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, 2004 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Mail Rings:

If you just want to play around makeing mail, how about using key rings? There has to be a place were you can buy them cheaper by the ton.

   - Hudson - Thursday, 04/01/04 00:19:00 EST

Alan L-i've never used a jeweler's saw before. i just figured that all saws left burrs on metal

John Lowther-i've read about modifing aviation shears but never attempted to try it. i use regular wire cutters for most of my maille. i'm going to start using precut rings from theringlord so i can sell some of my stuff. i'm not just using the springs for coils, i just didn't want perfectly good springs to go to waste. just the insane mailler in me. i have a wire coiler that i made that uses rods with a hole drilled in it and i coil it with a power drill. i already visited the farm supply store. i got a little under a mile of 14 gauge galvy left.

ThomasP-i realize that it will leave burrs, but i want to try and construct the maille like they did in the old days. with the chisel and hammer. and the springs are annealing out back in my fire pit so the fumes are exscaping into the night.

Shack-was the wire just mild steel? i used bolt cutters once but didn't like the way they cut. i haven't tried the ring closing tongs. i just use regular pliers to open and close them. what ring size are you going to make the new hauberk?

Hudson-the AR (aspect ratio) is too large with key rings. i like the freedom that comes with making my own rings.
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 01:09:41 EST

mithrilmailler: You mentioned constructing it like the old days, have you concidered riveting the rings closed? That's how alot of the better mail was made back then.

You'd have to flatten the ends of the rings and punch a small hole through the two little flaps you get. Then close the ring so the holes line up.

You'll need small triangle of softer metal (they used lead but you might want to try something else due to the whole poison thing, maybe copper?)and poke one corner through the holes and flatten it so it won't come back through.

The ring-end flattening and punching would be better done hot though the rivet would probably be done cold. It's a heck of a lot harder this way which is probably why I haven't heard about people really doing it that way these days.
   AwP - Thursday, 04/01/04 01:40:33 EST

AwP-i've thought about making rivited. but right now i don't have the time. a few people on the MAIL board make rivited. i hold them in the highest regard. and before i kind of lied, in the old days, all maille was rivited. it wasn't til later when people couldn't afford rivited that the butted style came into.
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 01:50:39 EST

Heh, I don't blame you, I only did butted and still got pretty impatient with it... never made anything bigger then a half-gauntlet.
   AwP - Thursday, 04/01/04 01:54:32 EST

Coal From Home Hardware - Billy/Ed Long
The people at the HH store in Frankford, Ont. have ordered coal so many times for various hobby smiths in this area that it's almost routine for them. The HH in Trenton was a new franchise, so the staff were also new and aware that they could do this. I've heard from a couple of sources (better then rumour, but not confirmed) that the bags of coal are listed in the HH computer catalog with a skew number.

What has happened is the person I talked to in Frankford called the HH Headquarters/warehouse in St. Jacobs. Someone there went next door to Schaner's, to pick up the bags of coal. These were then put onto the weekly shipping run from St. Jacobs.
   - Don Shears - Thursday, 04/01/04 08:31:23 EST


I am trying to locate the availability of Cerebend. I heard there is a company in PA that makes it, however I cannot find the name of the company. Anyone know where I can find??
   Derek - Thursday, 04/01/04 10:00:40 EST


Do you mean Cerrobend? Low melting point alloy for tube bending? You can get it from McMaster-Carr. They have an online website for sales.

One company that makes a product similar is the Indium Corporation of Utica, New York. Their Indalloy 158 is the same as Cerrobend, as far as I know.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/01/04 10:38:14 EST

Cerro Products: These folks are asked about often enough that I just added them to our glossary page. As VIc pointed out McMaster-Carr would probably be easier to deal with. But if you need technical data go to Cerromet.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/01/04 10:46:14 EST

VIc, I added your note about Indium Corp.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/01/04 10:57:36 EST

On maille: they *never* used lead to rivit rings together! Where did that falsehood come from? They used a triangle of wrought iron (in the west, to the east round rivits were also used) Butted mail is almost unknown in medieval times with a fer repairs done that way. It was not a cheaper issue---the wire was the expensive part the labour to rivit cheap! It was used in more modern times when maille was not used as armour as much as a fashion statement in some remote locales (cf the butted copper maille from the cascus mts before the russian revolution) and today as it is a simple easy fast way to go for re-enactors.

Split rings, (the proper term for "key chain rings" come in all sizes and "aspect ratios" from under 1/8" diameter to quite large. They can be bought by the pound in several different metals from the Worth Manufacturing Company---look in the Thomas Register, along with special pliers that will make linking them easier. The ones of nickle plated spring steel around 1/8" diameter makes a great "mithril" maille

If you find a source for wrought iron wire please share it with the rest of us who are interested in historical accuracy.

BTW cutting rings on an anvil is sort of like using a race car to haul hay, sure you can do it but there are *better* options. In the medieval period they would have probably used a chunk of wrought iron as the cutting anvil and reserved the "mail maker's anvil" for riviting, perhaps with riviting tongs.

Thomas, been there done that have the shirt
   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/01/04 11:23:55 EST

Forgot to mention that multi turn rings, unrivited, were also used in some far eastern maille. (Like splint rings)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/01/04 11:25:10 EST

I seem to recall when looking at some chainmail in a collection (the Oakschott collection, I think), the mail was made of wire much smaller that 14 ga . . . like 18 or 20.

Does that seem right Thomas P?
   Escher - Thursday, 04/01/04 11:41:50 EST

thomas P, Tthe closest thing i found to historical metal for maille is plain mild steel. i'm sure if someone gets desperate for wrought iron wire they can draw their own or possibly forge their own. as for making a 'mithril shirt' i was going to take the easy way out and just buy some welded chainmaille mesh. i found some really small stuff, about 24 gauge and 3/32" id. i know that's cheating but i don't have the skill for micro maille. i tried some 32 gauge wrapped around a 16 gauge wire and i had trouble trying to see after i opened one ring.
in eastern maille, are you reffering to japanesse weaves?

Escher-it really depends on the ring id. although i would never think of making armor out of anything smaller than 16. i perfer 14 gauge. those gauges are used alot for jewelry and sculpture nowadays
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 12:35:27 EST

Escher-was the maille rivited? rivited is usually made with smaller wire guage than butted because it can stand to more abbuse.
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 13:05:06 EST

Wrought Wire: The Pure Iron folks (now defunct in the US) had PI mig wire. The late Roger Duncan said he could get a hold of it. ITs not wrought but it is close.

The last time I contacted the address where PI was distributed from they were rather short with me. I suspect they have gotten a lot of calls for something they don't have. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 04/01/04 14:37:26 EST

"On maille: they *never* used lead to rivit rings together! Where did that falsehood come from?"

From public education, guess I should have known better then to trust my schooling. ;)
   AwP - Thursday, 04/01/04 14:51:45 EST

Are there any apprenticeships in Bakersfield, CA?
   John Meneses - Thursday, 04/01/04 15:27:10 EST

John Meneses,
his is NOT a chat room. you post here and eventually others may respond. The chat room is the 'Slack Tub Pub'
Contact the CBA and ask those folks about blacksmith training in Bakersfield. ( CBA = California Blacksmiths Association)
   Ralph - Thursday, 04/01/04 15:59:30 EST

this link has iron wire. i'm not sure of the purity cause i can't read the code.
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 16:16:56 EST

Re Coal

So If I go back to them and have them call headquarters in St. Jacobs, they can have someone go next door and put 15 bags (50lb bags ea?) on a HH truck. I just want to get my plan straightened out before I go back and faces all those bewildered looks of "coal, why would you want coal?"
   Stephan P - Thursday, 04/01/04 16:19:04 EST

April 1st and no this isn't a leg puller!Just a reasonable queery.
Time 10 O'clockish PM
Visited this site many times but this is the first contact so:- HELLO FOLKS!
Picked up a nice recipie for blacking Iron from an old German Smithing book (The modern artist blacksmith...1927)
but I havent got any detaled method of application,...dunk it or brush it. It is very fast acting following the quantities.Ihave tried playing with the dilutions wih some succes but I was wondering if you had any suggestions OH...here's the recipie:-
80 Copper Sulphate
20 Nitric Acid
30 Iron(111)Chloride
40 Alchohol
20 Ether
400-500 Water.
Need a quick answer as I have got 3000 lamelar plates to black,for making armour,so hope to hear from you soon.
   Stewart Lewis - Thursday, 04/01/04 16:19:58 EST

Stewart Lewis: This is an old formula also used for blueing firearms. I have not used that formula and as such can't help you much, but most of those formulae work best if applied to warm iron or steel. Be aware that different alloys turn slightly different colors. If I were after a good cold black, I'd use the gunsmithing compound called "cold black." Check with www.brownells.com for more info on that. On second thought, your formula sounds less toxic, as it doesn't contain selenium dioxide.

As for method of application, I'd wipe it on with a clean cotton rag (wearing rubber gloves, since copper sulfate and ferric chloride are both poisonous AND permanently staining!). Two coats to insure even coverage. The warm iron should dry very quickly. If not, hit it with a diffuse flame from a propane torch until it is dry, then oil it with your favorite light oil. The new oxide coating will soak up a lot of oil, and if you wait a minute or three before you apply the oil with a coarse cloth, the loose surface oxides will rub off on the cloth leaving a clean blue-black surface. Keep an eye on it and keep oiling, since these acidic formulae often keep working after you want them to stop. Believe it or not, Windex will often stop a stubborn patination formula.

The most imortant thing to remember is that the surface of the plates should be as shiny as you want them to be before you start coloring them, since you will not be able to polish with abrasives after the oxide film is set without removing it.

4:27 PM in the southeastern U.S., where are you?
   Alan-L - Thursday, 04/01/04 17:27:32 EST

I've just purchased an old anvil which weighs about 2 cwt. Is is a London pattern type anvil but it is unusual in that it has a very long heel and 2 hardy holes, 1 in the heel and one on the end of the face, just before the horn. Is this uncommon?
I'll post some photos to the gallery tommorrow.
N.B. it's in the UK.
   Bob G. - Thursday, 04/01/04 17:33:25 EST

mithrilmailler, that's some pure iron if you go for the 5N variety! I would be suspicious, as they didn't use some terms correctly and the didn't list carbon as an impurity at all. Their statement "Iron is the only metal that can be tempered" is wrong on too many counts to begin to list, if you want to get picky, but if the chemical analysis is correct it ought to be good stuff. Did you ask about price? I'd bet it's astronomical.

Thomas is after Wrought iron wire, which is a different animal entirely from pure iron. It contains fibrous inclusions of silicate slag that confer all sorts of unique properties, whereas pure iron is just a soft metal.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 04/01/04 17:35:34 EST

Alan-L-i didn't check the price, right now i have enough galvy wire to sustain me for a while. and my wife would kill me if i bought more stuff in the next few days, weeks, months. :)
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 17:39:53 EST

Drawing wrought iron is not a trivial process as it is often quite non-homogeneous and so doesn't draw well. The age of maille depended on other methods of wire production---as of the last I researched the process. Unfortunately, "close" isn't good enough if you are trying to duplicate stuff exactly so to be able to draw conclusions about medieval processes. (Had many a discussion at armour forums with folks telling others that mild steel worked just like wrought iron...of course they had never worked with WI.)

Some schools still teach the knight was to heavy to move on foot---or to get up if he fell over; very strange since a good set of battle armour weighed less than what my friends in Viet Nam were expected to pack and they were expected to walk, run, crawl and *fight*. It's a sad fact that teachers are often teaching stuff they really don't know much about and their sources are often dubious or discredited.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/01/04 20:02:07 EST


What would the approximate weight of a full set of combined plate and mail weigh?
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 04/01/04 20:14:46 EST

Stephan, do you have Schaner's number? If so, contact them and get the name of a contact person. Then take their number and name to your HH representative (preferably management. you always get farther working at the top of the ladder) They can call Schaners and work out the details there. Schaners deals with a lot of Home Hardware orders so they'll know what to do.
   Ed Long - Thursday, 04/01/04 20:39:02 EST

Yep, I gave nearly 1/4 mile of 14 gauge galvanized wire away a few years ago after I realized a sleeveless hauberk was all I really needed...

PPW, my mail vest (can't really call it a shirt!) weighs about 6 pounds, less than a standard flak jacket. Plate is relatively light, but Sir Thomas the Orange can give you a better answer as I have no plate.

Bob G: Is the heel tapered? That does sound kind of odd. I got to work on a 500-lb Czech pattern double-horned anvil last week. I would not have thought I'd like it, what with the double horn, upsetting bock, and wierd little table off the face near the horn, not to mention the hardie hole at the horn end. But, I loved it and am now trying to figure out how to justify spending $1,100 on one just like it from Euroanvils. Just goes to show, don't knock it 'till you try it, I guess!
   Alan-L - Thursday, 04/01/04 20:55:01 EST

Hi! Well, I'm a luthier, I make violins and other wooden instruments. I often need to make my own tools, but I know almost nothing about hardening and tempering steel. Is it right to heat it until red hot and then cool it slowly for making it possible to file and work a specific piece of steel (e.i an old saw blade)? How can I recognize a good quality steel? I mean one suitable for making a chiesel or any other tool?
Thanks a lot, hope you can help me.
   sebastian - Thursday, 04/01/04 21:28:18 EST

I gotta question on arc welding 1" square tubing--14 guage walls. I'm using 3/32 diameter e6013 at 65 amps welding one section to the middle of another at 45 angle and I thought clamping the ends of the piece welded to would keep it from pulling the ends up~it didn't! What other method of jigging would help prevent the warp? I'm still learning :)
   Jerry - Thursday, 04/01/04 21:47:53 EST

Bob G: Is the heel tapered?

No, it's square when viewed from above. I suspect it belonged to a farrier judging by the wear on the horn.
   Bob G. - Thursday, 04/01/04 21:52:07 EST

Jerry and welding 'cheats' :-)

Just run a bead of weld on the opposite side of the tube, roughly the same length as the weld holding the tube at the 45. This will fix the one you have already done. I think you can also try tacking, it at each end and then stiching it closed, weld might not be as pretty but it might not warp the tubing as much, cause you aren't getting it as hot as running one continuious bead... But better welders than I will likely chime in with more experienced suggestion, as a welder I make a fine blacksmith;-) (which is why I don't fabricate:-)
   Fionnbharr - Thursday, 04/01/04 22:55:10 EST

Im building a coal fired forge using a centaur 12X14 cast fire pot and tuyere/dump...how big of a blower do I need ..how much cfm... Im set up for three inch pipe for an inlet.
   sixtygrit - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:12:07 EST

I am going to Japan next week, and I am trying to find any contact information on the two japanese blacksmiths known as "transfer company"- Kotaro Kurata and Goro Hatanaka.
Some of their work is shown in Dona Meilach's book Architectural Ironwork.
If anyone has a phone no., address, or website for them, I would appreciate it.
I would love to go see them while I am there.
   Ries - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:26:46 EST


Get a copy of the Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alexander Weygers. He has a fair bit of knowledge about making tools from salvaged steels.


For 14 gauge steel tubing, I prefer to use 1/16" rod, when I can get it. 6013, at about 45 amps, DC reverse polarity. The reverse polarity causes the rod to take more of the heat than the stock, so there is less warping.

After clamping the pieces to be welded, tack weld in four places, two per side. The tack welds will resist the stresses of weld beads cooling and shrinking better than clamps can. It helps to weld a bit on one side, then a bit on the other until the piece is solidly anchored before you try to run a continuous bead on one side. Learning to judge how much warping is going to happen is what makes welding an art as well as a science.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:27:28 EST

since wrougth iron is not easily drawn into a wire, could it be melted down, poured into molds (i don't know the term for this)? then use the technique of using half solid wrougth rings and half split and rivited? i'm not sure of the riviting qualities of wrougth iron or if it could be poured into molds?

paw paw- the weight of a full set of maille really depends on the weave used, the wire size, ring size, the metal used and the style of the outfit (ie archers would use a different design than a knight on horseback)
   mithrilmailler - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:28:42 EST


Email Dona Meilach and aske her if she has contact info for them. Dona is a very helpful person when she can be.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:29:58 EST

Sebastian and answers:-)

Most of the information to give you a basic working knowledge of what you need to know is right here on Anvilfire. Read the Getting Started in Blacksmithing, read through the iForge demos on tool making. Read the FAQs about heat treating and steel selection.

The answers to your questions are:
It totally depends on the steel, but most steels can be annealed by heating to non-magnetic and allowing to cool very slowly. And Yes, this will make it easier to file the shape you want into a piece of steel.

Almost all steels commonly available second hand:-) ie using any junkyard steel has a very wide range of steel alloys that it could be. Saw blades can be L6, mild steel, or even a high carbon steel, depending on the manufacturer, the type of blade and the time that it was made. All of these steel have very different working characteristics, and the only way you can tell what will work best on a piece of mystery steel is to do a quench test on them. (which is described in the FAQ on Junkyard steels)

The best way to recognise good quality steel for tools is by reading the label on the steel you just bought new for the purpose:-) When buying a new steel it is a good idea to ask for a fact sheet on the steel, hopefully this will tell you all you need to know about handling the steel. Tool steels make the best tools, that only stands to reason, good choices for woodworking tools are: O1, W1, W2, W7, and L6. Spring steels tend to do pretty well for tools too, and often get recycled into tools. Straight medium and high carbon steels are just fine for tools: 1065, 1085, and 1095, all can hold a good edge when properly shaped and heat treated. (1095 is a bit hotshort, but will take a very fine edge if properly treated) Piano wire which is often available in hardware stores here in the midwest, is a high carbon alloy (I have heard it is supposed to be 1095??? but unless you can get a MSDS or a fact sheet on it, you will have to use your best educated guess for hardening and tempering (heat to non-magnetic quench in oil, temper to a straw color:-)

Good luck:-)
   Fionnbharr - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:31:23 EST

Paw Paw a good figure for a head to toe suit of battle plate would be around 80 pounds---and that's distributed over the body instead of concentrating in a backpack. Some jousting armour got quite heavy toward the end; but even that tended toward heavy *front* pieces and very light rear pieces.

MMailer,the casting of iron/steel (as opposed to the casting of cast iron) in Western Europe was not carried out until the mid 1700's when Huntsman came up with crucible steel.

The making of crucible steels, (wootz and others) had been carried out in central asia centuries before his work but the technology never seemed to travel though the metal did.

Leaps in technology make it as hard to guess the past from today's world as it is to guess the future---remember the estimate that by the end of the last century New York would be burried in horse manure due to the increase in the number of horses used for transportation? I have run into many folks claiming that they must have drawn wrought iron wire pre 1000 BCE cause they used so much of it. Of course the same reasoning can be used to show that the romans had bulldozers and the egyptian pharohs had cranes...

Thomas, off to study UML and anticipate this weekends German beer tasting and Chilean wine tasting...
   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/01/04 23:50:57 EST

Only 80#?

Heck, That's a fairly light load for a radioman or a gunner. Radio with 2 spare batteries and a full ruck besides would run closer to a 100#, IIRC.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/02/04 00:10:57 EST

Thomas P- that's very interesting i don't think i heard that on the M.A.I.L. board (can i mention them here?) it would interest alot of people over there.
   mithrilmailler - Friday, 04/02/04 00:18:20 EST

Guru, meant to post this earlier. I agree completely with your statements about poorly built pages, with one further caveat: webpages that are not W3C compliant are also junk in general.

Melting wrought to cast destroys its properties as wrought iron, namely the properties it gains by having filaments of slag embedded in it instead of just being pure iron. Also, cast into what kinds of molds? Ring molds?

I want to be able to do some forgings with a sledge, but without a helper. Can anyone suggest a really good, tough design for a hold-down? I've looked over all the designs on iForge and thought up a few of my own, but I want something that's *really* tough. (The ideal thing would be a giant pair of visegrips that fits into the hardy hole with an offset towards the body of the anvil, actuated by a foot pedal, made of H13... but there, I sure as heck am dreaming (Grin)) If anyone has any suggestions, I am listening with both ears open.

Sunny and hot in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Friday, 04/02/04 01:58:05 EST

Anvil Hold Downs / T-Gold

See http://www.iforgeiron.com > tools > Anvil > Anvil Hold Downs.

There are several examples shown there, including a modified pair of vise grips by PPW.
   - Conner - Friday, 04/02/04 07:26:27 EST

Mithrilmailler: It never ceases to amaze me how little most of the armor bunch know about the metallurgy of the periods they are trying to recreate. By all means, get 'em educated! Thomas P. and Bruce B. know more about medieval technology than all the SCAdians I know put together, which is why they are gurus!
   Alan-L - Friday, 04/02/04 08:16:50 EST

MMailer, I've discussed this on several armour making forums before and am probably considered a nut case for pointing out that wrought iron *doesn't* act like mild steel and it and wrought iron derrived steels, both blister and "natural" steels were what armour was made from. Even experience in drawing mild steel wire, which few mailmakers have done, is not a good basis to talk about wrought iron wire drawing as in-homogenaities are a real pain in drawing operations resulting in necking and failure---not to mention the ferrous silicates wear on the dies!. (and recent analysis of extent rings supports the contention that the wrought iron used in early examples was *not* a pure, clean, well refined variety!

My library is packed but IIRC. Wrought Iron wire drawing is discussed in "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel", Gies & Gies; and "A History of Western Technology", MIT press, ?.

Steven of Forth Castle has been in the forefront of the modern study of mailmaking and if he has better info, please let me know.

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/02/04 09:35:21 EST

Armor Weight (a few more considerations and observations):

Armor, whether mail, plate or combinations topped out around 60 to 70 pounds (27-32 kg.). This is about what the British Tommies carried on their back at the Battle of the Somme, and seems to be the largest practical combat load. (Sure, some can carry more, but they start to lose effectiveness. You may be able to hump 100#s, but are you in as good a shape at the end of the trail as when you do 50?) Also, larger folk would end up with heavier armor, just due to the increased area needing protection. The advantage of armor is that the weight is distributed over the body, so it carries more easily and allows a high degree of mobility (as opposed to being top/back heavy). My byrnie weighs about 22.25 pounds, with the helm and coif adding another 6 or so (total ~13 kg.). One thing I have noticed, on shipboard, is that it does raise your center of gravity so you get a lot more sway when walking the deck or running the gun’l.

Drawing Wrought Iron:

There was some evidence on the Coppergate helm of drawing the wire for the mail, but it was not conclusive. Thomas: Do you think they might have swaged it down and then drawn a final time for consistency?

Blower Size for CF Firepot:

I don’t know what else will work, but I’ve been running over 10 years on a little 4-6” blower from a copying machine.

I’ve been stuck in seminars and getting home late all week; another few days to go and we’ll be back to normal (for the usual indefinite period). Still recovering from whatever-is-going-around-this-month. Cold and rainy (some more) on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

Camp Fenby; a laid-back medieval arts and crafts weekend: June 25, 26 and 27.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 04/02/04 10:28:19 EST

T. Gold,

I've toyed with the idea of a really hefty hold-down and decided that the best way to do it is to use hydraulics. Get a hydraulic bottle jack of about 10-ton capacity and mount it underneath the anvil, below the hardy hole. You have to build a frame for it so that when the jack is pumped, it acts to pull down on a piece of 4140 square bar that will fit through the hardie hole. The 4140 can be forged into any sort of holding head you like. You toss the hot stock on the anvil and jump up and down on the jack handle really quick to clamp your work with 20,000 pound of force. Maybe a bit slow, but you could use a hydraulic pump and speed it up.

Practical? Nah, I don't really think so. Get a powerhammer. (grin)
   vicopper - Friday, 04/02/04 10:56:06 EST

Hold Downs: The best I have seen and is used regularly is the one Hugh McDonald demo. His use of fittings for specific steel sizes increases the effectiveness greatly.

VI, Hyrdaulics? Too slow. . . ;) Now and air cylinder with a foot control pulling Hugh's hold down. . . ;)
   - guru - Friday, 04/02/04 11:27:49 EST

Anvil with Tapered Heal: This may be an old common farrier's pattern. Often the heal is rounded underneith. I saw a half dozen of these at Spring Fling in Northern Virginia a few years ago. I believe the ones I saw were Hay-Budden farrier anvils. Modern English farrier's anvils are like American farrier's anvils in that their shapes tend to be fadish and change often.

Russian anvils also have a tapered heal in their standard pattern. See FAQs, Anvil Selecting, Cheep Russian, Figure 12.
   - guru - Friday, 04/02/04 12:02:21 EST

T. Gold-as soon as i posted about the melting and casting of wrought, i wondered if it would 'burn' up the elements that made it wrought. and yeah i was talking about ring mold. i seem to remember that they would use half cast rings and half rivited cause it was easier to construct and faster but just as strong as rivited.

Alan-L-i'll make some posts over there pointing to this site for help with their metal misconceptions and such

Thomas P-like i said before, i don't have much background in metal knowlege. thanks for your help. i do know one person for sure on the MAIL board who draws there own wire but its for making wire turk heads.

i have another question, how should i mount my anvil so that i can work on it. its 110 lbs if that matters with the design. any help would be great.
   mithrilmailler - Friday, 04/02/04 12:04:45 EST

Hmm... I like y'all's ideas, Guru, Vicopper... a double-action pneumatic cylinder, with the shaft coming up through the hardy hole, with interchangeable hold-down "bits" and a foot control... (BoG) I think I may have me a project!

Can't seem to find which Hugh McDonald demo the hold down you're talking about is in, Guru.

Shaping up to be a beautiful day in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T Gold - Friday, 04/02/04 12:10:30 EST

Dona Meilach: Ries, As VIc noted Dona is often quite helpful and we, in exchange have helped her quite a bit (see the current call for photos in the NEWS, includes contact info).

Let her know you are an anvilfire regular and that we sent you and that may help.
   - guru - Friday, 04/02/04 12:10:46 EST

Bruce, be careful with that armor on shipboard, it might be o.k. to walk with but rather difficult to swim, and we would miss you!
   Ellen - Friday, 04/02/04 12:23:22 EST

Howdy all-
I just found out that this afternoon 20 kids are going to invade my shop and learn how to make nails... I can handle that, the kids are learning about Thomas Jefferson and there seems to be a stigma on him about all the children he kept in his factory making nails.
Does anyone know any trivia about this? What ages of kids made nails, how many hours a day did they work,how many could a ten year old make in an hour, etc?
Thanks in advance, mike the nervous
   mike-hr - Friday, 04/02/04 12:30:30 EST

Quote: "Modern English farrier's anvils are like American farrier's anvils in that their shapes tend to be fadish and change often."

That's probably the case with my anvil. It is unlike all other anvils I have seen in the area in that it has the 2 equal size hardy holes and a relatively long and thin heel. I have now uploaded a picture to the gallery.

many thanks
   Bob G - Friday, 04/02/04 13:20:07 EST

Anvil mounting is a personal thing (no jokes please!), but for general smithing work most folks put it on a stump, natural or manufactured, so that the face height is about even with the first knuckles of the hand hanging loose at your side. A better way to think of that would be the height at which the hammer face is naturally parallel with the anvil face at the bottom of its swing. Higher is good for very light work, lower is better for very heavy work or when using a striker and top tooling.

Some folks bolt 'em down, some make a flange for the feet to fit into so it won't walk off the stump, some bend spikes over the feet, some chain 'em down. Whatever works for you, in other words. I would use a very heavy base and bolt it down myself, so that 110 pounds is given a little help from the mass of the stump.

Which way should the horn point? Now there's a question that will get all kinds of different theories! I'm right-handed, and I like the horn to point to my left. That way, if I'm bending a piece over the horn it tends not to corkscrew as much as if I did it the other way. Also, it's the way I was taught, and is what I'm used to. Other folks do other things.
   Alan-L - Friday, 04/02/04 13:27:48 EST

To learn a lot about what exactly is meant by "wrought" iron and "natural" steel, go to the links page and check out the Rockbridge Bloomery.
   Alan-L - Friday, 04/02/04 13:32:10 EST

> Anvil mounting is a personal thing (no jokes please!),

Chuckle, OK but you owe me one, that's too good to pass up. But since you asked nicely......
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/02/04 13:34:35 EST


But doesn't that hurt????? (LOL)
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/02/04 13:36:03 EST

This is about Cyber Smiths International (CSI.) The members of CSI help support Anvilfire, but now CSI has gotten serious about supporting Anvilfire. We are well into the planning stages of incorporating as a nonprofit educational organization to properly support Anvilfire, so that we can preserve this site we love. Anvilfire is an important online resource for people interested in blacksmithing and all types of metalworking. Within the archives are answers to all manner of metal working questions. Within the forums questions can be asked, and a vast wealth of experience can be tapped to provide personal answers to people’s questions. We want to see that Anvilfire continues to grow and prosper. Jock has created Anvilfire, and provided it for free here on the internet for seven years. He has made it his business, but more importantly it has been his passion, and as such he has worked very long hours for very little pay. But he has seen this site grow, we all have, grow to the point that he needs help. We plan on providing that help, and more! We hope to see this site continue to grow, and become better and better.

What that boils down to is that by responding to Jock’s request, we are deciding what form Anvilfire will take in the future. So what we discuss and how we decide affects YOUR future with Anvilfire. Whether you like what we decide is not part of the picture.

There are only two ways for you to affect that future.

!. Join CSI and cast your ballot when the time comes.

2. Take a chance that we will listen to what you say and do things the way you want us to.

Personally, I like the odds better when I have the opportunity to vote.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/02/04 13:48:51 EST

uhhhh, K.I.S.S. seems to be the need here folks. Hold downs are one thing but mechanical-hydraulic devices sounds like a bit over kill. A buddy of mine uses flat link chain attached to the stump (near side anvil) this is attached to a weight and the whole thing is placed over bar stock. He can whale away to hearts content......
   Ralph - Friday, 04/02/04 13:56:45 EST

If you do not vote you do not really have the right to complain. And in order to vote you have to belong. CSI needs your input... and yes your money does not hurt either. But more importantly we need to have you, yes I mean YOU involved. So seriously consider joining.
   Ralph - Friday, 04/02/04 14:01:56 EST

Child Labor.
Child labor in countries in the early and middle stages of industrial developement is, for lack of a better word, fairly natural. In the agrarian societies that preceed the industrial move, EVERYONE is expected to work the family farm. When the urbanization takes off, and families leave the farms for cities, they bring the same work ethics with them. It's almost impossible for us to really understand the life people lived then. 16 hour work days, 6 days a week. Leasure time for the masses is a new luxury. In a little less then 100 years, we've come to take for granted that the only expectation we place on our children is manditory schooling.
You look back and see children working endless hours over a hot forge or an insainly dangerous mechanical loom and think of the inhumanity of it all. The factory owner of the time looks over the same operation secure in the belief that he provides for the earthly needs of the children in his care. In the time, providing employment was thought to be philanthropic. The same thing is happening now in devloping countries and the same values are in place. Don't expect the kid making clothes for Martha Stuart to thank you when your boycott forces the factory to stop using child labour and he moves to a new job is picking rags.
   Mike Trahey - Friday, 04/02/04 14:23:56 EST

Sorry, that kinda sounds a little terse, wasn't meant to be. I'm not a fan of child labor. The freedom that my children have to be children is very precious to me. I just think that child labor is much more complicated then the evil white overload oppressor model.
   Mike Trahey - Friday, 04/02/04 14:30:41 EST

Alan-L- thanks for the help. my uncle works as a tree removal service and will be able to get me a stump. i looked at the base of my anvil and it didn't look like it had holes to bolt it to anything. are the hole on the bottom of it or am i just out of luck on that?
   mithrilmailler - Friday, 04/02/04 15:06:48 EST

*punched* rings not "cast" rings!

Thomas Jefferson wrote a "business case" for his nailery with that sort of info in it. Look it up. (I read it in a collection of his writings---back in OH so I can't cite it.

Back to class---some day I will have a classless society! (and I'll have to start taking them ay the Univ...)

At lunch we decided that a library in a town without book stores served much the same purpose as a methadone clinic...

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/02/04 15:27:35 EST


There are not meant to be any holes in the base. When people refer to bolting an anvil to the base they are talking about using bolts to hold straps of steel over the base of the anvil.
   Bob G - Friday, 04/02/04 15:34:34 EST

armor weight
my fealing on this is that some one confused battle armor (at most 70lb for a big guy) with tilt armor (80+LB)most tilt armor that I have gotten a good look at ad Very limited movement (to help keep you from breaking bones/ riping out joints?) protected mostly the upper body (lower body armor was attached to the sadle) and had areas of increased protection (ie thicker armor) aroung the sholders, neck, and chest.
I would think that if you were wereing a tilting suit and landed on you r back you would be stuck there. partly from the weight and partly from the limited range of movement, also less of the weight is distributed over the body.
just my guess.
I would also think that a knight on foot got there most of the time by falling from his horse and that my also have something to do with the mith that a knight is helpless on his feet.( you fall 6 or 8 feet at speed wearing a 60LB bell and see how fast your body wants to get up:))
   MP - Friday, 04/02/04 17:12:27 EST

GOOD ONE! Thomas P; Loved your Library/Methadone Clinic analogy.
   3dogs - Friday, 04/02/04 17:22:41 EST

MITHRILMAILLER; You might try what worked pretty well for me. I set the anvil on the stump as it would be used, traced around it with a magic marker, set my router at 1" and routed out a recess to set the anvil in. It pretty well stays put without any bolts or straps. But, that's with a 175 lb anvil. More anchoring might be required for a lighter one, though.
   3dogs - Friday, 04/02/04 17:33:53 EST

MP, if you get tossed by a horse it takes a minute to get up even without armor!
   Ellen - Friday, 04/02/04 18:28:48 EST

You can also put your anvil in a barrel of sand, that's what I do. Requires occasional leveling, but it's easy to adjust height if working on different sized things.
   AwP - Friday, 04/02/04 19:29:32 EST

Every time I visit a smithy I tend to see a new method of mounting an anvil. I've seen anvils on concrete plinths, angle iron frames, tree trunks, fabricated wooden bases, on large boulders, concrete pipe filled with sand and even on a frozen pile of snow. Some people maintain that setting the anvil base in concrete adds to the effective mass of the anvil but I could not say if this is true or not.
Personally I use railway sleepers that I cut down to equal lengths and then bolt these pieces together. Previously I have heated the base of the anvil on a bed of coals then burned the anvil onto the base, however the router idea above seems a lot easier.
The first thing I make on the anvil once mounted is some straps to bind the laminated base together. Seems quite appropriate really.

   Bob G. - Friday, 04/02/04 19:54:22 EST


The first order of business for CyberSmiths International is to incorporate as a non-profit educational organization. To do so is going to cost some money, but it must be done so that we are in a proper legal position to support Anvilfire. Like the other members, I urge you to join CSI in that effort.

For those who would like to help support CSI's efforts toward incorporation, but are not prepared to become full members at this time, we are delighted to accept any donations. You can click on my name at the bottom of this post to send me an email and I will give you the mailing address.

Anvilfire is an incredibly valuable resource, and the members of CSI are committed to preserving and supporting Anvilfire. Please join us!

Rich Waugh, Treasurer ad hoc
   vicopper - Friday, 04/02/04 20:17:59 EST

well, the nail making class went great! about 16 kids showed up, they all made a nail. it was a home school club,all good kids, from first grade to eighth grade. we talked a little about how everyone in the family helped out to put food on the table, thanks Mike Trahey for your input, it made a lot of sense.
   mike-hr - Friday, 04/02/04 20:22:48 EST

PPW: if this weren't a family forum...

Bob is right, bolting down an anvil is usually done by separate steel straps, or plates in my case. If you have an anvil with a very loud ring, a good tight bolt-down will silence it quite a bit as well. I leave mine lively enough to ring a little, but not so mauch that it jumps off the stump.
   Alan-L - Friday, 04/02/04 20:25:18 EST

Man did not know you was doing a kid demo on nails. Even tho I hate making nails they ARE a great demo item. Once you get good at it you can make 2 nails a min...... (grin)
That sure beats the 5 min rule......
   Ralph - Friday, 04/02/04 20:37:16 EST

Alan, LOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/02/04 20:51:44 EST

Vic, use an accumulator to actuate the hydraulic hold down very fast. A small pump (manual or powered) can recharge the accumulator during the heating of the part. A spring to open cylinder will release the part quickly. A pressure reducing valve will control clamp force.

Practical now? Nah. But much closer. Grin!

Welding. It is nearly impossible to eliminate welding stress. You heat the metal up with the weld and it cools. When it cools, it contracts. Holding it with clamps does not eliminate the cooling stress. Use light tacks that you can still pull back to position for the tacks you make on the other side. One trick is to hold the part off what you are welding it to when you make the first tack. Say a 1/32" gap. That way, you can wiggle it around easier for subsequent tacks. When it's tacked well, weld 'er up.

To hold a long tube from warping up when you weld something else to it, I prebend the long tube. The amount of prebend is guessed. Errr, I mean, developed through experience. Art, like Vic said. Prebend can be done with clamps over a high spot. Avoiding the welds that go "across" the main tube will also reduce the warp dramatically. Just weld the two sides "along" the length of the main tube if you can. Welding on the other side can work too, but I've not been as successful with that.
   - Tony - Friday, 04/02/04 20:56:08 EST

Cheers, I love this website :) my question is how do I punch eye holes in set tools and hammer heads without ending up with an off center hole? I've tried using eye punches and the chisel suggested in the RR spike hatchet project and I do rotate the punch/chisel after each quenching. nothing looks more crude and amateurish than a mis-aligned hammer head! Oh and by the way Ive been smithing for about 6 years (since I was 16) and I was a member of the Victorian Blacksmiths Assosciation (Australia)
   eggbar - Friday, 04/02/04 21:11:17 EST

Eggbar, saw a demo last weekend by Erik Moebius who did a mortise and tennon joint. He is a strong advocate of drilling a pilot hole and each end of a slit, punching it through, and forging it to shape. I plan to try it this weekend, too.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 04/02/04 21:15:25 EST

Ok...should be "AT each end of the slit"....

Pofe th an Proost....pofe then proo st....
   quenchcrack - Friday, 04/02/04 21:17:34 EST

I too beleve that a pilot hole is needed. I have the advantage of a large flypress, best of luck if you are trying to punch holes without one!
   Bob G. - Friday, 04/02/04 21:25:31 EST

Bob G-i was wondering about that. well its good to know that i didn't by a defective anvil. and about your second post, my cousin was wondering if stacking truck rims together to get the right higth and then welding them together would work. he also mentioned using Ibeams. is this a possible solution? i kind of think it would be cool, having a custom frame.

3dogs-i thought about doing that. my biggest problem right now is transporting the stump to my house. my cousin is in the tree removal business so i have access to a fairly decent size stump. but his pickup isn't big enough for the stump and he can't use the company truck.

AwP-that's interesting. i haven't heard of doing that before. wouldn't the weight and working with the anvil dig itself into the sand though?

Alan-L-i'm still going to try to get a stump, it seems like the least amount of work at this point. how wide around should the stump be if i want it to be about 3ft tall and supporting my 110 lb anvil?
   mithrilmailler - Friday, 04/02/04 21:26:09 EST

To those considering hydraulics in a forge shop, especially an accumulator. Be aware that a pin hole leak in the fluid lines equate to a torch beyond anything you can imagine! In the forge shops that I have worked in, special fluids are used for this reason. These would typically be a water glycol type fluid at about @ 12.00+/gallon. Having worked for a magor mfg of high pressure fluid fittings and valves, I have seen the photos of the aftermath of plain oil leaks at high pressure with an ignition source, and the lawsuit photos of the humans involved will literally put tears in your eyes.
The water Glycols are called fire resistant, or more correctly "less hazardous" fluids. They will burn if the water content evaporates, and they are pretty poor fluids for long life of the equipment. If you insist on using hydraulics in a forge shop, please try to do the following;
1. use a fire resistant fluid.
2. put a remote kill switch for the hydraulic power unit to allow shut off some ways from the fire.
3. use hydraulic rated schedule 80 pipe, and forged steel fittings of the correct rating.( thats seamless pipe, and $10 a 1/2" ell fittings)
4. avoid hoses if possible. If not use steel sheilding to deflect leaks from the area people stand. This tends to make the fire go where people don't stand.
5. buy good fire and life insurance.
Life is too short to spend any of it dead, injuried, or in jail.(a quote that is now in Uncle Atlie's very thin book of wisdom)
by the way, accumulators tend to do as designed in a leak/fire case and provide high flow, beyond that the pump can deliver, although for a short time.
   ptree - Friday, 04/02/04 21:40:40 EST

mithrilmailer & others hunting a stump:

I work for an Electric Utility. We keep a big pile of old and broken poles. We have some now that are from a 69kV line, and these things are around 2' in diameter at the butt. If you can locate the operations center of your friendly local power co., you might get them to saw you off a good stump (or let you saw your own). Wear gloves when you're handling them, especially if they are the old cresote treated ones. The small diameter ones make good vise posts.
   - Don A - Friday, 04/02/04 22:00:43 EST


You could try stacking truck rims but I've got no idea how rigid they will be. Perhaps they will act like a large bell and magnify the sound, could be interesting. You don't want to make the base so large that you cannot get near the anvil, on the other hand it should not be so narrow as to be unstable. Have a look at the Euroanvil site for an example of an angleiron stand. http://www.euroanvils.net/pix/curfman.jpg
   Bob G. - Friday, 04/02/04 22:14:46 EST

Would it mess up your anvil to drill holes in the feet so that you could lag it down? This would sort of seem like a good design addition at the factory, to me.
   - Havok TD - Friday, 04/02/04 23:06:44 EST

"AwP-that's interesting. i haven't heard of doing that before. wouldn't the weight and working with the anvil dig itself into the sand though?"

The weight itself, no. With hammering it slowly does, especially if I'm hitting hard trying to draw out something thick. With heavy hammering after about the third or fourth heat I'll look at it, and if it needs it I'll lift the horn about two inches, then the heel. It's not heavy as if I was lifting the whole anvil at once, and I can adjust the hight for different sizes either lifting like that or giving a side to side twist motion to bury it a little deeper.

I use a 16 gal barrel and have a 100# Trenton anvil, so the barrel opening is barely bigger then the base, I'm not sure if it would be as sturdy in a 55 gal drum with alot more room around the sides.
   AwP - Friday, 04/02/04 23:30:55 EST

Punching & Slitting & Pilot Holes

For critical applications, especially in thick stock, I almost always drill a pilot hole, and then drift from alternate sides. Of course, the pilot hole does have to be centered and straight in the first place. ;-) It doesn't take a very wide hole, either, just something to guide the drift. A 1/8" (3.175 mm) hole in 1" (25.4 mm) stock is more than enough and preserves lots of metal for side-walls.

Swimming in Armor:

We've actually experimented with this (before folks discovered the stuff for shark suits). In mail, a strong swimmer can last about 3 minutes on the surface, partly due to the reduction in weight due to the bouyancy factor of water and specific gravity. After that, you have to flip head down, release any belts, and slip if off over your head underwater. It works in controlled conditions, but an unexpected dunking would be somewhat problematical. If it doesn't work, eventually you'd bob-up feet first in Baltimore harbor and scare the tourist after a few days (or so we told the folks when we were cruising Baltimore several years back). As for plate armor, your results may vary! I'm sticking with viking; not as far to fall and a softer, if wetter, landing than jousting.

More Armor Weight:

MP; you're right. Jousting armor was heavier and specialized, designed for what had become a sporting event. The survival of jousting armor, as well as youth armor, both of which had a higher rate of preservation than your war harness, helped lead to the two popular myths that all armor was heavy and all medieval folks were small.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 04/02/04 23:54:02 EST


If you start out with a stump 3 feet tal and then the anvil face is 9 to 10 inches above that, you're going to have a really tall anvil. I stand a bit over six feet tall and my anvil face is at my knuckle height, about 30" which is just right for general forging. For me. If it was 16" taller, I could only use it for very dainty work unless I wanted to destroy my joints.

For a 110 lb anvil, I would think the stand should be about 20 to 22 inches high and about 20" diameter. Much bigger around than that and you begin to find that your feet have no where to go.

Havok TD,

I suppose you could drill holes in the anvil feet, but I wouldn't. I believe that an anvil needs to be held securely, but I would worry that the lag bolts would break from the constant shocks. However, the Fisher anvils have cast mounting holes in the feet, so I suppose it must work out okay.
   vicopper - Friday, 04/02/04 23:56:52 EST


I drilled holes in my first ASO and mounted it with lag bolts. Never had any trouble with it. (other than being an ASO)
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 04/03/04 00:15:56 EST

Paw Paw, I drilled holes in my ASO too----then plumbed it for gas and started cooking over it...

Driving up to Albuquerque for the SWABA meeting tomorrow.

(I used the extreme upper limit on combat armour to help cut down on the outlier protests, one of my friends who served in VN told me he would carry about 120# of ammo at times so that's 150% of the extreme upper limit...he'd also go run 6 miles after sunup after we had got off second shift and "consumed some liquid refreshments")

   Thomas P - Saturday, 04/03/04 00:48:17 EST

thanks for all the replies about the stump. i think i'll go with vicopper's stump. i thought that the stump had to be alot bigger than that so that's what i told my cousin. he should be able to move a 20" stump.
   mithrilmailler - Saturday, 04/03/04 02:42:42 EST

Anvil stands. Get several heavy planks ( 4" X 12") and make a laminate stand. Or several 2 X 6 boards and make a truncated pyramid and fill with sandbags. Get a small barrel and fill with sand. I have a freind with a 450 lb Nimba and it looks to have only settled about an inch or so so it appears to be fine.
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/03/04 02:58:48 EST

Bolting down the anvil: There is no need to drill holes in the anvil. Forge an angle bracket such that the horizontal leg rests on the anvil foot and the vertical leg sits on the stump or base. Drill a hole in the horizontal leg for a lag bolt such that the bolt is between the anvil foot and inside the vertical leg of the angle bracket. The bolt goes through the angle bracket holding it tight down to the base or stump. Clamping an anvil down in this manner also reduces ringing dramatically.

Hydraulics in the forge shop? Ptree's cautions are well intended. What he said CAN happen. However, your hydraulic oil has to be very hot to act as a torch. Think about quench oil fires you may have had. If the oil is that hot, you won't have functioning hydraulics for long anyway. Oil hydraulics are used in very many molten metal environments and forge shops safely. Learn about what you are doing, use some common sense, and you will do just fine. Ptree, what is "hydraulic rated" pipe? And the burst pressure of regular schedule 40 welded pipe is what? Consumer prices for forged 3/4" and 1/2" elbows are 3-$4 each around here. Not $10-12. Use steel tubing wherever you can and avoid hose, but if you bump hot steel up against a properly rated hydraulic hose, you won't burn through the hose and let the oil out. You will just burn the cover. Laying a sizble red hot steel on a hose and letting it sit there may cause the oil to get out. Hoses on the floor are idiotic. Cautions are good. Scaring people away from a viable power source doesn't help anyone.

Hot steel around propane hoses is FAR more dangerous. This is why I use hydraulic hose with wire braid reinforcement and nitrile liner for my propane hoses.

Can you guess what industry I work in? Grin.
   - Tony - Saturday, 04/03/04 07:59:43 EST

Ptree, I guess I should say I know you were not trying to scare people away from hydraulics.
   - Tony - Saturday, 04/03/04 08:19:57 EST

Please consider joining us as a CSI member. If not for the great people here, (particularly Jock & Paw Paw)I would not have a fraction of my current store of blacksmithing knowledge. Now If I could just figure out how to transfer that knowledge to my hammer. :)

But seriously, the information contained in this site is invaluable to both beginners and experienced smiths alike. Help to keep it a viable resource. Join CSI.
   Brian C - Saturday, 04/03/04 08:50:28 EST

MM: Old books will often tell you to sink a six foot long, three foot diameter stumpt into the ground in your shop, but that really isn't needed. My anvil stump is barely bigger than the base of my anvil, which is 10" x 12". I was going to forge nifty angles, but had one of those situations where I needed it NOW, so I used two 3" x 4" rectangles of 1/4" steel plate, drilled in the center, leaning up against each end of the anvil base. Each plate has a 5/8 x 4 lag bolt through the center and into the stump at a 45 degree angle, so the plates get very tight indeed when the bolts are really torqued down. The stump itself is elm, 21 1/2" tall (I'm 6 feet even and the anvil is ~10" tall) with a surface of about 12 x 16 inches.

I used to use a 28" diameter stump with the anvil on one edge of the stump, which did leave a handy table-like surface behind the anvil, but as I started doing things that called for large bends it became obvious that an anvil-footprint-sized stump was better, as it won't get in the way of your work. I don't like metal anvil stands myself, they offend my delicate sensibilities (grin).
   Alan-L - Saturday, 04/03/04 09:19:20 EST

Anvil stands I am lucky enough to have an elderly gentleman with sawmill nearby, he made a cant about 2 inches larger than my anvil footprint about 4ft long.I used my chainsaw to cut to length dressed and leveled,then used the cutoff to make 4 kneebraces drilled and bolted to base of cant for a wide stable base area that doesnt interfere with my anvil use,hardwood and reddy rod about$40.
CSI been trying to join but cant seem to get thru the first panel for joining, Im not real computer friendly so maybe tou can give me some help, I enjoy this forum very much
   crosspean - Saturday, 04/03/04 10:42:27 EST


Have you tried going to the Anvilfire store? You can join through that route.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:03:57 EST

For some reason the CSI membership part of the store is not working. At least it did not let me renew. So the easy answer is mail a check to Guru at teh address he has listed in the store.
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:08:18 EST

Hydraulic pipe is seamless, and SA-105 is a good choice. The standard sch 40 black iron used for gas and air lines is seamed, and has very unspecified material limits, somewhat like A-36. The reason for seamless, sch 80 is fatique strenght. Hydraulic press applications, especially in home built applications are shocky. I did much research for the hydraulics mfg I worked for in the 70's on pressure spikes. You need a high speed recording ocilligraph to capture the spike, but a standard hyd. cylinder will generate a 15,000 psi spike when it gets into the cushion with a load. I had 3000 psi, forged steel fittings failing at a customer, at 1000 psi working pressure. I did a burst test and it took about 19,000 psi to fail, but at 5000 psi, spiked, the fitting cracked in a few thousand cycles. Burst rating is not always the best guide in hydraulics. By the way, the application for the fitting was a press, that traveled fast, say like an accumulator assisted clamp, that went solid as it hit the part. Spiked to about 10,000psi. Water hammer is another name for this. If you look, water hammer pressure rise is a function of the velocity and the rate of valve closure. If the fluid velocity is increased, the pressure rises. If the valve closure rate decreases, the pressure rise increases. If a traveling cylinder stops as it goes solid, the pressure rise approaches infinity. The reason for the no hose if possible, is that hose fails quicker, and a pin hole leak, spraying under pressure, be it from hose, a pipe, etc, WILL burn like a oil well fire. Seen the aftermath, My company was in litigation several times for just this issue. Yes people use standard pipe, hose, and oil in hot applications every day. Most are proffesionally piped, with good results until the shop burns down or a worker or three is killed. Then its done right. I keep forgeting that all the forged steel fitting are pretty much made overseas anymore. Price has come down. So has quality.
I know this is all a bit long winded, but I have seen the photos of at least three death scenes, from this exact cause. I had to do the research testing in the lab to support litigation. This makes a very strong impression.
Last but not least, if you doubt the petroleum oil at room temp won't burn with vigor, look up a fuel/air bomb. Used in Vietnam to level acres of forrest. Kerosene was the fuel of choice. any oil, in fine droplets in the atmosphere will explode at the right concentration.
   ptree - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:12:20 EST

And by the way, No I am not trying to scare people away from hydraulics, just scare them away from doing it on the cheap, and hurting someone.
Enough rant.
   ptree - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:13:44 EST

Anvil Stands: We have all the common and some uncommon types described in our iForge demo "Stands".

Stumps are great if you have a chain saw (or a big crosscut and a helper) and can trim to the exact height needed and square it up. If you have someone else do it then be sure they know how important parallelness is and to measure the exact height.

I like my fabricated wood stands, others like steel. Some Europeans prefer the sand filled can approach and Peddinghaus makes a commercial version (not sold in the US). These can be made from a 30 or 55 gal steel drum using a cold chisle.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:21:00 EST

CSI yes seems I have tried all the routes to join,Icant get on Slack-Tub either,been looking for snail address will keep looking and trying Thanks
   crosspean - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:23:55 EST

I have both of my working anvils on fabricated steel stands (Sorry Alan-L avert your eyes). One is a medium sized Fisher with the cast in bolt lugs and the other is a little 100 lb. Peter Wright I use for delicate work. I like the steel stands but I always place a wooden bolster between the anvil and the top plate of the stand. The Fisher was easy as it just bolts through the anvil, plywood shims and the steel top plate. For the PW I drilled one hole through the top steel plate and the wooden block on the stand at each side of the anvil between the feet. Then I welded a short piece of tubing to a piece of 1/2" threaded rod which passes through the holes. I slipped a piece of 3/4" solid rod through the tubing and across the feet of the anvil then tightened it down. Works preety well for me. Both anvil stands are made of steel plates and vertical steel tubing and both are filled with steel chips from the cold saw.

I'd like to echo the others urging you all to join the CSI group. It takes money and effort to keep this going. The dues of only $52 a year seem to be a small price to pay for something we all enjoy so much. It only seems fair to help out a little- Jock Dempsey has been carrying this thing on his own for a long time now and this is an easy way to thank him for all that effort. Help us keep this resource viable. Go to the store section and join in.
   SGensh - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:28:56 EST

CSI found the mail order route I was trying on the c/c order form with no success,will use the snail route,
Thanks Folks.
   crosspean - Saturday, 04/03/04 11:56:04 EST


My name is Ammar Khan, I live in Norway and I am interested to learn/know some facts about samurai swords.
I train Taek-won-do and we (students) train with wooden sticks. Our masters have real swords from Japan, which they often train with. Unfortunately we have lost our contact in Japan.
Our clubb is interested in some high quality samurai swords. The students have been given the task to find a manufacturer who make the “best” swords on the market. The price is not an obstacle.
After searching on the internet, I have learnt that there are several different price ranges and twice as much types of swords. Many of the swords on the market are only used for decoration, also called “garbage”. That’s why I wanted to hear the opinion of an experienced person in this subject.

I want to know:

What kind of steel I should look for?
I know something about Metallurgy.
I know stainless steel will easyly brittle. Many have suggested carbon steel. But what king of carbon steel? Others have claimed that folded steel blades are much more expensive but alot better quality and are worth saving for. We want the best you know!

What would be the price range for an "Excellent Quality" katana, wakasashi and tanto?

Where can we find these swords. Have you any e-m@il or websites?

   Ammar Khan - Saturday, 04/03/04 14:17:08 EST

Hi! I'm new to all of this, so I'll try to speak intelligently. I am making all sorts of inquiries around and about to find out if there is a resource(s) for finding out what metalworkers worked in the late 1800's making pieces or fittings for trunks for travel. I have in my possession three trunks from family members. However, the one that I am more curious about at the moment is one that has a hasp of a peculiar nature. On the remaining piece of lock, above is a very pronounced shamrock. It is set in the metal so that it has not been damaged and is more prominent than some of the tooling that I have seen. It leads me to think that it was an Irish metalworker who tooled the fittings. Our family was pretty heavy Irish back then...not a lot of money in any family line. Irish also were a huge bulk of the railroad workers, and that family being on the railroad lines and ended up in mid and western Nebraska, it led me to think also that there might be a link there. Also, the tooling upon most of the fancier pieces on the trunk are much more refined than many I have seen in reproductions or otherwise. Pride was taken in that work...I think it deserves finding out more about. I have pretty good digital pictures of each of those pieces as well as the trunk at all angles if anyone would like to see them. The trunk itself in style/design is known as a 'flatback' or a 'wall trunk'. These were designed for those travelling in 'steerage' or limited space travel/residence as it could be opened without taking up further floor space or abutting it out further from a wall or closet. The trunk is well-used. Many, many people used that trunk and for some time. Thus...it's always possible that it 'came over' from other lands, or...just was produced here and got well-travelled. It's origins I am also going to assume were from Mideastern states/Ohio, Ill, on east or west...probably not too much further west. I have further info on it as well, or will be happy to share what more I find out. Thanks for your time and attention to this matter.
   herecke - Saturday, 04/03/04 14:26:15 EST

Ammar Khan,

The fist name that comes to mind is Dr. Jim Hrisoulas. His web site is locatec at:


Dr. Jim's swords are NOT cheap, but if you want the best, he's one of the best bladesmiths in the United States.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 04/03/04 14:35:18 EST


You can send to the pictures to the guru, or to me, and we'll try to help you. Click on our names on this page and it will open your email program with our email addresses filled in.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 04/03/04 14:39:50 EST

BTW...this site is just phenomenal. I have never seen anything like it. Do you know what you guys have here? Now that I've seen more of the profferings, and browsed throughout the site somewhat, I am humbled by the post I just made, but do not regret putting it on. I have found that the only way to find out is to ask. I have costumed for medieval plays, etc., and so swordplay, etc. comes into the issue. Also, have a daughter writing a movie involving the same, and she has been hammering me for swords from day one almost, of the planning stages for it. I recently procured some rather inexpensive ones from HSN, and realizing it is mainly for 'show' than for utility, it kind of began to open up a whole new world for us. However, my kids are half-Japanese, and there are still relatives in Japan that communicate with the ones in Hawaii. If I can help facilitate finding out more on katanas or other info, I'll try to do my best. There is an uncle who is high, high, high on the list of sensei's in the U.S. and I am more than sure he has contacts. Also, the Society for Creative Anachronism is strong in our Nebraska area, so there are interests in metallurgy there as well. I just didn't want you all to think that I am a total flake...a blonde one, but not a total one...ok?

Thank you for just a wonderful site...I'm still speechless.
   herecke - Saturday, 04/03/04 15:01:41 EST

Ammar Khan: The katanas made by Howard Clark out of I think L6 steel are concidered by many to be the highest quality sword made today, though there are many fine swordsmiths who can make quality equal to the old time traditional Japanese smiths. You can find Howard Clark and many others here, though you will need to register a free account to post...
Good luck in your search
   AwP - Saturday, 04/03/04 17:21:40 EST

What we have here. . : Herecke, Yes we do. When I launched anvilfire seven years ago I set out to make it the BEST blacksmithing site on the web. At this point many think it is the best but there is a LOT more to be done. Nothing on the web can be stangnant so we are constantly trying to improve.

Currently we are trying to get our members group (Cybersmiths International AKA CSI) organized as a non-profit entity such that we can preserve anvilfire and more for future generations. The goal will be to preserve as well as maintain and improve.

Up until now this has been mostly a one-man operation with volunteers submitting demos and articles. It has reached a point where just maintaining this site is MORE than a full time job. And the problems are not just time but money. We started selling a few products on-line a few years ago to help make ends meet. The problem is that the time spent operating the store takes away from the time maintaining and improving the site. I would prefer to be answering questions and writing articles than selling product but it takes money to keep things going.

A few years ago we launched CSI (Cybersmiths International) as a member group to help keep this site and its forums going. CSI dues have helped kept this site afloat but just barely. We need a considerably larger membership in order to continue offering all this information and services to the public for free. It has also become time to establish CSI as a legal entity so that if something happens to me that there is someone at the very least to pay the server bill to keep anvilfire (and its associated sites like ABANA-Chapter.com, old-locks.com and repoussetools.com) on-line.

SO, we are asking everyone that appreciates this site to Join CSI, send donations AND OR volunteer to help with the work of CSI as a non-profit. We need folks with know-how in international finance, fund raising, grant writing and all the other things a non-profit organization needs.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/03/04 17:22:41 EST

By hobby, I am an armorer with a few years of experience, working in 18 to 14 ga sheet, mild and stainless. So far all my work has been cold.

I'm looking to expand my shop tools and would really like to get a good T-stake. The quandry is that I can't seem to find any for sale.

Do you know of anywhere that sells T-stakes (about 2 to 3" width and about 14" to 20" in length) ?

Thanks for any help you can provide!
- Sean
   Sean Stephens - Saturday, 04/03/04 17:31:27 EST

Anvil Stands. I use one I welded up from angle iron. It works fine. Used silicone caulk between the anvil and the base to cut the noise down. It is a 200# Hay Budden. On a wood stump it rings loud enough to hurt your ears.

Vaughn makes steel anvil stands that are really nice. You can find them on the website for Pieh Tool Co., under the pull down menu for anvilfire, they are an advertiser here and great to deal with.

CSI can use your financial support to move on to the next level, a non profit corporation, to ensure this site lasts beyond the lives of the regular posters and mainstays here. It would be a shame to see it die with the death or retirement of one person.
   Ellen - Saturday, 04/03/04 17:33:52 EST


Go to the navigate anvilfire drop down menu and visit the advertisers websites. Here is a page from one of the advertisers which may contain what you are looking for.
   Bob G. - Saturday, 04/03/04 18:09:22 EST

Bob, first, thanks for the reply :). Pieh Tool Co is one of the first I searched on, unfortunately Vaughn does not carry any stakes that meet what I'm looking for.

The closest picture I can find is from Eric Thing's shop: http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/armor/atli/atli-et01.htm

What I'm looking for is a blend between that and the one shown on page 90 of Brian Price's book, Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction.

Both of these examples are significantly larger than anything I can find for sale. The one shown in Prices book is either forged or cast, with the rounded horn having a saddle shape from center to front, where the ovalish ball end drops. So it makes the suggestion of a shallow "S" shape...

I may just end up having to find a good welding shop, some 2-3" square bar stock, and a lot of time with a grinder.

As an aside, how good are Euroanvils? Looking to replace the poor sad specimen I have now. I looked at their site and they are *very* affordable compared to others I've looked at.

Thanks again,
   Sean Stephens - Saturday, 04/03/04 19:32:26 EST

Sean, think about making a T stake from a piece of heavy rail. You can have the web O-A cut, dress with an angle grinder.

If you want to have it "s" you can heat it in a forge and press it with a hydraulic or screw press---or just hammer it---but you may need more clean up that way...

RR rail can be heat treated as well and for a heavy use tool it may profit you to harden and temper it "tough".

If you are local to me I would be glad to help.

   Thomas P - Saturday, 04/03/04 20:02:37 EST

Anyone know where I can find tinsmithing supplies? I would like to hot-dip my forged spoons, forks etc in tin. (If this even possible.) Thanks.
   - Robert Dean - Saturday, 04/03/04 20:27:55 EST

Ptree, I'm not trying to get into an argument here, but you are just not correct about the majority of hydraulic applications. Most steel hydraulic piping is done with seamed pipe or tubing. Not seamless. Hydraulic texts cover the pressure ratings very well. Hydraulic courses do also. Sure, seamless is generally better, but it's not required for a safe installation.

I'm a licensed Master Plumber, Professional Engineer and Certified Fluid Power Engineer. I do this stuff every day for customers all over the world.

The fitting prices I quoted were for US made, high quality forged fittings, not imports. Fittings sold by reputable dealers and manufacturers have to pass the SAE standards which include impulse testing to verify design. We design and make high pressure hydraulic fittings, valves and components. One of my engineers is on the SAE fitting committee. If your fittings failed, you should retest or redesign the fitting or circuit so the spikes are reduced.

We were talking about a anvil hold down, not a space shuttle shock strut.

Not all home press circuits have significant shock.

I am well aware of pressure spikes and don't need a discertation on how they are measured or generated. What you SHOULD say if you like, is that SOME applications CAN generate a 15,000 psi spike. I've seen 50,000 psi spikes on 2500 psi systems. The fact is that most applications don't have those spikes. Saying they "will" is misinformation and I will not idly watch incorrect statements made.

Pressure rises in cylinders DO NOT approach infinity. If they did, all cylinders and related components would fail. In the majority of applications, the components in the system flex to absorb the shock.

Regarding when typical hydraulic oil will burn in a normal atmosphere... oil will not ignite until it reaches it's flash point, there is enough oxygen present, and there is an ignition source. This is far above room temperatures. Oil forced through a small orifice like a pinhole leak, does get heated. And this CAN raise the oil temperature above the flash or autoignition point but it is very rare. I've never seen it, but acknowledge the possibility. Saying that all high pressure leaks will burn like an oil well fire is once again, misinformation. The reality is that most hose leaks start as weeps, not high pressure streams. Most oil leaks where there is a high pressure stream do not ignite even if they hit a hot surface.

I'm very sorry you have seen deaths related to hydraulics. But don't suggest that every hydraulic system piped with seamed pipe and having hose will cause death. It's just not true.

As for me, Rant all you want. Just be correct. I'm glad you added the caution to my statement. But I can not accept the misinformation. If you want to continue this, let's take it to the hammer in. But please use science to support your position.
   - Tony - Saturday, 04/03/04 21:40:31 EST

Just looking through the getting started in blacksmithing section and decided to look for a copy of the machinery's handbook on chapters.ca. $140-$300. The PDF cd is $100. Are these people insane????
   - HavokTD - Saturday, 04/03/04 22:35:15 EST


I have a 178lb Euro and I really like it. I also use an old Mouse Hole and a Peter Wright on occasion. The only problem I have encountered with the Euro is that the face is a wee bit softer that the old-timers. This is not all bad, however. It has taught me to pay more attentention to exactly what it is I'm hammering on. Mine has an upsetting block, so I have no excuse for having black iron on my anvil face. For the bucks, you can't beat'em.
   - Don A - Saturday, 04/03/04 22:49:53 EST

look on ebay. I got my 14th edition for 5 dollars
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/03/04 22:50:08 EST


I've bought three in the last month from eBay. All of them for less than $15.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 04/03/04 22:56:11 EST


I'll be off line Monday and at least part of Tuesday, I'm going to be doing some hardware upgrades to my CPU.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 04/03/04 22:56:40 EST

thanks Guru, my cousin is cutting some Cherry trees down next week, he's going to get me a nice stump from that. he knows that i need a level peice so he's going to try to get it as level as possible with the chainsaw and i'll finish it with a belt sander and other tools. i'm planning on using my dad's router to sink the anvil into the surface of the stump. i'll try it w/out bolting it down first
   mithrilmailler - Saturday, 04/03/04 23:08:23 EST

Armoring Stake; Sean:

The one that Eric Thing uses was custom built for him at a metals fabrication shop. It's not an off-the-shelf item. Let a fabricator do the heavy welding and initial shaping, then you can take an angle grinder to it for final shaping and sand and polish it down to your expectations. if you can draw it, a good shop can make it; also you can shop the drawing around for bids to find out what shop would be most reasonable. It won't be cheap, but it's worth it to get it right.

Paw Paw:

We'll miss you! (But then again I usually shoot a bit high and to the right!) ;-)

Fixin' to blow about 30+ knots on the banks of the lower Potomac. Attended the Longship Company Annual Meeting- a complete miscarriage of democracy- I'm reelected President. I needed more duties like St. Stephen needed more rocks!

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

Camp Fenby (a laid-back medieval arts and crafts camp-out) June 25-27, 2004
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 04/03/04 23:34:07 EST

My 224# Hay- Budden is welded directly to a 8"X8"x7/8" chunk of I -beam that is welded to a 18" round 1 3/8" plate. I use hardwood wedges to level it and stop it from rocking. I bought it like that so don't flame me too bad! :) I thought about cutting it off the I-beam and using a traditional mount but I figure the extra weight will slow down the local junkies if they try to haul it to the scrap yard. I need to lower it 5" or so. I figure it adds a couple of hundred pounds of mass to the anvil. It doesn't get in the way when bending long objects because it's smaller than the base of the anvil. If and when I cut it loose I was thinking of welding a 1" plate on top of the I-beam and strapping or bracketing the anvil on top of that. A good solid chunk of material like that to use for a stump is hard to find lying around.
   - bgott - Sunday, 04/04/04 01:56:08 EST

About making contributions toward maintaining Anvilfire:

As vicopper said a few posts above, there may be those of us (me for one) who want to help Jock out, but don't hanker to join a group...

Jock: would it be OK to send a supporting contribution to the Dempsey's forge address at the bottom of the homepage? I, too, find this site very valuable, and would like to kick in something.

Cold and rainy (can you believe it??) in Tucson, AZ.
   - E Thing - Sunday, 04/04/04 03:09:02 EDT

about lead used in riveted chainmail, at least some of the suits were tinned, as in solder covered. there is an illustration of an armorer and aprentice taking a shirt out of a vat with tongs; i don't know/remember if that was the fluxing stage or the tinning.

john tobako
   john tobako - Sunday, 04/04/04 05:19:54 EDT

HavokTD: The price of technical books has, indeed, lost touch with reality. An engineering student can look forward to spending around $750 to $1000 per semester for books. When I was in school, I didn't spend that much for tuition! eBay and used book stores can save you some money as Paw-Paw mentioned. I was told that the problem is spreading the cost of publishing over a very small number of books compared to the number of books that appeal to a larger audience.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/04/04 08:26:44 EDT

John T., that would be the tinning. The discussion about lead was that it was not used as the material for the rivets themselves. Lead has such a low shear strength in that small a section it would have been little if any stronger than butted rings.

BTW, tinning means covering with tin. Not a tin/lead alloy. A lot of fancy hardware was tinned as a rust preventative, kind of like a more decorative hot-dip galvanizing. It's not very durable, though.

All: Please support anvilfire in whatever way you can, if you value the information here. As Quenchcrack said, new technical books are astronomically expensive, and here you have access to several books' worth of information in as close to non-technical language as it can be put, for free. Don't let that go away!
   Alan-L - Sunday, 04/04/04 10:09:51 EDT

Yesterday I was being shown an old tool collection that belonged to an upholsterer born in 1903. On some of the wood plains there was stamped into the blades 'Cast Steel' No dates on them. The tools, many of which were hand made, were kept in very good condition as they were this man's livelyhood. I'm wondering when cast steel started to become popular or if these blades could have been replacement blades?
The answer to this and many more questions can be had for less than 15 cents a day by joining CyberSmiths International at the Anvilfire store. I could spend 2 bucks for gas driving to the library, but this is so much more convienient.
   Gronk - Sunday, 04/04/04 12:12:15 EDT

Donations to anvilfire/CSI: These can be mailed to my address on our home page, submitted through our miscellaneous form via credit card on the store OR sent to VIcopper (temp CSI treasurer) via PayPal on the members application form. If you want to make a donation through the PayPal route and do not want to become a member just click on the pay pal link without entering anything else on the CSI form.

Make out checks to DEMPSEY'S FORGE. CSI is not yet a legal entity but we are working on that right now.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/04/04 12:46:24 EDT

Cast Steel refers to the Huntsman process where blister steel is melted, equalizing the carbon content and getting rid of any residual slag in it. Huntsman's experimental work was in the first half of the 18th century with widespread commercialization in the 19th century. ("Steelmaking Before Bessemer, Vol 2 Crucible Steel", and in "The Arms of Krupp" they mention the competition of who could cast the largest steel ingot---when challanged at an exhabition, he chiseled a piece off and forged it to prove it wasn't cast iron...)

Now this is the start, I'm not so familiar with the end; but I associate "cast steel" with objects commonly in the 1880's-1890's and tapering off in the early 1900's and gone by the depression---though Sheffield continued the process long after that---anybody know if they are still teeming any high carbon steel over there? I haven't checked in a couple of years...

   Thomas P - Sunday, 04/04/04 13:00:15 EDT

Thanks Thomas. Well I'm gonna figure that these blades were original then. Time frame sounds about right. This collection was amazing. Wire cutters, all manner of hammers, gouges, etc... all in excellent, but well used condition, if that makes sense. I couldn't get the owner to part with the 2.5 ish pound cross pein try as I did.
   Gronk - Sunday, 04/04/04 13:10:47 EDT

Armourer's Stakes and Tools: Most sheet metal tools are designed for much lighter material than armour plate. 20 gauge was considered heavy for many of these tools. Many are also designed for silversmiths and musical instrument makers working in soft non-ferrous metals.

SO, modern armours make do, make their own, and use their imagination. The articles on Eric Thing's shop and our NEWS coverage (Vol 29) of the WV Armour-In last spring are full of imaginative make do items.

For a great deal of shaping and planishing a ball stake is the closest thing to a universal armourers tool (after the hammer). Balls are available as commercial stakes, bearing balls, ball-mill balls, trailer hitches and other spherical surfaced parts like ball valves.

Bearing balls are hard, precision and EXPENSIVE. Ocassionaly very large ones are found in scrap yards where ball bearings have been dissasembled OR in assembled bearings. Deals on these are where you find them.

Ball mill balls are fairly plentiful HOWEVER they vary in material from cast iron to extreamly hard steel. Both of these are difficult to impossible to weld a shank to. But there are also a lot made of medium carbon steel which can be welded, ground and polished.

Being ever vigilant and using ones imagination can result in a fine collection of tools needed for armouring. Last year we went on an armouring tool buying jag. On the way to the WV Armour-In last spring we stoped at the local flea market and bought a Whittney punch without dies for $15, a sledge hammer and a ball pien hammer for $5. At the Armour-In we bought a nice beak-horn stake. Then at the Southeast Conference in Madison, GA we picked up a few planishing hammers AND a Beverly B2 shear in sad shape and needing blades. Both the Whittney punch and Beverly shear were outfitted with new dies and together cost less than one third of new. At SOFA Quad-State last summer we picked up a few more used specialty hammers AND a couple 6" forged high alloy steel balls with heavy shanks. During that time I also filled in my collection of ball pien hammers.

It takes time to accumulate all the tools that one needs or THINKS they need to do a task. If you can afford it new tools are wonderful. But used tools are often much more affordable AND often in better variety and quality than new. On the other hand, used tools often require travel to find them and the associated cost. Use your imagingation when looking at scrap iron junk. It comes in an infinite variety of shapes many of which are perfect for the infinite wants of the metal worker.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/04/04 13:16:47 EDT

Technical Books: As noted, NEW these can be very expensive. However, many are available used. Check the list of books you want regularly on the used book finder services like bookfinder.com. What you are looking for may not be available this month but next there may be a dozen copies.

Those used as text books are commonly available but those that are high dollar engineering references are VERY rare. Books like Metalwork Technology and Practice, Modern Welding and MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK are commonly available used. Books like the ASM Metals Reference Book, Heat Treaters Guide and the ASM Metals Handbook series are almost NEVER found used. Some of these references used by engineers, heat treaters and others (like bladesmiths) needing to know about various alloys must be and should be purchased new. Yes, they cost as much as a new anvil, but the ARE needed tools just as any other. My ASM Metals Reference Book is refered to almost as often as MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK.

I have found a few engineering references in used book stores but most are so old they are best used as historical references. Most of the time these are from some engineer's collection that has only been sold because he is no longer alive. Some 1940's references are still applicable but a LOT has changed since then.

MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK is an exception to both the rule of old references AND to pricing and availability. Most of the information in MACHINERYS is so well distilled that old copies are just as useful as new. The contents change only microscopicaly from edition to edition and much of the original information is still in the current editions. It is commonly available cheap because many technical schools require a course in "How to use Machinery's Handbook" and the students that bought them as text books do not see their value and dump them. It is one of MY most used references and if you are in any kind of metal working it should be YOUR number one reference too.

On high dollar technical books check the publisher for the current price. Many resellers do not purchase enough to get a discount and must mark up the books well beyond list price. Some publishers sell these books direct because of their high cost. Check them out before buying.

IF you are buying several ASM references you can pay for the cost of an ASM membeship which provides discounts on their books. However, be sure you are going to make use of the membership discount. McGraw-Hill used to have an engineer's book club that could save you significantly but membership was restricted.

I use both bookfinders.com and OCASSIONALY buy books on ebay. I have usualy found better deals through used book dealers than through ebay. However, ocassionaly there is good deal when few folks are bidding. Set your price limit and stick to it.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/04/04 13:54:08 EDT

Care and Feeding of Champion blower #400:

What kind of oil? How much oil?

   Scott Little - Sunday, 04/04/04 16:02:20 EDT

Bar&chain oil is good, 30 weight motor oil works, gear oil will wear you out. Fill it until it starts running out the main bearing. Don't worry, it's supposed to.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 04/04/04 16:16:28 EDT

john tobako-i've never heard of this process. what is it supposed to do?
   mithrilmailler - Sunday, 04/04/04 17:24:09 EDT


Tinning prevents rust on the iron rings.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 04/04/04 20:11:44 EDT

Donations to Anvilfire: E. Thing, and anyone else,

You can send donations to Dempsey's Forge, address on the Store page, or you can send them to me. If you want them to go directly to Anvilfire, then it is probably best to send them directly to Jock. I'm accepting donations to further the cause of incorporating CSI so that we can be the entity that supports Anvilfire. Email me by clicking on my name for a mailing address if needed.

Joining CSI as a member supports both CSI and Anvilfire. In fact, CSI is about the only group that I am a member of since I, like Eric, am not much for joining groups. This site is just too valuable to me not to do whatever it takes to keep it thriving.

   vicopper - Sunday, 04/04/04 21:25:36 EDT

One possible source for used engineering and metallurgy books is a campus bookstore at a university where those subjects are taught. Many students trade-in or sell their used texts after the class is finished, and books that are three or more years old are considered "dated" enough to be much cheaper. It might also be well worth the effort to put a wanted notice on the bulletin board at the school.
   vicopper - Sunday, 04/04/04 21:28:08 EDT

Tinned Objects:

Just an addendum- at least at the coppergate dig amny of the tinned ironwork items (about 180 rcovered) were coated with tin, but many of them were tin-lead, lead, copper, brass and any combination of the above. All sorts of stuff ends up in the melting pot.

Eric: I haven't had much of a chance to get out to your neck of the desert, and our travel budget has just gone south; but I'll let you know if duty talkes me out there anytime soon. Good to see you're still keeping up on things (and being supportive). Your name is invoked constantly, and you helm is on prominent display at oakley. Erven my wif likes it! ;-)

Blowing half a gale and rattling the windows on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

Camp Fenby (a laid-back medieval arts and crafts camp-out) June 25-27, 2004
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 04/04/04 23:03:41 EDT


Yup, still alive. Though I am (shamed to say) just this weekend doing spring cleaning on a shop that has been almost unused for 2 months. Started a new warhat yesterday, had a couple friends over, so did almost-medieval type three man plate forging. Much motion, and noise. I held the tongs, and two younger guys swung the sledges. Made a 19" disk into a nice deep bowl, and I wasn't a bit tired!

On armoring stakes: for helmet work, I've found that a T-stake of 3" cross-section immensely useful. I also have a 6" ball stake (heavy sucker!) and I hardly ever use it. The combo that find vital is: 1) heavy T-stake; 2) lighter (2" x-section) T-stake with 1" sq hole for little stakes -- really a heavy stake horse; 3) vertical 2" bar with 1" sq socket on top (vertical stake horse). With judicious scrounging/building of little stakes with 1" bar shanks, you can work almost any shape.

The heavy T, by the way, is just mild steel (A36, nowadays); it has taken 10 years of tremendous punishment. Of course, if struck directly with a hardened tool, it will dent, but I just sand out little dings.

Hope you have recovered from your bout with the crud, Atli, and keep up the good work! Some day, I'll come to a Fenby.

   - E Thing - Sunday, 04/04/04 23:48:18 EDT

Hi my name is Warren Paterson.I have a couple of questions for you.I am a British Columbian "c" welder,In the fall I will be doing my "b".I am taking on blacksmithing as my career.I am starting to make gates,and furniture to sell.Having to do with the forge.What is the cheapest fuel?What does each fuel differ in?Do you leave The forge burn all day?Tell me some ofthe objects that are made that people like.If you have a decent product does this facet of metalwork provide a living?
   warren Paterson - Monday, 04/05/04 01:14:44 EDT

Fuel Comparison: Warren, Fuel comparisons are difficult. Coal is the most flexible fuel IF you can get it localy at a reasonable cost. For production work oil and gas forges are almost a necessity. They are clean and require little attention to the forge or daily cleaning like coal. You can stack up a pile of billets to feed a power hammer and work all day without a moments break. This is virtually impossible to do with coal or coke.

Where coal beats gas and oil is for forge welding and for odd shaped work. Gas and oil forges have a small enclosure in order to be efficient and achieve a suitable heat. This often prevents handling large scrolls, bent or branching pieces. Most professional smiths have both gas and coal forges. Often you want several gas forges because they are only efficient for the size work that fits them. Actual cost per useable BTU is close to the same.

How long the forge runs depends on your work flow. If you are making components for a large job it may run all day. If you are doing assembly work or fitting details you may only use it an hour or so if at all.

The most important question you need answered is "what kind of machinery do I need". IF you intend on doing high class forged work you MUST have a power hammer to make a living. You also need an ironworker for efficient cutting and small hole punching. You also need a heavy duty drill press, a large weld platten (for the type work you described). There are also other specialized machines that can make you much more productive OR even make it possible to do certain jobs. Twisters are common as are rolls and various benders and presses. Many smiths incorporate machined parts into their work and have lathes and milling machines. A productive modern blacksmith shop looks more like a machine shop that an old timey blacksmith shop. . .

You do not need all this at once but you DO need it all if you intend to make a living at blacksmithing.

The question of making a living depends on a LOT of factors. Decorative blacksmithing is an art that requires design skills, an artistic eye and practiced hand skills as well as the technical knowledge. It also requires salesmanship, business accumen, the right location AND enough capital to operate until you become well enough known that people will trust you to deliver the job.

You must also LOVE it. Otherwise stick to welding.
   - guru - Monday, 04/05/04 01:54:05 EDT

Eric, Thanks for the input!
   - guru - Monday, 04/05/04 01:55:02 EDT

Just finished my first project today, a coat hanger with twists and a scroll. The neighbor who is helping me learn has a 450 lb Fisher anvil(size does matter) which he got for $150 worth of motorcycle parts some years ago. He is not interested in selling it, but he does want to know how much it is worth... Any ideas?

p.s. many thanks to this site and all involved in keeping it up. I hope it is here for many years to come...cause where else is there so much information and friendly, helpful community in one easy to navigate site. Thanx Again
   Joe R - Monday, 04/05/04 03:02:18 EDT

Joe, That big Fisher is probably worth $900 to $1500 in today's market if in good condition. You can buy a new Euroanvil for less. . .
   - guru - Monday, 04/05/04 04:09:06 EDT

Alan-L i was refering to how the idea of lead could have been linked to the production of mail. in electronics, wires are tinned before soldering, and solder was 50/50 tin/lead. very easy for someone to half-hear two facts (lead in solder, tinning to solder, tinning on mail) and end up with something else (lead holding mail together).

i am sorry my fingers don't type as much as i think

john tobako
   john tobako - Monday, 04/05/04 06:57:26 EDT

John Tobako,

No problem it's easy to mis-understand in this to dimensional medium.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 04/05/04 09:13:09 EDT

Absolutely. Sometimes my eyes go faster than my brain and directly to my fingers. Glad things are cleared up, and no hard feelings? Insert hearty virtual handshake here.

   Alan-L - Monday, 04/05/04 09:36:42 EDT

Pfft, then post! I must have been a little tired last night...


Ya gotta love a large labor pool; very medieval!

Shop Work:

I'm not exactly a production setup; but I find I spend about an hour of cold-work (filing, set-up, saw work, chisels, punches, clean-up, tool care...) for every hour of hot-work (based on my log book). This does not count any paperwork, research, studies, computerized brain-picking (Thanks Jock and crew! ;-) or "at home" activities. Just shop time.

How about the rest of you?

About 30 degrees this morning on the banks of the Potomac! Where'd winter come from?

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/05/04 10:12:19 EDT

technical books ... try www.abebooks.com [advanced book exchange] this site has over 5000 used book stores' inventory linked together . In a few minutes you can get a complete listing , inl. condition, price and shipping. It may be a bit more expensive than e-bay , cuz these guys want to make a profit. Caution .. this site is addictive!
   tim - Monday, 04/05/04 11:00:47 EDT

I have been using a mixture of turpentine, boiled linseed oil and bees wax heated onto my projects. I got this formula from the "New Edge of the Anvil". I've been using this method for years with decent results but would like to try something else. My larger pieces take quite a while to to complete this process with a weed burner propane torch which brings me to my question. Is there any other method that will provide a similar (better) finish? Also, there is no shot blasting available in my area that I know of and I don't like what sand blasting does to the surface. Any secrets out there besides pickling and the wire brush on a drill?
   Hoof - Monday, 04/05/04 13:10:59 EDT

Tim, generally the stuff I've bought from abebooks has been *cheaper* than e-bay. It's the first place I go when I see a book on e-bay that I like, often get it for below what the current bid is.

   - Thomas P - Monday, 04/05/04 13:14:05 EDT

In the Revolutionary Blacksmith, Book 3, chapter 2, Paw Paw describes the making of a round-ball mould for a musket. I'd like to try this myself, but just the mould, not the cherry. I've seen this process demonstrated in several books, and I believe I can figure it out. Where could I find a ready-made cherry, or ball cutter, for a .595 ball?
   - Don A - Monday, 04/05/04 13:43:46 EDT

Paw Paw-would you tin a shirt put together already? i would think that this would make the rings fuse together.
   mithrilmailler - Monday, 04/05/04 14:25:31 EDT

tinning mail:

The tin is such a thin layer, and relatively weak, so any "fusing" that occurred would break apart the first time the maille was flexed.
   vicopper - Monday, 04/05/04 14:45:58 EDT

CSI Fundraising>

Hey, do you think each of us in CSI could make a sword and sell it to students in Norway?

We could make thousands of dollars for Anvilfire... :-)

Sorry, I couldn't resist.
   - taylor - Monday, 04/05/04 15:47:09 EDT

I am going to start blacksmithing very soon. I will work in my garage and I wonder if somebody here will share an idea about to lower the level of noise with the anvil.
Thank you
Alfredo Alamo
   Alfredo Alamo - Monday, 04/05/04 15:56:20 EDT

Log book!!!! Log book!!! Who takes notes....... I used to but then the book got all messed up.....
Now I just SWAG it all.
   Ralph - Monday, 04/05/04 16:16:24 EDT

there are as many ways to help make and anvil less noisy as there are smiths I am betting. You can take a caffee can and fill with cement ( have a eye-bolt in it before hand) and hang from horn with a leather strap. you can make sure anvil is fastened down securely. place an old shingle under the anvil or use some RTV caulking. chain wrapped around the waist, or a large magnet stuck to the anvil in an out of the way location ( I would place magnet in a zip lock bag first so you do not get it covered with iron scale) These are just a few. Oh yes you could find yourself a Fisher anvil.
   Ralph - Monday, 04/05/04 16:20:21 EDT

Killing the ring of an anvil - Alfredo Alamo

There are several things to try to lower the anvil's ring, a large magnet attached to the anvil (on the waist of the anvil or under the heel), a couple of wraps of loose chain around the waist of the anvil, anchoring the anvil loosely to the stump, or some silicone or latex caulk between the anvil and stump.

If you have hard flat walls in the garage these will reflect sound. Move the anvil to the garage door or even outside the garage.

Additional information can be found at
http://www.iforgeiron.com > tricks > anvils
   - Conner - Monday, 04/05/04 16:34:18 EDT

MMailer, if you go ILL a copy of "Sources for the History of the Science of Steel" C.S.Smith you will find it contains an excerpt from "The Boke of Natural Magick", 1539 IIRC, that inclueds instructions for caase hardening a suit of maille.

   - Thomas P - Monday, 04/05/04 16:58:17 EDT

Euroanvils: The one we got at Madison last year gets a lot of use. Eight hours a day with people of different experience levels beating on it also. Still working good. As I said before, Steve is a friend, advertizes on Anvilfire, sells a good product and stands behind it. You can tell him I said so.
   - Ron Childers - Monday, 04/05/04 17:13:52 EDT

Theres never been a anvil at my place that I couldn`t stop ringing by driving a 3/8" spike in the stump next to each foot then cleating the spike over the foot, killed the ring in its tracks. I`ve heard stories about others anvils that had so much stuff wrapped, stuck, caulked, glued, chained on them that it looked like a taxi in Manila and it kept on ringing.
   - Robert - Monday, 04/05/04 17:46:08 EDT

Hi guys. I found a company that will cast me an aluminum anvil, but they need a blueprint for it. I'm looking for a total weight (Alum.) of 60 pounds or so. I forget the iron to aluminum wieght ratio, how can I get this company an accurate design? What size (weight) of an iron anvil would correlate to a 60 pound aluminum? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

   The Great Nippulini - Monday, 04/05/04 18:05:56 EDT

you are assuming his anvil is mounted on a stump. Your method works well only as long as you are on a wooden base.
The other ideas work well for other applications.
   Ralph - Monday, 04/05/04 18:30:58 EDT


I believe it would be equivalent in size to roughly a 175# steel anvil. If you look on the pulldown menu and pick "Mass3j (calculator), you can enter desired dimensions and come up with a conversion for a number of different metals. That might help you to get an idea of what size to go for.

Best of luck in your insane endeavor (grin).

   eander4 - Monday, 04/05/04 18:55:39 EDT

Machinery's handbook 1941 edition slightly used, with grimy finger prints and notes $9.50 US. Now that's more like it! Nice call, Tim. :-)
   - HavokTD - Monday, 04/05/04 19:16:29 EDT

why would anybody want an aluminum anvil, aside from decoration???
   - HavokTD - Monday, 04/05/04 19:21:01 EDT

Don A.

Dixie Gun Works MIGHT have a cherry that would work. That's where I would check first.

FOSFIRE 5 has a picture of several cherry's.


I thought of that, but couln't think of any other reason that would show them dipping a shirt. Unless it's a pickling vat of some kind used to clean the shirt up after assembly.


The thickness/thinness of the tin would probably be function of experience. But your answer may be right, too. No way to know that I can think of.


Don't ask! (grin)
   Paw Paw - Monday, 04/05/04 19:47:05 EDT

Yes, in a way this aluminum anvil is for decoration, some of the people here will know why... (grin)... Anywhere between 150 to 175 pound anvils will suffice, I just need a good blueprint for it with all dimensions included... any help?
   The Great Nippulini - Monday, 04/05/04 20:07:58 EDT

Alfredo, one way to lower the noise of your anvil would be two put some ear plugs on. Anvils are usualu solid so you may want to get a good stump and before you mount your anvil check that the stump or log wont shake. Hope that helps!
   - Billy - Monday, 04/05/04 20:41:57 EDT

Anvil Scale: TGN, We went through this once before.

The ratio of steel to common aluminium is 1:0.3439

So, If you use my 200 pound Hay-Budden as a pattern the aluminium would weigh 69 pounds. Making part of the base hollow and shortening the heel a litte could remove those extra 9 pounds.

A 174.4 pound steel anvil will make a pattern for a 60 pound aluminum anvil. NOTE that you want low alloy aluminum for this value to work. High strength aluminums have zinc added which makes them more dense so you would need an even smaller pattern.

To draw, and tweek to an exact weight a detailed anvil drawing would take about a 3 to 5 days. IF the pattern maker accurately makes the pattern the weight will be right. The trick with anvil shapes is that they are a complicated geometry that is hard to caluculate and draw OR carve unless you are very familiar with anvil designs.

Have you asked what the pattern costs will be? If you are serious about this project and have researched the costs let me know. I can probably make the pattern for less than the cost of a detailed drawing and hit the weight within about +/- 3 or 4 pounds. It would also be a nice looking pattern.

Do you want American style or European?
   - guru - Monday, 04/05/04 20:49:12 EDT

Cherry Cutter: Don, If you are going to use a commercial cutter buy a four flute ball end mill and have it reground to size. These only have a hemispherical end so you will need to sink it accurately in each half then cut the sprue by hand (or drill and counter sink).

You could also pay the tool grinder to regrind to the shape of the cherry but its going to cost you an arm and both legs. . .

THEN if you are REAL adventuresome you could regrind it yourself. I've made little dovetail cutters from standard end mills using nothing but a bench grinder. But that was back when I had better than 20:20 eyesight. . .
   - guru - Monday, 04/05/04 20:59:15 EDT

Anvil Drawings: I also have details of 4 different size anvils in hundredwt increments but nothing at 175/60 pounds (steel/aluminium).
   - guru - Monday, 04/05/04 21:05:38 EDT

I reacently came across a champion 400 blower,, but it leaks oil bad. Does anyone know a fix? Thanks
   Ron - Monday, 04/05/04 21:26:49 EDT

Ron, all blowers leak oil. Those things were made in the days of oil daily type tools. And they really only have a small oil reservoir, so any more than neccessary and they leak badly. Only put enough oil in and they work fine. My first time oiling, I thought I'd fill that sucker up to the top. Big mistake! Oil all over the place!
   Bob H - Monday, 04/05/04 21:38:03 EDT

Ralph, My spike method will work on a iron stand. Place the anvil and make marks where the spikes will go then remove the anvil, turn welder on and weld spikes in the places marked, replace anvil then fire the cutting torch up and heat the spikes orange and cleate them over the feet "BAM" no ring. Caulking, chains, magnets, sideview mirrors and blinkers are optional.
   - Robert-ironworker - Monday, 04/05/04 22:31:58 EDT

I have been asked by our local historical society to help in planing and setting up our new blacksmithing area. We would like to set it up as a turn of the century shop.

I've been volinteered if you know what I mean. I don't want to screw it up so any advice, pictures, etc will be greatly appreciated.

If you show an intrest your elected! I'm an old fart with a small rivit forge that I fire up every few years and beat a little steel. Don't how to do much other than burn my fingers.

I am gathering information and plans, could you suggest any good sources for me?

Thank you

Tom Cramer
Someone that knows just enough to be dangerous!

Wayne County Historical Society Wooster, Wayne Co. Ohio

   - Tom Cramer - Monday, 04/05/04 23:29:18 EDT


Contact me email. I can help with some pictures.

Just click on my name at the bottom of this message.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 04/05/04 23:35:14 EDT

Cherry Cutter:

If you are only doing one and have access to a milling machine. To get the .595 size I would use a 1/2 inch ball endmill, mill each side to .500 x .250, clamp the two sides together, drill the sprue, stick a old dremel shank in the sprue, fill with hot lead, measure the result, if it need to be larger, coat the lead ball with lapping compound, and take it for a spin, repeat casting and lapping as needed untill the balls are the right size.

If course if you plan on doing many of these molds, go buy or have a cutter made.
   - Hudson - Monday, 04/05/04 23:51:08 EDT

Which century?(smile)
Seriously what type of smithing was predominate in your area? FOrexample the shop that PawPaw volunteers at is going to be rather different I expect form the one I volunteer at. Mostly due to different focus. I am at an old Hudson Bay trading fort so we were a full production factory shop. With 4 forges and 4 full time smiths ( at least so the records show in 1845) We made beaver traps axes chain nails building hardware, sharpend plows etc..... Which some of was done where PawPaw's site is.

Remember to plan shop for both cold work and hot work. Also think about lighting, will you be completely 'historic' and not have electric lighting ( even if it is disquised) IN other words windows at workbenches. indoor storage for stock or outdoor.
How many vises, forges anvils. Etc
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/06/04 00:14:34 EDT

Just a thought on the cherry thing, but could you get a die grinder bit that was the right size, or pretty close?? I know they make almost any imaginable size and shape of those things, aside from the one I want of course....

Paw Paw, or others... you've gotta tell me the deal with the aluminum anvil is.... it's bugging the......heck(Family forum, it's a family forum... must not say that word...) outta me now... GRRRRR I hate not knowing what something is used for.
   - HavokTD - Tuesday, 04/06/04 01:21:50 EDT

Guru, thanks for the info. I am not sure the difference between American and Euro anvils. I have a Joshua Wilkinson Dudley anvil (0-3-8) and I like that shape. 69 pounds isn't out of my range either, but like you said shortening the heel would help. I'm talking with B&B Foundry here in Philly. They specialize in gray iron and specialty casting, plus they're local. I haven't gotten an estimate yet because they're waiting for the drawing. Here's an idea: I could create a styrofoam anvil for them to make a sand casting? Let me know if this is a more economical solution.

   The Great Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/06/04 01:22:01 EDT

Havok, check out my site www.GreatNippulini.com it will answer all your questions.
   The Great Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/06/04 01:23:26 EDT

All I've got to say about that is OOOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!

   - HavokTD - Tuesday, 04/06/04 01:29:42 EDT

Oh, by the way, the casting guys we deal with at my shop always sem to work off of max master shapes. Don't know if styrofoam would be too rough for them.

OWWWWWWW!!!! sorry, flashback.
   - HavokTD - Tuesday, 04/06/04 01:31:19 EDT

oops... proof reading is good....

that was supposed to be "seem", and "Wax"
   - HavokTD - Tuesday, 04/06/04 01:32:41 EDT


If you are going to have your aluminum "anvil" sand cast, the best material for the master pattern is wood. Easy to work with, cheap and solid enough to ram sand against. Styrofoam won't be solid enough to ram against, I don't think.

If your foundry does investment casting, then styrofoam or wax pattern is what you want. Of course, in that process, the pattern is a one-use item, as it is consumed in the casting process.

So what it comes down to is: if you want just one anvil, use styrofoam and investment casting, if your foundry does that. If you want one for each side, then consider a wood master and sand casting.

As Jock said, making a wood or foam master is less time consuming than generating a true blueprint. What you are looking for, I'm assuming, is something that looks just like a steel anvil but weighs substantially less so it is more impressive on stage. Probably still want it to make an impressive "thunk" when dropped on a wood stage too, huh?

There is a fellow on eBay from time to time sellling Hollywood replicas of a hefty Hay-Budden anvil. I believe they are made of foam, painted to look EXACTLy like the real thing, right down to the logo. One of those might be a good concept, or use it as the master for casting.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/06/04 11:25:24 EDT

Tom "Turn of the century" *WHICH* century? there have been several...I can send you a pic of my shop from 4 years ago...not only turn of the century it was turn of the millenea!

If you mean 1900 you may have a rather complete machine shop with shapers, mills etc in with the forge and power hammer. Most likely gas lights but electricity might be a possibility; (my house dated from about 1910 and had combined gas and electric fixtures.) But are you a "city" shop or a "country" shop?

Lots of good pics in the blacksmith's Calanders that date around this period...

Richardson's "Practical Blacksmithing" dates from the late 1880's to early 1990's and has a lot of information and there is a Popular Mechanics book on blacksmithing that dates from 1913? that will bracket your period

   - Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/06/04 11:50:40 EDT

Patterns: The trick with lost foam is that like other hand made investments you have ONE CHANCE to make it, ONE CHANCE to cast it and DOZENS of ways to screw up.

When making lost foam patterns you have one chance to get the shape right. You can not add a little putty or a thin layer of wood to fix. As I mentioned, making a good anvil shape is an ART. It is like sculpting a human face. There are many subtleties and transitions that even the neophye would recognize as wrong on an anvil just as one would a sculpture of a human face made by an alien from another planet. If you look at the current crop of new anvils coming from Eastern Europe and China you will see just how ugly and misshapened inexperianced pattern makers can make an anvil.

I would be willing to bet that I can make a better boarded anvil patern in wood cheaper than a professional patternmaker can make your one-shot styrofoam pattern (that may look like an obvious "fake anvil" when all is done.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 11:55:46 EDT

Guru - How hard is it to make a wood pattern? I myself have a lot of experience in carving and sculpture (3 semesters of 3-dimensional still life). How much would you charge for that?

Vicopper - You assume correctly as of what I need from an aluminum anvil. I like the idea of the painted foam HB's, it's just going to be real difficult to find unless you have a direct e-mail address for the guy.

Everyone, thanks a metric ton for the help,
   The Great Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/06/04 12:23:10 EDT

I found this while searching around for reference material, thought you guys would appreciate it: http://www.bronzebowpublishing.com/journal01.cfm Scroll down halfway through the page, you'll see two guys dead lifting an anvil by the horn!
   The Great Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/06/04 12:42:53 EDT

Demo Shops: Tom, I have seen quite a number of shops setup by amatuers that were a disaster and huge waste of money.

In a park near us they have a "restoration" shop from an old farm. For starters the farm shop was NOT designed to do public demonstrations AND it was not built by a blacksmith but by an inexperianced farmer, AND the reconstrunction was also done by the unknowledgeable. . .

The result is a bellows linkage that is stiff and hard to pull that also forces the smith to stand within inches of the fire. The anvil is set with only enough room between the it and the forge for the smith to squeeze into. And THEN the fence that little children stand at watching the demo is less than an arm's length from the anvil putting their unprotected eyes exactly at anvil level at about two feet distance. It is a law suit waiting to happen. I told the director of the park so about 5 years ago and nothing has changed except the probability of a serious injury has grown by the thousands that have passed through without injury. . .

There is another demo shop going up localy that I offered to advise on the layout but they said they had an architect with experiance in historical structures. . . . I saw where they had broken ground. Much too small. The architect may be a licensed professional but he knows nothing about demonstrating blacksmithing.

As I said, demonstration shops are not the same as a working shop.

FIRST there has to be plenty of room in the forge and IT must be laid out as if you mean business AND are going to have several people working in the space.

SECOND, There should be a barrier or solid divider about 30" tall between the anvil position and the public. It should be no closer than eigth feet from the anvil in ALL directions. The same goes for doors and windows that people could stand at. This means a MINIMUM area of 8 feet by 16 feet from the anvil position forward. This means a building about 16 by 16 ft. (that the public does not enter). IF the anvil is dead center.

THIRD, If there is a roof or shelter and any part of it is such that the public is going to stand under it then it must extend beyond the barrier a convienient distance to stand under and not get rained on or to get out of direct mid day sun (minimum of 4 feet). This increases your roof area to 20 by 12 feet beyond the center of the anvil OR for convienience a 20 by 20 foot roof area.

These distances can be reduced a little IF the work area is below the audiance and the barrier height is measured from the audiance level (like a sunken stage). The distance can be reduced to about 6 feet from the anvil if the barrier is 36 to 40 inches so that children's eyes are not at the flying scale and weld splatter level.

If your historical society says these are "too grand" or "too expensive" of a plan then tell them that for personal libility resons you cannot be involved.

When the park I mentioned above was originaly being developed I produced a plan for a demonstration shop that could include a power hammer and two or three workers. The demo area was 18" below the lowest row of sloped bench seating which had about 5 rows and could handle 50 to 75 people in the audiance at once. The barrier at the front was 36" tall. Small children in the seating could still see the anvil and working positions at a safe distance. The demo area was entered through the gift shop display area. The demo area was darker than I like to work in for dramatic effect. A spot light toward the front would allow the demonstrators to step forward and show off what they were working on. The point of the demonstrators would be MOSTLY to make hot iron and lots of sparks and LOOK like heroic figures. The work in the gift shop would be bought from REAL blacksmiths elsewhere. . .

The DEATH of a demonstration is slowing down to do some picky work or finish a piece. Once the forging is finished the samples get tossed aside and more HOT iron is brought forth.

I would think that a shop like this that put on a real SHOW could be quite an attraction in the right location (Williamsburg, VA, Mall of America . . ). Puny crummy blacksmith demontrations draw crowds from great distances. Imagine what a REAL shop would do. Eventualy someone with money will snag this idea. I cna see it now "Hot Iron on Broadway". . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 12:50:17 EDT

Blowers Leaking Oil: As mentioned by others the old blower LEAK. They have no seals, don't look for them. They were designed and made in the age before any machinery had seals on shafts and bearings AND every mechanic had a big oil can and did his daily duty with it. Even huge steam locomotives had dozens of open joints that needed greasing or oiling at VERY regular intervals.

Most of the machinery in my shop is this old steam era machinery. Oil it or lose it. If you want clean oil free machinery then buy modern new stuff. But don't expect it to stay clean in a blacksmith shop!
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 13:05:15 EDT

I just found out I have to be at a FBI conference in Nashville, TN on May 4, 5 and 6. Anybody in that area I should stop and see? I'll probably stick a couple days on one end or the other of that time for visiting.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/06/04 13:11:05 EDT

I posted a question yesterday that was probably missed by the guys with the answers. I have been using a formula that I got from "New Edge of the Anvil", bees wax, paint thinner, and boiled linseed oil. After it is applied I heat the piece with a weed burner propane torch until I get a nice black finish. Larger pieces take too much time so I'm looking for an alternative. What is the method you folks are using for a typical metal finish. I am not concerned with long term rust proofing as most of my stuff is for indoor use.
   Hoof - Tuesday, 04/06/04 13:15:21 EDT


Contact me email for a beeswax recipe that dries faster on it's own, without additional heat.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 04/06/04 13:17:51 EDT

TGN, The George F. Jowett photo is a composite of him twice. The anvil has a specialy shaped horn so that it can be gripped. . . details, details. A good friend of mine, back when he was 16 and weighed 98 pounds, used to be able to single handedly lift a 125 pound bar bell to his shoulder and then overhead. He was one of those guys that geneticaly had a lot of muscle without working out.

Making the pattern you want and boarding it (without gates, risers or sprues) is a $1,000 job. The bottom would have draft from the center and need to be machined to be flat. Otherwise a core box must be made for a "loose piece" that more than doubles the cost. In production you would want the loose piece to make the bottom flat as well as have a releif in the center.

The boarded pattern would need a little work at the foundry to fit it to their flasks. For a one off they would probably cut the gates and sprue by hand rather than adding them to the pattern. Boarding the pattern is usualy only done in high production situations but due to the shape of an anvil you either need a follower OR board it. In this case boarding is cheaper and easier.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 13:19:33 EDT

"bees wax, paint thinner, and boiled linseed oil" Add a drier (cobalt compound) as many recipes call for and you are making an amature varnish formulation. Think about it. Professional versions are sold in every paint store.

Acrylic lacquer is better than varnish and dries almost instantly.

No clear or translucent finish protects ironwork well enough for exterior use. If you are going with a black or any other opaque finish then why not do it right, clean, prime and paint with professional products.

The "traditional" finish for iron is rust and ruin.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 13:30:17 EDT

Hoof, I've mentioned before that I have had good results with a product called Satin Shield from Birchwood Casey. It's a waterborne acrylic polymer with waxes in the composition. You can find it on their website. This is not a coloring agent though. If you want a quick blackening look at their cold blackening formulae. I usually follow a coat of Satin Shield with a coat of Carnuba wax (clear or tinted)aplied cold and buffed out.
   SGensh - Tuesday, 04/06/04 14:27:06 EDT

While the shop at Ft Vancouver is not really intended to be a demo shop ( it is more or less like it was in 1845) we do get a fair number of folks thru the shop even tho there is almost zero advertising done. We are a real shop in that we usually are making stuff for the Fort or other Park sites across the nation. But we are no longer a real production shop.
But I agree that a real operating blacksmith shop would draw folks like bees to flowers....
After all I am betting that most folks who come here are also the ones who automatically listen for an anvil at the fairs etc we go to... I know I do
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/06/04 14:28:14 EDT

I need to bend a 1" thick round bar into a tear drop like shape ,and I dont have the slites idea how to do it can you tell me how to do it.HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   mike - Tuesday, 04/06/04 15:01:37 EDT

P.S. it is make out of 303 stainless steel.sorry
   mike - Tuesday, 04/06/04 15:04:25 EDT

ref tear drop out of 1" round stock..... it would be helpfull to know how big you are looking at making this.
I would say just heat it and bend into a U then slightly curve the two sides in til they look like you want. Or are you asking how to make a round into a tear drop cross section? That will be a tad bit more difficult. You could do it by hand but it may not be very consistant. There you could see if there are power hammer dies ready made for this or rolling mill dies.......
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/06/04 15:16:08 EDT

Where might i find a 2*3*3 reducing t?
   joel williams - Tuesday, 04/06/04 15:17:26 EDT

Reducing tee:

McMaster-Carr will probably have it, and they can be checked online. You need to be sure that you have the designation correct if you are going to do anything over the telephone though, because many people do not know the proper convention for designating tees.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/06/04 16:21:43 EDT

I have a dual burner propane forge. My problem is when i turn it on high it not only shoots flame from the bottom where it is supposed to it also vents gas from the top of the turn on valves on top of the forge. needless to say this is causeing me some consern due to the fact that every few minutes it ignites. I took the valve apart but it does not appear to have ever had an o ring in it. Any one have any ideas? i apreciate any input cause i'm bout out.
   - MICHAEL - Tuesday, 04/06/04 16:46:54 EDT

Reducing Tee.
For a large choice of types of tees, ie forged, brass,iron etc in a large variety of sizes try McJunkin corp. if in the eastern US. They seem to have a store in about every hollow up through the east. They supply the piping trade, and will know that a 2*3*3 is a reducing tee, not a reducing branch tee.
Good luck
   ptree - Tuesday, 04/06/04 17:55:05 EDT

Michael, are do you know if your fittings are all ok?
   - Steven - Tuesday, 04/06/04 18:18:21 EDT

The Jack Andrews book I gleamed the formula from instructs you to place small parts in an oven at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. I have been actually burning the solution on until black and smoke stops. I suppose Jack meant for the heat to just dry the "varnish". The black finish is a nice asthetic(sp?)look...nicer than paint but to get it there takes more time than I want to spend(for large pieces). Like I said, I'm not interested in rust proofing. For outdoors, I just let it rust or paint if that's what the customer wants. Thanks for the feedback.
   Hoof - Tuesday, 04/06/04 19:12:01 EDT

Forge Failure: Michael, It sounds you have some bad hardware.

Some valves like old fashioned gas cocks must have their tension adjustment so tight they must be turned with a wrench. Many of the cheap imported ones are not suitable for any type service at all.

Ball valves have 3 o-rings, two on the stem and one on the input side where it closes. On this type valve (and many others the flow direction is marked on the valve.

Be sure you are using valves aproved for gas service.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 19:41:00 EDT

Needle Valves: These have packing on the stem which must be carefully tensioned. Seats on needle valves are notorious for getting cut up by over tightening. In practice they should not be used to turn off fuel at all but only for adjustment.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/06/04 19:58:30 EDT

Guru and Michael,
On forge valves leaking,
Some ball valves have a very small thin packing nut just under the handle that may be tightened a bit to help stop gas flow through the packing, Most of the cheap ball valves have a teflon ring for packing and are Not suitable for gas over the long term if absolute tightness is required. For ball valves, a marking of" 300 WOG" or "500 WOG" will tend to get you a decent valve. The WOG stands for Water, Oil, Gas.
Some of the newer gas cocks sold in the big box stores are intended for use with something like a hot water heater, and are intended for isolation only when changing the heater. They depend on a viscious sealant(grease) to seal, and at the some what higher pressures used for a forge, and a lot of cycles will leak quickly.
As the guru noted Needle valves are really intended to be a variable orifice and not as a shut off valve.
Last but not least, you did not note the age of the valves. Many of the good, high quality valves made prior to about 1982 or 1983 and some to this day, are packed with a fibrous material with tallow and graphite between the fibres as a seal. The tallow will harden and leak. First job at the valve co. was testing the replacement packings suggested to replace asbestos. ALL of the replacement fibered packings were dismal failures compared to either Teflon or flexable graphite.
Hope this helps
   ptree - Tuesday, 04/06/04 21:35:46 EDT

Hi, I was asked to design a blacksmith shop(I don't know the right word:A place for blacksmithing) and I don't have a clue yet what is needed or what equipments should be placed. Also, it's supposed to be used by a class of about 20, and I tried to find sources but I can't figure out how big or how many different forges/furnaces and anvils I should place. Can somebody please kindly help me out here a little bit?
   Richie - Tuesday, 04/06/04 21:52:57 EDT

Richie: When I took some lessons in Kalamazoo at Tillers, we had two students to a forge. Each forge had two anvils. We had I believe 6 forges all together. You would need at a minimum, 3 vises. More would be better, as we had to take several steps from the forge to use the few vises we had available. A good rule of thumb is to have forge, anvil, and vise all within a step or step and a half from each other. Saves time, and the steel doesn't cool to soon while moving. Along with forges,anvils and vises, you will need racks for material, benches for layout, tool storage, storage for coal if that is what you are using. Oh, and you will also need at least buckets for slack tubs at each station. I'm sure there is more to consider, but this should get you some ideas until someone else chimes in.
   Bob H - Tuesday, 04/06/04 23:11:53 EDT


It sounds like you are in waaay over your head. There are vast amounts of things to consider besides just the equipment. Safety, visitors, liability, fire codes, insurance regulations, budget, environmental considerations, just to name a few. Then there is the equipment; the level of teaching offered will determine that to some degree, as will other factors. What type of fuel? Period blacksmithing or modern? Farriery? Fabrication work as well?

What you need is a qualified consultant, at a minimum. You need to expect to pay for that, and supply the necessary background information.

One qualified consultant would be Jock Dempsey, aka The Guru, owner/webmaster of this site. Another would be Frank Turley, also a contributor here. Jock will undoubtedly address your question here to a degree, but you should seriously consider hiring one or both of them as your consultant.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/06/04 23:26:46 EDT

Oil Coating:

I was cleaning up all of my forged metalwork cooking gear from MTA the other night- spit, skewers, cook-pot, and after washing them I was coating them with olive oil (by this time everything is well seasoned). I was worried about the "rancid" factor when I hit upon an idea that may not hit back. I ran the oven up to 300 degrees f. and popped them in for a while. They came out with a hard, non-greasy coating. Now, this is just for cooking gear, and I'll let y'all know how it holds up in storage and when I start cooking next. Maybe I'll bring it to the Spring Fling to do my Friday night meal. I could try another attempt at the beer and beef stew; but I don't know if Jock or Paw Paw ever recovered from the last go-round!

After dropping to 29 degrees last night it's downright nice on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 04/07/04 00:13:22 EDT

OK, slap me in the head if this is a dumb idea, or better yet, slap someone else.

With CSI trying to raise a bunch of cash to help support the admirable guru, as well as the rest of the contributors to the site, how would it work if either CSI, or Anvilfire were to start selling branded hammers?

scrounge up a bumch of old axles, or whatever suitable(aka free) material would work, and have one of the gentlemen here that's set up for production work run 'em off. I'm guessing there are quite a few people kicking around that have the skill to make up logo punches to mark 'em with. Pay the labour/shop costs, mark 'em up 20% or 30%, and sell 'em through the site. All proceeds after handling fees, etc, go to csi. I suppose you could even give 'em away with a big donation if they could be made cheaply enough.

Anyway, that's my 2 bits. thanks for your patience.
   - HavokTD - Wednesday, 04/07/04 00:46:17 EDT

My forge looks a lot like a wisper forge. It is comparatively new. I would say within the past 5 years. It shows very little wear. I will try to find out a little more info on it and maybe i can just replace the valves if its not too expensive.
   michael - Wednesday, 04/07/04 07:29:21 EDT

Oil Coating:

Bruce, that's a common way of initially seasoning cast iron cookware, or re-doing the seasonig if it wears off. I use the self-clean function of my oven. Things can get pretty smokey, though. However, once seasoned they shouldn't be washed with soap or any metal scrub pads. Hot water and a wash cloth worked for me. If you get tough crud that doesn't wash off, pop it back in the self-cleaning oven.

On the cooking gear I've made, I spray them with some non-stick cooking spray, like Pam (tm), which is essentially vegetable oil, and bake them on my BBQ grill. The smoke stays outside. What I like about the cooking spray is it puts on a thin coat that doesn't run and leave drips.

   - MarcG - Wednesday, 04/07/04 08:42:51 EDT

Richie, If you're not an architect or a smith, I can't imagine why you were asked to design a shop. You need to click "Getting Started" on the HOME page, and internalize what is there. At my school, I have five coal forge setups. Most smiths are going to use propane forges rather than coal. The basic equipment for hand forging is the forge, anvil and leg vise. They are usually set up in a triangular fashion as viewed from above, with an average of 5 feet from the middle of the forge fire to the center of the anvil. A "square" 9 or 10 feet on a side should suffice for the placement of the 3 pieces of equipment. You can see the necessary hand tools in catalogs like Kayne & Son.

In passing the buck, I would refer you to the Touchstone Center in Farmington, PA. They recently built a multiple forge facility. Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC, has a fairly large facility. An historical forge is being built at present in Bethlehem, PA. If you can locate a smithing facility near you from ABANA's list, you should visit. You need a tutorial in blacksmithing. I have taught at a number of craft centers and universities, and I never saw more than 12 forge stations.

I suppose you have lots of funding. You might need a building the size of a gymnasium. Modern shops have electricity for power tools and equipment like drill presses, angle grinders, and such. You will need good ventilation and you need to follow codes as regards pollution and noise.

   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 04/07/04 10:04:37 EDT

I think that 20 students/10 forges would be a bit much for 1 instructor to ride herd on. Are you planning to have multiple instructors working at the same time?

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/07/04 11:16:21 EDT

Designing a Forge School Studio: Richie, As noted above this is a job that requires some experience in the field. There are a lot of ways to screw up. See my post above yours a few posts titled "Demo Shops" 04/06/04 12:50.

You have the first consideration, the number of students which defines the number of work stations. You also need to know if this is a farrier's school OR a decorative ironwork school and how far the lessons are to go. You need to know what kind of equipment the school wants to teach on. Gas or coal forges? Power equipment? Modern welding? Auxiliary equipment?

The type of forges and venting are a major concern in a small shop and and even bigger consideration in a school studio. There is also the possibility that the school wants different types of equipment. Today over 50% of all new smiths use gas forges because coal is not always available locally. But many professionals prefer and demand coal or coke. The best shops have both.

How busy is this school going to be? Occasional use? Year round? What is the climate?

I would assume that someone that wants to handle this many students is planning on a busy year round operation. In that case you don't just need the forge studio you need a support area. Stock racks (for a ton or so of 20 foot bar stock), cutting equipment, tool storage, safety equipment lockers. If it is a seasonal school then secure off-season storage is a consideration that must be addressed.

As noted every forge station should have an anvil and vise for each student. Each shared forge station will need a forge, quench tank, tool rack, fuel storage (for solid fuel). However, if small gas forges are used they should not be shared in most situations. Gas manifolds then become a serious issue.

There is an absolute minimum space needed for each forge station and student. Cramping this type work is dangerous ESPECIALLY with students. If an existing building is to be used then that may define the actual number of students. If the building size and area is limited by budgetary constraints then that too may define the actual number of students. Beyond the absolute minimum.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's blacksmithing was a big part of manual trade schools. The studios were large and airy. Ventilation was a big part of the design and was integrated into the kind of equipment used. Much of the forge equipment was designed specifically for this purpose and factory use and is no longer available (down draft forges with central air supplies). New designs cannot follow the old exactly.

Modern schools are changing or NEED to change. The small blacksmith shop is more mechanized than ever. Power hammers are becoming the norm instead of the exception and even small hobby shops have them today. A school may not want to outfit every station with a power hammer but they may want to setup part of the shop for them. Then there is the consideration for architectural work. Large assembly tables are needed and space to work around them.

As noted, someone that doesn't know that a blacksmith shop is a "smithy" or "forge" is probably in WAY over their head. To properly design this big and expensive a studio the operator or sponsor of the school must state their goals and determine the range of activities. From that beginning questions must be asked to define exactly what is expected and then a plan can be formulated.

AND I see that as I wrote this others were chiming in. Note that Frank Turley operates one of the oldest (modern) blacksmithing schools in the country and has taught at many of the others as a guest instructor. After all is done I would have him vet the plan well in advance of submitting to the customer.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/07/04 11:25:46 EDT

More on Blacksmithing School Studios: As noted by Frank, it would pay to visit the new schools with large studios. If I were asked to design the shop in question I would put in for a travel budget and go to at least the top three schools while they were in session.

Done right this project is a very expensive proposition and numerous folks need to be consulted before drawing the first line. I would expect to have experienced smiths define the individual work areas, apply the experience of others in the overall layout and then make general layouts to give to an architect. The work of the architect should then be reviewed by the same folks who's advice was used in the beginning.

I could get very specific about equipment, distances and preferred layouts but this is design work, something I get paid to do.

If you would like to see what a forge school looked like in the 1800's see our book review page and the Buffalo Forge CD. There are six others on the CD which we sell.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/07/04 11:51:11 EDT

Signiture Hammers: HavokTD, You don't produce quality production tools from scrap of unknown metalurgy.

A similar question came up in the CSI business forum. I know a bunch of folks in this business and setting up to manufacture specialty hammers in limited quantities is a big deal with little return. You can setup to make thousands as easily as dozens.

Currently we have a couple products in our store that have less than a 30% markup and I think I am losing money on them. In general the markup on a resale product must be 50% of the price or 100% markup. Most places must get more.

There are good reasons that signiture products like "Hofi" hammers sell for $100 and good blacksmith made railings sell for $300 a foot.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/07/04 12:05:34 EDT


Not really. The Whitaker blacksmith shop at John C. Campbell is set up that way, 12 forges, and an instructors forge.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 04/07/04 12:19:26 EDT

How were musket/rifle barrels made and muzzles drilled in the 1600s and 1700s? Were they drilled or was the barrel made by hammering iron/steel around a round mold?
   Charles Evans - Wednesday, 04/07/04 14:26:40 EDT


Both. they were either welded as described in THE REVOLUTIONARY BLACKSMITH, or in a spiral wrap, then they were reamed out to size and finally, the grooves were cut with a hand cutter.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 04/07/04 14:58:00 EDT

my town is having a fair in about a month, and I have been asked to set up a demo as part of the FFA/Ag plant booth. I have never done a demo before and would like to know what kind quick and easy projects can get and keep the public's attention. I am also selling some of my items through the booth so i can afford my first anvil, so I am hoping to create a large group of interested people. I am considered to be a very good public speaker, I just would like some more ideas for little projects. I have so far, hooks with scroll and twist, bottle openers, leaves, horseshoe hoofpick, simple candleholder, etc. any other ideas would be appreciated. And my skill level is still pretty basic. Thanks
   Joe R - Wednesday, 04/07/04 15:02:24 EDT


People rarely watch a demo that takes more than 5 - 10 minutes. So the ideas that you have are good ones. Personally, I tend to make more S hooks and an occasional hoof pick myself.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 04/07/04 15:37:47 EDT

Demo Items: Joe, Demos need to be short so that the audiance sees the piece from start to finish. Remember that the general public has a short attention span. They will not wait while you do some picky or uninteresting work.

The fastest thing you make that you can also sell are hooks. Nice ones out of 1/4" square with a scroll and a twist, a flat and a hole. You will need a drill or punch for the hole. We use a Whitney hand punch or a hand crank drill.

S hooks take about the same time as a J hook and do not require a punch or drill. They can be mode of round OR square (some folks have a preference). Graduated sets are nice to make. Precut ALL your hook stock before the demo. Nobody wants to watch you saw stock. Finish with a quick waxing or quick dry paint to sell.

The next fastest thing to make is a small leaf from 1/2" or 3/8" square stock. Point, neck, round the stem, flatten and shape. Cut them off short and drill a hole in the stem and you have a key fob or hanging decoration. Dull that point if it is a key fob. Leaves without viens look fine and go fast. I normaly make them and toss aside to use later.

I also make double leaf S-hooks. These are rather fancy and should fetch a good price. I make different sizes. They work best from 7/16" or 1/2" (11mm or 13mm) stock. I incise the middle and twist the larger ones.

If you haven't enough of something to make it smoothly and quickly then don't try it with a group watching.

AND Most important, DO NOT worry about answering questions. The general public knows almost nothing about blacksmithing so you are easily the EXPERT. If you get one of those wise-guys that thinks they know it all but has never hit a piece of hot steel in their life then just ignore them. They are almost always wrong and will argue that that was the way his grand daddy did it. . . You will know the guys you can have a real discussion with.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/07/04 15:44:10 EDT

Guru, most retail shops around here have to get **at least** a 50% markup to survive, unless the volume is huge and the overhead is low....ie. Walmart, etc.
   Ellen - Wednesday, 04/07/04 16:08:28 EDT

I am not a blacksmith or professional metal worker, but I do know how to do a few things, and I have been trained to weld by my father, who is a professional welder - one of the best in the world. I have always been fascinated by blacksmithing & metal working, and hold those in awe who do such magical work.

I made a set of roll-pin and round head pin punches and drifts out of brass rod that I bought at a regular hardware store, to use on firearms while protecting their finishes. I did no heating of them of any kind. I altered the rod to what I needed by filing, sanding, and polishing. When recently using them, I noticed that the striking ends became peened a fair amount, even though I used a light hammer to strike them. The working ends also became slightly peened, but not badly enough to re-file - except one (the smallest). I also noticed that on a particular pistol's matte blued finish, the brass will rub off, colouring the finish with yellow streaks - which I had to scrub off with a wire brush.

This is becoming a problem. I cannot find commercially the tools I need, so making them is my best option. I would prefer not to use steels, as they are extremly likely to damage most finishes. Is there a way to harden brass other than work-hardening it? If I work-harden these tools now, they will be ruined and I will need to start over, I believe.

Thanks for your expertise and time in replying.

   Neisse - Wednesday, 04/07/04 18:18:17 EDT


I hate to admit this, but the brass punches that I use on firearms are from Harbor Freight. I think they are cold formed (and thus work hardened) because I've been using the set for several years, and none of them have needed to be re-worked yet.

Harbor Freight is at: http://www.harborfreight.com/

The set I have is item # 41976-2VGA and item # 37038-3VGA
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 04/07/04 18:33:26 EDT

Thanx for your quick response. I forgot to mention that most of my projects started from instructions on iforge, or developed from ideas that they gave me.. thank you. I also wanted to ask about split twists and other unique twists. I am making one plant stand and a hanging plant basket with leaves, tendrils etc. for two charity auctions and twists are a part of my design. any ideas on good twists that will add to the plant theme of the items? Thanx
   Joe R - Wednesday, 04/07/04 18:48:48 EDT

Soft Punches Neisse, The purpose for brass punches is to be softer than the steel and not mark it. Being softer it WILL mushroom.

There are varieties of bronze used for high strength tools that contain beryllium. "Brass" hammers are often beryilium bronze. Anti-spark wrenches are beryilium bronze. However, beryllium is very toxic and you do not want to make beryilium dust or buff beryilium. Work it wet and dispose of the sludge.

Pin punches should be made of beryilium bronze or tool steel. To prevent maring surfaces hard steel parts must be highly finished.

The harder bronze is less likely to transfer to the steel but it is still going to happen, just to a lower degree.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/07/04 18:49:14 EDT

Joe R,
You too can be a member of CSI, and help support this very nice site for just pennies a day. In fact the csi members have been discussing a student rate, and from your post it sounds as if you may be a student. Perhaps the GURU might be able to set up a student rate.
   ptree - Wednesday, 04/07/04 18:56:43 EDT

Plant Twists: Joe, On my fancy leaf S-hooks I use an incised twist and round the outer corners. The resulting twist looks like rounds twisted together. The first set I made I used 1/2" round stock and incised 3 grooves. This is the kind of thing only another smith appreciates and does not look that much different than from square stock. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/07/04 19:00:32 EDT

Hmmm... ok, I guess that sort of qualifies as a nice slap upside the head. I was looking for an excuse to buy a new hammer, too... :-)

I guess I need to come up with a different plan for world domination.
   - HavokTD - Wednesday, 04/07/04 19:31:16 EDT

Thanks for the info. I realize that brass is softer - that's why I used it. I was just hoping that there was a way to harden the brass a little to prevent the distortion of the tools, and thereby allowing me to use them longer without adjusting shape. I was surprised, though, that such a light hammer (4 ounce at most) would mushroom the end of the rod so quickly. It may be that the brass I bought has an amount of lead in it, which I did not want. Unfortunately the packages were not marked with the metal's content.

Paw Paw, thanks for the tip. Hopefully they will have the sizes and shapes I need there. I'll take a look.
   Neisse - Wednesday, 04/07/04 19:33:42 EDT

Oil Coating & Cooking
I haven't tried if for forged articles, but for cast iron cooking pots switched from olive oil to mineral oil based upon the recommendation of an older getleman in our reenactor unit. He's been many things over the years, but one of them is an antique dealer/collector and swore by it as the best preserver/value keeper for cast iron. When put on hot it's seemed to work well without negative actions on the digestive track. An interesting gentleman overall, and as far as I know he still has his Gatling gun, one of the 2 that was issued to Custer and that he didn't take to Little Bighorn (His claim, but I've seen documentation on other items and have no reason to doubt that one.)
Forge Design - Touchstone I've taken a class there with Jymm Hoffman and it's a well laid out design, but think big my WAG is that the building is roughly 30 to 40 ft wide and 60 or more long. We only had a small number for the class, so each person had their own forge, but I don't think it was set up for 20 in a class.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 04/07/04 20:26:50 EDT

ptree, yes I am a student and would love to help support this site, hopefully this upcoming fair will make me enough money to both buy supplies I need(anvil, metal, a ball and cross peen hammer, and of course more coal) if I have enough money left over after that it will go to help this site. Thanks

p.s. I do have msn messenger at remiblue17@hotmail.com
feel free to message me everyone, I would love to talk to people who know what they are doing. Thanks
   Joe R - Wednesday, 04/07/04 21:58:46 EDT

hello, i am making a miniforge as shown on this website and i was wondering will i need some kind of air pressure device to supply oxygen to the forge?
   john - Thursday, 04/08/04 00:18:14 EDT

Forge School: the class I took in Camp Verde AZ at Piehl Tool Co. last December was limited to six students and one instructor. Each student had his (or her) own propane forge, anvil, workstand with hammers tools and tongs, and one post vise for each two students. It was a good, workable setup, safe, everyone had a great time and learned a lot. It is now virtually a monthly event there, and I highly recommend it. The instructor makes a living as a smith.......
   Ellen - Thursday, 04/08/04 01:07:05 EDT

Which miniforge are you talking about? is it the single brick gas powered one or does it run on coal or another burnable fuel. I looked and cannot find the miniforge yet
I will keep looking though
   Joe R - Thursday, 04/08/04 01:07:18 EDT

One quick question..... How in the h..l does he do that????

Mr. Bill Epps posted this pic on iforgeiron.com, and for the life of me i can't seem to figure out how the twist was made.

the pic URL is http://www.iforgeiron.com/images/Tools%20pix/Twist/t004knot02.jpg
   - HavokTD - Thursday, 04/08/04 01:17:34 EDT

I finally found it... Don't know too much about gas forges...sorry
   Joe R - Thursday, 04/08/04 01:22:41 EDT

HavokTD, I think you're looking at the end of a twisted handle, and I believe it is termed The Claydon Knot...named after a Brit who came up with the idea. It is a phony knot, each round piece formed in a special bender, the latter being sold by Centaur Forge. When the pieces are assembled, the pre-bent ends tuck in giving the appearance of a knob-like knot. The handle is twisted below that.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 04/08/04 02:07:08 EDT


iForge demo #54 shows how to tie the Cladon Knot.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 04/08/04 06:39:09 EDT

Would any one have any info on forging pine cones? Thank you in advance!!
Still a bit cool here in the Unadilla Valley of Upstate NY.
   K Barker - Thursday, 04/08/04 07:00:40 EDT

K B, Each seed is forged then mig welded onto a "core", starting from the top down.For a stem, texture a rod and weld the bottom of the cone to it, and weld on mig wire for the needles. It is a rather time consuming process. but looks neat. Get a real pine cone with stem and needles and study it before starting.You can make a die to help shape the seeds. Press one of the seeds into a piece of clay to see what the die is supposed to look like. I watched a demo on the process but it looks too tedious for me to actually do it.
   Ron Childers - Thursday, 04/08/04 08:38:41 EDT

Pine cones:

A friend of mine explained his method. He forges them out of one piece, very similar to that "Russian rose". He uses more "petals", but in this case they're seeds, and wraps it so that the tips of the seeds reach the base of the seeds on the previous warp. His came out looking pretty darned nice.
   - MarcG - Thursday, 04/08/04 09:07:22 EDT

Steel Fire Strikers: A Boy Scout leader just asked me to make a couple dozen fire strikers... and I realized I haven't the slightest idea what kind of steel is required. will AS36/mild do, or does it need to be a higher carbon? Thanks! Mike
   MikeM-OH - Thursday, 04/08/04 09:47:49 EDT

Fire Strikers:

Mike, you really want a higher carbon steel. The way fire strikers work is that the stone actually "shaves" off a tiny piece or three of the steel, with the friction igniting it in the process. Higher carbon steel has a lower burning point, so it makes better, brighter more effective sparks.

I would recommend some 1095 steel if you have any, or use some pieces of old coil spring, which is probably about 60-65 point carbon content. Test the first piece to be sure it gives you a good spark before doing the remainder, of course.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/08/04 10:13:13 EDT


John, if you are making the miniforge from the link to Ron Reil's site, then I'm assuming you're going to make the EZ burner, too. If that is the case, then the answer is no, you don't need an auxillary air source. The burner is a naturally aspirated venturi burner and will draw in the air it requires for combustion. You may need a "choke" on it to decrease the amount of air it aspirates, so that you can get a clean neutral flame.

Read everything on Ron reil's site about burners and burner design before yu begin, so you will have an understanding of what you are dealing with. Follow all the safety guidelines closely.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/08/04 10:19:38 EDT

Fire Strikers:
I have a coffee can of old used files I got from a metal shop a couple years back. The strikers I made from these spark beautifully.

A quick question for our historians. When did files first come into use? I know that stone and metal scrapers were used before files were invented. Just curious.
   Shack - Thursday, 04/08/04 10:29:44 EDT

Shack, pre 1000 CE, the Mastermyr Chest had filles in it and ISTR some Roman examples too; wish I had my copy of "Egyptian Metalworking" to check that area/time span...

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/08/04 11:12:40 EDT

Fire Strikers: See our iForge demo #52. This is a little fancy but it also includes the basics. Follow the link to Robert's website. You may wish to purchase the complete kits than to make them yourself. The strikers are easy but it is a lot of work to put together complete kits.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/08/04 11:22:39 EDT

Fire strikers:
If you can get some broken garage door springs that will work very well. It is the right size. And requires very little forging. And making 2 dozen or more strikers you will appreciate not having a lot of forging invested. Files make great strikers but do require a lot more forging to get it done.
   Ralph - Thursday, 04/08/04 11:24:59 EDT

Earliest Files: Although many tools (including metal saw blades) were invented during the bronze age I suspect the file is an iron age invention. To cut the teeth requires a very hard material working against a softer one. Hardened and annealed tool steel fit this requirement. It IS possible that as an early iron-age tool the first files were made during the transition period and wer made of bronze cut with steel chisels. But this is all conjecture without basis in an historical example.

The need for and idea of a file would have originated in the stone age. Even then great sculptures of stone were being made (as well as other materials). Scrapers were commonly used. So were blocks of soft wood with a layer of sand to do fine smoothing. Stone was sawed with a variety of materials (copper, bronze and iron wire) and sand as the cutting agent.

Man's inventivness has only been limited by his needs and the available technology. I am sure the first workers of steel produced all the tools they WISHED they could make using bronze but were limited by its softness and inability to heat treat it.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/08/04 11:40:11 EDT

Micro Forge: The only super small forge we have here simply uses a good propane torch to fire the forge. What is important is to use a very low density refractory insulation such as a insulating fire brick or kaowool. When built with kaowool the forge is termed a "bean can" forge from the first one that was built from a bean can. There used to be plans posted on the web but they are lost to cyber entropy.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/08/04 11:51:17 EDT

Guru & Vic,

On 4/1 you both answered a question for me on Cerrobend. I just wanted to thank you both for your help and timely response.

   Derek - Thursday, 04/08/04 15:18:13 EDT


I am building a small barbaque, and have a couple of questions on material. The basic design will be a sheetmetal box with legs, with a lid. There will be a grill a couple of inches above the bottome of the box to hold the coals.

My questions:

1) Do you think 12ga is thick enough to provide reasonable service?

2) I was planning on making the coal grill out of expanded metal, and was planning to make it our of stainless so it would last longer. Then I saw the prices for stainless! OUCH! Would Aluminium be safe to use from a heat and toxicity standpoint? Aluminium is used in cookware isn't it?



   -Jim - Thursday, 04/08/04 16:08:09 EDT

Jr. Strasil's (Irnsrgn) wife passed away today at around 11:00 am EST. Please let the rest of the blacksmiths know. Thank you, Cheryl McDowell [Baby-anvil]
   Ntech - Thursday, 04/08/04 16:23:37 EDT

Our Heart Felt Condolences: Jr. Strasil (Irnsrgn) is a member of and supporter of his local blacksmithing group, anvilfire and iForgiron. He is a friend and his pain is felt throughout our community.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/08/04 17:35:27 EDT


You're quite welcome. It is a pleasure to assist someone who says, "Thank you."
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/08/04 17:43:55 EDT

Aluminium Barbeque: Jim, the aluminium's melting point is lower than the temperature of charcoal fires. AND even though the grid is above the fire some distance it will get hot enough to sag under load due to normal cooking temperatures. Aluminium is thought of as corrosion resistant because is doesn't rust but under these conditions it would probably corrode significantly.

Expanded metal is pricey in all materials and is often more expensive than solid sheet (you pay a lot for those little holes).

You MAY come out ahead fabricating a grill from SS bar. But it is a lot of work.

The 12 ga steel will provide OK service as long as it is kept from rusting. If you leave charcoal ashes in the grill and they get wet, lye leaches out of the ash. The result is a corrosive that will destroy metal in no time. Keep the grill clean and dry and it will last a long time.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/08/04 17:44:30 EDT

Thanks Guru!
   -JIM - Thursday, 04/08/04 17:52:00 EDT


Jim, 12 ga. is fine for long years of service, but don't use the aluminum for anything. It will be dissolved by the crud in charcoal briquettes, and the heat will melt it. The melting point of aluminum is lower than the temperature of a glowing coal.

Stainless steel is the best solution for the coal grate, for sure. One other thing that is good is cast iron. See if you can find a cast iron storm drain grate or something similar that will be about the right size. I used one of those for years as a grill, and it never wore out.

Alternately, you can make a support frame out of 1/2" square set on the diamond and put some expanded mesh on top of that. The mesh will get trashed in a season and you just toss on a new piece. The bars will hold up for years. This method also makes it easy to clean out the firebox.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/08/04 17:52:38 EDT

Cards to:

Jr. Strasil
211 W. 17th St.
Falls City, Nebr. USA 68355
   Ntech - Thursday, 04/08/04 19:06:40 EDT

I just purchased an Peter Wright Anvil. Patent number looks like it is in a circle. Letters are hard to make out, but I think it is W SOL IHS. I can' tmake out the letter between the L and I. The markings for the weight are
1 1 23. There looks like there is an additional number just to the left and below the middle 1. Might be a 3, or it could be nothing at all. With these numbers would the weight be 163 lbs? Any other information you could give me on the anvil would be great.

Tom J.
   PRF - Thursday, 04/08/04 19:51:23 EDT

Jim, I've been using the same expanded metal basket to hold coals in my outdoor fireplace/barbecue for years. The basket is heavy expanded and flattened steel with openings of about 1/2". The basket rests on a set of 1 x 2 steel bars which provide the strength to hold up wooden logs until they burn down into coals in the basket. The whole thing sits in a cleft in the shale cliff behind the house and vents through a natural fissure. I don't think the cost of stainless mesh would be worth the difference in performance.
   SGensh - Thursday, 04/08/04 20:23:59 EDT

Jim, could you cut down an old oven rack for your grill? Overlapping two may give you the grate you're looking for.

   Nomad - Thursday, 04/08/04 20:36:07 EDT

Can anyone tell me the proper procedure for treating steel to make spring steel like a trap spring? I've read about the "flash burn" technique but will this give sufficient springiness for the steel to always return to its shape? And what type of steel will work the best for springs? Thanks in advance
   Ed Long - Thursday, 04/08/04 22:53:42 EDT

Arrangments for Jr Strasil's wife:

The funeral time and location:
10:30 am EST Tuesday morning.

First United Methodist Chruch
17th and Harlan street
Falls City, Nebraska

Jr's 3 daughters should all be there by some time tomorrow.
   Ntech - Friday, 04/09/04 00:43:26 EDT

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