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This is an archive of posts from March 8 - 15, 2009 on the Guru's Den
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Carving Hardwoods: They vary a lot and the splintery grain of oak make it one of the worst. The dense grain of hard maple is tough to work but easy to control. Walnut and cherry carve very nicely.

My favorite method of shaping oak is green. It works great with hatchets, draw knives, gouges and coarse rasps. Carve it close but a little oversize then hang to dry a year. .

Dry oak as mentioned works nicely with the coarsest grit disks made (looks like fine sharp gravel). Cuts it like butter. Then change disks to about double the grit, then use paper double that and so on.

But generally I avoid oak at all costs due to the splintery open grain.

For the fastest most controllable carving in most dense fine grained hardwoods a large gouge (1.25" half round) with outside bevel works great. My hand forged gouges have handles like a Coke-a-Cola bottle with ferrules made of 1" conduit (about 1.25" OD) and 1-1/2" pipe (about 2" OD). I use them with either a big rectangular cherry root mallet or a heavy rubber round carving mallet.

I've also done considerable "carving" with one of those 24 grit wheels on a stationary shaft running at high speed.

But if you need to get the job done then rotary files on a die grinder work great. they are fast and allow intricate carving. Follow these with small sanding drums that fit 1.25" centrifugally expanding rubber arbor OR a large (12 or 14") NEW bastard cut half file. Files work great on most hardwoods for final truing and work before hand sanding. Files work best on wood if they have not cut metal.

I avoid oak except for reworking handles and I prefer maple handles. .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/08/09 00:55:19 EST

Whoops said it twice. Guess I really dislike oak. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/08/09 00:56:42 EST

Every year we get on this super quench discussion.

What I want to know is any one who does the in depth analysis every year going to really do much of anything with the super quench and spend the money on the secret ingrediants?

Carbon steel is so readily available I just use that when I need something hard and mild steel when I don't. I guess I don't need a wetting agent or surfactant or all those other other master engineering terms to do some good ole forging. If I need a onesietwosie tool mild steel will do without making it harder.

This Basic Bob doesn't need to beat the horse to death with big ole fancy talk each year. Maybe that guru gent can do a fancy write up on the magic potion so it isn't repeated anually.
   - Basic Bob - Sunday, 03/08/09 01:05:35 EST

Egg-Bar Shoes
Are used for navicular disease, sheered heels, medial-lateral hoof inbalance, collapsed heels and rununder...etc...

You need to know your stuff when you make them and fit them.

As far as new-old shoes they have very little value to sell on ebay. You would probably find it better to make neat functional things with them.

We should call this farrierfire ;) grin
   - Not Frank - Sunday, 03/08/09 01:16:50 EST

Old horse shoes sell pretty well if you nail then to a piece of oak and sell them as decorations to people that like rustic stuff.
   Robert Cutting - Sunday, 03/08/09 04:05:04 EST

A flap disk should gouge hardwood less than a flat sanding disk. Of course, the only thing I remember for sure is that a flap disk you've worn down on steel doesn't work too well (grin).
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/08/09 07:53:35 EST

Super quench. The recipe is not in any way secret. It has been published, and Robb Gunther handed out the exact recipe, and had it mixed at the demo. If I recall..
5 gallons of plain water.
2 pounds of salt.
1 bottle of the blue Dawn dishsoap. He said Green works but he thought the blue was a little better.
1 bottle of an Amway wetting agent that is not easy to find.
Substitute the Jet dry.
Mix and use.

No secret. The density, or specific gravity, or visicosity was never mentioned. He specifically said the wetting agents allowed the mix to prevent the steam bubble envelope.

Robb specifically said that the superquench was NOT a replacement for tool steel. He did say it would improve SHORT RUN tooling, and eliminate the cost of tool steel when only a few parts were to be made.

He specifically stated that experience had shown the tool steel quenched in super quench would basically explode the steel with cracks.

I have not seen the need to make a batch in my shop, as I don't need short run tooling.
   ptree - Sunday, 03/08/09 08:25:53 EST

Wood carving, I use a new24 grit flap disc. I also use these on styrofoam when making Quad State hats:)
   ptree - Sunday, 03/08/09 08:27:04 EST

Thanks for the advice, I guess I'll be picking up a disk later today. Ha I never thought it would actually be a good idea to use an angle grinder on wood.

As for the wood selection, I get all of my stuff from home renovation centres, so my choices really were pine, poplar, oak and maple (maple was too expensive for me). All of the specialty places are out of my reach until this semester ends.

I'm still confused on the inletting part, not sure what tool would be able to work within that small space.
   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 03/08/09 10:22:34 EST

Greetings from a newbie in remote S. Idaho--
I'm a gunmaker and craftsman in several areas, but have just now, with my dream house being built (alone), carpal tunnel syndrome that is semi-terminal, and other 'irons in the fire', I just bought my first anvil.
Re-Superquench-- This is the same as the Medieval salt and lye formula that improves *case hardening*. It is hardening the carbon that is near the surface. Gunsmiths have used it for years on frizzen plates and other fire starters. 'Soaking time' in the carbon pack is reduced by using a more rapid quench.
The fastest quench is the most dangerous-- Mercury as a quenching agent is very effective, but the fumes are deadly.
   - JBelk - Sunday, 03/08/09 11:00:46 EST

Mr Belk, I don't think the receipe for the Medieval quench is exactly the same as superquench but may rely on the same principle: getting the quenchant to wet into the steel and prevent steam from forming. It does not harden the carbon, the carbon controls the hardness of the steel. A faster quench can drive the hardness deeper into the steel and cause the steel at the surface to achieve maximum hardness (based upon carbon content). Mercury can be a fast quench but as you observed, has fallen into disfavor due to its rather terminal side effects. Glad to have you with us, stick around as there are usually questions on gunsmithing you may be best suited to answer.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 03/08/09 12:16:16 EST

Okay, I have a small ultrasonic machine. I will fill it with superquench and turn mild steel into tungsten carbide.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 03/08/09 14:48:22 EST

Still chuckling over ye auld gunmaker browsing the market for blue Dawn.
'salt' to raise the temperature and caustics to reduce surface tension is 'super quench'. I sometimes use it for case hardening with Casenite in very small parts. For the tips of sears and spring plunger tips it works great because there isn't a bubble of air that forms around the part to slow the quench.
I'm a believer in using the right steel for the job to begin with, but you never know when the McGyver side might have to leap forward and make a jackhammer out of rebar.
I would offer updates to the 'ABC' page on bluing if you tell me where to send it.
   - JBelk - Sunday, 03/08/09 15:16:58 EST

The superquench recipe has been in our quenchants FAQ for years. No need to repeat it over and over. There is 5 gallons of the stuff sitting here in the yard that Paw-Paw made. Anyone that wants it may haul it off.

In an era when tool steel is plentiful, springs of various sorts plentiful and cheap and used tools to make into other tools fairly plentiful I see no point in the stuff in most cases. Like using casinit for case hardening, it does not make real tool steel out of mild.

I spent this weekend converting old used tools, cheap tools and flea market tools into repousse' tools. Repousse' tools sell for $30 each but old punches and chisels to convert to them cost $1 or less used and $3 new. I also bought new steel, W1 and S7 and SAE 4140. The W1 costs about what used tools sell for, the 4140 a about the same as new tools but the S7 is triple the W1 in the sizes I bought.

Making repousse' tools is picky work as they want very smooth rounded edges and sloping faces. You also need graduated sizes. With a bench grinder, a file and some sandpaper you can make medium sized repousse tools in about an hour. With a small belt sand you could probably make two or more. As an educational project with students we did it the slow way converting old used punches and chisels into nice shiny repousse' tools. As such the 1 hour per tool rate was both profitable and educational.

I started this project buying tool steel and also a new set of pin punches and cold chisels. The plan was to convert the new tools. However, it was a better deal to replace my old set of similar tools and take my battered and worn tools and convert THEM to shiney new repousse' tools.

If we had used mild steel and superquenched them we would of had marginal tools that would have worked sufficiently for the projects at hand but probably would not have been good for another project. Basically we would have wasted an hour's labor each making tools that are carefully ground, filed, sanded and polished. By spending $1 to $3 each on materials the finished tools are worth as much as the commercial repousse' tools (or more) and will be useful for hundreds of projects. The used tools we converted also required no heat treating thus save us a lot of time.

I make lots of tools from mild steel. But as soon as any significant time or effort is going into them I think it is worth it to use the right materials. While $30/hour return is marginal it is much better than throwing away the time on temporary or low performance tools.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/08/09 16:50:58 EST

Bluing JBelk, I had already written the "casenit for case hardening" before you posted. . . IT was not directed at you.

I edit all the FAQ's so I'm the one to send articles to. WHile we've had quite a few posts on the coloring subject the only one on the FAQ's page is color case hardening under case hardening.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/08/09 16:56:47 EST

I couldn't find the right type of wheel for the angle grinder, the closest thing which was made for wood was a wheel with strips of overlapping sandpaper glued to it. Typical of canadian tire.

Any ways, I picked up a cheap carving set and have been using it to do the rounding of the edges of the stock etc, and I can see what you mean by oak splintering. Going perpendicular to the grain absolutely makes mess out of the wood. It took me a while to figure out that the only way to properly work it is to cut towards the center of the wood when going against the grain. It's still pretty bad, but it's a lot better than the dull chisel I was using earlier.
   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 03/08/09 19:55:43 EST

Nabiul Haque,

Fine, you bought a set of wood carving tools - did you sharpen them? Out of the box new they won't have an edge worth using, even if you buy the finest Sorby chisels sold. You need to get a sheet of glass, wet-or-dry sandpaper in grits from 320 to 2000, a piece of smooth leather and some rouge and make those carving tools really sharp. A Google search for sharpening techniques should turn up the "Scary Sharp" system of sharpening which really works and isn't difficult to learn.
   vicopper - Sunday, 03/08/09 20:24:29 EST

Nabiul Haque,

I neglected to mention that a *properly sharpened* chisel will cut a shaving so thin you can see through it off the end grain of oak with very little effort. I tdoes take som practice, but anyone can learn to do it in an hour or so.
   vicopper - Sunday, 03/08/09 20:26:43 EST

Nip, when Your alchemy progresses to the point where You can turn lead into gold let Me know, I have plenty of lead.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/08/09 20:54:23 EST

just getting started. found old forge at family farm. got it going; cleaning, tlc, grease, poured new babitt bearing. not sure of origin of forge. one knowlegeable person thougt possibly home made. looking for answers will email pictures to any one who has interest email me at scotthjetland@hotmail.com
   - Scott Hjetland - Sunday, 03/08/09 21:15:01 EST

No I didn't sharpen it, I am actually afraid to. I don't have a stable base for my vise yet (basically just using it's weight and my feet to keep it still) and slipping with a tool that sharp does not sound very fun. Next weekend I will see what I can do about sharpening and mounting the vise onto something.
   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 03/08/09 21:53:14 EST

Lead to gold? With my luck I'd get it the other way around.

Back to superquench for a second. A thought occured to me. Can superquench be used as a superanneal? I mean on things such as austenetic steels and non-ferrous metals. If the superquench gets A36 really tough, shouldn't a dip of 316 or brass make it dead soft?
   - Nippulini - Monday, 03/09/09 08:57:34 EST

Wood carving: Dull tools take more force, and thus are more difficult and dangerous to use. Dull tools are more likely to slip and end up cutting you.

Work Holding, Bench Hooks: Wood carving does not require a vise although a large well anchored one is a wonderful tool. A bench OR secure support (concrete steps, picnic table. . ) can be used with a bench hook alone or a bench hook and a C-clamp. Old fashioned drawing or shaving horses are also a low tech mostly wood option.

Bench hooks are simply a board with two cleats (narrow boards) attached at each end on opposite sides. The bottom cleat catches on the edge of the bench, the top is for the work to push against. Simple bench hooks can be used for sawing and light carving. I've made them from an 8x12" piece of 1/2" plywood and two pieces of furring strip glued and nailed on. This is an average size. They can be made larger or smaller as necessary.

A carving bench hook often has two top cleats, one at the back and one on the side to make a corner to work into. These then become left and right handed. You can also make them diagonal. There are also specialized arrangements but they are not recommended unless you are doing a high volume of work and a vise is not available.

All bench hooks are glued together but can and should be both glued and screwed or doweled together. I use flat head brass wood screws. For light work bench hooks can be made of pine and plywood. For heavier work they need to be made with solid lumber and for the heaviest solid hardwood (maple, beech) or hardwood plywood (yes they make such a thing). Some bench hooks have been made with inlet and screwed on brass faces. These are primarily for metal work.

You can also reduce the need for hardwood by heavier larger construction of the bench hook. (2x4's for cleats) Simple joinery such as a half lap joint in the corner of a carving bench hook will make it much stronger.

Bench Hooks Illustration by Jock Dempsey March 2009

Note that traditional bench hooks for sawing have a short cleat so that sawing is done over the hook and does not cut into the bench. These are often made with a sawed "cut line" to help see a right angle and to let the blade drop into on completing the cut. There is often a sawing bench hook with right and left hand sides and a second matching plain bench hook (as above) to help support long boards.

Carving bench hooks are also made with angled cleats or three blocks arranged so that work can be wedged in between them. Bench hooks can be rough quickly made tools or finely crafted. In either case they are very simple, easy to make, inexpensive and useful tools.

As noted a bench hook will work on almost any square cornered bench, table, step, porch deck, truck bed. . . THENn there is the Japanese method where you sit on the board to hold it in place.

When carving with a chisel and mallet you can also work toward yourself if you wear a heavy leather apron or chest shield to protect from an accidental slip. However, when carving with hammer and chisel the travel is short and tools should not be flying out of control. Hitting ones fingers or hand with the mallet should be the only possible danger.
   - guru - Monday, 03/09/09 10:29:58 EST

Nippulini-- I assume SQ would work for annealing, but plain cold water seems to work well up to 3in dia.

I anneal gold for engraving inlays and add about 5% muriatic acid to the quench for pickling. Phosphoric acid (Naval Jelly) does the same for water quenched steels.
   - JBelk - Monday, 03/09/09 11:38:08 EST

You pay for wood? I've found lovely wood free in dunnage wood piles. (wood used in shipping other items). I roofed the shed addition to my old shop using 4x4 oak from the sign shop behind me---all their 10' and 12' sheet metal was delivered on very nice oak skids. I had a lifetime supply of 3x4" hardwood from a water line going in to a new development---stopped and asked and filled the truck with them several times. It included oak, cherry, maple (soft and hard), poplar, ?, ... A commercial sheetrock supply company may also have pallets they will give to you in hardwoods.

Now you need a set of rought duty tools to clean the surfaces of the wood that may have grit or nails in it; but it's pretty easy to smith a honking big chisel from leaf spring and a drawknife you are willing to abuse and re-sharpen as necessary.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/09/09 12:17:46 EST

Repousse tools---a garage door spring will make you enough tools to get good at it and start a business. Not too hard to heat treat them as a coffee can of oil will usually do the trick for quenching.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/09/09 12:19:54 EST

Repousse' Tools: That small diameter is fine for small delicate work but I find 1/2" and up is handier. Some of the most useful we made were from 9/16" and 5/8" octagon chisel stock. 1/2" square is a good size. The little 1/4" sizes are for jewelery, not sculptural size work.
   - guru - Monday, 03/09/09 12:43:06 EST

There are enough trees on my farm, in enough stages of maturity, that: "God knocks them over; I just cut them up." Plenty of hardwoods for firewood, coaling (when I get around to it), and whatever else is needed. Black locust, black walnut, willow, cherry, etc. Plus barn beams from gr. gr. grandfather's place next farm over.

As for nails in wood, a cheap toy metal detector is a marvelous instrument for detecting hidden hazards! I use mine all the time, even though the wif has switched me up to something more serious. (The trouble with 300 years "modern" human habitation is you get hits almost everywhere around the habitation sites, everything from old coins and colonial ironwork to bottle caps and pull tabs; lots and lots and lots of caps and tabs; they were all very fond of their beer in the 20th century!)

Warm and sunny on the banks of the Potomac; going up to about 69 degrees f.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/09/09 14:24:20 EST

Then there are scraps from the smithy or outdoor forge and better yet welding rod stubs. . .
   - guru - Monday, 03/09/09 14:28:15 EST


That "wheel with strips of sandpaper glued to it" might be the flap disk ptree and I mentioned. If you're not sure, you could Google "flap disk" to see what they look like.
   Mike BR - Monday, 03/09/09 16:38:43 EST

sorry about that: but in my defense; of all the folks I know doing repousee it's about 100 to 1 doing small work over large work. The large work folk I've met tend to use air powered tools and buy cheap sets of air tooling and convert them to the sizes and shapes they want.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/09/09 17:55:31 EST

>.> Yes it was the flap disk, I didn't think something that flimsy would work with hardwood. Will purchase one next time.

I have actually used a bench hook before for carving small rubber tiles. It never ocurred to me that a large one would be useful foor woodwork. I have some pine oak and poplar lying around that I could use. Well actually better yet I could just directly use my front steps to hold the stock. ^^ Thanks thats a real neat idea.
   Nabiul Haque - Monday, 03/09/09 19:53:48 EST

I have spent several hours wading through useless search engines trying to find the answer to one simple question. I hope that you can help. I am trying to find the time period when case hardening became common. It's for an oral report for my metallurgy class so if you could answer quickly I would appreciate it. Thanks.
   matt - Monday, 03/09/09 20:03:45 EST

Nabiul Haque, the flap wheel is designed to grind steel, hardwood is no challenge:)

Be aware that the flap disc will generate clouds of wood dust beyond your wildest expectation:) Use at least a dust mask, better do it outside with the wind at you back
   ptree - Monday, 03/09/09 20:13:28 EST

Nabiul Haque: It's the dull tool that cuts you! Bad things happen when you have to push too hard.

Also: Are you certain it's a flap DISK or is it a flap WHEEL? Just checking.
   - grant - Monday, 03/09/09 20:31:59 EST

I really don't know if you have any knowledge of Ontario law but have you heard and laws concerning the selling of weapons such as knives, swords, axes and other medieval weapons. Would a license be needed or would merely selling them "As a decoration." suffice to be held not liable for selling weapons.

Odd Question, right?

Haha, thanks.


An aspiring bladesmith, Dustin Purdy.
   Dustin Purdy - Monday, 03/09/09 20:34:24 EST

Nabiul Haque: It's the dull tool that cuts you! Bad things happen when you have to push too hard.

Also: Are you certain it's a flap DISK or is it a flap WHEEL? Just checking.

Well "O' Great And Wonderous Nippulini, you been thinkin' again, haven't you? You know where that'll get ya. I don't think it would improve annealing, but try it.
   - grant - Monday, 03/09/09 20:35:51 EST

A recent Discovery Magazine program focused on the Samuri culture in Japan. In the segment on carpenty it noted a typical carpenter might spend up to 1/3rd of their time just sharpening their tools. It was also considered to be 'meditation' time. It showed one current carpenter using a block plane to take off tissue-thin ribbon shavings from a beam. And this was well before hand-hewn beams were common in much of the rest of the world.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/10/09 03:44:13 EST

Saw both there, except the flap wheel was made for a rotary tool, much much smaller. Also I couldn't figure out what that would be used for.
   Nabiul Haque - Tuesday, 03/10/09 07:06:20 EST

i tried cutting some old car leaf spring,with my oxy-acy torch,but seems to take along time to get cut started&kerf is wide &rough. is it me or this is normal?
   chanse - Tuesday, 03/10/09 08:48:31 EST

I've been using the same flap disk for a few months. Yesterday it was doing just about nothing. Took it off to put on the "Super Slicer" (an amazingly efficient cut off disc). The flap disc was worn to the plastic!! Chanse, try using a cut off disc rather than your O/A torch. You'll get a cleaner cut and it will eliminate any HAZ on the edge.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 03/10/09 09:04:40 EST

Torch Cutting: Dirt and paint slow start up but the higher the carbon the easier the cut. Spring steel should cut like butter with a torch.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/10/09 09:07:01 EST

Flap disks vs. Flap wheels: There is a great difference in quality of these but the wheels can be really junk. The good quality wheels with rectangular flaps with little space between them made by 3M and other major makers are a great tool but are fairly expenseive. The 6" diameter 1" wide ones I often use cost about $30/each and wear rapidly. But many of the little ones with a dozen or so flaps are junk.

A flap wheel is a wonderful tool for shaping all kinds of material, particularly good on metals and wood. The sharp corners break down quickly OR can be removed with the edge of a worn out file. Depending on the speed they are run they will conform to a metal shape and round the edges blending them smoothly. They fit well into bowl shapes such as for dressing swage blocks. When the edge becomes round they work well in round grooves. They can be mounted on a stationary shaft or used in hand held tools.

The major problem with the good large flap wheels is they are not usually made to fit a standard angle grinder arbor. To use them on such requires some jury rigging (spacers and or flanges).

While the price vs. life may seem outrageous they are a VERY fast efficient tool that do certain shaping jobs with little attention to detail or skill required. Things that would take hours and meticulous care by hand are done almost instantly on the right flap wheel.

The flap disks have some of the qualities of the wheels but are not nearly as soft and conforming. They are also face cutting not edge and steep angle cutting. They do not conform to the shape of the work so well either.

Both are tools with advantages and disadvantages and they should never be confused.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/10/09 09:32:07 EST

Abrasive Devices: Besides wheels and disks there are drums that fit expanding arbors (mechanical, centrifugal and inflatable) that range from little 3/8" ones to fit a Dremmel to 6" diameter for stationary arbor machines. There are also little spiral wound cylinders and cones as well as glue on disks. All these on top of belts in many widths and lengths.

All these on top of hard vitreous wheels used on bench, stationary and surface grinders. Then while talking about wheels we have rope and cloth buffing wheels that often finish the job started with other abrasives.

All have important uses in the shop. Many replace files and other slow methods. Many do things no other tool will do. Most greatly improve productivity.

THEN there are vibratory finishers where you toss the part in, come back some time later and its smooth, descaled and debured.

Like vises and clamps you cannot have enough wheels turning in the shop. At one time I grabbed every motor I could find and every arbor set I saw. I have two small home built buffing stands which give me a total of 4 wheels. When I was doing brass work this was just enough. I've always got a soft wire wheel mounted on a motor as well as a bench grinder. If I was running a lot of machine tools I would also have a tool grinder with diamond wheel. I'd like to have more and if I was working in the shop full time I would as these little machines quickly pay for themselves and have long lives.

Our next project (after the power hammers) will be to build one or more belt grinder/sanders.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/10/09 10:16:23 EST

History of Case Hardening: Matt, this is very difficult to say. Most of technological history is as fuzzy as the math used on wall street to determine the worth of a stock. I am going to guess and say sometime in the 1500's and peaking in the 1800's before bulk steel became cheap and readily available. The method was used much earlier in making blister steel but it probably took time to develop to a common small shop technique along with the manufacture of small critical parts (clock gears, machine parts, gun parts and so on). So you could probably say its popularity paralleled technological development. Just a guess.

Weapons Laws: These vary by country, state/province and municipal locality. Often your local public library, or law library is the place to start followed by asking others in the business THEN a lawyer (barrister) if you are really in business. Generally asking officials (zoning, police, judges) is the wrong thing to do until you have some idea about the law. Often just ASKING a question can get you in trouble OR put on somebody's "watch" list.

Often modern "weapons" are works of art or collector's items. In the U.S. you may own an illegal switch blade if you are a collector, never carry it on your person, and when transported it is in a box or case and you are on the way to or from a collectors' show or convention. There are both Federal and State laws. State laws vary from state to state and are often more strict than Federal law.

The above covers the collector and occasionally the maker IF you produce collectors or artistic pieces. In most cases the manufacture of certain weapons is not illegal but possessing, transporting, importing/exporting may be. Of course as the manufacturer, once you have MADE something, then you are in possession of it. Nobody may know but then to SELL it you must advertise in some manner even if only by word of mouth.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/10/09 10:35:50 EST

Ken; the accuracy of Discovery Channel info is often quite suspect. The rest of the word was using hewn beams before the Samurai culture existed in Japan. I also don't believe that the religeous aspects of craft were so important back a couple of hundred years *except* for special cases. Like we had the Arts and Crafts Movement around 1900; Japan has had a "modern" movement glorifying craftwork and extolling people who were considered laborers in earlier times.

Matt; that's actually a hard question to answer. Theophilus actually uses a case hardening proceedure in Divers Arts written in 1120 CE and piled structures that *may* have made some use of case hardening was known as early as Roman times, see "The Celtic Sword, Radomir Pleiner. Steelmaking Before Bessemer, Vol 1 Blister Steel goes into the commercial process used in the early industrial revolution and a bit on the history of the process. Go thou to the Library and ILL the sources! The net is a lousy place to get information from unless you can vet the info provided! Look how easily I could say that case hardening predated the use of iron by 1,000,000 years---completely bogus info but no way to separate it from the truth.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/10/09 10:44:01 EST

Grant - A36 has no listings for sheet - shapes, plate and bar only. For Shapes, C is 0.26 % max, S & P the same as other forms, no Mn, except that note that if flange thickness is over 3" thick it must be 0.85 to 1.15 % and Si must be 0.15 to 0.40 %. Minimum copper of 0.20 % if required, and if flange thickness is less than 3" Si is just 0.40 % max.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 03/10/09 12:21:20 EST

Nip, the softening of SS by heating and quenching is due to the chromium carbides, precipitated by welding or forgine, going back into solution. In fact, while this is called annealing, it is more to enhance the corrosion resistance that to soften it. Quenching speed is of no concern; it could take several minutes without ill effect. You just want to cool it before the dissolved carbides begin to re-precipitate.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 03/10/09 12:45:50 EST

Size of Repousse' Tools: We've been studying Adolph Steines, Moving Metal, The Art of Chassing and Repousse' and the scale of most of the work in his book is sculptural, architectural and decorative. The tools shown are generally 1/2" (13mm) shanks more or less and 6" to 8" (150 to 200 mm) long. The scale of the work we were doing was 8 x 12 x 1/32" (200 x 300 x 0.8mm) panels and I made tools that seemed appropriate for the weight of the material and detail needed. Thinner plate with more detail would have needed smaller tools. The tools I made have worked OK and felt right. I did not have any repousse' hammers so we used ball piens. Those that worked the best seemed to be smaller than those often shown for this scale work. So there is probably a LOT of variation in tool sizes according to use, user and the specific design. The little ones for jewelers seem much too small too me.

I did a recent survey of available repousse' tools for RepousseTools.com. Those for jewelers ran from 1/8" to 3/16". But dapping punches (spherical ends) run from 1/8" all the way up to 2" and then stakes take over. Those for silver and coppersmiths ran from 3/8" to 1/2" and roughly match the old Dixon catalog for the same. Big BLU makes a hand and power hammer punch set that can be classified as repousse' or chasing tools. They have 1" shanks and often wider ends. These are designed for the average blacksmith work but both smaller and larger would be handy. Even within a specific scale of work you can easily use three or four sizes of every shape tool. This rapidly multiplies the numbers needed.

In the US our metalwork is of different character than much of European work. The French used to use an enormous amount of repousse' in their ironwork. The Germans tend to use a lot more metal for everything. Adolph Steines' book shows many doors, signs and other objects done in copper repousse'. Blacksmiths are often called upon to make grave markers or memorials. Something I've never seen in the U.S. other than the ubiquitous cast bronze plaques.

Since the first batch of tools I made were from recycled punches and chisels they all had different shank sizes and shapes (square, hex, octagon, tapered, straight) and lengths. I used what was convenient to regrind. A couple pin and taper punches were converted to spherical end "daps". Chisels were turned into fullers and lining tools. To make the other shapes we need (set down and flat punches) new material will be used OR long tools will have tapered ends cut off. For the class of work we are doing you need ends from 1" wide to 3/4" square down to a few as small as 3/16". many are shorter versions of tools I made years ago for blacksmithing where you need the length to keep away from the heat.

It is interesting work. Every tool is carefully hand shaped and edges radiused. Then they are smoothed and blended then polished.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/10/09 12:57:26 EST

So annealing non-ferrous and/or stainless has less to do with the same principle as quenching? I just figured if the steam jacket is eliminated that the temperature drop would work well in annealing. I haven't made or used superquench (yet). Just thinking aloud.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 03/10/09 13:04:12 EST

cracking on motorcycle parts: I have a friend whose son races dirt motorcycles. He has had mufflers that have cracked in the same location. It is always near a weld, where a bracket has been added to the muffler to support it to the bikes frame. Could the problem be related to the cooling process that happens after the welding? The brackets appear to about one inch long and welded right to the muffler. They are not aluminum in material. This has happened three times in the same location, with three new mufflers. Any ideas as to why?
   David - Tuesday, 03/10/09 14:00:06 EST

Cracked Motorcycle Parts: David, The Heat Effected Zone (HAZ) may have something to do with it but more likely it is just bad design. Here are some of the issues when attaching brackets to exhaust systems.

1) Heat expansion
2) Change in metal thickness (too stiff a bracket)
3) Insufficient support beyond the bracket (vibrating load).
4) Frame of bike more flexible than exhaust.
5) Motor twisting on mounts and exhaust not having same range of motion.
6) Strain due to bad alignment (bent frame or badly made parts).

In some cases mounting needs to be stiffer, in others looser or on cushions (rubber bushings on the bracket cold end).

So, if its an OEM part or any factory aftermarket part then it is bad design and possibility a warranty issue. If there is a missing cushion or parts under strain from a bent frame then its a user issue.

   - guru - Tuesday, 03/10/09 14:53:46 EST

Thanks Guru: I will forward your info to my friend. It should help. David
   David - Tuesday, 03/10/09 16:18:38 EST

David, Motorcycles like aircraft try for max strenght at minimum weight. It is always a compromise. I would say that items 1 and 2 above are most likely.
   ptree - Tuesday, 03/10/09 18:18:39 EST

I think the key here is "RACING"! In racing things break. The way the back end bounces around in dirt racing I don't know how anything stays together let alone that muffler hanging back there on a little bracket.
   - grant - Tuesday, 03/10/09 18:38:20 EST

Found a piece of silverware, an eating fork on historic road that dates to 1863. Fork looks similar to Oneida brand, Patrick Henry series of meat/serving forks. Is there any way to verify that this silverware came from the historic Oneida, NY, utopian community of 1848-1880?
   Steve Christy - Tuesday, 03/10/09 18:55:06 EST

I gave a try at sharpening using plate glass. I looked up the 'scary sharp' system, but it seems to use a jig that you have to order. Any ways doing it by hand I was able to get the chisel to the right in the pic below nearly sharp enough to shave; catches the hairs and breaks them but doesn't cut. This one was sharper than the other chisel to begin with for some reason, the one to the left was dull as new and still is pretty dull. I'm not sure but I think I should re-do the bottom face to give it a cutting angle because sanding the edge isn't doing anything.


This is an image test.
   Nabiul Haque - Tuesday, 03/10/09 19:09:59 EST

Nip, nope. When you solution treat SS, cooling is just to get it to room temperature before the carbides start to form. It is critical between about 1800F and about 1100F. As long as you don't take more than a couple of minutes to do this, you are OK. Annealing stuff like copper is a thermal process and cooling it is not critical either. You are simply re-forming new grains from the one you distorted by cold working.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 03/10/09 19:33:41 EST

I like those flap wheels that use sandpaper alternating with a non-woven abrasive (like Scotch-Brite) for finishing non-ferrous. They conform well to curves, and I can go straight from the flap wheel to the buffer. For small work (all I do, really), I just buy the ones with the 1/4" shank and chuck them in my drill press.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 03/10/09 19:53:36 EST


YOu can do the scary sharp sharpening method without the use of any fancy jigs, but using a jig or holder to maintain a proper and CONSISTENT angle certainly makes the sharpening better.

As with all use of abrasives, you must start with coarser and work to progressively finer grits. Never go to a finer grit until the coarser one has done all it is supposed to do. For rough sharpening a chisel, I use a holder that maintains the angle until I get to about 1000 grit. From that point on, I hold the chisel freehand so I can feel the cutting action better. Just my preference, not necessarily the best way to do it.

I'd suggest you start with a carborundum stone on the medium side and get the angle established. Then go to the fine side and remove ALL the coarse scratches (use a magnifying glass if need be). Do this using either water or light oil/diesel fuel as a lubricant. Then go to 400 grit wet/dry paper with diesel fuel lube, then to 600 greit, then 1200 grit, and finally 2000 grit. That should get it shaving sharp.

On a chisel, do not attempt to put any angle on the flat side. You need to dress it with each grit you use on the face, but do it flat, just to remove the wire edge. A couple of strokes will do what needs to be done.

After all the cutting has been done, then you want to polish the edge. Some people like to use smooth leather charged with rouge for this, others use plain glass, still others use a canvas strop charged with rouge. My preference is for a piece of hard maple charged with rouge. The polishing part of the whole operation is the only place where you pull the tool away from the edge, rather than pushing it toward the edge. It is also done lightly. You are dealing now with a very fine edge and excess pressure will possibly overheat the part that does the real work.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 03/10/09 21:42:07 EST

Repousse' tooling:

I do most of my repousse work with hammers, rather than with punches. Most of my repousse hammers are on the order of eight to fourteen ounces, with long heads that are sometimes very gently arced. The faces vary from round to nearly chisel-like with every imaginable contour in between. While I make most of my own repousse hammers from axle steel, I do have a set of four that Ipurchased from Nathan Robertson of Jackpine Forge that are excellent hammers. There are very few good repousse hammers b eing made these days, unfortunately. Most of what are billed as repousse hammers are too heavy, too short, and have awkward shapes and poorly dressed faces.

My handles are generally a bit on the thin and whippy side, and the grip area is oval in cross section and the butt end is tapered and rounded. This is critical to avoid blisters on the heel of your hand after several hours of hundreds of blows a minute. All handles are bare wood finished by scraping with broken glass and sealed with sweat and dirt. :-)

For hot-work repousse punches, I make most of them from coil spring stock about 1/2" to 5/8" diameter, with a few larger or smaller as appropriate. I make most of my punches about 14" long, in defiance of the conventional wisdom that calls for 8" punches, because I dislike having my hand slow-roasted over glowing steel. I find it very difficult to control a punch wearing a glove, so I make the punches long enough to avoid the use of much more than a leather wristlet to protect my forearm from the heat. It works for me, but your mileage may certainly vary.

I also have a number of repousse punches that have .401" shanks for the air hammers. On these, I buy dozens of cheap HF air chisels and weld on longer shanks/heads made from S-7 steel. I also weld a side handle to the shanks so I can control the rotation of the tool. I do the same thing with engraving chisels for the air hammer. Kind of fun to do hand engraving where the cut line is 1/8" wide/deep and the characters are 3 or 4 inches high. It is also a really quick way to do veining that would be very difficult to achieve by impressing.

The bottom line is this: There are no absolute rules for repousse tooling - whatever works for you, whatever you can control and will yield the desired effect, is the right tooling - for you. The only way to discover what is right for you is to experiment.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 03/10/09 21:57:33 EST

"A handle welded to the chisel" I LIKE that idea! I've used an air chisel a bit, mostly for automotive work, but also for slitting sheet metal. The tool rotating was always a problem. Great idea and adds that control needed for art work.

We started our repousse' project with some large punches because like many projects this was a typical get ready in a few days and do it THIS weekend deal. Punch style fullers and chasing tools are fast and easy to make compared to hammers. So we used the hammers on hand and the punches I made as the girls did the initial hammering. Hammers are another project in the near future.

I agree that the quality of currently available hammers is pretty miserable. I have an old pecking hammer we bought for body work in the 1960's. It was as well made and dressed as any silversmiths hammer, handmade or otherwise. I have a much older Atha planishing hammer that is a beautiful pattern as well. Most of the available hammers are not nearly slender enough for this work. The Kaynes carry many fairly decent hammers in the Peddinghaus line and some others but they are a little short.

THEN there is the crummy hammer we picked up somewhere. Flat faces, sharp corners, too short a body and a crooked eye. To make matters even worse the eye takes about a 3/8" x 5/8" handle and the one installed was cut down with a large shoulder from a handle 3 times as big as fitting the eye. Typical of a lot of the cheaper imported stuff.

CoSira's "Decorative Ironwork" has a scale drawing of a nice little hammer they call "multipurpose". Its faces could be made to suit all kinds of work.

Some of the best hammer patterns in use are on our RepousseTools.com page about the hammers seen at the 2003 Armour-In. The big ugly ball dishing hammer made by Alan Bauldree from a striking hammer and 2.5" ball bearing was used by everyone because something about it felt good and it worked good. The classic octagon section silversmiths style hammers were also popular and similar in balance to the CoSira multipurpose hammer.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/11/09 01:26:04 EST

Why not a file for sharpening chisels? I normally use the Scary Sharp method, but I've always wondered why a file wouldn't work. In my limited thinking, a file is basically about 1000 small scrapers. And scraping is a common way to get a smooth finish on wood and metal. It seems to me that the action at the chisel edge would look an awful lot like a scraper drawing along the edge, followed very closely by another scraper blade.

I admit having done this in a pinch, placing the file on a bench and pushing the chisel straight up. It gave an edge plenty serviceable for the door mortise work I needed. I needed it quickly, so didn't take the time to see if I could get it Scary Sharp. But would it work with a good quality, like Nichols, mill file to get a good edge?
   - Marc - Wednesday, 03/11/09 07:28:22 EST

Why are swage blocks iron rather than steel?
   philip in china - Wednesday, 03/11/09 08:19:26 EST


Heh heh, sorry. Spent a lot of time with 3 year olds.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 03/11/09 09:40:35 EST

Swage Block Material: Because of their shape blocks were cast and in the early days cast steel and ductile was not available. Casting them may have been taken from Bronze age technology where both anvils and blocks were cast. Early swage blocks and many made today are still cast iron because it is cheap and available. For the kind of service most blocks see cast iron is sufficient. However, the better modern blocks are ductile iron which is roughly equivalent to mild steel. There have also been some cast steel blocks made for heavy duty use.

Small blocks such as jewelers' dapping blocks were cast iron, a few cast steel and many modern ones are now machined from solid in either steel or brass.

   - guru - Wednesday, 03/11/09 10:20:07 EST

A file will not leave a good edge but merely one that might be a good starting point to go to the stones/SiC paper with.

To see the difference look at the edges under a microscope.

If you are doing coarse work many people make due with pretty poor edges and get used to them and then are amazed what a really good edge does with so much more control and ease.

Sharpening tools is a good "bad weather" task and having the set up all together in a box or drawer can make it fairly painless to do ones and twos as time allows.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/11/09 11:35:02 EST

I am trying to get someone to help us update the URL to the Gulf Coast Blacksmith Association website on your ABANA Affiliates page(http://www.abana-chapter.com/). I have sent several notes to the webmaster of that site, with no response.

The new URL is: http://gulfcoastblacksmith.com

Could someone please help us get to get this updated? Thanks.
   Gulf Coast Blacksmith Association - Wednesday, 03/11/09 13:05:07 EST

Sharpening with a file: This is pretty coarse sharpening and is usually applied to axes and chainsaws. But saw blades were once all created and sharpened only by filing.

While making a bunch of critically shaped repousse' tools recently I used a file for much of the detail shaping. After that I used coarse sand paper to take the files marks out. It was often surprising how much material had to be taken off to remove the file marks. Then even more had to be taken off to remove the coarse paper scratches. For these tools the fine paper finish was removed with emery on a buffing wheel.

IF the metal cuts well with a file it may be a good way to reshape a blade but is not as good on flat straight edges as rounded and curved. Then a good flat stone is better. For some jobs we commonly use fine 3M Wet-or-dry on a machine table, glass plate or surface plate.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/11/09 15:32:02 EST

There are a number of reasons why swage blocks are made of iron. Molten steel is less fluid than ductile iron and much less than grey iron so getting detail and a smooth surface would be more difficult. Steel shrinks considerably more during solidificaton (and after) so the risers added to the casting would have to be larger and there would probably have to be more, the larger area that the riser is attached could interfere with features on the block. Probably the biggest reason is cast steel swage blocks would be about twice the price of ductile ones as cast steel is much more expensive than iron.
Many ductile irons are actually harder than mild steel and many Farrier anvils are now cast in ductile.
   - JNewman - Wednesday, 03/11/09 17:32:13 EST

A file is simply too coarse for wood carving tool sharpening. The carving tool will leave a cut with tiny grooves in it from the coarse edge. Most carvers shape the tool edge on a soft Arkansas stone (or diamond lapping stone) and finish on a leather strop with sub-micron stropping compound. If the edge is toast, use a Norton Combination India Stone to shape it. I have never really been a fan of scary sharp. I can get much scarrier edges with stone and strop. It simply takes practice.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 03/11/09 19:03:25 EST

Guru, i know this question has been asked many times, But,
i have a slightly different spin on it,

i just sold my 150 pound peter wright to help pay for a 345 pound mousehole in better condition than my pete, i got a killer deal on it,and i ended up spending the 450 bucks canadian on it, which is what i sold my peter wright for,

anyways, i need to wait for some financial issues to blow over and cant ship the anvil to alberta from ontario, so, i need a makeshift anvil of some sort untill my big guy gets here, i;m taking a welding program at SAIT right now, and we spend 3 hours a day in the shop welding every day , our teacher wants us to practice running straight beads on test plates and wants us to have good buildup skills for peices that will be machined and such after, i have a 20 inch long peice of 130 lb/yard train track, and a 12 inch peice of the same, and was thinking , if i cut out the anvil shape and practice building up the weave with fillerrod at school, its cheap and i practice cutting and i get to practice welding on something thats not just gonna go in the scrap bin , i think i could easily put in an amount of welds so that the face and body were the same widtch in about 2 weeks of welds that i;m allready doing all day, the question i;m asking is, since railroad will need to be re hardened using osmething like is described in the complete modern blacksmith , what welding rod should i use? hardness isnt really an issue is it? cause its just the body i;m building up, not the face or anything , i just dont want to pick the wrong rod and have it crack apart when i quench it or something, any ideas? by the way, the rail track is 6 3/4 tall by 6 inches wide at the base, by 3 inches wide at the face, and the web of it is about an inch at the narrowest point, i was thinking i would have to build up just over an inch on both sides, probably doing a pass on one side, then the other and over and over again so that it doesnt warp hugely to one side or anything, then grind , harden buff temper and polish , i will be including a pritchel hole but no hardy hole , remember this is a short time thing probably 3 months or so, but if if works may be a travel anvil or something,

thanks alot in advance
   cameron - Thursday, 03/12/09 00:56:44 EST

sorry, rail webbing not weave, building up the webbing
   cameron - Thursday, 03/12/09 00:58:07 EST

Filing chisels,

The best cabinetmaking files are generally made from pretty high carbon steel that is quite hard. A file is only a bit harder and therefore is a bit difficult to get a clean cut with on a chisel. Roughing chisels, big slicks and framing gouges are ofen a bit softer and can be rough-filed to profile, then sharpened with a stone or silicon carbide paper.

If you do wish to file a fine cutting edge, forget the Nicholson files - they're for stradesman's work, not cutlery. Get a Grobet double-cut #6 machinist's or jeweler's file and get a good finished result. Expect to pay more for the file than for the chisel.

While I recommend the wet-or-dry papers for novices and those who only occasionally sharpen cutting tools, I personally use Norton carborundum stones, Indai stones, Arkansas stones and, lately, precision diamond laps. For sharpening the ubiquitous (though generally useless) stainless steel cutlery, nothing works as well as the diamond laps, and they're the only sharpening tools I have that are wide enough for my larger plane irons and jointer knives. A hard Arkansas stone followed by rouging will produce a surgically sharp edge when done by a practiced hand.

   vicopper - Thursday, 03/12/09 01:33:27 EST

Air chisel handles:

When I put the handles on the .401 shank tools, Jock, I TIG weld them using 309 stainless filler and post-eld heat treat of 400F. That seems to work pretty well, though they still break off sometimes after prolonged severe use. The next time I do some I'm going to try tigging them with silicon bronze filler - I recall from my motorcycle building days that brazed frame joints often seemed to handle vibration better than welded ones, so I thought I'd give it a try on the air chisel tooling.

For real comfort when using side-handled air tooling, try slipping a piece of surgical tubing over the handle. Gives a comfortable, low-vibration grip without the necessity of a death grip. You heard it first here on Anvilfire. :-)
   vicopper - Thursday, 03/12/09 01:40:47 EST

A shortcut for lapping is to use plate glass scraps. These are technically within 0.005/foot flatness if I recall correctly. At any rate flatter than any cheaply available lapping surface. There are several materials used in lapping compounds. Silicon carbide, Boron Nitride and diamond all are available. Since the glass is so hard the grit does not charge into the surface, and is pretty easy to clean off between grits. And since glass scraps are so cheap, just toss the glass when it becomes scored. A variety of grit sizes will allow making flat surfaces and sharpening many edges easy. I have used Clover brand over the years and found the quality very good and the availability also good. Clover also makes available little cans so the investment is not high. The oil based lapping compounds from Clover are easy to clean off using my favorite cleaning solvent WD-40 or the cheap house brand equiv.
   ptree - Thursday, 03/12/09 06:49:07 EST

Where can I find plans for a small induction forge setup?
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 03/12/09 09:33:28 EST

Impact chisel handle breakage: Rich, I had a felling this would be a problem but the benefits out weight the problem. Keeping the handle as light as possible would help. Either flat bar (the hard way) or maybe tubing. Inertia is both friend and enemy in impact tools.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 09:56:40 EST

DIY Rail Anvil: Cameron, The problem in this plan may be shrinkage. You should probably preheat the opposite side to start and then make a few passes on one side, then the other. Any rod will do. I would use what the instructor recommends for practice (E6013, E7024, . . .). After the sides are filled about half way of both then the initial preheat should not be necessary.

Note that the secret to arc welding buildup is cleanliness. Flux inclusions create pits that become worm holes that are difficult to stop without grinding them out and filling with clean buildup. Power wire brush or use a needle scaler if the flux does not come off clean. Be sure to start on a clean surface as well.

Please see the article on RR-Rail Anvils. The best thing to do with the materials at hand is to make a stake anvil with longer beaks than shown (maybe the 20" piece on top and 12" for a shank, maybe you could extend it with a short piece of round bar). My plans call for removing the web and flange for the top but you could fill it in to the width of the cap and then taper the ends as appropriate. Some of the welding would be deep V buildup in short joints but you would still be burning up 100 pounds of rod on parallel stringer beads.

The middle of a stake anvil is suitable for forging and latter when you get your forging anvil the long beaks may be handy for light decorative work.

The RR-rail is hardenable. I would not build up the corners to make the top flat, grind it. Used rail often has small cracks and cold shuts from the steel deforming under load. Removing this surface is recommended. You can also grind it just enough to clean up then use some crack detection method (dye penetrant or magnaflux) to see the cracks. However, when grinding they are often visible due to the edges of the cracks heating and developing temper rainbows.

There is nothing wrong with your plan, but you might be happier with this.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 09:58:38 EST

Nip, there are some plans, or at least general schematics, online for induction forges. They are just not called "forges", but, instead, induction heaters. Google that. I found a site called www.richieburnett.co.uk that has a photo essay on his build. He mostly builds tesla coils, but look under "rf induction heating" at the top of the page.
These are not simple, electronically, but no doubt, you could build one. His works, but is by no means a finished, shop ready tool. The ones Grant sells include little bells and whistles like timers, knobs to control heat, water cooling for the coils, as well as safety features like grounding and breakers- things that are conspicuously missing from Ritchies test model.

There are other rough schematics on the web as well.

   - Ries - Thursday, 03/12/09 10:49:36 EST

Induction Forge Plans: Nip, I've looked around and didn't find anything. I DID find a lot of folks on youtube building induction heaters. Few details. Looked like a LOT of high tech. Not only is it high frequency but it is a special wave form. I have no doubt someone could build a very nice unit but its a LOT of work. The water cooled power transformer is a special item that must be built by hand.

Then there are practical issues like short circuit detection, power factors and timers (RF shielding).

I recently quoted a metering panel replacement for a piece of equipment that we build. A little data acquisition module and some metering parts plus an enclosure (size of a small welder) ran $12,000 in parts. This all attaches to a PC (the CHEAP part) for the display and reports. After that labor and a few specialized parts runs the cost up to $40,000. It would be more if it needed an internal industrial PC and LED displays.

I know I cannot do the above as a DIY project. I know enough to wire up the thermocouples, pressure transducers and flow meters including building a matching resistor package and small power supply. I've also had luck making and welding my own thermocouples. I've built RC circuits for DC surge filtering but it was seat of the pants. I can also write data collection and manipulation software. But I am not an electrical engineer. I do some seat of the pants electronics but if I had to design and plan circuitry applying the necessary math then it would be time to go back to school. . . for a long time. Also collect a different kind of tools. . Oscilloscope, frequency generators. . . About the fanciest meter I have is a couple phase voltage (3PH rotation) meters. My VOM's and DOM's have more features than I know how to ues. . .

I've got the old Radio-Shack DIY chip manuals, some boards and a drawer full of components. I had always intended to build those timer and frequency generator circuits and learn 20th Century electronics. . But you also really need to know 19th century electronics.

Check out the YouTube videos. I'm sure the guys that understand it can look at the pile of parts strung across those benches and say. . hmmmmm I can do that better. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 11:07:49 EST

I have an industrial swage block that is 18 inches square and weighs app. 200 plus pounds. It looks like the Belnap 1892 catalog listing.It is in excellent condition and shows very littlt use.I would like any information you could share with me as to the history and value of this swage block. thanks.
   kenneth - Thursday, 03/12/09 11:23:37 EST

Tar/Asphalt to make repousse' pitch: After much research and poking around I finally found a supplier of roofing tar that would sell me ONE container. I was surprised that this common substance is as hard to find as it was. Even outfits like McMaster-Carr do not carry it. I also found that it comes in four grades of slightly different melting points and hardness which are more or less stocked and sold according to the regional climate and construction standards.

I was amazed that it was this hard to locate a source. In my search I found numerous references to our repousse' pitch recipes also looking for the base material. I was not surprised to have to purchase 100 pounds. But I was a little surprised that it is sold in a solid chunk in a cardboard tube much like buffing compound but MUCH larger.

So now MY question. Are thee any clean/simple ways to cut this stuff into handelable chunks? The common method is chopping it up with an axe. This is a rather messy and inellegant solution.

My inclination was to make a guillotine style blade and use the fork lift with a load on it to push (not drop) the blade through the tube of tar. I suspect high friction and the need for some kerosene lube.

If I can find a good (and economical) method to cut this into 10 pound cakes I would consider reselling it in these smaller quantities.

Any recommendations?

   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 11:48:37 EST

Kenneth, response in mail.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 12:10:55 EST

How about a hot wire cutter for that pitch?

   - Dave Leppo - Thursday, 03/12/09 12:34:16 EST

Dave, Thanks for the info! I thought of hot wire but that requires removing the heavy paper/cardboard shell which the tar is poured and solidified in. There is also the question of the stuff welding back together. . . I won't have the tar until tomorrow so I do not know how difficult it will be to remove the paper shell.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 13:30:03 EST

sink 2 pieces of 4x4 in the ground side by side with 1/8 inch spacing between- lay the tube behind the uprights and wrap a piece of music wire or 1/16 steel cable around the tbe in a loop and pull cable with your truck or fork lift- should cut both tube and tar- cable is fairly cheap so cleanup is not a problem
   - ptpiddler - Thursday, 03/12/09 16:08:23 EST

Can you get one of those string cutters (that you put into a hacksaw frame) that is long enough to have a few inches of stroke through your tube? If so, I have to believe it would cut through the material easily... Even if you have to build a custom frame. Or use one of those wire saws that are sold to cut tree branches (put it in a frame).

   - djhammerd - Thursday, 03/12/09 16:45:33 EST

Remind me *never* to bounce a check on ptpiddler...

Immerse the pitch in liquid N2 and hit it with a hammer?

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/12/09 16:46:19 EST

Ptpiddler's method could be used with a come-along for better control of the process.
   - djhammerd - Thursday, 03/12/09 16:47:06 EST

I thought the tar might cut cleaner and be less gummy when cold but I only thought about cryogenics for a fleeting moment.

I think the problem will be cutting the tube and tar together.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/12/09 17:21:01 EST

I've seen roofing tar broken up with a sledge hammer to go into the kettles in the winter time. I suspect that the stuff they sell for NM would be the most resistant to softening with heat though...

Did you talk with the local roofing co to see how they handle it?

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/12/09 17:55:40 EST

Jock, all of the hot tar roofers I have seen use an ax to cut the pitch. They often only use the ax to cut the cardboard off. When the kettle is cold, and being heated and charged they will break up the 100#ers to make them melt quicker. It sticks to most everything. Wish I had known you were looking, I could have probably have gotten you a "Chip"
   ptree - Thursday, 03/12/09 18:06:19 EST

I'd use my space-based gamma ray laser. Guru, if you send me your lat/long. I'll take a swipe on the next pass. Put it out in your front yard and don't stand anywhere near it it the next 4 hours. (Sorry, it's been a looong day and I'm a little punch drunk.)
   Judson Yaggy - Thursday, 03/12/09 18:25:30 EST

Guru, how about a 2-3 hook tooth blade on the saw and some mineral spirits for clean up?
If the tar is cold it all the way through it should cut OK
Got an empty chest freezer?...
Are all of us newbs out here going to see some pics of the tar/repousse' set up?
I want to do something like a repousse' pannel but I was going to work into a leather sand bag or a dampsand box. Is this going to work for me or,do I need this pitch/tar backing.
   - merl - Thursday, 03/12/09 18:36:39 EST

When, in a moment of idleness, I was looking for something to do with the turntables from the broken shop vices, somebody suggested making a rotating pitch bowl. Not relevant to your query Jock but that might be a good idea. If you want me to send round a student to break one of your vices just let me know.
   philip in china - Thursday, 03/12/09 20:28:20 EST


Easiest way I know to break up a big block of roofing tar is to have a guy with a tar kettle melt it ofr you and pour it off into old 3# coffee cans. Second easiest is to dunk the whole thing in a barrel of dry ice and alcohol and then whack it with a big hammer. I think if I was in your area I'd try to find somebody with a log splitter and give that a go.
   vicopper - Thursday, 03/12/09 21:17:25 EST


While we're on the subject of repousse pitch, I will throw out here that tar makes pretty poor pitch. For really good pitch, I finally quit trying to make my own and just buy it from Northwest Pitchworks in Seattle. Not cheap, but way better quality, cleaner, consistent and available in several different hardnesses.

When I made my own pitch from tar, I added about 5% beeswax and used pumice for filler. Plaster of Paris is often used as the filler, but it makes way too dense and hard a pitch unless you over do the beeswax, in which event the stuffis soft enough, but melts on hot days. There are a jillion recipes out there for pitch from tar, but store-bought from N/W Pitchworks is far and away better.

The bottom of a high-pressure cylinder makes a pretty nice pitch bowl and can be supported in a salvaged rubber tire from a wagon. You can then rotate it, tilt it, etc and it stays pretty much where you put it. The bottom of a 100# propane tank makes a bowl about 14" diameter - for flat work, fill the lower part with concrete first and then just the last inch and a half or so of pitch. This makes a really stable pitch pot for hammer repousse work.
   vicopper - Thursday, 03/12/09 21:28:36 EST

Asphalt Tar Cutting: I had thought of the idea of having it melted and poured into convenient containers or molds. But I wasn't crazy about setting up to do it myself (a BIG mess) and in this locality they don't use it for roofing except in a few situations so there are few roofers to ask. . .

I've sawed rolls of roofing felt and the result was a tarry mess on the blade.

Recipes. . . I've looked at those available and I'm going to try something a little different. The roofing asphalt I am using is supposed to be "low odor". Instead of linseed oil I am going to try some heavy clear mineral oil. Since its source is the same as the asphalt I figure it should be the most compatible and the right softener. If a solvent additive is needed (I don't think so) then mineral spirits would be used. All three are from the same crude oil base and should mix very well.

Plaster seems to be a replacement for gypsum in many recipes and that a replacement for "brick dust". I'm going to try pumice (as recommended by Rich) since that is probably closer to brick dust.

I've generally had nothing but trouble working with paraffin and beeswax. Paraffin goes through a long period of being stretchy after being melted and eventually crystallizes and becomes brittle at the same temperature that it was strechy and cold flowing. Beeswax is very sensitive to temperature but more well behaved than paraffin. I know a lot of wax workers mix the two but I've not played with the mix. . . So beeswax may be my only non petroleum based plastic ingredient.

My plan was to research what I could find, then do some experiments. I've got 100 pounds of tar, 25 pounds of pumice and several quarts of mineral oil. Measuring and the proportions will be the trick. . .

Yeah I could have bought the right materials by now. . . Hmmmmm 45 cents a pound for asphalt, $10/pound (in 2005) for the commercial pine tar product. . . Well, maybe the experiment will be worth it. We will have to make small quantities and test each batch.

We are photographing things as we go along so we can put together a number of articles. The work the girls are doing is pretty high relief, over 1/2" and as first works may not be pretty. My first project will be a repousse' title panel for RepouseTools.com.

   - guru - Friday, 03/13/09 01:14:38 EST

Other Backings for Repousse':
One thing mentioned in the Adolph Steines book, Moving Metal, The Art of Chassing and Repousse' is carpet. His work bench is covered with it. So we went to a carpet shop and bought old carpet samples ($1 each). The dense non-textured pile seems best. The shorter of what we got (about 3/8" pile) seems the firmest. Another with 1/2" pile seems too soft but we are working 1/32" copper. Multiple layers can be used if more depth is needed. Many samples have edge binding which is also nice. Sure made a nice work surface on my bench and was cheap.

Lead and lead sheet (about 1/8") is mentioned in all the repousse books. Some repousse' done on hollow vessels was done after filling them with lead. . . If you use lead you will want to wear surgical gloves and take lead handling precautions (don't launder you clothes with children's clothes or bedding, don't play with infants until washing and changing clothes. . .).

Linoleum can also be used. There is a soft type used on drawing boards that would be good for fine low relief in thin sheet.

Sand and shot bags can also be used. I made one from cut off jeans legs. I sewed up one side, then inserted a zip-lock plastic bag of sand the closing doubled over and taped, then sewed the denim tube shut. The plastic bag will not last long but it will definitely keep the sand out of the sewing machine and reduce dust for a while. Soft leather upholstery material makes the best sand bags of this type and the plastic bag method can be used to make them as well. Shot bags should use steel shot, not lead.

We started with rough carved softwood forms. Fine carved hardwood forms can be used like molds. Very soft fine grain wood like basswood can be used for light chasing. Wood punches and stake type supports as well as general purpose blocks (like swage blocks) can also be used. We abused the edge of my bench for a while before I realized what we were going and clamped another piece of wood over it. For this hardwood is best but softwood will work for a while. As Thomas often notes, pallets are made of hardwoods and you can often get them free.

The advantage of pitch is that you can pour it against a partially completed work to help support the shape while refining detail. We have partially completed works that only need final finishing and some details that were not in our "molds". At this point supporting the high relief is difficult so a molded backing is needed. We can also use the pitch on the opposite side from the mold, chasing details from the front. Alternating front and back is common in this process.

At this point we could probably use paraffin. It retains that stretchy flowing characteristic of its long molecules for quite a while after cooling. But after a day or so it will change character and would crack and breakup.

One thing about DIY pitch is that most pitch is designed for soft thin metal. In blacksmithing you may want something heavier to work steel plate such as armour or sculpture. Even in non-ferrous you may be working heavy plate that may need more support.
   - guru - Friday, 03/13/09 01:32:14 EST

Steve Christy: Your answer is likely no, but contact the Historical Society which covers the area to see what they might be able to offer.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 03/13/09 02:03:59 EST

Guru: What is the tube made of?
   - Peter Hirst - Friday, 03/13/09 08:34:29 EST

If its cardboard, curcumcise it with a mat knife, then pull the wire through it.
   Peter Hirst - Friday, 03/13/09 08:39:16 EST

Some sort of paper/board. Will know tonight.

Been researching penetration tests of bituminous materials. The test is simple, the equipment simply a dial indicator and needle with 100g weight (load). The hard part was finding the needle size and angle. 9 degrees included. Apply load for 5 seconds and measure distance.

I'm looking for some quantitative comparison but I am not sure this needle penetration test is applicable to repousse' pitch. The only thing it has going is it is a standard. I was considering an impact test with a round penetrator of .5 or 1 inch diameter and a weight of 1 pound and measuring the diameter of the depression similar to a hardness test. I guess this is halfway between a Scleroscope and a Durometer test. . . The recomended standard for waxes and such is Shore A Durometer.
   - guru - Friday, 03/13/09 10:08:09 EST

i'm just about allways lurkin round here.... mostly because i can allways learn something by just reading...

anyway, i have a new question. work hardening. i somewhat understand it but i need clarifacation. can you work harden metals cold? in certain projects with certain metals is it required to annel the metal now and again to counteract work hardening?

my over active mind is tingleing with the possibilities. i remember the days as a 15 year old cold hammering swords out of pieces of scavanged straight mild steel. now i got the tingleing idea of hardening the blade edge not by complex heat treatments but rather by partially completing the blade edge(partially doing the hammer work that is), heat treating the steel so it's springy and then working it the rest of the way cold so that the edge hardens enough to keep a razor edge. crazy idea, or just a far fetched but possible plan?
   - Lcpl Johnson - Friday, 03/13/09 10:10:51 EST

Work Hardening occurs at any temperature up to the transformation point in ferrous metals and the equivalent in non-ferrous. Yes, it is a cold working phenomenon. When you bend a piece of metal back and forth until it breaks that is the result of work hardening. All common metals work harden. The difference is how you anneal them. Non-ferrous and most 300 series stainless steels are heated to red and then quenched. Common steels are heated to red and then cooled as slowly as possible (max of 20°F per hour for alloy tool steels).

Bronze age swords and knives were sharpened and hardened by hammering the edges. Carbon steel is better heat treated.
   - guru - Friday, 03/13/09 10:46:04 EST

Hey I can send the student who broke ananvil to do the vise---much closer than Philip!

I believe that the dislocation climb temperature is below the transformation temp for ferrous metals, (Dislocation climb is one method for dealing with work hardening, renucleation and crystal growth is another IIRC; but generally at a higher temp)

Traditional Pewter was a metal where the dislocation climb temp is generally below room temp and so you could "anneal" a piece by letting it sit a while.

LCpl Johnson; please don't be discouraged or upset by what I have to say below; but...

Workhardening will not hold a razor sharp edge nearly as long as a well heat treated carbon steel. "The Metallography of Early Ferrous Edge Tools and Edged Weapons" gives the vickers' hardnesses of a bunch of early blades and the ones that were properly heat treated are several *times* the hardness of the other ones.

Heat treat of simple carbon steel is not real complex: Heat till a magnet doesn't attract and then quench, reheat to a much lower temp. If this is too complex then swordmaking will be an even greater problem what with center of percussion and vibration node issues to be dealt with in making a proper blade!

Anyway you wanted to heat treat it properly as part of your work hardening plan as most swords *should* be hardened springy.

Workhardening also promotes cracking as a failure mode. Look up stress concentrators too.

If you want to do a replica of an early ironage sword of low carbon content then it is probably appropriate; but you will be much better off using a moderate carbon steel and just stopping at the spring temper stage of your plan.

Thomas Powers
   Thomas P - Friday, 03/13/09 11:17:12 EST

Funny that pitch bowls have come up. I recently picked up a largish high pressure tank and cut of the domed bottom section, about 11 inches in dia and 3/8" thick steel and was wondering what to do with it...One of my students wants to do repousee too...

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/13/09 11:19:47 EST

Plumbing a gas forge. Do I need special pipe thread compound or will Teflon tape work ?
   Willy Cunningham - Friday, 03/13/09 11:21:21 EST

Willy, No, and Sort of. . Teflon tape is GREAT stuff for things you want to take apart later. BUT, (BIG BUT) it tends to get into the system and clog gauges, orifices and valves. The more I uses it, the more I dislike it and would avoid it on any system with critical small openings.

No matter how careful you are when applying the Teflon tape it squeezes out of the joint and ends up smeared across the end of the pipe or fitting. This then blows out trailing strings of extruded teflon down stream.

On a forge I would use old fashioned liquid pipe dope and JIC flared tube fittings (recommended for gas service rather than compression fittings).
   - guru - Friday, 03/13/09 11:53:45 EST

Lowes and Home Depot carry a semi-liquid pipe dope made for gas connections. It's back in the plumbing section and only cost a couple of dollars for a lifetime supply.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 03/13/09 13:04:04 EST

Thanks, I will hit the plumbing shop, nearest Lowes/home depot is 130 miles away...
   Willy Cunningham - Friday, 03/13/09 13:36:51 EST

As a fellow that has a love/hate relationship with teflon tape, I do have to offer the following.

In the R & D labs where I spent perhaps 17 years total, we plumbed from vacumn to 33,000 psi. We made and broke hundreds of set-ups a week, and on some days made and broke a thousand pipe theraded fittings. Since most of this stuff was a short term use, and would go back on the shelf for re-use, we used teflon tape as the pipe dope got on everything. If you wish to use pipe tape, you need to know it is not a sealant, but rather a lubricant. This allows the tapered pipe threads to screw tightly and not gall. I have used soap in a pinch, as well as neversieze, grease and gear oil. All work somewhat.
For slippery molecules like nitrogen, natural gas and propane, teflon tape is not the best choice if a leak proof joint is required, then a pipe dope, a double ferrule compression fitting, an O-ring flange or welding is needed.

JIC fittings are single ferrule and designed for hydraulic oil. Not the best choice for gas, but will usually work OK.

The best pipe joint compounds are anerobic sealants. The best of any I ever used was Loctite PST.(Pipe Sealant with Teflon) BAR NONE. Works on Stainless, works on copper and ferrous. For stainless needs the primer. And you can diassemble after many years even in Stainless.

To use Teflon tape, most folks apply it wrong and that is the cause of the floaters in the system. Hold the tape roll in the right hand, in the palm with the free end of the tape between the thumb and first finger. Hold the fitting, nipple etc in the left hand. Push the tape against the fitting with the thumb, with the tape not closer to the start end of the threads than 1.5 threads. Start to turn the fitting with the left hand and use the thumb to push on the tape while tensioning the tape with the hand. The tape should tightly conform to the threads. the tape should wrap in the direction of tighting of the fitting. Make from 2 to 2.5 full wraps, no more.

Most floaters come from wrapping many too many wraps too close to the end. More teflon tape will not seal a bad thread. If you see any bent, dented threads then that must be fixed before you assemble if you want a tight joint.

Disclaimer, when I state above a "leakproof" joint I am reffering to a leak rate that will not generate a bubble of nitrogen using leak detection fluid and visible means. If you want mass spectometer tight then that is a whole new ball game!
Ptree the valve and fitting Manufacturing plant R & D guy.
   ptree - Friday, 03/13/09 17:48:47 EST

The stuff at Lowes is "Oatey Great White Pipe Joint Compound with Teflon". It says it withstands high pressure and is for all metals and plastics. I have had it on my forge connections for 8 years with no leaks. That's good enough for the girls I go with.....
   quenchcrack - Friday, 03/13/09 19:20:28 EST

Pitch Tar Asphalt Bitumen Testing: I spent a night and a day researching testing methods for repousse' pitch so that its hardness properties could be quantitatively reported. There are two methods recognized by ASTM. The Penetrator test (pen. bit.) using a thin 9° needle applied at 100g force for 5 seconds and the Shore Durometer 'A' which uses a blunter 60° penetrator and 821g force. Both of these can be performed on the same test rig by changing the weight and penetrator. Both are done at the same standard temperatures.

I still like the idea of an impact tester with a spherical nose and a force similar to a hammer strike. 500g dropped 1m with a 15mm nose. . . The results reported as penetration depth and raised crest around the depression or something to that effect.

No tar this weekend. . .
   - guru - Friday, 03/13/09 23:59:48 EST

I got my large chisel sharp enough to shave with today using the plate glass method. It's not a good shave, but I am missing a patch of hair on my arm now >.>. The sharpened chisel identified a new problem for me. I didn't think much about it when I cut the halves out of the oak and then glued them together, but one half was from a slightly reddish board and the other from a lighter coloured one. Now it seems that the reddish wood is much harder than the lighter coloured side; the chisel literally tears off the lighter wood as if it were bark on a rotting log, while the red wood comes off in small shavings and causes the chisel to 'catch' often.

I also tried out the flap disk, I spun the grinder for a second and turned it off, then held the disk against the handle I was working on..... It instantly gouged and burned out a half a centimetre deep trench into the wood. It almost ruined the piece; needless to say I will have to practice with it on some scrap wood before using it again.

Also how dense is pitch generally speaking; couldn't something like duct seal be used instead?
   Nabiul Haque - Saturday, 03/14/09 00:33:48 EST

Just a reminder part of anvilfire.com's revenue comes from advertising links. Check out those listed on the right side of screen. If of interest cut and paste link into a reference file.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 03/14/09 01:47:27 EST

Nabiul, maybe you have the grain running in the opposite directions. All wood grows with a grain that can be shaved thin from one direction and wants to rip out if you cut in the opposite direction. Try cutting from the opposite direction to see if it is just a grain orientation issue.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 03/14/09 08:04:24 EST

I've noticed that the big box stores sell teflon tape that's specifically rated for gas. I think the stuff's yellow. Is there any reason to use that instead of the regular white stuff on forge connections (if you decide to go with tape at all, of course)?
   Mike BR - Saturday, 03/14/09 10:31:27 EST

Google Ads: Ken, Etal: Thank you but please do not ask folks to click the ads in open forums. It is against the rules for me or any associates to entice or encourage clicking the links. There has been much abuse in the Google ad system and they are very sensitive to it. By their terms they can, with no chance for a defense from me, block me from the system OR withhold ad revenue.

While many folks dislike the ads and a few complain I have found many products I did not know about through them. When the context sensitivity works its great.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 10:56:03 EST

Yellow Tape: Mike, I do not know what the difference is (probably slight) but I suspect that it is the fact that it is rated for gas AND the building codes often require products to be specifically rated for a given purpose.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 11:05:05 EST

Wood Laminations, Grain Directions and Color: I think QC has one problem but the color differences indicate different zones in the wood. As some trees grow there is an inner aged zone which is often darker and an outer newer zone that is lighter and softer. The difference in some woods is unbelievable, in others it can mostly be color. In a board with such laminations side by side it IS difficult to work and much care is required. Generally wood workers avoid creating such situations or scrap the sap wood.

In the case of white oak the sap wood is less porous, less splintery and whiter than the interior. It is this wood that is prized for bent wood work and making baskets. The core or heart wood is used separately for furniture. One tree, two woods.

In walnut the sap wood can vary from a little light to almost white. Generally there is no difference in grain but the sap wood may be slightly softer in a fast growing tree. Some wood workers use both parts for the color differences but first class work always has the sapwood trimmed off and used for blocking and things that do not show.

As to grain directions, I would never try to laminate heavy pieces of hardwood and work them unless they were in the fine grained family of woods in the same hardness range (walnut, cherry, maple). Even then the best way to work such pieces is with rasps, files and abrasives that do not care about the grain direction like edged cutting tools.

And yes, the coarse high speed abrasives cut wood like a hot knife through butter. Generally no pressure is required and you must have a good eye for the shape you want as there is no sneaking up on it unless it is a very large piece. If the wood is burning then generally you are running too fast or applying too much pressure.

Pitch Density/Hardness: It is somewhere between warm tar and warm beeswax. It is not the density that varies so much as the hardness. Different hardness pitches are used for different classes of work. Work can vary from thin gold to heavy steel plate. The harder the metal the stiffer the pitch needs to be. But in some cases it is the depth of the work being done. Some repousse' is quite shallow while other work can be inches deep. Some artists may start with a soft pitch and then change to a harder pitch to refine details.

The needed characteristics of pitch are complicated. It needs to support the work and provide resistance to movement. But it must also move or flow out of the way as the work progresses. It must also melt, stick to the metal but not be too sticky.

Most sealers and canned tars have solvents in them that evaporate and leave the patch hard after some time. These are also designed to trowel on and are much too soft or fluid to support repousse'.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 11:18:15 EST

Harbor freight is having a sidewalk sale andim buying the little 15lbs aso for a buddy and the cast iron is too soft couldi heat itand waterquench it to makeit a little harder and do they make wood cutting bladesfor the horazontal/vertical bandsaw. this was done with an itouch sorry for mistakes
   - phil Collins - Saturday, 03/14/09 13:02:02 EST

HF ASO: Phil, No, you cannot heat treat cast iron to make that much improvement.

Wood Cutting Blades: I have not found wood cutting blades for the twisted blade saws. Blades for these saws can only be so wide and so thick as well as having a limitation to the set of the blade. The back of the blade runs against a shoulder on the wheels and the set of the blade must clear the chamfer on the wheels. A wood cutting blade would have to be deeper than a metal cutting blade to clear the wheel.

If you find a blade to fit then the saw would need to be modified for the deeper blade as there are guards and other parts that fit close.

For cutting wood with a 4x6 saw I just use a standard coarse metalworking blade. IF you want a narrower blade for cutting tight curves then you will have to use a different type of saw. Saws for narrow blades and different widths require rubber tires on the wheels.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 13:37:15 EST

Nope changing direction along the grain doesn't help that much. I think it's as guru described it, the harder wood looks very even and compressed while the softer side has little hair like gaps all throughout the wood.

You can see the difference here.


Also the stock taking shape, I stopped using the chisels, the flap disk makes short work of the wood.

   Nabiul Haque - Saturday, 03/14/09 13:41:13 EST

Wood Work: I have often "sketched" in wood by carving cheap construction grade softwoods (pine, fur). Rough sawing with a Sabre (reciprocating) saw, shaping with planes, draw knife, rasps. Like rough sketching in 3D can be quite fast.

While it is not the same as working in hardwoods, you can practice getting from the blank to the finished piece and often find design faults as well.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 15:08:59 EST

Many woods have a hard heartwood with a softer outer layer of sap wood. Where each tree is grown and many other conditions affect the quality and consistency of the wood.
   Robert Cutting - Saturday, 03/14/09 17:59:12 EST

I am intending to start hobby smithying (maybe build up later if I'm any good) and I'm in the process of getting and building things to start. I have the makings of a fire pot made from the lower section of a heavy mild steel air compressor tank. A local engineering firm cut it down for me. it's about quarter inch thick walled. it has a domed or bevelled bottom and I had the idea that, if I placed a bed of wood in the bottom of this then topped that with a goodly layer of sand, then placed my "coals" on top for my forge. The question is, would I then be able to create my own charcoal by doing this? or is this going to be too hot and end up just burning the wood. The idea of the sand is to reduce the amount of oxygen to the wood as well as making the bed for my fire.
   Duncan - Saturday, 03/14/09 18:03:00 EST

Jock (et al) thanks for the info about induction forges (heaters). Maybe sometime in the future it will be easier to handle such technology. I just got my hobby sized electropolishing kit from PlatingSales.com Sitting in my basement for a couple days (been REAL busy lately, dad-in-law just diagnosed with lymphoma), but can't wait to set it up. I'll post updates about the kit and how well it works, great resource of products and info.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 03/14/09 20:29:54 EST

I wish I had the luxury of having the time to make a test piece out of soft wood right now, but the end of the semester is approaching in 4 weeks and I have to prepare to write my finals plus the 2nd round of midterms every week until the end. Actually the first thing I wanted to try was using soft wood and then going over it in fiberglass or just the polystyrene resin. I tried using fiberglass on a foam board model that was covered in packing tape and got pretty bad results; resin everywhere and the fiberglass didn't like sticking to the tape.

I'm halfway through inletting the stock right now, I made a series of holes with a large boring bit and then went through them with the chisel. Thats all the time I have this weekend to work on it, I'll have to get a much longer and thinner chisel to finish it next weekend.

Here is a picture of the stock with the airgun internals layed over it, once everything is done, I'll add a forward grip like the real steyr aug has.


Also I was wondering, is the fiberglass resin sandable just by it self, or would it melt and burn like plastics usually do? Instead of sealing the wood with varnish, I was thinking about using a coat of resin and building up areas where sharp corners or holes were left in the wood, like the joints of the handle. Or should I just use wood filler and.... wait can paint be applied over/under varnish, or is there some specific paint that can seal the wood? Or maybe even truck bed liner.

Anyways sorry for all the questions, but the bug to make something has bitten me ^^; can't stand doing non stop paper work for 8 months.
   Nabiul Haque - Saturday, 03/14/09 20:40:21 EST

For Guru (Mr. Dempsey)

Is it possible for me to paste a picture(s) of my forge that I'm trying to sell on Anvilfire for you guys to give me an estimate on how much it is worth? I'm not sure if I can because of the rules of www.anvilfire.com

I'm trying to sell it by tomorrow or by monday to get it out of here.


Matt Hunter, Cody Wy
   Matt Hunter - Saturday, 03/14/09 21:27:43 EST

could you define the term "carbon steel"? the labeling system for steel(such as 1040, 4140, and so on) doesnt define a "mild steel" difference. there are carbon steels and then fancy alloy steels. right?

so the question is, that in the actual literal definition a "mild steel" could be called a carbon steel just as 1040 steel is carbon steel right?

   - johnson - Saturday, 03/14/09 21:46:37 EST


Carbon steels are sometimes called "plain carbon" or "straight carbon" steels. They have carbon content plus trace elements of manganese, phosphorus, and sulphur. The American Iron and Steel Institute numbers go from 1006 to 1095. For convenience in referring to these steels, we sometimes call 1006 to 1015 "dead soft" carbon steel. From 1015 to 1030 is often considered low carbon or "mild steel." From 1030 to 1055 may be called medium carbon steel. High carbon steel is 1060 to 1095.

I formerly bought 1020-22 plain carbon steel off the rack in the 1960's and 70's,and we called it mild steel, but now what is sold is mostly A36. A36 is an American Society for Testing Materials number. Although today A36 is called mild steel, it is technically a low alloy structural steel. The A36 quality control of chemistry is not always so well done. The carbon content will usually be around 0.26% to 0.28%. A36 has a manganese content of 0.60/0.90%.

Then you get into W1 which is a plain carbon, high carbon tool steel which is manufactured with stringent quality control, often in an electric furnace. The carbon content is usually between 0.70% to 1.3%. When you encounter a letter and number in combination, it will indicate a quality tool steel.

I would advise getting a book or pamphlet which outlines the 4 and 5 digit and tool steel AISI/SAE numbering system. You would find that 41XX series, for example, indicates a chromoly steel of a certain composition. It is an alloy steel, not a plain carbon steel. The 10XX series refers to non sulphurized plain carbon steels.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 03/14/09 23:05:59 EST

The place to find all the above and MORE is Machinery's Handbook. Every blacksmith, welder, engineer or metalworker of ANY kind should have a copy.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 23:25:22 EST

Forge photos and sale. Matt, Sorry, no photos at this time. Ads for items to sell should be put on our Hammer-In page. Give a good description, location, asking price, contact info. .

You could email me photos for an estimate of value but its worth whatever you can get for it. Being in a hurry you may not get nearly as much if you waited.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 23:29:09 EST

Forges and Charcoal: Duncan, your scheme has a number of problems. Generally a forge is not the place to make charcoal and you do not want sand mixed with it as this causes and increases slag and clinkers. If you want to make charcoal then do it in an oil drum or some kind of large closed (and vented) container. Use your for forge for a forge. If your forge is too deep and needs a fire pot to control and focus the fire use clay or dirt covered with clay to build up the bottom and create a fire pot about the size of the top of your head.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/14/09 23:35:09 EST

Thanks for the answer. i just used the 4140 number as a reference because it was on the top of my head, not saying that it was a carbon steel or anything.

now i understand the 4 digit coding, but how does the three digit coding you used above work? the a36 code you posted for example.

anyway thanks, i was trying to explain to someone that generally speaking "normal steel" is carbon steel and so i went here to make sure that i had everything straight in my head. always good to double check your knowledge right?
   - johnson - Sunday, 03/15/09 00:12:45 EST

Nabiul: The polyester & epoxy resins used with fiberglass can be sanded when fully hardened, but they tend to clog the paper. Resins don't work real well as paint, not saying it can't be done, but they tend to run before they set up, due to not having solvents flashing off like paints do. You can thicken resins to make fairing compounds, just be sure tom use a sandable filler to thicken it. Auto body filler is a ready made compound of this type. Not all filler/paint/varnish is compatable, there are too many types to bother to list here. There are sealers specificly made to seal wood before painting, be sure everything You plan to use is compatible.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/15/09 00:44:51 EST

Johnson: A36 is a particular grade of steel based more on mechanical properties than an exact formula of alloys. It does not follow logic like the SAE 4 digit system.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/15/09 00:48:03 EST

I seem to remember that the "36" in A-36 refers to its 36,000 PSI yield strength. But that pattern holds for few if any other specs, so it isn't much use for understanding steel coding.

Even the SAE 4 digit numbers aren't based solely on the steel analysis. For example, the 1018 and 1020 specs have exactly the same range of carbon content. I think the difference is that 1018 has more manganese. Just as the "caliber" of a hand gun is generally based on the bullet diameter, yet a .357 will fire .38 rounds but not .380 ones.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/15/09 07:33:58 EST

A numbers other than tool steels: ASTM numbers are testing and performance standards or specifications, not chemistry specs. ASTM standards refer to other standards such as definitions, test methods and test equipment. To obtain ASTM standards you must BUY them, and those they reference, OR find them in a University library. After all that what you have tells you nothing specific because they are TESTING standards. . . Unless the spec IS for a specific chemistry then any chemistry that meets the performance spec is suitable.

There are cross reference lists of steels that meet ASTM standards but these do not tell you a lot if the steel you have is only defined as an ASTM spec steel. These lists often have multiple steels that meet the standard which is a MINIMUM performance spec.

The old SAE (coopted by AISC) are a better spec IF you want to know chemistry. Even when the encoding is not perfectly followed the chemistry listed in various references for that steel IS what it is.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/15/09 09:17:07 EST

Friend Guru, many thanx for your reply, I had a feeling that my idea had to have it's problems after all it would have been thought about before. I didn't have the intention of making charcoal but it seemed at the time to be a shame to miss out on an opportunity for cheap fuel. never mind. My forge to be as I said is mild steel about quarter inch thick, the wall depth is about 7-8 inches but the bevel to the middle would take it down to about 10 inches. The outside diameter of this is 25 inches. I shall try and forward pics to go with this could you give me your opinion? Duncan!!!
   Duncan - Sunday, 03/15/09 11:59:19 EST

I have just built a coal forge and was given plans for the Side Draft hood which is at the base 24" wide and 12" deep. It is 48" tall and the top narrows to 12" by 12". I have been looking everywhere for 10" stove pipe and accessories and went to my local fireplace store to find everything I need and was given a quote of $999.99 for everything to go through the roof. I called Lowes and other local hardware stores and all they carry is 8" stove pipe which is much cheaper. Would this be a large enough diameter pipe to use for proper venting? if not can someone direct me where to get very inexpensive stove pipe?

Thank you
   Steve - Sunday, 03/15/09 12:45:19 EST

Please explain stainless steel foil rap in patterned welded steel: How do you judge heat of the billet? Do you have to grind off the stainless steel after the welding is done. Is one rap good for multiple heats. Also, when using tradition flux method, do other knife makers grind off all scale between folds?
Thanks, Larry
   LARRY - Sunday, 03/15/09 13:22:43 EST

Steve I bought 10" x10' spirial seamed ductwork from the Habbitat for Humanity ReStore for US$4 a piece, (should have cleared them out of it) I also picked up some heavy walled stainless from them to make the lowest section from.

Have you tried a building salvage co or a heating and cooling (HVAC) co for used materials?

If you are in a wooden framed building you will probably want to spring for the roof penetration kit new though.

Note that typical chimney pipe for wood stoves is sold flat and can be rolled up with a locking seam---nothing prevents you from taking *two* pieces and making a single larger diameter piece from them.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 03/15/09 14:50:57 EST

Thank you so much Thomas!!!! I will begin my search

   Steve - Sunday, 03/15/09 15:09:41 EST

But, is there an on-line source of a general comparison between say 3/4" and 1" rebar? I don't need a 'rocket science' answer, just a generality.

Reason for asking is I do some 'whatever comes in the door' work. Local brought me a large, trailer-based BBQ with a wood burning box on the end. Fire grate had warped badly and the ash pan had rusted out badly. Both were beyond salvage. I told him I wouldn't do the job unless he let me beef up both. Since this is going to be a bit of an expensive job (at least for me), I'd like to be able to give him a rough idea how much of a difference my beefing them up might make.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/15/09 15:33:29 EST

Steve: if you haven't built that behemoth side draft monster yet, I urge you to take a look at the SuperSucker plans on this site first. Most of the design elements os side draft so-called "hoods" are based on obsolete traditions. mythology, and misinformation. That includes "expansion chambers", smoke shelves and hood extensions. Nothing, but nothing, "draws" as well as a plain flat opening as near the fire as you can get it conveniently, and the SuperSucker is the best proog you can ever want. Even the SuperSucker is over-engineered in some respects. Before I moved my forge recently, my "hood consisted of an 8" stove pipe end set about 4-8" over the fire, angled at about 30 degrees off the vertical. plnety of visibility and with 10 feet of stack it "drew" hard enough to suck a little air right through the tweer, and all of the smoke and fumes generated form a surface area a lot larger than the fire. My present forge chimney is now a straight vertical 9" square flue, unlined brick with a 9" wide x 12" high flat vertical opening with its bottom edge about 2" above and 10 " to the side of the center of the fire. Draws as strong as and over a larger area than the plain pipe No slanted back wall or any of the things you see in so many masonry side drafts. And that was before I discovered a 5x5 hole in the side of the chimney about 6 feet up. Total stack is less than 10 feet. Sort of a brick SuperSucker. You can demonstrate the principle of the thermal siphon th as little as 4' of 6 or 8 inch stove pipe. Holding it more or less vertically, place the lower endabout 4-6" over or near a small open fire, such as a forge fire, and hold it there for a few seconds. Oh, yes. Wear welding gloves.
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 03/15/09 16:29:30 EST

Thank you Peter, Unfortunately, I finished the behemoth monster late yesterday. They were plans that were given to me from my blacksmith guild. Wish I would have waited!!!
   Steve - Sunday, 03/15/09 16:59:49 EST

Ken, The problem is strength at heat. But in you case I would go with cross sectional area. If the area is 2x then the load resisting strength will generally be about 2x. Span is the big variable. Deflection increases with the cube of the increase in span. Span reduction makes a huge difference.

   - guru - Sunday, 03/15/09 20:40:31 EST

Stainless Foil Wrap: In places where the foil is tight it will be the same temperature as the outside of the billet. The problem with all billet welding is getting a soaking heat so the core is at full temperature. This is most often a matter of time in a given forge and judged by experience.

In general the foil does not weld well to the billet but it does happen in spots. These should be ground off. Generally the foil wrap disintegrates while forging and only the heavier remainders are pealed off. No, it is not reusable.

Removing all scale by grinding between laminations is generally recommended and produces less failures.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/15/09 20:53:39 EST

A-36 is the designation for ASTM specification number A-36, which if for structural steel in the form of plate, bars, and shapes. ASTM standards/specifications are arrived at by consensus between producers, users and other interested parties. ASTM specifications often include chemical and physical requirements, but the chemical grades are typically hidden further within the specification, and go by additional initials. I don't remember any off the top of my head, but will try to post Monday when I'm at work and have access to them.
   - Gavainh - Sunday, 03/15/09 21:25:09 EST

Guru, on the new website format, will there be a perminant place for home shop chemistry and formulas.
Things like suprequench, oxiding, browning, blueing, dies and paint finishes ect...?
   - merl - Sunday, 03/15/09 21:43:06 EST

Hi everyone,
Long time, no post. I want to graduate from my trusty brake drum forge and have a new firepot welded up from ΒΌ inch plate. Can anyone give me a tried and tested set of dimensions? How deep? What angle should the sides slope to?
   Craig - Sunday, 03/15/09 21:57:47 EST

Hi Craig

Why don't you buy a new cast firebox? It may cost you less than the steel and welding giving you better results. They are affordable from Centaur Forge.

If you still want to make one I can go out and measure a firebox all up for you. I have a new one I have never used sitting in the shop. I wouldn't mind measuring it if you want me to.
   - Rustymetal - Monday, 03/16/09 00:06:12 EST

Rustymetal: Given the value of the Aussie Dollar at the moment, I doubt that buying a pot from Centaur Forge would be a cost effective option.
Why exactly is it that cast pots are so much better than welded ones? I have only had the experience of my brake drum and a welded pot in the forge where I did my short course in ornamental blacksmithing.
   Craig - Monday, 03/16/09 02:04:44 EST

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