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 - 22, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Interesting ptree! I've found on my EDM that a 10 micron filter did little, but a 3 micron will clarify my fluid clear as water. Pretty surprising that a filter made that much difference in thread rolling.
   - Grant - Saturday, 01/15/11 21:09:53 EST

Grant, since we were thread rolling 410, a 13% chrome Stainless, and the rolls were harder than woodpecker lips, think brineling on both. The threads on the stem got brinealled once, the rolls every operation. I had learned the filter to stop dermatitis first, and saw the resultant improvement in tooling life as a coincidence. Followed it and it panned out.
A now passed friend with many doctorates and a 40+ year at Ft Deatrick helped me understand the dermatitis issue, explaining that plain metals, one in the 2 to 5 micron size become highly reactive. He did not explain how he new that.
In the first shop, we had a central system for the lube oil for the 42 screw machines and several other, large oil users. The system had an underground tank of about 20,000 gallons. Dermatitis had started to be a real problem with 40 guys off work. The safety guy thought the oil was at fault, perhaps bacteria etc. He had the system drained and disposed of and when they went to clean the UST, found many feet of hard metal sludge. They jetted that out, sanitized and refilled. I was given the task of installing a filtration system to keep the sludge out of the system. With-in days of the system re-start with good oil the dermatitis came back, but with-in a week or so of the filtration system coming on line the dermatitis began to decline. I had magnetic seperators by Eritz, a 10 micron and a 5 micron bag system with dual bags to allow change out as the bags clogged. We were changing every hour or so at first but as the piping was cleaned up, the filter changes finally went to about every day. The dermatitis went to zero, and tool life began to climb. A year or so later we were forced to change from the 416 to 410 and then we changed oil, and I put a bag filter on the machine itself to clean oil for the nozzle that fed the rollers.

Most folks think of cutting coolant as "Just oil" or "Just oil in water" it is not. Careful management of coolants, can make or break a operation.

Since the valve shop had about 450 chip cutting machine tools, we had 2 central systems at the last shop the one I was Plant engineer of. One was OM-303 for the screw machines and the other Trim-Sol a water based fluid. When you are running 60,000+ gallons of coolant in that many machines trends show quick, and a 1% change is huge.
   ptree - Sunday, 01/16/11 10:57:10 EST

   MARK - Sunday, 01/16/11 11:52:23 EST

Filtering is pretty interesting. Often we just think "filter". The above examples show that if the filter is not sized properly it can be nearly useless.
   - Grant - Sunday, 01/16/11 17:38:48 EST

The other issue beyond filter sizing is filter effiecency.
In hydraulic systems especially, the "Beta" rating is critical in picking the right filter to keep the partical counts in the range needed to keep the components operating.
Beta ratings is listed in the catalogs is simply the ratio of particle upstream versus downstream. So a beta rating of 2 a normal rating for standard filters means 50% of the particles are caught every trip thru the filter.
If you study a filtration catalog, such as the Parker book you can find particle ingression rates for various environments. In the forge shop, the dirt ingression rates were huge, especially on the bar shears where the cylinder rods were very big. This caused big displacements on the tank every stroke so lots of "Breathing" sucking in dirt. I replaced the breathers with spin-on filters and saw a couple of numbers drop on the ISO particle counts after a few weeks, but to get the oil where it needed to be took an off the loop filter loop, running oil constantly thru high effiecency filters in addition to the return filters already on those shears. Most folks miss that return filters usually have bypass valves that open on high flow causing lots of unfiltered oil to return to the tank.

I had pretty good luck improving the life of lots of things with fluid filtration. Tooling, servo valves, gearollar motors, axial piston pumps, lots of very expensive stuff:)
   ptree - Sunday, 01/16/11 18:29:05 EST

Filters: There are huge difference in filter designs. Back when I was in the automotive business I cut open three filters as models to show customers. The Purolator and AC filters had fan fold paper filters and the bypass was at the top of the filter. The Purolator filter was generally a better piece of hardware but the AC was very close.

A Hastings filter on the other hand had perforated metal surrounding cotton wading that looked like old couch stuffing. . . It also had the bypass valve at the BOTTOM of the filter. This is VERY VERY bad. Auto filter by passes generally never open unless there is a huge influx of sludge OR water. Water or ice are the most common causes of the bypass opening. On the Hastings filter whatever debris had accumulated in the filter housing was dumped into the engine when the bypass opened. In the others the oil just bypassed the filter.

These are things you cannot see when buy the filters. The filter paper in these things can also vary a great deal in quality as well as surface area. Want to save 25 cents making a filter, reduce the filter paper by half. . . manufacturers DO that kind of thing. Others use the "ball of string" filter media which to me is virtually worthless.

We use the AMF Cuno household water filters because of their bonded cellulose fiber filters. These just flat out WORK. We often pumped mud water out of our spring and got crystal clear water from the filter. To do this I used a two stage system. The primary filter used 20 micron inserts and caught most of the heavy debris (lots of sand, tadpoles and newts). It was setup on the inlet to our pressure tank and to back-flush when a seperate line that fed the toilet was operated. It was also manually rinsed several times as needed between replacements. The second filter was on the discharge side of the tank and was 5 micron. Between the two filters we got beautiful clean water out of the taps and good life out of the filters.

Vacuum cleaners, air compressors and dust collection systems also use filters and all need attention to details. In recent years vacuum cleans have started to use centrifugal or "cyclonic" filter systems using physics to seperate out most of the dirt. They pretend this is a big revolution but industrial systems have been doing it for as long as I can remember. All those big funnel shaped seperators at wood processing plants work on that principal. I had some air-line water filters that also used centrifugal force to remove water from the air. We were using them in a UT system that sucked up glycerin and air. The air passed through and I pumped the glycerin out through what was normally the manual water dump in the bottom of the housing.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/16/11 19:06:31 EST

So on a Chinese made wet saw there is a cutting oil tank in the base. The filter into this is everything you would expect from a Chinese tool not made upto export standards. If I were to drop a powerful magnet into the oil tank would that help to keep the oil clean?
   philip in china - Sunday, 01/16/11 19:47:51 EST

Hello, folks I've been lurking around for a while and finaly need some info on a blower that I cant find any thing about. The thing is marked ASM & TC 48 A, any info would be greatly appreciated
   sid - Sunday, 01/16/11 20:14:27 EST

Magnets: Phillip, Simple magnets for this type thing are housed in a protective plastic shell. The fine chips collect on the surface. Then you pull the assembly out of the tank, remove the magnet and the chips fall off. If you just put a magnet in the tank you may magnetize the tank (not good) and the chips are very difficult to get off a bare magnet.

You can make your own with a cylindrical bar magnet and PVC tubing and some end caps. They can also be purchased very economically.

To improve the efficiency of this type collector. it helps if it is in a larger tube where the fluid flow is slowly upward then away from the magnet. Gentle non-turbulent flow works best.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/16/11 22:43:32 EST

Phillip, what the Guru said
   ptree - Monday, 01/17/11 07:11:35 EST

Another Filter: What is known as "tramp oil" is another problem in water based coolant systems. Tramp oil is lubricating, cutting oil and protective oils that come off parts and machines and get rinsed into the water coolant system. Tramp oil is an environmental issue and it can clog filters with cloth, paper or other filter media.
Tramp oil generally floats on the top of the water and thus can be removed. If not removed it also collects at the water line of the tank and ends up with debris stuck in it making a mess in the tank that is difficult to clean out.

Tramp Oil "skimmers" are used to remove the oil. These are a device with a flat belt that passes through the coolant picking up oil by capillary action. The oil that sticks to the belt is scraped off and deposited in a waste oil container.

See www.abanaki.com for information.

So you have several types of filter in industrial coolant systems. Magnetic, screen or filter media and skimmers. Even in small systems all three are often combined to get the best performance out of machinery and coolant plus prevent environmental problems. The dermatitis issues Ptree commented on can be serious issues. In our small shops where every worker is key to getting the job done rashes and cracked skin can put you out of business. Long term exposure to fine metal can result in developing permanent metal allergies.
   - guru - Monday, 01/17/11 08:39:04 EST

Tramp oil in coolant systems is also the food for bacteria. The fats in the gear oils and so forth provide food for anarobic bacteria that live on the underside of the oil film. They are the source of that Monday morning, start the machine and the rotten egg smell chases you away. Anarobic's respire hydrogen sulfide which is also an acid precurser so they also lead to corrosion. A simple bubbler in a small shop will hold these bugs off for a while. A skimmer is better, and not leaking tramp oils is better yet.
When changing coolant most folks don't properly clean. You need to get all of the sludge and fines out as even after you sanitize, the bugs can live on if under an inch or so of metal fine sludge.

Another way to clean id a centrifuge. This is usually only seen in very large shops due to cost. On the 27,000 gallon central system running water based, we tended to get around 30 to 50 gallons of gear oil into the system weekly due to very poor seals on some very large German machine centers. This tended to stay emulsified to some extent, but a 15 gallon per minute centrifuge, running 24/7 kept that in check. We originally had a 5GPM manual clean but had to clean the sludge about every 3 hours so went to the 15 GPM and it was an autoclean. The central system had a 50 micron wedge wire, auto clean filter that handled a flow rate of 7500 GPM. We also added a 750GPM bag fiter at 5 micron for the fines and it ran 24/7.
Once tweeked, we got at least 2 years out of a charge on this system.
   ptree - Monday, 01/17/11 10:17:46 EST

Cleaning and Sanitizing oil/water systems can be a chore and not always successful. In our service station we had a wash bay with a big dirt and oil trap "pit". There was no problem with it for a decade of use then it became "sour" due to a combination of oils and sludge that got washed into it.

We mucked it out to the bare bottom of the pit and cleaned it with bleach several months in a row with no improvement.
   - guru - Monday, 01/17/11 10:29:18 EST

When we cleaned out machines we used a Master Chemical cleaner/sanatizer after mucking out. Then filled and circulatd a solution of same. Then rinsed. When you are filling a 450 gallon system that needs to run 3 shifts for the next 6 months, the effort is worth it. We also strove to maintain the correct alkalinity, about 8.7 Ph as I recall. The higher Ph is an effective bacteriacide. Once fungus or mold was in place that took serious strong medicine. Stuff that got diluted to 1:24000 or another at 1:36000 parts.
   ptree - Monday, 01/17/11 13:43:16 EST

hey guys had another question for you. im currently using a 20 # propane tank and its pretty cold up here this time of year. im getting about half a tank worth of gas at 15 psi befor the tank drops to 10psi and in a few minutes 5 psi. Is there a simple solution or fix? im debating on getting a 40 # tank but is that going to make much of a difference? and the 40# tank they sell at tractor supply is obviously new so would it have that cut off if im using to much propane? like i said i usually keep it at around 15 psi so im not sure if thats alot at one or not. Thanks guys.
   randy - Monday, 01/17/11 13:53:11 EST

Randy, This is a common occurrence in cold weather and when trying to fire too big a forge.

The problem is that the temperature of the liquid propane and bottle, plus exterior warmth are needed to provide enough energy to evaporate the propane. The bigger the bottle the more heat energy it contains. However, this is lost in cold weather AND the surrounding air is not warm enough to provide more heat. So a larger bottle helps but may not be the solution.

In cold weather the Canadians often set their propane cylinders on battery blankets to warm them. This works but it COULD be dangerous. Here in the South when using too large a forge we put the bottle into a tub of water which acts as a heat sink warming the propane as it evaporates and cools. This in turn produces ice water to cool a few brews. . . Doing the same with water that is kept above freezing with a stock heater is safer than directly heating the bottle. Note that partially filled propane bottles will float and need to be anchored down into the water tub in many cases.
   - guru - Monday, 01/17/11 15:24:04 EST

i guess ill stick it out until it gets warmer outside
   randy - Monday, 01/17/11 15:29:14 EST

thanks btw i appriciate it
   randy - Monday, 01/17/11 15:29:33 EST

did i miss something on the site or has there not been a new i forge entry since 2006?no more demos?
   - randy - Monday, 01/17/11 17:55:37 EST

Randy, I had to drop the demos as they were costing me 3 to 4 days every week setting them up before and after. Instead we have things like the anvil gallery, eBooks, the video page, cartoons and more.
   - guru - Monday, 01/17/11 20:14:51 EST

GURU; what you said about the propane bottle and water tank is just about the safest. typically, twice the size bottle gives twice the burn time till freeze-up. the excess flow valve should be o.k. for 15 lbs. vapor pressure. actual ratings vary by designed use and who made it, typically 23-25 lbs. constant flow vapor won't activate. last i knew, 20 gal. bottles and larger did not require a excess flow.
   - bam-bam - Monday, 01/17/11 20:45:55 EST

Does anyone have any information on Bucyrus Erie Power Hammers? Please reply to mapleleavesfan@yahoo.com.au
   - Jim Deering - Monday, 01/17/11 20:54:03 EST

I realise this may be the wrong place to post this message, but I can't get onto anywhere else on this site to do it, so here goes. Does anyone have any information on Bucyrus Erie Power Hammers? Please reply to mapleleavesfan@yahoo.com.au
   Jim Deering - Monday, 01/17/11 20:58:18 EST

hey guys back for another annoying question for you guys :) im thinking about trying to forge a knife for around the shop. whats a good steel to use for a blade for cutting and everyday use? also where can i buy steel? currently i buy mild steel from tractor supply but theres not much for choice. i dont want to buy a truck load but wheres a good place to order steel from and also a place to get good blade steel? if anyone also has a saves page about sharpening blades and hardening them that would be great. thanks for answearing my questions you guys have been great. im egar to learn so i ask a lot of questions
   - randy - Monday, 01/17/11 21:21:14 EST

p.s. whats a good thickness and width? 1/4 inch thick flat bar by an inch? or should i go thicker?
   - randy - Monday, 01/17/11 21:26:30 EST

Randy, You can use Your worn out files for knife steel, just anneal & grind the teeth off first.

There is a scetion on heat treating on this site.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 01/17/11 22:29:50 EST

Filter types:

Popular Mechanics or Popular Science magazine had an article [35-40 years ago] on filter types. They mentioned the difference between the paper & felt/string filers.

The paper type will only pass up to a designed size particle, then it clogs with particles this size and larger and bypasses.

The felt/string element traps extremely fine particles up to a certain size in the fibers extending from the felt or string, and catches large particles on the surface of the felt or string. When the fibers get full of fines, more fines will yust pass through the filter, and eventually the surface clogs with larger particles, then it bypasses.

Cold oil is always bypassed.

Top or bottom of a filter depends on the direction it is mounted in that particular aplication. Some are on sideways.

Older engines used cartrige filters. These are bypass filters. Only a small ammount of oil is bled off the oil gallery and filtered, while the oil pumped directly to the bearings has onlt to pass a screen at most, and these bypass when the oil is cold & thick.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 01/17/11 22:47:31 EST

Phillip: Put the magnet in a zip lock bag and use a non magnetic spacer to hold it up off the floor of the tank. Can You get those powerful, cheap "welding" magnets. China shipps to the US?

Whn it gets covered with particles, strip the old bag off and put a new one on.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 01/17/11 22:50:32 EST

Recirculating coolant: You also need to keep tobacco spit & urin from the operators out, sounds too simple to be true, doesn't it.

Some people are too simple to be true.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 01/17/11 22:52:21 EST

I could imagine any excess liquid ending up in coolant systems. . . coffee, soft drinks. . .

I forgot about the felt oil filter elements. I replaced a lot of those in English cars and only a few in quite old American cars.

I realize now that my terms up and down were not adequate for filter cartridge description. Should have used near and far end. Good filters have the bypass on the "near" end next to the inlet. Bad ones have the bypass on the far end and flush a load of debris into the system when they open. It seems stupid that anyone would make one this way but they did.

My old 55 Chevy truck engine had a partial system oil filter. The only oil filter was in the small line going from the block to the head to lubricate the rocker arms and valve guides. Looked to be an "accessory" or optional item. The 1950 truck it was in had cabin heat as a option as well. . . I never came across a 50 Chevy Truck with a factory heater but I'm sure many had them. Lack of heat went along with no turn signals and only a single tail light over the license plate.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/18/11 01:14:59 EST

I use 40lb and 100lb propane cylinders to run my forge. I find the 40lb much less likely to freeze up than 20 lb tanks. The 100lb is even less likely to freeze up. I think PART of it is that there is a larger reservoir of gas in the larger tanks so it takes longer to use up the gas in the tank.
I find laying the tank on its side can give you a temporary boost of pressure as the liquid hits the warmer steel in the top of the tank, you should not do this unless the liquid in tank is below half because you do not want to draw liquid form the tank.
   - JNewman - Tuesday, 01/18/11 09:55:02 EST

Dave has it on outside contamination, I just did not really want to mention. Tobacco including from chewers, smokers, gum, and for those on piece rate the odd relief moment, not to mention those Monday Morning hangovers.
My coolant attendents wore big rubber gaulants, and they used lots of sanitizer. Getting "slimed" was an instant reason to retire to the showers and fresh uniform.
When we moved across the river and banned the use of tobacco anywhere in the building and eleminated peicework it got a little better.
   ptree - Tuesday, 01/18/11 10:15:41 EST

Cigarette butts tend to clog all kinds of things and end up in places they shouldn't. I've found them in waste fry oil . . . Good reason to ban smoking in places of business.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/18/11 12:08:00 EST

Best system I've seen on engines used two filters. The standard "full-flow" filter with very little restriction to keep the worst stuff from getting to the engine plus a very fine by-pass filter to cleanse the oil.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Tuesday, 01/18/11 13:29:23 EST

high demand propane systems use liquid from the tank and pass it through an evaporator. Small ones are used on propane engines.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Tuesday, 01/18/11 13:32:20 EST

Grant is right, high demand uses an evaporator. On hot air ballons the flame shoots up thru a coil evaporator.
On propane fork trucks the vaporizer is heated by engine coolant. One of the reasons they are often hard to start if cold. Want to see the left behind garbage oil and so forth in propane look in a vaproizer. We drain ours every so often and get a teacup of nasty heavy still bottoms out. They start to run rough, stink and the CO goes up as well.
   ptree - Tuesday, 01/18/11 13:40:06 EST

I have seen Erie power hammers, but I am pretty sure it was a different Erie company than the Bucyrus Erie company.

All the Erie hammers I have ever seen were big utility hammers- in fact, as far as I know, they were all steam hammers, meant to be used in big shops that had steam plants. I cant remember seeing one below 250lbs, and the majority were 400lb and up.
Big, cast iron hammers that, if they have been converted to compressed air from steam, require one big compressor- 15hp to 25hp, minimum.
Obviously, no parts are available- these are all OLD machines, probably the newest are from the fifties or early 60's.
Seems like Grant has owned one or two- maybe he will chime in.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 01/18/11 14:59:35 EST

At vogt we had Erie Drop hammers. all rated to 150PSI steam. We ran 145PSI. Our smallest, for making test bars and1/8" street ells 8 at a pop, was a 1500#. the biggest was a 25,000#. these were all double arch closed die machines, well made, maybe best in class. We ran some of them from 1905 till 1995. These were very heavy very old fashioned, industrial machines. These are correctly known as Erie Forge hammers.
   ptree - Tuesday, 01/18/11 15:26:06 EST

Purv; as I am interested in historical methods I have used case hardening (AKA cementation) to make steel from low carbon wrought iron. My experience would indicate that you could spend US$20 on fuel to make a 50 cent piece of high carbon steel.

Also with old alloys you need to do substantial forging to deal with grain growth

If you want to research on your own, may I commend to your attention "Steelmaking before Bessemer, Vol 1 Blister Steel, Vol 2 Crucible Steel" and "Cementation of Iron and Steel"

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/18/11 17:39:56 EST

The smaller Erie hammers I have seen were C frame style.
like this one- www.flickr.com/photos/19418451@N08/2912122840/
   - Ries - Tuesday, 01/18/11 19:44:42 EST

Unlike Chambersburg, Erie is still in business and can be found at: http://www.eriepress.com/ Known as Erie Press Systems now, but still the same company. Yeah, I've owned and operated a few of their hammers.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Tuesday, 01/18/11 20:56:14 EST

Hello everyone, I havn't posted here for a while, but lately I've been thinking some about career options. I'm in that stage of life(almost 20) where most people start figuring out what direction there going to go in life, if they havn't already. My dilema is this - When it comes to career options, I know what my interests are, but I havn't decided on a career path parly because I don't know whats out there. When I think of possible careers the only things I'm really aware of for the most part are the classics. (Doctor, Lawyer, welder, Machinist, Electrition, engineer, mechanic, metallurgist and so forth) All these jobs i'm sure are good possibliities, but I'm not sure I want to be strictly any of these. I just don't seem to fit as well as I'd like into the careers I know about. My interested lie in blacksmithing,metal working, manufacturing. I enjoy working with my hands and making things. I have a mechanical apttitude, but wouldn't mind doing a job that was only partly hands on. I've thought about being a blacksmith full time, but thats obviously an idea with some issues involved. Maybe I'd rather do something that suites my interest as best in can and just do blacksmith as a hobby. Infact, maybe I'd like blacksmith much more as a hobby rather than a full time job. I know there's lots of possibilities, but I'm not even sure what kind of careers are out there. Could I please get some ideas for possible careers, schools to attend, and places to research? Thank you.
   RM Howell - Tuesday, 01/18/11 21:47:54 EST

RM HOWELL,let me start with this, you are a young man. you need to try everything you like. you have alot to learn yet just keep hitting those books.listen to theese guys, but back everything you hear up with trial and error.thats the way we learn.I have little ones, and isee more every day thats how we learn.I can tell my kids stuff, but I see they have to make mistakes I already made , to learn. Just try every thing you want to. listen to old folks, and disregard what you want to......at your own risk!
   - purv - Wednesday, 01/19/11 02:16:11 EST

JOBS: RM, In the recent past it paid to work for a big company for the security, benefits and retirement plans. But for tens of millions of workers there is no security, benefits or retirement. Salaried workers are now asked to do the jobs previously done by several workers and put in regular uncomped overtime. As soon as you get enough experience to get a couple raises you are in danger of being laid off. . . All this and they still expect folks with $100,000 or more college degrees. . . All the rules have changed. Being self employed is more reliable than working for someone else.

On the other hand, working for a big corp requires no capital (other than that education which SOME people manage to get others to pay for) and pay is instant. The self employed often have to invest huge sums to get started and then gradually build up to a reasonable income.

It is also very difficult to make more than so much on your own personal labor. To make real money you need to rely on the labors of others. In the corporate world the "team" with lots of capital backing them up can produce significantly more than any one individual working alone.

Significant pros and cons.

However, there are intangibles such as doing something you like, setting your own hours and personal satisfaction of being a sole proprietor.

There are all kinds of metalworking businesses one can go into to stay close to blacksmithing. Machine work, metal fabrication, welding, steel erection. Or more technical fields, engineering, metallurgy. . .

There are numerous schools where you can study engineering. But I can tell you from experience that a large part of engineering is like blacksmithing, it is conceptual art. Learning to draw, conceive an idea, produce diagrams and illustrations so that others with less imagination can understand it is what design engineering is all about. You also need to couple that artistic skill with engineering math. If you can calculate it, draw it and build it, then you have marketable skills.

IF you educate yourself to be a first class general blacksmith you'll have a wide ranging set of skills that can be applied to many occupations. Only a small part of blacksmithing is forging. It is also art, science, mechanics, engineering, business, marketing. . .

Most occupations, doctor, lawyer, engineer. . are general catagories and very few make it as generalists. There are specialties in every occupation. Engineers can be designers, structural (math and physics specialists) or costing engineers (a type of accountant with mechanical skills). Often a single degree is worthless. Many folks have second and third degrees in order to practice their trade plus continuous educational updates. Technology, knowledge in every field changes so fast today that nobody is ever 100% up to date.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/19/11 03:15:08 EST

Two pieces of moasic damascus, placed on either side of a piece of 0-1 for a core.what is it called? sambar? samari?
Thank you Larry
   Larry - Wednesday, 01/19/11 07:48:59 EST

Propane and Temperature: So any 20 lb tank that "runs out" when it's 20 degrees should be kept for warmer weather and tried one more time before swapping out? I mean; if you're cheap like me, and all that. ;-)

I have one "owned" tank and three "Blue Rhino" swappers so that I have enough on hand for the gas forge, the brass smelter, and any guest gas forges during bigger events. So when I get a flame-out, I usually just switch tanks, and refill/swap-out before events or when prices are low or when I'm out of backup.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 01/19/11 08:55:30 EST

I picked up a bathroom scale at the thrift store and set my 20 lb propane tank on it so I can monitor the propane usage.Now I can make sure I am using all the propane before I have it filled. I think I was wasting a lot of propane by switching the bottle out- now I am having them filled. Full bottle starts out at 35 lbs on the scale and reads 15 lbs when empty- before when the bottle froze up I thought it was empty and switched it out- now I realize that I had 6 to 8 pounds left in the bottle- very hard to determine weight by just lifting bottle.
   - Ray Clontz - Wednesday, 01/19/11 09:29:21 EST

Larry: San-mai is the term. Sambar is a type of stag antler.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 01/19/11 10:13:33 EST

Fuel Levels: I can generally tell there is fuel in a propane bottle by Giving it a "swirling" motion to feel if there any in it. But this is not always fool proof and difficult to do with a regulator and hose attached.

Occasionally an old platform scale is available cheap to weigh your propane bottles on. With the big 100 pound bottles it can be difficult to know how much you have. This can be important when starting a sizable job or hosting an event in your shop. Spares are always recommended.

We have a big bulk tank with a gauge and one of those horizontal tanks on the forklift that also has a gauge. Both are worthless and down right nonsensical. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/19/11 10:15:57 EST

I have found the propane gages on the forklift tanks to be worthless as well.
On my 100# bottle hooked to the ABANA type forge I usually have a frost line to show level. On the much smaller Steve Gensheimer style forge the demand is far too small to show a frost line on a 100#, and I don't even get one on the 20#.
I usually swirl to check.
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/19/11 13:12:08 EST

Is there enough silver in old computer parts to justify melting them down in a crucible ? It would be nice to salvage enough silver to use for various projects.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 01/19/11 13:56:57 EST

Mike, No, there is no silver to speak of. There is a bit of gold but it is plating a much more significant amount of copper and the separation is very difficult. Gold is used on various plug in pins to avoid resistance and corrosion. The amount has become smaller and smaller in recent years. There is also lead in older computers and all CRT monitors. Solder is now mostly tin. Hard drive frames are zinc-aluminium alloy (probably Zamak-24). These are the largest pieces of scrap in most systems other than the steel case (Al in some cases).

In my current PC there is a 5 piece of laminated copper heat sink. After several system failures due to cheap little fans I got a BIG heat sink with a big quiet low speed fan. The heat sink is sufficient to work without a fan for a significant time period.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/19/11 14:16:01 EST

San-Mai is the *Japanese* term for that 3 layer stack. Note that europeans were doing similar stuff way back when as well; but the terms used are now mostly forgotten. You can find various classification systems for how the high carbon edge was applied to the lower carbon body of the knife in books like "Knives and Scabbards, Museum of London".

Propane: As I get re-fills I only pay for the gas I'm getting. Way too much loss in the swap out deals! My local propane dealer has no problem refilling a blue rhino and I do swap tanks out when they come close to re-certification time or get leaky valve packing.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/19/11 15:37:30 EST

Jobs: I've read that most people will go through several Careers in their lifetime. I know I have!

Flexibility and wide span of skills helps keep one employed and eating well!

My first degree was Geologist, worked in the oilpatch till the crash of '83. Then apprenticed to a swordmaker for a year and then got married and needed to support a family and did assembly line work while going for an associates in EET---was nearly done with that and got hired by a large corporation that worked me 50+ hours a week, no overtime, and demanded I get a CIS degree on top of that. Right after getting that degree I was laid off---2 months before I had 15 years in with the company. I lasted that long as I could use my metalworking skills to help outin our computer lab---money was tight and I could retrofit cabinents to hold stuff they were not designed for and fix things that had been damaged so we didn't have to replace them.

Then onto another CIS job 1500 miles away. It's winding down and I'm thinking about looking for a job that makes use of some combination of my Geology, Metalworking and CIS skills.

Note that it's good to have a mix of manual and "college" skills and be able to trade off as needed.

Have you thought of the service? I've seen lots of pics of metalwork being done to beef up armour or fix things that have had a brush with an IED.

Welding is a good portable skill too!

Most of my very nice smithing equipment has been bought working for large companies that pay well with benefits---things I would have never been able to buy as start up blademaker!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/19/11 15:48:42 EST

Re: Jobs. Have you looked into the book, "Shop Class as Soul Craft?"
   Bajajoaquin - Wednesday, 01/19/11 17:32:34 EST

The empty weight of a propane cylinder is stamped into the valve collar. At least it has been on all the ones I've looked at. 15# is probably close enough for most purposes, but it's easy to get the exact figure if you want it (or if it's not a 20# capacity tank).
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 01/19/11 20:46:17 EST

Thanks for all the advice. Also, does anyone know of any degrees or certificates offered in the metalworking field or in manufacturing? I'm aware of certification in welding and some other degrees having to do with metalworking and manufacturing, but there ought to be more.
   RM Howell - Wednesday, 01/19/11 22:44:37 EST

I believe professional welders are hired to weld pipe together when laying gas lines. I have heard that after the weld is made, it is x-rayed to make sure it made a complete weld. I guess these welders have to be certified from a welding school. I don't know what credentials or licenses they are required to have. I think they make great money.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 01/20/11 05:44:46 EST

Welding certifications. There are a number of welding fields that require certification, pipe welders, boiler makers and boiler repair, pressure vessel maker and repair aircraft and so on. In the boiler industry, I know our plant did our own certifications, to our quality manual. We certified for process and type IE overhead smaw. We also certified to our nuclear manual for the nuclear products. Involved a welding test and the test coupons have to be bend tested and in some cases tensile tested.
   ptree - Thursday, 01/20/11 07:19:00 EST

Welding Certifications: Try this link for Learning about welding certification.

You can be tested through various programs but as ptree noted most industry has their own requirements. They will also have you certified for a specific class of work, not all work. Even if you have a national certification and have just passed it most industry will want you to pass their tests either in house or under contract at a testing facility.

If you run a welding business you may need a national certification if local licensing is required. This may also require insurance or bonding. These are things that are locality specific.

Testing: Now, the other side of THIS coin is the folks doing the weld testing. They are often metallurgists or welders with training in non-destructive testing. While some testing is done via some radiological method (Gamma rays from Cobalt 60 is more common in the field than X-rays), other less hazardous methods such as UT (Ultrasonic Testing) is very common. These are very technical areas and pay well. Some of these folks work for a service, many work in-house for a large company.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/20/11 09:13:35 EST

RM Howell,

Universities offer degrees in a number of different areas of metalworking. Everything from art degrees in Metalsmithing, Blacksmithing, Silversmithing, etc to Materials Science, Metallurgy, Metallography, Engineering and so on. Then there are the tangential degrees that often encompass some metal work such as Agriculture, Manual Arts Education, Sculpture and others.

Since you don't really have a defined direction yet, I'd suggest checking out your local community college and taking some courses in various areas to see what seems to fit you. Any education is valuable, and you never know where you may end up. I have my degree in Fine Art Metalsmithing but spent thirty years in law enforcement and other things before I decided to take up blacksmithing as a full-time occupation. The time I spent learning art, drafting, welding, machine work and business all have proven to be essential to what I am doing now. No education is wasted!
   - Rich - Thursday, 01/20/11 09:35:05 EST

RM Howell,

I should also note that my degree certificate now sits in a file drawer somewhere gathering dust and has no particular value other than having started me on my way. When you're self-employed you set your own qualifications and your clients determine if those are sufficient by whether or not they pay you for the work you do. (grin)
   - Rich - Thursday, 01/20/11 09:37:48 EST

Education - "Papers PLEEZE": Note that being a certified welder is much different than have a degree. Welding schools do not teach a broad enough coarse to issues "degrees".

In higher education, specifically doctorates, the candidate often writes their own specialty and negotiates the requirements for that specialty with the University issuing the Phd. This is then overseen by the various people withing the University. So theoretically you could have a Phd. in bird calling or edge sharpening. Find the right school and write a winning prospectus for a degree in "Manual manipulation of ferrous substances at elevated temperatures" and you could have a Phd in blacksmithing providing your thesis had a sufficient level of BS. Out of such a thesis many books could be written.

College degrees are usually quite general, a BA (bachelor of arts) or BS (bachelor of science) in a fairly broad field. Today more and more places, such as the teaching profession, are asking for a Masters (a six year diploma) that focuses on a tighter area of expertise. These steps are prerequisite for a Doctorate.

Someone I know successfully completed a Masters program but were only issued a certificate (like a Junior College), not a degree, because they had not previously completed a four year degree. . . They were accepted into the program based on life experience and completion of standard admissions testing. . . Lots of BS and no BS.

Remember that colleges and Universities are generally a BUSINESS and money talks. If you are not on a school administered scholarship and are paying for your education then you can ask for a curriculum tailored to suit your needs AND get a degree in that field. Note that these are things you will need to negotiate in advance, be sure the degree meets accreditation requirements AND you will want a contract to that effect.

This all assumes you want or need that sheep skin. While many businesses require a degree they are often not picky about its specifics. As Rich noted, if you are going to be self employed a degree means nothing. What is important is what you actually KNOW.

When I look back on my life and wonder what I would do differently there are only a few pivotal moments that would have made a difference. Life tends to throw you curves, sometimes in the guise of opportunities that take the focus off your dreams. But the BIG question is would I have made different decisions based on what I know today? Maybe, but probably not. I did not have a specific dream or goal to shoot for so there was no clear path. Determine your goal, then follow the path.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/20/11 10:09:19 EST

Rob, I can’t tell you what to be, but I can give you an idea of what I’ve done having been trained as a metallurgist. I’ve been many things since I graduated in 1974: Blooming Mill metallurgist, Claims Metallurgist, Metallurgical Supervisor of Heat Treat, Technical Supt., Bar Product Research Metallurgist, Industrial Gas Sr. Regional engineer, Process Engineer, Mechanical Lab Supervisor, and currently Quality Metallurgist. Businesses (some now defunct) include Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel, Crucible Steel, Edgewater Manufacturing, Jones & Laughlin Steel Research Center, Airco Industrial Gases, Elkem Metals, Armco/AK Steel, and North American Hoganas. Products included, low carbon sheet steel, grade 1546 billets for 155 mm shells (probably have the shell size wrong), quenched and tempered 4140, CrMoV M-16 barrels, annealed 4140, 52100, and tool steels, forged and rolled steel rings, replacing lead with bismuth in free machining bar steels, use of industrial gases in processes in the metal, paper, and aquaculture industries, process control/improvement of Simplex low carbon ferrochrome, vacuum grade chromium, nitrided ferromanganese, running a mechanical lab doing tensile testing, hardness testing, etc. on flat rolled stainless steels, and currently working in quality control at an iron powder producer that also runs an induction furnace operation producing master alloys for foundries and forging grade ingots. We’ll melt iron, cobalt and nickel alloys in the induction furnace and even occasionally copper. The current position has lots of hand-on, doing final testing of product, setting up analytical curves on spectrometers, etc. It’s also got a fair amount of mind work – planning new equipment purchases, doing quality audits of processes, etc. As the quality metallurgist I get the “oddball” stuff (especially as I’m about the only one in the company with experience in production of wrought metals rather than powder) – it helps to keep the job interesting. Degrees/Qualifications include BS in Metallurgy & Materials Science, MBA with an emphasis in operations, certified quality auditor from ASQ, certified manager of quality/ organizational excellence from ASQ (their name for it), lapsed levels 1 & 2 for ultrasonic testing. Areas I’d still like more information/practice – hands on machining/lathe operation, welding, and probably six sigma certification. I expect to need to work full time for 10 more years, to age 68 – one of the downsides of having worked for all those companies. Changes that you’ll see that I didn’t – cost of college is much higher – Sr. year tuition including books & room and board at Carnegie-Mellon University was $4250. My starting salary as a metallurgist was $10,980. If you go that route, you’ll be a lot closer to 1 to 1 – CMU is currently around $50,000 a year for tuition, books, & room and board, and that’s about a typical starting salary. If war quiets down, a possible option would be to look into a semi-safe branch of the armed services, such as the Navy. I did so after college, but got turned off by the recruiter I spoke to. I also looked again around 1982, just shy of my 30th birthday when I’d been caught in a reduction of force at J & L Research. At that point I was getting a bit “long in the tooth” for going in as an engineering officer trainee. That’s part of why I decided not to join at that time – in hind sight it might have been a better decision to join.
Some thoughts with regard to getting a degree in metallurgy – you better like applied math, including statistics, you’ll use PC’s a lot, training/certification in quality may help get a better salary, and advanced degrees are more important today than they were when I graduated. There’s also a lot of specialization in the field – ferrous vs. non-ferrous, powder vs. wrought vs. cast, machining, heat treating, forensic investigations, welding, and mining/extraction to name a few. We can also end up in odd niches – corrosion applications like oil and gas pipelines or medical implants. If you like doing a lot of different tasks, sales support might be up your alley – typical names include field engineer, sales engineer, etc.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 01/20/11 12:42:51 EST

Actually, there are welding "degrees".
Around here, community colleges give 2 year AA degrees in Welding, Machining, Manufacturing Engineering, and other subjects like that.
These degrees include shop courses, print reading, math, and some english and other courses. Its all transferable college credit, usable towards a 4 year degree.

And I can say, as an employer, that I have hired a good half dozen guys with those degrees, specifically because they proved to me that those kids had a good basic knowledge, and sufficient dedication to spend 2 years and a fair amount of money getting it.

Of course, I know the instructors at my local Trade Tech, so I know the quality of instruction they are getting- in fact, for a while, one of my ex-employees WAS an instructor there.

Schools vary in quality from place to place, but, on the West Coast anyway, there is a network of very good state funded community colleges with good metals programs- and if you study, and pay attention, at the end of that 2 year degree program, you are very employable.
When I lived in LA, I twice hired the "welding student of the year" from the Welding program at LA Trade Tech.
Both of em had 2 year AA degrees, and I was not dissappointed either time. One worked for me for 2 years, the other for 5.
Both were very good welders, at gas, stick, tig and mig, could cut with either oxy-fuel or plasma, and could measure and cut, knew tools and safety procedures.

Of course, after that, I had to teach em a LOT- but I expect that from most employees.

There are also good blacksmithing programs at several schools these days- Austin community college, in Texas, is great. UIC, the University of Illinois, Carbondale, is excellent.

I would not hesitate to hire a grad from either.

Community colleges and state trade schools, like we have in the West, are very reasonably priced compared to commercial schools. Much less of a ripoff than those schools that advertise on TV. They are NOT businesses, but state funded. Maybe its different in other parts of the country, but in California and Washington, where I have experience, I have nothing but good things to say about these schools and their graduates.
I am a bit predjudiced, though, as I went to LA Trade Tech for two years of machine shop night courses, and learned all the basics of machining there. No degree, though...
   - Ries - Thursday, 01/20/11 12:49:45 EST

Schools as Businesses: The kind of school I was talking about were the private colleges and Universities. About half of all schools of higher education are private. Even if they are associated with an organization such as a religious affiliation they ARE a business. The big names people would recognize are Notre Dame, Harvard. . . all of the "Ivy League". Many schools with a city name are not government supported, they just happen to have taken the name of their location and are privately operated schools. These are a lot different than the "home study" course type schools. . On the other hand, if you want hands-on blacksmithing training you have to go to a specialty or arts and crafts school.

Cert vs. Degree - What I meant to say was that there is a difference between a degree in welding technology and being a certified welder. You can be one, the other or both. But a high school dropout can be a certified welder.

I highly recommend community colleges across the country but generally a two year certificate is not considered a "degree". However, there are a lot of trades where that AA is all you need to get a job. My ex-wife only needed one year of machine shop courses on top of her education degree and continuing education to get a job as a machinist in a big corporate manufacturing plant. The change from a teaching position with 25 years experience to a machinist increased her income by 50%. . .

Her machinist education was at a local (government supported) community college. They loaded up her curriculum with "general" courses that were unneeded and not really germane unless you were a high school drop out. They based this on the fact that her previous education 25 years ago would not transfer. She went in an argued that 1) She was a licensed teacher in all of the unnecessary courses (English, History, Algebra), and 2) That we were paying CASH for the courses and were NOT going to pay the extra just so they could fill seats. They did not agree immediately but they finally backed down. She took only the needed courses AND got her certificate. Even in the public schools it is about the money. If they don't fill seats they lose teachers and funding. But that should not be the student's burden.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/20/11 13:54:31 EST

An AA Degree IS a "Degree", not a "Certificate".
This is universally accepted, legally and by schools and businesses.

YOU may not consider it a "Degree"- but the educational community does.

There is something completely different called a "Vocational Certificate".

At my local school, you can get a Welding Certificate, or an Associate degree in Welding Technology. The Certificate is just fewer credits and mostly welding courses, and takes less time. The degree is a full two year program, with math and english and other academic courses included.

My point, however, is that the presence of an AA degree to me, a potential employer, is an indicator of how serious, patient, and committed a prospective employee is.
If you spend two years getting an AA degree, and going thru whatever hoops are required, it indicates to me that you are really interested in welding, or machining, not just looking for a short term job.

As I mentioned, I have hired at least a half dozen, probably more, employees with these 2 year Degrees. They have all had a base line competency in the skills I consider a starting point.
Thats a good thing.

I recommend to aimless 18 year olds that they consider this as an option. Yep, you do some stuff you dont see the point of. But, like basic training in the military, part of the point is to get you to follow orders, to learn to learn, and not just to teach skills.
But plenty of skill teaching is included in a 2 year welding or machining program.

For most 18 year olds, its not the best thing for them to be able to design their own cirriculum- they end up doing BETTER taking the stuff the school packages, even if some of it tastes like castor oil.
Obviously, for an adult with work experience, it could be a different situation.
But the kids I have hired have actually benefitted from the mandatory english and algebra courses.

High school today aint what it used to be...

   - Ries - Thursday, 01/20/11 15:02:45 EST

I'll second everything Ries just said. I too have hired kids with AA degrees from the local community college in Phoenix and they were fine, every one of them. Yes, I had to teach them the specifics they needed to learn for the work in my shop, but they came with the basic skill sets to learn quickly.

I also had good luck hiring ex-cons on parole from the state prison system. They too had some basic skills they'd learned inside and they were accustomed to discipline and following directions. I wouldn't, however, suggest going to prison to learn a trade! There are other ways that are definitely easier.
   - Rich - Thursday, 01/20/11 16:10:48 EST

An AA is a degree and in industry here is accepted on exactly the premise that Ries states.
My personal learning experience is as a barely passed highschool kid that saw the handwriting on the wall and joined the ARMY 3 days after he turned 18. Turned out I was found to show some mechanical ability on the testing, so off to Redstone Arsenal for the US ARMY Missile and Munitions school for 16 intense weeks of electronics, mechanical technology infrared optics, electromechanical devices and the like. Turned out I could learn and excelled, just took a different method than the public schools I attended used. In the military I was trained over the years in:
Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, wheeled vehicle mechanic, clerk typist(That was a joke since I am dyslexic!) survival Equipment repair (Parachute rigger & Ejection seat Repair) and some "Other stuff"
My Father-in-Law, a college chemistry professor asked about the missile course and said it would qualify as an AA in both electronics and mechanical engineering.( 8 Class room hours a day,5 days a week with 4 hours of home work a night) I had just gained an AAS in Mechanical Engineering Technology at the time for Lexington Technical Institute. Since I was freshly married and starting a career etc I slacked and it took me another 27 years to gain a Bachalors in General studies with a certificate in Supervision, and a minor in engineering. That paper got me promoted as had that critical 15 hour certificate in supervision. The Certificate got me a promotion to supervisor of the VOGT Powerhouse and pipe fitters.
I EARNED the promotions by studing EVERY single process in a 42 acre campus of manufacturing buildings, and when they needed a plant engineer that was a jack of all trades, and knew what every thing there did, AND I had that Bachalors, promotion to plant engineer followed. The paper qualified me, the experience and knowledge and hard work earned me the promotion. I don't claim to be a school trained engineer, But I am a school trained technologist, and had the extreme, in depth knowledge of unique processes, and machines that were not to be seen else where. I was the result of a perfect storm as it were.
I held that plant engineer title till the plant was sold and shipped off shore. I will probably never again have a job like that one, and I truely miss that job, as I both enjoyed it and was very good at it. BUT, having a wide experience and in depth experience got me a job as a Safety and Enviro manager and I have been doing that for 8 years now.
But the paper did count and worth every minute it took.
Ohh by the way, my transcript shows something like 200 credit hours since I changed majors several times, and I recieved credit from Perdue in some esoteric things like infrared optics engineering, electro-mechanical-optical engineering and so forth, that do not have any direct translation to my course of study.

I told my kids, you have to have something past highschool to seperate you from that crowd wanting a job. A certificate, an AA or a BS, get something.

Ptree who is both a very poor man and very rich man, since i have all 4 of my kids in college. Poor in $ rich because I have 4 kids in college.
   ptree - Thursday, 01/20/11 19:01:33 EST

I've told this story before; but...

I got hired into Bell Labs with a BS degree in Geology and they told me "The BS degree just shows us you can learn---now go get a degree we need!"

I had a choice between EE and CIS and going over the details I decided that CIS was the way I wanted to go; but that it would take about 10 years working more than full time and taking the short courses offered by OSU (Trimester classes). Also I had a young family and an old house so it was usually only 1 class at a time. (When I started all the classes were offered at night too; then they dropped the night classes so I had to take off work to get to class and then drive back and make up the time...)

I groused to my father about that and he told me "In ten years you will be ten years older----do you want to be 10 years older *with* the degree or without it?" So I started the long hard slog---working 50-60 hour weeks and attending school---and not getting time off for school---or books, parking, etc; but getting the basic tuition paid by the company.

Took about 10 years alright and at the end of that time we were having massive layoffs---there were 100,000 employees *less* in Lucent when I got hit. And so I was out the door with 14 years 10 months of service and a shiny new degree that opened the door for my current job.

My advice is to get all possible certs, degrees, etc from reputable places you can. I had friends who were much better/more talented coders than I will ever be---but they learned it on their own and so were not considered for the jobs I had! (save as temps at much lower salary and benefits)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/20/11 19:24:27 EST

hey guys im curious. will welding gloves be sufficiant to hold a long piece of metal to forge? sometimes it seems easier if i could just hold a piece while i hammer it? is there a special typ of glove that will alow me to hold a piece of hot metal while i forge? obviously i wouldnt touch something thats orange or red but like holding something 6-12 inches away from the high heat?
   - randy - Thursday, 01/20/11 21:54:37 EST

Here in NC, every curriculum course taught in the community college system has to transfer to the 4 year colleges, and has for a decade or longer. CPCC in Charlotte is the fourth largest CC in the nation. We teach 40 sections of Welding classes every semester, and test students and paying outsiders in plate and pipe as an AWS Accredited Test Facility.
While relatively few students jump thru all the hoops to get the Associates degree, the ones that do EARN it. Some drive 100 miles one way, past 3 other CC with welding certificate programs. Most students settle for a certificate, and a j-o-b. And that is still an acceptable outcome.
Josh, Call and come by for the nickle tour if you are ever in the area. Maybe I will see you again at Big Blu in March.
   John McPherson - Thursday, 01/20/11 23:55:45 EST

Gloves, Tongs and Bare Hands: Randy, Most smiths work without gloves with tongs and without. "Long" pieces over a foot (generally 1-1/2 to 2 feet or more) can be held bare handed depending on their cross section and length of heat. The bigger the section the longer it takes to heat and the longer it needs to be held bare handed. If the heat is from a coal forge it can be very short, just an inch or two in stock as big as 1" (25mm) and thus a fairly short piece can be held bare handed. In a gas forge the heats are generally larger and the gases jet out along the bar so much more gets heated. Heats in a gas forge also take more time. So you must have longer pieces for bare handed work in a gas forge.

An important property of steel is that it is a relatively poor conductor of heat compared to other metals. Thus one end of a bar can be white hot and the other room temperature. However, it is the part in between that you have to watch out for. Eventually heat travels up the length of a bar OR tongs to where it may be uncomfortable or dangerous to hold. That is what the slack-tub full of water is for. You should avoid quenching steel from a red heat or greater but you should frequently quench cooler pieces AND your tongs to keep them cool.

Since all the above is too complex to condense into a simple rule it must be learned by experience.

It is much easier to learn smithing using a long bar without tongs or gloves. However, learning to use tongs is VERY important and should not be delayed. Making some items like hooks and small scrolls uniformly is much easier starting from stock cut to length. These pieces can be as short as three or four inches (75 - 100 mm) and as many as a hundred handled in a day. You CAN make small items on a long bar then cut them off. But after that what do you do with the hot part? It is best to obtain or make several pairs of tongs and learn to use them from the beginning.

Many smiths DO use gloves to protect their off-hand, the one handling the metal with or without tongs. Most often these are light weight gloves of some sort and you will find that folks like Blacksmith Depot sell lefts or rights separately for this purpose. Thin calf skin TIG gloves are popular as well as fire resistant Nomex. I use those common blue cloth/leather work gloves for everything in the shop including hot work and handling rough material. I use them most often for arc welding. Heavy welding gloves are rarely used except for heavy welding. Due to their weight some of the hazards of wearing them are worse than lighter gloves.

Gloves come with their own hazards. One is that they provide a false sense of security and can become overheated or catch fire and are difficult to get off before you get burned. If wet (from sweat or quench water) they will rapidly conduct heat AND produce scalding steam inside the gloves. Gloves prevent you from detecting when a piece is hot enough to set the gloves on fire.. . . Another hazard is that they can get caught in machinery and suck you in. SO, while many workers use gloves you must be aware of the hazards the gloves themselves present.

The important thing to learn early is to test things for heat before picking them up. A piece of steel at a black heat (up to 1,000 °F) will burn you just as badly as one at a visible read heat and is the most common source of burns in the shop. If you place your hand over the steel without touching it you should be able to detect any significant radiant heat with your palm. Then you can lightly test with finger tips. If judged safe THEN you pick it up. ALWAYS assume that every piece of steel in a blacksmith shop, welding shop or machine shop is hot. Otherwise you WILL get burnt. Most people learn this the hard way. IF you pickup that piece of steel at a black heat with gloves you will also get burned.

Before purchasing an expensive set of the heavy insulated welding gloves I recommend you purchase three or four pairs of common leather faced work gloves. Use these for handling heavy materials and doing your smithing. Then as you learn your needs purchase other types of specialty gloves. Note also that any gloves including those heavy welding gloves do NO GOOD when wet and the heavier they are the more rapidly they become wet from sweat. Always have an extra dry pair to change to.
   - guru - Friday, 01/21/11 08:18:14 EST

the only time I wear glove in the shop is when using a hot work tool held in the off hand (punch chisel starting a drift etc) or when doing heavy forge welding were flux spray is a issue and then only on my off hand.
once of twice I have done jobs that the stock size along with the size of the heat I was working was such that the radiant heat was so hot I wore a glove on my hammer hand, this just gave me another 40-60 seconds of working time before my hand started to burn, enough to finish the heat with out cooking the back of my hand to much, I don't recommended that though. I ended up with 4 gloves I was rotating per heat. luckily I have quite a few Right handed gloves around the shop it is the lefty's that are scarce. I also tend to use gloves quite a bit when working on the power hammer. partly this is for heat , but mostly to protect from vibration.
   mpmetal - Friday, 01/21/11 08:54:46 EST

I attended Michigan State U in the 1950's. At that school, you could be voc specific; for example, you could major in Hotel & Restaurant Management or Packaging Technology. I studied what I was interested in at the time, the general stuff of "liberal arts." I combo-majored in Sociology & Anthropology and minored in German and Agriculture. I got a secondary teaching certificate.

Let it be said that with that kind of background, you can easily get a job at a bank or insurance company, no thank you! And I really did not want to teach in the public school system.

After graduation, I cruised around the country as a "fringy," (neither a bohemian nor a hippy). I held odd jobs just to get by. Eventually, I gravitated to farriery, then blacksmithing. Did college help me? I believe it allowed me to become acquainted with the English language, and it caused me to purchase pertinent books and to comb the literature. It helped me to co-author a book and to write journal articles.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 01/21/11 10:04:04 EST

When tryingon gloves before purchase, see how difficult it is to wing it off your hand with a quick motion. If it it too tough to come off fast, don't buy it.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 01/21/11 10:39:58 EST

Education - MBA was earned part time while employed at Airco - 2 classes a week, 3 "semesters" a year for 3 years. A little easier than Thomas's slog as I wasn't married and there were no kids either. The CQA and CQM/OE both required evening training and passing a 4 hour test at the end of the training. In my opinion, the CQA was easy. I sweated the other one, and I have an advantage in that I usually test well for those type of tests - similar to SAT's, etc.
   - Gavainh - Friday, 01/21/11 12:26:57 EST

Great information thank you guys. I do use tongs and I'm not going to neglect them I just didnt know if it was a bad idea while working with a long piece if it were ok to use a bare hand
Because sometimes it's just to
Long to use tongs
   Randy - Friday, 01/21/11 12:48:46 EST

One thing with long pieces and bare hands: Learn to COOL the Piece when the heat starts handward rather than keep moving the hand back.

I get a lot of students who are trying to forge at full extension on both hands and so bent nearly double at the waist (and wondering why they have no power in their hammer strokes!)

When I ask why they say "it got hot" so I take the bar and swish the hand end in the water bucket and tell them "it got cold, now hold it like I showed you and stand up to the anvil..." (my "intro" students start out with a 2' length of stock to make their first 3 projects out of.)

Most of the time if I am wearing gloves at the forge it's because it's cold out! Forge welding is an exception to this rule.

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/21/11 13:18:40 EST

REAL men forge weld naked.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 01/21/11 13:45:55 EST

Naked what?

Is that what you will be demonstrating for GBWR? Is that why it has to be in Italy? (will you then be running for a place in their government?)

Have you been breathing the zinc fumes again TGN?

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/21/11 16:53:01 EST

Regarding degrees, my experience is that it never hurts to have one, but it can hurt not to. I got a BS in Ag in the '70s, then went on to work in the industry for 20 years, not really needing that sheepskin. Then a job came up in Ag research that required a bachelor's degree. If I hadn't had the credentials, no job. Worked out very well for me. As Rich said, no education is wasted.
   Dave - Friday, 01/21/11 17:10:36 EST

Many times the exact degree is not so important as just having one. My Dad who worked in the most technical parts of the nuclear industry for 25 years had an art degree. My best friend from high school was pre-med but went to work formulating paint for a furniture company and never went back to anything medical. One of the top blacksmiths in the US has an English degree with education endorsement. Like Frank he decided teaching in public schools was not his thing and didn't look back.

One of my brothers has a Master's in oil painting and is a very good artist. But being a good artist does npt make a living. He spent about 10 years working in the family business building machinery and doing nuclear service work. After that he went back to school and got a degree in computer programming. Now he works for a big defense company, which is about as far from being an independent fine artist as you can get.

Today things change so fast that having multiple degrees and certificates taken over a long period of time is not unusual. Many fields that used to require a four year now require a Masters. Apparently a college degree isn't what it used to be either. . .
   - guru - Friday, 01/21/11 17:58:51 EST

This is probably unnecessary, but when Guru says to avoid quenching steel from red heat or greater, he means don't do it just to cool the piece off. If you're heat treating a piece, it's a different story.
   Mike BR - Friday, 01/21/11 19:07:25 EST

Turn your unused right hand gloves inside out to become lefties. Waste not want not.
   - Hugh McDonals - Saturday, 01/22/11 04:55:34 EST

And just like Charlie Farquharson I have a Doctorate of Personal Experience. (try putting those letters after your name and see how far you go...)
   JimG - Saturday, 01/22/11 09:51:10 EST

Mine is a SHK. School of Hard Knocks. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 01/22/11 12:08:13 EST

At one time there were some well regarded schools who would issue degrees based on life experience and a thesis or paper to that effect. However, shortly after that the flim-flam SPAM degrees (you paid too much for a phoney document - that may or my not receive. . . ) flooded the market. A number of folks in government were caught claiming such "degrees" a few years ago.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/22/11 12:13:29 EST

There is actually a website for people kvetching about bogus degrees! The majority seem to be "I bought this certificate saying I was a (insert qualification) and it is of no value. It won't get me a job". The English used in such postings indicates the true level of learning of those concerned. What did they expect??
   philip in china - Saturday, 01/22/11 17:44:54 EST

Anvilfire Calendar: Sorry about the delays folks. The calendar is now ready to accept new postings. If you don't get 2011 dates in the form refresh the frame or clear your cache.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/22/11 19:03:35 EST

At a place I once worked, we had someone put in for one of those degrees. I think it was one of the more legitimate ones -- except she used someone else's life experience!
   Mike BR - Saturday, 01/22/11 19:42:58 EST

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