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 24 - 31, 2010 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

I was just wanting to know why I should make the fire box so deep? This may seem like a dumb question but I would like to know.
   Adam Grillot - Tuesday, 03/23/10 21:27:28 EDT

Adam, it you have the work in a shallow fire where the air is entering then you burn the metal and produce excessive scale. To get a very nice clean heat you want a fire deep enough to use up all the oxygen and heat the steel with that. You can do the same with a flat surfaced forge but the fire spreads and uses a lot of fuel. A good fire pot contains the core of the fire, reduces spread and makes a deep concentrated fire that is low or oxygen free.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/23/10 22:15:18 EDT

But, will a box that is 5" deep let you work on long pieces?
   Adam Grillot - Tuesday, 03/23/10 23:02:46 EDT

It all depends on the size of the fire.

If you work very long slender bar and need a small fire then the fire pot should have a couple dips in the sides and these should line up with similar dips in the forge pan that are an inch or so higher.

It pays to study commercial forges.

Click to enlarge

The image above is of a Centaur Forge floor model forge made from components they sold.

On the other hand, to get long work deep enough into a forge smiths often bend it. It only takes a slight curve that you can remove later.

You can build a flat bottom forge with no fire pot. It is just more work keeping the fire from spreading and keeping the coal piled high to get a high heat. A fire pot creates an intense focused heat, save fuel and lets gravity do a lot of the work.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/24/10 01:04:08 EDT

Jock, doesn't the Anvilfire logo have the word "Anvilfire.com!" in the graphic? Also, I know that you embed info into the file. So unless forge-n-machine went ahead and messed with your work, it should be traceable.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 03/24/10 08:38:39 EDT

Our anvil logo is used in numerous places alone without the anvilfire text OR with the text as "text" not part of the graphic. In the case at the top of our current pages with the animated flames there are two seperate images. One with the anvil, the other the flames. Otherwise the whole image would be a huge animation and slow to load.

When an image has a sole source and is obviously original there is no need for embedding a visible OR invisible water mark. The image itself is its own proof. We embed marks in many of our other images for different reasons.

While anvils with flames have existed for quite a while as symbols for blacksmiths ours was created by my son Patrick FOR anvilfire. It started with my CAD drawing of Josh Greenwood's 350 pound Hay-Budden and scans of actual flames. The anvil was digitally hand painted then the flames were morphed and shaped to fit the anvil. Patrick was 20 and in art school at the time. The original graphic was quite small due to the hardware available at the time.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/24/10 09:55:41 EDT

Whoops: I had the alias of the infringer as forge-n-machine when it was actually machine-n-forge. The typo is fixed.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/24/10 10:38:23 EDT

Mr. Dempsey,

I just know if you could get in touch with an attorney,
whoever is using your logo would either have to pay you
a copyright fee or be sued, I bet they would pay the fee.
For example, I bought some thornless blackberry vines developed by the University of Arkansas. They charge a royalty fee of .09 per cutting. If I were to sell 100 cuttings ( out of good conscience ) I would send the University 9.00
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 03/24/10 21:34:27 EDT

Mike, Public humiliation is much cheaper than an attorney. I asked the webmaster if he would rather go "public" with the problem. He said do what I want, but was expecting me to post on his forum where he has the control.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/24/10 23:35:49 EDT

What about using lead to gain mass in a power hammer anvil?As a thought experiment im imagining a 6 inch pipe with heavy steel ends filled with lead.I cant get the mass calc to work but this would be several hundred pounds of mass.As a boat builder i have poured keels from 500 to 5000 pounds and its not that hard with a good backyard set up.Wheel weights are not hard to get as scrap.What are the drawbacks?
   wayne eddy - Thursday, 03/25/10 07:58:46 EDT

mass calc came up and tells me a 6" by 36" lead cyl is 400 lb.
   wayne eddy - Thursday, 03/25/10 08:06:04 EDT

Wayne, The problem with lead is its is lead. You get 40% more mass for the same volume but volume is not the issue. Generally lead costs a great deal more than steel per pound. So if the only goal is solid mass then steel is cheaper as well as cleaner. Steal can also be cut welded and modified without contaminating your shop or the surrounding area.

Lead should ONLY be used in applications where the mass needs to be smaller or a wall thinner and the balance of safety concerns (costs) also warrants using lead.

For nearly two decades we build machinery with integral radiation shielding for the nuclear industry. Over 90% of all the shielding was steel or cast ductile iron. The only place we used lead was a location where we only had space for a 3" wall surrounding a worker and some of the most intense radiation. All the rest was 4" to 6" iron with a result ZERO (actually less than backround) radiation. The high density lead glass windows had to be nealry 12" thick to do the same job.

So. . even in an application where industry "experts" often jump to say "use lead" there was no need.

In making an anvil you need good solid connected mass. When you fill a tube that is going to be capped and struck from the end the tube will expand under load and lose the connection between tube and filled mass. This is especially a problem due to the shrinkage of cast lead. To keep a good connection to the lead mass you would need an end cap that acted like a piston and sat directly on the lead. To keep it from hopping up and down you would need spring hold downs. It would also need an anti rotation key.

This may seem overkill but I know we had all kinds of connectivity, fill and shrink issues with the 3.5 tons of lead in our "man can". We could not assume 100% fill, so places with possible shielding gaps had to be specially designed to have shielding even when there was gaps in the lead.

Lead WILL make a deceivingly heavy part for its size . . .

People talk about substituting lead for gold. . . but gold is 2.4 times denser than steel and 1.75 times denser than lead. . gold anvils. . .

   - guru - Thursday, 03/25/10 09:11:51 EDT

Lead in the Shop, Pb - Plumbum a History for the younger folk A few decades ago lead was used for a great many things in the shop. It was used for soft work surfaces by file makers and for detailed repousse'. Lead was used for bending tubing and soft hammers. Lead was common in solders of many types including that used for both plumbing and electrical work as well as craft work. Melted lead baths were used for heat treating and lead is still used in plumbing drain pipes. Lead white (paint) was also a good high pressure lubricant and was used to lubricate lathe centers. . .

Today, a few lead spills from casting swept out the door can get your soil tested as high lead and make your property impossible to sell unless cleaned up to meet the EPA's satisfaction. It happens. . .

Lead oxide was also used heavily in painted because it made them more color fast and UV resistant than older paints. They lasted longer without cracking. Chinese paint makers still insist on lead because of the brighter colors and thus the repeated discoveries of lead in imported children's toys.

Tetra Ethyl lead was used in gasoline to raise its octane thus reduce engine knock and valve clatter. This lead to the brand name and common usage of "Ethyl" for the better "new" gasolines with lead. "Fill 'er up with Ethyl". Almosat all gasoline had lead added to it, the more the higher the octane and price. Despite adolescence logic high octane gasoline burns SLOWER then low octane gasoline. . .

The combination of aging paint and automobile fumes but a large amount of fine lead into our environment and people started to study its effects on humans, particularly children. Despite the sources of lead it was clearly proven that lead slowed early development to the point of retardation in some children. When scientists discovered lead from gasoline in what was thought to be the pristine environment of Antarctica that was the straw that broke the Camels back. It was everywhere! It was toxic and it could make our children retarded. . .

Some of the worse cases of lead retardation was in the children of lead workers who came home with fine lead dust in their hair and on their skin and clothes. Other cases were largely inner city and were believed to be due to crumbling lead paint in old houses and apartments. It was found in these buildings and in the soils in the neighborhoods.

So lead rose in prominence as an environmental pollutant to remove from the environment at all costs. Paint was the first target and over the years lead was removed from paint for children's toys and furniture, to house paint and eventually to almost all paint used in the U.S.

Then lead had to be removed from gasoline. This was somewhat of a problem because modern high compression automobile engines needed high octane fuel to run properly. AND while there was natural high octane gasoline (such as the "white" gasoline sold by Texaco) cheaper grades of gasoline could be made to perform by the simple addition of tetra ethyl lead. Removing the lead was a long hard battle between the auto companies (didn't want to do it), the oil companies (didn't want to do it) and the vocal environmental consumer (so called tree huggers) and the U.S. Congress. Congress and the tree huggers won. . .

Lead has continued to be taken out of more and more products both to remove the lead from the manufacturing workplace as well as the consumer environment. Lead shot is no longer used in hunting ammunition and lead is no longer used to make free machining steels (great stuff).

Lead is still being used for a great many things but if it can be phased out, it will be. I am surprised that lead fishing weights and lures are still allowed.

Have we gone too far? It is hard to tell. On the whole the public tends to be quite reactionary about such things and then unreasonable fears set in. . .

But there was an interesting study done that has failed get hardly anyone's attention. Folks studying lead in soils where children were found to have high lead levels discovered an interesting fact. If you took two identical neighborhoods with the same age structures, the same paints used and general maintenance, one neighborhood could be much lower in lead and children tested there have very low levels of lead compared to other neighborhoods where the levels were the highest. It was NOT the paint. City lots could be tested that never had painted structures on them and the lead levels were almost as high as lots where old houses with lead paint had been scraped and painted over and over again.

It was the proximity to major highways, particularly those big interchanges that were often built over and through many city neighborhoods AND occasionally to old industry such as foundries. When lead content in soils was plotted on a map it created a perfect road map with highlighted traffic concentrations and an occasional isolated spot where an industry was located.

Should we still use lead in the shop? I would say, as little as possible and to avoid it at all costs if you have a pregnant female or children in the house.

I would not panic about occasional use of lead solder or a lead hammer. But any process where you melt quantities of lead should be avoided or kept to a minimum.

Also note that we have had several warnings about melting lead. When melted at a just pourable temperature it is OK. But you can overheat lead and create lead fumes that are very toxic which can result in heavy metal poisoning.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/25/10 15:16:48 EDT

Seth, sorry for the delay, I've been out of town.

What do you want to know? I do not make my own locks or barrels. I CAN make the barrels, but I don't trust my welds enough to sell one. I could probably make the locks as well, but I've never tried it. The video "Gunsmith of Williamsburg" with Wallace Gusler shows the process start to finish, and the book "Notes from a Small Iowa Rifleshop" by Steve Bookout has a lot of handy hints and tips for making your own.

I have forged new mainsprings and such for those who don't like the modern investment-cast springs, and I tend to reshape commercial locks for a more one-of-a-kind look. You just have to know what you can remove/reshape and what you shouldn't, especially with the internals. It's way too easy to accidentally create a literal hair trigger by polishing the sear faces if you don't know exactly what you're doing.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 03/25/10 16:13:15 EDT

I will weigh in on Lead.
My background, I have been certified as a Lead inspector and lead risk assesor.
The Guru is very right about mental retardation in children. It appears from the studies the effects are most severe at ages under 6 years. Lead is a cumulative toxin, and a risk to all. Once you have your body loaded to the point of health problems, there is not much way to get the lead out, short of chealation therapy, and that has risks and bad times associated with it.

A source not often mentioned for lead in the household is PVC plastic. Lead and lead acetate is added to PVC as a molding agent. That film you see on those miniblinds that have been hanging in the sunny window for years? Mostly lead.

Gasoline was indeed one of the main sources of lead in the environment. Tetra ethyl lead was discovered in the late 20's and early 30's in a trial and error program to stop detonation in Presto-Light Kerosene generator sets. The testing was done at the Dayton electric Labs (DELCO later).
Oddly the first thought was that the Rommanian Petrols, dyed Red were better due somehow to the color slowing the flame propogation. So they tested every dye known and many other chemicals. The standard gasoline used before the Lead had a natural octane rating of US gas about 30-40, and required very low compression ratio's. In WWII Hundreds of millions of gallons of Leaded 115/145 octane gas was burned in aircraft. The tetra ethyl retards the speed of the flame propogation and thus reduces detonation. ( The allies got about exactly double the Hp from the same displacement compared to the Axis, due to the 115/145 octane)

About the only leaded gas sold in the US is 100 Octane LL for Low Lead used in aviation. Much lower lead levels, and since the military and airlines, the big users now burn kerosene, the issue is much reduced.

Metalic lead sitting there is really not much of an issue. Lead Fume, that is vaporized lead that appears as smoke and is really vapor droplets that have cooled and solidified but are fine enough to be aerosols are big problem. Lead solder? Not unless you work with it every day.
Lead from chalking paint, or PVC that is chalking? Big problem if it gets in the body. In undesturbed soil not a big risk. Let kids run in it and destroy the grass, or dig play holes etc? big problem.
The primary risk from lead is if you ingest it, either from inhalling fine dust or eating it. Kids, especially tots have the instant hand to mouth thing.

Another developing issue is that many studies are linking viloent offender youth to lead exposure in the under 6 ages.

One last tidbit, The lead researcher on the tetra ethyl lead project became quite rich as a founding member of the Ethyl Corp. and continued to work as a researcher. He was the same guy that discovered/developed Freon for Dupont, two wonderful answers to industrial needs that ended up have disasterous results for the environment in the long run. I think Harold Midgley had died before the problems were discovered.
   Ptree - Thursday, 03/25/10 19:22:08 EDT


Given that Romanian gasoline started it all, its kind of ironic that they ended up as part of the Axis (and that we suffered heavy losses bombing their refinery at Ploesti).
   Mike BR - Thursday, 03/25/10 21:26:56 EDT

Not only that but Dracula was a Romanian ( hmm no wonder they joined the axis ),I hope the allied powers brought wooden stakes with them.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 03/25/10 23:03:51 EDT

Mike BR, that high octane Romanian gasoline was a whopping 60-70 octane! In fact, when I was stationed in Germany in the mid 70's, the regular gas was still about 70 octane.
The research group that developed the tetra ethyl lead was headed up by none other than Boss Kettering, who later ran GM's R&D for many many years, and is the Kettering that funded the Sloan-Kettering clinic. Same guy that developed electric self starters, and many other electric devices for automobiles thru DELCO.
   ptree - Friday, 03/26/10 07:04:23 EDT

A few years ago I saw an amzing antique toy. It was a small Bunsen burner, a bunch of small toy molds (like cowboys, indians, horses) and a small crucible for melting lead pellets. The whole set up was old, rusty and obviously well used. I was amazed because this was a childrens toy, meaning kids were bored at home (no TV, maybe some crappy radio programs and "grown up" books) and playing with toxic material, changing its state and inhaling copious amounts of lead oxides.

And America has a problem with minute amounts of lead paint on a fake hamster toy?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 03/26/10 10:28:55 EDT

Nip, My brother and I had one of those sets. It was very satisfying casting the soldiers and then playing with them. We also used to rub mercury on pennies. I've made it to 76 and still going strong with no ill effects.
   Carver Jake - Friday, 03/26/10 10:52:09 EDT

Does anyone have opinions on the difference in the surface finish left by a coal forge vs propane.A smith I met whos opinion I have to respect(35 years experience)says he hates his propane forge as it leaves a "baked "look to the work.So I was wondering If this is wide experience and why it would be.
   wayne - Friday, 03/26/10 11:01:14 EDT

Goal vs. Gas - Finishes Wayne, There IS a distinct difference but it is much less so if you strip off the scale before painting (a recommended practice).

There is also a difference in how the steel is worked. If worked very fast such as under a power hammer and not reheated in the gas forge there is absolutely NO difference in finish. If the work is done by hand and not reheated in the gas forge there is also almost no difference.

But while most gas forges create more scale they rarely burn up the steel as will a coal forge. . . .

A serious issue with using coal is the condensation of vaporized heavy coal tars on the cooler parts of the work. This shiny black coating is VERY hard to remove. It contains sulfur (an aid to rust and corrosion) and will break down over time UNDER paint. This can cause a huge mess of your work.

So, there are pros and cons. Normally the reasons for using propane are that coal is hard to get or that gas is much more suited to a production operation (ANY architectural railing job is a production job). There are also place that will try to regulate you out of using coal.

Finally. . There are many who like the "natural" look of their ironwork (brushed scale) and do not properly finish (paint) their work. The eventual "natural" finish of all iron work is RUST and not doing everything you can to stop it is a disservice to your customer and detrimental to your reputation.
   - guru - Friday, 03/26/10 11:47:31 EDT

Lead Soldiers, Mercury: I never had a lead casting set, but my father did. When I was about 12 or 13 we built a barometer using mercury. I tried very hard to weld 12 lengths of laboratory tubing together to make the 32" tube but the weight of the mercury was too much for the thin walled tubing. Due to the repeated attempts I had mercury everywhere. . . Finally my Dad went to a sign shop and they provided a high strength glass tube and I got the project finished. Filling the tube then getting the end into the filled reservoir without losing too much mercury OR getting air in the tube is a real trick. I did it somehow. The barometer worked, won 1st prize at the science fair and still works. . . There is a question as to what to do with it. Yeah, we also "silvered" a number of pennies and carried them in our pockets. . .

Over the years I think my Dad and I have been exposed to much worse in the form of solvents, catalysts and many other banned substances. Dad died a few years ago of numerous run away cancers. The exact type was never known. On the other hand Dad smoked from age 11 and was a 3 pack a day smoker for many years. He also drank quite a bit. However, it was not until later in life when his career had wound down and life looked bleak for a man whom had always been a "doer" that I ever saw him really drunk. So was it a combination of everything that killed him? Hard to tell. He had lived longer than his father by 22 years and about 10 years more than his grandfathers and had outlived his older and younger sisters. I'd like to think I will live longer but that may require some miracle.

In the 50's the same folks that made the chemistry set I had also made an "Atomic Energy" set with a uranium radiation source. . . .

Yeah. . . and we worry about a little lead to make steel several times easier to machine. . .
   - guru - Friday, 03/26/10 12:14:51 EDT

Thank you Jeff and Guru for sharing so freely your knowledge and exprience on some very important subjects.
   daveb - Friday, 03/26/10 14:42:59 EDT

Is it possible to come into contact with Marco Dell'Acqua (i'd like to buy an old anvil in Italy)? thanks
   - moreno - Friday, 03/26/10 15:19:18 EDT

Is there a standard on the amount of interference fit, steel to steel, specificly on a 15" insert, bored out and inserted to regaine OEM specs. (lower liner guide on an Enterprise recipicating engine and compressor)?
   Phillip Kay - Friday, 03/26/10 18:09:45 EDT

The possible reason the lead soldiers and mercury did not affect you guys is that perhaps you played with these after 6 years old. Also, the exposure level from a 10 year old casting lead soldiers a few times compared to a 18 month old ingested lead dust everyday for months is quite different. Remember that lead is measured in weight devided by volume of blood in a blood test. So 10 miligrams in a 18 month old versus 30 in a 12 year old...

Jock, My father too was exposed to almost everything you can think of as a carcinogenic agent. Smoked, Spent 600 hours above 25,000 feet, sucking oxygen compressed by Army Air Force mechanics, useing who knows what kind of compressor. They had to wash their uniforms by dipping the wollen garments is aviation gasolene and hanging it to dry. He worked with huge amounts of benzene in wet labs, was around huge electromagnetic fields from the anodizing plant, spent another 14,000 hours at almost as high altitude.
He and His Mother died about 3 months apart. She was 101.5 and he 52.5 and both died of the same rare luekiema.
Doctor said he and she must have been exposed to the same environmental agent at about the same time and that started the clock ticking on that rare blood cancer.
They had a cottage industry in the depression making and selling cast iron door stops that were dogs and horses. Dad spoke of coming up from their basement drunk on the lacuer fumes after painting hundreds of those dogs.
The doc said you have the gene for that blood cancer and when you get exposed to the enviro key the clock starts.
working on an airplane painting crew as a preteen till I was 18, I was exposed to the same fumes. Time will tell.
   Ptree - Friday, 03/26/10 18:22:44 EDT

Phillip Kay, in "The Machineries Manual" you will find tables of fits, and descriptions of how to apply them. The fit can be a slip to a interference fit depending on the application. I would suggest that this would be a good guide to check before making the first cut?
   Ptree - Friday, 03/26/10 18:25:20 EDT

They do still make "leaded" steels, right? Also known as screw machine steel. We use 12L14 at work. Supposed to have lead in it...
   - Ty Murch - Friday, 03/26/10 18:36:33 EDT

Lead has a sweet taste. That is why toddlers will eat old paint that has peeled off. Many died or got sick doing this. That is why building inspectors require removal of the lead paint. Also, ancient people drank beverages from lead goblets etc. because it added a sweet taste. Alcoholic beverages would leach large amounts of lead out of the goblets.
   Mike T. - Friday, 03/26/10 19:21:09 EDT

SAE 12L14
C Max 0.15
Fe 97.91 - 98.7
Mn 0.85 - 1.15
P 0.04 - 0.09
Pb 0.15 - 0.35
S 0.26 - 0.35

Lead makes the material, known as 12L14, easy to drill and cut, but its presence also requires that steelmakers follow strict safety measures to ensure that lead fumes and dust don’t endanger workers or pollute the environment. Chips and scraps cut from 12L14 steel parts contain lead and must be handled in a special way.

According the Science News 1999 tin is replacing lead in free machining steels.

Other than the above article and many notices of the patent on the tin bearing steel I could not find more information. So its available, but possibly only if you are a large buyer. 12L14 is still being sold.

One of the shops we dealt with in the 1980's that did some heavy machining for us had sources of heavy flame cut plate in free machining (leaded) steel. Apparently that is no longer available. Matweb also listed a narrow range of sizes for the material.

There is a definite push to get the lead out of steel but until the patent runs out on the tin steel replacement I doubt that it will be very popular.
   - guru - Friday, 03/26/10 20:09:09 EDT

I too had a lead melting & casting set. Mine was Civil War, and a friend had a WWII set. I have a sinker mold as well that I got from My Uncle. He cast all of the sinkers We used.

Later I got into bullet casting, which My shooting mentor had done for years using thier kitchen stove.

Altho We were starting to hear of lead issues, paint, gasoline, potable water tube solder, etc. nobody gave much thought to the lead casting, and We had enough sense not to overheat it.

My family was fortunate to have to be tight with money, or My Great Granddad would have used lead pipe to run the water from the spring on the hill for the gravity fed water system [early 1930's]. The spring water is high in acid and would have disolved a lot of lead into the water due to the several thousand foot length of the pipe. The iron pipe He used was all but rusted shut by the early '60s, and was replaced with black plastic pipe.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 03/26/10 20:36:23 EDT

hi, i have a round forge. cast iron, approximently 26" across with blower on bottom appears to have been foot operated, the letters "no 100" and "d" are on the bottom. it has three pipe legs.. any idea who made this or what year?? thank you
   henry - Friday, 03/26/10 21:09:32 EDT

Henry, Probably some time from the 1870's to the 1930's but possibly later. I could be one of several brands. The pipe legs were common to several brands with Champion using them on many size forges.
   - guru - Friday, 03/26/10 22:38:30 EDT

Contacting Submitters:
Moreno, If you send me your e-mail address I will forward it to Marco and he can decide if he wishes to respond.

Many of our submitters are only occasional readers and may not see your note. We do not publish submitters e-mail addresses due to spam.
   - guru - Friday, 03/26/10 22:58:42 EDT

Re 12L14- is that what we call free cutting steel?
   philip in china - Saturday, 03/27/10 15:46:46 EDT

I'm Moreno and my e-mail is tzvalech@alice.it italian style anvil 1902 dated
   - moreno - Saturday, 03/27/10 16:21:04 EDT

Phillip, Yes.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/27/10 17:24:17 EDT

New lead law,
Beginning in April, everyone remodeling a house built before 1975, will have to use lead safe practices.Hanging plastic is the least. Extensive remodeling requires moving out. Replacing 1 window will cost aprox. 100. extra.
   Steve Paullin - Saturday, 03/27/10 19:24:34 EDT

Another hit to the housing market. . . .

So, Now we have to find paperwork or file forms to certify that windows in pre 70's houses were replaced in the 1980's or be fined on replacing those energy sucking aluminium frame models with new (probably bio degradable) plastic frame models. . . OR do the math and determine that there is no longer any cost savings to replacing those old energy losing window in our lifetime. Your government at work.

My next construction project will be in a country where common sense rules more than here and seismic considerations come first.

I went to buy some "cheap" OSB to make a crate recently and asked for 1/2". I knew they had gone to most sheet stock being 1/32" undersize but now 1/2" is really 7/16" and IT seemed to be slightly under size. . . (probably 10mm). 2x4's have paused at 1.5 x 3.5" but those used in "modular" construction are less. . . What happened to 6" walls and 12" ceiling insulation being most economical long term (AND better for the country)?

I've written many times about the "Got away with it" factor. I think that is the direction our building codes are going. . . They'll be saying in the new future, "Yeah, they gottaway with it until the oil ran out", and "They gottaway with it until the Eastern earthquake zone became active again", They gottaway with it until the weather patterns reverted to those of the first half of the twentieth century", and we have already heard, "They gottaway with it until hurricane Andrew swept through Southern Florida. . .".
   - guru - Saturday, 03/27/10 20:28:37 EDT

The love of money is the root of all evil. Now taxpayers are having to carry the burden of corrupt banking, mortgage and Wall Street practices. Guru, you talk about government ineptitude, remember the thousands of mobile homes destined for New Orleans after hurricane Katrina ? The last I heard, most of them are still in storage in Arkansas. Millions of dollars never made it there either.
Bush said it was not his fault, the money was released, maybe someone should look into it and see where it went ( I heard him say approximately those words. )We all could go on and on about government corruption. Jesse Ventura was right when he said, politics is like professional wrestling, the Republicans and Democrats revile and fight each other in front of the camera, but as soon as the cameras are turned off, they all go out for drinks and a good time. Each congressman jockeys for position for the next election, they could care less for the people. Ron Paul would be the exception, but an honest man could never be elected president ( not in this day and time ).
   Mike T. - Saturday, 03/27/10 22:46:24 EDT

This ole hillbilly doesn't know many 50 cent words. I had to look up ineptitude. If anyone else is wondering it means inappropriate, foolish or generally incompetent.
   - Bubba J - Saturday, 03/27/10 23:05:12 EDT

I watched a documentary today on the top conspiracy theories and one thing they reiterated was that in recent times there have been so many lies told by top government officials (Clinton's "I didn't have sex with that woman", Bush Jr. "We have won the war", weapons of mass destruction. . . numerous congressmen about their private lives. . . Then there is the official policy of don't ask don't tell (its OK if you lie about it) and the IRS policy that you cannot trust anything any IRS employee says.

Lies from government leaders have become so common that nobody believes anything they say any more, the news networks fail to bring them to task and often spread the same lies (or make up their own). People have also largely stopped reading hard copy such as newspapers. So the Internet and often conspiracy web sites have become the common source of information for many people.

Sad times. . . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 00:40:37 EDT

I'm an ol hillbilly too. I've cracked open squirrel heads with a spoon and eaten the brains. Drank water out of a water bucket with a dipper. Pissed off the back porch. Eaten meals cooked in a wood stove. Kerosene lamps for lighting. Sat on lard buckets at the kitchen table ( the kids chairs ). Seen dresses made out of flour sacks. Drank water straight out of hand pumps. Read Sears and Roebuck catalogs in the old out houses :). Etc. Mowed yards for 1.00 up to 5.00. 5.00 was for a huge yard, premium gasoline was about .35 a gallon. Good old days. Studebakers, DeSoto's, Nash's, 57 Chevy's, go to the store and get a Moon Pie and an RC Cola a nickle each.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 03/28/10 00:51:33 EDT

The good old days (60-70's), I could take a girl on a date with $5 in my pocket, go to a first run movie, have a pizza and drinks, put gas in the car and have change left over. . . Worked for $1.50/hour and had money for rent, car, tools and weekend dates. . . Before that we scavanged for returnable soda bottles at 2cents each and had enough to buy hobby materials or go to a Saturday matinee (usually Journey to the Center of the Earth, Voyage to the bottom of the Sea or Robinson Caruso on Mars) 35cents.

Lived in the city so life was not as primitive as Mikes. Even my grandparents had moved off the farm into the city by then.

Now if you don't have more than $50 in your pocket (or a credit card) you don't dare say "fill it up" when you buy gasoline even though the new cars have smaller tanks. . . and you have to pump it your self in most places.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 01:50:48 EDT

Jersey... only place left that you can say "fill 'er up"... that is if you happen to have $50 to $100 EXTRA in your pocket.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 03/28/10 10:24:26 EDT

If you can remember to 60’s and 70’s - you weren’t there. I sort of have a recollection of those daze? I could fill up your Mopar Max Wedge with Sunoco 260 for $10.00 on a Friday night and cruse the weekend looking for someone to street race in Hatboro, PA. For another five bucks you could get a local Stew Bum to run for a six pack or a few quarts and let him keep the change to feed his habit. You could hang out under age in public with open cans of beer while the cops kind of turned their heads the other way as long as you didn’t act like an ahole. If you got ill-mannered, the cops would confiscate your beer for their own consumption and give you a warning without a ticket. If things got worse or obvious, they’d lock you up for the night, but they didn’t like to do that because it created paperwork and they couldn’t keep our beer.
Things have changed. We knew our place and what we could or could not get away with. The problem today is the government is deliberately mudding the gene pool and trying to save us from ourselves. I filled our Skid Loader yesterday from governed plastic jugs with off road diesel because I don’t think I should have to pay road tax for equipment not intended for road use. I have to travel about 20 miles one way to get our off road diesel. It probably isn’t cost effective but I like giving it to the man any way I can and do my part to save humanity. Well, to fill the loader, it takes about 15 minutes longer than it should because of the “approved filler spout” on the “government approved” plastic jug. I feel so much safer knowing I don’t even have to think while performing such a mundane process as filling my Loader. Although the extra 15 minutes of idle time leaves me to ponder what might be next to save myself from me…..perhaps a warning sign posted at the Jersey Shore - “To avoid being eaten by sharks stay out of the water”.
   Bruce Wallace - Sunday, 03/28/10 12:07:46 EDT

Well. . . there are a few, very few, service stations run the way they were in the 60's. Attendants that pump the gas, clean your windshield, check your oil, tires. . .

When I run across these gems I tip the the attendants. It usually surprises them. It should have been part of the system 50 years ago. Maybe there would be more places still offering real service.

I ran a Phillips 66 for 3 years and worked in one for several years before. Phillips claim to fame was vacuum cleaners at the pumps and we thoroughly vacuumed the floor of anyone's car that bought gas (any amount). I was never offered a tip in all that time.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 12:12:11 EDT

For Bruce Blackistone: Bruce, Eric Thing here. I have been given the green light to build an 18th century forge in
Tucson's downtown Presidio reconstruction (neat site, by the way). I would like your advice about blending two air blasts into one tuyere. The colonial Spanish forges were, by all evidence, entirely the "concertina" type dual bellows, with two air pipes running into the side of the forge.

I think you mentioned in a post years ago that your 1K viking forge design kept the incoming bellows nozzles separate, but I forget the details of the configuration. Is your forge on a website somewhere? I googled around a bit, but I haven't found it.

Eric T.
   - Eric T - Sunday, 03/28/10 13:03:08 EDT

Paired Bellows and WIne Skins: Eric, I am the one that said they should be seperate. Two nozzles blowing into the large end of another nozzle. The alternating blasts of air act as a pneumatic switch preventing back suction. If plumed together tight the suction from the bellows that is filling can suck in air from the outlet to the fire. But if the blast from one nozzle is going past the end of the other it prevents reverse flow. The gap between nozzles and shield stone or tuyere will allow any suction that still gets past the opposite blast to suck in fresh air rather than hot smoke.

The two tapered outlet nozzles ALMOST blend into one.

This system is only suggested by many historic bellows arrangements. There are also just as many that are plumed up tight. Tight systems require careful technique in operation. The blast side MUST be pushing air before the intake side starts sucking air in. It is a simple overlap technique that come naturally after practice but does require practice.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 15:06:43 EDT

I went and collected coal from along the railroda tracks. Anyways some of the pieces are crumbled to the size of M & M's; I was wondering how small is too small?
   Adam Grillot - Sunday, 03/28/10 18:28:11 EDT

Adam, Generally coal of uniform size is best, however, coal often contains every size down to fines (powder). IF the caol is a good quality coking coal the fines and small pieces will melt together as the coal heats up and before all the volatiles are burned out (resulting in coke). Where mostly fines or all fines are used in the forge it is weted down with water to keep the fines from blowing around while they reach the melting temperature. SO, you can start with fines, pea or nut coal and end up with larger chunks of light foamy coke.

The only problem with fines, especially when collected in graveled lots or along road beds is that it will often be full of gravel, sand or gravel dust. If there are enough of these impurities it makes the coal difficult to use.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 19:27:44 EDT


Sorry I did not get back to you sooner; I have so many irons in the fire at work (the boss retired and left me as acting, my assistant is having hip surgery; landlords are getting antsy with the economy…) that I tend to forget to reply to folks from time to time.

Anyway; what Jock observed holds true.

I have an “ungapped” system, with the pipes in a common closed Y-joint, and it takes a little experience to keep things going right, since some beginners or folks with no rhythm do lose the beat, and the murmuring roar of superheated air does tend to indicate a shorter life cycle for the bellows and leathers. The only other factor would be to get the inlet flapper valves made in the right side. I don’t know if the holes can be too big, but they certainly can be too small, and cause more sucking than blowing at the tuyere end of things. I think that the ration Darrell Markewitz came up with, based on the book “Metallurgy and Metalworking in Ancient Russia” that I sent him, was that the inlet hole needs to be at least 3X the diameter as the outlet (tuyere end) hole. The illustration in Frank Turley’s and Marc Simmons book (Southwestern Colonial Ironwork) of the “concertina” style bellows show substantial inlet holes and the twin parallel outlet pipes leading to the forge that you mention.

One advantage of the vertical arrangement would be that the flapper valves would open and close with minimal resistance compared with top inlet bellows seen in a medieval European context.

Anyway, I hope that this provides some further help; please keep us informed of your progress. It sounds like a really fun project.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 03/28/10 20:21:55 EDT

Thanks, Jock and Bruce. I have the SWC Ironwork book, using it as a guide. A member of our team provided a concertina bellows, and he did put in large, vertically hanging inlet valves that do operate with almost zero resistance. I am going to narrow the outputs down to a bit less than 1", and use a small air gap to try and minimize backdraft. It may help that, with the bellows frame having a rather large footprint, the blast pipes will be about 2 feet long.

I've already tried out a prototype hearth, with some purchased adobe bricks and a hearth pan made of a mix of fireclay and grog, laid in wet and allowed to dry. Tried it about a week ago, made a nice small fire, but the tuyere was too big; got "huff-huff" with little air velocity, so had to pump the bellows very rapidly. Mark II hearth should be ready for a test this coming weekend.

I'll keep you posted!

   - Eric T - Sunday, 03/28/10 20:53:48 EDT

Large intake valves are good. In my double action bellows I used four 3-1/2" holes for the intake and two of the same size between chambers. Light low pressure differential valves are good if they seal well.

The bellows like those shown in Southwest Colonial Ironwork often have discharge pipes on the back of the stationary board. Typical old bellows designs use long tapering nozzles. I would put a large smooth radius on the entry of the nozzle holes.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 22:56:03 EDT

the coal is going to a power plant is that good enough?
   Adam Grillot - Sunday, 03/28/10 23:44:08 EDT

Adam, Power plants that use bulk coal can use coal that is the very best OR coal that is completely unsuitable for blacksmithing. Coal comes in infinite variety. If you want to know if the coal is any good without getting the full tech specs use it and judge for yourself OR:

1) Buy some top grade coal from a known source (such as one of our advertisers).

2) Use it and compare how it performs to the coal you have picked up.

It always pays to test a batch of coal before buying large quantities.
   - guru - Monday, 03/29/10 00:52:43 EDT

Minor edits to above, on twinned belows:

...the murmuring roar of superheated SUCKED INTO THE BELLOWS...

And: ...the RATIO (not the ration (!)) that Darrell established... (At least I hope we're not rationing air, yet!)

Hope this helps to make things clearer.

Cool and very rainy on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/29/10 09:17:23 EDT

I've been commissioned to make spikes for Iron Palm (where a performer pounds a nail through a 2x4 with his bare hand). I used to use mason nails with stacks of washers welded to the head, then forge the oversized head to a rivet style (half round). The customer wants 6 inch nails, so welded mason nails won't work (break at the weld). That music wire stock I got from PEARL works great as a subsitute for mason nail stock. Problem is the head. I welded some ball bearing balls (1/2") to the forged tapered spike, then forge the ball flat, then cup shape. Problem is all the heads I make this way crack, revealing a gigantic crystalline state. Should I anneal? Planning on scrapping the ball idea, now using slugs from 3/8" mild plate. Where did I go wrong? Did I heat the ball bearing steel too much?
   - Nippulini - Monday, 03/29/10 10:43:30 EDT

TGN: ball bearings are usually extremely high carbon steel, (52100 is one alloy used) Did you do all the MANDATORY preheat and post heat required for welding such High C stuff?

Were they using check valves in the bellows output by the 18th century?

I know that Theophilus (c1120 AD) did mention them for his organ bellows but did not mention them for his metal working bellows and so I have not used them in any of my early forge bellows. (also that stave church in Scandinavia with the early medieval carvings of a smith at work show the bellows worker to be using the alternating method of pumping the bellows)

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/29/10 13:05:55 EDT

It wasn't the weld that failed, it was the forging of the material. I guess the pre/post heat before and after forging would have helped. No worries, the mild steel slugs worked perfectly.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 03/29/10 13:49:27 EDT

Ball bearings can vary in alloy but all are very high carbon and should not be used for decorative work. The high alloys used require much care in working hot. Music wire is often stated to be 1095 and should be treated very carefully or it will become more than a little brittle.

Some places sell "steel balls" but are not specific about alloy or cabon content. I would avoid them if they need to be forged or welded.
   - guru - Monday, 03/29/10 13:56:33 EDT

I think the bellow valves being discussed are all intake except for my comment about my great bellows which had valves between chambers. And these only constitute exhaust valves for the lower chamber (and intake for the upper).

I believe all paired bellows systems only used intake valves. However, large powered bellows shown in De Re Metailica had a blow off or over pressurization valve on top of the bellows. This was a weighted valve "door" on top of the bellows.

The only traditional bellows with actual exhaust valves are the oriental box bellows.
   - guru - Monday, 03/29/10 14:11:06 EDT

I haven't had a look at those SW Colonial bellows in years, but the valves were thick skirting leather hanging inside from the top of each air entry. One appeared to be a recycled piece that was fancifully carved and stamped in a floral motif.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 03/29/10 14:23:58 EDT

You can get steel balls of all sizes at cement truck shops. They use them in the cleaning of the truck drums. They also come is big as shotputs and can be used to make forging tools.
   Adam Grillot - Monday, 03/29/10 14:26:28 EDT

Adam, Ball mill balls are cast abrasion resistant and often quite high carbon steel. While these are commonly welded, they are again, a steel that one may want to avoid for many purposes.

Frank, could they have been recycled saddle leather?
   - guru - Monday, 03/29/10 14:52:25 EDT

"The only traditional bellows with actual exhaust valves are the oriental box bellows"

-----Save for the bellows in "Divers Arts" for use with the organ---they had backflow valves according to their description.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/29/10 18:24:35 EDT

Nip, do You know of a guy who performed as "The Mighty Atom"? You might be interested in His story.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/29/10 21:04:46 EDT

I seem to recall a pic of a pivoting lever (pole) that would actuate a dual bellows "single-handed", see-sawing on a pivot between and above the two, with one end longer for the hand to push up and down. This would eliminate the possibility of using pumping technique to limit suction from the fire. You could not start pushing down before the other one starts up.

Maybe I just dreamed this into being, though.
   - Dave Leppo. - Tuesday, 03/30/10 09:23:23 EDT

Trying to find out who made a knife I was given.The makers mark is a triangle formed of dots,two over one and the letter S in the thiangle formed by the dots.The knife was made by a bladesmith over in the ANDOVER.NY area afew years ago.
   J Eastman - Tuesday, 03/30/10 09:41:57 EDT

Dave, that was the most common setup using dual bellows in Europe for a long time. These were still being made and used in parallel with Great Bellows for a long time. In North America the Great Bellows came into use early so there was little or no tradition of using double bellows.

The Colonial Spanish bellows being discussed were yet another traditional setup where the bellows were vertical, handles at the the top and hinged at the bottom. The outlets were in the opposite boards.

Cover illustration from the paper back edition of Southwestern Colonial Ironwork - a smith and his helper
Cover illustration from the paper back edition of Southwestern Colonial Ironwork

This setup is quite isolated from the forge to protect from the heat. But I have also seen setups where the bellows looked like part of the forge.

There are also some rather sophisticated Italian bellows that were of a box accordian type some including vertical travelling (not hinged) top reserevoir boards. And there were also small foot operated bellows including some rubber types made in the 19th and 20th century.

There are a lot of poorly designed and made blacksmiths bellows. While most smiths, even amateurs, knew how they worked it was not unusual for them to make bellows that were too small or too large, too heavy or with bad handle geometry. I was lucky when I built my bellows, they were a dream to use. In fact I've found none better. I've used bellows in several historic shops that were outfitted with antiques. Both were short on leather and both had very poor lever arrangements. It took hard short jerks of the rope or lever and very little air was the result.

When releathering bellows (something I do not recommend) it is important to understand that the old leather often shrinks by 50%. It can't shrink around the boards but it can shrink between the boards (and does). If the old leather is used for a pattern it will be quite short, resulting in less than half the stroke and air capacity. If the bellows were undersized to start with then the results can be a disaster.

Bellows should open to roughly their width (or more if narrow) and Great Bellows should open to twice their width (each chamber = 1 width).
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/30/10 10:42:28 EDT

Dave "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel", Gies and Gies, shows several illuminations of medieval double single action bellows run from one pole.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/30/10 16:25:24 EDT

Lots of good illustrations of these, and other, bellows arrangements in Biringuccio's Pyrotechnia and Agricola's De Re Metallica, too.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/30/10 20:58:46 EDT

More bellows. . . The shapes of common bellows vary considerably. The shape I built my bellows was a simple circle and two straight lines angling to the nozzle end with a flat about 1/5 the width of the circle, the overall length 1.6 times the circle. Total width was 33" (3 shelving widths minus the tongue and groove). They were a pleasing shape and worked quite well. The thin 3/4" (19mm) boards with a couple cross braces were heavy enough 95% of the time. When they weren't I would set a hammer on the top.

Other bellows follow this shape but have sides that curve in where mine were straight. This is a more complicated shape but makes the nose block square rather than tapered. The inward curves reduce the compressed air volume a small amount.

Other bellows were made with corners. Instead of a round back end it was straight or a slight arc. The big difference with this shape is that the leather can be folded into neat accordion corners which is very difficult to maintain in the round end bellows.

Then there were the bellows without a "hinge" that I mention above.

The next bellows I am going to build will be an oriental style box bellows. I bought the wood years ago and just need to take the time to do it. The major advantage of the box bellows is not needing the entire hide of an oxen. With a good coat of varnish or lacquer they are also more weather proof than leather bellows.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/31/10 09:49:44 EDT

Guru, Thanks for the bellows information, we have problems with our giant bellows at the blacksmith shop at our living history mine. It is a double action bellows and if we don't give it a full stroke [pull] it will suck the hot gasses back into the bellows. I believe this could burn up the bellows, but don't want to test it.
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 03/31/10 10:41:38 EDT

Any historic examples of box or piston bellows used in Europe in the middle ages or Ren (hand operated for BS forge, rather than blast furnace)? I plan to build a cylindrical drum someday, stave style, double acting. I was wondering what provenance I could clame for it.

I know some blast furnaces in US used these powered by water.
   - Dave Leppo. - Wednesday, 03/31/10 11:11:23 EDT

Bellows Valves: Jake, It sounds like a leaking valve problem. Many old or reproduction bellows are made with wooden valves which can warp and do not seat well. Leather flaps attached to the wood valve will seal much better but also age.

One problem with bellows valves is that it is easy to get one of the middle board valves flipped over. Then the bellows acts like a single action bellows with a valveless storage chamber. In this case you must have the lower chamber fully open before the top stops discharging or you suck smoke from the fire. Sound familiar? I'd check that middle valve. Someone with skinny arms should be able to reach through the bottom valve and feel the top valve. OR it may be possible to flip the bottom valve up and inspect the middle board valve visually.

Besides being flipped over, some valves had leather hinges. These can get stiff and if the bellows was stored in the typical manner leaning against a wall the leather may be bent out of shape and hardened into that position. When put back into operation the valve never seats properly. It MAY be possible in this case to dampen the valve with water then oil with Neetsfoot oil several times until the leather limbers.

Middle valves can also become broken at the hinge. In this case the bellows must be opened for repair. Either the leather is removed for a section to gain access OR a hole must be cut in the top of the bellows. Cutting a hole and patching it is probably the least damaging method unless you plan to re-leather the bellows.

My old bellows held up well for over 25 years mostly out in the weather. But it now needs new leather and I have recommended to the museum that own it to have an all new bellows made rather than pulling all those nails and trying to save the wood. Alternately the nailed edges could be cut off an new edges attached. . . This would save 98% of the original wood but be more labeor than building new. . .

I built the bellows so that the valves could be removed and repaired but the synthetic flaps out lasted the exterior leather. The bottom valve body was removed once to sew a patch on the leather where Paw-Paw stuck a bar through the side. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/31/10 11:35:17 EDT

Dave, How about a wandering traveler from China. . .

They used cylindrical types as well as the box bellows all throughout Southeast Asia. Those I've seen photos of could have been stave built OR hollowed logs. It is hard to tell. I've got video of a cylindrical type in use in the Philippines but I cannot post it until we get permission due to copyright. Sadly that is a low probability.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/31/10 11:48:10 EDT

No I know of no examples of box bellows used in medieval or renaissance Europe.

I do know that the double lunged bellows came to blacksmiths through the silver/goldsmiths during the renaissance.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/31/10 12:26:09 EDT

Anyone ever seen a double-lung where the MIDDLE board reciprocates between fixed upper & lower boards? Both chambers delivering air when compressed?
   - Dave Leppo. - Wednesday, 03/31/10 15:02:46 EDT

Hello, I need someone to make a small 3/4 wide by 1 inch long two piece buckle for me, it is for a tool bag from a 1929 motor vehicle and the bag is on loan from another Dodge Brother member, all I am getting are runarounds with silversmiths, cant even get a quote, I am willing to pay what I would consider very well to have it done the only thing I ask is that it is absalutely identical in dimensions and appearance to my original.
I know what it means to have skill and also understand that sometimes the smaller the item the more labor intensive it can be. I have this bag on a TEMPORARY loan, it needs to go back to its owner. I need someone that is interested and willing to get it done. Again money ( within reason of course ) is not an issue, I just need it done, is there anyone that you can reccomend that will contact me or at least when he says will contact me will do so. I have little time for foolishness. Thanks for any help and consideration...Jason Anderson

   Jason Anderson - Wednesday, 03/31/10 15:39:13 EDT


First, I would recommend that you photograph the buckle in situ from different angles (front, side, top. . ) Then make a sketch and take as many careful measurements as possible with a tool like vernier calipers (measurements to .001" (.03mm). Use a digital camera, good light and be sure the image is in focus and the necessary details show clearly.

You will need the photos to discuss the project via e-mail and to produce the part.

Actually having the item and using it to make a mold or impression is another thing. These processes could stain the bag and make you a very upset friend. However, if there is an engraved or carved face like on a fancy button a wax impression would be helpful and would not hurt the item.

Hard permanent impressions can be made with kneedable epoxy putty but the item should be waxed and then carefully cleaned to prevent corrosion from the chemicals in the epoxy. A much safer option would be some sculpty&tm; clay.

Once you have gotten good close up photos and dimensions then you can return the bag and take your time having a reproduction made. However, you may be surprised what one offs of this sort can cost, especially if there are details and a high degree of accuracy is required.

I used to volunteer for such odd tasks occasionally but my rates were too high for folks that all said they knew what high level craftsmanship was worth (Start at +$100/hr and possibly dozens of hours PLUS possible false starts or errors). Now my eyes are going, making detail work difficult.

A number of our members could reproduce this item given the above. NOTE however, that honest craftsfolk are going to put their name and or the date on the item. Many people shy away from such tasks because they stink of forgery.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/31/10 16:42:09 EDT

I have just purchased a 25# LG, I am wondering if anyone has any info on using railroad ties for a foundation. My shop has a 4" concrete floor with 12"-16"s of gravel underneath. I do not want to crack my floor. Kelly
   - Kelly - Wednesday, 03/31/10 17:53:51 EDT

I have just purchased a 25# LG, I am wondering if anyone has any info on using railroad ties for a foundation. My shop has a 4" concrete floor with 12"-16"s of gravel underneath. I do not want to crack my floor. Kelly
   - Kelly - Wednesday, 03/31/10 17:54:23 EDT

I have just purchased a 25# LG, I am wondering if anyone has any info on using railroad ties for a foundation. My shop has a 4" concrete floor with 12"-16"s of gravel underneath. I do not want to crack my floor. Kelly
   - Kelly - Wednesday, 03/31/10 17:55:02 EDT

Jason, If you have photos and measurements, I'll take a look. No guarantees.

A portion of my shop floor is 4" concrete. I put a 3/4" plywood pad down about 28 years ago. It's the same size as the hammer base. No cracks so far. I used anchor cement into hammer-drilled recesses to hold the vertical bolts on which it sits. I worked from a hamemade template. I let the hammer down on the bolts poco a poco with a chain fall.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 03/31/10 18:20:59 EDT

Kelly, I've found RR-ties, especially used ones to be the worlds worst lumber to deal with. There are many other better ways to build a heavy wooden pad.

Your floor is going to crack or not depending on the compaction of the gravel, any reinforcing in the concrete and grade of concrete. The little hammer may speed it up.

Distributing the load over a 4 foot by 4 foot area will help a little. But if the floor is a large span and poorly supported then load is load.

Small hammers on such floors usually do not crack the floor but they DO transmit a lot of vibration. The wood pad with a cow blanket under it will reduce the transmitted vibration and hard shocks to the floor.

   - guru - Wednesday, 03/31/10 18:33:22 EDT

Moving Middle Board: Dave, I've made drawings of these. They require intake and exhaust valves. While the intake can easily be in the bottom board, the top cannot use a gravity biased valve without some tricky arrangement such as putting it in the end block.

The ones I drew up had a double acting bottom pump and a storage reservoir on top like a Great Bellows.

If used with the boards horizontal you need a weight to do the pumping in one direction thus adding to force needed to pump the upper chamber. The total work is the same but the force is double on the pumping stroke.

Setup with the boards vertical and pumping the middle board back and forth (on in and out) the force is equal.

The so-called "big advantage" to the Great Bellows is the air storage in the top of the bellows. But I have yet to see a set that had enough storage to get through forging even ONE small heat. About all the storage does is give you time to change hands or to hand off to someone else and have a continuous blast.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/31/10 18:33:28 EDT

A little note about Railroad ties. Remember when track crews drove spikes into the tie using spike hammers ? Most of the work was performed by manuel labor. During this time, it took a large work force, with each man making a daily wage. So, the railroads had to make a section of track that would last many years to save money. Ties were cut, boiled in creasote until it was absorbed by the tie. The only wood I remember them using was all hardwood, mostly Oak and Hickory. Now automated machines change out the ties ( pull the old ones out replaced with new ones )in one operation. Quality of the ties no longer matters much anymore and they are all green. When the old green ties are replaced, a lot of them are rotted in the center.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 03/31/10 19:16:00 EDT

Also, landscaping ties may look like regular RR. ties, but are just for looks. You can usually smell the wood to see what it is....oak,hickory,and pine especially give off a seperate aroma.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 03/31/10 19:27:43 EDT

I inherited a bunch of used old RR-ties not too long ago. They were to be used for landscaping timbers. They were almost too heavy for one man to handle, very splintery and the checks were full of gravel, fine gravel dust and who knows what else. There were also occasional pieces of metal AND most had distinct twists to them.

To use them the way they were intended meant drilling holes through that gravely dirty checked mess. It also meant sawing them off through the same. After moving and examining a few of them I gave them away.

Our alternative was to use dry stack landscaping blocks. While they are not cheap their installation was relatively easy and the results quite attractive. They could make nice curving walls that followed the terrain.

Prior to actually dealing with the used ties I had often thought they would be a good way to landscape. . . Maybe, but not for me. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 04/01/10 01:20:56 EDT

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