WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den

THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you. This is an archive of posts from March 15 - 21, 2000 on the Guru's Den
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I am in the grip of an overpowering desire to make or perhaps even (gasp!) buy a radial arm flame cutter, a hoodgie into which I can clamp my oxy-acetylene torch at, say, a 90 or a 45 or any angle and cut plate. Cross-cut, circles, you name it: Push, pull, click, click, miter plate that quick. Lindsay has a book of plans. Anybody seen one ready-made for sale reasonably priced? Many thanks.
John Neary  <jneary at cnsp.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 00:28:03 GMT

I am building a propane forge. It is a cylinder 14" in diameter and 2' long. It will have 3" of insuilation. I need to put in a floor, to protect the ceramic fiber. Any advice on what to use? Thanks
nico  <eadienic at hotmail.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 03:48:16 GMT

I'm an old man in metalworking and pipefitting but new in blacksmithing. I'm mechanically minded, but I've obtained a Johnson gas forge, an old one,4 burners,a screamin' blower in real good shape. It has a 3/4" gas supply, a manual shut-off valve, and a solenoid valve wired in series with blower. Do you think this would be set up for LP gas? Also what gas pressure is needed. If it could run on natural gas how much pressure what size supply would that require? Thanks for considering this question, and you have a great site here!
richard stephens  <rstephen at dstream.net> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 04:31:40 GMT

Forge Floor: Nico, A row or two of refractory bricks. You may want to weld in a bar for support so you can have a flat floor. Having things slide to the center of a trough is bothersome. Most circular forges have no "wool" under the bricks. It reduces the amount of insulation you need. However, it doesn't hurt to have as much insulation as possible.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 04:38:02 GMT

I want to build a forge in my farm, at the foot of a hill, but I know nothing about forges or blacksmithing and would like to find some reference, tips or anything else that I need to know to build my forge. Many Thanks
Roberto  <millor at bigfoot.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 04:40:53 GMT

Johnson Forge: Richard, that size pipe says Natural Gas! However, most NG forges can be converted to propane (LPG) without too much effort.

NG is very low pressure. Measured in inches of water column. LPG is considerably higher pressure, measured in PSI. A 1/4" or 3/8" copper line will provide all the LPG you need. In most forges the gas is regulated by an orifice in the line but often in blower type forges it is adjusted at the valve or via a regulator. The NG orifices would be considerably larger than the LPG orifices. So you don't need to worry about starving the forge for gas.

Probably the most important consideration is that LPG is a volatile solvent and certain elastomers (rubber) is not resistant to it. Gaskets, hoses washers. . may need to be replaced. We had a long discussion about it a while back and I failed to post the link to the place that had the TRUTH. . . (John?).

In any event, you can hook it up to a picnic sized propane bottle (30#) to test it but you will need something bigger to provide the necessary volume without freezing up. The NG lines would need to be bigger than what is on the forge (1") . The NG pressure for these small forges is in the standard domestic service range.

Johnson is still in business and the serial number should get you factory answers, even a maunal. Centaur Forge is a dealer for them.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 04:57:33 GMT

I've been smithing for five years. I am getting more into working tool steels and tool making. Need some general advice or a resource recommendation on working tool steels.
francis l.  <oddsbodkins at hotmail> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 05:01:06 GMT

Forge: Roberto, See our article on getting started. I list several books that will get you 90% there. The Art of Blacksmithing is a classic and mostly about the old ways of doing things. The NEW Edge of the Anvil is designed as a practical how-to book and considers modern techniques a little more.

Practical Blacksmithing by M.T. Richardson is an old reference that has shop plan layouts and a lot of information from when blacksmith shops were much more common. Published before 1900 it is available in reprint.

The best tip I can give you is to join your local ABANA-Chapter. See the latest and past editions of our NEWS to see what they do. Most have meetings every month.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 05:10:34 GMT

Tool Steels: Francis, I reccomend MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK as a starter reference to tool steels and 10,000 other things a blacksmith might need to know. Then if you need up to date specs, more details and handling recomendations on practicaly every steel made, you want the ASM Metals Reference Book. Its a little pricey but if you are into laminated steels or difficult to heattreat steels it has the numbers you need.

From a practical standpoint I can tell you that most modern steels are oil hardening. There is no substitute for temperature measurment and control. Thermal shock (quickly heating cold steel) and improper quenching are the two biggest mistakes handling tool steels.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 05:25:47 GMT

Hello Good Guru:
Ive got some swapmeet heavy-service-clamps that had the bolts cut down for some special application. The bolts are very hard and are a little bigger than standard thread. They were drop forged by W H Williams & co and say Vulcan on the back. Any idea of where I could buy replacement bolts?...Pete
Pete Fels  <ironyworks at netscape.net> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 06:48:50 GMT

Natural Gas and Propane Seals: Standard o-rings from the hardware store are usually Nitrile or Buna N. Both Natural Gas and Propane are compatible with Nitrile/Buna N. Natural gas can be used with Nitrile, SBR(a rubber), Neoprene, Urethane, Silicone and Viton, but not EPDM. LPGas can be used with Nitrile, Neoprene, and Viton. I'm sure there is a seal compatibility chart at www.parker.com but they want to set a cookie. See also http://www.gtweed.com/compatibilityguideoverview.htm

Seal compatibilty can be quite aggravating. Be advised that within a given seal material group, such as the Nitrile group, there are very many different compounds. All with small changes to enhance specific properties. When you buy a seal, you really should specify the exact application. But that's not practical unless you buy from a seal supplier. I'm sure you will be fine with a Nitrile/Buna seal for both LPG and Natural Gas. Nitrile/Buna is also typically the least expensive.

One of my current challenges is finding a seal material that is compatible with acrylic plastic in a pressure vessel. Some plasticizers in some nitrile/buna compounds attack the acrylic and cause it to delaminate after a few months. It's not a good thing to ship air over oil reservoirs to people and have them blow up after 3 months. Very embarassing.
Tony - Wednesday, 03/15/00 14:35:29 GMT

where do I buy stainless foil?
Dave Bolton   <bolton at skylinc.net> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 16:04:07 GMT

this is in response to Richards questions about the johnson forges...i just converted my four burner johnson forge from natural gas to propane...which is what you probably have... its not as easy as it sounds but it can be done..you have to make sure you use the correct regulator and the right size hose to get the correct volume for the rated btu's which is around 350000 400000..i just got all the correct stuff and if you have any questions please feel free to ask

randy  <rwbruce at primate.ucdavis.edu> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 16:39:44 GMT

Stainless Foil: Dave, Its available from MSC and McMaster-Carr. We have a link to McMaster-Carr on our LINKS page.

It is great stuff for heattreating. A 50' roll is about $95 USD.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 16:40:38 GMT

I was doing some research on Blacksmith's in the 1700's. I can't seem to find anything regarding the type of money that was earned by blacksmiths in the 1700's. Any information you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.

I'm also looking for burial information. I need to know how much a buriel cost in the 1700's. Thanks
Joann Fineberg  <jfineberg at warwickri.com> - Wednesday, 03/15/00 19:08:19 GMT

I was wondering if you have had a chance to consider my question reguarding the stone saw blades re Friday the 10th. Any suggestions welcome.
Bill  <w.stone at gte.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 02:05:29 GMT

Blacksmith's Wages; Joann:
I have some information on it from the late 1700, early 1800 period. I will try to post tomorrow.


Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 03:55:02 GMT

I would like to know how Damascus steel was made
is there any sites you can send me to?
you helped me month or so ago with my "champion22" inch press.....precetate it...
kris  <bonzo at beon.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 04:02:51 GMT

Damascus: Kris, True "Damascus" is a crucible product called "wootz" that was made in India and Asia.

What is called "Damascus" today is actually laminated steel. laminated steel is made by forge welding layers of soft wrought iron or mild steel and high carbon steel OR an alloy steel that resists etching. The billit is cut, stacked and welded several times until the layers reach the desired thinness. This process is often erroneously refered to as "folding".

After the billit is finished then it can be further processed to create a decorative pattern. This is done by a number of methods. The billit can be twisted, or two twisted billits squared up and welded together. Often material is cut out of the billet and then it is forged flat again. Diagrams of these techniques are reproduced from Dona Meilach's Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork in our review of her book.

The most difficult technique is "mosaic" Damascus. In this process a billit is built up from different grades of steel in order to produce a specific pattern such as letters, words or a phrase. Try "grandpa" Daryl Meier's MEIER STEEL web site. His Presidential Presentation knife reproduced a feat that was said to have last been done in the 1700's and was thought by many to be a myth.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 05:41:25 GMT

hello i'm and amateur blacksmith with about 2 years experience and i do 18th century re-enactments (revoloutionary war) i am trying to find some information on the history and level that blacksmithing had attained bye the late 18th century. But i cant seem to find anything specific for the period. Everything i find only makes mention of the blacksmith did this or did that. what kind of metals were available? Where and how were the guilds working with america? ect. thanks in advance
terry  <terryh at buncombe.main.nc.us> - Thursday, 03/16/00 12:59:54 GMT

hi sorry for the redundancy i found your previous answer in the archives and i appreciate it very much thank you
terry  <terryh at buncombe.main.nc.us > - Thursday, 03/16/00 14:08:45 GMT

Blacksmith's Earnings; Joann:

The best quick reference on the subject that I have (the only one in my library, alas) is: "To Draw, Upset and Weld; The Work of the Pennsylvania Rural Blacksmith 1742-1935" by Jeannette Lasansky; 1980; Union County Historical Society, Court House, Lewisburg, PA 17837; LoC 80-15922, TT220.L37; ISBN 0-271-00265-4.

Check your library or try an inter-library loan. If you're desperate, I could fax the relevant information to you today or next Tuesday if you contact me at my National Park service e-mail (bruce_blackistone at nps.gov). It's not a big book, but it's a fascinating view of the work and the smith's role in the society of the area (especially since Mom came from that part of Pennsylvania). It doesn't give yearly earnings until the mid 1800s, but there are enough individual items, prices and dates so that you can extrapolate the information.

If workload permits, and you can wait that long, I'll post some of the abstract later next week.


Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 14:33:11 GMT

Colonial Blacksmith's; Terry and Joann:

I posted first (wrote the reply on the laptop, bouncing on the bus) and then read the latest. Check out Hopewell and Saugus National Historical Parks on the Guru's Links page. You can call them and ask for an historian or historical interpreter to talk to for more details. Some may have the information off the tops of their heads.

Good luck.

MEANWHILE: If any of y'all are in the Jamestown-Williamsburg Virginia area, I'll be at Military Through the Ages at Jamestown Settlement this weekend, heading up the Anglo-Saxon camp. There's a forge at the settlement, the Ostvik Viking's should be running their own forge (w/ my bellows) and you can look at about 1,500 years of arms, armor and equipment at the various camps.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 14:49:36 GMT

All Knowing Guru,
I am looking for pictures of plans to build a coal forge,
espically the fire pot. I have seen the brake drum forge on Anvilfire. I seem to remember seeing a home made welded fire pot somewhere and I think that it was made by Bob Patric. Do you have any links or information that I can use?
thank you, dave m
Dave Mudge (LAMA)  <lama at wild.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 15:16:29 GMT

Bill Stone, Stone saw blades :) Most saw blades even if they use inserts are fairly high carbon steel for strength and rigidity. Exact alloy varies among manufacturers and any statment of the precise alloy or composition would be worse than a guess. In bandsaw blades there is some standardization and manufacturers often state the exact steel they are made off. Some form of flame cutting (oxy/gas, plasma, laser) is the only way to cut a large hardened piece of steel. . . Well, water jet with abrasive slurry and EDM also work.

To all: Any time you are dealing with scrap steel as a blacksmith YOU become the metalurgist and need to learn to determine the type of material, suitability of use and how to heattreat. If you find this task daunting or you are not willing to purchase the necessary references then you should stick to materials (new) of known composition.

There are numerous lists floating around that state "X" steel is used for this and "Y" steel for that. . Most are full of errors and just plain incorrect. Much of the information is derived from the SAE recomended steels list in MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK. It is a very OLD list and if you study the list closely there are a dozen steels recommended for springs alone. Manufacturers make their OWN recomendations and often change the steel depending on price and availability. The only way a list of this sort could be accurate is if it specified the part, manufacturer and date of manufacture. - Beware of blanket statements that a certain type of item is made from a specific steel.

In the end most smiths apply a little trial and error and then trust in blind luck. OR purchase new materials of known composition.

Colonial Smiths Terry, glad you found the post on materials. Guilds were one of the things that the Colonists were trying to get away from. However the apprentice system was alive and well. But, anyone with the skills and tools could setup business in America and the demand was so great that they would be accepted. Hm m m, just like blacksmithing today!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 15:28:45 GMT

Forge Plans: Dave, I looked around in the places I knew but they were all using commercial fire pots. There is a guy with the AFC Montgomery Forge that designed and built the forges on their four station forge trailer AFC Edition, Montgomery Forge Hmmm, I think I have more photos than I posted in the NEWS. . Was going to do an article on the forges. Very compact and well designed. Made from the top of old water heater tanks and scrap from the sides.

Do you have a particular need for the plans or just shopping around?
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 16:16:18 GMT

Dear Guru
I am trying to get the names of suppliers or manufacturers
of sheet metal working tools,bending brakes,shears,punches,
etc.All I seem to be able to find are industrial size equipment, I am looking more for the "Benchtop" size equipmentin the hobby,light manufacturing area.To be more specific I want to work in Brass,Copper in the 26 gauge
area. Any leads you can send me would be much appreciated
Ian Brister
Ian Brister  <Yob4TRicky at aol.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 16:39:09 GMT

Trial & Error- If I may suggest a method to determine heat treatment for an unknown steel.
Start withan unimportant sample
1 heat to yellow heat
2 Quench (your choice of medium)
3 Safely break (or draw temper first)
4 Draw temper ( allow the temper colors to streach out over entire piece)
5 Test hardness using a file, hacksaw,or punch
6 Test toughness by safely breaking piece

this method requires the individual to pay attention to all the discernable varibles by using your senses, uses no gauages or scientific instruments.
If you learn to heat treat this steel acquire a lifetime supply.
John C  <john.careatti at cskcorp.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 16:41:23 GMT

where can I find a thermostat (pyrometer), and thermocouple for a gas forge.
Corey Smith   <bolton at skylinc.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 17:19:44 GMT

Sheet Metal Bending: Ian, the folks that make the industrial stuff used to make bench-top tools. Pextow made the niftyest little 16 or 18" bar-fold. I had a 36" and it must have weighed 500 pounds. All it was good for was 24ga! The little one was exactly the same construction as the big one. Hmmmm. . They still make a 30" and 36". . and yep the 36 weighs more than 500 pounds! The little ones are available used but are rare and pricey.

I've built a couple small breaks. Not hard to do but picky work. The trick is they must be relatively heavy. Bending wide stock creates huge forces against the long bending bar. To do a clean job there must be very little deflection and thats hard to achieve in wide tools. We always seemed to need to do 16ga and the guys in the shop kept using my 24ga rated bar fold. You could do that on narrow (aluminium) stock but all it takes is one piece that's a little too much and you've got a bent or broken break.

I just had a similar question in the mail:
I'm making lamps out of thin sheet metal and I've been bending it with a rubber mallet and the edge of my table. Is there a better way. .
If you are working relativly thin stuff (28ga?) you can make a simple break using a piano hinge and a couple boards. Clamp the board assembly over the sheet metal with the hinge lined up over the edge of your bench, then press down on the hinged board.

A steel door in a steel frame works too . . .

You can also buy sheet metal "pliers" with flat jaws about 4" to 6" wide. A handy tool. Then the old time roofers used similar benders with jaws about 16 to 18" (450mm) wide. They look like blacksmith tongs with wide blades rivited to the jaws.

Sheet Metal Punch and Shear: This takes just plain tonnage for even small jobs. The little Whitney #10? Hand Punch is a 1ton device. To punch a 2" hole in .032 brass takes a 4 ton press (or there about). Shearing takes LOTS of tonnage. The link above has a little bench shear that looks like a paper cutter. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 17:36:51 GMT

Temperature Controls: Corey, A Pyrometer is a thermocouple and meter combination. A "thermostat" would be a controler that operates off the Pyrometer or has the guage built in. They are available from a number of places but are pricey. All the control would do is open and close a switch (contacts) and you would have to design the rest of the system (relays, solenoids and timers).

A thermocouple is a bimetalic joint made of special alloyed disimilar metals that produce an electric current when heated. The meter is a millivolt meter calibrated (just a special face) for temperature based on the specific alloy thermocouple. Common alloy combinations are Iron/Constanstan (J type) and Chromel/Alumel (K type). For a forge you need a K thermocouple and even then it is possible to melt it . . OR a J-Platinium type.

McMaster-Carr sells some of this stuff but the places I go are Chromolox and Omega.

This is a VERY technical area and only certain types of thermocouples work at very high temperatures. Both companies will send you literature that is a REAL education AND will sell to you on line once you have figured out what you need.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 18:12:28 GMT

Ian,try www.buchnermfg.com/win4.htm
These are a nice brake that is light weight it will brake
metal 22 ga. and up.
Bobby Neal  <nealbrusa at netscape.net> - Thursday, 03/16/00 18:27:48 GMT

Recently I purchased a large drill press. It appears to be made by Royersford. An Excelsior 21 in. model.It is in working order but does have some parts missing. Do you know if this company is still in business? Is there any metal working machines "graveyards" that you can find used parts for old stuff? Thanks for any help.LA
Lynn Aldridge  <lpkm at webkorner.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 20:35:46 GMT

My Favorite Machine! Lynn, Sadly they haven't been made since the fifties. . . Parts are pretty rare. Although they are a VERY common machine, they were common like PC's. They were a "commodity" item made by dozens of manufacturers. Almost identical, but not quite. Most were the same except the cast in name tag. I have four, a very old J.T. Ryerson and Sons, a 21" Royersford Excelsior (exactly like yours), a Buffalo Blower and Forge and an Aurora Tool Works. The first three could exchange parts but the last was made a little heavier duty.

Occasionaly you can find these machines in scrap yards or at used machinery dealers. But, they are VERY useful machines and if they've been scraped they were in such bad shape they couldn't be used. . This generaly means lots of missing parts. If a machinery dealer has one, he's not going to sell parts.

With a 1.5Hp motor, in straight gear, you can drill 3/4" holes in 1" steel plate almost as fast as punching them. They will drill 1-1/2" holes in straight gear with a little oil and care. Yet they are sensitive enough to bury a 3/16" drill bit. An equivalent geared head modern machine would cost you $5-$7K USD.

I can probably tell you which parts are broken or missing. One or more of the table lock handles is gone. The crank for the table mechanism has been removed and if you look closely there will be teeth broken off the back gears. It probably needs a new drill chuck. Missing belts don't count, they are commonly available maintenance items but the one for the power feed is missing. . . :)

If critical parts are missing such as feed levers or latch it is worth having them fabricated. Machines with spindles that you can shake back and forth 1/4" will still drill
holes all day. . .

OBTW- "Large" is a relative term. 20 and 21" (525mm) machines were the most common because they will do almost any drilling you would do on a drill press. Although they made these machines starting at 16" (8" center to column), they also made them as big as 60" or more. . I've got my eye on one that big. . . ;)
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 03/16/00 22:35:36 GMT

Thanks for the advice on the saws. I guess I can throw away those table legs I was working on. :)
Bill  <w.stone at gte.net> - Friday, 03/17/00 02:49:05 GMT

Bill: That's probably some fancy alloy OR high carbon steel. Torch a piece off, clean it up, try to forge it, heat treat it and PLAY with it. I made some hand scrapers from one of those cheap throw-away 'Skill' saw blades. MEAN steel! We tried to anneal a piece so we could drill a hole. . . Just wrecked the drill. I made a punch out of a piece of drill shank and die from mild steel and we punched the holes. . Scrapers were great. Had to scrape a taper in a 8" (200mm) dia. x 24" (800mm) long babbit bearing. Worked as well as the fancy imported scraper I bought for musical instrument work. . .

The point is, you never know what you have until you try it.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 05:43:26 GMT

Answer for Ian regarding light sheet metal equip. Ian, I have owned or been a partner in four airplanes. The only supplier of quality sheet metal equipment that I know of is a company called US Tool. Very resonable prices and high quality tools mostly for the aviation industry. They are perfect for light duty work, brass, copper, etc... Their website is : www.ustool.com TC
Tim Cisneros  <blacksmith at starsticker.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 07:44:50 GMT

WOOTZ/DAMASCUS: Here are some sites I've found on Wootz steel:


And for those of you with lots of time on your hands, Sir Henry Bessemer's autobiography is available in full online at:

Eric Bramblett  <bramec at hotmail.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 14:45:56 GMT

WOOTZ/DAMASCUS: Oops! I left out an interesting one that talks about effects, but not much about how-to:

Eric Bramblett  <bramec at hotmail.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 15:02:02 GMT

I read about post drills on the site-21stC Blacksmith. I see a drill of e-bay. Looks like it is in good shape but I don't see a large crank on the side as in the one on your site. Just a small crank on top. I am wondering if it will work (just another style) or if I should be wary of one without the large side crank. By the way Your site is exceptionally informative and intertaining. Thanks, Garth
garth mudge  <garthglass at aol.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 15:43:01 GMT

Ebay auction: Garth, Mail me the sale and I will look at it. There are several possibilities.

There is a type of drill that the crank is on the feed screw and it feeds as you turn without any feel or variation in feed rate. These were fairly common in the cheap do-it-yourself kits around the turn of the 20th century (1870-1920). They are not a very good drill. . .

The good geared hand crank drills with manual AND self feed are great machines. I've had several and still have one in my shop. The crank handle on these is a simple piece of flat bar with the crank handle on the end. It is held into the crank gear by a set screw so you can change the length of the stroke. If the crank bar/handle is missing it is not difficult to make. However, if the gear the handle goes into is missing (or any of the gears or major parts) then the machine is good for nothing but parts.

The top "feed wheel" on these machines is turned by a ratchet and paw mechanism. When the machine is in use the feed wheel is cranked down to apply the initial feed pressure and then the ratchet does the feeding while you crank. This leaves your left hand free to hold the work. It is common for parts of this mechanism to be missing. It IS possible to make replacements but it is not an easy job.

Ebay auctions are fun and interesting. Sometimes you can get a good deal. However, there are a LOT of dealers that don't know good from bad or just plain misrepresent things. Yesterday a source sent me two autions for blacksmithing items. One had an over priced reserve but the second was junk. It was a common small size blacksmith's vise listed as "museum quality". This "quality" piece was missing the spring, bench bracket and wedges. The handle was bent and the screw had a questionable look. . The reserve was 20 times what a vise in similar condition can be purchased for at any Hammer-In and 3 times what one in perfect condition can be bought for every day. Join your local ABANA-Chapter. There are almost always guys at the meetings that wheel and deal blacksmith's tools. See these pages from the NEWS.
Vol 12, p.9
Vol 13, p.10
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 17:09:54 GMT

Last year bought a #50 common sense hammer, it needs
new babbit material for the main shaft. Need info on how
to do it. Where to get information, books, tapes, etc. Also
any books or instructions for common sense hammer.
Paul Gillespie  <cfi at cal-micro.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 17:15:12 GMT

Babbit Paul, the best place to start is with the oldest edition MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK you can find. The older editions had very complete instructions on babitting. Other machinists texts and manuals have similar information.

You can rebabbit using the existing shaft but it is easier to make a dummy shaft or "mandrel" of the correct size. This needs to be carefully lined up to the hammer's guide system. It must be centered and square on all axis. This takes bracketry or supports for the specific machine. IGNORE the casting and line up to machined surfaces only. Set collars on the mandrel make it easier to do but you can get away with sheet metal and damming compound such as "Damtite".

There is a lot of preparation involved in re-babbitting a machine. There are kits available from Sid Sudemeier for the common Little Giant but for anything else you are on your own.

Centaur Forge Sells babbit, damming compound and a booklet on the subject.

The manufacturers of ALL the old mechanical hammers have long been out of business and there were never any real "operations" manuals for the machines. A slip of paper with instructions for adjusting the toggles were about it. For the rest they asummed that the purchaser had sufficient mechanical ability to maintain and operate all sorts of machinery.

Metal Links: Thanks Eric! I'll post those on Emile's Links where we are catagorizing those type of links.

I didn't know Bessemer's biography was on-line. It will be intresting to see if he mentions James Nasmyth. They were both working on the same idea but Bessemer got there first. Nasmyth claims Bessemer offered him part of the patent but Naysmyth declined claiming he had enough fame and patents!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 17:43:16 GMT

I have no experience in blacksmithing or forge work and own no specialized tools, but I am fairly knowledgeable of other aspects of metalworking. I want to know if it is possible to permanently color small aluminum parts a light to medium blue color by heating them. I remember something in Machinery's Handbook about coloring metals blue by heating them in sand until the desired color is obtained, then quenching the part in oil. I don't think it specifically mentioned if this is possible with aluminum. The color would be for decorative purposes and need not harden the part as long as it doesn't anneal it much either. I was hoping this effect can be achieved using a charcoal grill or a gas torch as this is a low budget operation. What other metals can be colored this way? Thanks for your help. - John
John Alden  <itrapcoyotes at yahoo.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 17:46:49 GMT

Color: John, Sorry, no. Aluminium can be "anodized" and then dyed almost any color. Anodizing makes a beautiful scratch and corrosion resistant surface but it is an industrial process. Some anodizers will do small lots. Look under "plating" in the phone book.

Steel and Titanium take temper colors from heating. Titanium is a white metal like aluminium and the whole rainbow is brilliant.

To color steel all you have to do is clean and polish it, then carefully heat. When I want a uniform color I heat a larger block of steel on the kitchen stove with a little test sample on it. When the sample is right then I put the part on the block. Clear laquer over the color will preserve it and prevent rust. Cleanliness cannot be stressed enough in this procedure. It is a cotton gloves type process.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 03/17/00 19:26:26 GMT

what is the going price on an acid edged titanium blade for a broad sword blade about 3 ft. long?
silverblood  <silverblood at darkmail.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 14:38:40 GMT

Blade Price: Silverblood, Pricing art or antiques is out of our area of expertise. An etched aerospace material anachronistic sword is art.


Many folks think we are like the popular television show of that name and can price their antiques and collectors items. We can not.

Although blacksmiths often use antique tools on a daily basis the value of those tools is basicly set by the market and what blacksmiths can afford. When those antique tools become collectors items all the rules change. In fact, their are no rules. Collectors prices are often just plain crazy. Two tools of identical age and nature will have completely different "values" based on the fact that one has a factory mark and the other doesn't. The rarest beautifuly hand made tool has less value than something made by a known factory.

We CAN help with the current price of tools and whether or not a tool is usable or not. Yesterday we looked at two items on ebay for folks. Both items were listed in "good" condition. Both were missing significant parts and were unusable. They were neither usable tools nor collectors items.

If you want to buy tools to use on ebay, set a reasonable maximum bid and stick to it.

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 15:05:48 GMT

I am trying to find a blade smith who can create such a thing I have a buetifull design but do not entirely trust anyone with it just yet I have written Mr. Meier and am waiting for a reply but I would like to also speak to some other bladesmiths.
silverblood  <silverblood at darkmail.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 15:24:08 GMT

Custom design: If you can't do it yourself that makes it a time and materials job. $100/hr plus fuel/materials.

Inventors are always looking for a shop to build their inventions. Rarely do they have the money to back up the project and want the shop to do it for a percentage of the invention (meaning nothing). R&D is very expensive. If you have a couple thousand dollars to throw at your project you might get someone's attention. But only for a few days. Most inventor/designers don't have the funding so as soon as a shop hears, "Well I've got this idea. . ." Then that is the end. They will politely make an excuse and hope you don't come back.

Your blade project comes under the same catagory as an invention. If you really know your stuff and can carry the technical end of the job its a couple thousand dollar job. If you can't carry the technical end then its a $5,000 job or more.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 19:11:11 GMT

For a few years now, we've been making knives and small tools using the older, less effecient (and not nearly as fun) method of Stock Removal... and now we've desided to go "big" and start actually smithing our blades... and moving up to swords and axes. There are 5 of us... seniors in High School, trying to Build a forge, and make swords/axes/knives for our Senior Project... and we've run into a slight problem. We haven't the foggiest idea how to actually BUILD a forge.. we don't want to buy one, and we're told they can be made of rock, and burn Coke(*) If you could help us out a little, oh Great Guru, we'd love it..

* What is Coke? About the only thing I can find on it is in an OLD blacksmithing book we found in a Library, which said only that it was purified coal which the Blacksmith makes himself.. how is this done? Was the book just WRONG? If so, where do you buy it?
HPL Steele  <RafiqSilsila at AOL.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 19:16:59 GMT

HPL Steele: Iīm confident the Guru will answer you (and recommend you to check the "getting started" link on top, I just wanted to comment on your helthy scepticism towards what you read. You should of course continue searching and reading, but be advised that a lot of people wont hesitate to write page after page about something they donīt know **** about.
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Saturday, 03/18/00 20:01:53 GMT

Building a Forge: HPL Steele, see our plans page and consider the brake drum forge. Then look at the one I built when I was in high school (linked from the plan and the getting started page Olle kindly refered you to). It was built of junk (the wheels provided by my best friend's inability to keep his car on the road all the time :). A group of you could build one in a weekend and not be out of any cash. You may all want to get together and build one for each of you! After using it a while you will have a feel for a coal forge and can then go to building a phase two forge.

I do not recommend stone. It was VERY common but it was in a time when folks had more practical knowledge about the world around them. Some rocks spall or explode when heated to forging temperatures. I don't know which ones (do you?) and I don't want to learn the hard way.

Primitive forges were built of wood, dirt and clay. See my story on the 21st Century page The Blacksmith of 1776. The forge described has a stone fireback. I recommend brick or soapstone. If you need a crossection see Alex Bealer's The Art of Blacksmithing (and our review of same).

COKE: The definition given is sort of correct. Coke forms any time a good grade of bituminous coal if burned. As the coal is heated the volitiles are driven off as smoke, or are burned depending on the conditions. What remains is a porus carbon sponge. This is coke. When burned it produces the higher temperatures needed for forge welding.
Some smiths set aside coke to burn when they need an extra hot fire. Others just manage their fire and as the fuel moves toward the center it "cokes down" and the center always has the capacity for maximum heat.

Foundry coke is produced in huge ovens and is compacted during the process th make it a higher density. It is made from both coal and petroleum. It is difficult to keep burning in a small forge therefore is not commonly used for blacksmithing.

What you want to burn in your coal forge is a good grade of bituminous coal. It is sometimes sold as metalurgical or smithing coal. If your coal dealer sells "stoker" coal it is a fairly decent grade and will work fine. If you do not have a local place to purchase coal you can order it by the bag (see our advertising dealers). However, this is expensive and you may want to consider a gas forge in that case. The best way to determine good coal from bad is to try it. This is a good reason for the inexpensive brake drum forge.

One note on sword making. Swords are heated in large forges but not for their complete length. They are worked in short sections. A long heat in a sword makes it like handling a wet noodle. . . The only time a long heat is needed is for hardening and tempering.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 22:00:42 GMT

HPL Steele: You guys build that forge and put together a nice report on your Senior projects (with photos) that I can run on anvilfire and I'll send you each an anvilfire cap.

A few rules. . You can send me the original photos and I'll scan them but I would prefer digitals or scans. Don't shrink them or rework them. Most folks botch that. We will need a photo of the forge and components (whatever kind you build). A photo of the forge "group" and at least one photo of one thing made by each of you. The article can be as brief or as verbose as you or the group decides. A paragraph from each of you about your experiance would be perfect. I'd prefer the article in electronic form (e-mailed, as the body of the mail or an attached ASCII file). The whole thing will run as a multi-page article in the anvilfire NEWS. Cool 'eh?

Let me know if you want to take me up on the "deal" and I'll set aside the caps (they are going fast and I'm not sure when we will reorder).
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 03/18/00 22:42:58 GMT

Surly there will be a goodly supply of hats at the 2000 conf.
kid  <kidbsmith at yahoo.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 00:57:56 GMT

What are good starting materials and techniques for the one-inch square bar that fits in the hardy hole? I tried upsetting some 3/4-inch round stock from a coil spring but it cracked parallel to its cross section. Why would it do that? In any case, I doubt I would have ever gotten it thick enough to make one-inch square bar. I plan to weld the bar to some flat stock I'm working into a cut-off hardy. Any suggestions?
Nick  <nbogen at gte.net> - Sunday, 03/19/00 01:27:06 GMT

What is sweetiron? it looks like treated mild steel that has been blackend ?? I have been Browning horse tack also with
store bought chemicals do you know how to make a solution for either process ?????
Jeff  <jeffwadsworth5 at aol.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 01:31:58 GMT

I'm working on some simple gardening tools for a friend. I thought they would be good practice for future more complicated pieces. To cut the tines for a hand rake I baught a cheap cold chissel made in India (Stop laughing). The blade is very hard but as I worked with it the strike end began to split. I paid about $2.50 for it so I figure I got my moneys worth on this project. I was wondering though if I could use my arc welder to repair it and then heat treat the strike end? Again, this would be a learning project so it wouldn't matter that much if it went wrong. Should the strike end be hardened or is this a case where it should be soft in order to absorb the blow rather than resist it?
Bill  <w.stone at gte.net> - Sunday, 03/19/00 01:38:39 GMT

What is sweetiron? it looks like treated mild steel that has been blackend ?? I have been Browning horse tack also with
store bought chemicals do you know how to make a solution for either process ?????
Jeff  <jeffwadsworth5 at aol.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 01:45:37 GMT

Cheap Chisle: Bill, Don't try to repair it, cut it off. On old tools that are spalled really bad, I torch off the offending material and then dress it with a grinder. Chisles and such should be cut off with a chop saw or grinder. If you see those tell tale blue temper lines around a crack, cut some more off.

There is a lot of debate about striking ends. Most agree it is better soft than brittle hard. Properly tempered to about the minimum hardness for the steel without annealing it is probably best.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 04:17:02 GMT

Hardy Tools: Nick, That big of an upset is difficult without help. You have to work fast with a striker or a power hammer helping. On something of this type you should never be upsetting to get the shank size. You should start at the shank size or larger and upset.

Tool steel will split for a variety of reasons. Working too hot OR too cold both can create problems. Its not uncommon to find flaws in heavily used steel such as springs.

For the fellow without help or a power hammer there are a couple ways to make a hardy. Bill Epps suggested starting with a wood splitting wedge and cutting the shank with a torch. I've made fullers and hardies from RR-rail. Saw or torch slabs from the track. The web becomes the shank and the top what ever you want. . . The left over base material is good for all types of things. RR-rail likes to be oil quenched.

You can also make these tools of mild steel and weld a tool steel edge on. If you anneal and then preheat a piece of that spring steel you can arc weld it to the the edge. While it is still hot from welding throw it into the forge and dress by forging. This gives the weld better structure than "as welded" and makes the whole more uniform.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 04:32:10 GMT

Guru,Paw Paw Wilson suggested that I ask you about someone in my area (northern Nevada or there abouts) Iam looking for several 140# to 200# anvils for the newcomers to a monthly class that I help with in conjuction with the California blacksmiths here in Nevada. Any suggestions ? Thanks !
Dave L   <jetjockey at ironworks.reno.nv.us> - Sunday, 03/19/00 07:32:39 GMT

Cheap Anvils: Dave, I don't know anyone in that area but if I needed several low dollar anvils for a school I'd go the route of the slab anvil. See: ANVILS-1 Making a good inexpensive anvil, and the new ARMOR Series (21st Century page). The armor articles do not have the slab anvil but they DO have some very imaginative tools. I've also updated the the low cost anvil article.

I've wanted to outfit a demonstration blacksmith shop with mostly make-do tools. I say mostly because Bealer was wrong when he wrote, "the only tool a blacksmith couldn't make himself was his anvil", folks have been proving him wrong on that point for years. Its a good vise that is hard to make.

We all get focused on finding an anvil but a good blacksmiths leg vise is almost as difficult to to find and used as much as the anvil.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 15:38:39 GMT

In a serious effort to become politically correct, some blacksmiths have become concerned with the name which we are known. Those of us involved in the effort to become politically pure have decided that in the future we shall be known as

Thermo-mechanical Manipulators of Ferrous and Non-ferrous Molecular Structures.

Thus, there are no color references in our title! (grin)
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 22:21:00 GMT

TMFNMS - TmMFNfMS ? Jim, what kind of pain killers are you on today? You almost got SMTWTFS. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 03/19/00 22:30:45 GMT

Anybody have any ideas on where I can find clipart for and anvil? I am wanting to use asmall one in a business card.
Thanks in advance!

Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Sunday, 03/19/00 22:55:44 GMT


Check your e-mail. Remember, Paw Paw fix! (grin)
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 00:09:20 GMT


GOOOOD Stuff! (grin)
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 01:21:22 GMT

Thanks Jim, and Guru!

Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Monday, 03/20/00 02:28:12 GMT

I am an avid metal worker & I have been buying plumbrown solution for antiquing metal.Do you know of a homebrew solution?
Also would like to know how to make sweetiron.Please help or point the direction I need to go. Thanks much- Jeff
Jeff  <Jeffwadsworth5 at aol.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 02:44:12 GMT

Dear Guru,
Have been enjoying your web page for some time now. Finally got a question. My brother found a cast iron forge for me at a farm sale. It doesn't have a fire pot just flat with holes for air. About the 2nd good fire I heard a big crack, and it split across the bottom and one side. Should I try to weld it or just keep the H2o close? My brother thinks I'll just melt it. He knows how I weld! My wife is afraid I'll burn down the garage and her Buick. I'm really looking for an excuse to buy a fire pot from Centar Forge. I enjoy making your projects on Iforge. Thanks
Steve P  <StevePabc at aol.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 03:46:05 GMT


I have an opportunity to buy a meyer bros. trip hammer. It has No. 2080 on it. Can it be determined from that what size it is, 25#, 50#, etc.

azdoug  <dendrud at hotmail.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 04:17:02 GMT

Cracked Forge: Too much fire, too little insulation. . . Cast iron is real difficult to repair. Especialy big pan shaped pieces. Your best repair it to bolt flat bar across the cracks. Through drill about 1" on either side of the crack. Don't drill and tap. Threaded holes will probagate more cracks. The bolts don't need to be but about 1/4" or 5/16".

Most of these old forges have "clay before use" cast into them. I generaly don't recomend claying but you need a layer of sand or ash to keep from heating the iron too hot in one place. A deep bed of fuel usualy does the same. Localized heating is probably what caused the crack.

If the forge had a little plate with holes in it the forge wasn't designed for a fire pot. You would have to cut a very large hole in the bottom of the forge. Of course if its broken then you probably can break out pieces until you have the hole for the fire pot. . . hate to that happen to old equipment but somtimes you have to be practical.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 04:21:38 GMT

Sweet iron: Jeff, I was hoping one of the farriers would jump in on that. I've asked and gotten all sorts of answer's. Its either wrought iron, or just plain (non-alloy) mild-steel (I think). References found on the net imply it could be anything and is often used with copper. . .

Lige Langston: Sweet Iron (a novel)


Browing uses strong acids and there are hundreds of recipes in gunsmithing references. There are several in MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK as well as books on finishing steel that are available from Centaur Forge. It is one of those things that the raw materials are cheap enough but are hard to come by and dificult to handle. You are better off using the commercial mixes unless you are looking at setting up a production process.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 05:10:07 GMT

Meyers Bros Serial number: Doug, there are numbers all over Meyers and Little Giant hammers. The serial numder is hand stamped into a machined surface on the side of the frame. The size was designated by a letter. H=25#, K=50. See our chart on the Power hammer Page. Every Meyers Brothers hammer I've seen had the size in pounds cast into the front of the crank wheel.

Currently prices run about the same for both hammers. There is so much demand for the tiny 25 pound hammers that they sell for as much as the bigger hammers. .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 05:19:14 GMT

Steve P, Move the Buick out of the garage before you lite your forge.
Bruce R. Wallace  <WalmetaLwk at aol.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 13:59:37 GMT

Virus Alert: I just recieved another on of those many "virus alert" e-mails from a (maybe) good intentioned member of our community. I deleted it AND its attachment.

WHY? The message itself was a forward, and did not address me personaly. The information about the virus was in an attachment with an unfamiliar extention ".eml". When I went to delete it Windows reported it as a Microsoft Outlook file of some type (E Mail Letter??). All the MORE reason to delete it AND empty the recyle bin. . .

Currently the most wide spread viruses on the net are e-mail viruses that take advantage of huge security holes in Microsoft mail products. Any attachment generated by or sent with those products should be looked upon with suspicion. DO NOT OPEN THOSE ATTACHMENTS! Of course the propblem IS certain programs open the attachment for you. . .

Any attachment to mail from someone you don't know AND is not referenced in the message AND does not specificaly address YOU by name (not your e-mail address) should never be opened!

Even when you KNOW the sender there is huge risk. E-mail viruses spread by using YOUR mailing list! They spread exactly like a disease except multiplied by the number of email addresses you keep in an address book. 10 to 100 times at a shot.

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 15:40:00 GMT

We are looking a solenoid valve for a propane forge between 2-15 pds. We believe that it would be used in conjunction with a type J thermocouple. Any ideas would be appreciated.
David Bolton  <bolton at skylinc.net> - Monday, 03/20/00 15:57:16 GMT

A friend of mine just bought an anvil and I hope you can tell me what it might have been used for, or any other information about it. It is cast iron 18 inches in dia.
2 inches thick and has a 1/2 inch pritchel hole about 2 inches from the outer edge. I have never seen or heard of a round anvil before. Thanks for your help
Richard Borchard  <rich at vestra.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 16:07:46 GMT

Richard, It sounds like a saw maker’s anvil. Never seen one with a pirtchel hole but anything is possible.
Bruce R. Wallace  <WalmetaLwk at aol.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 16:41:14 GMT

Thanks! Guru, I believe your right on the focus. I seem to be able to come up with the leg vises, most have needed repair of some sort, mostly the 1"- 5 turn acme thread. I come up with easy fix on that. Thanks again
Dave L   <jetjockey at ironworks.reno.nv.us> - Monday, 03/20/00 17:19:01 GMT

Solenoid Valve: David, Here is the one I use. It has a small orifice (1/8" - 4mm) so it takes higher pressure to deliver the necessary volume on a large forge.

McMaster-Carr #4639K74 200PSI NC 120VAC 430 Stainless

They also list a brass gas servive valve rated up to 10PSI with a 1/4" orifice (7mm).

McMaster-Carr 47545K33 1/4" orifice 1/4" NPT NC 120 VAC

Whoever you select a valve from be sure it is NC (Normaly Closed) and operates on "zero pressure differential" or are "direct acting". Many solenoid valves require the line pressure to help open and close the valve. These are not suitable for certain applications such as fuel gases.

Please see my earlier post on temperature controls. Thermocouples produce a millivolt microamp current only suitable to operate a gauge or a solid state control that operates a relay that in turn could operate your valve.

I found on the furnaces and forge that I built that I needed a an "on-delay" relay to open the valve if there was a blower on the burner. Small blowers take a second or so to get up to speed and another second or so for that air to be moving through the burner. The blower needs to be in full operation before the gas valve is opened or flash back will occur in the burner. Mine are set for a 3-4 second delay.

See our links page for the McMaster-Carr website.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 20:59:15 GMT

Cheap Anvils: Dave, I just hammer rebound tested a couple of pieces of A36 plate. Laying flat they seem dead as cast iron. On edge they snap the hammer back as well as any anvil I've tested.

Used as an anvil the suface of a block of A-36 is going to show a lot of wear and tear but not so much that a clean up with a grinder won't fix it. It would probably be a good experiance for students to SEE every time they hit the anvil instead of the work AND to not work cold iron.

If you look at how swelled some early anvils are in old illustrations you KNOW they were just soft wrought iron with no hard face at all. Nothing wrong with learing how it was in the 1400's. . . Try dressing out those dings with a hand cut file. Cure you of wanting to be a purist in a New York minute!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 21:20:03 GMT

hey jock just wanted to say hi, it has been awhile my mentor friend...I am now working at CHAPARRAL STEEL here in dinwiddie..it is pretty cool..later, write back soon
robert morgan  <drumbee38> - Monday, 03/20/00 22:31:55 GMT

Robert: Good luck in your new job!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 03/20/00 23:25:13 GMT

I have a 25 lb. Moloch power hammer in need of restoration.
Can anyone help me with advice, info., or possibly a full set of plans?
francis  <oddsbodkins at hotmail> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 03:18:09 GMT

Moloch: Francis, ALL the mechanicah hammers are out of production and their manufacturers LONG gone.

The Moloch was designed by the Meyer Bros. The same brothers that designed and built all the Little Giants. It is a VERY similar hammer. Except I don't think the parts are interchangable. They are made heavier in general. There are no drawings, plans or manuals available.

There IS a good book on Little Giants by Richard Kern. Its supposed to be back in print. It has a lot of history and rebuilding information. However, it is very short on dimentions. Rebuilding your Moloch is a job for someone with a machine shop and old school engineering or mechanic skills.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 05:02:06 GMT

Hello fellow Smith,

I have been asked to bid on a fairly large weather-vain to be done in copper. The subject matter is a horseman and his 4 hounds. It is to be done in a repousse style.
Could you recommend a good how to book or video on this technique.
Thank you,

Tomas Fernandez  <fernandz at tidalwave.net> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 15:06:51 GMT

REPOUSSE': Thomas, There are several methods of producing repousse'. The classic method is to mold or pour a pitch backing onto the metal and hammer the metal in to the pitch which displaces while supporting the surrounding metal. The pitch is sometimes made by the sculptor or purchased from art suppliers. Each artist has his prefered material or recipe. Somtimes the mix has sand added to it for added stifness and volume. Modern pitch is usualy a wax based product and comes in various hardnesses. The pitch may have to be removed and repoured if the work needs to be annealed during the process. In some cases and with rapidly work hardening materials such as brass this may be two or three times.

Another common method is to use a sand bag. A Soft leather bag is the classic method. The last repouse' I did was a copper crown for my daughter's Latin dinner. I made the sand bag by partialy filling a heavy duty zip-lock bag with sand and foling over the extra "flap". This was sewn inside a piece of cut of leg from a pair of blue-jeans.

The copper was formed by working against the sand bag, pressing the smooth butt of my small Buck folder into the metal and "chasing" the design. The more times it was chased the deeper the depression. Sharper portions were chased with a graphite pencil. No hammering was required. Copper is almost as maleable as gold.

Production weather vanes were produced in cast iron molds. Wood can also be used for limited runs. The trick is that you have to produce a left AND a right hand form (mirror images). This can be expensive for a one-off piece but in the long run may produce the best results. Both sides will be close enough to the same shape to solder or braze together without difficulty.

To make shallow low definition wood molds quickly, you need to layout your work to be cut in 1/8" (3 mm) sections as a "topographic" map. For a two inch (50 mm) thick double sided design you will need 8 maps. Stack and cut two layers of masonite (hardboard) Laminate these pieces in lefts and rights on a piece of 3/4" (18mm) plywood or several layers of thinner material also laminated.

After the glue is dry rough sand the form to shape using a dish sander on a drill or hand grinder to remove 85-95% of the "steps" in your form. You may also want to carve extra detail with a die grinder but remember this is only a rough form. DO NOT BREATHE the dust from the masonite.

Once the forms are finished take annealed sheet copper and start pressing it into the molds. Use a large well radiused rubber or wood mallet. Use wooden forming tools made from dowels or a broom handle (they come with one nice round end). Keep pressing and pushing the copper into the form until you are satified. For this project you may need to anneal only once if there is not too sever of depth changes in the design. I would use hard wood tools as much as possible and only use metal chasing tools for the fine detail. Both should have smooth rounded edges. A dull screw driver with the blade ground and polished to a nice oviod shape is an excelent tool for chasing details. The metal sculptors tools sold for working clay are also good shapes.

Once finished with the wooden forms you can return to the classic method using a backing OR a sand bag depending on the detail desired. I would probably be prepared to use both. Rember the pitch can be used on either side depending on which way you need to move the metal. IF you need to produce high sharp relief then anneal after rough forming into the wooden forms. Attempting to stretch the metal in one step may result in tears in the metal.

When you are done with the forms, sand the edges and varnish the whole. You then have a great mantle piece or wall hanging to keep as a reminder of the job. If the customer wants them be sure to let them know the form is more expensive than the copper vane!

Chris Worsley says on ArtMetal-

One good source of information on this subject is the book Metal Techniques For Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht. ISBN: 0-385-03027-4

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 20:00:46 GMT

I am in fifth grade and will be doing a report on tinsmiths and whitesmiths. I am having trouble finding much information on these subjects. Our class will be travelling to Williamsburg in April to study Colonial AMerica. I know a tinsmith worked primarily with tin but is there much difference in the procedures used by blacksmiths ? Do you know where else i could get information in tinsmithing ? I have a book called Colonial Crafts that has some information.
andrew  <spacs5 at aol.com> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 20:42:37 GMT

From: MIKE ANDERSON Date: 21 Mar 2000 14:04:49 PST
To: guru at www.anvilfire

MIKE  <BRAVA4 at ALTAVISTA.COM> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 22:10:54 GMT

TIN SMITH vs BLACKSMITH vs WHITESMITH: Andrew, The big difference is that blacksmiths heat their metal white hot (see the picture to the left?) to form it. The others work their metal cold.
  • A blacksmith forges heavy pieces of iron or steel to shape and welds it together as needed.
  • A tinsmith bends thin sheet metal joining it with solder or rivits
  • A whitesmith takes the product of the blacksmith and finishes it with files to make it bright. He also decorates the same work by chasing with a chisel and notching with a file.

Look up sheet metal or sheet metalworker for what a modern tinsmith does. One of the Americana books by Eric Sloane will have something on both types of workers. Look for his Museum of Early American Tools and Diary of an Early American Boy - Noah Blake. Your school library will probably not have them but many public libraries do. Look for any book by Eric Sloane.

Spring trips to Williamsburg are a lot of fun. I went the first time about. . . 40 years ago! And we went to see the blacksmiths just a few weeks ago. There are some pictures in the latest NEWS.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 23:04:36 GMT

KOHLSWA ANVIL: Mike, there are no date codes on the anvil. Kohlswa is the name of one Swedish company that makes cast steel anvils among other things. Their anvils were imported into the U.S. starting in 1925 and were marked in pounds up until about WWII. After that they were marked in kilograms. This is NOT absolute.

In 1960 Centaur forge became the importer of Kohlswa anvils and sold them until 1990. Many were sold with the Centaur trade mark. They stopped handling them because of quality control problems. If their are numbers other than the name and weight then Centaur may have had serial numbers stamped on them.

I've had two old Kohlswa anvils and liked them very much. My first 100 pound anvil (marked in pounds) and my current 325 pound anvil (no weight marking). These anvils are of the slender waisted American pattern and ring like a bell. The edges seem to be more prone to chipping than wrought anvils.

Value depends on who's buying and who's selling and how bad they need an anvil. Used anvils are selling for around $2/lb USD depending on condition. That anvil would have sold for $4-6/lb if purchased new from Centaur 15 years ago.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 03/21/00 23:40:01 GMT

ANDREW  <SPACS5 at AOL.COM> - Wednesday, 03/22/00 01:49:34 GMT

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