, 01/27/09 05:57:59 EST

Armstrong Rework: Martin, You would have to ask Armstrong about the steel. However, their tools are (or were) some of the best made in the US. Ball peens and most other American hammers are known for being quite hard so it is probably at least a 50 point carbon steel. Most tools of this sort were simple carbon steels rather than more expensive alloy steels.

This is one of those tools that you can give a local quench and hardening. The only part you want hard is the edge. Heat at that half of the tool to the hardenpoint (non-magnetic) and then quench about half of that in warmed water. Polish or grind the edge quickly while still hot an watch the temper colors. When at the color (hardness) you want quench again. On a tool you are going to grind to finish I would leave it a little hard since the hardest material is going to be removed.

   - guru - Tuesday, 01/27/09 10:17:05 EST

Fictional Blade Smiths: Holly, Time to make something like this depends a lot on the question of sol-authorship. Both historical and modern makers often send out blades to specialists. If you want first class engraving or artistic etching you send it to a specialist. Often, especially in the field of Japanese style blades the wood work and furniture is always made by others. However, some modern makers do the whole job. Time depends on details. A realistic prop blade could be made in a few days, less time if more than one is being made at a time. Works of art longer. You set the time according to price. When other specialists are involved then you have shipping and their schedules to contend with. Then you are talking months.

Then there is the question of quality and detail. Many blades made for movies are made strictly for looks, not performance and many others made as fast and cheap as possible. The vast majority of movie "blades", especially those for TV are rubber props so all those people running around slashing at each other do not seriously injure each other. They are made in molds and painted by the art department. When cheap metal blades are used they are often aluminum cutouts with abrupt bevels and very dull edges.

The only sharp, real looking blades used in movies are those made for closeups and these may only LOOK real being made of soft stainless or mild steel and other lesser materials. It is ART.

The few real blades used by the stunt people are carefully dulled and made by fencing product experts. They must be hard enough to be durable but never so hard they they could break and result in an injury. The metal blades used by the actors are the same, equally dull and often stainless steel so they do not rust and stay shiny without a lot of maintenance.

Tools and equipment used are far beyond my swords article. Every possible machine tool is used to advantage to reduce time and cost. Forging IF done at all would be on a power hammer. Much shaping on a milling machine and there would be numerous large belt grinders in use. Nothing very romantic.

A couple of the fantasy swords movie DVD's have a little about the folks that make these things. I think the recent Crusader movie had a good sequence on the weapons and armor. . . LOTS of pray paint in use to give the right colors. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/27/09 10:53:34 EST

Lord of the Rings also had a extra section on Weta who made the props for the movies and in some of the extra commentary they talk about the "Hero" swords that were "real" and used for the closeups vs the "fake" ones used for normal filming.

If you want realism discuss how the designers keep wanting impossible to use sword designs---guards that are a danger to the users, sizes and weights way beyone anything used historically, etc.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/27/09 11:45:55 EST

I have a 200 lb. anvil,it has a steel plate welded to a body that spark-tests - orange sparks, medium length,straight,to a very gradual curve,with no sparklers at all. I suspect wrought iron, any ideas? am 62 yrs. old ,living in nova scotia canada. bought anvil at estate sale of a ship's captain.one of the guys helping the widow tidy up the farm and run the sale told me the anvil arrived in a ship load of scrap,bound for the steel rail mill formerly operating here ,so it could have come in from any where, and was picked out for the captain's use. it looks 100+ years old. thanks in advance for your consideration!
   adam buch - Tuesday, 01/27/09 19:18:31 EST

the anvil mentioned in my last post is 6 1/4" wide,31" long,with 2, 1 1/2" hardie holes, one in the usual place in the heel, the other just back of the base of the beak, and a 3/4" pritchel in the usual spot. It appears to be of the 'american' style.
   adam buch - Tuesday, 01/27/09 20:56:29 EST

Adam, The best tests are ring and rebound. "Plates" that are obvious are usually fakes on castings. A hammer bounced on the face should snap back with 99% of what you put into it. All steel and steel with wrought anvils usually ring like a bell, especially when struck on the side of the heel or on the horn. Even bad wrought anvils will ring. The test is to determine bad welds which either reduce ring or buzz when struck. Cast iron anvils are not lively (little rebound) and usually give a dull thunk when struck.

To tell more we would need good photos or the marking on the side. You can often do a rubbing with tracing paper and a the side of a pencil to pick up hard to read depressions.

Hope this helps.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/27/09 21:10:38 EST

My fuller works very well. I am extremely pleased with it. Can I, realistically, make a flatter? I was thinking of welding a hammer head to apiece of plate. If so what sort of size and weight would be best? Is there a better way? I would consider buying one if I can't make one but it would need to wait until next time I am in UK as shipping and handling are so expensive.
   philip in china - Tuesday, 01/27/09 21:34:07 EST

DIY Flatters: Phillip, This is a common way of making a DIY flatter. Most are about as tall as they are wide. SO that would give you the proportions of a commercial flatter. But I would make a welded face a little smaller (2/3 the hammer height). The plate would need to be at least 1/2" (13mm) for a 2 lb. (900-100g) hammer. I would use a significant fillet weld to support the plate. Afterwards it will not be flat and will need to be ground again.

To be effective a 3" square flatter must be struck with an 8 pound sledge or better. I prefer "set hammers" (flatters no bigger than the body) and have a rectangular flatter about as wide as a hammer in one direction and over twice that in the other. These smaller tools are more likely to work for the loan smith. The set hammer (a struck tool) can be made by simply squaring the face of a hammer OR just start with one of those cheap imports with square corners from you know where. . . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/27/09 22:05:16 EST

Adam Buch, that spark test sounds like the description for tool steel.
   - merl - Tuesday, 01/27/09 23:15:49 EST

Firstly I am a retired Boilermaker, I have just aquired a small Champion No1 spring hammer. I need some information on how to set it up as there is a lot missing, mainly the the drive system. I need to know the speed of striking etc.The hammer has a patent date of July 1 02 & it was made in Lancaster P.A U.S.A. Any help would be appreciated, Yours truly Kelvin B Kelly , Australia
   Kelvin Kelly - Wednesday, 01/28/09 03:40:23 EST

Merl, Adam,
There are many kinds of tools steels, all with different spark showers. The more alloying, the more difficult it becomes to read the shower. High carbon steel has lots of "sparklers" or bursting. I have shown many people the spark test using various metals, and they often have a hard time seeing the differences, even in "real time."
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 01/28/09 07:56:07 EST

one thing that could be added to the sword making for yuppies is the 2 x 4 mock up. I was asked by a gamer about making some wonder sword, I asked for the dimensions and found a piece of scrap 2 x 4 the right size, and whacked a handle on one end. Handed it to him and told him to play with it, after about 5 minutes he said "this doesn't work", I'm glad I didn't waste the time & money on a steel one. As I recall it was about 6 feet long.
   - Hudson - Wednesday, 01/28/09 09:50:03 EST

Spark Tests: The other thing about spark tests is that they vary greatly with the type of grinder and conditions of use. The variables are wheel grit/bond, wheel speed, ambient lighting, sample pressure, wheel contamination AND the observer's experience and visual acuity. That is a LOT of variables and not all grinders throw a spark long enough to properly indicate wrought iron and alloy steels.

I get fairly consistent results from high carbon steels but highly variable results from alloys and wrought and cast irons. Wrought iron by its very nature varies a lot and is often difficult to tell from low carbon steels by spark test.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 09:57:05 EST

Champion #1 "Hercules" Power Hammer: Specs from the 1920 Catalog.

Base of machine 20 x 27 inches
Overall Height 5 ft 8"
Weight of ram 65 pounds
Pulley 10 x 2.5"
Speed 300 RPM
2HP Required.

Model 1E (Electrically driven) claimed the same size pulley but had a larger (12 to 14") main pulley so that the step down from 1800 RPM would be possible. In your case with 50Hz power it will be easier.

The drive system on these hammers was simple but critical. They use a flat belt and tensioner to vary the slip. The tensioner is linked to the criss-cross treadle (a unique feature on Champions). I'll post an image.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 10:19:10 EST

Hudson, I think I know that sword. . A fellow sent me a dimensioned digital drawing of it. Weighed 800 pounds in steel and about 600 pounds in aluminum. It was even too heavy if made hollow using sheet metal!
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 10:22:49 EST

Wrought iron or cast iron. The ring test should say which.

If the markings are illegible on that anvil you might describe what the underside of the base looks like as that can sometimes indicate the maker---hourglass of Hay-Buden, "caplet" of Trenton, etc...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/28/09 10:30:15 EST

Champion Power Hammer Images

Click for Detail Images.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 11:21:21 EST

While we are on Champion Specs, the smaller 30 pound hammer should run 400 RPM max.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 11:29:41 EST

adam buch: To amplify on above there are several things which can help identify an anvil:

- I like to use the flour trick. Dust both sides and front foot with flour. Dust off excess. Sometimes makes letters or numbers jump out at you.

- At the waist if you see numbers such a 0 3 4 it will be British. Highly likely a wrought iron body. I don't recall a British anvil with a recess in the bottom.

- Number and location of handling holes.

- Flats on top of front and back feet.

- Ring test - as noted above. A wrought iron bodies anvil should have a ring to it. Cast iron would produce more of a thud.

Please let us know your results.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 01/28/09 14:29:42 EST

Hello,, I have had an old excellent blacksmith vise for many years. It has “Indian Chief” cast into the upper triangle shaped mounting plate. Does anybody know what Company made this,,,, or if it may have been from the Indian Motorcycle Company??? Thanks for any help. ,,,,,,, DJ
   DJ - Wednesday, 01/28/09 16:13:05 EST

on the 3g vertical m.i.g what should the volt and amp be set at
   ray - Wednesday, 01/28/09 16:36:41 EST

on the 3/4 plate 3g position what should the amp & volt be set at to get a good weld
   ray - Wednesday, 01/28/09 16:43:41 EST

Ray, Welder adjustments all depend on the material thicknesses, joint type, wire or rod size and type. Also the age and condition of the welder, leads, ends. . Then. . . there is operator capability. I've known guys that didn't need to adjust the welder to do anything. . .

I suspect you will need to find someone that is familiar with your machine OR do it like the rest of us and just crank it up until it is too much then back off a little.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 17:49:01 EST

Indian Chief: DJ, this was a trade name of the Canedy-Otto Mfg. Company, who made and sold a complete line of blacksmithing tools. Made good stuff. Long defunct.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 17:53:15 EST

Guru some Indian Chief vises were made by the same manufacturer of the Trenton Anvils. Columbus Forge etc...in Ohio. How did that factor in with Cannedt-Otto? Did they have a business relationship at some point? Was Indian Chief an owned trade name or not? Did they both use it?
   - Rustymetal - Wednesday, 01/28/09 19:05:57 EST

Ray, with MIG You set the volts & wire speed. You can look up the wire You are using on it's manufacturers website and they will have a chart that will give You a pretty good idea.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 01/28/09 20:19:52 EST

Ray, are You really going to use MIG on 3/4" verticle? I think You would be be better off using a gas shielded flux core wire, one of the E71T-1 wires.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 01/28/09 20:27:48 EST

The few Indian Chief leg vises that I have seen looked very much like Columbian leg vises, the latter made by the Columbian Hardware Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Only the mounting plate appeared different, having the Indian Chief trademark. It could be that Cannedy-Otto subbed the work to Columbian and not Columbus Forge and Iron Company. This is theory on my part. The back protruding, enlarged portion of the screw box has a specific appearance, whether "solid" or "open." I base part of my conclusion on that plus the overall conformation and assembly of the vises.

I know that Postman in AIA talks about the Columbus Forge marking some items with "Indian Chief", but in regards to the vises, I'm from Missouri.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 01/28/09 20:37:28 EST

Spark Test: You're right Frank but, I see I also mis wrote. I ment to say High Speed Steel tooling such as endmills and turning tools and Stellite tools also.
They usualy give a dull red spark with little or no bursting.
   - merl - Wednesday, 01/28/09 23:57:07 EST

I hope everyones' doing well, I'm in the process of switching my blacksmith hobby to an actual buisness. Tomarrow I will be puting a nice AD in the local newspaper for advertisment and I will be regeristing it as an actual buisness in the state of Utah.

The only problem is I can't come up with a name for my company. I now its somwhat a person decison, but does anyone guidlines or suggestions to fallow.
Also, do any of you guys have any advice on starting a blacksmithing buisness - things to do/not to do.
I want to do things the best I can. Thanks

   - John L. - Thursday, 01/29/09 00:04:32 EST

Indian Chief Vise,,, Thanks for the info, it was very interesting. All of you do a great job on this site,,, THANKS again!! ,,,DJ
   DJ - Thursday, 01/29/09 00:10:18 EST

Canedy Otto: I am sure they subbed some work out to others to have a full line of products. They also sold geared head floor model drill presses that were identical to other brands as well as Greenfield vices with their logo.

Champion sold Engine Lathes that they probably did not build as well. How many modern tool manufacturers make every tool in their line? Or any at all?
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 00:28:45 EST

Business Startup: John, We could write a book on this one. I've written on it numerous times and should REALLY have a FAQ. . . The first thing a small business consultant would ask is how much capital do you have? Is it enough to operate on AND pay yourself a salary for two years?

I know most businesses do not start that well capitalized but most startups also fail. It is just a comment I had to make because it IS the standard question.

Then there is Location, location, location. . . While this is not quite as important as it once was due to the Internet it is still important in regards to supplies it may also be important if you expect to do architectural work where you deal with the customer/contractor/architect.

Have you researched the local market? More lba bla bla. . .

Have you investigated the local regulations covering your business? Emissions, licensing, sales taxes, fire inspections. . . What is legal to do as a hobby is often not legal to do as a business. Are you REQUIRED to register as a business? Is a contractors license required if you do installations? What kind of insurance is required? Bonding? Lots of questions.

Are your hobby tools up to the task of being a professional full time business? Can you afford to replace them? Note that if you EVER have employees or workers in your shop you are libel for anything that happens to THEM as well as your tools they destroy (quite often). Is your shop suitable for the volume of work you NEED to produce? Do you have stock racks, assembly and painting areas? Is painting going to get you in trouble without a legal paint booth?

Does your shop have sufficient power to operate machinery up to at least 5hp (preferabbly 7.5 to 10)?

When you go into business you will find that even hand forged means production work and this means SPACE to stack cut stock, space to stack parts, space for assemblies in progress and finished assemblies, space to paint seperate from where you forge and grind. .

Is you shop a year round shop with good ventilation? I suspect you have heat since you are starting in the winter but is it enough when ventilating welding or painting fumes. can you afford the cost increase?


When bidding jobs NEVER low ball the bid to get the job thinking you can increase your rates later. Once you have established you are cheap EVERYONE will know it. The folks that buy hand made art WILL take advantage of you and will not respect you or recommend you. If the customer cannot afford YOU, then YOU cannot afford THEM.

Bid what the job is worth PLUS the art of it. IF you get the job and do a good job the customer will brag about you AND how much money they spent to their rich friends.

ALWAYS deliver on time even if you have to hire help or rent machinery! Rich folks ALL know each other, all contractors and architects work for those same rich folks and not delivering as promised is the death knell to an independent. Blacksmiths in general have a bad reputation in this regard and you do not even have ONE chance to screw up. Bid it RIGHT, set a doable schedule and be sure everything is in writing.
As to a business or product name? I've come up with names for several businesses including anvilfire and for clients (when their lack of imagination produced the worst imaginable names. .). It is NOT easy, sometime it takes months or never comes together at all. But you are the only one close enough to the subject to do it. Note one important thing. "A" comes before "B" in most lists. . . Farriers are listed under Blacksmiths and Blacksmiths under Ironworks in the yellow pages.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 01:07:55 EST

John L.
Starting a business is a lot harder than it may seem. First dont quit your day job. ;(( Have you made a business plan?
If not do that now! SBA has info on how to write one.
Make sure you either have or can do good accounting. Good records can make you, poor records can cost you everything you have.
Have you decided on your form of business, such as a Corp, LLC, Sole proprietor. Many businesses fail that are hobbies turned business. Mostly due to lack of understanding management. It also takes quite a while to become profitable. Do you know who SCORE is? Find them through the SBA, get an adviser. Then listen to him. Take a coarse in business operations from your local CC. You can usually get a night coarse. Make sure that you keep your personal finances separate from your business too!! Got insurance? One thing I may advise DONT paint your name on the side of your truck either, it just makes a target to aim at on the road. All the best to you and hammer away!!

   - Tmac - Thursday, 01/29/09 01:23:24 EST

More Business:

So, HOW DO YOU set your rates?

Many people do not have a clue and the result is chronic underbidding of jobs and never making a living. Jack Andrews' book Edge of the Anvil has some information on this and I've written on it many times.

Today, a FAIR living that you can pay for a house, feed the wife and kids, and do what generally needs to be done in middle class society takes about $50,000/year or MORE. When you figure your shop rates you always start with what you NEED, not what you wish or dream but what you NEED without lying to yourself.

So start with what you need. Then research and add all your costs (licenses, taxes, utilities, gas for the truck, truck payments, insurances, RENT). Note that there should ALWAYS be something for rent even if you do not and there should always be something to replace your vehicle and equipment (depreciation).

Take ALL the costs including your wages then divide by your productive shop time. Productive shop time is NEVER more than 1/2 of all hours worked. Use a normal 40 hour week divided by two, that means 1040 hours a year. All the rest of your time is spent selling yourself, getting the next job, doing book keeping, shop maintenance, honey do's. . .

On average that will give you $100/hour. Hey, there is a reason professionals like Doctors and Lawyers charge that much. . . they KNOW what it costs to do business. Please run YOUR numbers. Also run one without your labor and use a 40 hour week. This is your hourly overhead. . . good to know.

THEN when you bid a job, take time, materials and other related costs not in the overhead. You MIGHT make money if you don't miss the hours big time.

The hours to do a job depend a lot on your efficiency and at $100 to $200/hr you had better be darned efficient. I have good luck determining the time by breakeing every task down into the smallest possible component (carry stock to saw, measure, clamp, cut, debur, stack, repeat. . .) and totaling it all up. After a few jobs then experience sets in.

Steel and fuel costs have skyrocketed and so will your tools and new machinery. Rules of thumb you heard thrown around a decade or two ago now must be doubled or quadrupled. I recently told a friend the job he was doing should be bid at $500 per running foot (100% "traditional", all collared and riveted, lots of hand/machine forging no arc welding, relatively short but with curves and corners). He bid considerably less, struggled to finish the job and said I was right (A VERY hard thing for this friend to say).

If you think these numbers are out of line or that nobody would pay them then you are wrong AND in the wrong business. You will have to SELL these rates then justify them.

In the end there is a finite limit to what you can earn from your own labor. To make more you must hire employees or sub out work. Employees get paid less than you do but are often less energetic or less productive than yourself. Expect them to produce at half your rate. Often this means that hourly shop rates are the same for you as for them. You can make a little more money with a helper BUT they will add even more to your unproductive time. Often ONE employee is an expense and two or three MIGHT make you more than working on your own. It all depends on the class of work, the skills of the people you hire AND your management skills. Its the toughest part of running a business.

Credit: Besides all the caveats Tmac and I have listed do you have good credit? A credit card? It can be difficult to do business today without. Many suppliers that used to offer credit to anyone with an honest face and paid their first couple bills now require you have a credit card. . . You may need BOTH an account and a credit card to bill to at some suppliers.

Your Truck: The advice about not putting your name on your vehicle is good AND your insurance company may cancel OR increase your rates due to business use. My big truck comes under a commercial rate just because it IS a big truck. The agent said as long as it is personal use he could call it a farm truck (a different commercial class).

Ever wonder about weigh stations and if YOU are required to stop in your ton truck? I'm told NO if your do not have DOT numbers on the vehicle for commercial hire. IF DOT numbers are required AND you have them stop. If not the fees charged are for not having the numbers (even if not required) and thus your stupidity. . . Ask about your local situation. But this may also be affected by your painting a business name on an otherwise private vehicle.

Besides vehicles and the usual machinery I recently discovered (due to a new location) that a pneumatic tired folk lift may not just be something on your wish list. It may be a business necessity.

Odds and Ends: Doing lots of small pieces? Or many small pieces to be assembled into a large job? A vibratory finisher is often a good investment and does more, better, cheaper than a laborer with a grinder, file and sandpaper.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 02:07:32 EST

Another business factor to consider is if your state requires the collection of state sales taxes on your output. Mine does, but only for items delivered within the state. I had to obtain a state sales tax exemption form and account. It exempts me from state sales taxes on items bought for sale or reuse (e.g., steel stock). I have to turn over the state sales taxes to the state quarterly as I don't sell much within my state.

I also have a local business license since the county collects it's share of the state sales tax separately.

I figure I net out of my Internet business about $20 hour. Since it is a part-time business, and pocket money to other income, it is an acceptable rate. However, I sure couldn't support a family off of it.

I also had a suitable shop building already so don't include the cost of it in my calculations. It had been depreciated against my farm, rather than Internet business.

My guess is you basically should have a Bachelors in Fine Art, with a speciality in metal working, and with a sub-major in Business Administration.

In your business name you might want to include Forge. Implies hand-worked items (e.g., Provo Forge & Ironworks).
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/29/09 03:54:56 EST

On the Indian Motorcycle Company I seem to recall Harley-Davidson once produced a motorcycle named the Indian or perhaps Indian (something).
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/29/09 03:56:38 EST

I'm thinking about buying a piece of 1045 steel and using the stick welder at work to hard face it.
Its only a small peice weighing 24kg (52 pounds).
It will be 100 *100 *300mm (4 *4 *12 inches) laying on its side to give me a face 100 mm by 300 mm.
I'm still only just getting all my tools together and I just wanted to hear what people thought of this as a first makeshift anvil.
And if anyone with the experience could give me a few pointers in a sure method of hard facing a piece of steel like this with an arc welder?
   Luke Cooper - Thursday, 01/29/09 05:09:54 EST

On leg vises, one cannot assume all of the parts are original. For example one finds a good vise but without the mounting hardware. They then find a junker, but with useable mounting hardware.

I suspect all Indian Chiefs were made by CF&I and all with the depressed triangle with a raised C by Columbian Hardware. They were likely wholesaled to various distributors.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/29/09 09:14:12 EST

Indian motorcycles was a separate company. I took a long ride on a 1947 Indian (great motorcycle) when I was a lad. Harley Davidson got a semi-bailout in the 80's when prohivitive tariffs were placed on certain sized imported bikes. Otherwise, they may've petered out like Indian did.

Ken, why CF&I? Did you ever look at 'em? They look like Columbian Hardware, a different outfit.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/29/09 09:22:06 EST

I have a hydraulic setup I'd like to use for mushing metal. It's a 2 hp 3 phase motor, valve handle and a burly ram that's about 1.5" dia with a throw of about 4 in. I don't have 3 phase so my question is, can I hook up the pump to my 1935 international harvester 2hp hit and miss engine? I guess the only hurdle I see is the engine runs at 300-500 rpm and the electric motor ran at something like 3750 rpm. I could step up the speed but maybe it won't have enough torque at that point. Any thoughts?
   speedy - Thursday, 01/29/09 10:03:53 EST

Make Do Anvil: Luke, There is no need to use SAE 1045 steel for an anvil body unless you are going to directly harden that. Flame hardening that steel would make it as hard or better than most good anvils. If you are going to apply hard face rod then start with structural grade plate.

Applying and grinding down the hardface rod is quite labor intensive. You might consider spending a little more time looking for a good used anvil or even a crummy used anvil. One of our guys is selling an old broken but quite heavy anvil (see the Hammer-In) for $50. I'm going to snag it if nobody else does. . .

The small anvil you are planning will work quite well due to the compact mass. Embed it well into a suitable stand and it will be the forging equivalent of a 100 pound traditional anvil with horn and heel.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 10:07:44 EST

Low-Ball Bids:

The government improves slowly and incrementally, but there are imnprovements. One of the best, lately, is the evaluation of bids, even in a low-bid situation, where we can throw out bids that we consider "unrealistic" The few times I've been involved in this, it has been low-ball bids.

I consider that I'm doing both sides a favor: On the bidder's side we are usually saving the bidder from him or herself. On the government's side it saves us from having to haggle over corners cut, delivery time, materials substitutions, and additional costs (a process that needs to take place before the contract is signed, and which, subsequent to the signing, can only be described as comparable to being "nibbled to death by ducks").

We see a lot of protests in government contracting, but tossing out the more egregious low-balls is seldom contested, which I consider very telling.

Back to the work of the republic!

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 01/29/09 10:23:25 EST

Hit or miss: Speedy, Maybe but probably not. The HP equivalents between electric and internal combustion engines is not one to one and I have a feeling the load characteristics of the hydraulic pump and the hit-or-miss engine are not compatible. Just my gut feeling.

A 2 HP hydraulic system is not much when it comes to working metal. However, it depends on what you are doing. Hot work requires a lot of horsepower because of the speed needed as well as force. Cold work can wait and be quite slow without a serious issues. You can cold bend, punch and do all kinds of things at slow speed. But hot work requires speed because the work is cooling and heat is transferring into the dies. Then again, everything is a matter of scale. Two HP can be a LOT of power. . or not nearly enough.

Increasing speed is common but 10:1 is a big jump that usually requires two stages (2.5:1 and 4:1 or 3.2:1 twice). Step up arrangements are typically high friction and can easily use up 10% of your incoming power.

I'd search around for a good single phase 2HP motor. If you did the step up you would probably be scrounging parts and scrounging the motor may cost you any more than the drive parts.

Something to consider. Things can often go wrong with machinery, especially DIY and hydraulics. Being able to stop them quickly is important. The heavy flywheels of the hit or miss engines do not stop easily. Safety is one of the biggest benefits of small motors on machines.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 10:31:47 EST

Folks the Indians were "motocycles" not "motorcycles" sheesh and I thought y'all were an the ball...

Luke; a damage large forklift tine should get you an improvised anvil at a cheaper rate than buying spec'd steel and should already be at a proper hardness for a beginning anvil. Welding and grinding rapidly drives costs way up often exceeding the cost of another anvil in better shape to start with.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/29/09 10:50:11 EST

I had a feeling that was the answer. just think it woulda been nice to mix the old and new technologies. Hmmm maybe the hit and miss would be just the ticket to power a junk yard hammer. Although a nice novelty, a hit and miss power hammer taking up precious real estate in your shop should work everytime and not have to fuss with gas, cranking etc. Guess I should keep the hit and misses on the carts and not in the shop.
   speedy - Thursday, 01/29/09 10:51:01 EST

Naming a business:
I'm just a hobby guy that sells a few items if they are something I'm interested in doing.
I agree with the "add Forge to the name"
Is there a play on words you can use with your name? My last name is Cunningham so "Cunning Hammer Forge" or Slypig Metal works or forge come to mind. Are you near a significant land mark? Example: Angel Arch Forge would get you near the top of phone book and search engines on the net.
   Willy Cunningham - Thursday, 01/29/09 12:28:54 EST

Frank: I'm going by what Richard Postman says in Anvils in America. Had CF&I not gone with the Trenton name on their anvils they would have likely gone with either Buel or Indian Chief - the name they used on their leg vises.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/29/09 12:37:54 EST

Thomas P & Folks,

I'm not hip to moto-cycles or where you're coming from, but I can tell you that the 1940's and 1950's Indians were just as hoggy as any Harley. My trip was on a big motorcycle with fat enough tires, saddle bags, front and back curvilinear fenders. It was a road bike and not made for delivery boys.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/29/09 12:48:52 EST

John L., I can't help with business ideas, but I do have a suggestion. Please don't take this personally, but you probably should have someone proofread your ad before you place it. It depends on the paper, but they might not do it for you. Your post has enough "creative" spelling to make it look like you prefer spending time in the shop to honing writing skills. And you're in real good company, as some of the best smiths I know would get slapped with a ruler back in parochial school for their spelling and grammar.

But if you're putting something in the paper to attract customers, it would be most attractive if all the words matched the readers' opinions of how they should be spelled and strung together.
   - Marc - Thursday, 01/29/09 13:43:14 EST

Spelling Errors - Business Names: back in the 1940's my Dad worked as a graphic artist. Among his designs still used today is the Piggly-Wiggly Pig. One of his jobs was to do the fancy script logo for a local Cincinnati laundry which was to be printed on thousands of laundry bags. His misspelling of "Laundry" was not spotted until AFTER they were all printed. . . This is surprisingly common when artists are concentrating more on the art than on the spelling. . .

Writing ad copy is an art. It is something I am not very good at but better than many. So I often get stuck doing it for clients.

Branding: The whole area of a business name, logos, ads and such comes under the topic of "branding". Everything from the font and color's used on a web site and logo to the images used are part of branding. There are experts that do this and smart businesses pay for it and follow it. Its not just your name, its your identity.

A business name is not just the words. It also becomes the representative logo, symbol or touchmark. Who in the world does not recognize the Chevrolet sloped cross logo. . .

Your URL: Today a business name may also become your web address. Once you come up with that name you need to do a search for it. The Internet name game is vicious with name merchants holding ANY word or combination of words that they think will be profitable in the future. If you are lucky and your choice is not in use then grab it. If it is held by a name merchant it may cost you $500 to $1000 for a sub-prime name or many thousands for one considered above average OR that has lots of links to it from its previous use.

Your Name: Often you can register your business under your name as a sole proprietor and do nothing else. But if you pick a name such as "Iron Mountain Forge", this is an alias and many states require you to register the alias and include DBA (doing business as) on all documents. Your bank will give you an account under "Your Name blacksmithing" but to get that "Iron Mountain" put on your checks you may have to be registered with the county or state OR be incorporated under the same.

So just coming up with a business name is not the end. Its just the beginning. After some research you may find there are hundreds using your selected name. Yes, it may be legal for you to use it in your state but it may be a problem elsewhere and defrinitely confusing on the web. Think of something else. Its your NEW identity and you may be stick with it for a long time. It can also be expensive to change if you step on someone else's trademark.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 15:28:15 EST

"Originally manufactured under the corporate banner of the Hendee Manufacturing Company, which was later reincorporated as the Indian Motocycle Company" from indianmotorcycle.com/History

It's a history thing: the company that made Indians was the Motocycle not Motorcycle company way back when they ruled the American motorcycle market. My father still talks about the time he was in grade school and the chief of police stopped by on his official police indian and gave him a ride.

The amount of junk trivia that has built up in my mind makes me feel good in that I can lose half of it and only seem more normal...why are all those folks waving pitchforks and torches outside my window?

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/29/09 15:39:27 EST

Yeah I'm still looking for a second hand anvil but I'm in Australia and they are fairly rare here. I've found one supplier I can buy a new one off but I don't have the cash for that yet and I want to do some of the bounce test and stuff like that on them first.

whats the best way to do a flame harden on something like what I want to use as my make shift anvil. I've got access to an oxy torch.
   Luke Cooper - Thursday, 01/29/09 16:06:07 EST

Ice storm has me slammed. Genset/ outdoor wood heater back up after tree strike, power out. Writing from librabry
All safe
   ptree - Thursday, 01/29/09 16:30:07 EST

re: spark test on anvil, the plate spark is long ,straigt w/about 4 levels of sparklers, looks to me like lotsa carbon there. Base is straight at ends ,convex at sides. there is a handling hole at the front mid base of the leg,and one under the beak,and one under the heel. this anvil rings very well , particularly when struck lightly on the sides of heel and beak. echoing about 4 times after being struck.
   adam buch - Thursday, 01/29/09 16:56:19 EST

Adam, Sounds like a good old anvil. Enjoy it.

Ptree, Glad you are hanging in there. We were lucky but folks at home are having power trouble as well.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/29/09 17:42:06 EST

Jeff, glad you are OK. I hate ice storms; we even get them in Houston once in a while.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 01/29/09 18:57:17 EST

Thomas, best remove the bolts from your neck before you venture outside.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 01/29/09 18:58:40 EST

Speedy -- A PTO hydraulic pump would have the right speed rating to use with the hit-or-miss. Wouldn't solve the other possible problems. But if one fell in your lap, you could try it.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/29/09 20:23:37 EST

Speedy: Be carefull when You use a hit & miss engine to do real work. They need to "miss" even at full load, or the exhaust valve will burn.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 01/29/09 20:39:00 EST

Thanks for all the advice from everyone. The info has helped alot already. The news paper thats doing the add for me is helping me with the designing and proofreading it for me, so it should be pretty good. All the comments have been very helpful. I will let everyone know how things turn out.
   - John L. - Thursday, 01/29/09 21:37:14 EST

With business names and URLs etc.- I know less about computers than I do about blacksmithing but any misspelling in a name on the net might mean people will miss you altogether. Imagine spelling farrier as farier. Anybody looking for the former would probeably miss the latter. Wasn't there a guy who was advertising an anvil on ebay who misspelt anvil?
   philip in china - Thursday, 01/29/09 21:40:08 EST

Speedy, you would be better off to get a "static phase converter" wired up to your 3 phase motor rather than your old "bark n bounce"
I even built my own rotory phase converter for the 3 phase equipment in my shop. Works great.
If you want to really cheap out you could just get your 3phase motor started with a single phase poney motor and once it is up to speed you cut on the single phase power to the 3 phase motor and cut off the power to the single phase motor. The 3 phase motor only requires the third leg or phase to get started.
If you really wanted to incorperate your hit and miss into the mix you might consider setting things up as a line shaft but, you would likely need more than what your IH can give you. The blacksmith shop at the Dodge County Antique Power Club show grounds has a line shaft to run the power hammer and the grinders that is run with a 10hp Russel that belongs to one of the members. It works well but, we can't run the 12" pedistal grinder and the hammer at the same time.
I'm not sure if the engine doesn't have enough power or needs to be running faster...
   - merl - Thursday, 01/29/09 23:34:28 EST

Thomas P, all those folks with pitch forks and torches are the former Wisconsin riff-raff I warned you about.
I told you to be sure to lock your doors...
   - merl - Thursday, 01/29/09 23:46:27 EST

Misspellings and URLs: One method porn sites and link traps use to steal traffic is common misspellings of various web addresses. They use common typos as well. One fellow was taking all kinds of misspellings including those of children's sites and forwarding them to porn sites. He went to jail.

When we register addresses for businesses we register multiples for the obvious mistakes and assumptions. Take BigBLU Hammer. We also registered bigbluehammer.com. For others we often register both the singular and the plural as well as .NET and .ORG. It depens on how much the business is willing to pay to protect their identity.

One serious mistake is making a typo when you register a domain name. The fee's are not refundable and THEY are not responsible for your stupidity. You break (misspell) it, you buy it.

Its all part of modern business.

   - guru - Friday, 01/30/09 00:07:19 EST

This one really gualls me:

If you try to go to the whitehouse and type in whitehouse.com you get a porn site. You need to type in whitehouse.gov to arrive at your destination. How many students and children have made that mistake?? Very sad thing.

HMMmmmmmmmmm....someone seems to know a great deal about porn sites and link traps?? I am totally joking ;)
   - Rustymetal - Friday, 01/30/09 01:29:29 EST

Got off the phone with A&S Steel here in Philly. I asked for 316L steel (my fave) in 3/16 round. She said they don't carry it and wondered why I needed the "L". I said it's lower carbon than plain 316 and forges easier. She tells me that the "L" doesn't mean low carbon, rather it means there is lead alloyed into it. I didn't want to argue, she's been running the company for decades. But all the resources I have say otherwise. Not only is 316L about 3 points lower in carbon than plain, but isn't the letter "P" used to designate lead? I wouldn't believe that an implant grade material contains lead.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 01/30/09 08:47:21 EST

Nippulini, for ten points.

The woman you talked to is wrong, but most of the time she is right.

You see, many alloys of higher carbon steel are available as an "L", which does, indeed, mean they have lead in them. This makes them machine much easier, and many machine shops specify, and pay extra for, "L" alloys.

But in Stainless steel, the "L" means low carbon, just like you think.

Most metal supply houses automatically think Lead, as they sell so much more leaded steel alloys than low carbon stainless.
   - Ries - Friday, 01/30/09 10:23:26 EST

Leaded Steels: Nip, I made this mistake myself many years ago. The L in 316L and 308L DOES indicate lower carbon. None of the stainlesses listed in the ASM Metals Reference Book have lead. However, in some SAE steels such as 12L14 the L stands for Lead. In fact any SAE steel could be desiginated a leaded free machining steel by putting an L in the middle of the two figure groups such as 10L20 would be leaded mild steel.

In alloying charts the standard periodic table abreviations for elements are used. P = Phosphorus, Pb = Lead (Plumbum in Latin). The only odd ball is in old American references where . . . can't find it this AM. . .

Where things get hazy is with proprietary brand designated steels. Manufacturers do all kinds of odd ball stuff adding letters to indicate THEIR special grade of metal. It is a bad practice but it is still done. For this kind of thing you have to search large references such as Woldman's or the expensive German Key to Steel (I have both and rarely use them, you are welcome to stop by and look. . .).

A good source for your small SS rod is a welding supplier. I buy all my small SS as TIG welding rod. On top of being available in many alloys it is probably chemically more accurate than common production grades of stainless.
   - guru - Friday, 01/30/09 10:34:55 EST

Niobium AKA Columbium: That is the odd ball in alloying. In the US we still call element 41 Columbium (Cb) primarily in metallurgy but the rest of the world calls it Niobium (Nb). This is not universal but is still common.
Confusion compounded
Excerpted from The Curious Case of Columbium by Peter E. Childs

Both names for element 41 are still in use. The official IUPAC name is niobium (Nb), adopted as late as 1950, but the North Americans always called it columbium and in the metals industry they still do. Why this name should have persisted in this way across the Atlantic is a mystery, as is the persistence in using it despite international agreement to call it niobium. The fact that it was named after its America and its American origin is probably sufficient explanation.

Hatchett's reputation in Great Britain and Europe was as a mineral analyst, but he also applied his skills to the analysis of shell, bone and dental enamel. He also did work in natural product chemistry and Thomas Thomson lamented his loss to chemistry as a result of the "baneful effects of wealth and business cares".

No doubt his absorption is his business affairs ensured that he hadn't the time or the inclination to answer Wollaston's criticisms of his work and to defend his discovery of columbium. If he had done so, and shown that tantalum and columbium were different elements as was done later, then we would all be calling element no.41 columbium and not niobium.

The interesting aspect of this whole affair is the persistence of this name in North America even today, despite the fact that Hatchett wasn't an American! For example, the Mineral Commodity Summaries from the U.S. Department of the interior refers to the metal as Columbium (Niobium).

It is also odd that the early editions of Machinery's Handbook used Niobium but when it started to be used in alloying they list Cb. . .

   - guru - Friday, 01/30/09 10:48:49 EST

John L: Some late suggestions:

Make arrangements to attend one of Frank Turley's full blacksmithing courses. Haven't been there but have heard only good things about it. And he has turned out some dang good smiths today.

After that, before starting out on your own, you might want to work in an ornamental ironworking shop which actually does forging. Bill Callaway in Pheonix, AZ comes to mind. Not sure how to contact him but the contact point for the Arizona Blacksmithing Ass'n should be able to refer you.

If you say you can't afford additional training or working for someone else for a while, likely you shouldn't consider going into business for yourself.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 01/30/09 11:33:23 EST

Thanks for the suggestions Ken, I am actually planning on attending Mr. Turley's school. It seems to be quite popular and a great help for setting a foundation in blacksmithing. Do you know if Bill Callaway is interested in any helpers?
   - John L. - Friday, 01/30/09 14:02:32 EST


So how are your persimmon trees doing? ;-)

My trouble is that between family, friends and coworkers, no matter what goes down in the U.S. (and sometimes in the rest of the world), someone I know is usually in the way.

Hang in there, and I hope things clear-up/clean-up soon.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 01/30/09 14:06:07 EST

The persimmon trees are mtuff, none have split or failed.The ones falling are short leaf southern pines, the populars have shead limbs, and the ash's split right down the middle.
So far so good. The power company threatened power back by the end of the weekend. I intend to be up offering the guys coffee as soon as they show up. They work a ons of hours in horrible conditions and a couple of pots of hot coffee work wonders at getting the job done:)
   ptree - Friday, 01/30/09 15:19:16 EST

Bill Callaway's shop is called Phoenix Forge- its on Tonto, south of downtown a little bit. You can google it, to get the address and phone number.

   - Ries - Friday, 01/30/09 15:40:50 EST

I know Bill only through his being a demonstrator at one of the Quad-States at the Studebaker Homestead. I know Dorothy Steigler was at one time, and perhaps still is, working with him. Difficult to judge against history, but Dorothy may well be the finest female blacksmith of all times.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 01/30/09 17:13:46 EST

In college I had a pretty decent shop setup in a friend's barn, with a home-made coal forge and a scrap-yard 650lb slab anvil. Things change, and now I find myself setting up all over again in my own garage, where burning coal is out of the question.

I have eyes on the "Poor Boy" propane forge from the sponsor link here and I've built a stand to hold a 22" length of Railroad Rail on it's end at anvil height and (on the same stand) my post vice. After finally finishing the stand for the Railroad rail, I've come across a ~110lb 6"x6"x12" square block that looks promising. The price seems a little high ($125), but it's close by and cheaper (by far) than most 100lb anvils I've come across here in Franklin, TN.

So my question is - stick with the railroad rail or modify the stand for the 110lb block? It'd all be for just general ornamental hobby work. Candle holders, hose guides and the occasional knife dabbling of any young hobby smith.

Saddly, the wife has veto'd the 650lb slab anvil from the old shop. Some nonsense about her car fitting in the garage, or something. She's been awefully tolerant of the idea of the propane forge, though, so I'm pretty lucky there. The steel rose was a wise investment.

- Bob
   - RJL - Friday, 01/30/09 17:26:28 EST

Ken, I like Dorothy, and her work is great- but before you go tossing around "greatest", I have a LOONG list of other women blacksmiths you ought to consider in the running.

Like Corinna Mensoff, Megan Crowley, Elizabeth Brim, Susan Madasci, Mindy Gardner, Lorelei Sims, Junko Mori, Lauren Osmolski, Kelly Gilliam, Lynda Metcalfe, Mary Gioia, and Maria Cristalli.

Thats just a quick few off the top of my head. I have met at least another 2 dozen here in the USA, and I know there are dozens and dozens more, here and abroad. There is a large female contingent of blacksmiths in the UK, for example.

You wanna see a woman who can hold her own against all comers, go to www.lyndametcalfe.com

   - Ries - Friday, 01/30/09 17:46:27 EST

Bob; get the 650#'r cut in half...

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/30/09 18:06:07 EST


Believe me, it crossed my mind. The bridge to the barn washed out about 5 years ago, so getting a truck back there is pretty difficult.. and getting a truck back out with a 650lb chunk of steel in the back would be an education in failure. Add to that the fact that the slab isn't mine to begin with, (it belongs to a fellow hobbiest that used to work up there with me) and that's just not an option.

Barring that, I'd cut it into 1/3rds and sell the other two chunks to fellow anvil-less smiths.

- Bob
   - RJL - Friday, 01/30/09 18:22:10 EST

Bob, I would go for the 125# block AND the RR-rail. . . It has some useful shapes but is too light and springy for real forging anything other than very small stuff.
   - guru - Friday, 01/30/09 18:34:25 EST

Well, that would make a lot of sense.

I'd guess the block will probably annoy the neighbors a lot less, too. Even strapped down tight, the ring of the Rail is enough to raise the hairs on my neck.

Thanks Guru. You've got an amazing resource here. Anvilfire has been part of my daily routine for years.

- Bob

PS: Redid the math on the dimensions of the big anvil (6"x18"x28") and it's closer to 850lb. I'm suddenly not so surprised the bridge collapsed shortly after the old pickup dragged that beast across.
   - RJL - Friday, 01/30/09 18:45:08 EST


Sink 18" of you RR in a cylinder full of water, sand, or concrete, leaving 4" exposed. That will stop the ring.

My larger fork lift anvil [http://marco-borromei.com/fork.html] rang like a bell until we stood it up on a kitchen trash can full of water with some carpet scrap under the foot. Now its at the right height, quiet, and we have a convenient quench tank.
   Mike/Marco - Friday, 01/30/09 20:03:19 EST

I'd love to have a tumbler to remove scale, but have not done anything about it to date. So when pursuing Boeing Surplus I was interested in the listing for a tumbler. See https://active.boeing.com/assocproducts/surplus/ItemDetails.cfm?auctionID=8921&pageID=m43401
Interested until I read it runs at 50hp. I think I could drop in an old rusty tractor in and have it come out clean and shiny. Not sure what any mortal smith would do with it, but I thought some would be interested in knowing about it. It is only 250 miles or so away from Ries shop, wonder if it would fit? ;-)
   Bob Johnson - Friday, 01/30/09 23:19:40 EST

John: I turned pro this past year myself, opened a small shop in a former forge, and would be glad to discuss in detail from recent experience. Email me at link below. ALso, if you have not already, get a copy of Nol Putnam's short essay "Blacksmithing as a Business". Absolutely the best primer I have ever read on doing any art or craft as a business. It is posted at http://www.anvilmag.com/smith/blcasabs.htm or I can email it to you. Much of what he writes has been set down here, particularly in Guru's longer post, but Nol puts it all together in a partuculalry useful, cogent piece. Nol, BTW runs what most people think of as a traditional shop, in a rural but very well-heeled community in northern Virginia. Probably a lot of similarities to where you are.
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/31/09 06:47:20 EST

I am getting away from the Colonial repro motif that has been (emphasis on "has") into some original designs that are more in the Cratsman mode. Looking in particular at some copper and bronze colors patinas on some Stickley stuff and wondering how to duplicate the effect. A pair of andirons that sold recently (for 250k-plus!) were described as "copper plated" but looked more like the effect of hot brass-brushing, but in bronze. Just highlights and variab;e tones, with most of the iron tones showing. Any ideas on how to achieve this? I have tried bronze wool at the same temp as brass brushing, but without any effect. Wondering why it would work with brass and not bronze. Function of zinc vs tin? I know about some bronze/brown patinas, but Stickleys effect sems to be more of a plating/hot application, with mainly highlights, which lets the iron through rather than covering completely.
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/31/09 07:01:18 EST


I'm just guessing, but I'd think that a brush would have less contact area than bronze wool, since only the end of the ends of the "bristles" touch. Also, it's easier to apply force to hot steel from the end of a brush handle than by pressing on a wad of wool. More total force and less contact area makes a lot more PSI. That might be why the brush works and the bronze wool doesn't. But it could be the alloy, too.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 01/31/09 10:37:04 EST

Gentlemen, I have a question on running brass:
I made some drawer pulls for a desk. I cut some 1/4" slabs off an 1 1/4" round A36 bar. I chisel cut the customer's brand into one side (open A, backwards lazy L), and tigged a 10-24 coupling on the other. I then soaked the pulls in acid to clean off fire scale, soaked in soda water, then wire brushed. The smallest brass rod I could find locally was 3/32 with flux on it. I used a small torch to flow brass into the depression made by the chisel. I ground the extra brass off the face leaving the brand showing. It worked fine except for tiny air bubbles showed up in the brass. What can I do to get rid of these bubbles?
   tbird - Saturday, 01/31/09 11:21:43 EST

"Copper Plating" This may be simple use of copper sulphate solution on a wire brushed surface. Copper flashing is the thin starting plate for other plating methods.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 12:47:42 EST

Tbird, The hotter the braze joint the more porosity, the longer it stays hot the more porosity. It helps to preheat the part more and the brass less, keep the amount of fill low and cool quickly. Be sure to have your torch flame a little more carburizing than neutral.

Cleanliness of the base metal reduces foaming as well. I would also check to be sure that the brazing rod you use is listed as "low fuming". This may help.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 13:11:06 EST


I always have borax in the shop, so when using unfluxed rod, I heat the end of the rod to a dark red and dip it into the borax. The borax will cling to the rod.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 01/31/09 14:15:52 EST

Peter Hirst: Thanks for the information. I have printed off a copy of Nol's essay and will read it. Also, I would appreciate hearing any of your experiences. I will email you my adress today. Thanks.
   - John L. - Saturday, 01/31/09 14:35:34 EST

Does anyone know where I can get firebrick to repair the hearth for my NC Whisperbaby? I don't need the entire reline kit but my hearth is cracking and falling apart.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 01/31/09 17:00:57 EST

OK, Maybe I do need the whole reline kit. This little forge is almost 8 years old and still using original refractories. Guru, does my memory fail me or did you and Paw Paw not reline one of these some years back?
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 01/31/09 17:23:12 EST

NC TOOL Forges: QC, We rebuilt one completely using a kit and another just making repairs. There is an iForge demo on rebuilding an NC-TOOL Forge.

The original floor in many NC's is 1" of Kaowool Board and a 1" thick fired refractory pan (part). The replacement in the kit we used and what is in the new NC's is 2" of castable refractory.

My Whisper Baby is due for a tune up again. I added a rear exhaust deflector to keep the burner from sucking in exhaust fumes and it is quite rusty. It needs some ITC-213 and a coat of bar-b-que black. Birds or mice got into it and I need to repair a hole in the insulation shell.

   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 17:44:07 EST

FYI, in case anyone is interested, there is a Mayer Trip Hammer on Craigslist in Marlinton ,W.V. under the tools listings. Enjoy !
   gary shaw - Saturday, 01/31/09 18:01:32 EST

I Hate Mice in the Forge!

The plug for my Whisper Baby gas forge (the "Baby Balrog") is wood, so I sometimes forget to insert it after the forge cools down. (Yes, I know that I should make something metal or ceramic; probably after the next 50 tasks on my to-do list. ;-) However, I usually leave the door all-the-way open when it's cooling and I don't have the plug in; and (to date) they never bother it when it's in that configuration. I guess they need a certain amount of privacy to do their evil toothsome tasks, and feel too exposed with the door wide open. The brass/bronze smelter, on the other hand, has all sorts of plates in place to keep the beggars out between meltings.

So far no owls are about at the new site, and it's too cold for the snakes. Given that the beggars can get in through any crack that you can slip a pencil through, I know the new place isn't mouse proof, but neither was the old place.

"Here owl, here girl! I'm building a nice house for you!"
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 01/31/09 18:03:04 EST

My WB forge is a model 3 which has the large refractory brick hearth. I assume that is what the reline kit for the model 2 has. Their website lists only a kit for the model 2. The rest of the lining is in fair shape so I wonder if I could just use some refractory cement to patch up the craters that have developed when I removed the melted scale? Not that I don't want a good reason to order a new forge that will actually get to welding heat!!!!
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 01/31/09 18:14:43 EST

Copper Plating: I dunno, Guru. I understand iron will immersion plate in copper sulfate, but with no adhesion to speak of, even with a little current running. Prep has to be squeaky NAOH clean. The Stickley pieces just have the look of a heat process, like brass highlighting. I may end up at a plating shop. Mike: Brass bristles are very fine and lie flat when stroked on the iron like apint brush. At the right heat, you can feel the brass grab the iron with almost no pressure. Also, I had the bronze wool in an applicator/holder, using a range of pressure and temp. No effect at all below the melting temp of the bronze, above that, it acts like super thin brazing rod, but that's a whole different process.
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/31/09 18:32:09 EST

Peter, There have been "brush" plating systems for plating repair that might work for artistic use. Used a brush, electolyte with disolved metal and a power source. . .

Then again what you could be looking at is a real electroplate job that was masked (like etching). There are many very creative methods to doing things like this.

If it doesn't have to take heat, paint it. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 19:05:11 EST

Bronze on Steel: AND then there is spray metallizing. This used to be done with an oxy-acetylene torch and a supply of powdered metal. The torch would nearly vaporize the metal (as they don in modern plasma systems) and heat the base metal so that it would stick. All kinds of metals were applied much like using a spray gun.

I do not know if these systems are still available but I know they currently do it with plasma. Applying aluminum over steel is a common plasma spray technique. Other non-ferrous metals should also work. Needs serious ventilation and a respirator.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 19:26:12 EST

Power is on, life is good!
   ptree - Saturday, 01/31/09 19:43:14 EST

TA DA! Great News. . . But reports say to brace for the NEXT storm.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 19:56:25 EST

I was wondering if I could use an old propane bbq to make my self a coal forge? If I line it with fire bricks. I also have a old bird bath that is solid Iron and is a good size. I use to use the bird bath for fire during the summer.
   - Joseph - Saturday, 01/31/09 19:56:50 EST

Spray metalizing is still common. Powdered bronze is upwards of $100/pound and there can be considerable waste.
   John Christiansen - Saturday, 01/31/09 20:48:49 EST

Conversions to Gas Forge: Joseph, This is not practical for a number of reasons. The primary reason is the regulator is very limiting and the burner as well. Small gas forges require much more powerful burners than a grill. The second reason is that most are made of aluminum which may or may not take the heat. The forge will be operating at over two times the melting point of aluminum. Any part that is not properly isolated will melt and if it falls into the forge you wil have a very nasty aluminum fire. Last, most small forges are insulated with light weight refractory, not heavy dense fire bricks. This reduces fuel consumption and heat up time. It also keeps the shell cooler. Fire bricks ARE NOT insulation. They are heat resistant. They still conduct heat very well and may result in overheating the shell and making it uncomfortable to be near.

Now, it CAN be done. I just don't recommend it. There are better ways that have a much higher probability of working.

The bird bath MIGHT make an OK (not great) coal or charcoal forge.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 23:01:22 EST

Unless his fingers slipped, Joseph was asking about making a *coal* forge from a bbq. I guess you could, but it wouldn't really be the right shape, and by the time you built the tuyere, you might as well find a plate (table) to mount it to.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 02/01/09 07:52:39 EST

Working too late. . eyes getting old. . . But Mike is right, the shape is not good. The bird bath might be better but may also be difficult to make a hole for air to enter. See our brake drum forge plans for typical arrangements.

Note that coal forges because they are open and the heated gases generally move UP do not need a lot of insulation in the bottom unless built on a wood frame. Aluminum will not do at all.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/01/09 09:30:22 EST

[ CSI - anvilfire MEMBERS Group | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]
Counter    Copyright © 2009 Jock Dempsey, www.anvilfire.com Cummulative_Arc GSC

Get anvilfire.com GEAR.

Get anvilfire.com GEAR.