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 1 - 7, 2010 on the Guru's Den
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I don't think there's a huge market for USED gas forges. The refractory inside's a fairly expensive consumable, and other parts deteriorate with time and use. Most folks probably end up buying new or building their own.

If you find a used one for sale, made sure the refractory's in good shape (or there's an appropriate price adjustment. Also make sure it works right, especially if it's home built. It's not hard to build a forge that *looks* right but doesn't work, and troubleshooting can be frustrating.

Of course, now that I've discouraged you, you'll discover that your next-door neighbor ordered one, used it twice, and then took up macrame. . .
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/01/10 07:02:37 EST

As the guru pointed out, there are plenty of new ones available if you want to go that way.
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/01/10 07:03:42 EST

Bigfoot, here is the link to Ken's store: http://stores.ebay.com/Poor-Boy-Blacksmith-Tools
The commercial manufacturers build fine forges but they must ask a lot of money for them. Ken clearly identifies his products as being for the amature smith and they are much less expensive although quite functional. Ken is one of the few eBay merchants I trust.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 01/01/10 07:44:03 EST

thanks for the advice. i was hoping to buy used (it's in my (cheap/ im 16) nature.). It am torn between the whisper momma and one of MR. Sharbucks knifemaker forges (his is cheaper but the whisper momma can in theory weld, even if it is only throwing in a refractory brick, which would work for both).
   bigfoot - Friday, 01/01/10 10:13:39 EST


Everyone's situation is different, but welding capability shouldn't necessarily be the deciding factor. I weld occasionally in my home-build forge (a one-burner atmospheric), but probably wouldn't if I had a solid-fuel forge set up. If I took up welding billets, I'd probably build a blown forge, and look at some of the floorless designs some knifemakers use to deal with the flux problem.

Gas consumption is also something to keep in mind. If I'm forging regularly, a 20# bottle lasts me 1 to 2 weeks. At the prices I'm paying, that could be as much as $1000 a year. The Whisper Daddy at my guild forge can come close to emptying a bottle in an evening (of course, it's usually well past midnight before we chase everyone out). I'm not sure how Ken's forge stacks up against the Whisper Momma in that area, but buying too much forge can really cost you in the long run.
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/01/10 12:01:40 EST

Welding in most propane gas forges is not assured and those very economical forges start being much less than economical when pushed to forge weld. If I want to forge weld I'll build a coal or charcoal fire. But IF I wanted to weld billets I'd use a gas forge because the protected billets will weld under normal gas forge operating temperatures.

It's a matter of type of weld. If you want to weld tong reins or a leaf stem to something larger then you should plan on a solid fuel forge. Billets and feeding a power hammer are gas forge/furnace jobs.
   - guru - Friday, 01/01/10 12:10:33 EST

i hava had some experince forgeing , mainily rr spike knifes and the like, but i have been using exclusivly homade charcoal and i was considering switching over to coal. what are the main differences between the two and how is using coal different from using charcoal?
   Joseph Davidson - Friday, 01/01/10 13:05:43 EST

i was leaning towards MR. sharbucks forge, but the whisper baby might be the best for me. i mostly make little stuff so it will be a good size, and if i want big stuff i still have my massive forge left over (brake rotor fire pot and a champion 400 blower).
   bigfoot - Friday, 01/01/10 13:36:19 EST

Coal vs. Charcoal:

See Coal and Charcoal
See Coal Fire Maintenance

The primary difference between coal and charcoal is density. The density of coal helps create a more intense fire using less volume. But both burn as hot assuming good quality coal. While it requires more VOLUME of charcoal, pound for pound coal and charcoal have about the same fuel value.

The quality of coal varies in infinite variety from the best hottest burning fuel on earth to un-burnable black shale. Charcoal on the other hand is almost always the same IF it is well coaled.

Coal, even the best, makes a lot of noxious smoke while well coaled charcoal is almost smokeless and burns very clean.

Charcoal often makes little fire fleas that are a nuisance. But I will take the fire fleas over constant smoke of coal.

GOOD coal is getting more and more difficult to obtain.
   - guru - Friday, 01/01/10 15:50:25 EST

thank you your answer was very helpful
   Joseph Davidson - Friday, 01/01/10 16:43:41 EST

whsiper baby VS. Diamond back 1 burner knife maker forge: does anyone have an opinion on which is better for a first gas forge? thanks for the help and hahpy new year to all.
   bigfoot - Friday, 01/01/10 17:55:52 EST

Joseph Davidson, I have been using both coal and lump charcoal (store boughten) for a few years now and I can tell you that if I made my own charcoal I would use only that and not coal for just the reason the Guru sights, the noxious smoke and fumes.
I have accsess to a 12 ton pile of high quality coal at a cost of $100./800lbs. It is great stuff but the smoke it generates while it is getting up to coaking temperature is really bad. If I make enough coak from the last forging session to get the fire hot enough to make coak for this session then it's not bad but, if I have to start with raw coal it is a misery.
Part of the coal fire prosses is to turn your raw coal to coak befor trying to do any forging with it.
A good blacksmithing friend of mine makes his own hardwood charcoal and his methode produces almost no fire fleas but, as Guru points out, it takes a much greater volume of charcoal to make up the same pound of coal. They both burn just as hot but, you will be feeding the charcoal fire more often than the coal fire.
One solid advantage I find with coal over charcoal (and someone jump in here if they have other experience) is that I can make a nice hollow or "cave" fire with coal that I can't get with charcoal. 90% of the work I'm doing at this time goes best in a cave so I'm glad to have the coal I have.
After having said all that, I have to say that the next step for me is going to be a "treadle torch".
If you have never heard of this it is simply a O/A or O/propaline torch fixed in a floor stand and operated by a gas saver valve that is foot operated instead of being operated by lifting the torch off the hanger.
I have seen them used and I am very impressed. They are very easy to controle although, you would still set the torch valves to the desired setting and use the gas saver to turn it on and off as normal.
I have put in only a little over 25 hours at the forge over the last five days and I have been very carefull to get plenty of ventilation but I'm still blowin' black snot!
You could order a 50lb bag of good coal from Centuar Forge to try it out but, I would stick to the charcoal.
Good Luck!
   - merl - Friday, 01/01/10 22:36:55 EST

Meri, a couple of things. I think you get about the same per pound,it just takes a larger volume of charcoal. Cave fire with charcoal: Throw a scrap two-by's over the top.

Friend of mine made just what you're talking about. He used a twisted square bar going thru a square hole so when he stepped on the pedal the torch rose up and turned about 90 degrees, really cool. That way the torch is pointed away from you when it lights and rotates to a handy position.
   - grant - Saturday, 01/02/10 00:55:45 EST

Happy new year everybody. Is it really 10 years since the calendar clicked round to all those zeroes?

Regarding the get away with it factor- it's a bit like teasing the crocodiles. I don't recommend it.

Regarding transfer of fluids from a lower pressure to a higher how do they get water into a steam boiler whilst it is under pressure? Is it pumped in under pressure??
   philip in china - Saturday, 01/02/10 01:54:41 EST

Question for the Guru: I am just a beginner into smithing. I have made some RR spike knives, a few sets of tongs and and some ornamental things, but now i am trying to forge weld. I read the how to on forge welding, but the flux didnt turn out right. I dont want anyone to give away there secrets but is there any descent borax recipe and process I can use? Everyone I have asked just keeps telling me to fiure out on my own, but i just dont have a clue.
   owen - Saturday, 01/02/10 04:37:21 EST

By the way Im from East TN if anyone knows of any black smith shops near me.
   owen - Saturday, 01/02/10 04:40:42 EST

Owen, We have a bunch of smiths in East TN (If you are talking like the Bristol area). Also see the web site bfrm.abana-chapter.com. The Join page has contact info.

You didn't say HOW the Borax didn't work. Forge welding is a bit of an art and many do it without flux.

Plain 20 Mule Team Borax is what you want and many use. Many use anhydrous borax to avoid the "borax dance". See our Borax FAQ. The hand soaps sold as "Boraxo" are NOT borax. Others use proprietary mixtures bought from blacksmith suppliers (see our advertisers). Most of these are 80 to 90% boric acid plus one or more of the following, borax, iron powder, flourite, ammonia compounds. You can also use just plain boric acid if you can find a source.

Note that iron powder used in these mixes must be CLEAN. It cannot be bench grinder swarf (which is mostly burnt and full of grit), it can be saw swarf but cannot have other metals such as aluminium or brass and should also be oil free. The iron powder can also be from cast iron or ductile iron such as brake rotor and drum turning.

I prefer just plain old borax, partially because I am cheap and lazy.

About International Users: Note that some of our discussions may seem useless to them. Many countries do not have coal and charcoal is the ONLY fuel. Many countries do not have Borax except as an industrial chemical sold in bulk and large bags OR little 100 gram quantities. And in many places they do not enjoy the great amount of cheap scrap iron, space or freedom to do as you please ans we do.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/02/10 08:56:31 EST

Phillip-in-China, pressure boilers use feed pumps to force in the feed water overcoming the pressure inside the boiler. Feed pumps are one of the higher maintenance items on a boiler due to the condition of the feedwater. In a modern boiler, the steam is condensed if possible as it is a valuable commodity. The steam that comes back as condensate is distilled water, that requires less treatment to use. It also contains useful heat energy. Usually the condensate comes back as a result of the pressure in the steam, that expelled the condensate from what ever device that condensed it, say a heater. A valve device usually called a TRAP in the U.S. allows the condensate to be expelled into the condensate line at pressure, and that forces the condensate back to the boiler. It first usually goes through a feed water preheater to pull some of that heat out, since it is under pressure. After that the condensate goes into a "Flash" tank that allows the pressure to be released by some of the condensate flashing into steam. Now this almost boiling water is drawn into the feedwater pump to be pressurized enough to overcome the pressure holding a checkvalve closed and so pass into the boiler.

Now think about a pump "sucking" water into the inlet. There is always a slight "Suction head" or slight pressure drop below atmospheric on the inlet. You have water hot enough to want to flash in that inlet. For this reason, most flash tanks are elevated as much as possible above the feedwater pumps to add "Head Pressure" to overcome the risk of flashing in the inlet. Usually mostly works. The pump is working at say 210F, so the seals etc run pretty hot as well. If there is flashing in the inlet, the pump will sound as if it is pumping gravel and will errode the interior in short order.

This complexity and high maintenance is one of the reasons steam power is expensive, and why we don't often see small steam hammers in small one hammer shops. Takes a crew to run the steam plant.
   ptree - Saturday, 01/02/10 09:01:31 EST

Boric acid is sold in big round bottles for cheap as roach killer. Just make sure boric acid is the *only* active ingredient.

Philip -- this is probably obvious to anyone else, but it took me embarassingly long to figure it out. The work required to pump the water back into the boiler is much smaller than the energy available in steam because the volume is *much* less (even though the pressure is the same). Actually, I think the thermal energy in the steam improves the odds even more. At one time I had a mental image of the steam pushing itself out of the boiler and then pushing itself back in as water, which seemed wrong somehow (and was).
   Mike BR - Saturday, 01/02/10 09:20:30 EST

My shop is in Bristol VA,just about three miles from the TN.line and a master smith I worked for is in Limestone TN
e-mail me for my phone # Our forge group is in Bristol
and includes many working smiths,Alan L and Doug Merkel
to name a few.
Happy New Year to all. Howdey Alan L!
Greg S.
   Greg S - Saturday, 01/02/10 09:52:37 EST

Pick up a copy of gas burners for forges and kilns. and just build your own forge. I really do think that just about every forge on the market has down sides for me the down sides are enough that I would rather build my own to to what I need it to do rather than buy one that will kind of work. the Kowool and refatcorys are pricey but if you are useing the forge you will need them any way, to rebuild/patch any thing you buy.
I have worked with or built just about every style of forge on the market and I have found that the best is really a mater of what kind of work you will be doing. forge welding billets? go with a don fogg style vertical, or a tube forge with a easily replaceable bottom. lots of scroll work odd shaped parts? a box forge with a large side door works best, or a top blown forge built out of fire brick that can be stacked to get the shape you need. you get he idea.

personly I can't stand the NC style forges I don't like the burners and find them to burn a lot of fuel take a long time to come up to temp and have very uneven heating. the school in brookfeild CT that I teach at has two of this style and after the first class I taught there I built a forge to take with me I had so many problems with them, part of that is that I teach mostly knifemakeing there and the shop there is really set up more for general blacksmithing. but even for general blacksmithing I can't stand those forges to many hot spots and not enough heat out side of them , you end up soaking the part to leat the heat even out and end up with to much scale.
   MPmetal - Saturday, 01/02/10 10:55:48 EST

Bigfoot, if you are inclined to build check out Larry Zoeller's website. He sells all the bits and pieces like regulators and hoses as well as finished burners, already tuned. His Z burner is very nice and reasonable.
   ptree - Saturday, 01/02/10 11:43:41 EST

Mike BR, in the early steam boilers, the pumps were steam powered, and so in a way, the steam pushed the water in:)

The old boiler house at the valve shop had 4 850hp coal burners, and the original steam driven recip feedwater pumps were still there and maintained as back-ups. They were a very belt and suspenders kind of place, and also had a huge, 1700Hp steam driven recip air compressor and three recip steam generators, all well maintained until about 1992, when they were allowed to fall into disrepair. They had built a new powerhouse with gas fired boilers as the old boilers were too far gone to rebuild again at anything like a reasonable cost.
   ptree - Saturday, 01/02/10 11:47:34 EST

GASSERS: thanks for the advice guys. i am looking at small forge as i make small stuff, so the knifemakers forge is just the right size (but i do make knives). i am afraid to make my own forge as i do not have any experience with gassers yet, so i might blow something up. MPmetal brookfield shop you say? hmm i am in CT too! do you want to sell the forges there (if they are small)? i mostly make little stuff to give you an idea here is my photo bucket: http://s982.photobucket.com/home/tenderfoot_photos/index
   bigfoot - Saturday, 01/02/10 12:02:52 EST

Howdy, Greg! Thought that was you. (grin!)

Owen, if you're in the upper East TN area we meet at Rocky Mount State Historic Site the second Sunday of every month at 1:30 PM. If you're closer to Knoxville, that guild (Clinch River Blacksmithing Guild) meets the last Sunday of every month at a shop downtown on Central Avenue around 2 PM. If you're closer to Chattanooga, the Choo Choo Forge meets on Wednesday nights. Let us know more about where you are and we'll get you more contact info.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 01/02/10 12:21:03 EST

Ptree, were those steam engines and air compressors or the kind where the compressor cylinder was just an extension of the steam piston rod? Pretty simple that.
   - grant - Saturday, 01/02/10 12:27:47 EST

Grant, the big ai compressor was an Ingersol, Emperiral #10. It had 2 driving and 2 driven cylinders, and a approx 16' flywheel in the center. I was told it had been bought used in about 1932, and since it was mounted on an engine deck above the powerhouse shops had to be de-rated. It was originally set for 55 rpm, but shook the concrete powerhouse too severly and so was slowed to 50 RPM. dropped it to 1700 Hp and 3700 cfm as I recall. The primary compression cylinder was 24" bore by 60" stroke and the secondary was 18" bore. At speed, the sound on the engine deck was the gentle hiss and crackle of slow steam at the packings, and the levers for the oilers. Outside the powerhouse, at the 6' by 4' intake, there was a loud duct rumble that was "The heartbeat of VOGT". We could hear it on most of the 42 acre compound!
We used 45# return steam off the Erie hammers to run it, an gained all that air by dropping the pressure across the compressors. There was a bit, say 5psi left in the exhaust so that went to a deaertor tank, then a feedwater preheater and then finally to a flash tank. When we had the biggest hammers, the 10,000, or 15,000 or 25,000 running,the return steam was so strong that we could not use all, since the mixed stean turbine generator had expired and then lots went up the stack and was exhausted. Prior to about 1975 they had used a Westinghouse mixed steam turbine to run a generator and supply electricity to the plant. But that '30s turbine had been shutdown when Westinghouse called and said the second to last one in operation had just exploded:)
When running a normal load in the forge shop, and say 30F winter highs, we burnt a railcar a day of coal for steam to heat the plant and run the rammers.

The feed water pumps were indeed one long rod type.
The generators were big open frame, say 12' diameter generators run by recip engines that used the generator as the flywheel. The big one was still used often as it made DC for the old bridge cranes.
We also had a dandy little 70hp Sullivan air compressor tht was dedicated to the powerhouse only for when the main compressors were not run. That Sullvan was also a recip steamer running the Sullivan by flat belt. Used for when they were heating the plant bu no production. Supplied instrument air and atomizer air if on emergency fuel oil.
The power house still sits there, ripe with friable asbestos, leaking roof and cold since 1995
   ptree - Saturday, 01/02/10 12:58:02 EST

Howdy alan! hows the forge doing? owen i am not sure how far you are from NC but i know MR. Kayne of the blacksmith's depot is in Candler NC (he is a great guy. if you can i would talk to him. i met him this summer and he is really cool and has great advice. it helps if you are a boy scout as it seems he likes us :D). i will be blunt and it was an honor to meet him. and i think all of us will have anvil envy if we meet him.
   bigfoot - Saturday, 01/02/10 12:59:06 EST

Commercial Gas Forges: The problem is that none are or CAN be as flexible as a coal forge. You can be welding little thin leaves to 3/8" bar one moment and then heating a 20 pound billet the next in a coal forge. The light weld is almost impossible in a gas forge and the big billet requires a much larger forge than one that it will just fit in.

NC-Tool forges were the cheapest of the commercial forges and they made a wide range of sizes which they have cut back on. They sell enough forges that parts and reline kits are usually always available.

Prior to the new crop of light weight small shop forges you had a choice between a very expensive Johnson or an expensive cast iron and brick open front gas hog.

While I do not like the long front door on the NC's, Dean Curfman modified one of his old forges into a C-frame type WITH a door. This lets you put in long odd shaped or curved pieces and give the advantage of closing the door for efficiency.

Another feature I liked on a home built was the air curtains seen on forges at Larry Harley's in Bristol TN. The blown air curtains prevent getting your eyebrows singed off by dragon's breath. . .

For very small forges I like Doug Merkel's Mini-Forge.

Years ago I was putting heaters on steel zinc molds and found a hand held propane torch that the burner assembly unscrewed and used standard 1/16" pipe fittings. I used it on a long piece of 1/4" copper tubing attached to a bulk tank. If one could find TWO of these I think it would make a very nice two burner mini or bean-can forge that could be hooked to a 20 pound propane bottle.

Every forge design has advantages and disadvantages. I tried building a big forge with a wide range of use. It worked fine as a medium size forge but could not be
"cranked down" and operate properly. It had a stacked brick enclosure which let me change sizes and DID work as a crucible furnace as well as a forge. However, forge height is not convenient for handling large crucibles. I built another forge from a propane bottle using hard refractory and wooden forms. There were a bunch of problems in the construction including a 1" internal flange between the two halves of the bottle where it joins smoothly on the outside. This one had legs so that it could sit vertical or horizontal. It made a fair crucible furnace but not a very good forge due to the door design.

I've built several little freon bottle brass melters that worked pretty good. But I realized that a better design than having a thin lid was to lift off the top 3/4's of the light weight insulated shell so that the small crucible could be lifted with tweezer type side tongs. The light weight refractory makes this an option that you do not see on heavy solid refractory furnaces.

In the end you find that you need many gas forges and furnaces depending on the job.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/02/10 13:07:49 EST

guru i want a little forge for my little stuff and i am keeping my old coal forge for my bigger projects. i just do not like the coal smoke and my neighbors keep calling the fire marshall on me so i thought it would be easier for a small forge for those times i cannot justify my big one. but i do realize the trade off and feel that it is worth it.
   bigfoot - Saturday, 01/02/10 13:17:41 EST

RE: getting water into boilers under pressure--There is a device used by the steam tractor people called an injector. Take a look at Wikepidia (sp?) for a duscussion. It uses the pressure in the boiler to inject makeup water into the pressurized boiler, using the boiler pressure. No, I do not understand it but it is out there. Apparently it is a real touchy-feeley process.

As I understand it, at the steam tractor explosion in Medina, Ohio, the injector was whistling while the tractor was stopped (pre-explosion), suggesting low water conditions that the operator was aware of. The injector did not add enough water to the boiler, or it wasn't adjusted right, when the tractor moved (lurched), water sloshed over the overheated (dry) firebox plate, flashed into steam, overwhelmed the safety valve and blew up the aged boiler. There were many things wrong with the boiler, the post-explosion study found, it should never have been out in the public. 5 dead, if I remember right. Safety first, apparently more than one rule and procedure was ignored.
   - David Hughes - Saturday, 01/02/10 15:11:55 EST

Back in the pioneer days where would a blacksmith purchase an anvil? Who made the anvil?

Thank you!
   Matthew - Saturday, 01/02/10 17:12:04 EST

David Hughes, I have heard of but never seen an injector at work. I think they were for pretty low pressure.

When I worked at VOGT, we also made boilers. The VP for production was a shooter and spent lots of time at Friendship Indiana. One of his buddies wanted to borrow our "R" repair stamp as he had made repairs to his steam traction engine. The VP was not polite in the denial of use.

I read a while back a forensic exam report on a locomotive style tractor boiler explosion. The stay bo;ts failed at about 25 psi from corrosion, the shell was then overloaded and the seam rivets failed. The drum sheet unwrapped and flipped the entire tractor, about 40,000 on its back. Killed the operator and his grandson.

Those old locomotive style boilers were totally manual, and depended on the operator to let down more water. They also had simple materials, and were very high maintenance.

I generally avoid them. Love to see them run, but I avoid them and try to stay 200+ffeet away.
   ptree - Saturday, 01/02/10 18:00:50 EST

Medina,OH steam engine explosion.
If I remember right, I read that the engineer may have had the sight glass for the boiler water level turned "off" so that it appeared that there was water in the boiler when in fact there wasn't.
He had been backing the engine down off from the semi trailer either when it happend or just prior to it.
I also heard strong rumor that the engine operation lisence was out of date or had not been inspected.
I was the vise-president of the Pickett Steam and Gas Engine Club at the time and I recall that we had to disallow several steam engines that year, that had been regular attractions in the past.
The steam injector works because the feed water is not compressable and the steam in the boiler is. They don't work exactly like the old air over hydralic car lifts in a service garage but the operating principle is pretty much the same.
I don't have my steam power text books right in front of me so I won't quote anything, lest I put my foot in my mouth but, when I get some time I'll try to look it up and put it into plain words.

Grant, are you saying I should just lay some 2x4 scraps over the pile of charcoal embers in the duck nest and use that for the cave? I'll give it a try but, I'm still looking to the day when I get that torch!

ptree, you of all people know the expolsive power of steam and water flashing to steam and the uncontroled expulsion of steam from a pressure vessel. Almost all of these old boilers are fire tube boilers, that is they have a large quantity of water surrounding the fire box and the hot exaust is routed through sealed tubes that are supposed to be covered by the boiler water. Just a big and very powerfull elephant waiting to pound you into the dirt when you get careless.
That is why I have always preferd the water tube boiler (think of the millitary, kerosene fueled steam cleaner) that heats a relitivly small amount of water to make steam.
If you rupture a water tube odds are all you will do is put the fire out...
The best place to be on an unlisenced engine is right there on the footplate. That way when it goes off you'll be killed instantly instead of being scalded to death like a lobster...
   - merl - Sunday, 01/03/10 00:14:23 EST

Matthew: When pioneers came to My area [South eastern Pa. - 1700] a blacksmith would have gotten His anvil in England or europe before He left and would have brought it with Him when He came over.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 01/03/10 00:22:26 EST

Merl, The term Locomotive boiler describes a horizontal fire tube boiler. The majority of larger boilers are water tube, but there are still millions of smaller fire tube boilers and they re still built today.
Those big boilers in the powerhouse I supervised at VOGT were all water tube. When we moved across the river and no longer heater the building with steam, but just used steam for a couple of process's used a new Cleaver Brooks 35Hp fire tube. All automated controls, and in fact the automation would call my cell phone whenever there was a fault. Of course being a modern, licensed boiler, it required a State inspection yearly. It also had feedwater controls that at any fault detected shut the boiler down. Same on the gas train.
I got lots of late night, early morning cell calls from the building automation system as there were about 50 alarms that would send out a call. The call told me an alarm but not what. I had a PC in the bedroom that would modem into the system at the plant and I could call up the system and see what the fault was. Some alarms allowed a restart but not on the boiler. I had to drive in and do a manual reset and restart. And I thought that was the right way to treat boiler alarms.
   ptree - Sunday, 01/03/10 08:48:58 EST

Merl, when I noted the Locomotive boiler= fire tube, I did not mean to exclude all the other fire tube style boilers. Just saying that a locomotice style traction engine boiler is indeed a fire tube
VOGT had made both types, but advocated water tube from about the 30's on. In WWII VOGT made a liberty ship "Scotch Marine" boiler a week, and ALL the headers used in the Liberties and Victory ships.
The main boiler design made during my time at VOGT were "Heat Recovery Steam Generators" built in modules and designed to be placed in train behind a huge gas turbine electric generator. The exhaust from the combustion turbine was sent through the steam generators. These were water tube style, with vertical finned tube. Towards the end the modules were 13'wide, 13' deep and 72' tall, and a typical large system was 3 modules wide by 11 deep.
Output was often 1500 psi steam to run another turbine to gnerate electricity, or steam for pipe tracing at a refinery of chemical plant.
   ptree - Sunday, 01/03/10 08:57:33 EST

Pioneer Anvil Sales: Matthew, You should be more specific about what era and where the pioneers were, Africa, Australia?

In any movement such as pioneers in North America taking certain tools with you was part of life. In Early America almost all goods came from England and anvils were no exception. Any merchant that carried hardware or farm supplies would have carried anvils OR known how to order one.

Basically, they went to the hardware store. In a big city the store would have them in stock, in the country they would probably have to order one. Remember also that many people other than blacksmiths used anvils then, almost every farmer had one, miners and prospectors used anvils and so did many others. So there was a brisk business in anvils.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/03/10 09:12:30 EST

I recently made a money clip out of brass sheet from my local hardware store. I found the brass will not keep it's spring and I am interested to know if it can be hardened perhaps with a simple propane torch to maintain the spring.

   Michael - Sunday, 01/03/10 10:41:02 EST

Michael, Some brass will heat treat harder but most will not. It will just become softer. The most reliable ways to make brass hard is by working it (to work harden).

Most springy things of this type are plated steel or stainless steel.

   - guru - Sunday, 01/03/10 10:45:55 EST

Thank you for the information.
   Michael - Sunday, 01/03/10 10:51:06 EST


My shop is in oakville. brookfield is just a school I teach at , I don't own it ...though I would love to get rid of those forges I think the school might not like that. blowing your self up isn't really a big issue with gas forges so long as you take a few simple precautions run the right regulator use a burner design that you allready know works (there are many designs on the net and even some premade burners I have a T-rex that I love much better performance than I have gotten out of my home built burners and very stable until the flared tip burns out) use gas rated lines and fittings, and CHECK every thing for leaks. they are so easy to build (even the burners ) that after a time you will find your self building more and more of them for different projects.
   mpmetal - Sunday, 01/03/10 13:07:27 EST

OK, I've read your website and completely understand your reservations and frustration with big-thinking, know-nothing "I wanna make a sword, dude" neophytes. I am a professional metal fabricator with some formal metallurgy education and 8 years experience in heavy industry, including a little time with a blacksmith at a railroad shop where I worked as a carknocker. I too take issue with people who find out what I do fo a living and ask me something like "so how hard is it to build my own weight bench?" Do you have a welding machine (that wasn't bought at Sears)? No. Do have a chop saw, a grinder, and an oxyfuel torch? No. Do you have $2000 to buy those things and a month or so for me to teach you the basics? My point is, I feel your pain, and yes, I have the skills and a SERIOUS interest and desire to learn bladesmithing. I have the books, I'm building a forge, I'm committed. Do you know somebody (preferably in the New England area) who might be willing to give me some hands-on experience, maybe this summer?
   Anders Benson - Sunday, 01/03/10 14:01:32 EST

PS: In case anybody is wondering, I'm building a horizontal coal forge. I was lucky enough to get a great deal on hi-temp firebrick at my local small-town lumber yard/everything store, and I have enough know-how to not make a complete travesty of the masonry. I'm installing an electric blower and a replacable steel grate to evenly distribute air from underneath. I completely agree that a coal forge is worth the extra effort both for the versatility and safety factors. I just noticed the ongoing thread and thought I'd throw in my two cents.
   Anders Benson - Sunday, 01/03/10 14:16:36 EST

Anders, You needs to study how coal forges are made. They are not like a coal furnace. They has a relatively small air inlet from 1.5" to 3" at the bottom or near the bottom from the side (if a British type forge). Many have no grate, a single or double bar grate OR a triangular ball "shaker". These are at the bottom of a hat sized "fire pot" with steeply sloping sides (about 45 degrees) where the fire is focused. Around the fire pot is the coal reserve area which can vary from a narrow rim to a 3 by 4 foot table. If refractory is used it needs to conform to the above OR be a side draft type.

Here is an incomplete article (in progress):

The Forge
   - guru - Sunday, 01/03/10 15:48:02 EST

Anders, may I recommend http://forums.dfoggknives.com? IF you're serious that's the place to be for bladesmiths. Lots of folks in New England too. The New England School of Metalwork in Auburn, Maine would be a great place to get started.

Bigfoot, I've seen the Kayne's anvil collection, and Steve forced me to play with one of Grant's induction forges while I was there. Oh, the humanity! I begged him not to show it to me because I knew I'd want one... That's waiting on the big lottery win, unfortunately. (grin!)

An addendum to my earlier post about the forge group meeting at Rocky Mount: It's in Johnson City (sort of, it's on US 11-E between Johnson City and Bristol), and be sure to go to the back gate over the hill. The front gate will be locked.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 01/03/10 16:27:51 EST

Anders sadly there was a great smith in NY named Paul Champagne but he passed away early in 09. IF you contact ARMA at http://www.thearma.org/ they may be able to recommend several in the region. BUt as I said Paul was truly a master and from those i know who have talked with him always willing to share a bit of his knowledge.

I have said before my desire is to bea tool maker but to those who wish to sword smith i offer one small piece of advise. Learn how to use them before you make them. For any sword i have ever wielded i have know almost instantly if the maker knew how it was ment to be used. There is something about arms and tools that takes an intimate knowledge of to be able to really make them well. Hence whyit has taken so long for me to come to tool making.

OH and swinging a chunk -o- metal around like Conan does not constitute knowing how to use it.
   Shiloh - Sunday, 01/03/10 20:25:50 EST

i have to admit if i had the money i would have gotten a 275 lb peddinghaus anvil, induction heater and all types of blacksmith hammers and tongs, plus all sorts of assorted tooling. it was like the best place ever!
MP if you ever need a striker... and are you open on saturdays? it would be interesting to meet more smiths (i only know one REAL smith personally, but he is busy with a full time job. being a smith! but he isn't the sort i want to bother too often) and i have had i minor explosion with a bean can forge it was funny as hell but i would not want something like that on a larger scale.
   bigfoot - Sunday, 01/03/10 20:26:01 EST

OH and my question for the day. Having read over the article on claying; I am building my first forge out of a brake drum from a semi. This has a rather wide base and abruptly shaped sides. would claying be useful here in order to create a more conical bottom or is it not really worth the effort.
   Shiloh - Sunday, 01/03/10 20:47:31 EST

Shiloh: I would fill it in to make the aproxamate 45 degree slope that Guru mentioned. I think a 4-5" flat bottom and about 4-6" deep is about the right size. The finished depression can be round or square/rectangular, it isn't really important. The sloping sides makes fire tending easy while not wasting fuel.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 01/03/10 21:38:06 EST

I was reading about boiler explosions in the above posts. When the civil war ended the U.S. government paid riverboat companies 5-7 dollars a head to bring Union soldiers from the south back up north. One riverboat, The
Sultana, was just south of Memphis on the Mississippi River, when its boiler exploded, killing 1200-1300 people, mostly Union soldiers. This was the worst maritime disaster in history, killing more people than on the Titanic.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 01/03/10 21:58:33 EST

Correction: It was just North of Memphis, with Mounds, Arkansas on the opposite bank. Many people were rescued by Mounds residents. There was a government inquiry concerning this explosion. Read more on Wikipedia.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 01/03/10 22:05:06 EST

Thought I might pass along this, A variation on the typical brakedrum forge.
I made a small tableforge of a rear brake disk from an all diskbrake Volvo. Its actually a combination disk and drum. The disk part is the servicebrake the drum is the parkingbrake , So essentially its a castiron drum about 6" dia x 2" deep with a flange around the perimeter.


Its fitted into the forge table like any other tableforges firepot. The twyer and rockerball is a round slug cut from 1" steelplate. From there on it's pretty much a scaled down version of anyother table forge.
So far it works well for small objects, jewlery and the like. Best of all it conserves fuel over my big Buffalo set-up for working the small stuff.

Best of all It was fun to build and One can never have too many forges.
   - Sven - Sunday, 01/03/10 22:05:40 EST

Im really new to blacksmithing and i was wondering where i can find the texts that you recommed in your "getting started in blacksmithing"?
Also i live in Dallas, Tx and was wondering where i wouldbe able to purchase all or most of the basic tools of the trade. i have searched for a shop near-by but people around my neighbothood dont see the need for small shop smithing and i dont have a car yet. (im 17)ever since i started to learn how to re-shape horseshoes from a friend of mine whose a farrier around denton (which is big time horse country.) but before he could really get to truly teach me the basics of working on my own he moved out to new mexico.
   Sam Capehart - Monday, 01/04/10 02:32:03 EST

Anders, it is really easy to make weights benches. I made several and a whole rack of dumbells and fixed barbells.
   philip in china - Monday, 01/04/10 07:24:39 EST


Sam, Did you read our getting started article and follow the links? Then the links to the book reviews?

Most of the books on blacksmithing were popular and in the mainline book stores many years ago. Today they are all available from specialty store and blacksmith tool dealers. Our advertisers, Artisan Ideas, Centaur Forge and Blacksmiths Depot all carry these books. You can also find them used via bookfinder.com. OR you can ask your local library to obtain them by ILL.

Most blacksmithing tools other than a few farriers tools are no longer found in general hardware stores. For these you will need to order out of state from folks like our advertisers such as Big BLU Hammer, Blacksmiths Depot and Centaur Forge. In your area look up Texas Farrier Supply for anvils and other tools in a walk-in location.

For used tools your best bet is a blacksmith gathering. There are blacksmithing organizations. Look them up on ABANA-Chapter.com

Our getting started article lists some common tools that you can find almost anywhere. Besides the specialty tools you will need files, cold chisels, center punch, a good hack saw and the coarsest blades you can find, ball pien hammers, a square, and possibly a bench vise (as big as possible). Note that bench vises do not replace a real blacksmiths leg vice but they can be used for everything that does not require heavy pounding with a hammer.
   - guru - Monday, 01/04/10 11:37:59 EST

Sam; go to your local public library and ask about Inter Library Loan. Use it to find out which of the books you want to own and which you just want to read and return.

Tools: I get mine from fleamarkets. If you have the money your local feed store should have basic stuff for shoeing which will allow you to make your own for the rest of the stuff.

(My favorite knifemaking tongs are an old snubnosed short set of shoing tongs---just right for holding tangs and nice and light---paid US$1.50 for it at a fleamarket.)

   Thomas P - Monday, 01/04/10 15:45:08 EST

Thanks for all the info guys. I am right outside of knoxville, in clinton. I would like to check out that CLinch River Blacksmithing Guild, If anyone knows who to contact. Another question, where can i find regular borax? I used the soap, lol. I cant find it in any hardware stores.
   owen - Monday, 01/04/10 18:53:11 EST

OH, and my e-mail is owennova@yahoo.com
   owen - Monday, 01/04/10 18:55:36 EST


You're looking for 20 Mule Team Borax, which is sold as a laundry booster. Look where laundry detergent is sold (I buy mine at a supermarket).
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/04/10 19:25:02 EST

Borax is sold in grocery stores as "laundry booster" and is shelved near the bleaches. Not all stores carry it. Locally I usually have to go to Kroger or Harris Teeter to find it. A box can last many years unless you do major billet welding.

Our system encrypts your email address so you should not need to post it in plain text. Any browser setup pointing to a default mail program can use it by clicking on your name.
   - guru - Monday, 01/04/10 19:31:44 EST

You can also contact Wayne Coe, he is in Sunbright TN.
and that would be very close to Oak Ridge TN.
E-mail for Waynes number.
Greg S.
   Greg S - Monday, 01/04/10 19:56:58 EST

Thanks Greg. Please send his number via e-mail. I beleive you now have my personal e-mail.

OH, Sorry about that e-mail address Guru.
   owen - Monday, 01/04/10 21:38:22 EST

Thanks for all of the help and advice guys. It's helped alot. I'm gonna go check out my local library and see if I can't find a local shop to work in and watch them work. Even if I'm just a janitor.
   Sam Capehart - Monday, 01/04/10 22:03:44 EST

Janitor: Most small shops cannot afford a janitor. Ever hear the term "Chief, cook and bottle washer" ? It means doing it all in ones business. Most small businessmen do everything from sales and production to taxes and cleanup.

Now. . if you want to volunteer to do ANY job no matter how boring or nasty and not quit on it. .
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/05/10 07:51:15 EST

Owen, the contact info for the Clinch River guild is in the email to you.

Say hi to Joe and Gray for me!
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 01/05/10 08:17:16 EST

Target, Walmart, Kmart and Home Depot all carry 20 Mule Team Borax. Price ranges from $2.39 to $3.00, spread a 1/2" layer on a cookie sheet (make sure it's one that your wife won't find out about) and bake the stuff at 350 for an hour or so. Now you have annhydrous borax that won't flitter off your steel in the forge. You may have to bust up large chunks of it into powder though...
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 01/05/10 09:07:39 EST

Sam, If you have wheels, start going to the North Texas meetings, q.v., http://home.flash.net/~dwwilson/ntba
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/05/10 10:14:12 EST

Frank, will you be coming down to the SWABA/AABA conference in Las Cruces NM Feb 13 & 14? Peter Sevin and Pep Gomez will be the demonstrators.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/05/10 12:57:45 EST

I don't consider myself a blacksmith however I am a welder by trade & have a small plasma cutting business I'm trying to get off the ground. My question to you is abut coloring hot rolled steel 16 ga. I bought several patinas & would like someadvice on getting it to look like brass that's patinaed. The blues & golds are beautiful & I was wondering if maybe you could give me some insight as I'm terribly ignorant to these methods but willing to take all the advice you have to offer. Thank you, Shelly Lonberger
   - Shelly - Tuesday, 01/05/10 13:48:22 EST

Thomas P. No, I have a class winding down.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/05/10 14:19:25 EST

Frank, you have a poster or some brochures on your classes you would like posted at the conference?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/05/10 16:49:25 EST

Shelly, Rust and blacking are the only true "patinas" on steel. Any other colors are applied over paint. So you start by cleaning and descaling the metal, priming and painting. When using colors such as Baroque Art Gilders Paste you select a paint or primer that is appropriate for the base color and work from that. Since these artistically applied col orations may be applied in thin glazes and incomplete coatings they should not be considered protection from rust, the base coat and primer must do that.

Base coats can be metallic paints or near one of the patina colors that you rub the metallic pastes over top. Artistic finishes require practice and should be applied on practice pieces, samples or test pieces. As in any form of art practice is key to reproducibility. Application methods include spray guns, air brushes, dry brush, rubbing with a rag or even the hands.

Most oxide coatings on steel are high maintenance or must be covered with a clear coat to prevent change or rust. Blues like gun bluing must be cleaned and oiled. Other colors must be considered temporary finishes when applied to steel and should not be used on most products. Some clear coats are also not very UV resistant and require researching the application prior to purchase and use.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/05/10 16:54:40 EST

Oil or water quench for leaf springs?
What for auto coil springs?
God bless!!!
   - Jacob lockhart - Tuesday, 01/05/10 20:53:56 EST

Jacob, Re-read our FAQ on junk yard steels. Some springs are oil quench, some water. Test a sample.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/05/10 21:53:39 EST

Reading about borax above...do any of you heat it to remove moisture ? I have read several articles concerning this. One guy says he heats the borax at 500 deg in the oven for a couple of hours. Another article says to melt the borax and after it solidifies, beat it to a powder. Doing this is suppose to keep the borax from dancing on the metal and running off when forging.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 01/06/10 00:04:28 EST

Ive done a fair bit of patternwelding over the last couple of years and I just use the borax straight from the box! It foams up a bit but I dont see that as a problem. (you can see it doing its job just fine through a no.3 shade once the moisture has flashed off)

(lifes a bit short to start drying out somthing that works fine for me without drying it!)

   - John N - Wednesday, 01/06/10 06:14:11 EST

My major problem with non-dehydrated borax is that lift off the top surface effect. The borax curls itself right off the metal, leaving almost no fluxing action. The anhydorus powder immediately becomes viscous and runs into the joint much easier. I would avoid melting borax to make flux, melted borax is almost glasslike. Yes, life is short, but when you have nothing better to do, make some just so you have the good stuff at hand.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 01/06/10 07:49:10 EST

I use borax as is from the box, but I apply it at a fairly low heat and I don't get near the lifting as when I put it on at a near welding heat.

I have also melted the borax and powdered it (once never again!)
   JimG - Wednesday, 01/06/10 10:08:40 EST

I agree with John on using off-the-shelf borax. The technique it to apply it prior to the metal getting too hot and it will not all dance off. If you dip the hot end of a part into a container of the stuff enough is usually picked up. The other method is to use a pointed tool that you heat and dip into the borax than transfer the liquid to the part.

You CAN buy anhydrous borax from ceramic suppliers.

Those that melt it to a solid often end up contaminating the borax and reducing its usefulness as well as creating a LOT of work for themselves. Many folks have found that just baking the borax above the boiling point of water drives off most of the 10 waters per molecule of borax.

You can also use boric acid as flux. It does not have the water that borax does. The "anti-borax" line of flux is mostly boric acid. The type sold for killing ants and roaches is fine. Some brands have phermones added to attract the pests and I would avoid that unless you want roaches snooping around your flux supply. . .

I suspect the reason most smiths use borax rather than boric acid is that 20 Mule Team Borax has been readily available for over a century. Boric acid has only become readily available at low cost in the past few decades for use as a low toxicity pesticide. Prior to that the most common uses were medical and pharmacological grades were quite expensive. But you can also purchase pure boric acid from chemical supply houses for $1 to $3/lb. (McMaster Carr sells it).
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/06/10 10:53:43 EST

Guru, Is there a section on Anvilfire where there are later step-by-step demos of forging than on the "How To" page?
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 01/06/10 11:50:04 EST

A friend gave me some anthracite coal and I am having a difficult time starting my fire. In the past I have always used bituminous coal. I can start with the bituminous and add anthracite but I am about out of bituminous coal, Any suggestions on starting a fire with the anthracite? Thanks, Betsy
   Betsy - Wednesday, 01/06/10 12:12:12 EST

One more question. We are doing an historic timeline of our town Marietta, Ohio. I wanted to include a "panel" for the timeline on an early blacksmith. Do you know of an resource that might have names of early blacksmiths in Marietta, Ohio, 1788 or later. I have the name of three smiths in 1860 but can find little information. Any resource you know of that may help me? Thanks, Betsy
   Betsy - Wednesday, 01/06/10 12:18:29 EST

Betsy, Researching occupations in a specific locality is tough. Some census records include occupation. Local genealogists may be able to point you in the right direction such as libraries that have this information. The local court clerks office may have information but they will not do the research for you. In fact most will sort of point you in the right direction but that is all.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/06/10 12:36:51 EST

Anthracite: Betsey, This is tough to use. It takes a continuous air blast and a deeper fire than normal. Starting it requires more kindling than bituminous OR a oxy-gas torch. Both coke and anthracite have a tendency to burn out light duty fire pots and forges due to the fact that they MUST be run with a high air blast.

I generally do not recommend anthracite unless that is all you have. It is worth paying more or going to more effort to get good bituminous coal. Note that your local blacksmithing group may purchase coal in bulk and have it available for members.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/06/10 12:50:37 EST

Jake, Besides iForge we have the Plans page and several eBooks that have numerous projects.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/06/10 12:59:33 EST

Betsy; have you consulted the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus? They may have resources or suggestions for your search.

Any early records? Towns often offered free land to a smith willing to move there in early times and such offers would be part of the early records; though many such have been lost to fires over the years.

Also early "fire insurance" maps may list smithies as part of their info.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/06/10 13:03:38 EST

First of all I would like to apologise for any mistakes. I am from Brazil and English is not my mother language.

I am researching about blacksmithing in Europe, (precisely in Vienna, I don't know if it was different) during the XVII century. I am looking for details. How did they live, how did they work, how did they buy/trade their materials/ore, and so on...
I am not asking you to give me these explanations (only if you want to), but I would appreciate if you could suggest me some books about the topic.
I tried to find some books, but I could not find any about the XVII century.

   Guilherme Miranda - Wednesday, 01/06/10 13:28:40 EST

Hi i am doing a school porject (geuss what now? the bessemer process :D) and i cannot find the comparitve values of steel pre and post bessemer process (my google fu is weak). kinda an odd request, but where else will i be able to find someone who will know stuff like this?
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 01/06/10 17:32:25 EST

Hi i am doing a school porject (geuss what now? the bessemer process :D) and i cannot find the comparitve values of steel pre and post bessemer process (my google fu is weak). kinda an odd request, but where else will i be able to find someone who will know stuff like this?
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 01/06/10 17:33:06 EST

sorry for the triple post. i have had computer bugs latley and i think this may have been caused by that. sorry :(
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 01/06/10 18:19:22 EST

Bigfoot, "The Epic of Steel" by Douglas Alan Fisher copyright 1963 has loads of info of what the type I believe you are looking for.
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/06/10 19:18:34 EST

Steel Pricing pre and post Bessemer:

Bigfoot, This may take quite a bit of research. And the change while revolutionary did not happen all at once, the US lagging behind Britian in the conversion. The big difference was bulk steel made by the ton replaced wrought iron made by the pound. Tool steels remained a specialty made in small batches largely from Swedish and Norway iron for quite a while. So your comparison should not be steel-steel but wrought to steel.

To get true price comparisons you will also need comparisons of other common goods that did not rely on the price of iron/steel. However, this is difficult as cheap steel made large scale railroads possible which in turn made the movement of all goods including agricultural goods cheaper and more wide ranging.

This is probably not the kind of thing you will find on-line. This is work for major city or university libraries. If you are patient a search through the Library of Congress will point you to POSSIBLE books on the subject. It could take weeks of search or you could be lucky and find it on first shot. If no one else has written THE BOOK then you will have to do the source research yourself. . . But I am sure someone has done it.

Note that MANY thousands of University thesises are listed in their library catalogs and those University catalogs are available via the Library of Congress. When researching the odd collection of facts this is often where you must go.

SO, Unless Thomas has something up his sleeve, get yee to a real library.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/06/10 19:27:49 EST

First of all I would like to apologise for any mistakes. I am from Brazil and English is not my mother language.

I am researching about blacksmithing in Europe, (precisely in Vienna, I don't know if it was different) during the XVII century. I am looking for details. How did they live, how did they work, how did they buy/trade their materials/ore, and so on...
I am not asking you to give me these explanations (only if you want to), but I would appreciate if you could suggest me some books about the topic.
I tried to find some books, but I could not find any about the XVII century.

   Guilherme Miranda - Wednesday, 01/06/10 19:34:46 EST

thanks guys. that is what i was expecting but was hoping not to hear it. looks like i have to wander over to the local library!
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 01/06/10 19:45:05 EST

My dad bought a 1 pound chunk of meteoric iron last week. His original idea was to have it sliced into thin stock for kinfe scales, but I told him that the mythical swords of lore were forged of iron from the sky. Now he wants me to make a knife out of it. Has anyone had any experience working this material? Supposedly this piece contains elements not found on Earth (supposedly...).

Speaking of extraterrestrial metals, without giving too much away.... the movie Avatar utilizes many cliched action/future movie plot lines. The main one being interplanetary mining companies and their exploits. In this movie, a mining exec shows the ore they are mining as a chunk (actually, it looks like the meteoric iron that my dad has!), proudly states "this is unobtanium and this planet is chock full of it!"..... Well, at that point I had to stop myself from bursting out into laughter. Immediately I could imagine a screen writer putting that word in the script hoping someone would come up with a better fictional element but never happened. In any case, I hihgly recommend you see this movie.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 01/07/10 08:02:21 EST

Nip, That is the way I felt. He needed a BIG RED INSERT TECH WORD HERE. . . Otherwise I thought it was a great movie and high art.

Except for man-made heavy elements there are no elements NOT found on Earth. The periodic table is full, there are no gaps. Besides which, if there WAS something in meteorites not found on Earth they have been falling on our little world for 4 billion years. . . Unknown elements is "science fiction". However, there CAN be rare minerals or compounds formed from the rarer elements that could be natural superconductors or have other such rare properties.

SOME meteoric iron is forgable, some is not. If you know the source (much of this material is cut off or "mined" from huge known meteors) the top knife guys can tell you. However, it is like coal with infinite variability in the same "mine".
   - guru - Thursday, 01/07/10 10:47:15 EST

My dad (as some of you have already heard) is the type who likes to believe the sizzle rather than the steak. He told me the meteor is from Russia "the only place that you can get meteors".... I really didn't want to get into THAT debate... I think there's somewhere along the lines of thousands of stellar objects hitting the Earth everywhere. That is unless these things are sentient and really like Russia.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 01/07/10 11:18:48 EST

AHh dances with space wolves I mean Avatar. Graphically incredible movie but other wise predictable. I'm tired of being told im a bad guy because of my genetic past.( sorry just needed to vent.)

TO my point and a comment I made a few weeks ago. THe concept of mithirl and meteoric iron. As guru pointed out not all mereroic elements are easy forgable in fact they are not always even mostly iron. That being said I'm sure there is some way to smelt it down with enough applied heat and time. BUt my question is WHY, Its a one pound chunk of the early universe that has been on a very long and wild trip to get here. I guess what I am saying just because something can be forged into something else doesn't mean you have to.

Lastly I was looking at the plans for the break drum forge. The grate seems to be awfully large in its gaps. OR is that because im using a drum from a large truck. IF so what gap should I have in the grate.

OH one more point. IM TIRED OF SNOW.

   SHiloh - Thursday, 01/07/10 11:20:25 EST

Nip, Forging / working meteorites is a pretty specialised topic, I hope Jock doesnt mind me cross forum posting, but there are lots of guys with experience on Don Foggs Bladesmiths forum, well worth a look over there!
   - John N - Thursday, 01/07/10 11:58:20 EST

Cost of steel---posted a reply on the Hammer-In.

Meteorite: as I recall one of my bladesmithing books had a listing of common meteorite falls and which were forge-able and I remember a historical quote about a Mughal emperor being given a meteorite and the trouble his swordsmith had getting it to work---finally mixed it in low amounts with regular steel to get a usable alloy. Iridium makes them hot short as I recall.

Note that forging destroys the Widmanstätten patterns that are proof positive that it's a real meteorite, (look up meteor-wrongs...)

I'd try to sell him on using it for scales and using the cuttings from making the scales as a mix in a forge welded blade to thus get the best of both worlds.

Large truck brake drums---had a student use a semi drum to make a forge from. With the grate in the bottom he could not get his work down into the hot spot. He filled it with dirt and raised the grate to a more normal depth but then found it was so heavy it was unmovable and he abandoned it when he moved. Bigger is not always better! To downsize the hole just drop in a metal plate with a smaller hole and use a floor flange to connect the pipe to it, (or weld).

GUILHERME; Century XVII 1600's? May be hard to get austrian specific info for that exact time. Look into the "book of trades" of Jan Luyken, various hausbuchs and also look into allegorical paintings like Venus at the forge of Vulcan to see examples of tools in use NB common title I like Jan Breughel the younger's version for your timeperiod/place!

May I also suggest Joseph Moxon's Mechanic Exercises, pub in 1703 but written in the 17th century it includes how to set up a smithy, and has info on buying metals and what they were good for.

As for social aspects I don't believe there is a book out there on the Smith in the 17th century---you may have to look for works on how working people lived and worked around then being wary that when you get into social history *EVERYONE* has their bias!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/07/10 12:15:03 EST

coal forge grate size: The important thing (besides depth, you only want 4 to 6 inches there) is the grate spacing. Little drilled holes do not work for long. I like a grate of 1/2" wide slots the full width of the grate separated by 1/2" bars. This should be in a piece of 3/8" p[late. 1/4" thick will work for a while, but it burns out fairly fast under hard use.

Actually, I like a cast iron firepot with a triangular clinker breaker, but you did ask about the brake drum forge...
   Alan-L - Thursday, 01/07/10 13:20:47 EST

Coal Grates: I like large gaps so you can keep the throat of the fire open. Otherwise clinkers and debris build up and you have to tear the fire apart to get them out. I would rather lose some coal down the ash dump than to lose the fire.

The heavy truck drum is way too deep. . . They are heavy enough that they make great stands for various tooling.

I used to love snow when I was a kid. Now. . . I'm ready to move to Costa Rica where its 72 F today and will be 72 F next week and 72F. . . every day.

John, Yep, the knife guys know the meteor subject much better than here.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/07/10 13:20:51 EST

Thanks Thomas for ideas of where to look. Betsy

   Betsy - Thursday, 01/07/10 15:15:10 EST


A good resource is "American Iron 1607-1900" by Robert B. Gordon, A Johns Hopkins Univ study.

Guilherme Miranda,

I don't have books specifically from the XVII century, but some books show occasional photos from that period. For example, "Ferri Battuti Inaliani" by E Baccheschi and S. Levy, Serie Gölich, Torino, Italia, 1981. This is a large book, 226 pages, of ironwork photos, many of them from that period of history. Beware; some of the spurs and bridle bits are shown upside down. The book will not tell you about folk life.

   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/07/10 17:21:36 EST

Correction: "Ferri Battuti Italiani"
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/07/10 17:22:45 EST


Seems to me a meteor is more likely to fall on Russia than on any other country (grin). Of course, it used to be even more likely that one would fall on USSR.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/07/10 18:44:01 EST

MR. Turley thank you very much. i think i know a local fellow with that book. now i have to talk him out of it. :D
   bigfoot - Thursday, 01/07/10 18:59:19 EST

Guilherme Miranda you do not need to apologise about your English. It is better than plenty of native speakers use.

Unobtainium? We have had a conversation about this a long time ago. Isn't it an alloy of nonexistium or is it the other way round?I think it was a result of an April Fools day post in 2008 or 2009.
   philip in china - Thursday, 01/07/10 19:08:50 EST

I've only used metorites mixed with other metals..1084 and 15n20..they must have some nickel cause they really add some brightness to the Damascus....For a fictional [?]description of using metorites,read "The Iron Mistress" which of course is the Jim Bowie story in which it is claimed that James Black used metorite in the original Bowie
   - arrthur - Thursday, 01/07/10 21:58:22 EST

UNOBTAINIUM® is trademarked by the Oakly sunglass company...No foolin'
   - arrthur - Thursday, 01/07/10 22:01:53 EST

In the book " The Iron Mistress ", does it say the original Bowie knife was made from a meteorite ? I have always been told that it was, and that Bowie himself referred to his knife as being made from a star.
   Mike T. - Friday, 01/08/10 01:20:40 EST

It says metorite wes added to the steel....Great book you an get it for a couple of bucks on Ebay.....
   - arthur - Friday, 01/08/10 01:27:08 EST

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