WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.0

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 February 25 - 29, 2003 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

On Saturday I helped forge a dishing hammer out of a dome-headed bolt used to hold railroad track together. I know I have read of other people doing this. Can any of y'all give me a general direction to shoot for in heat treatment?

And I ended up making the chisel and drift to make this hammer head out of some decent-sized U-bolts (less than an inch in diameter, more than a half inch.). I have no idea what alloy (surprise surprise), or if many other U-bolts are the same, but the chisel proved to be some tough stuff. It was not heat treated in any fashion, but it cut an eye through a hot bar of steel at least an inch in diameter and the edge just barely deformed, not enough to noticeably affect the cutting ability.

There's no telling if these kinds of results could be duplicated with a given U-bolt, but it might be worth investigating if you have some lying around.
   - Stormcrow - Tuesday, 02/25/03 01:36:13 GMT

Hello again.

I have asked advice a number of times in relation to "tumblers". I have since built one using an older conveyor drum as the tumbler. I threw in some metal plugs and other sharp metal parts in with the work pieces which I needed the scale cleaned off. It tumbles at about 24 RPM and the barrel is 14" in diameter. Problem is that the inside of the drum is quite rusty and I ended up with having everything covered in this black ultra fine powder which I assume is a combination of grinded down scale and rust. It is very hard to clean this off and almost seems to have made all my efforts worthless. I have been working on this tumbler for a very long time and had high hopes but now it's a real drag.
I was told that maybe I should let it run for a few days to clean off the inside walls of the drum and then it should work ok. Any sugestions?
   Louis - Tuesday, 02/25/03 03:03:43 GMT


Get a bag of coarse masonry sand from your local Lowes, Home Depot, or other building supply house. Throw a couple of scoops in, and let it run for a couple of days. That will polish off the crud from the interior of the drum. Dump that out, and throw it away. If the drum is clean and shiny, then go ahead and use it to see how it works. You might have to sand it a couple of times to get it all off.

   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 02/25/03 03:09:56 GMT

I learned a thermodynamic trick this winter, thought i'd pass it along:
I have a timer set up on my keroscene reddy-blaster heater in the shop, set to run from 3-7:00 A.M. Lately i've been aiming it at the platen table, and when i stumble in come morning, my immediate work area is cozy and radiates heat for several hours.
   mike-hr - Tuesday, 02/25/03 04:36:29 GMT


Louis, try lining the inside of your tumbler with some rubber sheeting. An old inner tube would probably work fine. The rubber will protect the drum (including its rust) from the abrasion, and will make it a lot quieter when yhou're running it. It seems to improve the action of the tumbling, too.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 02/25/03 04:50:53 GMT


I've only done small amounts of rust removal, but have had great small scale (pun intended) success w the old battery charger technique.

   - Rudy - Tuesday, 02/25/03 05:12:17 GMT

What is the Battery charger technique?
   Louis - Tuesday, 02/25/03 06:32:52 GMT

Louis; Battery charger technique: go to http://www.needlebar.com/restore/
   3dogs - Tuesday, 02/25/03 07:29:49 GMT

Journals: Helpless, Traditional Metalsmith by George Dixon is very good AND they support anvilfire as advertisers (see pull down menu). The Blacksmiths Gazette by Fred Holder is a different sort of publication and has always had good basic down to earth information. Fred maintains the coal suppliers list that we mirror here. The Blacksmiths Journal is also very good. See our links page for both. The three above are all good and each has its own character. Then there is Anvil Magazine which claims to be a blacksmiths publication but is mostly a farriers publication. But when it runs blacksmithing articles they are usualy pretty good. The magazine "Irony" is new and I have a copy to review if I ever get to it. .

   - guru - Tuesday, 02/25/03 16:47:30 GMT

Tumbler Dirt: The debris taken off by the tumbler media makes dust that mixes with the media and coats the parts. Most tumbler operations are done with a tumbler fluid that helps wash off the dust and also coats steel parts to help keep them from rusting. In many tumbler and vibratory finishing operations the parts are removed from the tumbler and put into a container that looks sort of like the drum of a washing machine with holes in it. The parts are then spun dry in a parts washer and can be rinsed in the process if necessary. In small manual operations the parts are often placed in a wire container and rinsed with a hose.

Starting with a clean drum helps. I would have had it sandblasted or cleaned it with naval jelly prior to using it. Paw-Paws idea will work. Some sharp gravel would not hurt.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/25/03 17:30:12 GMT

Bolts and U-Bolts Stormcrow, All you can do is test and try it. I would take the biscuit from making the hammer eye and heat treat to test. Bolt material varies greatly. Some high strength bolts are medium to high carbon steel but others are alloy steel for toughness more than hardness. U-bolts are the same. Those used to hold truck and automobile axels to leaf springs are very strong heat treated material. But others used as exhust pipe clamps and pipe hangers are soft mild steel. More than bolts for which there are standards for, u-bolts are made of whatever the particular manufacturer decides is sutable for the application. However, most screw machine bolts like your old (antique) domed head bolts did not meet any particular standard.

   - guru - Tuesday, 02/25/03 17:39:41 GMT

Maximum Grits for Sharpening: Rudy, This is an area of diminishing returns. Too fine a grit will not remove enough material and thus you get a polished dull edge. THEN there is the fact that a slightly serrated edge cuts most things better than a truely smooth edge. Blades that have a mirror finish are sharpened with grits much coarser than the rest of the blade is finished with.

On hard steel 320 grit produces a smoother edge than most knives have. 600 grit is one step from polishing but a few folks use 800. For a finer finish emery is used on a cotton buffing wheel. Hand stones such as Arkansas white are equivalent to 800 to 1200 grit. In my opinion anything finer than 1000 is a waste of time.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/25/03 17:53:52 GMT

Rudy, using the sandpaper-on-flat-surface method of sharpening, I stop at 400 or 600 for a lot of stuff. For finer work, like carving chisels for example, I've gone all the way to 2000 at times. Stropping between sharpenings. For carving knives, I use a hard arkansas or fine diamond (I know, not the same) followed by stropping. Don't know the grits for that formula.

   Steve A - Tuesday, 02/25/03 18:34:29 GMT

Post-vise mount. I use a truck brake drum. In my small shop, it's handy to move out of the way, or to get a better position. See http://www.ironringforge.com/PostVise.jpg

For those twists that would move even this clunky thing around, I can stand on the drum.
   - Marc - Tuesday, 02/25/03 18:42:38 GMT

I am a beginner. I am installing a coal forge in a small shop. I need to know what you recommend for flue pipe. The pipe will be run up through the roof of the shop, which has aluminum (metal) walls and roof. I was going to go with double wall pipe such as is used on furnaces, but the manufacturer says the interior pipe (aluminum) won't take the heat(?). I can get heavy gauge stove pipe. What / how do you recommend for flashing / sealant where the flue goes through the roof. I will have other tools / equipment in the shop so I do not want the roof to leak.
   - KayeC - Tuesday, 02/25/03 21:07:28 GMT


First, let me compliment you on this site. Its truly amazing. I am taking a blacksmithing course at my local junior college, namely Eastern Arizona College. Are there any tips on getting my skills better to start my own shop? I know you must get asked this alot.. any advice will help..thanks
   Darrin Tenney - Tuesday, 02/25/03 21:11:58 GMT

Leg/Post Vise: There are a lot of ways to mount blacksmith vises. As Frank mentioned a post in an open place is best. I like vises mounted to a sturdy bench. When I mounted the leg vise on my portable shop I put it on the corner of a triangular benchtop. This allowed solid anchoring AND access for 300°. The benchtop had a tong rack on one side (toward the forge).

For portable or semi-portable floor mounting if you can find a piece of steel plate about four foot across or in diameter you can mount the vise such that you are standing on the plate most of the time. Then when doing bending YOU and the VISE are part of the same world.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/25/03 21:13:53 GMT

If you go and look at teh 'Getting Started' section here 0n Anvilfire I am sure a lot of what you need is there.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 02/25/03 21:35:31 GMT

Flue Pipe: Kaye C, First, There are building codes to check into any time you install a flue. Being for a blacksmith forge the building inspections people will either tell you to follow fireplace rules OR they won't know.

Normally triple wall pipe for fireplaces is stainless. Aluminium lined pipe is only suitable for VERY low temperature stacks such as from high efficiency gas furnaces. It is not suitable for fireplaces or older oil furnaces. Forges actualy run cooler than either but the aluminium would not stand up to the corrosive nature of coal ash and smoke.

In most cases you need a tripple wall penetration flange at the roof. Even though your building has a metal roof the framing is probably wood. The chosen pipe will have a flashing flange. Normally you cut a hole for the outer pipe diameter and a slit horizontaly (perpendicular to the slope of the roof. The flange flashing slips under the roof on the upper side and over the roofing on the lower. Where ribed roofing is used it gets tricky. You have to flatten the ribs OR cut the roofing off for some distance below the hole and install flat roofing (flashing) then have the flange with flashing fit over that. I prefer to do these things when you are doing the roofing because you get a better job. Fitting flashed flanges is a bit of an art. In retro fits there is always a corner on each side where it could leak. These can be sealed with caulk. Most construction suppliers can tell you which silicon caulk is compatible with your aluminum roofing material.

Once the penetration is installed you can run standard vent (stove) pipe up to the tripple wall pipe.

Flue size should be a MINIMUM of 10" and 12" is better. You can get away with an 8" flue but will have a smokey shop more often than not. Forges that had small pipes were intended to go into a larger chiminey after a short distance (like a wood stove).

Another way this is done is to support a short brick chimney from the rafters and have you stove pipe connect to the bottom of the masonry. However, flashing is even trickier in this case.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/25/03 21:58:54 GMT


Planning my next steel order, and I was wondering about options to A36. 1018 seem to be about 2x as much, and I don't know if I would gain anything by going to it. Are there other reasonable options for general (non-tool) forging?

www.artandmetal.com seems to be gone. Is there a pure iron distributor in the US anymore? I didn't see one with a quick search, but I might have missed it....

   Jim - Tuesday, 02/25/03 22:10:51 GMT

1018 vs a36

It was explained to me that the A36 specification was written so foundries would have a category to dump their failures. This does not mean the metal is bad, it just didn't meet some other spec. As a result w A36 you never know quite what you have. For example, I think we've got some A36 in my shop - reason - several pieces of mild steel when quenched in ordinary water make a file skid very nicely. It's NOT 1018.

Also, I was told (third hand) artandmetal is out of business.
   - Rudy - Tuesday, 02/25/03 22:21:53 GMT

A36: While A36 does provide a convenient "diverted" grade, lots of people make this grade intentionally and have standard chemistries to do so. Unfortunaltely, eveybody seems to have a different chemistry to make it. Pot Luck, sort of.
Antique Domed RR bolts: Uh........I find these all the time along the tracks at our plant. I make hardy tools, like spoon forms, out of them. Should I be selling these on E-bay? What terms should I be using to mislead the un-informed? "Huge Dome"? "Awsome Threads"? "Genuine Antique Rust"?
   Quenchcrack - Wednesday, 02/26/03 00:21:25 GMT

Got a question on whetstones:

When my father died, he had a lot of (old style) drafting instruments in his office. He had several fine whetstones for sharpening the ruling pens (I've seen him use them). He also had a very "soft" stone - not even particularly fine. Never saw him use it. Also, several times in my life I have heard people complaining about a soft grind wheel.

It seems to me you would always want the hardest stone possible, and then get "forgiveness" by using a fine grade.

Why do they manufacture soft stones?

2nd question: Has anyone heard of a "clear" as in water clear - uncolored - wax? Real wax not some acrylic waxing product.
   - Rudy - Wednesday, 02/26/03 00:32:07 GMT

Rudy, Reams have been written about stones and sharpening. Stones are fast and slow. A coarse grit is faster, removes steel faster, than a hard, fine stone. If a tool is really boogered up, you firse grind it, as on a bench grinder. Then, you whet it (I was taught that whetting meant using a "medium" stone, like perhaps a Washita). Some folks call a whetstone a hone, however. My idea of a hone is a fine, slow stone, like a hard Arkansas. Some guys will finish a tool by stropping on leather or the palm of their hand. Anyway, the flat stones are also called oilstones. A few drops of oil on the stone will help float particles, so that the face doesn't get "loaded".

A "soft" stone is usually a relatively slow rpm, grinding
wheel in a water bath, used so that a woodworker doesn't "burn" the tool. Burning means that the operator goes past the original temper by friction heat, thereby making a softer temper.

Japanese water stones are being used increasingly by Western woodworkers. Another methodology.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/26/03 01:11:05 GMT

"Hard" and "soft" stones: As Master Turley pointed out reams have been written on this complicated subject. There are thousands of types of grinding and sharpening stones. Each one different than the other.

Generaly "hard" and "soft" refer to the binder in the stone not the abrasive. Abrasives are hard and harder and there are different types for different purposes.

"Hard" and "soft" binders have to do with material being ground. Very hard metals tend to load up stones and dull the abrasive. So a soft binder lets the stone surface wear off and expose new sharp abrasive. Hard stones are used on softer materials. It seems backwards but it is not. However, in hand stones hard binder is used on fine grits to produce a smooth surface.

Use of oil on stones has been a long standing practice but it actually does the opposite of what it is said to do. It actually clogs the stone. It also creates a slurry of grit that prevents making a flat sharp edge. If you clean an "oil" stone with solvent and use it dry it cuts better. Yes, you can see the dark streaks of metal on the stone but they rinse off easily. Clean stones make sharper edges.

Water cooled stones are a different matter. The flood of water rinses away both metal particles and loose abrasive grit while keeping the metal cool. Any grinder that has the capacity to be water cooled does a better job wet than dry.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/26/03 03:18:17 GMT

QUESTION. As I anxiously await Amy's updated website and online store, I have to ask. How do you pronounce her last name? You know what I think it sounds like. :}
   Bob Harasim - Wednesday, 02/26/03 03:34:02 GMT


Is pronounced Pay, like Pay check. Not like Pie, and not like the other, either4! (grin)
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 02/26/03 03:36:10 GMT

Cracked the ceramic insulator on the piezo ignitor for my gas forge. Anybody know any repairs, field expedients, or about how much a new one costs? Fragile suckers!

Watching the weather go bad on the banks of the lower Potomac.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 02/26/03 03:55:05 GMT


Super Glue Should work. Or go to Lowes and see if one for a gas grill will interchange. Lowes carries replacement parts for gas grills, and so does Home Depot. The Piezo Igniters are very similar.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 02/26/03 04:32:38 GMT

The Guru said it before I had the chance. Only use "oil" stones DRY! They do indeed cut much better that way. For knife sharpening, I use 3 stones One that is rough as a corncob to get the bulk of the work done. Once the blade is to shape, I use a fine grit (320) stone to start the edge. Sharpen one side first until you feel a burr form on the opposite side of the blade. Then turn the blade over and sharpen the other side until you get a burr again. Next I go to a Black Arkansas stone. These puppies are expensive, HARD and smooth enough to feel like polished glass. The black stone is only used to take the final burr off from the blade and to polish the edge. When properly sharpened and finished on a black stone, you can shave with the blade. Use a strop to keep the edge from forming a burr during use. If in the kitchen use a STEEL that is so smooth as to be polished, use it after every few strokes of the knife to KEEP the edge sharp. To sharpen you need the stones.

Jap water stones are to be used WET with water. This will not clog them up; they need the water to cut correctly.
   Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 02/26/03 14:30:04 GMT

Tempil Sticks: I ended up buying from McMaster Carr. They have the whole range up to 2200F in 50 incs ( I bought 5 crayons) and the best price, that I could find, - $9.43 ea. I wish I could get them to send me a catalog. Every so often I call them up and threaten to stop buying from them unless they send me one. They don't and I don't :)
   adam - Wednesday, 02/26/03 15:13:29 GMT

Bruce, even if it doesn't fit right, you can make a gas grill igniter work by adding a copper wire taped to the side where the wire is visible and bending over the tip. Leave about a half inch gap betweent the wire and the tip. They are about $8 around here. Make great spud gun igniters too, but the hair spray eventually gums them up. In case you wanted to know.... grin.

I was always and Arkansas stone guy, but since buying some jap water stones, I'll never go back. Much faster and better edge. But I use a belt grinder to get close.
   Tony - Wednesday, 02/26/03 15:14:42 GMT

I made a propaine forge for doing knife making and I was wondering is there any way for me to get the thing a little hotter so I might be able to try doing forge welded blades. The thing is maby a few hundred degrees from the right heat but I can't think of any way to get that last little heat I need. Any advice?
   Kevin King - Wednesday, 02/26/03 16:50:19 GMT

Thanks to all for suggestions and help on mounting my post vise. Wanted to get it in place so I can make some "Dempsey Twist" tongs this weekend.....
   Ellen - Wednesday, 02/26/03 16:53:34 GMT


I went out and bought a couple GLASS rods (NOT plastic) that fit into the crock stick in my kitchen. I use this as a steel or strop. HOWEVER, I did this on impulse and since I'm not a knife expert, I may be fooling myself. One big advantage, they are super easy to wipe off if they get gummed up.

By the way, oh expert. If a super smooth sharpening steel is the way to go, why are most kitchen steels kind of rough?
   - Rudy - Wednesday, 02/26/03 17:10:14 GMT

Kevin; my advice is for you to tell us what you *have* done so that we can make suggestions that will match what you *have* rather than stuff you don't have.

   - Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 02/26/03 17:43:11 GMT

   BLADES - Wednesday, 02/26/03 18:07:48 GMT

Sharpening and Art-and-Metal
What I used to sharpen my wood chisels is the "Scary Sharp" method (do a Google search for details). Basically it's using progressively finer grits of sandpaper on plate glass. You can find up to 2000 grit in the autobody section of parts stores or even WalMart. That'll put on a mirror surface and if your technique is correct (I use one of those angle-jigs) you can easily shave with the edge

Simply wetting the back of the paper, if it's wet-or-dry, is enough to stick it to the glass. Spray-on contact cement if you want more. When the paper is full, spend another couple of pennies to get more.

Art And Metal is indeed out of the pure iron business. Mike Schermerhorn, the business owner, just couldn't find the market big enough to pay for itself, as all the iron is imported from Europe (England, I think). He also said that the European market was strong for this stuff. Discussions on other forums and lists haven't turned up a replacement, but did find plenty of armchair marketing "experts" on how it could have been better marketed :-).
   - Marc - Wednesday, 02/26/03 18:55:26 GMT

I know I sound stupid, I know it (damascus) probably does (hold an edge) but does it require special hardening or tempering procedures.
   BLADES - Wednesday, 02/26/03 19:13:06 GMT

I have a lot of questions, I know. but heres another oone can you make good damascus using steel and brass cable twisted together and then forged welded.
   BLADES - Wednesday, 02/26/03 19:33:18 GMT

Scary Sharp: (SS) I switched to this method after using japanese stones. IMO it is far superior. Cheap , easy and very effective. No expensive investment in stones - no worries about keeping the stones flat. Splash on some water or kerosene and you are good to go. Water stones need to be soaked for a while before using. You can get almost any grit you need. For WW chisels and plane blades I go up to 2000 grit and then finish with a strop. Also, IMO, a ragged toothy edge may be superior for cutting tomatoes or flesh but on wood a highly polished smooth edge stays keen much longer. I am not a knife person so I dont know what is appropriate for a knife edge.

SS method easily produces a shaving sharp edge. Look for the guys with bald patches on their forearms and ask them how they sharpen their tools. :)
   adam - Wednesday, 02/26/03 20:22:12 GMT

Rudy: to answer you as to why most kitchen knife steels are on the rougher side the reason is simple. Most people in the kitchen or knife users in general are to lazy to treat their knifes with the respect they deserve. They cut on Glass ďcuttingĒ boards, in pans, use the knife as a cold chisel to break apart frozen products, they use them as pry bars and many more things that a KNIFE should not be used for. So to answer you, the steels sold in knife stores are more of a FILE than steel. Proper use of a knife and steel is to cut on a WOOD surface, donít let the knife slam into the wood, Steel the edge every 3 or 4 slices and sharpen the blade when it gets dull, not just push it harder.

A knife is a cutting tool. That is all. To use it for anything else is an abuse of the knife.
I have sharpened knifes for many years for other people as well as myself. I always warn the people that what they now have is a SHARP knife be careful with it as it will cut them easily, donít use it as a screw driver, pry bar or for any other purpose than cutting.
Almost without an exception after the first time I sharpen their knife for them, they come back within a few days and tell me that they cut themselves and wow that was a sharp knife.

Now Rudy I do not know your background, perhaps you are the king bubba knife boy where you live, I donít care. The tone of your post was rather offensive in nature. This medium of written rather than spoken communication leaves lots of room for mis-understanding of intent. I do happen to know something about knives and their care and use. I am sorry if that offends you. I will however continue to offer help where I can to whom I can. Sorry
   Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 02/26/03 20:37:13 GMT


Do the "high quality knives" (ie Henckles, Wustof) take a "shaving" edge?

I can get mine to glide easly though meat or veggies but I just can't get them to take the hairs off.
   Stephen G - Wednesday, 02/26/03 20:43:56 GMT

Stephen, sure they can. Our set of kitchen knifes are of that ilk and when sharp they will indeed shave. They will hold an edge well also if used properly.

While I sharpen my knifes by hand, it is easier to do if you have a jig. The biggest problem most people have is not keeping a constant angle on the blade as it is being sharpened. They end up with a rounded edge, not a smooth straight edge.

BTW, the best cutting edge for a knife as well as tools is to be smooth, not scalloped. I know that the scalloped knifes seem to cut much longer than a smooth edge but again they are cutting on glass boards etc and destroying the sharpness of the blade everywhere the knife touches that glass. The reason a scalloped blade "cuts longer" is that only the tips of the scallops are dulled, the rest of the blade is kept off of the ďboardĒ and stays relatively sharp longer.

To shave with a blade: the sharpest blades will cut dry but if the knife isn't quite that sharp, wet the spot you are testing, you will get a closer shave GRIN It is easier to shave wet hair rather than dry hair. Doubt it? try it on your face sometime. Take a new blade out of the package and DRY shave, then add a little water and see which does a better job with less pain. GRIN
   Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 02/26/03 20:58:55 GMT

Waynes comments reference knife sharpening are right on the money, but I use a different technique and can put a shaving edge on a knife that will last for quite a while. Assuming of course that the knife is not abused.

I use three grades of Arkansas stone, Washita, Soft, and Hard. If the blade is actually going to be used for shaving, I finish with a leather strop. If the blade is in REALLY bad shape, I may clean it up with a file, I rarely use a grinder, except for some initial shaping.

This is the way I was taught to sharpen by my grandfather. In turn, I've taught most of my kids to sharpen this way, and several of the grandchildren.

But the "scary sharp" method is interesting and I may try it, just to see how it works.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 02/26/03 21:14:30 GMT

I'd have to agree wholeheartedly with Wayne regarding knife abuse. Some folks will do anything with a knife. I spent entirely too many years running a restaurant, and one of the hardest thing on a good cutting edge was the OSHA approved plastic cutting board the chef was required to use (on an ironic note, the wooden boards are actually more effective at preventing bacterial contamination, but not allowed in the restaurant). In my restaurant, at least, there were always two steels for sharpening. The more course one, like you find at the store, was only used when some idiot had abused the blade so badly that the knife needed a serious re-edging. The more commonly used steel was as smooth as a baby's a$$ and was the one used throughout the day for a quick honing.

I don't think Rudy's tone was intended to be condescending. I suspect it was meant as a light-hearted "Oh mighty guru" kind of thing. Such is the bane of the written word. Intonation is indeed difficult to convey in print.
   eander4 - Wednesday, 02/26/03 21:29:37 GMT

Wayne, Iíve been told that a kitchen knife should have a small burr on. And the steel is to keep the burr from folding over and to keep any handling dents and dings straight. Pulling the edge opposite of shapening. Iím asking, not arguing. My wife is happy with a worn 320 grit belt grind on kitchen knives. Wood cutting board of course.

I heard about the scary sharp method after I got the Jap stones and have not tried it. Dead sharp mirror finish on the wood cutting stuff I agree. Any non kitchen knife blades have to shave (shaving can be done painfully with a pretty dull blade) and cut a 1/8" strip off a hanging newspaper after whacking away on a 2 by 4.

Henckels blades do take a shaving edge, but donít seem to be particularly hard. I do them with a worn 320 grit belt also. But only after the steel wonít straighten the edge. If I use the steel, but can still see dull spots on the edge (as shiny and reflecting light), I take them to the belt grinder. I use a $50 Delta 1" belt grinder for the kitchen knives. Usually 4 or 5 light passes do the trick.

As a field expedient, the small folding diamond hones can do a real good job. Gotta use all three in sequence though. Medium, fine and extra fine.

Each tool requires a learning curve. At least for me. I donít use crock sticks anymore either. Too slow.

Paw Paw, I was taught to sharpen on oil stones with a Randall hunting knife. Took forever. But an 8 year old has lots of time to sharpen Dadís knife. Grin!
   Tony - Wednesday, 02/26/03 22:07:14 GMT

I have my eye on some stacks of pitted mild stock. At .20 per pound, it is hard not to consider it. The pits forge out, but would primer and paint fill the remaining pits? Sanding? Is is a waste of time? Any tomfools ever dealt with this idea?
   andrew - Wednesday, 02/26/03 22:53:54 GMT

Hey guys, exactly how dangerous is a super-sharp knife in the hands of the folks that are in too much of a hurry (or too distracted) to take care of it properly? That's as opposed to "sharp-ish" not cold dull. It seems to me that they're the one's I see looking at everything but what the blade is doing... Phone stuck to the ear, while watching tv...
   Monica - Wednesday, 02/26/03 23:02:30 GMT

Hey guys, it's Japanese not "Jap" that's an insult...JWGBHF
   JWG Bleeding Heart Forge - Wednesday, 02/26/03 23:10:31 GMT

Monica, its only dangerous for a little while - after they slice off a couple of fingers the danger is pretty much neutralized :)
   adam - Wednesday, 02/26/03 23:25:13 GMT

A sharp knife if FAR safer than a dull knife.

Just ask those who know first hand. A dull knife requires more pressure to cut; more pressure equals less control; less control results in missing digits (or worse).

To sharpen MY knives, I just flake off a bit more obsidian -- i.e. sharpening Occam's Razor (Grin!)
   Zero - Thursday, 02/27/03 00:03:26 GMT

Rudy's Glass Rods -- Don't know about rods in the kitchen, but I saw (I think at the Corning Museum of Glass) a little device that held two marbles side-by-side. It was supposed to have been used during WWII to sharpen razor blades when they couldn't be replaced.
   Mike B - Thursday, 02/27/03 00:42:30 GMT


Wayne Parris,

The tone was meant to be light. I am not an expert on anything, just curious and love the intellectual approach.

Since the medium does not convey lightness, I will not do it again.

Apology tendered.
   - Rudy - Thursday, 02/27/03 00:45:21 GMT


A small piece of advice meant to help.

A light tone can be indicated in a message by (grin) (smile) (teasing gring) (LOL {Laugh Out Lout}) (wry grin)
(Sarcasm Mode On/Iff) etc. This medium is strictly two dimensional, and it's hard to remember that sometimes. We all occasionally miss.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 02/27/03 01:05:39 GMT

Loud, not Lout!
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 02/27/03 01:05:52 GMT

and grin, not gring!

   Paw Paw - Thursday, 02/27/03 01:06:20 GMT

Jeeze! On/Off, not On/Iff!
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 02/27/03 01:06:49 GMT

Mike, the inside of a water glass was frequently used to sharpen razor blades, too.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 02/27/03 01:07:30 GMT

Hi, I have been trying to attend the classroom on Slack tub pub on wednesdays for the past four weeks and to no avail, all I get is "no demo tonight" Am I doing something wrong? Can you help me out? Thanks ....Slim
   slimbernier@yahoo.com - Thursday, 02/27/03 03:10:05 GMT

Sharpness and Safety. In the 50s, I took some anthropology courses. One prof said that within the Ashanti Tribe of Ghana, the kids learn how to use a form of machete to whack their way through the forest. They were introduced to the tool at age three and were expert at age four. They did not cut themselves. Using the machete was a necessity, and the kids just did it.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/27/03 03:33:35 GMT

"Give your children sharp things to play with and they will grow up careful, or maimed, or both." (Uncle Atli's Very Thin Book of Wisdom)

I, on the other claw, pride myself on a sharp mind and a dull tongue; er, a dull mind and a sharp tongue?

Joking aside (but never for long) when you have sharp tools it is wise to let anyone else messing around them know how sharp they are. Dull edges are such a commonplace that many folks assume that your tools are dull too. A little demonstration or warning can not only save them pain, but also bestow the pleasure of cutting things without relying on the more common "knife sideways through the butter" brute-force method.

Slim: The classroom has been running into a dry spell of late while the Great Guru juggles some other balls. Might be another month or so before I have anything worthy of presntation, but maybe some of our other folks will duly contribute.

Thanks to the crew for the information on the Piezo ignitors.

Still snowing on the banks of the lower Potomac. I'll probably get in to work tomorrow, but getting home may be "interesting."

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 02/27/03 04:33:19 GMT

Sharpness and Safety:

My sister-in-law almost cut her finger off with one of my knives. The ones at her house wouldn't cut warm butter and she was used to putting her fingers in the way.

A meat cutter taugh me never to try to catch the knife you just dropped. He had a semi-working finger to prove it.
   Stephen G - Thursday, 02/27/03 12:28:44 GMT

Paw-Paw, looks like you played with too many scary sharp knives as a kid.....got a few short fingers? When I am not pounding iron, I do woodcarving and sharpening is the secret to getting glass smooth cuts. I use both soft Arkansas and waterstones for major re-sharpening. I also like the waterstones and if you decide to try one, spend the extra $8 and get a Nagura stone to go with it. The Nagura stone is about the size of a golfball and has one flat side. You use it to generate a slurry on the waterstone surface. It is this slurry that does the cutting and polishing and working without it really slows the process down. As for stropping, I have 3 basic strops, all leather. Silicon carbide paste works extremely well, jewelers rouge is for the final polish. A product called "Yellowstone" is my favorite for achieving the bright mirror polish on the edge. You can buy it at any good woodworking store (E.G., Woodcraft). Frequent stropping of the edges keeps your stones in the box longer.
   - Quenchcrack - Thursday, 02/27/03 13:27:00 GMT

Blades; thanks for not SHOUTING; I paid good money for these bifocals so that I could read the small type and I wants to get my money's worth!

As for Patternwelded steel (what you really mean when you say Damascus) well it *depends* on the *alloys* used to make it. There is some really pretty wrought iron and nickle pattern welded stuff out there that won't harden even if you hold your breath and hold your tongue just right. There are other alloys that will harden harder than a DI's heart (my apologies to PPW and Atar). So with good alloys and good heat treat the stuff will work great.

As for "Dambrasscus" it's not forgewelding brass is a liquid burning off the zinc at forgewelding temps---no weld just a "splash". it's more of a forge brazing technique and of course the brass does not harden.

Sharpening: A.G.Russel tells the story of getting tired of everybody always bragging about their pocketknife being able to shave so he once took a coors can, folded it in half, flattened it and sharpened it until he could shave with it---didn't hold an edge long but he could shave with an Al beer can...

   - Thomas Powers - Thursday, 02/27/03 14:06:04 GMT

I must also offer my apology to you. I was having a tough day yesterday and missed the lighthearted tone that was more apparent today while re-reading the post. A GRIN goes a long way in type. I have too many times been taken the wrong way when I forgot to GRIN a message.

Tony, it is the burr that causes the knife to be dull! Once the burr folds over, then you just have a large rounded surface. I actually use 3 angles when I sharpen a blade. The first angle determines how the blade will be used. A narrow angle and you can shave with it, a med angle and it will be more durable, a thick angle and you can chop trees with it.
Think straight razor, knife, and axe

The second angle is increased by about 5 deg, this is the start of the edge I sharpen only one side at a time and is where I sharpen to get a burr on the "top" or non-sharpened side. Stop when you get the burr as when you just get it, you are in the center of the blade, if you continue to sharpen after you get the burr, you are only pushing the center of the edge to one side of the blade. Next turn the blade over and sharpen that side at the same angle as the first side until you get the burr, again you are in the center of the blade.

Third on the black Arkansas stone, increase the angle another 5 to 10 deg and LIGHTLY stone the edge alternating the side of the knife on each stroke until there is no pressure used at all.

At this point, you should be able to shave with the edge if you kept your angles constant.

I have sharpened knives on the side of a piece of concrete, on sanding paper stuck to glass (as has been said) sandpaper wrapped around a piece of steel etc. The better your tools to sharpen with, the better job you will get. Most anything abrasive will sharpen a knife, keep your angles constant and you will get a useable edge.

Monica, a sharp tool, is a safe tool as long as the user understands that sharp MEANS sharp. Most people get hurt by forcing a dull knife; this means less control and the chances to get hurt increase.

Zero, an obsidian edge is much sharper than what you can put on steel, I am jealous!

Stephen, Good advice, let that blade go! You can sharpen it again if needed but you can put some painfull cuts to yourself if you try to catch it!

Quenchcrack, I never heard of the Nagura stone but then again no one can know everything about anything (BIG OL GRIN) You are right about the slurry on the stone that does the cutting, It just takes a few miniutes to work up the slurry on the stone.

BTW, Keep the waterstones soaked in water, a wet surface just won't do it.
   Wayne Parris - Thursday, 02/27/03 14:16:27 GMT

Wayne, note I said small burr. I fully understand a folded over burr is no good and I always remove the burr on blades other than kitchen knives and scrapers. A small ragged burr, not folded over, acting more as a saw on the soft stuff that is usually cut with a kitchen knife was the idea. Iíve not looked at my edges on kitchen knives to see if there is a small burr. And I donít necessarily try to put a small burr on. Itís just something I had heard and wanted to discuss. As with a wood scraper, a burr can be very sharp.

I have one of those nagura stones to help build the slurry on the water stones. I donít use it much. I'll give it a second chance, thanks QC.

I really enjoy the sharpening process. Good satisfaction in a sharp blade suited to the job.

First thing I try to teach kids is to avoid cutting toward any part of your body and that sharp blades are safer.

JWG, jap was not meant to be insulting. Sorry if you or anyone else took it that way. I guess Iíd have to say that is overly sensitive IMO, but I do understand the thinking. I think. grin
   Tony - Thursday, 02/27/03 15:17:40 GMT

Guru - I understand you have some experience with spray on cold galvanize finishes. I am hoping you have a recomendation for the best kind and where to get it? I just purchased some "Marine Grade Industrial Zink Rich cold Galvanize" at a parts house and like the way it looks. But a brand reccomendation from a real GURU would be helpful.
   Joe Rolfe - Thursday, 02/27/03 15:35:22 GMT

Knife sharpining
figured I would put my 2 cents in on this.

There are diferant types of egdes and cuting angles that work all have there place, honeing wheels (paper or leather charged with ruge/emery) work well for a sharp edge that will not be under a lot of stress (shaveing cuting flesh of vegies) a flat edge works for cuting stuff that is a bit tougher (leather paper) a convex edge is the strongest and longest lasting all around edge this is the best edge to use for knifes that will see a lot of diferant kinds of cuting (open mail, cut the packing strap, open that box, trim that gasket. etc) then there is the wire edge I don't like a wire edge but it can be usefull butcher seem to like them a wire edge has the advantage that it can be "pulled straight" (back to sharp) along time after it is dull, it can't shave even when sharp . a wire edge cuts like a burr on steel, it only slices.
more like a buck than 2 cents (grin)
   MP - Thursday, 02/27/03 15:51:24 GMT

"Laugh Out Lout" works too.....
   Jim - Thursday, 02/27/03 16:22:45 GMT

I have a propaine tank with the ends cut off, lined with kaowool about two inch thick, a coating of ITC-100 over that, a handmade burner with a medium sized blower and a adjusting air gate. That is what I have, and I have fooled around with the air flow but it is either right or is so strong it blows out the flame and i have to relite it.
   Kevin King - Thursday, 02/27/03 16:24:57 GMT


"Never try to catch a dropped knife." Males instinctivly try to catch a dropped anything by slapping their knees together. Females do it the opposite way to catch the dropped items with their skirt." One of my guys tryied to catdh a dropped utility knife that way. Drove the blade all the way into his leg. That's kind of a tough way to learn a lesson.


Got very few knife scars, though I do have a couple. But they almost all happened when someone else was holding the knife.

   Paw Paw - Thursday, 02/27/03 16:30:38 GMT

One of my first blacksmithing "lessons" was "just let it hit the floor" I dropped a 2' piece of stock which was hot on one end. Managed to drop it, but caught it on the way down.... On the hot end. Ouch.

Now I just get out of the way, and see where it lands. hitting the floor probably won't hurt it as much. That's why I'm a blacksmith, not a glassblower!
   Jim - Thursday, 02/27/03 16:57:36 GMT

Hydraulic Press vs. Power Hammer

I know that presses are gaining popularity with knife makes for damascus. Are they well suited to gerneral ornamental iron work? Are there stock sizes for which a HP is not well suited? What type of opperations would the HP be better for than the PH? Viceversa? How about foundation and noise issues? Thanks very much.
   Patrick Nowak - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:15:58 GMT


Not even sure what a T-rex burner is.

Sharp... Actually, I was refering to the difference between "shave with mirror polish" sharp and "just got it at Wal*Mart" sharp. Wayne got what I ment with "as long as the user understands that sharp MEANS sharp."

I have a Japaneese sword of unknown age with a mirror edge, and it slid out of the scabbard when I went to pick it up. I felt steel, dropped it back down, and looked at my thumb. No pain, no blood so I thought there was no cut. Then I flexed my thumb and the two sides of the slice separated. It was a very quick, deep slice, almost needed stitches, but sharp enough to cut without even a sting... And I try to be carefull any time I touch a blade, since I KNOW a few of mine are that sharp. (Actually, the scabbard split back into it's two sides... previous owner was not so nice with it.)
   Monica - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:26:07 GMT

Rugg - What is the forge lined with? And what's it's internal dimensions? Forgot to ask.
   Monica - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:27:14 GMT

Also forgot to proof that last post. My spelling's atrocious, but I should have caught the it's vs its...
   Monica - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:28:21 GMT

Kevin what is "medium sized blower" to you? .01 hp or 3 hp?

I have a blown gas forge that I weld in: 10" dia pipe 18" long, 2" kaowool with firebrick "floor". I use a 150 cfm blower with an air gate and can run it from oxidizing the dickens out of it to having a plume longer than my tongs...

What kid of a flame holder and type of gas introduction are you using? How large of an opening(s) do you have? How long do you let it heat up before trying to weld? What pressure propane are you using?

   - Thomas Powers - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:31:24 GMT

Hmmm speaking of my sword's scabbard, it split to the two sides, and looks like the adhesive just let go... perhaps Florida humidity got into it too much. That, and the lacquer finish is broken/chipped off along the edge of the two pieces. Actually, the "black" laquer is almost a semi-gloss to matte dark brown, now.

Any suggestions of how to repair the scabbard, or opinions on if I even *should* given the possible age of the piece.
   Monica - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:34:52 GMT

I've recently acquired a massive antique cast iron/steel lock...which has been tentatively identified as 18th C French/Moravian...I am a student in Historic Preservation at Boston's North Bennet Street School. and am looking to document the piece and put it back into accurate use...any help/references/contacts would be greatly appreciated. Can send digital photos. I have learned a great deal about smithing from your site...many thanks.
   Greg Cope - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:47:42 GMT

Kevin it almost sounds as if you have too much air....
I have a forge almost like that... but instead of a blown burner I have two atmosphric blowers... Works well, tho I need to fire it up and tweak it into getting to a weld temp.... Have not used it in about 3 years. Ever since I was given a large coal forge and I bought a NG forge.....
   Ralph - Thursday, 02/27/03 17:48:01 GMT

Nagura Stones also help keep the waterstone flat. It takes me several minutes to work up a good slurry but it really is worth the trouble. I wonder if any flat stone would not work as well? I keep my waterstones in Tupperware containers with about 1/2" of water in them at all times.
   - Quenchcrack - Thursday, 02/27/03 18:03:19 GMT

Tony, I think that MP sort of answered the question. If a knife has a real thin edge he referred to it as a wire edge, this edge is real easy to have fold over and constant effort is required to keep it straight.
The thing about a BURR with TEETH that does the cutting is an old campfire myth if you will. There is no burr on Zeros obsidian edge and it is much sharper than you can put on steel. The object of the very fine stone and razor strop is to remove any burr that is in place, in the case of a fine edge like a razor the strop also keeps the edge straight and polished.

There are as many ways to sharpen knifes, as there are people out there. Mine works for me. It was thought to me in a book that was written by a man who owns and runs a professional edge service. They have taken a scientific approach to sharpening, using objective tests and microscopes to determine just what makes an edge sharp. The books title is
The razors edge. I don't remember what the mans name was that wrote it is nor can I remember the ISBN number. I could look it up and post it if people are interested.

If your method works for you, GREAT, I mean that. I'm not looking to make converts, just help people.

Monica, I would get the advice of collectors before you do anything to that scabbard. Sometimes the best of intentions take away from the colector value. I don't know anything about that subject. Find an avid collector for info would be my advice.
   Wayne Parris - Thursday, 02/27/03 18:07:37 GMT

Paw Paw,

One would think that guys who habitually catch falling objects between their legs would "cut" them selves out of the gene pool fairly rapidly ;)

A new form of Darwinisum! Ouch!
   Stephen G - Thursday, 02/27/03 18:29:53 GMT

Kevin: You are still being too skimpy with the details. You need to invest some effort in your question if you want people to do the same for their answers: However, I will have a go from your description:

If you made your forge from a propane tank well these come in a variety of sizes but I am guessing its the common bbq size? Then you are trying to heat up a burn chamber that is 10" dia x 10" long. This is a darn big forge chamber (about 750 cu ins) and may be too much for the burner. Most ppl make forges that are 6"-8" dia. Is the forge open at both ends? If so you are losing so much heat you are essentially trying to get your whole shop up to welding temp. The forge should have an opening just large enough to accommodate the work and to allow the exhaust to escape without too much back pressure. Try stacking firebrick front and back to close it up. Firebrick covered with kaowool is even better. Also, try another 2" of kaowool on the interior - the 2" lining that you have is marginal for welding heat and your chamber is way big.

Does the forge have a ceramic floor? (Kaowool melts when you drop hot flux on it) If so, how thick and is it sitting on top of kaowool or is it just sitting over the metal shell?

Once we get this stuff straight we can think about your burner configuration but it isnt fair to make us guess what you have in order to trouble shoot it. It's true the Guru is psychic (direct hit with the battlebot question) but he is also very busy and the rest of us are just ordinairy guys
   - adam - Thursday, 02/27/03 20:01:34 GMT

"Jap" Websters lists this as a "disparaging" term.
   - adam - Thursday, 02/27/03 20:14:19 GMT

Monica, definitely check to see how it affects the value.

However, the classic scabbards (and ones by the modern masters) were designed to be snapped apart for cleaning purposes. They use rice glue to put them back together.
the book: "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" by Leon and Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara has a great description of this . . . ummm on page 157

"For glue, he uses one or two day old rice. Rice glue (called sokui) is used here because it does not draw moisture and is strong, but not so strong that it prevents the scabbard from being sprung open along its seams for cleaning." etcetera.

Good book all the way around.
   Escher - Thursday, 02/27/03 20:18:11 GMT

Wayne, no problems, I was asking your opinion because I value it. We have the same objective. I think MP covered the kitchen knife edge thing too. Thanks MP. I have to go look at my Wayne Goddard books again. I think I got that out of there, but probably described it wrong.

Almost all of what you describe with stones, I have done (except sharpening on concrete, grin) and it works for me too. I just got a lot lazier and faster when I started using the belt grinder.

Quenchcrack, a few minutes to work up the slurry, that's the problem! My attention span is now about 30 seconds. grin. One of my relatives was nice enough to give me a 2 by 8 diamond "stone" to use to flatten my water stones when necessary. I've not had to flatten the 6000 stone.

What were we talking about? grin

   Tony - Thursday, 02/27/03 20:32:31 GMT

First lesson of cooking and camping: Falling knives have NO handles.
   vicopper - Thursday, 02/27/03 22:00:58 GMT

Tony, Truth is, I don't use the waterstone enough to need to flatten it much. Ok, not ever. If you keep the blade stropped frequently, the need to use the stone is minimal. I use it to shape the edge (after the belt grinder) on forged blades. Waterstones seem to etch the blade to a dull gray even though they are smooth. I go back to a strop to brighten them and take away the burr. A polished, scratch free bevel will cut more smoothly than a scratched one. If you are carving with a scratched or nicked blade, you can see the fine lines left in the wood from the tool.
   - Quenchcrack - Thursday, 02/27/03 22:49:08 GMT

monica, adam, TP: my forgemaster is 13X9X4", approx. kaowool on the door, the rest "solid" refractory material. it is a box. it has openings on each end. two burners. @ 6-7psi, orange heat is as good as i can get. 12psi, bright yellow; no "sparks". i really dont like the plumbing design as the line to the burner manifold goes under the forge and gets quite warm; it is also cumbersome. this forge appears to be inefficient relative to the forges that i have been reading about.

the question: how does one ensure an adequate or optimal exhaust when designing a forge? (i am going to build one, collecting info and material now).

how close should the burner nozzle be to the interior forge surface?? if too close, it will melt, correct??

is it important to seal or prevent air leaking past the nozzle and into the forge??

   - rugg - Thursday, 02/27/03 22:59:16 GMT

Thomas Powers: sorry I`m not real good at typing (getting better) thanks for the info and I`d like to say Y`all are great and I appreciate all of the info that is posted here.
   BLADES - Thursday, 02/27/03 23:15:39 GMT

Does anyone live anywhere in northeast Texas?
   BLADES - Thursday, 02/27/03 23:21:56 GMT

Greg Cope, Moravian ironwork. I could do a little research for you ref the lock. The U.S. Moravians came to Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania, from I believe, the borderlands of Czechoslovakia and Germany. I have visited their museums in the two towns, and the ironwork has a "Germanic flavor". My e-address is above under "Gurus".
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/27/03 23:40:48 GMT

I Know one should not burn Smithing coal in a heating stove and I have been asked why not a number of times. I cannot answer this question for sure. If I were to guess I would say that it is due to the smithing coal coaking and therefore possibly clogging the grate in a heating stove. Can anyone give me an answer based on fact ?
Thank You,
   Harley - Friday, 02/28/03 00:06:23 GMT

Rugg: IMO building your own forge is the way to go. Anvilfire has helped to trouble shoot a whole slew of homemade gas forges. The most recurrent problems are - too much chamber volume for the burner and too big an aperture. This results in a forge that is underpowered and leaky and, of course dissappointing. People try to design a forge that will be big enough to handle anything they might want to make and this results in problems.

I suggest making something with a 6" dia chamber - about 10" long. This is a useful size and easy to heat up. Once you have that working well you will probably want to make a couple more of different sizes and shapes - being as they are easy to make. I also recommend 3" or more of insulation - say 2" of kaowool and then fill the space with perlite or similar. The back door should have a 2" stock port and ideally, the whole door should be removeable. For the front door I like to stack up soft fire brick ( or home made refractory blocks )so that I leave an opening that is convenient for the work at hand. This is a very flexible arrangement and can even be reconfigured while the forge is hot (kevlar gloves :) ) For venturi burners, the rule of thumb is to make the exhuast at least 7x the area of the burner tube - so for a 3/4" burner tube this means about 3.5" sq in of exhaust aperture. If you are in the ball park you can tune this just by partially blocking or opening your work opening and watching the effect on the forge temp - it may take a few mins to settle to a new operating point. Hot forges lose a significant amount of heat by radiating. There is no point in trying to keep the hot gas in - it has to escape - but it is important to try and block any direct line of sight into the forge chamber so that the radiant heat is reflected back.

Burner nozzles lead a hard life. The nozzle should not project into the chamber at all , in fact its usually butted up against the outside of the insulation. Even with this they tend to burn up and crumble away after a while. SS tubing works very well to prevent this. You dont need a tight seal arount the nozzle - I can see into my forge chamber past the nozzle - but be darn sure you arent blowing air fuel mix into the insulation. This can be very unpleasant (dont ask!) People often just pack the gap around the nozzle with kaowool.

Kaowool is great in that its a terrific insulator and heats up very fast but its kind of fragile. I kept snagging the work on mine so I went to a hard refractory for the inner liner.

ITC100 is good stuff and worth using but it isnt magic and it wont make a poorly constructed forge get to welding heat.

You didnt say what kind of burner you are going to make. If you are considering a venturi burner then I suggest you start with the Ron Reil EZ burner. While it is not the most efficient design anymore and it is rather big and clunky, it is an excellent burner far better than anything I have seen on a small commercial forge and it can be made from off the shelf plumbing parts. Later you might want to try a more sophisticated design. For the EZ burner the design rule is one burner per 250 cu in of chamber space.

In anycase do visit Ron's site (anvilfire links page) and check out his freon tank forge.

These are just my ideas on the subject. I am no expert.

   adam - Friday, 02/28/03 00:34:22 GMT

Adam, *gloves*? You mean you haven't forged a set of "hot brick tongs"! Mine were modified out an *old* (WI) set of nippers that had gosh awfully long bits on them, when I straightened them out they were just about brick sized and after the first time I had to move a lot of hot hard firebrick around I knew they were going to *stay* brick sized!

   - Thomas Powers - Friday, 02/28/03 00:45:37 GMT

Knives /// stropping /// water storage
The nagura stone is used after sharpening with the last (and finest water stonethat is used). In wood carving it will be 4000 or 6000. Nagura stones come in two styles. Natural ones and synthetic stones. They are roundish and about the size of the inner diameter of your palm.They are rubbed ithe water on the surface of the last water stone to make a slurry and then the tool is rubbed in the slurry which rests on the water stone surface.
There is one more step to take if a woodworker wants an ultimate finish and degree of sharpness. And that is to use a felt buffing wheel charged with chromium oxide (green), rouge. The particle size of the CrO2 is a helf micron.
When carving, those carvers, in the know, have a flat piece of leather charged with green rouge. They stroke the gouge or knife along the charged leather once or twice after every 3 or 4 cuts. This technique keeps the edge very sharp for a considerably longer time, before it needs rehoning with a 1200 or 4000 water stone.
Storing water stones, from 350 to 1200 grit, in water is a good idea. (the finer stones should not be stored in water however. (i.e. 4000 and 6000).
There is one important precaution to take for water storage. An antimicrobial additive should be added to the water. Bacteria and fungi can grow in the water-stone film and eventually fill the stone. There is enough organic material in dust and finger oil for these bugs to thrive on.) Microbial growth can make the stone very hard to clean. (sometimes impossible).
The water should be distilled or deionised, (not tap water) in order to stop dissolved minerals (in the water), eventually clogging up the water stone pores.
The antimicrobial I use is sodium azide. That chemical is poisonous (to people), but mildly so, unless you drink it.
Microbiologists have that chemical. I know of other anti-microbial chemicals but I cannot vouch for their friendliness to the waterstones. For example, is a small amount of dissolved chlorox in water, bad for the water stone? I don't know. (for example would it slowly destroy the binder that holds the water stone's abrasive particles together?).(chlorox in water will killl microbial flora).
You can get bricks of Chrome oxide green rouge at specialty wood working tool merchants.
They used to, only, be available from Japan. (like Sun Co.), and were expensive. They are now made in North America and the price has dropped from the stratosphere.
None of the above discussion and materials are necessary for kitchen knives. That would be overkill.
A good kitchen knife should have a bit of tooth in order to cut problematic things like tomatoes. In other words a 1000 grit water stone is about as fine an edge that would be needed for that.
Meat cutting knives might work better taken to a 1200 and 4000 grit water stone.
   slag - Friday, 02/28/03 01:05:04 GMT

Smithing Coal in the fire place

Here where coal is plentyful, many still use coal to heat the home. You go to the mine and get a couple of tons and dump it in a location close to the house, so you do not have to carry it for a long distance. With any fire in a fireplace, you need to be careful to keep the ash from touching the bottom of the grate, or you will warp and or burn out the grate.

They call it house coal because it is burned in the house. A blacksmith calls it smithing coal because it is burned in the forge. It is the same coal.

Not all mines produce good smithing coal, the coal with high BTU's, low sulfur, low ash etc. etc. Put Pocahontas #3 is Pocahontas #3 no matter where it is burned.

WV produced 7,697,193 tons of Pocahontas Coal in 2000 and 6,653,506 tons of Pocahontas Coal in 2001. Of the 6.6 million tons produced in 2001, 4,396,803 was Poca #3, the smithing coal. Ref: Annual Report, WV Office of Miners Health Safety and Training 2001 pg 103.
   - Ntech - Friday, 02/28/03 01:10:19 GMT

Harley /// burning coal & other organics for space heat
Burning organics generate carbon monoxide (CO).
CO gas is tasteless, odourless, and deadly.
Only fancy, efficient ventilation, that extracts all the combustion gasses should be used.
Carbon monoxide has several hundred times the affinity for (oxygen carrying in the body), haemaglobin than oxygen.
They say it's a painless death.
I don't know if that is so and I am not going to try to find out.
   slag - Friday, 02/28/03 01:12:35 GMT

hmmmmm...still no registration....do me a favor eh,? tell Buddy L I appreciated the lesson on making a spring for my post vise....
   JackFrost - Friday, 02/28/03 03:01:39 GMT

The forge is out of a normal sized bbq tank. The ends are sealed off to the point where I can insert my metal but much of the heat is kept in (holes in the back and front with an openable door on the front for smelting work). The floor is made out of kaowool but to help keep it from desintergrating I used an asbestos board over top of the two inches of kaowool but i am trying to find some ceramic boards to replace it with. I have more of the kaowool and will try down sizeing the space inside. The burner is normal black pipe with a cross pipe inside and a valve out side to control the amout of propine being pushed through, the small cross pipe has a very small hole for the propaine to eject from and burn at the end of the main pipe inside the forge. The entire thing was made from some online designs. Just a plain and simple design. At the end of the assembly I place my blower over top and blow air direct into it at a controled rate. But thank you for your help so far and I will get to work ASAP, doing what you segested.
   Kevin King - Friday, 02/28/03 04:03:54 GMT

Blades - Northeast Texas such as Dallas/ Fort Worth? I'm not there, but there are a great bunch of guys there. http://www.flash.net/~dwwilson/ntba/

They'll be hosting IronFest this summer. There's a link on the website.
   - Stormcrow - Friday, 02/28/03 04:08:22 GMT

Thomas I have no idea of what size the blower is but only that Ralph was right in the start. When I first got the forge going the blower was pushing to much air so I fited it with a air gate to cut back the amount or air and that has helped, The pressure of the propane is not known to me other than it moves through the pipes with some force and there is not much I can do to change it. But thanks for your adivce and I hope with every ones information I can get it right one way or another.
   Kevin King - Friday, 02/28/03 04:15:54 GMT

Stormcrow Thanks thats a big help.
   BLADES - Friday, 02/28/03 04:48:02 GMT

If I might wander back into the realm of knife sharpening for a moment, I have an old lockback of dubious pedigree that I am never without at work, and I keep it sharp enough for millwrightin' by "steeling" it on a stick of LH 7018 welding electrode, and then stropping it up on an old strip of lineshaft belt. Works fer ME. Best regards, 3dogs
   - 3dogs - Friday, 02/28/03 07:19:53 GMT

BTW, all LH7018 flux coating isn't the same grit. The lighter colored stuff seems to be finer. 3dogs
   - 3dogs - Friday, 02/28/03 07:35:42 GMT

Hi all,
Does anyone know of a set of plans or drawings offered anywhere to build a universal bender? Set-up like the Hausfeld bender would be great. Thanks in advance!
   kdbarker - Friday, 02/28/03 12:06:58 GMT

Coal for heat:
I think my question may have been misunderstood, although Ntech did indicate that you CAN use bituminus coal for home heat. For clarification, I was not refering to burning coal in a fireplace. I was speaking of heating with a coal stove. This is something we had done for a few winters here in Mass. we went back to wood because there was just too much heat from a coal stove. When we began to burn coal we were told that you only used anthricite in a heating stove. I know that some smiths will use anthricite in a forge if there is no bituminus available and that it takes an almost constant blast to keep it burning. Now let me re-phrase my question. With regard to fuel used in a coal stove for home heating. Is it accurate to say that you should NOT use bitumonus and only use anthricite coal in a coal stove, and if so what is the reason. I have been asked this and do not know the proper answer to give.
Once again thank you ,
   Harley - Friday, 02/28/03 13:22:08 GMT

Kevin King; aha! tell us more about your gas supply? Are you trying to run a forge off a gas grill regulator or a house regulator? (It is propane you are using right?)

This may be a problem as the pressure/orifice size are very linked. You many not be able to squirt the BTU's needed out of what you have.

I run one of my propane forges from an old acetylene regulator and the other propane forge off a high pressure propane regulator (adjustable!) that was purchased from a propane supply co.

To weld I have to increse both the propane pressure and the air input until they balance out at a higher BTU input.

   - Thomas Powers - Friday, 02/28/03 13:26:52 GMT


To expand (hopefully accurately) on what Thomas said, your description sounds like the Reil atmospheric burner. If so, adding the blower probably moves much more air than it was designed for, and results in a lean mixture. I would drill the orifice bigger. An atmospheric burner relies on a small orifice to generate a high-velocity stream of propane and pull air through the burner. With the blower, the velocity of the propane stream is not as critical. Even if you make the orifice larger than necessary in a blown forge, you should be able to get a good mixture just by cutting back the propane pressure (or using a valve to restrict the flow).
   Mike B - Friday, 02/28/03 13:50:49 GMT

Patrick, as far as noise and foundation go, a hydraulic press (not hammer) can sit on dry dirt. All of the opposing forces are generally taken up within the frame. Noise can be another issue. There isnít much noise from the die hitting the work because itís relatively slow, but hydraulic pumps and valves can have flow and cavitation noise. Usually a whine of some sort. Not that loud, but it can be very annoying. And there are ways to reduce the noise. I talked about that a while back. Not sure if here or there. Let me know if you want me to find it.

Kevin King, in addition to whatís been said, you may have a mixing problem. The gas inlet should be very close to the blower outlet and in such a place that the air from the blower flows close across it. If the burn is erratic at a given setting of the gas valve and blower gate, you may have dirt in the orifice. If the flame is hard to tune from low to high and surges to high, then your gas valve may not be a good enough throttling valve. I use a 1/8" pipe thread needle valve successfully. No regulator. But if your propane supply pressure fluctuates because it is cooling and the vapor pressure is dropping, you may want a regulator. If you use a regulator, be sure to put a pressure gage after the regulator to be sure you are getting what you think you are.

And one more thing on water stones...... when you are used to oil stones with oil, donít make the mistake of sharpening on the oil stones and putting the blade on the water stones. Even if you wipe it off, there will be enough oil to clog up a fine water stone! Donít embarrass me by asking how I know this. grin. Hey, that was long time ago when I was younger and more foolish!

I also hollow grind my wood chisels on a water wheel so I am only stoning the last 1/16" or so of the bevel. I do need to get better at stropping. So thanks for the info!
   Tony - Friday, 02/28/03 13:52:17 GMT

Could you give me some info on the forgeability of the 360
brass that is listed in tha Anvilfire store. Thank you.
   k.f. ruddell - Friday, 02/28/03 14:37:36 GMT

Domestic Heating: Harley, In Virginia we use bituminous in forge, furnace and domestic coal stove. The stove and furnace coal was larger lump coal. Furnaces with stokers used the small stoker size and I used the same in my forge. The problem locally is that our coal dealer only gets a small truck load of coal a year now. Twenty years ago his yard always had several hundred tons in various grades. No more. . .

Bruce Wallace uses the same bituminous coal in his forge and coal furnace.
   - guru - Friday, 02/28/03 14:51:34 GMT

Forgability of 360 brass: K.F., I have not used any of this particular brass. 360 or C36000 is free cutting or "screw machine" brass used for machined parts and plumbing parts. 61.5% Cu, 3%Pb, 35.5% Zn. Forging brass UNS C37700 is not too far off with 59% Cu, 2%Pb, 39% Zn.

The 360 is very close to Naval Brass (which has a little tin) and has a forgability rating of 90 compared to Forging Brass at 100. It should forge pretty well and I would guess has a forgiability rating of 85 to 90.

*Forgability ratings from the ASM Metals Handbook on forging.
   - guru - Friday, 02/28/03 15:13:41 GMT

Thomas Powers- The gas supply, I am using propane, and the reglator is from a gas grill. I have thought of using a acetylene regulator but have not found a spare one. In the end if I do not find one I might just pull it off the tank I have for normal welding and cutting.

Mike B- What size hole do you recomend. The cross pipe feeding the propane is only a quarter inch wide. And what about drilling more of the same size holes but next to the one that is already there to increase the amount of gas?

Tony- The blower is about one inch from the gas outlet. I did have to fool around with it but I have managed to stop the gas and air from making the burn erratic, and have a steady flow.

Also another thing does any one know where I could get knives hollow ground or even the equipment to do so in western New York state?
   K King - Friday, 02/28/03 15:35:16 GMT

Zinc Paint: Joe, All I have used is CRC brand. Generaly "zinc rich" is usualy a cop out statement. What you want is 90% to 98% of the solids to be pure zinc powder. NOT a zinc compound. The rest is binder to hold the zinc on. Usualy there is so little binder that the paint is "chalky" and not a suitable top coat.
In zinc powder paints the zinc settles out and must be constantly mixed. Those using zinc compounds do not. But they are not what you want. Some brands provide the zinc powder seperately and you mix.

The point is that you want real ZINC metal as close to the steel as possible AND in a significant amount. Cold galvanizing is not as good a hot dip BUT it works a lot better than no zinc and has the advantage that you can do it yourself.

Consider this, many white paints are zinc oxide. Other than being paint it has no more rust protection than any other paint of any color. It is "zinc rich". But it is not chemicaly active zinc metal.

Read the label closely.
   - guru - Friday, 02/28/03 16:19:19 GMT


Plans for a Hossfeld (type) #2 Bender can be found at:


The URL for this was posted across the street about a month ago, so thanks to whomever did so.
   Zero - Friday, 02/28/03 16:27:58 GMT

K King,
Get rid of that bbq regulator, you won't get enough flow or pressure from it. Try a new regulator first before you make any other changes. The max pressure out of a gas grill regulator should be 14 inches of water collum. This is the pressure it takes to make bubbles come out of a straw or hose that the end of which is 14 inches under water. I don't remember the conversion but you can't have more than a pound or two of pressure there most forges run from 6 to 15 psi. You are WAY under pressure.
   Wayne Parris - Friday, 02/28/03 16:32:53 GMT

Regulators K.King, Generally gas grill regulators do not have nearly the capacity to operate a gas forge by a factor of 10:1. AND blower type forges are much higher BTU than atmospheric and use more gas (bigger regulator). You can usualy purchase a 0-50 psi propane regulator from your welding supplier for less than $100.

Hollow grinding is done with a belt grinder on a "contact" wheel. Many makers make them. Kayne and Son sell Kalamazoo belt grinders. Most bladesmiths have numerous belt grinders in their shops. Bader is a top of the line brand that pros use. You will also find they have a very professional price.
   - guru - Friday, 02/28/03 16:40:17 GMT

"The Razor Edge Book of Sharping" is by John Juranitch. I think it is out of print, but the ISBN on my copy is 0-9666059-0-x.
   MP - Friday, 02/28/03 16:56:04 GMT

To anyone who might have the info.I am looking to have an anvil cast very soon,and I need some dimensions. I wan`t it to weigh around 1,000 to 1,200#`s.I have already requested this info. from another smithy who will help me as soon as he can gather the info. I just thought that if I put the question out, I will get more responses.I figure the more info. that I have available ,the more informed a decision I can make on my design.Thanks Ben H.
   Ben Hudspeth - Friday, 02/28/03 17:06:43 GMT

K King and hollow grinding. What you really want is a beltgrinder with a highquality contact wheel. And then a book on hollow grinding... The top of the line models are Bader, BurrKing, KMG, Hardcore, Whilton pretty much in that order. The BurrKing is a great machine and tracks like a dream, but the Bader seems to be the prefered machine for professional knife makers, it is very versitile, has loads of options and tracks really good. The KMG has some very nice options, and when I thought I had the money to upgrade to a 2x72 belt grinder it was the one I was looking at getting. The hardcore is a nice machine but the price is comparable to the Bader, and it doesn't seem to be as versitile a machine, from the literature. The Whilton's were really great industrial grinders in their day, but their reputation has suffered in recent times, and the new machines are not as well reviewed as the old one, and are still fairly pricey new. Not that any of these machines are cheap! Your looking at $1300+ to start out with...

If you want a 2x72 on the cheapside I would buy a Log Cabin Forge and Electric, which is about half the price of the bigboys and seems to be a really nice machine. It has gotten some good reviews, and a freind of mine who is a knifemaker has one and loves it.

Or if you really want to go cheap, you can get a Grizzly 2x72 for about $300 US but the contact wheel isn't super, and the platen needs work to be really useful. But the Grizzly is a nice cheap in to doing knives, but you have to customize it to turn it into a decent knifegrinder, and it will never be as nice, or as versitile a grinder as a Bader or a KMG is right out of the box. But if you really want to do it cheap it might be the way to go. (I know that this machine gets lousy reviews from most knifemakers, but I have seen positive reviews from poor people with patience who made do with this machine, and even tuned it up so that it did a nice job that they were happy with. I have also heard good reviews of the motor, which in some cases survived as a polisher after the owner upgraded to a nice beltgrinder.:-)

There are also websites that can help you build your own beltgrinder, if you are the do-it-yourself type. But the parts add up pretty quickly looking at $180 bucks for a contact wheel and $400 for a motor, $300 for a DC controler. You can certainly do it yourself cheaper, especially if you don't count your time. If you enjoy that kind of thing it probably is the way to go. I would rather work several hours doing something I know and can do well and get paid, so that I can pay someone else to spend the same amount of time to do some thing that they know and can do well... But if you are single and have plenty of free time (or are just better about bugeting your time, or like the guru are just really good at building machines have at it:-)

Just a little something I have done some research on:-) (I know that I forgot one or two small makers, but this was what I pulled off the top of my head:-)

Good luck

(I know that I skipped over all the 2x48 professional grinders, as well as all the hobbiest grinders;-)
   Fionnbharr - Friday, 02/28/03 17:14:04 GMT

Kevin: hmmm ... my post seems to have vanished. Try again. The burner design you have typically uses a #59 jet at sea level. Adding blower may allow a large jet but start at #59 drill size. Like everyone says the bbq regulator is a dud. In fact changing to an adjustable 0-40psi regulator will make a HUGE difference. Also, you really must have a pressure gauge otherwise you are shooting in the dark. (about $15 from mcmaster carr) These burners run 3-25psi (w/o blower) - in a well designed forge people get welding temps from these burners with about 12 psi. If you cant find the regulator a needle valve will work (not as well but well enough). An Acetylene regulator works well too although its frowned upon since it isnt rated for propane. I happen to have a couple of spare propane regulators - if you are interested contact me privately - but I am not posting to try and sell you my junk :). We want to get your forge working properly.

Drilling more holes in the orifice tube is probably a bad idea. Firstly, you simply must be able to adjust the pressure and the air intake while the forge is operating. Secondly the burner design you have depends upon a high pressure jet to draw the air and also to mix properly. The bbq requlator is putting out just the minimum necessary to keep that burner alive. Like everyone else says - dump the requlator and you will be much better off

Finally, if you are going to be making blades you really dont need a 10" dia forge - 6" is plenty wide
   adam - Friday, 02/28/03 17:44:35 GMT

Blades, I live in Longview. Is that close enough?
   - Quenchcrack - Friday, 02/28/03 18:58:11 GMT

San Antonio. My wife will be going to San Antonio late in July and I will be going along for support. Actually, she has a seminar to attend and I thought I'd look for flint and maybe some fellow blacksmiths to meet. Any smiths from SA?
   Bob Harasim - Friday, 02/28/03 19:24:48 GMT

Greg Cope,

If Frank doesn't find anything for you, give me a holler. I'm not Moravian, but I live in Winston-Salem, NC. I can take the pictures to Bethabara (settled in 1753) and Old Salem and compare to existing examples of Moravian work.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 02/28/03 19:38:22 GMT

Razor Edge Guide to Sharpening (Juranitch), is currently up for auction at E-Bay.
The book takes many pages to say just a little on the sharpening. His sharpening method is fairly simple and can be jotted down or photocopied. Even though he seems to take forever describing it.
You will need to hold the blade at a steady angle. Something I never mastered, (probably because I do not sharpen knives everyday.). Mr. Juranitch sells a sharpening guide. and that takes up deveral pages of his book).
I found the Lansing or/and Gatco angle holding guide for sharpening knives to work very well. They are idiot proof. Take it from me a "new, much improved idiot" (namely me).
They are a little pricey but should last a lifetime.
   slag - Friday, 02/28/03 19:48:32 GMT


Never heard of that happening, but it sure could.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 02/28/03 19:48:59 GMT

Damm Ice Storms!

I'm back, getting caught up.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 02/28/03 20:07:31 GMT

I have seen the coal used in fireplaces (with and without doors) and pot belly, cast iron stoves. I can tell you that a big pot belly stove at red hot, puts out a lot of heat.

The heat of the fire is controled by the amount of air that gets to the fire, and the amount of coal present. The difference in 1000 BTU's in two different coal seams, makes a big difference in the heat of the fire, whether it is a forge or in a fireplace.

Anvilfire has a FAQ section on coal at http://www.anvilfire.com/FAQs/
   - Ntech - Friday, 02/28/03 20:51:05 GMT

More Hollow grinding:

A contact wheel on a belt grinder is very nice. What most of the production hollow grinding is done on, CNC grinders, would be nice too.

Hollow grinding was done long before belt grinders and contact wheels. You can hollow grind with your finger. Or an angle grinder. A hump that an abrasive belt rides over will also work.

Good do it yourself belt grinders can be done cheaply by scrounging and fabbing your own. Of course, if you are not a good scrounger that collects everything useable, whenever you find it, it may not be worth your time. Grin. I built a 2 by 72 and 2 by 48 for about $20 from stuff I had. Maybe add another $20 if you buy the bearings and material. The only work I did that might not be available in the average shop is the wheel turning on the lathe. But wheels with bearings can be had for not much money. Large contact wheels are indeed pricey. Design info came from looking at both what others have done, and the production machines like Fionnbharr did and adapting to what I had. Surprisingly, aluminum wheels with pressed in oilite bearings running on grade 8 half inch bolts works very well even after a few hundred hours. Just a little noisy. Iíll put some sealed ball bearings in some time. The only thing Iím missing is the variable speed. And when the open 1hp whirlpool pump motors puke from the abrasive dust, Iíll put on a good variable speed. Still waiting for them to puke. I canít remember any more, but Iíd guess total time invested was maybe 25 hours for the two. If you are in this for a business, making your own grinders is a waste of your time.

I use the 2 by 72 mostly for stock removal after forging and the little Delta 1" belt for touchup. The water wheel is what I used before I made the belt grinders. Works great, just slow. But thereís also no way to take the temper out of the edge with the water wheel! Grin. One of my current projects is to add a water dripper to the 2 by 72 belt grinder. An old VW windshield washer reservoir is waiting.
   Tony - Friday, 02/28/03 21:09:52 GMT

The Great Guru wrote: "Generally gas grill regulators do not have nearly the capacity to operate a gas forge by a factor of 10:1."

I had a vision of a BBQ grill with a gas forge regulator attached. "How do you want your steak? A hole blasted through the middle or completely vaporized?"

Forgive me, must be time to go home...
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/28/03 21:12:57 GMT

I'm running an adjustable turkey fryer regulator on an atmospheric gas forge (.035 actual orifice). It's rated at 20 PSI, and the gauge holds steady when I open the valve, so I think the flow rate is adequate. If I were Kevin I'd try a 1/8 hole and work up from there if it's still too lean. Might be a waste of time, but a new piece of black pipe's cheap.
   Mike B - Friday, 02/28/03 21:26:40 GMT

To thoes who answered my question regarding different types of coal for heat. Thank You. Now I can say I do know the answer to that question next time I am asked.
   Harley - Friday, 02/28/03 23:05:08 GMT

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