WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from March 1 - 7, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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I would like to weld for damascus billets (bladesmithing)and a hydraulic press would be best for my neighborhood (noise).

Is the heat loss from the longer contact with the dies a problem that limits the work time between heating? Theoretical or real issue?
   deloid - Saturday, 03/15/08 23:48:59 EST

Ring question: I need to make 50 rings out of 3/4" hot-roll round with the empty center 1" across. The center does not need to be a perfect circle because 1" rope will pass through it so it will not be inspectable. I made some by welding a piece if 1" round to the table and welding a piece of 1" flat stock next to it for a stop and bending it around the 1" round but finishing the circle required trimming and heating and bending that seemed harder and more time consuming (therefore less fuel efficient) than it could have been. So now I am considering coiling it around a 1" bar, (heating with a rosebud) and then sliding it off. My question is, is there a way to do this so that it slides off the bar afterwards without having to cut each ring while still on the bar and possibly need to heat the ring again to get it to come off the bar?
   brian kennedy - Sunday, 03/16/08 00:25:40 EST

Re Jud's query when does pipe become tube and vice versa?

Brian, any chance of finding an old spring the correct size? Could save a lot of work.
   - philip in china - Sunday, 03/16/08 04:57:31 EST

Brian Kennedy: Check with a pipe supplier to see if they have thick wall pipe of 2 1/2" diameter with a 1" center. If so, you could cut off 3/4" pieces. For example, I have a piece of 4" OD pipe with 3/4" walls.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/16/08 07:25:00 EST

Candle cups - Great. Thank you Frank Turley, Peter Hirst, Jud Yaggy and all.
   karl - Sunday, 03/16/08 07:27:58 EST

Thanks, by the way, for the advice on lighting coke. I now have it burning sweetly and very hot. So to add to my many other lucky breaks I now have a supply of free fuel!
   - philip in china - Sunday, 03/16/08 07:49:00 EST


You *might* be able to "unscrew" the mandrel from inside the coil. You'd want to support the coil so that the twisting force wants to open it up, rather than close it down tighter on the mandrel. I've done it with much smaller stock; no guarantee that it would work on 3/4".
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/16/08 09:08:20 EST

Deloid, it's noticeable, but is not an issue. It just requires a different style of working than a power hammer.

For my money (if I had any, that is), a press is the way to go for modern types of pattern welding.

A press made specifically for bladesmithing will have a fast enough ram speed that by the time the outer layers of the billet have cooled through contact the inner layers may be overworked anyway. you have to be careful how big a bite you want to take with each cycle. A set of stop blocks is almost essential.

I don't have a press, but I've used 'em enough. It helps to live near a bunch of bladesmiths! ;)
   Alan-L - Sunday, 03/16/08 09:45:13 EST

Tight Bends, Coils: Brian, To do this and not have the coil stuck on the mandrel you need to have a long heat, coil it, then unwind a little. To continue coiling you will need to clamp at the loose point, coil again and back off the next section.

Otherwise you need to cut blanks with just the right length and angle to the ends, then bend in press type die.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/16/08 10:11:50 EST

Pipe vs. Tube: This is a simple engineering distinction. Pipe, is made in specific sizes for gases and liquids to flow through, normally with a series of threaded fittings to match OR flanges. Tube is everything else including small "pipe" that is connected using compression fittings, like copper and plastic tubing. There are a few exceptions such as sewer pipe and large pipe that has no matching fittings and is welded together. In specific industries you know if you are dealing with pipe or tube.

Tube is generally used for non-plumbing applications but MAY carry liquids and gases and be connected to pipe. Hydraulic cylinders are made of tubing. Structural tubing is used to build things. Many thick walled tubes are designed for high pressure applications OR things like nozzles and injection tubes. Often is is used for machined part that need a through hole.

While pipe comes in a very specific range of nominal sizes and preesure ranges tube can be ANY size and must be defined by both ID and OD or one diameter and the wall thickness.

Tube not made to pipe specifications MAY be the same size but is not pipe and should not be interchanged with pipe.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/16/08 10:33:48 EST

Thanks Alan-

What are stop blocks? I would imagine the press had a form of range limitation built in?

Who makes a press specifically for bladesmithing?
   deloid - Sunday, 03/16/08 10:44:45 EST

Looking for ideas for finishing/protecting outdoor steel projects (railings, sculpture, etc.). I would love to find something with more depth or visual texture than plain paint, but if paint or varnish is the best choice, what kind would be good?
   - Rob Wotzak - Sunday, 03/16/08 11:26:29 EST

One more thought on the rings, for what it's worth. You could wrap the coil, then soak the whole thing at yellow and quench, maybe in a water spray. Ideally, the coil would cool and contract on the still hot mandrel, essentially forming threads on it. When the mandrel cooled, it would contract and hopefully would open little clearance. Then you might be able turn it out, annealing first if necessary.

I'd use the Guru's method, but the heat-and-quench might help if it still got stuck.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/16/08 11:28:09 EST

Deloid, stop blocks are just little chunks of steel you use to stop the press from smooshing the hot billet further than you want it to go. Presses do not have any sort of built-in range limitation, that's up to you.

When you first start welding up a big billet, you only want to press it about 1/4 to 1/2 inch at a time, as more can shear the welds or deform the pattern. As the billet gets thinner and longer, it becomes even more important not to squish it too much, as it's very easy to squeeze it in half if you aren't careful. Being hydraulic, you don't get that sense of manual feedback you have with a hammer.

There are lots of manufacturers of presses, and many folks build one for themselves, but my recommendation goes to Ron Claiborne, whom you can reach through www.elliscustomknifeworks.com. Ron is a friend of mine, and so is Darrin Ellis whose site he's on, but he's built presses for many, many people in the knife world.

Ron's presses come with a hand-operated valve kind of like a log splitter, but many people like to add a foot pedal with a connecting rod to make it easier to manipulate the billet.

You also need several sets of dies, including big flat ones for the initial welding and smaller almost flat dies for drawing out the billet. You can also get or make squaring or rounding dies, and then there's the various patterning dies for making things like a ladder pattern or raindrop patterns.

The best thing about getting one of Ron's presses is that when you come to pick it up he'll spend the day teaching you how to use it.

Where are you located? Ron is in Knoxville, Tennessee. His presses are all over the U.S. and Canada, however.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 03/16/08 11:32:40 EST

Ive seen clay bricks thatll take over 3000 degrees but they are very heavy and shipping is very high will the lightweight 2300 degree puffy cermanic firbricks take the heat of a propane forge?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Sunday, 03/16/08 14:34:45 EST

Hi Alan,

Thank you for your advice! It's apparent that you're good people like Darren (bought a forge from him) and Ron...great guy to talk to.

Spent a couple of hours yesterday talking to Ron Reil up North of me. Quite a genius with his machine restoration and set-up. Mr Reil has an incredible amount of knowledge and passion.

Get to meet, talk to and write with good people in this field!

I just need some luck or a powerball to get some machinery that will help me get to where I want.

I would love one of Ron's presses but I can't afford that right now. His press is not only wonderful to watch working but they are made with 18th century class and charm.

I'm in Boise Idaho.
   deloid - Sunday, 03/16/08 14:36:42 EST

My last message was edited and a sentence thrown out of sequence makes it sound like there is only one Ron...sorry about that.
   deloid - Sunday, 03/16/08 14:39:09 EST

Anyone have experience with the Delta Future 2 Blacksmith anvil? I have lost all patience trying to find a good used 100# anvil and this one seems to be exactly what I am looking for. I need a lighter anvil for demos and club meetings. It seems I can buy a good HB or PW 100# for about the same price but the shipping will kill me if I buy on eBay.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 03/16/08 15:54:52 EST

Ive got a fully progressive control 15 ton press, and power hammers. I had a phase of loveing the press for all my damascus work. However, a press will run out of stomp when you get down to 1/4" thick and youll need a reheat, a hammer will keep on drawing out.

At the moment I only damascus weld and forge on a hammer.

I find I get much less scale problems on a hammer (especially glass hard, ungrindable flux) than on a press, a hammer seems to blast 90% of it off.

if youve got neighourhood issues a press is the only way to go though.

Dont dismiss a flypress for damascus forging. a very useful tool, and doesnt suffer the screaming banshee hydraulic whine of a hydraulic press (my hydraulic press is a commercial one, so just has a pleasent hum when running ! :)
   - John N - Sunday, 03/16/08 19:38:42 EST

oh, sorry deloid, in answer to your question, yes. a press sucks the heat from the billet much quicker. a hammer actually heats it a bit. I preheat my press dies by gently squishing a lump of copper I heat in the forge when thats warming up a bit. it helps a bit.
   - John N - Sunday, 03/16/08 19:43:41 EST

not trying to spam the forum here, but forgot to put this is the last post....

when forging on a press you 'tip' the billet back towards you ever so slightly between press strokes so its not in contact with the botom die block all the time. If your billets toasting hot it seems to almost weld to the bottom die, so the 'tipping' (lifting) is necessary!
   - John N - Sunday, 03/16/08 19:52:17 EST

Jacob: The light bricks are what You want due to the insulating value. The heavy hard bricks [preferably thin ones] could be used on the forge floor over a layer of the light bricks. Heavy brick or refractory takes longer to get up to working temperature.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/16/08 20:34:24 EST

Depth of Paint: Rob, Have you LOOKED at any modern automotive finishes or what is done on custom autos, trucks and motorcycles? The oldest "deep" finish visually is "candy apple". This is lightly tinted clear (translucent) applied over various grounds, most commonly silver or metalflake. Chevy used to have what they called "firemist" colors for Cadillacs back in 70's. These had a clear body with larger than normal metallic flakes but not as heavy as metalflake. This was a one part paint. Today many are two parts (the base and the clear coat).

These paints do not have to look like the typical sports car colors. Organic colors can be blended and shaded. Shading with tinted clears can be done using black for a shadowy shade or umber for a an antique looking finish such as making an ivory. Deep woody effects can be made by taking advantage of the forged texture and various browns and blacks. Various clear tints can create a jewel like effect or depths of the jungle greens. . .

When actual texture is desired there are numerous texture paints. However, most artists would prime the surface for rust proofing (zinc then sandable high speed lacquer primer) and use acrylic gesso OR a thickened batch of the lacquer primer. Textures can be created with all variety of tools from a tooth brush to a spray gun. This texture is then covered by a durable top coat that may hide or enhance the textures.

Spraying, hand rubbing, sanding layers, using lace stencils and many other methods are used to create color variations. For protected applications the top coats can be almost anything from industrial enamel to fine artists paints. I prefer automotive finishes for their hardness and durability. They can be artistically sprayed from a common spray gun or an artists air brush.

When producing artistic iron work the finish is just as much a part of the art as the metal work. Many smiths or their clients do not care. But any artist who cares about every aspect of his/her work would LEARN about applying artistic finishes.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/16/08 20:51:25 EST

Forging Heat: John, This same advice is suitable to hand forging as well. Any time the work sets resting on the anvil is time that heat is being lost at a faster rate than in air. Many smiths hold light work above the anvil and then touch it to the surface just ans they strike. It takes a little practice but heats last much monger.

   - guru - Sunday, 03/16/08 20:54:55 EST

Hydraulic Presses and Noise: Many hydraulic pumps SCREAM and can be heard great distances away. They are much noisier than a hammer. For almost absolutely silent billet forging you want a rolling mill.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/16/08 20:56:30 EST

Ive been looking places like Centaurforge.com and others, They are very proud of their products and show it in their prices. Where can a more modest blacksmth get his goods for a better price.... or is it all that high
   - Jacob Lockhart - Sunday, 03/16/08 23:25:29 EST

I have just recently come into posession of an old mechanical hammer that I can not find any information about. There is a name cast into the side, Iron Store Giant. There is also the letter C cast on the ram. No other markings that I have seen. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks
   Troy - Sunday, 03/16/08 23:53:09 EST

Jacob Lockhart. Try eBay. They have a subcategory for Collectibles/Tool, Hardware & Locks/Tools/Blacksmithing. Be sure to search both active and store listings. However, on eBay watch out for the shipping costs.

Try www.craigslist.com for your area. Do a search on item or even put in a wanted ad.

Try putting a classified ad in local small town/county newspapers to the effect: Wanted: Blacksmithing tools and equipment. XXX-XXXX.

Ask just about everyone you run into if they know of anyone in the area who may have blacksmithing tools and equipment they may be interested in selling. Some farms use to have small blacksmithing shops for their own use. May not have been any more than a rivet forge, anvil and some farrier tooling. Anvils, at one time, were a fairly common items on farms and often come up in farm auctions.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 03/17/08 04:46:24 EST

Jacob, Where are you? That makes a big difference.
   - philip in china - Monday, 03/17/08 07:53:00 EST

Iron Store Giant: Troy, Never heard of it and its not in the book Pounding out the Profits. There is always a possibility it was made by someone else for resale. Private branding has been around for a long time.
   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 08:52:25 EST

Cost of Tools: The cost of good tools has always been a significant expense. I have never regretted spending the money (when I had it). Many things I wish I had bought when they were still available such as Wally Yeater swage blocks and a NEW Little Giant. But at the time $5,000 for a new Little Giant was as much as TWO new cars or a NEW pickup truck. . .

A lot depends on what you need the tools for. If you just want to putter around and make a few things for yourself then you do not need quite the same tools as a professional would. However, due to time limitations and wanting to ENJOY the time they have in the shop many hobbiests have as good or better tools than many professionals.

A DIY blacksmith tool kit:

Forge, built from junk, burns coal or charcoal. Forges of all sizes can be built at little cost.

Hammer, 2.5 to 3 pound standard blacksmiths, available at any hardware store. Buy a good brand. Dress off any sharp corners. Should cost about $20. Same can be had at the flea market for $5 to $10.

Tongs, a least one good pair should be bought new, THEN some of your first projects should be making more. Having a good factory made pair as a guide is VERY helpful. You can also use Channel Locks and Vise Grips for some purposes. Tweezer type tongs were used for millenia and are easier to make. However, they actually reduce your gripping leverage. Note that few used tongs on the market are useful.

Anvils just plain cost money. However, good used ones in the 100 - 125 pound class can often be found at antique stores, flea markets, trade lots, auctions, your neighbors basement and similar places. Old broken and beat up are better than shinny new and made of poor material. Avoid the imported junk Chinese anvils. Common RR-rail anvils are not suitable for most work and those made and sold by others often cost way more per pound than NEW anvils. Any large piece of iron with compact mass can be used for an anvil. I-beam and structural shapes are NOT compact mass. Lumps cut off heavy place, pieces of counter balances, RR-couplers, heavy sledge hammer heads, these are compact mass.

A good vice is almost more important than an anvil and a smith will often spend as much time at the vice as at the anvil. Luckily, used blacksmiths leg vices are still commonly available for less than $200 and are a steal at that price! A small light one is fine for average work as long as you do not abuse it and is still 10x better than a bench vise. A good HEAVY bench vise can substitute for many jobs. Both need to be well mounted so that you can put all your weight behind them.

You will also need many common hand tools. A hack saw and good blades (with set teeth for heavy work), an assortment of files, a set of fractional or metric sized drills, a bench or hand (angle) grinder, punch drift and chisel set, a ball pien hammer or two, AND an assortment of common mechanics tools (screw drivers, hex key wrenches and combination wrenches at a minimum).

With a $200 outlay for each anvil and vise you should be able to finish out the above for another $200 to $400 for a total of $600 to $800. A first class scrounger could do it for much less AND have more tools. Anyone in a hurry or no patience for or skill at wheeling and dealing will easily pay double. As the saying goes. . . Your mileage may vary.

Accumulating tools takes a lifetime. It is why I give my children and grand children the gift of tools. Christmas, birthdays. . . Many years later they still have them and appreciate them where other gifts would have gone by the way and been long forgotten. Everyone needs a good set of screw drivers. Sears has had their best on sale as a set for less than $20 for decades. . . a few wrenches, a hammer, a tool box to put them in. . . One year I gave both my children top quality Milwaukee drills and another Dremel sets. . .

If you do it for others OR do it for yourself eventually you will have all the tools necessary to do anything you desire. But it has to be one of your life goals.
   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 09:55:53 EST

My tommy-hammer project is well under way and I am beginning to think about a JYH. I am leaning toward Guru's differential/axel mechanism as the basis. Its an ingenious use of the differential. But I have two main questions. First is the ungainly length of the axel. Is there a practial way to shorten the axel/differential assembly so that the brake/differential/drive weheel unit is say two feet long rather than 4 or five?

Second, I am trying to understand why shock absorbers are used to drive the ram instead of springs. It seems to me that shocks by their very nature are counter productive. Don't they absorb accelerative forces that would otherwise be delivered into the ram where a spring is used (both directly on the down stroke and by loading in upward over- travel into the spring)? I don't see any dampening mechanism in any manufactured hammer -- or most of ythe JYHs -- that correspond to a shock absorber in this JYH. On the contrary, I see rams mounted on springs, which appear to me to load and therefore conserve considerable accelerative force and redeliver it to the ram. In fact, in your description of your JYH, Guru, you note "I measured my 50# and 100# hammers and they both have a 6" (15.24cm) crank throw! Obviously they were taking the upward over travel into the spring as [a comnponent of the 8"] stroke." That would seem to indicate that the overtravel into the spring is an important component of the total power. Isn't that component dissipated by us of the shock instead of a spring?

It would also seem that a loss of impact occurrs at the bottom of the stroke as the rigidity of the fully extended shock will tend to decelerate the ram a lot faster than than would a spring.

I am strongly inclined to substitute a coil spring or two for the shocks in this design. Any reason why not?

   Peter Hirst - Monday, 03/17/08 10:06:06 EST

Bill A. I think your question got lost in the mix. It does happen once in a while, you were not ignored.
The simple answer is no. Time has become a huge factor in what gets attention and what doesn't. I believe the Iforge demo's will be revived at some point. I am sure the guru will give a more detailed response. But in the mean time there are 166 demos to try out, prefect, modify and transform to something new.
Glad to see you are still visiting.

Dave Baker
Treasurer CSI
   daveb - Monday, 03/17/08 11:00:14 EST

Finishes: one other suggestion; use materials that don't require them; stainless, monel, copper if you like the patina.

It's a sad fact; but today most people can't be bothered with simple maintenance on even their tools much less a piece of art. Designing it so it doesn't require much will be a big help towards making it something that will last and not degrade over time!

If it's quiet you need a rolling mill is far better than a press!

As for tools: yard sales, fleamarkets, junk stores---the hunt is part of the fun. If you don't want to spend the effort hunting, spend the dollars and be happy how much time you have saved.

One great source is Blacksmith Meets/Hammer-Ins/Conferences! Quad-State for example will have many many tons of tools for sale, new, used and abused (if you are buying something to modify, buying it cheaper abused may be best) Shoot I even usually buy something at Quad-State and I'm a notorious cheapskate!

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/17/08 11:04:12 EST

Coiling round stock: one method not mentioned is doing it cold then the piece will spring back loose on the mandrel.

Of course for hot rolled 3/4" stock you will need a pretty beefy set up; but if you need a lot it will pay for itself fairly fast.

If the ID is critical you may need to machine a mandrel that will allow it to spring back right to the correct size---but each rod will probably be a bit different.

Cold rolled will look prettier; but be Much more difficult to work with cold.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/17/08 11:08:11 EST

The EC-JYH: Peter, The differential and shocks were an experiment to prove/disprove an idea that had been floating around for decades.

First, the differential only gives a modest speed reduction (1/2 of the total forward ratio). So for good advantage you want one out of an old car or small truck that had a really high ratio of 4:55 to 1 or so. We did not have enough reduction and this was a problem. The EC-JYH needed a much larger pulley.

Yes, it is a huge machine. With some skill it is possible to shorten the entire axle assembly. This requires cutting the tubes and rewelding and taking the same amount out of the axles and rewelding them. Both need to be quite straight but it can be done in the small shop.

The shocks were one of those ideas that looks better on paper than in reality. I do not recommend them. Instead of storing and returning energy they waste it. They also have a distinct speed limitation at which the ram will flat without moving while the crank goes as fast as it can.

The ONLY thing the shocks do well is compensate for height variations automatically.

The hammer ran and it forged steel but it was not a very good machine.

   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 11:11:54 EST

Linkage, Dupont: You cannot simply stick a spring in the connection of a power hammer. It must do the specific job of supporting the ram and providing stroke variation by reacting on linkage attached between the ram and crank. The linkage that does this perfectly is the Dupont patent linkage used on Dupont/Fairbanks hammers, Bradleys and Little Giants.

In the Dupont linkage there are horizontal links that support the ram at a point (nearly a straight line) where there is nearly infinite leverage against them and the spring. As the hammer runs the angle of the links change and the mechanical ratio with it. This is VERY important.

At the bottom of the travel the ram is thrown past the straight line point of the linkage and only deflects the arms and springs a little. This allows most or all of the velocity of the ram to go into the work. As the linkage passes center and starts to lift the ram it is accelerated UP by the previous compression of the spring.

As the linkage nears the top of the stroke the mass of the ram compresses the spring and the arms change angle to where the ram no longer has enough force to compress the spring. This is the act of catching the rapidly upward flying ram by storing its energy.

As the crank passes top center then ram starts moving downward. But it doe not just fall. It is rapidly accelerated by the compression of the spring so that it is moving much faster than by gravity alone. The ram flies past the linkage straight line point where there is no resistance and strikes the work just as the linkage starts to apply a little but insignificant force.

Note however, that at slow speed the ram should be held back sufficiently by the spring and apply just the lightest gentlest pats. As the hammer operates faster and faster it should hit harder and harder. But there IS a point where the upward velocity overcomes the spring and the hammer gets out of time and everything gets wacky. Below this point is the maximum speed of the hammer and where it should not be able to run faster.

The Dupont linkage stores all that upward inertia and gives it back making it a VERY efficient linkage. The linkage also compensates for variations of work height so that forging can be done. However, for large changes in height you need a height adjustment because there is a narrow range where the Dupont linkage is efficient giving good control.

There are many ways the geometry of the Dupont linkage can be applied. Fairbanks did it with a short spring and short arms. Bradley did it with a rubber compression member in their "Compact" hammer. Little Giant did it with a large spring and heavy arms which throw the machine way out of balance. Beaudry did it without links or coil springs. While his linkage looks nothing like the DuPont the geometric theory of operation is identical. He did it with wheels instead of links.

See the NC-JYH and CR-JYH for Dupont linkages.
   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 11:13:36 EST

Other Hammer Ideas: Of the best designs is the NC-JYH "tire hammer" invented by Ray Clontz and the CR-JYH by Yopi Ugalde.

The tire clutch is the best there is for the DIY builder. It allows slipping and featehering with ease. Equally good but more expensive is a flat belt clutch.

Ray Clontz's and Steve Barringer's use of square tubing for the arms and a pillow block for the crank bearing is much more efficient design than the later versions by Clay Spencer which have a ton of welds and are quite heavy. Keeping these parts lighter helps balance the hammer.

The weak link in the NC-JYH hammer is the tube in tube guide system without good adjustment. A power hammer ram must be well guided or the slop eats up energy and glancing blows will kick work out of the hammer. Guide systems like the back plate guides used on some air hammers and the EC-JYH work well.

Where almost everyone skimps is the anvil mass. Anvil mass is expensive but you must have it. Where I used a V-8 engine block it amounted to almost no mass.

One of the ideas that the EC-JYH was a proving ground for was using multiple motors of different sizes to power the machine. This worked great. As long as the motors have the same slip speed (rated RPM at HP) they can be combined. So you can use two 1 HPs to get 2HP or a 3/4 and a 1/2 to get 1-1/4 HP. This has a number of possibilities including a machine that has variable HP for different sized jobs.

   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 12:04:44 EST

Anyone read Smithsonian magazine? In an article about the building of the Parthenon, a man named Manolis Korres offers this as an explanation for the speed of building the Parthenon.
(Quoted from article February 2008 article, page 40, paragraph 3)

"Another counterintuitive possibility is that ancient hand tools were superior to their modern counterparts. After analyuzing marks left on the marble surfaces, Korres is convinced that centuries of metallurgical experimentation enabled the ancient Athenians to create chisels and axes that were sharper and more durable than those available today. (The idea is not unprecedented. Modern metallurgists have only recently figured out the secrets of the traditional samurai sword, which Japanese swordsmiths endowed with unrivaled sharpness and strength by regulating the amount of carbon in the steel and the temperature during forging and cooling.) Korres concludes that ancient masons, with their superior tools, could carve marble at more than double the rate of speed of today's craftsmen. And the Parthenon's original laborers had the benefit of experience, drawing on a century and a half of temple-building know-how.

My problem with this is that someone will read that, and believe it, because it comes from a source with a reputation. Also, sorry for the long post about something only somewhat blacksmithing related. I just wondered what everyone else thought.
   - Hollon - Monday, 03/17/08 15:34:27 EST

Junk Yard Hammers.
I built a Rusty style hammer and then rebuilt to a much heavier ram and a spare tire clutch. Hits hard, and is probably the easiest of the JYH's to scrounge for. Also the least machining of most.
The ram slides are the key to a smooth good machine followed closely by anvil mass. I underbuilt both on my machine. The anvil was easy as I just scabbed on anothe couple of hundred pounds of scrap steel. The ram slides on mine are next.
I would use the spare tire clutch on ANY JYH I built. I would not be afraid to use the plans from Clay Spencer, seen several of these and they look like a reasonable ram system and are compact.
To build a JYH one needs to be able to weld well, and even more to scrounge well.
   Ptree - Monday, 03/17/08 17:15:43 EST

Ancient Construction: There are stone cutters and there are stonecutters. Many stone sculptors went through stone, particularly soft marble (it IS soft compared to many other stones) at fantastic rates. There are photos of the great Rodin covered in stone chips and dust standing atop a pile of the same. . . Many of the "chips" were serious size chunks deftly removed in single blows.

But then there are the stone reproduction techniques used for millenia. Original pieces are carefully copied by multiple craftsmen using calipers and drilled points to work to. Often different workmen were experts at different stages of the process, roughing, shaping and finishing. A few were experts at faces or hands. When you need something produced in a hurry you put lots of workmen on the job. I'm sure smiths to continually repoint chisels were part of the work force.

In large scale projects the original sculptures including columns and other pieces would be carefully modeled once, sometimes to a small scale and then reproduced by numerous workmen.

I think the folks who write such blather took a one-time course, found out how HARD stone cutting was and cannot believe that ancients could do it better. Of course they could. As hand workers who lived by their hands they developed the necessary muscles and skills along with the technique. The difference between tough and well practiced and an amateur can be 100's to one in productivity. We all see it when we watch other smiths who are at the peak of their powers compared to our miserable selves and wonder at how fast they move steel and why it stays hot so much longer for THEM.

With a few exceptions and NEVER in metallurgy were ancient tool better than modern. The few exceptions are tools that are no longer made or are no longer made for professional use.
   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 19:03:48 EST

Or tools that have been watered down so that people can't hurt themselves on them if they don't take the proper precautions and maintain the tools correctly.

I've used a recent commercially made star drill lately that the striking end was way too soft. I had to grind off the mushroom pretty much every hole.

What are the secrest of the Samarai sword? medium carbon shallow hardening steel with differential heat treat---Inform the Media! And don't forget to remind them that it's a pretty poor battle sword.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/17/08 19:30:01 EST

More about finishes: I have often commented on the fact that Hollywood artists can make wood and plaster look like metal and ask why blacksmiths cannot make IRON look like IRON.

Ever look at the museum reproduction bronzes? They are made of what is euphemistically called "bonded stone" or "cultured marble". This is stone filled polyester which is not much different than auto body putty. It is then painted to look like corroded bronze and then hand finished using bronze powder paint to create highlights. It is not difficult to do, but it IS an art.

Search for them (bronze head Zeus) and see what I mean.

   - guru - Monday, 03/17/08 19:39:09 EST

I'm with ya on this Guru! My sales are just starting to pick up, but I've already had to explain to a couple of customers why I won't paint iron, even black. After the explanation, they usually appreciate it, and really see what metal looks like. If they don't, I show em some nice black hinges that have been on the outside of my shop door for 30 years with nothing but a little forge scale and secret sauce applied hot and are just now beginning to show a few rust spots. Then I show em any number of little piles of red iron oxide that were brand new iron deck chairs or some such with a few coats of Derusto from the same era. I provide a shop cloth impregnated with my secret sauce with major purchases, and a pad of 4-0 steel wool for the really fussy ones. Most of em get it.
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 03/17/08 20:59:13 EST

I've always noticed that tools and other items made from good quality still don't tend to rust overly much anyway. They usually just develop a nice brown/black patina that improves with age. Many of my scrounged treasures that have been partially buried or laying in old buildings for decades have minimal rust on them. Tools coated in paint make me suspicious. Too many times of late it is covering filler and other nasty surprises on modern "new" tools. Patina is better than paint any day and rubbing in some oil once in awhile is rather relaxing and theraputic.
   Robert Cutting - Monday, 03/17/08 21:53:37 EST

Paint: I am absolutely in support of good paint on forged work. But bad paint jobs just harbor rust. I do not support DIY mixes. While some may get away with them others do not. And there is a big difference in what you can get away with and what you cannot.

Good tight scale is a good rust preventative but it cannot always be trusted. There are clean up spots, welds, drilled holes . . .

When you put up 100 feet of rail in an outdoor setting you may have 100 micro climates. The rail may be sheltered near the building but be exposed to salt at the bottom and abrasion from scraping ice. In the yard dirt and leaves may be piled around pickets creating a moist acid environment due to poor maintenance OR as part of planned landscaping. For a stretch sap may drip from a tree and the shade and pollen from another result in cool slow drying conditions and fine mold or surface moss growing on the paint. Closer to the street the rail may be exposed to road dirt and salts as well as exhaust fumes. AND one stretch may be in the sun all day every day and what ever finish is applied will bleach. Then you have the locally acid rain and even more acid rain of many cities which has caused havoc with outdoor metal work from building trim and bridges to works of sculpture.

If you are enamored with the look of raw forged metal then learn to recreate it using paint over top of a good paint system (clean, hot or cold galvanize, neutral prime, sealer or top coat). The appearance of clear top coat over cleaned steel can be reproduced with a metallic silver grey and a thin top coat of black tinted clear. Shading and fill with fine black can deepen and enhance textures as well as add shading for blackened areas.

A good sealed and touched up on site paint job will last 20 to 30 years without a sign of rust. The typical powder coat job has come back to bite many smiths after only a few years. Paint jobs over poorly cleaned steel have been known not to last a season.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 02:30:57 EST

Paint on Tools: I agree about paint on tools, especially used tools being sold at various places. I know a fellow that bought a beautiful large anvil that when the face was cleaned of paint had three big one inch plug welds in the middle of the plate using rod that clearly did not match the surrounding metal. . . In the same lot he purchased a "repaired" old English anvil that had most of the steel face machined off then the step lowered to hide the fact. This is easy to see IF you know what you are looking for.

Paint can also hide cracks in chisels and other high stress tools.

While I keep an oil finish on some of my tools many others do not get as good of attention and I put a thin coat of paint on them and often oil OVER the paint. In my last shop condensation on the tools was a problem and in my new location dripping condensation (off the roof) is about as bad as rain in a less than arid environment. . . I will be painting more than in the past.

How you oil and maintain tools varies greatly and few blanket rules work. Machine tool tables need to be routinely cleaned and oiled. I have found that putting throw cloths over machines (like they used to do furniture) is a fantastic help in preventing loss of oil and condensation causing rust. Dust on well oiled machines will eventually wick away the oil and let rust take off. Covers keep off the dust and condensation as as well as make you think about wiping down the machine and oiling it before putting it on.

I've had a lot of tongs get damaged by rust. They get used and the paint or oil burns off. Replaced on the rack or left on the forge they rust. I use both oil and paint but there are still times when you forget and too much time passes.

I recently repainted a set of pipe clamps. The pipe, which starts with the mill coating is fairly well protected for a few years but then starts to rust. Oil is a problem since these are used primarily with wood. So the pipe gets a thin coat of flat black and the clamps some orange or whatever is lying around. Woodworking tools in general are a problem as they need oil but must be wiped free from oil before use. Anything used on salt treated lumber needs special consideration.

I've found that over time that even some of the best tripple chrome plated mechanics tools kept stored in a tool chest will rust. . .

In a good dry shop these things are not so much of a problem but it appears I am doomed to wet shops. The current one looks high and dry but has its own internal weather system due to poor construction.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 03:01:26 EST

I certainly defer to the Guru on jobs like 100 feet of railing or fence. Yet to come my way, however, as I am working exclusively in the realm of single objects easily handled and maintained by an individual. When I graduate to that class of work, I'll certainly heed the advice on paint. Rust in the shop is another matter. My shop is spitting distance from salt water. I learned years ago to give just about everything I touch a spritz of WD 40 and/or a wipe with the wax cloth every time I use it, especially if it got hot in the process. Maddening how things rust faster in cold a cold dry shop (winter conditions here)than a warm humid one. I have iron that's been sitting outside for years in better shape than some on my new material rack that has inadvertently gone without oil for a coupla winter months. One winter the rust demon was particularly bad: stuff was developing rust patina overnight. I discovered I had left an opened but tightly closed (I thought) bottle of muriatic acid in the shop. Cold damp salt air and a whiff of muriatic acid makes the best fast rust patina ever. SO yeah, its a constant struggle, and I thank the Guru for sharing his derusting strategies. I'll learn to paint, against the day when the architectural work starts coming in.
   Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 03/18/08 08:20:04 EST

Inhibits rust?
Yataiki, the noted sawsmith/toolsmith of Japan, told us at a workshop, that a tool should be "washed" eight times by first wetting the anvil and the hammer with water. Then, the tool is heated and hammered eight times in a row. The wetting is repeated each time. The theory is that it drives (red?) oxides out of the steel surface. You're looking for a blue/gray scale finish on the iron portion of the tool; no red oxide color.
Yataiki claimed that the tool would be "rust free" for a long while.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 03/18/08 09:22:32 EST

Boiling red rust in water is a known method of converting it to black rust.

I pick up cans of wax when I find them cheap at the fleamarket or garage sale and like to wax my tools when I have down time.

Of course soaking the heads in linseed oil to keep the handles tight does a good job on hammers---I do wipe off the striking faces when they come out of the tray and go onto the rack.

Condensation is something I have not seen here hardly at all; but Sun-UV damage is fierce on finishes as you can see it on the cars; trashed finishes but no rust.

As they say: Location, Location, Location!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/18/08 09:49:22 EST

Condensation: What drives this beast to indoor steel is the insulating value of the building which keeps metal a constant (cool) temperature while the air and the humidity it can carry varies.

In an unheated shop the cool nights cool the steel and then the building holds it at that temperature longer than if outdoors in the sun. Then when the air temperature rises during the day it carries much more moisture which is then sucked out of the air by the cold steel. This can be particularly bad in the spring when temperatures vary widely and there is plentiful moisture. I have seen standing water 1/8" deep on every surface of every heavy tool such as anvils and machine tools. This includes the sides and undersides where you would expect the water to run off. The slowly condensing water has great surface tension that holds the water in place in ways that sprayed or poured on water would not.

Keeping a constant temperature in the shop by heating it greatly reduces the problem of condensation and thus rust.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 10:05:25 EST

UV Damage: I've never had trouble with this until I moved into Paw-Paws plastic walled shop. The light is wonderful, but everything made of plastic is aging rapidly and wood darkens as if in the direct sun. Items he bought new and hung on the plastic walls are heavily bleached in just a few years.

UV not only effects plastics but a lot of rubber and paint pigments. The most telling effect is shadow damage where items have a shadow over them and age unevenly.

You don't think you have many plastic tools until you look at frames and guards on power tools, ladders, storage containers . . . All aging more rapidly because of the building design.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 10:14:38 EST

Power hammers, Somehow I missed this whole discusion. I built a modified version of "Rusty" The most important change, was that I added a flywheel between the motor and the crankshaft pully. This is actualy a jackshaft, with a 16" pulley at one end, an old 16" lathe face plate at the other end and a 4" dia.x 4" wide flat belt pulley inbetween. The flat belt runs to the crank pully, wich I made from a 3" long section of 12" pipe(well crowned). An idler pulley, engaged by the foot petal tightens the flat belt, for clucth and speed control. The flywheel stores energy, and enables very smooth starts, one hit blows, or machine gun style hammering. I also made a bronze lined slide wich is ajustable, with bolts and locknuts. I have read disparaging remarks about appalacian hammers, but they must have been built improperly. This hammer works every bit as well, if not better than Robert S. Jordans 75# dupont. Yes it was a lot of machine work, but you get what you pay for. Pictures of hammer are at irondesign-ne.com. The ram is 70#, anvil is 9" h.r. rd.bar, base is 28"x40"x1.5"
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 03/18/08 13:01:51 EST

Thomas: Re: boiling red rust. " Boiling red rust in water is a known method of converting it to black rust." Certainly there's more to it than that. I just tried a couple of red rusty nails in boiling water, and now I have hot, wet, red rusty nails. What did I miss?
   Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 03/18/08 13:39:59 EST

Well in traditional firearm rust bluing you take the piece of rusted steel out of your damp box and card the loose rust off and boil it for about 5 minutes in deionized or distilled water to darken.

I don't know why your test isn't working.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/18/08 15:44:45 EST

John C:

Looks like a powerhouse alright. Can't tell from the pic, but it looks like there is an inch or so of play where the spring engages the ram to account for work/die thickness. Is that right? Was it difficult to calculate the spring required? And what about those pillow blocks??? They are massive!! This helve mechanism looks like it is going to make more sense for me than to try to clone the Dupont geometry, but I think I would scale it for maybe 25 lbs. What do you think? (PS: is this located on the Island?)
   Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 03/18/08 16:27:29 EST

Thomas, I believe the boiling is done in water with sodium hydroxide. . . Looked it up. PURE water works on absolutely clean rusted metal. However, any contaminants including hard water or common water treatment chemicals will cause it to fail. - reference, Firearm Blueing and Browing by R.H. Angier.

Real distilled water is required. Note I said "real", it is common today to sell filtered water as distilled.

When tramp oil is a problem sodium hydroxide is added to the water and may be why one method I read always required this in the boiling solution.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 16:46:49 EST

John Christiansen, It will be interesting to see how it changes your work. A good power hammer revolutionizes most shops.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 17:02:54 EST

John Christiansen,
Very nicely done hammer. Mine is on the Powerhammer page here on anvilfire. Mine started as a 32# and has been rebuilt to 45#. I like the ran guide, and may borrow some of those elements as mine is too light.

Peter Hirst, as I had posted the Rusty style(Applacian) hammers are easy to scrounge up and fab up. I do not see the inch or so of play at the spring/ram you mention. These hammers have rollers to allow for the difference in arc lenght as the ram cycles. Mine has a bit of clearance, about 1/8" between the rollers and the spring, and I will tighten that to about 1/32" if I rebuild the ram and slide. The springs are a cut and try type of thing. But these are simple flat leaf springs and so easy and cheap to obtain, and if you end up with castoffs provide good tool stock:0
I would reccomend to any who build this type hammer to build a stout hood around the spring and ram to contain any flying debris if something fails.
I have had a number of smiths with other style hammers try mine and remark favorable on the controlability and the hard hitting power after the spare tire clutch change. Several also remarked on the sloppy guides:(
   Ptree - Tuesday, 03/18/08 17:22:06 EST

How are the parts of a camp fire cooking tripod put together?
ty in advance
   - tm - Tuesday, 03/18/08 18:24:30 EST

Ptree, Thanks. I checked out your hammer. Very cool. Peter H, Jerry Allen engineered the spring size for me. I bought his plans(found em here on anvilfire) and called him with questions.The 4" pillow blocks were in stock (free) and they look cool. Not sure what you mean by 1" space. If you look at Ptree's pictures on the power hammer page, there is a close up of the ram/spring interface. A 25# hammer would certainly be cheaper to build, But as the Guru says, the big hammer will do all the work of the small hammer but not vice versa.
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 03/18/08 18:45:51 EST

TM, depends on the type of tripod, I've seen punched holes with a bolt---requires bending the legs so they will be at the appropriate angles with the top constrained like that.

The type I usually do has 2 legs that the tops are bent to form a U and one leg that the top is bent into a circle so they all come apart and store flat and can be used for a two uprights and a crossbar type system too.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/18/08 18:55:20 EST

Sloppy Guides: This is not a problem in most common types of forging under a small power hammer. However, as soon as you try to do artistic forging using fullering tools, working on the edges of the dies, do close work in corners then loose guides become a serious problem. When the top die can shift it pushes the tools or work sideways often spitting out the work. Many of the free hand forging techniques taught at the Power Hammer School are very difficult if the dies shift sideways as the strike. Shifting dies also makes "misstrike" type marks when forging.

Besides the difficulty working the loose guides result in excessive wear and friction losses. While guides need to be snug they also need to alow free movement of the ram. Slight tapers and irregularities make it difficult to obtain the balance of snugness and smooth easy motion.

One caution about making guide systems is that large surface areas can be problematic. If large flat surfaces are used DO NOT use grease. The shear force of a greased surface is very high especially under stop-start conditions which is all power hammers do. Oil must be used on large sliding areas. Good guide systems usually use narrow wear areas rather than very large areas.

The guide system on power hammers has always been an expensive part of the machine and often the weak link (as it is on Little Giants). It either requires lots of machining or careful design and a lot of drilled and tapped holes. The best systems were the old multi-V guides with long tapered gibs for adjustments. They reached their height during the 1950's and are no longer made except on the most expensive industrial machines. However, most new presses have gone to cylindrical guides using either plain or ball bushings for economical reasons. Many new machines also use high lubricity plastics such as oil filled nylon.

   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 18:59:06 EST

More Tripods: A popular yet simple design uses two legs with eyes forged on them (about 1-1/2 to 2" or ~50mm) The third has an S forged on the end with the open back leg of the S facing upwards and the attached front loop in line with the leg. This assembles as a tripod OR as a large spit. As a tripod the upper bend of the S rests in the rings of the other two legs and your pot support chain or trammel hangs from the hook formed by the back leg of the S. this is the break apart system that Thomas mentioned.

Another more complicated type uses ring captured in the eyes formed at the end of each leg. This type is thousands of years old. Some of these had a large ring to hold a pot within and others a small (about 4" to 6") ring to hold the parts together and to hang the pot from with a chain or trammel.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Reinactors like the first type because is can be used two ways. IF you are cooking from a pot you want a tripod. If cooking from a spit you need a horizontal. Note that the top bar is rarely used as a spit but is used as a support for two equal length S hooks and smaller spit with a handle.

Paw-Paw used to make several large sets of these from 1/2" by 5 foot long bar for every show he did with reenactors and usually sold more than he started with.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/18/08 19:30:02 EST


I've lived, worked and used tools in a wide range of climates, from the Colorado Rockies to the Arizona desert, to my current location on a small island in the Caribbean. I've experienced most of the problems you allhave mentioned, and I've found a few pretty good solutions.

In my salt-laden air and tropical climate, rust is a given unless you take very aggressive measures to combat it. For machine tools, either for wood or metal working, I use a coat or two of Birchwood Casey's SatinShield followled up with a couple of coats of Renaissance wax on the tables. This will last a long time if touched up with Ren wax after use. The SatinShield is an acrylic/stearate polymer and the Renaissance wax is a microcrystalline wax.

For my anvils, hammers, raising stakes and the like, I use a product called Bullfrog Rust Blocker. It is a vapor corrosion inhibitor (VCI) that is highly effective for months in my climate. It does seem to help prevent condensation, as well. It leaves the surface with a slightly "waxy" feel and I use it for most all my hand and power tools and table tops, too.

For areas where heavy condensation is an issue, the best thing I've found is Vaseline. It is just a purer form of the old military Cosmoline that has been used to rust-proof metal for decades. It is also a whole lot easier to remove than Cosmoline! I use Vaseline on surfaces that are subject to either condensation or accidental water. Another product that works really well for metal that needs both rust protection and lubrication is Bullfrog Lubricating Rust Preventer. I use that on machine ways, gears, etc. Works a treat. Boeshield T-9 is another great product, but I don't use it due to its high cost and the fact that it is classed as a "haz-mat" and cannot be mailed through the Post Office. Bullfrog Rust Blocker, on the other hand, is not a haz-mat and can be mailed, so it gets my vote.

I dislike WD-40 as it gums very quickly in my climate and isn't all that great a barrier film anyway. I'd rather use chain bar oil, as it won't run off or gum. ATF is good, too. I use it for stuff like pneumatic shafts and other things with seals that may be destroyed by WD-4o or other "miracle" oils. When in doubt, remember that ATF is seal-friendly.

One thing that will go a long ways toward preventing condensation on your tools is simply keeping the air moving. Keep a fan going all the time. Even a fairly small one will make a big difference and costs little to run. Cloth covers, as Jock mentioned, work wonders. Never use plastic!

Any surfaces that you handle will get skin oils, acids and salt transferred to them, creating an ideal surface for the formation of condensation, rust and corrosion. Make it a habit to wipe down all your tools when you put them down or put them away.

Wood tool boxes and drawers are vastly superior to metal ones for keeping tools rust free. Wood doesn't change temperature so rapidly as metal and doesn't condense water from the air. It can also be treated with camphor to inhibit rust. On the other hand, sawdust on metal surfaces acts like silver iodide in a cloud; it creatres a place for water vapor to coalesce into condensation. Blow the sawdust off your wood tools frequently, and then wax them with the Renaissance wax.

As previously noted, the fumes from most acids, notably muriatic, will attack steel immediately. So will the steam from quenching in brine. Battery acid (sulfuric acid) is another offender - never charge wet-cell batteries inside your shop. Fertilizer will foster rust, as will anything that gives off chlorine fumes. THINK about all the stuff you have in your shop that may be causing you problems and then work to eliminate or quarantine them. By taking an aggressive attitude about rust in my shop, I have all but eliminated it, and this is in a marine environment. If I can do it, you certainly can too. I hope this helps you get started on living without rust.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 03/18/08 22:08:07 EST

can you use a cast iron skillet as your fire pot when building your own forge?
   wayne r - Wednesday, 03/19/08 00:02:33 EST

Guru, Ken, Mike BR, philip in china, Thanks for all the great suggestions about the ring problem.
   brian kennedy - Wednesday, 03/19/08 02:25:11 EST

Into the Frying Pan: Wayne, it might be possible but if you are making a DIY forge cutting the necessary holes is probably going to be difficult at this point.

One reason for using old automobile rims and brake drums is there is about a 1-1/2" hole in the center of most. Some wheels are a much better shape than a brake drum but most brake drums are shallow enough that they do not need notching. The exception is heavy truck drums which I do not recommend.

The ideal proportions of a fire pot are about the same as the top part of your head above your eyes and has sloping sides like an upside down pyramid. Outside of that you want some flat space for the coal reserve. When using junk to build a forge you either end up deeper which requires cut outs for long bar or you end up shallower which requires mounded coal or charcoal. Flat or shallow is better than too deep if you can afford the fuel.

Auto wheels often have lots of extra holes and open spaces. However, it is easier to plug the extra places with sheet metal than to make new holes. Some of the extra bolt or lightening holes can be used to attach legs if necessary.

Another method of building a DIY forge is to use a large pan or box of some sort. In the Forge and Anvil series, Alan Rogers uses a steel wheelbarrow pan and shapes the firepot and coal reserve using clay. See our Book Review page. There is a clickable detail.

The same type forge has been built for millenia using a wood box about 30" (750mm) square. However, metal parts and pieces are much more readily available today and much safer as they will not catch fire. Use the same twyeer assembly we use in our brake drum forge plans and you will have a pretty good shop forge. The advantage to the earth and clay formed bottom is that it is cheap and easy to change as you learn what works best for you.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/19/08 09:07:59 EST

I've seen several small "frying pan forges"; more of a one trick pony and better for real charcoal than using coal. They are usually not as deep as one would want for "real" forging, though you could put a fence inside to provide a decent depth for a charcoal forge.

My brine quench stays about 20 feel away from the shop and in an area that wouldn't notice if it got knocked over. About time to replace the holder as it like to rust a bit...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/19/08 09:45:59 EST

Over the past few years I have become really interested in becoming a blacksmith, I'm 20 years old and live in South Bend, Indiana and after doing some searching, I can't really find blacksmiths in this area, basically I'm lost in how to become a blacksmith, I've read the getting started section and found it helpful, though I'm kinda limited where I live.I really don't want to travel long distances to find a blacksmith, I figure if I can meet a blacksmith I will learn a lot more than just by reading books, so if anyone knows a blacksmith in my area and how to get into contact with him/her will be greatly appreciated.
   tony in south bend - Wednesday, 03/19/08 13:15:44 EST

Tony; I started with a good blacksmithing book back around 1981. Seems to have worked to some degree, have you checked the book reviews here?

Or you could go to the ABANA Chapter link under Navigate Anvilfire; check out the Indiana Blacksmiths Association page, go to their satallite groups page and it looks like they have a group meeting in South Bend!

St. Joe Valley Forgers (St. Joseph County)

Meetings of the St. Joe Valley Forgers are held on the fourth Saturday of the month starting at 9 a.m. at the residence of Bill Conyers in South Bend. For more information contact John Latowski at (574) 255-6209 or Bill Conyers at (574) 277-8729.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/19/08 14:47:47 EST

Hi . Any information on Middle Tennessee blacksmith associations? I am a FABA member, and it looks like I'll be heading to Tn. in late summer.
   Gator - Wednesday, 03/19/08 15:21:50 EST

Looking for Smiths, Learning: Most blacksmiths are not listed in the phone directory as "blacksmith". You are more likely to find horseshoers than smiths. Look under ironworks and railings. In this category there are both blacksmiths and fabricators. Many are both.

As Thomas noted there are groups all over the country. They may not be in your back yard but they ARE THERE and close enough to travel to. One of my long time friends was a 2-1/2 hour drive away and I did it many times in a beat to pieces 1950 Chevy 3/4T pickup.

As to books, you better learn to study them. Shop time is often worth $100 to $200 and hour and someone MAY give you some of their valuable time. You do not want to waste it. They should not have to coach you on the common things found in books. When someone comes to me to learn the first thing I do is offer them use of my library. If they do not take advantage of it then I do not waste any more time with them. If you are REALLY interested in a subject you will study everything you can find on it. Even studying the pictures is an education.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/19/08 15:23:56 EST

Gator there are two listed for TN at the abana chapter link found off the Navigate Anvilfire menu at the top right hand corner of this panel; not knowing where in TN they are at I can't tell you how close. if you are lucky they will be to either side of you and you can get to play with both groups!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/19/08 16:47:11 EST

Tony in South Bend
I am a member of the IBA, and the IBA is a very active organization. The satallite groups also are active. Go, meet new friends and learn.
The annual association meeting in Tipton IN in June is a very worthwile event. A nice laid back few days, and cheap as well.
   Ptree - Wednesday, 03/19/08 17:30:06 EST

Gator, TN is a lonesome place for blacksmithing. Contact Ken Scharabock on this board for some contact information.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 03/19/08 18:21:55 EST

Look on the bright side -Tenessee might present an opportunity to make a living doing what you enjoy, if there aren't too many other smiths in the area.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 03/19/08 19:49:16 EST

Casting Question,
I am one of the many people you would see here that are new to Metal Work. I am a Civil Engineer by trade and have some knowledge of Metal/steel properties. My question lays in Casting metal replicas of an object. I wish to cast several copies of a 3 feet high snake (it is cast iron but i would recast in a different metal for durability sake) the snake is actually the leg and back support (one piece, identical for both legs, no LHS or RHS differences) of an extremely old chair so as you can see it is a medium size object. what i would like to know is if you could point me in the general direction of some appropriate casting methods that you think may be suitable for an object of this size (object has scales which is probably the finest detail on the piece) Any help to start me out on this venture would be greatly appreciated. Also feel free to ask any questions of me.
   AussieNewbie - Wednesday, 03/19/08 20:18:39 EST

Casting: Aussie Newbie, I would recommend you start small and work up. A three foot casting is a considerably large casting. To give you an idea start with the weight of the casting. I am guessing a volume of a minimum of 35 cuin. In brass that is 11 pounds, in aluminium 3.5, zinc 9.1. Multiply that by at least 1.5 for runners and risers. So you have 16 to 20 pounds of brass. That will need to be handled at the end of a pouring shank or tongs about 18" away. Put 16 pounds on a three foot long stick and try to carry it, control it, carefully manipulate it. Then remember that it will be about 2,000°F and the metal liquid and moving. Often this amount of metal is handled with a helper using a two man crucible shank. Do you have friends that will help in your foundry?

Setting up to melt is no problem. A small propane crucible furnace will melt any of the above listed metals in about 20 minutes.

Making the mold is an art. To copy a piece you can use the original but it makes a heavy pattern and much of the corner detail has already been lost. The best way is to make a resin copy using a rubber or plaster mold then dressing the new pattern to enhance the detail. THIS is then used to make the molds which can be sand or plaster. For work this size either will do.

Plaster will give you the best detail but there is a significant learning curve and equipment to setup. Petro bond sand or the jeweler's version called "Delft Clay" is easy to use and will give good results.

We have several iForge demos on small casting and mold making. However, there are some good backyard foundry sites that cover the entire process from a DIY standpoint quit well.

Good luck! Its a fun hobby. Just be safe. Don't skimp on the safety gear.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/19/08 21:34:20 EST

There are two associations in middle TN that I am aware of. One is in murfreesboro and meets every monday night in Cannonsburg historic area next to the farmers market. They start at 7:00. They are extremely helpful to new people and are very generous with their time. The other is in chattanooga. I am not sure of their meeting times or dates. I live about half way in between the two and have been meaning to check out the chattanooga association but have not had the time to do so.
   cgross - Wednesday, 03/19/08 22:10:13 EST

Gator. TN is somewhat three states in one because it is so long horizonally. The eastern third (perhaps from Crossville to Bristol) is covered by the Applanchian Area Artist-Blacksmithing Ass'n. From about KY Lake to Memphis it is covered by the River Bluff Blacksmithing group, based out of the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis. In Central TN there is the Rutherford County Blacksmithing Ass'n, which, I believe, meets somewhere around Lebanon. I suspect the group which meets at Cannonsburg is a council of, or associated with, the Appalachian group.

I know of only three blacksmiths in Humphreys and Dickson counties. Myself (mostly a tool maker), one who does mostly interior ornamental iron work and another who does mostly restoration/recreation work for designers/builders.

You are welcome to come by my shop near Waverly (about six miles east of KY Lake and about 14 miles north of I-40).
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 03/20/08 03:57:33 EST

Aussie Newbie, you might contacr Stewart Marshall on marshall@rockisland.com He is the author of a book on the subject.
   - philip in china - Thursday, 03/20/08 04:12:16 EST

Has anybody here ever built a woodworking lathe? Is it difficult? Any ideas?
   - philip in china - Thursday, 03/20/08 06:43:47 EST

After last night I give up!!!
A friend gave me several large sheets of "flat metal" for the hood on my new forge setup, cleaning the rust and cutting is no problem, but these sheets were cut off some kind of cement truck with a torch and are badly warped.
How does a dumb red neck manage to turn warped flat metal sheets into something usable????? I am using 2 diff sizes, and the thickest is just too much for little 3 lb hammer (3/16"). I was able to "sort of" fix the thin sheet (prob 14 ga) by turning high side up and beating down (obviously the metal streches and the only way to get the "thin sheet" strait was to leave serious hammer tracks (not very professional). I would really like to know some "trick" in order to use the scrap metal (the machine shops around here are very proud of sheets.)
   - Nathan - Thursday, 03/20/08 07:50:46 EST

Smithing in Tennessee:

Quenchcrack is just jealous because he lived in the Mississippi River mud near Reelfoot lake, where few folks in their right minds would want to go... (grin!)

Tennessee is actually about hip-deep in smiths and smithing guilds.I don't have a recent newsletter handy, but the one from 2006 sitting on my desk here shows SIX groups meeting around middle TN. The cities are Lynchburg, Murfreesboro, Mt. Juliet, Cookeville, Lawrenceburg, and Clarksville. Tennessee really is three states in one, as you'll come to find out. Here in the upper right-hand corner my local guild, Bristol Forge at Rocky Mount, has about 40-50 members. The Knoxville (central east TN) area group, the Clinch River Guild, has about the same as far as I know. The Chattanooga group (southern east TN, not middle!) is even bigger.

All these groups meet at least monthly, some more often. Let us know where you are moving and I'll find a current newsletter with contact info for you.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 03/20/08 08:17:38 EST

Working Sheet: Nathan, There are a few "tricks" to it but mostly it is very frustrating to make flat again.

The first problem may be that this is abrasion resistant steel which may be quite a bit harder than plain carbon steel. In either case it would help to anneal the entire sheet. This may require a bonfire to get the whole piece evenly heated.

The second problem is that it may have been galvanized.

To take high stretch marks out you need to heat them to a low red and tap them down. With skill you can sometimes just heat with the torch and let cool. But if this is galvanized steel you will be burning the zinc (or other even more toxic metals) off as you heat it. If galvanized then forget it.

You will find that clean annealed sheet the exact thickness and size you need is worth the price. Bent or deformed sheet can be worked to other shapes but flat is the most difficult.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 08:21:13 EST

I won't be forging for a while. Check the following link for the story. I'll be alright, back on my feet (foot) in a month or two.

   - Nippulini - Thursday, 03/20/08 09:02:52 EST

Wood Lathe Construction: Phillip, These are fairly easy to build depending on the size of the job you are doing and how modern you want to be.

Early wood lathes were made primarily of wood, the only metal parts being the spindle and the tailstock center.

Two parallel wood ways (about 2x4" or 2x6") support the head and the tailstock. The tailstock and tool support are known as "puppets" and are a simple block with an extension that extends between the ways and is held in place with a wedge.

There are two types of head stock. A dead head, and a live head. A dead head is merely a part supporting a center point that the work spins on. The work is spun by a belt wrapped around the work. A dead head may be part of the leg on that end of the lathe. A live head is two pieces similar to the puppets. They support the iron spindle which has a wood pulley fabricated around it. The bearings can be just the wood with some oil OR soft metal (lead or brass inserts). Fine grained oiled hardwood inserts work well. Drill an oil hole just as you would a metal bearing. The spindle should be round and polished where it runs on the bearings.

The tailstock puppet can be simply wedged OR the center can be on a threaded rod for fine adjustment. I have made these with the stock split with a saw and a clamp screw added to prevent the tailstock screw from turning.

The tool rest puppet usually has a hole to receive various length tool rests that come to the center line of the work. YOu can also just have a variety of puppets.

Anywhere I use wedges such as in the puppets I like to cross drill the part and insert a brass pin to prevent the middle section from splitting out from the wedge. Besides strengthening the parts it is a nice artistic touch.

The drive system for the lathe can be a spring pole OR actual spring, which creates an oscillating rotation in two directions. More complex is a great wheel and treadle. This drives a belt which can be wrapped around the work OR drive a live head. An electric motor is a cheap slave. . .

Work is driven by a fork shaped spindle end where the center supports the work and the side "tines" stick into the work to drive it. Some early lathes had a square tapered socket to support different drive points or even a "face plate". These few metal parts and the turning chisels were made by the blacksmith and the rest by the wood worker.

The above description is of the type lathe built in the 17th and 18th century. They still hold up and do nice work. There are places in the world where two trees and a spring pole are still used. . . From this description you can interchange metal parts, use pillow block bearings. . . I have only built one of the above type lathes. It was given to a friend without benifit of photos. . . I have another in progress using pillow blocks and a metal spindle with Morse taper and threaded noses. It was designed to handle large diameters on the outboard end. The tailstock also has a Morse taper for using commercial dead and live centers.

The last wood lathe I operated was at Alti's. It was a cheap sheet metal thing Paw-Paw gave him. In just a couple seconds I had a crowd of people covered in wood shavings and in about five minutes had turned a belaying pin from a curved scrap of apple wood. . .

Wood turning is fast and fun once you get the hang of it. AND, while turning tools ARE different plain chisels and gouges can be used.

If you need details see The Woodwrights Shop, A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft and other books by Roy Underhill.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 09:11:05 EST

TGN! Thanks for having enough sense to wear your seat belt. As a volunteer firefighter I have had to deal with the results of people who didn't. And a bit of gallows humour, as soon as I saw the word "pinto" I wondered how bad was the fire...

Anyway, listen to the Docs, and get your self well.
   JimG - Thursday, 03/20/08 09:26:39 EST

Heh heh.. I'm keeping in very good spirits... no fire though, it wasnt a rear ender!
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 03/20/08 09:35:26 EST

Crippleini? TGN, Sorry about the accident. Yes, it could have been much worse in that old Pinto. However, when we bought out first Dodge van I noted that it was several hundred pounds lighter than the smaller lower Pinto wagon we had at the time. Hard to believe a Pinto could be the sturdier vehical. . .

I recently (new years eve day) wrecked my Dodge van. My fault, ran into the back of some cars stopped to make a turn on a rural road. The collision was not as bad as it could have been as I was braking hard (just too late) and was thinking I MIGHT make it. . . I didn't. Totaled my van. Seat belts saved me (and the people I hit) from any injuries. The hit was hard enough I would have had internal injuries from the steering wheel and I MIGHT have hit the windshield.

About four years ago while visiting my friends in Costa Rica my friend made a real bonehead move and backed left into a deep (8 feet) drainage ditch instead of a nice flat driveway. When everything stopped I found myself hanging upside down with my head bent sideways from the crumpled roof. It took a few minutes to figure out how to get out of the belt with 300+ pounds hanging from it. . . But other than some scratches from crawling over broken glass to get out I was not injured. It could have easily been worse AND in a third world country hours away from a hospital.

That is twice in five years and I do not travel that much. In my "old" age I have gotten to driving like someones' greandmother most of the time. . . __it still happens.

Wear seat belts and live longer and with less pain!
   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 09:35:50 EST

TGN did you talk to the surgeon about getting old Ti parts to forge into items for piercing or magic use?

Good that it should work out for you; but please don't blow the money! I had a friend doing landscaping in AR with as fellow who had a massive settlement from a burn case---was never supposed to work outdoors due to lack of sweat glands; but blew the money and was landscaping in AR summers, shudder. Mortgage is a good investment. Recovery time is a great time to read and sketch and scratch...

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/20/08 10:01:41 EST

Casting: one problem many people don't realize is that if you cast a piece from the original it will be *smaller*! As most alloys shrink when they cool. So the original master was larger so the piece would shrink to the correct size.

For most art work it's not a problem but for replacement pieces it can be depending on the tolerances.

They make a special rule called a shrink rule for laying out masters that has the scale expanded for different metals so that the piece will come out to the correct size when cast.
I picked up one at a fleamarket once that did 4 metals: cast iron, brass, Al and cast steel IIRC; gave it to a friend who did hobby foundry work.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/20/08 10:05:42 EST

Re, plans for a wood lathe
The current issue of "Home Shop MAchinist" has complete plans for an updated version of the wood late in "The Wheelwrights Shop". Be warned, assumes the use of a good metal lathe, milling machine, welding, Etc. The final product is very nice, for a treadle powered lathe. If you do undertake the project, It would be interesting to see a more traditional blacksmith approach to the metal bits, primarily the headstock spindle and bearings.
   - Dave Lawrence - Thursday, 03/20/08 12:07:07 EST

I haven't found much relating to the forging of steel vessels (pots, bowls, cups, woks, etc.)... anyone know of anything? I'm in the mood to try some housewares
   - Drew - Thursday, 03/20/08 14:56:31 EST

Alan-L, Left TN IS a lonesome place for a smith! I recently moved to Houston and joined HABA and enjoy every meeting! Bought a new 100# TFS anvil just for the club meetings, to boot!
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 03/20/08 16:41:10 EST

I am building a forge (coal and a propane one) but wil for the coal forge will normal bircks stand the heat of coal or lump charcoal?? seen a propane forge with'em once but not sure if i should or not
   - Jacob Lockhart - Thursday, 03/20/08 17:03:20 EST

Drew, look under raising and dishing. Many early medieval pots were riveted wrought iron. I generally dish using the bottom of a scrapped high pressure gas cylinder or a toroid from a military hitch as the dishing form.

It really helps to have your hammer face ground to a gentle spherical curve and for deep dishing you will need a hammer with a long neck to get down deep. I make such hammers from RR bolts (not spikes!) slitting it back in the screw zone and drifitng it for a hammer handle. I also like to cant them so that the bolt head follows my swing path and hits true.

If you want carefree items think about forging them out of a good stainless or even Ti. Iron or steel will rust if not taken care of. I season most of my hand forged cookware.

so what do you want to know?

Oh Yes, curved red hot sheet metal makes a great IR emitter that always seems to focus on the hand holding the tongs!
   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/20/08 17:34:59 EST

QC: As I said, West TN has never been fit for human habitation, much less smithing! (grin!) You just can't trust a place with no bedrock within 1200 feet of the surface dirt, I always say...
   Alan-L - Thursday, 03/20/08 18:47:22 EST

Dishing and Raising: See our Armoury page and NEWS covering the West Virgina Armour-Ins.

   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 20:55:50 EST

Refractory Brick: Jacob, These come in all kinds of ratings AND there are all kinds of forges. In most coal forges the heat goes UP and there is an ash and fuel bed to protect the bottom. Often steel or cast iron with much lower temperature resistance than brick is used. However, the metal conducts heat and self cools. Many old forges were made with nothing more than common red brick. . .

Gas forge linings are different as they are directly heated by the hottest gas. They must take temperatures that will melt steel and boil low temperature clays like ceramic slip. Gas forge linings benefit from coatings of ITC-100 which has a temperature rating far in excess of the gas fire.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 21:01:41 EST

Wood Lathe: I went home today to pickup a load of tools (the never ending move) and ALMOST picked up my parts for the project wood lathe. It has a set of three face plates of different sizes. The outboard spindle nose is 1-7/8" Left hand and the inboard 1-1/4" Right hand. I REALLY need to finish this project.

Another design: My hippie dippy w__ dream lathe had a laminated and sculpted shell that looked like an old 1940-50's streamlined machine tool. Image a more stylish version of the old Southbend 16" tool room lathe but with wood laminates . . . The old Southbend had an enclosed flat belt drive with a shift lever and hidden primary drive in the base. Works for me as well. This lathe had the same metal spindle I described above with laminated hard wood ways and a massive brass pin reinforced tailstock with redwood wear plates.

I have seen wood lathes that nearly outweighed metal turning lathes of the same size. The fancy Holtzfeld mechanisims used on silver plate were also used on ivory and hardwood. . In fact the earliest Holtzfeld lathes had wood frames supporting the intricate gearing.

You can but a little or a LOT into a wood lathe. They all work and do reasonable work. You can also use a junk metal turning lathe that is missing gears, carriage and drive parts. All that needs to work is spindle and the tailstock. However, the carriage can be used to do some precision wood machining such as for pattern parts.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 21:17:12 EST

Even more lathes. . .: SOMEWHERE in a book about New England mills there was a sidebar about a lathe built for the mill with a black granite bed. . . The stone age meets the machine age. It had cast iron parts other than the bed.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/20/08 21:20:15 EST

TGN, sorry to hear of the accident, get well as soon as You can.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 03/20/08 21:31:49 EST

Wood lathe: My Dad built one for My uncle, the bed was a pair of stout timbers and the other parts were plywood and lumber. He used a salvaged something or another for a headstock spindle, looks kind of like a riding mower blade spindle. A junk electric motor with shafts out each end would work well too. junk motors are usefull for ready made jackshafts too, Our present wood late uses one in the drive.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 03/20/08 21:40:55 EST

Scrap metal lathe for wood: When I was a kid We had one rigged up this way, We held a washing machine motor in the chuck on 1 end and the other on the steady rest, 1 spead, 1750 rpm, deal with it. The drive center was built from a 1/2" treaded adapter sold [by Sears at the time] to mount grinding wheels on a motor. The tool rest was a 3/8 x 3/4 bar held in the toolpost. I turned a lot of candle sticks on this contraption.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 03/20/08 21:47:21 EST

On wooden wood lathes...
In an old shop near Seattle’s ship canal resided an ancient spar lathe. It made the masts and spars for sailing ship in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was flat belt driven to a massive cast iron pulley set in a heavy timber head stock with babbit bearings. The bed when I saw it was two heavy timbers about 12 feet long, but originally was much longer. It was still in use making parking lot “bollards” (stout, short, and 10 to 12 inch round vertical sections set into the pavement). The utility crew would drop off sections of used power polls, maybe 6 feet long, and the shop would hoist into the lathe between centers, then turn 3 square grooves and a champher on the top end. Every once in a while the pole ends would be a bit punky and it would start walking out from between either the head or tail stock. The operator would then quickly kill the power and dive under the bed and watch the piece of utility pole sail across the shop. The inertia of spinning the pole at maybe 600-800 rpm was considerable. I don’t know if it is still in use, but I have seen fresh looking bollards set up in Seattle Parks parking lots over the years.

Ernie Conover used to sell a lathe kit of the metal parts; you add the head and tail stock and bed. They stopped making the kits in 2002, but go to http://bedair.org/ConoverLathe/Conover.html
To see how one was made - a real beauty.
   Bob Johnson - Thursday, 03/20/08 22:11:24 EST

I am a straight forward guy so I'm going to get to the point with as few side tracks as possible.

First: My goal is to become a sword smith, and not i am not a nerdy guy the plays to many video games, and yes i know know a swords a weapon and its purpose is to kill another man, but in my eye it is still a beautiful peace of art and stand for honor and sacrafice (PS excuse my bad grammer & spelling) moving, have little to no experince but i was a boat builder for a year, we built them for wood so i am not knew to tools hard work or patience.

Second: I need to find a good book for making small but not tiny forge with a foot operated billow, i am looking more so to make japanese sword such as katana's i believe that called forge wleding or folding not sure any way i not that far in my sreach first thing i need to do is build a forge, but i going to have to build it by hand and i am not a macin so this book needs to be a 101 idoit guide if ya get me dirft. i am not worry about cost but i would like it to be something i can pic up at my local barns and noble or boreders book store ya know so i dont have to treavel far to get it as for the sword making part ill get to that when the times comes i believe in taking life one stupid F***ing at a time caugh ys later peace.
   Branden - Thursday, 03/20/08 23:26:08 EST

i am wondering about forging zinc coated all thread- i've read some articles about metal fume fever and curious about any advice anyone may have...
   reds - Friday, 03/21/08 00:48:17 EST

i am wondering about forging zinc coated all thread- i've read some articles about metal fume fever and curious about any advice anyone may have...
   reds - Friday, 03/21/08 00:50:46 EST

Alan-l, AMEN! But it beats out eastern Arkansas! Made a 100 mile round trip daily just so I didn't have to live in Blytheville!
   quenchcrack - Friday, 03/21/08 05:40:53 EST

Zinc plated all-thread: Reds, it depends on the size and the type of coating. On typical hardware store all-thread and other hardware the zinc is a very thin coating designed to keep the stock from rusting on the shelf. On small pieces (say 1/2" diameter) heated and forged outdoors it should not be a problem. High quality galvanizing is dipped and quite thick. It usually requires special oversize nuts to fit. There are also mil-spec varieties that are cadmium plated.

These heavier coated items should not be burned off and are too much of a hazzard to deal with. Cadmium fumes are just plain lethal even in small quantities. Zinc fumes can make you sick but are generally not lethal unless your system is compromised or complications set in. Its not recommended. A case of metal fume fever with the current cold/flue I have would would require expensive hospitalization . . . I could probably beat off one, but not two.

If you burn the zinc off a small piece of hardware be sure to burn it all off and do not try working it while it is flaring. As noted, do it outdoors and stay upwind of the fumes. Be aware of anyone downwind. . . Clean it afterward in a mild acid solution such as vinegar. Note that the dry white zinc oxide is the active ingrediant in many skin drying powders and you should not get it on you skin or ingest any of it.
   - guru - Friday, 03/21/08 07:34:19 EST

Small Forge: Braden, most forges are not foot powered due to balance issues while working. Hand power is the rule unless you have some physical problem. In that case I would recommend and electric blower.

Most hand operated bellows and hand crank blowers can be easily converted to foot operation if you want. A link and a treadle and you are there. Worse case you may have to add a counterweight. It is simple mechanics that any would be sword smith or experianced mechanic should be able to easily set up.

Forge firebox construction is covered in most of the books on Japanese sword smithing and almost all the books on blacksmithing. You will need to obtain and study these for more than just the forge, but it is covered.

You have apparently looked at our article on sword making. The important part of it is the reference list. Start with the books. This is a technical subject that requires study from written materials.

Your local book store is unlikely to stock most of the books we recommend. However, they MAY be able to order them. You will get them faster by searching for them on-line. Most are also available from libraries and ILL.

   - guru - Friday, 03/21/08 07:52:17 EST

Brenden if you are in the USA your local public library should be able to "Inter Library Loan", ILL, most any book you can think of.

Check them out that way before you decide which ones to actually buy.

Note you are quite a ways from needing your sword forge, you should learn the basics of forging and gain the hammer-eye skills before worrying about swords. What would you say to someone who came up to you saying thay had some blacksmithing experience but they wanted to build an America's Cup" racing yacht and how should they lay the keel?

I will be doing some forge welding today on an Anglo Saxon spear point project.

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/21/08 12:06:05 EST


Wow, that's gotta hurt! (Not that you can't handle pain, of course!) I hope you recover soon.

Lathes and Belaying Pins:

As soon as I finish the new forge building, I'm building a 12' X 12' (3.66 M square) wood shop 10 feet away (per code) from the forge, er, workshop; primarily to house Paw Paw's lathe and my woodworking and ship rigging tools. I quickly decided that wood turnings and forges would be incompatible in the much smaller building that I'm working on now, so I might as well build the extra shop for more room. The belaying pin that Jock referred to (above) was used last weekend at Jamestown Settlement's Military Through the Ages to secure the halyard on the Gyrfalcon. Jock does nice work. ;-)

Toshing on the Streets of D.C.:

Today, in addition to the normal random batch of nuts, bolts, washers and other useful hardware lying about the streets of D.C that I pick up on my lunchtime walk, I came across 17 welding rods marked "Excalibur 7018 H4R". Before I turn them over to my daughter for her use with her welders, is there any reasonable blacksmithing use that I can put them too?

Sunny, breezy and cool on the banks of the Potomac. I hope everyone has a nice Easter.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 03/21/08 13:21:26 EST

Bruce, be aware that the 7018 rods are very likely compromised as low hydrogen. However, dry them out properly and you can still weld with them. 7018 is called "drag rod" because you just drag it along the bead, not having to maintain any pull-back. If your daughter is a welder, she will prolly know all this. Blacksmithing use? Have her weld you up a tool rack with it!
   quenchcrack - Friday, 03/21/08 15:25:47 EST

I am a shop teacher and during my education what I learned was welding fabrication and so that is what I teach. However, I have some artistic students interested in coloring, not painting there projects. So regarding finishes - I am able to get clean scrap mild steel of a variety of sizes and thicknesses for free! That is the reason I would like to know how to give mild steel a color or patina so that I can teach my students. I would really appreciate anyones help. Thanks Bill C.
   Bill C. - Friday, 03/21/08 16:47:39 EST

Anybody know of a good supplier for a forge fan 150 + cfm? Thanks.
   Brooks - Friday, 03/21/08 16:59:08 EST


Blacksmith's Depot has just the forge blower you want:


This is the blower I use and recommend, as it is truly designed to be used for solid fuel forges.
   vicopper - Friday, 03/21/08 22:42:02 EST

Coloring Steel: Bill, There are two ways to color steel. Chemically which gives you, rust brown and dark rust, black and niter blue (gun bluing) Then there is temper colors. These are produced by heating clean polished steel in air to 300 to 600°F depending on the color desired. Using a steady temperature controlled oven you can put uniform temper colors on parts. Note however that temper colors are only an effect produced on the first molecule deep of the surface and has no depth. Oiling dims the colors. Lacquering them preserves the color the best but not forever.

Note that gun blues and browns slow rusting but do not stop it. These finishes need to be kept cleaned and oiled. Temper colors offer very little or no protection and must be protected from dimming or rusting with clear lacquer which is also not a good long term finish when applied directly over bare metal.

The BEST metal for heat coloring is Titanium. Brilliant colors!

   - guru - Friday, 03/21/08 23:33:58 EST

What do you smiths out there think about the idea of making a crude hand operated hydruolic press out of a hydruolic car jack. I was wondering if it might work.
   - John L. - Saturday, 03/22/08 00:05:42 EST

John L,

Don't waste your time on such a project, as you'll be sorely disappointed with the end result. Unless all you want to do with it is to seat bearings or smash pop cans terribly, agonizingly slowly.

For forging, a hydraulic press needs to be even bigger and faster than it does for almost anything else. The long time that the metal is in contact with the dies in a hydraulic forging press result in tremendous heat transfer, cooling the stock and heating the dies. This is true with an electrically powered press using a high-flow pump, and would be multiplied a hundredfold using a hand-pumped hydraulic jack. You could only get perhaps a tenth the movement of metal that you would with a real press, and you'd get really sick and tired of pumping that jack handle. A good hand hammer would be ten or more times as effective at moving the metal.
   vicopper - Saturday, 03/22/08 01:07:14 EST

Hi I am searching for advice on metal finishes. I like using clear lacquers on sculptural pieces and beeswax that I can melt on pieces small enough to warm up. I would like to find a wax recipe to give metal a smoky black finish without having to heat the metal up. Can you point me in the right direction? I really want to avoid paint. Thanks
   Dan - Saturday, 03/22/08 09:58:02 EST

Thanks for all the Tenn. smiths info. I am headed for Manchester, Tn. Wednesday and I will try to attend the Murfreesboro mtg.
   - Gator - Saturday, 03/22/08 16:24:45 EST

Hi there my names chris i'm a welder and i am very interested in trying some decorative forging. My question is what is the best type of paint for outside pieces to resist rust? is there a certain paint blacksmiths paticularly like or anything like that?
   Chris Hontz - Saturday, 03/22/08 21:26:18 EST

Hydraulic Press: Click for more. . .

A hydraulic car jack is a little under powered for most metalworking tasks but truck and heavy equipment lifting jacks from 10 to 100 tons are a different matter.

I have used the press in the above article to blank 16ga by 2.5" candle drip pans (several hundred in a few hours), notched slots in a stainless weldment, press shovel blanks, made bends and straightened mangled tools.

I have recently set this press back up for several upcoming jobs - refit truck stake fence pins and re-arc leaf springs for a machine.

The same 20T jack was also used in a much simpler and portable tension frame to straighten an 8 foot diameter flat ring about a foot wide and 1/4" thick. It was a machine brake disk that had been mangled in a handling incident. I spent several hours making the fixture and less than an hour straightening the part. THEN several more hours getting the tools out of a radiation environment. . .

I have seen tools made of old ratchet jacks and scissors jacks as well. It all depends on what you need or want to do. Even though the above is not suitable for forging I know people that use similar for making the initial weld in a laminated steel billet. It is NOT suitable for forging but might do some deep one-heat embossing.

   - guru - Saturday, 03/22/08 22:40:08 EST

Outdoor Paint: Chris, wrought work is no different than fabricated work when it comes to rust. It needs to be cleaned (sand blasted, grit blasted or chemically etched), hot or cold galvanized, primed then painted with a good UV resistant top coat. You can use automotive or industrial finishes. Black does NOT have to be the only color. Many pieces are extravagantly gilded and painted.

   - guru - Saturday, 03/22/08 22:44:30 EST

Dan - You might try one of the darkening patinas that SculptNouveau offers. I use them quite a bit with beautiful results.
   - dief - Saturday, 03/22/08 23:10:08 EST

Dan - You might try one of the darkening patinas that SculptNouveau offers. I use them quite a bit with beautiful results.
   dief - Saturday, 03/22/08 23:10:45 EST

Notes from the Old School:

Check out http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/5/6/2/15622/15622.htm

basically japanning, but a treasure trove of old school alchemy of other finishes for iron, including varnishes, electroplate and tinning Beware references to mercury compounds and the like.
   - Peter Hirst - Sunday, 03/23/08 07:29:12 EST

Notes from the Old School:

Check out http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/5/6/2/15622/15622.htm

basically japanning, but a treasure trove of old school alchemy of other finishes for iron, including varnishes, electroplate and tinning Beware references to mercury compounds and the like.
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 03/23/08 07:29:50 EST

Gator, the Murfreesboro group meets every monday at 7:00 PM in Cannonsburgh Pioneer Village, Murfreesboro.

There's a Lynchburg group that'd be a bit closer, they meet twice a month. Email Bruce, blacksmith@alscomputers.com. I don't know anything about either group, they're just listed in the latest newsletter. There's also a new group listed in McMinnville, email jabivens@blomand.net.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 03/23/08 08:05:36 EST

Even more lathes. . .: SOMEWHERE in a book about New England mills there was a sidebar about a lathe built for the mill with a black granite bed. . . The stone age meets the machine age. It had cast iron parts other than the bed.

When our tool room was getting it's first CNC lathe in the mid 1980's we went to Buffalo to (I forgot which company) and looked at a precision modern CNC lathe with a granite surface-plate-like bed. What did Solomon say? "nothing new under the sun".
(We opted for a heavier duty Cincinnati Milacron instead based on size and horsepower)
   - Tom H - Sunday, 03/23/08 11:08:54 EST

Howdy all, I haven't been here for a while but I need some help. Not only do I blacksmith but I am now making guitars and ukuleles. A friend asked how he could shape a piece of muffler pipe into a tear drop shape to use as a wood bending form. I am stumped.

Any comments would be appreciated.
   Lefty - Sunday, 03/23/08 16:46:44 EST

Hey guys, its me, Allen, from a year ago. Dang time passes quickly. Anyway I tried your suggestion of digging a forge but I live on a mountain and there are rocks less than a few inches under the surface so thats kind of a dead end. I was gonna try and build one from bricks but then I thought about you saying certain kind of rocks explode and I was wondering if this is true for bricks too.
   - Allen - Sunday, 03/23/08 17:11:39 EST

Avoiding Paint: Clear lacquer IS a paint product, wax with oil and drier is an amateur formulated varnish, wax with oil and carbon black is a tinted varnish. Some floor wax products are actually clear acrylic paint.

Avoiding finishing your work is not completing the job.

Smokey finishes without heat are often produced with clear lacquer that has been tinted used with straight clear. I would prefer to see it over a good primer and silver metallic base for rust protection.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/23/08 22:27:57 EST

LG Hammer maintenance. My hammer looks like its covered in silver glitter. It's coming from right behind the flywheel. When I rub it off, it leaves a coppery color on my skin. Sounds like something from car talk... and when I step on the pedal it makes this loud pounding noise... Anyway, I oil it daily, any thoughts?
   andy - Sunday, 03/23/08 22:29:19 EST

Exploding Bricks: Allen, Generally no. As long as bricks that have absorbed a lot of moisture are heated slowly they are always porous enough to let steam pass. The exception is the few cement "bricks". These are usually identifiable by their cement texture or non-brick color. Cement and concrete both spall when heated to high temperatures.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/23/08 22:31:15 EST

Andy, You need to remove the shaft and check the bearings. Sounds like a worn through babbitt bearing. But there are other possibilities.


1) Often a small block is placed under the shaft to shim it up in place when babbitting. If metal and left in the babbit it will result in premature failure and a shaft that needs rework as well as rebabbiting.

2) When babbitted RIGHT a thin thrust bearing surface is produced on the front of the front bearing journal and cap. This prevents the iron crank wheel from rubbing the iron frame. . .

A test: You can check for excessive bearing wear by lifting on the ram with a pry bar until you lift the crank wheel. If you can see it move up and down there is a problem.

SOMETIMES when the bearing is loose you can take shims out of the bearing cap joints and tighten the fit. However, if this has been done several times OR if poorly re-babbitted and the babbitt is worn through you will continue to grind up the shaft. . .

The loud pounding is usually the shaft striking the upper bearing cap as it jumps from the rest position to stopping the upward inertia of the ram. This hammering can rip out bearing studs and break frames.

Just like your car, when you hear a new noise you should STOP and find out what it is before going any further. Paying attention to machine noises is an important part of their operation and why I do not allow radios or music in my shop. The only noise I want to hear in my shop is the smooth running of machinery and the gentle tick tick tick of belt splices.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/23/08 22:45:50 EST

Tear Drop Shape: Lefty, A shape like this might be easier to make from scratch then from pipe. It depends on how 3 dimensional you need it to be. Forms are usually no more than 50% diameter.

A shape like this can be sunk using a wood form carved into the end of a hardwood log. The form wants to be only about 1/5 the depth of the part with rounded edges. The metal (16ga steel) would be worked down into the form using a heavy ball pien hammer and a flat narrow cross pien in the point of the tear drop.

EXAMPLE (click for more)

While the example shown is a hemi-sphere it could just as easily been a tear drop shape.

The solution is as close as your wood pile.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/23/08 22:59:30 EST

More tears: The blank material COULD come from a piece of new exhaust pipe. However, it is thinner than the above and may need to be annealed (heated to a red heat and allowed to cool very slowly) in order to work it.

Another option is to have someone machine (or even forge) the shape from solid.

While wood can be steamed and hot bent most varieties do not shape into compound curves very well unless very thin and pressed.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/23/08 23:13:41 EST

LG Advice, thanks, I'll take a look into the bearings tomorrow. The loud pounding was simply bad humor...
   andy - Sunday, 03/23/08 23:27:44 EST

Re:Loud Pounding....No, that was Good humor.
   - Charlie Spademan - Monday, 03/24/08 06:42:26 EST

LG's SHOULD make a loud pounding but knocking like an engine is a bad sign. It is difficult to hear over the pounding but is in opposite time between blows. You should hear thump, thump, thump, NOT thup, clack, thump, clack, thump, clack.
   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 08:09:18 EST

In a book by Charles McRaven The author mentions a case-hardening compound.. Is this still available ? What is in it? An elderly friend stated, In Scotland knives were never put on a stone, the edge was peened. Was that done to preserve the case hardened edge? Thanks, Gator.
   - Gator - Monday, 03/24/08 08:33:19 EST


Kasenit is the compound trade name. Scythe blades are thin and when distorted in use, they were hammered to shape on small anvils that could be carried to the field. The German name for the scythe anvil was a dengelstock. The idea of never putting a knife blade on a stone sounds like a crock.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 03/24/08 08:57:59 EST


Cherry Red is the name of another case hardening compound.

I'm certain Frank is right about the other thing. Whetstones in the National Museum of Scotland: http://nms.scran.ac.uk/database/results.php?PHPSESSID=uo7t5bvuh3mss0qj3627ghv7h3&QUICKSEARCH=1&search_term=whetstone
   Matt B - Monday, 03/24/08 09:48:41 EST

Thanks for the pointers and the link. I hadn't even thought of dishing flat material out. I will play around with this and see what we can do. The wood we use for bending is usually about .085. The finished form will be heated with a torch or possibly a water heater coil.
Thanks again,
   Lefty - Monday, 03/24/08 12:07:48 EST

Hammering a case hardened edge will ruin it if it was hardened--try putting a piece of glass on some damp clay and hammering it out thin with a steel hammer.

Now if you have a blade that is low carbon---like real wrought iron or bronze, then hammering out the edge work hardens it and makes for a better edge than the parent material.

This may be a case of "Poor folks have poor ways".

OTOH sharpening a case hardened blade only on one side---like a chisel will leave a thin high carbon steel edge on it rather than wearing it off completely by sharpening on both sides.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/24/08 12:16:14 EST

Alex Bealer mentions in The Art of Blacksmithing that cheap case hardened trade knives traded to the American Indians had to be sharpened on only one side or you lost the hard edge. . .
   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 12:28:11 EST

Wood bending: Lefty, that is what I was assuming you were going to do, like bending violin sides. But it helps to explain more when asking such a question. Not too many blacksmiths also study lutherie.

Wood I have seen formed into salad bowls in a criss cross pattern was only about .010". I think it was woven into a basket weave of strips about 1" wide and several mats pressed into a form. The radiused bottom corners of the bowel were the only compound curves.

Some cheap musical instrument tops are laminated and pressed but the curve is very slight. I try to design for single direction curves. . .

With access to a metal turning lathe I might make such a tool from solid. It is a "hand turning" job somewhat like wood turning but it can be done and then well polished.

   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 12:43:21 EST

Some early British military aircraft -- and later a boat called the Thistle designed by a Scot named Sandy Douglas - used cold molded mahogany technology including some compound curves laid up in fairly wide strips of about .05 thickness. The tightest radius in the compound curves on the boat was probably at least 6", but the strips were about that wide, too. Its amazing what wet, thin wood will do in the right press. Steam bent of that thickness is like spaghetti.
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 03/24/08 16:51:37 EST

A patented process called Plastimold was also used with thin veneers. A phenolic resin was used as well as thin veneer plys to make very tough, thin and light parts. The "Spruce Goose" was made using this process by a joint venture of Hughs aircraft and Kaiser, so the name Spruce Goose was inaccurate as little to no spruce was used. The correct name was HK-1.
The famous DeHavaland Mosquito was made in a similar process.
The veneer plys with resin were pressed under heat into molds. Gave buetifully smooth shapes as well as not using then thought to be scarce aluminum.
   ptree - Monday, 03/24/08 17:32:06 EST

You guys rock! What an incredible width and depth of knowledge (not just blacksmithing)! Thanks for sharing your love of the messy and diverse religion of the art of How Things Are Made.
   Jud Yaggy - Monday, 03/24/08 19:18:18 EST

Thanks a heap guys ! ill do some research into plaster/rubber moulds for casting a Resin Copy of the large snake(chair leg) i talked of earlier. I will set my focus on achieving this part first before i even think about casting a steel replica. Ill be back soon with any questions i have for things i dont understand....cheers again!!
   - AussieNewbie - Monday, 03/24/08 19:41:09 EST

THanks a heap guys for the Casting Help, ill do some research into Plaster/rubber casting so i can learn more about creating a Resin Mould. Once ive learned tried and tested this. Ill come back with some questions on Casting Steel ! Thanks so very much for all your help...
   AussieNewbie - Monday, 03/24/08 19:49:03 EST

oops double posted, didn't think the first one went through. apologies
   AussieNewbie - Monday, 03/24/08 19:50:14 EST

Can old 1/4, to 1/2 size steel stamps, both numbers and letters, from broken up sets be used to make into punches and repouse tools? I have no idea what the steel alloy is, but could experiment with heat treating per the junk yard rules.
   Bob Johnson - Monday, 03/24/08 19:54:24 EST

I've seen several times to use a magnet to see if the metal is hot enough how is this done won't the magnet melt?
I'm a welder but have just started 'hobby blacksmithing' Thanks
   ed - Monday, 03/24/08 22:00:35 EST

LG Hammer update; I pulled the caps, removed the shims and got a good adjustment, the babbiting is cracked and could stand to be replaced, but isn't wearing on the metal. I'm gonna hold off for a rainy day on that one. The real culprit was the pitman bushing. After talking to Sid I discovered that the grease port had been sheared off at some point and Ive been running the hammer since I got it last july without knowing it was supposed to get lubricated. My grandma always used to tell me that the squeaky wheel gets greased, in this case its more like trouble comes knocking... thanks again for the input.
   andy - Monday, 03/24/08 22:10:55 EST

Magnet Test: Ed, This test is to see if the metal is hot enough during heat treating to harden it. This is usually about 1,400°F for common steels and it the point at which steel becomes non-magnetic. Lower carbon steels are hardened above this point and certain higher carbon steels as well. But it is a good guide for many steels.

A good strong magnet will not attract steel above the non-magnetic temperature so the test only takes a second or so. Heat WILL damage magnets reducing their magnetism if overheated. The only magnets that will melt at 1,400°F are the plastic ones with magnetic powder in them. . .
   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 22:30:11 EST

Bob Johnson,

Find out about the spark test, reading the spark shower coming off a grinding wheel. It might tell you something. It is hard to read however when one gets into the high alloys.

The magnet is used on carbon too steel and some low alloy tool steel to find out when to quench for hardening, normally in the cherry red ranges. The magnet does not melt. The metal is taken slightly above the point of magnetism loss to insure you're just into critical (transformation) temperature. I use a small magnet with a hay-wire wrap and extended for a two foot 'handle.'

For forging, we use incandescent heat colors as a clue, red, orange, yellow.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 03/24/08 22:32:03 EST

Well it didnt take me long to hit a snag....I Think Sand Casting is the way to go (im going to try casting some small pieces first of aluminium due to the low melting point of the material), I have found some excellent reading material that details most materials, processes and safety issues etc that i need to be aware of.
However i think there may still be some holes. When i wish to cast my Pattern in a Cope n Drag ideally i would want to have a line of symmetry at the join of the cope of drag match the that of the line of symmetry of my pattern as it is a mirror image pattern when split down the centre. Now i can think up a couple ways in my head to keep the pattern centered. But i was wondering if there is a standard way to go about casting the pattern into the Flask keeping yet keeping it centered? Sorry to hassle you guys with questions.
   AussieNewbie - Monday, 03/24/08 22:38:44 EST

Molded Wood: One of the planes made this way was the "Plastic Tim" or corectly the Tim Aeromold. The plastic in the name was refering to the plastic nature of the glue. Many boats are still made of cold molded wood, The WEST System, an acronim for wood epoxy saturation is as well the trade name for Gudgeon Brothers who developed the process and suply materials for this method. They have books that take You through it step by step.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/24/08 23:02:34 EST

Old Machinery Lubrication: This is something I have been teaching my helpers about as we repair and restore a couple 100 year old machines. I have written on it numerous times.

On most machines if it rotates, slides or rubs it needs lubrication. On old machines most of the important lubrication points have oil holes or lube caps. Some places do not and you just lubricate at the gap between bearing and gear or an entire surface. ALL critical high load rotating parts have a lubrication point, usually a hole or cap.

On old machines folks often grease places that are supposed to be oiled such as the pitman on a Little Giant. This and a little dirt clogs the lube hole and MANY, MANY times they get painted over. . . I've cleaned out lube holes that had been painted over numerous times judging by the colors of the layers.

The only place on a Little Giant that gets greased is the clutch bearing. This is done through the long hole gun drilled in the center of the shaft from the back of the machine. This place is often mistaken as a typical center drill point in the back of the shaft. It is NOT. Some LG's have Zerk fittings, some had grease cups, many have neither. CLEAN and lube it. All other lube points on an LG are oiled every time the hammer is used. IF an LG is not covered with oil and throwing it off in many directions it is NOT properly lubed. Even the clutch lining in an LG gets oiled. There are also some critical points on the ram than often get clogged with grease. Use OIL, not grease!

If you run machinery of any kind you need to study it. The older the machine the closer you need to look. Old machines did not have sealed bearings so oil often runs out rapidly. Open gearing was the rule and it also gets greased or oiled daily. As noted the oil points often get clogged with grease, dirt or paint. Clean them out with a piece of wire or pipe cleaner, then solvent then flush with oil until clean oil is running out around the shaft (may require rotating the shaft).

One of the first tasks when you setup an old machine is to buy a good pump oil can for that machine. One oil can will serve several machines. Keep it handy and filled with oil, then USE it daily.

I have an old Brown and Sharp surface grinder that has dozens of oil holes and covered lube points. This machine is oiled every time it is used while it is warming up. The spindle uses special oil that is different than the rest of the oil points. A couple replacement bearings require grease. Lubrication and warm up of this machine takes over half an hour every time it is used.

One reason the old train engineers and machinists wore hats is the constantly dripping oil from the machinery. Dripping oil was NORMAL. The classic photo is of these men with hat holding an oil can. That oil can was the life blood of the machine. Lack of oil was their death. Proper lubrication of your machine was job security.


Cracked Babbitt: Two things cause this. Poor babbitting in the first place (too cold a mandrel, too cold a pour), OR fatigue (or lack of lubrication). Fatigue cracks are fine crazing that makes a frosted looking surface where you expect shiny. From this fine flakes of metal come off. Big open cracks are failed babbitt from a botched job or complete wear out and should be replaced immediately.

   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 23:11:33 EST

Recycling Old Punches: Bob, These are usually VERY high quality steel and yes they can be reworked. Treat as high carbon alloy steel or 1095. When I reuse them I usually cold work them by grinding as they are VERY well heat treated.
   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 23:16:08 EST

Casting and Patterns: Aussie Newbie,

One reason I suggested making resin copies using plaster is to gain mold making experience.

There are several ways a loose pattern is parted. One is by embedding and loosely building up sand around the pattern. This supports the pattern and is removed and replaced with properly rammed up sand after the first half of the mold is made. Shallow parts are often rammed into sand that has already been rammed and smoothed but this is difficult on large parts and can result in breaking a pattern. THIS is the art of the mold maker or "sand crab".

The second method is to use a follower plate. This is a carved wood or plaster cast of half the mold that supports the pattern while the first half of the mold is made. The advantage of a follower board is that it is fast and accurate, you only make it once AND it can include alignment buttons and gating.

The plaster follower plate is made by bedding the pattern in plasticine clay in a mold box. See iForge demo #98 Molds I. Then making a plaster half-mold. A sand mold is made for the other half, then the plaster removed and the second half of the sand mold is made.

The third method is a boarded pattern. You make a split pattern (wood, metal or plastic) OR spit a resin pattern and glue each half to a heavy plywood board (1") or a metal plate (usually 3/4" aluminium). The two halves are aligned using long dowel pins. The board or match plate has alignment pins to align the two halves of the cast when making the mold. They board also includes alignment buttons gating and risering.

While you may not want to make your metal castings in plaster molds you should learn how to make plaster molds because it is still part of the sand casting process in many cases. You can also use the same techniques to make multi-part investment (throw away) molds from a permanent pattern. Lost wax is NOT the only method using plaster molds to cast metal.

My first task when I plan to do any new casting is to find my plasticine clay and purchase a new bag of plaster of Paris. Second task is to dig out my mold boxes to see if they fit the job (never do) and make new mold boxes for the job.

Working from old pieces (as I mentioned earlier) often means making molds (plaster, rubber or resin). Casting the part and reworking its details. THEN making follower plates and casks. All this prior to working with metal.

Note that while there are some WONDERFUL rubber and resin molding compounds they are fairly expensive. Plaster or Paris or "molding plaster" is cheap and easy to learn to use. It is an important pattern and mold maker's tool.

   - guru - Monday, 03/24/08 23:45:35 EST

wow...thanks a million, very informative hence the "guru" title i spose hehe. Once again thankyou very much
   AussieNewbie - Monday, 03/24/08 23:59:07 EST

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