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 16 - 21, 2010 on the Guru's Den
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Can you tell me where I can find different size steel pine cones to incorporate into my work? Thanks for your help.
   Chris - Saturday, 01/16/10 09:31:15 EST

Metal pine cones
   Carver Jake - Saturday, 01/16/10 10:31:26 EST

3 x 4 foot pinecones! I wouldn't want to walk in THAT forest!
   - guru - Saturday, 01/16/10 10:47:04 EST

Mike T
When everything is Damascus ..you end up with the tricky question of when to etch each piece and not being able to do final,after assembly sanding....not impossible but alot more planning is involved
   - arthur - Saturday, 01/16/10 11:17:02 EST

The non-ferrous version of Damascus, was invented Mokume Gane' to match patterned steel in something other than steel. Traditional Japanese blades are fitted together with a pin in the grip so the parts are all finished loose.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/16/10 17:11:34 EST

I recently saw "Art Of the Samuri" at the Met in NYC..I'm one of the few people underimpressed With Japanese edged weapons...And the fact that there not sole authored turns me off....Personally I much perfer the knives of Ric Dunkerly and the rest of the "Montana Mafia" to anything I've seen from Japan..I'm not arguing with anyone, just stating my humble opinion
   - arthur - Saturday, 01/16/10 18:22:58 EST

Like a lot of weapons they have a cachet' based on myth and legend more than fact. But they were tremendously well made considering the level of technology used in their manufacture.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/16/10 20:01:54 EST

Each era has its' own, currently the Japanese run the gamut. German steel was the top of the line, anything with the word "Soligen" on it was high end.

Okay, so here's a strange occurence.... the 440 stainless steel needle project: Finished a small billet, forged a 3 inch blade of it. I check it for the obvious characteristics one normally looks for. I touch it to a shop magnet and NOTHING! How is this possible? Did I transform 400 steel into 300? All I did was TIG the needles as filler. There are surely contaminants in the mix, most of the needles had some DNA and petroleum based ointment in a thin layer. The needles were very magnetic to begin with, so how does steel lose its' magnetic attraction?
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 01/17/10 11:09:50 EST


Annealing the steel may have affected its magnetic properties. Though from the references I could, 400 series stainless is generally listed as magnetic in all conditions, while 300 series is magnetic only when cold worked. That could suggest the needles were actually cold worked 300 series. But I did find a reference to some 400 type steels being more magnetic when hardened.

Maybe if you spend longer with Google than I did, you can find a better explanation.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 01/17/10 12:24:12 EST

Oh, and if you really did convert 400 to 300, you've discovered how to transmogrify iron into nickel. Nickel isn't gold, but at today's prices you may really have something there (grin).
   Mike BR - Sunday, 01/17/10 12:27:53 EST

Hi Nip
I just noticed you mentioned TIG welding...Is that how you've been welding your tangs...I had been refering to arc [stick] welding when I said I didn't recomend it...
   - arthur - Sunday, 01/17/10 13:45:36 EST

There is also a possibility the needles are one of the heat treatable 300 series stainlesses that may be magnetic when hard.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/17/10 15:47:37 EST

After some research, it is quite possible that they are 300. Definitely cold drawn steel. Magnetic as-is, then heta one up to critical and it loses that trait.

Arthur, I've been welding in all sorts of technique. I did this before I got into blacksmithing. Personally I feel that anyone interested in the metal arts should be WELL informed and able to do the most common welding applications. In respect to the knives, I used FCAW (MIG) process. I can oxy/acetyl (torch), MMAW (stick), MIG, TIG, and forge weld. I could stick weld a knife tang if need be. I use TIG to put similar metals together with no contaminant, FCAW (MIG) for quick tacks and/or fast welds, MMAW (stick) for cast iron welds and gorilla welds on heavy and/or structural stuff. I've seen micro laser welding in jewelry applications (REAL nice stuff!). I'd like to see friction welding. And we have all (accidentally) done a friction weld of sorts when you overtighten a bolt the right way.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 01/17/10 16:10:04 EST

After 40 years in metal fab I'm familar with all types of welding..but at my home shop I have a stick "buzz box" soley for welding up billets..these are what I see most often in small shops and I don't like them for welding tangs...That might come from my background in precision sheet metal where tig is most commonly used... regards
   - arthur - Sunday, 01/17/10 17:22:12 EST

But getting back to my original post I see no reason to weld on a tang..As a blacksmith it's much easier just to draw it out...thats what all the ABS guys I know do..
   - arthur - Sunday, 01/17/10 17:35:51 EST

I have an issue similar to the tang issue except it concerns the blade itself. I wanted to design a unique skinning knife. I burned the midnight oil making drawings. I then transferred the drawing onto the steel ( 1095 ) also using a compass for the curves. It turned out beautifully and unique from the butt to the blade. I Did not design the blade the way I intended to. It is functional and razor sharp, but not a knife I would sell. It is not as wide as I want it to be and does not have the upsweep ( curve I want ). Should I forge it thinner and wider and curve it. This may sound elementary to you, but I want to correct the mistake. I will not attempt to sell a knife that I would not buy myself. I will try anything, but may end up saving the metal for scrap. I have some 1084 and 15 N 20. Maybe weld it to the 1095, forge into a round rod,make a few twists then hammer out again. What would yall do ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 01/17/10 19:19:55 EST

I have an anvil with the markings h poker x 55 on it .Can you give me any information on this anvil,where made year made? etc.
   eileen - Sunday, 01/17/10 19:31:47 EST

Mike..I'd keep it and make another knife...If it's all ground into a knife shape and the bevels are in,if you try to recycle the steel your going to end up with alot less steel then you think...ask me how I know..How much 1084..15n20 do you have ? Those two steels work great together to make Damascus.
   - arthur - Sunday, 01/17/10 19:51:59 EST

Mike, Once the blade is ground to the finished cross section it is a little late to change the overall shape.

To increase the up sweep simply forging the blade thinner along the middle and edge will cause it to curve up. This would also make the blade wider. You would need material to do this. Thinning the back it will straighten the increased up sweep. However, it takes very little to create too much up sweep or curve to the blade.

What I would do. . . If the finished blade is the wrong shape I would re-profile it by grinding and live with a smaller knife OR live with it. Then start over again.

   - guru - Sunday, 01/17/10 20:01:23 EST

Eileen, According Anvils in America H. Boker may have been importing German made anvils prior to 1860 under their name then under the Trenton trademark. The 55 is probably the weight in pounds but I would weigh the anvil to be sure.

   - guru - Sunday, 01/17/10 20:14:43 EST

METALURGICAL COKE: does anyone know where good quality coke is for sale within 2 hours of norwalk, ct? i like the flexibility of a sold fuel forge, but not the smoke (making charcoal is impractical for me) which is why i was looking at a gas forge, but looking at it i think that coke would be the best choice for me in the long run as coal is getting harder to find.
   bigfoot - Sunday, 01/17/10 22:14:09 EST

Hi Mile, Chalk it up to practice and learning. Not much can be done at this point in the job.
But dont be so hard on yourself, somebody out there will just LOVE is the way it is. There has been lots of stuff I make that while I am not entirely proud of it, Somebody will be chuffed to have it.
   - Sven - Sunday, 01/17/10 23:09:42 EST

mike T
We call those Christmas Presents...lol
   - arthur - Monday, 01/18/10 00:15:19 EST

Yes, Many things are a matter of taste and someone else may like it more than you do. If your new work doesn't convince them then, as they say, the customer is always right. Also, first mades are often worth more.
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 02:29:54 EST

I just traded for a lever action forge in desperate need of a belt and i was wondering what would a good source of belts to use on it
   sid - Monday, 01/18/10 08:30:23 EST

Not been on here for a while so was reading some older posts. I read the one about oil quench twice as I didn't believe anybody could be so STUPID. The plastic bucket containing the oil slumped!!!!!!!! Anybody stupid enough to quench hot iron in a plastic bucket has done well to survive to adult age.
   philip in china - Monday, 01/18/10 09:43:27 EST

Flat Belts: Sid, the belt can be cotton, leather (the original was) or rubber on cloth. All these materials are available from places listed as "power transmission" suppliers OR under belting in the Yellow Pages. Belts of this type can be glued endless belts (IF they can be put on as endless), OR "laced" belts. You can also purchase leather belts from the same leather workers that make belts and harnesses OR on-line from places like McMaster-Carr.

Laced belts are literally laced together using thin leather laces and punched holes. Modern replacement "lacing" is one or more proprietary steel methods that form a hinge on the belt that can have the pin removed and replaced to install the belt.

The trick to these belts is stretch. Leather stretches the most and synthetics the least. A leather belt for one of these forges will need to be about 1 to 1-1/2" short to start. A nylon belt only a 1/4" if measured accurately.

The problem is having the belt made, THEN needing to shorten it later. Most shops with flat belt machinery did their own lacing for this reason. I was lucky enough to get a deal on a big Clipper floor model belt lacing machine many years ago. Otherwise it would be nearly impossible or very expensive to maintain all the flat belt machinery I have.
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 09:58:49 EST

Flat Belts: Many shops that have old AND new machinery that uses flat belts often have belt splicers and may be able to help as well. Try your local machine shop as well as the Power Transmission suppliers.
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 10:15:25 EST

Arthur:"I see no reason to weld on a tang..As a blacksmith it's much easier just to draw it out..."

Composite knives... that's why I showed you the link to my knife page. Sometimes you simply CANNOT do it all from a single piece. There is NO way to have that knife look like that without the convenience of arc welding. The blade was forged from a relatively small piece of steel, it was originally 1/2" round by 2 inches. There was no way to draw it out after forging as there was no material left, so I had no choice but to weld a nice piece of flat bar to it as a handle. Then the basket twist pommel was forged and welded. I'd love to see a blacksmith draw out a basket twist without collapsing the whole thing. I prefer forging a knife rather than stock removal, but if I have to complete it I will do so by any means necessary. My knives are works of art rather than an everyday pocket carrier. I wouldn't give ABS a coal dusts worth of credit, I feel it is a self-serving system and I'm sure they would scoff at my work.

Remember Arthur, there really are no rule when it comes to creation and creativity. You either do what you do and make it happen or you stand rigid according to someone ELSES ideals. By sticking with the latter, you end up shorting yourself and missing out on the sense of accomplishment of doing it on your own.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 01/18/10 11:08:28 EST

I think your selling the ABS short..I've learned quite a lot from their classes,Hammeer-ins and free exchange of knowledge....like any other school..they keep you from having to reinvent the wheel..how far you follow their principals is up to you but they certainly get knifemakers going in the right direction....In their two week course people progress from never having seen a forge to being able to forge,heat treat and create a usable knife...Of course mileage varies..
   - arthur - Monday, 01/18/10 11:46:48 EST

Philip In China, I was having trouble locating metal buckets for our mine blacksmith shop. Finally, I called some painting contractors and was able to obtain all I wanted.
   Carver Jake - Monday, 01/18/10 11:52:23 EST

Welding and blades: It is fairly common to weld a tang onto expensive blade material, especially laminated "Damascus" steels. While a one-piece blade is stronger many smiths make a tang that is too small with too sharp of corners that is much weaker than a good weld on a proper width tang.

Modern bladesmiths also commonly silver solder the guard onto the blade further increasing its strength.

Then there is the fact that many ancient weapons were a mass of welds, some with steeled edges, some laminated and some pieced from slabs.

The ideal indestructible blade is forged one piece including the guard but this is almost never done even in "ultimate" knives. Besides the cost and labor factors there is the loss in creativity.

Consider the bronze age blade that was typically cast with integral guard and pommel. If the tradition continued into steel then we might be arguing about one piece knives vs. multi-part. . .
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 11:57:46 EST


I'm pretty sure that metallurgical coke is a more compressed product that blacksmith coke. At least there was a bucket of it sitting in our Guild forge that no one would use. At a minimum, try a sample before ordering a ton of the stuff.

I once went to dilute about a tablespoon of sulfuric acid in a plastic laundry scoop, which promptly started to sag. It was in the sink, so I was able to get the plug in and run a cold water bath in time to save it. I can imagine the feeling of a 5-gallon bucket of hot oil slumping.
   Mike BR - Monday, 01/18/10 12:48:03 EST

Metal Containers and Oil Quench Tanks: McMaster Carr has Galvanized steel buckets and steel shipping pails. Shipping will be as much as the pails. The buckets are nestable but the largest are 4 gallon. They have a straight sided 4.5 gallon bucket with lid. It would be handy for a small amount of quench oil.

THEN There are large cooking pots. 60 and 40 quart (15 and 10 gallon) aluminum pots with lids available from most restaurant suppliers AND they often made up to 100 qt (25 gallon). Cost is about $1/quart. Lids are extra. These would make good oil quench tanks.

We all have the handy 5 gallon plastic buckets in our shops. They are handy for all kinds of things. I purchase them NEW from an outfit called ULine where I get my shipping boxes. Those with lids are handy for storing tools and dies to keep them from rusting and collecting dirt. I have a fair collection of punches and dies for my punch press that only get used about once a decade. If not properly stored they would be ruined the next time I needed them. . .

The plastic buckets often get used for quench tubs but it is not a good idea. Yeah, we all do it. But it is still bad practice. Hot steel, even under 12" of cold water will melt a hole in the bottom of the bucket. Things much less than a black heat will melt into the side of the bucket resulting in plastic glued to the part and a ruined bucket. And they should NEVER EVER be used for oil quench as others have noted. The oil can get hot enough to soften the plastic OR if it catches fire the bucket burns up as well! Find, buy, beg or borrow a metal container for oil quenching.
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 13:02:58 EST

Mike i was reallly reffering to coke made from metalurgial grade coal. But i guess i had the wrong term!
   bigfoot - Monday, 01/18/10 13:05:18 EST

Metallurgical Coke - coke as it comes out of a modern coke furnace is a compressed mass that has become solidied/sintered together. To get it sized, it's normally run through crushers - type and cycles vary with the size you want at the end.

For a time, some friends and I had an in to free metallurgical coke - one of our friends was working at USX's testing labs which included a coke lab to test for coking properties of coal. They'd run trial cycles in their lab size coke battery and test properties. To get rid of it, they had to send it out as HAZMAT, or it could be given to people who'd burn it. We jumped on it, and the lab techs were usually happy to size it to 1 to 2" size lumps. When they didn't size it, we'd end up with chunks that were 3" x 4" or larger that we'd have to crush ourselves. It's fairly friable and a ball pein and swage block work well to reduce it to size. A bit dusty and labor intensive, but it was free.

Alas, like a lot of tings it only lasted awhile - USX sold off a lot of the lab, including the coke lab, and our friend ended up employed elsewhere when the new lab ran into some financial difficulties.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 01/18/10 13:07:58 EST

thank you Guru i appreciate the info
   sid - Monday, 01/18/10 13:35:45 EST

I do a lot of "primitve" stick tang knives for my local SCA crowd. I have found I can forge weld the tang on faster than I can draw it from parent stock. Remember, there is no WRONG way to DO something, but some ways are more efficient (and safer) than others.
   JimG - Monday, 01/18/10 13:49:40 EST

Hi, I have a customer who works in a gold mine in northern manitoba. He brought me steel used in the mine for drilling. It is about 7/8" hexagonal with a 1/4" hole right through for the water to blast through during drilling. I forged some dies with it for my power hammer. I can barley scratch it with a file. I am really curious what it might be made of. Any ideas?
   Dan - Monday, 01/18/10 14:04:46 EST

Dan, Probably W1, the cheapest tool steel available. But I may be wrong - one of the charts says S5. As always Junk Yard Steel Rules apply.
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 14:56:05 EST

Metallurgical Coke, AKA Foundry Coke: I had access to some of this and found it terrible to use. For one, the 4 to 5" lumps noted by Gavainh were the real thing made in a furnace that compressed the coke while it was plastic. It took hard heavy blows to break it up and a LOT of air to keep the fire going. The coke I have seen sold for blacksmithing was not so dense and perhaps not quite 100% coked so it would stay lit. Natural coke made in the forge is a LOT more forgivable and easy to use.
   - guru - Monday, 01/18/10 15:02:45 EST

IIRC, Atlas Steel, the only North American producer of drill still for the past 50 years made most of their product from 1080.
   - grant Sarver - Monday, 01/18/10 18:44:25 EST


I used some coke with some folks from the steelyard in providence RI. I think they said they got it in johnson RI,
available in bags. It seemed to work pretty well. The steelyard is a non profit community place, teaching blacksmithing, glasswork, and other stuff.
   Josh S - Monday, 01/18/10 19:05:42 EST

Guru, Arthur, Sven,

Thank you for the input concerning my knife screw up. One thing I learned is this. Make dam sure your drawings and the transfer of these drawings to the steel are exactly the way you want them to be. After putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into a project, you can be so dejected when it doesn't turn out right. Its like getting drunk and waking up with a tattoo of a naked lady on your arm, then your stuck with the problem. Study and restudy the drawing carefully, because thats what you are going to have to live with.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 01/19/10 02:38:00 EST

Something I thought I would pass along is this. 1084 is being discontinued. You will have to start using 1080 and 1075. However, Admiral steel ( maybe other companies too ) are trying to get rid of their present inventories of 1084 by giving good discounts. I am going to purchase some more 1084 while inventories last.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 01/19/10 02:54:28 EST

Mike, I think your problem is that you have this preconceived notion of what you want the piece to look like... so much that you drew it on paper. When the end result is not what you expected you are let down. Bummer. Try free form designing, this is what I do, not only with knives, but all my creations. Let the metal work into the shape it WANTS to be in and let it flow. Michaelangelo said that when he sculpted marble, he wasn't chipping away what he didn't want, but more so he was leaving what the marble wanted to keep. Forget drawings... the only drawing I use is the drawing out of steel.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 01/19/10 11:32:30 EST

COKE: thanks josh for the tip. i will have to look into that. have you used it yourself? or is this just what you have heard? (i just want to be careful about this kind of investment).
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 01/19/10 11:49:59 EST


Thanks for the info, I may start going more in that direction. I have a tendency to be a perfectionist and
can't hardly live with anything less. I think that is something else I need to overcome.

   Mike T. - Tuesday, 01/19/10 12:40:57 EST

Mike I bought a bunch of 1084 at Admirals "Box Sale" a few months back..I don't know if it's still going on..It was a good deal and the steel seems OK,but it was the only time I bought from Admiral and was not sent certs...
   - arthur - Tuesday, 01/19/10 12:52:06 EST

I agree with what you say about creativity...I enjoy heating a piece of metal and pounding it to shape with no self imposed limitations....If I had to work to a plan I would not be making knives...but thats cause I'm retired and spent a lifetime working to other peoples prints with .030 tolarences..
I meet many knifemakers, smiths not stock removal guys who make a sheetmetal pattern and try to forge exactly to it. They feel it is a test of their skill and feel my way is a cop-out.
I also meet knifemakers who take commissions..sit down with their clients and design a knife..These clients expect and want to pay for a knife exactly to their specifications.This way of planning ahead is very common and has much historical prescedent....James Black forged the original Bowie to Jims exact plans...I also have pictures of actual Bowies commisioned by Rezin Bowie that were forged to his pictures and design...
As you've said before..there is no right way..just what feels right to you..

   - arthur - Tuesday, 01/19/10 13:11:04 EST

Driving to work today listening to the radio I found the Anvilfire.com's theme song: "Bend me, Shape Me" by the American Breed.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 01/19/10 13:15:56 EST

1084 was discontinued years ago, but the reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. Aldo Bruno in New Jersey has a custom batch run off to his specs every few years and sells it to the bladesmithing community for a minor profit. Easy enough as long as you order a minimum of 10,000 lbs...

You can contact Aldo at njsteelbaron@gmail.com . He also has some nice clean 1095.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 01/19/10 14:37:46 EST

That came out a bit confusingly... Aldo buys 10,000 lbs at a time, YOU can buy it from him as a minimum of four five-foot bars of 1/4" x 1 1/2" hot-rolled.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 01/19/10 14:41:33 EST

Certs: Certifying a material is much different than a simple label. Certs imply traceability to a test sample somewhere in a batch of steel's life. The cert also refers to the certifier's "system" for maintaining records. Certs almost always come with a significant price tag attached.

However, in the end, it is all nothing but a paper trail. Unless the bar has its batch number and other ID that goes with the cert stamped into it the cert means little. Thus cut stock is always questionable and the markings can still be phonied.

THEN, when you the part manufacturer cut a piece off a bar how do YOU certify in a systematic manner that the part delivered come from the referenced certified bar? More paper assurances?

Thus it has always been with material certs and thus it will always be.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/19/10 16:14:26 EST

Are things really that different on the other side of the country? I've always gotten mill certs, even on A-36 just for the asking. In fact, I've gotten material at greatly reduced price because they didn't have certs. What the steel brokers call SIW..........Sink In Water. That's all they guarantee. And sometimes that's all I needed it to do.
   - grant Sarver - Tuesday, 01/19/10 16:53:13 EST

Certs are really no big deal,but Aldo published his and I just wanted to compare...As in everthing else there are tolerances in steel and I was just curious...
   - arthur - Tuesday, 01/19/10 17:09:42 EST

Had a mill write new carts for me before. Local mill that made a lot of re-bar also rolled round bar in re-bar grade. Mostly grade 40 for making king crab pots. I needed 1045. They looked over their certs and found a batch and said "yep, this one falls within the limits", and they wrote me new certs as 1045.
   - grant Sarver - Tuesday, 01/19/10 17:22:27 EST

"Let the metal work into the shape it WANTS to be in and let it flow."

TGN, respectfully, I disagree with that statement. We are Smiths. We take a raw lumps of iron and form it into the shape we want. We know our material our method and it's limits.

I don't think Michelangelo was letting the marble dictate the shape to him, but that he looked at a piece, saw how he could use it to it's best advantage, and then removed what he didn't want.

I hear this quite often from patrons at sales, and politely let them know that I am the artist, not the material, and I bend it to my will.

Anyway, I'm not as cranky (well maybe I am)as this note may sound.
   JimG - Tuesday, 01/19/10 17:59:06 EST

Hello. Any recommendations for the type/size of woven wire mesh to use on a fireplace screen? Thanks!
   Watermark - Tuesday, 01/19/10 18:12:22 EST

Jim G, I like your approach to smithing.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 01/19/10 18:56:46 EST

Absoutly Jim...I'd like to see the architctual guys telling the customer this is what the metal wanted,heck with the prints
   - arthur - Tuesday, 01/19/10 19:06:40 EST

Coke crushing- Get a cast iron radiator and crush it on that. The fins act as blades and the pipes make a useful screen to take it down to less than an inch. I get a trainee to swing the sledgehammer which is even better.

I thought I had posted this but have been having major computer problems here.
   PHILIP IN CHINA - Tuesday, 01/19/10 19:15:25 EST

Arthur- I work in the architectural end of things and on rare occasions with greatly concealed glee I do get to tell an architect that the steel won't do what he wants, but it's usually because of the designer not knowing the material and it's limitations. More common is to say "you can't afford it" in a longer and more polite way.
   Judson Yaggy - Tuesday, 01/19/10 19:35:58 EST

Watermark, I use 1/8 inch hardware cloth. Sometimes you can find it already blackened. If not, you can spray paint it black.

Jim G, I think "The Blacksmiths' Craft" talks about the "behaviour of metal." I like that. We're in charge, but at the same time, we must understand the behavior of the material.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/19/10 19:38:15 EST

We're all amazed with what metal can and won't do..I think thats why we're here
   - arthur - Tuesday, 01/19/10 19:58:05 EST

Boy, that's a can-o-worms. I have a fondness for forged shapes that are a result of another operation. When we silt and drift we create the hole, but in the other plane the bar takes a "natural" shape that is an indirect result, we didn't hammer that shape into it. I think many of the most pleasing shapes are achieved by knowing what the material "wants" to do and "coaxing" it along rather than beating into submission. Like I said "can-o-worms".
   - grant Sarver - Tuesday, 01/19/10 21:22:08 EST

Grant, the key word I think in your comment is "knowing". Us knowing that if we apply a technique in a certain way this is what we're going to end up with.

Going back to Mike T.'s knife, I think that an experienced knifesmith would take a look at the plan, and know what size stock to start with and what techniques to use and forge out a knife to those specs.

   JimG - Tuesday, 01/19/10 21:41:39 EST

Grant Sarver, Thanks for the label for all my forgings.
"FORGED OUT OF ORGANIC SIW steel by Jim Jacobs". I love it, get so many good ideas from the Forum. Thanks Guru for all your time and help. Jim Jacobs [Carver Jake]
   Carver Jake - Tuesday, 01/19/10 23:29:32 EST

Design and Execution or "Realization".

When artists design something in one medium and then execute it in another there is often a difference. Often the artist will see the item differently in 3D than in 2D and makes changes as they go. Or knowing that he/she will be executing the final work themselves they only draw what they think THEY need.

Often artists draw a sculpture, then make a model and then the finished piece is made. In bronzes and large marbles professionals often produce the finished work based on the artists scale model. These workers take great pride in producing EXACTLY what the artist wanted and make no changes and will ask about fine details if there is any question. This has been common practice for centuries. Of course SOME work is done 100% by the sculptor.

In metalwork there is almost no impossibility from an artistic standpoint but there certainly is structurally. A gate that works perfectly in steel will sag in wrought iron and could completely collapse in brass or bronze. Some parts of the design may require impossibly small joints that will not hold up. OR a design may have dangerously sharp elements which are prohibited in many localities. Then there are issues with mixed metals. . .

In forge work there are some innate forms that should be part of the design of "hand forged" ironwork. In cast work most of these shapes do not apply and any shape that is reasonably castable may be used. While a good smith could replicate castings with forging a forged product may be too weak or unwieldy to produce by casting.

In artistic ironwork a drawing can be simply considered a general guide. Did the architect specify material sizes? Are there detailed dimensions including that of curves and tapers, sizes and location of fasteners. . . In other words, REAL details with tolerances. On the other hand an architect might produce true scale drawings designed to be used as templates and followed to the nth. Communication is important in both of these cases.

When a design is approved by the customer then you should do your best to follow that design. It helps a LOT if you can do your own design work but many smiths do a very poor job of putting work on paper. I've repeated THIS numerous times, Decorative = artisitic = artist/blcksmith and the ART comes fist. Learn to draw. Learn to draw what YOU can make.

I hear many smiths speak of the spontaneity of working directly in iron and I think "Oh what BS!" If you do not have a detailed plan of action when you pull a piece of steel out of the forge you are wasting time and material. This plan can include what the steel does naturally but THAT needs to be part of your plan. And what it does naturally comes from experience with the metal.

Yes, that's a chicken or the egg problem. But that is how much of life works.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/20/10 00:42:42 EST

Saying any steel is obsolete and unavailable is questionable. Their are still specialty mills in the US that will produce whatever you want within their capabilities. (Steel only, not wrought iron.) You may not want to pay the price, but they'll do it. As part of our operation, we operate small induction furnaces with ladle furnace and vacuum degas capability followed by bottom pouring into ingots. By small, I mean 4 and 5 tons. 1085 is not the least bit challenging, as a specialty producer we're using doing odd-ball casting alloys as master alloys for foundries and some forging grade ingots. Foundry grades - cobalt alloys, nickel super alloys, copper alloys such as cupro-nickel, stainless steels, real odd-balls such as iron base, 30 % Mn, 10.5 % aluminum, plus a couple of other minor specified elements. The last forging grade ingot we poured was 17-4 PH stainless steel in a 25" x 27" big end up mold. You want restricted residual elements? Are you willing to pay for them, as it takes time and costs more to find scrap with minimal residual elements.

The other issue - you'll have to take delivery and figure out how you'll break the ingot down to the size you want - our current capabilities stop after the ingot leaves our door.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 01/20/10 00:53:25 EST

I am not an experienced knifesmith, I worked on the old railroad for years, but the desire to make knives was always in the back of my mind. I have a personal belief that if a person tries hard enough and works hard enough there is nothing he/she cannot accomplish. If I can get my experimental knife looking better, I will send the Guru a picture and you can see how it looks. Let me tell you about what it looks like. Knives have handles approximately the same length as the blade ( just for simplicity sake ). I wanted to make a skinng blade with a long curved handle, so the hands would not have to be in the viscera ( gut section of the deer ) while gutting. With the handle held in a comfortable, natural position, vertical to the deer, the blade would also be vertical, in a natural slicing position ( the hands away from blood and guts ) I hope this all makes sense to you. Now as it stands, this knife will work the way I intended it to, except, I want the blade to look better.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 01/20/10 01:55:49 EST


I also like Admiral Steel and I will tell you why. They treat each person the same. They don't care if you are a poor old boy or a rich spendster. They don't take an order and then give you the brush off. They talk to you and discuss your needs and help all they can ( sort of makes me feel important ). One rep I talked to started figuring out how he could box everything in order to save me shipping costs. They also box it up right then and get it to you quick. Their service is superb !!!
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 01/20/10 02:08:19 EST

As long as I'm on a roll, I will relate something that many of you probaly know. I don't have an end mill ( wish I did ) but I came up with an idea. I called the end mill company and asked them a question. Can I put a bit in a router and get the same results ? Their reply was this....Yes it will work, however the router has to be tightened down good so there is no vibration. Any vibration can break a carbide bit. Well, I bought some bits and tightened my router down so there is no movement at all. I will try it out and see what the results are. I will also tighten all the bolts from time to time to maintain the tight grip. I will also get a piece of tape, push the bit through it, then make sure the tape allows no fines to sift through.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 01/20/10 02:21:35 EST

Mike, At router speeds "tight" includes the type of bearings, the housing, base and guide material (not white-metal or plastic). Generally this means machine tool size cast iron and steel parts throughout.

You might be lucky and this is one of those "gottaway withit" deals that I would not write home about. Then you also have feed rates to deal with.

I just have a bad feeling about it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/20/10 04:27:46 EST

Mike T.
Please don't misunderstand, I wasn't slamming you for not being experienced. It was a comment on how James Black would have been able to forge the original bowie to Jim's plan.
Only way to gain experience is by doing. Like Jann Arden said in a recent interview if she's not failing she's not learning.
   JimG - Wednesday, 01/20/10 09:33:56 EST

Patterns and Layout: I've mentioned this one before but will do so again.

To accurately transfer complex drawings (those with progressive curves, ovals, paraboloids) to material for cutting profiles is easy with modern technology.

Make your drawing by hand or by CAD, copy or print on paper, glue the paper to the work using spray photo mount glue.

CAD is best for this as it prints very accurately and can have very line or bold lines. When sawing or grinding you SHOULD be able to split the line producing an accuracy of around +/-.005" (.13mm).

I've used this method including marks for holes that had to be accurately placed. As long as the cutting methods are pushing the paper down it will stay attached through sawing, grinding, filing.

Multiple matching parts can be made this way. Accurate lefts and rights. . . and if the product becomes something you need hundreds of, then the CAD drawing can be sent to the laser cutting (or water jet) folks for higher production.

Size is not limited to what will print on a single sheet of paper. Most printing programs today including CAD and graphics will tile a drawing over several sheets which can be put together. Of course, if you have a plotter length is no issue. Some fabrication shops print detailed sections like crests or panel fills full scale so the guys in the shop can tape it to their bench and build the part over the drawing.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/20/10 09:43:08 EST

has anyone dealt with dihel steel before? i was doing reasearch on steel pricing and for a 4x4x18 lump they had the lowest price (about $170 plus s&h). this is in relation to my earlier question about how to heat treat a similar lump. thanks for all the help on past and present projects.
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 01/20/10 11:29:12 EST

Having spent a little time at Boeing in my youth, I would mention they have many hand techniques down. I worked in tooling and we often got drawings printed on mylar (very stable) glued them on a plate and did as Guru outlined. We had fixtures that you set over a hole and insert a "bomb-site" an optical cross hair device. That way you could line up with the hole on the drawing. Then you remove the bomb-site and replace it with a drill bushing, drill the hole by hand, replace with another bushing and ream the hole. We could certainly work to .001 this way. We were making things like drill jigs.
   - grant Sarver - Wednesday, 01/20/10 13:38:01 EST

Grant, when did you work at Boeing? My Dad gave me a strong love for Boeing products when in my youth he recounted the times B-17's renowned strenght brought him home. I have also flown in single engine boeings' and jumped from them. Boeing Stearman biplanes to be exact:)
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/20/10 18:22:43 EST

Mike T,

I'm no machinist, but are end mills designed to run at router speeds? Maybe try a carbide burr instead?

Grant, so I guess the optical device was a real disaster area (grin). (I live in a glass house on typos, but still can't keep myself from throwing stones when I see a funny one.)
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 01/20/10 18:28:07 EST

Mike, the answer is yes and the answer is no. It all comes down to surface speed. Which is dependent on the material the cutter is made of and the material you're cutting. Smaller cutters are run faster to maintain the same surface speed. End mills can be high-speed or carbide. Need more information.
   - grant Sarver - Wednesday, 01/20/10 18:42:47 EST

Ptree, B-17's? How old do you think I am? I worked there in 1966 tooling up for the "new" 737.
   - grant Sarver - Wednesday, 01/20/10 18:45:21 EST

I think Jim and Arthur may have misinterpreted what my point was. I've never been commisioned to do anything really custom. Let me rephrase that, nobody has ever sent me a drawing for me to make into reality. I think that that method is wrought with too many variables and has potential for major problems. I consider myself a creator, I believe "artist" is a title used by others to describe someone, not as a self title. Keeping that in mind, some of the worlds BEST works of art were pure creativity, not a preconceived notion of what art is supposed to be. THAT idea is more prevalent today and seems to obscure truly talented people because they don't match the 0.00003" tolerance.

I like making things. I like working (and playing) with metal. I make things out of metal. We all do, and if that spark of creativity and inspiration wasn't there you wouldn't be.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 01/20/10 21:50:15 EST

Mike T, what is it you are trying to do that you want to put an endmill in a router?
If you just need to make a straight sided or plung cut they do make router bits for that.
I WOULD NOT try to use an endmill in a hand held router for anything and, probably not a mounted router either.
Endmills have very aggresive cutting geometry that will draw either the tool into the work uncontrolably or the work into the tool the same way. I have been a machinist for 28 years, ask me how I know this will happen...
If you were to look at a cross section of a typical endmill and a router bit you would see that while they may both have a positive cutting geometry the endmill has what I'll call a "scallop" ground into it just behind the cutting edge. This serves several perposses but, one of them is to help keep the tool in the cut (reduce tool deflection) the router bit does not have this "scallop" because as I said it will cause the pulling in I mention above.
I relize you said you asked a tool manufacturer if this would work and they said yes but, endmills are often used on high speed routing MACHINE TOOLS not in a hand tool and they must have misunderstood your question.
What is it you are trying to do? Maybe a better idea can be thought of...
   - merl - Wednesday, 01/20/10 22:14:46 EST

Bomb Sight: There are a variety of optical devices for layout and alignment. We have one that fits into a milling machine spindle that magnifies layout marks. It is accurate enough to split the center of a fine scribed line. It shows just how inaccurate center punch marks can be. I found it was better to do without them rather than correcting the punch marks. Its a relatively inexpensive device.

Another tool we had on loan for a short time was an optical comparitor. These are used to look closely at various profiled cutters, punches or parts such as cams and compare them to a much enlarged drawing or to visually check dimensions. It is a tool that is rarely needed but if you need it you need it.

   - guru - Wednesday, 01/20/10 23:27:28 EST

Oww, yeah, I love my optical center-finder. at 40X it's amazing to see how wide a scribe line can be or how rough a smooth surface is. They are better on a knee mill, it's a little harder to lean into my VMC to look through the eye-piece. Be cool to modify one with a mini-video camera. Could display on a little 4-5 inch screen or even on the machines display.
   - grant sarver - Thursday, 01/21/10 01:25:07 EST

Meri: Well it's sure nothing for the faint of heart. At the RPM they turn it's harder to grab, course I wouldn't want to try climb milling. I have a 1/2 inch spindle air router that I've used as a portable milling machine, mostly in cast iron. Using a 1/2 inch carbide end mill it really worked quite well. I'd be a little concerned about sucking chips into an electric though.
   - grant sarver - Thursday, 01/21/10 01:34:04 EST

Obsolete steel? Give me the recipe and I can get it made. The only problem is will you take the minimum order?
   philip in china - Thursday, 01/21/10 02:35:13 EST

Routers and end mills: What if you slowed the router with a speed controller?
   - Marc - Thursday, 01/21/10 08:04:37 EST


No, you didn't offend me in any way !! I try to keep a humble attitude and learn as much as possible.

The endmill idea was basically to cut out drawings on the thinner knife steel ( just like cutting out a wood pattern with a scroll saw ). I don't want to have to contend with a slow grinding process, but actual cutting ( I don't mind a slow feed rate. ) The endmill company recommended the model end mill bits to use ( Yes, my router is bolted to my work bench, the bolts go all the way through 2 inch thick wood ). BUT...I'm sure your input is the correct one ( I know you are a professional ). Can I get router bits to cut out knife patterns on thinner steel ? If I can just get the basic shapes I want, I don't mind grinding down to the final tolerance. Give me a company to contact. Thanks guys, Merl, Guru and all. I have a good forge and incorporate it in the knife process. I am a slow learner, but never give up on what I want to do. To be honest with you I have been using the old drill process where you drill holes all around the drawing and then break it out and then grind down to the scribed lines. I just don't want to do this any more, I feel like I'm wasting time, plus it is a hectic process ).
   Mike T. - Thursday, 01/21/10 08:33:02 EST

Mike, There are a lot of saw sizes between a jewelers and a hack saw. They make hack saw blades for hand scroll saws which I shorten and use in my jewelers saw frame. I would try one of them rather than the drilling holes routine. . . Ideally a metal cutting band saw would be used for this kind of blanking in low numbers.

Another issue with the router routine on steel is the flying chips. They are going to be much like using a rotary file in a die grinder except larger and many will be hardened from the cutting heat. These little curly blades get in your hair, clothes, shoes, ears and are REAL bad about bouncing behind even the best safety glasses.

I hope this works for you but it seems to be a little sketchy.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/21/10 09:27:14 EST


I am an undergraduate senior with a cross-over project between forging and fashion. My experience with forging is novice level but I am learning quickly. My question to you has to do with mannequins.

What metals should I use to create a dress mannequin's armature?

Should I use just three rods to create the basic human form (shoulders, hips, spine)?

Or should I flatten out those rods and use them as circles connected by shorter rods and a spine? Meaning more than three pieces of metal to forge together.

The project is to make the armature for a molded torso to hang museum clothing on. The garments are all heavy and top heavy in some cases.

I hope I made my dilemma clear, but if you need further clarification I would be more than happy to provide it.

Any information you could give me, even if it is just an journal article or book you know about that may have a few insights, would be more than appreciated.

Thank you very much for your time,

P.S. by the way, great website!
   - Brianna - Thursday, 01/21/10 12:06:35 EST

Mike T, Grant has put his finger on the problem.
A typical router spindle runs much faster than the typical milling machine. Because of this, the actual amount of material cut per revolution is much less than if you were trying to hand feed loose material through a milling machine.
Look at it this way. If you have a spindle that is turning at 10,000 rpm with a two flute cutting tool in it, as a typical router uses, and you can maintain a steady input feed of 3" per minet (pretty slow) you will have an actual feed rate of .0003 per rev, divide that by the two cutting teeth you have on the tool and now you are down to .00015 inches of feed per rev.
The typical manual knee mill maxes out around 4000 rpm. If you take the same feed rate you end up with .00075 per rev and .000375 per tooth so, you can see how this changes as you change one or both factors. The actual formula is Feed in Inches Per Minet divided by RPM, divided by the number of flutes/teeth on the cutter.
Grant also makes the point that some cutters will work on some material and not on other.
Now that I see what you are trying to do I would say you MAY be able to do it with a carbide tool in a router IF you only make a cut at .01 to .015 deep on each pass.
Your tool will break down rather quickly as carbide does not take any banging around very well. As soon as your tool looses its sharp cutting edge it will break down rapidly so be carefull.
I think the "chain drill" and grind to finish methode may be your best bet although if this was at my shop I would be useing the Sawsall to rough it out.
Good Luck!
   - merl - Thursday, 01/21/10 12:16:27 EST

Brianna; that is a question you need to ask the textile conservator for those items, (as well as materials to be used minimum allowed radius on pieces, etc.)

As smiths we can discuss properties of steel but many of us don't know that folding linen or exposing silk to sunlight can destroy a museum piece. (I'm married to a spinster so I get lectured on a regular basis on how folks are destroying historical textiles in displays.)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/21/10 12:22:39 EST

From the description, it sounds like Mike wants to bolt his router to a bench, upside down, with an end mill spinning at 20,000 rpm in it, and then take a piece of steel, and try to hold it and freehand follow a line?

Personally, I think this is a recipe for injury, disaster, and pain.
The very second you touch that piece of steel to the spinning mill, it will be snatched out of your hands and tossed across the room.
I have used routers, with carbide bits, on aluminum, and that was scary enough I probably wont do it again.

This is what bandsaws were made for.
I frequently cut curved shapes out with my cheap 4x6 bandsaw, using a bimetal blade, up to 1/2" in thickness.
Knife blades would be easy.
A real vertical bandsaw, like a nice used hefty Do-All or Grob, of course, would be even better.

   - Ries - Thursday, 01/21/10 12:29:54 EST

Forging and Fashion: IF the display is purely artistic and does not involve conservation objects as Thomas mentioned then we can advise you somewhat.

The easiest metal to fabricate things from and is most commonly used is called "mild steel". This is the common steel that almost everything is made from. It is also the same material used in most construction, I-beams and so on.

Mild steel comes in bare and zinc plated or galvanized bar stock. For applications where you are going to heat or weld the steel you DO NOT want galvanized or plated steel.

Mild steel can be worked hot or cold depending on the amount of distortion you want. Cold working will make the steel hard and stiffer than when you started. If you overwork cold steel it will become brittle and break. Thus it is safer to heat the steel and bend or forge it.

Mild steel can be welded by numerous methods. Most modern methods are much faster and easier than forge welding.

As to your design, that is largely up to you and the image you want to present. A steel armature can be light and airy or bold and heavy. Steel parts can be shaped to long graceful tapers and vary in texture from that of rough tree bark to a fine polished finish. Flat stock can be formed into ribbon shapes. There are infinite variations.

Then there is finishing. For this type of thing paint is normally used unless the metal is plated (after fabrication) OR stainless steel is used. Stainless can be polished or given a sandpaper finish and left bare.

An artist-blacksmith might make your armature from one long piece forging and bending it into loops and various shapes. Another might make a long spiraling form like an apple peal. These are graceful shapes but others could be used.

Good luck with your project.

   - guru - Thursday, 01/21/10 13:40:28 EST

On the very odd occasion I have profiled a knife blade from a pice of ground flat stock (im a forger by heart!) I have cut the profile as a series of straight lines using a 0.040" thick cutting disc in a 4.5" angle grinder. I have then removed the balance of the metal by grinding against a plattern on a belt grinder. Even working at quite a sedate pace I can very accuratly profile a decent size, reasonably complicated knife blank in 20 mins. (it then takes me about 4 hours to do a true, full flat grind, but the profilings real quick! :) )
   - John N - Thursday, 01/21/10 13:52:40 EST

Brianna, something you might consider for construction material would be old coil springs from a garage door.
If you heat them and stretch them out you would get quite a bit of material from one spring and they are easy to work with just a heavy pliers when hot or let them cool slowly and they can be fairly easily worked cold.
Clean and paint as the Guru recomends.
   - merl - Thursday, 01/21/10 16:54:07 EST

Grant, I was not really indicating that you might have worked on B-17's, just that Boeing makes good, tuff birds. I also have a lot of hours in the back of various dash marks of 737:)
But heah, since you seem to love technology, that B-17 was a real technical advance when new.
Oddly the axle upsetter shop I worked at made millions of piston engine barrel forgings for Wright, Pratt, and all the others as well as forging aluminum cylinder heads for Wright. The cylinder heads in a 10" upsetter of all things!
So... When I laid hands on that 10" upsetter, I was touching the machine that made the 36 cylinder heads for the Wright radials that hauled him home as well as the cylinder barrels.
   ptree - Thursday, 01/21/10 18:50:59 EST

Thomas P: is it not technically impossible to be married to a spinster?
   - Chris E - Thursday, 01/21/10 19:03:15 EST

Thomas P: is it not technically impossible to be married to a spinster?
   - Chris E - Thursday, 01/21/10 19:04:36 EST

Thomas P: is it not technically impossible to be married to a spinster?
   Chris E - Thursday, 01/21/10 19:05:30 EST

sorry about the multiple posts
   Chris E - Thursday, 01/21/10 19:06:54 EST

Looks like Brianna said she was making an armature for a molded torso. Sounds to me like a steel frame with something like fiberglass or paper mache over it. That makes the steel form much less critical, but loops would probably be better than single bars. The encasing material can't break loose and rotate around loops.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/21/10 20:40:53 EST

Mike T: A 4 x 6 bandsaw will do what You want quite well. If You don't have the room get a portable band saw and make a bracket to hold it upright in a vise, then make a small table that supports the work on both sides of the blade.

The end mill in the router is a poor choice for all the reasons the others mentioned. If You go that rout, use a carbide burr, not an end mill, but You will find that it doesn't work as well as You imagined it would.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 01/21/10 21:06:08 EST

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