WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den

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 22 - 31, 2001 on the Guru's Den
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I'm a young artist, I like gothic art and weaponry I have designed many swords, helmets, armor, etc. I would like to know how to bring them to life. I'm very passionate about my art, and i believe i would love to blacksmith. How do i get started? Do I have to invest a couple thousand dollars on equipment to get me started? Where would be a good place to start?
dan  <www.danielvestal at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 01:08:53 GMT

I am a very unexperienced black smith other thant making a Knife 5 years ago I have forged nothing my question is Will Clay make a suitable mold for for metal? in other words is the melting tempature of metal greater than that of clay?
Aaron Hoover  <Chewie027 at hotmail.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 02:56:10 GMT

Mousehole Anvil: Matt, Yep, that is a late M&H Armitage mouse hole anvil. Probably made around 1900 or a little later. A little light but I had two of them and they were very good anvils. Wish I had kept one of the 120# anvils. .

Yes the formulae given were US quarts/gallons. Something I don't think about. . But I've never posted it. Probably would have given liters too ;)
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 03:37:51 GMT

Art Smithing: Dan, This is the place to find what you need! You can spend as much as you want or as little as you want depending mostly on your ingenuity.

New tools for this business can be rather pricey as are tool in any field. However, part of blacksmithing is making your own tools. The more specialized your work the better a tool maker you had better become.

Forges of all types can be built of scrounged or new materials. See our plans page and our 21st Century page.

Anvils are harder to come by, but for armorers work many use custom or home built. See our anvil series on making a cheap anvil (and the rest before you buy used). Then see our Armoury page. Both Eric Thing and Bruce Blackistone have some very imaginative tools. We also have tool making demonstrations on our iForge page.

Read our Getting Started article and get the references listed. Study them and everything you can find on metalworking (in general) and HERE. Knowledge is your most tool!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 04:07:48 GMT

Clay vs Metal: Aaron, It depends on the METAL and the CLAY. There are metals that melt (like mercury) at room temperature and those that melt at high enough temperatures to make crucibles to melt steel. . .

Clays come in almost as many varieties as the minerals that they decomposed from. Like snads there are soda based clays and silcon base and the refractory clays that have aluminia or aluminum oxide. Alumina clays are used for refractories like fire bricks, fire clay and making Kaowool.

Typical ceramic slip is a low firing clay and will melt (boil) in the forge.

For investment casting steel a high alumina or kaolin clay is used to coat the wax investment then that is supported by sand or plaster.

For brass and bronze the same method is used as well as making molds froom plaster of Paris. The plaster must be baked to remove ALL free and some of the chemicaly bound water in a process called calcining. A thin layer of clay is sometimes used to make the surface of the mold smoother and add refractoryness.

Fired clay could be used as a mold for brass/bronze but you are probably going to lose the mold.

Lead, tin, solder and some zinc alloys can be poured in low fire clay molds.

Let me know what you are thinking of doing an I might be more specific.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 04:26:24 GMT

Guru - can you point me toward sources of parts for hand cranked forge blowers? We blew the gears out on two this weekend at Rush Ranch (historic ranch with a blacksmith shop). The first one has no manufacturer's marks on it that I could find - we field stripped it and found that one of the little cast iron gears in the box had broken off 4 teeth. It's pressed in to the bigger gear. The second blower was a Buffalo (I'm kicking myself I forgot to write down model #), and from the way it clunked as it was dying I'm pretty sure we stripped a gear in it too. I'm hoping the answer isn't "find someone with a gear cuttter," but ... Thanks a bunch. Rob
Rob  <hixholtz at earthlink.net> - Monday, 04/23/01 05:22:35 GMT

Blower Parts: Rob, I'm afraid you require custom made parts. Its been over 50 years since any of these have been manufactured and the ones you have probabably are older.

Ah, You don't just need to find someone with a gear cutter but you need to be prepared to reverse engineer the parts and specify what you need made.

It the gears broke I would ask why. Generaly there is a reason. Pinion gears break when abused but more often when over meshed (forced to tight together) or hammered from backlash. Both are signs that bearings or the other gears are worn. Sometimes you can replace a pinion but you need to know why it broke first or the new one will also have a short life.

Over or under meshing gears only takes a few thousandths of wear in bearings. Some machinery will run with sloppy fits but those with gears must be in good condition or the gears have a very short life.

Custom gears are expensive but if this type blower were still manufactured they would cost thousands of dollars (due to the gearing). So the expense is not too bad (except that the entire blower was probably purchased for less than the cost of one part in it. . . )
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 05:48:50 GMT

Trim the edge last.
Stop and anneal the metal when you begin to lose your controlled shape, then correct. I sometimes set a large sandbag on the floor, put the distorted form on top and then step into the form and use my feet and weight, stepping and rocking the piece back where it belongs.
Remember that if you stretch the edges , the form will flatten. When you create a bulge. the edges near it will curl.
Pete F - Monday, 04/23/01 07:26:56 GMT

Metal casting: I just had some pewter pc's cast and the hot metal was poured into silicone rubber molds. Material cost around $100.00/gal. I've done ceranic shell for bronze which is a few hundred yrs step up from the old investment method before, but this was weird. Popped it out and ready to pour again in about a minute.
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 10:33:39 GMT


Can you compare the melting points of the pewter alloy and some of the bronze alloys?
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 12:49:10 GMT

Pewter: There is pewter and then there is pewter. The generic term is applied to too wide a family of alloys. "Best Pewter" is 100 parts tin, 8 antimony, 2 bismuth and 2 copper. "Triple" is 83 parts tin and 17 antimony (and or) some lead replacing some of the antimony. Then there are a dozen more.

Modern "pewter" may be primarily a lead alloy. Those with less than 65% tin are not suitable for use with food. Neither are high antimony alloys.

The high tin alloys have a melting point somewhare less than 400°F. Red Silicon rubber molding material is generaly good to 700°F.

Brasses melt as low as 1650°F and bronze 1841°F. Zinc alloys melt at around 750°F and are poured at 825°F

Metals are cast at slightly higher than the melting point but as you can see the copper (or zinc) alloys are too high a temperature metals to cast in silicon rubber. .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 13:16:02 GMT

Is what I was trying to find out, guru. Thank you.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 13:25:55 GMT

I was wondering if anyone knows if there are commerical texturing machines out there? I am looking bfor something that will give me a texture similar to what yuo get texturing hot or cold steel on a 25 lb. trip hammer. Any information would be appreciated.
JAY  <jlowrance at stoneiron.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 14:29:14 GMT

Would A-2 work for stock-removal knives? We use it a lot for dies and it seems to be tougher than some other steels in the above 60HRC range, but I might be mistaken.
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Monday, 04/23/01 15:03:08 GMT

Texturing: Jay, This is strictly custom tooling. Folks that want more efficiency normally just get a bigger hammer. It is possible to do with rolls but cutting the (negative) texture on the rolls is an expensive process. Commercial rolls are relatively expensive machines and the little ones like the McDonald mill would only be good for hot work (and still require custom rolls).

For productionizing this process with rolls there are two ways to go. Cold, which takes lots of HP and carefully made tool steel rools. Or hot, requiring low HP and less expensive rolls. The hot method requires a long furnace to be efficient. The question then becomes how many hundreds (thousands) of feet of textured bar do you need?

If you are interested in a custom texturing mill let me know.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 15:07:15 GMT

A-2: Olle, It should be better than other steels but not as good as the best. The fancy thin slitters are made of "Molybdenum" steel. There are many grades but the most common are the HSS M series (1-47). Then there is ONE grade listed as a Molybdenum hot working steel and that is H42. The H series are all considered Hot work steel but H42 has as much molybdenum as HSS. A-2 has some molybdenum but a LOT less. Even A-10 has 1/3 the 4 to 5% of the HSS and H-42.

I don't know exactly which grade those nifty little chisels are made of but I suspect it is H-42.

The properties of A-2 that make it desirable is low dimensional change on hardening. Machine shops like it because it is air quench and the dimensional stability. You can make finished parts then harden them using stainless foil to protect the surface and then use as-is without grinding or refinishing. I have some that I make punch and dies from. However, I avoid using this expensive annealed and ground material for forging tools due to cost.

Anyone else out there have experience with A-2 for hot work?
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 15:47:26 GMT

i need help i need to make a sword for my metals class but i do not know how can you send me back detailed instructions on how to make a sword ne swoed will be fine broadsword,longsword ect... i need toe instructions to tell me what to buy how much metal what kind ect... thanks alot please respond Matt
Matt  <mattinbelton at webtv.net> - Monday, 04/23/01 16:33:18 GMT

Dear Guru, I meant if the steel was tough enough to use in a blade, not as a hot-cutter. I´ve hardened and used A-2 lately, but only as rather massive blocks. In that form it cuts cold mild-steel like butter, but I suspect that doesn´t have to mean it will be of any use as a thin-bladed knife. It´s stability and easy hardening makes it tempting to try anyway, though. Does Grandpa have any thoughts on the subject?
BTW: Matt, how old are you, how much money and equipment do you have and what do you need the sword for? These factors decide a lot...
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Monday, 04/23/01 17:55:40 GMT


Uhhh how about a 25 lb trip hammer...?
Or perhaps an hydraulic press with the apropriate texture dies
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Monday, 04/23/01 17:57:40 GMT

Sword: Matt, The knowledge to make a proper sword is a small library's worth of information and can take years to learn. Otherwise you are making a "wall hanger" or worse a prison shiv, in either case the material doesn't matter.

A wall hanger is typicaly made of mild steel (or any steel available) and are not heat treated, as are thousands of imported blades. If you need an example of how one is put together look at any small fixed blade knife with a guard including a chefs filleting knife. You start with a piece of steel (close to size) and cut, saw, file, grind, carve. . whatever you have the tools for, until you are done.

Wall hangers can also be made of aluminium or stainless steel. Aluminium is light and easier to file and polish but stainless is closer to the same color as steel. However stainless is more difficult to work. You could get REAL creative and make one of acrylic (Plexiglas) and call it the "crystal blade". . In all cases polishing the metal or plastic is half the job.

Movie swords are worse. The ones carried by most of the actors are hard rubber (so they don't hurt themselves). When dozens of "pretty" swords are needed they are aluminium (you can tell by the color). The ones used by the stunt men are soft mild steel or sometimes soft stainless. They are purposely dulled to reduce the risk of injury. In closeups a replacement is used that may be sharp but is still a prop or wall hanger in most cases.

If you are serious about this project you need to start at the beginning and study blacksmithing, then blademaking, metalurgy and some heattreating. We list the basic books in our Getting Started article and have reviews of those and others. The sources for those books also have dozens on bladesmithing. When you are ready to make your first blade, make a SMALL one. It is harder to make a knife a Chef will be happy with than a fancy reproduction medevil broadsword.

When you ready to make a sword (even a wall hanger), you will not need to ask how much "metal" you need.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 18:04:12 GMT

A-2 as Blade: Olle, It should due pretty well. It is high enough carbon (0.95 - 1.05%) to heat treat for anything you want. Almost all tool steels will make pretty nifty knives. The trick with the air hardening steels is that the tempering temperatures are rather high. Drawing the temper to a "spring" temper for a flexible blade might be tricky.

My experiance with A-2 is like yours. A "sharp" edge is a crisp 90° corner. . . and you temper as little as possible.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 18:15:41 GMT

Guru, I have recently purchased a die grinder and a set of bits for it, however, the composition of the bits seems different, one is pink, one is white and the other two I think are just standard aluminum oxide, but the blasted package gave no information other than what tool they are for. Are these simply color coded by grit or is it a different grinding medium? Thankyou
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 19:14:25 GMT

Die Grinder: Adam, I don't have a clue. The manufacturer can color the wheels almost anything with the glue that holds the grit together. Wheels can have different abrasives, different size abrasives, and different bonding. Wheels for cutting hard materials are soft (bond) and fiable while wheels for soft materials are hard. Fast cutting wheels are generaly a coarse abrasive on a soft bond.

OBTW - These are "wheels" or "stones". "Bits" or "cutters" are metal. Be very careful with grinding wheels. They are rated for specific MAX RPM. Very vew meet the 40,000+RPM of many die grinders. Those that do are usualy marked. If the wheel OR the packageing does not have a rating meeting or exceeding the grinder RPM then DO NOT USE THEM.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 20:42:31 GMT

Thankyou for setting me straight on the nomenclature. BTW Have you ever heard of rotary(I dont know that I'm Using this word right)file bits for die grinders, I mean basically a circular bit with teeth instead of grit? Thankyou.
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 20:49:09 GMT

Rotary Files: Yep, I wrote you a LONG post on them a while back. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/23/01 21:11:00 GMT

Jim, I was told the the pouring temp was around 8-900 degrees. We were using a lead free pewter. I asked about that. I won't sell anything that has lead in it. I work for too many lawyers. Bronze is next for me at some point. I like the durability and the patina's that one can get.
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 00:03:38 GMT


Makes sense to me. (Not selling anything with lead in it)

I've wanted to do some bronze/brass casting for a long time. Trying to gather as much information ahead of time as possible.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 01:11:58 GMT

I have accumulated several large blocks of mild steel and some big grader blades. I am thinking of torch cutting and solid welding pieces to make a heavy anvil. Some time back the guru talked about a flame hardening technique but I cant find the post (we need a search engine for the archives). Would the guru have the patience to explain this method again?

adam  <adam at whiteson.org> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 01:45:53 GMT

Hello all. I bought an Anvil today. Tell me if I got ripped off. It is a Peter Wright, 24inches long, 10 high, 4.5 wide. It says 1 towards the tail, pure wrought with a 0 in the middle, and towards the horn 27. I got it for $150. What do the numbers stand for? What other markings should I look for? Was $150 too high? Thanks for any help.
Andrew  <andybermond at hotmail.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 01:48:59 GMT

Hello all. I bought an Anvil today. Tell me if I got ripped off. It is a Peter Wright, 24inches long, 10 high, 4.5 wide. It says 1 towards the tail, pure wrought with a 0 in the middle, and towards the horn 27. I got it for $150. What do the numbers stand for? What other markings should I look for? Was $150 too high? Thanks for any help.
Andrew  <andybermond at hotmail.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 01:49:11 GMT


On a Peter Wright, I doubt if you got ripped off.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 01:51:31 GMT

Other than carefully torching off the heads, is there a production method for removing rivets in the field. We wish to save the parent parts.


Cory  <Cory_1 at bellsouth.net> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 02:52:09 GMT

Cory, Air chisel?
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 03:07:02 GMT

Paw Paw, First time I ever saw a bronze pour was around dusk. Yellow orange liquid metal! Pretty neat stuff. I've never done it for just me, worked in someone elses foundry. I do know that it can be done very low-tec. Around 1977 this guy had a half 55 gal drum on end lined w/ceramic blanket with a crucible on a fire brick in side. Sound familar? I want to make fireplace tool handles myself. How about you?
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 03:18:36 GMT

Jay: Bill Pieh (sp) demonstrated a cold rolling machine at an ABANA conf. 10 or 15 yrs ago. It was German made and quite pricey (maby 30-35K) with texturing rolls extra !!

Olle: A2 is used by several of the "American" custom knife makers as a blade material. Some prefer chevrolets while others favor fords.
grandpa  <darylmeier at aol.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 03:38:11 GMT

paw paw
there are some Hi Temp rubber molding materals out there, I know there are some that can be used for casting some brasses (the cost is a bit prohibitve and I think they only go up to the 2500-3000 range) I have a friend that works in pewter and did some of his designs custom for a costmer in brass (there was to many to make via investment) but the cost of the molding materal and that fact that the molds woreout quickly made him swear never to do that again .. I think the easyest system I have read about was to use a rubber mold to make your wax master then make your investment molds from that. (I like it becouse if you mess up you have another chance at it, and materals are relatively cheap.) I have been doing reserch on casting for about a year and still don't feel confadent enough to try it on my own (other than lead pewter and other low melting point materals) I think i am going to end up takeing a class on it befor I try .. to meny ways for the brass to burst the mold .. very hot metal flying in my shop BAD!
MP  <swordmatt at yahoo.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 03:44:21 GMT


Got a couple of belt buckles in mind.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 03:47:12 GMT

More English wheeling....As stated earlier I'm putting 3 foot radius curve(like a dish/wok) into 48"x48" .063" soft Aluminum pieces. Any Wheelers out there willing to give me a 10 min. phone or e-mail tutorial? I just need some tips as I have under a week left until this project is due. I'm getting the basics by experience but I'm working blind, no book/video/tutor etc. Answers to dumb Q's like...What pattern of rolling?, Where do I start or finish?, how much pressure, etc etc.
Any info would be great.
Thanks to Pete F and the G-man for your last answers..I'll try those out tomorrow on yet another $75 sheet!
Cheers Matt
Matt Binns  <mbinns at interaccess.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 04:03:35 GMT

Flame Hardening: Adam, in this process you have to start with a heat treatable steel. The surface is heated with oxy-actylene torches (fan pattern) and is quenched as the torch moves along. In the case of an anvil the mass probably makes it self quenching. The torch motion needs to be very smooth, preferably by a mechanical system.

Peter Wright Anvil: Andrew, if the anvil is in good condition you got a VERY good deal. If the anvil is in fair condition you got a good deal. If the anvil is less than good then you paid just right. If you want to know for sure, mail it to me and I'll apraise it for you. . :)

Removing Rivets:Cory, Pete is right a chisle does well. You can also use a Magnetic base drill press. Its a little slower but a good operator could remove the head, then recenter on the shank and reduce the entire rivet to chips. A lot quieter than an air hammer if the assembly is a hollow vessle like a tank or boiler.

Pouring Brass: I used a crucible in my gas forge, melted brazing rods and poured in plaster molds. EVERYTHING went wrong! Ran out of gas at 2:00am, switched to what was left of my actylene in a rosebud. . ran out of that too. . failed to "calcine" the molds. Cooked them at 350°F to dry in kitchen stove (calcining needs another 1000 degrees!!).

Poured the just barely melted metal in the two prepared molds . . . LOTS of sputtering due to steam (ya GOTTA calcine those molds). . . Just had enough metal.

The castings came out FULL of porosity. . but SEEMED sound. machined and cleaned up the castings. LOOKED like Heck. . But I HAD to have them by 9:00am. . . Polished them up and put on a coat of clear lacquer. . Looked like they had been rescued from a Bronze Age shipwreck. . . PERFECT! They were for a reproduction Ancient Greek musical instrument!

Yeah, yeah. . they are SUPPOSED to look that way. . . ;) ha ha ha ha ha ha! Could never do it again. But my next castings will be MUCH better.

OBTW- I "improved" the refractoryness of the plaster by adding ground talc (talcum powder). The only souce I could find at the time was small perfumed containers of "Baby Powder". Seemed to work. Smelled good in the oven. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 04:45:00 GMT

Medium Production: If the part will come out of a permanent mold then carve the impressions in mild steel or cast iron. Soot the mold. Preheat the mold (as needed) and the sprue as much as it can take. Pour metal. .

I've production cast zinc (Zamak ZA-25) in this type mold. One piece needed a "chill" so that the metal would not shrink from a boss, so the ejection plug was fitted with a finned alumimium heat disapator. Had to cool it with a "cool" air nozzel (while the rest of the mold was heated with a rose-bud. Worked great until one of the guys used the rose-bud on my aluminium cooling head. . . GRRRRRRR >:(

Took a little experimentation to work out what was needed for each mold but then produced hundreds of parts from them.

On the other hand, plaster is cheap. I'll do a mold making lesson on iForge if a bunch of you folks want.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 05:13:03 GMT

The wheel is a tool that takes a while to learn, like most other tools.
Cut your practice piece into smaller pieces till you figure out what actions produce what results.
The more you roll, the thinner the metal gets. That means that it has stretched sideways and because there is the rest of the sheet in the way..the area bulges.
Stay away from the edges 'till the final fit up.
Start working a few inches in from the edge and proceed inward applying pressure in a roughly radially symetrical pattern.
Set the pressure fairly light and develop the shape over a number of passes. Anneal when the metal stiffens from work hardening. Spread your effects.
Make some templates of the contour you want and compare often.
Use long smooth light strokes and come up to shape gradually.
Go gently , in small increments over large areas , with the wheel. Carefully observe the effects of each stroke...
Doing projects with unfamiliar tools at the last minute brings real intensity to a piece of work, which is why we came...have fun
Pete F - Tuesday, 04/24/01 08:47:41 GMT

glad to see that you now sell bar stock. First, do you have any non-stainless hex stock. Second, is any of the stainless hex stock water hardenable. I have a bad attitude about oil hardening (it stinks). Is hex air hardened stock available. What do you recommend for hot splitters? If you say oil hardened, I'll just have to get over it.
Larry Sundstrom - Tuesday, 04/24/01 12:27:45 GMT


Use peanut oil for oil hardening liquid. Smells like a peanut butter sandwich, rather than like a burned frying pan.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 13:02:28 GMT

On-line Metals: Larry, I don't control the inventory on this one. I do make sugestions and the inventory is expanding.

Hex tool steel is not rare but it is generaly made for making chisels, jack hammer bits and such. Minimum orders are sometimes a problem and much of this is hot roll. I can get you 5/8" hex hot roll 5160 in odd quantities. I'll have to look it up but I think it is oil hardening. BUT, I've forged it and its dang close to air-hardening. . .

What sizes are you looking for?
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 14:14:23 GMT

Thank you to all that responded to my post. This anvil has very square corners on the top. Looks like it just had some normal wear. Although one edge is chipped - about the size of a pencil eraser - this was the only thing I saw wrong with it. They guy started at $200, but took $150. Thanks again, Andrew
Andrew  <andybermond at hotmail.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 14:34:14 GMT


You done good!
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 14:59:34 GMT

oh, sorry then for the double questioning, thankyou
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com > - Tuesday, 04/24/01 15:10:51 GMT

Thanks for your answer. What are your thoughts on their stainless hex for making cutting tools and punches. As far as the 5160, I really would perfer 3/4 to 7/8. Can you get that?

Paw Paw,
thanks for the peanut oil suggestion. How much would I need for hardening chisels? pints,quarts, gallons or barrels?
Larry Sundstrom - Tuesday, 04/24/01 15:31:49 GMT

Hmm, peanuts! Would othe vegetable oils work as well?
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 16:42:27 GMT

Baby Powder---check the ingredients! All the stuff I have run across nowdays has *no* talcum powder (talc) in it. Instead they are using corn starch or other organic powders.

I cast brass/bronze/silver using the forge for a heat source and a stainless creamer for the crucible. It's simple and easy---BUT---I really suggest that you work with someone who knows the ropes for your first casting experiences you can make mistakes that will end up getting you picked for dancing *after* Paw Paw!

Anyone going to the IBA conference? I could bring my brass casting set up (fits in a 5 gallon bucket) and do a belt buckle or too there if we can borrow a forge....and I get to go....

Thomas Powers  <thomas_powers at my-deja.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 17:27:08 GMT

Hi folks!

I'm a newcomer to blacksmithing after years of pining away for it. I've had a 10 week (1 day per) class and loved it. I have facility to have a forge of my own and am now getting down to the elements of what to purchase. I have my eye on the NC-Tool Whisper Momma with open ports. My only question for it is does it reach a forge welding temperature in your experience?

Actually, the other question is, is this as wise a purchase as I've talked myself into? I figure if I buy a bit more forge than I have skill, I can grow into it.

thanks for you time,

vince brown
Vince Brown  <slugluv at rocketmail.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 17:39:31 GMT

How much oil, that really depends on the size of what you are going to stick in it.
Chisels would probably need about a gallon. Perhaps less.
At the Fort I volunteer at we have a nice tin quench tank. It holds about 2 gallons, when full. We use it for all our heattreating needs, axes,trap springs,chisels, hammers etc
BTW it is peanut oil, but any vegetable oil would work. But peanut oil has a higher burn temp, so it will last longer before getting all burnt and bad smelling.
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 17:49:47 GMT

Baby Powder: Thomas, Johnson & Johnson and others make two varieties of Baby Powder. Corn starch and talc. The talc is smooth and slippery but can clog pores on adults and is non-absorbant. Corn starch is dry and dusty and absorbs moisture. The talc is getting harder to find but is still available.

Several years ago there was an accident on a television set. They fill the fire extinguishers used on movie and television sets with talcum powder. Purple K (the real stuff) is irritating and may be a chemical hazzard. I also suspect the talc is cheaper. One of the prop people didn't know the difference between the two varieties of "Baby Powder" and filled the prop fire extinguisher with the corn starch variety. When it came time for the actor to put out the fire which happened to be on a table in front of another actor the corn starch made a huge blast of fire in the sitting actor's face! REAL fire extinguishers were then needed! Luckily there was little mass to the fuel and the actor only had minor burns and some singed hair. It COULD has been a lot worse.

When I was in the 4th Grade I did that experiment in the classroom. . (candle, big can, funnel, corn starch and hose) Scared the you know what the teacher. . . Luckily those old classrooms had 12 foot plus ceilings! The ignited starch made a flare about 6-8 feet!

Vegatable Oils These are rarely recommended as quenchants any more do to going rancid. Mineral oil is cleaner and doesn't rot. More blacksmithing supplies from Johnson & Johnson (baby oil).

Stainless HEX: Larry, the SS hex stock we have in the On-Line Store is all unhardenable 300 series. This type SS is tough and difficult to work but it is also relatively soft, gummy and galls. It is not suitable for most tools. 300 series SS is such lousy material to work that no body would use if if it wern't for it's corrosion resistance.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 18:09:27 GMT

I have heard tell of a series of do-it yourself manuals
starting with building a furnace up to building a finished
lathe from scalloped metal you have formed and finished yourself. Is this apocryphal or does such an 'ultimate do-it-yourself' metalworking guide exist?
jeremy rutman  <rutman at physics.technion.ac.il> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 18:17:50 GMT

Gas Forge: Vince, Properly adjusted these forges are used for forge welding all the time. The small two burner forges are easy to out grow but are a good place to start.

Gas forges are one of those tools that need to be properly sized to the work. Big work needs a big forge but they are inefficient when doing small work. Most smiths eventualy end up with both gas and coal forges unless there is some reason they can not use coal (and there are many reasons).
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 18:19:27 GMT

Build it Yourself: Jeremy this series is by Gingery. You start by building a backyard foundry to make zinc castings (pot metal or Zamak). From these and bar stock you fabricate a lathe and other machines. . .

Its a GREAT excersize if you are really stuborn and persistant AND have very good mechanical skills. It is not as cheap as it sounds unless you count your time at pennies an hour. It takes a great deal of time scrounging parts and materials.

If you applied that same effort and capital into to scrounging old small machine tools and rebuilding them you would be much further ahead and have REAL machine tools when you were done.

I've been a scrounger smith AND I've been a machine tool designer and builder. . . No matter how bad a shape an old machine is you are unlikely to build as good on your own. There are exceptions. Some tools are rare and hard to find. Blacksmiths build a lot of their own because they can AND many of their tools fall into that rare category.

Gingery's series is also very basic. If you want to learn foundry work on your own you need the entire foundry series by C.W. Ammen. If you want to do-it-yourself you are better off to follow my advice in Getting Started and learn to weld then build on that.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 18:40:35 GMT


A couple of quarts should be plenty. But I'd buy a gallon and when what I was using started to go sour, throw it away.

Olle, yes. Almost any vegetable oil will work. Corn oil works well. Just doesn't smell quite as good a peanut oil.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 18:54:05 GMT

Paw Paw,
In my shop the smell IS the thing. Now, I do like the smell of coal but I can't stand motor oil. Peanut butter sounds like it will smell just fine. Just ordered 5 gal. for 20 bucks.
That'll fry alot of potatoes and quench all the 0-1 I can use for the next year or two. Something else you can do with it. Coat a regular brown paper grocery shopping bag with it and you can cook a turkey in that bag. Now, that ain't no lie,
Larry Sundstrom - Tuesday, 04/24/01 21:07:20 GMT

I just acquired a set of bottom fullers of various Radii. Trouble is the shanks are 1 3/8 and my anvil takes 1 1/8. They are made by Iron City. Spark test says they are tool steel, file says they are heat treated but not full hard. I don't think a Bridgeport and end mill will work to take them down to 1 1/8. So before I ruin any of them by experimenting do you think torching the shank off and welding a 1 1/8 on is the way to go, or should I just bite the bullet and spend a day with the angle grinder. Thank you.
Bob  <bbeck at losch.net> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 21:18:48 GMT

Larry, where did you find 5 gal of peanut oil for 20.00?
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 21:21:35 GMT


I've had to deal with the same problem. I used the angle grinder and took my time so as to not over heat any of the tools.

Larry, I know about the paper bag trick, the wife has done that a time or two.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 21:22:30 GMT

My real job is Respiratory Therapy and the hospital I work at can get us bulk items at cost. I would think if you have a friend in the resturant you could get it at the same price.
Larry Sundstrom - Tuesday, 04/24/01 22:22:23 GMT

Tool Steel Shanks: Bob, Paw-paw is right, better go slow than to screw up the tool steel. You COULD torch and weld but you are going to need to heat treat before and after the weld.

I hate those HUGE shanks. . but its easier to make them smaller than to make larger. I just realized I have two anvils that both take 1-1/8" shanks. . A 200# Hay-Budden and a 300# Kohlswa. In the past I had 3/4", 7/8". . . Of course I still have all those odd tools to fit. .

You could hold on to them as trade material.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 22:52:44 GMT

Bob, what about just clamping them in the post vise whenever you want to use them? Or making a holder of some kind that fits on your post vise and would hold them better? I'd experiment with that before altering them.
Stormcrow  <jbhelm at worldnet.att.netSPAMISBAD> - Tuesday, 04/24/01 23:12:29 GMT

hello again guru,
Thanks again for your help so far. I keep hearing the terms "slack tub" and "super quench". Would you please explain these. I know I need to hit the library but is there a glossary on this site? Thanks-Scott
Scott  <scheersc at aol.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 00:34:48 GMT

Could Jay be looking for the Ronco Peen-O-matic? The famous hydraulic powered, air operated, 4 horsepower device with foot pedals used to put all those "dings" in the firepalce sets ar Wal-Mart.
JohnC  <careatti at crxxlink.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 00:36:54 GMT

Who does blacksmithing around Kansas City Missouri? Who teaches a class on blacksmithing, bladesmithing, this sort of thing around me? Andrew
Andrew  <andybermond at hotmail.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 02:00:38 GMT

Slack-Tub: Scott, a slack tub is a handy container of (generaly old nasty) water used to cool steel or dip into to sprinkle on the fire. It it the container for one of the alchemist's "4 elements". A slack-tub is an indespensible item in a smithy. The romantic style is half an old wooden barrel. Slack and slake are related words having to do with cooling or quenching (as in thirst). Thus, we have the Slack-Tub Pub! Over the millenia I suspect the slack-tub has been used to cool burns and soak a few heads just a few million times. Not to mention provide water for the dog and soak hammer handles (not a recommended practice but done none the less).

Super-Quench is an infamous concoction invented by Rob Gunter to replace the somewhat hazardous sodium hydroxide solution as a quenchant for low carbon steels. I prefer ice water.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 04:11:04 GMT

John, That is the INfamous Ronco Peen-O-matic!

You're right, I may have missed the point.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 04:23:26 GMT

The way I've delt with the problem of having different sized hardys in my anvils, Oliver, peg platen etc; is to make some sets of conversion sockets out of some medium carbon angle iron. I trim the angle iron edges to fit the tapers and weld them up edge to edge...It also works to forge square tubing to fit.
But, seeing as my anvil takes that very size hardy shank;
The right thing to do undoubtedly, is to promptly ship them to me.
Pete F - Wednesday, 04/25/01 07:38:24 GMT

Shame on you Pete ;-).
Why not do as a Swedish smith i saw (he had an anvil with a broken square horn).
He used 5 pieces of 1” (25mm) thick 6" (150mm) square plate. Torched holes to fit the shank (one with 1.5”(35mm) clearance hole then one to fit 20above the shanks thinnest part, one to fit 25mm above that … last one to almost fit uppermost part) then he welded them together.
Now he heated that with two rosebuds and whacked down a sq. punch to get right taper (he actually used a severely beat up swage as punsch).
To get to better working height he welded that "block" to a 2' (580mm) piece of 4"sq (100mm) and put that in the middle of a 2' (600mm) 1" (25mm) thick plate as foot. Later he drilled a 1/ 2” (13mm) hole at and angle to allow scales to fall out (somehow they accumulated down there, and turning that monster upside down to get it out was NOT easy)
jus another idea. btw i helped him swing the sledge for that hole, worked better than expected, it was like hitting a mountain.
OErjan - Wednesday, 04/25/01 09:15:51 GMT

hello a smith of 45years plus am seeking info for the wilton historical society we have two anvils by hill of bermingham alabama have tried berminghams historical society no response thanks ray this is a terrific resoarse
ray tilton  <raynlen at megalink.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 10:48:14 GMT

Brass Pouring. Wallace Gusler, that amazing man from Williamsburg,VA, is featured in a videocassette, "THE GUNSMITH OF WILLIAMSBURG", made from a l960s vintage 16mm film. David Brinkley is the overvoice! Gusler sand-casts brass using late-18th century methods. Video list: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, P.O. Box C, Williamsburg, VA 23187.
Frank Turley  <nudahonga at qwest.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 13:16:41 GMT

For those odd shanks on hardies I use a swage block laying on its side. The block I use is one that is offered by Centaur Forge. It has a nice row of graduated square holes. It is very rare to find a set of hardies so it would be a shame to alter them. I probably have 5 different shank sizes in my pile of hardies.

Paul  <wroughtman at yahoo.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 14:48:23 GMT

OIL QUENCHANTS, May I insert two bits of unsolicited input?
I use cheap (hot press) olive oil, from costco in 2 litre jugs, and I keep it in an old aluminum coffee maker (holds about 3 ltrs), then if I want, I can easily warm the oil, or leave it cold - very handy for me, especially as the oil gets sorta thick in the winter if left unheated. May not smell as good as peanut oil, but a definate improvement on used motor oil (gag)...Tim
Tim - Wednesday, 04/25/01 15:17:14 GMT

Cookies: We have just installed a NEW cookie system on a couple of our forums and will be expanding to others.

ALL it does is write your Name (as typed above) and email to your PC. Then the next time you come here your name and mail will be filled in automaticaly. It it a convienience to our regular users (like our automatic refresh). The cookie IS NOT written unless you enter your information. It is not used for tracking or data gathering.

If you use a PUBLIC computer or terminal you can erase the contents of the cookie by deleting the contents of the name and email fields then clicking on the comments box before logging off. IF the system has cookies turned OFF (public systems should) then when you come back the input boxes should be blank. We may be addressing this issue later with an "erase cookie" button. Please send comments to me.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 16:33:17 GMT

peanutbutter cookies or chocholate chip? Or even better
oatmeal chocolate chip cookies! ;^)

Actually I am sure this will be a good mod to your already excellent site.

only one question, will this be an invisible change or will we know , ie. have to do something, when it is active?
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 17:11:38 GMT

Guru, question above is already answered....
I need to remember to practise what I preach... have more patience. The answers will get here... :^)
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 17:15:53 GMT


Well, I did miss one point. The cookie works as soon as you post using your name/email one time. The refreshed form will have your name and it will be there the next time you log on.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 17:32:31 GMT

trying to locate a source of low carbin iron for forge work. what is cut off between hi and low carbon steel?
jerry gwynne  <vinmplsav at kalama.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 18:36:54 GMT

Guru, I found an angle grinder the other day and was wondering how valuable one is in a non professional workshop.
Also, have you any experiance with straight shaft grinders?, I think theyre the next step up from a die grinder. Thank you
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 19:07:06 GMT

Just go to your local ironmonger and ask if they have any low carbon.
I usually get 1018 for general work. But what do I know? :^)

I am guessing but I would say anything less than about 1040 would be considered low carbon.
Any of you metalurgically inclined care to set me straight?

Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 19:19:28 GMT

Guru, as a machinist have you done much with microfinishing? I ask because I was thinking of microfinishing some decorative pieces, perhaps this is common practice but I dont think I've heard of it before.
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 19:49:28 GMT


I've got two and sometimes wish I had four. VERY handy.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 19:55:30 GMT

Great, thankyou paw paw, I used to shy away from them because I thought they were cumbersome and hard to control, what I didnt think of was that I have grown alot since then, what seemed like a beheemoth a time ago now looks like a fine tool.
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 20:12:04 GMT

Guru and Tony,

Thank you for the info on charcoal. It rings true with the minimal information I have picked up by hook and crook. ;-)

What has been your experience as to cost efficiency against coal and propane? It sure seems a bit more efficient in the labor department. Am I right on that account?

Thanks again

Matt   <fairhillforge.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 20:53:54 GMT

coal vs propane?
A lot depends on cost in your area as well as avaliablity.
But in use propane is fast and easy.. no need to learn how to tend a fire. And once the forge is up to heat works fast.
Most commercial smith operations use propane.

To be honest I prefer coal, but I am using either my homebuilt propane forge or my commercial made NG forge. Because my nieghbors are too close so I do not want ot smoke them out. Also recently the quality of coal here is terrible.

Probably did not really answer the question.....
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 21:25:24 GMT

Carbon Steel: Jerry, There is a long range of steels between HIGH and LOW carbon. "Mild steel" with 0.1% to 0.2% carbon is the common material used today for smithing. This includes common bar stocks and structural steels. "LOW" carbon would actualy fall below this and are considered specialty steels that you would pay more for.

Medium carbon steels start at around 30 "points" (0.3%) carbon and run to 50/60 points. Things like wrenches, axels and all kinds of things that need to be strong and tough fall in this range. Above that are high carbon steels up to 95 point carbon then you get into very high carbon steels with a limit at about 1.1% carbon. Most high carbon steels are designed for cutting tools, bearings and things that need the maximum possible hardness.

However, there are no exact definitions of low, medium and high carbon steels. Just guidelines that vary.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 21:29:11 GMT

Grinders: Adam, An angle grinder is the most commonly used hand held grinder used in steel fabrication shops. Anywhere work is being torched to cut it out, angle grinders are being used to clean up the work. They are also good for heavy duty deburing and chamfering. They are THE grinder of choice for most of this work. They are also very dangerous and the user needs to be well armored.

Straight grinders are used mostly in foundries with vitrified wheels (like a bench grinder) for cutting off sprues, risers and flash from castings. Angle grinders are scary enough, straight grinders are VERY scary. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 21:43:39 GMT

Guru, have you yourself ever taught an individual or class on blacksmithing? (other than the failed apprenticeship)

AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 22:49:54 GMT

Teaching: Adam, I've done demonstrations (hundreds) a fairs and schools, and taught a few newbies some basics. But I've also consulted on design and methods for a few professionals. Never taught an actual "class". Then there is 4 years here. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 04/25/01 23:26:18 GMT


Just be aware that like all tools that move fast and have teeth, they will bite. And it's not pleasant being the bitee!
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 01:38:40 GMT

I would like to find out how to make the tips on steel bars hard and strong not allowing to break off.I use these bars at work in thr construction and setting of granite curbstones.thank you
tony  <ram6469> - Thursday, 04/26/01 02:13:46 GMT

I have an Emmert Universal Vise with the markings:101 PAT.
May 26 1903 on one side and EMMERT MFG CO WAYNESBORO PA USA
I am a woodworker so I am familiar With the EMMERT Patternmakers Vise. The one I have has been spot welded and
has a broken horizontal swivel lever, any idea on value and
also how common is this particular vise. My father had this
vise for years sitting under a workbench, I think someone gave it to him because it was broken.
Mike Shillinglaw  <mikecheryl at rhtc.net> - Thursday, 04/26/01 02:58:59 GMT

Steel Points: Tony, First, you have to start with the right kind of steel. Standard hot roll mild steel or ASTM-36 should be left soft and not hardened. If a soft steel part doesn't do the job then you need a medium carbon or alloy steel. Some of of these (such as 4140 or 5160) are much stonger as-forged (normalized) than mild steel. If you need greater strength then the parts need to be heat treated.

The specific type of steel and the heat treating is generaly specified by the manufacturer's engineer. Besides material strength, cost, availability, ease of manufacturing are all to be considered. For some items the cost of the steel is so insignificant that is doesn't matter, but I suspect that in a part such as you are making it is at the top of the list.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 03:41:25 GMT

Adam; angle grinders
They are most common in 2 sizes. 4 or 4 1/2" disk size and the 6 to 9" sizes.
The small ones are the handiest and most versitile. Check the amperage ratings and avoid the cheapies that have bushings instead of bearings.
There are now an amazing variety of special purpose wheels available for them.
For general grinding, the cheap disks are OK. Quality counts on the specialty disks.
Pete F - Thursday, 04/26/01 07:06:01 GMT

Hill anvil, Ray they were made in Burmingham, England. I don't have a copy of Anvils in America but they are listed in there by a post about 1 year ago in here. I have a 212 pound Hill myself.
Tom-L  <Tjlapples at aol.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 08:35:48 GMT

I just bought this 122 lb anvil for $125. I got it from an 80 year old man that said the anvil belonged to his father. The anvil reads:

1 0 10

Anyone know anything about this anvil? Was it a good buy? Thanks -chris
Chris Crawford  <chris_crawford at yahoo.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 12:36:33 GMT


If the anvil is in any kind of shape at all, it was an excellent buy.

Sanderson's were forged in Sheffield, England. Postman only has two recorded in the book ANVILS IN AMERICA, so it's pretty rare.

The 1 0 10 indicates the weight in the old english hundred weight system. When new it weighed 122 pounds. Might be a little lighter now, so you paid about a dollar a pound. That's a darn good price, anymore.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 15:09:15 GMT

Thanks Mr. Wilson. Do you have any idea what the date may be? If you would like to see a picture, I have one at:


Thanks -chris
Chris Crawford  <chris_crawford at yahoo.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 17:22:19 GMT


I have an idea for a JYH that just might fly (figuratively of course ;-). Would like your opinion on the basic concept.

A rocking beam hammer similar to the Dan Dreyer hammer as the basic design. Add to that, a coil overload shock with the oil drained out as the link on the eccentric to give a little extra whip to the spring, AND, to allow that shock to be disconnected from the eccentric (but not the leaf spring) and connected to the upright support in the back. Then a connecting rod is attached to the leaf spring on the upper end and the treadle on the lower end and, BINGO, instant treadle hammer.

Whadya think? If I get the springs balanced, the eccentric just right, the hammer weight correct and Murphy leaves me alone long enough, I think it just might work ...

Matt Taimuty
Matt   <fairhillforge.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 18:55:19 GMT

Coal VS Propane VS charcoal:
I have been using gas for years in my farrier business.
It is easy, convenient and a no brainer for fire tending, BUT,
at nearly two bucks a gallon, as apposed to 99 cents a year ago,
one begins to wonder about cost effectiveness. No doubt it is
better on the road, but in the shop I am no longer sure.

I too have close neighbors, hence my interest in charcoal.
I think they would much rather smell BBQ/fireplace than
coal smoke, as would I. But if charcoal is very pricy compared
to other fuels, I could be convinced to tick off the neighborhood.

Anyone done a cost comparison?

Matt   <fairhillforge.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 19:03:35 GMT


Mr. Wilson has to deal with Denise the Menace. While I sometimes think the guru is Denise's stand in, I prefer Paw Paw or Jim. (very large grin)

I can't give you a good date on the Sanderson. Probably sometime after 1850, but that's still 150 year span. Looking at the picture, I have to call it a Modern style anvil. It also looks to be in good, usable condition. Use it in good health. Just take care of it, because it is pretty rare. There are anvil collecters (no comment, momma always said "If you can't say something nice, keep your mouth shut!" grin) who would give you a LOT more than you paid for it.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 19:21:24 GMT

Guru, I inquired on rubber abrasive wheels quit a while ago, and I dont think I had the right idea as to what they are and how they work. what I pictured was a rubber wheel(abrasive too fine to make out) about as hard as an eraser which when lightly applied to work acted like a normal very fine grinding wheel, yet when pressure was applied it would fit the contours and take shape to the stock but would return to it's original shape when stock was removed. But I've seen nothing like this, I see hard wheels that can be cut to fit contours and crevices. Can you set me straight on just what this wheel is?

Also, I have a nice supply of 600 grit wet-or-dry and was wondering what advantages(other than near dustless work) can be found in using it wet.
Thanks very much
BTW cookies are terrific, well done
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 20:25:39 GMT

Me and my scout group have recently begun making our own hunting knives. What we are doing is cutting the knife blades out of some ten inch table saw blades, and my question is about tempering.
I have never done any metalworking before, but I'd just like to know what the best way to temper/harden the blades would be so that our knives would last as long as possible.
The blades are about 6 inches long with a more narrow 3-4 inch tang at the end. I am sorry that I don't have a more specific question, but as I said, I've never done anything like this before.
Thank you for your time!
DJ Purnell
DJ Purnell  <spectorgadget at hotmail.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 20:40:44 GMT

Abrasives: Adam, Jewlers use the rubber wheels. They either cut them to fit work using a hard tool (diamonds are commonly used to dress wheels) OR they let them wear to the working shape.

The closest thing to what you are looking for is a flap wheel. How soft they are is determined largely by their rotational speed. Running at their max rated speed they are very stiff. If you slow them down they get considerably softer.

Dupont Wet-Or-Dry (tm) is very expensive stuff and it lasts a great deal longer when used wet. When used on paint dry it picks up the paint dust and forms a hard "nit" on the paper that can scratch the surface if not removed. Working wet prevents this. When working on gummy substances (including some metals) the water keeps the abrasive from "loading" (material sticking to the paper).

I use it both ways depending on the job.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 20:49:43 GMT

Knives from Saw blade: DJ, How are you cutting the blanks? Then how are you shaping the knives?

If the work is done cold and wet with care you can use the blade as-is becuase the original saw blade was a good temper for a knife blade. If the blade is torched out or forged then you will need to heat treat the blade.

Tempering is the last stage in the the heat treating hardening process. Specifics depend on the type of steel. Saw blades tend to be a special grade of alloy steel that can be picky about heattreatment.

In general. The near finished part is heated to a low red. For most steels this is the just above the point where they become non-magnetic, so you can test with a magnet. Don't use one of those plastic types. . then melt!

After heating to the correct temperature the part is quenched to harden. Quenching is cooling at a rate that produces the desired hard crystal structure in the steel. Some steels are "air quench" meaning that after taking them out of the fire they will harden in room temperature air. Sometimes a slight breeze helps. Then there are oil quench and water quench steels. The size of the part sometimes determines the quenchant. Small parts needing a less severe quench and heavier parts needing a more severe quench. I recommend an oil quench for most unknown steels. Mineral oil (baby oil) or as mentioned above peanut oil works.

You can test the part with a file as soon as its quenched. A file usualy slides off a newly hardened part. Immediately after hardening you need to temper the blade. Tempering is the reheating of the steel to some temperature below the hardening temperature. Tempering reduces the brittleness of the steel (a lot) while reducing the hardness a little. Most steels need to be tempered at a minimum of 400°F

You can guess at the hardness using a file and sharpening stone. A file will cut a tempered knife but not very well. If you can put a good edge on the knife and it holds up then you've got a BLADE!

When dealing with an unknown steel all you can do is experiment.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 04/26/01 21:11:38 GMT

hi i just started forging tanto blades and i've had good luck so far.i forge weld a lamination of 1095 and weldable steel from the hardware store.then i forge out the blade to shape.my problem is when i try to clay temper to get a hamon or temper line.it just does'nt happen.i followed all the steps in the information i could find.i use the 1095 for the middle layer it may be the problem.i would appreciate any help you could give me.
thank you
christopher makin
chris makin  <cfm15 at home.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 00:02:50 GMT

Fuel cost comparison: Matt, while I did tell you how the charcoal worked for me, I can't give you direct cost comparison since I have not yet used anything else. Grin. I keep looking at my home 500 gallon propane tank and thinking about it, but I have not yet built a propane smithing forge. Propane forge efficiency can vary hugely depending on how it is constructed. If fire brick are used without any insulation and the forge is fairly open, it will use much more fuel than a forge made with lots of insulating kaowool and coated with a good reflecting refractory wash. I think it's safe to say that hardwood lump charcoal will be more expensive to use than mineral coal. But since I use $6 worth of charcoal on a hard forging day, I don't worry about it. And my son and I have a great time roasting weinies and brats after we forge. Can't do that with coal. Could do it with propane, but it wouldn't seem the same. grin I do have a source for petroleum coke and mineral coke blend that is very cheap, but I have not used it yet and have been warned that it is a smokey, smelly, ugly fuel. I believe it. Sorry I can't help further.

Adam, I have used the rubberized wheels for jewelry making and they work great. We also use them at work to deburr parts that have a high finish. 5 to 11 Ra (Mirror finish) The wheels are fine abrasive mixed in with the rubber and then the wheels are molded. They will cut themselves to shape if pressed against the work. There are different grades of abrasive in rubber wheels to. I think Cratex is the most common brand. Another abrasive that works great for fine finishing is 3M non woven abrasives. They are available in an amazing array of forms and grits. The harder fine ones would be great for blade polishing I think. MSC has a good selection.
Tony  <tca_b at mmmmilwpc.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 01:37:53 GMT

Hey- who say's you can't roast weenies in a coal forge? I've got just the right tongs to hold them...just have to slide them in next to the teapot. It sure keeps the visitors from eating 'em.
Chad  <NHBlacksmith at aol.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 02:06:41 GMT

Hamon Line: Chris, First, the hamon line is called a temper line but it is really a hardening line. It is a result of both oxidation and the change in crystal structure on the surface of the steel during hardening. There must be a differential hardening. All kinds of things can go wrong. Overheating, heating to long, too thin a clay, the wrong kind of clay. How you trim the clay is critical. Afterwards how you polish is also critical.

These following links were pretty good. But for each of these there was 10 more that were just plain wrong. . .



There are many books on the subject that are right and have more detail than we can repeat here. Check with Centaur Forge or Norm Larson.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 03:01:48 GMT

To Paw Paw;
I've got one!! An anvil!! PETER WRIGHT 106 "A"
solid wrought (in a circle) 1 inch hardy hole,1/2 inch pritchel , 4in. X 14in. table, 10in. horn, 9 1/2 in. tall, coated with years of rust
every indentation filled with ants. BEAUTIFUL!
I'm sooooooooooo happy, I allmost cried! O.K. I did a little! Pen was almost as happy as I am. Hope all is good with you and yours. love and peace, George
George Frazier  <george at pinenut.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 03:04:45 GMT


Love those anvils with things living on or in them. The last Mousehole anvil I had was covered with a light coating of fine green moss or lichen. I've had wasps build nests in the handling holes so its best not to stick fingers in them. . Had ants in the switch on a forge blower. . I wasn't too crazy about that. Burned up the switch.

Where else can you find people that understand thinking a lump of rusted iron is beautiful and get teary eyed over them too?!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 03:54:29 GMT

Pete F
Thanks for the tips, esp. annealing. We will make the deadline and have mastered making huge woks/satellite dishes on the English Wheel, hard work and long but worth it.
Matt (who is actually an Englishman living in Chicago)
Matt Binns  <mbinns at interaccess.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 04:05:04 GMT

Ive been thinking of makeing a gas forge and was wondering if any one has tried lining theres with the clay tiles that they used to line chimneys with (the squre tubes). Would they stand up to the heat. I was thinking of covering it with refractory cement. Any ideas would be aprisheated thanks
Clay Gilbert  <cgilbert at iland.net> - Friday, 04/27/01 05:18:54 GMT

Clay Tiles: Clay, These are teracotta and are not particularly high temperature resistant. What they DO is reduce the possible number of gaps in the flue and make a smooth surface.

You have several options. Kaowool and ITC-100 ridgidizer (both a little pricey but easy to use), Refractory brick, Castable refractory, homemade refractory.

The most economical if you can locate a foundry supplier is the castable refractory. You make simple molds from wood or cardboard the pack in the moistened erfractory, let it cure and dry.

Here's a do-it-your-self castable refractory/mix from Jim Lindsay:
  • 4 parts premixed concrete
  • 4 parts fire clay (available at masonary supplies)
  • 1 part vermiculite.

    Mix with as little water as possible to the desired consistancy. Mold in 2" thick sections. Let sit over night (or longer if you can wait) and bring heat up slowly for first fire. Gas forge linings take several heats to thouroughly dry.

Another formula is: High alumina content (33 pct) fire brick clay, mixed 5:1 with portland. Temp rating of 3000 degrees F. (?).

Note that Jim's mix starts with quite a bit of sand (in the premix) and also adds vermiculite (the stuff in some potting soil) to increase permiability. The sand, if a good silica sand is OK but other varities are not. Makers of refractory (fire) brick would add some saw dust to the alumina clay mix to add permiability. This would burn out during the firing of the brick. You can do the same thing with refractory cement/clay furnace linings just don't use much.

Permiability does two things. Primarily it lets water out of the refractory so it doesn't crack (or explode) while heating up. Secondly, things that add permiability usualy add porosity which increases the insulating value of the refractory.

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 06:10:13 GMT

Thanks for all the information PawPaw. (Is that better?) :)
Chris Crawford  <chris_crawford at yahoo.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 12:16:17 GMT


Much better! (grin) Hope you know I was teasing. Think you do from the smiley emoticon.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 12:39:01 GMT


Just noticed your message, had missed it before!

Echo of the guru's Congratulations rings softly back from the hills. Clean it up (CAREFULLY) and enjoy!
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 12:41:26 GMT

clay gilbert-- by coincidence was recently eyeing my gas forge and wondering if I might not stop up some BTU leaks fore and aft and in the interstices of the firebrick with tile or perhaps even some pieces of Hardibacker cement board, that hard, dense stuff made for laying ceramic tile upon. what has kept me from trying it, however, is the memory of the fun we had as kids putting pieces of asbestos shingle into a bonfire-- and hearing them explode as the air pockets inside them blew up. I don't think I want any tile or cement shrapnel flying about adding to the already high general confusion and hazard level hereabouts. If I- or you-- do try tiling your forge, it should be with great caution.
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 15:16:37 GMT

I have heard that higher carbon steels have a lower melting point. Is this true?
On a related note what are casting crucibles made from?
ChrisBernard  <cbernard53 at hotmail.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 18:57:19 GMT

I have seen several postings about an english wheel. Evidently it's used to put a cup in sheetmetal? Am i right? I've never heard of it, I'm just curious.thanks
ROBERT SMITH  <rfsbj at webtv.net> - Friday, 04/27/01 19:54:57 GMT

Cris bernard. the higher carbon content (up to 7%IIRC) the lower meltingpoint.
depends on what is to be poured and size of crucible.
but here are a few: alumina-clay, graphite, platinum, stainless-steel(for pouring lead, tin...), there are others.
OErjan  <pokerbacken at angelfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 20:07:32 GMT

Melting Point: Chris, As carbon increases the temperature of almost everything about steel decreases (to a point).

From 0 to .85% carbon steel the melting point drops from 2800°F to 2630°F. The maximum forging temper drops similarly. The annealing/normalizing range drops from 1775°F to 1400°F but then spikes UP between .85% and .90% carbon.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 20:08:24 GMT

I have seen picture of your giant bellows. Is there any plans/prints for them? Or some rough measurement. Iam a old ironwork/- weldor. (ironhead) have small welding shop at the house. I have not try to forge weld yet; old sa200 Linclon work to good.I,THANK YOU! for all your help. Thank Bill Epps,when you see him. Thanks again. Charles Perry Pate
HIPPIE  <wean40 at msn.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 20:09:29 GMT

English Wheel: Robert, This is a machine that consists of a "C" frame with two wheels, one is steel with an arched face and the other is an elastomer (hard rubber). The sheet metal is worked back and fourth between the wheels by hand thus forming it to shape. Sometimes both wheels are steel.

The best I can tell the Wheel was invented in england in the early automotive era for forming fenders and body panels. During the wars is was used a great deal to make aluminium aircraft panels and that is one of the few uses it saw in the U.S. Today the English Wheel is used by custom auto body builders and heavy duty motorized ones by ship builders. It is also used by a few crafts people.

English wheels can be purchased but many are custom built. They can be used in a wide variety of sizes.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 20:17:18 GMT

Crucibles: Chris, As OErjan said, they are made of a variety of materials. It depends on the material being poured and the size/weight of the pour. The most common for high temperature are graphite but refractory ones (alumina) are also used. For cast iron and steel a steel shell with a refractory lining is used for a pouring crucible. For some very high temp materials platinium is used.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 20:28:21 GMT

One thing about hamon-lines: The blade has to be good steel on the OUTside with lower carbon INside, not a traditional western sandwich with the steel in the middle.
However, the effect of putting the HC in the middle actually gives much the same effect as clay-"tempering"
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Friday, 04/27/01 21:20:56 GMT

I am just stating in blacksmithing and looking for an anvil.
What size would you recommend, I would also like to invest
in one that I will have for a long time.
Some anvils are forged others cast is there a big difference
between them.
Can you recommend a particular make I understand that
Peter Wright anvils are good brand are there any others
to look for and what should I be paying for them.
Thanks Bryan
Bryan  <bryanh at playgorund.net> - Friday, 04/27/01 23:00:00 GMT

Anvils: Bryan, First, any anvil is better than no anvil. As long as its not a cast-iron doorstop.

In general you want as big an anvil as you can afford. A good general shop anvil should be about 200 pounds. However, the most common size is around 120 pounds. The advantage of the smaller anvil is one person CAN move it around. The other is that this size being more common sells for less. BIG anvils and small anvils sell for more per pound than thoes more common anvils.

There are dozens of old anvil brands that are all good. You will find that condition is more important than brand in old anvils. One of the most common are the Mousehole of M&H Armitage Mousehole anvils. These were the "standard" anvil for centuries.

Currently it is not unusual to pay $1/pound when buying from individuals and $2.5/pound when buying from dealers. However, condition is important and it still comes down to who's buying and who's selling. New anvils vary from $3.5 to $7 US per pound.

Read our anvil series on the 21st Century page before buying used anvils.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 04/27/01 23:53:36 GMT

I am looking for a source for coal near College Station,TX. Any leads will be helpfull.

paul frazier  <pfrazier at airmail.net> - Saturday, 04/28/01 03:39:57 GMT

re: English wheel-- The Wall Journal, that renowned smithing publication, did a piece recently on a guy who uses the wheel to make replacement fenders and other otherwise virtually unobtainable body parts for old Ferraris. His annual income from this arcane skill is well into six figures, WSJ reports.
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 03:45:03 GMT

i am in the middle of making a "smoker" its pretty big . i mounted it on a axle so i could pull it . my prouble is . i plan to heat my water in a tank on top of my firebox and pipe the steam into the cooker. i need to know what kind of pop off vavle do i need and were could i find one .new or used. would a vavle from a hot water heater work . would it let steam build up. my water tank is a metal pipe 12 in. across ,i plan to use 3 quarter inch pipe to carrie the steam with 5 or6 holes in it under the rakes.if not more holes.the only way i need a pop off vavle is incase the holes stop up....... what kind of vavle do i use is my question.....thank you
David  <dkluttrell at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 03:49:04 GMT

Boiler: David, Every state requires boilers to be inspected and certified, which also means they need a professional engineer's (a P.E.) stamp of approval. The inspection requires that all welding to have been done by a certified welder and that you have proof of same.

Pop-off valves must be rated for amount of volume of the tank and the BTU's going into it as well as limits of the tank itself. You must assume other outlets are clogged (otherwise you would not need the valve).

You are no longer in a "don't ask, don't tell" situation. You asked, now you know. You must contract a PE and get a state inspection or abandon the project. Sorry for the bad news.

If you figure out how to leave the top of the tank open (or have a loose hinged lid) and drip water onto hot iron and make unpressurized steam then you can do away the above.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 04:19:59 GMT

Wheel: Cracked, we are in the wrong business!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 04:22:18 GMT

Jock-- I'm not so sure. wish I'd saved the article, but don't think I did. It was within the past few months. But the lingering impression was the man is a driven (no pun intended) perfectionist, absolutely uncompromising in seeking flawless quality. His work, producing restored classic cars that just happen to have some or a lot of his wheel-replicated parts, commands prices comparable to totally original Ferraris. Moral: the work is the same as making super-duper, ultra perfecto potracks or stair rails, it's just that he's found a high-end market with customers with verrrry deep pockets, is all. Betcha there are custom knife makers who fit that pattern-- and could match bank accounts-- supplying nifty shivs to insatiable conoisseurs, for example.
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 05:08:31 GMT

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 05:35:14 GMT

The "cratex" wheel is much as you describe except the rubber is pretty hard. The carbide abraisive comes in a range of small grain size. They will cut hard materials and leave a satin finish. I use them to dress hammer faces and the like. They are quite expensive but with careful use, my 8" wheel has lasted more than 15 years.
For peanut (angle) grinders, flap wheels, non-woven abraisive wheels and the like are good for uneven surfaces and pretty cost effective...the non-woven fabric abraisives ( like scotchbrite) come in a pretty good variety of densities and grits.
Pete F - Saturday, 04/28/01 07:02:45 GMT

OOPs!..should have read as far as Tony's good answer before i shot my mouth ( keyboard?) off...sorry.
PF again - Saturday, 04/28/01 07:18:47 GMT

David ,are u trying to kill yourself & every 1 around u ? As guru said boiler's need to be certified , have u ever seen a hot water heater that has blown up . As a certified boiler attendant what u're suggesting horrify's me . There are other way's of making a " smoker " & as i'm in the smallgood's industry i should know
If u think u need to use steam for your " smoker " try looking into making a steam generator or" dry smoking ". But please please don't try making a boiler
Australia & the Us may be on differant side's of the world , but we both have the same LAW'S on boiler's
Dale Russell ( AKA ) chopper
chopper  <chopperdale at hotmail.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 14:25:41 GMT

Boilers Again: Thanks Chopper. I said every "state" (meaning in the US) but you are right, probably near every country on the planet has laws governing the construction of boilers. Most of the dangers having been recognized in the 1700's, there has been a long time for a body of law to develope.

Pete, you just added more good info.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 15:39:55 GMT

guru, I just realized that the steel I have been using and thought was high carbon, is actually not, It doesnt harden, I heated to cherry red, IMMEDIATELY quenched it and the file ate it like a soggy sandwich. Im having a friend bring me some leaf springs for the rest of my blade projects, anyway, do you think that they would be risky to cut with a cutoff wheel in an angle grinder?

BTW I sent U some pics!:)
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 17:59:50 GMT

I was surfing thru the iForge archives and saw your demo on tools made from r-r rail. Neat stuff! I've aquired a pretty decent piece (over 2' long) of rail and am considering making a small anvil as well as a few other items. In order to make a flat deck would a 3/8" thick piece of manganese be too hard? Also how do you make the square hardy hole?
Dodge  <scheersc at aol.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 19:08:04 GMT

Cutting with angle grinder: Adam, do not cut a deep groove from one side. The wheel can hang and kick back hurting you or the grinder. On your 4" grinder you may not be hurt but IT my be wrecked. Clamp the work in a vise, cut a groove across the face of the spring. When about 1/2 way through you can be able to break the spring. If not, then start on the other side, again making a safe shallow groove. You will note that the sparks comming off your RR-track anvil and the springs are different. They are fine fuzzy things compared to grinding mild steel. This is the "spark" test. You may be able to tell the difference better with a vitrified (a hard stone) wheel in your die grinder. The higher the carbon, the fuzzier the sparks.

Note that grinding sparks are almost as much a fire hazard as welding sparks. The swarf shooting off the work will weld to glass ruining it (I learned the hard way on a windshield $$$). It will also imbed in wood, eventually rust and ruin the wood (depending on what it is).
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 20:04:40 GMT

Please define Metal and Plastic Working Industries in detail. Thank you.
Brenda Tucker  <vivacious_31023 at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 20:25:54 GMT

guru just to let you know the Iforge link from the members Guru page is't working I get a 404 file not found .. figured you would want to know.
MP  <swordmatt at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 20:34:53 GMT

Manganese or manganese steel?: Dodge, you will have a hard time welding manganese to steel. Manganese steel may be anything from a special structural (soft) grade to a tool steel. Generally tool steels are very difficult to weld and properly heat treat in this situation. The cute little anvil in may article is more of an example of what not to do.

Pounding on a RR-Rail anvil is like pounding on a spring. They tend to bounce all over the place (Ask Adam Smith). FORGET what traditional anvils look like. Turn the piece on end, Support it to the floor with a (wood)4x4 and bolt it vertical to the side of a bench. The end makes a small target but it will resist pounding as well as a 200+ pound anvil.

Rail anvils are too small for a practical hardy hole and too light to support most hardy use. The little one I made had a drilled 1/2" (13mm) round hole. Square holes are generaly hot punched in old anvils or cast into new ones. A hole can be drilled and broached but broaches are very expensive. A square hole can be cut by drilling an on-size hole, then four holes that take up most of what is left in the corners (without breaking into the center hole) then chiseling, sawing and filing the remainder. The drilling needs to be done on a drill press and the layout done very carefully. I've made dozens of square holes this way. Many folks find it easier to "fabricate" a square hole or weld a piece of square tubing into a bigger round hole.

special anvil, photo by Bill WojcikJosh Greenwood just did a demonstration a the Blacksmiths Guild of the Potomac, Spring Fling. He didn't want to take one of his big anvils (450#). So, he made a stand for a block of mild steel. Its the "drop" or dougnut hole from cutting a piece of heavy steel plate. 10 - 20 cents a pound at a scrap yard.

The leaf shown was forged on that anvil and with a 25# Little Giant. Photo by Bill Wojcik.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 20:44:21 GMT

Detail: Vivacious Brenda, You will need to do your own homework assignment.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 20:46:39 GMT

Link 404: Matt, will fix. . thought I tested that. .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 21:20:12 GMT

Guru, I have a question about railroad spikes that are very old. They have numbers on the top of them, such as 23, 26. I was trying to find out the significance of the numbers. The spikes were brought in by one of my third grade students whose grandfather got them from somewhere. Hope you can help. Thanks.
Jean  <Puffin60Aaol.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 22:59:05 GMT

Guru, I have a question about very old railroad spikes. At least I am told they are railroad spikes. They are about 6 inches long, with flat tops with numbers on them, such as 23, 26. I was wondering if you could tell me the significance of the numbers. The spikes came from one of my third grade students whose grandfather got them from somewhere. Hope you can help, thanks.
Jean  <Puffin60Aaol.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 23:01:50 GMT

Spike numbers: Jean, I'm sorry I don't have a clue and really don't know where to look. Spikes were made by different manufacturers and sometimes by the railroads themselves. Some spikes were marked with an "HC" for "High Carbon" steel. The numbers could be a batch number, a year or even die number.

There are a few things in the railroad industry that are standard but most things are not. I'm told there are still some systems that still use different track spacing and their cars cannot run on the other companies lines. . I know this it true in other countries but I am not sure about the U.S.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 04/28/01 23:18:02 GMT

Jean- these may not be RR spikes, they sound to me like they could be ID nails that were driven into RR ties, I know this was common in the old days, but I really don't know much about it. I do know the telephone co. used to mark their poles with 2 nails, one round and one square headed, one was the size pole and one was the year the pole was set. These are only about 3" long, though, but I have heard that RR companies did similar things on some ties.
Chad  <NHBlacksmith at aol.com> - Sunday, 04/29/01 03:06:22 GMT

Jean, like Chad said, they may be date nails used to show the year a particular section of track was laid. What are the dimensions on these mystery railroad things?
Stormcrow - Sunday, 04/29/01 05:08:15 GMT

All wise & knowing Guru:
2 questions. 1) I've read on this sight that you can use bleach to achieve rust "right know" as you put it. Please define "right know", is it before your eyes, in a few hours or over night? I tried Clorox Bleach Consentrate with no effect. The parts have been sandblasted so they are clean.
Q.2) Once I've get the rust I want can I spray a clear coat of Lacquer over it to seal. The item is a wine rack and I need to make it look aged. Any help you can give would be great.

I've not done any forge work yet and might never, but reading your pages and looking over this websight has inspired me to try to make things with my own two hands. I'm having a blast.
Mike M  <mcruder at aol.com> - Sunday, 04/29/01 05:31:01 GMT

Rust: Mike, It takes a couple days when applied over scale. You have to reapply occasionaly to keep the surface moist. Dampened rags or towels help hold the moisture but can imprint the work.

Not forged ?????? ;-)
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 04/29/01 07:10:21 GMT

Welcome Mike,
"but reading your pages and looking over this websight has inspired me to try to make things with my own two hands. I'm having a blast"
this place has that effect on people. I'll bet you'll be whackin iron before long. :)
Mills  <mills_fam2 at netzero.net> - Sunday, 04/29/01 11:52:26 GMT

Hello, I am trying to identify my grandfather's anvil that I inherited. It weighs right at 140 lbs. and is marked on one side 1 1 0, and on the other with some names that I unfortunately can't fully make out, but the first letter appears to be a "L..." and the last four letters of the first marking is "...SONS". Underneath that appears another name or marking and the last four letters appear to be "...IDGE". At the top of the same side of the anvil as the names I can't fully read is what appears to be a Large "T" and just to the right of it a small arrow pointing up and to the right. It is a very old anvil that saw much use and abuse on my Grandfather's farm. It has a sway in the face and the edges are badly chipped and rounded. Thanks for any help you might be able to give me. My concern is should I try and clean it up for my use or if it is a rare anvil, conserve it and search for a "using" anvil instead. Let me know if you need more information that I did't think to give you.

Guy Thomas
Guy Thomas  <gnthomas at prodigy.net> - Sunday, 04/29/01 14:52:28 GMT

Old Anvil: Guy, I'll let someone else look up the details but it sounds like a Wilkinson anvil. There were several Wilkinsons in Britian that made anvils. Almost any anvil with makers marks is not particularly rare or "antique". Antique collectors anvils are generaly over 200 years old or of a rare style.

As to "fixing it up" I almost never recommend repairing anvils unless they are useless as-is. Although many do it. you are taking a great chance of ruining the anvil. If you have to ask how, you have no business doing it at all.

A little sway actualy makes it easier to straighten items. The corners may have been rounded on purpose. There ARE a few places where one needs to make a sharp corner in forging but generaly sharp inside corners are bad forging practice. Until you know the difference you don't need sharp corners. Then you will also know how to do it without sharp edges on the anvil.

In another generation this anvil may very well become a collectors item. Today it IS a family heirloom. If you "repair" it, it will have lost all its character and all its future value as an antique. Someone once compared it to giving your 90 year old grandmother a face lift. . .

There is nothing wrong with a light dressing and using it as-is. Grind off any corners that are mushrooming over as these may split off and hurt someone. Smooth the sharp edges of chips and any abuse marks from the horn. Do as little as possible. After a few years of use you won't know it had been dressed and the overall effect is of more thoughtful use.

You can almost always tell an old anvil that has been in blacksmith shops most of its life. The face and horn may be swayed and there may even be pieces of the face missing. But every edge will be softly rounded from long use and care. There will not be a chisel mark, cut or ding in the face or horn.

Anvils bought by non-smiths, farmers and machine shops, tend to see nothing but abuse. Corners heavily chipped from use as a stand while sledge hammering some part into submission, chisle cuts on the horn from cutting chain, the face heavily marked from pounding on some heavy hard object. And the worst, torch cuts and arc burns from using an anvil as a welding bench. . .

A great many anvils are a combination of the two. A nice well worn old anvil that was later bought and used in shop by non-smiths. It will show all the signs of generations of long use covered by the marks of later abuse. Sadly, these are the much too common today.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 04/29/01 16:24:07 GMT

Thanks for posting those DIY castable refractory recipes. Do you know if these would be suitable for a gas forge? Any idea what temp they are rated for?

Thanks, Adam
Adam  <adam at whiteson.org> - Sunday, 04/29/01 17:47:26 GMT

Ho, and I forgot to ask: what about their (castable refractory) resistance to hot borax?

Adam  <adam at whiteson.org> - Sunday, 04/29/01 17:48:46 GMT

quenching and accelerated rust-- adam-- cherry is not hot enough to harden. take it wayyyy up, as hot as you can get it without sparking and get it into the quench within one second. that's all you've got. one second. mike-- put the clorox in a spray bottle and mist the surface the rustee repeatedly and often. works better than painting it with clorox.
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 04/29/01 18:36:42 GMT

Hardening: NOTE: Cracked's temperature is for MILD or low carbon steel. Tool steels will shatter if that hot. . .

Home Made RefractoryYes it will work with a gas forge but its temperature resistance is dependant on the quality and quantity of the fireclay. Refractories ratings are determined by the amount of alumina or kaolin (both aluminum oxide) content. I haven't tested this mix but have been told by many that it works.

Take your time letting it cure and dry. A couple weeks is best. Then when you fire it you should just let the forge get hot enough that steam starts coming from the refractory and then let it cool. Fire this way several times before letting it get up to full heat.

Home-made refractory is not going to be good as the commercial stuff. Neither is resistant to flux. If the flux couldn't eat a little alumina it wouldn't be flux. . . Matter of fact, a platinium crucible is about the only thing not effected by melted borax.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 04/29/01 18:55:35 GMT

Cracked, what kind of steel are we talking about here? Or are you being mean to someone?
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Sunday, 04/29/01 18:56:50 GMT

Well, the GURU hit the button before me.
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Sunday, 04/29/01 18:58:36 GMT

Oh, the shame of it all! Suspected of foisting a bum steer on a fellow pilgrim for the sake of meanness! And me a mere rural smith! Come on! Hey--lots of factors can make steel warp or crack-- grunge in the steel, the shape, whether it's got internal stresses adding to the stresses of parts still expanding while other parts are contracting-- have you annealed it thoroughly by taking it up past the loss of magnetism and then letting it come down to where it's all happy with itself covered up in a comfy bed of ashes?-- whether you're in the right quench to begin with, whether you're agitating it in the quench so the heat is not boiling the quench away from the surface, etc. What I suggested has simply always worked fine for me, and I've been going along for years contentedly thinking the folks at the Nicholson factory and in Detroit were putting high carbon in those files and vehicle springs. Just lucky I guess. And so what if it cracks? Make another one. You're a blacksmith, right? Come to think of it, though, if the piece will squish cold it's prolly not HC to start with.
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 01:15:03 GMT

I am wanting to learn blacksmithing....but i do not know where i can find out or take classes....i live in Chattanooga TN....i am 13 and i am interested in swords and blades...if you can help it will be mostly appreciated....
Thank You....Cody Gardino
Cody  <XxLordSimionxX at aol.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 01:32:01 GMT

Have a frizzen to harden. Goes on a reproduction musket. Was so soft that the flint was gouging into it. Is mystery metal, from a Kit, I think. Plan on taking it to A2 and Super Quenching it. Sound about right?
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 02:06:00 GMT

In reading your reply to Guy Thomas' inquiry on his grandfathers anvil,I looked at mine, again. It apears as though you are saddly correct, I see the use, missuse and abuse. It's funny but when I was cleaning, I had the feeling that I was working on a living thing. I could feel every hammer blow. It looks like it was used at one time to break up concrete, the point end of the horn has been flattened some what (by maybe 1/2" if you finish tracing out the line of the horn). The top of the horn has been struck forcefully and repeatedly with something of hardened steel with a blunt edge (it seems to me), leaving dash (-)type indentations up to 1/16" deep. Some of the corners have started to work round (no mushrooming at all). Some of the corners are pretty square. The working surface is really good, no signs of abuse. I'll do some light stock removal work to clean up the horn and repoint it (I'll try to keep the original lines). Is it ok to fill in the "mouse holes" (nothing permanent) so critters can't live in there. Also I've given it a coat of linseed oil, she SHINES! Wish I could include an image or two.
Thnx, G.
George Frazier  <george at pinenut.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 02:43:53 GMT

I was referred to you by a New York blacksmith. I want to get a door made of metal to cover an area 40" wide , 75" high, with a width of 8 1/4 wide, that is plaster and wall board to keep my puppies on one side, but let the air flow.
Liz Fredson  <EJFredson at AOL.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 03:11:49 GMT

Frizzen: Paw Paw, you will need to test it. Most of these were originaly case hardened wrought or low carbon steel. Reproduction "kit" frizzens are often cast low carbon steel that also need to be case hardened. IF it is high enough carbon to harden then all of it EXCEPT the striking face needs to be tempered soft to keep the part from breaking.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 03:28:43 GMT

Paw Paw I have used Kaseinite to case harden the striker surface on frizzens.
JohnC  <careatti at croxx.net> - Monday, 04/30/01 03:31:41 GMT

Chattanooogaaaaa. . : Cody, Check ABANA-Chapter.com and the two chapters that cover your area, River Bluff Forge Council and the Alabama Forge Council. These guys will know what is available localy. For schools check with www.ABANA.org. They have the most up to date schools list.

At your age I would recommend starting with a LOT of reading. See our Getting Started article and our book reviews. Study basic blacksmithing FIRST!

Bladesmithing is the highest form of the art of blacksmithing and requires the most education. This means metalurgy, strength of materials and other engineering topics. Most of these subjects get immediately into higher mathematics BUT, you need to read and understand the concepts, not the mathematics (for now). If reading the technical parts of metalworking puts you to sleep then bladsmithing is not for you.

Meanwhile, there are many things you can learn on your own in a small shop. Contact Adam Smith, ColdForge1 at yahoo.com, he is only a few years older than you are and has gotten a good start in metalworking.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 03:54:58 GMT

Anvil Horns: George, I know a bunch of smiths that have anvil horns that come to a theoretical point. . They were NOT that way when new! The horn on an anvil normally has a flat about 3/8" to 1/2" diameter. Sometimes you will see them mushroomed much flatter and the mushrooming needs to be dressed. BUT, they do not NEED a sharp point. You will find out WHY the first time you or someone else bumps their leg or hip into it. . . Blunt ones are bad enough.

Old tools often tell a story or two. When you consider the average anvil is 140 years old or so and probably had a minimum of four owners if not a dozen. . . They often have many stories to tell.

I have two very old anvils. One is a "Colonial" (ca 1760) with a missing horn and the other is from about 1840. Both saw regular use up until the the mid 1980's when I purchased them. The Colonial had probably been in use on sharecropper's farms since the horn got broken off a very long time ago. It wasn't abused but saw constant use and no noticable abuse. After I bought the Colonial it was loaned out to another farm where it saw another 15 years of occasional use. That's 230 years of use. . The other came from another Southern farm in an area settled in Colonial times. Parts of the face around the hardy hole had split off and are very gracefully worn round. . . Both these anvils tell a story of history and poverty but were always owned by folks that knew what an anvil was for and never abused them.

Can you imagine me welding up the faces and replacing the missing horn on the Colonial???? I can do this well enough that an expert couldn't tell. Blend the welds, heat the surface and hammer enough to have the proper texture, then rust to match the rest. . . But WHY?

As blacksmiths we are in a curious position. A majority of the tools and machines we use are 100 years old. In any other field these would be precious antiques. But for us they are still working TOOLS. They have had many owners and if we take care of them they will have many more. Like the Earth, we are only temporary caretakers of these things. Think about it before striking an arc on that old anvil. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 04:31:46 GMT

Frizzen... why don't you case harden it? That was fairly common.. I think. It was a bit before my time... oh wait wasn't that your time?
ralph  <ralphd/2jps.net> - Monday, 04/30/01 05:47:16 GMT

On one of the !Forge demos you mentioned that you made candle pans by trepanning on a drill press. What is trepanning and how is it done? Thank you.
Kevin - Monday, 04/30/01 06:04:15 GMT

Just getting started in blacksmithing (bet you never heard that before). I have collected most parts I need to make I gas forge, but I can't wait any longer!!!!! I want to buy one for makeing small pattern weld blades. Will the NC Wisper Baby forge weld? I would like to try using chain saw stock. Thanks!!!
Keith  <kdbarker at clarityconnect.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 08:34:35 GMT

Understood, I would NEVER "strike an ark" on this beautiful old anvil (one , no need to, two, if it were that far gone,I'd retire it to a door stop). No, my thing is to keep it in good working shape, but not reduce it's value by needless machining.
As for the Earth, it seems to me , we've not done our best.
But of course, it's allways easier to Monday morning quarterback!
Thnx, G.
George Frazier  <george at pinenut.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 12:40:18 GMT

Where's the Borax information?
L. Sundstrom - Monday, 04/30/01 12:41:52 GMT

Whisper Baby: Keith, It might but mine has never gotten that hot. All the two burner models are known to be cabable of forge welding.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 13:12:15 GMT

Trepanning: Kevin, Every see one of those hole cutters for a frill press that has a pilot drill and a single point cutter? That is how the process works. Its a bit tricky cutting sheet metal on a drill press. I was doing it on a small lathe.

On the lathe a square blank was held against a face plate by a clamping disk and a live (ball bearing) center in the tail stock. There was a small center hole in the blank that fit on a pin in the face plate. This is called "friction driving" because the part is held tightly against the face plate and not clamped directly. In this case the face plate was a special made for the purpose since the cutter goes through and would cut the plate.

Once the work is clamped the disk is cut with a narrow single point cutter. The result is a "cookie" and its "skeleton". I prefer there to be enough excess that the waste (the skeleton) remains in one piece. You CAN use a blank that the is just big enough but those corners come off like ninja throwing stars! One of those lessons learned the hard way. . .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 13:27:32 GMT

Borax: Larry, on the 21st Century page. Its not much. Here's a direct link, Borax

Frizzen hah hahaha. . paw paws time. . . Wrap the frizzen in old dry shoe leather with come charcoal and tie with (cotten or hemp)string. Cover the package with blue clay and let dry. Repeat to fill cracks. Burry the package in the coals of a hot wood fire for twenty minutes to an hour. Pull the hot package out of the fire with tongs and break open into water. -- (from memory) Dixie Gun works catalog.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 13:49:54 GMT

Link: That Borax link didn't work too well. . . use the 21st Century page.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 13:52:18 GMT

All right, children! Behave yourselves or Paw Paw spank!
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 14:00:31 GMT

Is the "cracked" in "Cracked Anvil" a adjective of a verb?
Larry Sundstrom - Monday, 04/30/01 14:27:04 GMT

adjective OR a verb
Larry Sundstrom - Monday, 04/30/01 14:28:10 GMT

Mornin' guru
Thanks for the advise on rr-rail anvils. The piece of manganese I was refering to was used too line a blast bay that uses steel shot as the abrasive. Its so hard a band saw won't cut it. The maintanance dept where i work cuts it with a plasma arc cutter they also weld on it with a rod they call super 300.
I recently bought a brake drum that I planned to use for a forge. The more i read and learn though I'm really getting interested in a gas forge. Is it possible to use the drum Idea?(bottom burner) what would go in the drum instead of coal? Or... should I look at other designs?
Dodge   <scheescr at aol.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 15:33:53 GMT

gotta catch me first......(grin)
So what will you do? Super quench or caseharden?

Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Monday, 04/30/01 15:35:10 GMT

I dont know if you can see it or not, but I have a nice big furnace blower in my shop, if you can see it, do you think it might sell well to a blacksmith?
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 15:37:02 GMT

Adam: That's a nice size ventilation blower. You could probably sell or trade it. I hang on to all the fans and blowers I can scrounge. .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 17:34:36 GMT

Brake Drum: Dodge, Gas forges rely on the lining absorbing (storing) heat and then radiating back more than the flame produces at any one instant. This is also what makes them very efficient. It would work but require huge amounts of gas.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 17:37:07 GMT

Thanks for the info. Here's a question. Why is a farriers rounding hammer called a "rounding" hammer? Thank you.
Kevin - Monday, 04/30/01 17:47:01 GMT

Two queries from a rank beginner:
A) Is it possible to achieve welding heat with a small charcoal forge (as those used by the "Neo-Tribal Metalsmiths"..Tai Goo, knifemaker)
B) Is the 5160 that I find from vehicle leaf springs suitable for making tongs? Hammers? Better to use air-hardening for hammers? -----Thanks, David
david  <bowyer_31 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 19:10:49 GMT

I am thinking of converting my propane forge to NG. Propane costs have doubled in the last year, plus I have to drive 50 mi to Santa Fe to refill my bottles.

Problem is I can only get about 1/2 psi in my NG gas line. I am hoping I can compensate by using larger jets. Also, I guess this means a venturi burner is out of the question. Finally, I am unclear about control. Since I am using the regulator that supplies the house, dont I just need some kind of needle valve to throttle it down? What kind of coupling should I use to go from the black pipe to the burner?

I sure would appreciate some advice before spending $$ on a plumber to run a line out to my garage.

Thanks, Adam
adam whiteson  <adam at whiteson.org> - Monday, 04/30/01 19:20:49 GMT

NG: Adam, Venturi forges have been run on NG with larger jets. Most makers can provide the information and parts. Where things get tricky is the gas co or your licensed plumber will (and rightly so) only hook up gas to aproved devices (UL, CSA. . ).

Building codes (inspectors and permits) come into play when you hook up to local utilities. They cover the type of plumbing required. Normally this is black iron pipe to within a few feet of the device and special flexible metal pipe to the device OR black iron pipe.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 19:47:57 GMT

I was checking out your huge bellows at school earlier, and I was wondering what kind of leather you used for the sides(treatment if any)? A real beauty.

BTW, Sent more pics!
Thank you.
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 20:09:34 GMT

Charcoal: David, Charcoal can be used to melt steel. . welding is no problem. The spring steel, how do you know its 5160? Manufacturers make parts from whatever they want. There are hundreds of steels used to make springs.

Leaf springs are good for making ALL kinds of things, but NEVER assume you know the specific material when using junk yard steels. Test every piece before using for a critical application.

Tongs should be made of mild steel. A few manufacturers use alloy steels but I do not recommend it. It is standard practice in the shop to reshape tongs as needed and quench them when the get hot (over and over). Mild steel holds up best under this duty.

Hammers are normally made of fairly high carbon steel. Coil and leaf spring material work. Truck axels are often used due to the larger diameter.

Air hardening steels are some of the most expensive alloy steels. Some such a A-2 are sold annealed and precision ground for machinists to make parts from that need to be hardened and have low distortion or dimensional change. The H series are hot work steels designed to be used at (relatively) very high temperatures without loosing temper. They are also available prehardened and tempered. Shock resistant steels such as L-7 are also air hardening and favored by smiths.

Due to their expense most tool steels are not found in common production parts and rarely found in scrap.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 20:12:47 GMT

Guru, is a belt grinder just a belt sander used in metal aplication, or is it a machine built specifically for that application?
Thank you
AdamSmith  <ColdForge1 at yahoo.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 20:19:55 GMT

Leather: My bellows had what was sold as "buck skin" by Tandy Leather (on sale for $34 in 1977. .) but I think it is split cowhide.

Belt Grinder: Most are specificaly built for grinding but are not much different from sanders. Grinders are often designed to run wet. Knife makers use grinders with special contact wheels (rubber wheel designed to be used under the belt in a grinding location).
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 20:39:00 GMT

Sir Guru. thanks for the info. I'll Be Back!
jerry gwynne  <vinmplsav at kalama.com> - Monday, 04/30/01 21:38:39 GMT

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