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This is an archive of posts from January 1 - 7, 2006 on the Guru's Den
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I have 3 related questions related to a project:

I am restoring a wrought iron fence around an old cemetary. It's made of 2 inch x 5/8 channel with 3/4 inch square punched holes for horizontals and 3/4 square stock (solid) for pickets. Each panel is 8 foot and around 200 pounds. There are about 80 that need work. The worst I am removing, disassembling (interference fit only, no welds or upsets) correcting the components, reassembling and reinstalling. Beyond the first 20, badly mangled, the rest really only have damaged pickets with minimaly tortured horizontals.

1. How was this stuff assembled in the first place? Assembled with the punch channel hot?

2. Some sections I repaired a year ago with considerable "heating and beating" are rusting orangish red and not matching the "original" black. Is there a process to accelerate making these turn black? Climate here is semi-arid and tincture of time may take decades.

3. For the panels that have only a few bent pickets, does anyone have a sketch of a homemade jig/fixture for straightening such pickets in place? They're on 6 inch centers, so not much room to swing a hammer.

Thanks in advance for the benefit of your experience.

Kalvin Wille
MagPie IronMongers
   Kalvin - Wednesday, 02/01/06 00:53:36 EST

Kalvin: If I neded to work on the pickets in place I would make a jig from a steel plate with 2 blocks to buck the picket and a place to pry with a suitable lever, or a block with a tapped hole placed between the other 2 so the force could be developed by a bolt screwed in against the bent picket. A welder's platten [Acorn plate] would work fine if You had one, by putting pegs in the holes each side of the bend and prying in the middle.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/01/06 03:31:47 EST

Aron O: If by a stamp press You mean a punch press it is a lot different. A punchpress needs to be able to complete the stroke without bottoming out the tooling before bottom dead center. A powerhammer uses air or springs to allow the mechanisim to continue to function while the tooling is bottomed out on the workpice, and works by hitting with velocity like You would swing a hammer rather than by gradually aplied pressure like You get with a press. A powerhammer works by making repeated strokes as You would by hand forging rather than completing the operation in 1 stroke as in a press.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/01/06 03:43:26 EST

Tyler Murch; I don't know about the square stock right off, but you could keep your eyes open at the scrap yards for the BIG Allen wrenches. I've made a lot of chisels, punches and scrapers from them. Check the junkyard steel listing in the "navigate" window at the upper right of this screen, for the alloy.
   3dogs - Wednesday, 02/01/06 05:06:06 EST

Kalvin, those adjustable clamps that slide on a piece of 3/4" pipe might work to straighten the pickets in place. Or hold a 2x4 against the bend and whack it with a hammer...I have some old cemetary fencing a farmer dragged out of the woods with a chain. It looks like it was threaded, vertical rounds through the horizontal channel and friction clamped, (hit with a hammer).
   Ron Childers - Wednesday, 02/01/06 09:14:08 EST


A "Turley grad" had one that I saw in use, briefly. I think you get one hit per one treadle press. For making certain things, I guess that would be all right, However, if you desired to have rapid, repetitive blows, you might wind up doing an Irish jig.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/01/06 09:32:35 EST

Mr Guru, I Have A Very Large Chas Parker Vice (Meridan Conn)I Purchased This Vice Years Ago From The Navy Plant That I Still Work In .8" Wide Jaws 300 Pounds Opens About 18" Question??? Is !What Happined To The Chas Parker Company Who Can Tell Me. Thanks John Bednorz.
   John Bednorz - Wednesday, 02/01/06 09:36:22 EST

John, virtually all these companies have gone out of business as the need for large heavy duty vises for hand work decreased. They are great tools but if missing parts you are on your own like many orphaned tools and machines. These old vises are well worth making parts for as they would be priced near $2000 today. The last big Columbian when they were made in the US was selling for around $1500 in the 1980's. . . New ones are available but you can tell from the way they look that they are not the same product as years ago.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/01/06 10:05:27 EST

Fence repair:

If made with channel is is not very old. Most of these have tack welds under the channel to hold pickets in place. Punching was done on a big ironworker (going back to the 1800's).

The black is just paint. After heating which burns off the old paint the whole should be cleaned and refinished by the best possible methods (sandblast, zinc cold galvanize, neutral prime then paint)

We straighten pickets in place using a heavy block anchored to a weld platten then c-clamps, hammering or bending wrenches as necessary. If the whole disassembles easily then it is much easier to take it apart, straightern on the anvil or in a press then reassemble. The tool described above also works.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/01/06 10:17:01 EST

Off for another day of tourism in Costa Rica. .
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/01/06 10:17:36 EST

Some of those channel irons with squares inserted have no evidence of a weld. I was told that the holes in the channel were broached to a specific size, and the square verticals were press fitted. (???)

Hey, I have an old 8" Parker vise. Time to clean it up and sell it? My toolmaker directory says that the Parker family was in business from 1854 - 1926.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/01/06 10:38:39 EST

Kalvin, I once duplicated a section of fence for a brownstone in NYC which was made somewhat like youors. As Jock noted a lot of the fence which uses channel was cold punched for the square pickets. The one I duplicated had a top channel with the open side up and a flat bar also punched for the pickets on top. The pickets seemed to have been staked in place with a punch at the channels and the top cover was riveted to the channels with flat headed rivets. The original pieces which I copied had a coating of a tar like substance (asphaltum?) over the bare iron and then what appeared to be a red lead type of primer under the many layers of black paint.

To straighten pickets in place you can use a jig as Dave described or you could make yourself a couple of simple bending wrenches from bars with two pins welded at the ends-sort of jumbo scrolling wrenches. If the pickets have been pulled out of position though you may have more material between the horizontals than you can fit into a straight line. A service clamp and judicial hammering may let you slide the bar back through the punched holes in that case.
   SGensh - Wednesday, 02/01/06 10:58:04 EST

Guru, Could you give me some input on my idea of sleeving my JYH anvil (rr track), and filling the sleeve with cement to provide more anvil weight. Thanks.
   Thumper - Wednesday, 02/01/06 11:17:22 EST

Morris Pulliam, Welcome to Anvilfire!

I haven't used the KA-75, but I have used various other air hammers. I can honestly recommend most any air hammer over a LG as far as controllability and force of blow goes. They're much easier to feather the pedal from light to heavy blows, the clutch never sticks since they don't have one, they don't get out of whack and hula around the shop, and so on. They do tend to run a little slower than an LG, but that can be a good thing. I know if I had the money I'd get an air hammer and a big compressor. As I don't have the money, I'll probably end up building a tire hammer if Clay Spencer ever gets the plans together. I built a 20-lb "rusty" and was so totally underwhelmed I sold it. I guess if I hadn't ever used a "real" air hammer I wouldn't have known the difference, but now I'm spoiled. (grin!)
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 02/01/06 11:54:48 EST

One trick for getting a specific size with a powerhammer is to place a piece of *cold* metal that size to either side of the hot piece you are working---the hammer dies will work the hot down to the cold size. One fixture to do this looks like a simple rectangle of steel made from the size you need to end up with that is then bent so it fits over the dies leaving the clear middle space to run your work piece through.

How smooth the resulting piece is is dependent on how good you are with the hammer. I've seen stuff I would have claimed was rolled to size---and they didn't even use a flatter after the sizing run.

Casey; I would go with tool suggestions from folks who are professional armourers over at the armourarchive.org. You can use a cold chisel and forge a hammereye drift or a slitting chisel from it. The steel is generally a good choice for this sort of tool.

Tyler, look at the fleamarket for a nice hefty crowbar; most of the ones I have worked with would harden with a good heat treat.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/01/06 12:02:22 EST

Re Picket straightening: Good ideas presented so far.

I made a press/straightener the straighten the verticals of a wind-damaged amatuer radio tower. I used a short piece of scaffold leg jack screww (1" Acme)set in a yoke with moveable hooks. It looked a lot like a wheel/gear puller. I made the item at home in Chattanooga and flew to California to straighten my father-in-laws tower. It worked fine and would fit between verticals that left 6" space. I could have made it even more compact. I got enough tools to do the job in a 70# baggage limit!
   - John Odom - Wednesday, 02/01/06 12:33:54 EST

re: Mechanical hammers - the Krusty, made by Dan, whose last name I believe is Pfeil can be found over on Don Fogg's Blade forum site. He also usually has some links for purchasing blade stock materials such as 5160, O1, etc.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 02/01/06 13:25:11 EST

KA 75: I have used one briefly. You do get one blow per tap of the treadle. The intent of the machine (designed by Grant Sarver) is to serve as a striker. It is not a power hammer as we typically think of them and it is not suited for rapid drawing or forging of long tapers. In my opinion it would not make a suitable replacement for a power hammer. Rather, it is an auxillary tool. I think that most smiths who own one also have a more traditional type of power hammer as well. The KA 75 is very good for punch and chisel work and any other jobs where one blow at a time are needed. The person with probably the most experience with this machine is Nathan Robertson of Jackpine Forge in MN. He produces a wide variety of hammers using this tool. You can get a video of a demo he did for the UMBA group for about $7. It is well worth the cost.

   Patrick Nowak - Wednesday, 02/01/06 13:47:54 EST

I have a 25# little giant power hammer that runs off a 1 HP motor. The motors speed is 1725 and attached to the shaft is a 2" double pully that runs the fly wheel. My question is slowing down the speed of the hammer for better control. Any suggestions? Will I lose power if I slow the speed down? Thanks William PS Hi Frank
   William - Wednesday, 02/01/06 13:53:15 EST

A friend near here has a KA-75. As noted above, he uses it as a striking tool and has make a number of top and bottom fixtures for it. For example, on his large air hammer he can draw out the taper for the end up a finial and with one blow of the KA-75 shape it into the flame S-curve. He plans to be here at the farm for the Anvilfire.com Hammer-in and would likely agree to taking some folks to his shop (about 12 miles away) for a quick demo. Rather expensive tool though for what it does IMHO.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 02/01/06 14:20:09 EST

Looking for anyone using a mechanical resistance spot welder in production. I specifically want to benchmark guarding of the point of operation. Our situation is clamping light gage parts in a fixture and moving fixture and parts on a guide track to weld at several points.
   Ptree - Wednesday, 02/01/06 14:41:08 EST

I've been doing some research on flash points of popular quenching oils, and to my surprise I find that most synthetic motor oils have a flash point around 460F. Soybean oil has a flash point of 620F and a fire point of 690F, so that looks like the best readily available and cheap quenchant. 5 gallons of soybean oil at Sam's Club is about $13. I like to use oil quenchants outside my shop in a clear sandy area in a metal bucket with fire extinguisher and lid at hand. For most small parts a gallon of oil should do, and the piece to be quenched should be fully immersed in the oil. No toxic fumes either, unless you are using used oil from a fish place. Grin! Others here may know more than I so all comments are welcomed. Thanks!
   Ellen - Wednesday, 02/01/06 14:52:45 EST

Forgot to mention that I am mostly working with O-1, due to the affordability and availabity, although like all of us I do scrounge auto springs from time to time.
   Ellen - Wednesday, 02/01/06 14:55:55 EST

RON Childers its my nickname they stand for RED cro
   rc - Wednesday, 02/01/06 16:15:02 EST

So I finally ground down the corrosion and rust off my old namless anvil. I found out many details previously unknown. Can anbody idendify this based on this description.

London Pattern 70-90 Lbs
The table is not plated and is horribly corroded.
The sides are slightly corroded. With no markings anywhere an the anvil.
The face is good, hard, but very slightly chipped.
-Plated 1/8th inch, spark test:
---- long, white/bright yellow, that split after a foot (Mild Steel?)
The base seems to made of separate parts put together
-The areas between the body/horn, body/base look like they are welded somehow, as he corrosion takes a different pattern between these areas.
-The horn is plated on top as well.
-Spark test- Short, Red/Orange, and they not split. (Wrought?)
The bottom of the hardie hole, under the heel, is thickened, probably to add strength to the heel, by means fo a reverse curve ending just after the hole.

Can I Oxy/Ace or arc weld on a plate for the table?
Or should I trade for a 120-150 pound anvil. ( the person considers it an even trade) But that anvil's face is in worse condition than mine. And the sides [reverse] taper out towards the horn end.
   Aron Obrecht - Wednesday, 02/01/06 16:36:49 EST

How much does the itc-100 cost?? and ive alrdy looked on the site anvilfire has given me and it doesnt say
   rc - Wednesday, 02/01/06 16:40:18 EST

If i can get my hands on some itc-100 then ill build me a bean forge but untill then i have to be patient and just let the heat dissapate or ill walk along the rr tracks and get some coal and light it. LOL its the only way im gonna get coal till i get me a truck and a atual job
   rc - Wednesday, 02/01/06 16:49:20 EST

A no-tech idea for calculating CFM hit me this afternoon: Divide cubic yards per minute by 27 (grin).

Seriously, though, if you're estimating the flow of a blower, you could divide 337 by the number of seconds it takes to inflate a 42 gallon trash bag. Have a different size trash bag? Divide gallons by 7.48 to get cubic feet, then calculate how many bags you could inflate in a minute.

SGensh, does "judicial hammering" mean he has to use a gavel? (I just couldn't resist that one).
   Mike B - Wednesday, 02/01/06 18:07:37 EST

That's a good un.
   Aron Obrecht - Wednesday, 02/01/06 18:37:43 EST

Aron Obrecht:

It almost sounds like you have a Badger anvil from the American Skein and Foundry Co. of Racine, WI. They are believed to have used cast iron for the body. Anvils in America, page 143 shows one with the thickness under the heel. Ad on same page reads: "The face of the Badger anvil is solid tool steel, welded to the cast iron body of anvil. The horn in covered with, and its point is made entirely of tough untempered steel." Apparently they used a decal rather than molding in a brand name.

The other alternative is a Vulcan. Apparently they experimented with a semi-steel anvil of this same shape, perhaps after Illinois Iron and Bolt bought out American Skein.

Were it me, I'd likely do the trade.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 02/01/06 18:51:30 EST

So it sucks?
   Aron Obrecht - Wednesday, 02/01/06 19:04:30 EST

Sorry. Perhaps you could post or email me a picture.
   Aron Obrecht - Wednesday, 02/01/06 19:05:45 EST

I'm sure no one will ever actually do this, but just in case, I should have typed *multiply* cubic yards per minute by 27.
   Mike B - Wednesday, 02/01/06 19:24:47 EST

Isn't Costa Rica where Jurassic Park was located? Guru, watch out for the Tyranosaurus Vise, the Anvilopithicus, the Tongasaurus, and Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 02/01/06 20:39:53 EST

Mike B, Very Good! Perhaps I should have typed "judicious hammering". I must have been thinking about the supreme court when I said "judicial hammering".
   SGensh - Wednesday, 02/01/06 20:42:58 EST

Is there a market for a large old forge bellows? It is about 6-7 feet long and 3-4 feet wide. Any comments or suggestions?
   mike - Thursday, 02/02/06 02:39:02 EST

Mike: A few days ago someone was looking for plans to build one. I think it was Sunday or Monday. You might check the archives and send an E-mail.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 02/02/06 03:23:09 EST

Aron Obrecht:

On aspect of the trade is you are getting a far larger anvil. This concept isn't correct, but sort of works as an anology. Think of the anvil as a crosspeen hammer with the peen embedded in a stump. Your forging hammer will be a 2 1/2. An anvil under 100 pounds would be about like forging something on a one-pound bottom head. A 160-pound anvil would be about like both being 2 1/2 pound hammers. A 200 about like the bottom being a three pound head. A 300 about like the bottom being a five pound head.

Rule of thumb has been given here an anvil should be at least 50 times the weight of the hammer head used on it. Say the anvil was 80-pounds, your forging hammer would then be restricted to about 1 1/2 pounds to be effective.

Also of consideration is the work which can be done on it. On something under about 100 pounds you are pretty well restricted to say 1/2" or less. 160, possibly up to 1". For over 1" you would likely need a 200 pound or more.

The anvils you see swayed in the middle are likely the result from working tool large of stock on them (and likely with a striker as well).
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 02/02/06 04:32:33 EST

what are the effects of bending and twisting on the structure and mean line of steels?
   sarah - Thursday, 02/02/06 07:30:30 EST

what are the effects of using different methods of cutting on the dimensions of steel, eg. hack sawing compared with hot splitting or drilling compared with hot punching?
   sarah - Thursday, 02/02/06 07:32:08 EST

these questions sound suspisously like a homework sort of question. Which as a general rule we do not deal with.
   Ralph - Thursday, 02/02/06 07:36:56 EST


I almost tried to deal with your questions in some depth as a blacksmith, but Ralph is correct (I think). Sounds like an engineering class, or somesuch.

I'll share a couple of thoughts. As to the twisting and bending at the proper heat, you're dealing with something called "grain flow". Google efunda.com.

Cold sawing and drilling removes swarf. In hot splitting, there is no metal loss, except through scale. In hot punching, there is compression of burr and shear. If the bar gets longer, there is some draw.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/02/06 09:53:36 EST

mike-- An old bellows in any kind of condition is worth big bucks. If it's functional, or even just semi-functional some Luddite will use it as it was meant to be used, to smith with. God forbid it should go to some boutique where it will become two (2) five figure coffee tables.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/02/06 10:20:39 EST

I found an ol hammer that has the date on the side.
"Perfect Pat Sept 10 1907
Macgowan Finican
F & M Co
St Louis
   Gary - Thursday, 02/02/06 10:57:58 EST

I found an ol hammer that has the date on the side.
"Perfect Pat Sept 10 1907
Macgowan Finican
F & M Co
St Louis
Mo" Can you give me some information about the hammer. I think that there are a few missing pieces. I would like to see some pictures of this hammer in operation. Thank You, Gary Fuqua
   Gary - Thursday, 02/02/06 11:01:34 EST

Garey, I use an 80# 'perfect' hammer. I'll send you some pictures. The book 'pounding out the profits' has a couple pages about the company, but more info is hard to come by.
   mike-hr - Thursday, 02/02/06 11:31:03 EST

Sid has a picture of a Perfect in the virtual museum at littlegianthammer.com under the old ads,
He may have more information as well
   JimG - Thursday, 02/02/06 12:26:35 EST

I notice a lot of folks here use the phrase "Rule of thumb"... You may want to know that some feminist groups started a controversial propaganda saying that the phrase originated by a "law" stating a husband may beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. This is total BS.

In the days when measurements were taken by the King's dimensions (foot, yard, etc.), the way to measure was called natural rule. Grains were used for small measurements, hands, foot, etc. Well, 3 grains equalled a thumb, 4 thumbs equalled a foot and so on. Being that the thumb is the easiest "rulers" to find, it became common to say "rule of thumb" to figure out the best way to do something.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 02/02/06 13:46:52 EST

More on "the Rule of Thumb" can be found here:

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 02/02/06 16:01:37 EST

Starter anvil: This isn't intended as a sales promotion. When you know of someone needing just an anvil to get started on take a look at the concept on eBay #6250442438. Based on the old German philosophy of function over form. Only reason I didn't use a length of 1/2" x 4" x 4" tubing for a one-cut anvil body is my current bandsaw will only cut up to 3 1/2" stock and 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" tubing doesn't come in more than 3/8" walls. Well, at least my supplier doesn't have access to anything with thicker walls. I suspect too often beginners get locked into the 'London pattern' concept and don't appreciate what they might make out of odds and ends suitable for a starter anvil.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 02/02/06 16:32:30 EST

I was swedging (agressively) a raker tooth on a simonds 5 1/2 ft crosscut saw and broke it off. The broaken tooth pinged off to parts unknown. I would like to weld on some .010" keystock material onto the stub and file it into proper shape. Do I weld it on electrically or blacksmith way? I don't want the heat of welding to get to the base of the raker and into the saw body for fear of buckling. Please let me know how to fix this saw.

Don Vosberg
543 S 18th ST.
Philomath, Or 97370

   Don Vosberg - Thursday, 02/02/06 16:53:05 EST

DOES ANY1 know how much the koawool ITC-100 costs? if so plz tell me cause i want some
   rc - Thursday, 02/02/06 16:57:22 EST

OO and does anyone have any idea if the blacksmiths school is any good on this website? cause im thinking about going to it given i know i cant learn as much if i was in a real shop seting
   rc - Thursday, 02/02/06 16:59:01 EST

Hey, I have restored a 25lb. Jardine -Canadian Little giant. put in new flat dies in ram and anvil. built up ram to tightly fit dovetail, with little giant tapered keys. But my dies keep on moving sideways no matter how carefully and tight I fit the keys. Everything gets super lubed with chainoil, and I wonder if the oil dripping causes slippage? what can I do short of welding them in place?
   Dead Horse - Thursday, 02/02/06 17:08:05 EST

DH: What angle are your dovetails/wedges?

RC which website? Frank Turley's school has had a very good reputation for a very long time for folks who are serious about learning to smith. As for the kaowool---did you check out the "store" link in the navigate anvilfire pulldown menu?

   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/02/06 17:36:12 EST

Ken, the poundage just seems light. I think I would have gone with a 3.5" solid round with a hardy receiver welded on the side and perhaps a drop in for the pritchel. That way they could use it on it's side for drawing and still have more mass under the hammer. You may remember Honest Bob demo'ing at SOFA using a chunk of large shafting for his anvil. Of course shipping would then be a bigger issue.

Several of the neo-tribal knifemakers use a chunk of 4x4 sq stock cast into a 5 gallon bucket of concrete for an anvil.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/02/06 17:43:53 EST

Have any of you come across the Spruce Forge Manual of Locksmithing? I have a fair amount of locksmithing experience but I'm just getting started with blacksmithing. I'm still at the stage of making my first tongs, hooks, and chisels, but I'm looking at this book as a source of inspiration and plans for when I've developed a bit more skill. I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has read it; I'm especially interested in whether the plans are complete and readable.

   Dave - Thursday, 02/02/06 18:36:10 EST

Rule of Thumb: Some years back, when the Feds were getting excited about metrication, Stuart Brand (the guy who published the _Whole Earth Catalog_) lead an anti-metric campaign based on the proposition that there was no rule of thumb for metric measurements.

Many men have thumbs which contain an easily judged inch: My right thumb is one inch from the tip to the first wrinkle on the knuckle. With a moderate amount of pressure, it is also one inch wide at the first joint. . .
   John Lowther - Thursday, 02/02/06 18:57:28 EST

Thomas the angles on 25lb. Jardine :the ram are a double taper width and length 1 Degree, I think, anyway the ram was filed ever so carefully to fit the die and key .
   - Dead Horse - Thursday, 02/02/06 19:15:21 EST

Dead Horse, I've been told that the "key" to properly fitting a key is to heat it in small sections with a torch and then drive it in. This forces the key to slightly upset and fit perfectly to the die.
   - Mike Hill - Thursday, 02/02/06 20:00:52 EST


I like Spruce Pine's book. In the preface, the authors claim that they are not necessarily trying to duplicate old locks in every detail. The drawings are clear, and show the necessary details. Five main types of locks are dealt with. As you might imagine, there is much careful layout and benchwork involved. There are brief sections on tools needed and basic toolmaking.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/02/06 20:20:02 EST


I was kind of underwhelmed by the Spruce Forge book, given the rather princely price. I really felt that it less involved than it might have been, and didn't do a thorough enough job (for me), of detailing the mechanics involved in lock operation. Frank is undoubtedly better at understanding such things than I am, so that may account for the difference in our impressions of the book. It does have pretty detailed patterns, but I didn't feel I ended up knowing enough to strike out on my own a design a lock.
   vicopper - Thursday, 02/02/06 20:53:16 EST

Rule of thumb,, Or worthless trivia,,,
Interestingly enough,
The Swedish word for thumb, "tum" is used to indicate measurements in inches.
   - Håkan - Thursday, 02/02/06 21:14:18 EST

Don-- wouldn't this be a cinch for some maestro with a TIG to fix, with minimal heat-affected zone in the adjacent steel? There inevitably will be some, but this would cause the least, I imagine.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/02/06 22:00:00 EST

TGN: You never did say- how big a stick was the man allowed to use?
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 02/02/06 22:27:55 EST

rc go to the top of this page and pick the navigate anvilfire window. select the store then look for ITC-100 info should be the first one. It is listed at $36.50 USD per pint, but this mixes into a quartand covers 6 to 12 sqft.this is enough to do two or three freon can type gas forges.
   daveb - Thursday, 02/02/06 22:45:44 EST

Dave: I believe the rule was the stick could be no larger in diameter than his thumb. My neighbor said when he was a kid and misbehaved his momma sent him out to cut a 'swtich'. If she didn't like the one he brought back she went out and cut her own.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 02/02/06 22:58:37 EST

Don Vosberg,

You're going to weld at the base of the tooth, and you're going to have a heat affected zone. To minimize the heat spread, I have used the wet rag method. Dampen an large cotton rag with water and surround the weld site with the rag leaving just enough room for welding. I have fun welding with the oxy-acetylene using a medium carbon wire for a filler. I would try to find a piece of high carbon steel to weld in, even though it would be difficult to heat treat it properly.

You could also invest in Brownell's heat control paste, trademarked HEAT STOP. It comes in a jar from a gunsmithing supply place in Montezuma, Iowa. brownelUSA@aol.com Pretty good for preventing heat spread.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/02/06 23:05:31 EST

Would you happen to know a source of iron (or steel) powder or granules (maximum grain size 1/16 inch), in lots of one pound up to maybe 50 pounds, reasonably accessible to the southwestern United States?
   Stephen - Friday, 02/03/06 01:57:54 EST

Stephan: If You know of any machine shops You might see if You can get bandsaw chips. You would need to know that only steel is being cut, and could sieve out larger chunks with a screen.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/03/06 03:21:59 EST

Stephen, Sounds like you are asking for steel beadblasting media. I expect available anywhere sandblasting and associated supplies are sold.
   - Håkan - Friday, 02/03/06 03:28:24 EST

Fitting power hammer tools: The correct method of fitting a key is to 'blue bed' it untill you get appprox 70 - 80 % contact, and the rest will take up when you sledge it in, The die must be located 'front to back' with a peg, the simplest and most effective way of doing this is mill a slot accross the tool dovetail (say 1
   - John N - Friday, 02/03/06 06:28:01 EST

Fitting power hammer tools: The correct method of fitting a key is to 'blue bed' it untill you get appprox 70 - 80 % contact, and the rest will take up when you sledge it in, The die must be located 'front to back' with a peg, the simplest and most effective way of doing this is mill a slot accross the tool dovetail (say 1" wide 1/2" deep), drill say 1" dia hole in the anvil/ram and make a 'round to square' peg.
   John N - Friday, 02/03/06 06:28:34 EST

Stephen: As noted by Dave, if you go to a machine shop they may have bandsaw cuttings which will suit your purpose. May or may not have cutting oil or coolant in them. I sell them at Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools, but they are really intended for adding to homemade forge welding flux and thus may be too fine for your use.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/03/06 07:24:55 EST


It does sound like steel shot is what you want. I can think of two sources offhand: either shot-peening media from the blasting and machine shop suppliers like MSC, McMaster-Carr or Grainger; or check out your local reloading supplier for steel shot for shot shells used for waterfowl hunting. #7 shot is 0.10" dia and BB shot is 0.18" dia.
   vicopper - Friday, 02/03/06 08:26:42 EST

This question is for Jock Dempsey, I read your very informative article on evaluating the "lay of the land"
in Costa Rica, in relation to quakes, flooding, etc.
I am trying to figure out a location to buy land in Costa
Rica, and have found limited resources on this subject. Could I communicate with you (need your e-mail) concerning this.

Thanks Chet Ohrt
   Chet Ohrt - Friday, 02/03/06 10:47:45 EST

Re: Spruce Forge Locksmithing Book

Frank and vicopper,
Thanks for your replies. It sounds like the book has the kind of patterns I'm looking for, so I'll probably shell out the $30. There's almost enough detail in the iForge lock articles to build one, but I'm hoping that some actual dimensioned drawings will save me some trial and error. First up, though, are a couple of Norfolk latches. I figure that once I get them down I can start thinking about making more complicated locks.

thanks, Dave
   Dave - Friday, 02/03/06 11:33:13 EST

I know I know this is like my 9th time today on here but on my anvil the back half of it is broken off and i don;t know how it happened i can tell you it was forged in 1888 and it has a patent number but i cant read it any1 got any thoughts on how i could read the patent number?
   RC - Friday, 02/03/06 16:59:11 EST

Hello, I am currently trying to put an electric blower on my small coal forge. I would like to know what the minimum CFM needed is for a small forge. I think that the blower will only need to push the air about 12" woth 1 90 degree turn. If you could offer any advice on this, I would appreciate it. Thank you.
   Travis Gabbard - Friday, 02/03/06 17:16:50 EST

Travis: Basically what I've been told is make it variable. Too much can be controlled, not enough needs a new blower. Just experiment and find out. Somebody might know a decent Rule of Thumb but we amy have run out of those. ;)

Ken S.: So basically when the opportunity presents its head, get a bigger anvil?

I saw Frank Turley in the Decorative Iron Sculpture book.

RC: As I've been told, you can work without a heel. So, you probably don't have that big of a problem.

Faggot welding a 3/16 in sheet steel to make 3/8. Do able for beginner?
   Aron Obrecht - Friday, 02/03/06 19:18:21 EST


It is possible your railroad spikes are wrought iron. Can you see what looks like wood graining on any of them? If wrought iron and you were making a knife, don't expect it to hold an edge.

On your anvil, did you break it off or did it come that way? If the 1888 is under the heel it would be a Fisher, a cast iron body with a steel plate. Patent date would be about then also. Even if you have the broken off piece it would still not be economical to try to repair it. Fishers were poured, not forged. 1888 would be the mold date, but also likely the year manufactured. If a Fisher, would be the first one I recall hearing about with a broken heel. That usually happened to ones in which the heel was forge welded to the central core or a cheap cast iron one.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/03/06 19:31:06 EST

RC, if you click on the product listing you get a page with all the info---the price is at the bottom.

RR spikes that are not stamped HC are pretty low carbon. The HC ones are at the bottom edge of medium carbon. I do find some that are real wrought iron but they are usually pretty decayed and pretty old.

How the anvil lost it's tail: Two main causes---abuse and bad weld during construction---may both be present!

Are you sure it's forged and not a Fisher or Vulcan?

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/03/06 19:31:44 EST

Anvilfire store. If the prices do not show then you have a browser problem, usualy lack of support for Java applets. I just noticed a formating error using a friends computer running WinXT. . an OS I DO NOT recommend. It has McAfee antivirus installed and in only a week's use has been infected by a hijack virus. . .

Anyway. . . Kaowool is 7.95 a foot or 49.75 for 10 feet. ITC-100 is 36.50 a pint. I can take your order by phone when we get home in two weeks.

   - guru - Friday, 02/03/06 19:33:01 EST


The answer to you queston about the ITC-100 was already answered, by daveb (02/02/06 22:45:44 EST ), including the price. Scroll up. Read.

Anvilsl get broken off at the heel usually by one of two things; either somebody put an oversized tapered hardy shank in the hardy hole and hit it hard enough that it acted like a wedge and broke the heel, or somebody used a sledge hammer on something too cold or too hard on the end of the heel, breaking it. I doesn't diminish the utility of the anvil much, except if the hardy hole is now missing. In that case, you make a hardy holder socket and mount it on a stump or in a leg vise.

As for revealing a missing patent number, I know how to do that, (if it was stamped and not cast)but it requires pretty caustic chemicals and more than a fair bit of experience to do it without destroying the number completely. It is something I've done hundreds of times on firearms with obliterated serial numbers. It isn't worth bothering with for an anvil, as restoring the patent number would tell you nothing new about the anvil.

   vicopper - Friday, 02/03/06 19:38:53 EST


For a small coal forge, a blower of around 100 cfm capacity would probably do you just fine. If you use one with greater output, you can just put a damper on the intake or a rheostat on the motor to get less. No way to get more, as Aron pointed out.

You are better off restricting the intake than the exhaust, as that puts less load on the motor. Less air in means less work for the motor. Blacksmith's Depot, an Anvilfire advertiser (and really nice folks) sells an excellent blower or two.
   vicopper - Friday, 02/03/06 19:46:38 EST

Chert Ohrt,

RE: Costa Rica

I am there now looking for land. Before thinking about buying land here check into www/welovecostarica.com. Register for their site, its free.

Be warned about Internet and spam land sales in Costa Rica. The biggest advertiser on the Internet on Google ads is a big time swindler doing business as Paragon Properties. I believe they also run infomertials in the US. They have many web sites selling various developemnts. These folks have been under inditment for fraud in the US a number of times. They sell development lots without the proper legal subdivision and do not put in the advertised infrastructure. The "happy" clients they send you to are employees or business partners. . . VERY BAD PEOPLE.

Use our contact form here to mail me.
   - guru - Friday, 02/03/06 19:48:49 EST

Wedge Tapers.

These are not measured in degrees. They are measured in fractions of an inch per foot in the English system. Degrees are far too inaccurate unless you are using degrees, minutes and seconds. Typical tapers are from 3/16 to 3/8 of an inch per foot.

The way these are measured is using a sine bar and pins. Milling machines and lathes with taper setups read directly in taper per foot.

I know several smiths that forge their wedges and do a very good job. They forge them to "look" right then grind with an angle grinder then test. If too far off they forge another plus or minus the needed taper. Once they have the hang for the needed taper they are easy.

A cutting torch and taper attachment on a lathe (much more common than mill taper tables) can be used to make a very accurate and seviceable wedge. A shaper or millcan also be used by clamping the wedge to the die (which is tapered) and machining parallel. This makes a perfect fit without measurements. I have machined tapers on dies the same way by using the wedges. Using this method it does not matter what the taper is, only that you setup the work perfectly true (or as true as possible).
   - guru - Friday, 02/03/06 20:07:54 EST

Joining equal round bar stock

I am trying to locate the table that suggests schedule pipe sizes to be used for joint rings/collars for joining equal round bars at 90 degrees to each other.

Specifically 3/8" barstock

Also has anyone used the technique for unequal bars - specifically joining 5/16 to 3/8 and 1/4 to 5/15

I have checked Whitacre's Cookbook and Anvils Ring but didnt spot it.


   Bob Corneck - Friday, 02/03/06 21:26:47 EST

I'm have difficulty visualizing. Maybe you have two right-angle rods with radius bends, you put the corners together and collar diagonally ??? I make my own collars. If there is a short cut method by using pipe, someone please tell us about it. I'm open.
   - Bob Corneck - Friday, 02/03/06 22:26:55 EST

I miss-addressed that last message. Sorry.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 02/03/06 23:25:20 EST

Dear Guru:
I'm relatively new to smithing and have been taking lessons from some great people here in the CA Blacksmiths Ass'n. I want to diversify into bronze working, mainly for historical armoring. I checked out the FAQs page on Bronze and Brass and didn't see any mention of some of the Tin Bronzes or Phosphor Bronzes that are commercially available. I know of at least one armorer who is using Phosphor Bronze for his historical pieces. Can you tell me if you think using these is feasible, and what the forging capabilities (and problems) are of Tin Bronze alloys such as C90200, C90700, C92700, or Phosphor Bronzes such as C51000, or C52400? Thanks so much and I appreciate your time. I'm glad to be a new part of this fellowship of metal workers.

Arik Greenberg
Los Angeles
   Dr. Arik Greenberg - Saturday, 02/04/06 00:06:23 EST

This is a pretty simple question really... This is my first time forging a knife from basic materials (I've done a few stock removal) and I'm using a beetle torsion leaf as the base. I'd like to know if there's a way to hammer forge the tip of a one sided blade without removing steel? I'm basically starting with a rectangle and want to make a point out of a squared end.
   William - Saturday, 02/04/06 02:28:43 EST

Yes sorta. No matter what you do you will end up having to do some grinding for the finishing part.
Take the rectange and place it ( hot of course) on edge. Hammer the upper corner back into the body of the stocl. Will take several heats most likely. That side of the stock will then become the back or spine of the blade. Remember that when you are thinning down the cutting edge it WILL cause the metal to curve like a bannaba. SO you will have to periodically straighten it out.
I would suggest that you get one of the basic bladesmithing books by Dr Jim Hrisoulas, one of the contributors to this site. He will show you all you need to know in great detail.
I believe Jim has his web site on the LINKS section in the pull down menu just to the upper right side of this page.
   Ralph - Saturday, 02/04/06 06:49:10 EST

Not sure if this is the right place to ask - here's hoping!

We are renovating a victorian villa and need to replace some of the balusters on the staircase (internal). We have around half of the original balusters, and need more cast. Can you provide any advice on how/where to go forward.

Many Thanks

   Mark Ferguson - Saturday, 02/04/06 07:09:41 EST

Mark: You might try haunting building material salvage yards in your general area to see if you can find matching ones. I suspect having more cast would be extremely expensive. Alternative is to try cut and stick ornamental ironwork shops to see if they can special order you something close. If you are missing half, perhaps you can alternate with a complimentary style.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 02/04/06 07:40:56 EST

On anvil heels breaking, remember on the older British ones the top plate was often put on in sections, perhaps three. If two plates joined in front of the hardy hole over a forged on hardy heel it would significantly weaken that point.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 02/04/06 07:44:13 EST

"Victorian Villa"- do I detect a term which may not be North American?
In other words, where is this Villa located?
What are the balusters made of?
Ken was assuming cast iron, which is a good guess, but they could be other things as well.
Some cast iron items are available as reproductions, assuming they are indeed cast iron.
But there is a thriving industry in recasting decorative iron parts. It is expensive, but "extremely expensive" is a relative term. I was just in a foundry in Italy, in Chisena, near Bari, that does nothing but this type of work- they specialise in street lamp posts, but do other things as well. Probably a good 40 man shop.
If you are in North America, Lawler Foundry used to do reproduction casting like this as well. They have patterns for many of the common patterns sold in the southern USA, and would make custom patterns as well. I am not sure if they still do this, but you could ask em.
Basically, if it is cast iron, and if there are no used parts available, a wooden or plastic pattern must be made from your existing pieces, then new cast iron parts must be poured at a foundry.
Not cheap, but done all the time on significant historic structures.
   ries - Saturday, 02/04/06 10:12:12 EST

Knife curves - I've found that if you hammer the stock around the horn of the anvil and curl it a bit prior to thinning out the blade side, it helps "straighten" up and you miss the whole "banana-ing" effect.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 02/04/06 10:54:51 EST

Replacing Old Cast Parts:

Ries pretty much covered it. Find a foundry that will work with you first. Ask them about patterns, using the old parts or making your own. Often you will find a small bronze or alumininum foundry easier to work with and it is not unusual to make replacements from another material.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/04/06 11:26:22 EST

Forging special alloy bronzes:

Almost all of these are forgable. The difference with the high strength bronzes is that they work harden much more quickly than the softer brasses and bronzes. Copper alloys are VERY soft when heated to forging temperature and the tendancy when hand forging is to start hot working then continue into cold working as the stock is annealed at that point. The amount of work that can be done depends on how fast the metal work hardens.

I am out of the country so I do not have my library to look up specific bronzes. However, the rate of work hardening is generaly not given. This is something that is determined by feel and experiance.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/04/06 11:34:35 EST

Ring and bar joint. The ring displaced around two crossing bars to make a joint.

Again, without my library I cannot tell you the name of this joint. A British fellow invented it and patented it. At this point I suspect his patent has run out in the US as they are only good for 17 years. It was one of these goofy things where the fellow liked to brag about his invention but not let anyone use it. . I suspect this is why you will not find good published data on it.

However, as a patented design it will be recorded in patent offices. I would guess that rather than tables of dimensions there is a simple ratio that works. I would make one joint and then scale it up or down as needed. Typically the ring is about 3 to 1.5 bar diameters and about 1.2 to 1.7 bar diameters deep.

It would take less time in the shop with some scrap pipe and my band saw to come up with an answer rather than figuring it out on paper or researching the design. Occasionly reinventing the wheel is most efficient, especially if you are good at making wheels. .
   - guru - Saturday, 02/04/06 11:46:17 EST

We would like to know when they have the blacksmith swap meet in Madison,Ga. I have a lot of hammer avils, post vest and other blacksmith tools i need to sell.
   - Gardiner Daniel, Jr - Saturday, 02/04/06 13:17:22 EST

Mark-- King Architectural Supply 1-800-542-2379 has an inch-thick catalog chock full of all manner of railings and railing components, cast iron, steel, brass, aluminum. The service is lickety-split. Little orders, big orders, pronto. They may well have a duplicate or a near dupe in stock.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 02/04/06 13:23:23 EST

Thanks everyone - I didn't expect any response for a good few days. Ries, you are correct the Victorian Villa is in Argyll, Scotland. We have tried a foundry in Edinburgh, but it was expensive - well over £1,000. We did think it may be more economical to take the originals out and source an entire new set from an Architectural Salvage Yard, but if possible, we'll try to have new ones cast. Thanks for everyone's help. - I'm going to try to find King Architectural Supplies on the web now.

   Mark Ferguson - Saturday, 02/04/06 14:16:45 EST

I’m guessing that you are referring to joining the two pieces of round rod using what is called a “Claydon Clamp”; a short section of pipe that joins the two rods by crimping over them. If so, you can sketch out the rods, figure the amount of arc that is going to be covered to hold them, and calculate the diameter of pipe that is required to supply that much linear clamping distance. Work the problem for both pieces and you should be able to tell how long a section of pipe you need to have the minimum amount required. The pipe can be longer, but just enough is what looks and works best, without collapsing when swedging the rods into it. You might do a Google search for “Claydon Clamp” to find more info. I’m not aware of a prepared chart, however, though there might be one. It should only take a few minutes to do it by trial and error, though.

Good luck,
   vicopper - Saturday, 02/04/06 14:58:00 EST

Ooops...I left off Bob Corneck's name for that last post, but I also emailed him the answer so I guess it doesn't matter.
   vicopper - Saturday, 02/04/06 15:00:38 EST

Mark and your Victorian Villa- unfortunately, the UK being so much smaller than the USA, many of its ornamental foundries are no longer in business.
In addition, much of the UK foundry work was destined for various colonies- I have seen beautiful Scottish cast iron in places like Rangoon and Kandy and Hong Kong.
King metals is more oriented towards welded fabrications, but do a web search for the aforementioned
Lawler Foundry, as well as Julius Blum and JG Braun- they all sell different architectural ornaments.
It seems to me there must be a couple of small foundries, cast iron or aluminum, that do this kind of reproduction work in the UK.
If I was you, I would ask the National Trust who does this work for them, and I would also go to the BABA site- this is the UK blacksmiths group, and they may know of foundries. www.baba.org.uk
   ries - Saturday, 02/04/06 15:54:51 EST

Bronze Alloys for Dr. Greenberg-
Well, I do have my ASM book in front of me.
C902 and C907 are silicon bronze, even though they are called tin bronzes. They just have slightly different amounts of silicon versus copper. They should both forge quite nicely, but are probably harder to find in any but sheet materials- the reason most people forge C655 Silicon Bronze is that it is available in rounds, squares and flat bars as well as sheet, and a matching welding rod is available for color matching.
C927 has some lead in it- this makes it not a good choice for any hot work- it forges poorly, and welds poorly as well. It machines better, which is it primary usage.
C510 and C524 are both recommended for cold processes. I have not forged them, but since they are primarily silicon bronzes with a "trace" of phosphos, they should forge well enough.
Again, availability of different profiles would be a problem. Is there a reason why these alloys appeal to you? Is it a color thing?
Of all of the alloys you list, a quick check of my usual big 4 bronze suppliers
(Alaskan Copper, Farmers Copper, Atlas Metals and Copper and Brass Sales- you can google em all) shows that only C510 is available in a reasonable range of sheet thicknesses as well as round bars. Still far less than what is available in C655, but enough to work with.
Even if you are just making Armour, I could see that the ability to have a range of profiles available would be helpful, although I guess it would depend on exactly what you are making. Are you indeed an Armourer?
I had the great pleasure to visit the Stibbert Museum in Florence Italy in November, with what is surely one of the most amazing armour collections in the world- I dont recall seeing any bronze armour there, but I am sure that if it existed, it was there- the collection is so overwhelming its hard to remember what you saw minutes after you leave the building.
   ries - Saturday, 02/04/06 16:12:23 EST

Mark-- Tony Moss, on your side of the ocean, a retired industial arts teacher, makes preternaturally gorgeous sundials in bronze, replicates old ones, has components cast somewhere. Tony is a kindly gent and might tell you who does his foundry work. I think he makes his own patterns. He is reachable via http://www.lindisun.demon.co.uk/index.html
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 02/04/06 17:12:22 EST

Vicopper: I cut down the sleeve on the vise as you suggested and it worked perfectly. The vise arms were not twisted at all the long piece of pipe that had been welded on to replace the inner screw side washer was holding the jaws apart unevenly. When cut back it seems to be ok. Probably using a spacer to prevent twisting when clamping small stock would not be a bad idea and might prevent damage in the future.
   JLW - Saturday, 02/04/06 20:04:42 EST

do you know if anyone has plans or a demo on how to build a mace. cant figure out how to put the flanges on then curve it around to fix it to a handle
   chris - Saturday, 02/04/06 20:09:13 EST

I traded the anvil. Its a Wright, wrought iron 125-135 pound anvils. It actually looks to be a farrier anvil as the horn is proportionally smaller and a lot of the weight is more centralized, but whoever had that handy book, would be very... handy.

One question. One side of the is horribly rounded about a 3/8 in drop from the rest of the face, and the table has a huge dip in it. How can I fix this? I have access to the four kinds of welders and any size grinder you could ask for.

On a side note: I know now the power of the ringing anvil.
   Aron Obrecht - Saturday, 02/04/06 20:22:46 EST

Southeast Conference, Madison, GA: This is a bi-annual event held in even years, alternating between ABANA conferences, and falling in the same year as CanIron events. This is an off-year. The next event will be March of 2007. The next and biggest swap-meet is the annual SOFA Quad-State event held in Troy, Ohio. It is the third weekend in September or so.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/04/06 20:36:10 EST

Dear Guru: hi, thanks for the great website and all the information contained here! i was reading a post about problems with chimney stacks not drawing properly. thought i would mention that the code requirements for chimney height is 3' above the roof or 2' above anything within 10'. anything within 25' to 30' can affect the draft.the wind lifts and creates a higher pressure over flue reversing draft. copperfield chimney supply has an item called the "vacu-stack" it is a chimney cap the actually increases the draft with no moving parts.no electric or anything. now if chimney was poorly constructed or problematic it is not the "fix-all". but if it is wind related it will do the trick! i assume you know alot of what i just wrote , but thought i would pass this along. thanks for a nice place to learn and try to get started in blacksmithing. George
   george gillis - Saturday, 02/04/06 23:00:18 EST


We don't have any mace plans, but you might check out some of the armoury sites available on tthe 'net.

Whatever you do, DO NOT do what rc said. On any tool that is swung, whether it is a hammer or a mace, the head-to-haft connection must be mechanically correct. That is, itmust be incapable of letting the head fly free. Unless of course, you like seeing someone injured or killed because of your carelessness. This is why hammer heads have holes for the handle that are bigger at the top of the head than the bottom. Once properly wedged, the handle is now bigger than the hole end at the bottom and cannot let the head fly free.
   vicopper - Saturday, 02/04/06 23:14:59 EST

My gratitude to both the Guru and to Ries for their answers to my questions about bronze working. Just to answer a couple of Ries' questions: the only reason I was interested in the Phosphor bronzes is that I know of an armorer in Australia who uses some type of phosphor bronze in his reproductions of Corinthian Greek helmets and that the chemical analysis seems to have similar ratios of Copper and Tin as ancient Mediterranean bronzes from the analyses available of artifacts. As for the Tin bronzes, they also seemed to be fairly close to the chemical breakdowns that I've seen published on Greek and Roman bronzes (about a maximum of 13 percent tin to a remainder of copper). As for my experience in armoring, I am fairly experienced with Roman segmented plate armor - which requires virtually no hot forming, just bend and rivet! I pioneered the reconstruction of particular type of Roman segmented armor from the archaeological remains, but this is child's play compared to the skills I'm only beginning to learn. And forging is a new skill for me and I'm humbled by the amount of skill required for these projects. I'm very interested in making helmets and muscle cuirasses and other sorts of bronze age and early iron age armor. By the way, most Greek examples were of bronze, and most Roman armor in the Republican period was of bronze.

Thanks again for the assistance and guidance.

   Dr. Arik Greenberg - Sunday, 02/05/06 00:14:59 EST

A little help please. I'm forging a piece of spring steel from a coil spring out of a truck. I'm making a draw knife so the faces need to be fairly smooth before I start cleaning it up. The coal I currently have is of low quality. I think this is my key problem. The surface of the steel is getting badly pitted even though I scrape the scale before I start hammering. Any suggestions as to how I could reduce the pitting would be greatly appreciated.
   Will - Sunday, 02/05/06 00:18:04 EST


Pitting and heavy scale are usually a result of a fire that is too oxidizing, or overheating the steel. Try building your fire a bit deeper, say 6" to 8", and keeping the work piece out of the direct blast from the tuyere. Make sure yo uhave enough fire below the steel to consume all the oxygen before it gets to the work. Also, avoid taking the piece above a low yellow heat, as you will be burning carbon out of it. Spring stock is usually a medium high carbon steel and shouldn't be overheated or worked too cold, either. You should figure on grinding about 1/32" or more aff the steel after forging to remove the decarburized surface and get down to steel with sufficient carbon to hold a good edge.
   vicopper - Sunday, 02/05/06 01:30:44 EST

I've just found this site. I've been hobby smithing for over 30 years. Any wase I have run up against a problem. I am atempteing to forge brass flat bar into some "t" shapes to make some parts for the rudder of a boat that I am building. The problem is that when I split the bar and then try to spread the two legs to form the tee the legs crack off. I am working this stuff at a dull red heat .What am I doing wrong? What procedure should I be useing?
John L.
   John Langford - Sunday, 02/05/06 02:20:55 EST

vicopper, Thanks for the advice about the blower. I have looked at the blowers from Blacksmith's Depot and I don't have $100 to spend right now. I have heard of people using hair driers, bathroom vent fans and multiple other types of blowers. Do you have any advice about any of these methods, or any other way this might be done for around $50. If you could helpme out that would be great. Thanks, Travis.
   Travis Gabbard - Sunday, 02/05/06 03:19:46 EST

Travis Gabbard: Check eBay for blowers. One is #6249955366. 250 cfm, but could be damped down. May be others on eBay also. Just do a search on blower and then whittle it down using the categories. Also look in the stores. A link to them will be towards the bottom of the results page.

Another alternative is to do a Google search on surplus blowers. www.surpluscenter.com usually has a bunch, but I don't see any in 110v, 100 cfm range. There is a nice one for 220v, but doesn't appear it can be rewired to 110. They also have 12v blowers.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 02/05/06 06:49:43 EST

is there an auto wrecking yard near by? If so check into getting an old heater fan from a car. It is not the best blower. But with air-inlet dampers it will do the job. Plus ity runs on a 12 volt battery so is reasonably portable, as long as you remember to charge the battery up before going to a 'remote' site.
   Ralph - Sunday, 02/05/06 08:59:14 EST

Bronze again-
For some reason, when I could not sleep at 5 am today, I realized I had misread the tiny 9point type in the giant bronze composition charts in my ASM manual- so I stated that the tin bronzes had silicon in them, which they do not The tiny "si " and the tiny "sn" blurred alike in my aging brain- but my basic advice remains about the same- of the 5 alloys you mentioned, one does indeed have lead in it, and lead, along with zinc, are two elements that make forging bronzes very problematic.
Of the other 4, they are all slight variations on a copper/tin alloy, 2 with a trace of phosporous added, 2 without.
I have not forged any tin alloys, nor do I know anyone who has- although I have forged a fair amount of other copper alloys.
However, I am working on projects this year that require a steady stream of ordering from Alaskan Copper, and next time I order, I will slip in a stick of C510, which, as I said, is the one of the 4 alloys with commonly available round bar, as opposed to just sheet. From a straight forging perspective, I will be able to find out its characteristics more easily from a piece of 3/8" round, than from sheet. Should be interesting, My guess is that it will forge well enough, with the usual caveats for a relatively small range of temperature before it melts into a puddle.
I have seen some forged roman items, but not, to my recollection, much armour. I wonder where there are significant collections of Roman armour?
The Stibbert Collection, which I mentioned, is an awe inspiring collection of armour, and it has what are normally considered to be many early examples, but in this case early is 15th century, a bit down the road from Greek or Roman. Stibbert did also collect quite a bit of Indian, Persian and Japanese armour, which is rare and wonderful. In fact, the museum has the second largest collection of japanese armour in the world- only one collection in Japan is bigger, and even then it is debatable whether Stibbert has the better pieces.
   ries - Sunday, 02/05/06 09:23:00 EST

rc: I don't think anyone implied you had broken off the anvil heel or abused it. We were just pointing past abuse is likely why it broken off.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 02/05/06 10:22:36 EST


See our Armour page and the helm raising articles. These methods apply to brass and bronze as well as steel except that you do not work bronze plate hot.

I have a theory that many armour pieces were not cut from plate like we would do today but forged from bar. Many pieces that are very wasteful to cut from plate can be made by bending a bar then flatening and thining. ALthough this sounds like a lot of work it is actually easier than using a chisle or primitiive shears.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/05/06 11:49:46 EST

Victorian Villa: The National Ornamental Metals Museum in Memphis, TN has a working foundry and smithy. They have a staff of professionals who do contract and repair work. I think they are on the web at www.metalmuseum.org but a google search will find them. Good folks, too.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 02/05/06 11:56:14 EST

John-- Try forging your fittings out of bronze instead of brass.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 02/05/06 11:57:43 EST

Metrification: Here in Costa Rica they have an old Spanish system of customary units that are still used for many things and there is no apparent pressure to change even though this is officialy a metric country and many things are given in metric units.

Yesterday we went looking for a new battery for the excavator. The prime consideration was fit so that it would work with the existing brackets. We went to three different types of businesses. A battery shop, a large construction and hardware supply and a hardware store. At all three places the counter man pulled out a tape measure and measured in INCHES!

In many countries around the world this is common. People learn to use their customary or traditional local units, metric AND English measuring systems. These same people often speak more than one language as well.

Contrast this to the average American worker who claims to know nothing about the metric system but also cannot do simple math in fractions (3/4 + 1/16 = 13/16, 5/8 - 1/32 = 19/32 and so on.) and can barely speak English much less spell.

A friend of gives job applicants the following word test.

1) What is half of one half?

2) What is half of one quarter?

3) What is half of one eighth?

4) What is half of one sixteenth?

5) What is half of one thirty second?

6) What is half of one sixty fourth?

Surprizingly over half of US laborors cannot answer the second question and many that think they are pretty good at simple math cannot answer the last even though all the answers are a simple doubling series, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512. . ..

This is not a test that is given in schools even though children are supposed to learn this fairly early in school. Teaching to the test will not teach the skills to answer THIS test. If you get this one perfect then I'll ask, What is one third of one quarter, what is two times one twenthfourth. . . My son could answer these when he was 7 years old. He is NOT a math genius, just taught to think.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/05/06 12:29:23 EST

ken i know im just saying even though i have an anger problem i wouldnt break off a heel of an anvil and besides that anvils been in my family for 2 generations
   rc - Sunday, 02/05/06 14:13:59 EST

I've been smithing for awhile now and I'm considering upgrading to a cheap gas forge(cheap being the key word). are there things that I should be careful about when it comes to gas forges that I didn't need to worry about with my coal forge? and do you have any suggestions as to what I should look for in a gas forge? thanks!
   Logan Goddard - Sunday, 02/05/06 14:28:40 EST

Logan: Two concerns come to mind. Does in need to make welding heat or not? You have to decide that. Secondly, if you were to use the gas forge inside, you better have good ventilation, and a CO detector. My detector would go off in ten minutes or less. I open the window and use a small fan to help ventilate. Tho from some postings I have read, it sounds as tho the gas forge creates more CO when it is first fired up, then what it does when at full heat. Just be careful, and ventilate.
   Bob H - Sunday, 02/05/06 15:45:53 EST


The first consideration when choosing or building a gas forge is how big does it need to be? With sollid fuel you build the size fire you need, but with gas you have to build the forge to suit the work. A small, efficient gas forge can be built that will reach welding temperature with no problem and will suit small projects, knife making and that sort of thing. Or you can build bigger to do bigger work, but it will waste gas or not get hot enough if you try to do small work and cut down the gas. you need to size the forge to th ework. For that reason, I have three gas forges, from one burner up to four burners and 24" long.

The next concern is what type of work you will be doing in it. If you're going to do pattern-welded billets, you want one with a forge bottom that is either very resistant to flux or very easy to replace, or both. More durable materials cost more, but last longer.

If you're planning to do a lot of billet welding, there are a couple of designs that are expressly for that type of work. Check out the bladesmiths forums for examples.

If you really want cheap, you'll have to build it yourself. The only inexpensive gas forges I know of ready-made are from Poorboy Blacksmith Tools, on eof Anvilfire's advertisers. If you're a pretty fair hand with a torch and weldier, you can make your own forge from varous bits of scrap and plumbing fittings for under a hundred bucks easy enough.
   vicopper - Sunday, 02/05/06 16:19:47 EST

I'm into knifemaking right now so I wouldn't need anything extra large - I'm going to want a forge that can get to welding temperatures in case I ever try messing with damascus. The building in which I forge is an old shed of sorts. Three walls, a couple holes in the roof but enough space for everything I have so far. I would imagine that ventilation would be fine. I'll admit that I'm no handyman when it comes to welding, I'm still in high school but when I said cheap I meant under 400$(Christmas was kind to me this year). I've been looking at some with doors that open on both ends so that I can work with longer pieces of work - but I'm not someone that knows much about gas forges at all. I googled for some info and all I could come up with were some articles on how to build them yourself, not much help if you don't know anything about them to begin with. The only time I used a gas forge I was impressed by how easy it was, of course.. that was just before I went home and tried to make my first coal fire - yuck. My hopes with a gas forge are that I'll be able to smith some even durring school days when I have other stuff to do.

PS - I know, knifemaking and being in high school are two really bad signs, and I feel slightly ridiculious asking people who know what they're doing to help a childhood fantasy, but rest assured none of my knives have reached any level of sharpness. (the hollow edge seems to be an eluding idea for me)
   Logan Goddard - Sunday, 02/05/06 17:08:27 EST


Several of the anvilfire.com advertisers carry propane forges. Both Centaur Forge and Pieh Tool Co. carry several brands - unfortunately all out of your price range. However, they can give you an idea on options.

Check out Zoeller Forge (just do a Google search on name) as he sells them as well.

My Poor Boy and Hobby Boy models are a bit down and dirty and really not presented as being forge welding capable. However, apparently a couple of folks do so by adding extra insulation and ITC coating. I'm sort of selling a Chevy. Some folks soup them up into stock car racers.

Then there is eBay. Just go to the category for Collectibes/Tools, Hardware & Locks/Tools/Blacksmithing and do a keyword search on forge. Also do a seller search on jm_enterprises99. Some units come with everything you need except the propane tank. Some you provide your own. Diference will be $50-$60 for a good regulator and hose.

Benefits are quick start, consistant heat, portability, no black boogers, shop stays much cleaner, no smoke to irritate neighbors and fuel is readily available. Cost of operation is roughly the same as a coal forge if you have a local source for it. To me primary disadvantages are consistent forge welding capability, dragon breath, ventilation requirements and scaling on stock. I would recommend learning to forge weld with a coal forge before trying to do so with a propane one.

Some shop have both propane and coal forges. Mine does, but I haven't used the coal forge in about 6-7 years. For what I need it for I can be done with most jobs requiring stock heating by the time I would even get a coal forge ready to use. Use it, shut it off, do something else, come back to it and within a very few minutes am back to having orange to yellow hot stock ready to work again. Plus I don't have to worry about the stock burning up from excessive heat as coal forges are known for.

If you haven't done so already use the NAVIGATE anvilfire drop down menu to the list of ABANA chapters. Find the one covering your state and get in contact with me. If you can arrange to attend their meetings they can be a great resource for you.

   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 02/05/06 19:00:23 EST

Tyler Gold, please email me.
   vicopper - Sunday, 02/05/06 21:38:23 EST

What welding rod grade can I use to build up the edges of a wrought iron anvil?
   Aron Obrecht - Sunday, 02/05/06 22:57:49 EST

RC, a friend of mine *MELTED* a billet in his propane forge---into a puddle in the back end---how hot do you need to be?

Coal forges are not necessarily hotter they do have a more concentrated hot zone.

If you are a traditionlist you would be better off using charcoal *much* more traditional than coal and you don't have to worry about putting sulfur in your knife steel.

If you can't get good coal you are better off with propane than with bad coal.

Of course propane forges vary greatly as well. Some will weld, some won't some you can adjust the atmosphere to be *very* reducing, some run oxidizing and are hard to adjust.

Best deal is to go to some other smith's shops and try various ones out till you find what you like.

Maces: are you trying to make it in the traditional way? If so then forge welding the flanges on is one option.

Another method I cogitated up but haven't had museum time to check would be to start with a strip of wrought iron sheet. Fold a section and forge weld the fold together and hot cut the flange, Go a ways down the strip and repeat until you get the number of flanges you want then bend it around a mandrel and forge weld the ends of the strip together---does this make sense?


   Thomas P - Sunday, 02/05/06 23:01:31 EST

Ken Scharabok, Thanks for the info about blowers. I did find one on www.surpluscenter.com that has a 2 speed motor. The low speed is 75 cfm and the high speed is 125 cfm. It is 120 volts and the price is only $19.95. Thanks again, Travis Gabbard.
   Travis Gabbard - Monday, 02/06/06 06:24:50 EST

How Hot?

Steel melts at between 2700°F (1480°C) for low xarbon to 2500°F (1370°C) for high carbon. Cast Iron melts at less than this.

Coal vs Gas and Traditions: So, how long dose something need to be in use to become traditional? Gas forges and furnaces have been in use for about 100 years. Your great grandfather could have used one. . .

Dean Curfman of BigBLU hammers tells his customers that his work is the NEW traditional ironwork. . .
   - guru - Monday, 02/06/06 12:40:39 EST

how much does an average blacsmith make an hour or what are the wages?
   caleb hill - Monday, 02/06/06 13:15:57 EST

RC; When you put the handle in the head, are you putting it in the smaller side of the eye? That allows you to wedge it out bigger at the top, thereby giving you a reverse taper effect, which locks the handle in more effectively.
   3dogs - Monday, 02/06/06 13:19:06 EST

Why was steel chosen for the blade of a sword?
   Zorthia - Monday, 02/06/06 13:26:03 EST

For the long explantion see Swords of Iron, Swords of Steel on the Anvilfire Armoury page. Use the pull-down menu at the upper right. (NAVIGATE anvilfire)

For a short explantion; sop that it stays sharp, and so you don't have to stop every once in a while to straighten it under your foot.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 02/06/06 14:03:16 EST

Guru, May I make a correction on the date of the Madison Conference? I believe it is in May 2007; remember? we talked at the Madison Conference in May 2005; + 2 = 2007...
   Ron Childers - Monday, 02/06/06 14:10:00 EST

Steel For Swords-
Historicaly, as well as in modern times, steel is used for swords because it is the best material available. Prior to steel, plain iron was used and prior to that bronze was used. In each case, the best materials available at a given time were used. Steel is more suited to swords than any other material because it can be processed to provide both hardness and toughness at the same time. Other modern materials either can't meet the property requiremenst of a sword or are more expensive to use than steel.

   Patrick Nowak - Monday, 02/06/06 14:32:47 EST


Regarding fuel storage, we keep small quantities of coal in big tupperware containers out in the yard. It stays dry (enough) and it's easy to shovel it out.

I just went through the same process of bootstrapping tongs. They Dempsey Twist tongs on the 21st century blacksmithing page worked well for me. I also made the iForge #5 square stock tongs using 18" long 3/8 bar. I could heat one end to work on and hold the other wearing a glove. Dip the end you're holding in water to cool it when you take it out of the fire.
   Dave - Monday, 02/06/06 14:39:27 EST


From the drop down menu in the upper right go down to Advertisers and then to Poor Boy Blackmsith Tools (or wait until it comes up in the link box). When there do a search on tongs. If you have access to an arc welder you will see several variations of tongs you make make from bits and pieces, plus some made from former farrier nippers.

I use to be able to find old farrier nippers at flea markets and such for $1-3 pair. However, now they have crept up to $6-8. Too expensive for me to purchase for reworking into other tools. However, for a do-it-yourselfer they would still be very practical. A bit of welding and a bit of grinding and you have very functional blacksmithing tongs.

For a coal forge, look around for a one-ton brake drum. If there is a place in your area which services brakes, offer to pay a nominal amount for one being replaced. Nice thick walls, a good size and it already has a tuyere hole in the bottom.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 02/06/06 15:09:12 EST

3dogs i have tired that but the handles will break off so im just gonna make a steel handle and have some wood in the center to absorb some of the shock when i hit my project. Who ever it was satuday night that told me i might have a fisher anvil thanks for that tid bit of information cause ive been wanting to know who made my anvil.
   - rc - Monday, 02/06/06 16:25:26 EST

RC, We get our coal from some guy down the street in trade for vegetables and bad jokes. We don't use enough to make a dent in his supply so we're both happy. It's not 'blacksmithing coal' or 'metallurgical grade', but it gets hot when it burns and we're not smart enough to know any better. Actually, I suspect we're using good ol' PA anthracite. Whatever it is, it smells like brimstone, makes tons of slag, and takes a charcoal fire and 90 minutes to get going. The sulfer probably isn't helping my attempts at forge welds, either. The price is right though.

I've heard feed stores might have (or be able to order) 50 pound bags, but I'd suggest asking at your next local ABANA chapter meeting. Find someone who buys by the ton and see if they'll sell you some.
   Dave - Monday, 02/06/06 16:26:52 EST

Ken Scharabok i think your right i think it is a fisher. It does have the Makers logo stamped on the side of it so if you know what the picture looks like ill send it to you so u can look at it and tell me if it is truely a fisher. I dont intend on selling it any time soon either cause i like it and it really does have a good rebound and it sounds like a bell if i hit it with my hammer. Plus you can tell its got some good work out of it becuase its got alot of dents along its sides and the horn has alot of marks in it probly cause my grandpa would do his horse shoes on it im not for sure but we do have some horse shoes in the barn. Speaking of which could i make any tools out of them????
   - rc - Monday, 02/06/06 16:37:33 EST

Hello all,
Quick question. I have had to stop using my Victor cutting torch because it is making a popping sound at regular intervals, perhaps every 10 or 15 seconds. I checked all the fittings and it has a brand new tip. The torch pops during cutting, also if it is held in the open, and regardless of the mixture. Does the torch handle need reconditioning? Has anyone experienced this?

Thanks in advance for any assistance.
-Adair Orr
   Adair - Monday, 02/06/06 16:48:59 EST


That popping is the torch telling you it has a worn out seal in it somewhere. Take it to the Victor dealer nearest you, or any other welding store, and get it "tuned up." Every so often, mine gets that way and I have to replace an o-ring or two. Unfortunately, the o-rings aren't exactly standard ones, so you need to get them from Victor. I've faked it once or twice with stock o-rings and some very judicious sanding, but I absolutely DO NOT recommend that. Get the right ones. And do it vefore you use the torch any more. The next stage of decay is when the handpiece catches fire in your hand, and you don't want that.
   vicopper - Monday, 02/06/06 17:08:52 EST

Thanks for the advice. I'll take it to the shop this week. Always a great forum here.

Cheers, Adair
   Adair - Monday, 02/06/06 17:32:26 EST

Adair-- Might indeed be a seal, but since it is a brand new torch, you might also try leaving the acetylene where it is after setting a neutral flame and then giving it a tad more oxygen. Also, are you opening your oxygen valve all the way on the bottle and ditto the supply valve on the torch handle? I find that especially when using the smaller orifice tips that lesser oxygen supply will cause popping.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/06/06 18:41:48 EST

More re: popping-- In his 1997 paperback Performance Welding, part of the Motortech Series by Motorbooks, Richard Finch has a good section on popping, what he sees as the main cause-- overheating, he says-- and what to do about it. It's caused by the too-small tip overheating. Make sure the tip is clean of slag. Go to a larger tip if it continues. HOWEVER: I had a brand new tip once that would not stop popping no matter what. Harris tech support said sometimes it just has to be replaced. Also check carefully to be sure that the tip is actually made for the torch. Sometimes the threads match up but the jets inside do not.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/06/06 19:16:13 EST

I believe that Adair said he had a new tip, not new torch. I believe that Vicopper has summed it up.
   ptree - Monday, 02/06/06 19:21:34 EST

When is the guru getting back? I ordered some stuff from the store last week.
   - Tyler Murch - Monday, 02/06/06 19:43:05 EST

I just found the answer.
   - Tyler Murch - Monday, 02/06/06 19:46:15 EST

RC, Patrick Nowack is a graduate metallurgical engineer and works for one of the premier forge shops in the US. You are a boy with an over active imagination and a huge ego. Go away and stop using up the bandwidth! We are truely fed up with your arrogance!
   quenchcrack - Monday, 02/06/06 20:21:52 EST

ptree-- better safe than sorry, to be sure. But there are in fact other factors, easily remedied, that might cause popping, cutting and welding, besides bad seals.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/06/06 20:29:39 EST

ptree-- I want to add, with all true respect for all in the congregation here gathered, that everything I posted re: Adair's question comes from my own personal experience across the last 33 years of using O/A equipment. Bad seals, tips that fit the threads but are not the right ones, tips clogged with slag, tips that are overheated, tips that are not getting enough oxygen, I have encountered all these problems as causes of popping. Well, not the seals-- in my experience that makes for big fluffy flames, and it occurs with all tips, not just one. I want to add that I do not see this website as a dueling ground or as a debating society, a hearty game of gotcha, but rather as an ongoing colloquy, a dialogue in search of better smithing. In other words, I posted what I posted not to start a pissing contest but to try to be helpful. If I offended, why, my goodness, tough darts.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/06/06 21:35:52 EST

With torches for O/A, I firmly believe that it is better to be safe than to be blown up or fried. Take it to the welding store and have it re-fitted. If the oxygen for the cutting jet won't shut off, you have a bad or fouled seat in the cutting jet valve, most likely. If so, then why? Usually that comes from burn back in the torch head overheating the valve seals or depositing crud on the seat for the needle valve. In either case, a temporary fix won't get to the root of the problem; you need a professonal to tear it down and refurbish it throughout. If it is a Victor, a Smith or a Harris, it's probably worth rebuilding. If it is an Airco or a "house brand", it may not be worth it. Airco is not supported any longer and many house brands are made by who knows in Radio Free Taiwan with no support.
   vicopper - Monday, 02/06/06 22:58:11 EST

I'm sorry, I have not asked the right question. What type of arc welding rod would be best for filleting a wrought Iron anvil? I don't wish to add to the annoyance of RC, so please feel free to warn me before it gets to that point.
   Aron Obrecht - Monday, 02/06/06 23:10:14 EST


You are both in the ballpark, but that's not going to get you to first base. I trust the book, "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" by Kapp and Yoshihara. There were a few composite methods of combining low carbon and high carbon steel when making a katana. A fairly common way, the kobuse weld, is to fold lengthwise the high carbon steel and insert a length of low carbon steel, a "jacket-core" technique. The high carbon steel is traditionally made of folded and forge welded tamahagane steel from the tatara furnace, as John Lowther mentioned. After the jacket and core are forge welded together, the blade cross-section will have a soft low carbon core and a high carbon "jacket" or "overcoat". Other composite methods were used. The book is worth getting, if that is your interest.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 02/06/06 23:31:38 EST

Logan Goddard -Go to riversidemachine.net......They have the propane forge you want.It's the forge used at the ABS bladesmith school and it's almost within your limited budget [$395].I have this forge and love it.
   - arthur - Tuesday, 02/07/06 02:26:13 EST

Hand Forging: Ok, here's a question for you. What is a reasonable thickness of bar stock (round or square) that can be reasonably and efficiently worked on normal sized anvil (say 200 pounds) and a 3 pound hammer? I am not looking for the most you have ever worked, but what is considered normal (by your own definition). At what point (thickness) do you start looking for a power hammer? Thanks. Jim
   Jim Warren - Tuesday, 02/07/06 10:35:11 EST

I have a 100# anvil and a myriad of hammers of different wieghts. I max out at 3/4" round stock with a 3# hammer. I tried using an 8# hand sledge but it wears me out quickly. Oh, you said you're NOT looking for the most I ever worked. Oops! A trip hammer would fit nicely in my cellar smithy.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/07/06 10:42:52 EST

Jim, I have a 200# Hay Budden and usually use hammers in the 2.5# range. 3/4" is my max in mild steel. In a hoof rasp, W-1, 1/4"-3/8" gets to be work fairly fast. For normal work, I do use a lot of 5/8" square and round stock and it works good for me. Anvil is plenty heavy for more stock thickness but my arm isn't. Grin!

At a demo at Pieh Tool Co. awhile back two smiths used a 400# anvil and an eight pound sledge to forge 1" round tennons on a 2" bar----and they were working to get there.
Would have been easier if they were doing a square tennon instead of a round.
   Ellen - Tuesday, 02/07/06 11:58:13 EST

Aron: The difference it makes is you are interacting with not only an adult forum, but a largely professional one at that. As such, one would be expected to act in a professional manner. An e-mail address, which is not only bogus, but indicates little interest on your part, I, for one, take for disrespect.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 02/07/06 12:25:40 EST

I'll second Mr. Turley's vote for The Craft of the Japanese Sword.

To quote myself from the AnvilFire Armoury pages:

The Craft of the Japanese Sword, Leon and Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara
This is the BEST book I have seen on the subject of Japanese swords. Fourth printing, 1990; Kodanska International/USA Ltd., 114 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10011; ISBN 0-87011-798-X (later editions/publishers may exist). The account is very straight-forward, with good, strong facts and none of the weird myths so favored in popular culture. It gives you the deepest respect for the skill and the patience of these craftsmen. It also does not shy from the more grizzly details of the earlier employment of these instruments. Nothing sensational, just truthful.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 02/07/06 13:12:46 EST

Blacksmithing has never been dead, it has been in continuous usage in all toolmaking cultures.
Most methods have not been lost- in fact there are, today, more knowledgeable and skilled blacksmiths than ever before.
Modern blacksmiths know, and more importantly, understand, more about the physics, chemistry, and reality of the materials they are working with than ever in the history of the world.
There are guys working today who can hold their own against any smith, ever, in any type of forging.
Call back when you graduate from grade school, dude.
   ries - Tuesday, 02/07/06 13:47:06 EST

Grinding a needle valve (on anything other than a precision tool made for that job) will ruin it irrevocably. A new torch would be cheap insurance and, if you buy a brand name from your local welding supply, you will be able to service it readily. Stay away from big box store brand torches, as they usually have no support beyond new tips, and only a limited selection of those. I like Victor torches and service, but Simth and Harris are also good, if your local welding store sells them.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 02/07/06 13:51:23 EST

I second what Vicopper has said about Victor torches and a good dealer. A good local dealer is an irreplacable asset, even if a bit more expensive, it's good insurance.....and your work is always better with good quality tools provided you have skill. Oxy Acetylene can, and has, killed and maimed on numerous occasions. I recommend those using it for the first time to learn proper safety techniques from the start. Most community colleges will have helpful courses, and there are trade schools, or you can work with a friend who KNOWS what he is doing. You can also pick up books on the subject that are easy reading and informative. For most here this is repetitive knowledge but it should be impressed on new folks.
   Ellen - Tuesday, 02/07/06 14:23:40 EST

Well since it's in my job description I'm going to talk on historical smithing fuels.

First and foremost is charcoal, real charcoal not briquettes is what the iron age (and previous copper and bronze ages)used to smelt and forge iron/steel with. It's easily made anywhere with trees available and it has been continuously used for blacksmithing from the start till *now*.

Coal began to be used for blacksmithing in the late middle ages, (according to "Cathedral Forge And Waterwheel, Gies & Gies). Coal has several problems with it as a smithing fuel, sulfur and clinkers being probably the greatest. *Good* coal for smithing is is not as common a materails and smiths have become quite ingeneous on figuring how to make the stuff they can get work---though for fine work some smiths would revert to charcoal use. Note that coal was not used for iron smelting till the late 1700's (Abraham Darby pioneered the use of coaked coal at Coalbrookdale England) but the best iron was still considered to be charcoal smelted into the 1800's. The last charcoal fueled blast furnace in Ohio went out of blast around the beginning of WWI (Tour at the IronMasters Conference held at OU in Athens OH)

Coke, produced from coal is a cleaner hot burning fuel and was a lot in large industrial smithies. It was the "traditional" fuel for blast furnaces. It seems to have been used for smithing a lot more in England and Europe than in America.

Natural Gas has been used to fuel forges but is tied to the availability of the gas infrastructure. I have NG forge made by Johnson Gas Forge; but no NG in my rural area.

Propane: has become the fuel of choice for many smiths due to the ease of working with it and it's availability. I'm trying to work a deal to drive hundreds of miles to buy over a ton of good smithing coal; but I can get propane at 11pm on a Sunday night in the small town (~9000 people) near by.

Another factor in the popularization of propane has been the widespread dissemination of simple DIY forge and burner plans. Jock has mentioned that many 3rd world smiths are using propane as an alternative to charcoal as there is no smithing coal available to them but propane is a common cooking fuel.

Other: I hope to try out a solar powered forge out here in the desert. Heating metal electrically by induction is also used in industry but only a few hobbiests have experimented with it that I know of. I also met one smith who started by running a tig welded up and down his piece till it glowed and then forged it...

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 02/07/06 16:41:19 EST


This is the real world, not a D & D game, and not an anime’*. This is also a valuable resource, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. However, if you are going to benefit from it, you need to know what questions to ask, and for that you need to put some work in.

Your first step is to read through this website, especially the beginner’s pages and the 21st Century Blacksmith. Inform yourself as to where we are coming from.

The second step is to go to the library and actually read some blacksmithing books. If they are not available, try using an Inter-Library Loan (ILL). The librarians will help you.

Thirdly, try looking at some other sites in your area of interest. The Armour Archive http://www.armourarchive.org/ and Sword Forum http://www.swordforum.com/ have a wealth of information in your areas of interest. Be warned, however, that they have as little tolerance for trolling as we do.

Fourth, what is you background, what experience, what age, what are your goals? Think long and hard as to whether you’re really interested in blacksmithing, or if you’re just here trolling. If the latter, then try another venue. The Chief Guru will block your access and erase your postings if your sole purpose if the mouth off.

As I explained to my children, (and as I learned in my brief military service) the best way to learn in a new situation with a new bunch of people is to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open until you know what you really want to say. Read, study, learn; do the background work, and then come back and ask intelligent questions in understandable English. And for cat’s sake, learn to UsE tHe ShiFt Key!

*Please note that I have no problems with D & D as a pastime and anime’ as an art form, but neither reflect reality very well, just as chess has little relation to the realities of medieval warfare.

Sunny and cold on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longship.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 02/07/06 16:42:21 EST

Your math test is interesting Guru. I worked at screen & glass shop for years, and one day the boss came in and gave us this math test he got from a friend just to see how we would do. Me and the other worker both scored nearly perfect, but he did it the math way, and I did it by visualizing the tape measure and adding or subtracting whatever the question asked. I've nearly got a bachelors degree now, and I still struggle to work with fractions on paper, but I can build anything you want and deal with all the fractions it has. Education isn't everything.
   FredlyFX - Tuesday, 02/07/06 16:57:19 EST

"Education isn't everything." No, but it dang sure helps!
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 02/07/06 17:37:44 EST

Anvilfire Hammer-in Update:

Well, we appear to be 'good for go'. Neighbor will bring over large tractor to unload and reload BigBlu's hammer(s). I have a small backhoe we can use to move lighter stuff around. Port-a-john ordered. State Farm tells me I'm covered by my homeowner's policy, but Jock will still arrange for an event safety officer who can tell even me to either not to do something or do it differently. If you would like conference details just click on my name and request them. Includes directions and list of area motels and campgrounds. Plenty of room for primitive camping. Garden hose shower or spring run baths. Farm pond if kids want to try fishing out some very large catfish in it. Fresh water creek for wading, finding crawfish, etc. Tailgate tool sellers will be particularly welcome. No registration fee. Participants are requested to bring a nice item for an iron-in-the-hat drawing (and, of course, to purchase lots of tickets thereto). Will ask for some volunteer ticket sellers.

Waverly has one small B&B.

Right now there is a free tour of the World of Tools Museum scheduled for early Saturday afternoon. Iffy only in that the owner, Hunter Pilkinton, is in somewhat declining health. This is probably the largest private collection of tools in the U.S. - perhaps the world - and may be a last opportunity for it to be seen.

On attendance??? My guess is 50 folks. However, Quad-State started with only some area folks coming in to see Francis Whitaker as the demonstator. Personally I would like to see it grow into one of the large gathering of blackmsithing-related tailgate tool sellers in the U.S.

Event is officially April 22-23. However, farm will be available for several days before and after that weekend. Outside of Loretta Lynn's Ranch, not much in the way of tourist activity locally. (And they will be hosting a Grand National Motorcross competition that weekend.)

I figure those attending will be adult enough to keep any alcohol consumption both discrete and in moderation. Local city police and country sheriff's office pride themselves on catching DUIs.

Bring seating. Weather will be moderate with likely a warmish day and coolish evening/night/morning. Rain probably 50/50. I will likely have a cooler of soft drinks available for resale with profit to anvilfire.com. No meals or whatever on grounds; however, Waverly is just two miles away and has the typical small town McD's, KFC, Subway, etc. Small breakfast/lunch restaurant between farm and town.

If conference announcement doesn't answer your questions, please ask.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 02/07/06 18:52:46 EST

Greetings, Guru:
I was offline for a few days, but thanks for your earlier suggestion regarding the helm raising articles. I've printed them off and cannot wait to try out the methods. I just wanted to make sure I understood you correctly. So, you're saying that bronze plate is NEVER hot formed? I've done some repoussee work with brasses and bronzes, cold working them after annealing. But I had always thought that you would be able to hot form bronzes to some degree. Is this false?

Also, you're in good company in theorizing that armor pieces might have been forged from bar rather than cut from plate. Many archaeologists surmise that the Romans, at least, forged their armor pieces from billet flattened down to the desired thickness of plate. I have no opinion on this yet, but that's what some tend to think.

Thanks again for the info.

   Arik Greenberg - Tuesday, 02/07/06 18:59:05 EST

Arik Greenberg.

A video might still be available from the Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia, titled, "The Silversmith of Williamsburg". The foundation somehow got an Italian master to work, showing his techniques in raising a silver coffeepot. He starts out forging hot with a striker getting the material to the correct thickness with calipers. The hammer faces are highly polished. The center is found and a circle scribed. The excess is cut off and the cold raising is begun. It is incredible (to me), as he not only raises but then necks it down to a smaller diameter near the top. The necked material naturally upsets. It doesn't know what else to do. Then it opens up again, a kind of vase shape. Har de har. The video is well worth trying to obtain.

A good book, reasonably priced on your web booksellers, is "Metalsmithing" by Thomas. Thomas taught raising and sinking for years at the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. It is a wonderful book showing the use of several forms of stakes.

   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/07/06 21:07:42 EST

Arik Greenberg,

Working copper alloys, or silver for that matter, hit is difficult because of the thermal conductivity. Bar and rod are not so bad, but sheet has the high conductivity plus a very high surface area to mass ratio, making it hard to get hot, keep hot, and work anywhere near it, due to the radiant heat.

Also, it has to be held with tongs, which easily mar it when hot. There are work-arounds for the tong marring issue, but none that I've found to be really secure. For angle raising, you need precise control, both with the hammer and with the holding/turning hand. Sinking into a stump or form is not so difficult hot, but stil lless fun than cold. I recommend using the heat for annealing and then work it cold.

The Thomas book that Frank recommended is excellent on raising. Dave LaPlantz, the fellow who taught me raising, was a Cranbrook graduate and a student of Thomas', I believe. Cranbrook produces excellent metalsmiths, and has for decades.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 02/07/06 21:54:48 EST

"...if the mouth off." What the heck kind of English is that? I think I meant "...if to...".

AnvilFire Hammer-in:

Dang, durn and darn! I don't think I'll make anything this spring, includign the BGOP Spring Fling. Tied up with the Calvert Marine Museum, which is sponsoring a Viking Weekend the following weekend. (Plus, I need to keep the wif happy, which means, somehow, getting the new house construction started sometime this spring).

Maybe next year...
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 02/07/06 23:39:15 EST

"...is to..."

I think I'm a little tired, and I'm off to NYC tomorrow for negotiations. Wheeeee....!

G'night crew. :-|
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 02/07/06 23:44:46 EST

GURU's MATH TEST & USUAL TEACHING METHODS : I think the gurus test is a good test for a practical understanding. However, at aside from some "word problems" We got in school, math class teaches math from a theroetical point of view. My math teachers would have looked at simply doubling the bottom number on a fraction to divide the fraction in half as a "shortcut" and started a speach on neumerators and denominators and that little squiggle that means congruent, but for Our purposes could be replaced with the= sign. Shop Math as taught in the machine shop course at votech was different. There we learned how the "rubber meets the road". Math was taught fron a practical results oriented standpoint. We weren't using words like numeral , number, intiger and digit, all with slightly different meanings. Yes I was in school in the 60's & 70's and that was "New Math"
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/08/06 00:24:12 EST

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