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Has anyone tried converting a disel welder/generator over to biodisel? Has anyone tried? It is hard to find any information on this type of retro fitting. Does the difference in energy density between the two fuel sources casue significant differences in output? The idea occured to me when I began to notice disel costing more than premium. They just put a biodisel station about 1 mile from my house. Thanks Tim
   Tim - Friday, 02/01/08 02:05:20 EST

Tim: A diesel engine in a generator should not be essentially different than one in a vehicle. You should be able to use biodiesel without any significant problems. Two things to watch out for are clogged fuel filters (as the bio-part will solidify crude in the tank) and possible deteriorating rubber fuel lines if they are not bio-friendly.

I have friends in IN who run two early 80's VWs (sedan and pickup) on homemade biodiesel, mixing strained waste vegetable oil with diesel. Mix runs from about 80/20 bio-diesel/diesel in summer to about 20/80 in winter. They figure they average about a 50/50 mix throught year.

If the bio-part becames too high it can cause fuel jelling during cool/cold weather, requiring a separate tank for it and another smaller one for straight diesel. The engine is started on straight, switched over to heated bio, then back to straight for a couple of miles before shutting the engine off.

When I fill up my diesel tractor I top it off with one gallon of new vegetable oil. More expensive than straight diesel, but the engine just seems to run better. I have had to tighten a number of fittings as apparently the bio disolved crud which had formerly sealed them.

Just do a Google search on biodiesel (note spelling).
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/01/08 03:20:48 EST

Atha Hammer: Matt, Everything marked "Atha" is in the realm of tool collectors and prices are much more than just "used tools".
   - guru - Friday, 02/01/08 07:32:10 EST

Threads on Vice: Mile BR has it correct. The only disadvantage to fine threads is that they wear faster and need closer tolerances. In the case of a vice you may be creating higher forces than the vice can take but I have found this to be true on most vices as-built.
   - guru - Friday, 02/01/08 07:36:30 EST

Spalling & Mushrooming:

Not only can a spalled piece of metal rip you up, but it's HOT. We had an incident in the BGOP where one of the folks was hit with a red-hot spalled piece of chisel from across the room, it had lost some velocity, but he did get a minor burn on his face.

All of that energy goes somewhere!

All of the descriptions of anvils with "sharp edges" was mostly an indicator that the object in question wasn't abused by being too soft and mushrooming or chipping from being over-hard. I've seen the phrase applied to new anvils as a selling point; but that only means that you can radius the edges to the degree and in those areas that suit your style. In English "sharp" is a term of virtue as well as an adjective.

Rainy, windy and messy on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/01/08 10:22:21 EST

On Thursday I asked a question about fumes from acid. You've all scared me enough now that I think I'll get it out of my shop altogether. Mabey I'll use it outside where there is plenty of ventilation. I appreciate your insite.
   Dan - Friday, 02/01/08 13:23:57 EST

Tim, I would highly recommend checking out a biofuels forum. If you do a google search you should plenty of info. Mixing Veg. oil with petro diesel does not produce biodiesel.
   Jason Mecum - Friday, 02/01/08 13:47:20 EST

Dan--just incase it was not mentioned--when you dilute acid Always pour acid into water and never pour water into acid as you can cause an explosion. I am alos a believer in MSDS (material ssftey Data sheet) and inparticular for acids. They will give you all the safety information and they are great to have in the event 911 is called for an accident. Most MSDS are available online or free from manufacturers.
   Tim - Friday, 02/01/08 13:52:59 EST

Regarding My post above. There is alot more involved, titration, etc. To produce biodiesel. Good luck.
   Jason Mecum - Friday, 02/01/08 13:53:49 EST

Common Chemicals: There are some common household products that should never be mixed. Chlorox bleach will release copious amounts of chlorine gas when other chemicals are mixed with it. It has proven lethal in a number of cases where folks wanted to get something extra clean and combined products. READ that label.

Gasoline, something we all deal with almost every day is used to make the most powerful non-nuclear bomb. Do you stand next to the nozzle breathing those toxic fumes when you fill up? Or do you wisely set the trigger and stand back a few feet?

It is said that chemicals used on suburban lawns far exceed the amounts allowed on any farm. The price some folks pay for a beautiful lawn is a toxic zone that children should not play on. . .
   - guru - Friday, 02/01/08 14:58:10 EST

Hi Guru,

I'm making armour for sometime now, and dooing some blacksmithg too, but now I have to impersonate a Roman military blacksmith from the 1th Century AD.

I have to set up a forge, got plenty of information (tools etc), for only 1 thing...

How did athe actual field forge looked like... a bowl standing on a tripod? or just a hole in the ground, or build from stone??? What kind of bellows did they use?

Any help is appreciated.

I have to work in the Dutch archeology themepark "Archeon"


( my website: http://anytime.pixis.nl )
   Duco de Klonia - Friday, 02/01/08 17:02:31 EST

hi i work in a blacksmithing\spring making\slasher blade making\general steel works. any way we have a fly press there and ive been using it for years. the stats u have arent entirely true though. it says on:http://www.anvilfire.com/power/... that it makes strokes between 10-40pm but its more like 10-85pm .This guy:GRANT nakedanvil@forgetools.com: is right on the money! also these type machines are simply the best machine for "reseting" leaf springs (increasing the camber of the spring thus making it sit higher in the vehicle) the dimensions of ours is approx 3.5meters high, about 1.5meters wide at the top part with the discs about 1meter in diameter. in closing id have to say this machine is the most versatile machine for working metals ive ever encountered (though it took 4 years to completely master).
   Josh - Friday, 02/01/08 17:21:33 EST

Duco, a "field forge" would probably be a hole in the ground---easily built on a march. One at a fort would be more extensive. Bellows probably be the animal skin with opening version, paired and with a seperate individual to "power them". Fuel would be charcoal of course and the anvil not very large---there is a very nice one in the museum at Bath England.

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/01/08 18:16:07 EST

Dan, Try using vinegar in place of muratic acid. Takes a bit longer but is safer and won't rust your tools.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 02/01/08 20:07:37 EST

There is some concern in using biodisel in an engine with a distributer pump like a CAV or ROTO, as there is less lubrication with the bio fuels than with petrolium. From what I have read inline pumps like the BOSH tolerate bio better. The lack of sulfer may cause seals that were swelled by previous exposure to sulpher to shrink and leak. The lower energy in bio shouldn't be a problem unless the unit is marginal on power at full output with normal fuel.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/01/08 22:26:11 EST

Some folks on another forum are trying to identify a whatsit, and I thought someone here might help. It was found in an old blacksmith shop in England that is being cleaned out and restored, and can be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=87544&id=16076225390. Any ideas?
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 02/02/08 11:01:37 EST

Peter Possibly a chain making apparatus. The chain hangs on that so as to avoid a pile of hot chain on the floor. I didn't know either but have friends who do.
   - philip in china - Saturday, 02/02/08 18:42:40 EST

Philip: Exactly whay I thought, but nobody believes me. Could you forward the link to friends who might know?

   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 02/02/08 23:52:56 EST

Odd Tool, Looks like a chain makers fixture. They had lots of odd special tools that are not all in the book. See our review of "Chain Making in the Black Country" under rare and out of print. You can often get this one from Richard Postman.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/03/08 00:10:50 EST

Peter Hirst,
I would offer that some vissual examination of the item provides some clues.
1. The double nut at the small end of the spindle indicates to me that either something else was connected there, possibly mad of a material that rotted away was attached, or there was rotation expected and the double nut was a locking device.
2. The slightly taped bottom of the spindle with what apears to be a slot for a locking wedge or key also indicates that motion was expected.
3. The 4 evenly spaced legs, the large thrust collar on the spindle all suggest to me something to be a center support for a large device, perhaps a carosel. Imagine this at the top of the center pole of a traveling carosel, and once erected one would put either solid bars or chains onto the hooks to support the rotating carosel. Could also have been for a similar layout but for an industrial device.
This item does not cry out to me as a chain making device or aid. Too many legs, that thrust collar and so forth.
   ptree - Sunday, 02/03/08 10:43:08 EST

I want to make a pair of false jaws for my vise to hold round stock horizontaly - is there as simple design?

   adam - Sunday, 02/03/08 12:29:55 EST

Adam-- How about welding some angle iron onto some plate with clips?
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 02/03/08 12:38:05 EST

I'm writing a fantasy story and one of the main characters is a weaponsmith. What type of hammer would someone (in medival times )use to craft a waraxe or a sword?
   Brian Shafer - Sunday, 02/03/08 13:21:50 EST

What chemicals are used to etch a damascus blade ?
   Earl Aldrich - Sunday, 02/03/08 13:59:24 EST


The same sort of hammers that are used today for the same purpose. The hammer hasn't changed much in the last several hundred years, really. Different smiths have differing preferences in hammers.

Earl Aldrich,

One of the most commonly used is an aqueous solution of ferric chloride (FeCl). Other acids such as muriatic (HCl) will also work, as will vinegar (5% acetic acid in water). Different steel alloys react to etchants differently, so most makers experiment until they find what they like for a particular instance.
   vicopper - Sunday, 02/03/08 14:14:43 EST

Hammer: Probably a square crosspein like in the Mastermyr find. Simplest shape to forge. The weight would likely be 2# - 3#
   adam - Sunday, 02/03/08 15:02:34 EST

Hammer: for a slightly later medieval hammer pic look into "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" Gies & Gies; they have several pictures of medieval smiths.

Remember that as a weapon smith he will be working in a good sized town, probably on a street with other weapon or armour smiths. he will have 3+ assistants---which may include his wife and or daughter! and he will buy his materials not make them---save maybe for carburizing. This was the way it was done in medieval Europe.

(Also don't forget that he will be using real wrought iron and so working it *very* hot compared to modern steels!)

   Thomas P - Sunday, 02/03/08 15:24:13 EST

The odd tool looks similiar to a hanger I saw holding up a very large chandelier in an English castle. Sorry to say I can't remember which one. It was a huge multi-tiered wrought iron master piece designed to hold the large wax candles which were at least 4" diameter each. The whole thing was a true work of art and must have weighed tons. I assume it was original to the structure although so many castles have been rebuilt over the centuries it is hard to tell.
   Robert Cutting - Sunday, 02/03/08 15:27:20 EST

Guys! Guys! Jeez, wouldn't a fantasy weaponsmith at least have a hammer that he found frozen in a cleft in a rock, left there by Thor, who had forged it himself from magic ore that he had smelted in the crypt of the Great Wizard himself? Wouldn't this aspiring weaponsmith have to perform three deeds of derring-do before the hammer came loose? Would not the hammer then have to be blest by the... zzzzz... sorry, I musta dozed off there. You get the idea. Let's just suggest he uses your basic standard issue Tolkien/Rowling .50 cal. anvilbasher, lion gut thong-wrapped haft, with full-time Druidic assist and be done with it. Oh, and it comes with a apprentice, a sylph named Ariel.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 02/03/08 15:28:16 EST

Drat! I forgot! The sylph doesn't have too many clothes, as a rule. That's okay, 'cause she has a stunning resemblance to __________ (insert name of current hot starlet here). She sees visions, too. And she has a familiar: the cutest ittle monkey oo ever did see.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 02/03/08 15:34:02 EST

This place would not be half of what it is without you.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 02/03/08 16:14:57 EST

Miles, where can I get one of those scantly clad sylphs to assist in my shop? All I can find are smelly old guys and teenage boys who would rather play D &D
   Ptree - Sunday, 02/03/08 16:51:41 EST

Tom H-- Many thanks, sir! As the rodeo announcer says when the bronc rider doesn't make the buzzer, your applause is his (my) only reward. What Jock pays barely covers new pixels.
Ptree-- I am trying to work my way toward something on the order of to thine own sylph be true and thus it must follow, but.... Wait!! I think them sylphs usually appear in the misty, mystic fog that sets in just after you quaff the mead from the magick tankard.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 02/03/08 17:37:20 EST

Miles, I don't have a Magick tankard :( And i hate mead.
Guess its the Rock for me:) She has put up with me for a very long time now so far.
   ptree - Sunday, 02/03/08 19:26:49 EST

Don't egg him on guys, it'll just get worse with time.

Changing gears for a second, I was thinking of tweaking my current micro forge set up by adding forced air via pool float inflator. If I could set up a manifold or other way of directing more air at the intake of the torche(s), wouldn't that result in a hotter flame? Comments? Thoughts? Oh, and I will soon post pics of the Turkish ironwork I saw.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 02/03/08 20:19:02 EST

Nippulini -- speak for yourself (grin). I'd ship ptree a gross of Grade A Extra Large if he could get Miles to bring back the full Cracked Anvil crew.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 02/03/08 20:31:36 EST

I need to produce a mobile forge to do some work at a nearby village. I have a T shape of 2" pipe for the blower. One end has a large flange which will form the bottom of a round firepot. I have also got the blower. Does anybody have a favourite design and / or any hints please? Portable is not a word that springs readily to mind in my forge. Most of my products need a team of oxen to move them so I need advice.
   - philip in china - Sunday, 02/03/08 22:20:36 EST

ptree-- TGN and the inner voice of caution warn me to let this drop. However, I think you may be onto a whole 'nother story and one equally beguiling: a happily married smith who suddenly finds himself beset with a sylph, a cutie maybe only he can see, as an apprentice. Sounds like a winner of a sitcom to me.
Mike BR-- thanks, but last I heard Cracked, Chastity Dangerfield, Yummi DeLisch and henchperson Swarf were timewarped cozily back in the Dizzy Club on Holabird Avenue in the 50s, drinking Gunther, smoking unfiltered Camels, playing shuffleboard-- and not about to leave. Certainly not for any place as nutty as the America of 2008.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 02/03/08 22:42:15 EST

And the weaponsmith himself...wizened, deformed, seedy, and crippled. Good craftsman, though.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/03/08 22:47:10 EST

Nip: I have a #6 Turbotrorch burner [air/propane plumbers torch] that is big enough to stick Your thumb into the end of. Unfortunatly I don't know what brand it is, but You can probably find one at a comercial plumbing supply house. I think this would be about right for a small forge like Yours. I don't think blowing more air into an atmospheric burner will give You the result You are looking for, I think it will just make it too lean.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 02/03/08 23:27:51 EST

Nip, that burner might not be the Turbotorch brand, but it is a swirl flame. basicly a bigger version of what You are using now.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 02/03/08 23:32:00 EST

Frank-- fret not-- any sylph worthy of her diaphanous overalls could put a transformative hex on the seedy old swordbodger and make him into a studly dude in a jiffy.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/04/08 00:15:14 EST

Here's a couple a couple ideas I'm trying to wrap my head around. One is converting to oxy/propane. Any thoughts on the pros/cons and how involved it is. The second idea is putting a brake on a 25# little giant. Are there any write ups on how to and also the applications? I'm trying to keep a couple steps ahead of my sylph.
   andy - Monday, 02/04/08 00:16:30 EST


First off, you're going about this all wrong. The object is NOT to stay ahead of the sylph, it is to attain. Once you're clear on what to do about your sylph, everything else simply falls into place.

Easy enough to convert to oxy/propane, just get the appropriate tips, regulator and hose. You may or may not be able to use your acetylene regulator, it depends on the seal material. You must use type T hose, not the cheaper type R usually delivered with acetylene torch sets. The tips are a special internal mix type that is two pieces, but they're not that expensive.

Propane is more forgiving of poor technique when cutting, and somewhat cleaner. It is lousy for welding, however. works fine for heating with big rosebuds, but it gobbles up oxygen faster than acetylene. Would I do it? The answer is yes, I did. Haven't been sorry. I still use acetylene for welding. Be aware that soje places will not let you have a propane tank indoors, so you may have issues with the fire inspector. Mine said the acetylene was okay, but no propane indoors, period. I pipe it in.

I'll let somebody else take the LG brake question - I'm an air hammer man and those rattly, hoppy, clattery things make me nervous.
   vicopper - Monday, 02/04/08 01:32:41 EST

Philip: Look for a deep bowl. I suspect there are large truck brake drums available in China also. Some folks use old BBQ pans. Some folks use small sinks. Maybe a heavy-duty wok with a clay liner? Small washtub?

On propane vs oxy/ace, I do a fair bit of copper pipe soldering. One of those small blue propane bottles doesn't last me long. I was talking about it with a guy at my welding supply place - on the order of a larger propane bottle. He said why not use your oxy/ace unit. Heat is heat. He is right. While it might take a bit to heat up a joint with propane, believe me, it just takes a couple of seconds with oxy/ace.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Monday, 02/04/08 07:54:13 EST

How big is this mystery object?
From the pictures it looks as if the lower nut is a hex shape. What part of the world is this from?
As soon as I saw the piece the first thing that came to mind was that it's part of a hay sling.

We have to keep in mind that just because something was found in a smithy doesn't necessarily mean it was used in a smithy.
   JimG - Monday, 02/04/08 10:33:05 EST

Vicopper, I mostly use the torch for isolated quick heats and thought the propane might burn cleaner and be cheaper, but maybe with the quicker oxy consumption it evens out cost wise.
   andy - Monday, 02/04/08 11:10:20 EST

If the burner is burning at the proper mix blowing more air in *cools* *things* *down*; all the O2 needed is already being provided any extra gas is just cold stuff that needs to be heated.

Where air assist helps is when you can dump more fuel in than the burner would be able to aspirate combustion air for. Then added air can result in getting back to the proper mix.

This is why blown forge burners are simplier than aspirated ones. The aspirated ones have to make the fuel/air balance pretty much on their own. The blow one you can tinker with the gas or air flow till you get the mix you want and you can *change* it to be reducing, neutral or oxidizing at will.

Ken/Philip; a large truck brakedrum is much too large and heavy to move around and will need deep slots on the sides to get stock down to the hot spot---or will need filling to move the hot spot nearer the top. (I had a student/friend try this and end up junking the whole thing as it was several hundered pounds to move).

A pickup truck brake drum is a more appropriate size for a portable solid fuel forge.

   Thomas P - Monday, 02/04/08 12:15:11 EST

LG Brakes: Dave Manzer covered how to make an LG brake pretty well in his "How to Cure the Bang Tap Blues" AKA the Little Giant Tune up video. We sell it if you don't have a copy.
   - guru - Monday, 02/04/08 14:02:39 EST

Portable Forge: As you noted portability is proportional to the means to move something. Almost all non-permanent non-masonry (IE metal) forges were called "portable" by their manufacturers.

The classic "brake drum" forge shown on these pages is about the ultimate in home-built portability. I prefer to use old wheels rather than a brake drum as the wheels are foten a better size-shape. However, later model wheels are getting to have more holes than metal and are also often aluminium.

Using a wheel for both the fire pot and the base makes a nice sturdy but portable device. Other suitable materials are old hot water heaters. Hot water heater tanks come with a nice pan shape, are not too thick and have a covering of sheet metal that can be converted into a windbreak, hood and of stack.

The pan of a portable forge does not need to be any thicker than about 1/8". So auto wheels and old water tanks work well.
   - guru - Monday, 02/04/08 14:16:04 EST

Isnt oxy/acetelyene a bit hot for soldering? I use an air acetylene torch.

Otherwise I use oxy propane for cutting and heating. Oxy acetylene for welding and very fine work. The oxy acetylene flame is more concentrated and this can be usefule for jewelry work and the like. Like vic says - oxy propane is worthless for welding though its fine for brazing.
   adam - Monday, 02/04/08 15:41:50 EST

I did my copper pipe plumbing with oxy-acet, a small tip and don't hold it so close to the work.

Portable forge? Years ago, the Santa Clara coppersmiths came to the NM State Fair. Their forge was a charcoal fire on the ground with a tuyere pipe going in from one side. The bellows took up most of the room, as it was a double "concertina type" which is shown in Simmons & Turley, "SW Colonial Ironwork."
   Frank Turley - Monday, 02/04/08 17:22:36 EST

Phillip in China. I made a portable forge from a trailer tire wheel. About a 12" tire, had an almost perfect shape, and none of those pesky lightening holes now so prevealent on car wheels. The center hole was just right for a hunk of 2" pipe to be welded to for the ash dump. I dropped that into a flat plate with a bit of a lip taround the edges to hold the coal on top of the plate. Now this particular porta-forge is welded to a trailer made from an old mini-pick up truck bed. I can put an entire forge setup with tools and stock and so forth and still pull it with a car. The forge would be very easy to build as a wheelbarrow style so it could be rolled around and be portable without the trailer.
There will soon be a setp by step with photos across the street.
   ptree - Monday, 02/04/08 19:23:42 EST


If you contact Sid at the following URL:


and talk to him or his daughter about adding a brake to your Little Giant hammer, he will likely send you plans for free.

   - djhammerd - Monday, 02/04/08 19:40:01 EST

Hi all! I have snapped off a screw in an old aluminum window frame. Once years ago when I broke a tap inside a machined aluminum part that I ended up re-making, a co-worker told me there was an acid that would dissolve steel but not aluminum. Unfortunately, he could not remember which one. I am skeptical, but hopeful. Anyone know about an acid that can be used to dissolve stuck screws out of aluminum, or am I reaffirming my title as world's most gullible?
   Rob Curry - Monday, 02/04/08 22:18:35 EST

Rob-Hydrofluoric acid is what I think you are thinking about. It is a main ingredient in the spray you use to clean chrome wheels.

Thanks for all the replies on my question about what type of hammer to use for a story I'm writing. Thomas P thanks for the additional info on forge assistants. Mile Undercut, whatever meds you are taking, I want some.
   Brian Shafer - Monday, 02/04/08 23:31:59 EST

Thanks for the input...
   andy - Monday, 02/04/08 23:34:03 EST

Brian-- no meds, just spend 60 years or so reading SF/fantasy, myths, legends, Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces, etc. Ummm, wait! How can that possibly be, when I only just turned 29, same as last year?
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 02/05/08 00:07:31 EST

Soldering Torches: For soft soldering copper pipe I use a BernsOmatic ST 4000 with a 1# propane bottle. This is a self lighting torch, push the button and You have FIRE, beats a "filck of a Bick" anyday for lighting anything from forges to fireworks. The short fat bottle doesn't fall over as easy, and it is extremely portable compaired to a torch with a bigger tank on a hose. This is pretty fast on 1/2"& 3/4" pipe but I have used it on 1 1/2" sucessfully. These torches use a swirl flame burner, much better for pipe soldering than a pencil flame air/propane torch. I use oxy/acetylene for hard soldering HVAC lines with SilFos, as air acetylene is marginal on temperature for hard solder. Oxy propane would be fine for this use. Propane in refilable cylinders is extremely inexpensive as fuel gasses go.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 02/05/08 00:17:54 EST

Portable forge source:

How about an old well pressure tank? Those seem to have fairly thick walls and would be easier to move around than a water heater. I see them all the time at the dump, and can probably get some free ones from a plumber.
   - Marc - Tuesday, 02/05/08 09:59:43 EST

Marc, Same type tank and general wall thicknesses. However, the bladder type that are pretty much standard today are much thinner walled. Probably too thin. Good choice but not as common. There are under counter hot water heaters that have a nice short tank. As to weight, you are going to cut off all but about 3 to 4" . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/05/08 10:28:37 EST

Oxy-Propane: The advantage to this as a fuel source is for cutting and heavy heating. It is cheaper and more convenient than acetylene. You can use it with small torches for soldering but is very difficult to weld steel with. Cutting also requires a different technique that has a longer learning curve than OA.

Where Oxy-Propane really shines is for using a rosebud. It is MUCH better as you can use a large tank in place of ganging several acetylene bottles together. It also makes a slightly softer quieter flame which is much less stressful to the user than holding on to the rocket engine OA rosebud.

OA is still hotter and easier to do very fine work with as well as welding.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/05/08 10:37:11 EST

Okay, I am still going to try the pool float inflator idea. If I am wrong, then I will learn from my own stupidity. Seriously though, the back end of the microforge roof has a slit in it, welded a funnel on the top and directed the hot air at the intake(s) of the torches. I use a Bernz-o-matic standard propane torch at the front and a Bernz TZ-8000 MAPP torch at the rear. I usually run on plain propane and turn up the MAPP for added heat when I want. I'll have to take a pic of it and post so you guys have an idea of what I am working with now. This is my 3rd forge design and is so far better than any of my previous ones. Hardly any dragons breath at all!
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/05/08 12:30:57 EST

On oxy/ace soldering I should have mentioned this is bench work for my propane forges. Oxy/ace unit sits just feet away so I'm not dragging it around doing regular plumbing work. Has worked rather well so far.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Tuesday, 02/05/08 13:34:51 EST

My substitute teacher, Winslow Morgan, was using the double hammer upsetting technique last Saturday, and wound up on You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18z2UgRyqBo

I caught one of the "new viruses", and am recovering.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/05/08 19:19:22 EST

Guru Thank you for advising muriatic acid for etching my junk yard Damascus . I have good results. Is it necessary to heat treat to nonmagnetic and then temper. The metals I used were spring steel sewer rod, tooth out of rock crusher,leaf spring 1950 dodge powerwagon, 1" vanadium wrench, and 1040 bar stock. I forge welded and folded to eighty layers. Thanks. Gator
   Gator - Tuesday, 02/05/08 21:11:11 EST

Rob try ammonia for steel stuck in aluminum, this courtesy of Sheldon Brown dot com bicycle repair website.

   blackbart - Tuesday, 02/05/08 21:18:28 EST

Ken - Do You use a gas saver valve with a pilot light? that would be the "Cat's A**"
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 02/05/08 22:03:23 EST


I tried that ammonia trick (which I learned about from the same source) once. It worked for me. My understanding, though is the the ammonia -- regular household stuff -- dissolves aluminum oxide. Good for parts that are corroded in place. Not sure if it would work on a tap jammed in freshly cut threads.

By the way, I read on another site that Sheldon passed away a couple of days ago.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 02/05/08 22:39:34 EST

i have been blacksmithing for 1 year now for a balcksmith just down the road. it is time fo me to make my own set of spurs ive been in spurs sence i was knee high.so my question is how do i put the silver onto the finished pair of spurs i know there is going to be some engraving but thats no problem ive been engraving glass for awhile?
   jake g - Tuesday, 02/05/08 23:08:21 EST

Jake G,

Silver is either soldered on as overlays or inlaid cold into spaces that have metal graved away and dovetailed edges. The edges are hammered down to hold the pieces in place. Silver wire can be led into dovetailed channels. All of the above require mucho practice.

Ref: "How to Make Bits and Spurs" by Robert M. Hall, 1985. ISBN # 0-914330-78-0

Ref: Video. "Cowboy Bit and Spur Making", 1994 Jerwemiah Watt; "Heritage Trades" Videos. http://www.ranch2arena.com/videoeng.html
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/05/08 23:29:44 EST

Heat Treating Laminated Steel: Gator, Tempering is one step in several of heat treating. All heat treating is done prior to the final grind and etching.

Unless you are using a known combination of known materials in a set proportion as specified by someone who has given a recommended heat treat then you are on your own. AND since you are using several junk yard steels then Junk Yard Steel rules apply.

The way Daryl Meier would determine the heat treatment is to list the various steels' heat treatments then determine the ranges for each step that overlapped each steel. Sometimes this meant going to one limit or the other in opposite directions for different steels. However, this just gave you the best theoretical heat treatment. After that you would need to treat it as Junk Yard Steel since you are now the manufacturer (AND your own metallurgist).
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/06/08 11:59:42 EST

Ah. . the above is why you want to start with known alloys and possibly investigate the heat treatment specs before putting them together.

In the NEW BigBLU bladesmithing video Mike Norris forge welds stainless without flux!

   - guru - Wednesday, 02/06/08 13:23:40 EST

Hi there. I have been perusing the iForge list for a few weeks and have a question about the August 11, 1999 demo- Bill Epps' making of roses. He mentioned that somebody out there sells the "rose discs" but I have been unable to find them. Is there still a vendor out there who sells the pre-cut discs? If so, where?

Thank you and have a nice day!
Metal J
   Metal J - Wednesday, 02/06/08 13:30:30 EST

TGN please tell me I misread and you are not funnelling hot exhaust back into the intake of the burner! Makes CO production ZOOM!

Instead you are using the hot exhaust to preheat the combustion air but they never meet!

Thomas trying to recover from an upper respiratory infection
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/06/08 14:00:16 EST

Re-using hot air: this is generally not a great idea since the Oxygen has been largely depleted by the first run through the burner. This "air" will be high in CO and CO2 as Caughing Thomas stated. It will not lend anything significant to the combustion efficiency since the burning of the methane must now reheat the depleated "hot" air. This is a thermal load on the burner that deprives the flame of some amount of heat that should go into the refractories and the workpiece. Now if you use a heat exchanger to pre-heat cold air that has not been through the burner once, you might make a difference.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 02/06/08 14:12:21 EST

Metal J, Blacksmiths Depot and our other suppliers have carried them. They come in and out of inventory so check.

   - guru - Wednesday, 02/06/08 14:40:23 EST

Could you please tell me the temperatures for the hardening (oil) and tempering (plain water) quenches for 1095? I dink around outside and the temp. varys considerably. I've been thinking of tightening up contols with temp. adjustable baths of some sort. Any help would help. Thanks!
   Harrison Rice - Wednesday, 02/06/08 16:02:05 EST

I have a question about a knife. Not how to make one..it's already made, but it needs refinishing. It's an old surplus bayonet that my dad had when I was a kid. I want to spruce it up to a "show piece" and give it back to him. I'm doing all the leather, (sheath, handle), but I need direction on finishing the blade. Right now, it's got some surface rust, and I want to either have a gunsmith hot blue it, or I'll stick it in my forge and oil quench it. Would I screw up the kinfe doing that? Any ideas would be appreciated.
   Donnie - Wednesday, 02/06/08 16:12:12 EST

Metal J, www.saber.net/~jere/rose.html
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/06/08 17:51:03 EST


If you heat the blade beyond more than about 350 degrees, you'll affect the heat treatment. You're probably best off refinishing the blade by careful sanding and polishing, followed by cold bluing. Good modern cold blue formulas applied properly will be nearly as durable as hot bluing and will not affect the blade's heat treatment. Some hot bluing is done at temperatures low enough not to cause a problem, and others are done at high enough temperatures that they might draw the temper too much. Since the blade is a show piece, rather than a combat "user", I'd err on the side of safety, myself.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 02/06/08 18:44:02 EST

Lots of owners of antiques who with the best of intentions spruced them up, sanding, dipping, etc. have heard the expert appraisers tell them on Antiques Roadshow their piece would have been worth a whole lot more if they had left the signs of ageing alone. Whatever you do with the bayonet, do NOT use Naval Jelly. It eats the surface.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 02/06/08 19:16:42 EST

Cold rolled vs. hot rolled 1095 for knives?
   Harrison Rice - Wednesday, 02/06/08 19:22:37 EST

Anyone know of any uses for scale. I've seen a punch lube that had some in it. I was also thinking that maybe you could turn it back into iron with a thermite reaction? Any thoughts anyone?
   - Hollon - Wednesday, 02/06/08 19:40:04 EST

"Ken - Do You use a gas saver valve with a pilot light? that would be the "Cat's A**""

The only handle/head/whatever I use is a Henrob 2000 or such. I predominately use it as a thin metal "Poor Boy's" plasma cutter and heat source. Many years ago I was taught during my oxy/ace welding class to turn off the tanks when the torch isn't lit. My pilot light is then setting the head down on someplace to continue running while I change stock position.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Wednesday, 02/06/08 19:49:58 EST

Hollo, when I worked at the axle shop we made about 16 tons of scale every three weeks. I searched and searched as it struck me as bed biz to pay for steel, turn the surface to scale with expensive energy, and then pay to put the scale we also paid to remove into a landfill. The problem is the stuff blows right back out of most any scrap melting furnace. It did not even attract attention as a smelt feed stock as ore. It does have a use however for the blacksmith. it makes great filler for hollow home built power hammers and so forth. fill and run and keep adding till no more will go in. The stuff is very dense, and once a little mosture gets in it, it gets VERY solid.

I tested it as punch lube, report across the street. Can't reccomend it for that use.
   ptree - Wednesday, 02/06/08 19:50:24 EST

Isn't fine, graded, scale used as crocus cloth?
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/06/08 19:54:11 EST

I'm saving scale for a bloomery smelt.........
   - TM - Wednesday, 02/06/08 23:44:15 EST

Crocus cloth uses iron oxide for the abrasive, but I don't really know any more about it than that.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/06/08 23:45:16 EST

Re-phrase; Is there a performance trade off between hot rolled or cold rolled 1095?
   Harrison Rice - Thursday, 02/07/08 00:20:49 EST


Nope, if you're forging it then it is all the same.
   vicopper - Thursday, 02/07/08 01:19:38 EST

I was reading your article on sword smithing Gen X, and I'm very interested in creating an aluminum wall hanger. Obviously Ive no use for a real sword and i dont have the knowledge or means to forge one from steel.
   Kalvin - Thursday, 02/07/08 03:43:39 EST

I was reading your article on sword smithing Gen X, and I'm very interested in creating an aluminum wall hanger. Obviously Ive no use for a real sword and i dont have the knowledge or means to forge one from steel. My question (and please excuse my ignorance) is, is a forge, tempering etc. necissary when fabricating an aluminum wall hanger? (also sorry for the double post)
   Kalvin - Thursday, 02/07/08 03:46:43 EST

I am still trying to source an anvil for my place in Bulgaria. http://www.prumyslovy-servis.cz/index_soubory/Page427.htm is quite close being in Czech republic. They sell Euroanvil, Peddinghaus Anvils and Habermann Anvils. What are the differences please? Which would be most appropriate for a one man forge making and fixing farm tools and similar fairly rough work? Has anybody had anything from this factory? If so how is the quality? I know the Euroanvils are pretty good value so I presume everything else should be OK.

BTW happy year of the rat to you all.
   - philip in china - Thursday, 02/07/08 03:49:32 EST

Now you tell me! When the exhaust is pointed directly at the torch intake it sputters a bit, so I would keep it indirect. What's the best pre heat method for air? Hair dryer?
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 02/07/08 08:58:13 EST

Al Wall Hanger, Kalvin, Not unless you want to go that route for some of the parts. The aluminum is all sawed and filed to shape then polished. The furniture can be brass, stainless steel or aluminum and is made the same way. In fact, the furniture on most blades of all types is carved from solid stock unless it is cast.

Machinery can speed this project but is not needed. I gave a detailed list of the required tools in the article. A drill press helps a lot if riveted connections are used. If you have access to a milling machine many of the parts also go faster but it is not necessary and is rare in most small blade shops.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/07/08 09:15:28 EST

Pre-heat or recupritive furnace Nip, some type of heat exchanger is used. On the ABANA plan there is an exhaust on the rear of the forge and the burner tubes pass through it at an angle. A front vent "chimney" above the door would also work. A flattened thin wall SS tube passing through the chimney would heat the air. I would use a flattened tube to reduce its cross section and proportionally increase its surface area.

The sputtering is lack of oxygen in the exhust being fed into the burner. As noted, ANY extra CO2 greatly increases the CO from your forge. DON'T DO IT! IF for some reason the forge operates better then you were getting too much air relative to the fuel.

Hot air intake helps in many cases and is the rule for efficiency on many industrial furnaces. A little preheat on a forge can be useful but you can push the gains too far and end up overheating the metal.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/07/08 09:26:09 EST

Anvils: Phillip, First, the anvil types listed are "styles" that often infringe on popular brand names. They have nothing to do with these reputable firms. Some of these products are made in the same foundries but there have been a lot sold through unofficial channels.

There is no difference in metallurgy between this group of anvils. The differences are shape which is mostly a personal preference. However, over the years the foundries and shops making them have changed a number of times due to various problems.

What is important is WHO you are dealing with. The rep for one of these lines in Europe sold a number of a badly cast anvils to a school and several broke. He would not back them up and they were obviously defective.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/07/08 09:46:53 EST

SAE 1095 Harrison, See our Heat Treating FAQ. It has details on this and several other alloys.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/07/08 09:51:39 EST

Steel Forms, Hot Rolled vs Cold. See our FAQ on "Steel Product Types".
   - guru - Thursday, 02/07/08 09:53:06 EST

My lady and I have decided that we would much rather make our own wedding rings then to purchase them. We are still a few years to that point, but I would love to actually have some skill at it before I make her final product.

I was hoping someone here (as in this is the most filled website on smithing I have ever seen) could help steer me in the right direction of things or their names.

Futhark (old english runes) and the hebrew script punches or presses. I have been quite into viking culture for a really long time and my girlfriend comes from a very jewish family. I am not sure if they are called stamps, punches or presses, or where would be best to find them.

Some sort of metal that is not gold would be good to get practice with. I was going to try and use brass, just wondering if this is a good plan. (gold, obv. as it's real damn expensive.)

Also, any tutorials I have found on preparing the mould have kind of left out a couple of steps. The part that I think I am missing is how the sand stuff hardens, when it is ready for molten metals, and how the pouring/gas esacpe holes are to be situated.

And as a side note, once the snow's all gone a friend and I are going to be doing some backyard/junkyard smithing experiments with the brake drum and a bunch of rail road ties, I'm really excited.

   Kyle TR - Thursday, 02/07/08 10:09:32 EST

Rail road spikes**
your iforge is really a must see for people getting into smithing.
   Kyle TR - Thursday, 02/07/08 10:11:42 EST

Where can I get plans to build the sheet metal forge used in the Raising of a Norman Helmet by Eric Thing?
   Don - Thursday, 02/07/08 10:28:18 EST

where can I get plans for a sheet metal forge like the one used in Eic Things raising a norman helmet?
   Don - Thursday, 02/07/08 10:38:38 EST

Kyle, I have seen Hebrew script punches for leatherwork, and I'd bet somebody like Rio Grande jewelers' supply offers them for metal. I haven't seen any rune stamps (the futhark comes in several flavors, not just Anglo-Saxon), but they'd be easy enough to make using the techniques on the iForge page for matrix punches. The Hebrew characters would be harder to do that way, what with the differing line widths and curves. I know somebody does make large runic stamps, since you see so much single-rune silver jewelry at new-age shops, but they may not be the correct set for your preferred culture.

I'd use copper for initial practice, as brass can be hard to deal with depending on alloy. Copper will work-harden as well, but is easily annealed. Not much will be as soft or easy to stamp as the gold you're planning on using. You don't want to wear straight copper jewelry, though, so once you get the hang of stamping, bending, and hard-soldering on heavy copper wire scrap I'd move up to sterling silver. That way you can wear what you've made if you like how it turned out, or sell it as a sideline. You can buy half-round and low-dome silver wire to use as ring or thin bangle bracelet stock without having to invest $$$$ in a jewelers' rolling mill. You don't get as much flexibility in size, but it's a LOT cheaper to buy preformed wire and find out if you have the talent and/or interest in continuing before you lay out serious cash.

I would not try sand-casting rings with fine lettered detail as a first project, but as an alternative to stamping you could go with the lost-wax process and fine investment casting if you know someone who does jewelry investment casting. You carve the designs/letter into a hard wax ring presized to fit and go from there. This also requires expensive equipment and involves much more danger than working with wire.

My personal best advice is to take a jewelry class. Lots of places offer them, look in local bead stores, buy jewelry magazines, check out local colledges, and so on. Like blacksmithing, jewelry is something you CAN pick up on your own, but it's SO much easier if you get a good foundation in a class or from a pro first.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 02/07/08 12:00:57 EST

Thank you, Alan.
As it is only early in the idea phase I am just doing a lot of research as it is. I very much doubt I'll be using stamps for quite some time, just wondering where they can be found and what they are called.

I still have much research left, and a life time of questions more to ask. I'll be back in the near future.

thank you.
   Kyle TR - Thursday, 02/07/08 12:31:16 EST

Kylr, adfter you have taken the jewlery class, may I suggest you take a look at the materials offered by Shinning Wave at http://www.shiningwave.com/index.html in strip and other forms. You might find some patterns will work well for you intended rings.
   - Bob Johnson - Thursday, 02/07/08 13:18:41 EST

Kyle, after you have taken the jewlery class, may I suggest you take a look at the materials offered by Shinning Wave at http://www.shiningwave.com/index.html in strip and other forms. You might find some patterns will work well for you intended rings.
   - Bob Johnson - Thursday, 02/07/08 13:20:33 EST

Punching Runes:

I use two punches, a long one (|) for the "tree" or "stave" and one about 33% for the "branches", mostly from anealed, filed and then hardened "square" masonry nails. Quality depends upon the steadiness of the hand, so sometimes I do better than others. Much practice on cheap metals is a good thing.

Once again, the jewelry classes and stamp sources are proabably a better idea.

"Runesmithing since before 1969."
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 02/07/08 14:29:43 EST

Right, runes are just lines, so with a little practice I am sure i can get them without an individual stamp for each.
Thanks for the tip, and also thanks for the link, I'll check that out now.
   Kyle TR - Thursday, 02/07/08 14:36:02 EST

Making rings with fine patterns.
As many have suggested if fabricating coper is good fro practice. it will also teach you about work hardening and sterling silver and most of the lower karet golds will also workharden.
You did not advise your general location in the world, but I may be able to offer some help;
Most large cities have "comercial Jewlors" that do repair and manufacture. If you wish to lost wax cast, you merely have to make the wax positives and take them to the proffesional folks who will cast them for you. It will cost but not nearly what the equipment to do it would. One has a much better shot (thats a pun Rich) at getting good casting the first time around this way as well.

second if going the fabricating method, then ask your lady to ome up wit som old jewels from former boyfriends. One good sized highschool ring will make a pair of normal wedding rings. You might also donate to the cause.
These can be easily melted in an inexpensive crucible and then forged into sheet, and then fabrictaed to your hearts desire. Rich, another jeweler who saw the light of hot iron also writes on this forum and he advocates a forged seamless ring. also way cool.

Last but not least, the symbolism of taking old items from previous loves and forging them into something for the new relationship is something he ladies love. Let her help. It will have much meaning then. If so when she is not looking swipe a little bit, enough to make a tiny little ring for the babies that may come into your life. Hide that scrap an use it when needed. Tie a ribbon on the ring and then around the babies wrist for a picture only then remove and the new Mom wears on a chain. Thats a gauranteed ataboy.
I know cause I did just that. and also for some friends as well.

"Forged jewelery since 1975" Still on the same wif since 1981, + 4 kids:)
   ptree - Thursday, 02/07/08 14:47:26 EST

We are most interested so far in the lost wax method.
I imagine it would be possible to make a ring using this method and then after apply designs?

Also, this is the kit I almost bought, before sense and research kicked in. Just wondering what the whole sand casting deal is about. ebay item 250206283333

Copper and old jewelry will be definite uses for practice. If by chance, while I make the final product I mess up, can you just melt the ring and start over or does the metal have to be treated? I've been browsing over this site for a long time now, nothing too serious and have always read about metal gets worn out or over used, metal treating and all that jazz.

Which of the casts so far mentioned can be reused?

For future sake, I am from Halifax, NS, Canada.
Thanks for help.

   Kyle TR - Thursday, 02/07/08 15:16:59 EST

Yes I had seen the list, and thank you for taking the time to compile it. I was asking because i hadn't seen a forge mentioned in that particular part of the article and i wanted to double check before i leaped into it. You've been a great help, thank you.
   - Kalvin - Thursday, 02/07/08 16:34:00 EST

Kyle TR, one can often remelt gold and silver several times without much problems. While in the crucible, you use a pinch of borax to clean the dross off, and while some of the alloying metals get lost if you don't heat too long i have not had much problems.
There are also casting metals that come in casting grain that mimic most of the gold karets. Much cheaper.
In lost wax, you carve a positive model EXACTLY as you wish it to be when cast, and bingo that is usually what you get. I have handled wax models that were warmer than I thought and got perfect fingerprints cast into the surface:) Not big impressions, but just like on my finger:)
I have tried the little sand cast kits many years ago and was dissapointed. I don't think sandcast will give the finish and detail one gets from lost wax. we often used a blow flame to "polish" the wax surface to give a very very smooth finish that greatly reduces the finishing work needed to get a high polish.
   ptree - Thursday, 02/07/08 18:05:43 EST


You can re-melt precious metals a number of times without serious degradation, as long as you don't overheat and keep the molten metal well fluxed.

Sand casting is a really poor method for jewelry making, in my opinion. That opinion is based upon a degree in Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design and nearly forty years of working with metals. Sand casting definitely has its place, but for jewelry work, lost wax casting is vastly superior and actually easier to learn and do. You can do lost wax casting with very simple equipment or you can get very elaborate, but the process is still fundamentally the same. I can produce a pair of cast rings using less than ten bucks worth of equipment and they will be virtually indistinguishable from rings made using equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars - the process really IS that simple. The key ingredient is KNOWLEDGE.

Get some books on jewelry making and read them first. I suggest "The Design and Creation of Jewelry" by Robert VonNeumann, "Creative Casting" by Sharr Choate, "Metal Techniques for Craftsmen" by Oppi Untracht and "Silversmithing" by Rupert Feingold and William Seitz. You should be able to get all of them through Inter-Library Loan System or from used book dealers. In these four books you'll find all the information you need to get a very thorough grounding in jewelry making and several other aspects of metal working. Enough that, with a bit of thought and experimentation, you can figure out how to cast your rings very successfully. Remember, the lost wax casting process has been around for millenia, long before all the snazzy expensive equipment was ever invented. You can do it, believe me!

For casting practice, I'd recommend sterling silver. It isn't that expensive and can be re-used several times if you wish. What you discover using it is directly applicable to working with karat golds, and the sterling will produce wearable jewelry itself.

Most community colleges and universities offer silversmithing courses, some available as evening classes. Additionally, a number of silversmiths offer classes through their cities' recreation departments, schools and/or vocational training programs. Check around see what is available in Halifax. Taking a class gives you access to equipment that you might not otherwise be able to afford, as well as providing the opportunity to get hands-on help from a professional. Don't overlook the possibility of exchanging some of your labor for some instruction from a local jeweler, either. One of them may be willing to teach you a bit in exchange for doing some of the scut work around the shop, such as cleaning castings, buffing, re-melting scrap, cleanup work, etc. Most dedicated craftsmen are happy to help out someone who is truly sincere about wanting to learn, though mos tof them have been burned at some time in the past and will be a bit gun-shy at first. Keep in mind that what they have to offer is valuable and that there must be a fair exchange for them to be interested. I get lots of people who want to take up my time but who have nothing to offer in return - the rare one who is actually willing to work for the knowledge will be welcomed.

After you have obtained some of the books and read them, come back with your questions. When you have some background information you will be better able to ask meaningful quesitons and I will be better able to provide useful answers for you.
   vicopper - Thursday, 02/07/08 18:40:59 EST

Don: To my knowledge Eric Things spot forges are shop made by him, and have gone through several variations. Best you can do is to try to copy his latest designs.

I made one for someone in CA who does Roman Legion-era armor plates and such. He said it roared like a jet engine and produces a rather amazing amount of forge-area heat. My one and only attempt at Eric's design due to potential liability questions.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Thursday, 02/07/08 18:57:47 EST

Just starting out. I bought a rivet forge a week ago. cleaned it all up. on the bottom of the pan it says to put clay on the surface. Then I asked a few people down here I get answers like no, line it with fire brick, put more coal then coke. also having hard time finding tools lost in Las Palomas New Mexico
   Charlie Miranda - Thursday, 02/07/08 21:44:42 EST

Just starting out. I bought a rivet forge a week ago. cleaned it all up. on the bottom of the pan it says to put clay on the surface. Then I asked a few people down here I get answers like no, line it with fire brick, put more coal then coke. also having hard time finding tools lost in Las Palomas New Mexico
   Charlie Miranda - Thursday, 02/07/08 21:46:15 EST

Charlie, Join swaba.abana-chapter.com On thir website, you will see that Stan Urbanski is selling smithing tools in Caballo, NM. There will be a regional blacksmith meeting Feb 16th-17th at the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, Las Cruces.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/07/08 22:13:33 EST

thank you vtree and vicopper.
this is exactly what I needed, some sort of direction to start in. Like I said, it's only been a few days into researching. Although I still feel like I don't know what I am doing, I am becoming more comfortable in saying i know what to start learning. This site is really something, will send people here to start learning.

Thanks again
   Kyle TR - Thursday, 02/07/08 23:09:58 EST

Hollon, Ptree, I can think of 2 uses for scale: iron-rich soil supplement, and filler for concrete and asphalt. Don't know if anyone takes it for these uses these days, but cement companies used to haul baghouse iron finds away from the shipyard for free (almost the same material -- residue from sandblasting steel), saving us the cost of disposal. Last I heard, they stopped doing this and the yard was disposing of the stuff in the landfill.

Thanks Brian Shafer, Black Bart, and Mike BR for your responses to my broken screw. As it turns out, I got it out mechanically without damaging the frame. I hope I never need to test your suggestions, but if I do I will report the results back to you.
   - Rob Curry - Thursday, 02/07/08 23:29:17 EST

Eric Thing's Forges: Eric has sent me a very nice article that I will post as soon as I get off this out of town job.
   - guru - Friday, 02/08/08 09:42:13 EST

Small Castings: A product called ?????? Clay, an ultra fine petrobond sand, is used by many jewelers today and sold by jewelery tool suppliers. I have used it and gotten excellent results. It is very fast and easy to use. It is also reusable and does not require tempering. See our News articles on the West Virginia Armour-Ins. Brass castings made using this product went straight to the

Sorry I cannot remember the name of the product this AM.
   - guru - Friday, 02/08/08 09:53:52 EST

Claying Forges: See our FAQ on the subject.
   - guru - Friday, 02/08/08 09:56:04 EST

. . .castings went straight to the buffer. . .
   - guru - Friday, 02/08/08 09:57:33 EST

Delft clay. (Good tip!)
   Matt B - Friday, 02/08/08 12:16:58 EST

Hmm. Second try:

Delft clay.
   Matt B - Friday, 02/08/08 12:18:09 EST

Third try:

Delft clay.
   Matt B - Friday, 02/08/08 12:19:10 EST

Scale as an iron-supplement for your soil: Nope. Won't break down and can't be absorbed by the plants without chelating. Just sits in the soil and rusts into a glob. Don't ask how I know that. Might work for cinder-blocks but I don't think any of us can generate enough to make it commercially viable. If you can, your gasser might need adjustment.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 02/08/08 13:42:47 EST

Charlie; welcome to the NM smithing community! Note that you do not need to be a SWABA member to attend the Hammer-In and it would be a great place to meet a lot of other smiths and find some stuff to buy---I believe at least 1 gas forge builder will be selling there. (We would be happy to have you join our group too; but you can check us out first!)

Stan is actually quite close to you and so would be a good place to go "shopping".

NM is not nearly as tool rich as the midwest and so items are harder to find and prices are higher than back in OH; but I have seen 4 anvils and about 20 sets of tongs come through the Socorro NM fleamarket since I moved here and bought 2 large post vises at the Tumbleweed Auction's spring sale once (coming up soon).

I'm just out of Socorro NM; so if you are ever in the area let me know!

Unfortunately I will be missing the conference as I'll be at a Medieval event in AZ from Feb 11-Feb 18 and will be away from e-mail, electricity, etc.

Thomas Powers, Vice President of SWABA
   Thomas P - Friday, 02/08/08 13:47:11 EST

Scale; I'm saving mine for a bloomery run. I want to see if I can get any of the alloying elements from the modern steels into a bloom---very iffy as just a small temperature difference can double the uptake of certain elements in the ore...

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/08/08 13:48:52 EST

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday by an invitation to demonstrate the spring festival at a sheep farm near here. So surprised, in fact, that when I was asked how much I charged, I had no response. Well, other than, " doh, whatever you usually pay I'm sure will be fine . . ." I was perfectly prepared to just show up, set up, heat it up and sell what I could. Then they started talking about what kind of tent they should buy for me and a zillion other amenities I didn't expect. Now, without getting into an actionable conspiracy here, or intruding on trade secrets, can I get any guidance what one should resonably ask?

This is a one-day event at a small sheep farm, non-profit owner. There will be working dogs, assorted farm animals, sheep shearing, a dozen or so weaver/spinners, hayride, a thousand or so visitors. No admission charge. Good cause, but a good opportunity too?

Thanks for any guidance.
   Peter Hirst - Friday, 02/08/08 14:33:14 EST

Peter Hirst: I would do it for gas & coal costs. Great opportunity to hand out business cards.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Friday, 02/08/08 18:52:38 EST

Sandblast and shot blast debris, (scale) are classified as "special waste" or hazardous waste, and so are often not easy to dispose of. That is why I was trying so hard to find a recycle route. If recycled the waste ceases to exist in the eyes of the Gov't. Waste in a landfill is the generators FOREVER, by law.
   ptree - Friday, 02/08/08 19:26:26 EST

I am just beginng to work metal (knives mostly). I am 52. I would like to build a propane fired forge from the burner out of a turkey fryer! Do you think it will work or have You ever heard of a pipedream like this one?
Thanks for your time c-ya Bob
   Bob - Friday, 02/08/08 19:50:50 EST

I'm off to Estrella, packing the forge in the truck over the weekend and heading out Monday morning. I'll be back online around Feb 19th.

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/08/08 19:58:19 EST

Peter Hirst,

I don't know what your status is as far as being a professional smith. If you make your living smithing, then you should charge at least as much for demonstrating as you could make in the same period of time in your shop. To do anything less is unprofessional. The demonstrators I know charge anywhere from 300/day to 1000/day.

Keep in mind that you are both an educator and an entertainer when you are demonstrating, and you have to provide your own tools and materials. You are generally expected to be performing for at least six hours during the day, perhaps more or less depending on the event. Do you need to provide your own PA system? Will your demo be filmed or recorded, and if so, who owns the rights? Who is carrying the liability insurance for the demo and what are the provisions of it? Who is responsible for the security of the tools, the demo area, the visitors? Do you need to have prepared handouts? Is this a "period" demo where you have to stay in character?

All these are some of the questions that need to be asked and answered before you can decide on a price. Or if you even want to do it at all. If you're a professional and the event doesn't carry insurance, you will probably be liable for any claims. Will your insurance cover you?

ONe last thing to keep in mind is that many people feel better if they know the demonstrator is a paid perfromeer who comes from some distance - what I call the 500/500 rule. When you come from more than 500 miles away and charge $500/day you automatically are the "authority" and thus have much more credibility than you would in your own back yard.

If you are a hobby smith, then you have to decide whether or not charging them makes you a professional in the eyes of the authorities and may change your tax status, etc. Lots of things to consider, for sure.
   vicopper - Friday, 02/08/08 20:06:08 EST

Peter Hirst-- get a solid fix, in writing if possible, on who holds the bag if little Samantha, in the front row of observers, catches a chunk of hot stuff flying off your anvil in her pretty blue eye. Etc.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 02/08/08 21:58:30 EST

Wow. Quite a reange of responses (depth, too). Thanks for the input. Actually I'm just making the move from hobby to pro: third career. I've been working with an established smith, who passed this gig on to me. SO I feel a special obligation to get it right. I really appreciate everyon's help
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 02/09/08 00:18:53 EST

Got a power hammer set-up question, but before I take up Guru tme here, I want to make sure I didn't miss something on the PH page. Despite its caption, I don't find any how-to articles there. Am I overlooking something?
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 02/09/08 02:58:28 EST

Vicopper says "When you come from more than 500 miles away and charge $500/day you automatically are the "authority" and thus have much more credibility than you would in your own back yard." I cannot agree with this more. As a semi-retired stage performer I could tell you countless times where I got seriously unerpaid/underpromoted when I got gigs in my own hometown of Philly, yet they fork over tons of cash to outside performers. One of the many reasons I decided to retire years ago. Pete, always remember the kiddie jokes and avoid profanity at ALL costs! Make a cow bell and roll with this one when you're finished "Why do cows wear bells?? Because their HORNS don't work!"
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 02/09/08 09:58:17 EST

Peter- I've been in your situation myself, and I'll second Miles and vicooper in saying CHECK YOUR INSURANCE! That being said you need to decide if you are there to in general promote and teach blacksmithing or to promote your business and make contacts and sales. If this is a teaching gig with less opportunity for personal gain then ask for teaching rates. If you are going to give away 1000 business cards 100 fliers and give 10 architects or designers copies of your portfolio then decide what that advertiseing is worth to you. Will there be a table for your marketing stuff and samples? (I hope you have lots of samples!) Also, can you talk and work at the same time? Not everyone can so a little practice could help. Good luck!
   Jud Yaggy - Saturday, 02/09/08 10:00:08 EST

An old saying. "An expert is a man more than 100 miles from home with an attaché case."
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 02/09/08 10:37:24 EST

I was wondering what the highest pressure I can safely use in my gas forge(propane).Also any ideas on how I can get it hpot enough for forge welding?It's all home made.
   Don - Saturday, 02/09/08 11:52:55 EST

Don, The pressure required for your forge is proportional to the size of the burner orifice OR pipe restrictions. It is also dependent on the quality and type of fittings you have used. Generally welding gas service equipment proper;y assembled is good up to 100PSI. However, anything you made or assembled by unapproved methods is on YOU, the manufacturer.

If run forges over 30 PSI due to various restrictions. Without them the same forge would have run at 5 to 10 PSI or less.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/09/08 15:04:43 EST

Power Hammer Setups: They vary wildly from shock mounted isolation blocks to a wood pad or just running them bare assed on your concrete floor. It all depends on on the user, location and hammer.

Good foundations improve the performance of the hammer and reduce vibration which caused work related fatigue (just like very loud noises). Back in the day when folks wanted to do things RIGHT even a 25 Pound Little Giant sat on a block of concrete that weighed as much as it did. Today, the advice to run hammers directly on your concrete floor is mostly to reduce the installed cost. This same advice came at a time when folks were selling air hammers claiming the could run on 3HP K-mart air compressors. . . It was a disservice to the buyers and most have backed off these statements. However, none of the small anvil manufacturers require a heavy foundation except those that must be supported at different levels.

So, you CAN run your hammer on your shop floor but it is better to have a separate pad. A few folks just seperate the area under the hammer from the surrounding pad with a concrete saw and fill the void with silicon caulk. This may work if the floor is well supported, if not the area under the hammer may settle or worse, tip.

However, there is great convenience to putting your hammer anywhere you want and moving it if your want. The same reason we no longer put anvils on logs set deep in the Earth. Folks who do this on a commercial level plan ahead by putting in an extra heavy floor.

In some cases where vibration transmitted to other machinery or off site is a problem an inertia block isolation foundation has been the only solution.

   - guru - Saturday, 02/09/08 17:51:13 EST

Bob: No, the burner on a turkey fryer is little more than a glorified head/burner on a standard propane kitchen range. Left on it long enough you might bring up a horseshoe enough to bend it more easily than cold worked. Forget the turkey fryer.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Saturday, 02/09/08 18:53:46 EST

Recycling scale commercially - it's been done and still is to some extent. The first steel mill I worked at out of college in 1974 collected their scale and ran it through a sinter plant. I think they used coke breeze/dust from the coke ovens with the scale to produce a semi-reduced product they could feed back through their blast furnaces. After sintering it held together well enough that it didn't get blown back out the top of the blast furnaces.

Modern days - North American Hoganas's Pyron plant in Niagara Falls, NY recycles selected scale from low alloy sources (minimal MN, and no other intentional alloying elements - think low carbon sheet steels) into iron powder. They do this using electrically heated furnaces in a hydrogen atmosphere. The hydrogen is a byproduct of a nearby plant that produces chlorine gas, and they're electrically heated because of the original low cost of electricity from the Niagara Mohawk power project. The plant and process were originally developed in the 1940's, when numerous sources of low alloy scale were locally available in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area. Among the uses for iron powder produced this way is semi-metallic brake shoes, as an additive to iron powder premixes made from atomized iron powders to increase green strength of powder metal parts prior to sintering, hand-warmers, and to enrich food products such as cereals and flour. The size of particles used for semi-metallic brake shoes and food are extremely different - the food grade is very fine, having the consistency of a very fine baby powder. It's all -325 mesh. (See the Tyler Company in Mentor Ohio for information on sieve size, sieveing, measuring powder fineness, etc. )The plant is both Parve and Kosher, and is checked by clerics of both faiths annually and certified by them to be so.

I forget the production levels for the Niagara Falls plant, but it's in millions of pounds annually. I think in the four to six million range.

It would be possible to recycle scale from more highly alloyed steels as well - the only issue is the cost of the energy to do so. We may get to a point where the environmental regulations become strict enough that recycling will make more sense than landfilling. To do so, you need to get adequate quantities of scale available, low priced energy, and low priced reducing gases.
   - Gavainh - Sunday, 02/10/08 01:00:17 EST


If you have a turkey fryer you probably already have a propane bottle, and a regulator that's good to at least 10 p.s.i. If that's the case, it's simple and cheap to build a naturally aspirated propane burner from plumbing parts. See the gas forge FAQ here on Anvilfire.com, and Ron Reil's ABANA page (linked from the FAQ). There are even simpler designs out there. I came up with a design that's similar to Jock's and also heavily influenced by Michael Porter; it requires no drilling, tapping or welding. It's slightly crude, but it works.
   Matt B - Sunday, 02/10/08 18:50:52 EST

Don-- you put a propane regulator on the bottle or the tank, and used propane rated hose to get from the regulator to the forge, right? (I have seen forges run off a hose straight out of the bottle. I don't think that is smart.) If not, do so. You do not need a lot of pressure. Seven (7) PSI at the gauge, is what I run at 7,000 feet above sea level, 12 max, should do it. Your orifice will depend on your altitude above sea level if you are using a barometric (Venturi) forge. Dunno re: blown, maybe there too, I would imagine. Your propane dealer can help you with orifice size, and can check your set-up for safety. He may say he cannot, that only a licensed plumber can, but he can, too, if he feels like it. Some tradesmen freak and do not want any connection to a forge project out of justifiable fear of liability.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/11/08 00:10:59 EST

Hey Guru,

You mentioned brass casting using Delft Clay.
I use the Delft clay very much, for casting bronze, ten and silver.
I works like a charm, just keep that red earth free of casting debris and always get rid of the burned sections of the clay, just cut them out and throw away.

My question is:
I also like to use brass for casting, but as I tried to melt it, zinc fumes started to form and I chickend out.

Can you melt (and how) brass without the risc of intoxication??.

   Duco de Klonia - Monday, 02/11/08 04:52:22 EST

Duco-- intoxication is the least of your worries. Permanent kidney damage can result, I have been told. At least set up an exhaust fan piped to a hood over the crucible or do it outdoors.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 02/11/08 12:13:34 EST

Zinc Flare: Duco, This is normal when casting brass. However, it is NOT good for you. You need to work where you have plenty of ventilation, preferably outdoors. Forced ventilation is helpful. Also be aware of where the exhaust is going. You don't want to poison other people.

You can reduce the zinc flare by covering the melt with flux OR powdered charcoal. I use flux.

Note that over time and many remelts your brass loses zinc and it may need to be replentished.

Zinc works well with Delft clay but there is more waste from burning than from lower temperature melting alloys.
   - guru - Monday, 02/11/08 15:44:51 EST

On propane regulators, the best source I have found is www.tejassmokers.com. Have both 0-30 and 0-60, with or without pressure gauge and with 6' of propane hose standard. China, of course, made. Free shipping on most purchases.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Monday, 02/11/08 17:49:56 EST

Hi Guru's et al.
I have a client that requested andiron backs for her antique cast iron andiron fronts. There is a square hole in the back of these pieces for the wood carying part of the andirons. She wanted them a bit loose so she wouldn't have to fuss with them if she wanted to take them apart, but also wants to use them in the fireplace. I didn't want to drill a hole in the antique pieces for a set screw, and was wondering if lead might be the best way to go in setting the backs to the fronts firmly. Would lead shims soften too much during a fire and loosen up? Interested in your thoughts. Thanks for your time. Forgive me if this explaination is unclear.
   Rodriguez - Monday, 02/11/08 20:56:16 EST

...and concerning the old post about the mystery object from facebook, it looks like a spindle for twisting rope. Just a guess.
   Rodriguez - Monday, 02/11/08 21:49:44 EST

Curved stair railing! With brnze cap rail no less! Does anyone have any instruction as to how best tp proceed with such a project. I have done lots of straight railings that are complex, but never a substantial curved railing. What important factors do I need to keep in perspective. Is there a manufactured bronze cap rail that can be heated and incrementally bent to a radius, or should it be rolled, or what?? For verbal responses to this question, I can be reached at 410 366 8813. Help would be gratefully appreciated before commiting myself to this endeavor.
   chris - Monday, 02/11/08 21:51:02 EST

Chris, It has been many years since I've ordered from Julius Blum, but I remember that they had "railing systems" and literature on railings. You might check them out: www.juliusblum.com
   Frank Turley - Monday, 02/11/08 22:56:34 EST

Rodriguez: The lead shims would melt and run out, don't use that method.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 02/11/08 23:29:48 EST

End irons: How about splitting the end and driving a wedge in to spread the end, spread it enough to hold but not enough to break the cast iron end iron
   - Hudson - Tuesday, 02/12/08 00:31:00 EST

I agree with Hudson. If I have to make a wedge like that I forge it out of a piece of scrap bolt/ threaded bar. The edges retain the ridges from the threading and this is quite attractive but also greatly increases the grip provided because they act like teeth. I keep all bits of threaded stock for wedges- make great hammer wedges as well.

Certainly the lead would be an absolute no go. The melting point is far far too low..

I hope this helps.
   - philip in china - Tuesday, 02/12/08 08:28:09 EST

I've seen cast iron andirons soften and sag due to the heat. Lead doesn't stand a chance.
   - Marc - Tuesday, 02/12/08 08:41:35 EST

Guru mentioned before that a good nailmaker could make 100 nails per hour. During my last class while we were making nails a guy asked how much $$ would a smith make for a nail, or at least for a pound of nails. What is the correct answer? Does it have anything to do with the names for different sizes (ie.. 10 penny - 10 pennies for 100 lb) Seems like if a nail maker could produce 100 nails per hr, 10 cents per pound or even 100 lb would be pretty good money 150 yrs ago. Any advice?
   - Nathan - Tuesday, 02/12/08 09:27:35 EST

I know my experience doens't count too much here, but I fabricate 316L nails for sideshow performers around the world. I charge about $20 per nail, usually 1/4" X 5-1/2". They use it for an act called "blockhead"... Google it.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/12/08 09:55:48 EST

Oh, I forgot to add, I can fabricate a nail in two heats, it's the benchwork and finishing that takes up time. My nails have to be 20 grade mirror finish or better.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/12/08 09:57:18 EST

Conjecture about nails.
When Peter Ross, formerly of Williamsburg, spoke in Albuquerque a few years ago, he said that their shop may get an order for nails, perhaps 6,000 or so. Then, those workers who could be relieved from other jobs were told to make 6,000 nails. Assuming that this might be the way things were done in colonial times, the nail makers were not making money by selling the nails directly. They were simply employees.

I was told that Thomas Jefferson has a small building on his property called a "nail manufactory." If so, I envision that two or three black slaves were in there almost each and every day making nails by hand. I doubt that they made money; probably room & board.

Bob Gerkin, now deceased, operated a horseshoeing school in Houston. Bob related to one of his students, Skip Rowe, that during WW II, Bob was stationed in southeast Asia and China, and his job was to keep the supply pack horses and mules shod. He and his men were making shoes out of almost any iron that they could scavange. Obviously, Capewell nails were not part of their inventory. In one of the villages, they located a legless Chinese man who was a professional horseshoe nail maker. Skip said that when they were on the move, they simply loaded the nail maker in one of the wagons along with his box bellows, anvil, and hand tools, and off they would go. When their destination was reached, the man was put on the ground with his equipment and some charcoal, and he would go to work.

To sum up, I doubt whether anyone was making a killing by making nails in the old days.

   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/12/08 10:33:06 EST

Making Nails: Due to boredom and fatigue setting it many high production job rates fall off dramatically unless there is a slave driver (literally) or starvation forcing one to produce at these rates (1000 per day). The boredom also caused the quality to drop to where you may have a very high quantity of rejects. A buyer may sample a handful and find 10% rejects and refuse the entire batch (I would). So the quality control is also on you or that slave master.

There are various organizations that use hand made nails for restorations and are willing to pay a LOT for hand made nails ($1 or more each). However, their contracts require delivery of specific types and quantities in the tens of thousands. Facing an order of twenty thousand nails you are looking at over a month of grueling work and extreme boredom. Some smiths use small power hammers for forging nails and work in teams to keep up moral. It IS possible to do and the income COULD be lucretive. However, few ever fill a second order or only produce nails only when there is no other work.

The folks that made nails in quantity hundreds of years ago were either slaves or cottage workers who had no other opportunity and were in virtual slavery. They did not own the tools or materials they worked with and were expected to produce a specific quantity from a given amount of iron. Shortages were taken out of their starvation wages. Women and child laborers were often forced to do this work.

There are still many parts of the world where there are miserable working conditions such as the above and all people are paid is just enough to keep from starving. In very recent times young children in parts of Asia were still making gold leaf by hand beating it out between sheep skins day after day. . .

There is no comparison between modern Western cash economies to those of the past and those in impoverished countries with large populations. Child labor still exists in many countries that will not allow animals to be treated so poorly. In fact, even in the U.S. the first child labor laws came out of applying animal work laws to children in fabric mills.

If you want to make nails for a living TRY producing them all day for a couple days and carefully reject all poorly formed nails. THEN take that quantity, material and fuel costs and how much you NEED to make (per hour, day, nail) and set your price. But remember, that after the boredom factor sets in your productivity MAY drop to half or less. Unless there is someone with a whip driving you.

   - guru - Tuesday, 02/12/08 11:05:59 EST

Sorry, I guess the last question was not entirely clear.
I have absolutely no intrest in making nails for money, I was only questioning what they were selling for and if the carpenter's terminology of sizing nails by the "penny" (ie 10 penny, 16 penny nail) had anything to do with the price of nails.
   - Nathan - Tuesday, 02/12/08 13:12:26 EST

Frank Turley, When I visited Montecello a few years ago they described Jefferson's nailery as saving the plantation. Said he had about 9 to 12 slaves, boys and men working dawn to dark 6 days a week. He used the profits to cover expenses while we restored the spent agricultural land. Said it continued to be the single biggest source of cash for Jeffersons lifetime.

Washingtons large cash cow was whiskey, as he built a distellery at the managers request. He also had a big fishery on the river. Sold fish, dried or smoked I believe.
(visted there as well)

Odd that these huge plantations, with many crops had to rely on manufactured goods to survive.

In my State of domicile, when first settled the actual unit of money at first was whiskey, IE 1/4 or 1/2 or a full keg. Seems that shipping was so costly prior to cnels and RR that corn was almost worthless except to feed and to make whiskey. Takes many bushels of corn to make an easy to ship gallon of whiskey:) In a class on State history the professor stated that in that time, say 1750, it cost as much to ship a wagon of goods 50 miles as a full ocen going ship port to port from england to America.
   ptree - Tuesday, 02/12/08 13:21:09 EST

Please excuse the spelling errors on the previous, its hard to type when your eyes are crossed with sinus pressure:)
   ptree - Tuesday, 02/12/08 13:22:49 EST

Nathan, the pennyweight system for nail size didn't arise until machine-made nails appeared, and really does refer to weight rather than price. It's old apothecary measure, which explains the otherwise inexplicably English way a word spelled "dram" and abbreviated "d" is pronounced "penny." Okay, actually it came from "Drachma," but that's not important here. A dram is 1/240th of a pound of sterling silver, or 1.6 grams. Thus a 16d nail weighs 25.6 grams, or 16/240ths of a troy pound. Clear as mud?

There was not really a standard for handmade nails, but rather a sort of accepted range of sizes for various intended uses. For instance, in the USA in 1825 you went to the mercantile and bought a keg of machine cut nails with the size in pennyweight. In 1790 you might go to the smith (or the big-city merchant who'd just got a shipment from England or France) and ask for 300 siding nails, twenty door spikes, 1000 lathing nails, and 500 flooring nails. Oh, and throw in 100 tacks. That's how they were described, sized, and sold then.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 02/12/08 15:35:54 EST

Addendum to the above: The old English silver penny did weigh 1/240th of a pound sterling. That's why until the decimal switch in the 1970s English money was so fun to count. 240 pennies (or pence) per pound, equal to 20 shillings, and I'm not gonna get into groats, farthings, and crowns.

Oh, and the old science saying "a pint's a pound the world around" does not, unfortunately, refer to beer prices. (insert wink here)
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 02/12/08 15:40:12 EST

I've been very confused about the whole penny system. That explanation (while clear as mud) is very very helpful and clears up a lot. I've also always wondered why a box of nails had 16d on the front but was called 16 penny.
Thanks again for your help!!!
   - Nathan - Tuesday, 02/12/08 17:27:18 EST

On the andirons: what size is the hole in the back? How would the originals have been attached? how about brazing the new ones in place? ALthough wood fires can melt grates and the business end os andirons, its unlikelt that kind of heat would be generated at the joint with the fronts, and brazing is easy enough to undo.

On the "facebook whatsit: cant be for rope: each hook would have to swivel independently. So far chainmaking is the leadr in all responses, and the only explanation that accounts for all of the details.

   Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 02/12/08 17:36:13 EST

Gentlemen, as to the price of nails, I have a receipt from a blacksmith shop for 100 nails, price; 75 cents! the Receipt is dated 1875
   gary shaw - Tuesday, 02/12/08 18:43:32 EST

Sorry, it was my first post and its a typo. The receipt is from 1835.
   gary shaw - Tuesday, 02/12/08 18:46:15 EST

Guru, Thank you for your input on the three anvil "types" or more accurately shapes. I am assuming, probably quite reasonably, that they will all be cast out of the same metal so there should be no difference in hardness etc. within a particular size. What is the difference, please, between say a Peddinghaus shape and a Habermann shape? I think I am currently tempted by the Habermann shape because there is also a standard factory made 95Kg stand to go with it which should be good and would enable me to get down to productive work sooner than if I were to be making my own stand. The size shouldn't be too much of a problem as a sky hook will be almost the first thing that will go into the new place anyway.
   - philip in china - Tuesday, 02/12/08 19:07:14 EST

I've read or heard (unfortunately, I can't remember where) about nails being made on a cottage industry/piece work basis. Individuals would buy nail rod from a company by the pound, and sell finshed nails on the same basis. Defective work (and scale loss) ate into the profits.


If I'm not mistaken, an Imperial pint weighs exactly 1.25 pounds. The sun never set on the British Empire, but I suspect that the use of U.S. liquid measure outside the U.S. is and was rare. So "a pint's a pound the world around" may be wishful thinking in more ways than one (grin).
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 02/12/08 19:17:25 EST

That's an Imperial pint *of water*, of course.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 02/12/08 19:18:50 EST

Read somewhere T. Jefferson paid his nailers a very small piece work price. Generally young slave boys. While the piece work may not have been much, put them much above other slaves who were basically room and board. Also read he got is nail stock on consignment. When he would take a load of finished nails to New England he would pay off the stock, with the differnece being his profit.

On G. Washington, I've read his wealth came mostly from his surveying work across the Appalachian Mountains where he would stake out literally thousands of acre for himself, then sell it in small lots to settlers.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Tuesday, 02/12/08 19:40:17 EST

Mike: It's all Rudyard Kipling's fault, I lay no claim to it. (grin!) However, are you talking about distilled water at sea level? The gravitational weight changes with altitude, which is why the kilogram is based on mass rather than gravitational weight. Nitpicky, but nitpicky. (bigger grin!) I use whatever measurement system is handy. Furlongs per fortnight or cubic cubits, as long as you specify Assyrian or Egyptian cubits, that is.

Spot on about the nail industry prior to the nail-cutting machine. One will find reference to the pennyweight system being somehow related to the price per hundred nails of a given size, but that's just one example of why professors do not accept wikipedia as a source. Commodity prices change on a daily basis and it's the height of foolishness to assume nail prices would stay steady long enough to establish a system of standardization.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 02/12/08 19:47:58 EST

Thanks for the advice. The holes in the back of the andirons are still rough with the mold seams intact and do not appear to have ever had any use. Only the fronts are finished well. The sizes differ in each one - both about 7/8 inch square though - I had to forge one connection smaller than the other. Brazing is what I'll probably end up doing, though I prefer some type of soft shim. I hate messing around with cast iron... bleh.
   Rodriguez - Tuesday, 02/12/08 20:57:14 EST

I'm pretty sure that it was here that I asked a couple of months ago about powering a cheap bandsaw with a gearmotor for use on metal. I've now bought the saw and have the motor mounted and working. I just need to do the permanent wiring (or at least get a layer of tape on the exposed spots (grin)).

If I remember the last discussion, ptree and some others recommended a specific brand and model of blade, and a source for them. I could look in the archives, but I'm also interested in thoughts on what pitch to buy. I'll probably want to cut as thin as 20 gauge, and as thick as 1/4" (or maybe more, if the saw will do it). Obviously, I'll need more than one blade, but would like to cover the range with as few as reasonably possible.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 02/12/08 23:02:25 EST

When discussing the labour practices in the now developed countries 200 years ago or in 3rd world countries today, the conditions We consider exploytive [I am not speaking of or defending slavery here] were the better alternative to starving to death. One must rember that the concept of getting money from the Govt. because the only work You can get is hard,boring,dangerous and low paying is a recent development, and the Christian concepts of " fairness and equality" only applied to ones "everlasting soal" in the old days.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/13/08 00:09:25 EST

Mike BR: The contact for the blades is Mike Morrison at Hagmeyer (502)961-5930 I use the Lenox diemaster II variable 10-14 tpi blades on My 4x6 saw for sheet metal on up. If You plan to cut much shee tmetal a finer blade would be in order. The rule of thumb is 3 teeth in the work at all times, obviously that ain't gonna happen in the sheetmetal, just get as fine a blade as they offer for that. When cutting thin stock with too coarse a blade just run the blade sort of fast [300-350fpm] and feed slowly. For contour sawing [or anything else on a verticle saw] I suggest 1/4"lades
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/13/08 00:30:26 EST

Mike BR,

The blade of choice for many of us is the Lenox Diemaster II, in variable pitch. For the thin stuff, you'd want a 14/18 pitch blade and for 1/4" you could go with 10/14 pitch or use the finer pitch blade in a pinch.

The rule of thumb for bandsay blades is to have three teeth in the cut to avoid knocking teeth off the blade. YOu can cheat that a bit with very careful feeding of the stock, but it is risky. One slip and you've ruined a blade.

I have a 30 year old cheapo Taiwanese bandsaw with the 4-speed option and cut metal with it all the time. Using the Diemaster blades I cut 14 gauge to 1/2" with a 10/14 pitch blade with no problems. I can cut thicker, but it gets difficult to get sufficient feed pressure for the finer pitch blades on heavy stock. For thicker than 1/2", I switch to a 6/10 pitch blade and that works up to 1" stock and probably thicker. Still hard to push long cuts, but the saw will do it.

I should note that my saw's lowest speed is probably around 750 sfpm which is a bit fast for the heavier stock and does decrease blade life. Using good lube helps, but a lower speed, like half what it is, would be better.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 02/13/08 00:45:21 EST

vicopper: 750 sfpm?? are you sure about that???
   - grant - Wednesday, 02/13/08 00:56:09 EST

Why does there have to be a solid connection in the back of the andirons? The andirons aren't going anywhere; the rear extensions just serve to hold the firewood up for a draft to reach underneath. Just make a set of rear extensions, stick 'em in there and tell the client to come back when those are shot.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 02/13/08 01:01:05 EST

Alan L,
Spot on about the dreaded wilkipedia. A lot of the stuff on there is just plain wrong. The idea is anybody can edit it and it appears that anybody does. Unless you get a real subject specialist to correct errors they will abound. Even if a specialist corrects there is nothing to prevent an ignoramus from messing around again and spoiling it. That is just a general point on the internet. Anybody can post pretty well anything. Many people read stuff on the net and assume it to be correct. On history it is annoying on subjects like thermic lances, thermite welding, use of acetylene cutting equipment, and other subjects it is potentially lethal. That is why this site is SO useful.
   - philip in china - Wednesday, 02/13/08 01:29:38 EST


Nope, not absolutely sure until I check it tomorrow, but I think that's about right. The saw is really intended as a wood-cutting machine, so the speeds run up to about 3000 fpm. I think the lowest one is about 1/4 of the highest, but I'll try to remember to check tomorrow. I have purchased some different sheaves to drop the speed by about 30%, but that's all the further I can go without adding a second jackshaft - there's just not enough space for a bigger sheave on the jackshaft now.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 02/13/08 02:48:25 EST

dear sir,
help is requested regd. welding of bimetal blades.
we have recently purchased a used Ideal-germany make butt welder BAS25.
we request you to pl suggest checking methods of welded joints after we weld the bimetal blades.
presently we only know about 'Bending test'
pl feel free to ask for any further information.
with regards
   kamal - Wednesday, 02/13/08 08:08:50 EST

Perhaps I missed something in the posts above, but I think I'd be inclined to drill and tap the backside of the Andirons in a couple of places, and fabricate the fire basket in an appropriate fashion as to make the connection.
   - Charlie Spademan - Wednesday, 02/13/08 08:13:46 EST

Most 4x6 saws run between 100 and 240 FPM.

The cottage industries were a well established system in England and Europe at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Everything from spinning, weaving, chain making, file cutting and nail making were produced by this system.

   - guru - Wednesday, 02/13/08 10:14:58 EST

Funny all this talk about England and nails.... I just sent out an order of 10 nails to the UK for some performers. At $20 per nail, it only cost them about 80 GBP, but I got paid $200. And if anyone has seen my 250 year old colonial house (my shop is in the cellar), you'd call it a cottage.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 02/13/08 11:14:05 EST

I seem to remember reading that Kitty litter was useful in the annealing process. Unfortunately I can't find where I may have read that so now I wonder if I'm mistaken.

True about kitty litter?
   Dean Lapinel - Wednesday, 02/13/08 15:17:50 EST

Dean, It can \be used but Vermiculite is used more often as it is a much lighter insulator. Light wood ashes are #1, then quicklime which is more consistent, then vermiculite followed by other things. Some bladesmiths fold knives into a piece of Kaowool for annealing. Maybe that is where all those 1 and 2 foot pieces we sell are going. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/13/08 15:38:43 EST

Hey, is iForge active? The site indicates that it happens every Wednesday night. Is this so? I don't see anything on the page indicating either that it is actually happening or how to participate. Any info?


   Peter Hirst - Wednesday, 02/13/08 17:54:45 EST

Chris- More information is needed. Is your stair rail a spiral or an arc of a true circle or something more complex like an ellipse? If it's a constant curve the best write-up on the mathematics of rail layouts of this type that I've found is in Peter Parkinson's book Forged Architectural Ironwork (page 73). On oddball curves the best luck I've had is a detailed site survey to map each rise and run of each tread and to bend a piece of smaller stock to touch the nose of each tread at the desired rail location. If the finished floors or treads are not in yet find out what they will be as tread material and floor material are often not of the same thickness. Pay very close attention to the first and last tread as many builders will fix any rise/run errors in these locations. Also ask if they have any digital photos of radiant heat tube or wiring near the stairs. Don't trust blueprints.
   Jud Yaggy - Wednesday, 02/13/08 19:19:00 EST

Dave and Rich, thanks for the advice. I'll order blades tomorrow, if I can get my act together. If my math's right, my modified saw runs 92fpm, so at least too *fast* shouldn't be a problem (grin).
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 02/13/08 20:32:51 EST

Lennox blades.
The contact given is correct. Mike at Hagemeyer also put me onto a blade for thin stock. It is also a Lennox, bimetal, but not a DiemasterII. It is portaband stock and comes in a wavey pattern Fine tooth. (I can't remember 24 or 28) Works on that thin stuff in my 4 x 6 saw very nicely. Describe it as the fine tooth portaband stock you have made up for Jeff. He will know exactly.
   ptree - Wednesday, 02/13/08 22:12:40 EST

Thanks, Jeff (just in time, too).
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 02/13/08 22:32:06 EST

Peter, We have backed off iForge for while due to time constraints. Many other new articles and FAQs are continued to be posted throughout anvilfire.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/14/08 03:23:03 EST

Thanks, Guru. I am having a great time discovering all the goodies here, and just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something on Wednesday night.
   Peter Hirst - Thursday, 02/14/08 06:44:42 EST

I assume there is a shoulder behind the tenon that is inserted into the Andiron. What I would do is drill a hole behind the shoulder about an inch, close to 1/2 the diameter of the shoulder. Then saw a slot through the tenon and shoulder past the drilled hole a bit. Make a tapered pin to fit in the hole so when pounded in place it spreads the tenon open causing it to fit snuggly in the andiron. Easily removed also.
Good Luck
   blackbart - Thursday, 02/14/08 13:24:50 EST

I've read and re-read about the andirons, and I have no idea what is going on. Why should there be a loose connection? Why should they come apart? What is an andiron "back"? It that the right angle leg that supports the logs?
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/14/08 14:17:47 EST

Vicopper: Yeah, that's pretty fast. My 20 x 16 Wellsaw horizontal goes 0 - 500 with an ancient DC variable speed drive. I cut mild @ 350 SFPM, alloy @ 150 and hard (50-52 Rc) @ 90.
   - grant - Thursday, 02/14/08 16:24:53 EST

Frank-- There is going to be a quiz on this, and there will be spots. Grade on quiz counts 45% of the semester grade. Neatness and aptitude of thought do NOT count. The front of the andiron is the front of the andiron. The back of the andiron is the back, the horizontal members whereupon the burnings logs sit and which in the course of years and years and years of combustion, get all warpy and saggy, apparently, against which eventuality the providential smith who smote 'em allowe eency weency sockets for replacing same. That's my take on it. I suspect the professional andiron mongers have a technojargonic term for the back, such as "horizontal thingies," which they employ in private, but only after exchanging the secret andiron monger handshake.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/14/08 19:31:13 EST


I am looking at buying a 25 lb little giant power hammer. The owner has said that the hammer has had very little use and is in outstanding condition, never has had any repair work done on it. I do not know much about power hammers. I was wondering is there some things that you should be careful about as far as condition goes? Is their a way to tell what condition it really is in? I know that the price of these hammers range, but what can be expected as far as price goes. I hope that I am clear enough.


   TimothyJD - Thursday, 02/14/08 19:42:08 EST

Miles Undercut. The tutorial on andirons was somewhat helpful, But would an Austrailian Andiron have revesed terminolgy?
I have heard the term andiron for the fancy fronts and firedogs for the consumable middle and back.
I have a good customer who owns an auto parts store. He burns wood in an insert, and had been burning up a set and a half a season. $40 the set from the stove shop. Asked could I make him some for trade for parts? Boy could I:) I asked for one for pattern and he brought me two burnt up, two half gone, and the measurements of a new one. I rebuilt both bad sets and made a new set. BUT I cheated and added a rib under the horizontal of 2.25" by 1/2" bar. First set of rebuilts are still good so far this season, with no reported sag. I got parts for three brake jobs and some various small stuff.
   ptree - Thursday, 02/14/08 20:08:04 EST

ptree-- Irish blacksmith name of Ulf the Dazed forged the first pair of andirons in 1124, after seeing the humongus firedogs in the British Museum, unearthed as part of the famous Sutton Hoo Trove. Those firedogs indeed look a bit like dogs. Big ones, to be sure, but dogs nonetheless. Ulf didn't see any reason to waste all that precious iron on the verticals, and to give his spiffy new product some market identity, gave the truncated models the new name, "andiron," after his mother's sister, Aunt Irene.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/14/08 21:52:05 EST

Yes, dogs, mythical ones, anyway, had antlers in those days.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/14/08 21:57:14 EST

Pardon my abstruseness, but to me, an andiron, one of a pair, has a vertical member with two legs and a log support. An andiron is the whole ball of wax. If the cast iron vertical has an obverse (an audience side), then it must have a reverse. To me, a back is in the back of the fireplace where the log support has the right angle bend. If the reverse of the casting has a square hole in it, then the obverse must have the same hole. Holes go all the way through. They are not vestigial sockets.

My thought would be to make round tenons on the end of the log supports and thread them. Run them through the square holes, and make decorative washers and good looking wing nuts to hold the things together.

Another thought, and I realize I'm not getting points for aptitude of thought...after going through all that work, I would be tempted to bust the cast verticals into smithereens with a sledge. I would then make nice, forged andirons.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/14/08 22:33:50 EST

Little Giants Since most of these were manufactured 50 to 100 years ago "little use" often does not mean much.

These are a machine, similar to a machine tool, and fits, especially the guides should be snug and smooth operating. The tendency is for parts to wear tapered so that they are tight at one end and loose on the other.

There are several versions of this hammer and those with a seperate anvil cap or sow block are less likely to end up with a broken dovetail on the frame that is expensive to fix.

Lack of lubrication is the biggest problem on LG's. If the machine is too clean then it may be heavily worn OR as the owner said, not used much. A well used but not abused LG is a ball of grease and oil.

LG prices are rather odd. In general, due to demand for the smaller more portable machines the 25, 50 and 100's all sell for about the same price. A 100 pound hammer is a good size for a general small shop but weighs about 3,000 pounds.

Its a relatively simple machine so look at those few parts closely. Use a pry bar to move things around to check for wear.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/14/08 22:47:27 EST

Hey, don't look at me! I didn't pose the terms or the terminology of the original problem, from the 11th, Monday, Rodriguez did: "I have a client that requested andiron backs for her antique cast iron andiron fronts. There is a square hole in the back of these pieces for the wood carying part of the andirons. She wanted them a bit loose so she wouldn't have to fuss with them if she wanted to take them apart, but also wants to use them in the fireplace. I didn't want to drill a hole in the antique pieces for a set screw...." How about the blacksmith's pal, J.B. Weld.? I won't tell if you don't. (Online spec sheet sez it can only take 500F., so it'll have to be teency weency fires from here on.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/14/08 23:54:42 EST

TimothyJD: Also keep in mind many of the Little Giant-type mechanical hammers originally worked on an overhead line shaft and belting. You may have to include the cost of a motor, motor bracket and belting.

On the andirons I make, I have now started to add a leg under the middle. Detracts from appearance, but should allow them to last longer without undue sag.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Friday, 02/15/08 00:07:52 EST

J-B cold weld covered with auto exhaust repair putty... how jimmy-rigged can we get here?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 02/15/08 14:19:14 EST

Hi, This is Gary Dutko from Gettysburg, PA. Dick Gaven from the Gettysburg National Park referred me to your site. I will try to make my question brief. I am attempting to locate someone who can make cast iron replacement parts for my old Ideal Sunshine kitchen cookstove which was made by the Orr Painter Co, Reading, PA. Circa 1910-1920. None of the big foundries I have contacted do either small parts like this or even do cast iron casting any longer. I have also contacted most of the antique stove restorers but no one is familiar with my cookstove. I was told my best bet would be a mom and pop operation that specializes in small cast iron jobs. I was hoping to find someone in Pennsylvania that could help but my options are dwindling. I need to have the following replacement parts cast in cast iron: 2 new duplex coal/wood grates, 2 new cast iron firebox linings and a new cast iron brick rest. I know this question is not directly related to blacksmithing but we thought perhaps with your vast knowledge you may know someone who still does this. I believe some refer to it as green sand casting too. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciate. Look forward to your reply. Have a great day. Gary Dutko, Gettysburg, PA
   Gary Dutko - Friday, 02/15/08 15:12:48 EST

PLEASE Help Guru! We need an anvil. Used, 100lbs and up. Does anyone have any ideas where to buy them? We dont want a new one. We want old, traditional. PLEASE HELP!
   - Wagner Football - Friday, 02/15/08 15:43:48 EST

PLEASE Help Guru! We need an anvil. Used, 100lbs and up. Does anyone have any ideas where to buy them? We dont want a new one. We want old, traditional. PLEASE HELP! Any websites, auctions or businesses we can call?
   Wagner Football - Friday, 02/15/08 15:44:27 EST

Try marshall@rockisland.com who does a lot of casting and has contributed to the literature of the subject.
   - philip in china - Friday, 02/15/08 19:29:24 EST

I just picked up an old Post leg vise and cleaned it up. No makers mark. About a 75 pounder. Any general specs or references I can look up on vise manufacture? (I.E. who made these things?)
   Mark In MI - Friday, 02/15/08 19:29:46 EST

Wierd looking swage block on eBay, see item 200200449448

   Bob G - Friday, 02/15/08 19:52:59 EST

Gary-- First, I bet heavy steel fabrications would hold up for years and years. Second, have you scoured the Net? Not long ago I came across a guy's website up in Canada or Alaska who has what sounds like acres of cast iron stove parts for sale. Thought I had the URL, but can't seem to find it. If I do, will post it here.
TGN-- You ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait'll we get to the Bondo.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 02/15/08 20:02:52 EST

Gary-- Found it: Mike Strong, Old Town, British Columbia, dba Canadian Antique Stoves, PO Box 673, Kaslo, BC, Canada, V0G 1M0,Phone 1-250-353-9648. This info is ancient, from a 1989 article in Harrowsmith Magazine. Worth a try, though.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 02/15/08 20:08:10 EST

Wagner football,

I know of several places to buy old, traditional anvils, particularly those traditional in Europe. Or did you mean traditional American, Wile E. Coyote style anvils? How old? A hundred years or a thousand years? Where are you, as this greatly affects how I or most anybody else would advise you. Does you no goo dfor me to tell you where to buy a traditional European anvil in Budapest if you're actually in Adelaide, Austrailia and looking for a London pattern anvil or in Poughkeepsie, NY and looking for a Colonial-pattern anvil with fifth foot. I have a 100# Peter Wright London-pattern anvil I would sell, but shipping might be expensive unless you're located on the island of St. Croix. In short, we need a bit more information to give you good help.

   vicopper - Friday, 02/15/08 20:20:16 EST

Gary: COntact Doug at Barnstable Stove. http://www.barnstablestove.com/html/aboutus.htm
He has cast iron parts made all the time, and if he doesn't know your stove, chances are it wasn't manufactured on this planet. Tell him the guy from the Brewster Store sent you

   Peter Hirst - Friday, 02/15/08 22:44:03 EST

pneumatic hammer plans or schematic
   Mike F - Saturday, 02/16/08 01:10:02 EST

Wagner Football,
I have a 150 pound anvil you can have for free if you can collect it. It isn't very good but as you don't say what you want it for it might be OK.
   - philip in china - Saturday, 02/16/08 04:29:12 EST

Weird block. Shame the photo crops off two ends. . . There are thousands of block patterns and this one is far from "weird", just different.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/16/08 15:41:27 EST

Leg Vise ID: The vast majority of these were made to the same pattern by dozens if not hundreds of makers. They were a "commodity" item like PC's are today. Take 100 PC's without makers labels and they are unidentifiable. A few vices can be roughly ID'd by some of the details but these are rough guesses at the best.

It a tool, they don't make them like they used to anymore AND they are generally way under priced. So I buy everyone I can. If in decent shape they are a good investment. In rough shape many are wrought iron, a material that sells for more per pound than most old leg vices do.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/16/08 15:47:29 EST

Vulcanized spacer material -? Does the rubber or fiber version work better for wood knife handles? I want to try some to help keep from getting gaps between wood slabs and the tang when the climate or conditions change.
   Harrison Rice - Saturday, 02/16/08 18:38:05 EST

OK newb question alert.

Have a block of 01 steel 1"X2"X18" long. If I want to start off with am average size hunting knife to hammer out ...how much should I cut off to forge. I know there are a lot of parameters an options but just a loose number would help.
Even more embarrassing to ask- Can I hot weld the same metal together just by hammering hot or do I need Borax. In other words is Borax or other similar welding type products just for dissimilar metals or for any metal.
Sheesh...I'm glad I asked but I feel like a kid asking the wrong question in school....
   deloid - Saturday, 02/16/08 22:02:02 EST

I just noticed I miss the reply on delft clay, I will surely look into that one.

I am almost done making my first cast, just out of plaster of paris, there are very few hobbyist shops in my town. I'm going to attempt this just to get an idea of how it all works, and so I don't forget that I'm interested in this.

Another question, when you say flux with borax, is there any certain time that it has to be mixed with the molten metal? and will a normal propane torch melt anything like brass or copper?

thanks again. kyle
   - Kyle TR - Saturday, 02/16/08 22:21:28 EST


An average hunting knife, if full tang, will take a piece about 1-1/2" x 9" x 1/8" to profile a knife from. It can, of course, be forged from a bit smaller amount, but not a lot. So, do the math. Offhand, I'd say you want to cut about 3/4" to 1" off the end of that bar to forge your knife from.

Yes, you use borax as a flux to weld steel to itself. An experienced smith can forge weld steel, either the same or different, without flux, but as a beginner you'll have better luck with it. But, with a chunk of steel that big to start with, why would you need to forge weld anything to make a simple knife?

From your post, it appears that you are new to forge welding. There is more to it than simply hammering two pieces of hot metal together; you must have them both at the right heat, neither too hot nor too cold, there is a proper way to shape the steel for the welded joint (scarfing), and you have to flux at the right time and then hit it correctly. It is much easier to learn by having an experienced smith show you and coach you than it is to try to discover it on your own. Try to find a blacksmithing club near you and attend one of their meetings. Someone there will be happy to give you a forge welding lesson or two, and it will save you hours of frustration.
   vicopper - Saturday, 02/16/08 22:30:15 EST

Kyle TR,

The borax flux should be introduced to the metal when it is at a red heat. This is before it actually melts, and when it melts the molten borax will float to the top of the crucible of molten brass or copper, protecting the surface from absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere and dissolving much of the oxides that form. Just before you pour the metal you skim off any dross and excess flux with an iron skimmer. The remaining flux will usually stay behind the metal when you pour.
   vicopper - Saturday, 02/16/08 22:34:06 EST

Thank you both!!
   deloid - Saturday, 02/16/08 22:38:29 EST

I found out that you just sprinkle it onto the molten metal. thanks though.
   - Kyle TR - Saturday, 02/16/08 22:43:22 EST

Lokks like (based on those numbers) I should be able to get close to 18 knives out of that block. I read that O1 doesn't forge well below 1550 degrees F. How can a novice like me tell when it gets that low in temp? What happens?
   deloid - Sunday, 02/17/08 02:01:59 EST

Is borax alone enough for this? All the commercial casting fluxes I have looked at contain a flourine compound, too.
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 02/17/08 06:12:15 EST

deloid, I would save that block of O1 for somthing else and get some more 'knifey' shaped stock. If your hand hammering it will take forever to get a small block into a bar - every time you heat it you loose material to scale, and loose carbon.

Even under a power hammer I would think twice about doing it. The only occasion I will make a 'cube' of steel into a knife blank shape is when patternwelding (damascus) somthing like a 'W' pattern, when you want the end of the bar to become the side of the blade.

Its also tricky holding a block like that in tongs - you might have to weld a handle onto it to alow you to work efficiently (or a stub handle you can hold with box jaw tongs)

consider trying an old leaf spring section first?
   - John N - Sunday, 02/17/08 08:26:56 EST

It's Feb 17 AM, and you still haven't said where you're located. Do you really need "HELP"?
   - Wagner Football - Sunday, 02/17/08 10:26:16 EST

Sorry. On the above, I typed Wagner in the wrong place.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/17/08 10:28:15 EST

Kyle TR,

I differ with the advice to sprinkle the flux on the molten metal. If youwait until the metal is molten, it will already have begun to oxidize and possibly lose some alloying elements. I apply the flux when the metal has gotten to a red heat, which allows the flux to melt and begin doing its job. I have had very good success this way over the past few decades.

As for your earllier question about a regular propane torch melting brass or copper, I would say that it is not likely, unless the quantity is small (<1/4 oz)and the crucible is insulated. You really need an oxy/fuel torch or a really big, high-efficiency propane/air torch. A Bernz-O-Matic torch ain't gonna cut it.
   vicopper - Sunday, 02/17/08 12:31:39 EST

Peter Hirst,

I have never used a flux containing flourine compounds for casting silver, gold or copper alloys, nor do I believe one is either necessary or advisable. There is considerable out-gassing from fluxes when at the temperatures of molten metals and flourine gas is highly toxic and corrosive. Flourine compounds are generally only used when it is necessary to dissolve difficult oxides, not for simple ones like copper, silver, gold, etc.

Proper techniques and equipment make the use of highly aggressive fluxes unnecessary, so why risk the exposure?
   vicopper - Sunday, 02/17/08 12:37:57 EST

"It's Feb 17 AM, and you still haven't said where you're located. Do you really need "HELP"?"

I'm in Boise Idaho and I really need guidance.

There is a well known but retired smithy 1 1/2 hr away. I haven't been able to find anyone in Boise that can help guide me.
   deloid - Sunday, 02/17/08 13:12:15 EST

A smithy is a building. The guy who works in it is a smith :-). It doesn't matter but some people get upset about such things.
   - philip in china - Sunday, 02/17/08 17:10:56 EST

KYLE DO NOT POUR MOLTEN METAL IN A PLASTER MOULD UNLESS YOU HAVE BAKED IT OVERNIGHT TO DRIVE THE WATER OUT!!!!! You will have an explosion!! Investment casting requires very high temperatures for the burn out. But if you are removing your pattern from the mould, 300-400 degrees will drive off all the water from plaster.
   - JNewman - Sunday, 02/17/08 18:09:46 EST

Thanks for that. I bet I'm not the first to make that mistake. Make's it easier though...I know there are a lot of Smiths in the phone book residential section. I'll start by calling them as listed on those ten pages. :)
   deloid - Sunday, 02/17/08 18:12:02 EST

Nahum Hersum is in his late 80s, still working as a repoussé art smith, and gives lessons. 209-345-9163.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/17/08 20:01:23 EST

Deloid, Nahum is in Boise.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/17/08 20:02:29 EST

There was a guy named Borup in Boise who was a blacksmith(not a farrier).
   JLW - Sunday, 02/17/08 21:00:09 EST


Thanks for that tip. Tought I was gonna have to spring for the nasty stuff just to mealt a little brass, but gad to hear that borax is all that is required. Does it help to mix anything in with it, for instance the way iron filings help for forge welding?
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 02/17/08 23:35:49 EST

I just looked at your forced air burner plans and have a question. When you say that a check valve is needed on one end or the other, I get confused. I have a needle valve supplying propane and a regulatorat the other end of the line at the tank. Do I neede something else for safety? Thanks
   Mark Harrington - Sunday, 02/17/08 23:49:18 EST

I just looked at your forced air burner plans and have a question. When you say that a check valve is needed on one end or the other, I get confused. I have a needle valve supplying propane and a regulatorat the other end of the line at the tank. Do I neede something else for safety? Thanks
   Mark Harrington - Sunday, 02/17/08 23:49:22 EST

Burnout and Calcining Temperatures: For plaster of paris you want to heat until it almost starts to break down. This is to about 1100 to 1300 degrees. Pour your metal (brass) into the HOT mold. This slows the cooling of the metal so it fills the mold better and gases have time to escape.

While 300 F will dru the mold it does not drive out the water that is bonded in the plaster. You need to get rid of much of this to get good castings. Thus the higher temperatures. Most folks find they need a special calcining furnace for the process. HOT but not nearly as hot as a forge.
   - guru - Monday, 02/18/08 12:16:48 EST

Check Valves: Most welding equipment requires a check valve in the fuel line to prevent flashback in the lines. However, I've been told that they are unneeded if you do not have pressurized oxygen.
   - guru - Monday, 02/18/08 12:18:14 EST

Peter Hirst,

You can mix a bit of boric acid with the borax to get a better cleaning action on the brass. Use about 4 parts borax to 1 part boric acid, either by weight or volume, since it isn't critical.

On Calcining of plaster/investment:

Free water is driven off at temperatures ab ove the boiling point of water (212F). Chemically bonded water is driven off at temperatures just above 500F - that is the calcining process. Beyond that temperature, you are only heating the mold to fully vaporize the wax and decrease the temperature differential between the molten metal and the mold.

If you pour molten brass, copper, silver or other metal into a mold that has free water, you will have an immediate steam explosion, with dangerous and disastrous results. If you pour into a mold that has the free water driven off but has not been calcined, the mold plaster will immediately break down and spall into thousands of tiny bits.

I don't recommend heating plaster of paris above 1000F, or it becomes too weak to sustain good detail - the moving metal flowing into it can erase detail or create cracking. The addition of a significant amount of sand and/or fine grog will make the plaster stronger and better able to maintain its integrity and detail.

After pourin the metal, I generally wait until the sprue button has cooled to a dull red heat (in a moderately lighted area) and then drop the mold into a bucket of water to fracture out the plaster. The thermal shock and steam save a lot of clean-up time. Be sure you have a sufficiently large bucket of water so that the mold will be covered by at least four inches of water to avoid steam coming at you.
   vicopper - Monday, 02/18/08 12:34:56 EST

Is it possible to make usable coke from lignite coal. I know bituminous is preferred, but I live 20 miles from a lignite mine and at $25/ton, if it were possible to make it usable the price would be hard to beat.
   - Shannon - Monday, 02/18/08 13:26:49 EST

Ive got a question about metal etching. The way that i have been reading about says use muratic acid mixed with nitric acid. Muratic acid is cheap and easy to find. Nitric acid is not. I was wondering would the etching work using only the muratic acid or is there something else i could mix with the muratic acid to make it work? Thanks
   Barker - Monday, 02/18/08 15:54:21 EST

From what I understand, any kind of acid is capable of etching depending on what the metal is. The more stable it is the stronger the acid needs to be, such as hot vinegar being able to slightly etch steel, while gold takes the strongest acids to dissolve. Theres probably even more to this if you introduce electricity into the equation.
   Nabiul Haque - Monday, 02/18/08 17:37:00 EST

I have recently entered into blacksmithing and in building up my shop found my great grandfathers old anvil from his farm. My dad used it in his business for a while to bang on stuff on so the edges are a little chipped up, there is some marking on the sides and the tip of the horn is a little mashed up. any suggestions on cleaning it up? grinder? sander? also once it is cleaned up should it be finished in any way?
   - Jacob T. - Monday, 02/18/08 19:09:30 EST

Etching with Acid...

One part Muratic poured in to two parts Hydrogen Peroxide makes a powerful etching solution. VERY caustic though. Do not store this inside, or around anything metal you don't want to rust quickly. I'd recommend disposal soon after you use it (don't ask me how). Put in glass, or heavy plastic container to use. Do not put in a container that is tight, it will break it.
   - djhammerd - Monday, 02/18/08 19:27:42 EST

Shannon: Apparently it is. Don't know what the stuff is like but see: http://www.minmetcarbons.com/lignite.php which has a page on the manufaturing process.
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 02/18/08 19:59:21 EST


I take it that's the ordinary 3% hydrogen peroxide? (The concentrated kind is something pretty scary stuff)
   Mike BR - Monday, 02/18/08 21:21:26 EST

Thank you Peter. I am new at the forge, I picked up a forge with a hand powered blower that was stuck. I rebuilt the blower and tried it with straight lignite and could not get enough heat. I'll try turning some into coke and try again. If it wont work I'll just start making charcoal out of the ash trees in this area. The coke seams like a lot less work if it will work. Thanks again.
   Shannon - Monday, 02/18/08 22:16:57 EST

Jacob T: A belt sander like used for woodworhing works well to true up the major surfaces of an anvil, get rid of ALL the saw dust first. A flap disc on an angle grinder is good for smoothing up the edges. The edges should all have a small radius, but any larger chipped areas should be smoothed up some.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 02/18/08 22:24:16 EST

Mike BR...

Yes, the peroxide is the drug store variety. It can be bought in quarts at Costco, and I believe, at Walmart. I have used his mixture to etch wrought iron with good results. Not sure how it will work on steel. Muratic acid can be bought at Home Depot.

Do not breath the fumes.
   - djhammerd - Monday, 02/18/08 22:34:59 EST


I found a book from the 1860s (digitized on Google Books) that discussed forging with peat. The material was first converted to charcoal. If it works with peat, it seems to me that it should work with lignite (even though the product would be called coke instead of charcoal).

Of course, the raw lignite might work for you once you've got a little practice in and know what to look for in a fire.
   Mike BR - Monday, 02/18/08 23:12:08 EST

Shannon: If you are that near a lignite mine, you must be in coal country. Surely there's some bituminous or sub-bituminous within driving distance.
   Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 02/19/08 00:07:02 EST

Just wondering, Why does it matter what kind of coal you use for blacksmithing? I use lump coal to burn in my stove to heat the house but I don't know what kind it is. I have tried forge welding with it and had horrible luck, could it be anything to do with the kind of coal i'm using?
   - Troy - Tuesday, 02/19/08 00:32:23 EST

Coal isn't as pure as charcoal, the impurities in it affect the steel in various ways. Apparently sulfur makes the steel brittle. Also coal needs a large amount of forced air to burn and isn't a very reduced atmosphere so it oxidizes metal quickly, supposedly makes welding harder.
I have yet to try welding my self, 3 more weeks till march break, hopefully it will be warm enough to forge weld.
   Nabiul Haque - Tuesday, 02/19/08 01:39:54 EST

I have built a forge using your forced air burner. I changed the design to where the pipe splits into 3 different burner nozzles. This design works fine until the forge reaches approx. 1900 F and then I get a "blow-back". What I mean is, the flame suddenly shoots back up into the burner pipe and flashes out of the blower with a loud pop. What do you think I did wrong? Do I need a larger blower for that type of configuration? Thanks a lot
   - mark h - Tuesday, 02/19/08 08:42:29 EST

Troy, the coal can make a big difference on being able to weld. Of course the better you are at it the worse coal you can get away with.

I would advise working with another smith who commonly forgewelds for your first welding experiences as they can troubleshoot a number of issues a new welder can have.

Thomas back from Estrella but not caught up yet!
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 02/19/08 13:51:50 EST

I have forged several cajun triangles using different kinds of steel. All sound dull. Should I do some kind of heat treatment? If so what procedure would you recomend?
   jim griffin - Tuesday, 02/19/08 15:08:31 EST

Medium carbon steel, Guru gave me an award winning recipe for a nice clear loud triangle. It is the three-bend middle gapped triangle. Jock may have more to say.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/19/08 18:13:15 EST

Triangles: I believe it was Paw Paw Wilson who suggested heating and quenching the corners to improve the triangle "ring". Or you can just hang up one of those Non-Chinese cast anvils from Johnny8acres. He claims they ring like a bell. Uh huh.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 02/19/08 19:37:40 EST

I am the only one doing blacksmithing in my area exept one smith, but he lives about forty miles away and probly dosen't want to bother with me.
   - Troy - Tuesday, 02/19/08 19:59:52 EST

This is my first post, but I have been reading for the better part of a year and a half. I have found wealth of information here, so perhaps I can offer something on the discussion of coal. According to the fourth edition of Marks' Handbook, coal is ranked by its' fixed carbon and heat value in the following order. Anthracitic, Bituminous, Subbituminous, & lignitic. Lignitic coal is the lowest ranked coal with a BTU rating less than 8300. It states also that Anthracite, bituminous, and lignitic coals are non-caking coals. Caking is said to be an essentail property of coal to be used for the manufacture of coke and is an important factor in the burning of coal. This may be why you are not getting enough heat. It would seem that bituminous coal would be the best choice for the blacksmith.
   chris g. - Tuesday, 02/19/08 20:00:05 EST

I make my bells from A-36, and fully quench when possible. The triangles are bit hard to do this so I try to do the legs in two or three heats, quenching as i make them. They ring well. I also do the cleft note bells and the smaller ones I can do a quench as unit. The bigger ones i quench the scroll, and the top bend and they ring wonderfully.
   ptree - Tuesday, 02/19/08 21:21:18 EST

Triangles, Gongs: The corners need to be reasonably hard. I heat and bend very fast then quench when finished. One or more corners harden. Never had one break but it is a possibility if you are not careful. The harder the steel the higher the pitch and the better the ring. You COULD use high carbon and harden and temper the whole but that would be a very expensive gong.

I made a triangle of wrought one time and it sounded like striking a lump of mud. I made one 30" on a side from 1/2" round bar and you could get many different tones depending on where you struck it. However, this was a very slender ratio and did not make a very good triangle in general.

Shape and proportions (length of arms relative to diameter of the bar) make a big difference in the tonal quality of a triangle. Typically the more slender the higher the pitch. Low pitch does not carry well and medium pitch triqangles seem to get the most attention.

10" arms using 1/2" diameter bar makes a good ring. While I made dozens of triangles in my triangle research days I never got down to making small changes (say an inch at a time). I DID have an octave set at one time. . .. Once you find a ratio you like remember that to scale it up or down it is the ratio of the cross sectional area to the length, not measurement to measurement.

There are two classes of triangle. One with the opening at the corner and one with the opening in the middle of one side. These have an extra bend but the balanced shape is like a tuning fork and has a louder sound and better sustain.

Folks make lots of odd shaped dinner bells. Some shapes ring and others do not. Lots of variables and lots to learn.

   - guru - Tuesday, 02/19/08 22:43:13 EST

The original question about triangles said they were Cajun. It's my understanding that these are used in band accompaniment. They are repeatedly struck and the vibrato is halted with the holding hand, so that a rhythm is set up. I've seen two of them, one of 3/8" round and one of 1/2" round. They are smaller than most dinner triangles, about 8" to 9" on a side.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/19/08 22:53:39 EST

Coal Quality and Blacksmithing: Over the yeas smiths have used everything from dung to plasma arc to heat their work. Every fuel has its pros and cons. The best general fuel is high BTU low ash bituminous with just enough volatiles to coke well. With this top grade fuel I have seen forge welds made using only a handful of coal in a clean forge. Everything else is rapidly down hill from there.

The important thing to recognize is that every fuel being different requires different methods. Typically the poorer the fuel OR the less dense the deeper the fire bed. Many fuels need to be dried and coaled in the fire, others need small amounts of fresh added to the core of a really hot fire. The purer fuels (hard coal and coke) require a constant blast of air while some fuels only need extra air just when you need the heat.

The thing about the infinite variety of coals is that over time you learn to compensate for different coals and just keep going. You just automatically do what worked with a similar acting fuel and not worry about it. This takes time and practice.

SO, ignore what others say to do and work with the fuel until you find what works for YOU. It is a trail and error learning experience.

One method used to weld small parts is to build a fire over a fire in tube 8 to 10" tall. A gentle blast of air and you can weld over this similar to using a welding torch. Using a "welding tube" is a common method in many places but is rare in the U.S.

   - guru - Tuesday, 02/19/08 22:57:25 EST

Mark H: It sounds to Me like the fuel velocity is not high enough. Try making the 3 burners smaller in area, so the velocity is higher. If there is not sufficient area for the gasses to escape the forge the backpressure in the forge will reduce the velocity in the burners, thinking more as I type, this might be Your problem. How much open area do You have relative to the fuel You are burning?
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 02/19/08 22:58:55 EST

Mark-- trying giving it some more juice.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 02/20/08 01:33:18 EST

Poor Boy's method of making a dinner bell triangle:

Cut length of stock three times desired sides (e.g., 10" sides, 30" stock). Mark off into one thirds. Hold middle of stock in vise. Use oxy/ace unit to heat area of bend one at a time and bend to center of vice front. After both are done, reheat corners as needed to complete desired desired shape.

Will have to try the heating and quenching corner trick.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 02/20/08 04:00:03 EST

Dave Boyer
Thanks for the help. My burner configuration has 1/16" orifice running on almost 1 psi or so. The blower is 1/25 HP and feeds a 2.5" diameter pipe that then distributes the gas/air to a manifold. The manifold is a 2.5" x 3" tube with 3 evenly spaced 2" pipes as burner nozzles. The forge interior is 3.5" tall x 20" wide x 17" deep. The front is open with a hinged, clamshell type door(3.5" x 20"). When I started I thought the blower might be too small, but it's what I had. Even with door completely open, I still get the back pressure at around 1900 F or so. I know this forge design sounds stupid or odd, but I need it for the specialized pieces I'm currently producing. Please tell me what changes you would make and I'll go from there. Thanks a lot.
   - mark h - Wednesday, 02/20/08 08:55:51 EST

Sounds like the gas pressure is at least part of the problem. Residential natural gas pressure is regulated at about 7 psi. I wonder whether "almost 1 psi" delivers enough gas through the 1/16 orifice.
   Peter Hirst - Wednesday, 02/20/08 09:40:09 EST

The quenching of corners is a good tip, even on lower carbon steels. The three bend idea works similar: take your 30" section of 1/2" stock, mark dead center, then measure 10" on both sides of the center mark, mark them. Under orange heat, bend at each mark working from one side to the other (working from center out and you'll run into difficulty). The legs of the traingle should be abour 1/4" to 3/8" gapped from each other. This is how I did mine and it won a blue ribbon at last years Grange Fair.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 02/20/08 10:26:10 EST

Mark H, try upping your orifice to about 1/4 inch and keeping the gas pressure around or under 1 PSI. Is the blower choke wide open? If so, you need a bigger blower. I doubt you will, though, blown burners don't really need that much air. Have you squished the ends of the burner nozzles? that can help too. If not, you may need to put some kind of flame holder device in them, like say a smaller piece of pipe equipped with standoffs to hold concentric with the burner tubes.

Blown burners are far different than atmospheric burners and do not need a small orifice. Most guys I know just plug a 1/4" needle valve into a hole in the pipe and call it good. I know one who doesn't even use the needle valve, just 1/4" copper line run straight off a regulator. Barely crack the regulator valve and it's good to go. That's with a 6" blower off a copy machine, choked down to almost nothing, with the air/fuel mix dumping into a six-inch square tube that flares into a 4" x 8" nozzle at the forge body.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 02/20/08 11:35:06 EST

I'm being told that Mapp gas is going to be phased out and that I should convert to propylene. I have several flame cutting machines that would be converted. What would the differences be? I'm told the cost is less and that I can use the same consumables, regulators, etc....but, am concerned with usage. Any info?
   T Johnson - Wednesday, 02/20/08 11:39:37 EST

I would like to know the best way to quiet down an anvil I have mine (170lb Sodfords) straped down to a stump with 3/4" x 4 " lag bolts. it helped but it still rings alot. I have heard Magnets help. I was talking to a farrier fiend of mine and he uses two 1/4 " pices od alum plate with a pice of rubber truck mat sandwiched between them. Any other thoughts on this ?
   chilliwackwestie - Wednesday, 02/20/08 13:02:27 EST

Troy; please do not take this amiss; but unless you have talked to *everyone* for 30 miles or so in radius from yourself you do not *know* you are the only one in your area---you just suspect it.

Attending a local ABANA Afiliate and asking them will help to find out if they are any hidden smiths in your area but they may be under the radar even for the local group.

I myself live in a lightly settled area; but have run across a number of folks who smith or have smithed to one degree or another that I have accidentally stumbled accross in the last couple of years. (Largest town in the apx 100 mile wide/tall county is 9000 people)

Get out and track them down! Folks who used to smith can be good sources of equipment though sources can be almost anyone---bought a couple of pieces from a lady at church who had picked them up at a ranch garage sale...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/20/08 13:13:54 EST

I am venting so please excuse.

I am about T-TOTALLY disgusted with Hagemeyer. Story: About a month ago I wore out my last Lenox tool steel bandsaw blade cutting 303 stainless 3 1/2" diameter. Left calls with Mike Morrison for about a week. No response from voice mail. Getting desperate I called their 800 number and Sharon at Ext. 133 was helpful to determine the blades I needed. Placed order. One week, no blades. Two weeks, no blades. Three weeks, no blades. Now REALLY getting desperate. Tried calling Mike M. again (since I had dealt with him in the past). No response to voice mail message left. Did finally get through. Said he would look into problem and call me back. No call back. Left voice messages for Sharon at their 800 number. No response. Today, quickly after leaving another voice mail, I was finally able to get through to Sharon by demanding to talk to their 'real live person' customer service. They said, Oh, Sharon is at her desk, let me refer you. Seems their purchase order to Lenox got lost between them and Lenox. Lenox would get the blades out to me within two days. When I asked why purchase order disappeared she, at least to me, seemed to be unconcerned. Not my problem. It was only after I almost demanded she find out why she said she would try to do so and call me back. I suspect that ain't going to happen.

Cripes. No wonder we are losing business to overseas. Hagemeyer customer service S**KS.

Companies are much like restaurants. You only have to serve a bad meal, or provide poor service, one time and you have likely lost the customer forever.

Old saying: A satisfied customer tells one other. A dissatisfied customer tells ten others.

I'm still T-oed, but do feel better.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 02/20/08 13:37:29 EST

I'm having a problem similar to Mark H's.

I recently built my first naturally aspirated propane burner. (My first propane burner was forced air. It worked the first time, and every time since. But the noise from the blower bugged me, so I decided to play around with a naturally aspirated design.) It's based on Michael Porter's plans, basically a somewhat crude version of a T-Rex. 3/4" tube, 0.035" MIG tip as the orifice. It burns well across a pretty wide pressure range in open air, with the flare properly adjusted. (For the time being the flare is just a straight piece of black iron pipe.) But when I stick it in the forge it starts chuffing like a train and wants to flame out, or to burn back up inside the tube.

I'm thinking back pressure may be the problem. The forge in question is a discarded helium tank the size of a 20 pound propane bottle. It's only vented on one end, and that vent is 4" in diameter. Insulation is approximately 2" thick all around.

If back pressure is the problem, would a smaller orifice at higher pressure help? Or do I need to enlarge the vent/add another one? Is there some likely culprit other than back pressure?
   Matt B - Wednesday, 02/20/08 14:28:14 EST

Mark: As mentioned, with a blower you don't need an orifice and with residential NG pressure you don't want one. Your burners are 2 inch diameter?????? Wow, I'm suprised it goes all the way to 1900 before flashing back. Either reduce the size of them burners or restrict them. Could use a washer that fit in the bore or concentric rings or perforations; any thing to increse the flow velocity. I'd go to 1 or 1-1/4 id pipe. as an example, we had small size industrial forges that were 18H X 24deep X X 48long. These were fired with ONE 2" burner at on end and could get absolutely incandescent!
   - grant - Wednesday, 02/20/08 14:33:45 EST

Chilliwackwestie: First, with a name like that why in the world would you want a quiet anvil? I digress:

If it still rings that loudly you have not bolted it down tightly enough. Lay a solid bead of pure silicone caulk between the anvil and stump, let cure, then add the bolts and tighten them. I promise it won't ring anymore.

I do not understand why folks insist on magnets. They collect scale, make the anvil collect scale, and generally don't work that well. I also don't understand folks who insist on not tightening down their anvils, but if they want to waste energy that's their problem and they're welcome to it.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 02/20/08 14:53:13 EST

Hi I'm a patrol leader in boy scouts I'm teaching the metalworking merit badge and need to know how to work hardden metal like copper or tin and how to undo it later your help would be very welcome
thank you
   Chris Reeder - Wednesday, 02/20/08 18:29:21 EST

Chris, work hardening, as the name implies, involves a reduction of the thickness of the metal done at room temperature. This can be done by rolling or by hammer. The calculation of percent work hardening is = original thickness - final thickness divided by original thickness times 100. To restore copper to a softened condition, heat to a dull red and then quench in water. As you continue to work harden it, you should heat and quench (called annealing) every so often.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 02/20/08 20:04:36 EST

Customer service: Ken, I tried to resolve what I considered an error in billing on my Bank of America credit card. I have had this card for 16 years and it carries a $48,000 credit limit. After being insulted and argued with by the "service" person, I told him to just cancel the account. His response was "OK, I cencelled it, what else can I do for you?" I opened a new account with Wachovia and got a free card with the free checking and savings. Today in the mail, I get a letter saying the Bank of America has a pre-approved credit card waiting for me. "We understand you" "we appreciate your business" Right. Sorry, not blacksmithing but regretably, a sign of the times. Don't accept bad service! Call and complain to somebody!!!!
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 02/20/08 20:12:00 EST

While I am sure Hagemeyer are great folks, if they have to put in an individual purchase order to Lennox each time somebody orders a bandsaw blade, they are just too small of a company for reliable mailorder.
I order all my machine shop supplies, bits, blades, and many other things for the shop from MSC- a huge company with warehouses all over the country. My nearest warehouse is close to a thousand miles away from me, and yet every order appears at my doorstep two days after I place it.
I just ordered 4 blades for my bandsaw, and I expect em on Friday- and, if 20 years of experience ordering from MSC is any guide, they will be there.

On the other hand, I do my best to buy everything I can from my locally owned, full service, non-chain hardware store- I even bought my forklift from them.
Its hard to balance supporting local good guys with demanding prompt, reliable service. I have no local machine shop supply house, so for me, there is no dilemma- its mail order for some stuff, and local, at the world famous Hardware Sales, in Bellingham, for everything else.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 02/20/08 20:49:33 EST

T Johnson: For a flame cutting machine , if You want better performance than propane, try "Chemtane" [Chemtane2.com] or a similar product blended for cutting performance.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/20/08 23:21:13 EST

Mark H: Grant & Allan are giving good advice.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/20/08 23:22:19 EST

Matt B: Does it huff at 6#-10# operating pressure? I think You have plenty of opening, perhaps You need to play arround with the MIG tip placement and the "flare" extension.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 02/20/08 23:25:34 EST

Okay, I did exadurate a little There's probly more like five within thirty miles, but I do live in a very rural area and have talked with everyone in my town (200 people total). thanks for the advice I'll keep looking.
   - Troy - Wednesday, 02/20/08 23:39:01 EST

I don't know about calcining the plaster but the shop that casts high quality aluminum matchplates for me and has been doing that for many other shops for the last 50 years bakes their plaster moulds over the weekend at around 400 degrees. I realize that aluminum's melting point is a lot cooler than brass or bronze but they get a very good finish on castings up to a few hundred pounds. I asked the owner of this shop, Hamilton Matchplate about the temperature that be bakes the moulds because I had read about the high baking temperatures needed for investment casting.
   - JNewman - Thursday, 02/21/08 00:25:00 EST

Dave, I have been running Chemtane in my forge for about the last 6 months, and I like it a lot.
It runs hotter, and I run it at a lower pressure- my naturally aspirated forge runs at about 4 or 5 psi- and so I get longer times between empty tanks.
Hotter, less runs to the welding supply store for refills- that saves me money too.
Where I get my refills on my 100lb tank, it runs me about 25 bucks more per fillup- about $100 instead of $75, but it seems worth it to me, in terms of getting more work done faster, and fewer trips into town.
   - Ries - Thursday, 02/21/08 01:54:30 EST

Reis: I guess the part which most upsets me is not returning voice mail messages.

But then Centaur Forge doesn't answer their e-mails either.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 02/21/08 04:49:43 EST

Some companies just don't answer inquires from PITA customers.
   - anon - Thursday, 02/21/08 07:26:18 EST

I recently acquired a Prentiss Vise #180 1/2. Can anyone tell me anything about it. It was my grandfather's. Are the pads available?
   - Martin Cross - Thursday, 02/21/08 08:39:46 EST


I don't know if this applies to you, but one thing I don't like about the design I used for my gas forge is the way I mounted the burner. I've got a large pipe nipple welded to the top of my forge, and the burner fixed inside with set screws.

The problem is that if any combustion gasses get around the burner flare, they go up the space between the burner and the pipe nipple like a chimney. I think this heats the burner tube and contributes to flash back. If you've used this design, make sure the kaowool seals tight around the burner flare. You might also cut away some of the nipple (I drilled holes in mine) to try and break up the chimney effect.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 02/21/08 08:40:59 EST

Thnaks for the advice on the forge burner/blower set-up. You guys are very good/generous teachers.
   - mark h - Thursday, 02/21/08 08:48:27 EST

Vise Parts: Martin, Prentiss was one of America's Great vise makers. Sadly all but one of these is gone and the one left has most of their products manufactured overseas.

The period after the Civil war until the 1950's was the era of the great vise makers. During that time a great deal of parts were bench made using hammer, chisel and scraper. In fact, in the early 1800's entire machine tools were hand carved using these techniques. As a result large heavy "chipping vises" were in high demand.

Over time this work was replaced largely by modern machine tools. As this happened there was less demand for heavy vises. Die making remained largely a hand craft combining skilled machining and hand work. The coupe de' gras was 3D computer generated models, computer guided die sinking machines and Stereo Lithography. That ended the demand for top quality heavy vises.

While some craftfolk like blacksmiths still use heavy vices regularly there is not enough demand by well financed businesses to continue their production. There are also many good old vises currently filling the demand.

Replacement jaws must be made by hand for most of these old vises. Since the good ones were selling for over $10/lb in the 1960's it is well worth having a machinist make replacements. NOTE that for fine work, hot work and work in soft metals smooth jaws are best. I much prefer the nearly smooth worn jaws of the old vises I have over the original metal tearing teeth that would ruin work in an instant.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/21/08 10:27:54 EST

Blower Burners:

1) They DO NOT use an orifice to restrict gas flow or create a high velocity jet. Where do people get this idea?

2) "Flame holders" are an excuse for improper design. In low velocity burners the crisp right corner at the burner hole does the job. In high velocity (forge) burners where there is a lot of turbulence immediately in front of the burner you need a protected step in the pipe or between the the burner end and the opening of the insulation into the forge. This is easy in molded refractories by in kaowool blanket lined furnaces the step needs to be in the pipe. This step in size results in a small corner where turbulence allows a little flame to roll around and keep the burner from going out. In large low turbulence furnaces there is no need for this.

3) The performance of many burners can be improved by lengthening the mixing tube or by placing something in the flow to break up the gas stream and improving mixing of the fuel and air. Propane is a thick gas that clings together (imagine pouring oil into water). A nozzle with small multiple orifices can help mixing (this is the only time the word "orifice" should be used regarding blower burners). I have also seen propane torches with a screen in the flow to break up the fuel stream.

All Burners: Flash back in forge burners is generally a result of a poorly matched burner to forge size. The only thing that keeps fire from burning in the burner tube is the velocity of the gases. This must be higher than the "flame front velocity". This is the speed at which the flame spreads through a fuel/air mix. As long as the unlit mix is moving faster than the flame front velocity then the fire stays where it is supposed to. This included everything from Bunsen burners to oxy-acetylene torches and gas forges.

The best way to control this problem is with the burner tube size. If a nozzle is used it needs to be fairly long so that flame cannot jump through it into the lower velocity mixing tube. I've successfully used short nozzles but you need to be aware of the possibility of the flame jumping this "barrier". Insufficient venting of a forge can also slow the gas velocity in the burner tube and cause problems.

   - guru - Thursday, 02/21/08 11:13:28 EST

Mike BR,

You may have hit it on the head. That's almost exactly the same setup I have, and there's definitely some blowback around the burner. I didn't have anything handy to make a seal with at the time, but I figured it'd only hurt my efficiency. Never occurred to me that it'd cause flameout problems.

Dave Boyer,

Pressure seems to affect the frequency of the huffing, but it happens across a wide range of pressures.

By MIG tip placement, you mean how deep in the burner it sits?

I played with the flare quite a bit, actually. But I'll try some more. After I plug that leak that Mike mentioned.
   Matt B - Thursday, 02/21/08 11:44:28 EST

Machinery's Handbook: For those of you that have a collection of Machinery Handbooks and would like a first edition but cannot afford collector's prices, Industrial press has faithfully reproduced their first edition for you at a reasonable price.

The "Collector's Edition" comes in a protective gift box and is reproduced using the identical cover material, end papers and paper. It has synthetic gilt page edges (almost nobody uses real gold anymore). The rounded back and the soft bindings give it a look and feel identical to the original. The only indication that this is a reproduction is on the copyright page.

The information in the first edition is the same through the 5th edition. If you are looking for information on Babbiting, belt splicing, Thermit and many other hand processes that are rarely practiced in the modern shop this is the reference for you. It also includes most of the unchanging information on drill sharpening, sizes, tapers, gearing and speeds and feeds still used in the modern shop.

You can order directly from Industrial Press or purchase from your better technical book stores.

One caveat. These are bound to start showing up on ebay with a fuzzy description that does not indicate they are a new reprint. If you are still looking for that original first edition keep your wits about you.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/21/08 11:50:01 EST

Blowback from burners in large tubes?

I just stuff kaowool down around the sides of the burners from the top (eliminating the chimney effect).
   - djhammerd - Thursday, 02/21/08 12:24:10 EST

I have an anvil that I've been using for blacksmithing and would like to refinish it so I can go back to working silver and copper. It's been sitting for several years and has become very rusted. I know that resurfacing an anvil is a lot of work, but I don't have money to buy a new anvil and I'm up for the challenge. I'm wondering if you can give me advice on a plan of attack.
   Bird - Thursday, 02/21/08 17:58:59 EST


you wouldnt need to resurface it at all, just get a small belt sander with aluminum oxide paper and sand off the rust, you wont take much off in a very long time, so, its usually safe, then sand with progressively higher papers, untill you can buff it with a buffing wheel and buffing compound, do this all over the face and horn, making sure to spend equal time everywhere,
and do only as much is required, as not to wear down the hardened face too much,

   Cameron - Thursday, 02/21/08 19:05:00 EST

Bird-- if it's just rust, get some Bear-Tex abrasive wheels and some 3M twist-lock wheels in various grades of abrasiveness, and work it smooth with your 4-inch grinder. Do NOT use Naval Jelly-- it etches the steel. If the anvil has surface dings, forget it. Getting it silversmithing smooth would not be worth the time and effort compared to cost of a nice flat piece of 1/2-inch plate and doing the above to take off the mill scale down to smooth and shiny.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/21/08 19:06:33 EST

Ken Scharabok, I am sorry to hear of the Hagemeyer issues. I have not had those problems in the many years of dealing with them. I have always found mike to be diligent at calling me back. I do know he was out of the office a lot about that time frame with his wife having medical issues.
I have never used their 800 #. I do e-mail Mike for much of my needs. I have had them to drive stuff to me when it was vital for keeping the factory up, and we are 40+ miles from their shop.
I did forward the your complaint above to them, and I expect you will get a call to see what can be done to improve the issue.
   ptree - Thursday, 02/21/08 19:26:49 EST

Matt B: By MIG tipplacement I am asuming You have it centered properly. Ideally it should be placed where it generates the maximum air flow through the burner, and then You can ajust the mixture by choking the intake air or adding more gas to the intake air stream to get the atmosphere in the forge however You want it. I use a pipe reducer similar to the burner Jock shows on this site someplace, I ream the transition from the reducer to the pipe with a 35 deg. pipe reamer for a smooth transition. Some might say this doesn't help anything, but it cant hurt, and My burner works well. I played around some with the untapered burner tip, on Mine about 1 1/8" to 1 1/4" worked well, presently it has a 5 deg./side taper & 1 1/8" extension. this works over a wider pressure range than an untapered piece of 1" pipe. My forge doesn't have the leak Mike mentioned due to it's design, maybee that is Your problem.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/22/08 00:14:31 EST

Aligning MIG Burner Nozzles: I assemble the whole with no valves or plumbing attached and then sight down the burner. You should be able to see through the MIG tip from a foot away from the large end of the burner. Some of mine are welded together and alignment would require a little bending.

I use a rough little fixture made of a round piece of wood that just fits in the outer burner pipe that has a piece of 1/4" threaded rod threaded into it center. The tubes to be welded are snuggly fitted on the fixture (requires a little shiming) and then the whole is welded. I got in a hurry and used electrical tape for shimming one time. . . a sticky smoky mess. . . But all the burners I have made with this fixture were more than straight enough. Not perfect, but straight enough to see through as above.

Some folks attach a water hose to the nozzle and observe the line of the water flow. If it hits the side of the burner tube it is WAY out of alignment and should be straightened. Tests should be made vertically as water drops rapidly with gravity.

I prefer the line of sight method and have even done it with valves attached and open.
   - guru - Friday, 02/22/08 10:03:49 EST

What about wood lathing a sabot for a small laser pointer to stick in the tube and point at the orifice? Or are they too big a spot to align with?

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/22/08 11:58:21 EST

Hello, I am going to be making a pattern welded sword, but I can't seem to find a good combo of high carbon steel to use. They have to be water hardening, because I don't have the capabilities to do a oil harden. I was hoping at least one could be a tool steel. Also, where is a good place online to by small quantities of the stuff ready for the billet?
   - John L. - Friday, 02/22/08 22:39:00 EST

Thomas, Due to the lengths relative to the diameters, Jocks method works pretty well. I used it and tried it relative to the water method, and thinkit is as good. You eyeball the burner tube to get lined up initally, the two should look concentric. I doubt a laser would make an appreciable difference, & You probably don't want to look right into one if You don't have too.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/22/08 22:42:13 EST

Materials for Laminated Steel: John, A big part of the art of making modern Damascus is material selection. Research and research materials (such as ASM metals references) are suggested. Note that what makes many modern tool steels what they are is Manganese which is also what makes many oil and air hardening. The plain carbon steels and those without manganese are typically water hardening in small sections.

If you are looking for good color and pattern display then one of the alloys wants to have nickel in it. This is why one of the low carbon nickel alloy boiler plates is in demand by bladesmiths. It has the nickel and low medium/low carbon for ductility.

For an economical water quench blade I would go with W1 or W2 and mild steel or low carbon silicon transformer plate. When you are done then you must determine the proper heat treatment. Those ASM references come in handy again.

There are many places on the web you can order small lots of various alloys. We have a link in our store to On-Line Metals, McMaster-Carr also sells in cut lengths and Admiral steel not only caters to bladesmiths but sells Laminated steel blanks.
   - guru - Friday, 02/22/08 23:31:00 EST

Thanks for you quik response, but I have a problem. I checked all three sites you recommended for me and found that none of them carry W1 or W2 in sizes at all sutible for a damascus billet. McMaster only carries W1 with a maximun width of one inch and for it to be that width it would have to be one inch thick. The other two either don't carry it at all or only carry it in round rod shapes.
Could you please help me out?
   - John L. - Saturday, 02/23/08 00:22:13 EST

Why not simply cut smaller pieces to the size you need from the larger billets? Buy a rectangular block and slice pieces with a bandsaw (like lunchmeat). Or, get the rods and simply forge them into flat bar?
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 02/23/08 10:59:02 EST

Would you guys say 70 pounds of charcoal is enough to forge weld/ fold a block of metal for a complete sword?
No dice on getting high carbon mono steel within the GTA, and that grader blade I found is made of something called DH-2, I'll be using it as the walls for a new forge.
   Nabiul Haque - Saturday, 02/23/08 14:00:27 EST

I am working on making a ski as a monument for a friend of mine that passed away. He was an avid skier and I thought to make a ski to remember him. The center of the ski will be 1/2 thick and the tip and the the bottom of the ski will be thinned out to 1/8" thick. I will shape it as a parabolic ski to make it more modern looking.

Here is my problem. I want to have his name in Relief of the surface of the ski. Can I do repousser from the back of the steel plate that will be between 1/8 at the tip to 1/4 whewre I want to write his name or it's too thick?. I have never done repousser.I was also thinking that maybe an acid bath would be also appropriate but not sure what kind of acid to use neither as what can of resist to use to protect that rest of the steel where I dont want to steel to be chewed away.

I really appreciate any input since this is a imnportant project for me and I need your help to actually accomplish what I want.

I will be using a36 mild steel 4" wide by 70" long and it is 1/2' Thick. I will thin the stock out towards both the tip and the back to make it as real as possible. I will then used roller to give the camber in the ski and to make the tip of the ski

Thanks a million for your help


   dan - Saturday, 02/23/08 17:15:08 EST

Do you know of any good swordsmith's in the north texas area?I want to learn the art of swordmaking.I have taken your advice and attended 4 welding and metal working classes at dallas county community college.I think im ready for the next step and would love the chance to learn to make swords.Thank you for your input
   matthew smith - Saturday, 02/23/08 18:40:20 EST

Can someone help me with my delema on steel?
   - John L. - Saturday, 02/23/08 21:36:05 EST

John L: Why don't You just get [2] 5 gallon buckets of cooking oil and use oil hardening stock?
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 02/23/08 23:57:27 EST

If you can find a couple of old metal cutting bandsaw blades they are likley to be 15n20 - High in nickle, This stuff is about 1.25" high, x 0.040" thick. - you can grind the teeth off, sometimes I do, sometimes I dont!

You then need something like the heavy duty pallet strapping, also about 1mm thick and 1.25" high.

One bandsaw blade (about 6' projected length) and the same of pallet strap will give you a stonking big high starting layer billet.

Do a small sample piece of damascus as a knife first, to check it will harden.

Believe me, by the time youve invested $$$$$ in gas or coal, and countless dozens of hours welding folding & grinding $10 on cooking oil for H.T is nothing !

I know everyone sais this, but it is true, learn to walk before running. Ive got power hammers galore, and all the facilities needed for making big damascus billets, I still get occasional defects in the welds. You want to have heat treated a good few dozen knives (in all mediums) before you move onto the long ones !
   - John L - Sunday, 02/24/08 07:55:16 EST

ooooppppps above message for John L , From John N !
   - John N - Sunday, 02/24/08 07:56:00 EST

Ski Lettering: Dan, There are several ways to do this. No, repousse' is not the answer.

1) Make a set of matrix punches (parts of letters) and hot stamp the lettering. A bold shallow lettering would look nice. Such punches can include whole letters or basic components each used as needed. I'm not talking about sharp edged cold punches but broad flat faced punches.

2) Etch the lettering. There are many ways to do this and masks can be made on a computer. The primitive way is to paint on the mask, trim off as necessary then dip into or pour on acid. High tech includes photo reactive acids that just etch where light shines. I am not an expert on this subject but I know it can be done and would look very nice. The resit mask can be wax or a tar based substance. There are commercial products for this.

3) Have the lettering milled into the surface. There are some machine/sign shops that specialize in metal signs and have special CNC setups with various fonts. Small cutters are use to make squarish looking cutters on larger letters.

4) EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) might be a good way to go if you can find a shop to work with. On a long piece like a ski you might need to put in a convenience bend and straighten it after.

The first way is the hard core blacksmith method and will require many heats. You may want to use a scale protectant to reduce damage to the piece. Etching would do much less damage and give good results. EDM would look much like etching but could be deeper.

   - guru - Sunday, 02/24/08 10:33:01 EST

Fuel Quantity: Nabiul, I would say MAYBE. However, the whole laminated steel/Damascus process is a process of great waste. A finished blade may have as little as 1/8 what you start with. Some disappears as scale, some is cut off and most is ground off.

Note that keeping your billet short (almost square) reduces the number of heats and fuel needed. Starting with a billet made of MANY thin layers also reduces the number of welds, scale loss and fuel required. There are smart efficient ways to make laminated steel but it requires materials that you may net have.

On the new Big BLU bladesmithing video only two welding heats are used to make a very fine grained Damascus. Among the interesting techniques used was the wrapping of the billet in stainless heat treating foil. This made the welding go much smoother and cleaner.

To do the above requires expensive materials. However, the point is that materials are cheap if you value your time. This is true especially among professionals. In this case the more expensive steels (bought in bulk) reduce the cost of fuel as well. The stainless foil not only make the welding go smoother (requiring no flux), it also prevents losses due to scaling.

   - guru - Sunday, 02/24/08 10:48:15 EST

Oh wow now that is interesting, I've seen case welding but I never thought about a foil being used for that. Did they use the stainless foil so that it wouldn't weld, could I not do the same with thin sheet steel and grind off the outer layer?
   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 02/24/08 10:55:08 EST

Nabiul, The fellow was making stainless Damascus and I was surprised the foil did not weld. I think the SS foil has a surface treatment that keeps it from sticking to things or give it better oxidation protection.

Using the sheet steel you would be creating a sacrificial layer that you would have to remove by grinding. The Case welding method I've seen used was in rectangular SS tubing which was cut off and removed. I thought it was very wasteful but did not think of using SS heat treating foil.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/24/08 14:37:09 EST

Hammer-In Preparations: Well we just barely have six weeks. We (Dave B. an 18 year old grand daughter and I) hauled three tons, of tools and machinery to the shop yesterday. Have to unload it this week. . . Next weekend we do shop wiring. The machines need de-rusting and new motors mounted. THEN we have a power hammer to build. . . among other preparations.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/24/08 18:39:07 EST

Jock, is the hammer in You are speaking of the Wing Ding at Paw Paw's shop? Where is this place?
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 02/25/08 01:12:02 EST

April 18-20, Boonville, North Carolina, On Rt 601 - 15 min, South of Mt. Airy or 20 minutes North of Yadkinville. 15 minutes East of I-77 and a cluster of motels OR 30 minutes North West of Winston-Salem. All roads pass through Boonville. We are 1 mile North of the light at 67 and 601. Hmmmmm I guess I'll need a flaming anvil sign.


The plan is to debut a new mechanical power hammer design for which we will be selling plans (IF it is successful). The hammer uses some tried and true mechanics and a unique spring and linkage design that is fairly easy to build and provides all the advantages of the best mechanical hammers.

Preparations have included part of my moving my shop. Truckloads of tools and machinery. . . expensive repairs to my F-600 HD truck so I could move the machinery. A fork lift to unload on this end. . . Reorganization and setup. . .

The fork lift will be available to transfer loads for tailgaters or unload demo machinery.

The Sunday auction list includes a coal forge with hand crank blower, two hand crank drill presses that need TLC, a small "project" anvil, a semi-finished (needs work) belt sander, old Al body electric hand tools, the big green NC tire hammer, excess tools of various types. A more detailed list will be included with the flier as it develops.

Life is going to be interesting for the next 6 weeks.
   - guru - Monday, 02/25/08 10:13:24 EST

John L,

When you say that you don't have the capabilities to oil harden, what exactly does that mean? If you have a container that'll hold enough water to harden a sword blade, presumably that container could also hold oil. So what's the problem? If you can't get proper quenching oil, you can buy peanut oil at your local Home Depot (the BBQ section) or Sam's Club. You can also use waste motor oil (free from a garage) or waste fryer oil. I'm not saying these are the equals of good commercial quenching oil, but but they can all work. You're pretty severely limiting yourself by insisting only on a designated water hardening steels. And note that even so-called water hardening steels are risky to water quench in thin, non-uniform cross-sections like blades.

I'm under the impression that W2 is no longer being made.

The Admiral blade steel catalog (not the online store, the catalog, which is also available through their site) has 15n20 and 201 nickel in thin cross-sections for making damascus. Their spring steel catalog has 1095, 1084 and 1075 in very thin sections that'd work fine for pattern welding. So does McMaster-Carr. Alpha Knife Supply carries ~1/8" thick 52100. Sheffield Knifemakers Supply carries O1 in 1/32", 3/64" and 1/16" thicknesses up to 10" wide), and who knows what else.

Of course you could also make your billet from five or six much thicker layers and fold it a few more times. That's what at least one very prominent professional bladesmith that I'm aware of does. That approach solves the problem you're having: it's easy to find a wide variety of steels in heavier cross-sections. And it's much easier to do the surface prep on five or six thick layers than to do it on a dozen or more thinner layers.

Of course drawing out a big billet like that would be a tremendous amount of work by hand, but most of the pros are using power hammers and hydraulic presses.
   Matt B - Monday, 02/25/08 10:55:13 EST

Remember when working with waterhardening steels to buy at least twice as much as you need so if your piece ends up cracking or not hardening, (decarb at welding heats), you have enough to start over while waiting for the next batch to come in!

One trick is to make up several smaller billets exactly the same and then weld them together near the end to get the large billet for swordmaking.

You better have a powerhammer or a striking crew too!

I have made some substantial billets using the large, 1"+, re-saw bandsaw blades from a sawmill and large pallet banding---and a 50# powerhammer. I have not checked how they harden as this was for a helmet.

   Thomas P - Monday, 02/25/08 12:25:19 EST

I happened to make some RR spike knives out of what I thought was HC spikes. But since I had just glanced at them, I didnt realize they were MC spikes. Anything I can do to harden them more, besides case hardening? Or will they be all right as long as they dont see constant use?

Also it seems as if I have heard mixing lye and water will make a faster quench than brine. Is this true?
   - Hollon - Monday, 02/25/08 13:00:56 EST

Superquench was invented to replace the dangerous lye quench.

If you used the wrong steel there is little you can do expcept chalk it up to forging experience. Note that HC spikes are MEDIUM carbon steel. . . The H is a relative number related to spikes, nothing else.

Laminated steels can be made the hard way using low tech and it is REALLY the hard way. OR it can be done the easy high tech way. High tech is starting with many thin layers, working cube shaped (not long, blade shaped) billets that hold heat and reduce the chance of a bad weld. Forging presses, rolling mills or power hammers are used. There can be as few as one or even NO "folds" or secondary welds.

The thing about the higher tech methods is that they require far fewer heats and welds thus turning out a better product with much less chance of failure.

Failure in laminated steels often shows up far along in the grinding process as a weld defect, or in the heat treat.
   - guru - Monday, 02/25/08 14:27:35 EST

Your right, and thanks for the advise, I will get some oil and stop limiting my self to water hardening steels.
   - john L. - Monday, 02/25/08 15:12:50 EST

Hollon, A RR spike knife will never be very hard or hold a good edge. They are easy to resharpen, but will require lots of sharpening. They are a curosity mostly. They do make good garden trowels where the tuffness is well apreciated.
If you wish to make a good hard edge holding knife, you will need a steel that will support that desire.
   ptree - Monday, 02/25/08 19:24:52 EST

I have two 30 foot lengths of steel cable.One is 5/8"dia. and one is 3/4" dia.They both have some surface rust.Will this be a problem if I try to use them for cable knives or would I be better off taking them to the steel grave yard and selling them for scrap?
   Ringer - Monday, 02/25/08 21:28:15 EST

Ringer, Make sure what you have is a quality cable, like wire rope. If you heat it to a red heat, the rust can be removed with a wire brush. Furthermore, you get scale, which is another form of iron oxide. Wire brush as you work and use borax for flux.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 02/25/08 22:25:03 EST

Most knives the size of a RR spike knife would probably have about 60-70 points of carbon right (or should this be measured in actual hardness)? And with the lye quench, was it dangerous to the metal quenched, or is it to the person quenching. I would have thought that the water would evaporate leaving the lye behind, as with salt water, but I am by far no chemistry expert.
   - Hollon - Monday, 02/25/08 22:25:57 EST


The carbon content of a knife has little to do with its size, and a lot to do with other factors such as intended use, other alloying ingredients and their effects, and the desired edge-holding ability. Some medium carbon steels make satisfactory knives, while others don't fare so well. Generally, if I wanted a knife with good edge-holding characteristics, I'd use a simple carbon steel with about 80 to 120 points of carbon, and use differential hardening to achieve toughness in the spine and hardness in the edge. I would only use a medium carbon steel for a machete or similar hacking tool. Good steels are little more expense than mediocre ones, and cheap compared to the labor of forging and grinding a fine knife.

Using a very fast quench to "improve" a poor steel is not the way to get a good product. Much better to start with a proper steel and treat it as recommended by the manufacturer.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 02/26/08 00:06:53 EST

I've made a couple of spike knives with layed-in tool steel edges, just because. Come to think if it, they're the only two knives I've made, so *don't* expect to see pictures (grin). The welds themselves, though, were easier than I expected and came out well.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 02/26/08 08:31:54 EST

Lye Quench. When Rob Gunter, a metallurgist, worked for Sandia Labs in Albuquerque, he developed the idea of using the lye quench. The Inspector General and Powers-That-Be did not want the Lye to be stored in Rob's lab, so they ordered it removed. This left Rob in a quandary, so he devised the less caustic "super quench."
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/26/08 10:22:55 EST

I have just purchased a few of the grizzly 27 inch belt grinder disc grinder combo machines.
Here is my problem- I can't find 2x27 inch belts for it ANYWHERE!!

Does someone have a source for these or can you point me to someplace I can buy ceramic or zirconium abrasive belt material and joining tape so I can make my own belts?
this is ridiculous that someone would make a piece of equipment that is not a common size foir the medium it uses! Guess I now know why they were so inexpensive!!

If anyone can help with this please let me know by emailing me at info@budoweapons.com


   Ed Green - Tuesday, 02/26/08 11:11:49 EST

Ed Green-- try Texas Knifemakers' Supply. They can get any size belt in any material. Also: A Cut Above, an abrasives outfit. Terrific service both outfits.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 02/26/08 11:30:27 EST

I had thought that a large knife that is as hard as a small would break easier, though that is probably due to its different uses.
   - Hollon - Tuesday, 02/26/08 12:56:51 EST

HC RR spikes have a max of .3%, 30 points, carbon which is pretty much the bottom line for medium carbon steel. Those weird clip shaped thingies, officially called rail anchors, are generally 1040-1060 depending on manufacturer and so are a better source of steel for knives---tough under the hammer though.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 02/26/08 13:09:27 EST

I prefer to call them clip shaped thingies, although I have also heard them referred to as ears.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/26/08 14:07:17 EST

Klingspor Abrasives not only makes some of the best stuff available anywhere, but will make any of several dozen abrasives in any size belt.
Get a commercial account, and they are very price competitive. My orders are usually here within 4 or 5 days.
Since they actually manufacture, as opposed to just resell, their selection, quality, and prices are better than most anybody. Google em.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 02/26/08 14:18:16 EST

I usually forge with coal. That works very weel. Sometimes I use charcoal and that works fine too. I even sometimes end up burning the traditional dung fuel (really) with either of the above and that works fine. I cannot, however, get coke to light or burn. What is the sectret please? I am even considering leaving some buckets of coke around the shop in case we ever need a fire extinguisher as it seems to put out any fire within minutes!
   - philip in china - Wednesday, 02/27/08 01:25:22 EST

PS I forgot to add. Coke would come free which is why I am anxious to use it rather than the other fuels.
   - philip in china - Wednesday, 02/27/08 01:26:10 EST

Dear sir,
We have a heat treatment furnace which we are using it for carburising process upto a temperature of 930 deg. we would like to implement ceramic coating for the bricklining of this furnaces inorder to get energy savings. hence we are requesting you to suggest us the suitable product for our application.
   - ASVB.Chary - Wednesday, 02/27/08 03:44:19 EST

Philip: Try starting the forge fire first with some other fuel. Once going well, then add your coke. Old Boy Scout trick is to soak small pieces of soft wood kindling in kerocene.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 02/27/08 05:45:39 EST

Furnace Improvements: ASVB.Chary, For many years a product called ITC-100 has been used to coat refractories to improve durability and to increase efficiency. ITC-100 is a very high IR reflectant and has been proven to produce significant fuel savings in the ceramics and metal working industries.

We happen to sell this unique material. See

ITC Products:
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/27/08 10:39:10 EST

Foundry Coke: Phillip, Industrial coke has absolutely no volatiles, it is nearly pure carbon and fairly dense. The lack of volatiles makes it hard to light and difficult to keep burning. Continuous air is required or it goes out. Adding oils or wax is NOT recommended. I've tried it and it will not get hot enough to start the coke and just makes a mess.

To start coke fires most smiths use an oxy-acetylene torch. You can also build a small coal or charcoal fire and pile the coke on that. However, the coal fire will need to be at a white hot (its peak) to start foundry coke.

You may also need to size your coke. Typical foundry coke comes in large lumps and must be broken down into small (1/2" to 1") pieces to work well in a forge.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/27/08 10:50:36 EST

Two Steel Knives: This is still a very common practice in many parts of the world. One style of Japanese blade uses a soft core wrapped with hardenable steel. I've seen a Philippineo smith make a two steel kris with only 5 laminates. This was etched to bring out the simple pattern. European bladesmiths brought this to a fine art about a thousand years ago with blades built up on all sides around a soft core.

Good modern steels have such high strength that they replaced most of these methods. However, the methods are still used for the history and the art.

Note that carbon is only one factor in hardenability. While carbon is required the addition of manganese enhances the hardness produced by the carbon. Many manganese steels with the same carbon as other steels can be made harder and harden through thick sections.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/27/08 11:14:33 EST

Hollon; you're right. This is why swordmakers keep telling the new folk that making a sword is not just making a large knife.

Swords get a lot more stresses when they are used and so have design criteria to deal with them. Also blade harmonics come into play---you want the grip and the "sweet spot" to be nodes. (Well the sweet spot is a node but you need it to be at a useful location) something not much a problem in a knife. A well designed and built sword will seem to almost stick to your hand in use---a badly done one will try to leap out of your hand when you hit something.

Also stress risers take on more import---why many fantasy blades are worse than a copy of a simple museum piece---they had fantasy swords and armour in medieval and renaissance times but they *KNEW* that they were not for use but rather "parade arms and armour".

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/27/08 11:28:25 EST

could i make a sword using just the tools one would use to adust horseshoes, or would i have to get a certain set of tools? also would a sword design that had the middle of the blade cut out and just the edges attached to each other work so that it could be bigger and still weigh about the same as a smaller sword with the middle in it?
   Dylan H. - Wednesday, 02/27/08 13:24:54 EST

What you need to make a sword: forge, hammer, anvil

Now having specialized tools can help speed things up but the viking swords were all made using tooling that folks would laugh at for the purpose today.

There are ways of making cutouts in a blade that would lighten it without weakening it or disturbing the harmonic balance very much; but in general an edge blade would not work as well as one that had the internal backing.

Look what was done historically for using blades. If they could have come up with a method of using less of expensive steel that would work as well or better than a standard sword design they generally found it sometime over the 2000 years or so that iron/steel swords were used as a primary weapon.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/27/08 13:58:20 EST


Just out of curiosity, what's the end point of that 2000 years? What strikes me most about photos of the (immediate) aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand is the policemen with drawn swords.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 02/27/08 22:35:54 EST

Dylan H,

As Thomas noted, swords are subject to stresses that make a "skeletonized" blade a likely candidate for failure in actual use. However, the desire to lighten a blade while maintaining a broad profile is nothing new and has been successfully achieved for hundreds of years. The answer to your dilemma is fullers.

Fullered blades, those that have what people mistakenly call "blood grooves", can be significantly lighter while still being wide. Some swords had two or even three fullers running the length of the blade. Where the fullers on the two sides almost meet in the middle, the steel can be extremely thin, yet it still has significant strength to prevent the blade from collapsing on impact. Visualize an I-beam from the end view and you can see how a fuller can save weight while keeping strength.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 02/27/08 23:04:36 EST

Jock, re my earlier email Gur's den is now working fine again. The bug seems to have gone.
   - philip in china - Thursday, 02/28/08 04:18:52 EST

Thomas & Nippolini

Actually, "rail anchor" is a generic term for any of a number of devices that attach the rail to the tie or the tie and plate. Technically, a spike is a rail anchor because it does both. The "ear" is the extension of the spike head that actually contacts the flange of the rail. The clip-chaped thingy that looks like a fat paper clip or chain link (round stock)is called a Pandrol clip. There is another one that is about 1/2 x 1 bar stock about 6" long bent sorta like a church key (maybe better for a knife?) called a Unit Rail Anchor. 1040-1060 sounds about right for both, since they are springs. Probably about like forging auto coil spring. Maybe even worse, after they have been flexed by a few gazillion rail cars passing over them.
   Peter Hirst - Thursday, 02/28/08 08:39:54 EST

Follow up to my rant about Hagemeyer. Received call from a supervisor yesterday. Essentially a 'they say, I say' and why did I wait a couple of weeks before I started doing a follow-up on my order if it was that urgent. Said problem happened when sales rep. punched in the wrong code into the order - the purchase order went into limbo rather than going out.

On the why I waited, I worked around problem as long as I could. However, I still get the impression if I had started calling after a week I would have gotten the same treatment.

Still dissatisfied with their voice mail system. Still open question: if Mike or Sharon received the voice mail messages left, why didn't they return them? Don't they have a system to where, when someone is away from the office for more than a day, someone else checks their voice mail messages and takes action on them as their back up?

I strongly suspect I'll place my next bandsaw blade order through MSC.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 02/28/08 10:53:27 EST

Most important thing to consider when building a sword is how you are going to sit down with it on at the moom pitcher show without hurting yourself.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 02/28/08 11:32:57 EST

I posted this request (making a replica of an 17th cent plane) on a woodworkers forum.
I was thinking of casting in bronze but now I wonder about making these in steel. They photo is blurred but it doesn't appear that there is a weld at the bottom of the plane. I wonder if these were hammered around a fixed mold? If so though...what would you do about the seam?
   Dean - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:25:26 EST

Specialized Tools: Yep, You CAN forge almost anything you want on a stone anvil using a handleless stone hammer while an assistant blows the charcoal and dung fire with wineskins, then scrape it with a flint scraper and sharpen it on what ever sandstone you find laying about. . . In fact, there ARE smiths still working this way in some of the more impoverished parts of the world. Today, generally they at LEAST have a hammer.

Making almost any kind of blade (large or small) requires LOTS of grinding (or filing and scraping). The bigger the blade, the more grinding. Most blade smiths have a shop full of various types of grinders and polishers.

In a pinch you can do a lot of grinding with an angle grinder and some skill. You can follow that by hand finishing with abrasive cloth and paper. But the pros bypass many steps and many hours by using machinery that removes lots of material while leaving a fine finish.

In Southeast Asia they replace the rough grinding with heavy scraping using tools that work like a heavy draw knife for metal. This is a highly developed yet low tech expedient replacing expensive abrasives.

For carving metal small chisels are still used. However, the roughing is often done with power tools such as die grinders or hand held air hammers.

For commercial efficiency OR a pleasurable hobby, you can not beat the electric slave, the small electric motor. No shop can have enough of them. On plain and double shafted motors scrounged from various sources you can mount wire brushes, grinding and notching wheels, buffing pads, flap wheels. . . each in different sizes and textures.

How you use your time is up to you. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:52:06 EST

in larger swords, such a dopplehander could you add a certain amount of weight onto the handle or somewhere along it to make it into a monohanded sword?
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:55:33 EST

what is the better material for forging a sword, titanium or high carbon steel?
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:57:10 EST

Who was a famous medieval black smith
   - Random g - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:57:38 EST

Who was an historical blacksmith?
   - Random G - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:58:59 EST

if you took a piece of sheet metal, made from a certain type of steel, and folded it over and over, wouldn't that make it stronger?
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 12:59:25 EST

how do you make your steel black? can you dye it a certain way, or does it require a different method?
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 13:03:40 EST

Violin Makers Thumb Planes: Dean, During this era smiths, especially tool makers, were highly skilled at forge welding. Even the thinest parts could be carefully welded together to look like one very oddly shaped piece. Much of this had to do with the weldability of wrought iron and the need to work to the strength of the grain in the wrought.

It is unlikely that these were made in or on a form as that was not a good process for wrought or part of the mind set of the time. Many items were made by the build up process during this era. These planes are probably made from a number of pieces forge welded together. OR from one piece folded like a box and then welded. Good finished forge welds are quite difficult to detect.

Later versions of these including modern tools are made in cast brass or bronze. A modern maker using steel might braze or penny weld the plates together.

   - guru - Thursday, 02/28/08 13:04:10 EST

Dylan, AKA Random G. Please slow down and read a book.

You could do anything you want with a sword but to what end?

Titanium is a light weight soft metal. Steel is the material for blades.

The unknown smith of the Mästermyer Find is probably the most well known real ancient smith among modern smiths. There are lots of smiths throughout history. Many became inventors such as James Nasmyth and Eli Whittney. There are numerous modern smiths that historical in the world of blacksmithing.

Folding does nothing but wear out steel. Folding and welding it reduces the carbon content. See our book review page for books on blacksmithing.

Steel is normally black or bluegrey/black from the iron oxide scale that is the result of heating it.

Steel is often painted black to protect it from rust.

   - guru - Thursday, 02/28/08 13:18:53 EST

Mike BR. My endpoint is about WWI when they made a large number of cavalry swords for the war and then used very few of them; many being converted into trench knives---I have "Patton Model" cavalry sword stamped 1918.

Peter; I was referring to a "unit rail anchor" then and no matter how many gazillion flexes it's had all work hardening should be gone the first time you get it up to red and past the dislocation climb temperature. The alloy is a bit red hard evidently.

Miles back in the late 1970's I spent 2 hours sitting in a movie theater with a real sword. It is a poor shape to sit with.

Dean it doesn't say if they were made from cast iron or Wrought Iron---very different materials! If it was wrought iron (the more likely material) they probably forge welded any seams as wrought forge welds very well.

As to forms: if the tool maker had a large number of these to do he may have well built a form to shape it on but if it was a one time job it was probably just carefully forged.

Dylan lets see if I can rephrase the question: "If I have a sword that is too heavy and has too much momentum to use one handed can I add more weight and make it into a one handed sword?". You can change the balance point but not the momentum and lever arm length. So no! (and changing the balance point may make the blade unusable for it's original special uses and so useless!)

Random: medieval blacksmiths are usually not famous as they were craftsment and so low on the medieval social ladder. You might check out the various patron saints of blacksmithing---like St Dunstan who both were smiths and went on to some fame ended up being "sainted".

Now in the Renaissance you start getting some famous armour makers; like the Negrolis, (one of whom at least one time signed his work in gold right across the front of a helm!), Helmschmid, Maximillian's armourers who are shown in a woodcut by Hans Burgkmair, Die hoffplatnerei printed in 1514, showing Maximillian I visiting his court armourer Konrad Seusenhofer in his workshops; etc.

Dylan; please go to swordforum.com and read the faq on using Ti for swords. Ti makes a much poorer sword than high carbon steel. (I forged a cp Ti knife; but use it as an eating knife as it doesn't hold an edge well--you can cut Ti with steel you know...)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/28/08 13:23:17 EST

Folding and welding may improve *certain* low grade steels; but may also ruin them. Depends on the steel and the skills of the smith. Just like removing an appendix may save you or may kill you depending on the circumstances and the skill of the person carving you up.

In general using a high grade modern steel will make a better blade than folding and forge welding a lower grade or the same high grade steel.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/28/08 13:27:14 EST

listen, i'm just thirteen. i just want to know how to make these things because i always thought it was cool. plus, i can't get acess to books about things like that. even if i do i don't know exactly where to find them.
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 13:30:21 EST

Dylan, Start at your school library. You would be surprised at what they have in the encyclopedia. Then public libraries often have how-to books and knife making is very popular. If they don't, then many libraries have what is know as ILL (Inter Library Loan). Libraries on this system will get you books from any of the other libraries in the system INCLUDING the Library of Congress. A small fee may apply.

THEN. . . there are sword making videos on You-Tube including several from Chinese factories where they make thousands of hand made but cheap swords. The processes are even slightly ancient.

   - guru - Thursday, 02/28/08 14:40:18 EST

thanks for the info i will try these
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 15:12:18 EST

by the way, i'm not random g. that's my friend i told about the site.
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 15:20:07 EST

so, what on the subject of knife making? are the rules the same or are there different ones?
   Dylan H. - Thursday, 02/28/08 15:35:52 EST

I'm sorry to be a bit off topic, but I'm wondering what hardness one might expect to get from 11018 welding rod. I'm not sure if this from any of your fields but I would appreciate even if you can point me in the right direction.

   - Daryl - Thursday, 02/28/08 15:49:08 EST

It's funny living in a small town in New Mexico I can easily ILL a book through the small public library that I have not been able to buy with over two full years of international book searches on the internet.

I'd advise getting "Complete Bladesmith Forging Your Way To Perfection" James Hrisoulas (ISBN: 9780873644303) and Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop (ISBN: 0873419936)

Rules: we expect you to read the FAQs, and use the search functions before asking a question that has been asked a hundred times before. We expect you to listen to what is said and to *think* about what you post so you don't post questions without enough details to answer.

We expect this of folks who are 13, 30 or 103. Shoddy behaviour does not make folks want to provide details on processes that have some inherent danger. Feel free to clean the gene pool---but don't ask that we supply the chlorine!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/28/08 16:20:13 EST

Daryl, I'm not sure how hardenable it is but it is 110,000 PSI material. Heat treating is very tricky and depends on what it has been welded to or over. The weld interface sees a peak in hardness due to crystalline structure with the weld softer. Trying to increase the weld hardness without creating cracks is the trick. Normal hardness appears to be around 300 Brinnel or about 25 HRc (depending on the conversion authority).
   - guru - Thursday, 02/28/08 17:56:53 EST

Thanks Guru, I was hoping it would be more. I'm not into fixing anvils, but I found a nice sized hay budden without much of a face left. It is not worth even considering spending hundreds of dollars in exotic rods. I have done that with good results but as you said you need to be spot of with the preheat and post heat, it can be very tricky. I don't mind the work, but I'm not spending more on rods than I would on a new anvil. If something like a 11018 would work I might consider it. Then again it might look pretty in the garden, my wife might get a kick out of having her own anvil.
   - Daryl - Thursday, 02/28/08 18:43:38 EST

Historic smiths- There is no proof, but I always thought that the myths of Wayland were probably founded on the actions of an actual smith who was the first (in his area) to figure out how to get the carbon from his charcoal into his iron and what to do with the steel then. Steel in an all iron world would look like magic to me. A little word fame probably helped sales to no end. Also, IIRC some of the Norse sagas name metalworkers if they were considered exceptional.
   Jud Yaggy - Thursday, 02/28/08 20:18:16 EST

This is no BS guys, I got a fortune cookie today that said "It is better to be the hammer than the anvil". I was floored at first, but then got me wondering, is this true? One could not truly exist without the other, so one could not be truly better than the other. Any thoughts? I will scan the fortune and post it.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 02/28/08 20:36:53 EST

TGN, you will wear out many hammers on 1 anvil!

However it is better to be the hammer than the nail, yes it is, yes it is.....it truly is...

   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/28/08 20:59:48 EST

I have had good luck finding rare metal working titles on e-bay (Directory of American Tool Makers). I just set it up to e-mail me as soon as some one posts one I'm looking for. I also picked up most of the suggested reading list off of Amazon vendors for about 30% of cover price. Library surplus sales are a real gold mine as well as used book stores particulary ones in former industrial towns that have lost industry. Best Gold mines yet were used bookstores in the United Kingdom. Really great OLD info for next to nothing since the urbanized population dosen't seem interested in doing alot of this sort of thing. Finding the information and tools is as much fun as using them.
   - Robert Cutting - Thursday, 02/28/08 22:12:21 EST

I have seen many smiths that do not wear glasses are they a real necessity or just an extra percaution, cant hurt to wear them in any case but are they truly necessary?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Thursday, 02/28/08 22:36:51 EST

"Rather be the hammer" One time while cleaning conch on the beach with some friends I started in with "I'de rather be the hammer than the snail". To get the animal out of the shell You chop a hole in the shell with a welders chipping hammer or an auto body hammer so You can cut the critter loose, then after all the yuckey stuff is removed You hammer the dickens out of them with a tenderizing hammer.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 02/28/08 23:02:34 EST

Jacob Lockhart: A glass eye looks pretty good, but it cant see at all.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 02/28/08 23:07:33 EST

Jacob-- safety glasses are truly necessary only if your visitors and your eyeballs are softer than slag or steel splinters or any of that other myriad crapola that is always flying around in any shop. You certainly cannot so much as set foot in or near mine without them.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 02/29/08 00:16:51 EST

Just look at the lenses of a set of well used safety glasses. If 1% of that had contacted the surface of the eye just think what a mess it would have made. I value my sight especially as I have little enough of it in my left eye to start with so, yes, safety glasses are a must.

In the old days smiths used to work without safety measures. They also, like most workers, were considered old at 60 and sported wooden legs, hooks in place of missing hands etc. etc.

In some parts of the world safety is ignored. Those areas also have high levels of heavy metal poisoning, blindness, deafness, missing body parts etc. I for one have no intention of joining those statistics. As a minimum in my shop I use steel toecap boots, a leather apron and safety glasses. Depending on the job I am doing (e.g. using a grinder) I also use welding gloves and ear defenders. This is the MINIMUM to be safe. People who do not wear this do not work in my shop. Also remember not to wear nylon or similar if you are working with anything hot. Believe me a hot cinder on a nylon shirt next to the skin is a whole lot worse than that same cinder straight onto the skin. Cotton or wool between is better than either.

OK I have had my rant and feel better for it.

Just let me add: Of all things use safety glasses. You can walk on an artificial leg. You would be amazed what people do with artificial hands. I never yet met a guy who could see through a glass eye though.
   - philip in china - Friday, 02/29/08 01:45:23 EST

I mixed up some beeswax, carnuba wax and boiled linseed oil and have been applying it to some projects. I have been first heating to red in order to deliberately create "mill scale" to get rid of shiny silver areas that have been ground smooth. My customer likes the "grey" that results. I am wondering how long it can stay that way without rusting in an indoor situation.Not that I really mind the rust-- I like the various colors and textures that are coming out of doing this to old, pitted, rusty steel. I wire cup grind the powder mostly off and the rest turns grey with the heat. Now I am doing it to a door handle that will be outside but not totally exposed to the elements and the wax mixture seems pretty effective for now. I just wonder if the whole "mill scale" skin will just lift off within a year or so. Does anybody know?

Another question concerns door locksets. I would like to know a source for locksets that have no plastic parts inside so I can modify the doorknobs with welding without cooking the interior plastic parts,

Another question concerns lathes. I know that one can cut a tapering cylinder with a lathe. Can one then cut "threads" on that tapering cylinder on a regular lathe or would a special attachment need to be built that could do that. (No, I am not asking for a source of miracle shrinking nuts that expand and contract as they rotate--my interest is sculptural.)
   brian kennedy - Friday, 02/29/08 02:33:56 EST

Brian, where I live it will last a bit over 100 years without any problems---if the people don't use a swamp cooler. Where Rich lives it would probably be less than 100 days. Where you live???.

Robert, I much prefer abebooks.com to amazon---better service dealing direct with the book dealers that amazon accesses for used books. But I have had 1 title on search with amazon for over 2 years and nary a copy has shown up.

I run it though the various search engines about once a week now anyway. May have to contact the publisher and ask if I may make *1* copy for my use paying the original issue price to them.

Jacob; I wear rated safety glasses about 16 hours every day seven days a week---got my regular prescription in a safety lens and frame (they don't have to be the old dorky ones).

I have a heavy lens and everytime they try to talk me into smaller lighter ones I show them the chips, burns, scratches, etc on them and tell them that I am *VERY* happy to carry the weight and have those on the lenses and not on my eyes or face.

In addition I wear a full face shield for certain activities and I use low speed wire wheels.

So far with 27 years of forging and knifemaking under my belt I have not had to have the ER remove metal from my eye and the Opthomologist grind off a rust ring.

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/29/08 12:27:30 EST

This job will live in Saint Helena in the Napa Valley of California. Not too wet or humid so I guess it will be fine for quite a while. Thanks for sharpening the question, knifemaker.
   brian kennedy - Friday, 02/29/08 13:26:02 EST

I fully agree with the recent comments regarding the use of safety gear, but I am conflicted about wearing gloves when working at a stationary belt grinder. I was wearing the typical leather work glove and it got caught by the belt edge and yanked me hand around the contact wheel. Nearly pulled me off my feet, but no other damage. Then yesterday I was using the same type of grinder and the belt broke and this time I got a few scratches on my bare hands. Tight fitting gloves might be the answer, such as the ones typically used to TIG weld. I was wonder when the axiom on no loose clothing near revolving machinery applies to the typical work glove?
   Bob Johnson - Friday, 02/29/08 13:55:16 EST

Custom Finish Requests: There ARE times when the customer is wrong and you should refuse to do the job.

A few years ago I had a person who had specifed that their hand railings be polished steel with a coat of lacquer. It was a complicated rail with vines and leaves. The smiths did what was asked. The ground and polished and polish and ground. . . An AMAZING amount of work. The work was then clear coated and installed. . .

On installing some welding had to be done. This was cleaned up and lacquered in place. However, some discoloration still remained. Some of the steel was darker than others, notably pieces of trim made from cold drawn bar stock. Then fingerprints started to show under the finish and scratches started to rust.

ALL of these problems could have been predicted. Ever try to handle that much work wearing cotton gloves? The buyer was looking for a reason to blame the smith. I put the blame on the customer first for his spec then the smith for going along with it.
   - guru - Friday, 02/29/08 14:16:09 EST

Safety: In my youth when you went to a machine shop it was like visiting a fantasy pirate ship. Eye patches, missing digits and an occasional missing or damaged limb (hooks and peglegs).

Today the art of prosthetics makes it less obvious when someone is missing a limb but the more minor injuries are also not seen like they were a generation or two ago. While many have complained about OSHA, insurance and government safety regulations, they HAVE made a difference.

Wearing gloves is a personal decision that should vary from job to job. Many smiths wear one heat proof glove on their tongs hand and hammer bare handed. Enough do so that individiual right and left hand gloves are available. I rarely wear gloves while smithing. However, I DO use gloves any time I am moving (loading unloading) lots of material. I don't wear gloves when rigging or pulling chains because gloves tend to get caught and in the way. I do not use cables in my rigging.

Gloves vary like eye protection. I wear common cloth/leather work gloves for material handling and light welding. I only wear heavy welding gloves when needed for the insulation (heavy welding or high preheat). I have some of the thin leather gloves but have not used them much. I not have any of the heat proof type gloves. I never wear the cotton work/gardening gloves.

Recently Mythbusters did an expose' on steel toed shoes and getting toes cut off by them. The myths were busted. They also found that higher quality (cost) shoes made some difference. They had to really abuse the shoes with tremendous loads to fail them.
   - guru - Friday, 02/29/08 14:44:06 EST

Having broken several pairs of safety glasses I am a believer, in fact I know have taken to wearing a faceshield and hardhat.

I find the hardhat much more comfortable then just the faceshield, I also use a hardhat with a gas welding faceshield.

Also you need to mention loose clothing, I had a buffer rip a old rotten work shirt right off of me.

   - Hudson - Friday, 02/29/08 14:59:09 EST

Gloves and grinding: I was taught to not wear gloves at the belt grinder so you can't overheat a blade while grinding it. If it's too hot to hold it's time to cool it off.

OTOH the fellow I worked with mentioned that blades start getting slick feeling when your callouses started to burn...

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/29/08 16:06:43 EST

I have built a forge recently, and used the really stupid burner design on this website, with a few small adjustmets. I split it using tees and elbows to make four burners, and I did not add a reduction bell onto the end of the 2" pipe. The problem is that the fire is going back up the tubes to the propane inlet. What do I do to stop this and get it to burn correctly. If you want I can send you pictures of my design.
   - chemgeek - Friday, 02/29/08 16:52:54 EST

I am looking at an anvil for sale named "kirkstall forge 2" that also says 2.3.5 and has the number 2400 on it. Any idea if this was a quality anvil maker? I can only find info on kirkstall forge online, not on anvils made by them. Any info on the construction of this anvil? Thanks much.
   Keith - Friday, 02/29/08 17:20:12 EST

Chemgeek, You mess with the plan and you get what you get.

Flash back is caused by too little fuel/air velocity. It is going slower than the "flame front velocity" so the fire burns up stream. To increase the velocity you reduce the size of the pipes OR crank up the fuel/air.

The size of the burner and the volume it is feeding requires balance. Using this type burner you can feed a very large forge. However, you cannot reduce the size below a certain minimum or you get flashback.

IF (big IF) the burner is sized to where it will work on your forge with one opening then it will work with multiple smaller ones IF the total cros sectional outlet is less than or equal to the one pipe.

If you plug ONE of your four burners and the flashback stops then you are only a little off and may be able to fix it with nozzels. IF you have to plug two then you are way off, BUT you know how much. If you have to plug three then start all over again.

   - guru - Friday, 02/29/08 17:51:11 EST

Kirkstall Forge: That is an English make of traditional hand wrought construction. Fairly rare in the U.S. Should be a good anvil if the condition is good.

The three numbers are English hundred weights. If you read it right it is a 313 pound anvil (1452 Kgs).
   - guru - Friday, 02/29/08 17:57:27 EST

Hello: I am looking for the cheapest way to weld my exhaust pipe on my vehicle. The Bernzomatic says it welds w/ Map gas, oxygen and rods. Can the Bernzomatic work ? Or to buy the cheapest welder, What would the Amperage have to be for gages of approximately, 16 to 20. or .060 - .080 Thousandths of an inch. I am not welding a lot, just my personal use only.
   Klaus A. Oberhofer - Friday, 02/29/08 17:58:15 EST

Klaus; if you have to ask these questions I would have to ask you how many are you willing to ruin while you learn to do it correctly and the cost of the learning examples?

I would see sbout renting a real welder; nobody I have ever spoken with was happy with the Bernzomatic for a "real" task. Then of course you have to learn to weld thin materials, a bit trickier than welding thick in my experience!

Don't forget a *proper* welding mask, gloves, etc.

   Thomas P - Friday, 02/29/08 18:05:16 EST

"I split it using tees and elbows to make four burners, and I did not add a reduction bell onto the end of the 2" pipe."

Ah, that's good for a laugh on a Friday afternoon. I'm picturing a kind of flame-spittin' scorpion-lookin' thingy.
   Matt B - Friday, 02/29/08 18:07:53 EST


I very much regret purchasing the Bernzomatic oxy-MAPP torch, back before I knew any better. I'm too much of a novice to give an opinion on the best welder for you, except that say that the Bernzomatic IS NOT it.
   Matt B - Friday, 02/29/08 18:22:20 EST

I echo the Guru's statement re steel toe cap shoes. I work in factories as a safety/enviro guy.
I did the first aid on a lady that stepped into the path of a turning fork lift. The steer tire struck her foot just behind the toe cap, climbed up on the cap and back off the far side. The truck was unloaded so the weight was heavy on the steer tires and this was a 6675# empty wieght truck. The area just behind the toe cap suffered a compression injury, but the tire weight was mostly carried by the toe cap even there. The toe cap did NOT collaspe, the portion of her foot under the cap was unhurt. When the tire came back off her foot, it sorta fired the shoe, and the shoe was moved so fast it came off her foot and she actually suffered a sprained ankle as well.
All in all, she was very very lucky.
I was standing next to a fellow who had his foot run over by a forklift, and he was not wearing steel toes. I was facing the other way, and did not see the accident. It was very noisey, but I heard the bones crush, even with ear plugs. I almost jumped out of my skin from the feral scream.

If available, meta-tarsel guards are also very helpfull in the forge shop. These protect the tiny bones behind the toes that the toe cap does not protect. great for when the hammer falls off the anvil etc. They also shed hot scale.

Toe caps and meta-tarsel guards are designed for a 75 footpound impact. Thats 50# from 12". Think about 50# weight dropped from a foot high on your foot. I wear my protective footwear.
Especially when around Vicopper as he is so jealous of my extremely attractice Ironage meta-tarsel guard boots:)
   ptree - Friday, 02/29/08 19:01:53 EST

Klaus-- relax, get a muffler shop to do it. One is likely to set one's car afire down there amid all that grease. Ewww! Or blow out one's digital ignition. Safety stuff: lace-up leathern high tops only. No sneaks, no flip-flops, no cowboy boots. One piece of hot drop down through that hole in your jeans will tell you why. I'm so uptight about burns I bought me a pair of genuine cowboy style Red Ryder autograph model leathern cuffs. Safety glasses: one is a bloody fool if one doesn't use them. Hearing: get the muffs, not the plugs-- muffs block harmful sounds from resonating in through the bones in the back of your haid, behind your ears. Plugs do not. Get a GOOD respirator with replaceable filters for catching all the teency crud floating around when grinding before it gets into your schnozz, throat, lungs. The white stiff fiber ones with the rubber bands, even the 3Ms with the red or yellow buttons, are worthless unless you are going to oull a stickup.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 02/29/08 19:09:56 EST

Kikstall forge anvil
In the Kg weights I think there should have been a decimal in there somewhere.

Re gloves for grinding I actually agree and am happier not having something that can pull me into the tool.
   - philip in china - Friday, 02/29/08 19:15:47 EST

Ptree; you are certainly not going to be burried with your boots on if Rich is anywhere near!

OTOH I feel that my set of lederhosen are not in any danger...

Thomas, off for the weekend!
   Thomas P - Friday, 02/29/08 20:03:55 EST

I've been awfully busy of late, so some catch-up comments here...

Railroad Spike Knives:

These are, basically, novelty items. The regular ones make good letter openers, the high carbon (HC) ones, having ~40 points of carbon are hardenable. It is well to keep in mind that just about all of the cutting tools in the Mastermyr find were about 40 pts., so that's not too bad. However, where the 11th century is a nice place to take a vacation, do you really want to live there? Better steel with better performance is easily available both as scrap (car springs) and bought new. If I needed a serious knife, it would not be a railroad spike knife. It's heavy, dulls quickly, and it is more suitable as a blunt-heavy-object (with its heavy handle and built-in pommel) than as a cutting implement. It does make a good letter opener, though. ;-)

Blacksmithing Books:

You can't beat them! You may have to spend some time reading through them to understand them (Ye Gods, I went crazy many years back with the term "clip" in antiquated blacksmithing books; they frequently failed to differentiate between the U-bolt/staple clip and the ear-on-the-horseshoe clip, frequently referred to with little context to clue me in...) but todays books, such as New Edge of the Anvil or The Complete Modern Blacksmith, are written for a modern audience of amateurs and enthusiasts and don't suffer from that fault. They put worlds of knowledge at your fingertips, and you don't have to plug them in or use batteries. The Anvilfire site also has abundant information if you take the time to explore and read the site; the FAQs, the 21st Century Blacksmith, the Armoury Page. Part of the secret of learning a new craft or skill is learning which questions to ask.

"So, tell me all about quantum physics if you have five minutes or so..."

It's cold and fixin' to rain; but actually improving on the banks of the lower Potomac. Looks like a good weekend to stud-up some more walls on the new forge building. :-D

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/29/08 20:42:13 EST

ThomasP, I suspect my Boots won't fit Rich :) Probably only reason I still have them :)

Gloves and rotating equipment. There are special gloves called tear aways that are sometimes used. I personally don't like them around lathes and the like. I often wear gloves when grinding, but I am not doing blades and am holding the item well clear of the moving surfaces.

Simple test for if you need to wear safety glasses.
Close both eyes. tell me what you see. Any questions?

Choose safety glasses with Polycarbonate lens. they are the strongest, most shatter resistant, and also block UV, so that low level exposure to thee arc by the guy over a bit won't be as likely to give you cataracts at 40.
If buying prescription safety glasses, every component on the frames shall be marked "Z-87" and the lens are required to have a makers stamp usually in the upper outside corner. Can be seen be holding up to the light and looking.

I also agree with miles on the dust masks. Not worth bringing home period. He is also correct on the earmuffs. I prefer the behind the head band type. Fit under faceshields, weld hoods, and respirators etc.

Miles, get the fit on you half mask worked out?
   ptree - Friday, 02/29/08 20:46:09 EST

Glasses, ear muffs, leather apron, steel toed boots, and natural fiber clothing.
I don't use gloves around stationary machinery like drill presses, lathes, grinders and such, as I have seen pictures of the results when a glove gets caught and fingers get pulled off.
Have a Safe weekend!

   Blackbart - Friday, 02/29/08 21:12:35 EST

ptree-- Yes, I have, many thanks to your kind, sagely advice: I now tighten the straps up to the Kraft-Ebbing sadomasochistic level, after shaving to get a tight seal before every use. (Experienced safety pro ptree guided me, during an especially nasty, filthy, dusty, sooty chop/grinding job cutting the back out of an old steel fireplace insert, to an AO Safety mask with replaceable filters, flat enough profile to fit under an arc welding helmet.) More re: boots: don't forget metatarsal guards. Redwing makes 'em now, there are others, and there are also add-on versions that keep the cost down. Re: stuff getting tangled in machinery: NEVER run a heavy portable drill or grinder with the trigger locked.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 02/29/08 22:04:55 EST

Can I convert my 500,000 btu natural gas forge to propane
   paul - Friday, 02/29/08 22:09:25 EST


I am trying to find a listing of USA forge names, to avoid accidentally duplicating someone else's. For example, I have been using "hotanvil" as my email since the mid 90's, but am NOT the gentleman who owns the Hotanvil Forge. Can you please point me to a list, or registry?

   Stephen - Friday, 02/29/08 23:01:02 EST

paul: You should be able to convert it, what sort of burner does it have?
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/29/08 23:23:37 EST

Klaus: I don't have any experience with the Bernsomatic, but there can not be much oxygen in that disposable cylinder. I have one of those small Oxy acetylene setups with the MC size acetylene cylinder and a plastic tote, it is good for small work, but the tiny tanks do limit it. My Grandpop and I did quite a bit of brazing on some relatively large parts with an "airtcraft" size Purox torch. This is a small O/A torch with the valves at the front of the handle. The tanks were 75 CuFt & 80 CuFt, so We could use that little torch to it's full capacity, I think it could cut to 2" thick.
Arc welding sheet metal with a stick welder is hard to do, and pretty impractical below 18 ga. The 110 volt transformer stick welders often work poorly, some of the 110 volt invertors work pretty well. For sheet metal a MIG/flux core welder is a better choice. Check Your state laws regarding welding on exhaust systems, for example,Pa doesn't allow it.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/29/08 23:37:42 EST

Over the years I have saved up about six hundred brass pistol casings. Just recently I've made a pattern welded knive and I wanted to put some brass fittings on. I was wandering if I could melt to casings down in my propane forge and cast some fittings. To be honest I am very ignorant when it comes to nonferrous metals. I don't even know if what I am asking is reasonable or if it could be done. Also, what would I use for a flux and are there any health concerns? THANKS
   - John L. - Saturday, 03/01/08 01:11:33 EST

I had someone comment on how my workspace "looks dangerous" because it is a little cramped and has lots of dangerous looking machinery all over the place. I replied "there's no such thing as a safe shop, just safe workers". She didnt understand until I explained that a warehouse sized shop with all the safety accoutrements abound would probably kill someone a lot faster than in my little basement shop. PPE and other gear set aside, is there such a thing as a "safe" work area? Or is safety an illusion we aspire to acheive with safe work practices?
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 03/01/08 10:17:54 EST

There are a couple of ways to achieve a taper on a lathe. One of them is with a taper attachment which are available for most lathes but often missing. I believe threads can be cut using normal methods yet incorporating the taper attachment. This may take a little tinkering as the cross slide nut is disengaged when using the taper attachment. Feed is only available with the compound screw.
(I have cut many threads over the years but have never tried tapered threads so "your mileage may vary")

Most popular lathes have a limit as to how coarse a thread can be cut, such as 4 threads per inch, 1/4" pitch, or something on that order. This may be a factor in your sculptural application.

Guru Jock has tried lots of stuff over the years.
He may have some input on tapered threads.
   - Tom H - Saturday, 03/01/08 16:50:38 EST

Safe workspaces:

Well, there are some that are more safe than others, but as you point out Nip, the worker is the first and foremost safety factor present in any shop. A crowded shop can be sofe or dangerous, depending on how it is set up and used. One of the worst situations in a small shop is that of inadequate ventilation, resulting in potentially dangerous exposures to harmful fumes or vapors. Ventilation, forced if necessary, is the answer, as is wearing proper PPE when generating fumes.

Arc welding, in a small space, generates not only fumes but dangerous actinic light. If there is more than one person present, the second person risks vision damage, of course.

Small shops often mean not enough room to safely move heavy objects, too. I have this problem in my shop, and the only solution is extreme care. The same care should be taken in a large shop, naturally, b ut the greater space at least leaves on room to jump out of the way. Only a fool gets under a load or between a load and an immovable object, but a small shop often leaves you no choice.

Sometimes you simply have to limit some activities in a small shop that you could easily do in a larger shop, in order to be safe.
   vicopper - Saturday, 03/01/08 17:22:43 EST

Safe VS Unsafe shops.
Some shops are unsafe and no matter how much PPE they are still unsafe. Examples are poor egress. Say in a basement shop, with only one way out. A fire between you and the exit is bad.
A shop with poor wiring practices, say soft SO cable drapped over stuff like barjoists and hung down without strain reliefs. So cable across the floor.
Welding in too small a space with poor ventalation as Rich mentioned.

Machines that are poorly guarded
I can go on. Look a typical Little Giant power hammer in most shops. The ram and springs etc all right in the operators face, most of the time unguarded.

Yes the right attitude, PPE etc are a good start. Good planning/execution is even better.
Limited to welding in a basement shop? Only one exit? Have several good sized extinguishers located around the shop to use to MAKE a path thru the fire.
Ventilation can be installed with odds and ends.
Make those guards, make them substantial and install them. Them reinstall them every time they are pulled for maintenance.
So I would say Yes there are unsafe shops, there are safe shops. Put a safe worker in a safe shop, best. Put a unsafe worker in any shop Bad.
Other combinations are shades of grey.
   ptree - Saturday, 03/01/08 19:08:34 EST

The saying "If it isn't guarded, it shouldn't be started" rings true, for sure
   MacFly - Saturday, 03/01/08 22:10:27 EST

Tapered threads: I have used a taper atachment to cut course threads with a good ammount of taper, worked fine. Another method is to ofset the tailstock, but this only works for slight ammounts of taper. If You have acess to a template lathe or a CNC You can do all sorts of things.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 03/01/08 22:57:15 EST

On Kirkstall Forge, I did some Internet research for Richard Postman. Apparently this was a quite large plant and may have been in business from the early 1800s to perhaps around 1980. May have fallen prey to inefficiencies and Continental European competition.

Anvils may have been just one sideline in the first half of the 1800s as all I recall seeing look to be the Early English (Mousehole style). In AIA Postman noted noted he had seen a single horn, double horn and carriagemaker's anvil, so obviously they had a complete line.

I'm speculating they didn't directly export anvils to the U.S. Some may have found their way to the U.S. via Canada or some other way.

I am not totally familiar with it, but apparently England has a land-use law which says you cannot build where nothing has been built before. Provides quite an incentive to reclaim old manufacturing sites for housing.

That is what is now happening to Kirkstaff Forge. It is being converted into a mix of business (commerical) and residental, with the advantage of being on a commuter rail line.
   - Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/02/08 07:34:53 EST

Kirkstall forge (Leeds, UK) was probably the bigggest closed die hammer shop in the UK. It closed about 5 - 6 years ago. It was owned by GKN / Dana Spicer in its latter years. A lot of the work was axles for commercial vehicles etc.

I did alot of work on the hammers in there prior to it closing (and they had some pretty meaty hammers!!!! )

It was another of those 'Kirksall will never close' situations (they reconed over £100m replacement value for the plant in there). And, behold, it was closed.

The same thing happened a few years ago with 'Garringtons' in Bromsgrove, the UK's biggest closed die press shop (again dating back to Naysmith times) - closed, and a nice housing estate now.

The days of mass produced steel closed die forgings in the UK are numbered I suspect. The real busy areas are aerospace forging, authopedic, and smaller batch fast delivery work. The remaining open die forge shops are generally very busy,
   - John N - Sunday, 03/02/08 09:27:43 EST


The Bernzomatic oxy/mapp torch...Not much O2 in that little can and it doesn't go far. I have one that I use for little brazing jobs. It works fine for that but I wouldn't bother with it for any serious welding.
   MikeFerrara - Sunday, 03/02/08 09:33:03 EST

John N, Many of the big production closed die shops are closing here in the US as well. Most of the work goes to less safety/enviro concious locals where labor is cheap, and you can hire/fire at will as folks get hurt or older.
   ptree - Sunday, 03/02/08 09:51:04 EST

Gurus, Perhaps not exactly a Blacksmith question, but while I was grazzing in the local scrapyard, I was overcome with a sever case of lust for rust. In this case it was a 12" Lathe by American Tool Works Co, Cincinnatti O, USA with another tag by the Mine Smelter Supply Co of Denver, Salt Lake City and City of Mexico. It came with a bin of tooling, 3 & 4 Jaw chucks, lots of stuff (including motor and jack shaft). Needless to say I was lusty. Now that I have it in my shop, cleaned up a bit and looking good, I need some documentation on how it works, etc.
Any info is greatly appreciated. I googled it, but found not much so far. Thanks in advance. Tim in Orygon
   - Tim in Orygun - Sunday, 03/02/08 11:17:27 EST

Could you use an older style cast iron kitchen sink for part of a forge if you remove the porcelain? It's shallower than a newer style stainless sink and some have a shelf on them.
   greg - Sunday, 03/02/08 11:30:36 EST

In the really stupid burner design what does it mean by "reducer to one size down"? Does this mean it drops it from a 2 1/2 " pipe to a 1" pipe? how much do you reduce it by? Thanks
   - chemgeek - Sunday, 03/02/08 11:59:05 EST

I think I missed my response on melting brass.
   - John L. - Sunday, 03/02/08 12:40:06 EST

In pipe the sizes go

So... I would assume that dropping down one size would be 2"
   ptree - Sunday, 03/02/08 12:50:58 EST

Tim, a book like Southbend's How to run a Lathe will give you most of your answers. Sheldon also had a similar book. Engine lathe controlls are virtualy univeral. Greg, I have a forge made from a cast iron sink. It is clayed and has a hand crank and a squirrel cage. I didn't build it but it has been around for quite a while.
   John Christiansen - Sunday, 03/02/08 15:22:53 EST

Tim, As John mentioned the Southbend book is a good start. Then ANY machinist's text book will cover your lathe. The controls and functions of the classic Engine Lathe have not changed since the 1800's. If you can run an 1890 antique like I am fixing up for the anvilfire hammer-in you can run a brand new Engine lathe. About the only difference is change gears and speed change boxes are different and modern lathes have a brake on them. Tool post vary but you can still but an old fashined tool holder on a modern lathe. They are infinitely more useful especially in odd situations than the "block" type designed for carbide tooling.

See our lathe FAQ for tooling and uses.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/02/08 15:43:13 EST

Lathes and Blacksmiths: In the 1914 Sears Blacksmiths and Farriers Tools catalog there are more lathes than forges.

The Lathe is called the King of the Machine tools because it does more needed jobs than any other machine in the shop. For many years it was the ONLY machine tool in small shops other than a drill press. Next came shapers but they were replaced by the Vertical Mill which is second only to the lathe in handiness. Today most shops have one each lathe and mill.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/02/08 15:53:16 EST

Sink for forge: Depending on the size they are a little big for a fire pot and a little too deep for a forge. Its been done but it is not an ideal size/shape.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/02/08 15:55:54 EST

For those familiar with Quad-State when it was at the Studebaker Homestead, I was told Emmert started out in a garage behind the house with little more than a drill press, lathe and bandsaw. Can't remember the name of the company it is today (Precision Machine?), but it does have three sites last I heard.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/02/08 18:25:15 EST

As a follow up to the question above 2 or 3 items, does the GURU recommend any special mix for soaking rusted parts in? I once heard of a majik one using battery acid, and gods knows what else? any Joy??
Tim in Orygun
   - Tim in Orygun - Sunday, 03/02/08 20:29:03 EST

Did I still miss the response the guru gave me?
   - John L. - Sunday, 03/02/08 22:02:50 EST

John N,

Scroll back to the top of this very page, where the "Welcome to the anvilfire Guru's Den" banner is. Click your cursor somewhere around the middle of the page. (For example, somewhere near the words "Ask the Guru any reasonable question . . . ") Press "Control+F" on your keyboard. When the search box pops up, enter the word "brass" and click "Next" or simply hit enter. You'll find plenty about casting brass.

Also see here: http://backyardmetalcasting.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1895

The problem with using aluminum cans, cartridge cases, and other items with high surface area per mass for casting is that they tend to oxidize BADLY. It can be done, but expect to produce a lot of dross.
   Matt B - Sunday, 03/02/08 23:53:56 EST

Sorry, not John N. Meant John L.
   Matt B - Sunday, 03/02/08 23:54:29 EST

Reusing cartridge "brass": sure you can melt and pour scrap brass: However a couple of things---any of them suitable for reloading would probably do better going to some one who does so. 2) Is it all brass? Check with a magnet for brass washed steel 3) miss fires---even just an unfired primer can sure give you a brown pants moment---if it doesn't throw molten/hot brass on you. 3) Water make sure that all brass that you will be adding to the melt---and you will as a crucible full of such items melts down into a very small puddle---is absolutely dry. A drop of water in a piece being added to the melting pool can mutilate you for life---if not longer! and note: if you are holding a piece above the fire, cold metal can condense water from the exhaust fumes!

Sink to forge: my first forge was an old farmhouse sink, cast iron, shallow rectangular. I put an elbow at the drain and ran a pipe drilled with 1/4" holes down the middle and drilled around a circle and punched out the center to let the pipe go out the end. Then I used a steel "ramrod" in the pipe to control the fire length and clayed up the interior to make a good firepot for charcoal. (ramrod also helps break clinker drips in the air pipe.)

I didn't remove the porcelain as the claying ket it cool so it wouldn't spall heating up or cooling down.

Used an electric blower from a scrap yard and had my first forge for less than US$2 *total*.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/03/08 13:00:33 EST

I am in the process of improving my smithy and would like to add a power hammer. With prices starting at $4000 I think I would like to build my own first. This would allow me to learn more about them as well as keep costs at a minimum. any input would be great, I.E. plans,do's and dont's, or am I completely off base.
   Sam Lee - Monday, 03/03/08 13:09:04 EST

Sam, Air hammers are the most sure fire DIY hammers to build. They are not as efficient to operate as a mechanical hammer but they are less likely to need a major redesign if something does not work.

The biggest mistake DIY builders make is in anvil mass. Ideally you would have a 15:1 anvil to ram ratio and at least nine to ten to one. This is a LOT of steel. Many modern commercial builders skirt the ideal amounts because of the high cost of iron/steel. The second thing that is often lacking in this area is foundation mass. A good solid foundation can make up for some shortness in the anvil to ram ratio but we are talking about a LOT of concrete.

Then there is the matter of quality of construction. You can spend a LOT on parts and pay a lot to have the pieces you can't make made by others and then throw it all away with poor alignment and sloppy assembly methods. Machinery, even "hammers" require accuracy and precision alignment.

The biggest mistake DIY folks make is deviating from the plan or the usual methods. There are very few who understand all the repercussions of the design mods they make. We get these questions on a regular basis. "I went by your plan exactly EXCEPT. . ." and it is always a BIG exception with no understanding of the repercussions.

Then there is the junk yard builder. They take what they find on hand and build as cheap as possible and ocassionaly get very good results. But when they do not they are not out a lot of money and usually treat it as a learning experience.

I love building my own machinery even though it is often not economically sound. If you value your time at all then commercial machinery is often much more economical than building your own. However, it seems it is in the blood of the blacksmith to do it the hard way.

I am currently getting ready for our 10th anniversary hammer-in. In the next six weeks I have to restore two antique machine tools and build two mechanical power hammers. The hammers will both be the same basic design but one will take advantage of junkyard steel and parts while the other will be built from primarily all new steel and parts. I have already spent more than the cost of a BigBLU in moving and setting up machinery and preparing the shop for the job. . . I've bought new 1.5 HP motors for the old machines (one had a questionable 3PH and the other none) and two for the power hammers. I've got a pallet load of motors and parts. . . and still have to wire the shop for welding and machine outlets.

As they say, It's only money. . . But maybe when I am done we will have a working shop for anvilfire demos and R&D projects.
   - guru - Monday, 03/03/08 21:24:19 EST

Rusted parts: Everyone has their favorite. A lot depends on the degree of the rust. In many cases all you can do is heat to a red to reduce the hydrous iron oxide to something molecularly smaller then apply penetrating oil and try again. Heated fasteners should be scraped and replaced with new of the proper grade.

Note that penetrating oils are NOT rust removers. These soak into crevices and help reduce the friction between parts. Some penetrating oils are chemically active having acids in them that help break down some of the rust. Liquid Wrench is one of these. A popular favorite is called B-laster (blaster). I use WD-40 because it does not contain acids. You can apply it and forget it and the part will not get worse. Those with acids need follow up repeat applications and a plan to disassemble NOW.

One tool I currently lack is a power impact wrench. Mine finally wore out and I have not replaced it. The thousands of non damaging blows combined with penetrating oil can disassemble things that would break wrenches or round corners off fasteners otherwise. You can do this manually with a heavy wrench and a hammer but it takes lots of patience and perseverance.

A trick to removing stuck nuts with rounded corners is to weld a much larger one on (one that fits over the smaller) and then use the larger wrench. It will either come off or the threaded part will break. This method worked great on my Dad's lawn mower where the grass friction had rounded the corners off the nuts to where they were impossible to remove otherwise.

For removing rust chemically there are various chemicals, mostly acids. Vinegar and citric acid are two of the common organics used. Phosphoric acid is another. Various mixtures with sulphuric acid in them are also used. All require attention to the soak time as you can end up removing much more than rust. NEVER, EVER use these on things with black oxide finishes such as high quality drill bits or gun parts. . . I lost a life time collection of drill bits to an hour soak in a proprietary rust remover called "oakite".
   - guru - Monday, 03/03/08 21:48:01 EST

Regarding rusted parts here we have to salvage a lot of material literally from a junk pile. Most of it has been out in a very wet climate for anything upto years. Whenever possible Sean nad I simply light a wood fire and just leave the part to soak. It then, usually, comes apart by hand. The slow soaking heat avoids damage to the part. My latest job (don't laugh) is to make some ballet bars and anchor them to the wall. It will all be 2" water pipe which is currently completely siezed. So we will probably have an afternoon at it with the fire, a coffee or two and maybe even cook a couple of steaks out there.
   - philip in china - Monday, 03/03/08 22:10:36 EST

Phillip in China, Don't cook steaks over a fire with Galvanized pipe, they will taste really bad and the air from overheated galvanized will make you sick:)
Are you sure that these were water pipe and not some other use, perhaps chemical piping?
   ptree - Tuesday, 03/04/08 00:35:12 EST

How about some heavy repousse work.


   Hudson - Tuesday, 03/04/08 00:40:52 EST

Ptree, Don't worry about me galvanising my alimentary canal. I am too safety conscious for that. Yes it is water pipe from a now obsolete site wide central heating system. That is also where my hundreds of cast radiators came from. Still not made the cupola but haven't given up on the idea yet.
   - philip in china - Tuesday, 03/04/08 08:02:59 EST

I am designing a large copper counter top for a client. My question is about welding copper. One design option requires a 100% penetration fillet weld of 10 gauge
(96 oz) plate to a 3/8" by 2" flat bar. Running into problems with the flat bar as a heat sink. I need the appearance of solid copper so solder won't work, ( I assume).
   wadco - Tuesday, 03/04/08 10:15:57 EST

wadco: Copper is very easy to TIG weld. Sometimes pre-heating helps, but 100% on 10ga shouldn't be any problem.
   - grant - Tuesday, 03/04/08 13:49:37 EST

American Tool Works Lathe

Tim- I own a 14" model. The serial number should be on the right hand side of the bed just above the feed screw. If you have the serial #, you can call Bourne and Kock in Rockford IL and they should be able to date the machine for you. They do sell some limited material for this machine, but you can find quite a bit on the 'net. Go to practicalmachinist.com and search there for links to a site managed by R. Vannetta. He has lots of old documents. There is also a yahoo group for owners of these machines. One member, Greg M has a cd of documents he can send you.
Good luck.

   Patrick - Tuesday, 03/04/08 14:41:25 EST

wadco: Re-reading your post I see now that you are welding to 3/8 bar. That will be a real heat-sink. You will probably need a water-cooled TIG set-up for the current required. Also pre-heating the weld area with a torch will help a lot.
   - grant - Tuesday, 03/04/08 19:01:08 EST

Simple but hard quest, Where do you buy coal in the Beaverton, Portland oregon area? I have been trying really hard and have come up with dead ends of buying coal. Help! Were do I go?
   Michael - Wednesday, 03/05/08 00:30:20 EST

Michael, Feed stores sometimes import coal into your area for horseshoers. You might also inquire of the Northwest Blacksmiths Association: www.blacksmith.org.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 03/05/08 10:01:52 EST

Michael, Coal is getting difficult enough to get in enough places that you may want to consider converting to charcoal. OR since both will have to be ordered and shipped look at ordering on-line. While shipping is high (and increasing rapidly) the cost to UPS coal is still offset by bulk transportation costs.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/05/08 13:38:46 EST

More coal buying. . . NEVER, purchase "a ton" to try out. If you get really bad coal (and there is a lot out West) then you are stuck with a ton of useless coal. . . Get a 40-50 pound bag or a bucket full and test it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/05/08 14:22:40 EST

Hello Guru:
I am a novice blade smith... I am doing ok with knives, but dealing with swords is another battle all together... can you give me some ideas and methodologys on the beveling and grinding of them? what methods can be utilized for stock removal methods? along with forging...
   wvblade - Wednesday, 03/05/08 14:36:42 EST

At the moment there are a good many anvils being offered on eBay. Supply and demand means there might be some bargains there.

On anvils, I had heard from a couple of sources Harbor Freight retail outlets had stopped selling the Russian export 110 lb anvil. Am wondering how many may have come back for a refund. I haven't seen one listed on eBay I recall for several weeks now.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 03/05/08 15:21:30 EST

WVBlade; have you read all of James Hrisoulas' books? "The Complete Bladesmith, The Master Bladesmith, The Pattern Welded Blade". Lots of good info on stock removal profiling, beveling and grinding because you have to stock remove after forging! And for fancy patternwelded blades you may do a majority of stock removal so as to not mess up the pattern by forging to shape.

I could read and type the information here, but at my $/hr rate you could buy the books, a triphammer, anvil and a bader cheaper.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/05/08 15:49:20 EST


Your page shows:

String Length = 2b + 2c

Which should be:

String Length = c + c + (b-c) + (b-c) = 2c + 2(b-c) = 2b

When you have the string stretched along the longest direction
of the ellipse, (the string is laying on the major axis) you can
actually see it because it goes from the edge of the ellipse to
the first focus and back to the second focus. So it goes the distance
from 1st focus to 2nd focus plus to the edge and back to the 2nd focus...
so it's twice the distance between the foci plus twice the distance
from each focus to the edge

I actually found the problem when I tried to make a 20 x 40 cm ellipse
and the string was way too long.
   Mark Kanzler - Wednesday, 03/05/08 15:59:18 EST


Information is appreciated...

   wvblade - Wednesday, 03/05/08 16:18:23 EST

Wadco: A few more thoughts on your question; if you have a very long weld, you will need to tack probably every inch or even less, warpage will be your biggest enemy. Skip around and make small welds until you have the entire joint welded. DO NOT weld from one end to the other. Clamp a bar behind the weld to prevent local warpage. Remember: the weld shrinks the most, so peening the weld is the best way to relieve warping. High current makes the least distortion (I know, sounds backwards). This is because you can heat it quicker without pouring a lot of heat in over a longer time.
   - grant - Wednesday, 03/05/08 17:19:47 EST

Ovals, Hmmmmm. . . will have to look at that. What I used worked but maybe I missed when I made the drawing.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/05/08 17:52:32 EST

Hey Folks
I'm working on a railing design and the Client wants a 1/2 round hand rail. Does anybody know where to buy half round stock, mild steel. Its less than 20' so it could be shipped.
Or how would you make 1/2 round stock? I am in Northern CA.
have a good day
   blackbart - Wednesday, 03/05/08 17:55:06 EST

Blade Tech: wvblade, Blade making in the modern world is grinding intensive. Belt grinders are the rule and most shops have more than one. When heavy grinding is done the HP goes up and so does the cost. Generally you cannot have enough of these machines in your shop. It also pays to put them where the dust is not an issue.

You can buy them, build them and buy used ones.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/05/08 18:03:01 EST

Half Round: Blackbart, This is easy on a power hammer in the range of 100 to 300 pounds. A half round die, and a piece of round stock that fills the die and off you go. A long re-heat furnace and a rolling mill will work in production. . .

Hammer dies for this need to have a smooth lead in and it helps to have a long support behind the dies to prevent twisting and curving. However, when you are done you will probably have to go to the press and do some straightening. For a low production run mild steel dies work FINE.

Small half round is available for farriers to make shoes. Centaur used to sell it. A search on google using "half round steel bar" brought up numerous commercial sources. However, I have found that many so-called stock catalogs are actually wish lists. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/05/08 18:31:48 EST

How to repair socket chisel sockets? I have several woodworking socket chisel that have been used without a handle. The large diameter of the socket has been struck with a hammer causing it to mushroom. On others the socket has been cut down in length. These are old chisels of good quality.

Thank you for help.
   NW Hurlburt - Wednesday, 03/05/08 22:40:47 EST


I ordered some 1" (flat side) half-round from the local welding shop (Coffee Hill Welders, bless their tolerant hearts) for a special project. As I remember, it cost multiples of bar stock. It was imported, and then had to be shipped to Maryland from North Carolina. (The tough part was swaging it down to half-oval for sled runners.) It's out there, but it's a special order, and I don't know if it comes in handrail size. So, once you get a price, you have to ask yourself if the "game is worth the candle?"

Warm and clear on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 03/05/08 22:47:12 EST

Old Socket Chisels: NW, This is a typical restoration job. First you evaluate what you have. Then if there is enough material the socket would be reworked back to original shape by heating it in the forge and working it with a hammer over a mandrel. Care in heating would be necessary to prevent over heating the working parts. Those without enough material would be trimmed then replacement sockets made and welded on. In both cases the tools would need lots of refinishing and perhaps even turning in a lathe. It would be an expensive job and the finished tools while good working tools would have little or no collector's value (at least until the repairs were also antique).

Almost anything made of metal can be repaired. It is simply a matter of how much you want to invest in the project. Occasionally these are profitable jobs, most often they are exercises in love of old things, and often they devalue what MAY have been collectible as-is but not after.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/06/08 01:04:45 EST

half round is sold by
bayshore metals on napoleon in san francisco. they also have half-oval.
   brian kennedy - Thursday, 03/06/08 02:22:47 EST

For half-round also check with Centaur Forge - one of Anvilfire.com advertisers.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 03/06/08 07:23:01 EST

On the oldest socket chisels the socket will be low carbon wrought iron, a bit trickier to weld to but no problems with preheat/postheat as it doesn't have enough carbon to harden in a HAZ.

In general if you like the chisels you probably want to try to keep the edge from losing it's temper as it will be a guessing game to restore it to what you liked.

Often the best way to go is to grind open the socket with a dremel tool to avoid losing anymore length and make a handle that fits the new configuration.

I have a special bic I use to try to recover sockets with as it's much smaller and less steeply conical than the anvil horn.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/06/08 12:17:09 EST

To protect chisel blade tempers, I will wrap the blade with a wet cotton rag and while heating and working, I will occasionally pour a little water on the rag.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 03/06/08 12:58:13 EST

Hello, I'm having trouble with air bubbles in my castings. Can I make a homemade hydrogen degasser using common found materials or is there no way?
   - John L. - Thursday, 03/06/08 15:08:25 EST

straight razors and crampons any adice templates in making them
   acscott - Thursday, 03/06/08 15:45:17 EST

On the ellipse equations:
Try a 20 x 40 ellipse (I use centimeters).
Try the string length the same as the length (width)
of the ellipse (40 cm).
Might try a 10 x 30 ellipse too (30 cm string length).
   Mark Kanzler - Thursday, 03/06/08 16:09:15 EST

I am just getting into heat treating, and there is one term that has always confused me: what exactly happens when one says a blade "loses its temper"? As I appreciate it, this happens when a blade is overheated in use (or abuse) as when an insufficiently lubricated drill bit heats up and turns blue, resulting in partial annealing or normalization, or loss of hardness. Is this what happens? If so, wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the steel is OVERtempered, or loses its HARDNESS rather than temper? Sorry if this sounds like technical nitpicking, but I am trying to understand hardening, quenching and tempering, and this loss of temper terminology is throwing me off.
   Peter Hirst - Thursday, 03/06/08 17:01:07 EST

Air Bubbles in Castings: John, Probably not. However, bubbles in cast metal are caused by more than gas in the metal. Steam and combustion gasses in your sand will do it. If plaster casting then you have to calcine VERY well and have the mold hot when you pour. In sand you need porosity to let gases escape. Many mold makers poke dozens of holes in the sand using a piece of coat hanger wire or welding rod (while the pattern is in place). These do not need to break through to the casting. They will relieve steam and gas pressure in the mold.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/06/08 17:09:38 EST

I have not heard that before but it might have to do with the literal meaning of the word temper, as in the steel looses it's characterestic. But anyways what it's supposed to mean is that it looses it's hardness.
   Nabiul Haque - Thursday, 03/06/08 17:10:23 EST

Peter, You are correct on both counts. However, the common language of "losing its temper" has to do with the whole of the heat treating process being called "tempering" by the uneducated public and even many craftsfolk. Thus losing hardness is losing temper. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 03/06/08 17:12:14 EST

Temper is theoretically achieved by re-heating hardened tool steel to a certain temperature and soaking it a certain length of time according to the intended use of the tool. Different heats achieve different results. Overheat the tool after it has been tempered and it loses that particular temper. Sooooo... it's lost its temper, no? Of course, it all boils down to what you mean by the isness of is, as that great Jesuitical semanticist Wild Willie pointed out.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 03/06/08 19:25:05 EST

And Bach's "the well tempered clavier" how did he get a furnace big enough for it?

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/06/08 19:31:34 EST

Peter Hirst,

Losing it's temper means that the tool is at the incorrect temper for its end use. If you temper a cold chisel to full blue, as is most often done, and you create friction heat against a grinding wheel, say to a gray/green, you no longer have the proper temper for the tool. It has lost its correct or proper temper. It is now "softer" than it should be.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 03/06/08 19:41:46 EST

Thomas-- Bach, unfettered as he was by the dreary limitations of us ordinary mortals, could do anything.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 03/06/08 20:22:13 EST

I think of it this way -- if a person loses his temper, he snaps. In anything like normal use, a tool can't lose its temper (return to its fully hardened state). But if it somehow did, it would snap.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 03/06/08 21:50:07 EST

Peter Hirst My shop is in Yarmouth. If you want to meet sometime, (my place or yours) I'd be glad to make a few tools with you. It is so much easier to learn it that way. Give me a call if you want. 508-280-8807.
   John Christiansen - Thursday, 03/06/08 21:56:25 EST

Guru: Thank you for the info on power hammers. It sounds like an excellent project, could recommend a source for plans or good book?
   Sam Lee - Friday, 03/07/08 00:51:35 EST

Guru, Frank and all: thanks for the clarification; "wrong temper" makes sense. And thanks for the Forum: met another
Cape blacksmith as a result.
   Peter Hirst - Friday, 03/07/08 08:45:11 EST

Mike.. nice analogy but I think its more direct about the wording..... how angry have you ever gotten while working a tool and you lose the temper on it? Especially a tool that you spent hours making?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 03/07/08 08:51:23 EST

Power Hammer Info: Sam, There is no book on building a power hammer other than an engineering degree plus a few years in the industry. There IS a couple books that are historical references to the power hammer by Douglas Freund. See our review of pounding out the profits. This book is on mechanical hammers only but he has one on air hammers. There is a book on Little Giants. Again this is mostly an historical reference. I cannot recommend many of their repair methods and their theory of operation is entirely wrong.

There are plans available from ABANA for an air hammer. More air hammers have been built from this plan than any other. However, it's recommendations for anvil mass are very low. You can get plans for the Tire Hammer from Clay Spencer of NC but his web page is not up and there is no mention on the NC-ABANA web site . . . Appalachian Blacksmiths association sell plans for the "Rusty". None of these plans are for what I would call a professional design. All assume a lot of junk yard content.
   - guru - Friday, 03/07/08 10:37:21 EST

Okay, here it is... have fun with it, use it as a wallpaper, print it out and stick it in yer shop, do whatever ya want... its for real!

   - Nippulini - Friday, 03/07/08 13:37:50 EST

Looking at a WM Parker Attercliffe 123 anvil and wondered if anyone knew the type and quality of it. It is said to be from the 1800's. Thanks to any that can reply.
   keith - Friday, 03/07/08 17:02:01 EST

Nips Fortune cookie: It should read "It's better to be the hammer than a Chinese anvil" My version made in regard to someones comment that an anvil will outlast many hammers, or something to that efect.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 03/07/08 23:36:21 EST

keith: That WM Parker Attercliffe anvil on eBay is very likely from about 1820-1850. There are very few of them in the U.S, which indicates they may not have been exported, but rather found there way to the U.S. in some manner. I suspect construction is the classic build-up technique where they started with a core of WI, then added on the feet, horn, heel and then top plate. What makes this one unusual is the ATTERCLIFFE on it. I Googled it and it is a suburg of Sheffield. Typically they read POND FORGE. Quality should be similar to a Mouse Hole anvil of the same period and style. The 1 2 3 indicates a weight of around 171 pounds, which is a nice weight for general purpose usage. Understand what the shipping charges will be before purchasing though.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/08/08 06:25:58 EST

Attercliffe is a very run down area of Sheffield. It is a former industrial zone where there were thousands of factories and workshops working steel. In those days almost all the high quality cutlery for most of the world was made there. It would be only a few miles from Pond Forge which would have been more towards the city centre.

Dave, when I get round to it I will post some pics of the chinese anvil we used here for a couple of months. I think a decent hammer and a strong smith would get through a 150 pound Chinese ASO in a week if not less.
   - philip in china - Saturday, 03/08/08 07:50:59 EST

"The old anvil laughs at many a broken hammer."

"When you are the hammer, strike; when you are the anvil, bear."

   Frank Turley - Saturday, 03/08/08 11:51:27 EST

Whether the rock hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the rock, its gonna be bad for the pitcher.

Sancho Panza
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 03/08/08 18:24:58 EST

Finish for Fireplace Crane:

I've pretty much finished the forging and cold work on the fireplace crane for Grey Havens. Since my wif wanted it to fold back along one side wall, I even put on a pivoted arm extension so that it can go across the grate, but fold back when not in use. Now, the question is: how do I finish it? Christi prefers simple "high-heat black" paint on everything (a late 20th century traditionalist if ever there was one) but I think that the S-hook or trammel running along the top of the arm would result in paint in the stew during those rare events (God(s) willing) when the power goes out for extended periods. I'm open to suggestions.

Warm, then rainy, then windy, then windy and rainy again, then really windy and cold on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 03/08/08 21:48:22 EST

Bees wax sauce, then let it burn on, sorta like seasoning an iron pan
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 03/08/08 22:21:42 EST

Philip in China: Are you indicating Pond Forge was an area of Sheffield, rather than the name of a particular business?
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/09/08 07:59:02 EST

Bruce, keep the paint thin, BBQ black ages and then chalks anyway and will need wax over it later. Most (Derusto) brands are mostly graphite and thus pretty non-toxic if a little ends in the stew.

The best heat curing oil I have used is olive oil. Makes a nice varnish when heated. However, the problem with organics if you are worried about contamination is that they support bacteria. So you have the (minor) issues of organic vs. inorganic contamination. I'll take bug free dirt any day. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/09/08 12:46:12 EST

Guru: Right on about the olive oil. You've discovered my secret sauce! Bees wax cut with olive oil. Interesting note about the graphite content of the paints. I like to add a little lampblack to the mix sometimes. I have a couple dozen cast iron pots and forged utensils that touch nothin else. Never get detergent, just hot water, wipe dry and wipe down with oil every so often. Then they hang for days or weeks at a time. My wooden cutting boards get the same treatment. (Without the extra carbon) Never worry about the bacteria: even raw, and certainly once the oil is heat cured, there ain't enough available nutrients and especially moisture, to support the little bugs. That's why things like honey and peanut butter are virtually sterile: no air, no moisture, no bugs. Anyone refrigerate their oil, peanut butter or honey? And this is a fireplace crane we're talking about, right? Seems like enough heat to simmer the soup ought to sterilize the iron with every use. I'll take burned on grease over burned-off paint any day . . .
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 03/09/08 15:18:42 EST

In the eastern Ky tradition, as taught me by my now 82 year old Mother, cast iron cookware is seasoned with bacon grease. The cooking oils, mostly bacon grease constantly replenish the seasoning. She merely takes a papertowel,(used to be a rag) and wipes the skillet out, then a moist towel is wiped quickly about the still pretty warm skillet and then pops it into the cold oven until needed again. I do not believe that has hurt anyone in her family, a tough as nails subsistance farming groupas has ever been seen. And that skillet has feed me more fried eggs, bacon and fried patatos than I can remember.
   - ptree - Sunday, 03/09/08 16:08:59 EST

For those around the Louisville, KY area take a look at eBay listing #190203441466. Tongs may sell cheap since they have a high shipping charge.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/09/08 16:52:19 EST

My game hunter sons and their mother will not let anyone get anywhere near their precious Lodge cast iron pans and pots with soap. To clean scrub with just plain water, dry, then heat with a smidge of Wesson or corn oil, turn off before it smokes, leave oil residue on it. Olive oil and butter burn at too low a temperature, is the consensus here. Break-in of a new one is the same.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 03/09/08 17:50:30 EST

Ken, I know Sheffield fairly well. Around the city centre there is an area called pond street and various other pond references. I think it was because there was a lot of rivers, canals and, yes, ponds there. All required for the steel making etc. processes that went on there. When I was much younger there was still quite a few cutlery and similar businesses in that area but they have all now closed. Pond forge would, I suppose, have been a particular forge but it would most likely have been in that area and have taken its name from there. This is pure guess work but I would be surprised if it were wrong.
   - philip in china - Sunday, 03/09/08 21:57:09 EST

philip in china: Or it could be like our Valley Forge (of George Washington fame) which essentially meant "Valley of the Forges". Pond Forge might have been "Forges of the Ponds". During the early 1800s water power would still have been essential to many manufacturing businesses.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 03/10/08 02:49:00 EST

Place Names: In much of North America there are thousands of places called "something" forge or "something" furnace. These industries were pioneer industries hungry for new resources (land for wood to make charcoal, water to run the machinery, ore and flux). They were often built in the middle of vast unsettled tracts and villages would develop around them taking the name of the business. Grist mills were similar but usually came after the area was somewhat settled and there was a need to grind grain.

These places and Forts were sometimes named for the owner, a business name or a landmark. Even tiny gristmills became a place where people gathered and soon a store selling goods would appear, then a blacksmith shop to service the wagons and horses hauling grain to the mill and finally a post office in the store which but the government stamp on the place name.

In England a long settled country these businesses often took the name of the location. Pond is a common placename even in the U.S. But Pond is also a surname and the forge could have been named for the man and the place took the name.

   - guru - Monday, 03/10/08 08:37:17 EST

Reading "Steelmaking Before Bessemer" it has a lot of discussion about Sheffield and quotes a lot of original sources. Many of the larger industries had several locations in Sheffield and as was mentioned they were generally located along the various canals and pounds used for water storage for millwheels or turning, staging areas for canalboats.

So a company could very well have a "pond works" and an XYZ works and as chunks of businesses seem to have been fairly freely shuffled around the "Pond Forge" could get to be a stand alone name.

Interesting book if you are into that sort of thing...the appendicies are about as long as the body of the book.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/10/08 09:48:37 EST

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