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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 April 14 - 21, 2000 on the Guru's Den
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It is with a sad heart that we advise

Bill Pieh

passed away this morning April 14, 2000 at home.

Arrangements for visitation will be:

Monday afternoon at Schuette & Daniels Funeral Service,
625 Browns Lake Rd, Burlington at 3:00 pm

The funeral mass will be at:
St. Charles Church
449 Conkey St.
Burlington, WI
at 7:00 pm Monday evening

The burial will be on Tuesday morning in St. Charles Cemetery.

Centaur Forge, Ltd. will be closed at
1:00 pm on Monday, April 17th
and re-open at noon on Tuesday, April 18th
in observance of Bill’s passing.

- anvilfire  <webmaster at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/14/00 20:51:45 GMT

Ok Thanks for last Time GURU. Here is an easy one what is the easy way to temper some High cAarbon tool with out a forge.? Thanks
Zenmuron  <morphex11 at juno.com> - Friday, 04/14/00 21:01:57 GMT

NOTICE: We are looking for photos of Bill Pieh for an article on his passing.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/14/00 23:41:30 GMT

I just read the entry by Sparrow about the brakedrum forge. I had a similar problem with the fire being to deep. What I did was build a pair of inserts that elevated the fire and can be changed out so that I can work on different sized pieces. It also let me burn less fuel to do the same amount of work. My narrow insert actually extended my fuel supply from about two and a half hours to about six. The inserts are made of scrap 3/16" plate and rebar.

Also thanks for all the help. The spurs I asked you about are comming along nicely.
Bill  <w.stone at gte.net> - Saturday, 04/15/00 02:31:41 GMT

A friend of mine is up here in maine from CT. We are both sculptors getting started in blacksmithing. We have made a break drum forge and have a ton of coal. What do you recomend to attempt at the first project for ourselves?
Michael McShane  <metalartme at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 03:14:07 GMT

Getting Started: Michael, Start small. You can get real discouraged pounding on a 1" steel bar. Even at a white heat it takes EFFORT to move big iron. Get lots of practice forging 3/8" stock before moving up to 1/2" and 3/4". Start with a small hammer too. A little 1-3/4 pound hammer will take a while to get used to. When it and the 3/8" stock seem like childs play then move up to a bigger hammer and bigger stock. Let you muscles develope with your skills.

Since there are two of you a sledge may be used. Please wait until you both have some experiance with light work first. An 8 or 10 pound hammer REALLY makes a difference but its not something to do alone.

Lots of intresting sculpture can be made from small 1/4" and 3/8" bar that you would never bend cold (at least not smoothly). After you've gotten lots of practice on small stock then look at some sculptural work requiring chisling and upseting. We've got over 40 step by step projects on the iForge page. They may not be your "style" but they are good practice.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 03:48:52 GMT

My metals teacher (Ninth Grade, Seward HighSchool, Seward, Alaska) can't find any sources for green sand for our aluminum castings. I decided to try to find out how to make it. We've got lots of sand. I imagine that we have to add something special to the sand to make it stick together. I've tried used motor oil. My first two castings have lots of voids.

I'm also looking for local Blacksmiths that I can talk to. Seward is a small town about a two and a half hour drive from the nearest other town.

Thank you for any suggestions
Neal Logan
Neal Logan  <danlogan at seward.net> - Saturday, 04/15/00 04:26:16 GMT

Green Sand: Neal, There IS a type of sand called Petro-bond® but it uses a hardener or catalyst to cure the sand. To use in small quantites you want to purchase it premixed. This is also known as a no-bake sand.

Common molding sand is a clean silica sand. Added to it is "bentonite" clay (8 to 20%). The clay is a refractory clay that acts as a binder. You want just enough to make the sand stick together when slightly moist. Then the sand has a little "wood flour" (dust size saw dust) added to make it more permeable so that steam can escape when the metal is poured. There ARE natural molding sands that have just the right amount of clay and organic matter.

Then, there is the matter of how fine a sand. Small finely detailed castings are cast using sand that is about the consistancy of table salt. Heavy castings require sand that is very coarse.

A common test for molding sand is to pick up a handful and squeeze it. It should stick together and reproduce the folds in the skin of you hand. No water should be apparent.

For small parts and for cores you can make a sand that you bake (in a kitchen oven) using molasass as the binder. Smells like cookies cooking!

If you are going to attempt foundry work at school you need The Metal Caster's Bible by C.W. Ammen. He also has books on Casting Brass and Making Wood Patterns. These are available from Centaur Forge and Norm Larson Books.

There ARE blacksmiths in Alaska, One happens to be named Dempsey. . :) Gordon Dempsey. Try cousin Dempsey and see if he can help you round up some smiths. You can also log into our Slack-Tub Pub and chat with smiths from all over the world (Sweden to New Zealand and Austraila). If time zones are a problem then use it to chat with Gordon (much cheaper than long distance).
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 05:10:34 GMT

Tempering: Zenmuron, Tempering is just part of the process. Hardening requires temperatures of 1400 to 1700°F. Tempering follows the hardening quench and is as low as 450°F and as high as 1300°F depending on the type of steel. A typical tempering temperature is around 600°F. The lowest temperatures can be reached in a kitchen oven but all the rest require hotter. A stove top burner can be used for tempering. Use a big block of steel (4x4x1") and heat it to the desired temperature then sit the part to be tempered on the large block.

You can determine the temperature of the block by grinding a place to observe temper colors but this only works going UP. Tempil crayons can be used and are more reliable.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 05:52:28 GMT

Being a old- fashioned seat-of-the-pants heat-treater: What´s a tempil crayon?

BTW: The toolmaker-training here in Sweden still includes a lot of filing and file-tests at the beginning of the course although actual production of course will be by CNC. I actually enjoy pitting myself against the machines and trying for 0,001 mm tolerances by hand, but most of the others are bitching something terrible about the uselessness of handfiling, even as an exercise. What are the Guru´s thought on this subject?
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Saturday, 04/15/00 17:51:35 GMT

Tempil 'Crayon' or 'Temperature sticks': Olle, These are a great tool. They are a crayon type marker made of various clays and minerals that melt a different temperatures (sort of like ceramic cones). You mark the surface with a crayon and then heat the part. When the mark melts and becomes wet you have reached the desired tempeature. Sometimes folks just test with the crayon until they get a wet streak. For large objects they make pellets that you sit on the part.

The primary manufacturer of temperature crayons is the Tempil company so the markers have become known as "Tempil Sticks". This is the same Tempil that publishes the Tempil Basic Guide to Ferrous Metalurgy charts.

The range covered by Tempil is 113°F to 2500°F (45°C to 1371°C). They cost about $10 USD each but in a kit of 20 are about half that. Although they seem expensive they are a LOT more economical than other other types of temperature measurment.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 20:43:34 GMT

Skill level: beginner, makes furniture mostly out of mig-welding mild steel
Question: Are there any methods to achieve a "wrought" look to mild steel?
mark pauster  <mark.pauster at timet.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 21:35:57 GMT

Precision by hand: Actually it is easier to hit precision dimensions on small parts by hand than with a machine tool. . . Rigorous training with files is from the old school where all machine parts were made from rough forgings or castings using a chisel, files and scrapers. It is where the European and American machinist's training programs differ the most. It is still common training in Europe but in America machinists rarely learn to tell one file from the next until they are "on the job". Tool and die workers or "die sinkers" learned these skills but generaly it was on the job. This is a rapidly dissapearing class of workers, being replaced by EDM machines.

Many of these are skills that blacksmiths need more than machinists but that ALL metal craftspeople should have. On a recent job we had to match an 8" (203mm) babbit bearing 24" (610mm) long to a shaft that had worn to a taper. There was roughly 3/8" (10mm) of taper. The babbit was rough machined to the taper and then the last 1/8" (3mm) scraped by hand and the bearing fitted by trial and error. The fit was complicated by the fact that the shaft was worn in a curved line and the bearing had to slip on from the end.

I trained the machinist working with me to make our own tools and to do the scraping. We made the scrapers from old band saw and circular saw blades. We made the scraper burnisher from a block of hard wood and a dowel pin. Scraping was done in diagonal patterns to produce straight surfaces and linearly with curved scrapers to match the halves of the bearing while assembled. We produced enough scrapings to make it worth while to melt them back down.

Over the years I have used a Jewlers saw to make special profile miniature parts, machined square holes with hand scraped corners (no broaching) and made die sets with a cutting torch, a grinder and a hand crank blacksmith's drill. All jobs that required a high degree of accuracy and that would tax the abilities of most machinists trained in the "new system".

I learned these these skills the hard way and many when I was very young. Most, like the bearing job required knowledge of the process more than practice. The processes to go from block of wood or stone to produce a finished sculpture are no different than the the processes required to make a precision part by hand from a block of metal. All require a dedication to quality work.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 22:27:17 GMT

Wrought "look": Mark, The look of quality wrought iron is that of material that nearly 100% of which has been worked hot under the hammer. There is no inexpensive or easy substitute. "Distressed" hammered finishes look phoney even to the the untrained eye.

Forged wrought iron work includes things that no other work can imitate. Long graceful tapers, splits and blends, scrolls with clean artistic terminations, collars and rivits with decorative sections, piercing, lapping and wrapping.

Many of these are features that only smiths really appreciate but they add to a look that the customer should recognize as quality work.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 22:37:44 GMT

My 18yr old son wants to make a short sword for a school project. We live in Renton Washington. Any ideas?
Paula  <paula at gr.cc.wa.us> - Saturday, 04/15/00 22:58:07 GMT

Short Sword: Paula, There is no easy way unless he wants to make a wooden prop and even that is a lot of work. Would it help for him to know that many of the swords used by Zena and Conan are actualy hard rubber??? I thought not.

Next idea. Very realistic swords can be made from aluminium bar and brought to a high polish. Looks like silver plate.

Start with a piece of 1/4" (7mm) x 2" (500mm) x 30" (750mm) high strength aluminium alloy bar (2024, 6061 or 7075 alloy). This can be obtained from a local machine shop, metal supplier or mail ordered from McMaster-Carr (about $30 USD). McMaster-Carr sells stock in 3' lengths and you will need the extra length for the guard.

Layout the blade and the tang with a scribe or pocket knife. The tang should taper from 1" to about 5/8" and have a straight section 1/2" wide x 3/4" long. The blade can be tapered to about 1-1/2" inches IF you have access to a metal cutting bandsaw, othewise it should be straight with an 80° point. Cut the blade and tang with a hack saw or band saw.

Now, the hard work starts. With a NEW coarse file (12" half round bastard cut), file bevels about 1/2" wide along the edges of the blade on both sides until you have a 1/8" or 3/32" wide "edge". Then with a smooth cut flat 10" file remove the coarse file finish. Follow this with a scraper made from a piece of hack saw blade OR a paint scraper sharpened to a crisp square edge. Polish the whole with 320 grit Wet-or-Dry sand paper (auto body stuff). Then polish with Dupont orange rubbing compound. Cost of files and supplies aprox $75. A heavy bench vise is helpful but not absolutely necessary.

A guard to suit is fitted by drilling 1/4" holes in the extra piece of aluminium and then chiseling and fileing the rectangular hole to be a tight fit on the tappered tang.

The end of the tang can be threaded (1/2-13 NC) to accept a brass nut. The guard is installed, wood grips fitted and epoxied on (5 min epoxy). File the grips to suit and square up the end for the brass nut. The grip can be painted, wrapped with leather or wire or a combination. The nut will help hold the ends of any wraps. Once it is installed for the last time the tang is sawed off about 1/8" long and then the end is piened over to retain the nut and fill the rest of the hole.

Ta Da. . . A semi-safe but dangerous enough short sword for around $100. To make one of steel requires a significant investment in tools and knowledge. You will find that this is still a significant metalworking project. Making one of steel is about 10-100 times more difficult.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/15/00 23:56:24 GMT

JYH: Guru, I sent you a .jpg of the JYH. It's not quite done since the dies are not mounted and the foot pedal for the clutch is not on, but it works great. At least busting wood! The air spring works beautifully so far. Very smooth. Time to eat dinner then get it finished. Then I'll send you more .jpg's. I'm posting here too since I had some trouble sending the mail with attachment and I wanted to know if you got it.
Tony  <tca_b at milwpc.com> - Sunday, 04/16/00 00:06:10 GMT

Corrrection: The tang is sawed off about 1/8" LONGER than the nut. . Then piened over.

NOTE: The above alloy aluminium bar is approximately the same strength as mild steel. Plain steel bar can be substituted but a heavy grinder will be necessary to produce the chamfers (in a reasonable amount of time). Filing will still be necessary unless a belt grinder/sander with a variety of belts is available. Polishing is also more difficult and will likely require a buffer/polisher. However, this STILL can be done fairly efficiently with graduated grits of wet-or-dry sandpaper. Please see our article on Wheels for info on polishing.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 04/16/00 00:07:00 GMT

JYH: Attach came through. Looks like a JYH. You ARE hauling it to Flagstaff aren't you????? ;)
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 04/16/00 00:15:00 GMT

Michael McShane,

Not to brag, but you can see some examples of folks art style sculputres made from 1/8", 1/4" & 1/2" mild steel stock at:


I don't consider myself a sculpture, but perhaps you can get some ideas of possibilities over there.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Sunday, 04/16/00 21:16:45 GMT

what did blacksmiths believe in, how did they pray, when did they pray, where did they pray, who did they worship this is in the medieval times
randi  <Ms shaq> - Sunday, 04/16/00 23:42:04 GMT

JYH: Flagstaff? I'm not sure, but I may actually be in that area then. If so, I would have driven down, so yeah, I'd bring it down. I'll let you know when plans firm up.

I sent the rest of the pics and specs just now. I hereby release the photo's for publication, but I'll have better looking ones when I get it blasted and painted.

It looks like it will work very nicely. Thanks to the Guru and all others for comments and helpful suggestions! I'll be waiting to see what everyone else came up with.
Tony  <tca_b at milwpc.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 00:08:27 GMT

Smiths & Religion; Randi:

It depends on where and when the smiths lived. For most of the time, in most of Europe, the smith would have been Christian. Because of his role in the community, he would have been at least as orthodox as any of his neighbors. In pre-reformation Europe (pre 1617) patron saints were considered important as intecessors with God. There were two primary patrons for blacksmiths: St Eligius (also known as Eloi) and St. Dunstan. They were both bishops who were also skilled metalworkers (as well as good, wise and pious people in there own right). You can look them up in any good "Book of Saints" at your local library for more details. Patron saints are still evoked by members of the Church of Rome today, and unofficially by the rest of us as needed. (St. Clement is also invoked, but his primary connection with ironwork was being tied to an anchor and tossed in the Tiber %)

In the early medieval period, those in pagan areas would have called upon the appropriate god for help in their craft. Vikings would invoke Thor, with his mighty hammer Mjollnir. A pagan Anglo-Saxon would have worhipped Thor as Thuner, or maybe called on Wheland the Smith. Pre-Christian Slavs would have invoked Svarog.

Because the smiths themselves seemed to deal in magic, using earth (ore), air (the bellows blast), fire and water (for controlling the fire {people are amazed at how often I add water to the fire to control it}, cooling metal and hardening steel) they considered the smiths to have at least some of the supernatural power inherent in their craft. In Scotland people could be legally maried "over the anvil" by the local smith into the early 19th century. In the U.S., in the 19th century, slack tub water was considered a good treatment for wounds (and indeed may have been more sterile than other sources). Smiths also used to tap the anvil three times at the end of their work day on Saturday to "bind the devil" over through Sunday.

Practices and superstitions like these would have been in use during the Christian period, so that a smith might invoke St. Eloi, and put in a word to the old hero, Wheland the Smith, for good measure.

(No sense taking chances, I say ;-)

I hope this gets you a start. Try looking these folks up at the library, and if there's not enough information, ask the librarian about inter-library loans. Dig deep; learn much!


Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Monday, 04/17/00 03:23:55 GMT

Dear Guru
I am 17 years old and am just starting to take interest in bladesmithing. I am looking in to building a propane forge but I cannot seem to find detailed blue prints of it over the internet. Do you know of any sites that have a good description or blue prints of a propane forge? or perhaps any books? or any other sources for that matter? I have taken classes on welding so if welding is needed for the prject it will not be a problem. I also have access to the tools needed. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Mathew  <mattrh at rosenet.net> - Monday, 04/17/00 03:51:45 GMT

Propane Forge Plans: Mathew, We have a burner plan and drawings of the famous "10 minute forge" on our plans page. The same page has links to other sources including the Ron Reil burner page. About the only "blue prints" available are from ABANA for a recuperative forge.

Having actual detail plans on the net is a bit of a libility problem so most people show the burner details and describe the forge but rarely have complete details. Its one of those projects that if you can't figure most of it out on your own you have no business building it.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 04:13:28 GMT

Im trying to get manufacturers to Hammer Tools.
You would happen to know would you?
Kind Regards
Bruce Carlson
Bruce  <visitor at manxisle.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 09:58:52 GMT

From the mailbox:

Hi! I just want to know how much weight (tons) does it takes just to bend a 9mm high carbon steel without breaking it?

You have given insuficient information for the problem. The cross section of the the bar must be known. Is it round? Square? Triangular? Then the length of the bar and the radius of the bend must be given.

And finaly, the type and condition of the steel. Most low carbon steel can be bent to the point of being folded back on itself without breaking. Annealed medium and high carbon steels also. But hardened tool steel will break before bending at all unless it is proportionately very thin (like a refillable razor blade).

All steel has the same springyness up to the point where it yeilds (takes a permanent bend or deformation). This is easy to calculate given the section and the length of the steel. However, bending to a specific bent shape is more difficult to calculate and is only done if there is a real need to know rather than idle curiosity.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 12:34:27 GMT

I wrote earlier about help with finding some Blacksmith's in the Austin-Georgetown area, but seem to have lost the e-mail response. I was wondering if you could advise me again as to were to find them and how to get ahold of them. Thank you again for your time.

Patrick Bjerke
Patrick Bjerke  <colossus101 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 14:18:55 GMT

Austin, TEXAS?: Patrick, Your local ABANA chapters can be found on www.ABANA-chapter.com. The following folks are listed in Texas.

Four States Iron Munchers


- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 14:37:20 GMT

What is it called to hammer out material thinly?
Lee Ann  <SAPHIRE586503876 at aol.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 22:38:59 GMT

Dear Guru--My daughter who is in the Fifth grade is doing a project and report on the art of Whitesmithing (Colonial Times). We have been very unsuccessful in finding any materials about this subject. We are in hopes that you could point us in the right direction. Any suggestions would be welcome, considering this project is due Wed. 4/19/00. Thank you for your assistance.
Terri Ann Ruth  <TAR466 at Yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/17/00 22:49:07 GMT

I have recently purchased a small gas forge from a friend,
who made the forge in a gas forge class some years ago in
Colorado. The lining needs to be replace, it's 1" fiber
board, I live in Tennessee on the outskirts of Chattanooga
and I haven't had any luck finding any fiber board and I was
wondering if anyone could help. The source doesn't have to
be a local source but the closer the better, thanks.
Terry Snyder  <trsnyder at bellsouth.net> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 01:26:28 GMT

Hammering to thin: Lee Ann, "Drawing out" is the term you are looking for. Not to be confused with "Drawing" which is the pulling of stock through a die to make it smaller and precision as in wire making.

For heavy drawing out "fullering" tools are used. Either an upper or lower fuller or both. A fuller is a wedge shaped tool with a rounded working edge. The term fullering comes from the process of making cloth soft by beating it in a fullering mill with has round faced hammers. This is one of the rare terms in blacksmithing that comes from another field.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 04:54:13 GMT

Whitesmithing: Terri Ann, You are out of luck unless you live in Burlington, Wisconsin near Centaur Forge and are willing to pay 23 dollars for a book on Early American trades. . I'll tell you what I know.

The Whitesmith took work or the blacksmith or work he forged himself and finished it and decorated it using files and abrasives (grinders). Most white smith work has all the black iron oxide scale removed by mechanical means.
Decoration often consisted of chamfering and chasing work. Chamfering was done with a file and included "V" notches that blend into curves and points like a row of brackets "}" end to end. Chasing is chisling patterns and designs in to the object and is similar to engraving but heavier. Using these techniques the Whitesmith took the simple work of the blacksmith and made it into fancy decorative work.

Whitesmith work was often a cheap substitute the work of the Silversmith. The Whitesmith would decorate various objects such as kitchen utensils or other craftspeoples tools.

If your daughter wanted to produce a piece of Whitesmith decorated work she would need a sharp 8" triangular file and a sharp (new) 8" half round taper smooth file. Material would be a piece of 3/8" square steel "key stock". If you could get a piece a foot long that would be great but most hardware stores will have "keys" that are about 3" long. Get unplated if you can.

It helps if you have a vise but a pair of vise-grip pliers will substitute. Clamp the steel in a vise or to a table with vise grips. File two deep V's near the middle so that they produce a point between the V's. The V's should be at a 45° angle to the surfaces (a chamfer). Then with the flat file curve the two outside V surfaces until they gracefully blend into the corner. Then in two places a short distance from the curves file concave curved chamfers with the round side of the file. Blend the curves into the corners toward the other chamfers. . . Illustration coming up in a few minutes. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 05:26:58 GMT

Whitesmith Chamfering

Whitesmith chamfering. This may not be the absolutely correct term but it IS technicaly correct. Tools to do this project (2 files and a pair of vise-grips) should cost about $35. The files need to be good sharp (new) smooth cut files. The key stock should only be a dollar or so.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 05:53:14 GMT

Filing: Files cut on the forward stroke. Push firmly and use as long a stroke as is comfortable. Then lift the file off the work on the return. Set the file back in place and push firmly again. After every couple strokes clean the dross (filings) from the file by sliding your hand from grip to end (backwards of filing) to remove the chips from the file. If you do this every 2 or 3 strokes the file will stay sharp and cut much longer.

Long smooth purposful strokes are much more productive than short draging strokes.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 06:05:41 GMT

Kaowool or Alumina fibre boards: Terry, McMaster-Carr carries it. Listed under Ceramic insulation. It is not cheap material. Now I know why commercial forges are expensive. . . It may be cheaper from a foundry supplier. Chattanoga WAS a big steel town. When I was there last all the huge fabrication shops along the river were closed down but there was still a LOT of industry. Call around and ask for the nearest foundry supplier. You may have to ask a foundry, machine shop or welding supplier.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 06:23:16 GMT

i am not entirely sure that i should be cluttering the screen with this particular question, but i am getting a bit desperate. I am a blacksmith living and working in japan, and i would like to order a refflinghaus double horn anvil directly from germany (no centaur forge down here); however, internet search for the manufacturer proved futile. would you happen to know who and where in germany manufactures these anvils? i would be very grateful for any info -- any good western style anvils are really hard to find here, and double-horn ones are practically unheard off.
thank you very much, and hope to hear from you.
arnon  <mkartmazov at hotmail.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 07:41:35 GMT

search about direct iron ore reduction in furnace (paleometallurgy).
winter  <claude.l-hyver at voila.fr> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 08:06:42 GMT

Paleometallurgy: Winter, See Emiel's Links we have several links under the catagory, Ironmaking, Smelting and Bloomeries

Refflinghaus: Arnon, its actually a good question, one that dealers and importers consider confidential information. Your lack of sucess on the Internet is still very common. I still have trouble convincing suppliers that the world now uses the Internet as the "yellow" pages and if you aren't there AND advertise so people can find you then you are ignoring an important change in how business is done (in the 21st Century). . .

From the Richard Postman book, Anvils in America
August Refflinghaus SÖHNE
Amboßwerk und Gesenkschmiede
5828 Ennepetal-Milspe, Heilenbecker Straße 111b
Telefon (0 23 33) 7 1224
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 12:36:45 GMT

Another anvil Manufacturer: Arnon, You may find dealing with someone on the West Coast of the U.S. a little easier. Try these guys, Nimba Anvils. These are cast steel double horn anvils and very well made.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 12:55:57 GMT

The Nimba anvils say hardened to rockwell 49-51. I thought most anvils were harder than that. Am I wrong?
jdickson  <TheIrony at worldnet.att.net> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 17:04:41 GMT


please help me if you can! I really need to find out about the history of blacksmiths, especially during the Middle Ages, and preferably in England!

If you know of any websites etc that might be of use, please could let me know?


grace  <amc115 at york.ac.uk> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 18:00:41 GMT

Anvil Hardness: Hardness varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Kohlswa stated that theirs were 55-57 HRC. Judging from the Kohlswa anvils I have now and have had in the past this is too hard for a cast steel anvil. They chip much too easily and you almost never see the graceful wear and tear that you see on older anvils.

At the top extream in hardness of those we have tested by rebound (a dimensionless percentage value), Pedinghaus tests consistantly at 93% while a 300# Kohlswa tests at 85-90%. The Pedinghaus is a forged anvil and should be able to withstand being harder than a cast anvil. The Hay-Budden's I've tested came in at 80-85% and the majority of old Mouse-Hole anvils at 50-75%.

Imported cast iron anvils I tested had less rebound than the concrete floor they were sitting on which was 15%.

The old manufacturers claimed nothing more than the "best hardened steel" and had no scientific or standard tests to compare to. Most were plenty hard but not nearly as hard as the Kohlswa or Peddinghaus. Like many tools an anvil should be as SOFT or tempered as much as possible and still be hard-enough. Erring on the side of being slightly soft is better than being too hard.

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 18:43:02 GMT

Can you provide me with a listing of work / study programs, or provide suggestions where I can seek such programs in the black smith arena?
Guru  <mtiernan at northweb.org> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 18:53:48 GMT

i'm doing a career report for my 9th grade civics class and i need all of the info on beginning a career in bladesmithing like starting salary (weekly, monthly, yearly),education (training, aprrenticeship, or internship), wht skills i will need, and the best place to persue this career. please get back to me as soon as possible.
Trent Barden  <wargod43 at netscape.net> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 21:10:23 GMT

Careers: Trent, I'm afraid you picked a bad subject. Blacksmiths, Bladesmiths, Artificers and Craftspeople in general are artists and have a huge range of pay and skills. For one thing most are self employed. There is no "salary" and no benefits unless they are very successful and go to the effort to setup their own retirement and medical plan.

Bladesmiths are mostly self educated but need a degree or better in metalurgy. They should have also studied art, history and engineering. Any bladesmith designing his own blades must have some engineering knowledge. There are many bladesmiths with little education but the few sucessful ones have studied to the point that they have the equivalent of masters and doctorates in metalurgy and engineering or actualy have diplomas in those fileds. All of this is before they study making blades.

Typical of many artist/craftspeople they will never get rich. Many make less than minimum wage while the best probably make considerably less than $100,000 a year.

Again, this is NOT an employment situation. You provide your own shop and your own market. Most bladesmiths sell their work at gun and knife shows, traveling a lot to do so. Dealers that they sell work to often make a LOT more than the maker on the resale. On top of needing a high level of education and the skills of an artist/ sculptor the craftsperson must be salesperson, bookkeeper, acountant and janitor. To be competitive at the high end you also need skills operating heavy forging machinery and often machine tools such as milling machines and lathes. The vast majority have other jobs to support themselves and work at bladsmithing as a second job or hobby.

Check the web pages of Daryl Meier (link at top of this page), Don Fogg (link on links page) and Jim Hirsoulas (you will need to search for it). These are some of the top people in the field. They are all highly educated and could probably make a LOT more money working in any other field.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 23:48:08 GMT

Work / Study: mtiernan, Read our getting started article linked at the top of this page.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/18/00 23:49:45 GMT

History of British Blacksmiths: Grace, You have picked much too broad a subject. The history of blacksmiths in Britian is nearly the history of the industrial revolution. AND it goes back at least to Roman times. The roman invaders were well into the iron age while Britian was still in the Bronze Age (I think. . Help Atli!). Much of the technology of early blacksmithing would be brought in by the many invaders of the times.

In the 1700's Huntsman (a clockmaker) invented modern crucible steel. At the time all metal craftsmen needed blacksmithing skills and clockmakers forged their own springs. At mouse hole forge and other places in the Sheffield area the worlds first anvil factories were being established and they would provide the world with the vast majority of anvils still in existance today. British cottage industry blacksmiths would provide every sort of manufactured tool to the much of the world (all the British Colonies of the time). Everything from hammers, vises and files to small machines. During the late 1700' and early 1800's the fledgling machine tool industry was being launched by inventor/blacksmiths. The greatest blacksmith of them ALL James Nasmyth invented the Steam hammer in 1838 but also invented the lathe reversing mechanism, the shaper and dozens of improvements to machine tools. He also worked on the problem of converting castiron into steel and could have shared the invention of the Bessemer process with Bessemer if he chose (see link to his on-line biography from our book review page).

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Try the BABA (British Artist Blacksmiths Association) web site and see if they can help.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 00:11:50 GMT

Dr. Hrisoulas' webpage is at www.Atar.com
Stormcrow - Wednesday, 04/19/00 02:24:01 GMT

British Blacksmiths; Grace:

The British were well into the Iron Age when the Romans arrived, but they didn't have an empire to draw on for their weaponry needs. The Romans did, and put it to good use in their subsequent conquest. The Romans also put iron-smelting n Britain on a semi-industrial scale. The Anglo-Saxons did wonders in metalwork, and the pattern welded swords they brought with them from the continenet were cutting edge technology (pun unavoidable). I'm currently still trying to understand (and duplicate) how they made their elaborite shield bosses, and asking why they made them that way (takes about 3 to 5 times the labor of a hemispherical Viking boss). Unlike the Romans, their production methods were back to small scale. They composed great poems, but never built an aquaduct.

Medieval ironwork in England was as good as anything on the continent when looking at cathedral tomb fences and church door and chest hardware. However, by the time of Henry VIII the best armorers were imported from the continent to work for him, and early baroque gates were largely done by foreign smiths. In the 18th century English smiths had again gained primacy in the decorative aspects of the craft. (Your average village smith was too busy with horse shoeing and agricultural repairs for much "fancy work".)

The above is just a thumbnail to add to what the Great Guru mentioned above. Check your local library for more information. Remember to look not only under "blacksmithing" and "metalworking" but also in the art and history sections. I've found some good books for the blacksmith's products in both those areas. Amoung the books I'd suggest:

“An Anatomy of English Wrought Iron” by John Seymour Lindsay; © 1964, Alec Tiranti, London This book traces ironwork from the Anglo-Saxon period into the 18th century.

“Anglo-Scandinavian Ironwork from Coppergate” by Patrick Ottaway; © 1992; Council for British Archaeology, London. A remarkable book displaying the variety of everyday ironwork in early medieval York. Knives, horse shoes, hinges, locks and frying pans. The stuff that you don’t see in museums.

“The Mastermyr Find; A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland” by Greta Arwidsson and Gosta Berg © 1983; Almqvist and Wiksell, International, Stockholm, Sweden; printed by Bergstrom Tryckeri AB, Motala, ISBN 91-7402-129-X This is a book about the Viking age (or a little later) tool box found in a Swedish swamp. It is illustrated with 16 pages of drawings and 13 pages of photographs of most of the metal and woodworking tools, utensils, stock and scrap from the find, plus detailed metallurgical analysis of selected pieces. It also includes a description of the circumstances of the find, what woods were used, the historical background, and almost all of the recognizable artifacts.

“On Diverse Arts” by Theophilus, (ca. 1100) © 1963,1979 Cyril Stanley Smith; Dover Publications, NY; LoC 78-74298, ISBN 0-486-23784-2 If the Mastermyr find tells you what they had to work with, Theophilus tells you what to do with it. His techniques would certainly be applicable to what English smiths would have been doing, and St. Dunstan probably worked on a similar scale. Theophilus is not one to keep secrets. He is writing for his successors and any craftsmen in the church, that they may better use their abilities to glorify God. Except for a couple of passages on the efficacy of urine from red-headed boys or fern-fed goats for quenching fluids and such like, his advise is sound and practical. He is working on a small scale here, with church vessels; almost more on the level of a silversmith, but it does give you the feeling for the general techniques such as case hardening. The "Dark Ages" are mostly dark through our own ignorance. Theophilus helps mark their end by shining a little light on the subject for us.

“The Pirotechnia of Vannoccio Biringuccio” ca. 1540; translated and edited by Cyril Stanley Smith and Martha Teach Gnudi; ISBN 0-486-26134-4. Biringuccio stands firmly in the Italian Renaissance, a long way in time and space from England. And we're not looking at small-scale work anymore, like Theophilus. He deals with casting canons; waterwheel powered bellows and wire drawers and such. He is dealing with incipient industry. Yet, just as the tools from Mastermyr could be set unnoticed on our workbenches, the techniques described by Biringuccio are still relevant to the earlier periods. The advantage, for us, is that he goes into a lot more detail than Theophilus, and covers a wider range of subjects and objects. He is also skeptical of the mumbo-jumbo that passed for science in that period, with his comments based on close observation and empirical experience.

“De Re Metallica” by Agricola (1555); Translated by Herbert Hoover (when he was a mining engineer, before he became President) and his wife Lou Henry Hoover; 1950, Dover edition; LoC A51-8994 Agricola is much more concerned with the process of mining and refining than of metalworking,(and the Germans were on the forefront of that industry) but what wonderful woodcuts he has of great trip hammers, pumps, stamping mills and other machines. You can see the science advance, however haltingly. I was comforted to find that he still believed the mines were sometimes haunted with hobgoblins and other supernatural nasties.

“Mechanick Exercises or the Doctrine of Handy-Works” by Joseph Moxon, 1703; © 1975 by the Early American Industries Association, Scarsdale, NY; LoC 79-15526 Actually, this is one of the first organized books of instruction, designed to enable Gentlemen to practice the arts manual for their pleasure and edification. It covers not just blacksmithing but joinery, carpentry, wood turning and bricklaying. (Woodturning with thought a fit hobby for 18th century French nobles, and Winston Churchill was an excellent bricklayer.) Illustrations are informative if a little crude, but it's English, and it fills in the gap in the late 17th century.

“Encyclopedie…” by Denis Diderot; © 1959; Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY; LoC 60-15 Okay, he's French, but this provides a selection of illustrations from the first great illustrated encyclopedia, a gem of the Age of Enlightenment. Most of the engravings used to illustrate the middle 18th century (and later) industrial processes are lifted from Diderot. Be careful of the captions, though; sometimes the modern compiler didn’t know what he was looking at.

There's also some applicable Shire publications on Blacksmithing, charcoal burning and other related industries.

Hope this helps.


Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 03:19:26 GMT

In an answer, 'Precision by hand' Saturday, 04/15/00 22:27:17 GMT, I got very a little bit upset by very sloppy conversions between inches and millimeters. 8" apprx 200 mm is in the right neighborhood (203.2 mm to be more exact) but the other measurements are way off, 1/8" converts to 3.175 mm, not 4, 3/8" converts to 9.525 mm, not 12, and 24" converts to 609.6 mm, not 800.
Stefan Magnusson  <stefan.magnusson at skf.com> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 11:44:25 GMT


I pulled that whole message for future reference. Good job!
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 12:59:06 GMT

When you have made one of the roman iron-age shield-bosses you mentioned, please tell me how you did it ;-)

And, hey, Stefan, relax.
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 15:08:08 GMT

Metric conversion errors: Stefan, My apologies. I got very sloppy. I've gotten used to converting to the nearest metric material size (rounding up a whole mm) for some small sizes and normally use a calculator before I round other values. I also work this page 18 hours a day and at the end of the day both my math and spelling get sloppy. . . I will correct the errors for future readers.

As you know in the bearing business it doesn't matter which standard we use, the working dimensions always end up bastard numbers. If you design bearings to whole numbers in any system the fits of the bore and shaft are always 4 or 5 decimal places and vary according to material and application.

On our plain bearing job we couldn't get measurments of the shaft except at one end. The shaft was on a huge old hydroturbine and the repair had to be made in place. The bearing was in a long housing and there was only a few inches of clearance around the shaft at the far end where the taper was the worst. The location was almost out of arms reach. Measurments taken with a PI tape (micrometers would not fit) were not repeatable within 1/16 of an inch. The shaft was ground and polished by hand. . I didn't EVEN want to think about how out of round it was. The bearing was fit by hand as described on the 15th. In this case dimensions ended up being almost irrevelant. I would have prefered doing this job some other way but it was not in the budget. A year later the bearing is still running smoothly. . . As long as its greased several times a day. Of course it is a big slow running bearing and 0.010" running clearance is acceptable.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 15:46:54 GMT


just too say thank you very much for those brilliant answers - they're both really really helpful!

grace  <amc115 at york.ac.uk> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 16:10:52 GMT

Bibliography We are going to need to start an Atli's historic / technological bibliography page. . . Great work Bruce.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/19/00 16:13:34 GMT

Dear Guru:

We are trying to find out who invented the forge for a class project. Can you help us or direct us to a web site that might know.

Leslie  <pugslb at yahoo.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 00:11:39 GMT


Somewhere lost in the mists of time there stands a lonely blacksmith.
Around 3,000 years ago, plus or minus a few hundred, he or she invented the forge for heating metal. But no one bothered to chisel his name in stone, so his or her name is lost.

But those of us who pound the black metal, remember him or her every time we light the fire.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 01:01:25 GMT

Waxing poetic: Paw-paw, we blacksmiths tend to forget the bronze age smiths so push that date back another 2-3 thousands years.

Leslie, its like asking who invented the wheel. . . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 01:31:22 GMT

It is possible that forges evolved from pottery kilns. I've read one theory where the smelting of copper was discovered when bits of copper started showing up in a kiln when a certain bluish green glaze was used.
Stormcrow  <mbhelm at cctc.net> - Thursday, 04/20/00 02:41:54 GMT

I am interested in pewter crafting. I have no experience in blacksmithing. I do not even know if pewter and blacksmithing have anything in common. Any help would be appreciated.
Tony  <diana4133 at aol.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 04:45:31 GMT

Dear Guru's I have been blacksmithing for about 4 yrs. and active with some sort of steel for about 20 yrs. My question is i am looking for information on how to make my own tools. I need to know what kind of steel to use to make things like top and bottom fuller's, top & bottom swage, flatter, hardy, etc. I know i can buy it all new but what fun is that? any way it's expensive. any info on book's or info that you could give me would be great. I have learned all i can from the local library, thank's for any help you can give. Jeff Prater leb. Ohio
jp1  <jprater1 at go-concepts.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 05:26:57 GMT

Toolmaking: Jeff, Old anvil tools are made from 1075-1095 steel and well tempered. Modern makers use a variety of whatever alloy is available. S-7 is common for punches, drifts and hardies. 4140 for tools that need less hardness like swages.

Instead of buying new steel many smiths use scrap like springs and auto/truck axels. You must learn to be your own metalurgist when you do. NEVER believe someone that says "Car axels are 4140 and bearing races are 52000 steel." Some may be but every manufacturer makes their own selections and often change due to price or availability.

See our article Getting Started linked at the top of this page for sugested books. There are reviews of the same on our book review page.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 13:27:49 GMT

Pewter: Tony, there are books on the subject available from Centaur Forge and Norm Larson Books. Pewter work is a combination casting and spinning. You can also apply raising. The skills and tools are generaly the same as silversmithing. Books on these individual subjects are also available from the same sources.

If you are going to do the casting then get ALL the books you can find from C.W. Ammen. He has books on foundry work in general, Making and Using Wood Patterns, casting brass. . . You will need to STUDY them all before starting. The casting is generaly low temperature (compared to iron or brass) and can be done in permanent molds made of cast iron or steel. Every method of casting may be applied depending on the size and quantity or the work. Lost wax produces high quality castings in either one off OR production work. Sand casting is most economical for large pieces. Small finished peices are produced via lost wax in centrifugal casting machines. Many Jewlers use this process for gold, silver AND pewter.

Metal spinning requires a small metal turning "engine" lathe. An 8" works put a 10" thru 16" is better. You want either an OLD lathe or an industrial duty machine but NO hobby lathes. Purchase the South Bent booklet "How to Run a Lathe" before looking for a lathe. You will want to know what all the attachments and parts look like so that you don't bring home something that needs more invested in small stuff than the cost of the base machine.

ALL metalworkers from the high steel welder to the tinsmith and jewler are related to the skills of the blacksmith.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 13:46:38 GMT

Bronze Age: Stormcrow thanks!

Leslie, Historians will try to place the beginings of the bronze age and metalworking somewhere in the Middle East, Western Asia or North Africa. However, these histories as most of published history are "Eurocentric". Meaning they do not look outside of the European area of influence.

China and India both had ancient metalworking cultures and highly developed civilizations at the same time or before the ancient cultures of the Middle East and the so called "cradle of civilization". Except for gunpowder and paper the West largely ignores the East. However, the great trading routes existed from a very early time and many things that developed in China and Asia were carried to the West. The Koreans developed movable type 200 years before Guttenberg supposedly invented printing. There was plenty of time for the invention to travel to Europe. The argument to this is that he may have invented it independantly. That is true and a common occurance. But the Eurocentric histories still say he was first. He was not.

There were also great cultures that arose in Africa that developed many basic technlogical skills. Most of these cultures have been erased by deserts and jungles and perhaps even racisim. For centuries and even today many "white" people would never admit the a black man may have invented something important. How many times have important historical discoveries been hidden or ignored?

Today you live in a world where communication such as on this page or via email is instantaneous. Our views of history must change if we are going to be honest with ourselves and the world.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 14:10:41 GMT

Where can I find wrought iron parts? I do some amount of iron work but cannot find "findings" ie, lambs feet, decorative bar tops etc. Somebode sells them but I don't seem to be able to find them.

Thank for any info you may have

ernie mason  <tedhorn_2000 at yahoo.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 15:31:59 GMT

Components: Ernie, Try King Supply Co. 800-542-2379 They have a big catalog full of the components you are looking for.

They recently announced a name change to Kings Ornamental Iron or something along that line. . . In any case, tell I sent you.

If they don't have it in their catalog and you need significant quantities (100+) of an item let us know and we can arrange to have it made.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 16:33:11 GMT

skill level: 2 years in wrought iron works
I would like to ask about the tools and heavy equipments used in the art of wrought iron any internet sites with pictures would be a great help. And if there is anyone who can send us catalogs and/or brochere with the list of prices of these tools and machines would be well apreciated also. thanks
win austria  <winaustria at hotmail.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 20:41:57 GMT

Tools: Win, Our Power hammer Page and NEWS have more photos of blacksmithing tools than anywhere else on the net. Our advertisers have both on-line catalogs and print information. See our advertisers DIRECTORY or the bottom of the site map for links. Bruce Wallace has prices for Peddinghaus anvils and NC-TOOL forges posted on-line.

Eventualy I will organize the photos into articles about tools but for now you will need to search around.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/20/00 22:50:34 GMT

more than one bellows? Has anyone ever added another Air inlet to there forge? I am in the mood to experiment. I am going to re- do my forge, it slopes to the center now and I want to square it up, make it 3 foot square and 7 inches deep for maybe 4 foot square if I can get enough material. I am forging some long stuff and big stuff.

jeff  <flaminganvil at yahoo.com> - Friday, 04/21/00 01:51:52 GMT

Jim Wilson: I would like to know what regulator pressure setting you used when you tested the NC whisper Momma gas forge (two burner model). And did you come up with a best all round setting. Thank you Skip Davis San Diego California.
Skip Davis  <skdavis4 at juno.com> - Friday, 04/21/00 02:34:58 GMT


I'm still using the Whisper Momma. I normally run around 8psi.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Friday, 04/21/00 02:44:32 GMT


Some modern sword forges, used for heating the blade in the hardening/quenching/tempering process, have two or three air inlets along their length. (On the other claw, the Japanese heat their swords for the hardening process by drawing the length of the blade in and out through the single hot-spot of the regular fire.) You don't need to heat the whole blade for forging, since you're only working about six inches at a time.

Multiple tuyere forges would be useful for bends of long/large stock. I suspect that if you build it you will find uses for it, but you will also have to balance fuel consumption and fire spread when using it.

Give it a try and report back here.

Paw Paw:

How was the Spring Fling that I missed? Looked pretty wet from our side of the Potomac. Sorry I missed you, and Jerry V. too.


Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Friday, 04/21/00 02:49:07 GMT


Spring Fling Was good. Drizzled rain, most of the day Saturday, the only day I was able to be there. Didn't dampen spirits any, though. The demonstratins by Uri Hoffi, Ken Schwartz, and Clay Smith were all good, only problem was that I couldnt watch all three demonstratin area's at the same time! (grin) Wish you could have been there, needed to take a picture of you for Jock.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Friday, 04/21/00 03:37:28 GMT

Multiple fire pots: Generaly a rectangular firepot with a grate to spread the air (and thus the fire) in a long line work best. It takes a lot of air (biger blower or apprentice on the bellows).

Multiple grates in one long fire pot would also work if you could control the air seperately to each. The you could run a small concentrated fire or a progressively longer fire with some efficiency. As Bruce pointed out a big or multi inlet fire pot can be expensive use of fuel.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/21/00 04:16:16 GMT

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