WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.0

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 1 - 8, 2002 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]


Yeah, with the CNC and the EDM I can make touchmarks PDQ. I believe I'm the only one who makes them with a handle in deference to blacksmiths. A 3/4 square logo is $135.00 and your very own signature is $150.00 (pardon the anabashed plug).
   - grant - Monday, 04/01/02 00:08:24 GMT

This is a bit off the topic but I need some help and I know some smiths and their wives are into other crafts. Does anyone know of a good website that discusses upholstery and woodworking? A special friend wants to get into both and is in need of some information on getting started
   Tim - Monday, 04/01/02 00:41:17 GMT

I have no experience at metallurgy. A good friend of mine, that forges and castes jewelry, posed a question to me.

"Why does a blacksmith have 6 fingers on his left hand?"

I know this has to do more with the lore of blacksmithing then the practical side. I was wondering if any of your gurus have an answer or starting point for me to find this riddle's answer.

Thanks, Mark
   Mark - Monday, 04/01/02 00:56:53 GMT

Hello, i'm new to blacksmithing, I just bought an anvil from an antique dealer...it's old i'm assuming and is in nice condition and rings like a bell. I've been messing around for the past couple weeks just practicing and making knife blades...which surprisingly are coming out really well. But the question i have is, would anyone be able to tell me how to make a double bladed dagger...or what the technique is to have a spine running down the center of the blade? I tried doing it today and found that when i came close to what i wanted i kept squashing it...and then i'd flatten the metal on the other side....it seems like a paradox to me, so if someone could enlighten me, it would be highly appreciated. Thank you very much
   Seth - Monday, 04/01/02 04:48:36 GMT

Mike HR;
Why grind? Doesn't that arc cancel out the pull of the weld beads just about right? What's the problem here?...no..wait!! I've got it all wrong!
Gosh Mike, that's just awful. My stuff is always crooked anyways, guess I better relief you of that useless stone..here's your $300!!!
PS , if your platen is as hard as mine is it will take a very long time to grind it flat and neither a mill nor a cold chisel will bother it much.
Much too much trouble for you professional fabricators, just ship it on out here...right?
   Pete F - Monday, 04/01/02 05:15:59 GMT

Seth, That is what bottom swages and swage blocks are for. Heat a block of steel in your forge (about 3/4" to 1" thick), then on the middle of the anvil drive the corner of a piece of square bar into the surface. The square bar can be just a piece of mild steel unless the swage is high carbon alloy steel. The swage can be mild steel but it you are anal you can make it out of tool steel.

Dress the corners with a file so it has nice radii all around and weld a shank on it to fit your hardy hole. . . Now you have a bottom "V" swage. If you need a steeper angle than 90° such as 60° for an equal lateral then shape a piece of steel by forging and grinding then use THAT as the matix die. A heavy "V" on a chisle can be used in several steps. . Make a straight "V" and a couple tapered V's in the same block.

Alternatively you can use a milling machine or a shaper.

This type of tooling making is easy when you take time to think about it. See our various iForge tooling demos for other ideas.
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 05:55:57 GMT

Platen. . . A friend has a long platen made from two 5 x 8 foot plates to make a 5 x 16. . or maybe its a 5 x 12 FOOT. . In any case, it is huge. The two platens are welded together on the sides and maybe bolted as well. The joint looks like it was machined and then welded too. . . . THEN the whole was machined flat on a planer. . . THINK about the size of that machine. Beautiful table!

There are actualy quite a few around and if you find the right yards they may have stacks of them. . . You CAN be picky.
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 06:01:40 GMT

Platen- Sorry Pete, I just have trouble using equipment that isn't what it should be.. I kinda got an eye for what's square and plumb, and when something isn't, it pulls valuable brain synopsis away from my already feeble creative process. Anyhoo, after several cold ones and the hint from Guru about the cold chisel, I crafted an elbow grease powered shaper/planer out of 24" of 1" square. I drilled an angled hole, filed square, tapped a set screw hole, and stuck in a 5/16 lathe bit. I used step-clamps to secure a straight edge, and with 5-6 strokes,i'm moving about .006". Ten of those is 1/16, and 3/16 will get me there. It might take a month of 2 hours/day, but I can see it happening. I also made a cool broach as the square holes weren't finished. I took a 3/4" square x 12" long chunk of hot rolled, and migged 3/8" lathe bits to both sides. Some angle grinder work later, I had ground graduated steps in the tool bits, so i can hammer this thing in, and it cleans out the casting nasties. I did ten holes this afternoon and it's holding up fine. I couldn't even find a 1 1/2 square broach in the big MSC catalog, but this is working great for about 5 bucks. I admit I have a tolerance obsession, but hey, it's better than the alternative... Black boogers, mike
   mike-hr - Monday, 04/01/02 08:15:46 GMT

Mike, You didn't REALLY want to find a 1-1/2" square broach. . . A 1" is over $300. I priced them for making anvils. . .

Most folks use round hold downs and the holes don't need to fit that well. Most square stuff to fit also fits rather rough.

30 * 2 = 60 hours. . . but I think you under estimated. Let your fingers do the walking. . . IF you find someone with a big enough machine you might be able to trade work. Machine shops always need someone that can do REAL blacksmith work. . .
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 08:46:24 GMT

dear guru ,i would be very pleased and greatful to you ,if u please would tell me or direct me to get information on "how to make tools and dies for metal stamping " . i would be eagerly waiting for your answer.

   afrose shariff - Monday, 04/01/02 09:57:14 GMT

Guru, id close the air suply to kill the fire
   - OErjan - Monday, 04/01/02 11:23:15 GMT

Afrose Shariff, Are they for hand work, under a press, treadle hammer, shop power hammer, or industrial (huge)?
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/01/02 13:17:07 GMT


I'm not very good at asking for help. Too stubborn, I guess. (wry grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 04/01/02 14:47:24 GMT

Double edged knife' most professional knifemakers do not use a swage instead they work the blade on the *edge* of the anvil so that only the part of the hammer that is hitting what you want is over the anvil and the rest is over air space. As you establish a bevel hold the piece on the anvil on the bevel to work it instead of flat. Having a section of anvil with a good edge helps. Some people work with a nicely rounded cross pein to hit only the edge bevel with.

Practice helps as is watching someone do it the first time!

The flattening problem sounds like you are not holding the piece on the bevel angle on the anvil.

   - Thomas Powers - Monday, 04/01/02 15:47:56 GMT

Dies, Stamping Afrose, As Mr. Turley pointed out a lot depends on the way the dies are to be applied and how you define "stamping". As a common term stamping is often applied to punching blanks, forming or combinations of blank, form and trim. The dies can also be primitive low production tools used by hand or for precision high production in industrial machinery. With in the high production definition there are also many variables including hand feed or automatic feed.

This is a wide ranging subject that includes everything from tool engineering to mechanics. For general study I recommend the ASM references. The current reference is the ASM Handbook Volume 14: Forming and Forging. Note that over time ASM changes their organization of the Handbook. My 1979 copy is "Volume 4, Forming" and forging is in volume 5 combined with casting. They also list a reference titled Metal Forming: Fundamentals and Applications.

Other general references that apply to the subject, MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK, from Industrial Press and the Tool Engineer's Handbook from McGraw-Hill or Glenco or whatever their name d'jour.

Many of these references can be found on the used book market but the ASM books are relatively rare. If you purchase two books from ASM it will usualy pay for a membership.
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 16:14:40 GMT

Greetings, oh great one. :) Chatting with a friend, over breakfast this morning, I was questioned about some material. Man has a splitting wedge (commercial, hand held)that has been in his truck no tellin' how long. Probobly boought it at a sale in the last 10 years. Never used it. Sunday PM, he was cutting wood, and decided to use it. Fella describes it as "light weight, not common wedge". In retrospect he said he noticed the edges were lightly chipped on the striking end. Anyway, he stuck it in this big locust, and grabbed the maul (8#). Drove it in the kerf from the saw. When he struck it, he said " fire shot in all directions from the head where I struck it". Seemed odd! No report (sound). Just fire, about 6" or so from the area struck. Later, he tried it on the tailgate of the truck, striking with a hammer, but no fire. I told him I had no idea ( mag, yada yada yada) and would ask you. He said he will bring the wedge to me, and I will send a chunk of it to have test done at the college through a program I participate in. You or one of your assistants may already know the answer to this riddle. We need brain food to keep sharp ( sometimes I need more than others...<:P ). George is giving me the wedge, and it will make a good liars session piece for the campfire at the re-enactment camp. I'm about half scared to chopsaw it, but will proceed with caution, and maybe get a friend with a power hacksaw to whack the piece to send off for test. Cold cut may be the thing for tests, as heat from the chopsaw affects machining of steel, and may heat treat and give a false reading on chemical analysis. Anyway, a vacant mind grows dusty, and thought you might like a challenge. Thanks and regards

   - Steve O'Grady - Monday, 04/01/02 16:30:18 GMT

Trianglular Sections Thomas, Thanks for something I overlooked. . Yeah, I've done it both ways. But I am a tool making fool. If I am going to do a job more than once and I can make it a little easier I knock out a special tool. We spent several hours last night discussing the special notchers and crimpers needed for making a little aluminium bodied ultralight airplane. These on top of all the jigs that are recommended in the plans. You should see the huge stack of wooden jigs and fixtures we made building two guitars! Sawing, bending, clamping, assembly, rosette. . .

Triangles are one of those things that takes a lot of practice and good hammer control. It also helps to start from round stock. Many blade shapes are much easier to forge from a piece of round bar than from flat. Even relatively flat blades. The round also gives you the opportunity to forge a blade with a nice bulit in shoulder for knives that are not going to have a guard or bolster.

Starting with round means you can use coil springs. These are rapidly becoming the only spring you can find in auto scrap yards. And if they are loose and unidentified (as they commonly are) then they have no value as "parts".
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 16:36:02 GMT

Pardon me, but aren't we talking about a lozenge section?
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/01/02 19:40:20 GMT


What painting/coating method do you suggest for fireplace pokers and tongs and other tools that will get hot? Would a different method be used for something like andirons and fireplace grates which are exposed to more heat more often?

Surface prep: what would you recommend for a *very* small smithy making mostly indoor items? I don't have real sandblaster, so I would prefer to use a chemical method that isn't too toxic. Right now I wire wheel, wipe down with mineral spirts, let dry, and spray with rustoleum clear laquer. Turns out pretty well, and since almost everything I make is for indoor use (hooks, candle holders and the like) I *think* it will hold up okay, but I would prefer to do a better job, if I could afford it.

As a part time smith, I doubt I cover much more of my costs on the small things I can make, with very little payback for my labor. Good thing I am not in it for the money!

   - Jim - Monday, 04/01/02 19:51:40 GMT

Frank, I thought he asked about a triangular section dagger . . .

ODD MATERIAL: Steve, Sounds like it might be aluminium magnesium alloy. Check it with a magnet. Taking a chop saw to magnesium might be the last thing you do. . . Then. . . there were also some Titanium Russian pry bars imported a few years ago. Might be the same source.
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 20:03:24 GMT

Finishes for fireplace tools: For many years I used De-Rusto Bar-b-que black. However, being a high temperature paint the binder eventualy gives up and the paint "chalks". In this case the dry pigment is graphite. Very dirty. .

So, I started painting the business ends with the high temperature paint and the rest with flat black from the same company. I always hand rubbed on the paint to keep a flat unpainted but painted look.

Wax and clear lacquers are fine for interior work. However, any fixed interior work, chandeliers, railings and such should have the best finish on them that you can afford.
   - guru - Monday, 04/01/02 21:02:03 GMT

Ok, for all you bladesmiths out there, how would I go about forging a knife with a hilt and full tang all from one piece of stock? I want it to be all one piece for added durability but I can't fugure out how to shape the hilt in the middle of the stock. Should I simply shape the blade and tang and then forge weld a hilt onto the blank? If anyone's tried this one-piece design with success please lemme know.
   Tim - Tuesday, 04/02/02 00:03:33 GMT

Tim, Start with a big ol' round sectioned piece and forge away everything that doesn't look like a knife, hilt and tang. I couldn't resist; it comes from "How do you make a wooden Indian"? "Carve away everything that doesn't look like a wooden Indian". My wife laughs at this one, and *she is* American Indian. Your approach may be a bit "Germanic", but it would be similar to making a wood chisel with a bolster. I start with round stock, fuller all around the center of the length, move a little distance, and fuller all around again. This leaves a central area which can be turned into a hilt. Draw material away from the fullered marks. One side becomes tang; one side becomes blade. There is a possibility of reducing one side and dropping it into a large heading tool or plate. Where the hilt boss stops, start drawing it out, if you want a larger hilt. Some Spanish smiths might know a secret. The used to put large decorative discs in the center of their table stretchers.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/02/02 00:33:23 GMT

Tim, Frank is on the mark as always. Most folks start with flat stock or something too close to shape to do what you want to do. You don't need to start as large as the final guard but close helps. If you leave the guard thicker than the end result you will be able to draw it out larger after reducing the tang and blade. One thing to remember is to keep those inside corners rounded. Many places show sharp corners on the tang. This is bad design and can lead to breakage. A healthy radius is much stronger. It just means you need to do some fitting on the grip to account for the radius. Fullering from a large piece naturaly produces these radii (IF you use the proper tool).

You've decided on difficult method but the results should be worth the effort. Forgings from one piece usualy impress even those that don't understand how it was done.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/02/02 03:06:38 GMT

Tim one further tip; the hilt is everything back of the blade: guard, grip/tang, pommel. I think your question is how to make a blade with an integral guard---the answer is *triphammer* (work it down from larger stock, good fullers to set off the guard and pommel help---less slope to file/grind/saw to get the transition correct.)

Ask on some of the knifemaking forums using the correct terminology for more suggestions.

   - Thomas Powers - Tuesday, 04/02/02 14:06:23 GMT

Tumbler Physics?

Sorry, I was out of touch for a couple days. After thinking about tumblers a bit, Ive decided I cant provide a general purpose formula or help without more info. There are quite a few variables to consider. Size and shape of part, weight, drum diameter, tumbling media fill, media type, etc.

But if John wants to give more info about what he wants to do, Ill help if I can. What kind of parts?

If the parts are small, there are a lot of clothes dryers out there that no longer heat, but still turn. The drums last surprisingly long and there seems to be an endless supply of non heating dryers so they are a throw away item. Get a junk one from an appliance dealer or repairman, use it as a tumbler until it dies and get another. I like Maytag. But I draw the line at the avocado color that was popular for a while. grin.

Crane beams:

Machinerys Handbook has all the info you need for beam deflection calculations too. All of it is in the section on strength of materials. Moments of Inertia and section moduli for different beam sections and the formulae for stress and deflections in the beams. Case number 2 is the typical simply supported crane beam. Most lifting systems favor bolted connections over welded ones. Even for stuff over my own head, I use about a 5 to 1 factor of safety on yield stress. That would be 7000 psi or so if using typical A36 structural steel beams. Limiting the deflection to a workable number for hand pushed trolleys usually results in low beam stress. If you use the formula for deflection in Machinerys and put in the deflection you want and solve for the moment of inertia, it wont be trial and error. Then use the formula for stress to make sure the stress level is where you want it or lower.

I can help someone wade through the formulae if they have specific questions.

I am a licensed PE, and have designed many buildings and overhead lifting systems as well as equipment and machines. But to protect you and me, I wont size a beam for overhead lifting without also giving you drawings and specifications to follow for the installation. The picture an engineer gives, must be complete, so that there is no room for interpretation that might affect safety. Thats why engineers generally charge for the work involved. Unlike lawyers or doctors, when an engineer goofs up, he/she loses his license and can go to jail. And lawyers consider an incomplete set of instructions as a goof up. I do too. That is about the only time you will see me agree with the legal profession.

Engineers are anal for a reason.

Sometimes. Grin.

Bad customers and lawyers. The engineers (and anyone who tries to build stuff for that matter) bane. Keeps a lot of good stuff from getting done.

Gee, where did THAT minirant come from???
   Tony - Tuesday, 04/02/02 14:35:33 GMT

I would like to have a tumbler that will handle long pieces, as well as small ones. If I can use a dryer motor and pulleys, though, I will. I guess dryers turn at about the correct rpm for a tumbler. I've heard that any small pieces of steel will work for tumbling media? Thanks
   - John C. - Tuesday, 04/02/02 16:26:25 GMT

Tumbling Media John, the donought holes from heavy punch press work, specificaly making structurals, back when America was BUILDING things, where the part has lots of sharp edges and burrs are used in finishing castings.

Today, we are scraping thousands of miles of rail-road rail (something no longer made in America) for the same purpose. The rail is fed into huge hammer mills and the brittleness is taken advantage of. This produces sharp edged pieces (like broken glass). I've seen done in Bedford Co. VA where I've bought scrap rail. . . It is a sad state of our industry when we are scraping our infra-structure to stay in business. . .

This stuff is constantly being produced as it wears out becoming too smooth.

I suspect tumbling long pieces will take a BIG tumbler to kep them from getting jambed up. . .

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/02/02 17:19:48 GMT

John, long pieces can be difficult unless you tumble one at a time. Long pieces tend to tangle. Even single long pieces can jam in the drum unless their length is less than the smallest dimension in the drum. Including any paddles. Try anything for tumbling media. What works is highly dependent on the part to be cleaned like Jock said. I don't know what will work best. Clinker might even work pretty good. Sand, rocks, broken glass, purchased media, slag, corn cob, walnut shell, .......

More aggressive media will wear the tumbler faster. Lining the drum with rubber wil make it last much longer too. But that has its own problems. Like how do you hold the lining in.

Many clothes dryers have a belt running right on the OD of the drum. A very rinky dink (technical term) looking belt I might add. But it works.

Long parts, hummmm? Maybe a vibratory drum would be better than a tumbler? An eccentric disc on a motor bolted to the side of a drum mounted on springs......

Vibratory motors have good bearings. Standard electric motors won't do, but you can drive a jackshaft with eccentric disc with a standard motor........

And the answer is ?????

42 of course. Just ask the mice.

(high caffeine level)
   Tony - Tuesday, 04/02/02 17:43:38 GMT

And as I was typing, jock covers the jumbling and jamming....
   Tony - Tuesday, 04/02/02 17:45:28 GMT

Thanks for the response on the Double bladed knife guys, but I have another question for you, How difficult is it getting into decorative ironwork? and is it the same as any art field where every once in a while someone gets lucky and makes money off of it? Does anyone take on apprentices? What in the field of blacksmithing or metal working can you actually make money at? I absolutley love this stuff and cannot get enough of it, there has to be some way to make a living at it....right?
   Seth - Tuesday, 04/02/02 18:51:43 GMT

Oh yeah....none of you would happen to have any hand crank blowers they'd be willing to part with would you?...if so my email is Desdekkr at aol.com.....If you could email me info or if you know anyone who has one....thanks
   - Seth - Tuesday, 04/02/02 18:53:30 GMT

The Business: Seth, Apprenticeships are covered on our FAQs page.

Making money in this business is a difficult task. For the most part the majority of those in the business are either under capitalized or hobbiests.

Being "under capitalized" means you don't have the money to buy (or build) the necessary equipment to be competitive, pay to rent or stay in business for the two years or so it takes to develope a self supporting business. It may take you that long to get good enough to BE competitive so you had better have enough capital for another year or so. . .

Be competitive with whom? All those hobbiests out there that don't care if they only make $10/hour or less in a business that takes $50 to $200/hour to stay in business. That means you have to be 5 to 20 times more productive to compete with the part time guy that is supporting his hobby with another, probably well paying job.

THEN there are the fabricators. If you attempt to get into the architectural business the guys that buy components and weld them together are your competition. It used to be they could not compete with the kind of quality that the decorative smith produces but today they have some fantastic sources of components. These guys are VERY competitive, they deliver, and they make money. The Artist/Blacksmith has to be VERY good and sell to a market that is willing to pay much more AND appreciates true art. . . it is a difficult market and as is most of the art world the BS artists get most of the work.

To be competitive you may need one or more power hammers, several forges, a GOOD cut off saw AND an ironworker, good welding equipment, a weld platen or two and lots of work space on top of the mirad of small tools and common shop machinery like, drill presses, grinders, air compressors. A truck. . .

Even if you produce little items. There are hobbiests and retirees using power hammers, rolling mills and plasma torches to produce truck loads of nice work. You have to be faster and better and find a way to market your work.
Quantity is the keyword in this game. This is a new addition to the Hugh McDonald Human Leg Doorknocker demo on the iForge page.

24 Door Knockers by Hugh McDonald, Western Australia

I can show you similar photos of rows of my work. This is how you get good. It takes practice to be competitive.

Knifemakers seem to have less trouble selling their work than others. However, it is the same when it comes to business. Without the machines to make you competitive and the talent to make good use of them you can easily find yourself working for $1/hour.

Jack Andrew's book NEW Edge of the Anvil has a good chapter on figuring out the cost of doing business and figuring out what it takes.

Who is your competition? Today we are in a World market. Most of the manufacturers of components for fabricaotrs are overseas. Those in countries like Germany that have a relatively high standard of living like we do rely heavily on sophisticated methods and machines. They apply some amazing engineering to very specialized machinery in order to stay competitive. Those in places like Italy rely on a skilled work force as well as German machinery and access to global markets. Indital who once supplied mostly architectural components is moving into decorator items and shipping them by the container load. West European makers are producing high art lighting and Southeast Asia is also supplying the North American market with everything from decorator items to wall hanger knives and swords. . .

Who is your competition? It may be some low caste guy in India or Pakistan sitting on a dirt floor using a sledge hammer head for an anvil and burning dung in his forge. He is happy to make $1/day but makes less. He is terribly inefficient. He has poor tools But he works very hard, for very little and his children probably work in the business too for that same $1/day. OR your competition may be workers in a small factory in Southeast Asia that use machine tools, punch presses and buffing equipment bought 3rd hand from the constant upgrades to factories in Japan who sells used plants to Taiwan and Korea and they in turn sell them to China, Cambodia. These are old but well equiped factories. Workers get paid pennies an hour making the same or a little more than that guy sitting on a dirt floor. . . but they are comparitively productive. The factory has some overhead but may be subsidized by the local government in order to provide jobs.

To compete in the World market you must do better. Your product must be better AND you have to be productive enough to compete with those $1/day guys. . . Many do it. Mostly by producing a MUCH better product. But they are serious about it and still must produce. And after all that, you still have to love it.

Scrounging hand crank blowers doesn't do it. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/02/02 20:44:13 GMT

NOTE TO ALL: If you enter your email address in the proper input box on our form it is encrypted and linked to your name. Clicking on it in our forum will decrypt it and launch your mailer. This expensive proprietary (exclusive to anvilfire) system prevents spammer harvestor engines from collecting your e-mail adress.

If you post your e-mail address in the body of your message you have wasted our efforts in trying to protect you from spammers. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/02/02 20:51:54 GMT

the decorative field can be a good way to make money in this business, but it is dependent on a lot of things, things like how good a business man/woman you are, the local market, how large a shop you can afford to run, what you can afford to buy for tools(power hammers ,welding rigs, etc), if you want to be a "blacksmith" or a "fabractor" , how well your artistic style is accepted my the market, and finaly how good you are at priceing, makeing and marketing an item.
I would sigest that anyone who is thinking about going into ANY business go back to school and take business, mangament and bookkeeping class's, and for decortive iron work go and get your welding certs. (take a welding class and go take the state test) then write business plan and try to start a business. (the local chapter of the SBA and SCORE can be very helpfull)
I didn't do some of this and am paying for it. I am conastantly comeing up against things I didn't know about and scrambleing to "fix" them. I also end up turning down a lot of work becouse I can't fit them in my small shop, or becouse they require some one with welding certs to sign off on them (mostly repair work and self suporting over head structers)
I am trying to get my welding certs but along with working and doing paper work and networking and ...you get the idea, finding the time / money to take the class/ test hasn/t happened yet.

don't want to scare any one but business is always chancey and this one is no diferant. there are a lot of way to make money and not all of them work for every one.
hope that helps
   MP - Tuesday, 04/02/02 20:53:09 GMT

good guru you beat me to the post ... yet again(grin)
   MP - Tuesday, 04/02/02 20:55:49 GMT

If I were to create a historicly accurate dagger or sword, how would I go about assembling the handle/crossguard/pommel? as I understand it, I slide crossguard up the tang so it rests agains the butt of the blade, then the handle goes on next, and then finaly the pommel attaches to the very end of the tang, securing the whole assembly in place. If this is accurite, just how exactly do I attach the pommel to the end of the tang? If its NOT accurate, what do I do differently
   Anthony - Tuesday, 04/02/02 21:14:37 GMT

Ooops, I forgot to capitalize Jock. Humblest apologies. Brain working too fast for fingers and not enough attention to proofing.

World markets. Well said! Most people don't really believe that there is a very big portion of humanity that struggles to feed itself every day. That's a big incentive to work hard. And there are plenty of business people who will exploit that for their own profit. We teach the philosophy very well in America. Part of the results are cheap imports that erode the American wage base. Especially in craft professions like smithing.
   Tony - Tuesday, 04/02/02 21:26:42 GMT


Which century? In the medieval peiod (and probably through the 19th century) the tang was peened down over the pommel, just like an oversized rivet end (the pommel was usually countersunk so the tang wouldn't stick out proud).

These days, for ease of fabrication and if you need to change the grips, the tang and pommel are threaded and the pommel screwed down onto the grips.

Some other pommels are held in place with cross pins, or pewter pommels are cast in place.

Clouding up over the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 04/03/02 03:13:58 GMT

Anthony, Bruce gave the historic accuracy. However, modern professionals do a better job than the historicaly accurate blades.

For starters they silver solder the guard in place. This may seem to be a gap filling method but it is not. If you can easily see the silver solder it is not a good job. The best leaves a fine line and no solder fillet. This was started partialy because on hunting and cooking knives fluids would get in the crack and be a source of contamination (food poisioning). Now most custom makers do it on all types of blades including swords because it is much more secure.

Modern makers also bed their grips in place with epoxy. Often this includes installing the threaded pommel over epoxy covered threads. You can still get it off but not easily, and THAT is the point.

And take note of my mention of fillets (radii) on the tang. Sharp corners make a nice shoulder but are bad structural design. They were common on old blades but we know different now (or at least WE (in general) SHOULD know better). A radius greater than or equal to the thickness of your guard is best. Yep, that means fitting the guard to a curve. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/03/02 03:47:37 GMT

Guru- I really liked 'the business' answer to Seth, it was great timing for me. My wife was in our office after she got home from her job, almost in tears about howmuch money we don't have this month. I started to give her my monthly pep-talk aboutwhat a safari-like adventure it is to be self employed, how fortunate we are that she's got a job with benefits for all of us, etc. Then i printed your post and had her read it. To wit she said,'hey, we've almost as much equipment as in that article, plus a truck and two pickups!' I guess i'm safe for another 28 days...
As an aside, there's not a whole lot of money left in middle class new constrction for jaw-dropping blacksmithery. I think Tin C. discussed this some time ago. I hear the same story on every job i propose..'Well, we upgraded to the 6-seat hot tub, instead of the 2-seat like in the plans, and the carpet line the contractor allowed us was like cardboard, so improving that was another 4 grand, darn, we like the ideas that you have, but economics dictate going for your econo-line 1 1/4 square tubing frame with the straight 1/2" pickets.' I take the job,and almost always throw in a hand wrought vine and leaves in some prominent corner, mainly so the folks that build the next house in tae area might get some subliminal idea about what could happen. The subliminal idea thing hasn't worked yet, but 'without our dreams we are nothing'. Still I'd rather be borderline bankrupt for months on end, loving what i do, than being stuck in a cubicle or stuck to someone else's time clock. Some folks in our B-smith club rib me for being a 'hybrid' fabricator/smith, but I feel I'm bringing more art to the masses than a full on fabricator, and a lot more than being a full time smith, because i'd have went broke years ago.
Seth, if smithing is what you love, chances are you'll end up smithing. black boogers,
   mike-hr - Wednesday, 04/03/02 04:56:55 GMT

About the business of art and Blacksmithing.
I'm sure it was Francis Whitaker who said that there was plenty of room at the top, it was the middle that was crowded.
   - jim - Wednesday, 04/03/02 06:57:49 GMT

Well, i'd like to thank you all for your advice and suggestions, i was planning on going and getting welding certs anyhow, figuring that it would help me out and if not then atleast i have some more knowledge under my belt, and something to base a career off of. I have to say though..haha you inspired and let me down all at the same time....I pretty much figured that smithing was as it stands a dead career in the US. I suppose i could always go to india though and pound on springs all day to make a buck.
I wouldn't even begin to imagine where i could come up with the money to pay for all the tools, shop space, gas, truck....my god...it just doesn't seem fair that this field is so dead really, and as you said about the hobbiests...that is something I also took into account earlier, John Doe woking for his Insurance company can afford to go and buy all the tools he needs and do the stuff on saturday and sunday and sell it for dirt cheap, just because he likes doing it. I just cannot believe that no one can appreciate anything that is hand made in this country....I suppose they only care about if it looks hand made, not if it really is. oh well...everyone needs a hobby though right?
   Seth - Wednesday, 04/03/02 07:24:10 GMT

The thing about this medium is that you can make your own niche and grow it .How you do that is a matter of style and talents and energy.
I figure why work at a job I hate till I retire so that i can finally do the stuff i love , when I can be tried now and eat dirt doing the stuff I love?
If I live close to the ground, I can play for a living, mostly.Money and status seem to be worth less than freedom to me.Please note, I'm 57 years old and still havn't finished my house. One makes one's choices and takes one's chances. Many wealthy folks are owned by their money.
end rantlet
   - Pete F - Wednesday, 04/03/02 08:54:14 GMT

Seth, this post is not anti blacksmithing, but how do you know that decorative ironwork is really what you want to do? One of the best things that happened to me when I was between 12 and 19 years old was that I had about 8 very different jobs. And I looked at many more. If you have looked at and worked in many situations, great, ignore this. If not, I think one of the best things you can do to be happy with your career choice is to work as many different jobs as you can while young. One of the reasons I went to engineering school was because my back wasn't strong enough for stone masonry. I really love masonry and being outside. But when I got into it, I really loved engineering even better. Engineering has given me the knowledge (not experience) to do many things in my life that I have enjoyed immensely. Smithing is one of them.

By all means, do what you love, even if it doesn't make you much money. Live within your choices. But make sure you KNOW what you love to do! Mechanical or metallurgical engineering knowledge and an engineering job will go a long way to helping you smith. I look at my engineering job as playing for a living too. But I don't have Pete's freedom. Grin. (my house isn't done either)

Smithing is not a dead career in the US. But the market is not as big as fabricated work. Like Jim said, there is always room at the top. In every profession. The top can always go up and we humans are happiest when we are striving for the top. Those who accept mediocre work from themselves and others are not happy. Don't "settle". Find a profession you can strive for the top in, realistically.

My 2 cents. Opinions will vary and that's OK.

Are hobbyists being cut down a bit?

If you are willing to dig around junkyards to scrounge parts and want to make your own hand crank blower, e-mail me.
   Tony - Wednesday, 04/03/02 13:46:21 GMT

The Business II: There ARE those customers that want and appreciate good ironwork. But they are few and far between. You CAN make a living off one such customer for several years and often populate a nice portfolio. But you must be realistic about price (DO NOT UNDER BID) and delivery.

One of the biggest jobs a good friend of mine had became his "Waterloo". He underbid by 1/10 and then increased the complexity of the job as he wanted it to be his masterpiece displaying technical prowess rarely seen. The result was renegotiating the job for what was still too little to deliver, then friction between the customer and eventual threatened law suits. In the end another smith finished the job. There was no way he could match the completed sections. BUT what people forget, and I tell them OVER and OVER is that all the customer sees is the silhouette. They don't appreciate the weight of the stock and textural details. . . I'm sure the customer can not tell the difference and does not care.

I had heard of this job 10 years earlier (it was a HUGE job) and if my shop had been indoors. . I would have persued the job and probably underbid and screwed it up. . . But maybe not. I would have had 10 years longer (a total of nearly 20) to complete the jobs on schedule. . . So how much do you bid on a 10 to 20 year full time job? The actual work was realisticaly about 5 years worth assuming you had the tools, machinery and space. In today's market you start with $250,000 for your labor and costs. Add half that for a helper plus rent and materials. Don't forget an accountant to do the taxes. . That is easily $450,000. . . and still a conservative bid. You would have to work HARD and work long hours to make up for any chasing of tools or setting up shop. . . A $50,000 bid pales to the reality.

I know of a place that has ironwork from the Yellin shop. The work was largely produced in the Philidelphia shops where there were Nazel power hammers and every type of tooling imaginable. THEN one of the smiths traveled to the site and spent several years fitting and installing the work as well as producing many small pieces that were left out of the original bid. . . YEARS of man hours.

There are still such customers around. However, they are often the NEW rich and figure that if they spend enough money they can have the house of their dreams in one or two years. . . That means expanding your operation with employees and having little time for YOU to do the actual work.

The lone worker is rarely 50% efficient. The rest of your time is spent gofering, doing paperwork, making sales. . . So, if you NEED to make $25/hour you need to charge $50/hour not including rent, utilities or equipment costs. That easily makes your shop rate $75/hour. SO, how many little hooks can you make in an hour at $3/each (wholesale)? Since for this, all you need is a backyard shop with few tools lets say you only need to gross $30/hour. That is a minimum of 10 hooks an hour. But remember, you are only 50% efficient. . . so you might work 4 hours.. . . IF, IF you could sell ALL the hooks you could possibly make you could make $30,000/year and only IF you had no overhead. Take away fuel and rent you are down to $15K/year. . . or less.

So you need to look at more profitable things to make or do. It is possible to gross $250/hour sharpening air hammer bits. Sounds great. But you need a large power hammer, a nipping press and heavy grinder to move 70/bits per hour. Then you need a full time sales person with a heavy pickup truck and a fork lift. . . The sales "route" may include a state wide area which means LOTS of wear and tear on the truck plus travel costs (motel, meals). . . That $1000/day can get chewed up in a hurry. And it gets worse if you expect employees to do the forging because they will be less efficient than you. The truck will cost $120/day, sales person $150/day. IF you rent a forklift that's $150/day. . . BIG expenses to cover and it assumes your shop is full and busy without breakdowns.

Back to the hobbiests. . . they are in every business. Thousands of bored housewives with a PC and internet connection do website development. Try paying off that degree in computer science when your competition is billing at minimum wage. . . Or worse, I get offers every day from India and the former Russian states to do all sorts of computer programming work. . . For a few dollars an hour. . . These are often highly educated professionals asking $2/hour. . .

The point. . . no matter what business you go into there is LOTS to think about. Especially going into a self employment situation, which is what most full time smiths are.

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/03/02 14:36:54 GMT

Thanks again for the responses guys, i've not seen anyone talk about this stuff before, so it's all new to me. You all have certianly given me some stuff to mull over for the next few days...and yes i've worked many jobs, I have gone to school, I cannot find anything that keeps my interest for long, and this does. That i guess is the big let down. I just have to say though you guys are great and I think this is one of the best pages out here, it has so much information and you all are so friendly, I spend hours reading here.
Thanks so much and keep up the good work guys
   Seth - Wednesday, 04/03/02 15:03:45 GMT

please forgive me if you have already answerd my question,iam new to this internet computer thing i have a limited ability on the computer. when tou ask me to "set the focus on the frame"and press ctrl-f, i have know idea what to do. my question was in regards to finding information on building propane forges. i have been to RonRiels web site,i will buy a burner from him, i would like actual drawings to work from.i have contacted abana as i have read from sombody on your site but i do not know if i have done that right either,a little information about me,i have been a blacksmithing apprentice for 10 years building wrought iron,fences,gates,railings,etc... i took my apprenticeship under my father,David Way,who has been a smith for 30-35 years.the reason i ask for prints for a forge is that my father is moving to the U.S.A. and i would like to build a forge differant from his.[i have seen the pipe forge that RON RIEL has i like that one]i live in DEWINTON ALBERTA CANADA,any information you can give me would be usefull,please email me so i know you have recieved my letter[story,by the lenghth of it]my email address is jsway at telusplanet.net
   jeff way - Wednesday, 04/03/02 15:13:48 GMT

Jeff Way; take a look at www.flash.net/~dwwilson/forge/fgpl.html

One thing to think about in smithing as a career is medical benefits---what do you do when you need eye surgry and then a 1 month recovery period with *no* lifting, welding, hammering, etc---happened to a friend of mine, it could bankrupt a small business. OTOH doing what you love can be a great job. Give some thought on how you can subvert a job that pays to start adding in some smithing, buying equipment, and getting a reputation. Welding and ornamental Fab both come to mind.

I learned that I enjoy smithing and knifemaking much more as a hobby than as a business and found a job that supports me and my family and my hobby and every once in a while does nice things like send me to Germany for a summer...

   - Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 04/03/02 15:43:24 GMT

Jeff, the reason that Ron doesn't have detailed plans for gas forges, nor do we, is that you are building a gas appliance that may possibly explode, set your shop/house on fire or cause you bodily injury. There is tremondous libility involved in putting your name on such plans. Even many of the commercialy built forges do not have UL/CSA approvals.

The ABANA plans are for the Los Almos Lab recuperative forge. It is a good design but complicated to build. You cannot use other's burners with it as the burner design is an integral part of the design. This one requires following the plans very closely.

There are many details and instructions on Ron's page suitable to design and build your own forge with little chance for error IF you read everything. The T-Rex burners are a good buy if you are not good at detailed work. We also have drawings of burners on our plans page that work almost without fail.

If you are planning on building your own we will have Kaowool and ITC-100 for sale in our online store in a few weeks. However, you might be best off finding Canadian sources.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/03/02 15:52:53 GMT

I am self employed (Insurance Agency) Serve a customer niche (construction)and starved for 10 years to be succesfull at it. I am also a hobby blacksmith and member of ABANA and ABBA. A job fell in my lap. I estimated 50 per hour for labor, 3 times material cost, 15% overhead, drive time and one hour to MEASURE the job (the customers measurements where wrong!)painted and finished the right way. I was scared to death that I would under bid from lack of experience. However, I made money, capitalized more equipment and did not have any complaints about price. Guru, am I close to doing this right? Did I forget anything?
   Tony - Wednesday, 04/03/02 15:57:55 GMT

Actually the ABANA plans are for the Sandia Lab. Rob was a machinist at Sandia Lab in Albuquerque. There is no love lost between the national labs. Even during the cold war, it seemed as if they were more intent on beating each other than defeating the Soviet Union.

Adam - Los Alamos, New Mexico
   adam - Wednesday, 04/03/02 16:24:48 GMT

About part-time smiths:
I guess now we know why Im not a full time blacksmith. Every time the thought (to try for full time)crosses my mind I take a look at any 200 yards of fence in the neighbourhood. Nothing wrong with fences, Im just not that interested in making them while yearning to do arms and armour. And you dont HAVE to hate your day job. I have been a field archeologist, re-constructor and builder of viking-age houses and hardware, curator at a industrial heritage museum, now Im a shop teacher (but will probably be back in some interesting museum). Would I live a more satisfying life as a full time smith?
   - Olle Andersson - Wednesday, 04/03/02 17:17:07 GMT

Woops. . . sorry about that. . . I've got the original Anvil's Ring article in my archives.. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/03/02 17:18:39 GMT

Jeff, All the info you need to build a forge is here, "there", Reils or the T-rex site.

I'm building a new 3 burner forge right now. My forge shape is different than anything I've seen. Its designed for me. I built a couple of burners as per plan from Rons site and they work. I also bought some T-rex burners and they have a much tighter flame than the home made ones. I don't know how much your time is worth but the T-rex burners are a good deal. By the time I run around, cut, assemble, I'm better off w/the bought ones.

As far as forge shape though, I ended up cutting up my NC forge which changed the performance and shortened its life. So it seems to me that the one thing that I need to learn and figure out in how to make my own forge box or pipe or bean can, what ever. After I see how this new forge works I need to make a double and a single burner forge as well.

Now a question of my own: Is the ITC-100 only for kaowool?
   Pete-Raven - Wednesday, 04/03/02 17:53:07 GMT

I've come around to the idea of building a weather vane, and would like to make sure I have all the fundamentals correct before I start putting the beast together.

Plan to use some 1/2 inch OD tubing, welded to the arrow, to form the swivel. The open-end of the tubing will face downward with a rod inserted inside the tubing, supporting the whole thing.

The entire turning assembly should turn freely and be balanced......not favoring any direction when coming to a stop after a spin. The point where the vertical tubing is welded to the arrow should be the balance point of the assembly.

There should be more aerodynamic drag (surface area) to the rear of the arrow's support point than there is in the front.

I plan to make the static support-rod and direction-letter (north south east west) indicators first....then make the arrow......attach the artsy decorative item to the top of the arrow......then finally find the balance point and weld the tubing to the arrow.

Please point out any flaws to my methods and ideas here. I rarely get it right the first time, but would still like to ultimately have a working weather vane.


   Gary - Wednesday, 04/03/02 17:57:51 GMT

Gary: If the "artsy" part is atached to the arrow that HAS to be there when you do the MECHANICAL balancing (the pin horizontal). and the aerodynamical balance must be WAY of to make it swing easily with the wind. Ideal weather vane has NO area infront of mecanical balance point and INFINITE area behind. Look at a dart, heavy narrow front and wide light back, let one balance on a string and think a while. just here to help (memberships are a way too keep this site up, so to be able to come here later for advice JOIN CSI!)
   - OErjan - Wednesday, 04/03/02 19:52:46 GMT

Gary: One other thing that will help, put a ball w/alittle grease on top of the rod before you slip the tube of the weather vane over it.
   Pete-Raven - Wednesday, 04/03/02 20:29:01 GMT

ITC-100 Is used as to protect any type of refractory and improve efficiency. It is also used as a primer for other ITC products. There is also an ITC-213 for metal but you can use ITC-100 on exposed metal parts of your gas forge (like the side or back port doors on NC-TOOL forges).

I've got materials here to play with just need to set time aside to do it. . We DO have ITC-100 in stock for $29.95 per pint, plus $6.00 S&H via priority mail anywhere in the US. One pint will coat the interior of a small forge twice and a larger forge once.

I'm told that it takes less on fresh Kaowool than on fired. You should also be sure that any castable or patching refractories are DRY and fired at least once to calcine them before applying the ITC-100. It may seal in moisture and cause spalling due to steam generation.

We also have Kaowool that will be divided into 1/4 rolls so you don't have to purchase 200 square feet. . .

Even though we sell Kaowool I recommend bricks for forge floors and castable for shells. However, Kaowool DOES make a very light weight forge. I'm going to build a small forge in a month or so using castable and we will show step by step methods for building the molds.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/03/02 20:33:07 GMT

I use 1/4" Schedule 40 pipe and a 5/16" rod. The end is plugged with a piece that has been "spotted" with a drill to make a slight taper to the center. The 5/16 rod is pointed. This is heavy enough to support a large weather vane. The Letters can be supported off a short section of the same pipe since it fits snug enough. Use a small set screw to lock in place when installed.

On the anvil weather vane I made the entire anvil was behind the center and made of 18 ga steel. The point on the arrow was a heavy 1/2" thick piece to do the balancing. Its shank was adjustable between two scrolls so that I could adjust its length until the vane balanced.

You can't just make the pieces willy-nilly and expect to balance them when you are done. The mechanical balance and aerodynamic imbalance must be part of your design.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/03/02 20:52:48 GMT

Re: Hobbiest vs "professional" blacksmiths. The other side of the coin is that the so called "hobbiest" also fills a very real need in the metalworking community. Though some may look down on him I suspect that the "not full timer" is a significant segment of the blacksmithing community, buying a large part of supplies and raw materials and producing, perhaps, the largest part of non fabricated work. By being fortunate or industrious enough to have a different primary source of income he is free to indulge his creative needs without regard to "profit". Personally I give or donate most of my work away. I don't feel this is taking anything away from the "professional". Just had to get this off my chest, Thanks......Bob.
   bbeck - Thursday, 04/04/02 00:36:52 GMT

Bob, well said but i'll have to agree that if you are being aproached by people who are not family or friends but are people like contracters or master funiture makers, for example, looking for a hand forged product and you just give it to them, then you are undercutting the smith who is relying on this trade as a source of income. I too give work to some friend and family or at discounted rates because they help me out in other ways, but a perfect stranger who is a prospective client, I charge a respectable commission so not to impress the image that we as artist are cheap labor.
   wolfsmithy - Thursday, 04/04/02 00:54:10 GMT

Wolfsmithy, Also well said and I am 100% in agreement with you. The point I was trying to make was, a "hobbiest" is also very much a part of the blacksmith community and should be appreciated for what he/she brings to the group. That said I will get out of the good guru's hair. Thank you....Bob.
   bbeck - Thursday, 04/04/02 01:53:43 GMT

Hi Guru I'm trying to make some rough locks for a guy with a team and wagon Ive made some other parts for him and he's giving me a lot of work. I really want these to turn out . I'm having trouble with the welds they'r made of half by two inch flat Ive cambered up the spot to weld but unless I get the iron to hot I'm having trouble making it stick Its crossed on the flat Its got to have two cross pieces welded onto a ten in. bar with a 4 in. chain link loose between the pieces I get one about 3/4 made and burn it up. ( help) Cy swan
   Cy Swan - Thursday, 04/04/02 04:13:59 GMT

Cy, burning up work in a coal or charcoal forge generally means too shallow a fire. But as the fire gets deeper you may need a larger inlet to balance the need for more air but at low velocity. . . Try a deeper fire. When a welding fire is right you should not have to bury the work deep in the fire (close to the blast). Get the fire up to heat before putting the pieces in. Then you should be able to use a gentle blast to keep the fire hot.

Heavy bar is usualy easier to weld but it takes patience to get it hot.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/04/02 06:00:23 GMT

My new forge is made of a castable material. I took a plaster cast of the flares that came with the T-rex burners and cast them into the top of the forge. The end of the flare shape is on about a 45 degree angle because Rex said his burners do not like to be straight up on a forge.On the bottom casting I laid half thickness fire brick for the floor on my mold and then poured the castable on top.

AP Green says to bring the temp up on the new casting 100 degrees/hour????? LOL, UH-HUH :)

I might get some blanket and ITC-100 from you for the doors.
   Pete-Raven - Thursday, 04/04/02 13:17:08 GMT

What is a good source for Borax to use as a welding flux? I live out away from large cities and industrial supplies are few if any at all.
   GuesWho - Thursday, 04/04/02 13:47:34 GMT

Borax: Is sold in many North American grocery stores in the laundry supply area. It is sold as a soap/bleach enhancer. You probably are not old enough to remember the old 20 Mule Team Borax ads that sponsored the TV movie show hosted by Ronald Regan (MANY years before he was a governor of California much less the president. . .).

Some stores no longer carry it. Where I live you have to drive 30 miles past the new Food Lion to the Kroger store to find Borax. Let you fingers do the traveling and ask for "20 Mule Team Borax".

This is the common hydrated stuff that is as-mined. If you want anhydrous borax you will need to order it or make it. Kayne and Son and Centaur Forge both carry fluxes.

See our article on the 21st Century page about Borax

   - guru - Thursday, 04/04/02 15:00:40 GMT

The grocery store. It is usually with the laundry soaps. I use 20 Mule Team Borax. It is if I remember correctly in a greenish box. Be sure to NOT get Boraxo. That is borax with a soap that is added.
   Ralph - Thursday, 04/04/02 15:01:54 GMT

Borax: Walmart and some supermarkets carry 20 Mule Team. Look among the laundry supplies. About $4 a box which will last you a long time even if you are sloppy when you sprinkle it on the welds
   adam - Thursday, 04/04/02 17:16:27 GMT

Guru, I'm curious to know the integrity of the steel used in lawn mower blades. does it have a high carbon content or is it just mild steel. thanks -Scott
   wolfsmithy - Thursday, 04/04/02 23:11:21 GMT

Mower Blades: Wolf, my experiance has been that over the years they have been made softer for libility reasons. But soft doesn't indicate what type of steel they are made of. At one time they were something quite hardenable. However, the occasional shattering blade with resulting injury has forced the mower makers to back off. But they MAY be using a high strength steel and just not hardening it. . .

So, like any junkyard steel, you test and test. And never assume that any two manufacturers use the same thing OR that replacements are the same material as OEM.
   - guru - Friday, 04/05/02 00:20:02 GMT

I have tried to print instructions on how to make Jock Dempsey's basket twist posted on 22 Sept. 99, but when I try I get a popup that sez no pages available. can you help me.
Thank You
   Tom Lee - Friday, 04/05/02 00:58:16 GMT

thanks guru, i'll give it a good quench and see what happens.-Scott
   wolfsmithy - Friday, 04/05/02 01:14:50 GMT

Virus Warning: If you get an e-mail from Microsoft that claims to be "security updates" it is a VIRUS!

DO NOT run the attached file. The MS return mail address is forged.

Printing Problems: Tom, Be sure you click on the article you want to print and then select "print frame". At least that is what you do in Netscape. If that doesn't work then you have something wrong with your browser or how you are using it. If you use MS-IE you will need to get help from someone else. . . I don't use MS products unless I'm forced to. . . so I can't help with them.
   - guru - Friday, 04/05/02 04:29:59 GMT

Hi,to you all coal burning smiths I have a dilemma.Got my forge in a blocked out shop,got a 26ft. chimney with a 12" flue,onto this I have build and torn down 4 forges due to smoke.2 were build all metal side draft with smoke shelf,smoke exit was close to fire would not draw well at the start with coke and green coal tore it down.Build new all brick with an larg overhead hood aprox 26" above the fire, smoke needed to go up the hood into a 14" pipe 24" long then a 90deg.14" elbow and that went into the 12" chimney flue. Smoke comes out from under the hood.Cough!! put a 2" pipe with an 90deg. elbow into the chimney pointing up the inside of the flue put a small elec. fan on the other side hopping to get a vanturi effect and draw warm air up and take that green coal smoke with it, no way! Got the same problem when I shut down and the fire just smoulders that smoke also just creeps out from under that hood. When the fire is going it seems to work fine.Need to air out the shop to much, cough,cough. Help!!
   Heinz Zach - Friday, 04/05/02 07:59:17 GMT

Heinz: You sure don't like smoke do you! :) Sounds like you need to pre heat your flue. Are you starting with alot of green coal? I have a 10" telescoping flue. What that means is that I can drop my stack right down on the forge if I want. The way I start my fire is w/alittle hand full of wood kindling, then some coke that I made sure to save from before, a big handful of green coal, then all the left over coke with green coal around to make more. Every once in a blue moon I get a back puff when I start up and get a small cloud of the nasty green coal smoke. I am usually standing there because it only happens in the first min or so. I just drop the stack down an inch or two and that the end of that.

The telescoping flue may look funny to some but the guy that works w/ me 5 days a week has asthma and really complaines about any smoke at all. I can't blame him really.

The other thing I like about this forge design is that I keep the flue at a height so that it keeps alot of heat off my face. The flue acts like a heat shield. In the summer time thats a BIG deal.
   Pete-Raven - Friday, 04/05/02 12:43:33 GMT

Tumble Drum:
Hi, all In a shop that I worked in some time back we had a tumbling drum. It was a 2oo gal tank With angles (v type)welded to the inside and there were 5 equally spaced, It had a door hinged to the long side. All this just sat on a angle frame that had two rods that had air type tires for the tank to roll on. These tires were turned by gears that were on each rod and in turn were driven by a gear box that was on one end of the frame. The tumbling mixture we used was floor dry, we made lot of small parts and after welding and grinding them they went in this tumbler and came out ready for painting. They did need to be cleaned of the dust but looked great. All this was just a home made unit but it worked great so I hope this gives some help on those looking for Ideas.
   - Carl (Hiforge) - Friday, 04/05/02 15:15:35 GMT

Heinz, I'll add a comment or 2, and ask a question or 2. I'm sure the Good Guru will respond to your post shortly. The peak of your flu should be higher than the peak of your roof. This may need to be higher in some cases due to the location of your building, trees in the area and other factors. Down drafts blow out pilot lights certain times of the year in high winds (furnaces, water heaters). Also, are you working in a shop that is open, with drafts through the shop (or a fan on you to cool you)? This changes things too. Once a sidedraft draws, it draws like a train normally. I use a hood. Pete's deal with the telescoping flu is great too. If you can add some light pipe to the top of the flu this may be the problem solver. Also, the more changes in direction you have, the more you cut the draft (90,45).
   - Steve O'Grady - Friday, 04/05/02 15:50:59 GMT

Printing: My appologies to ALL.

We have installed code that makes sure that many of our popular pages are loaded with their frameset. This is because many of our pages like our archives and iForge demos are indexed seperately on many search engines. Loading these pages in the frameset assures that the visitor has access do our full web site via the drop down menus AND assures that our advertising banners are seen. This may seem petty but our archives and other similar pages received some 100,000 visits last year by outside access. This is over 10% of our traffic and probably results in more due to new visitors finding a large site, not just a isolated page.

An unintensioned result is that Netscape (4.0x) cannot find the frame contents to print and returns an error. The problem does not seem to effect IE. I've only tested the 4.0 versions of these browsers so I cannot say about others.

I've removed the redirection code from the latest iForge demo but for business puproses this will be temporary.

I'm sorry for the inconvienience.
   - guru - Friday, 04/05/02 16:28:00 GMT

Smoke: Heinz, Steve pretty much covered it. It doesn't matter how tall your stack is if it is in a location that causes down drafts OR reduced draft.

A building with open doors or windows facing AWAY from the prevailing wind will create a negative air pressure in the building. This in turn will cause air to try to get in any way it can on the other sides AND through chimneys.

A stack that is higher than the roof but lower than adjacent buildings, trees, hills AND there is an open area for wind to approach from the opposite side will have down drafts anytime wind comes from that open side there can be very forcefull down drafts. I stopped using our chimney for wood heat due to this problem and gave away several wood stoves I had built.

Cross drafts from windows and doors will cause any type of hood to lose smoke to the surounding air.

Also as mentioned, side draft "hoods" suck up smoke very efficiently but sometimes need help getting started. At one time Steve Kayne had a forge in a small garage of his subburban home. SMOKE in the house was not advised! He lit a piece of newsprint and tossed it in the side draft hood to start the draft at the same time he lit the forge. NO SMOKE in the garage. . . Not even with green coal.

IF you have a huge pile of coal smouldering and the smoke is not going up the flue that is your fault.

Every blacksmith shop should also have a good ventilation fan. I've got a 32" exhaust fan built into the end of my shop over the forge area. I would not advise running it with the doors closed and the forge going. A fan can cause drafts and down drafts too. But you NEED that fan for other things you do that are worse than a little coal smoke. If you use an angle grinder with those fiberglass reinforced wheels you fill the air FULL of glass fibers every time you grind something. . . Unless you have a good ray of sunshine you cannot see it and you can't smell it but its their and BAD for you. . . Arc welding smoke and fumes also need to be forcefully vented.

Other comments:

Engineers will tell you that a smoke shelf is a hinderance to flow. They do not exist in the industrial world.

Flue caps can due more damage than good. Conical shaped caps need to be a pipe diameter or more above the pipe. For increased efficiency they should have an upside down cone about 2/3 their size on the bottom to create smooth flow for the smoke.

Several folks have had very good results from "turbine" caps. These help increase flow as well as prevent down drafts.

We also have a "low restriction" cap drawing that is not a "cap" posted here somewhere. I'll have to find it and put it on the plans pages. . . . These reduce the amount of rain that comes down the pipe without creating any restriction.

In the 19th century commercial forges had no overhead stack. They used a centrifugal fan to exhaust smoke from forges. I'll be posting photos and drawings of these in a review of another CD-ROM catalog in a few days.
   - guru - Friday, 04/05/02 17:08:11 GMT

Hello Mr. Guru, I'm still looking for an audio recording of a large steam forging hammer hitting hard and ringing. Patrick said he had one (3/19,20:14), but I never got it. Do you know where I can get one ?

Old Chief
   Old Chief - Friday, 04/05/02 20:04:14 GMT

I purchased a VULCAN band saw for metal cutting, which came with a three speed pulley and pulley belt.
What I am trying to locate is an electric motor with a three speed pulley.
Nobody I've contacted seems to know what type of motor I will need.
Can you assist? These are the details off of the manufacture's nameplate:
Model No. T 118984
Serial No. M428-149633
MFG date 1991-07 Made in Taiwan
Cutting Cap 4 1/2" RD 4"x6" Rect
Blade size 1/2" x .1/80" x 65"
Blade speeds 65 x 95 x 165 RPM
Vise size 4x5" Adjusts 45 degrees - 90 degrees
Bed width 8"
Bed length 26"
Horz height (W/O stand) 14"
Vert height (W/O stand) 33 1/2"
The pulley belt which came with the saw is a GEMINI A-22
I hope you can assist me.
If you know how I can contact the manufacture I can also ask them for a manual and parts list.
Thank you so much.
Henk van Nood at rynesa at attbi.com
I look forward to your reply.
   Henk van Nood - Friday, 04/05/02 20:12:14 GMT

Old Chief, It just came today. I'll get a link setup to download the movie file ASAP. The still images need some work before posting.
   - guru - Friday, 04/05/02 21:55:44 GMT

Chief, here is your file. It's a 5 to 10 minute download.

FTP Steam Hammer MPG 1407K

It is typical of MPEG's in that much of it it out of sync. The hammer sound you are looking for is not there. This particular machine has some strange sounds comming from the air system. Sounds more like a chainsaw than rushing air. An odd regulator or check valve maybe. . .????
   - guru - Friday, 04/05/02 22:43:12 GMT

When tig welding alum using 4043 or 5356,after each pass,i back off foot amp control and let gas purge around puddle and every single time i get a small hole in crater some small but always a hole ,i have tryed back stepping ,adding more filler,but nothing works ,it wouldnt be a problem but some times i weld diesel fuel tanks and leaks at that pinhole . But ,this problem happens on all alum welding ,not just tanks , any ideas. Thanks
   Paul - Saturday, 04/06/02 00:44:14 GMT

Guru, Hi...I have been searching for a place to buy zinc powder but so far I have had not been able to find any. Do you have any suggestions? Where do you purchase yours? Thanks
   - Wendy - Saturday, 04/06/02 02:57:00 GMT

Thank you Pete Raven, that telescoping flue sounds interesting you just hoist your hood up and down with cables and pulleys or a winch set up. souds like the pipes are a close sliding fit,for no smoke. Got to make my way to the drawing board.
   Heinz Zach - Saturday, 04/06/02 03:08:13 GMT

Heinz, There is a picture of a commercial model (no longer made) in the Champion Forge Catalog CD we sell. We will also be selling a Buffalo Forge Catalog CD that has many examples of commercial hood and smoke extraction systems.

You want the pipe that moves up and down to be inside the flue. A loose fit is OK, and you can flare the top end of the inner pipe to close the gap some, or bush it.

You have to be careful with this arrangement. With the hood closed down on the forge the draft will suck air through the fan and tuyeer equivalant to near full blast. Leave a pile of smouldering coal and in the morning you may find firepot and bottom of the forge burned out. I've got what was a beautiful old cast iron forge with a two foot square hole burned out of the bottom and the fire pot in lumps. . . from that type of hood. I didn't do it.

That same pile of smouldering coal you mentioned earlier can become a disaster instead of a little smoke.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/06/02 03:56:14 GMT

Thank you Steve O'Grady, the flue is higher then the peak of my roof. I to have the doors and windows open when it smokes."Draft" I realy never gave that a thought. I do have a opening under the roof in one spot that I deliberately left open for fresh air and thats where I get eastern face on wind, mmm must to something about that. Have a great day.
   Heinz Zach - Saturday, 04/06/02 04:04:29 GMT

Thank you Guru, I"m looking into that draft problem I told steve that I had an opening under my roof which I left open for fresh air and forgotten about and I'm getting my easterly winds from that direction and thats also where my doors face open.From that eastern direction I have 5 acers open field so my chimney gets a good wind. My tall trees are about 50ft away from the other side(west).The side draft forges that I build smoked the same way,ran good when the gases ignited, smoked when shut down with a little pit of coal left in the pot. Will install an exhaust fan for that other stuff. Thank you again thats all valuable information.
   Heinz Zach - Saturday, 04/06/02 04:48:58 GMT

With a tall stack like that you may be cooling the exhaust gases enough to slow down their rise. Also you said that you have an angle and a reduction in pipe size at the top...that is the wrong place for both of those..if anything , you want an expansion in size at the top and no angle because you need to preserve the exhaust gas momentum there.
Also check for anything that interferes with the smooth flow of smoke in the stack...angles, roughness etc.
If your vents are on the side of the prevailing wind , that's fine and it sounds as if you have plenty of make-up air.
Because stacks are basically thermosyphons, it takes heat to get them to draw, at the end of a forging day generally the stack has warmed and will keep drawing to some extent, but in the mornings a bit of extra heat is neededs to get started.
It may help to inslulate the top portion of the stack to some degree.
The telescoping stack section is easiest to operate using pulleys and a counterweight or 2.
It's restricted opening will draw more aggressively in a small area.
Another possible solution is to set up a fan to provide positive pressure inside the shop and stuff all outflow up the stack.
This type of problem is usually cumulative, like getting an old truck to run..nothing is really bad, but altogether ...
When your forge no longer smokes Heinz; then you have recieved a proverbial smoke signal to Join cybersmiths Int and help support this site.
   - pete f - Saturday, 04/06/02 09:34:15 GMT

On my telescoping flue I'm just using friction to hold the stack where I want it. I cut the locking seam off one side, pushed the cut down pipe into the full size pipe, spread it as much as I could, held that w/a vise grip and tack welded it together, but only on the bottom. I've had to use pipe crimpers once or twice to tighten the bottom of the full size pipe around the sliding section. Because it did drop on me a couple of times. I pull my fire apart if I'm not going to use it for the next hour or so couse I'm cheap and I also want to know it's out for peace of mind.

At 11:30 pm last night I went out to turn off the shop lights I left on. I looked over at the new forge and said what the heck. I turned it on and put in an 18" piece of 3" solid round. By midnight I had it up to forging temp. Not bad. The A P Green rep stopped by yesterday and said not to worry about the cracks. I'm worrying about the cracks anyway. The product I'm using is Greenlite 45L. He said this is the next step up from blanket or board in a castable.

We had been talking awhile and he asked to see what I needed a forge for. I walked him around a table and showed him the gothic fireplace screen I've been working on for 5 weeks or so. He then gave me that look that I like, the "You're NUTS" look. I then gave him the "You're right" look back. He said I'd made his day. Its nice to hear that sometimes.
   Pete-Raven - Saturday, 04/06/02 15:02:34 GMT

For what it's worth, my s.o.p. for my chimney (an old stove mount: 9" round sideways to 9" square then 9' up to a 6', 12" round extension... so you know it's messy) is to take three sheets of newspaper, twist them lightly into a loose cylinder, shove them in the chimney mount and light them up just before I touch off my tinder and kindling. The satisfying roar tells me that the chimney is drawing properly and pre-warms the air column. I still get some smoke around the hood (soon to be replaced due to erosion), but it makes a good start for the draw, and it sure beats just letting it warm up as it will. Be sure not to twist up the papers too tightly, or they might not all burn and you end up with an "ash lump" that will need removal.

Hope this might be of some use.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 04/06/02 15:05:58 GMT

What can you tell me about knifemaker Jose Ojeda of Sayula, Mexico?
   dolores - Saturday, 04/06/02 19:10:54 GMT

Dolores, IF anyone knows it will be Frank turley. However, Frank is out of town for a week or so. If you don't get an answer from someone else you might try again later.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/06/02 19:31:22 GMT

VULCAN Taiwan Henk, The matching pulley to fit the motor that produces the right speeds will be an OEM factory item. You MIGHT possibly obtain one for another similar saw but I would measure carefully. The steps are critical so that the belt length works out the same at each step as well as the speeds being right.

The motor can be any 1/3 HP 1800 (nominal) RPM motor with a rigid base mount (not rubber mounted like fan motors). Most of these have a 1/2" shaft with a flat or keyway. Although most do not have them a motor with a thermal overload is recommended due to stalling of these saws.

The name on the saw means little or nothing. In Southeast Asia the same factory will produce the same tool under a dozen English or European names for marketing purposes. The names are often old out of business manufacturers OR commonly mispelled names of well known manufacturers.

I would call Enco and ask them if they know of this line. They have delt in many lines of Taiwanese machines.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/06/02 20:05:46 GMT

I'd like to build Roman era armor. I've checked most of the websites, gotten designs, ideas, etc. but I'm wondering
what the best way is to cut the metal for a project like this. 18 gauge (more or less) mild steel seems to be the
"industry standard". If this doesn't turn into the project from hell I may want to make enough armor for a maniple so
being able to cut up a lot of steel would be good.

   - Khym - Saturday, 04/06/02 20:37:27 GMT

Khym, cutting plate is never easily done. Heavy compound leverage shears are often used such as Beverly shears. Torching works but is difficult to do on small parts or thin plate. Clean-up is more work than the cutting. Small specialized torches such as the Henrob do a good job and need little clean up. However, most smiths are using plasma torches for fine cutting.

If I had a lot of pieces to cut I would draw patterns in CAD and have them laser cut.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/06/02 23:59:13 GMT


Most of the armorers I know love the various Beverly shears, especially the B-2, which would be fine for 18 gauge. Some have also tried the Harbor Freight (East Asian) copies, but that seems to be pretty much a crap-shoot: some work fine, some work when modified, and some never work at all.

As the Guru says, though, if you're going for volume, you might investigate more modern methods. There's many a cut to armor a maniple.

For more information (and unstinting opinions ;-) try out www.armourarchive.org/ .

Good luck.

Winter returned to the banks of the lower Potomac. Snow flurries this morning! Cold and windy today.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 04/07/02 01:56:45 GMT

at the present time i am a third year apprentice welder and i have been quite interested in blacksmithing for quite some time now. i have read quite a few books on making different stuff and havent come across any instructions on how to make a head of wheat. not having my own tools yet i cant just go and try it when ever i want. i was wondering if you knew how to do it or know someone that does and couls give me some quick instructions?
   jeremy - Sunday, 04/07/02 04:51:40 GMT

Kyhm; Rather than buy an expensive Henrob torch of limited use, most major torch MFG ( Smith and Victor for example) make a special type cutting tip for sheet or plate. They have a single preheat flame and are often a "drag type tip". They are a bit obscure and would have to be special ordered but are quick and clean and leave a kerf the size of a hack saw blade. If you get the adjustments and travel speed just right, the slag peels right off with oblique strokes of a chipping hammer.
A small bandsaw would cut this sort of work satisfactorally.
But , I feel it necessary to point out that the traditional and proper way to cut this sort of stuff out is to use a backing plate of mild steel and a few sharp, shaped cold chisels. They should have rounded corners so they will cut smoothly as they are advanced along the line. Several passes may be taken per cut. 2 curves and a short and long straight chisel ought to do just fine. Given some practice, it is reasonably quick, quite economical and very traditional,traditional,traditional.
I suggest this as the best approach because nobody who wants to make armor in 2002 is bounded by nagging practical limitations.
Jeremy; your tools will dictate a methodology, you have no tools . This too would be a good place to begin with a few good cold chisels, a backing plate and a hammer. You could be doing it for less than $20. Having read up on the subject, you should be able to think up several different approaches that would all work.
   - pete f - Sunday, 04/07/02 06:01:56 GMT

Check out http://www.beaumontmetalworks.com/shoptips.html
for information on silver soldering broken bandsaw blade ends together. I sould have posted this url earlier but I misplaced it.
Regards to all.
   slag - Sunday, 04/07/02 07:08:26 GMT

Another unsolicitated update. Cutting sheet metal is just another process used to get what you want. Tools need to be in proper shape (read SHARP, or proper adjustments of the gas torch, or good set of consumables on the plasma). You can take the top out of a barrel pretty fast with a hammer and chisel. Many times, a hot cut is FASTER than a chopsaw for a given process (you're gonna heat the piece after you cut it anyway). The plasma torch has been the answer for sheet metal production work in my shop. It also gets used for bar sometimes. The Henrob has turned out to be a SPECIFIC needs tool that absolutely has no peer for some operations. I haven't cut with it. Hand snips (straight, left and right hand) are beyond a doubt THE best tool for many operations. Just imagine a good pair of PROSNIPS with bigger jaws, no throat and handles about 3' long, mounted to a stand or bench. Now you have the Beverly Shear. I don't have one of these yet, and may someday purchase one. It's all time and money. You have to invest both (some in training and experience, some in tools). I know folks that still cut with an arc welder cranked up. Few still use carbon arc torches. These are normally farmers or shop men that fix stuff, and won't take the risk of spending money on something new. Some truely don't need to cut more than a couple times a year. I plan to pursue the suggestion from Pete on gas tip selection. I still use a coal forge. I have, however started using an electric blower and airgate. When the blower dies, I have a floor stand crank blower setting beside the forge to continue until I get another electric bought (a recent situation). You can scramble eggs with a fork, but a stainless steel wire whip sure is nice. Water in the tank for bug juice is cheaper in the summertime, but washer solvent cleans the windshield better, period. Before I start to wax philosophically to the point of nausea, I'll just say that you can do many things many ways. Po' folks use po' ways till they get better tools, or gain some time someplace to make up the difference. Protect your body. Parts can be rebuilt or replaced, but thats time and money too.
   - Steve O'Grady - Sunday, 04/07/02 14:35:21 GMT

Microsoft Security Virsus: Folks I've scanned this virus mentioned above twice with updated software. It is NOT YET DETECTED. As a forgery it is very good and many guilable non-technical folks are going to fall for this one.

Too many new viruses are coming out too fast and most of the new ones can forge the return addresses (a SPAMMER tactic) so you don't know where it came from and cannot warn the person that has it.

The fact that they are coming out so fast means that if you use MS-OE or MS-IE mail services you are probably going to get caught. If you depend on "Anti-Virus" software you WILL get infected. These only protect you from know identified viruses.

TAX WEEK: This week I will be doing bookeeping and taxes. . . so I may not be here as much as I like.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/07/02 15:37:35 GMT

Wheat: Jeremy, This is one of those things that you just DO. There are no tricks, no secret twist, no EASY way. You just take a chisle and carve away cutting each seed. After making a shock's worth of wheat you will get pretty good (practice makes perfect) and make it LOOK easy. This is a good task for a third hand or a treadle hammer. At about 2x to 3x size this could be cut cold on a treadle hammer. Dies could be made for a power hammer if you want "quick and easy" but you may still need to hand dress the finished piece.

If *I* were doing it I would make a special double curve or "winged" chisle with a gap in the middle. Step #1 would be to forge the flat cross section with sharp edges and rounded top and bottom. Step #2 would be to cut the pairs of seeds on one side (either with a single curved chisle OR a special). Step #3 would be to flip over the work and cut from the "back to give the cuts a double sided finish to the edges of the cuts.

Power hammer tooling would consist of cross section dies and then cutting dies. These MIGHT include a center stem. I would whittle out the cutting section with a pair of index points (to fit into the previous cut) to make the spacing come out equally.

Most of the time this element is done much oversize (20 or 50x) and it is much easier large.

If you wait a few weeks you will probably be able to get a "Wheat" spring die from Off Center products (sold through Kayne and Son). . .

How about it Grant? Another shape to add to the portfolio?
   - guru - Sunday, 04/07/02 16:05:05 GMT

Tax week: Just did mine. Ive been paying my "guestimated" taxes in advance so now THEY owe ME money. Suppose thats the bright side of not making a profit...
   - Olle Andersson - Sunday, 04/07/02 17:16:14 GMT

On the subject of cutting sheet metal. What size compressor is needed to run a plasma cutter? Has anyone ever tried making a "beverly shear" from a pair of snips?
   - Kevin - Sunday, 04/07/02 20:45:35 GMT

Hollywood Does it AGAIN! On the ABC Sunday night movie, October Skys, "the real life events of a coal miner's son", part is about high school boys building rockets for a science fair project. . . They get very technical and have a character (the shop instructor) tell the boys they need a "high temperature steel. . . SAE 1020". To make it worse, they make a big deal over over the delivery of the shiney bar of "SAE 1020 steel".

It is sad when such a good story is flawed by something so easy to research or get an answer.

From the ABC web-site:
Based on the book "Rocket Boys" by Homer H. Hickam, Jr., October Sky follows the real-life experiences of a coal miner's son who sets his sights on the heavens.

When the Russians stun the world in October of 1957 by
launching Sputnik, Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is
inspired to learn how to make rockets so he can help
America get back into the space race. A good high school
student, but weak in science and math, he seeks out the class "brain," Quentin (Chris Owen). Together with a few other students, they begin to learn about and experiment with rockets. The "Rocket Boys" come into conflict with the
community, and Homer's father (Chris Cooper) expects the
boy to follow in his footsteps and begin a career in the coal mines.

A young teacher, Miss Riley (Laura Dern), sees her job as
being more than to send send coal miners' sons into the
mines. She informs the boys that they can be contenders for
the national science fair where college scholarships are the

The 1999 film was directed by Joe Johnston from the screenplay by Lewis Colick.
   - guru - Monday, 04/08/02 00:19:33 GMT

Jock, Carol and I just watched the movie. The scenery sure takes me back to home (Harlan, KY). When I caught the part avout the 1020 I told Carol and she wondered if anybody else in the whole viewing world would catch it! You just made my day :) thanks.
   Jerry - Monday, 04/08/02 02:20:15 GMT

Just wondering about my anvil Guru. It's a london pattern, about 187lbs and made up of a few different pieces fire welded together. It has part of a name on the side . I can make out what could be the "N", "O" "R" and "H" of "Norwich". The "ENGLAND" part although is not complete is obviuos. Can you shed some light on what this miight be?
   Doug - Monday, 04/08/02 03:09:15 GMT


Use a Scotchbrite pad to rub the sides down, and then do a rubbing of the lettering. You might be able to see more. Also check on the front foot, under the horn, for a serial number. Send the information to me, and I'll look it up for you.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 04/08/02 03:12:17 GMT

Plasma torches. The mfgr. will have a rating needed for the specific torch (CFM). I use a 16 CFM 60 gallon, and run shop on that too. Deal is, you need CLEAN air, period. The line first goes into a filter/trap/regulator (speedaire). The compressor is drained regularly, and the trap is bled at least once a day. Also have a trap on the other end (on back of torch) and a low point drain too. This not only saves consumables, but torch life as well. Saves air tools too, but they get oiled. Torch doesn't. Humid times mean more attention to the draining. Years to come, I'll buy a 2 stage pump when this one needs replaced, but for now this beats the old portable that ran constantly. Protect your back, or you'll be gettin drive in zerks for future grease (along with cortizone).
   - Steve O'Grady - Monday, 04/08/02 15:22:51 GMT

Cutting sheetmetal for armour; *all* the professional armourers I know (20 or 30...) use a beverly shear, B2 is the most common. You'll have your pieces cut out with one before you get the torch adjusted correctly! Cleanup is a lot faster and easier too. They are quiet "polite" machines as well.

Mosey over to the armourarchive or arador armour making forums and get the word from folk who do this kind of thing a lot! (note english spelling of armour used a lot by "pro's")

   - Thomas Powers - Monday, 04/08/02 15:44:10 GMT

Hi. I need some advice on recognizing good blacksmithing coal from bad. I know bituminous is best, but I can't recognize it when I see it. I've bought some great coal that burned clean and hot. I've also bought bad coal that wouldn't even coke up in my forge. How do I recognize the good stuff outside of trying it out?
Your advice is appreciated
   Dan De Vries - Monday, 04/08/02 18:57:48 GMT

I have inherited a an old anvil with the following markings;
"Hadfield & Sanderson", "Sheffield" & "121" (which I understand is the weight designation code). Would it be a mistake to mill off about 1/4" from the top of the anvils main work surface to create a new true flat surface? Could this newly created work surface be used as is? I have access to a milling machine and can do this myself (for free). Are there people who re-surface anvils (build up and flatten) as a service? I also have access to 1018 C.R.S. Flat stock (up to 1" thick) that I could pin down to the newly machined surface if that would be a good idea. Any thoughts, guidance or historical info on this anvil would be appreciated. I would like to make the anvil usable. P.S.: On the side of the anvil near where the horn attaches to the body there appears to be a surface (hopefully surface only) crack which does not go all the way around the anvil. Is it common for anvils of this age to have these surface crackes or it the anvil just a big, heavy lawn ornament?
   Phillip Bergmann - Monday, 04/08/02 19:16:34 GMT

what are blacksmith's skills?
   - Jay - Monday, 04/08/02 20:54:00 GMT

Recognizing Coal: Dan, unless you have some unusual super-human or extra-terestrial vision then you can't tell by looking at coal if it is good or bad. You can't do that with X-rays or under a microscope.

Ask for the analysis of the coal. Then see our coal and charcoal FAQ. There are links to sites that rate coal deposits.

Coal is rated by a dozen varibles of so. These include the percentage of ash when burned, the characteristics of the ash, the percentage of volatiles in the coal and how they relate to total BTU, BTU per unit, trace elements like sulfur, hardness. . . Some of the qualities like coking are so complictated that chemical anlysis can not determine if coal will coke and only testing can tell. BTU is the same way.

Generally good blacksmithing coal is only the BEST, with high BTU, low ash that forms compact clinkers, has a high coking index and low sulfur.

Coal, being an organicaly derived mineral ranges from peat and "brown coal" to nearly pure carbon anthracite to "red dog" which is closer to slate than coal due to the high clay content. Coal varries in minute gradations from bad to good to bad.

Coal with too high of volatiles will produce a LOT of flame and smoke but not enough heat in the fire bed for forging. Coal with too low of volatiles such as most anthracite is hard to keep burning and takes more air blast than a softer coal. It is good fuel but not the best for blacksmithing.
   - guru - Monday, 04/08/02 21:17:55 GMT

Blacksmith Skills: Jay, They are superior inteligence, mechanical aptitude, patience, the ability to think three dimensionaly and not be afraid of hard work.
   - guru - Monday, 04/08/02 21:21:01 GMT

Antique Anvil Repair: Phillip, Why do you think it needs to be repaired? Have you done any smithing and know what a satisfactory work surface is?

Yes, milling 1/4" of the top would damage the anvil and possibly the mill. The top is a tool steel plate forge welded to the top of a wrought iron body then hardened. The average thickness is 1/2" to 5/8". Removing a significant amount ruins the anvil.

1018 CRS is one of the softest steels around. It is NOT tool steel and it is NOT satifactory for facing an anvil.

The "crack" or seam in the side of the anvil is probably where the face was forge welded onto the body.

Yes, people do repair anvils but I almost always advise against it. They are a much more sophisticated tool than most people know and repairs are more likely to cause more damage than good.

See our anvil series on our 21st Century page.

   - guru - Monday, 04/08/02 21:34:28 GMT

Concerning Coal:

Dan's question sounds very close to one I was getting ready to ask about coal.

I've got a chance to be given some for free, which is a plus.

And I have identified it as bituminous coal, because it has the square-like fracture.

But college geology class was many years ago, and I can't tell much more about it in any case by looking.

There won't be an analysis for this coal. Its been in storage for over 30 years. But it has kept well.

The only other thing I can be sure about is that it was used for cooking and/or heating in a coal stove, and it most likely came from a coal supplier in North Carolina or Virginia.

Do you think it would be useful Guru?


   - Taylor - Monday, 04/08/02 21:51:53 GMT

Taylor, ALLways. . ALLways test a sample. The absolute worst coal I ever used came from Southwest Virginia a few miles from a mine that sells "metalurgical" coal. I had run short during a two week demo and someone local raided their coal bin. . . It might have worked for heating but NOT forging. A typical full forge produced flames over 2 feet tall and clouds of smoke. There was no ash or clinkers, just the same stuff I put IN the forge less the volatiles. . . Big hard greyish lumps. This stuff was very close to being oil-shale but LOOKED like coal. . .

Anyway, get a bucket full and TEST it. If you don't know what is good coal then find a smith and have THEM test it.

In California they sell coal for decorative use in gardens. . . Its actually not the worst coal I've used but it is pretty bad.

I know several people that were given tons of coal from places that had stopped using their coal furnaces. . After much effort and expense hauling it they found it was not suitable for smithing. . . Then what do you do with tons of that black stuff that you can't give away?

Most stoker coal is fairly high grade because the machinery can't handle high ash. . . but you never know.
   - guru - Monday, 04/08/02 22:25:10 GMT

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