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This is an archive of posts from March 8 - 15, 2005 on the Guru's Den
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Oil fired forge: I have looked at this a little bit since propane is no longer sold in bulk in my town. I thought perhaps diesel fuel which is available from the local gas sta 24/7. Jock has said several times that the chemistry is closer to a coal fire. The back yard casting metal site and some of the kiln forums have burner ideas for oil and waste oil (seems like a bad idea to me because of all the nasty stuff in used motor oil). I would guess an oil furnace gun would work great but it would take some tinkering. Propane will get to welding heat with a rich/neutral atmosphere but it is tricky to get there. Propane is hard to mix and hard to crack.

Refractory: I think Bartells doesnt make the Super Airset anymore - but they must have some other equivalent product. I have had very good results using a AP Green's Mizzou a castable which is popular among knife makers
   adam - Monday, 03/07/05 23:56:15 EST

Just general BS - Moving it back and forth in the forge- Thomas, the heat treat line I worked on had top & bottom radiant tubes in the austenitizing furnace, cambered rollers that moved the bars back & forth and gently rotated them at the same time. The zone was about 10 ft longer than the bars - gave very even and relatively quick heating. Tempering furnaces were set up the same way.

Heat treat furnaces - most of the ones I worked on were in the process of changing from endothermic gas atmospheres to atmospheres bas on nitrogen, methanol, and natural gas. You added nitrogen to the furnace, provided methanol through a nickel sparger (fancy name for tube with holes in it) and used an oxygen probe to determine carbon potential which you adjusted with small amounts of natural gas. Normal endothermic atmospheres tend to have a carbon potential of about 0.40 %. Companies that I worked at making the switch included Sikorsky Helicopter, Barden Bearing (missile guidance bearings), a couple different divisions of Rockwell, several GE locations, etc. All switches had one major thing in common - redundant safety features to make sure you didn't end up making the furnace into a bomb.

I'm not overly concerned about running a propane forge on the rich side, but heat treat furnaces based on enclosed boxes and possibly electrically heated should not have unknown amounts of alcohol, kerosene, natural gas, etc. piped into them. You've got 2 of the 3 ingredients for an explosion - heat and fuel, all you need is the right amount of oxygen. If you feel you need to do it - at least look up the flammibility and explosivity ranges of the oxygen scavenger you want to use. A good place to start is with the NFPA codes.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 03/08/05 00:18:43 EST

Chris Hughes, Hold-downs.

1)Set your helper stand anvil high and support your workpiece like a bridge from one to the other. If it moves too much, hang a weight (any scrap) on the piece with an S-hook. 2)Give a piece of round stock a curve so that it chokes into the pritchel hole. One end holds the work down; if wanted, forge a "foot" on the hold-down end. 3)Grind the swelled jaw ends down a little on a vise-grip C-clamp, run one jaw through the pritchel hole from the bottom, and clamp the work. 4)Tee-weld a rod, about 5/8" x 4" or 5", to another bar, the latter of which will go through the hardy hole. Put a C-curve of a 6" diameter or more into the latter bar behind the rod. The bar will be a couple inches off the floor when inserted, and the rod will be the hold-down portion. Now, punch and drift a hole through the bottom of the bar for the insertion of a downward curving treadle "tenon". A flat bar serves as the treadle for applying pressure. The "tenon" can be welded or forged on the end, making it easily insertable and removable. 5)In the days of using strikers, one of the techniques was to have the striker hold the work with sledge pressure. This was especially true when bending over the far anvil edge. The sledge pressure prevented the hot work from buckling on the anvil face.

Sometimes you don't need a hold-down. You just put the piece on the anvil and go to work.

   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 03/08/05 00:21:48 EST

Shop Layouts; Gil:

The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer (Third edition or later, updated by McRaven) has some nice layouts, as does the New Edge of the Anvil by (late at night and my mind went blank...)

G'night all; busy day, I'm fried!
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/08/05 00:26:35 EST

THOMAS P. What is the matter with a guy talking loud enough for somebody to hear?? HUH? WHATS THAT??BAG.
   - sandpile - Tuesday, 03/08/05 00:37:13 EST


Superior Anvil

sisco acronym = Swedish Iron & Steel Corporation

had dealers in New York & New Orleans

Page 64 in AIA lower left

Not a soderfors as suggested earlier, though very close in design and made also in Sweden Easy to confuse the two.
   burntforge - Tuesday, 03/08/05 01:21:19 EST


I didn't see Ken's info in a previous post sorry for duplicated info
   burntforge - Tuesday, 03/08/05 01:26:11 EST

The Rhythm Method-- I'm thinking of mounting my heavy Paragon anvil on heavy coil springs fore and aft so as to utilize the upward thrust of the mass of the anvil, once I get my rhythm going in counterpoint to my hammer blows, so as to enhance their force. Sound good? Whatcha think? Hmmmm?
   Lamont "Boom- Boom" Cranston - Tuesday, 03/08/05 01:47:29 EST

I have 100lbs of the Mizzou waiting for me right now. Just need to use it.

And you are right about the Airset, is not made currently
   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/08/05 02:14:06 EST

The electric furnaces I was mentioning were about the size & shape of a 50 gallon garbage can inside. the vent was about 2.5" diameter and the carbo fluid went in at about 1 drop every second. A small amount of flame came from the vent. There was allso a gas fired unit that used a gas [I cant remember what] from a cilinder to make the atmosphere. This was all old 20 years ago, like most of the plant. I guess I made My asumptions about propane forges based on reading a lot of posts from people with marginally sized atmospheric burners, and yes I did know that plenty of people used propane sucessfully. As for the oil burner gun, The primary reason I am interested in it is because it is ready to use, and otherwise just taking up space. Allso, the fuel, even at this years prices is cheap, easy to get, and doesn't have the problem of not boiling off fast enough in cold weather, or high use. Down side looks like they are pretty big for the job at hand, I dont need a huge forge, and I am not sure how small a nozzle I can use with the ones I have.They are off or on not variable, I am sure it will take some trial & error. Any advice from the Guru[s]?
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 03/08/05 02:22:35 EST

Hello all, I need some help from you good folks. I am working on rebuilding a post vice. The screw box had been broken off just where it came out of the frame in back. The threads were still good.

I took a piece of 1 1/4" black pipe and forged it down to the proper size and welded it on with my O/A rig. I then put a large bell reducer over that pipe and welded it on. The whole thing worked great until I cranked down on it a little and my weld broke.

The problem seems to me that I am welding black pipe to wroght iron. I seem to recall some special process to do that. Can anyone reccomend something? I re-welded it tonight, but I can already tell it is not going to hold.

I do have access to a buz box and a tig set up if either would work better than the O/A. If tig, I need to know what kind of rod & gas, & settings. I posted a couple of pics in the fotos page and a complete writup on my web page. http://fredlyfx.com/projects.htm

Thanks much for any help you can give.

   FredlyFX - Tuesday, 03/08/05 04:35:37 EST

First, hello .
Second, a noob question:
a. I've been a "cold smith" since before i can rember( Filing down ); But as a True or hot smithy, I've just begun to explore the posabilities. Righ now I'm stuck on a small but important problem. How to cone or strech a rod( 1" by 22"s) into a flat disk. This process has and is driving me BATTY!!
Just as a side question, win I'm twist folding( letting two pieces blend or weld by twisting and then hammering a weld) how do you work a nonferrious metal( yellow Brass ) into the mix? ( do I have to give up my twist and go to a standard flat weld or ??) The only reason that I ask is the time and effort involve is a bit high for a "Learning Experance"
   Timex - Tuesday, 03/08/05 06:11:55 EST

I've recently completed a Ron Kinyon air hammer. I really like it. Lately I've been thinking of building a flypress. My question is. Has anyone tried converting an arbor press into a flypress by adding a fly wheel to the pinion shaft? If I wanted a press to exert 15 tons, how big would the frame and flywheel have to be, and what mechanical advantage would be required?
   Dan - Tuesday, 03/08/05 09:57:42 EST


The problem with the flypress is the fast pitch screw. Most has multiple start, coarse thread designs that are required to move the ram fast enough to do any good. You could certainly try to modify an arbor press but the leverage from a flywheel will likely exceed what you can produce on the arm in normal use so you may strip the gears.
   HWooldridg - Tuesday, 03/08/05 10:37:09 EST


For a flypress, you would also need to swap out the fly press's acme screw for a fast lead screw. Last time I priced one, it was around $150 for an 8' length(standard size).
   - Tom T - Tuesday, 03/08/05 10:42:43 EST


Perhaps you are trying to weld to cast iron? That would account for the ease with which it broke. You might be able to braze it, but a better way is to figure out how to put a piece in so the vise pulls on something besides the weld.
   HWooldridg - Tuesday, 03/08/05 10:42:49 EST

Press Conversion: Dan, flypress frames must absorb by streatching ALL the energy of the flywheel (plus a large safety factor). This requires a much heavier frame than an arbor press. The frame on an arbor press is designed for no more than the OEM press rating (usualy fairly low).

The mass of a manual flypress flywheel is approximately 1/100 the press capacity. But this depends on a lot of variables of design. See:


   - guru - Tuesday, 03/08/05 10:55:37 EST

Deanne: I know you mentioned the geographical limitation to Alberta, but check out Fleming College's 'Artist Blacksmith' course. Fleming is located in Haliburton, Ont. Use their course outline to compare with other schools, courses, etc.


Good luck.

Mixed overcast and -11 Cel. North of the Lake (Ontario.)


   - Don Shears - Tuesday, 03/08/05 11:02:36 EST

Flattening into disk: I'm not exactly sure where you are going. Normally to make a disk you start with a compact mass (near cylindrical or cubic). If you are just forging the end of a bar into a disk the process is fairly straight forward.

First, You may want to neck down and isolate the mass on the end of the bar. This can be done to as small as about 1/5 the area of the bar or as large as a flat connecting flap of about 1/3 the area. Isolating the mass does two things, 1) it helps retain the heat in the section being worked, 2) it will allow you to preshape before flattening.

Second, you need to do some pre-shaping by forging off the corners of the piece. If the end product is a flat curcular disk you want to start close to a sphere.

Once the preshaping is done you can just start flattening. Work from the center out. A circular faced hammer with a good crown works best for this type shape. If you get a bulge from striking an edge then avoid that place and work around it. You may have to upset the bulge back into the disk by striking from the side but normally you work around it. Avoid working near the necked down isolated area until last.

Mixed Metals: You normally do not forge ferrous and non ferrous (copper) alloys together. Their working ranges are two far apart. There IS a Japanese process called Mokum'e Gane' where different non-ferrous metals are worked together (silver, copper, bronze, gold). In ferrous metal the most you can do is pure nickle and steel OR stainless and non-stainless alloys.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/08/05 11:11:02 EST

Arc or Gas Welding Wrought: Fredly, there is no special process just some problems to be aware of. The wrought has various amounts of silica slag in it which melt out when welded by high temperature methods such as arc or oxy-acetylene. This results in large undercuts or hollow places in the weld. So care must be taken to backfill when welding wrought. It can also result in areas NEXT to the weld being weakened depending on the type of wrought.

The other problem you may be having is the plumbing fitting. Many of these are ductile iron (not steel) and may be closer to cast iron than you think. This material is weldable but can vary in quality.

I've seen old post vice nuts that were made by build up method. The load collar was a ring forge welded onto the body of the nut.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/08/05 11:23:35 EST

Stump or Stake Anvils: Matthew, These come in a wide range of sizes from a few pounds all the way up to several hundred pounds. The heavy ones were a style of general purpose anvil that was favored in parts of Europe, particularly Spain. The lighter ones with long slender horns were used for bending and sheet metal work. These were often a "second" anvil where the main forging anvil was hornless. Pairs of hornless anvils with auxillary "bickerns" or stump anvils was a common arrangement in Colonial era shops particularly among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

The little "pocket sized" stake anvils were used primarily for sharpening agricultural tools and are known as "sythe" anvils.

Small stake anvils were just what they are, SMALL. These were used as bench anvils by jewlers, locksmiths and other workers that did not do heavy forging. The bench type made for locksmiths had a very long stake that raised the anvil about a foot above the bench while the foot was at ground level set onto a sunken stump.

The other thing to consider is that early anvils were on average much smaller than modern anvils due to the cost of materials. An anvil that we would consider much too small for forging may have been a "full size" shop anvil hundreds of years ago.

Also consider that even though the working surface is small there is a lot of mass aligned directly under the center of the face of these small anvils. Puting the mass under the hammer blow results in a VERY eficient anvil for its size.

Today most of these small stake anvils are used for sheet metal work and new ones are available NEW for that very purpose.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/08/05 11:54:30 EST

Swage Block Holes: John, these are used for anything that you can imagine. Punching and upsetting are the most common use. Backup for a steel bolster plate is common and in the era when many bolts were shop made this was the primary reason for the wide range of small holes. Bending is also a common use and the most common reason for the rectangular holes.

In large swage blocks the holes with radiused edges can be used for dishing. The VERY large holes are handy for turning edges on pipe, tubing or sheet metal.

Some also have tapered holes for supporting stakes and the small square holes will support hardy tools.

I've known a number of smiths to mount swage blocks on the back of their truck (like plumbers do a vise). One of the smaller holes is VERY handy for this leaving the others open for other work. One such block was used for adjusting a curved railing in the field.

All the old commercial blocks had as many holes as could be fit in the surface. This required a core box for every hole. Many modern blocks do not have holes because the (often amature) makers could not be bothered with core boxes or core prints. This was once common in personal blocks where the pattern maker was a smith, not a foundryman. Modern makers now often fill the space with bowls and spoons but there is still room for a few holes in most blocks.

Biggest waste of space on a swage block . . . shovel impressions. Worst design feature . . . tapered coreless holes.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/08/05 12:22:34 EST

>The other problem you may be having is the plumbing fitting.
>Many of these are ductile iron (not steel) and may be closer
>to cast iron than you think. This material is weldable but
>can vary in quality.

If you want to weld pipefitting you need to use welding pipefittings, these usually come in two types, socket weld and butt weld. Most industrial suppliers that have steam plant supplies should have them.

Also handy if you need a oddball fitting as you can weld in a plug and drill and tap whaterver size and type you want.
   - Hudson - Tuesday, 03/08/05 13:48:51 EST

Caveat emptor-- those stake anvils tend to be cast and are not meant to withstand heavy smiting.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 03/08/05 15:28:24 EST

I'm trying to decide if I should get the Peddinghaus #7 or #9 anvil. #7 is 110 lbs., #9 is 165 lbs. I'll be working with metal from 1/8" to 1" thickness.
   - woodsman - Tuesday, 03/08/05 16:24:42 EST

Hudson, you beat me to it.
Be prepared to pay several times the cost of a junk black iron fitting for a good weldable fitting.
   ptree - Tuesday, 03/08/05 16:25:04 EST


Buy the biggest anvil you can. Like a lot of things, you can do small work on a big anvil, but it's difficult to do large work on a small anvil.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 03/08/05 16:50:41 EST

Hm, it's a little late now that I have the whole thing done except for my bad weld. I just bout a standard black pipe nipple at the local plumbing supply.

The wrought seems to turn to a spongy material as it gets hot enough to puddle. I rewelded it last night, but I know it will break again becasue as I screwed in the screw I could see air and grease coming out of the edges of what I thought was a good weld. I've been doing O/A welding for years, and thought I was pretty good at it up until this project.
   FredlyFX - Tuesday, 03/08/05 16:51:00 EST

Got my new anvil mounted this weekend thanks for the help.I ended up using angle iron and four lag screws screwed down tight to a 18" cottonwood stump.It is very secure and hardly rings at all now.
   Chris Makin - Tuesday, 03/08/05 16:52:54 EST

woodsman Like PawPaw says, get the bigger anvil. 110# is serviceable but a bit wimpy for the work you have in mind. Bigger is better up to about 250#
   adam - Tuesday, 03/08/05 17:34:11 EST


I have been looking at every type of anvils that can be purchased today. I have come to the conclusion a Nimba, Rathole Forge & Peddinghaus are about the best ones available. You pay for it though. I am looking to buy a new anvil to get a bigger heavier one at an affordable price. What would you fellas recommend and why? I have looked at hundreds of used ones and really have not found one in the condition I like. I have always used hay buddens and peter wrights. The heaviest anvil I have and use is 145 lbs. I was thinking in the 250 lbs range. I owned a 600 lb anvil once, but it was way to big to reach across to use the far edge. I am open to your comments. Thank You
   burntforge - Tuesday, 03/08/05 17:40:02 EST

Fredly are you sure it's wrought iron? Columbian made some ductile vises and some were made of steel. (or *why* do you say it's wrought iron?) I think I've had a couple of each type over the years.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/08/05 19:02:27 EST

My 8yr old is doing a pioneer project and chose to research Blacksmiths. Do you know of a good site that will give him info on past and present practices of a Blacksmith. Something that will be easy for him to understand. I have not been able to find anything that compares the two. Thank you for your help
   Melanie - Tuesday, 03/08/05 20:43:50 EST

Lamont, the coil spring idea is intriguing. I would be careful using the hardy tool with any authority unless you are wearing a cast iron ear muff. A horn in the ear can be annoying and difficult to remove, especially without losing a heat.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 03/08/05 20:48:08 EST

Melanie, is "past" 100 years ago or 1000?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/08/05 21:36:37 EST

Thanks Paw Paw. I keep looking at the old world anvils. I am just not sure yet if I can get by the look of them though. It sure seems like every one is happy with those Branco Czech Anvils. I will continue to consider one. Thanks again. if anyone else has an opion I will be delighted to listen. :)
   burntforge - Tuesday, 03/08/05 23:26:10 EST


I recommend the Euroanvils, now sold by Blacksmiths Supply, an Anvilfire advertiser. They're a good anvil at a very affordable price. I looked at both them and the OldWorld when I was at Quad States, and the model, casting and finish all seemed a bit better on the Euroanvil, to me. Yes, the fact that they support Anvilfire by advertising here IS a factor, too.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 03/08/05 23:31:11 EST


I'd definitely recommend getting the side shelf option on that anvil, too. With it on the side facing you, it isn't in the way of your normal, off-the-far-edge work, and it sure makes it handy to do fork tines, small stuff and such.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 03/08/05 23:34:40 EST

Hi vicopper
I was just looking at the euroanvils and kind of like those ones better. I also was wondering if the near shelf was a better option. I also was wonderng if the casting was better than the old world ones. Thank you for all your info. You were reading my mind and answered all my questions. Now I have to figure out how to get the wife to let me buy one. :)
   burntforge - Tuesday, 03/08/05 23:50:07 EST

I have been asked this question and need an answer. If you are forge welding in a propane forge with an insulating firebrick as the floor, if you coat the firebrick with rigidizer, will it help protect it from flux dripping damage? My gut reaction is no, but...

My own question: Will a 2,600 degree firebrick offer more resistance from flux dripping damage than a 2,300 degree one?
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 03/09/05 07:02:28 EST


We got a Euro Anvil at the Madison Ga conference 2 years ago. It has seen hard use every day and is holding up well. Steve will probably be there again this year with a truck load ov various weights. Buy your wife two dozen roses, a 10 # box of candy and/or that pc of jewlry she's always wanted; give them to her and when she asks about the occasion, just say , "Honey, I wanted to butter you up because I just invested in an anvil." She probably won't say much, if anything about it.
   Ron Childers - Wednesday, 03/09/05 07:23:17 EST

Ron..That is exactly what I will do...LOLOL
   burntforge - Wednesday, 03/09/05 09:28:17 EST

Ken, my experience is "no" on all.
   adam - Wednesday, 03/09/05 09:33:17 EST

Insulating firebrick:

I don't know about rigidizer, but my 2600deg brick gets eaten by flux very nicely. It's covered with ITC-100, but that doesn't seem to slow it down. I use a SS pan when welding.
   - Marc - Wednesday, 03/09/05 10:10:56 EST


Generally, the higher the insulating value of a firebrick is, the less it is able to resist flux. All soft firebricks are poor at resisting flux; the hard firebrick are much better.

For better flux resistance, I use silicon carbide kiln shelf for the floors of my forges. Even the mullite kiln shelves withstand flux way better than soft firebrick, and the silicon carbide is about twice as resistant as the mullite. Hope this helps.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 03/09/05 10:21:48 EST

Burntforge---make sure those roses are *thornless*---a lot less painfull when she starts thrashing you with them---don't ask how I know...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/09/05 11:31:00 EST

Hi Thomas

Well noted on the thornless roses. I will keep a first aid kit by my side when I ask to purchase the new anvil.
   burntforge - Wednesday, 03/09/05 13:40:21 EST

how are hand vises used? i cant figure it out.
   - rugg - Wednesday, 03/09/05 14:38:25 EST

Nimba Anvils- Unfortunately, Russel Jaque of Nimba Anvils is sick, and my guess is they may or may not be available in the future. So if you want one, you ought to get it now.
I have a 250lb Nimba Centurion, and I love it. It means more to me because Russell is a friend of mine, but I also like the incredible craftsmanship, the design, and I like the fact is was made in the USA, as well.
But there is no question, it costs more than the czech imports. No government built a facility for Russell to use free- he had to pay going american wages for his pattern work, foundry work, heat treating and machining, and it makes a difference.
   ries - Wednesday, 03/09/05 14:52:16 EST

Dear Sir,
I'm a high school student in a small town. Here we have some Agricultural class where we get to frequently get to work with metat, but pretty much all done with modern methods arc welders and oxyacetelene torches. My queston is, in trying to recycle welded metal I used a oxyacetelene torch to heat the metal and then try to fold it. It didn't work very well. The metal would always break along the fold and would not adehere to itself. Is there a way to fold the metal with out a furnace, and should I be using anything to act as a flux, such as boric acid? I apperciate a return e-mail. Thanks.
   - Marcus - Wednesday, 03/09/05 14:53:26 EST


I have been using a rammable product from AP Green for the floor, which is several years old and still holding up to flux. However, it is a heat sink and takes a while to warm up. The 2600 board I have in the rest of the forge doesn't like flux but is very reflective and is the reason the forge heats so quickly. Most of the "rock-type" products seem to hold up to flux pretty well but everything I have seen that you can push your finger through (kaowool or board) seems to suffer attack from flux - especially with high borax content.
   HWooldridg - Wednesday, 03/09/05 15:25:50 EST


No, no, buy it first; eaiser to ask forgiveness than permission..."
   Ron Childers - Wednesday, 03/09/05 17:09:46 EST

Sweating Copper Flashing:

I did review "sweating copper" in an archives search and resulted only in what feels like bleeding eyes, so I will ask (probably for the hundredth time) about sweating copper sheeting into thicker dimensions. I think most questions asked up front would benefit from a review of the FAQ sections or a search of archives, but I guess in the modern world of instant results it is easier for the asker to just ask... not so for the answerer, being his 136th time with the same response to the same question.

I have a "nearly" unlimited source of cut-off copper sheeting from a large array of seamless gutter fitters and roofers in my area. HUGE building boom of very nice houses near the lakes and copper flashing is all the rage. But to me, the thin gauge material has limited uses for my projects, but if I could sweat layers of strips together, and end up with about 3/16" thick material, then some projects would end with some decorations without the expense of buying copper by the piece.

How does one go about sweating copper together, maybe three or four layers.. thin gauge.. using a coal forge or maybe O?A rig? I know flux is not necessary, but would a sulfuric acid wash prior to sweating help? or degreasing? Any assisntance would be nice.. I just hate to see all those shiny copper sections (some 8' x 14") in the construction dumpsters on site.

   CCHarper - Wednesday, 03/09/05 18:01:57 EST

CCHarper- Mark Constable from BABA came and played with us last weekend, and demo'ed his 'really quick' mokume process, using copper and brass. He had 2 inch squares, cleaned with scotchbrite, then dipped in borax solution. A square of half inch thick steel plate top and bottom, C-clamped the whole mess together, and welded thin steel straps to the sides to contain the sheets. A coat of borax over the whole cube, and into the forge. When the brass looked slippery, he put the cube into an H-press, and slowly added pressure without squirting the sheets all over. He ended up with a 2 inch cube, and hammered it into a bowl.
   mike-hr - Wednesday, 03/09/05 18:19:21 EST

Timex, what kind of files do you use...brand names? Do you make your own?
   vic bitter - Wednesday, 03/09/05 19:02:22 EST

Whoops, forgot something. Mark used a piece of paper between the steel plates and the copper to act as a release.
   mike-hr - Wednesday, 03/09/05 19:06:01 EST

Thomas, I assumed it was wrought iron because of the age of the vice and they way it got spongy when I tried to weld it. According to the person I bought it from it was designed to be mounted on the tounge of a wagon when repairs were needed during travel. It doesn't have a leg like a normal post vice, and has an odd bracket on the back that seems like it would be used for that purpose. You can see some good pics of it at http://fredlyfx.com/projects.htm

   FredlyFX - Wednesday, 03/09/05 20:07:56 EST

I am located in Rancho Cucamonga, in San Bernardino County CA. Our school is putting together a History Day with re-enactors and hands on events for students. I am looking for a blacksmith who might be available on March 18th from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm to demonstrate blacksmithing for 4th grade students.

You can reach me at:

Valle Vista Elementary School
7727 Valle Vista Dr.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730

ph. 909-981-8697


Mr. Eric Sorenson
Teacher, Coordinator for History Day
   Eric Sorenson - Wednesday, 03/09/05 20:10:29 EST

Guru: I have a #3 Beaudry power hammer. Do you know what
size this is?
   Brad - Wednesday, 03/09/05 20:17:10 EST

Sorry I guess I should have been specific..lol..early 1800's ,that is my best guess from some mentioned dates in his pioneer book. Thank you!
   Melanie - Wednesday, 03/09/05 20:32:49 EST

Flux damage: Kaowool is great stuff but it is very fragile being prone to snagging and flux damage. Especially in a small forge where the work may have to be manouvered into the chamber. My forge chamber os 5"x 3" x 3". I have tried Jock's suggestion of coating with Satanite or similar but this doesnt really do it for me. There are several rammable and castable refractories that are very resistant to flux but as some said just recently they dont have much insulation value and they take a while to heat up . A number of people here, myself included, prefer a design which uses a thin (3/4") inner shell of castable or rammable wrapped in a couple of inches of kaowool.

I have found Satanite, Mizzou (AP Green) and Pyramid Super Airset (JBartells) to be almost impervious to flux. BTW I have found that Mizzou shrinks significantly (about 10%) after the forge has been allowed to reach welding temp and then cool down if you are casting parts that fit together then this is a complication.
   adam - Wednesday, 03/09/05 20:49:38 EST


Hand vises are just what the name implies...you clamp them on your hand to take your mind off the pain of having a tooth extracted without benefit of novocaine. (grin)

Seriously, they are primarily used to enable one to hold small parts for filing and engraving work. They also worl as small clamps forholding pieces together for riveting, etc. Hand vises are made from wood, plastic, and steel. The older steel ones you sometimes see for sale were mostly used for engraving and filing I believe.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 03/09/05 22:15:22 EST

swage blocks

I felt a need to clear up a couple things about swage blocks. I am not trying to pick on the guru as he knows more than me about many things. The modern swage blocks having more spoons and dishes than holes is not a lack of skill by the pattern maker. Many people don't realize that if a swage block pattern is made properly it will have seperate core box patterns for each side of swages. It is not made into the main pattern. It takes a great deal of skill to make each swage core so it only fits a certain way on a certain side with the right amount of draft. I feel the modern swage blocks are an evolution of what the modern smith has desired in its function. I use swage blocks as much as my anvils. The old ones are certainly as useful as a modern swage block. I am confident in my statement since in the past I designed and manufactured a few different swage blocks. The small block I use to make is now made and sold by Centaur Forge starting this year. It has Burnt Forge on it. It is harder to make the swage cores than the through hole corps. It is not a lack of skill. It is knowing what sells in the market and what doesn't. Many smiths do not thing the through holes are useful since they lack a general knowledge of use.

As far as the shovel pattern on a swage block. I like it . I think it is handy and slicker than snot on a doorknob. It really is a personal preference.

I do agree about the blind holes in swage blocks. It is less useful than a through hole. I bet someone has a cool use for a blind hole.

One thing to keep in mind a pattern maker requires much more skill than a machinist, blacksmith or founder. It can get very involved. I know many of you probably have made some straight forward patterns for the home foundry. They can be very involved and it take many many years of professional training to be able to make them right. A pattern maker have to think ahead and have the mind and knowledge of all the other skill specialties mentioned above.

Anyway I hope this helps and I am not trying to disagree with the guru.
   burntforge - Wednesday, 03/09/05 22:23:10 EST


What Mike told you is the basics of the mokume' gane' process, and will work fine. The higher the pressure you can exert, the better it works, and the more you exclude oxygen the better it works. Copper is highly reactive, so you will need flux, and you need to have the copper freshly sanded or scotchbrited. A wipe with acetone is good to remove any skin ols that may be on the surface. I recommend wearing new cotton gloves for andling it while stacking and clamping.

Just three or four layers is going to be actually more difficult to do than more layers. The process, diffusion bonding, requires that the metal be just a very few degrees below its melting point and fewer layers will gain/lose heat so rapidly that you risk either melting it or having it fail to join.

The real beauty of mokume gane is the wood grain effect you get from the alternating layers of different metals. Using only copper will not yield this beautiful effect. It is a lot of effort to go to just to get a thicker piece of copper, in my opinion. You might want to consider saving up your scraps until you have ten or so pounds, and then simply melt it in a crucible and cast a billet of copper. The billet could then be forged or rolled to whatever dimensions you want.

For some excellent information on th ewhole makume gane process, check out the books by Steve Midgett. They're available online from Amazon and others.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 03/09/05 22:26:52 EST

Dear Mr. Guru, Many thanks for past help.I would like to build a blacksmith traveler and if there are any plans for this? I have access to a machine shop. If not this could an IForge project. Thankyou in advance. Jack R.
   Jack R - Thursday, 03/10/05 00:16:20 EST


The iron and steel hand vise is the old fossil's "vise grip". You can hold a piece to be held against the grinding wheel or buff (if you're careful to position the piece, so it doesn't fly). I have put the fixed leg in the big vise and used the hand vise to hold tiny parts for filing, and so on.

Jack R. There were beau coups wheel travelers made by forging. They didn't have to be 24" ones like the manufactured ones, which came later. They were of all odd diameters, whatever might happen when you forge weld flat stock together into a circular shape. Most of them wound up being between 7" and 9" in diameter. They usually had one or more central, cross braces which were forge welded on. The handle was either split or forge welded so that the two resulting lengths could span half the diameter and be riveted in the center. If the rivet froze, heat loosened it.

Using a hand forged one, you just made a mark on it with soapstone or center punch and counted the rotations and partial rotations, made another mark, and that got you in the ball park of tire length.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 03/10/05 01:06:08 EST

Eric Sorenson: Try contacting the California Blacksmithing Association:


Pres: Toby Hickman
P.O. Box 231
Westport, CA 95488
(707) 961-1246

Ed: Eden Sanders
620 Angels Road, RR 3
San Andreas, CA 95249
(209) 754-1502

   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 03/10/05 01:23:42 EST

Eric Sorenson, Let your search engines find the California Blacksmiths Association and make your contacts through that group. If I'm not mistaken there is a restored blacksmith shop in San Berdu that is used for meetings, demonstrations, etc.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 03/10/05 01:26:29 EST

I am moved by the recent illuminating postings re: the queries re: hand vises and travelers and such to offer a toast to our tireless (no pun, honest!) Gurus, not only Frank, but all, including, of course, our host. These cats remind me of Chaucer's pilgrim in Canterbury Tales who would gladly teche and glady lerne. Guruuuuvy, baby!
   Joaquin Murietta - Thursday, 03/10/05 01:50:17 EST

Thank You.

I just want to reaffirm Joaquin's comments.. thank you gurus for all the help and time/work saving advice.

   CCHarper - Thursday, 03/10/05 03:36:32 EST

Received some old pliers I had bought off eBay today. Several have the interlocking joint to where, rather than one handle overlaying the others, it actualy goes through the other handle, being solid on both sides then. How did they do that? I would assume they widened the hole in the one to the the outer handle, slipped though the other handle and then close it. However, these are so well done it doesn't look like the opening would have been wide enough.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 03/10/05 03:38:55 EST

Charcoal for blacksmithing. A few days ago, there was some discussion about using charcoal as a forge fuel. Some of the answers were illuminating, and I thought I'd present some of my experiences.

I live in a suburb, and the neighbors will not tolerate coal smoke. In fact, they even notice charcoal smoke. So, that means that it is difficult to make charcoal on the scale of how some of the blacksmiths mentioned in the earlier posts did it. For example, those flame spouting 55 gallon drums will probably not go over well. Instead, I make it in a BBQ grill. This is done by burning a large quantity of firewood. So as not to waste heat (and also to placate the neighbors), a pot of some slow cooking food is placed on the grill. This saves electricity as well. If the fire can be watched, hot coals can be scooped as it is burning into a large Harbor Freight dutch oven with a cast iron lid. This will effectively smother the burning piece of charcoal. If not, when the wood is burned down and coaled, the fire is doused with water. Later, pieces of good charcoal can be sorted out and chopped with a heavy forged charcoal cutter.

This process is laborious, and does not produce much charcoal. So, the forge fires tend to be starved and cold. In order to improve this situation, a source of store-bought hardwood charcoal was investigated. The Lazzari fuel company sells 20 lb. bags of mesquite charcoal for about $9. This appears at the start to be a good deal, but it turned out to not be so great. The charcoal is in huge chunks (some as large as a sledge hammer head). This is too big, and the resulting fires, although not starved, are cold. The charcoal can be broken up as it is burning with a junk pair of tongs, but this interferes with blacksmithing, and one spends too much time tending the fire. Also, every time a burning piece of charcoal is crushed, it releases a huge cloud of fleas (hot sparkles) which scare the neighbors, and burn the bald spot on the smith (if he forgot to wear a hat).

Recently, I figured out a compromise that seems to work. Save some small pieces of the good homemade charcoal in a bucket, close at hand. Meanwhile, start a large fire with the commercial Lazzari mesquite charcoal, and crush the large chunks if feeling brave. This will get up to forging heat. To weld, flux the pieces with a borax-boric acid mixture when red hot. Before returning them to the fire, throw a handful of the precious small-sized homemade charcoal into the core of the fire, and insert the metal. Pile the big chunks over the top for insulation. The small pieces of real charcoal (not scorched wood, like most of the store-bought charcoal) make for a hot core in the fire. Whe the core catches, flux again with the same material augmented with steel filings. Reinsert, and wait for the core to attain a brilliant blaze from the air blast. Remember, this is your precious labor-intensive homemade charcoal, and it is being used to best advantage. When the color is right, remove the metal, tap on the anvil and immediately smack the joint with the hammer. If done correctly, it will spray incandescent flux in all directions, and you will feel that amazing stick.

I landed my first successful forge welds over the weekend with this method, and it was great. The line disappeared all around.

So, the recommendations about homemade charcoal and buying BBQ hardwood charcoal must be tempered with actual experience. The latter just will not get hot enough, since the chunks are too large, and the former is kind of precious when made on a small scale. Together, though, they can do the job.
   EricC - Thursday, 03/10/05 03:47:25 EST

EricC: Perhaps you should consider a propane forge capable of forge welding. Locally a 20-lb bottle costs $11.90 to get refilled. I have never used one start to finish, but suspect I can get at least eight hours of operation out of a bottle with a 20-lb regulator wide open. I typically use the forge 2-4 times a day, thus it is cold starts. Takes about five minutes from match to working heat. (I can't forge weld in the forge I am using, but the previous owner make Damascus-pattern knives in it. I suspect it just needs a higher pressure regulator.)

A propane forge, a dead anvil and periodic small gifts to the neighbors make for being a good neighbor.

In Dayton, OH I knew a guy who had a small shop in a one-car garage in a neighborhood of houses on small lots. He had a coal forge and 25-lb Little Giant. None of his neighbors complained due to the periodic small gifts aspect (say a candle holder) and that he would drop whatever he was doing to do a job they needed done. But then the neighborhood was working class and the neighbors may have been more accommodating in the first place.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 03/10/05 09:00:22 EST


That's called a box joint, and, while not easy, it's not as difficult as it looks.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 03/10/05 09:24:48 EST


As PawPaw sez, the slip-through joint is termed a box joint and is done as you describe. However, prior to insertion and hammer closure, there is some careful forging and filing to be done. One piece needs to be shouldered, hot-slit chisledat an prescribed angle, and drifted for the opening. The other piece is necked and filed to the proper angle. I have some pickle jar tongs that are so carefully made by Dave Gano that no rivet was required. They hang together by friction! The joint is nearly always riveted, however.

Peter Ross has demonstrated the box joint, and his method has been published in early Anvil or Anvil's Ring magazines.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 03/10/05 09:35:59 EST

I believe the box joint process is also detailed in Donald streeter's book, "Professional Smithing".
   vicopper - Thursday, 03/10/05 10:56:51 EST


I think a #3 Beaudry is a 75 lb hammer.
   HWooldridg - Thursday, 03/10/05 11:26:40 EST

EricC re charcoal. One fairly easy method I have used with purchased charcoal it to whack it with a hammer and suddenly the LARGE pieces are small.(smile)
I am also not trying to keep you from a gasser as I have one or two of those as well as burn coal occasionaly. ANd I am thinking of an oik-fired forge. Can not have too many forges.
   Ralph - Thursday, 03/10/05 11:27:48 EST

Keepers of the knowledge. I recently posted a note that I was about purchasing a Beaudry 100 pound hammer. I received some replies on how the hammer and anvil are to be mounted. I did it! Now that I have the hammer at my shop I will be making some repairs. The anvil is broken along the slot for the sow block. The former owner had a heavy steel ring clamp around the anvil. I donít think welding is an option with this big a part. I think a repair could be made by drilling through the part and into the metal below the broken piece. I would then counter drill the top of holes to accommodate the heads of heavy socket head bolts. I think that by using four heaver bolts and along with the rough fracture surface, I can create enough clamping force to stabilize the anvil part. Now let the comments begin! What do you think?
   Mr Bill - Thursday, 03/10/05 11:45:58 EST

thanks for the replies on the hand vise.
ries, i hope mr jaque does not have a terminal illness. some of the more well known smiths/artists have died it seems over the last year or so. bill gichner, more recently, i have read has passed away. strange, that soon after i became aware of this, i was reading a book that i recently received, and on the back cover was a label that read "from the library of bill gichner"..
   - rugg - Thursday, 03/10/05 11:50:07 EST

Melanie, first thing have him read Paw Paw Wilson's "The Revolutionary Blacksmith" for a good feel of how things would be done in the 1770's---there is a link to info about it off the stories page under "navigate anvilfire"

The biggest change is from blacksmithing being a "core" craft of any community or industry to it becoming more of a hobby/art thing. (as an example 40 years ago one of my uncle in laws was a blacksmith for a sugar factory!)

The basic techniques have remained the same for a couple of thousand years what has changed was material going from bloomery made wrought iron and bloomery iron derrived steels to mild steel and high carbon steels from the Bessemer/Kelly process and then the open hearth process and then the BOF to a horde of steel alloys.

We also have gone from the blacksmiths shop run mainly by manpower and so at least a handfull of folks in it at any time: striker's, apprentices, journeymen, the master smith. etc to single person shops using electrically powered triphammers and blowers. The forge changed from coal/charcoal to modern propane forges---though the coal forge is still in common use.

Richardson's "Practical Blacksmithing" is a collection of articles from a late 19th century smithing journal that covers some of the switch from wrought iron to mild steel and how they modified their techniques for the new material.

For the modern part I would suggest Dona Meilach's
"Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork, Tools, Techniques, Inspiration"

If you are near central NM stop by some time and I can take you from the 1800's through today showing you the changes in equipment and materials.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/10/05 12:08:25 EST

Other sources of charcoal: does the local highschool have a bonfire in the fall? Lots of charcoal the next morning. Do you have a fire place? make a slotted shovel to move coals to a bucket of water and then dry them out. Finally, when the bar back across the alley burnt down there was quite a lot of charcoal available---I was *out* of the state and I can *PROVE* it!!!!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/10/05 12:24:49 EST

Hammer anvil repair-

My personal preference would be to get a steel block/cylder the correct size and just replace the anvil. You could fabricate any mounting holes and you could have a smaller piece of steel machined to replace the sow block. This could be welded to the steel base. If the repair the prior owener made was working, you may just want to keep it that way.

   Patrick Nowak - Thursday, 03/10/05 13:11:36 EST

Swage Block Design: I have made and had my own patterns cast as as others in my group. Besides our own patterns (some good, some bad) we have a collection of several dozen antique blocks that include both custom one off blocks and well worn commercial blocks. Prior to the modern era all blocks except for the very rare personal patterns all had a variety of holes as well as various shapes. Then there are the early catalogs, and my collection of photos of even more antiques. . .

I have more than a little experiance with foundries having designed numerous castings in the eight and ten ton range as well as machine parts in the ten to fifty pound range. Normaly machine designers do not get involved with HOW the pattern is cast and where draft results, however when designing multi ton machine parts draft often becomes a significant feature and the machine drawings end up also being the patern and core drawings. All my detail drawings had draft with foundry and machine shop notes and dimensions. Having had experiance in ceramics pattern and mold making helped a lot.

I have put a LOT of study into good and bad swage block design. I have made blocks with and without cores. AND yes, it is infinitely easier to make patterns without cores. I can make a nice sized finished loose or boarded pattern in a day or two but you can spend a day or more making each core box and matching prints.

Blocks have been and can be designed to have holes as well as a good selection of spoon and bowl molds. Industrial blocks were all holes and bar shapes with all the features made from cores. The modern smith needs a balance of the two.

The first problem with many new blocks are useless oversized shapes that would never be used in a small shop. The second problem is excessive draft (on any feature). A good number of current patterns have so much draft as to make them almost useless and are obvious bad pattern making that I would not have in my shop if someone gave it to me. One current pattern has holes that are not made from cores but from excessively drafted bosses that meet at the center of the pattern. Sadly these are U.S. made and no better than the worst Chinese cast iron anvil design. . . a real embarassment to American manufacturing. Then there is the fact that most bowl and hemisphere shapes are made much too deep. All this and we have not even gotten into the poor surface quality of modern blocks. . .

One of the problems we have run into that is the same as in some of the ugly Chech anvils is foundries that insist that their pattern maker do the pattern making THEIR way. Now, using a foundry pattern maker is an old and common practice but they are NOT the part designer and most have little artistic sense. It is their job to do everything possible to make the pattern exactly like the drawing or sample (loose pattern). However, design control has shifted to the pattern maker (who is generaly NOT designers) and the foundryman. The result is some of the complaints above (over drafting, lack of cores where needed). IF ANYTHING is the slightest bit difficult or takes care they are taking the lazy way out. In the end the person that has paid (a LOT) for the pattern work is screwed. SURE, the foundry will remake the patterns of mold boxes. . for the same fee as the rejects.

In recent years it has become more and more difficult to deal with foundries as there are less and less small foundries. With less competition the foundries are much less helpful. At one time for a small added fee (about $10) you could have loose patterns cast. But times changes and for even low production they wanted boarded patterns. This is not too bad but it DOES require remaking existing patterns. HOWEVER, the last foundry I contacted wanted mold boxes that produced the mating parts of a resin bonded mold. These molds are not made in a flask with a pattern, the molds are made as individual pieces with registration surfaces and no flask is used while casting. This is a huge step up in complexity over a boarded pattern. The same foundry also did not want to deal with cores smaller than 1" diameter claiming they were impossible (apparently the foundrymen of the early 20th century made magical ways of making those 1/2" cored holes. . .).

SO, there are problems from both the design and the production end. Many designs start bad. Others become bad because control is taken away from the designer. But the plain fact is that there are a lot of swage block patterns being cast today that should not. And the biggest problem is that they are like the Chinese anvils, people out there that know no better buy them. One of the world's worst patterns (made by a good friend) ended up being one of the most popular for the last 35 years. . . Which proves my point.

The last really great blocks in production were those of Wally Yeater who hand finished every block and cone he sold. The blocks currently being made in Canada (and sold by the Kaynes) are decent blocks, the big rotating one a fine piece of patternwork.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/10/05 14:12:46 EST

Making Charcoal: Yes, this is a task to be done in a rural area. However, it CAN be bought and is fairly competitive as a fuel. And as mentioned a propane forge is the best clean fuel alternative in a suburban environment.

Travelers: I have an antique "primitive" traveler. The wheel is about 6" in diameter made from 1/8" by 1/2" stock. It has four curved spokes made from 1/8" by 3/8" flat. The parts and hub are all forge welded together with very neat little split (duck bill) welds. The spokes MAY have been split out of the hub making the hub and spokes one piece but it is difficult to tell. There is ONE index mark on the wheel. The handle is a rough forging that looks to be a piece of round stock that was split to stradle the wheel. Although rough work the handle is highly polished from years of use.

A nice antique that is probably typical of the majority of smith made travelers unless they were a "master piece". When they started being factory made they got even fancier.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/10/05 14:29:30 EST

Beaudry Anvil: I think your drilling and bolting plan is a good one IF you use large enough bolts and enough of them. On a hammer dovetail the clamping force and friction will not be sufficient. So the bolt cross section and stretch become critical. I would use bolts no smaller than 5/8" SHCS. To increase stretch while reducing strain it helps to machine the plain part of the shank (at least 2" on a 5/8" bolt) to the root diameter of the threads. Leave a shoulder at the top under the head about a diameter long and good radii where the diameter is reduced. This is standard high strength bolt practice. Lubricate the threads and torque to the maximum manufacture spec in cast iron.

To prevent SHCS from backing out from vibration they are often retained from rotation. A simple way to do this is to make several short plugs from hex stock to fit the bolts. These fit through either washers that they are welded to and fixed into place or a bar that more than one is welded to. It is like leaving a wrench in each bolt to hold it into place. There are other drilling an pinning methods but they have proven to be difficult to maintain and often lead to bolt head failure under shock load conditions.

If there is room a few dowels in reamed holes would also add to the shear strength.

The alternative and a common repair is to have the top of the anvil machined flat with a dove tail for a new (taller) sow block or anvil cap and have the anvil cap made of heavy steel plate. This takes a BIG milling machine or a 16" up shaper.

You will find a surprising number of hammers with non-factory replacement anvil caps.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/10/05 14:44:28 EST


Thanks for adding more detail and explanation to the swage block concerns. All well stated. I am lucky to have a few good old time foundries here that will still try loose patterns with follow blocks and boarded ones. They typically work in a few smaples without charge before continuing with large runs. The best foundries I found are the ones where the owner is a pattern maker, founder, blacksmith and machinist. They give excellent direction in what they want from your pattern. You need to engineer your pattern for each individual foundry. Some may run it is a squeezer or floor flask etc..They will give advise to the type spacing of gating they want on your board. Also what size flasks they prefer to use.

The truth is China and the Czech republic is putting our foundries out of business. Guess who gave them the technology...yup we did. You can't compete with them and the finishes are getting better and better. As our American foundries are getting outdated and worse and worse finishes. It really depends on the individual foundries. There are many varing methods, materials, sands, types of cores, means of melting iron, types of patterns. Best to stay away from the huge industrial foundries doing castings that weigh tons and tons. They are not good for small work and don't want the hastle. They are not going to slow down to makes pennies on small items.

I also used a great deal of resin bonded molds.
   burntforge - Thursday, 03/10/05 15:57:09 EST

Thank you very much for the info I appreciate it.
   Melanie - Thursday, 03/10/05 17:54:45 EST

"Large Foundries" The advantage I found when I had our guys run my swage block patterns as "government work" was that they knew how to cast thick sections (our machine castings were a minimum of 3" wall). They returned perfect castings with no shrinks or distortion. Sadly these guys are gone as is most of the heavy industry in their region.

A local foundry who's only advantage was they were "local" and would use loose patterns, produced sunken blocks with floated tops (from not weighting the mold). After several tries I gave up. Ended up nearly giving away the castings that I paid for in order to resque my pattern (a significant hazzard when the foundry thinks they should be paid for junk).

Old swage blocks had a wonderful as cast finish without being ground or hand finished. I suspect that finishing sand was used but they may have also used a wash. In either case they used to do much better work than I have seen in the last 30 years. As a tool where the surface is a working surface without being finished further good casting finish was the rule. Today it is often left up to the buyer. I've hand finished swage blocks. . . you cannot buy the abrasives (much less cover labor) for what the difference in cost of a fine finished casting would be.

Modern foundries have access to mold coatings that do the same as finishing sand but the foundrymen often refuse to take this extra step even when asked.

Globaly there are some jewels of industry that for various reasons are languishing. Venezuela exports a huge amount of oil to the US and also has a significant steel industry. Exports of both are less than before the revolt in 2002-2003. Political instability and mismanagement has depressed their economy which should be very good with the amount they export. Shortcuts and lack of governmental control has resulted in terrible polution problems.

Blood Iron: Like diamonds from central Africa where tens of thousands of lives are lost mining and moving the gemstones and the wars they support, iron from China should be labled "blood iron". In recent years the demand for coal for making and processing iron in China has been so great that a vast majority of the world's coal mining fatalities occur in China. 60 to 80,000 per year (reported). The government gives lip service to improving mine safety but takes no action. With a fuel shortage and the need to keep exports at a high level they will do anything. Meanwhile their economy is fueld by the world's highest level of mining and industrial fatalities. No telling what long term health effects they are also accepting as well.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/10/05 18:09:22 EST

shrink holes (sunken cast) - facing sand - type of iron

risers will help eliminate most of the shrinkage problem.

guru is right...it is difficult to get a foundry to spend the extra time and expense of using a facing/finish sand. It will sure make the part look pretty.

If the part has the proper draft even on small parts you will have almost no flashing to do.

The type of iron you use will also greatly affect the outcome of the finished product. It will also affect the design of the pattern itself and type of gating used.

Most swage blocks made today and a century ago, but not all are class 30 gray iron, I like class 40 gray iron better or ductile grade 60 with 6% flex and 80,000 lb tensile strength. Automotive has 12% flex. This helps make it imapct resistant. It will ding with a miss hammer blow, but will not chip. Some people us class 30 and chill coat them to make the surface harder. I never have.
   burntforge - Thursday, 03/10/05 19:58:33 EST

On charcoal,
I have an outside wood fired boiler, and it generates about a wheelbarrow full of nicely sized charcoal a week. It falls thru the grates, and if I put it in an airtite container when I shovel the ashes, it can be sifted from the ashes. Done it. I like the coal around here better, but that's just me. Thruth is, I use the gasser the most
   ptree - Thursday, 03/10/05 21:24:34 EST

Dear Sir
We are manufacturing the industrial machine knives like a paper cutting (guillotine type) wood cutting,peeling knives also. we want to improve the quality production . we will to make the knives from cladded methods. now we are using the 2v butt joint method.
would you send the books or pdf format details about the industrial knives making from cladded technique.
thank you sir
   arun - Friday, 03/11/05 03:08:14 EST

Anyone know where I can get fire clay,charred bone meal,clean hardwood charcoal for casehardening and some kind of nitrates to put in the water to enhance the colors? Thanks folks.
   - Wayner - Friday, 03/11/05 03:57:22 EST

Can anyone tell me if brass can be heated red and water or oil quenched to harden it? Thank you.
   - Wayner - Friday, 03/11/05 04:11:36 EST

arun: I don't know the answer to your question, but I wanted to let you know that even though the setup looks like one, this isn't a chatroom, it's a forum. That means it might take up to a few days to get an answer, it's not in "real time" here.

Wayner: Actually non-ferrius metals work the opposite of steel. Heating and water quenching is actually how you anneal them to make them soft. To harden non-ferrius it usually needs to be work hardened, which means hammer on it cold and it'll get harder. If you're forging it and it's getting hard before you're ready for it, then just do the heat and quench anneal to erase the work hardening.
   AwP - Friday, 03/11/05 04:20:28 EST

Brainstorm please: I am still playing with the idea of having a combination ladle/spoon/candle pan swage block cast in bronze (or similar non-ferrous alloy). Size would be about 8" x 10.5" so it would fit in a priority mail flat rate box. For those who do these, what would you like to see incorporated as far as size, shape and depth of depressions? This block would be dedicated to this type of repousse work. It would have no other functions, such as a shovel or edge swage bottoms - although rivet backer holes are a possibility. By leaving out aspects from other blocks which are almost never used by the non-professional (such as holes), it frees up room for additional depressions. Think of it as a Swiss-Army knife block for utencil repousse work.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 03/11/05 06:05:41 EST

Wayner: Fire clay: Look in the yellow pages of a nearby city under something like boiler suppliers or refractory or check at your local hardware to see if it can be ordered. I have seen it on occasionally on eBay. Can you buy regular bonemeal and char it yourself? For clean hardwood charcoal check with people who burn say oak firewood or burn a stack of shipping pallets (which tend to be hardwood).
   - Ken Scharabok - Friday, 03/11/05 06:10:04 EST

Wayner, There are many, many proportions of copper to zinc in brass alloys. I believe that most brasses will anneal if you heat to a dark red or blood red and water quench.

We had some posts on color carburizing a few days ago which you can probably find using the Archive Button.

   Frank Turley - Friday, 03/11/05 10:25:11 EST

Wayner that's an easy one---about 5 miles NNE of where I am sitting.

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/11/05 11:54:18 EST

I'm looking for someone in the st louis area that can custom make a metal pendant, not sure of what type of metal i'm looking for but i do have the design.
   mara - Friday, 03/11/05 12:08:16 EST

where are you sitting
   mara - Friday, 03/11/05 12:10:06 EST


Brownell's Gunsmithing Supplies sells bone meal in small containers for case hardening and may have some coloring agents also. Google search on Brownell's and you should find them.
   HWooldridg - Friday, 03/11/05 12:18:40 EST

Mara, Thomas was making a joke because people repeatedly ask where to get supplies "nearby" without saying where they are.

Pendant: Your best bet is to ask local jewelers. Many have production facilities to make small castings. Silver is one of the easiest metals to cast and finish and is surprisingly inexpensive. Many jewelers custom make all types of things from silver. In a low production setting (one to a couple dozen) using other metals will not save you a noticable amount of money. In high production brass and pewter can save you some money and brass gives you a choice of color.
   - guru - Friday, 03/11/05 12:19:47 EST

Hi. Thank you very much for the suggestions on charcoal sources. I especially enjoyed Thomas's comment about the burned down bar. I would love to do something like this, but burned down buildings around here are often fenced off pretty quickly, and it is obvious that one should not trespass. The bonfire idea is a good one, and I did collect a lot of charcoal at the beach after some high school kids had a bonfire. This charcoal had a lot of sand in it, and a lot of salt. It burned bright yellow, due to the sodium ion. Also, there was a lot of beer glass. After a while, I became fearful of "finding" a used hypodermic needle, so I quit gathering beach bonfire charcoal.

Ralph, breaking up the store-bought charcoal with a hammer is not an option. It is too flexible, being kind of raw and more like wood. The historical renactment blacksmith shop nearby uses a beverly shear to chop theirs. The master blacksmith there told me that I could easily fabricate a substitute. I have been trying to convince them to set up a charcoal-making facility on their grounds on the grounds that it is more authentic. They have unlimited supplies of firewood, but limited labor, since most volunteers would rather not make charcoal.

Guru and Ken, propane sounds like a great option. I tried this out with a naturally aspirated burner and some homemade refractory, but it did not get hot enough. I bought a larger (refillable) tank and decent regulator, and will try again as soon as I can rebuild a burner. There is a blacksmith shop which gives classes a couple of hours away, and they told me that they cannot weld in their propane forge. I dropped by, and aside from Damascus, they really don't need to, since they teach stick, TIG, MIG and gas also. One of the students expressed disappointment that he couldn't make his sword.

ptree, that boiler idea sounds great. It reminds of one of my good ol' buddies from Frisco who said that they made BBQ charcoal using a large truck brake drum with cross-hatched rebar welded in the bottom. They would build a fire, and periodically whack it with a club. This would cause embers to fall in the ash dump below, and they would sift out the charcoal. I asked them why they just didn't BBQ with the wood, and he replied, have you ever tasted the BBQ if one of the boys slips a weird log in the fire? This idea is good, since the charcoal is sized while it is being collected. I plan to try it, as soon as I can figure out a way to recycle the heat generated by the burning (like ptree with his boiler).

Thanks again for the tipe!
   EricC - Friday, 03/11/05 13:05:37 EST

Spoon Block: Ken, if you have nothing but spoons you would want a full range of common sizes starting with little salt spoons (about 5/8" long) up to ladle sizes maybe 4" long. The little ones would fill wasted space. There are also two styles of spoon, the symetrical oval and the tapered or egg shape. Ladles are usualy hemispherical. So there is three shapes to consider.

In the end you have to just pick a size/weight block you want to manufacture and then fill the surfaces with the most you can. This is the big difference between custom blocks and a commercial block. The commercial block must be as efficient as possible and cater to as many users as possible. Designing one is an ART.

The critical thing about spoon molds is that they are used with thin metal which has little room for finishing. This means that blocks need to be finely finished. Normal casting sand texture is too much.

Although everyone says they want spoon depressions in blocks they are near useless unless polished and properly shaped. Being too deep is a serious problem and common on many blocks. In hemishperical depressions you only need about 1/5 of the hemisphere to work in. How much of a spoon depends on the type of spoon. All these shapes need heavily radiused edges. Where these design problems get worse is people THINK they need deep depressions so they may not buy a correctly designed block. . . People also look for sharp edges like on anvils (both wrong, worse tenfold on a swage block). Deep depressions (actual molds) result in kinks and folds. Shallow depressions alow working the metal from the edges toward the center by rotating the work preventing kinking. Heavily radiused edges are needed to prevent cutting the work. A good swage block looks like it has been in use for a hundred years, all the edges smooth and rounded.

THEN there is the fact that wooden forms can be made hot on the fly and premade wood forms work fine in up to 16ga (.070" or 1.75mm) steel cold. See our NEWS articles on the West Virginia Armour-In for cold work. See Frank Turley at CanIronII making a flux spoon hot using the wood anvil stand.

Part of the art of swage block pattern making is getting the best use of all the surfaces. When you need a certain thickness for mass the result is sides that you do not want to be wasted space. In a sophisticated set of mold boxes you can put any shape you want on any side (including spoons). In a simple cope and drag pattern you are limited to straight grooves or cylindrical shapes. However, you can have external cones and spheres by simply using an offset parting (on a boarded pattern - use a follower board on a loose pattern).

Cope and Drag: One thing I forgot to mention in my critique of current swage block patterns is the use of center parting on the sides of blocks. This is so stupid it is sickening to see. It results in parting lines in the grooves which are also bent or curved . . . Clean up is difficult and very expensive. Cutting grooves from scratch would almost be easier. Correct parting on these features is ALWAYS from one surface, not the middle of the pattern. This is one of those areas where founders have dictated the pattern wanting an equal cope and drag. Done properly these surfaces have only about 3/32" draft across the entire face on a 4" block and the grooves can be almost perfectly straight depending on their cross section and edge radii.

Loose Pieces: On many old blocks I have studied there is NO DRAFT. This is done one of two ways. One with what are called "loose pieces" made like baked sand cores and set into the mold to create the sides. Using this technique grooves could run the length of the block or as mentioned above even spoon and bowl depression can be put on the sides. The main pattern in these cases has no side features. Instead it has extra area or blocks for the loose pieces to fit into. The other possible technique uses a stripper board that the draftless pattern is pushed through. I doubt this was used on swage blocks.

Using the loose piece technique can also submit to the founders wish to have equal depth cope and drag as the parting on the main pattern has nothing to do with the final shape of the block. However, there IS the cost of the mold boxes and handling the loose pieces. On the other hand, foundries that insist on mold boxes (not patterns) would not see much difference in mold handling cost. The cost in this case is up front in making the precision molds and a flat price per pound of the casting.

Mold Boxes: The technique of making mold boxes instead of patterns for resin bonded sand molds is new enough that it is not covered in most of the books on pattern making. It is similar to boarding a pattern but goes several steps farther. Don't expect to find it in anything written before the 1980's and don't expect to find it in the many new do-it-yourself foundry books. It is fairly technical and almost foundry specific. There are also very few pattern makers that do this work outside of the foundries that require it. It puts ALL the mold making skill in the hands of the pattenmaker so that there is NO SKILL required on the foundry floor. So much for the technical "jobs of the 21st Century". . .

As burntforge pointed out. Start with selecting a foundry and working with them to have your patterns or mold boxes made to their requirements. Almost every foundry has a different prefference in pattern types and some will not work with independent or unknown pattern makers. You can waste a lot of time and money by not starting with the foundry. My experiance has been that most are very unhelpful unless you have an "in".
   - guru - Friday, 03/11/05 14:37:52 EST

Charcoal Sizing: The size of your charcoal makes a big difference in the efficiency and heat of the fire. Pieces about half the size of a charcoal briquett and no larger are best. Large pieces make too open a fire and you get a much lower temperature.

Even in large furnaces this is critical. The fellows with the Rockbridge bloomery found that crushing their charcoal resulted in a HUGE fuel saving (something like 3 to 1) per day AND a higher output of iron. This is one of those little details about bloomery operation that never made it into writing and is why these fellows are doing the hands on research. Fuel efficeincies and total output per day were critical to the financial success of any of these operations. Even on a village scale if you could get three times the iron from a given effort you were way ahead of your neighbors as well as having more time for other survival efforts like producing food.

The type of wood used makes a big difference. As I mentioned above many books are wrong in saying that hardwood charcoal is best. The problem with hardwood charcoal is that it is hard to break up into the most efficeient size and it produces a constan rain of sparks or "fleas". It turns out that common pine makes the best forge charcoal. It breaks up easily without too much dust and it doesn't produce that constant rain of flaming fleas. Of course the "best" wood is the cheapest or free such as sawmill waste.
   - guru - Friday, 03/11/05 14:55:59 EST


If you're planning to make your own charcoal, why no use a method that is more efficient that collecting the leavings form a fire? A simple retort can be nothing more complex than a 10 gallon drum. Chop your wood into pieces that will pack ito the drum, close it up (with a couple holes for the gasses to escape) and toss it into the fire. When you quit seeing smoke, steam and flame coming out the ven tholes, you've got charcoal. Nice clean charcoal, almost pure carbon. Do a Google search for "charcoal retort" and see what others have done.

Oh...stay away from pressure-treated (also called salt-treated) wood. They use some really nasty chemicals that don't gas off until the charcoal is actually burned. Bad for your lungs, liver and kidneys.
   vicopper - Friday, 03/11/05 15:07:16 EST

Charcoal: Search not further. Those plans VIc says to search for are all in our FAQ on charcoal. . The pit method and several size retorts are covered.

Forged Blocks: A group of us have looked at making small (8 to 10 pound) forged swage blocks. These are bigger than a dapping block but a little smaller than common swage blocks. Making the dies it not a lot more difficult than making mold boxes and you avoid the whole problem of dealing with a foundry. It takes a 500 to 1000 pound hammer to do this in one heat and it is possible to avoid draft except on some individual shapes (magic dies).

When you consider the efficiency of scale for producing blocks by this method rather than casting it is a LOT smaller simpler operation.
   - guru - Friday, 03/11/05 15:19:22 EST

Gury, I can rein in my comments if you wish.

BTW "The Mastery and Uses of Fire in Antiquity", Rehder, does cover fuel sice in biomass fueled furnaces (as well as having plans for a "foolproof" bloomery in the appendices). One interesting point is that the reduction zone distance from the tuyere is directly tied to the fuel size---on the order of 12-16 *times* the mean diameter of your fuel so when you are jugging heat losses from the sides of the furnace and the need for CO at 1000 degC this can make a big difference!

As for the hardwood charcoal, this was a factor for the large smelters refining ore into cast iron as the fuel had to resist the weight of the charge above it---which could be tons in 19th century blast furnaces. (last charcoal fueled blast furnace in Ohio went out of blast around WWI!).

For japanese smelting cutting the charcoal into regular sized cubes (about 2.5 cm IIRC) is considered part of the set up work and is a part of the apprenticeship duties.

Swageblocks: G job on a 5 axis CNC????

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/11/05 16:19:02 EST

Eric, very curious as I have 80lbs of Lazzari mesquite charcoal and it breaks up fine. Sounds as yours was not coaled completely
   Ralph - Friday, 03/11/05 18:23:49 EST

Machined Blocks: Back when steel plate was cheap and flame cutting reasonable (1980's) we looked into making a flame cut and machined swage block. It was not the cheapest method but again it avoided hard to deal with foundries. Three edges of the block would be fine flame cut and one machined in a planner mill. Holes would be drilled and at least one broached, others flame cut from pilot holes. We had a huge old turret lathe that was going to machine a center bowl and a couple other depresions using a cam wheel guided tool. One prototype was made and then the machinist came back with the REAL price! It was a nice block but ended up costing a lot more than retail on cast blocks.

Since then I have seen numerous flame cut "blanks" for swage blocks but never seen one finished. . . One day I will make one for myself just for the heck of it.

Bronze Blocks: One of the oldest known "anvils" is a small rectangular bronze swage block with two round holes and sides with round and square grooves. It is so worn it is impossible to determine the casting method but it was probably lost wax. Another interesting "reproduction" project. . The larger supposed "anvil" found in the same shipwreck was stone.

That last charcoal blast furnace in Ohio was probably partialy owned by my GGGrandfather Samuel Dempsey and probably run by one of his sons or a relative. . . Samuel was one of the richest men in Ironton Ohio at one time but was nearly penniless when he died. The relatives that thought they were going to be rich from his estate found that they had owned thousands of shares in dozens of defunct ironworks. Kind of like inheriting Confederate money.
   - guru - Friday, 03/11/05 18:33:23 EST

More on Swage Blocks:

Wire EDM is pretty fast and will make all the odd thru holes, complete with a finished surface and no draft. As noted, round holes can be drilled and depressions either cut with a big radius cutter or burned with a plunge EDM. Large plates are standard items from mold-making supply houses (DME and National) plus there are a few mold and die shops sitting idle that might do the work cheaply.
   HWooldridg - Friday, 03/11/05 18:48:42 EST

What is the name and address of source for anhydrous borax in smaller ammounts than 100 lbs.
   Bowie Duncan - Friday, 03/11/05 18:55:52 EST

Bowie, I'm going to assume you have looked over the AnvilFire advertisers and not found what you want, however i have a question for you: do you mind if the source is in England or Australia? If so you should mention what continent you would like to find it on.

You can often find it at ceramic supply companies, I can't suggest one local to you since I don't know where you are at...

Of you can make it yourself by baking the 20 mule team borax in the oven---be sure to keep it sealed in a tin because it will start hydrating upon exposure to air---(no matter where you get it)

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/11/05 19:10:02 EST

Bowie Duncan: It is often available on eBay in small quantities. My method is to bake 20 MT Borax at about 300 degrees in the oven until it is a solid block. Block is busted up and baked again. Process continues until it no longer cakes. To crush it I just use a 5-gallon plastic bucket and small, long handled sledge hammer as a pounder. As noted, once dehydrated it needs to be kept in a sealed container.

Bob Zeller, one of the founders of the SOF&A ABANA chapter, gave me this recipe for forge welding flux: three parts 20 MT, two parts baking soda and one part table salt. Dehydrate as above. Some add bandsaw filings as they begin to burn off (spark) as you approach forge welding temperature.
   - Ken Scharabok - Friday, 03/11/05 19:27:17 EST

Old World Anvils used to sell anhydrous borax in 5# bags
   adam - Friday, 03/11/05 19:41:05 EST

Good Blocks Bad Blocks: I was just looking through my collection of block photos and wanted to point out that there are also some very nice blocks being made. Particularly those by John Newman of Canada.

anhydrous borax See our borax FAQ. The anhydrous variety is readily available from ceramic suppliers. I just use the regular borax straight from the box.
   - guru - Friday, 03/11/05 20:07:45 EST

Another way to make square and undrafted holes in a large steel plate is water cutting, using a very high presure water jet to blast a thin line thu steel plate. One of the members of The Rocky Mountain Smiths, Dan Nibbelink,has a water jet factory in, I believe Loveland Colorado. I think that he said that he could cut thru 6" plate. His home in Berthoud has an outstanding front gate made form two steel plates filigreed with the water cutter. I'm sure he can be contacted thru rmsmiths.com . There is an open forge at his farm this weekend.
   habu68 - Friday, 03/11/05 21:53:21 EST

here is a direct link to Dan's company Colorado Water jet: http://www.coloradowaterjet.com
   habu68 - Friday, 03/11/05 22:00:04 EST

HWoolldridg--I am curious as to how fast a modern wire EDM will cut. The only ones I have experience with were built in '76 and'78. They were SLOW, and obsolete by the early eighties.They used perforated paper tape to store the program,and cut about as fast as grass grows.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 03/11/05 22:30:04 EST


I have some ductile and gray swage blocks that I want to cut a small square through hole in each one. I typically would have drilled close to size round holes and broached them. I no longer have any broaches or pilot holders for them. Since this is much after the casting process. How would you approach making some small square holes with common tools in the shop? Thanks
   burntforge - Friday, 03/11/05 22:57:49 EST

adjunct to last post. Without using a small file after drilling a hole.
   burntforge - Friday, 03/11/05 23:09:39 EST

burntforge: You might consider drilling a hole large enough for a section of 3/4
   - Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/12/05 02:41:29 EST

Ok, I need a list of votes out there to tell me the top 10 anvils for the price in the world! 1 being best and 10 being ok, because I need to find a really good for the money anvil! So, if you think that a Nimba is a definite 1 then say so. I just went to the Nimba site and thought that the anvils were great, but just a TAD bit expensive for me! Thank you!
   Matt H - Saturday, 03/12/05 05:34:00 EST

I'm a 53 year old computer geek and not a blacksmith, but I have a question of historical interest. A co-worker claims his grandfather was a blacksmith and told him that, in earlier times (presumably the old west), the hole in the anvil was used to test its integrity. The story is when an anvil was sold, the buyer would first take it outside, put a stick of dynamite into the hole and set it off. If the anvil survived it was a good anvil. I believe his grandfather was either pulling his leg or misinformed. All the research I've done, including detailed searches of your site, lead me to believe the hole (I assume he means the Hardy hole, though there are apparently others) is used for tool placement or as a template depression. Can you confirm or clarify? Thanks.
charlie pitman
   Charles Pitman - Saturday, 03/12/05 05:35:34 EST

A friend of mine recently described a method of starting a coal forge by hammering on a cold piece of iron until it glowed red. Is anyone familiar with this method? I'm just getting started, but it seems to me that the metal would just become brittle and crack. Thanks.
   Evan Page - Saturday, 03/12/05 07:03:24 EST

My earlier post was cut short.

Burntforge: You might consider drilling a hole large enough for a section of 3/4" thick wall tubing (for a 1/2" hole) or 1" (for a 3/4" hole) and then filling the half moons around the sides with weld top and bottom. Last time I did this I left the tubing about 1/4" higher than the top and ground it down afterwards for a nice square hole (with rounded inside corners though). Ductile should be weldable.

Charles Pitman: New one to me and I am sure Richard Postman would like to hear the story if it can be documented. There was a tradition of 'blowing the anvil' on the 4th of July. One anvil would be put upside down and gunpowder (or such) place in the depression. Another anvil would get set on it upright. When the powder went off it would blow the top anvil up in the air several deep with a good bang. Sort of frontier fireworks. See Richard Postman's Anvils in America. (Once almost traditional at major blacksmithing conferences but is now severely frowned upon. One story goes some years ago when Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia the blacksmiths there gave her yacht a '21 anvil salute' as it pulled into the harbor.)
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/12/05 08:21:39 EST

Evan Page: I read somewhere that is how Japanese swordmakers start their fires.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/12/05 08:22:43 EST

Evan and Ken, Yes, re hitting a small piece of wrought iron hard enough and fast enough to turn it red. We call it "friction heat". Power hammers hitting repeat blows make a forge heat last longer because of friction heat. The Japanese bladesmith traditionally started the forge fire that way, either lighting cypress wood or rice straw. If there are 200 bladesmiths left in Japan, maybe a handful still do it that way. I'm guessing.

Shooting anvils with gunpowder is not really frowned upon, except by insurors of blacksmithing organizations who apparently included a clause in their policy regarding this.

The best shoot I ever saw was at a New Hampshire horseshoers gathering. Someone forged a stout iron ring to fit between the two anvil bases, so that the ring would be full of black powder before luting the edges. A slow burning cannon fuse was used, and all of us were at least 100 yards away. The top anvil shot about 25 feet in the air.

There are dangers. The small debris flying from the explosion can put out an eye, and you don't want to be in the close vicinity of the anvil itself, when it goes. Duh. The fuse lighter wants to have at least two feet of fuse, and he/she wants to run from the site after lighting.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 03/12/05 09:50:11 EST

Ken S and Frank T:
Yes, I've heard of and read several accounts of "anvil firing" (and at first, I even thought it was what the web site was about), and I'd love to actually see one. But the procedure my co-worker (Thomas) described wasn't intended to move the anvil, just test it. He specifically elaborated that it was because there was no way, in days of yore, to guarantee the quality of the product. After researching anvil design and such, it strikes me that such a procedure might even damage the "squareness" of a hardy hole and possibly nullify its usefulness as a tool holder. In short, not what you would call an urban legend ... maybe a rural one. :) Thanks for the reply. cp
   Charles Pitman - Saturday, 03/12/05 12:38:02 EST

Square Holes: See our iForge article on stake plates and bolsters.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 12:41:13 EST

I own one of John Newmans Swage Blocks, and I like it a lot. I met John at the Richmond Abana conference, and he is a very good guy, who knows his stuff- being that rare combo of working blacksmith, and expert patternmaker with years of experience in the foundry biz. I think his swage blocks are very reasonably priced, especially considering all the complications discussed here with working with modern foundries.
As far as a forged swage block, this sounds like quite possible, and really cool- blacksmiths always like forged tools better. There is, of course, one man who is perfect to make em- Grant Sarver. Only problem is convincing him it was his idea, as Grant doesnt get led around by others easily. Maybe someday it will seem interesting to him, and he will make some. I would buy one, and I am sure many others would as well. We have a saying about Grant around here in the Northwest, where he shows up at the NWBA conferences twice a year with a whole truckload of tempting goodies- "That man has a lot of my money".
   ries - Saturday, 03/12/05 12:49:04 EST

Are Nimba Anvils too expensive?
Well, I have been to Russell's shop, and he is not driving an Escalade, believe me.
If you are not willing to buy products made in america, with the skilled machinists, patternmakers, foundrymen, and heat treaters all being paid american wages, then maybe you should consider how much you get paid? Are you willing to work for what those Czechs get paid? I doubt it. Its the classic problem that destroyed most american manufacturing- we all want to get paid enough to live the american dream- we just dont want to pay other people that much.
   ries - Saturday, 03/12/05 12:54:57 EST

Charles: Anvils are an expensive item, even more so in the past. The hardy and the pritchel are weak points and anvils are known to break there from ordinairy use. The anvils used in "shoots" are usually beaters and its only black powder not dynamite. A stick of dynamite in the pritchel is almost sure to do some damage if not a fracture then heat damage. I just dont see it. I cant say it never happened but as a standard practice? What story would you tell the insurance company ? :)
   adam - Saturday, 03/12/05 12:59:53 EST

Testing Anvils: Charles, This is one of the biggest whoppers I have ever heard! The holes in the anvil are handling holes from when anvils were forged. Typicaly there is one in each side of the waist about 3/4" square. Bars called "porter bars" were stuck in the holes so two (or more) men could handle the anvil. Some anvils have a handling hole in the bottom. One manufacture used tongs with a spike in the center that fit the bottom hole and into the side holes.

Although it is a forging artifact a few cast anvils have the holes cast into them for handling during heat treating and machining. . . or perhaps to fool folks into thinking they were forged. So the holes are not absolute proof of being forged. Then you have the modern Peddinghaus which is the last forged anvil made. It does not have handling holes because heavy machinery is used to handle the anvil parts instead of man power.

The only legitimate use of the handling holes after manufacture is that some smiths filled the holes with beeswax or heavy grease to lubricate their punches.

Anvils are tested by smiths by lightly bouncing a hammer on the face to determine the rebound and listen for buzzing or dull rings which indicate weld seperations between the face and the body of old style anvils. No high tech needed only skill and a good ear. See our FAQ page article on 'Selecting an Anvil' and the links from it to our anvil series including "testing rebound".

Anvil shooting is done strictly as fireworks. See our iForge demo #103. There was an anvil shoot at the Boone Hammerfest two weeks ago and there will probably be an anvil shoot at the Southern Blacksmith Association 2005 Madison Conference
   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 13:04:13 EST

Anvils: I have read a lot of very good arguments both pro and con for a variety of anvils. However, I think if we fail to differentiate between the needs of a hobby smith and the needs of a professional, we will eventually lead someone astray. I have a cast steel anvil from the Czech Republic. I beat on it for a few hours on the weekends. It works just fine and I will probably never wear it out. Frank Turley could probably beat it senseless in a few years. If you are a professional, buy professional tools. If you are a hobbyist, buy the best you can afford. If you are an engineer, it makes no difference because you will analyze it for so long, you will be too old to use it when you finaly make the decision! LOL!
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 03/12/05 13:17:08 EST

I resemble that remark Quench!
   ptree - Saturday, 03/12/05 13:36:16 EST

Dave Boyer,
Wire EDM cutting speed is measured in units called square per hour (s/h). This value is determined by multiplying the thickness of the material and the distance burned in one hour.
2" thich steel burns a total legnth of 6 1/2" in an hour.
2 X 6.5 = 13 s/h

Modern wire EDM manufactures advertise machines that burn at over 20s/h. This, however, is only achievable under optimum conditions and material (like 1/2" thich flat ground aluminum plate). Under practical conditions, modern wire machines can maintain a burn between 10 and 15 s/h.
   Ano - Saturday, 03/12/05 13:40:01 EST

Thanks Guru I will check out the section on the square holes. I must have missed it earlier. :)
Anyone know how to get intouch with blacksmithsupply as I have tried or another supplier of euro anvils?
   burntforge - Saturday, 03/12/05 14:10:26 EST

Nimba vs Czech Anvils and Top Ten List: Forget the difference in wages.

1) Nimbas are made in a foundry with a metalurgical laboratory to insure the quality of every steel pour. This capability is often missing in lesser foundries and the ISO 9000 rating of many overseas plants is a huge joke.

2) Nimbas are carefully heat treated and tested with approved calibrated equipment (US government standards). Others will not say specificaly just how-hard they are.

3) Nimbas are then beautifully hand finished all over by the maker, Russell Jacqua.

The hand finishing ALONE is worth the cost of the anvil. If you don't think so just go out and buy the abrasives and put in the hours it takes. . . The only other hand finished anvils equal to them are the Rat-Hole-Forge anvil (which may be better) and some of the American made farrier anvils such as the Mankle. The finishing puts the current U.S. made anvils many steps above most of the rest of the world in quality of workmanship. At least in THIS we are the best.

(Note that there are some European anvils that are also well hand finished but they are not sold in North America).

This is a major reason both the current English and Czech anvils are considerably cheaper than U.S. made anvils. This is ONE area where the U.S. makers are producing a product equal to or surpassing that of 100 years ago. At that time EVERY anvil had a polished horn, dressed edges and rounded hardy hole.

Today the best anvil in material quality is the German Peddinghaus. No matter what the cast steel pundits say FORGED is better. You can see the difference in the chipped edges of thousands of cast and forged anvils. However, the Peddinghaus which is designed with a conical horn, made to be machine finished, is shipped with the horn unfinished. It is not a big deal to do but I think the factory should do it, not the customer.

The Czech castings are rough all over and often have significant porosity including on the horn but especialy the top side of the casting. The face on the Euroanvils is given sufficient machining allowance that any surface defects are removed by machining. I have never seen a face defect in a Euroanvil and I have inspected at least a hundred.

So you have low wage countries NOT applying the hand finishing that has traditionaly been applied to this product while one of the world's highest wage countries IS. Think about THAT!

Now if we could just weed out the embarassing low quality swage blocks currently made in the U.S.

SO. . . when trying to make that 1-10 list there are no clear cut ways to qualify #1. Anvils are judged by material, quality of finish and pattern. At this time none are #1 in all three categories. And the last, pattern is very subjective and a matter of both personal taste and art. Then there is the matter of size and not all manufacturers make all sizes. You cannot include Peddinghaus, Mankle or
Texas Farrier Supply in a comparison of 500 pound anvils. AND you also cannot compare some of the current makers in the 100-125 pound class.

However, to make things easier there are only about 10 manufacturers of quality anvils and at least two of the best do not currently sell in North America. This makes a shorter list. Anvils I WOULD NOT include on such a list (ASO's) are not even real tools so I don't have to consider them. This covers all the new imported anvils of questionable peddigree sold on ebay.

Top 8 list

1) Peddinghaus
1) Nimba
1) Rat-hole-Forge
2) Mankle
3) Texas Farrier Supply
3) Euroanvil
4) Other Czech made anvils
5) Brooks/Vaughan

Now. . you COULD graph these with price per pound, including shipping to YOUR location and then apply a quality factor and come up with the BEST anvil for your money. But then they are all different styles and in many cases you cannot directly compare sizes. Is a double horn worth more or less to you? Can you get past the shortness and lack of waist of the Nimba and TFS (a matter of style but also better anvil design). Some smiths despise the conical horns and insist on an elliptical design. . .

Note that there ARE other quality anvil manufacturers but they are not sold in sufficient quantity that I have seen any of them OR they are very low production and possibly temporarily in production. Rat-Hole-Forge anvils would be in this class and left off the list if it were not for their exceptional pattern and finish (an exception).

   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 14:13:24 EST

square holes
Thank You the illustration if perfect. It is so simple I know feel dumber than normal...grin. Thanks for the great direction.
   burntforge - Saturday, 03/12/05 14:21:09 EST

Brooks Anvils

I owned many Brooks anvils...I don't like them personally. They have some patterns problems with horn tips missing and heavy flash in the hardie holes. BTW- They are made in India for Hope Works in England. Just incase you did not know. Sometimes the faces crack.

Nimba sounds like a good choice for me.
   unluckyshoer - Saturday, 03/12/05 14:33:32 EST

Anvil Makers:


Which two makers don't import and why?
   HWooldridg - Saturday, 03/12/05 14:56:43 EST

More Anvils, Fords and Chevys: Different anvil brands are a lot like different brands of trucks. We all have a liking for "OUR" brand or our team but in the end you often get the same value for the money. Personally I've found that different makes have been better at certain periods of time and are not always my favorite. . .

Not Imported: Currently Kohlswa needs a stocking dealer. I know several folks that have tried and could not work out the the business arrangements for one reason or the other. They are comprable in material to the Czech anvils but are finished much better. They cost more. Refflinghaus has been in and out of the US, inventory at Centaur has not been consistant. Then there are some branded anvils that are Czech made that I count in "other Czech".

I did not know Brooks were now being made in India. However, I had a photo of an anvil that was clearly their pattern than had INDIA boldly cast on the side. India has some good industry and is improving but quality control is still an issue. They are like China in that if you cannot see the problem externaly then the product will get shiped.
I have seen cases from both China and India where the machinist should have scraped bad castings due to sand inclusions on finished working surfaces. Maybe they tried and were overruled by management, maybe not. But this kind of problem is purely a management or political problem. The worker making the part KNOWS it is bad. But he may be working on a quota and reject castings cost him money so he cannot afford to reject the part. So it is always a managment problem.

In China the problems reach to the top of the government where exports are being pushed at any cost. After WWII Japan had the reputation for making cheap poor quality goods like China has now. They recognized this as a serious problem and set goals to improve the quality of everything they manufactured. In 50 years they had raised their standards to where their machine tools, cameras and precision instruments were recognized as the best in the world. Quality pays in the long run. You can blame the importers who demand the cheapest goods but the manufacturers do not need to capitulate and government should not look the other way when national reputations are at stake. That goes for the U.S. as well.

   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 15:55:01 EST

OBTW - In many parts of the world "Made in USA" still means something and many people still prefer to buy U.S. made products even when the price is higher. The reason for this has been a century of consistantly high quality products. But this is changing. Other countries are improving their quality while ours is going down in many cases. Often American brands are being made outside the US to lower standards. The recent (significant) drop in our trade balance is caused by many forces in the market. We should never let quality be one of those forces.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 16:06:10 EST

Who taught the Japanese about Quality and Statistical Process Control? Edwards Demming, an American to whom American industry turned a deaf ear. He is revered in Japan and almost unknown in the USA. Yes, there are some products and industries where American Quality is still Number One. They grow fewer every year. The company I work for buys no foreign steel and makes all of our products here at home. For now.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 03/12/05 16:37:29 EST

Ptree, just a simple observation by one engineer........
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 03/12/05 16:38:32 EST

Somewhere in Anvils in America there is a story Union forces during the Civil War would seek out all of the anvils they could find and break off the horn and/or heel to deter their being used to shoe horses or repair equipment. I suspect TNT would have been lighter to carry around than a very large sledge.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/12/05 17:37:51 EST

Sappers and Anvils: PLEASE DO NOT repeat this story.
It is NOT from AIA and there is NO historcal evidence of it!

I KNOW the fellow that started this story in the 1980's as a THEORY as to why you find so many old hornless anvils in the South. He told people his THEORY looking for evidence to back it. There has been NO EVIDENCE found.

Now this story has been repeated over and over again and it has become another modern myth. It is so pervasive I have seen writers quote it as if fact.

Its baloney! A modern myth. Do not repeat it.

The reason there are so many OLD anvils with broken horns is that they were attached with a poorly designed and executed butt weld. You can see the inclusions and unwelded surfaces that made up as much as 30% of many of these welds. Reduce a highly stressed weld joint by 30% in a realatively weak material and you are bound to have failures.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 18:30:01 EST

Memory: It took me a few minutes to remember the name of the fellow that started this story. It was Bobby Dodson a fellow from Virginia Beach that had worked in Josh Greenwood's shop for a season. Bobby came to visit me about 1988 and we talked at length about his "theory" and closely examined my Colonial anvil with the missing horn. There were no chisel marks or heavy hammer marks evident. What IS evident is the anvil was welded up from scrap, the surface was not very smooth and pieces of scale on the weld surface could still be seen 200 years later. . I have since seen other anvils with similar breaks at the heel and even near the center of the body (vertical)! DO NOT tell me a forge weld is a better weld. . .

Bobby was a heck of a story teller and may have come to believe his own story. I know I was not the first he told it to and sure I was not the last. However, I also KNOW people that I told this story to with all the caveats that it was a THEORY and later heard them tell the story as if it were a true historical fact.

Its as big a whopper of a tale as "testing" anvils with dynamite. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 18:54:46 EST

What next? Shall we work on "live quenching" or chopping off machine gun barrels with swords? (A WWII modern myth).

Great REAL stories, consider "The Great Tucson Meteorite" that was briefly used as an anvil in Tucson, AZ and is now in the collection of the Smithonian Institution. Then there is the bouncing a pocket watch without damaging it under a great steam hammer then flattening to tin foil in the next blow. Every hammerman on the planet will say HE is the one or he saw the guy that did it in HIS shop. . . but it was the inventory of the steam hammer, the great James Nasmyth that thought of it and did it first!
   - guru - Saturday, 03/12/05 19:28:08 EST

Thank you, Guru!

Thank you everyone else!

I will compare what I think is good for me and what is a good size too. I am very tall with very long arms, so I would think that I need a longer/bigger anvil? Anyways, thanks to all!
   Matt H - Saturday, 03/12/05 20:05:15 EST


Send a note to jelliott@blacksmithsupply.com to get a hold of Blacksmith Supply.
   djhammerd - Saturday, 03/12/05 20:25:17 EST

yes you can heat a piece of metal to red this way but it takes at least 10-15 mins of RAPID and CONSTANT hammering to do so.
I personally like flint and steel as that usually takes 4 secs or so. A match takes about 2 secs. AND your arm is not exhausted to boot.
   Ralph - Saturday, 03/12/05 20:57:50 EST

Southern Broken Anvils: One reason there apparently were more broken anvils in the South than North may have been due simply to the transportation infrastructure. In the North it was not unusual to be within a day's wagon ride to a railroad freight depot (and perhaps as close as the nearest town). Thus, damaged anvils could have been readily shipped to several repair sources. In the South getting to a depot may have been a long trip, so they simply worked around the break until they had the opportunity to purchase a new one. The broken one then may have just been sold to a local farmer or someone who just needed a hammering mass.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/12/05 21:23:57 EST

I was hoping you could help with a problem we are having finding hold-down tools to go in the pritchel hole. If you know of any places to get them or any suggestions of what works best, we would be most appreciative. Thank you for any help you can give. Janice
   Janice Orr - Saturday, 03/12/05 21:32:04 EST

Made in the USA-- I tried to find out exactly what this hallowed label meant 10 or 15 years ago, talked to Commerce Department, tool manufacturers like Stanley, Delta, Hart hammers (which would not allow so much as a foreign car in their parking lot at the time). That was Mr. Hart's fiat (sorry, couldn't resist that) but in fact, the phrase meant then (and I'd guess now, too) absolutely nothing as far as I could find out. A tool could have foreign-made components-- bearings, springs, etc.-- and simply be assembled onshore, and labeled USA. ANVILs & SWAGE BLOX-- howcum nobody's mentioned Laurel Machine & Foundry, down in Laurel, Mississippi? Stuff looks good on this screen. A friend talked to them but getting one of their cast steel anvils, however, was going to be complex or some such. So he got a Nimba. But I've always wondered. The proprietor was talking then about getting Wally Yater's swage block patterns...!! I wish somebody would, and then use them, but only for truth and justice!!
   Joaquin Murietta - Saturday, 03/12/05 21:54:21 EST

Janice Orr,

Surprisingly, I did a quick check of a couple of suppliers and didn't find any. However, they are easy enough to make, and several styles are shown in the iForge demo #125. All that is required is a bit of ingenuity and a modicum of skill and you can have all the different hold downs you could wish for.

This valuable bit of information brought to you by the supporting members of CSI.

   vicopper - Saturday, 03/12/05 22:22:22 EST

Have been using a two burner Mankel Propane & a coal forge for many years but would like to buils a large multiburner propane forge for larger pieces. I have the Porter book on burners but have seen much simpler ones around including Anvils Ring. Would like to be able to reach forge weld heat. what is your sugestion for the best homemade burner plan. Thanks
   Dave Plowman - Saturday, 03/12/05 22:39:22 EST

What is flux, and what is it for?
   - woodsman - Saturday, 03/12/05 22:56:10 EST

Harbor freight sells a vicegrip like clamp for a drill press that that I found worked for a hold down in the hardy hole on my trenton Part # 47429-0VGA $10
   habu68 - Saturday, 03/12/05 23:51:52 EST

Made in the USA -- I'm sure there are different standards for different purposes, but I remember reading years ago that GM was deliberately using 51% foreign components (by value, I guess) in the Caprice so it would be "foreign." That let them average its mileage with all their Geos, and stay on the right side of the EPA.
   Mike B - Saturday, 03/12/05 23:55:51 EST

Ken, This whole thing about broken Southern anvils is "apparent". Show me the broken horns; I'm from Missouri.

I wrote about holddowns a couple days ago on this forum. A mildly curved rod that fits in the pritchel with just a little slop, IF it has the right curve, will choke into the hole. The end over the anvil face can have a little forged foot if you want. To remove, tap it out from the bottom. The other one I suggested was a vise grip C-clamp. You can grind down the thickened ends if need be, so one goes up through the pritchel hole. Clamp the work. As habu68 says, the drill press clamp works, although the holddown swiveled end is easily broken. Mine broke and I forged a new one and riveted it on.

Dave Plowman, Flux make more fusible the surface oxides that form when a metal is heated, helping to get rid of the oxides, because they interfere with metal to metal contact. In ironwork, the iron oxide is called scale. The flux, "coating" the surface, also helps prevent new oxides from forming. Borax is commonly used, but there are other kinds of flux, depending on the metal.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 03/13/05 01:16:59 EST

Hold downs; There are several articles with hold downs on our iForge page with photos and drawings. Also look under fullering tools for similar.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 06:08:52 EST

Southern (US) Anvils: Yes, I have considered the infrastructure factor as well. There was a lot less industry in the pre-civil war South in general and afterward it was slow to build up. There was a lot of poverty in rural areas and replacing an anvil that worked would have been a exorbitant expense. You also have to remember that this was coming out of an era where hornless anvils were still common. A hornless anvil is far from useless and a good smith can turn a shoe just as fast without a horn as with one. The skill is in the smith, not the tools.

The old broken Colonial anvil I have is not only missing the horn but was used to the point that the face was WORN through in a space about the diameter of a quarter dollar. Where the plate is very thin around the hole the plate is loose. The area of the county where this anvil came from is STILL a poor rural agrigultural area and I could imagine generations of ex-slave share croppers using this old broken anvil to keep their farm going, shoeing the mules, reparing equipment. A great story about the life of this anvil could be written (Dick Postman asked me to) without muddling with historical fact.

The other part of the theory that does not hold true is that Bobby assumed breaking the horn off an anvil was like cutting RR-rail with a cold chisel and sledge. Although the tasks look similar the forces are entirely different. When you prop up a piece of high carbon RR-rail on a rock or a tie the deflection from its own weight creates tremondous stress. When you turn it on edge and nick the flange with a chisel that concentrated stress ends up being hundreds of thousands of PSI and the rail cracks in two. The proportionaly short anvil with a good weld would not naturaly have the kind of stress on it that a RR-rail does. It is also oval or nearly rectangular in cross section unlike the rail that has flanges which concentrate the stress. AND even though the wrought anvil is weaker material it is also as ductile as you can get while RR-rail is quite brittle in comparison. The tasks LOOKS similar but are not and is probably more difficult than it appears. Of course the only way to PROVE that would be to destroy a bunch of old antique anvils. . . You donate them and I will put together the crew to test them.

This story has been bouncing around for 18 years or more and nobody has come forward with any kind of proof that it happened such as writen orders, a journal entry (by sapper OR anvil owner), news article, photograph. . . We THINK of the US Civil War as being a long time ago but the copious documentation from the era puts it in very recent times historicaly. You will find good 'ole boys in the South ready to continue the war at a drop of a hat. . . just tell one you are a Yankee and your relatives helped win the war.

   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 06:53:38 EST

Made in USA: I did some research on this topic for a manufacturer recently and also found lack of clarity. There USED to be a Made in USA organization with both industry and government support but they are gone (or at least they are no longer on the web). The best rules I could find said a majority of the parts and materials based on cost had to be Made in USA. One article indicated 75% or more. There may be a Federal law but I could not find it.

Assembled in XXX country is a specific and different label and IS regulated by import/export rules and regs. Mislabeling products that are exported can result in penalty tarifs against an entire country which would mean big trouble for an individual company mislabeling products.

Generaly the product is clearly labeled. However, the company may not advertise they are selling an imported product AND I have often found it does not say on the boz or container where the product was produced. You have to open the box and find the product ID tag.

The last "US" car I rented was a mid size Buick. Everywhere I looked it had bright orange MADE IN CHINA stickers. . . In the glove box, in the trunk, under the hood. You have to buy a Honda to get get a higher percentage of US made content!
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 07:11:22 EST

Homemade Burners: I have a new fully adjustable design that requires no cutting or machining of slots and no specialy machined parts. I took parts to Costa Rica to build a forge using the new design but did not have time to complete it while I was there. However, the forge is now completed and the owner happy. I will be building another in the coming month and will report on it. I may have burner photos sooner.

The EASIEST most foolproof burner to make is the blower type (see our plans page and the "stupid gas burner". The only disadvantage is that they DO require a blower and electricity to power it. Not having a blower is not much of an advantage in my opinion AND you only need ONE no matter how big the forge. The only reason I am fooling around with venturi designs is everyone wants them even though they are finicky and hard to get working right. It was a challange to come up with a better design. . .

Forge welding in a gas forge can be tricky. The vast majority of laminated steel (Damascus) is made in gas forges. However this is one of the easiest welds to make and being a tight closed assembly is just the thing for a gas forge. Small loose part welds are a different thing and it is tricky to get things just so in a gas forge. If you need different heats like for thick to thin a solid fuel forge is still the best But it IS done in gas forges.

Having trouble getting a carburizing atmosphere in your gas forge? Toss in some coal or charcoal. . . It works!
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 07:43:14 EST

Janice Orr: I carry a pritchel hold-down as a stock item at Poor Boy Blacksmithing Tools. You can make your own from a single bulb lug wrench as that is what I use. The trick is to get the angles right so the shaft jams in the pritchel hole when you hit it down. If set properly if you tap the back of the bend over the pritchel hole it will pop loose.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/13/05 08:05:17 EST

Frank Turley: I doubt there are many broken anvils available anywhere in the U.S. due to the WW-I and II scrap iron drives. Oldest sister was fairly young during WW-II, but remembers the kids at her school scavanging the countryside trying to find items (such as old pots and pans) for the school scrap drive. I believe I have seen the picture in one of the WW-II era popular weeklies of a high pile of anvils in a scrap yard, which been donated to the war effort. Postman speculates the better ones were pulled out for resale and only the really beat-up ones scrapped.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/13/05 08:14:41 EST

Quenchcrack, I second the Edward Demming post. The last company I worked for showed us a bunch of tapes of his during our SPC and quality training. A straightforward, no nonsense kind of guy looking to get it done better.

Lets see.... what part of our business structure wouldn't adopt his methods??????

Jock, the average worker in China does not know when he is making bad or good parts. The average Chinese worker comes to industry with no knowedge or experience. They come off the subsistence(or lack of subsistence) farm and come to the city to make money for all of the usual reasons including to feed their kids. They know what they learn from the people who train them. When the trianers are good and the management is interested in shipping a good product, they can do very well. I agree that quality is ALWAYS a management problem. Either through lack of desire to ship a good product or lack of worker training to make a good product.

Chinese business is run by the communist leaders. They will make low cost, low quality product until they can't make money on it. Which is exactly when the ignorant stop buying poor product. Then they start making good product under another name.

And THAT is when US business and jobs will REALLY suffer.

Some of it has happened for a while and the shift to higher quality is accelerating. American and European companies are shifting work and doing the training that will take away American jobs. I know. I was one of "them".

An example: I have seen some very poor Chinese angle grinders in the past. I now have 4 $10 Chinese small angle grinders that have almost as much power as their $100 plus Milwaukee and Porter Cable equivalents. The Chinese grinders have had NO failures while the Porter Cable has bad bearings and the Milwaukee has a loose connection I cannot find. The chinese grinders also have a TWO year no questions asked warranty. It DISGUSTS me that this is the case. Let's see.... which part of our business structure is the problem here?

I do buy made in the US even if it costs more. But I can not buy made in the USA when it doesn't work as well. I need the tools to work when I push the button.

Those who have seen me post here many years ago on this topic and have a good memory will note a change. And it does disgust me.

   - Tony - Sunday, 03/13/05 09:47:35 EST


My company was also put out of business due to the Chinese influence. Not because we did bad work, but because our customers went overseas for a cheaper price and there wasn't enough left here for us. The weak companies die and the survivors pick up the pieces.

In a macro view, this country went through the same cycle in the last century. Millions of immigrants and first or second generation folks worked in factories for a pittance. Yellin's stable of master smiths is an example of highly trained people who worked for bread. The same thing happened in Japan after WW2. In both cases, the generations that are raised in relative wealth get used to the standard of living and want to live better so the wages go up. The cycle is now repeating in China so business and industry follow the dollar. The difference this time is the speed of change. Typically, the shift is slow enough for most folks to retrain or retire but this has happened so fast that many are left with no job or one that pays much less.
   HWooldridg - Sunday, 03/13/05 11:27:52 EST

This will be an interesting world in a few years. When the Chinese are the Superpower, maybe the world will look back fondly and think it was not really so bad when the US was the Superpower. The Chinese will not even pretend to care about anyone but their own Government. I think it will be a nice wake up call for the rest of the world when we can no longer afford to buy even cheap foreign made goods and those developing countries have no place to sell their products! The miracle in China is paid for in dollars!
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 03/13/05 11:38:24 EST

The Chinese Dragon has been fed by our shortsighted government and private industry as well. However, it is the DUTY of the Republic to protect its economy from outside attack. This is a basic tenant of government, however "protectionism" became a dirty word ESPECIALLY when other countries did it. A "Free market" also became the right to pillage smaller countries economies. Now the flow of goods and money has turned and we NEED that protection. I am afraid that by the time right minded people can address the situation it will be too late.

Government does not need to medle in every detail of business but there DOES need to be a consistant over all plan with goals that can be met. The key word here is "consistant". The five year plans brought down the USSR and our current 2/4 year flip flops WILL bring down our economy.

The economic news in the last month or so has been devastating. The loss of textile jobs to China is a world wide problem. The Chinese government is actually trying to HOLD BACK to prevent a back lash but they underestimated their own production. The global problem is that in this battle of the economic war there will be no retaliation because it will have been lost virtualy overnight. When an entire industry is wiped out you are forced to do business with the last man standing.

The second blow to our ecomomy this MOMENT is that oil prices are now rising NOT because of OPEC or reduced supply but because of panic buying by people looking for a "safe" investment is driving up the global price. Big buyers are taking money out of other investments and buying oil, driving up the price of a limited resource.

The current emotion based setting of global stock prices is the most dangerous aspect of our economy. All it will take is a couple sucesseful terrorist attacks in the U.S. or the slip of the tongue by the wrong government official, (more uncontroled buying of oil) and the stock markets could drop in massive amounts, easily 50% or more overnight. A market model based on whims and mob mentality rather than REAL values is unbelivably stupid and dangerous. And THIS is where GW Bush wants you to invest your Social Security! Everyone forgets that the Social Security system was created to save people from the last stock market crash. Times are no different, it can happen again.

Good and Bad Parts: I am talking about castings with huge sand inclusions (holes) on finished working surfaces. I cannot believe that anyone operating a machine making that finished surface dose not KNOW or at least suspect that those holes are a problem. There are only three reasons to ignore them, 1) If you are told to ignore them. 2) If you think will lose your job for reporting the defects. 3) If EVERY part has the same defects.

The interesting thing about this issue is that Japanese and European manufacturers coming to the US has forced higher standards of quality. Contracts call for ZERO defects in forgings and castings. This requires the maker of the raw parts to test every part.

I was involved in the refitting of a testing station for castings at a local foundry. Front wheel drive suspension hubs were being made. An automated test line inspected every casting. The parts were weighed, critical measurements taken, a couple flats machined and a hardness test run, then the parts were ultrasonicaly tested for inclusions. The machine accepted or rejected each part and the data was sent to a statistical control system. I tried to argue that the complex statistical control was not needed since every part was either perfect or NOT at this point. But it was part of the contract.

This was just one stage of manufacturing. It assured that NO castings would be rejected at the machining stage unless it was a machining error. Of course this was all part of highly automated systems where humans did not touch the parts or inspect them during manufacturing. Workers loading the parts into the inital tester or installing the parts on the automobile were never in the quality decision loop.

When you make parts by hand without automation the situation is different. At every level of handling the workers need to know enough and have the DUTY to reject parts and not fear losing their job. Old fashined craftsmanship comes into play. Quality does not need to suffer.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 15:07:36 EST

Bad Design: I have seen a lot of bad design especialy in hand tools (power and manual). In the 1970's Sears demanded the cost of their top line electrical tools be cut. One thing that was done was dovetailed commutator blocks were replaced with glued on pieces of copper sheet. The common failure often after only minutes of operation was pieces of the commutator flying off. Another thing that was done was miniature gears were put into what LOOKED like huge gear boxes (from the outside). Angle grinders had little 1" diameter spiral bevel gears with 3/8" pinions running against them. These were hidden in a box that would take gears four time larger. . . The tools were stylish workes of art that LOOKED good but were crap internaly. I got tired of returning tools weekly and bought other brands.

This kind of bad design is the fault of the specifying buyer and the maker. It has nothing to do with the workers making the product.

My other gripe about electric powered tools is the "UL" aproval. I have seen far too many loose and burnt cord ends on lawn equipment that could not have passed any sort of test. A dirty little secret of many manufactures is that they get one product UL approved and then apply the approval to other products OR change the product without having it retested. I suspect that there is payola going on at high levels because I have never heard a product libility case where the testing laboratory claimed the product was NOT one they tested. . .

Again, these are management and political problems having nothing to do with the folks in the plant doing the work. In sophisticated high production devices the quality comes at the design and engineering level which in turn is controled by management.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 15:29:02 EST

Update on Badger anvils: Just got off the phone with Richard Postman. He has found a marked (decal) Badger. It rather confirms our suspicion Badger did not cast the logo in relief, but rather put on a decal. The one he found matches the style of the one at the bottom of page 143 of Anvils in America. Noted for a cut out in the foot under the hardy and first number of weight. He said he has seen a lot of these and just referred to them as 'no namers'. I have a 50 lb anvil which matches, to a T, the one in the upper picture. Has the very pronounced bump out under the hardy, but no weight. Richard thinks Badgers had two styles, with mine being the older one and his the newer one. A decal does explain why a confirmed Badger hasn't turned up until now. There are lots out there - just without the decal.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/13/05 16:21:00 EST

What does this have to do with Blacksmithing?

In the US and other parts of the world decorative iron work is not a necessity, it is an "extra". In a weak economy there is no or few places for the product of the artist blacksmith. Currently there is so much demand in the US that the decorative iron industry here is being supplied by manufacturers from all over the world. How long will this last?

Quality of tools is also an issue. Currently a majority of the blacksmithing tools sold in North America are made in Europe and the Near East (Western Eurasia). Most are well made, but there are exceptions. We cannot let the exceptions become the rule. Tools made in the US fall into extreams of the best and the worst. If we do not buy junk tools the makers will either improve or dissapear.

To me good tools are both an economic and quality of life issue. Good durable tools that last long add to real wealth (which is a global issue). Good durable tools are also less frustrating and alow the worker to be more productive at a lower cost. Durable goods (the only things that USED to be considered part of GNP) improve life and wealth on a global scale.

Raw materials is also a serious issue. Our US steel industry is on its last legs. What is left is the high quality specialty alloy steels. But there is a question in my mind of how long these can stay in business without the bulk steel industry. Globaly industry may come to regret puting the finest specialty steel makers out of business. . .

Primary metals industries are one of the few creators of "real wealth". We cannot continue to lose primary creators of wealth. The health of our economy, and ALL our livelyhoods depends on it.

We are all in a global economy whether we like it or not. What benefits ALL is decent wages and quality goods, world wide. Yes, those "bargain" goods would dissapear but your counterparts on the other side of the world would have a chance for the same quality of life as you. Global prosperity is also the best way to avoid future wars.

The Shrinking U.S.: Things to think about. More Chinese speak English than North Americans. Mexico city is rapidly becoming the largest city in the Western Hemisphere and by the end of the decade may be the world's most populous city. . . Hispanics outnumber blacks as a "minority" in the U.S. In the 1960's the U.S. manufactured the majority (2/3) of the shoes in the "free" (non communist) world. Today it is something like 1%. South Korea produces the most electricity by nuclear power per capita in the world. They now manufacture a high percentage of the world's shoes. We no longer have the capacity to build the size of nuclear power plant that we taught South Korea to build, but THEY do. Lack of converting to metric has nothing to do with anything. The majority of English fasteners are manufactured in Metric countries on Metric machines to be sold HERE. Same with English standard gears and precision measurement products. And guess what? Many "metric" countries still prefer English fasteners! And we still can't compete. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 16:26:28 EST

Decals: Lots of products were labled with decals in the early 20th century. Some such as Singer sewing machines were entirely covered with them. On many products they were quite permanent but anvils are a different story. Sears sold a variety of anvils including the Acme (like those used by Wilie Coyote). They were made by one of the big manufacturers (Hay-Budden I think). In the catalogs they are clearly marked but I have yet to see one. However, I have numerous unmarked Hay-Buddens. Sears had a significant catalog and line of blacksmith tools. I am sure they sold a lot and the use of decals is the only explaination for not seeing numerous marked Sears anvils.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/13/05 16:45:07 EST

re: Badger: Doubled checked. Mine does have the #6 under the horn.

I have seen several ACME anvils on eBay. Thus, they were marked (See Anvils in America, page 290). According to Richard Postman, Trenton, H-B and A&H tested their anvils after production - probably by hitting and listening to the sound. Those which didn't meet their standards, such as possibily a loose place under the plate, were sold as unmarked on the secondary market rather than scrapped. While the logo being worn off would be common, the serial number on the front foot should still be there. Thus, one of these without a serial number I would suspect as a second.

My solution to the trade imbalance: all countries impose a tariff on imports based on the calculated average manufacturing manhour cost and the number of manhours in a product. Say it is a wigget requiring ten manhours. Average hourly manufacturing wage in U.S. is $15.00. Average wage in Country B is $2.00. In order to be imported to the U.S. the wigget would have imposed on it $130 in tariffs ($15 - $2 x 10). (A negative amount would not be assessed.)
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/13/05 18:25:23 EST

I wanted to know how to make a flint lock rifle. My teacher is going to help me through it this summer at his shop. But i was wondering if you could help me to prepair for making a flintlock rifle. Please include a diagram, pictures, and directions. Thanks Alot!!!!!!!!!!
   Aprentice Blacksmith - Sunday, 03/13/05 21:19:30 EST


Go to http://www.americanlongrifles.com/ and ask your question there.
   HWooldridg - Sunday, 03/13/05 21:53:17 EST

Flintlock: Apprentice. . . You are asking for a LOT. Detail plans for such items are generally not free. I have a full scale blueprint that I paid about $30 for back in the 1970's including shipping. For the best overview search for the film (on video) "The Williamsburg Gunsmith". It goes through the process step by step but rather quickly. It covers the boring and rifleing very well. There are also books on the subject to study. Start with purchasing a Dixie Gun Works catalog then go from there. See our Getting Started article for general smithing texts and our Sword Making Resources list for more sophisticated metalworking references.

Like many tasks you will need specialized tools. Some you can buy such as carving tools for inleting barrels and locks, however, I prefer to make my own (another skill). Then there is the barrel boring bench and rifeling bench. These are custom made tools made by the gunsmith. Forging the barrel requires a few specialized swages or dies, also custom made as well as a full blacksmithing outfit (forge, anvil, hammers, vice, specialty tools)

Gunsmithing an early rifle requires tools for a variety of crafts. Woodworking saws, chisles, planes, scrapers. Iron working tools for forging and finishing as mentioned above. Non-ferrous tools similar to jewlers tools for casting, sawing/peircing and engraving. All these skills as well as some machine shop type skills are also applied to making the tools you cannot buy.

You could easily spend several months doing nothing but manufacturing the tools necessary to do the job. You would be surprised how the tools and fixtures mount up. My son and I made two guitars over two summers. When we were done we had a small pickup load of glueing, bending and assembly tools that were only good for our specific design. This didn't include the standard shop wood working tools. . .

A lot of this collecting and building of tools and making machines was what an apprenticeship period was often about. These things do not appear magicaly and as noted many cannot be bought for any amount of money. Other things like sets of fine files and riflers can be a significant investment in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

I would also recommend building a kit rifle to start. They sound easy but I have seen kit jobs that were crap and kit jobs that were fine pieces of work. If you are not up to the task of producing a valuable piece from a kit you will find working from scratch MUCH more difficult. You can also chose to replace parts of the kit with your hand made parts if you chose. One of the advantages is that you do not need a complete shop outfit, just the finishing and fitting tools.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 00:56:36 EST

Ebay and Copyright Issues: Tonight NBC news had a story about counterfit "Livestrong" bracelets. These were created by the Lance Armstrong cancer foundation as a fundraiser. They sell for a dollar all the profit going to cancer research. The problem is that dozens of pirates are making the inexpensive plastic bracelets and thousands of sellers are selling them at a significant profit with NONE of the money going to cancer research. Many are being sold on ebay for up to $25 and the "buynow" price is $4 plus shipping with NO MENTION of the charity.

NBC cornered ebay on the piracy. Ebay's response was "prove it" and was completely non appologetic and uncooperative. Well some of the proof is easy. The genuine bracelets are all a bright yellow (The Tour de France leader color). The pirates are making them all sorts of colors for the style concious. So. . . ALL the different colored ones are trademark infringment and are contraban. EASY. The rest are more difficult. But there is even a "vintage" mini-mouse livestrong watch! (a made up forgery infringing on TWO trademarks). There are some 5000 listings on ebay and they even have a special category "livestrong, cycling, bracelets, accessories at low prices"

Ebay is making tens of thousands of dollars a day on this ONE tradmark infringing item that is stealing money from a charitable organization supporting cancer research and their reply to a legitimate letter of concern from an international news organization was "prove it".

It does not make me feel any better that their reply in a multimillion dollar scam was the same as the way they treated us over stolen images.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 01:24:21 EST

Unmarked Hay-Buddens: I have seen numerous unmarked Hay-buddens including a 350 a friend has. Most have appeared to be perfect with no reason to be seconds. They had no markings whatsoever including serial numbers. I have examined my friend's 350 very closely more than once, no markings. And he is very proud of the perfect condition of his #1 shop anvil.

All these unmarked perfect condition anvils had to have been sold to resellers that marking or numbering them was up to the seller . . who did nothing OR used marking that was not very durable.

I DID own a "second" M&H Armitage Mouse Hole anvil at one time. The face was a little sloped and had a dip on the sloped side. You had to use a straight edge to tell. Otherwise is was perfect. How do I know it was a second? The brand marking and serial number was obliterated by vertical chisel marks. Only the weight and "made in England" was left untouched. You could still read the M&H Armitage only if you knew what it said before it was marked through.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 01:45:53 EST

Guru: On H-B and logistics: They were apparently in business from cicra 1892-1925 - 33 years. They apparently put out about 307,000 serial numbered anvils. That is about 9,300 anvils a year. Assuming they worked eight hour days, five days a year for 52 weeks, that is about 36 anvils a day, or about 4 1/2 anvils per hour, from start to finish. They would have been limited by the number of steam hammers and operators available. I rather doubt they would have had the capacity to intentionally produce unmarked anvils on the side.

Say one percent did not meet their standards to warrant their (or a buyer's) logo. That would be about 3,070 rejects. While an unmarked one may seem sound to you, it may not have to their quality control inspector.

Story: You may have known Emmert Studebaker from when he hosted Quad-State at the Studebaker facility in Tipp City, OH. Emmert had been official 'retired' from the company for a while, but nothing when out the door with a Process Equipment Company name on it without his final approval. I have been told he sent back some work everyone else was satisified with.
   - Ken Scharabok - Monday, 03/14/05 02:27:24 EST

Branding Iron.
I have been smithing for 3 years now and business is finally starting to find me and not the other way around. I have a potentially big client who needs two branding irons made to brand some wooden items of theirs. They want their logo and a few words in their branding iron design which is quite intricate. I first inverted their design (reversed) on my computer, printed it and glued it onto mild steel and punched and chiseled down the area surrounding the letters and design. The problem is that the paper tends to distort when punched. I recall hearing someone using a method where he could transfer the ink from his paper pattern directly onto the metal but I can't seem to find this info anywhere.
Do you have any suggestions?

Thank You Louis
   Louis - Monday, 03/14/05 02:56:01 EST

Bogus Bracelets -- One of My friends was thinking of manufacturing them, He wanted Me to do some "cheap" machine work for the molds.I didn't know anything about them, or the profits being donated to cancer rsearch. He knew all the details, & when He explaned them to Me I was rather suprised that He would ask Me to be involved in His ripoff-I had just gotten out of the hospital from cancer surgery.He didn't procede with the project, but somebody did.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/14/05 03:22:27 EST

I have an unmarked 350# HB. I am sure its an HB by the shape and proportions and also it has the inspectors number under the horn like almost all HBs. The plate has a quite a few edge defects including a couple of small deep holes about the 3/16" dia. I dont believe it was ever ground flat and in general it was unfinished. The whole anvil leans sideways slightly like a sailor standing against the wind. However, it is a perfectly sound ueable anvil.

I also have a little 120# that I found at the steel yard. It too is an unmarked HB in almost perfect condition - face is very nicely finished and you cant see any weld lines - but some criminal torched off a chunk of the horn and cutting table.
   adam - Monday, 03/14/05 10:26:01 EST


One method that I have used very successfully is to photocopy the pattern *in reverse* on a sheet of plain paper. The metal is sanded clean and brite, then the paper is placed, ink side down, on the metal and heated with a hot iron. This transfers the toner from the paper to the metal. Rubbing the back of the paper with laquer thinner will also transfer the pattern, but I prefer the heat. For higher contrast, you can coat the steel with flat white paint first.
   vicopper - Monday, 03/14/05 10:37:17 EST

Hello. Woundering if anyone knows of a good scroll bender that will bend 2" to about 7" scroll at good price.
   Bill Poust - Monday, 03/14/05 10:59:39 EST

I had an ACME anvil once, and I sold it to the Wiley Coyote. All seriousness aside, it weighed about 110 pounds, was shaped like a Hey-Bud, and had only ACME stamped on the waist.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 03/14/05 11:02:22 EST

ACME was the major supplier of cartoon anvils. These were special purpose anvils not suited to general smithing since they are hardend on the BOTTOM which would be the striking surface when dropped on a roadrunner.
   adam - Monday, 03/14/05 11:41:04 EST

My father inlaw has an old Walcott metal lathe with a 12" by 6' bed. He would like to know what it is worth in Canadian dollars. Thanks
   Dan - Monday, 03/14/05 11:52:51 EST

Hay-Budden Also made specials on order. It is possible that the specials were not serialized or marked. Assuming 8 hour days in that time period can also throw off your calculations. Days tended to be longer and in most hot work industries they worked more than one shift in order to get more efficient use of furnace heat. Some kept furnaces going 24 hours a day due to prolonged heat up times even when not working 4 shifts.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 12:05:27 EST

Once again, I thank you for your advise. I'll try this, this morning.
   Louis - Monday, 03/14/05 12:20:31 EST

Branding Irons for Wood: Most of this work, especialy with logos is done by EDM or etching. It is also done by hand with rotary tools but is very time consuming in comparison to modern methods.

Lathe Value: Dan, that is impossible to say without knowing the condition of the machine and what kind of accessories are included and features of the machine. Old machines without chucks and tool holders are worth little more than scrap. Orphan machines in good condition with a complete set of tooling can be worth thousands of dollars to the right person.

Many old small shop machines did not have quick change gear boxes. Those that do are worth 50 to 100% more than those that do not. Old lathes tend to have their own special threaded spindle that does not match anything else. This makes a set of chucks and plates an important part of the machine. The MINIMUM parts are a drive dog plate and or a face plate. Most lathes would be fitted with a 4 jaw chuck but the addition of a three jaw chuck can add 25% to the price of the machine.

Does it have a motor and belts? What phase and voltage is the motor? Small shop owners usualy do not have 3PH power so that reduces the price of old 3PH machines.

Details, details.

Years ago I paid $1500 for a BROKEN 13x60 South Bend. Repairing it cost $300 for the gears I could not make. What made the machine worth that much was it had a quick change gear box and a VERY complete set of tooling. Chucks, live centers, every type of tool holder and attachment. Without the tooling and broken it would have only been worth $100-$200 US. Over half the tooling could also be used with another lathe as well. I did one job with the lathe that paid for it.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 12:27:27 EST

PhotoCopier transfer. I have used this trick for transferring printed circuits onto copper plated boards and it works very well provided you have a clay surface paper. Paper mfrs seem to be in the process of switching to resing surfaced papers and the toner doesnt pull away from the surface as well. Of course circuit boards might be more demanding - depends on how fine a detail you need. I would prep the surface very carefully with scotchbrite, iron on the transfer followed by a vigorous rubbing with a steel pin, then I would wash the board under warm water with light brushing and the paper would melt away leaving the toner print on the copper. If need be, touch up the traces with a fine brush and some oil paint. Photocopier toner is basically fused plastic dust and makes an excellent etch resist
   adam - Monday, 03/14/05 12:34:58 EST

I'm looking for raising stakes for hot work and 10 to 14 gage steel raising. I have a particular one I'm looking for that was made by Vaugn, but is now discontinued... It is a arm and iron combination Tee. Grobet makes a jewlers version of the arm in their stake #3. If anyone has seen, or knows of a source, I would apreciate it.
   Jay - Monday, 03/14/05 12:55:18 EST

Jay, These things are often found used at blacksmith meet tailgate sales. The biggest collection of stakes I have seen in recent years has been at SOFA Quad State in September. However, these things are where you find them. If you check ebay consistantly you may find one there.

Pieh Tool Co stocked a bunch of stakes with their opening inventory and may have what you are looking for. Centaur Forge also stocks some stakes. I would call them rather than go by what is in their on-line catalogs.

Then there is the option of having a smith make a stake to your specification. These have been priced high enough that custom stakes are no more expensive. Someone here may offer to make one for you. In our September 2004 edition of the NEWS covering SOFA (p.14) we have a photo of an anvil bick made by Steve Parker. His phone number is listed.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 14:55:57 EST

You mentionned that branding irons are usually done by EDM or Etching. I find that punching them out is not working for the intricate details that I need so I'm thinking about contracting someone who can do them relatively quickly and proficiently. I don't know of any local shop who could do this. Any suggestions???....Please...

   Louis - Monday, 03/14/05 15:00:37 EST

Photo Copier transfer: Laser printers use the same black plastic dust to print with and usualy make much denser printing than copiers.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 15:02:53 EST

Jay-- Any jewelers' supply shop has or can get raising stakes. But-- N.B., they tend to be cast iron and cannot take heavy smiting. Grobet as you probably know does not sell retail. Metalliferous in NYC-- check their ad in Metalsmith Magazine or google them-- a huge operation sometimes has a good array of used stakes. Also try Allcraft in NYC, or Thunderbird Jewelers' Supply in Albuquerque, Santa Fe Jewelers' Supply in Santa Fe has a slew of them in their salesroom. Both have online catalogs.
   Joaquin Murietta - Monday, 03/14/05 15:59:17 EST

My wife, who is being The Gallopin' Granny for a couple weeks babysitting two of our grandsons, tells me the current hit flick Robots deals precisely with what I have been maundering about for years now, greedy coporations foisting garbage off on a hapless public, a recent topic on this forum. Also, she says, the (animated) flick shows beaucoup nifty metal stuff. The good guys win. Maybe nature will imitate art, but I am not counting on it.
   Joaquin Murietta - Monday, 03/14/05 16:07:15 EST

Louis, email headed your way.
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 16:07:54 EST

Update on bronze spoon swage: Quote came in from caster at $100 per unit. Said their material cost would be about $70 and could only keep cost under $100 by using pour left over from production runs. No problem with the latter, but I don't think they would sell high enough to justify the investment. Would have been pretty though.

The did say they could do them in standard aluminum cheaper, but I doubt it would stand up to much usage. I mentioned 'hardened aluminum' and he didn't seem to know what it was.
   - Ken Scharabok - Monday, 03/14/05 16:09:12 EST

have an art nouveau gate project in process. any tips or sources for producing the edge bends on sections of varying width that is common to this style? generally, the bend needs to be the sharpest at the widest part of a section and this is exactly opposite of what the section wants to do. i want to avoid trying to bend over the horn as this distorts the up side and is difficult to control. most photos i've seen suggest that the bending was done w/o much hammering on the up side. any help much appreciated. thanks. wolfgang
   wolfgang - Monday, 03/14/05 16:16:29 EST

Jay I have seen several folks make raising stakes from RR rail by cutting out the web on one end and grinding what's left to suit themselves---they were mainly raising helmets though...

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/14/05 16:49:58 EST

Jay - Weld up what you need out of mild steel. Unless you are doing heavy production they should stand up to usage. I have made several for buyers out of MS and they seemed to be satisfied with them.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 03/14/05 17:32:15 EST

Flat Bends: Wolfgang, The ribbon bends you speak of were often made of VERY ductile soft wrought iron which helped a lot. You make the bends then forge the thick inside edge material toward the thin outside.

One method for making wavy parts is to start with thick stock and flatten after bending. I have seen very convoluted methods described for making wavy blade shapes like a Kris. The dead easy way is to start with round bar instead of flat, bend it and then flatten it. The bends need to be tighter than the finished piece as they open up some when flattening. However, any any forging of flat curves the hard way requires some skill in moving the metal from the inside which upsets and becomes thick and the outside which stretches and becomes thin. When starting from round stock you push the metal where it needs to go as you flatten it, NOT after you are finished flattening it.

Then. . . you can always cut the shapes from plate or wide flat stock. . .
   - guru - Monday, 03/14/05 19:04:25 EST

I have recently been making some bends in flat, exactly the way the guru described, and it works great. Start with round bar. Taper you bar first, to put the mass where you will want it in the end. This might mean fat in the middle, tapered at each end. Then bend it. Then flatten it. If you leave it square after tapering, you get square edges. If you take it back to round, then bend, then flatten, you get rounded edges, which to me look a little better.
This is the most basic concept in blacksmithing- constant volume forging. The amount of metal you start with is the same as what you end up with- the volume remains the same. So you need to figure out where to push it, by tapering or upsetting, so when you bend, then flatten, you get the volumes you want, where you want. Try with clay or plasticene first, and you can see what size tapers you need.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 03/15/05 00:04:54 EST

Good Scroll Bender at a Good Price- well, this has proven to be a contradiction in terms. Cheap scroll benders, such as the harbor freight, or the slightly better Boss Bender or Shop Outfitters models, usually only bend ONE size scroll, in ONE size material. Usually only 1/8" x 1 1/4" flat bar, and they usually do pretty crummy looking bends.
The next step up is to buy a hossfeld bender, and do em freehand on top- more money- $775 for a hossfeld clone from american bender. And a longer learning curve, to teach your arm how to pull the same amount every time, to get an even curve.
You could build your own jigs, and bend em all hot- by the time you count your own labor, materials, and fuel, it isnt cheap either, and its slower than a proper cold bender, but you can get exactly what you want.
Higher up the totem pole, and definitely not cheap, are the hand scroll benders from Glaser. These run around $2500, with machined, heat treated interchangeable dies, in a wide variety of sizes and patterns.
Or you could spend upwards of 6000 Euros for a german CNC model.
If you buy a cheap bender, your scrolls are gonna look like a screen door from Home Depot. My advice is either make your own dies, and bend hot, or get a hossfeld, and bend cold. Would depend on quantity, and if it is a paying job.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 03/15/05 00:11:59 EST

Flat bends: Why do you use round stock? Wouldn't the same concept work with square stock?
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 01:06:22 EST

Catching up after the weekend - re ISO 9001 rating of oversea plants is a joke - wouldn't totally disagree - was disappointed when I saw the quality system of my current employer after hiring with them - based on the Swedish parent company's. I'm currently doing quality assurance (ISO 9001:2000 & ISO/TS 16949) and my personal opinion is that the ISO rating of many US manufacturers is a joke.

I'm not that happy with our quality management system, and some of our suppliers' systems are much much worse. Not a whole lot of choice for some of the products we're buying though - either they are the industry standard additive, or they're specified by our customer.

Tony - re Deming - what part "US" industry won't adopt his methods - my personal opinion - most - lead usually by the US auto industry. If you want to read quality posts, go to the site www.elsmar.com - plenty of good quality folks discussing quality system problems including Deming's approaches.

   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 03/15/05 01:49:19 EST

Where can I find dies for my 25 lb little giant? I am trying to make some of my own but like tongs its always nice to have some ready to go. Does anyone know where old or new ones can be found? Also, any good books on the subject?
Thank you,
   Daniel Klug - Tuesday, 03/15/05 02:43:27 EST

Sure you can use square bar- but where I live, square bar is always more expensive. I go through about 4 to 6 tons of stainless a year, and round bar is running me about 2.20 or so a lb. these days, while square can be as expensive as 4 bucks or more a pound. The difference in mild steel is not so dramatic, but round is still cheaper. Its easier to make, and they make more of it. So I am used to making most things from round. And if you have a power hammer, squaring up whatever you want square is a very quick and easy procedure.
   ries - Tuesday, 03/15/05 04:23:36 EST

Daniel Klug,

Contact Sid Suedmeier, who now has the rights to the Little Giant name. He rebuilds them, tunes, them and makes/stocks parts for them.

www.littlegianthammer.com Or call him at: 402-873-6603
   vicopper - Tuesday, 03/15/05 06:25:26 EST

i have know experience in blacksmithing but would like to learn.i am very interested in folding steel is there anything you can do to help me get started,thank you in advance
   stephen - Tuesday, 03/15/05 08:35:25 EST

Stephen: Click on the navigation bar in the upper right. Go to FAQs. Look for the one for Getting Started in Blacksmithing. You need to master the basics before you can more on to more advanced work, such as pattern welded steel. While there check out the other FAQs as well.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 08:40:31 EST

Little Giant: BE SURE to tell Sid where you found out about him. He is one of many that benefit from anvilfire but don't advertise here. The common reply is "we are not looking for more business". . meanwhile they advertise in print media.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/15/05 10:39:20 EST

Round vs Square: The bar being cheaper is one reason but there is a practical forging reason. When you are making something with multiple bends and doing a lot of forging flat the pre-existing corners are troublesome. You must work more carefully with square to prevent creating a parallelogram (diamond shape) and all your bends must be properly aligned on-axis. This does not occur with round. During the flatening the round edges can be squared up toward the end of the process and the edges will be clean and neat. It is also easy to leave slightly rounded corners OR to chamfer them depending on the look you are producing.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/15/05 10:46:52 EST

Demming's ideas were NOT accepted by US companies in the beginning. That is why he went to Japan as he was accepted there. AFTER the Japanese companies started kicking our collective butts in the QA area then the US companies started to use his ideas.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/15/05 11:40:34 EST

re flat from round vs square.
ANswer is not really. I am not as sure about the physics of it. I do know it works better with round. I am guessing it has to do with the square stock having corners which resist the directional changes. But then again I could be nuts too.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/15/05 11:43:10 EST

Daniel-- try google or the book dealers for Richard Kern's book on restoring The Little Giant. Good search engine for books is a powerhouse engineered by some people at MIT, I think, scans the lists of lebenty jillion dealers, finds you the best prices on titles: http://www.campusi.com/
   Joaquin Murietta - Tuesday, 03/15/05 11:51:48 EST

Ebay #6162854665 Is this a soderfors anvil
   - Bob - Tuesday, 03/15/05 11:59:58 EST

Quality Issues: Many quality control programs are nothing more than a stack of paperwork that nobody pays any attention to. Many times the reason is simple, it is a system too costly for the small (micro) business to employ. The systems often create a paperwork burden greater than producing the product. So the "system" is only on paper kept in a file cabinet and pulled out only when someone asks about the quality control program.

In the micro business you may have ONE machinist producing all or most of the work. In order to fill all the requirements of a quality control program you may need TWO QC guys to check on the ONE worker. . .

Consider a "simple" task like materials traceability. It that part REALLY made of the certified 304L stainless you purchased? The stock was purchased and put on the rack. It may or may not have had permanent marking. Time comes to cut the stock, is or is NOT that the right bar? Do pieces of paper initialed by someone MAKE it the right bar . . on paper yes, in reality who knows? Then the bar is cut into hundreds of little pieces that look like lots of other little pieces in the shop. You have to count the pieces, rack them, certify the full rack of parts and THEN hope that when you turn your back that someone doesn't replace a borrowed piece. . . This is actually a case where the ONE MAN shop is more likely to the job without error where the larger shop with a bunch of paper trails is likely to botch the job. The parts are then handled at one or more machining stations and then perhaps a finishing station. At every point there is a possibility of error.

In the end, when that Nuclear grade part needs a material certification someone pulls a form out of a desk drawer, copies the parts serial number and then initials the form. In the eyes of the QC process that part IS what it says it is. . . It has been said that until the cert is written into the material of the bar there will never be a positive way to KNOW.

At some point you have to have a REASONABLE program that assures quality in a sensable manner comensurate with the criticality of the product. Otherwise you have impossible programs that are ignored other than looking good on paper.

Today we have a global system of unreasonable QC programs that were created largely for political motives (keeping others from selling in your market OR preventing certain contractors from being able to bid on a job). The Pentagon is famous for writing specs that could only be met by one preselected vendor. . .

Life is full of risks that cannot be regulated out of existance. People fall off ladders and down stairs, trip over their own feet. . . At some point there has to be reasonableness and people must realize that the world is not perfect, nor can we make it so. All we can do is our best.

   - guru - Tuesday, 03/15/05 12:01:17 EST

ebay # 6162854665 Is this soderfors anvil
   - Bob - Tuesday, 03/15/05 12:01:57 EST

Copyright Infringement: We recently had another case of copyright infringement. A fellow had copied my entire article on Sword Making! The problem was immediately rectified so I will not mention the site. The amazing thing is that the site had only been up a week or two and one of our members found and recognized the article.

If you see something on another web site that looks like it came from anvilfire please let me know. Send me a link to the content. Do not confront the site owner they MAY have permission to use the information OR it may be another site I maintain. Note however that except for ABANA chapters using our iForge articles in newsletters, and book publishers quoting our reviews we almost NEVER give permission to use anvilfire articles or images on other websites and NEVER EVER without proper credit and a return link.

Currently we have a series of tips running in the Centaur Forge print catalog. I compiled these and they are being used with permission. Most are from myself and a few from the achives and have never been run as a collection before. Eventualy they may run here as a Tip of the Day.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/15/05 12:18:25 EST

Ebay - 6162854665, Bob, I cannot tell. From a distance it looks like a Swedish cast anvil but it has handling holes which are usualy indicators of a forge anvil (but not always).

It looks like a good anvil other than some welding some bits and pieces to it. However, these would easily grind off. I would buy this anvil without a qualm. It is obviously a good old anvil even without knowing the brand. Don't pay shipping for the stand. . . let him use it as firewood.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/15/05 12:32:00 EST

Guru, you are correct about QA but only if it is external to the worker. Best QA is pride of ones own workmanship. Unfortunately it seems more and more rare today. And not just in manufacturing either. Even in the service industries the pride of a job well done ( even if it is bussing tables) seems to be lacking.

   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/15/05 13:03:51 EST

I am having trouble bluing screws for a clock-I polish the screw to a mirror finish and then heat it untill I see the color turn blue then quench it in water. The problem is that the dark iridecent blue color is only seen from certain angles otherwise it has a brownish hue. What am I doing wrog
   joel - Tuesday, 03/15/05 13:09:20 EST

Joel, sounds like you are letting the heat go a tad too far. Go slow bringing up to heat, and quench in oil when the color is almost what you want. It will darken a little in the quench.

Alternatively, you could use an oven to bring up the heat, but test first as most oven temp controls are not the most accurate.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 03/15/05 14:14:11 EST

Bob, That anvil on ebay looks good to me. The only problem over at ebay is when theres a slight chance a blacksmith that hangs out here may get a good deal from someone selling a anvil that they know or care nothing about theres a person that has his nose in every sale telling the buyer to clean, look the anvil over to find a name, numbers ect. and it will sell for more money. This happened awhile back and the seller stopped the auction stripped the anvil of paint then relisted it with the correct info. that he didn`t have to begin with, now the seller is a anvil expert and will demand the high prices that all others anvil seller ask. This has also happened with the anvil your looking at, the man use to sign his name when he told the sellers what to look for but I see he has stopped that.

I have alot of anvils and this pratice has not affected me but what kinda ticks me off is a "blacksmith" is tipping these sellers off to pound more money from their anvil and he has nothing to profit from it and you lose in the end.
   Robert IW - Tuesday, 03/15/05 14:18:53 EST

Robert IW: I am, of course, the tipster you are referring to. I neither know these sellers, nor make any side money on them. I simply believe in helping the seller get a fair price for their anvil. Most have no idea what they have. Sorry it offends you, but that is just the way I am and I am not about to stop. I hadn't noticed I had stopped adding my name (and please note I have never used an alias anywhere) so will start doing so again. (I have also prompted sellers to change their listings when they were listing something as a high quality anvil when it was just a run-of-the-mill one.)

The seller sent me additional photographs of that anvil. It has an oval depression in the bottom. May be serial numbers on the front foot. Thus, I would say it is likely a Trenton.

Ken Scharabok
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 15:36:16 EST

Looking for information on a E. C. Atkins No 1 reciprocating hack saw. Saw is driven by a scotch yoke. As the vice is opened for a larger work piece, the saw stroke is reduced.
   Jeff Garbutt - Tuesday, 03/15/05 16:14:22 EST

Ken Scharabok, You are well within your right to help these people and I`m sure their glad for it. I`m also glad you came right out and said your the tipster. I knew it was you but wasn`t going get mean and call you out on the forum. Different people look at things different ways, thats what makes our Country great. The way I look at it is your selling your Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools here and at ebay but by helping non-blacksmiths make money off potential buyers of your product its somewhat of a slap in the face. Burn a candle at both ends and it doesn`t last long. I`m sure when we meet in person we will get along fine, I hold no hard feelings about this just giving my opinion.
   Robert IW - Tuesday, 03/15/05 16:50:55 EST

Robert IW:

"The way I look at it is your selling your Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools here and at ebay but by helping non-blacksmiths make money off potential buyers of your product its somewhat of a slap in the face. Burn a candle at both ends and it doesn`t last long."

Sorry, but I don't follow you exactly. Are you saying because I help sellers get a better price for their anvils (and I do it with other blacksmithing items also) I am somehow establishing a market for my eBay store? I do not recall referring to my eBay store in any of these eBay posts. I may have, just don't remember any right now.

Do I promote blacksmithing because an increased demand for blacksmithing tools benefits my sales? I guess a rising tide lifts all boats (and I freely direct potential buyers to the regular retail sellers when their items better suit them). However, if you check with the SOF&A Chapter I suspect you will find I have been a strong supporter of the resurgence of blacksmithing for over 25 years now.

Advertising on this forum isn't cheap by the way.

Ken Scharabok
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 17:40:58 EST

Fair Prices: We all HOPE to get those "deals" on tools but with improved communication there is going to less and less of that. As soon as someone asks about something on ebay here they are alerting thousands to the "deal".

For years I have also advised folks to try to be fair when they get a great deal. You don't have to give that "Widow Lady" full ebay money for that anvil she offered to PAY you to haul away but you SHOULD pay at least $50 to $100 for it.

I get more questions about tool values by mail than in public. I advise folks honestly within a range (in a hurry, first person $50, have time $100, milk it on ebay $150). . . That kind of thing. However, most of the time they are expecting that their grandfather's beat up 150 pound Eagle Anvil is worth thousands as an "antique". But they are right to ask.

The only time I get involved on ebay is when something is clearly misrepresented. It is amazing how many pipe wrenches get labled "blacksmith tongs". . . and other such mistakes.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/15/05 17:43:22 EST

Helping ebayers.......
If you are the one selling it then you ask what you want. But to claim you are 'helping' the smithing community by educating the seller about thier stuff and thusly asking more for it is not very fair in my opinion.
If a person is going to sell OR buy on ebay they had better do some research of thier own and KNOW what is being sold. It is not up to use the potential buyer to do so.
But that is me.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/15/05 18:05:58 EST

May I point out that ISO is *NOT* a quality control certification. It is a reproducibility certification. As reproducability is a *basis* for quality control it's a step in the right direction. But ISO does not care if your processes are good or not---just that you document and follow them. If your standard process for dealing with a dissatisfied customer is to break their legs and you can prove that not a one of your dissatisfied customers is walking without crutches then ISO is quite happy.

I used to work for the US company Deming started at and was there for our ISO certification including the training for it so spent a lot of time reading the Docs for it.

Ken perhaps the starting smith has less money to buy your stuff if he spent more money getting an anvil?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/15/05 18:08:06 EST

Bluing Screw Heads:

I do it slightly differently from you. I heat the screw head to a dark cherry red and start wire brushing by hand. It will start to blue while cooling and I stop brushing when I get the color I want. I then start spraying with WD40 or drop it in a little cup of oil. This seems to seal the color somewhat.
   HWooldridg - Tuesday, 03/15/05 18:11:12 EST

Most of the people I have helped on eBay don't raise their price based on the information I have provided. Bids have, in all likelihood, been higher since the buyer is then better informed as to what they are getting. Do you want someone paying Arm & Hammer prices for a Vulcan when the seller sees the raised arm logo and lists it as a Arm & Hammer not knowing any better?

I suspect the one seller referred to is the one who had a Kimball Hay-Budden. They started the auction out with a high reserve based on what another Hay-Budden sold for. Even when they canceled the auction and relisted, they kept the high reserve. It didn't sell that time. They relisted with a lower reserve and said they would sell to the highest bidder if it didn't meet reserve. I believe it sold for $2-3 pound, not out a line for a good H-B.

Take a look at the prices Matchlessantiques gets for his anvils. They are very high. He does his research (and being a neighbor to Richard Postman doesn't hurt), cleans them up, does an outstanding job of presenting them and gives a money back guarantee. He is selling a service as much as an anvil.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 18:22:00 EST

ARIZONA SMITH-- Someone was looking for a smith in AZ here recently. Just now came across in my notes from 11 or 12 years ago: Doug Thamart, Southwest Wagon & Wheel Works, 602-394-2636, at 349 Duquesne Avenue, Patagonia. Unknow if any of this is current.
   Joaquin Murietta - Tuesday, 03/15/05 18:23:46 EST

ebay: In the market place knowledge is worth money. If Ken chooses to donate his expertise to people on ebay - well its his to give away. If I were buying I would be irritated but I cant see any real grounds to object.

Those of us hoping for good deals can take comfort in the fact that there is an unlimited supply of ignorant, lazy fools while Ken is only one man. :)
   adam - Tuesday, 03/15/05 19:04:42 EST

but why in not keep quite so that those smiths who are less financially capable will be able to get better deals. Of course this is also a paradox as anyone looking for a real deal on ebay is looking in the wrong place. To be honest I do not look for smithing stuff on ebay as I have found it to be more likely to find deals in my local area. Farms and business place have lots of stuff.

   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/15/05 19:31:52 EST

Ken S, Thomas P. said in one sentence what I was trying to get across to you. You help a non-blacksmith seller at ebay jack his anvil price up and the person that buys it has less or no money to buy your tools or things advertised here at anvilfire. You seem to be a good guy I just don`t like the info. you give out at ebay.

It seems to me Matchlessantiques was not an anvil person then by reason of Postman be his neighbor he became a big anvil seller on ebay. I wonder if he does any blacksmithing or is he just a seller? He does offer a money back guarantee LESS shipping but who would pay $300/$500 to waste on shipping a 450lb anvil back across the Country. You better know what your buying and doing at that point!
   Robert IW - Tuesday, 03/15/05 20:21:37 EST

ebay and advise. i gotta comment on this. probably the wrong forum, but...Ken, i am sure glad that you did not send any advise or comments to an anvil seller that i recently "won". i live in an area where there are not any tail gate sales near by. the best i can do is look at items on ebay. keenjunk is gone. i personally think that the matchlessantique guy is WAY unreasonable with what his reserves are typically. i also think that cleaning and stripping anvils of their rust devalues the anvil. and he does it to highlight the maker markings. make no mistake. i dont think that is an effort to "protect buyer's interest". most people here can look at an anvil and know if it is junk or not. notice that anvils that do not have clear markings have a lower reserve or none at all, which he is quick to point out. just me, but his whole presentation is irritating (look! texas anvil collection!!) i also find it irritating that he and others use quotes from postman excessivly. just my opinion, response not necessary.
there is another negative to this practice of unsolicited advise; the insincere bidder, wanting to jump in when they see a bidding frenzy. often the bids are from low or no history bidders, maybe from the sellers themselves (you can register to bid in seconds). if people are willing to pay stupid prices for matchless like anvils, so be it. it is hard to say that that does not inflate the ebay eventual selling prices. i think it does.

the anvil that i just got turns out to be a trenton with a "virgin" face, 220#. no identifying marks were posted and the seller did not have time to send any. no wire brush scuffs on the sides (i hate that!!!) to alert buyers , "collectors",and "resellers" of its pseudovalue, uncovering secret makers marks...sweeet and soon to replace my nice 185# HB as the primary anvil...anyone interested???

just my $0.02; save the flames for your steel..reasonable rebuttal welcome..
   rugg - Tuesday, 03/15/05 20:45:42 EST

Ralph I suppose it depends on which team you want to root for. My sympathies are with the cheapskate, er .. frugal smiths. But let me make a couple of points in favor of what Ken is doing. There is a benefit to the buyers in having anvils sell at a good price. Good prices motivate people to hunt down anvils and bring them to market. This means that a buyer can depend on finding an anvil when he wants to buy one but of course he wont get a steal. He will pay market value. If anvils are undervalued then many of these beautiful old tools are left to be ruined in welding shops or just sold for scrap. Also, its not such a bad thing if the vendors are educated. The honest ones will post better information about their items and they wont claim it to be serviceable if it isnt.
   adam - Tuesday, 03/15/05 20:51:16 EST

Let me start out by saying this is a great website and the information held here is extensive(and overwhelming!)

I would like to try out blacksmithing, but seeing as how I haven't tried it before, I don't want to spend a bunch of money. Is there a way I could make a forge, aquire an anvil(railroad track?), and buy the starting tools I would need for less than 150.00?

I am very interested in this art and have been doing som research for the past month or so, but I don't want to spend a lot of money to start out with. I'm young and thus I have to allow for the possibility of my losing interest after a month or two.
   Mike - Tuesday, 03/15/05 21:05:57 EST

I started out on the cheap too, and for the same reason. I'm not sure what you mean by young, but I'm in my mid-to-late thirties. I'd like to say age means wisdom, but I don't think it's getting easier to know if I like something before it try it. I've been forging regularly for over two years, though, and haven't lost interest yet.

You should be able to get started for under $150 if you can find a good hunk of scrap for a anvil (or even borrow a real one).
   Mike B - Tuesday, 03/15/05 21:37:29 EST

   - sandpile - Tuesday, 03/15/05 21:47:31 EST

By young I mean 21. =) I just meant that my attention span is along the lines of most young men, which is to say very short. Though I do have hobbies I have been at for quite a while, so I am hoping this will be one of them.
   Mike - Tuesday, 03/15/05 21:58:07 EST

To Mike:

Well I am 23 Mike and I just started Blacksmithing and I've so far spent about $0 on scrap sheet steel, $17.00 on two pairs of tongs and I already have a forge, that's about 100+ old or so! I have contacted a few Blacksmiths in my area who have been more than helpful, even if they are old farts hehe :) I know that my interests in a subject will be high for a month or so and then drop sort of like the stock market, but then they just come back up a couple of months later. I've been interested in this hobby/job ever since I was about 10, so I don't think that it will die on me anytime soon! Good luck to you Mike!
   Matt H - Tuesday, 03/15/05 22:20:36 EST

Adam, true enough I suppose. But it makes it much harder for smiths like I and others who actually try to take the time to go and find our anvils out and about.
ANd as I have already expressed my thoughts on sellers and buyers knowledge I will stop here.(smile)

   Ralph - Tuesday, 03/15/05 22:28:42 EST

Mike: Go to the NAVIGATE anvilfire box and choose FAQs. Look for the entry on Getting Started in Blacksmithing. Essentially you need to separate your requirements into three areas: How can I get (and keep) metal hot to forge it? What can I use as a forging surface? What tools do I need to work with?

If you have access to coal, coke or charcoal, you can put together a simply forge out of bits and pieces of scrap. If not, then your problem is greatly complicated as propane would be your next logical choice.

I don't particular like railroad track anvils. Just isn't a lot of room to work with, but many a new smith has started on one. Go to your local scrap yard and see if you can find just a plain old hunk of iron, such as the cut off end from 6-10" round stock. Step up above it would be one of the new 55- or 110- pound Russian anvils. Here I personally wouldn't go more than $1.00 pound delivered.

On tooling, here again many a smith has started with little more than an 2-3 pound hammer and a pair of vise grips.

My recommendation would be to look for the anvilfire link to blacksmithing groups in your general area and start to attend their meetings. Many apparently meet on a regular basis (e.g., monthly) and the format is typically a demonstration of some type by one of their members. For example, the SOF&A Chapter meets at the group's shop in Troy, OH and has open forges both before and after their monthly meetings. During winter months the shop is open one night a week on the same basis. A regular is available to help a novice along.

Once you have seen what can be done with hot iron, and perhaps tried doing some yourself, you should have a better feel if this is going to be an area which will continue to interest you. If so, then take one of the introduction to blacksmithing short courses to learn the basics. You can then supplement your starter equipment on an as-available basis.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 22:30:24 EST

Selling Anvils
I know better than giving a couple of copper pennies. I see both side of the anvil information chat and agree with both. This is just my personal anvil selling story. I just want to say for a long time I was out of work. I sold probably a hundred anvils on ebay. I knew what most of them were. Some folks helped me out now and then with information. Selling the anivls truely saved me from going bankrupt and paid all my outstanding medical bills. I gave a couple to young people locally for 20 and 40 dollars to get them started in smithing. I appreciated all info to increase my sales as I would have to spend many times $2 a lbs just to get a good sellable anvil to start with. I even paid over a thousand for a 600 lb anvil to resell out of someones garage. I always gave the person who didn't know what a good anvil was worth at least $1 a lbs to start with just like the guru above suggests.
   burntforge - Tuesday, 03/15/05 22:34:39 EST

Mike: Here is an eBay listing for a 120 pounds anvil (beat up), hand-cranked rivet forge and a couple of tools at a pretty decent price. #8176381893. Buyer pickup in IL though. Ends on Wednesday morning.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/15/05 23:00:45 EST

eBay anvil. It's difficult to tell, but does this anvil have the small "shelf" fore and aft on the base like on most Peter Wrights? I've seen one non-Peter Wright anvil that had that, and it was a unique Kohlswa.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 03/15/05 23:24:45 EST

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