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

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

This is an archive of posts from March 22 - 31, 2009 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Hi There I was wondering if you would know if i could jimmy rig a old car turbo to make it inti a hand crank blower because for one I could get this dirt cheep an two I'm a broke ass 17 year old thanks for the help.
   Denny - Sunday, 03/22/09 01:07:15 EST

Denny: Go around to yard sales and find a multi-speed hairdryer. Doesn't matter whether or not the heating element works.

On ChileForge, essentially they looked at everything which was available on the market at that time and incorporated what they considered to be the best elements of each into a professionally done model.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 03/22/09 04:49:15 EST

Denny, the turbo's are designed to run at rpms beyond anything you will be able to gear up to and still get started with a handcrank. Theyusually need a constant filtered oil supply to the center bearing.

Good sources of fans: Hairdryers, copy machines, vacumn claners(loud though)
   ptree - Sunday, 03/22/09 07:16:41 EST

One of my fantasy projects is a forge blown by a supercharger (not turbocharger) spun by a washing machine motor. The idea was to mount a carburetor on top and have a gasoline-fired forge. Of course, that was a more attractive fantasy when gas was at a buck a gallon.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/22/09 08:17:53 EST

Duncan, Some newer or newer reprinted books are:

"The Artist Blacksmith" by Peter Parkinson"
"Forged Architectural Metalwork" by Peter Parkinson
"A Blacksmithih's Craft" by George F. Dixon
"The Skills of a Blacksmith" by Mark Aspery
"Plain and Ornamental Forging" by Ernst Schwarzkopf (reprinted in 2000 by Astragal Press).
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 03/22/09 10:32:56 EST

Duncan, Also see the blacksmithing section of our on-line book Working in Metals.

Backyard Blacksmithing by Lorali Simms is good if you want clear step by step photos.

While you can gain a little something from any of these books all the beginning blacksmithing books cover the same ground over and over from a more of less traditional viewpoint.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 11:40:51 EST

Knife Handle Material: The two that have held up the best rattling around in my pocket against loose change and various odds and ends has been linen micarta scales on an old Buck bicentenial edition. I carried the same knife for over 20 years before I misplaced it. Besides the wear against coins it also ran through the clothes washing machine numerous times with no apparent damage. The stainless parts on my old Buck would show wear on occasion and I would dress it a bit on the buffing wheel. The micarta showed no such wear. . .

The other material was the black plastic (Delrin I think) that buck used on their standard line. My thin Buck 505 with the micarta scales was replaced with several with rosewood (I think) scales that has worn quite a bit in 5 years or so.

Linin micarta was also used for the cam drive gears in the 1950's GM 235 "big six" engines. My experience with them (one engine moved through three trucks) was that they lasted just about forever. .

So I'd say the linin micarta is one of the best from my unscientific wear testing.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 12:17:02 EST

Re "reading your self to sleep with MH"---but just think of the *DREAMS* you would have mon!

Thomas (perhaps after I finish the Knight and the Blast Furnace)
   Thomas P - Sunday, 03/22/09 14:03:44 EST

Frank, thanx for those I'll check them out, I like to see if E-bay has these before moving on to Amazon, both of these have usually been a good source for me in the past.

Guru, Thanx also to you, I'll bear in mind what you say about duplicate info. I'm very much interested in the traditional side of smithing but I suspect most of us have started with the same romantic notions of traditionalism.
   Duncan (aka. Maddragon) - Sunday, 03/22/09 14:30:56 EST

Thomas P, Och aye mon, whit kin ah say tae that? maybe that'll help me with my romantic notions of traditional smithying...Ha! Ha!
   Duncan (aka. Maddragon) - Sunday, 03/22/09 14:35:43 EST

Well the mill arrived this morning, and is in place and fairly level. I have to borrow the master level from work to get exactly level. It came with a number of arbors, a boring arbor, a couple of end mills, and a number of cutters for the horizontal arbor. I also cam with what looks like a complete set of change gears for the feed, and a deviding head and a what looks to be a complete setup for driving the deviding head to make fluted cutters etc.
I have polished and oiled the ways, and the spindle and everthing is smooth. Now to install a motor started for the big Dayton motor.

The mill is a Cinnicinati #1 1/2 universal Horzontal mill. Pre 1927 from I have researched so far.

Question for Dave Boyer et al, This machine has zerks about everywhere, was this a greased machine, or has someone made the mistake of filling oil holes with zerks?
   ptree - Sunday, 03/22/09 14:38:10 EST

A safety question here. Last night while working on the gun stock, I used the flap disk a little too vigorously and inhaled some smoke and burning wood dust for about a minute. Afterwards I was coughing for a while and my chest felt like I had a cold. The irritation is almost gone and is just a minor sore throat now, but have I done any damage to my lungs? A quick search on google showed that wood dust is considered a carcinogen! (>.>) And I'm aware that hardwood ashes turn into lye when mixed with water, but I would like to know what you guys think from your years of experience?

Will definately get a dust mask now....

And what the stock looks like after being inletted.

   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 03/22/09 14:48:34 EST

Nabiul, I would suggest going to a doctor explaining the situation and asking for his/her professional opinion. when it comes to the internal organs I'd be inclined to NOT take the chance. perhaps it might be an idea to take samples of the dust and ash you inhaled and offering them to the doctor so they can get a better idea what they are dealing with.
   Duncan (aka. Maddragon) - Sunday, 03/22/09 15:01:55 EST

This is not intended as scare mongering, but as a precaution. As a health and safety representative I would suggest the same to any of my own colleagues. I'm not a medic remember.
   Duncan (aka. Maddragon) - Sunday, 03/22/09 15:05:14 EST

well ive done the hair dryer thing i'm currently using a colman matress pump but i want to do it all without electricity thats why the hand crank was so appealing
   Denny - Sunday, 03/22/09 15:44:20 EST

Wood Exposure: Nabiul, That is your body telling you, "don't do it again". Wood dust varies greatly in content and the exposures that are a problem is from working in dusty conditions for a life time. Fruit woods and resinous woods tend to produce allergic reactions of the type that develop from repeated exposures. As with most allergies the reaction varies greatly with the individual.

The smoke is another thing. All smoke including wood smoke can be hard on the lungs and there IS something in overheated oak that IS different. I've had the same kind of exposure and reaction to hot oak and it is not the same as other woods nor quite the same a burning it.

Creating lye takes a lot of ash and soak time. I doubt this is part of what you inhaled.

As with any work that creates dust it pays to have good ventilation. Even sweeping the floor can stir up dust that is unhealthy to breathe.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 15:45:23 EST

Cincinnati Mill I saw a beautiful late model small Cincinnati vertical mill (like a HD Bridgeport) complete with tooling and attachments selling for $1500 a couple weeks ago. I could not believe the price and I am still drooling. . . Is the economy THAT bad?
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 15:48:10 EST


You could always build a bellows. I *have* read about folks making human powered blowers. If I were going to do it, I'd probably build a housing around a bicycle rear wheel and mount fan vanes in the spokes. But a (used) commercial blower would work much better, and would probably be pretty cheap compared to the effort and cost involved in building you own.

Lye's just sodium hydroxide. Breath much of it and you'll burn your lungs out. But a trace amount would be diluted by the moisture in your lungs, and your body could get rid of it easily.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/22/09 16:00:19 EST

BIg BLU Hammer-In: We had a nice time at the Big BLU Hammer-In yesterday. We saw some new dies they are going to sell that make bowl shapes so fast it is unbelievable. The other demos were good but the usual thing if you have been to many power hammer demos. Howevern there were two very different attitudes toward smithing. One, the slightly anal measure and mark everything over and over and the other, eyeball it, do it and keep trucking method (my preferred method). It was refreshing to see a demo that wasn't the pedantic system that many demonstrators follow and teach.

I learned a new phrase that sums it up that must me said with a slightly eastern European accent, "Esse no nasa". Think about it.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 16:01:45 EST

Forge Wind: Denny, this can be done MANY ways. Blowers can be built from wood and sheet metal that work very well. Bellows can be works of art or the legs off a pair of jeans nailed to a board with flap valves. They can be made from water tanks or plastic buckets and duct tape. All that matters is that you get the fire hot.

I personally like a good bellows if I must blow the fire by hand but a lot of bellows are poorly made and quite inefficient. The greatest advantage of a good bellows is when you need to make a very small forge weld they give you superb control of the fire. Otherwise you find yourself looking for an assistant to pull the bellows or crank the blower.

Electric blowers have the advantage of being better than slave labor. They let you focus on getting the job done rather than spending half your efforts keeping the fire hot. Blacksmith shops have historically been places where there was always help to either crank the blower or wield a sledge. When you work alone it really pays to take advantage of our electric slaves.

Today most people would never think about putting a high polish on a piece of work by hand. They go straight to a motor powered buffing wheel. But you CAN do the same by hand. I've done it many times. You start with a fine file, then coarse sand paper, then finer and finer paper, then polishing compound on a rag and then the remnants of the broken down compound on a nearly clean soft rag. . . But you can do the same in 1/10th the time with a small motor and the right wheels.

Its your choice.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 16:19:28 EST

I made a tree. It's about 6 1/2 feet tall with about 130 forged leaves. I made it by tapering round stock, twisting together the pieces and forge welding them. I started from the tips of the branches and worked my way to the trunk, forge welding in the branches and branch clusters as I went. The result is a pretty nice piece, obviously made of many lengths of round stock, giving it a cool surface. Then I torch scaled it and wire brushed it by hand to remove the uglies but leave the nice color of the forged iron. I then clear coated it. Now there seems to be flux residue growing in blooms out of the clearcoat (I used regular old borax for flux and flattened permalac for the finish) Now for the question, after I get the paint off, how the heck do I wash off the residue hiding in all the crevices before I repaint? Sandblasting is out of the question. The problem causing stuff is also aparantly invisible until a few days after painting and continues to spread for a couple of weeks, maybe indefinately.
Thanks a lot, I hope someone can help.Mark Krause
   Mark Krause - Sunday, 03/22/09 17:33:57 EST

Mark, Its been a long time!

The problem with used flux is that it is hygroscopic (absorbs water from the air to return to its normal ten water molecule crystal structure). Depending on where it is embedded it will bloom for years.

Soaking in water will help dissolve and wash out the anhydrous borax. Since it is a salt there is nothing that really reacts with it to increase the solubility. Warm or hot water (steam) may accelerate the water absorption and dissolving the borax. Using a pressure wash and covering to keep moist for a day or so then repeating several times may wash it all out.

I've seen brazed joints bloom for decades. Its a problem that I do not think there is a good answer for.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 18:40:15 EST

A Useful Suggestion RE: Drifts

The second demonstrator at the Big BLU Hammer-In was Zack Nobel. He was discussing punches and drifts. One of his ideas was to purchase one of the cheap transfer punch sets that have recently been offered for $9.95 in various places. These are made of good tool steel (probably W1) in 1/64" increments and make great precision over and undersize drifts. The price is less than the cost of new annealed tool steel and the size increments are priceless.

If you don't need drifts in the small or odd sizes then convert them to whatever type of specialty punch you need. Grind them into center punches, eye punches, repousse' tools, graving chisels. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/22/09 20:52:33 EST

Mike BR: an easy way to accomplish the carb/blown forge is to put the carb in a box that is presurised by a common blower. Mount the fuel tank high enough that gravity will overcome the boost. Should work with any low viscocity liquid fuel. Build at Your own risk.
   - Dave boyer - Sunday, 03/22/09 21:13:40 EST

Jeff, I think that machine had oil drippers, oil cups, etc. My machines of that vintage were oil lubed, except for where somebody retrofitted. Grease isn't really the best for those types of bushings/ bearings, but You already knew that. It will be less messy with grease, for sure, and if You use the runniest #1 grease You can find, it will probably be OK.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/22/09 21:22:14 EST


That's a great idea! It was a supercharger in iron-in-the-hat that gave me my original idea, but the pressurized box sounds a lot more practical. Probably quieter, too. I still doubt I'll try it anytime soon.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/22/09 21:22:24 EST

PTREE, those "grease zerks" are NOT for grease.
They are oil zerks. You will need to get the special pressure pump oiler that fits them. I have one that I got from MacMaster-Carr several years ago.
The intention was that the ways would recieve oil under some pressure and help to drive out the small amount of grit and cast iron dust that occures from normal use.
DO NOT grease your ways! Way oil is supposed to help keep the ways clean while reduceing friction.
The big boreing mills at work will go through over half a gallon of way oil during a busy shift. They are a total loss type lube system as are most all machine tools.
   - merl - Sunday, 03/22/09 22:17:09 EST

For anyone who is interested, this months issue of Popular Mechanics has a small feture on building a solid fuel forge from a SST double bowl kitchen sink.
More interesting was the power vent flue and brand new 275# Pedinghouse anvil purchased for the beginer smiths...
   - merl - Sunday, 03/22/09 22:41:54 EST

Thanks Jock,
Thats what I was afraid of but had hoped someone had a miracle solution. I guess I'll strip it and head to the car wash a few times!
   Mark Krause - Monday, 03/23/09 06:32:28 EST

Back from Military Through the Ages in Jamestown, Virginia. A weekend spent among the "armoured."

"The Knight and the Blast Furnace"; Thomas: The title always sounds like a cautionary fable to me, with a knight in full harness tumbling into the open furnace and "...all they ever found was a sphere of steel surrounding HIS STILL BEATING HEART!" ;-)

A very good book, though. I pulled it on an ILL and read straight through it with only two extensions. Ah, the old days, with no "military-industrial complex." No; wait...?

Anyway, despite my bad jokes, I highly recommend it to anyone who really wants to see how the interface between process and practical use evolved in the latter middle ages.

Cool and clear on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/23/09 08:10:12 EST

I am in the process of accumulating material for an eventual air hammer build. In reading and researching what other people have done, I found one guy who apparently used a hydraulic cylinder rather than an air cylinder to drive the hammer. Is this a reasonable thing to do? Hydro cylinders are very easy to come by here in farm country, whereas I have not been able (yet) to scrounge a suitable sized air cylinder. I am sure air cylinders are lighter in weight, but do they function in the same way as hydraulic ones? I also wonder if a hydraulic cylinder would get sufficient lubrication from an in-line lube system. After all, they are usually swimmin' in oil!
As always, thanks for any input! I'm sure I will have more questions as the project progresses. Thanks,
   Dave Francis - Monday, 03/23/09 09:26:44 EST

On the subject of reference books of useful information.
One book that I found that is useful. compact, and inexpensive is the Audel "Mechanical Trades" Pocket Manual.
The little box contains information such easily forgotten things like drill and tap sizes, thread tolerances, weld flange specification, Wall thickness of diffent schedule pipe, Blue print symols,bearing specification and application, mathematical foumulas etc.

In short a lot of the stuff found in more sophisticated handbooks reduced to the most common applications.
A quick search on Audel Manual turned up the fact that Amazon has the most recent version on sale for 10.50

A couple of years ago I bought a bunch of crowbars from a discount merchandiser.You know the type. They buy some's close out stuff and sell until its gone. They make great stake tools for very little money. From time to time I've also found things like cobalt drills for less than the National chain lumber/home repair decorating companies charge for HS. The discount store don't always have the same item availabe. It is worth your while to take a quick look if you are near at least once a month. Bought a chain saw after katrina for half of the same saw sold by the national chain.
   Charlotte - Monday, 03/23/09 10:14:31 EST

I'm a 50 y.o. man, living in Baltimore, Md. This past New Year my neice and nephew ruined my heavy aluminim pot by using it as a noisemaker with a thinner pot. The thinner pot was demolished and the heavier was left with a 3/4" curve in the entire bottom. I believe someone would just have to heat the bottom and form it back into shape. I'm willing to pay for the service, but not more than the value of the pot. Did I come to the right place? Suggestions?
   Paul - Monday, 03/23/09 10:26:01 EST

Paul, There are quite a number of blacksmiths and welding shops in your area. Be warned that most shops consider this a nuisance job. They have (or should have) hourly rates of about $100. However, shops often have slow periods where they will take on the odd job for less than the going rate.

The process should be heat to anneal, then press flat. The problem is going to be stretch. Sometimes this can be reduced by heating and applying water to the hot spot to shrink it. This may need to be done a number of times. Otherwise the pot that might be flat when you take it home may pop out of shape (usually downward).

So, while it can be fixed it may not be as simple as it seems and easily more expensive than a new pot.
   - guru - Monday, 03/23/09 11:53:41 EST

Hydraulic Cylinders for Hammers: As you've mentioned quite a few folks have done this. It works but there are some issues. Seals in hydraulic cylinders are different than air cylinders. They produce more friction and are not rated for the speed of an air cylinder. So seals can be a problem.

Hydraulic cylinders also have a proportionately large drive rod compared to the cylinder diameter. This means a lot less lifting force and slower action.

From the standpoint of weight and durability hydraulic cylinders are MUCH better than common air cylinders. They are just not designed for fast reciprocating action. SO, they will work, but, air consumption may be greater for a given amount of work and seals may need to be replaced more frequently. This would rule them out of a commercial design but not for junkyard DIY construction.
   - guru - Monday, 03/23/09 12:03:32 EST

Jock, thanks very much! As usual, you are a wealth of information.
   Dave Francis - Monday, 03/23/09 12:29:29 EST

Note that tropical hardwoods can be quite toxic or easy to become allergic to; however some North American ones are prone to causing trouble too. Black Walnut is one in particular I know about as I worked with a fellow who was sensitized and if you started sanding a piece of walnit 80' away from him in a few minuted his nose would start to bleed.

"The Knight and the Blast Furnace" was a gift to me from my wife.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/23/09 19:11:15 EST

The Tar Saga: Well. . . we picked up the roofing tar for the repousse' pitch project. Now I'm looking at Plan B. The nice cylinders of tar shown on industry literature are a long ways from the mangled short lump we picked up. It is too misshapened to be cut up easily into equal pieces. The melt it and pour it into convenient sizes is looking to be the only way to go. More later. . .

The "Tar Lab" is coming along. I've collected raw materials and a precision scale. I'll need to make some little parts to put on a dial indicator for doing ASTM recognized hardness testing. I'm not sure this will tell us a lot but I'm going to try it.

A little project growing out of proportion. . .

We are still collecting old punches and chisels to convert to repousse' tools. $1/each seems to be the current price. While it IS junk yard steel it is cheaper than new steel and about 1/5th of new tools and 1/30th of repousse' tools. I suspect if we came across someone with a box full they would be half the price. Article in progress.
   - guru - Monday, 03/23/09 19:24:09 EST


You have a nice wif! :-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/23/09 21:42:01 EST

"A little project growing out of proportion. . ."

Isn't that the way it always is. At least becoming a tar baby will be fun.
   - Rustymetal - Monday, 03/23/09 23:02:18 EST

Well. . . I collected sheet metal tools appropriate for armor work for an apprentice and now I am collecting and making various repousse' tools for a couple students. In the end I'll tools for making fancy armor. Some of the tools collected for the armor work such as the Beverly shear and planishing hammers have been useful in the repousse' work.

I'm going to try to avoid becoming a tar-baby if I can.
   - guru - Monday, 03/23/09 23:31:02 EST

This may be old news to everybody except me, but just in case.... A bladesmith name of Iron Hoarder on www.BritishBlades.com has rendered us all a great service, finding a route to the seemingly vanished Cosira blacksmithing manual, as well as other wonderful smithing books available free for the downloading and has asked me to spread the good news.
Here is how he did it: If you type Countryside Agency Archive into google you will turn up, among others, the following entry:
p1.countryside.gov.uk/LAR/archive/index.asp - 16k - Cached - Similar pages -

Clicking on this entry from the list will get you to a page from Natural England that has a link to the books. Click in publications from the left hand menu and another page with the Rural Craft Publications comes up. You can also type the individual titles into Google and links to them will appear. If you have trouble with Adobe, as I just did for some reason, there is another way to skin the cat, by right clicking on the book listing and saving it to a file instead of as a pdf. Fret not-- the site explains.
We all owe Iron Hoarder a great debt of thanks!!
   - Miles Undercut - Monday, 03/23/09 23:47:01 EST

I recently purchased an old natural gas forge. How does natural gas compare to propane for forging and can it be converted to propane; if propane is better?
   - Darrel Morris - Tuesday, 03/24/09 04:44:04 EST

I recently purchased an old natural gas forge at a local auction. How does natural gas compare to propane for forging? Can my forge be converted to propane?
   - Darrel - Tuesday, 03/24/09 04:45:56 EST

Thank you, Miles; and thank Iron Hoarder for the rest of us.

The link didn't quite work (probably spacing), but I still found the right page and bookmarked it. Maybe Jock can make it a hot link and add it to the links page (if he hasn't already). It was quite a shock some time back when I went to the old link and found nothing relevant to blacksmithing, not even in their search engine.

"Oh, brave new world..."

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/24/09 08:02:22 EST

TarBaby-- I hesitate to jump in with a stupid question, but *pitch* means different material to a roofer and an engraver, which I am. Since it *seems* your work is closer to mine than a roofer, I was just wondering what you need the 'tar' to do?
I use a 'pitch bowl' to hold thin, flimsy parts to engrave. That 'pitch' is (I think) a combination of pine rosin and wax.
It's nothing but a dish of reusable hard glue that thin parts are warmed to about 200 degrees and laid in. After working, wave a small propane flame over the part and lift it out.
   - JBelk - Tuesday, 03/24/09 09:30:30 EST

Sorry for the confusion on my part, guru, re the tar project.

I'm obviously new here and I've spent an enjoyable two weeks trying to get up to speed, but it hasn't quite been enough to answer my questions:

Is there a side view drawing of a coal forge that shows the vertical relationship of the parts?

Is the cast iron fire pan there (instead of clay) for longevity or convenience or added portability or what? I've never seen anything but brick forges and 'bbq' forges of the farriers and it never crossed my mind that there could be ferrous parts under the fire in stationary applications.

Could somebody tell me how to pronounce, "tuyere"? I've worked at a steel mill, but never heard that word, that I know of.
   - JBelk - Tuesday, 03/24/09 09:53:17 EST

Making air cylinders from hydraulics--

I spent a couple years on a lathe in a big hydraulics shop-- The seals on the pistons are different and sometimes the wipers on the packing nuts are different between hydraulics and air, but there are usually sets of either to fit the the same seal and O ring grooves.

The tubes and their fittings are the complicated part of a cylinder to make. As long as they're smooth inside without gouges or kinks, they can usually be reused.
Pistons, rods, and packing nuts are easily made on a lathe from aluminum. Packing nuts can be bushed so a smaller rod could be installed, too.

Compared to what a cylinder is capable of, an air hammer shouldn't be a strain for any of them, and 'engineering' of the tolerances is not critical.
Reciprocating mass can be reduced by making a packing nut with twice the bearing surface for stability and reducing the length of the piston and diameter of the rod.

OEM CAT rods are normally much tougher than others and the rods are flame (or induction) hardened before plating. They would be my choice for a dovetailed die holder.
   - JBelk - Tuesday, 03/24/09 10:29:45 EST

JBelk, Repousse' and engraving pitch are the same thing. Some is made from pine resin and some from petroleum products. We are working on a tar, wax, oil mixture and testing it trying to get the best consistency in a reproducible recipe.

Cast Iron firepots are used for a variety of reasons. One is that they were invented during the industrial revolution where small castings were a cheap and efficient way of manufacturing a complicated shape. Another reason is durability. They were also used primarily in "portable" forges if you can call 400 to 600 pounds portable. And last, they could be easily replaced.

Often cast iron firepots have been used to convert side blown brick forges to bottom blast and quite a few folks have built new brick forges around them. Usually these are built by folks used to the bottom blast firepot. Brick forges traditionally did not have them and were side blast.

Cast iron firepots are round or rectangular and 4" to 6" deep with sides sloping about 45° from a bottom about 3" across. The Kaynes (BlacksmithsDepot) and Centaur Forge have photos of firepots on their web sites. My brake drum forge drawings are very close to cross section of a commercial firepot except for the sloping sides. In fact many commercial pots use a tuyere made of a weld T.

Tuyere is pronounced "Too We're". You may not have had them in the steel mill but in the smelting and foundry plants where air is blown into a coke fire they are still called that. The tuyere is the pipe and nozzle end where the air is blown into the fire. Modern tuyeres include clean outs and view ports. Bottom blown forge tuyeres has an ash dump and some have "clinker breakers" or movable ash grates.

NG and Propane:
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/24/09 10:45:20 EST

NG and Propane: Arrrel, Forges are run on both. On some you just plumb up the gas and make a few adjustments and they run fine. On others you may have to change the gas orifice.

Piped NG is generally cheaper than Propane. But propane is portable and can be used where there is no NG pipe. Bottled NG is fairly rare and more expensive than piped.

Normally NG is used a very low pressure and needs a large gas pipe and orifice. Propane is used at higher pressure and due to being a heavy molecule (compared to methane) less gas is used with a smaller orifice. When converting from NG to propane you can get away with leaving the old orifice in place but when converting from Propane to NG you need a larger orifice.

There is also the mater of the type of forge burner. Atmospheric or venturi types are very picky about gas pressure, orifice size and fuel type. Blower burners do not need to use an orifice to control flow or create draft. Generally a blower (or compressed air) type burner does not care what type fuel you use.

Note that many old forges used compressed air which is a very expensive way to operate a forge. Most of these can be converted to use a small blower.

The best thing to do is ask the manufacturer if they are still in business.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/24/09 10:58:38 EST

JBelk, Almost all Hydraulic, and most pnuematic cylinders use ICHP for rods. The original equipment folks use this as it is easy to machine, tuff, and locg wearing.
ICHP stands for Induction Hardened Chrome Plated. It has a hard chrome plate over a case and core heat treated rod.
The tie rods on most quality cylinders are "StressProof" a propierity Grade of very high strenght steel. Usually spec'ed to 140,000 psi tensile. Much like a HoloKrome die bolt. Almost all are roll threaded to reduce stress risers at the root of the thread. Roll forming makes a more rounded root. The cylinder barrels ate usually a DOM, honed bore, and have to meet a cyclical pressure fatique test to meet NFPA standards. Also a material similar to "Stressproof" Not usually chrome lined.

Ptree who spent several years destroying Hydraulic and pnuematics in an R & D lab for a major maker of same
   Ptree - Tuesday, 03/24/09 13:31:14 EST

Guru-- Thats' what I get for coming in the middle of a conversation.
The only 'formula' I've seen uses rosin and Johnson's wax, but I'm still using the same pitch I bought in 1971.

PTree-- Stress-proof is a very familiar steel to me, but during my time in the business for a big mine maintenance shop in the mid-eighties, the IHCP rod was only used on CAT and LeTourneau. Or, that's the only time I ran into them. The other rod was called "1144 TGPCP" on work orders. The alloy is about the same as SP. Its turned ground and polished, then chrome plated. We bought stock for 90% of the work, but ground and plated specials from turned stock.

I was a salesman for a steel company who's two largest companies were steel mills (Geneva and CF&I), but never actually saw steel being made. Then I was a salesman for a large company that serviced steel-making equipment, but never saw steel being made, then either.
Steel mills are BIG places with many processes. My primary areas were rolling mills and pipe mills. RR rail mills are my favorite to watch run.

Thank's for the info. I have one inch plate for a welded pan and I assume SS pipe is ok for the 'too we're'. I'm looking forward to finally fulfilling a life-long dream.
   - JBelk - Tuesday, 03/24/09 16:14:23 EST

Blast furnaces used in steel mills use tuyeres for the same purpose as a forge. Air goes through the tuyere to provide oxygen to the coke. I recently made moulds for refractory tuyere liners for a local steel mill.
   - JNewman - Tuesday, 03/24/09 18:24:25 EST

JBelk, If welding a 300 series Stainless to mild steel, type 309 rods work a treat and give a good strong weld. They do tend to pop scale off as it cools witha ping, and a gunshot like velocity. Keep the eyes covered until the thing is cool, and those hot scale pops will find every little chink in your personal armour and burn:)

Almost all our Cylinders at Westinghouse's WABCO fluid Power Division where I worked were industrial NFPA cylinders rather than Mobile equip.
We did build some really interesting stuuf for marine and RR use. Ever see a 54" bore, 36" stroke pnuematic cylinder that two average guys could carry off? Composite tube, cast aluminum piston, head and cap, tubular rod. Made for Ortner Car co.
We also made some nifty 5000psi, 9"bore, 300"stroke, 8.5" rod cylinders for marine use.
   ptree - Tuesday, 03/24/09 18:49:38 EST

Your new mill sounds pretty neat. The old Audels Toolmakers Handybook has some illustrations of a universal mill set up with the driven dividing head milling large drill flutes or something. Table swiveled, index head driven, gears all over the place. Don't get any better than that!
(Makes CNC look like child's play.)
   - Tom H - Tuesday, 03/24/09 21:08:02 EST

Guru, I just purchased a power hammer looks just like the old Champion hammers. Its small around or under 50 pounds. Its marked: Made by FS LANE Co No Reading Ma. Its Identical as I mentioned to the Champion hammer. Anyway I would like to know an optimal speed to run the Driven pulley on the hammer. I have heard 900 rpms. just would like to verify this. I have also heard that mounting a motor on the floor will wear out the belt as it wont spin in idle position causing the motor pulley to wear spots in it. Any thoughts on motor mounting position. Any thoughts on HP for motor. I have a 2 hp 220 motor single phase that is old, but will work or should I look at something else. Any help in this 'get it running ' proccess would be helpful. Thanks
   Wofram Von Montague - Tuesday, 03/24/09 22:32:25 EST

I was wondering if instead of buying a $300 belt sander if it would do if I buy a $50 hand held one and build a rig in order to hold it vertically for sharpening knives, chisels, crowbars,etc...
   matt - Wednesday, 03/25/09 08:09:17 EST

I was wondering if it would work if I purchased a hand held belt sander and rigged it up to work as a bench top one that stays stationary. I wanted to do this to finish the knife i'm working on so that I don't have to spend 300 on a machine i'll not use too often. dose anybody know if it would work or is there a problem that can happen that I cannot see.
   matt - Wednesday, 03/25/09 08:22:27 EST

sorry for the double post I went to check my answer and didn't see my question so I wrote it again, sorry

   matt - Wednesday, 03/25/09 08:23:33 EST

Jury Rig Sander Grinder: Matt, this may work these flat surface wood sanding devices lack many of the features of an open wheel grinder. The brush type motors are also noisy and have a relatively short life compared to standard induction motors.

Knife grinders have two or more of the following features.

1) Long belt for long cool runing on steel.
2) Large diameter contact wheel for hollow grinding.
3) Long unsupported areas for grinding soft curves.
4) Flat steel platten
5) Interchangeable plattens for specific curves.
6) Variable speeds for diferent materials.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/25/09 09:14:14 EST

Small Power Hammer Setup: Wofram,

1) 900 RPM is far to fast. A 50 lb Fairbanks runs 350, a 50 lb. Little Giant rund 328. A 25 pound Fairbanks runs 500 RPM.

2) The low motor position is OK. Many OEM setups were this way. When the tensioner is off the belt normally does not move.

The 2 HP is good for up to about a 60-75 pound hammer I think.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/25/09 09:48:03 EST

I am a landscaper who wants to build trellises for customers to support vine crop vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupes, etc. Campfire cafe.com is a website selling cowboy cookware for grilling over open fires. The material they use is some kind of steel rods. This is the material I would like to build my trellises from. Here are my questions:
1. What is the name of the steel they are using for the
2. Where can I purchase it?
3. I will need to attach 2 four foot rods vertically to
construct the trellises. What kind of connector or
splice can be used that can be attached by hand and
tightened with set screws or tightened with pliers or a
a wrench? (This is my most pressing question)

Thank you for reading my questions and offering solutions.

Mark Showalter
   Mark Showalter - Wednesday, 03/25/09 10:00:57 EST

Matt; yes it can be done but it won't do as good a job as a "real" belt grinder and be a lot harder on the sander too.

Also you can't easily and cheaply get belts for a sander in all the grits and materials that you can for a standard belt grinder.

*better* to invest in a flat plate (disk) sander and use that.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/25/09 10:05:28 EST

A little searching around the knife and rockhound sites can give you info on buying the componets for a custom machine of your own design for half the cost of the production models.

My own choice, since don't primarly make knives, was to buy one of the stationary belt sanders from harbor freight for $89 a couple of years ago. Works ok for smaller light weight knives of simple design that are being cleaned up after forging. Not the best and not what I would choose if I made more than a dozen knives a year.

A friend of mine used a contact wheel purchased from a rock hound site mounted on an arbor for a lot of his grinding.
   Charlotte - Wednesday, 03/25/09 10:07:23 EST

Darrel: Before considering running a forge on natural gas you really need to discuss it with one of the engineers at the supplier. Due to safety considerations likely the forge would have to be certified and have a safety device which shuts off the gas if the flame goes out.

Every so often you read about a building exploding from a natural gas leak. When I lived in Dayton a couple of kids were in a basement sniffing propane. Filled the basement and it was set off. Explosion lifted the house off of the foundation a tad and killed one of the kids from what I recall.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 03/25/09 10:08:30 EST

As a firefighter, I have been to several building explosion situations. Both propane and NG leaks inside a building can lead to explosions. One important distinction, propane is heavier than air, and tends to settle in lower areas and basements, while NG is lighter than air and tends to rise to upper levels. There are some differences in the explosive limits too, but the bottom line is you can't be too careful with either one!

Two other fuels that we blacksmiths routinely use are also very dangerous if mishandled, those being acetylene and gasoline! A cup of volitilized gasoline has the equivelent power of about 3 sticks of dynamite!

OK, I'm climbing down off my soapbox...(grin)
   Dave Francis - Wednesday, 03/25/09 10:47:03 EST

Thank You Dave! We cann't be reminded too often that what we do in blacksmithing is involves strong and dangerous forces.
Small wonder that in early days smiths were regarded magicians,or priests, and sacred to the gods. (still are in a few place remote places in africa I hear.)
   Charlotte - Wednesday, 03/25/09 11:04:33 EST

Steel: Mark, Decorative ironwork is made of "mild steel" or structural grade (A36). It comes in various sizes from 3/8" up in 1/8" increments. 20 foot lengths are standard. If you need 1/16" increments you ask for the more expensive cold finished SAE 1018-20. This comes in 12 foot lengths.

This type steel is sold by the same people that sell big structural steel. Look for "Steel Service Center" in your yellow pages. Note that these are industrial sales companies that generally do not serve walk ins or individuals and may have minimum purchases ($50 or $100 is common). However, at today's steel prices this is not hard to cover.

They WILL sell you steel. They will charge a small fee to cut in half or thirds so you can haul it. However, you will normally have to wait while it is cut since they will not cut material unless it is paid for OR you have an account.

Other places that will sell you steel are welding and machine shops. However, they are not in the business of reselling steel (its their raw material) so your business will be considered a nuisance AND the prices will be higher. So, ask nicely and don't expect them to be super friendly or to act quickly.

Occasionally there ARE small steel distributors that are easier to do business with. These guys will often sell you drops and scraps. You are also likely to be dealing with the business owner. If you find one of these they are a gold mine.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/25/09 11:13:34 EST

Assembling Steel (Item 3): Mark, These kind of things are normally made by welding. The type of connectors you are looking for would need to be custom made. Pipe hanger brackets similar to what you want exist but are pretty ugly.

Another way to make these connections is to make wrapped joints. This requires 3/16 or 1/4" round rod and a torch to heat the rod. Wrapped connections are similar to making timber rope joints and can be quite decorative.

Unless you plan on going into the steel fabrication or blacksmithing business I suggest you let someone that is in the business make your trellises. It would be cheaper.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/25/09 11:36:11 EST

If I may suggest, Try thinking about using square tubing what ever size. It makes a better look and can be handled in one piece. If it has to be joined then necking down the end to fit into the bottom part is often used in decorative tubing construction. Forging the neck down is easiet done hot but can be done cold with a little practice and light enough weight tubing. Square is much easer to work with than round tubing or rod.

In any case attaching things end to end for strength and rigidity is not easy. If I were planning to use two lengths of say 3/8 round bar end to end so it can be dismantled and stored I would cut a piece of 3/8 Black Iron (gas) pipe 8 inches long, drill and tap four places, for Square head 1/4" set screws, and slide the two pieces inside and tighten.
Easier yet would be just to use iron pipe with a pipe coupling.

Neither of these solutions is pretty.

   Charlotte - Wednesday, 03/25/09 12:04:41 EST

Mark, after thinking about the problem for a few more min I decided that If I were doing a trellis for a friend or family.... I'd go to home depot buy lengths of small rebar,
cut it to what ever length needed and cross brace with wood slats tied on with the Iron wire used to tie rebar in forms.

Almost any radius can be bent in3/8 rebar with a vice by opening the jaws and bending a litte, move the bar an inch bend a litte and so on.

The only tools needed would be wire cutters and a vice to create what every your customer needed.

   Charlotte - Wednesday, 03/25/09 12:46:37 EST

I'm doing a isearch on blacksmithing so I was wondering if you guys could give me some referemnce to were i can search it's tools and were it came. Oh, and I was wondering I f I could interview one of you because it's a requerment
   Andrew Dizon - Wednesday, 03/25/09 19:26:13 EST

You have started in a good place.
How old are you and what state are you in.
There are Blacksmith organizations scattered through the United States and Canada.
Tell us a little about youself so we can help you.
   Charlotte - Wednesday, 03/25/09 19:34:20 EST


1. On tooling use the drop down menu in the upper right. Use the links to some of the suppliers. Several have on-line catalogues.

2. As Charlotte noted, there are a number of blacksmithing organizations. Again on the drop down menu go to the bottom and use the link for ABANA Affiliates. Contacting them may turn up a local blacksmith. You likely would receive more credit for interviewing a local blacksmith in person than a telephone or internet interview. Would give you an opportunity to add photographs to your assignment as well. They can also tell you the various uses of tooling.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 03/25/09 20:06:51 EST

Andrew, For an amazing on line catalogue try www.anvils.co.uk
WARNING make sure you are sitting down before you look at the prices ;-)
   philip in china - Wednesday, 03/25/09 20:24:34 EST

About Tools: Andrew, If you are doing research, not buying, start with Alex Bealer's The Art of Blacksmithing (see our review). Also the Americana series by Eric Sloane starting with A Museum of Early American Tools. Both are in print/reprint, available in libraries and by ILL. If you are looking for current tools the BlacksmithsDepot.com web site (see our advertisers list) has the best photos of many tools. See also swageblocks.com for some of the most misunderstood smiths tools and some history.

As to origins most smiths tools go back to the Bronze Age.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/25/09 22:41:15 EST

Your mention of Bealer's book reminded me of something I had meant to ask. He refers to hammering chisels after forging to "pack" the fibres. Is this necessary? He seems quite adamant.
   philip in china - Thursday, 03/26/09 07:49:21 EST

guru, Thanks for the info. this forge has been a p[ain in the butt since day one. I called the folks at Nc tool and all they could say was that i should chnage the orifices out. i did that to no avail.
the forge I have has two openings only- 1 back port -always closed(except for the minimal crack because it is a free hanging door) 1- front door with an open port 4x4(port is always open and is built into the front door.
i always wonder if there is something I am doing wrong that simply will not let the steel get to white hot temps in the forge to weld properly.
I want to do some damascus billets (and know how) but if I can't get the damn thing to heat up to temp then this is for nought. i had minor successes a few years ago but the welds never stayed strong enough and always broke during testing.
Is there anything out there that I can use to tell how hot my forge is getting (that is not expensive as hell like an infrared thermometer)?

I even threw in a big steel block and firebrick at one point when I was experimenting to take up some of the volume of gas to air- that didn;t work either.

guess I should call Nc tool and see what else they can suggest since it is their forge and they 'should" know about it (apparently not)

Ps sorry for taking so long to get back got a lot going on right now.
   Ed Green - Thursday, 03/26/09 10:06:47 EST

I used pyrometric cones from a pottery supplier. The comparison is not eact because it relates to Time And Temprature. But Cone 10 is 2350.
I used these when I was testing my first home built propane forges. You have to put them in start the forge and walk away for a while. Hour or so.

It my be that the forge is running too lean. Are you seeing a lot of scale?

   Charlotte - Thursday, 03/26/09 10:40:11 EST

Packing Steel: Phillip, This is pretty much a myth that Bealer repeated from smiths he talked to. Grain refining DOES occur when you cold work steel but heat treatment undoes it. You can get the same effect with correct heat treatment assuming you start with a good grade of steel.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/26/09 10:48:38 EST

Early steels being pretty much iron and carbon suffered a lot from grain growth at high temps. The only method they had to reduce grain size was reforging and recrystallization.

Cold work *before* heat treat could also build up dislocations that could result in renucleation and recrystallization during heat treat into small grains.

If the steel you are using is less than 100 years old packing is more likely to hurt than help. 100-150 maybe so maybe not 150+ years old packing will probably help.

Note it is often said that packing makes the steel more dense---sorry but atomic bonds don't work that way. if anything building up dislocations should make the steel less dense. This is just a belief that was fostered before they knew what was actually going on. History of technology is full of things that worked but the reasoning given at that time is totally wrong.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/26/09 11:09:55 EST

. . AND became outdated over time.

Bealer has a couple serious errors and this is one that he repeats over and over. The other is upsetting a lump large enough to forge a full size rose on the end of a 1/4" bar. . I chalk this one up to some old timer pulling his leg and it made it into the book.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/26/09 12:21:39 EST

We've been through this many times over the years, but I guess it will keep comming up. "Just" getting to welding temp is not enough. If a small forge is at welding temperature, just the act of putting in a large, cold piece of steel will reduce the forge temperature. Even IF the forge stayed at welding temperature it would take a long time for the piece to get to the same temperature.

Heat transfer is a function of the difference in temperature between the forge and the piece being heated. This means that as the steel gets hotter it absorbs lass and less heat as it approaches forge temperature(equilibium). A good welding forge is usually over 2600F. I used to melt 2600 degree fiber refractory and had to use 3200F high alumina. When you look into a good welding forge it should dazzle your eyes and be downright hard to look into. A forge running at over 2600 will bring a weld up fast. Cooking away in a forge that is at barely a welding heat just burns up the steel and makes welding almost impossible. If you need cones or thermocouples to check then the forge is not hot enough. The variables that ruin steel are time, temperature and atmosphere (oxygen). Increase one and you have to reduce the other two as much as possible.
   - grant - Thursday, 03/26/09 14:37:26 EST

Grant,I agree with much that you said but: I think you may have misunderstood the intent of the exchange.
The use of cones is to determine if a given temperature is reached.

With experience you learn to judge the quality of a forge flames correct adjustement.
The question here is " Just how far am I from where I want to be"

The second question is: How hot does the alloy(s) need to get before I can weld?

Some alloy's need to be hotter before they weld than others.

The bottom line here is: if the 2350 10 cone doesen't soften and bend over after an hour then the whole project is not even close.
   Charlotte - Thursday, 03/26/09 15:59:41 EST

Well. . . That said, Our old friend Daryl Meier demonstrated at the Flagstaff convention that you could weld billets at less than 2400°F. The trick is a clean atmosphere. In this case he was closing the billet in a stainless tube with a few drops of kerosene to absorb the little oxygen in the tube. Others now use stainless foil to protect their billets. With a combination of the high temperature and the energy of forging (press or power hammer) a nice clean weld results at lower temperatures.

The welding temperature of most steel alloys is dependent on the carbon content. The more carbon the lower the melting point and thus the lower the solid state welding temperature must be.

At the same Flagstaff demo Daryl made a cast iron and steel billet imitating one of the various methods it was once thought Damascus steel was made. But instead of immersing steel plates in molten cast iron (as the theory went) he melted cast iron powder on top of a group of closely spaced steel plates letting capillary action and gravity pull the iron between the plates. This demo did not work well due to some issues with the (ABANA supplied) forge in use but worked well enough to illustrate the process. The process relied on the lower melting point of the cast iron due to the high carbon content and not needing a "sparkling" heat for it to weld to the still solid steel. After creating this cast-iron/steel laminated billet it would be drawn out and welded a number of times to make a more nearly homogeneous product. While it is an incorrect theory of Damascus it has been proven to work.

NC does not advertise their forges to reach welding heat. I believe when they did specify a maximum temperature it was 2400°F. This makes for great billet heating but not much for welding. However, many HAVE welded with them by pushing them harder.

If you want a gas forge to weld with, use dense high temperature refractory bricks for the lining to store heat and a blower burner to slightly pressurize the forge.

If you want to forge weld little picky items then use a solid fuel (coal, charcoal) forge. They easily reach welding temperature and you can place different size pieces in parts of the fire to reach welding temperature at about the same time.

When I want to weld I get out the oxy-acetylene torch or the arc welder. . .

The problem with super hot forges. . too hot to forge alloy steels if you don't watch the temperature. . .
Everything is balance and trade offs. Most forges just happen to run about the right temperature to work steel. It is a relatively narrow zone.

If our planet's atmosphere had a little more oxygen then carbon based fuels would burn so hot that keeping the temperature down would be the problem. If there was a LITTLE less then it would be very difficult to smelt iron, weld iron or work iron. The history of technology and history itself would be VERY different if the oxygen level on Earth was higher or lower by just a few percentage points. So either luck or God gave us just the right atmosphere to be a technological iron wielding society. Enjoy it.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/26/09 17:58:09 EST

Interesting Guru! Given the different melting temperatures it's kind of a brazing like process. And if the joint is very thin, I imagine the carbon migrates out of the CI very quickly to form a steel.

Very hot forges: We ran many forges in prodution at very high heats in order to get the steel hot quickly. We might have twenty pieces of 1-1/4 inch bar in the forge and every fifteen second we would put in a cold one and pull out a hot one. If ANYTHING interrupted that pace you'd better start pulling bars out or they'd be melting off on the ends. Nice thing about a forge that will get that hot is you can always turn it down if needed. One thing that was not intuitive was that with a hot forge the opperator end does not get as hot. In a lower fire with more parts heating for a longer time, conduction made that end very hot.
   - grant - Thursday, 03/26/09 20:15:46 EST

Well they solid phase weld different steels and metals areounf these parts at ambient temperature on a regular basis---they just use quite high pressures applied quite fast; we get several BOOMS a week rattling the building from the blast pads.

I've seen Billy Merrit weld at temps I'd be thinking were too cold to forge efficiently at.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/26/09 22:12:45 EST

Hello, I'm new at blacksmithing (still trying to get all the supplies I need to get started). While I was looking at an antique shop for stuff, they had a tool there that said it was for blacksmithing. It's an odd looking tool and I'm trying to figure out what it's used for and if it's indeed for blacksmithing. I'll try describing it and I have a picture I can email if someone what's to take a look at it. They are pliers; on the end of the handle they have a bolt and nut that swings over to the other handle so you can lock them closed. At the other end it has a small ball about 1/4 to 1/2 in size and on the other side is a round ring just a bit bigger than the ball. So when you squeeze the pliers the ball end goes into the round end and can be locked in place with a bolt and nut. I'd say they are about 11" long. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
   Shane - Thursday, 03/26/09 22:44:52 EST

Odd Tool: Shane, That in not like any blacksmithing tool I have every seen or heard of. But it does sound possibly like something to use in lieu of a hog ring to control a large animal, or stretch leather . . . but who knows.

The fact is that antique dealers attribute any and ALL old iron tools that they don't know what they are to be blacksmiths tools. This is especially true of any plier like tool with a joint and handles. I've seen everything from modern plumbing tools to medical devices attributed to being blacksmiths tools. Saw sets, wire strippers, pipe wrenches. . all have been called "tongs" by various dealers. On any given day you can go on ebay and see at least one if not a half dozen tools called "blacksmiths" that are not. Besides ignorance it is also marketing. Blacksmithing tools are a hot market compared to many others.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/26/09 23:20:12 EST

Theres no question God gave us just the right amount of oxygen.
   - John L. - Thursday, 03/26/09 23:39:18 EST

If I have the picture right in my mind, your tool sound like I saw in a shoe repair shop for stretch shoe leather where people have bunions.
   Charlotte - Thursday, 03/26/09 23:48:38 EST

Charlotte's got it. We call them "corn tongs". The ball's on the inside and pushes the leather into the ring.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 03/27/09 05:27:41 EST

Actually its an *anti* blacksmith tool, used by the spouse on the earlobe of the smith to get him out of the forge, usually when either the grass, dishes, or trash reaches a certain height. Or so I've heard.
   Peter Hirst - Friday, 03/27/09 06:51:22 EST

"Ball-in-ring" tong tool: I've seen one in an antique store in Williamsburg too; labeled "Hog Castrater". I thought it looked somewhat impractical for the stated purpose, but also thought it might be handy for holding thick sheet in the forge. I passed it up due to price (~$40!) I also had an unfortunate vision of: "Here piggypiggypiggy!"

I did pick up a really nice double-scale steelyard (balance for weighing heavy stuff; see also "cotton scale") at an antique shop on my way down to Jamestown last week. It was priced at $16 (they're usually $40 - 60+ on the east coast) and was labeled as "Vintage Steel Come-Along"! 8-0

Cool and foggy on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks (Jamestown and Yorktown are nice) www.nps.gov/colo

Go viking (Battle of Clontarf and Annual Meeting in Havre de Grace, MD 4/4): www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 03/27/09 07:36:08 EST

Misidentified Tools: I made the mistake many years ago of informing an antique dealer that a little hammer I had picked up from a collection of odd one dollar hammers was a "cobblers' hammer". She snatched it from my hand so fast that I didn't see her do it. Suddenly the little hammer was not for sale!

The interesting thing about a cobbler's hammer is that it is almost the same as a engravers or chasing hammer. The only difference is the peen (a cobblers is straight and a chasing is a ball) and most cobbler's hammers are the size of the largest chasing hammers.

One of the asphalt hardness tests I was recently researching used a ball and ring in some manner as a testing probe. I think it had to do with softening due to temperature and the differential between the two.
   - guru - Friday, 03/27/09 09:20:25 EST

Most bunion stretchers I have seen are cast and not strong enough to deal with steel. I have *never* seen one for sale properly labeled and blacksmith's tongs are the most common mis labeling. Had a talk with a couple of people over if they should label it at all if they didn't *know* what it was.

One of my fun tongs is a spring compressor that has a rod that travels towards the gap between two fingers when you close the reins. Turns out that this one fits RR bolts very nicely, holding the head so you can work on the shaft---so it's a blacksmithing tool *now*!

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/27/09 10:49:16 EST

I'm thinking of having copies of certs made for my customers who have piercings and need to get an MRI. The MRI techs are jerks and force everyone to remove all their piercings, regardless of location. One recent customer is having her head imaged and the tech is telling her to remove her navel jewelry (which is Titanium). Is this a good idea (having certs)? Would an MRI office understand what a cert is and that the material is okay?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 03/27/09 14:46:11 EST

Probably not; they would have to be betting their patients health and their very expensive machine that the patient didn't get it wrong---or lie and that you didn't get it wrong---or lie. As they get sued on a regular basis such places tend to err on the AR side of NO!

Have you talked with the local MRI folks to see what their take on it is?

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/27/09 16:59:18 EST

And what does MRI stand for? MAGNETIC resonance imaging. If you have an oscillating magnetic field and you put a piece of ferromagnetic material in it what happens? Can you say "smoking nipples"? :-)
   quenchcrack - Friday, 03/27/09 18:57:06 EST

My father was a pharmacist. He once sold some really old tools of the trade, no longer used, to an antique dealer. Amongst these was a suppository mould. Sure enough it made it onto the shelves as a bullet mould. They knew what it was but it commanded a higher price mislabeeled! There is a joke there but this is a family forum.
   philip in china - Friday, 03/27/09 21:21:18 EST

MRI, Magnetism and "non-magnetic" materials, Certs and Trust: All electrically conductive materials can have an effect on a magnetic field and the field on the metal. In the scrap business they use a powerful magnetic field to "blow" aluminum scrap out of scrap that has already had the iron and steel removed with a weaker magnet. I don't know how it works but I have seen the conveyors of "fluff" (mostly plastic, rubber and upholstery) with the aluminium parts being ejected horizontally as the fluff dropped from one conveyor to the other. Being highly conductive may have been the reason and copper may have also been being separated at this point as well.

Then there are the copper wires in a transformer that create a magnetic field AND those that turn that field back into current. The point is, "non-magnetics" ARE effected by magnetic fields.

Then you have the whole point of an MRI. Like an x-ray they are taking pictures looking for anomalies. A metal object blocking some detail OR creating a magnetic shadow is not conducive to a good view.

AND a cert is only as good as the organization issuing it AND how traceable the cert is. Look at the trouble of marking silver and gold jewelery to assure its authenticity. There is a maker's mark, assayer's mark, assayer's organization and a date code. . .

If you talk to ANYONE in industry about certifications of materials you will eventually come to the point of how do you really KNOW X piece of material is what its supposed to be. If it was written on the material it has probably been machined off. Its not written IN the materaial. . . so HOW DO YOU KNOW? You don't. You have to trust the chain of possession. AND then once the part is out in the field all bets are off.

TRUST is the key word here. And in recent history we have found that you can trust very few things. You cannot trust CPA's to audit large corporations. You cannot trust the SEC to do their job and audit financial institutions and you cannot trust the Federal government to stay on top of either. Greed has nearly wrecked the world economy and nobody it talking about changing the level of TRUST there should be. Greed has also had childrens' products made that include toxins and products to miss-marked as to what standards they meet.

In the early days of the Nuclear era new rules were written to require certification of the materials used in various components. The problem was that the rules came out after billions of dollars had been spent on manufacturing components. Faced with a dilemma the engineers in charge personally "certified" tons of parts by asking the manufacturers if the materials used were those specified and in other cases by simply looking at the parts and saying, YEP, that's stainless steel. . .

If this seems shocking, consider that those were the methods at the time of the construction of 90% of the plants in the U.S that are still in operation. Those engineers knew the system and knew that as long as traceability was not IN the bar of metal that a Cert was just paper and you had to TRUST the manufacturer.

Today parts bought by the government and military are often followed by a pile of paper bigger than the part. Serial numbers, material certs, batch numbers, traceability standards, inspection reports from every level of manufacture. . . and in the end it ALL relies on trust because all the paper in the world does not make something it is not.
   - guru - Friday, 03/27/09 23:58:28 EST

For an interesting experiment, take a straight piece of 1/4" i.d. copper tubing about three or four feet long and drop a 1/4" ball bearning through it. Time the drop. Then do the same thing with a 1/4" neodymium ball magnet. Copper isn't magnetic, is it? so how come the magnet takes four times as long to get through the tube? Try it again with an aluminum tube.

Doing that little experiment would be all it takes to convince me not to go into that humming, clanging, bonging magnetic cocoon with *any* removable metal in or on me. Why risk it, just to save a few minutes or some minor trouble? Yeah, I'm chicken like that. :-)
   vicopper - Saturday, 03/28/09 02:23:49 EST

At the valve and fitting shop, EVERY heat of metal came with a Mill cert. And we saved the shear drop from EVERY single bar to do a spectographic test to verify the cert. That is EVERY single bar, and I can verfy that we went thru about 4 railcars of steel bars a week in addition to the trucked in steel. Our purchase contracts specified the steel, also had a clause that we spectro'ed and if ONE SINGLE drop failed the vendor got the heat back, with them paying the transport. Note that at that point the bars were already broken to billets! After several returns we got no more mixed or off spec steel.
Our boiler shops were also part of this program. When a single boiler takes 80 to 110 RR cars to ship, can you guess how many plates and tubes are involved?

Trust, but verify!

A hospital was built near me that received mill spec pipe for the anesthesia gas system. When they hydro'ed the system it looked like a spring rain storm according to the Insurance authorized inspector who also inspected at our boiler shop. The pipe was poorly made butt welded VS the seamless ordered. Fraud was charged and in the investigation the mills in Italy were found to be only muddy fields. I don't think they ever did find the true source.

Trust, but verify!

We got a call at the valve shop to tell us our class 800# forged steel valves were bursting during the hydro test at a Nuke plant in Califorina. We asked for the serial numbers as we had never sold any to that plant. They took pictures and so forth and sent them. Cheap cast iron class 150# valves with the original makers cast in raised logo hand ground off, and a really good silkscreened copy of our nameplate. Vendor and purchasing agent at the plant went to jail after the FBI finished.

Trust, but verify!

Cert's ? I don't need no stinking cert's! They have no value unless I tested them and wrote them. And I am likely to not bother.
   ptree - Saturday, 03/28/09 07:00:15 EST

I guess I should make a visit to a local MRI suite.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 03/28/09 07:55:45 EST

IF copper weren't "magnetic", our copper wound electric generators wouldn't work. Although not attracted to a static magnetic field, almost any metal will resist or be resisted by a moving -e.g. oscillating - magnetic field. The copper resists the dropping magnet in exactly the same way the coil resists the spinning magnet in a generator: the result is a magnetic induction in the copper. Jeweler friend of mine has an induction forge for casting platinum that will melt 2 oz of pure platinum in 25 seconds. that's 3225 F. Sure iron reacts faster, but all metals react, or rather at least resist. No doubt that's how the magic aluminum sorter works. Note that it moves the Al but does not attract it. Probably a powerful magnetic field moving in one direction through the pile.
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 03/28/09 07:58:50 EST

Of course, aluminum, copper, etc respond to a magnetic field. They can be induction heated very effectively. I just thought most body piercing materials were stainless steel which is generally ferromagnetic. In fact, liquid steel can be magnetically stirred in the ladle or even pumped to another vessel magnetically.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 03/28/09 09:01:40 EST

I have a HB 175# anvil but as everyone seem to think bigger anvil is better, more mass etc.

I have access to three pieces of hot rolled steel 3"x6"x13". They weigh about 65# each. I was thinking of welding them into a sandwich that would yield me one piece 6" thick by 9"x13". Would this be worth my while to do this for an anvil stand base then bolt my anvil to it and then bolt this whole thing to a large stump.
Thanks, Martin
   martin - Saturday, 03/28/09 12:55:17 EST

FYI nonferromagnetic materials,
Metals that are electicaly conductive exibit an induced magnatism along grain boundries and inturn create eddy currents when passed through a magnetic field.
They are in a lower energy state while in the field and thus tend remain inside the field.

Materials that nonconductive, are in a lower entergy state out side of a magnetic field and thus tend to move out of the field if possible. They are called diamagnetic.

This is relevant to many of the observations cited above.

The is a type of oxygen detector that uses the paramagnetic nature of oxygen to detect the oxygen concentraion. It depends on the paramagnetic nature of oxygen and the diamagnetic nature of the remainder of the atmospheric constituents. There is a 2 order of magnitude difference between oxygen paramagnetic and nitrogen diamagnetic.

Bottom line, if it conduts electricity, a magnetic field will have some affect on it. If it doesn't conduct electricity it will not respond except to very strong field and then will try to leave the area.
   Charlotte - Saturday, 03/28/09 14:45:58 EST

Martin, No. Small anvils are typically harder than large anvils (especially old ones) and have smaller features than a large anvil. So, the tendency would be to make the anvil more prone to chipping.

For an individual working alone a 175 is FINE. Bigger is better to a point but is sould be one piece.

Enjoy your HB as it is and save the steel for something more important like a treadle hammer or power hammer part.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/28/09 15:03:14 EST


The reason it takes longer is that there is entergy expended as gravitational entergy is converted to eddycurrents in the copper along the grain boundries of the medal. High sensitivity high load equal arm balances use magnetic dampers of copper between the polls of horse shoe magnetics to slow the swing without affecting the accuracy.
   Charlotte - Saturday, 03/28/09 15:30:57 EST

I don't really know the science. But if you doubt the effect of magnetic fields on nonferrous metals, go watch the aluminum disk spinning around in your electric meter.

If what I heard is true, a contractor was once caught falsifying the heat treat records for Jesus nuts for Hueys. The ones that hold the rotor onto the helicopter. Or more accurately, the ones that hold the helicopter onto the rotor . . .
   Mike BR - Saturday, 03/28/09 19:38:00 EST

Charlotte: "entergy"?
   Peter Hirst - Saturday, 03/28/09 22:55:58 EST

Some of the "bronze" coinage in UK is actually magnetic- it will stick to a magnet. Is this due to the addition of iron to the "bronze"? If so is it still bronze?
   philip in china - Sunday, 03/29/09 05:20:34 EST

Probably due to the addition of Nickle which is also magnetic but less so than Iron. Any small amount of Iron in a Nickle alloy greatly increases the magnetism. Today, unless very high purity virgin metals a used most recycled alloys have at least a trace if not more of almost every common alloying element.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/29/09 11:09:39 EST

Well, about a decade ago I was in the MRI suite with my ex wife, she was getting her head checked (insert bad pun joke here). She was also claustrophobic and wanted me in there to hold her hand. Of course I removed my earrings, jewelry, nipple rings, but I left in my sack jewelry (yes, my sack, there's 5 rings of 316L). I sat there the whole time and didn't feel a thing. Now, after hearing (reading) all this technical jargon, I can assume that having any metal NEAR the unit may cause a malfunction? Improper reading?
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 03/29/09 11:40:39 EST

Lead Wire
A friend at work today asked my advice on a new hoppy he wants to start... swaging copper/lead bullets. I haven't looked it up, but he indicated that the tooling was commonly available.

He wanted my advice/help for 2 parts... melting/refining lead and casting or extruding lead wire. I cautioned him on handling lead and told him that I only do so in small amounts with skin barrier safety precautions [I maintain a lead block in a wooden box for repousse work].

What I need expert advice on are 2 things: First, can you refine lead by melting and scraping off dross, or will it take another method to remove trace alloys?

Second, can lead wire be extruded [ask my friend imagines] with a hydraulic press? He was making analogies to a frosting gun; I suggested that it would take 1000X or more times the strength of machine and pressure to do that with lead. How far did I under-guess that?

   Mike/Marco - Sunday, 03/29/09 12:59:55 EST

Ahem... hoBBy, not hoppy....
   Mike/Marco - Sunday, 03/29/09 13:19:10 EST

Marco, I don't know about lead but aluminum is extruded with hydraulic presses every day. In the alloys I am familar with the aluminum is heated to about 900 to 935F and the butt plate and dies are as well. The press exerts 105,000 PSI on the aluminum, and bingo out comes the aluminum shape like Playdough from a Playdough factory, which is actually a small extruder. The tricks are that one needs a run out table for the hot metal to be pulled down as it extruded. Yes pulled or it piles up in a birdsnest. We walked the aluminum down a graphite covered table as the aluminum would slide easy, not stick and not get scarred up. Onece cool the aluminum was drawn in a hydraulic straightner and was streched 11%, and that yeilded a straight product.
Making a die and die holder as well as the bottle to hold the metal being extruded is a challenge as well. We extruded 6" billets and perhaps you can visualize the size of that extrusion press. The other trick is to be able to run that massive piston forward fast enough to get a good extrusion. If I recall corectly the press was powered by 15 each 25 Hp hydraulic motor/pumps on a massive tank.
Lead would be a colder and lower pressure, and if extruding round, and not to critical demensions lower press force as well.

Working with lead however is a whole nother ball of wax. Many families have been lead posioned by a bullet or fishing sinker making hobby.

Ptree who's Dad designed and built that very press, and who as a teen walked that metal down that 300' table, trying very hard in an unsucessful bid to not get burnt
   ptree - Sunday, 03/29/09 13:36:04 EST


I doubt that just melting lead and scraping off the dross will remove trace alloys. After all, whatever you're starting with would have had the dross scraped off before it was cast, and the trace alloys are still there. Maybe doing it repeatedly would help, but I suspect you'd need to use other methods.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/29/09 15:49:18 EST

Marco, has your friend considered rolling? Small rolling mills for silver and gold take about 1/4" rod and roll it down. Once to about 10ga. it then goes througha drawplate. I have seen a cheapie at harborfreight, that while probably poor on gold would probably be ok on lead. Probably have to have the rolls turned to the correct size rod.
   ptree - Sunday, 03/29/09 15:55:09 EST


If you want to refine lead, you need to go through a lot more than just melting and removing the dross. One such process that comes to mind is cupellation, in which lead is converted to litharge and thus removed from the other metals present, then the litharge is refined back to lead. Dangerous and time-consuming. I wouldn't try refining lead, myself. Buy new.

You can draw lead very easily through a draw plate to get any size wire you need. Use a good jeweler's draw plate and tallow for lube. A drawing horse helps is you're doing long lengths. As Ptree noted, you can use a simple jeweler's rolling mill to roll round wire from sheared square bar. YOu cast an ingot, roll it to a flat plate, shear that to strips and roll those to round wire for subsequent drawing. The HF rolling mill would work fine for this.
   vicopper - Sunday, 03/29/09 17:57:02 EST

Ptree, thanks for the rolling idea. I'll suggest that to him, but I'm still trying to turn him away from the lead side fo the hobby entirely. Thus far, he's not exactly been teh most reliable detail-guy, so I fear safety being something discarded early on. Rolling would definitely be safer and les of a mess.
   Mike/Marco - Sunday, 03/29/09 18:16:58 EST

The people that sell the tools for swaging bullets, usually sell the lead wire spools, and at usually not much higher that commodity prices, why bother to roll your own.

A better product for cheaper than you can do it yourself.

   - Hudson - Sunday, 03/29/09 19:42:41 EST

Refining Metals: Due the the solubility of metal in another separation is complicated. For hundreds of years strong chemicals have been used to dissolve metals and produce various salts that were then chemically separated by converting one or more of the compounds to non-solubles so for separation. In the processes every imaginable trait of the metals is used to seperate and purify them. All can be done in a small metallurgical lab but only the most valuable metals such as platinum, gold and silver are profitable to purify on a small scale. Like making your own steel, it is much more economical to buy new modern materials.

Drawing Wire: As VIc noted, drawing is a different thing. This is an ancient process and the dies simple to make. Articles on the process will tell you what percentage of reduction is allowable. Methods of pulling the bar have ranged from doing so by horse, by hand, by hand crank, by hand cranked machine with multiple reductions and by machine. Billets are prepared by casting, forging, rolling, finishing and finally drawing.

In some cases the drawing starts by pressing a short billet through the first couple dies. Ever wonder how they put flux in solder, especially the multiple cores? A short fat billet is made with the hole or multiple holes and filled with rosin flux. The ends of the billet are sealed. This is then pressed through a reduction die or two, rolled, then drawn to wire.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/29/09 21:32:59 EST

Marco, I think Your friend could extrude lead at room temperature, and if careful about the scrap sources not need to refine it. Hudson makes a good point, why bother?
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/29/09 22:01:58 EST

The Tar Saga: Well. . we tried sawing the cold roofing tar with a jab saw. It took very little to make a melted mess on the blade. AND the joint pretty much closed up. Unless this stuff is frozen (sub zero) I don't think it can be sawed. It DID split and chip off in chunks fairly easily. But plans to cut it cleanly do not look good. A wood splitter would probably do the job. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/29/09 22:15:14 EST

Bullets, according to a friend of mine that is into shooting sports and handloading, need to have fairly well defined ratios of alloys in order to perform well in firearms without damage to the weapon.

Too hard and the lands are damaged. Too soft and the lead smears and builds up in the groove. Early blackpowder rifles used patched balls after all. (For different reasons I expect but still...)

I know from reading some of the mags he had lying around that there are a few of companies that sell alloys to hand loaders.
   Charlotte - Monday, 03/30/09 08:47:35 EST

BTW This information came up in a discussion of the use of use of tire weights for casting bullets. Tire weights it turned out were much too hard to make good bullets. I'm not sure how this relates to copper jacketed bullets in modern fire arms. We were casting for black powder rifles he had built.
   Charlotte - Monday, 03/30/09 08:57:52 EST

Found wife's grandfather's old Iron City 4 1/2" post vise in the barn in good condition and works fine, but is caked with old grease/dirt. How would be best way to clean it up without damaging it? Engine degreaser and wire brush? Thanks!
   Gene Lilley - Monday, 03/30/09 09:41:29 EST

Typically antimony is used to harden tin/lead alloys. Tin reduces oxidation and lowers the melting point a little. Bismuth lowers the melting point a lot. You can make bismuth alloys that melt in your hand. You can find almost everything else in lead but it is generally not supposed to be there. Most alloy definitions have a place for between .1% and 1% of undefined or a uncontrolled ratio of misc. In good steel it is less with some critical additives being less than one percent. The higher the quality steel the more accurately these are controlled. This generally means using little scrap.
   - guru - Monday, 03/30/09 09:44:25 EST

Note: do NOT use tooling that has been worked with lead on silver as any lead residue will really mess up the silver if it gets heated for soldering.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/30/09 11:22:17 EST

Gene Lilley - The last several post vises I cleaned up, I used electrolysis. The caked on gunk falls off in the solution along with the rust. Google "electrolysis rust removal" for the process.
   - Bernard Tappel - Monday, 03/30/09 11:23:54 EST

Bernard - Thanks for the tip - I'll try this when my wife is away so she won't freak out!
   Gene Lilley - Monday, 03/30/09 12:28:33 EST

My Father-in-law and I used tire weights for bullets for years with no problems. We loaded .38 and .357 along with pouring .45 and .50 Cal. black powder balls.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 03/30/09 12:32:16 EST

Gene: No reason to freak out. Done correctly electrolysis is hardly dangerous. Running 12 volts through about a 5 percent solution should draw between 2 and 5 amps, which means you have about 40 to 60 watts of power dispersed throughout your solution, which for a 4 1/2 inch vise should be at least a 30 gallon barrel. you can actually work right in the bath while it is running, and not feel a thing, as long as its not you that is completeing the circuit. In this regard, it is safer to work while the thing is running than with the electrodes detached: no chance of you becoming the resistor. AAnd the cost is about the same as a 60 watt bulb: maybe a penny or teo and hour.
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 03/30/09 12:40:11 EST

Peter - you're right; I was just playing the old, worn-out wife laugh card! What would you estimate the time reqired considering I have scraped-off 75% of the accumulated crud?
   Gene Lilley - Monday, 03/30/09 13:53:07 EST

Gene - It depends on the amount of crud, the size of your charger, the size of the electrodes used, etc. Usually the parts that I have done take from 24 to 48 hours. These have often been heavily encrusted in crud and old paint. Also, you may need to turn the part ocassionally, as the removal seems to be a line of sight type of thing between the part and the electrodes. If you don't have a plastic container large enough to submerge the whole thing, you can just do part of it at a time.
   - Bernard Tappel - Monday, 03/30/09 14:18:51 EST

Gene; Iron City Vise: That's not dirt, that's "patina"! If it's not smearing all over everything, wipe it down with a light lubricant (until it's "visible, not feelable," as the Gunny used to say)and use it as is.

That's one extreme; the pinstripers will, no doubt, have information on the other extreme.

Sunny and breezy on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks; I just finished pulling a thorn out of the paw of New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. : www.nps.gov/neje

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/30/09 14:41:09 EST

Cleaning Old Tools: Sometimes it is best to leave the original scale and some tight rust on old tools. Bright clean steel rusts faster than any other way. A good cleaning with solvent and a coat of paint is often the best route.

If you completely strip old finishes, old rust, old scale, then you need to refinish properly. On steel this means a good coat of zinc paint, primer and a top coat. It doesn't hurt to use the zinc on surfaces that are normally work bare such as screw threads, gears, chains, handles. If it needs it will wear off, if not it will slow rust.

Old rust, paint and gunk may look ugly but it often protects the tool. Where it is damaging is on working threads, slides and similar working surfaces.
   - guru - Monday, 03/30/09 14:49:11 EST

Thanks to all for the good feed-back - gives me several good options! Thanks!
   Gene Lilley - Monday, 03/30/09 16:01:14 EST

24-48 hours is about right. YOu can boost the amperage by increasing the solution to about 10 percent. For a piece this size, I would disassemble, especially since its just a few large parts, the reassemble with the proper assembly oil, grease in the screw, etc. You are going to have to wash and lightly wire brush the resulting scale off in any event. This is because electrolysis quickly reduces red rust to black scale, but takes a lot longer to reduce the black scale to elemental iron. If you disassemble, you can get it as bright as you want a lot faster mechanically than by reduction of the black oxide. Cleaner, too: no scale in the moving parts at the end.
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 03/30/09 16:11:11 EST

Hi, I would like soem advice on anvil selection.
I have seen an anvil that does not have a table or step between the face and the horn/bick. I have read that it has become more popular to use a soft metal plate on the face rather than to chisel onto the table. With this in mind, am I going to regret having an anvil with no table? Does it have other uses?

   Bob - Monday, 03/30/09 16:24:29 EST

Bob; can you tell me if I need a car or a pickup truck? What kind of info would you need to be able to make a good guess?

So far with what you have posted I can say I have pretty much never chiseled on the "cutting table" of any of my anvils in the last 28 years---only very rare incidences. Now not knowing anything about what you plan to do with the anvil and your personal working style all I can say about regrets is: Yes, No, Maybe

I used to use the step for bending rasptlesnakes till I got a bottom swage that worked much better and so now don't use the step hardly at all.

For *my* use I don't think I'd miss the step.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/30/09 19:05:48 EST

I live in stillwater, Pennsylvania and was wondering if there is another blacksmith who I can apprentice from within driving distance. I have three years of experience and none of it from an instructor.
   Jesse - Monday, 03/30/09 19:33:21 EST

Jesse, see our FAQ on apprenticeships.
   - guru - Monday, 03/30/09 19:35:57 EST

Anvil Types: Bob, every feature on an anvil has uses well beyond the obvious. Experienced blacksmiths use every feature on their anvil and are often flustered working on different styles.

Uses for the English step.

It was once a soft place for chiseling because the steel plate stopped creating the step. After all-steel anvils this was no longer true even if there was a step.

* The step is used as a place to make bends both tight and long.

* The step is used to backup work being forged or hammered on the corner.

* The outer edges of the step can be used to bend parts or pieces like leaves that have a fold or bend.

* The filleted space at the corner of the step and the horn can be used as a softer version of the top corner as above.

Other anvil features are used similarly. The hardy hole can be used for dishing if it has well rounded corners (as it should). It can also be used for punching and bending. Anvils did not have hardy holes for centuries. . .

Some anvils were specifically designed to be laid on their sides and ends to make it easier to use curved surfaces.

The modern double horn anvil has a relative where the round horn blends into and continues down one side.

A popular German pattern has the far side slope out at about a 30 or 40 degree angle and is hardened and finished like the face.

Horns vary incredibly. The purely conical ones were designed to be machine finished and when not are a cheat. The classic English horn is a tear drop shape near the body and nearly round in section toward the tip. Horns that are level with the face are often slightly flat on top because of missed or missing face machining or finishing allowances. Some have inferred this to be a "feature" and claim that the ovalness of the horn top is by design. They are wrong. However, once you are used to this shape other anvils do not feel right. Some farriers anvils have this shape to the extreme with flattened bulging horns that are very oval in section. This IS by design. Early horns were short and stubby and later much longer. This was partially an adaptation to the change in materials, steel being strong enough for the longer horns.

Face widths vary and are often narrower than the size of the anvil would indicate if scaled up directly from smaller anvils. Many smiths prefer narrower faces. The double horn anvil takes care of this with the tapered square horn.

The thickness of the is important to the way some smiths work needing to be relatively thin which is bad design practice on cast anvils but work just fine on all steel forged anvils.

Some recent anvil designs have had multiple round punching holes. These are a handy feature unless you are used to using that part of the anvil for heavy work.

Chinese anvils are generally shaped like a loaf of bread, some have arms or feet that are used for two point support when bending and some have concave (bowl shapped) surfaces. . .

Its all a matter of regional style and what you are used to. In the new "Global Village" any anvil that works for YOU is a good anvil.
   - guru - Monday, 03/30/09 19:36:14 EST

Jesse: The next BABA hammer in is Saturday April 4th in Pleasant Gap, Pa. This is a fair haul for You, but Many will be going even further to get there. You could ask everyone there if they know of anybody not too far from You. I doubt You will find any formal apprenticeships, but You might find someone You can learn from. Do You want the address & directions?
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/30/09 21:56:42 EST

The above dshould read PABA hammer in.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/30/09 22:02:34 EST

My fingers must be getting wider than the keys.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/30/09 22:03:28 EST

Dave, how far is that from the Philadelphia area?
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 03/31/09 08:06:37 EST

trying to start blacksmithing
   kellysauer - Tuesday, 03/31/09 10:41:56 EST

please email me more information
   kellysauer - Tuesday, 03/31/09 10:50:02 EST

Kelly; if we were to do that then we would be spending all our time just writing *you*. If you have specific questions please ask them on this forum so *everybody* can profit from the answers.

So far you have asked for about 100 Gb of information and frankly I can't type that much!

I'd suggest you read the Getting Started in Blacksmithing link at the top of this page and then post questions you have beyond what is covered in that.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/31/09 10:56:06 EST

AND, Obtain and read the books suggested!
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/31/09 11:55:24 EST

Looking for templates for making metal roses/flowers. And I'm also looking for idea's for making my own scrolling jigs too?
   Mark Grenville - Tuesday, 03/31/09 15:03:43 EST

Mark, See our articles on Benders, and our iForge page for various flowers.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/31/09 15:59:34 EST

Hello. I'm planning to fabricate a medium-sized 3'x6' outdoor sculpture out of 16ga Corten or weathering steel. So I'm looking for fasteners that are pre-made, reasonably user-friendly, attractive, and highly resistant to galvanic corrosion when paired with the Corten.

Stainless steel pop rivets are the best I can think of so far, though they aren't nearly as attractive as I would like.

I like tinners rivets (think that's what they're called, mushroom shaped and need a solid backing when you hammer the 'stem' side over) but physically am a featherweight, and would have trouble with metals harder than aluminum or copper, though it might be worth it.

Do small Corten alloy rivets (of any form) exist, and if so, where could I find them? Or if anyone has any other suggestions or options, that'd be great.

Thanks! Melissa
   - Melissa M. - Tuesday, 03/31/09 16:13:04 EST

Melissa, The Corten specs call for using nothing except Corten fasteners, welding materials and special heat treat to return the weld HAZ to non-corrosive properties. You will have to check with the manufacturer for suppliers of the proper pieces. Using ANY other material (such as stainless or aluminium) will cause significant corrosion problems no different than on plain carbon steel.

Note that Corten DOES rust. Its rust will stain concrete and stone bases. Many of the structures made of this material such as bridges have failed expectations and been cleaned and painted at significant expense. Almost all uses of this material have been wishful thinking OR laziness.

Read ALL the requirements and the reports on this material before using it. My recommendation is if you want something that LOOKS rusted, paint it to look that way. If you want something that will last forever, make it out of stainless.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/31/09 16:34:43 EST

Mark Grenville: I have absolutely no idea where you can find a copy, but the 10th Anniversity of ABANA's The Anvil's Ring was dedicated totally to repousse forms.

I have suggested to ABANA several times they reprint that issue and offer it for sale, but no interest.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 03/31/09 17:02:24 EST

Mark there are two good sources for the forms you are looking for but the are copy written sites that require that you buy the relevant issues.
www . blacksmiths journal. com

www. artist-blacksmith.org

They have extensive back issures available for down loading.

Many state organizations have published articles that are also available. They have not protected their materials in the same way that more commercial sites have.
I have a copy of the 10th issue on repoussse that I will not sell and plan to will to my grandchildern.
   - Charlotte Simonin - Tuesday, 03/31/09 18:26:29 EST

Mark there are two good sources for the forms you are looking for but the are copy written sites that require that you buy the relevant issues.
www . blacksmiths journal. com

www. artist-blacksmith.org

They have extensive back issures available for down loading.

Many state organizations have published articles that are also available. They have not protected their materials in the same way that more commercial sites have.
I have a copy of the 10th issue on repoussse that I will not sell and plan to will to my grandchildern.
   Charlotte Simonin - Tuesday, 03/31/09 18:26:57 EST

sorry accidental double
   Charlotte Simonin - Tuesday, 03/31/09 19:00:58 EST

Hi guys,
"Inquiring minds want to know..." how about some of you telling, what was the first thing you made as smithy? I've been thinking about that and was trying to think about what I should try my hand at as a first project (once I eventually get set up) so come on guys, reminice a bit here and spill the beans.
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 19:06:18 EST

My first product was a bottle opener. I still have it and it still works. It is ursanal in roughness but I wouldn't ever be without it.
   philip in china - Tuesday, 03/31/09 19:42:46 EST

Can anybody help me please?

I live alone on a small property that used to be a farm. Thee is a big workshop that I think belonged to a blacksmith. I say this because there are a lot of anvils on tree stumps around the place- 3 or maybe 4 of them. Some are very big. The biggest has 4.1.8 stamped on it. Does that mean anything? There are also a couple of coal fires, a gas oven type thing and hundreds of hammers. Some machines I don’t even know what they are! Somebody has called one of the m “Little Giant” which I think is funny.

Out back is a forklift. That must have been used to lift the iron. There are two piles of iron. 1 pile isn’t rusty at all it is still shiny although it has been there years.

In the other workshop is a machine that says “South Bend” on it and some other stuff like drills. There is an electric crane in the roof of this building.

Would photographs help? I do quite a bit of modeling work and one of the photographers would probably take some pictures of the place. That might help as I am not very good at describing things.

It just all seems so empty as there isn’t a man about the place. If somebody could help me to load the stuff up onto the truck he could have it all including the truck and the forklift. We could drive the forklift onto the truck as the last item as there is a loading bay. Then maybe I could get my Cadillac into the garage space.

Please somebody help me as I am all alone.

Bev. Shears.
   Bev. Shears - Tuesday, 03/31/09 19:45:21 EST

I don't believe the Blacksmith Shop post free for the hauling one bit. It is clearly written by someone with iknowledge who is trying to hide it....not to well I might add.
   - Pete. Wright - Tuesday, 03/31/09 20:09:25 EST

yep, I agree with you Pete, too much "accidental" info being given away there! Model? Alone? Free stock? lonely place (farm)? besides, who just gives away forktrucks etc.?
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 20:13:16 EST

First Projects:

My first project was a control handle for my forge. It had a 1" square end about 3/8" thick with a punched hole. The lever was drawn out to about 12" with a tapered tang for a wood handle to be forced onto. It had a #10 drilled and tapped hole for a set screw.

The second thing I made was a rather ugly pair of tongs drawn out from a RR-spike. I had them for over 30 years then tried to adjust them and broke one at the joint.

Next were some REAL ugly parts for a foot treadle on a grind stone. They were forged from pieces of old wagon tire. The parts were ugly but worked.

The first major project I made was a fire grate. This was an original design and all split an a hardy. It was a tough job working alone.

There are many things you can make but it helps to make just anything, hooks, leaves, bean ends, scrolls just for practice. Until you get fairly comfortable moving metal most projects are a struggle. Just forging points over and over is good exercise.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/31/09 20:15:57 EST

Thanx, I think my first efforts are going to be tongs, I'm gonna need some after all. They'll no doubt be ugly suckers too but they'll be treasured, Ha! Ha!
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 20:26:21 EST

help, I have a huge mansion type building in the middle of my garden and a building at the side of it, there are letters on it spelling G.A.R.A.G.E. does anyone know what that means? its got a huge metal thing with wheels in it. if someone could take them away they could keep them.
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 20:51:34 EST

Guru- I have been blacksmithing as a hobby on and off for several years and I am planning to make some fire steels, and of course I want to create a lot of sparks on flint. Do you have any advice on which commercially available steels to use? Or perhaps hardening tricks? Any thoughts on using files for the 'bar stock'?
   Skip - Tuesday, 03/31/09 20:59:13 EST

As soon as the first fire in the forge was hot enough I forged a fire poker, as that was the thing I was going to need next.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:11:45 EST

Nice one Dave, do you still have it? souvenir perhaps?
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:21:22 EST

my first was i-forge #110. it's strange because i just happened to pick that one out and the plans for it actually came from my local abana affiliate which i ended up joining a few months later
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:21:23 EST

PABA meeting in Pleasant Gap: This is near State College.
Nip, this is a long way from Philly. If I go I will be catching a ride from Reading, and it is still a haul.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:25:31 EST

Duncan, the poker is nothing fancy, but I still have it.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:27:22 EST

Still a member Tyler? wish I had something local like that
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:28:38 EST

Yep... a treasured Item now then Dave
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:33:38 EST

C'mon all of you, I'm sure you remember your first... forging
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:37:09 EST

I really like the fire grate Guru.
Now that you braught up foot pedel grinders, I want to make a replacement wet stone for one of the pedel grinders at the club.
The plan is to mix sand blasting garnet in with a low psi morter and trowel into the proper size mold with an axil incorperated for a wheel of 3"wide by 24"diameter.
Any thoughts/advise/missgivings?
If this works we want to make a little larger one for a grinder run off the line shaft in the shop. We figure a surface speed of 100sfm with a 28" diameter wheel.
   - merl - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:37:19 EST

Satire, sarcasm, or irony? And what is the target?

Inquisitioning minds unexpectedly want to know!

Not-to-quick-on-the-uptake on the banks of the lower Potomac.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:44:13 EST

The "mansion" posting? or the interest in first projects?

   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 21:57:07 EST

The mansion is sarcastic fun... the interest in first projects is genuine, looking for ideas for a first. How about it Bruce? what was your first?
   Duncan (aka. maddragon) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 22:02:28 EST

Reference was to "Bev. Shears'" posting.

My "first" was pounding a bumper hitch into an alternate curvature to fit on my '74 Chevy Vega so that I could tow the faering boat (longship "dinghy") around to various events. I heated it to a medium red in the wood stove, then ran down the basement and beat it to conformance over a piece of I-beam with a three pound hand sledge. It worked, and I still have it around somewhere, even though most modern sedan bumpers are made from plastic these days.

First project for friends, Boy Scouts, demonstrations and such is usually tent stakes; simple, informative, useful. Some more ambitious folks take on hinges, spearheads, and knives; but these latter do not lend themselves to a one-stop lesson, so they have to remember to come back and finish the darn things. Some do, some don't.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/31/09 22:22:26 EST

First Project, hmm don't know whether to count the rail anvil I made or the little carving tools I made out of quarter inch music wire, or the fire place poker I made at a friend's place on a borrowed anvil and forge with a coal fire. *btw it was looking for how to harden and temper the tools that lead me to Weyger's "The Modren Blacksmith" and ABANA.
   Charlotte Simonin - Tuesday, 03/31/09 22:46:59 EST

My first project was a glossary that explained that a "smith" is a person and a "smithy" is a building. My second was tongs that I keep around to use on people who don't use the first.

   Peck Stostakeplate - Wednesday, 04/01/09 00:16:13 EST

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