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 - 7, 2005 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

A semi-quick question:

I'd like to smelt a LARGE qunaty of copper wire(4, 5 gal buckets) to one, clean up the shop. Two, to make a workable billet or rods for some later projects.
I've smelted aluminum( truck tranny cases) before, can I do it the same way or is there a different technique to it, any other than the general temp and 'Hot stuff' rule to look out for?
   - Timex - Thursday, 03/31/05 22:48:06 EST


What you are talking about is simply melting, not smelting. (Smelting is the process of melting or fusing ore in order to separate the metallic constituents.)

You can melt copper the same way that you melt aluminum, the temperatures are several hundred degrees higher, of course. Borax or boric acid makes a good flux to keep the dross form being incorporated before it can be skimmed off. An oxidized steel pick or spoon works well for skimming the dross.

For melting copper, brass, silver you definitely want to use either a graphite or silicon carbide crucible. If you use cast iron as you might with lead, you may find that the copper degrades it rapidly, posing a serious risk of rupture and a subsequent molten metal spill. Use the right material for safety's sake, please.
   vicopper - Friday, 04/01/05 00:05:19 EST

I Probably don't belong here..but I have question that maybe a true metal expert can answer ... I recently purchased a new mouthpiece for my trumpet..I have an allergy to nickel and was assured that this was silver plate over brass...and yet I have started having reactions ..I read somewhere that jewelers some times use some sort of nickel coating to prevent oxidization...and keep silver shiny. Do you know of a process to remove such a coating?...Any suggestion or ideas would be most welcome.
I find your sight most fascinating and informative..
   Bill - Friday, 04/01/05 00:15:26 EST

Does anybody do any hot forging using a set of hammer dies in a hydraulic iron worker? Or is it too slow & cool the work too much.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 04/01/05 01:02:23 EST

Metal Alergies: Bill, This is a complicated subject. I would suspect that you are most likely allergic to many soluable metals. In fact, Nickel has a lower soluability than silver, copper is bad, so is lead. I knew an ex-gunsmith that had become alergic to almost any metal other than chrome and high chrome stainless (which contains nickel as well but is fairly well "sealed" by the chrome oxide). He suspected his allergy was the result of too many years of polishing metals and the constant exposure to metal dust.

IF the silver is coated with Nickel it would have a slightly yellow cast to the color rather than the bright white of silver when polished. If it was a thin electroplate the best way to remove it would be heavy polishing (mechanical removal).

Almost all alloys of common metals have some trace or contamination by other metals. This is especially true of brasses. If your piece is not heavily plated OR the inside is not plated then you may be being exposed to nickel bearing brass. In fact there MAY be some in the silver but this is unlikely if it is electroplate. Good electroplate is relatively pure but it could be contaminated.

I would want to be sure that I am not allergic to multiple metals and metal oxides first. Be tested for gold. It has a lower soluability than silver. Gold plating is not expensive and might solve the problem.

Very few things are nickel or nickel plate these days. How did you become exposed enough to know which metal you were allergic to. Today nickle is used with copper to make monels as well as nickle coins. It is also used under chrome plating to prevent rust as the nickel is not porus and the chrome is.

The problem with all this is that without relatively expensive testing (of you AND the metal parts) it is hard to know exactly what is going on.

What is the rest of the instrument made of? Brass I suspect. If it does not need constant polishing then it is coated with lacquer, sealing it. Does you alergy include simple skin exposure? If so, what are the keys caped with? Are they solid brass? Tortisshell, Abaloney or plastic filled? Edges sealed?

Playing a metal horn is a very intimate act with lots of exposure to the metal surfaces, the oxides of the metals and microscopic metal dust for polishing or cleaning. It would be easy to contaminate the surface of one part with microscopic dust from the other. I would suspect more than just the mouthpiece on the little information you have given.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 01:13:08 EST

Forging in Ironworker: Hmmmmm. . . I suspect it would work as they have relatively fast cycle times. It would probably be good for small closed die work but not drawing. Heck, you can do single stroke forging in a well lubricated vise. Put a bright heat piece in and torque down on that handle? I've mashed 3/4" to 1/2" just trying to get a good grip!

NOTE: DO NOT try this in a mechanical ironworker. They use the same mechanism as a punch press and can self destruct if overloaded.

All forging is as efficient as it is fast. Pieces lose heat rapidly and time between blows alows for rapid cooling. In a power hammer that is hitting rapidly the metal is heated considerably by the mechanical energy going into the metal. This is easily observed when someone is forging at a low red heat. Wherever they are forging brightens noticably from the added energy. Working fast under a power hammer extends the forging time considerably (maybe 30% to double from what I have observed). In slow cycle machines this does not occur.

Bladesmiths use specialy built hydraulic presses for drawing billets but what they are concerned about is directional flow and eveness of draw. Personaly I think they are a waste of Horse Power when a McDonald rolling mill with 1/5 to 1/10 the HP of a hydraulic press can do the job as well or better.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 01:40:45 EST

Melting Copper: Timex, Large quantities? In metalwork that is tons. . .

A propane melting furnace can melt copper easily. It is important to flux the copper well as it has an affinity for oxygen which makes it brittle. Soft electrical wire is something like 99.9999% pure with oxygen being the most difficult tramp element to remove. Final processing is by electro chemical means.

As VIc noted a good crucible is critical. That is followed by lifting tongs that are properly fitted and of proper capacity. Copper is considerably denser than steel and a pot full of it will be HEAVY. You need to be prepared to move it safely. Often two man tongs and pouring shanks are used. After the right handling equipment yuou need the founder armour (face shields, boots, spats, aprons. . .)

See the books by Chastain (our review page) for construction methods. Or see our gas forge FAQ. The little melting furnace shown will melt about 3 pounds of brass, bronze or copper in about 10 minutes. That would be 18 pounds an hour. The design shown has a lift off lid. It would be much more efficient for the top 2/3 to tip back and be able to lift out the crucible with pouring tongs rather than use vertical lifing tongs then transfer to the powering tongs.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 01:57:30 EST

There is a large flypress on eBay now (#6167575190). Located in Cobleskill, NY (40 miles west of Albany). Buyer pickup.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 03:44:24 EST

Take a look at the anvil in eBay #6167567273. Seller says it dates back to early 1900s. Base is much like some of the modern farrier anvils; however, top appears to be cast iron due to how blocky it is. Almost looks 'homemade'.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 04:02:43 EST

I'm new to blacksmithing and I just bought an old 80lb. anvil covered in rust. It has some manufactured holes in it that I'm not sure what they are for. One of them starts at the front of the bottom of the base and comes out at the center of the bottom of the anvil, the other hole is in the front, about halfway up and doesn't come out anywhere unless it is connected to the other hole. What are these for?
   - trapper - Friday, 04/01/05 10:46:17 EST

Old Flypress - I hate it when the ebay photos are bad. . . An experianced ebay seller (they are) should no better.

Yet another brand. . Screw looks to be 2 lead which may be too slow for forging. The fly arm looks to be a fabricated replacement but being an odd brand it might be OEM. At this point (no bids) the mimimum is a real good starting place. May sell cheap. Would have lots of uses in the shop IF you applied properly.

Note that slow flypress screws (1 and 2 start) are for short stroke press work, stamping blanks, embossing. This press will take too many turns to say hot punch a deep hole or do a long stroke bending job. OR when multiple turns or long travel is needed it becomes a two man machine.

Odd anvil. . . tis really odd and ugly. Never seem one exactly like it that I can remember but there is something familiar about it. The looks may make it a great deal for someone and it doesn't look damaged. I'd personaly have to actually touch this one before I bought it.

There are a LOT of odd anvils out there made for Farrier schools. They contracted for them and sold them to their students. Total quantities are very low compared to the big manufacturers and the production time short so it is hard to find information about them.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 10:48:24 EST

I'm going to be removing rust from my anvil with muriatic acid. Will this be to harsh or is it ok? When I'm removing the rust, do I stop when the rust is gone and I see black, or do I keep doing it until I can see the silver steel?
   - trapper - Friday, 04/01/05 10:51:51 EST

Anvil Holes: Trapper, are you sure? Most old forged anvils have three handling holes. One about 2 to 3" deep in the bottom and two about 2" deep in the sides of the waist. Tongs or bars called "porter bars" fit these holes to lift the hot anvil during manufacturing.

THEN, in the face (top surface) of the anvil there are usualy two holes but sometimes only one. There is a square hole called the "hardie" hole for holding tools and a small round one called a pritichel hole for punching over. These holes are usualy on the heel or thin part of the anvil face.

On SOME very old anvils the square hardie hole is toward the side of the face and curves outward toward opening on the side of the anvil. These are good anvils but also collectable.

Go to our FAQ's page and the article on Selecting an Anvil. There are some anvil photos there that are fairly typical. If your anvil is a LOT different then it may be part of an old multi-purpose tool where it was a combination vise/anvil/drill. If you are not sure contact me and send a photo and we will sort it out.

Its time I post an anvil diagram. . .
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 10:59:48 EST

I looked in the FAQ's but didnt find a piece on making a spring hardie that could be used to fuller knife blades. Suggestions?
   - John - Friday, 04/01/05 12:13:13 EST

   RICH - Friday, 04/01/05 12:27:48 EST

Trapper, IF your anvil is a very old antique then chemicaly cleaning it may hurt its value. Usualy you are safe to hand wire brush the anvil to remove loose rust and dirt. The face of the anvil can be shined up with a belt sander if you are going to use it. But I would not do this either if it is a REAL antique.

The reason I disuade folks from going nuts on an anvil of unknown age is that real antique anvils are selling for around $800 to $1000. Refinishing it will reduce the value by half.

IF the anvil is just another typical old anvil then have at it. But at this point you do not know.

Currently "antique" anvils are those 200 years old or more. There are so many anvils from the US Civil war era to the turn of the 20th century that few are "collectable" and most are USERS. These get cleaned up and painted and used. In another generation you won't know it had anything other than normal maintenance unless you do weld repairs (which I do not recommend). I have been amazed at just how many VERY old anvils are still showing up.

IF the "anvil" is part of a multi-tool then it would be cast iron and not a very good anvil for serious forging. Most of these have more value as collectors items or a curiosity than as a tool.

Note: Usualy if an anvil is heavily rusted the working surfaces will need to be ground or sanded to be smooth enough for working. Chemical derusters will remove the rust but do nothing to smooth the surface. So they are generaly a wasted expense. On the body (non-working surfaces) of an anvil it is best to just paint over tight rust. Anvils being heavy tend to attract condensation an rust heavily. A layer of rust under the paint slows the process. You can also just oil the rust. Oiling tight rust preserves the rust patina and is safe for antiques or anvils of unknown pedigree.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 12:28:05 EST

Getting Started: Rich ALL CAPS is considered yelling on the Internet. We can "hear" you just fine.

See our "Getting Started" article linked at the top and bottom of this page and on our home page and FAQ's page. . .

It has the book list you want and links to reviews of all the books. There is also our Sword Making resources list. It starts you in metalworking from the begining with probably the best short list of references anywhere.

See our FAQ's page. It has the information about making charcoal that you want as well as many other things.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 12:36:22 EST

Spring Fuller: John, we have various tool making articles on the iForge page including a variety of anvil tools. There is no specific knife fullering plan.

The trick is to not fuller too thin. A clapper die with stop blocks on the sides is needed to prevent wrecking the blade.

Most of the blades I have seen appear to have had the "fullering" ground in. If you are getting into knife making, even by forging, there is a LOT of grinding to do. It is only slightly less than stock reomoval. Grinding has traditionaly been a major part of the cutlery trade and is often overlooked in the smiths tool needs.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 12:51:16 EST

Trapper: Imagine holding a VERY hot anvil for forging or other work. As noted, the holes were typically attachment points for large tongs-like tools. They could also be used for holding the anvil while the top was smoothed on a large grindstone. Some early cast iron based anvils, such as Fishers, also had handling holes so it is not necessarily a sign of a forged anvil.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 12:52:28 EST

[my turn for a public service announcement]

Join CSI!! I just did.

This site has been an incredible help in my pursuit of diverse metalurgical hobbies. I learned how to make my first charcoal forge here [and the charcoal to run it]. I learned how to make my first gass forge here, as well as buying the Kaowool and ITC-100 to insulate it. Proper grinding/filling techniques, DIY tools, the magic of borax, and the joy of beating teh devil out of a piece of iron... all learned here for FREE!

More importantly, I learned the most of the shop safety I know here... painlessly. Everything else I've learned in life has cost me either cash, sweat, or blood.

Here you will find a group of dedicated people giving away all their precious knowledge and asking very little in return. They need our support.

Joining CSI to support ANVILFIRE.COM is the best bargin around.

   MikeM-OH - Friday, 04/01/05 13:54:43 EST

I am trying to determine the age of some very old blacksmithing bellows. They stand approximately 4' tall and 3' wide (at their widest part). I pulled one of its nails and found that it uses wire nails on its perimeter. Now I know that wire nails first became popular during the early part of the 20th Century but, I would like to find more evidence that this item is from that period. Is there anything in the design, shape, or, size that I should look for to help determine its age? Thanks for your help.
   john - Friday, 04/01/05 14:19:40 EST


let me be the first to say WELCOME!!!!!!
   JimG - Friday, 04/01/05 14:59:47 EST


Now If I can just get this darned reef tank stable, I can get back to the metal work. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to use the tank as a quench tub. 1.024 spg is briney enough, right? Oh, and wait for the tendonitis to heal... funny, its in my tong arm, not my hammer arm. I've managed to keep the repousee going by mounting the tools on a spring arm and sliding the work under it when its too big for my flypress. Most of the shields are too big for the flypress to reach the center, though.
   MikeM-OH - Friday, 04/01/05 15:10:19 EST

Bellows: John, Factory made bellows were available up until at least 1914 according to my catalog collection. There was a bellows factory in Chicago (I think) that burned down early in the 20th century. I have seen the article but a search on google did not bring anything up. Seems to me the article was an anouncement of the sale of a wharehouse load of bellows leftover from the factory fire. The story has been around in blacksmithing circles but I cannot find it now.

Factory bellows are rather distinctive. All I have seen were painted red and look like rust red as it aged. The shape is a very curvatious tear drop and they had heavy cross braces. Late ones are made of laminated wood like plywood.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 15:15:31 EST

Repousse' Hammer: Mike, Check the review of the chain making book at the bottom of our review page. The chainmakers used an Oliver or treadle hammer to very good use. Of course you could just be trading tendonitus in the arm to the leg. . I think I'd rather be able to walk.

THEN there is the little planishing hammer built by Ted Banning on the JYH page. It uses a very small punch press (1 ton or less) and a pair of springs to absorb the incomplete stroke.
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 15:32:16 EST

Mike, I tweeked you earlier post but you got to log-in for the color to work ;)
   - guru - Friday, 04/01/05 15:33:47 EST

Mike M - OH,

Welcome to the family!
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/01/05 15:48:33 EST

John, If you want to find how to make a fuller for knife blades, I'll tell you. Straighten out a piece of automobile coil spring and cut a piece that is about 1 foot long. Simply bend it in half so that the two halves are parallel to each other BUT THERE MUST BE A GAP of about 1.5 to 2 inches between the sides. The final shape should be U that is about six inches long with a 1.5 to 2 inch gap between the sides. Form some little oval knobs at the tips on the inside of the U. Then harden it and give it a spring temper. Simply weld a littlepiece of steel that fits in your hardy hole to the U like so -U. There you go. It takes practice as you have to fuller the blade while it is at least a red heat.
   Matthew Marting - Friday, 04/01/05 15:49:10 EST

On spring fullers and repousse hammers. If you can settle for shop made see my listings in Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools. Use the nagigator block to go down to Suppliers and then clink on the line. Once in the eBay store do a keyword search. If you don't see what you want, I also do custom work. Just don't expect a professional tool - but then I price accordingly.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 15:55:58 EST

Repousse' Hammer: Jock, that's a great idea, but WAY more power than I've been needing. I'm mostly embossing line drawings in 26 through 16 ga mild steel... SCA arms on shields and such. I have been thinging about building the "weightless hammer" design that's floating arround here somewhere.

So far, having a leaf spring arm that holds the tool over the lead base and moving teh work between them is working out fine. The shock running up the tool hand when I hammer is what's aggravating my elbow.

The other day I was having pretty good luck holding the chistle with my good arm while my step daughter hammered for me. She wasn't brave enough to hold the chistle yet!

I'd thought about making all my tools one standard size, then making a lever type contraption [like a really large paper hole punch] to go hammerless... then I realized the hammer is the fun part!

   MikeM OH - Friday, 04/01/05 15:56:41 EST

Mike M, try using a piece of metal conduit ; squeeze the handles on the tongs together and stick 'em in the tube to hold them together. That will relieve much of the stress. I use 3 different sizes. I suspect the aggrevation to your tendonitis comes from constantly squeezing them. I make all my tongs with long, tapered reins for that purpose and also because I use a propane forge almost as much as a coal forge.
   Ron Childers - Friday, 04/01/05 16:23:23 EST

My wife and I are clearing out a blacksmith shop and have a power hammer, or trip hammer along with anvil, mandril and drill press. We are trying very hard to find a real live blacksmith to seel these items along with the various tools so that they can be used instead of gathering dust. I will have some pictures available online for your viewing. Just what kind of project are we taking on here as the hammer weighs in around 700 pounds without the anvil and the mandril has to be close to 20 feet in length. Your thoughs and suggestions would be greatly apprciated. Thank you...Pete
   Pete McKinley - Friday, 04/01/05 16:46:25 EST


Some idea of approximately where you are might make it easier for us to help you.

I tried to email you, but the message bounced.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/01/05 17:38:44 EST

I have a venturi style gas forge that I have recently started using after taking a blacksmithing class. I have a problem where one jet will not produce a good flame. The flame is erratic and when it is there is blue only where the work is. You cannot see the flame at the top of the forge. I'm trying to get a good welding flame from it. The forge is a two jet model, that I purchased from ebay about a year ago. I would appreciate any help with the problem.
   Mike Tomasino - Friday, 04/01/05 17:48:22 EST

Mike check out the orifice to see if it has a rough bur on the inside or is blocked by a bit of teflon tape or other stuff that shouldn't be in there.

Check out it's orientatation. Venturi burners are very fussy about being aligned correctly.

What type of two jet model? (sort of like telling us you have a two door car and are having engine trouble)

Pete most of us smiths are tool-aholics, tell us where you are at and we'll start planning a trip---if we can afford the equipment and the gas.

What type of triphammer and anvil do you have? Don't you think they would look pretty in the NM sun???

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/01/05 18:20:50 EST


Don't listen to Tom, he's a notorious tight wad. Those tools would be much happier and better cared for in North Carolina! (grin)
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/01/05 19:02:44 EST

While I was derusting my anvil I found some writing on it. It says SOLID WROT, TRENTON, USA, 82, 1412. I know that it is pre 1911 because Trenton changed names in 1911. Please don't tell me I ruined it. What does solid wrot mean? By the way it is spelled wrot, not wrought as in wrought iron.
   - trapper - Friday, 04/01/05 19:19:14 EST

Trapper: Solid Wrought meant both the top and bottom halves of the anvil were of wrought iron. Would have a steel plate on top. If you look at the front foot there should be a serial number there, which can be associated with a year of production. Are you sure part of the wrought wasn't lost through use? Anvils in America shows it as a circle with SOLID on top and WROUGHT on the bottom, like Peter Wright's usage. However, if handstamped in, someone might not have been able to spell or got lazy.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 19:31:13 EST

The forge is made by a gentleman named Jim Walls. It is supposed to reach welding temperature at five to six PSI.There is a cross bar on the top that hols the two valves in place. One jet holds a good flame the other hops around and actually sounds like it looses it's gas flow.
Thanks for your responses.
   Mike Tomasino - Friday, 04/01/05 19:56:20 EST

The serial # is 1412, do you know where can I find what year it is? I googled it and didn't find any info.
   - trapper - Friday, 04/01/05 20:12:58 EST


If you've read the serial number accurately, your anvil was manufactured in 1898.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 04/01/05 20:20:56 EST

Trapper: You have one of the first Trentons made (as least ones with serial number). Would date to 1898.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 20:21:22 EST

Mike Tomasino:

As noted, check to make sure the orifice is clear. Then check all of the joints to make sure you are not losing any gas. Even a small leak can affect performance. If air flow is adjustable, each gas tube may have its own preferred setting.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/01/05 20:23:30 EST

I have a nice 124# trnton from 1903, and find it to be a very nice anvil.
   ptree - Friday, 04/01/05 20:35:34 EST

Lets try that again, I have a very nice 125# Trenton from 1903.
   - ptree - Friday, 04/01/05 20:36:51 EST

Lets try that again, I have a very nice 125# Trenton from 1903.
   ptree - Friday, 04/01/05 20:37:24 EST

Boy, jet lag sure makes my rough at the puter!
   ptree - Friday, 04/01/05 20:38:08 EST

Mike Tomasino, if the flame is burning away from the end of the burner after checking for orifice plugging and jet alignment, the velocity going through it is probably too high. I suggest choking off the air supply to see if that reduces the volume going through the burner enough to keep the flame on the burner. Too much air is bad in many ways.
   - Tony - Friday, 04/01/05 20:49:27 EST

Jock, e-mail to you.
   vicopper - Friday, 04/01/05 21:21:15 EST

MIKE T: It sounds like you might not be getting enough air. Look in the burner tube to see if there is a mud-dobber nest in it. If it is guttering out the top --alighment of the oriface or not enough gas pressure. If it is too yellow cut the air back. If is only a blue flame out the bottom of the burner, you are short on air. Make sure you have enough gas pressure to your forge.
   - sandpile - Friday, 04/01/05 22:21:17 EST

HI, I am a hobbiest blacksmith and use Charcoal Briquetts & some coke in a small home made car wheel forge. I would like to get some pointers on brazing on the forge, the two books I have talk a lot about welding but I would like to put my torch away and do it on the forge. Am almost 65 years old and do some machine shop work on the side.
Thanks JD of Tinker's Forge
   JD - Saturday, 04/02/05 00:46:37 EST

Does anyone know why brass knuckles are made of brass? Wouldn't stainless steel work just as well and without leaving that tattletale green oxide all over one's knuckles?
   Lancelot Haggerty - Saturday, 04/02/05 01:45:50 EST


"Brass" knuckles, whether made of brass, stainless or solid gold all have one thing in common. They're good for a couple years of room and board and a chance to explore a new lifestyle, all courtesy of the State. We don't give any advice other than that on illegal weapons, here. OBTW, bogus email addresses may seem clever, but your IP address is showing.

Think about the handle.
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/02/05 02:13:02 EST

MikeM-OH. Welcome to the fold. Thanks too. Nice post about all the things you learned here. On the reef tank problem, you tried www.reefcentral, yes?
   Gronk - Saturday, 04/02/05 02:40:42 EST

while briquetts might work, you will find that using real charcoal or coal will work MUCH better.
The few times I have brazed in the forge was .... shall we say interesting.
Be sure to put the flux where you want the join to be. AS the brazing rod ( or what ever you use) will pretty much only go there.
Also one of the older smiths I know used to take a piece of plate that had been slightly domed and in the center of the dome he had a hole. Place this over the fire and then he could more or less concentrate the heat where he wanted for brazing.
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/02/05 09:01:16 EST

Ralph, nice tip about the domed plate with a hole to concentrate the heat.

   ptree - Saturday, 04/02/05 09:12:35 EST

Bounced Mails: Paw-Paw, Etal, There is a bug in how our incryption system handles names seperated by a period as in jock.dempsey@someplace.com. It would come up as:

jock@dempsey.someplace.com . .

Weird bug haven't had time to figure out and fix. LOTS of testing everytime it is changed. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 04/02/05 11:07:33 EST

Brazing in Forge and Coins: Old forge brazing used to be called "spelter" brazing or welding. Powdered brass was sprinkled on the hot fluxed meltal near the joint and then heated until the spelter melted and ran into the joint.

Note also that "spelter" is a term used for zinc.

A second method is called a "penny" weld because metal from a copper penny was used. In a penny weld a strip or curl of copper was cut from the coin, the piece but next to the joint or wraped around the joint, the metal is warmed, fluxed and then heated until the copper is just hot enough to flow.

Penny copper had a slight amount of tin in it and thus was actually a bronze. However, US pennies made since 1983 are made from zinc clad with a VERY thin layer of copper and are not good for this purpose. Scrap solid copper wire works well.

Besides using pennies (back when they were worth a penny) silver dimes were used for silver soldering. It was common to use dime silver to join band saw blades.

Recently I saw some Mokume' Gane' made using US coins. It appeared that quarters were used. The result was mostly copper with the thin tin/nickle coating marbled into the copper.

AND I seem to recall that there is a law about defacing US coins that has never been enforced but makes you think.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/02/05 11:21:51 EST

Vicopper, old sport-- It's cool to have a clinical discussion of swords, dirks, poniards, maces, chain mail, epees, scimitars, various types of Samurai weaponry, techniques of quenching blades in human bodies, etc., but we draw a demure curtain across brass knuckles, do we? Hooohaw!
   Lancelot Haggerty - Saturday, 04/02/05 11:34:00 EST

Guru, as I recall the law states that it is ilegal to *pass* a defaced coin---to prevent clipping back in the bullion days.

If you are not trying to pass it then the government is OK with it since they make a profit on all coins taken out of circulation.

IIRC old british sterling coins are about a "medium" in the hard silver solders---have to ask my friend who had hallmarking rights in england...

I use O-A brazing rod for forge brazing and 20 mule team for the flux Works a treat for some items, especially in a historical demo where you don't want to whip out a buzz box or electric drill and rivit...

   Thomas P - Saturday, 04/02/05 11:36:04 EST

Trapper's Anvil: Trapper, You have a good "User" anvil. Even though it is over 100 years old it is not an antique or collector's item yet. Depending on condition it is worth about $2/pound.

In 50 to 100 years when it becomes a collectable antique it will have rusted enough that no one will notice.

OLD anvils that have been properly used and cared for show gracefull signs of wear such as gently rounded or slumped edges, minor marking, thick tight rust on the non-working surfaces and no or thin light rust on the face (if out of use).

Abused anvils have heavily chiped corners, or corners that may have been repaired by welding with alloy rods that show as a different color, cutting torch notches, arc welding sputter balls, drooping horns and swayed faces from too heavy of work, chisle cuts on the working surfaces. . . and many other abuses.

Both gracefully worn and abused anvils are often still a good tool. The difference being that in the future the gracefully worn anvil will probably appreciate in value much more than the old abused anvil.

Anvils are a rather strange investment these days. Any bought at a fair price today will be worth more in 10 or 20 years. Even as pricey as new anvils seem most will resell for more in the future if taken care of. The reason is the contantly increasing prices and declining quality of (some) new anvils.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/02/05 11:38:25 EST

Illegal Weapons: Lancelot, The vast majority of blades made by folks in our business are either working blades, legal or collector's art pieces (there are actually no laws against swords, just where and how you carry them). Same with black powder weapons, most are works of art, collector's and historical demonstration pieces.

On the other hand brass knuckles, switch blades, sawed off shotguns and full auto conversions are illegal at both State and Federal level in the US and many other countries. As such they are not really a good how-to topics for a family oriented forum which is often read by young school children.

The "slave quench" discussions are almost always closed by someone pointing out this is a myth. I'd say "modern myth" but it has been around for centuries. . still, it is a myth.

I am SURE there are many other forums that get into the details of illegal weapons, explosives and just LOVE to continue to spread all the old wives tales and myths. . let them have it.

Many MANY young folks come to us asking about making swords and we usualy convince them that there are lots of other things to make and skills to learn before attemping such a project. A few go into bladesmithing but many find that there is a whole world of decorative and artistic metalwork that they did not know existed and suits them better.

See our Sword Making FAQ. Its list of resources is probably one of the best around. It starts with basic metal working and work up. In fact the list would make a good degree progam in metal working. Sadly, many MORE go to the article than the reference list.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/02/05 12:20:34 EST

I was thinking about setting up my 5 ton press to make dropped center buttons for a friend who was making vest out of denium jeans-so I called the mint to check on rules about defacing coins-I had seen the machines that flatten pennies and mark with places etc. The mint person said that as long as you did not try to pass a coin for a larger denomination- such as silvering a penny and passing for a dime- that it was not illegal to deface coins- and I did make a die to make -Drop center buttons- they went well
on the vests
   ptpiddler - Saturday, 04/02/05 12:27:59 EST

Should have mentioned that the buttions were made from pre 1980 pennies-I don't know exactly when the clad pennies went into circulation- they broke in half if you
tried to deform them
   ptpiddler - Saturday, 04/02/05 13:07:57 EST

Well, it sounds like class snobbery to me, rich guys' shanks but not po' folks' knucks-- but gosh, then I guess I won't ask which alloy you'd recommend for my zip gun barrel, a Ford antenna or a Chevy. It's not politically correct to discuss this sort of thing, either, I know, but I want to report that Douglas Alan Fisher, chief of public relations for U.S. Steel, writes that Damascus blades were in fact quenched in the body of "an Ethiop of fair frame," and says nothing about this being myth. Page 22, The Epic of Steel, Harper & Row, N.Y. 1963
   Lancelot Haggerty - Saturday, 04/02/05 13:30:28 EST

ptree, I wish I could take credit for it.
One of the volunteer smiths at Ft Vancouver NHS showed that to me.
Now this fellow is a young 80 year old. He used to smith for NASA and the railroads. As well as some large production shops ( like some of y'all) He started out as a 16 year old apprentice/student at some school in N.D.
Needless to say I love talking with the guy......
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/02/05 13:56:08 EST

Lancelot: Have no fear. I will bring up the question. DOES anyone know what a car antenna is made out of? The reason I ask is that I can sit in my truck in the driveway and get good reception, but I can't get the same on the house stereo. Even with the nice store-bought antenna. Maybe I could make something that looks marginally better than the spider-web of wire I have tacked to the wall. OR I could just wire a car antenna to the stereo. Ahhh, so many ponderings.
   Gronk - Saturday, 04/02/05 14:13:13 EST

Antenas used to be brass tubing-chrome plated - might be steel now as the wire in the last (top) piece is steel
   ptpiddler - Saturday, 04/02/05 14:36:55 EST

Howdy again. I want to thank all those who answered my question about the hydraulic press and provided some safety info. I really do appreciate it. FYI: i did a quick "drawing" of my planned design in photoshop and posted it on AnvilfireFotos, in the Blueboy folder in the photos section. Maybe if you have time, you could check it out and give me some feedback about the design, if you have the time. Once again, i aprreciate all the help youguys have given me.
   Blueboy - Saturday, 04/02/05 15:03:26 EST

Epic of Steel: John, like I said it was an OLD myth. It is not the first time that an author has written something without historical documentation. Modern researchers have looked for such references that could support this statement without success. It is a myth or old wive's tale told to scare little children (or slaves). Or perhaps it was told by the returning Crusaders to impress the local bar flies.

Currently there is a modern myth circulating in blacksmithing circles about Union sappers breaking the horns off anvils in Southern blacksmith shops during the Civil War. Good story. Bad history. Its a myth that originated with an acquaintence of mine. He came up with the idea trying to explain all the anvils with broken horns he had seen and was looking for evidence to support it. He carefully explained it was his THEORY. He told his story to many people and THEY in turn told the story as fact. It has been repeated on the Internet thousands of times and it is also now told by historical reinactors. . . But it IS a myth and has no historical basis.

However, the difference with THIS myth is that I know how it started and WHO started it. That should end its telling, THE END. But folks like a good yarn and will defend it to the death insisting it is fact. .
   - guru - Saturday, 04/02/05 15:15:20 EST

Just want to say hello and see the blue
   TravisC - Saturday, 04/02/05 16:05:45 EST

Welcome Travis! the blue looks good!
Don't forget to visit the CSI members only forum and find out the secret on how they get the carmel in the caramilk bars.
   JimG - Saturday, 04/02/05 16:48:28 EST

Gronk, Yes, I've been reading Reefcentral.com almost as much as Anvilfire... they're my next membership. The problem isn't really the tank, its me. I inherited a 20 year old reef from a reclusive uncle [we didn't know he had fish, let alone 100+ gallons of corals etc] last spring. I had NO prior knowledge of reef keeping, and barely remember highschool biology and chemistry. Its been 40 hours a week for the last year learnign about these little beasts and keeping them alive through my mistakes. Its about on par with a inheriting a huge blacksmithing shop and a bunch of emplyees who depend on you for their livelyhood... and not knowing a thing about business or metal. :)

Still, the tank is nice, and the wife and kids love watching it. I must like it too, cause I spent teh morning measuring the basemet to build a 500 gallon tank and service room.

   MikeM OH - Saturday, 04/02/05 17:03:17 EST


The problem you're up against, Rich, is that car radios are waaay more sensitive (and often more selective as well), than your stereo receiver. Also, the car antenna isn't surrounded by a bunch of household wiring, rebar in the floor slab, etc. Just a nice open antenna with a ground plane (the car body) below it. They have to be pretty good to operate while moving toward/away from the transmitter site, and deal with interference from other stations and the car's electrical system. All with only a mostly untuned whip antenna.

If you want to get better performance from your stereo receiver, get a pretty good TV/FM antenna and put it on your roof with a rotator. Assuming, of course, that your receiver has provisions for an outside antenna, which most do. Under good circumstances, you should ge every FM station within a couple hundred miles. AM stations and antennas are a horse of a different color, but if AM is your thing let me know and I'll tell you how to make them comoe in better, too. AM DX'ing was a hobby of mine when I was young.
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/02/05 17:10:03 EST


I found a simple solution; I moved to an island in the Caribbean. That gives me a "reef tank" of roughly a million square miles just a ten minute walk away. (GRIN) Now I just need to take more time to play in it.

You will find that the bigger tank is a LOT less trouble to maintain than the smaller one. The more volume, the more stability.
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/02/05 17:18:53 EST

I've got another question about derusting my anvil. I've got it to where it is splotched silver and brown and smoothed out, is this ok, or do I need to get it all the way down to the silver steel, thanks.
   - trapper - Saturday, 04/02/05 19:10:11 EST

I know what you mean about talking to the fellow with much experience. I started at the old plant in 81, and the average guy had been there for a little over 30 years, and they learned from the old guys with about 40 years and so on. That shop closed with 118 years in continous operation. With all the processes, a huge amount of knowledge to mine, and I did at every oppurtunity. I wish I still had all those guys in one spot to learn from.
   ptree - Saturday, 04/02/05 19:12:40 EST

Tell me Lancelot, How much did a good slave cost? A hell of a lot less than a good sword, thats for sure. And it doesn't even quench the blade properly! Check out Mastersmith Wayne Goddard's "The Wonder Of Knifemaking" for more details. Anyway you can get a much better quench from cow urine. This is often treated as myth as well. However I have done some thinking and research on the subject (nothing conclusive so this is just theory),and urine is essentially ammonia which contains nitrogen, which in turn is one of the three elements that can facillitate hydrogen bonding. Thus the nitrogen is absorbed into the metal while it is hot and while it is cooling the nitrogen helps establish a tighter crystal lattice. This ancient viking practice (they actually did it unlike the slave thing) can be imitated by adding ammonia to ones quenchant. I know the cow urine thing is not really related to the subject at hand other than it is an unusual quenchant but it is an iteresting caveat I just had to share.
   Matthew Marting - Saturday, 04/02/05 19:43:19 EST

Gronk, all my auto antennae are made of stainless steel. I think they even started out that way before they were tore off and I replaced them with stainless tig welding rod.

I do admit to knowing NOTHING about radio antennae other than that stainless welding rod works great on every vehicle I own.

Now, what are pine sawyer beetle antennae made of? I'd like to get rid of some of those.
   - Tony - Saturday, 04/02/05 19:49:21 EST

Yipee guru, I just made a tool with my forge and anvil. Namely a drift for making handle holes from some rebar. It is a little small to make a wooden handle for it so I guess it will get a metal rod for a handle. I can try to upset it in the hole to keep it tight. Nesxt I am going to draw out the other piece of rebar to make a longer punch and put a handle on it too.
   John Washington - Saturday, 04/02/05 20:17:37 EST

Going to be visiting another nice reef tank in about 23 days....
Going to be in Hawaii greeting out boy back to the States.
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/02/05 20:21:17 EST

I saw another use of the term "penny welding" in an old auto body book. Pennies were brazed to the end of filler rods, like the heads on common nails, then soldered to a dented metal surface. This allowed pulling dents where you couldn't puncture the surface, as with a gas tank (which I assume was properly purged first). Actually, there was a note at the end of the chapter saying using pennies that way was illegal, so you should cut copper discs instead. Can't imagine anyone paid any attention, and it sounds like it wasn't necessary anyway.
   Mike B - Saturday, 04/02/05 20:23:09 EST

Matthew said "urine is essentially ammonia which contains nitrogen, which in turn is one of the three elements that can facillitate hydrogen bonding. Thus the nitrogen is absorbed into the metal while it is hot and while it is cooling the nitrogen helps establish a tighter crystal lattice". Where did you read this? Or did you just make it up? C'mon Matthew, there are three or four metallurgists who post here so don't go posting laughable pseudo-science here. That dog don't hunt. The salt and the water in urine make it an effective quenchant. The ammonia is a liquid and IF you can vaporize it, you have an exposure time of a minute or two. IF you managed to get any nitrogen into the metal, it would diffuse only a few atomic radii before the metal was too cold for diffusion to take place. There is no such thing as Hydrogen bonding; bonds are ionic, covalent or metallic and metals form metallic bonds. Nitrogen has an atomic weight of 14, carbon is 12. The nitrogen, like the carbon, will form an interstitial solid solution and have little or no effect on the lattice spacing because the atomic weight of iron is 56. The carbon and the nitrogen just hide between the iron atoms.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 04/02/05 20:57:08 EST

thank you guru for answering my "melting" not 'smelting ' question.

   - Timex - Saturday, 04/02/05 21:06:37 EST

Quenchcrack, you mean there is no magic in quenching? Next you'll tell us that quenching with a virgin's urine during a full moon isn't a way to make an unbreakable blade, when I know I read it in a book so it has to be true!
   ptree - Saturday, 04/02/05 21:19:06 EST

Actually urine contains urea that gets changed into amonia due to biological action---why it doesn't smell like amonia when being decanted so to speak...

The actual time that a blade is at a temp where migration *might* take place is very short---a simple steel has only about a second to drop way down to miss the nose and harden and so you can see that the time in quench at heat is not enough to do much.

I remember a little golden book from the early 60's that mentioned that the moon came from the Pacific Ocean---they didn't know about plate tectonics back then and needed a way to explain why there was this big gap on the earth...I regularly run across things in books that are just plain *wrong* usually cause the person is speaking outside their area of knowledge and so is repeating something they don't know enough about to know it's bogus---can I interest you in a book from 1120 A.D. that is full of really great true stuff until he gets to softening rock crystal by sticking it inside a freshly killed critter...

   Thomas P - Saturday, 04/02/05 21:40:36 EST

Ptree, yes, metallurgy is really magic. I have the formula for a quenchant that will harden ANY metal to Rockwell 60 without cracks or distortion. I plan to market the formula on eBay along with my collection of designer urethane anvils and re-bar swords......
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 04/02/05 22:00:15 EST


If this is the same "Lancelot" who's posting on several other forums, then he's trolling. We keep trying to give him straight answers; and he keeps picking fights.


I hope that this is not the reality and that you are a different person who has just made some erroneous assumptions; but if you are trolling, you should know that this is an edited forum, and crossing Jock, or other impropriety, will lead to you being expunged, banned and shot down the memory hole so fast it will make your head spin.

This is a forum for polite inquiry by all ages, and if you're trolling, you're out of here! Honest inquiry is encouraged, nastiness is not; so you may want to rephrase your questions and responses a befits your namesake.

Otherwise, take it somewhere else.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 04/02/05 23:39:40 EST

Quenchcrack: Is there a way to nitride steel in the home or small time shop? or is it best to use tool steel with ordinary heat treat & Kasnit on lo carbon and call it a day.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 04/02/05 23:56:29 EST

I guess a littloe more info would be helpful. We live in Helena, MT and the equipment is in storage waiting patiently for a blacksmith to be named later. Not sure what happened with the e-mail but my address is peter.mckinley@bresnan.net so give it a try. I will be getting some more pictures and actual names of equipment in the next few days and will share as soon as possible. As for the equipment looking good in NM or back east, either way is fone with us just as long as it is used by a good hearted smith! But you knew that already! Thanks and I will be in touch. Pete
   Pete McKinley - Sunday, 04/03/05 01:11:29 EST

not sure if this question is relevant to your site , but ill ask anyhow?
Is it possible to self learn alluminium welding ? from books etc?
I have a lot of expierience with MIG and TIG welding of steel, stainless etc and use of AC/DC TIG set and DC mig welder.
I want to learn more about alluminium welding and modifying of cast alluminium parts, as i have a few car coponents that need modifying, and finding it near impossible to find local specialist here in UK ?
What books could be recommended?
   Richy - Sunday, 04/03/05 05:23:46 EDT

The thing with welding alluminum is to clean it off with a wire brush first to remove the oxide layer. Other than that if you can already weld and have some other references you should do OK.
   - The Hobbit - Sunday, 04/03/05 12:02:01 EDT

US Pennies: Pt, Etal, The change was definitely made in 1983. I bought several hundred dollars worth of old pennies at the time. The reason for the change was that copper prices were high enough that a penny was actualy worth MORE than a penny (about 1.3).

Back when they stopped making silver quarters and dimes the belief was that there was SO MANY in circulation that would always be. . . It took only a year for almost all the silver coins to dissapear. SO what is a silver dime worth today? They were $1.40 last I checked (14x). . .

The difference between the new pennies and the silver coin replacements is that automated machines can sort old pennies by weight. The replacement coins for silver were made so that they would still work in vending machines. The weight had to be exactly the same, the thickness in test spots, and the electrical conductivity. The electrical conductivity is matched by the combination of the clading and the copper. Pretty tricky.

I like the dual metal forign coins with the copper center surrounded by bright metal. The Canadian twoly (two dollar) coin is that type. Its a nice useful denomination.

   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 12:17:06 EDT

Aluminium Welding: Ricky, If you have the equipment and materials it is like most types of welding, practice, practice, practice. Even if you are trying to get certified it helps to practice until you get a feel for it.

I have a book to review titled "Welding Essentials" that would probably help a self taught welder much better than the standard references which are used in classrooms and assume an instructor will help on fine points. The book is sold through Industrial Press. If you get it I could really use a review from a welder's perspective or someone that has more experiance with modern machinery than I do. I can weld using all procceses but do not have much experiance with industrial class equipment.

Years before I had aluminium welding equipment I had another fellow do an aluminium welding job for me. We adapted an MGB 1800 manifold to fit an old Austin 948/1200 head to put BIG carbs on a hopped up engine. I never got to see the car run but they must have worked pretty good. The idiot partner I had sold my half of the car to blew up the engine by overreving on the first turn of an obstical course. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 12:28:19 EDT

De-Rusting: trapper, you have found the catch in using any of the milder derusting compounds, they react differently to different rust formations, possible old oil and paint that you can no longer detect.

The only surface that needs to be relatively clean is the face (top). However, if you USE an anvil the rust wears off in the working areas. I've found that even with regular use the horn tends to rust. In the past I force rusted (browned) horns on my traveling anvils and then oiled them ocassionaly with WD-40.

If the face is rough from rusting then sand paper or a belt sander does a good job. There will be speckled black piting marks from the rust that are not worth grinding out.

As long as there is no crusty loose rust the best thing to do is get a spray can of black paint and paint it. Leave the face and top third of the horn unpainted. That is if you want a "pretty" NEW looking anvil.

I used mine as-found with a light tight rust coating for YEARS. Where it was used it would clean up. A few years ago I made them pretty for photographing them for articles. Otherwise they would have just been left as-is for another century. Now all that bright metal rusts and needs constant oiling. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 13:12:01 EDT

That's interesting about the vending machines. A week or two ago I was getting annoyed because the soda machine kept spitting out one of my dimes. Then I looked closer and realized the machine was doing me a favor -- it was a silver dime from 1960. Maybe the machines today are checking some aspect they didn't used to.
   Mike B - Sunday, 04/03/05 13:22:40 EDT

Thanks for the antenna info gang. I do have some stainless that might look pretty good on the roof. Now what to make? It has been bugging me that the truck radio works better since the stereo is worth more than the truck. In other news, I picked up a flat-top grill from a restaurant. It's gotta weigh 500 lbs. I figure it will make a nice welding table, but I'm considering ideas for the burner assemblies. They are in decent shape. Dunno if they will make a gas forge or if I pipe water through them as a pond fountain. Incredible what people throw out. These things are expensive.
   Gronk - Sunday, 04/03/05 14:01:16 EDT

I can not remember what year it was, when the HUNT BROTHERS tried to corner the silver market. A friend of mine here in town, had been saving all the real silver coins that came through his cafe. One morning he deceided to put in the safe-deposit part of the bank. There was alot of laughing and joking about him having to use a wheel barrel to move the coins. They weighed it at the bank and come up with 325+ lbs. He fooled around and kept the whole pile of it. As far as I know he still has it. Everybodys taiilights are brighter than their head-lights. Grin
I have about 70 or 80 lbs. of copper pennys.BOG.

   - sandpile - Sunday, 04/03/05 14:03:30 EDT

Silver Since there are virtualy NO silver coins left circulating in the US the new machines are probably all tested and calibrated using new coins.

Ocassionaly I get a handful of old coins in change. You know someone has been raiding a coin collection. .

Years ago we were scraping an old Box Grand Piano. Its a kind of compact version of a Grand Piano. When we pulled out the soundboard we found an 1876 dime. Probably the year the piano was built. Boy we thought we had a treasure! I called a coin shop and got that 1.40 valuation. . . Later I found out that in the centenial year of 1876 they minted more dimes than in any other year before of since. If you have 10 silver dimes the chance is one or more will be from 1876.

Folks that cashed in on the Hunt Brothers trying to corner the market in 1979 (they started in 1973) MADE money in silver OR gold. That year almost all my mother's silverware disappeared. . one of the neighborhood kids stole it all one piece at a time and pawned it.

In 1979 silver reached $54/oz, today silver is at a VERY reasonable price of about $7/oz and is well worth investing in for the coinage OR as raw metal to work. BEFORE the Hunt Brothers got into it thirty years ago $10/oz was normal. Gold peaked at somewhere around $800 and is now at a little over half that. Factor in inflation and these are huge losses for those that got caught up in it.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 14:45:56 EDT

Old Anvils are a more stable and steadier growth investment than gold or silver. I know folks that have hundreds. Buy today at $100-$150 and sell in 30-40 years at $300-$400 and you have beaten social security and the stock market. Your "bank" is also more secure than the real thing. Its not a very portable investment but a good retirement fund.

   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 14:54:12 EDT

Dave, Nitriding in a home made furnace is not something I would want to try. However, there are some very clever folks out there and one of them may have done it. Nitriding is really good for sliding wear and really bad for any application involving impact loading. It is a very brittle coating. I would recommend using tool steels or carburizing compounds at home. BTW, be very careful with the carburizing compounds, some of them are toxic.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/03/05 15:09:43 EDT

i was just wondering what the best thing to use other than an actual anvil to forge on

   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 19:57:37 EDT

Draconas, people use a variety of things in place of an anvil. A big heavy iron thing is a good choice. The bumper of a '59 Buick would probably work. A foot long piece of heavy rail road rail can be used. A piece of HEAVY plate steel (4-6" thick plate) works. The end of a 16# sledge hammer has been used. People in the third world have been known to use flat rocks. Use your imagination.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:03:56 EDT

i have a peice of rail thats about a foot and a half long and a 8 inch peice of rail thats on ist side.
the long one is so loud when i forge with it i have to wear ear plugs and other covers
but the small one on its side is very quiet
is there anything i can do to make the large one bounce less and be quieter
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:07:26 EDT

I've got yet another question

a scrap yard nearby has a piece of plate steel that is 9"X 18"X 17'. No indication on the carbon or type of steel , but my good bastard file slides off it even with hard pressure( 186 lbs man in good shape ). The scrap yard guy stated that it was from a 'ships hull' and would sell at $00.50 a lb after I told him I wanted a piece for an anvil.

Is this guy blowin' smoke or is he fer real?

If he's for real, would something this hard make a good primitive anvil?( cut to shape with torch and grind to finish is the plan)
   - Timex - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:10:31 EDT

and is there anything i can use as a horn?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:11:37 EDT

sorry for not including this part in my prior post

I'm in Nevada ( Las Vegas ) and find it hard to swallow that this scrap yard has or had the ability to get this stuff.
   - Timex - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:13:40 EDT

Timex: This may have come from the Nevada Test Site where it was to be shielding. Here in Los Alamos we have piles of heavy plate 6" and thicker. I am told it comes from old ships and missile silos. I think its all mild steel. Would make a serviceable anvil - a bit softer than ideal but useful nonetheless.
   adam - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:29:59 EDT


   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:35:47 EDT

Does anyone have an answer?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 20:36:06 EDT

although small you could use the rounded end of a crow bar in a vise.Or if you have the option you can cut the end off and wield it to the rail track. make sure to normalize after and then harden and temper.
   - John S - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:14:10 EDT

what about hardening a railroad track to make it ring less and bounce less?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:17:12 EDT

Railroad rail works best as a primitive anvil when placed on end. This gets the mass under the work and hammer. The harder the rail the more the ring. Try placing the rail vertically, with some in the ground, and then place a large magnet on it.
   ptree - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:21:37 EDT

Hard ? Plate: Timex, When heavy steel is torch cut carbon from the acetylene flame combines with the liquid metal at the edge of the kerf. THEN the bead on the edge self quenches due to the mass of the iron. This produces edges that will wreak a good file.

That 9" X 18" weighs 551 pounds per foot. About a foot would make a fine anvil. . . ;) If you work HOT and don't strike the anvil a mild steel anvil works. With that much mass who cares.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:38:30 EDT

i have a 6 inch rail thats vertical and it doesnt make much sound
but my foot and a half one almost deafens me and ive dented it allready ive hear that rail bounces because its a type of spring steel and i need the large flat top to bounce my hammer off less or is it good the way it is

its about a 48 pound peice of rail and i hit my hammer on it and it bounces up 3 inces

is that good or bad?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:39:33 EDT

Draconas: Anything that doesn't burn/melt is a forge and anything that doesn't break is an anvil.

I would cast the chunk of rail in a bucket of concrete---vertical for an anvil that doesn't ring so loud.

For a horn---for a small one an old steelworker's bull pin works well if you have a good vise to put it in.,.

BTW this isn't a chat room; sometimes it takes a full day before one of use gets to the 'puter and gives our version of an answer. I'd be happy to discuss improvised smithing equipment with you---I've done a bit the last 25 years or so. My favorite improvised anvil was the broken knuckle from a RR car coupling---had a flat side and a curved side and was heavy enough to hit and light enough to move, cost me US$0 too.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:41:54 EDT

Draconas, securing your piece of rail to a heavy stump or lumber frame will quiet it down considerably and keep it from jumping around.

Timex: Could this stuff be armor plating?
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:42:11 EDT

as in nail down

i have about 100 railspikes i can use

also, when making a sword can u use rebar or other formed metal bars and when should u quench ur sword

is a rail strong enough for forging a sword and will it melt?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:45:38 EDT

Draconas, don't be so impatient, its a Sunday evening. Most folks are watching TV or having dinner.

When using rail as an anvil there is enough curve on the edge to not need a horn. When forging curves you do not wrap them around the horn, just fit to parts of the curve. If you are making scrolls they can be worked in free air. Long stock is easy to bend hot. . .

As ptree pointed out rail works better turned on end. See my iForge demo on tools from RR-rail. The BOUNCE is why it is not a good anvil substitute. It bounces from the thin web which makes it flexible. Good anvils are solid compact mass. You can take the same amount of steel that is in a dead solid anvil and turn it into a spring by making it long and skinny.

Bolting down the rail helps the bounce. But even then it is a SMALL anvil useful only for SMALL work. Read my FAQ on selecting an anvil. It has links to our older anvil series.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:46:47 EDT

i dont have much money and its hard to find an anvil what should i use
   Cam - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:49:10 EDT

sorry about my impatiance

i found the large one works really well turned on end but i dont have a very large working space

is there anyway to harden the rail or anything i could put ontop of it to make it work better?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:50:37 EDT

Draconas, See our Getting Started article for some reading material. Get some, study it. See our FAQ on rebar. See our heat treating FAQ.

Rail is steel, yes it melts at about the same temperature as all steel.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:52:03 EDT

i read in FAQ making a good anvil
rail can be hardened to anvil hardnes by quenching
how do i go about doing this and will it make it better for forging?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 21:58:57 EDT

PS. im new with this blacksmithing thing so i dont know very much
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:00:59 EDT

Cam AKA Draconas, if you start playing name games we will ignore you.

Lack of money in newbies is not unusual. However, you probably have a stereo and game system that cost more than the tools neccsary to start blacksmithing. If you are here you are NOT destitute.

STUDY the Getting Started FAQ. Books are cheap compared to tools and the knowledge is more important. Your local public or school library has books at no cost. Start there.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:01:02 EDT

   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:07:05 EDT

can u use a fire pit as a forge or will it not be hot enought ?

to quench do i need to heat my rail to red hot and then dip in oil?
if oil what type of oil should i use?

   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:09:22 EDT

thanks adam,guru. I'm gonna give the scrap yard a call and get 3 or four pieces of it. One fer me, one fer mistakes, one fer the heck of it.

Adam do you think that It( the plate ) may have some kind of a paper trail? Don't wanna glow in the dark shop, or worse a hulking green guy hanging around in my back yard.
   - Timex - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:17:24 EDT

Rebar is not the best way to nor the best thing to make swords from, TRUST me I've made a few! and all that rebar swords will do for you is add to you vocabulary of words not to be spoken in church.
   - Timex - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:32:27 EDT

do u live in canada or the us?
and was the steel u found a block or a long rectangular peice?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:38:52 EDT

Draconas---Timex mentioned that he is in Las Vegas Nevada; while i am awaret that there is a Las Vegas New Mexico I don't recall a Las Vegas Nevada in Canada.

If you want to go to all the trouble of hardening a piece of rail for use as an anvil "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" by Weygers goes into great detail how to heat treat rail for an anvil. Ask your local library to do an Inter-Library Loan on it for you---I can get quite esoteric books doing ILL's from the library in the next town over---about 30 times larger than my town it has 9000 people in it...my town doesn't even have a stop light...

For swordmaking James Hrisoulas' "The Complete Bladesmith" will get you more info than you can use until after you know how to smith mild steel.


   Thomas P - Sunday, 04/03/05 22:55:08 EDT

thanks thomas

i didnt notice he was in las vegas so now i feel stupid

do u know if i can use a old pick axe as a horn
also once i harden my rail will it be a useable anvil for larger things such as knives and swords or will i just be putting a lot of effort into something useles?
about forges do i need one or can i just use an outdoor firepit that has a built in um... old fasioned air blower
the kind u pump ?
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 23:03:26 EDT

plus i live in calgary and we have about 1 million people

so i shouldnt have a problem getting books but if my rail is hardened and bolted to a tree stump will it create too much noise

i live in a very residential area with lots of houses close by
   Draconas - Sunday, 04/03/05 23:05:26 EDT

Timex: I guess there is a small chance that it might be activated and in that case another small chance that the level is enough to be of concern. It doesnt hurt to ask. Around my neck of the woods, everyone is very alert these days and even some of the scrap yards have monitoring equipment. Wouldnt be surprised if your yard has a geiger counter. But OTH a big plate like that can have long history and in the past people were pretty careless. Personally I think its a very small chance - but its a chance.
   adam - Sunday, 04/03/05 23:13:12 EDT

thanks again adam :), glown in the dark isn't the only concern, chemical treatments, bio haz, the list goes on and on.Besides this old 'salty dog' would have a broken hart if he cut up a ship he had served on.

Draconas, the peice of thick plate is for an anvil.
the peice of 'flat stock' that I was refering you to make your( first? ) will be about 1/24 " thick, 1 or 2 1/2 " wide and comes in 3' lengths(home depot). Low's also carries a little stock of the same for a few pennies more.

As before pls email me and I will help you as much as I can about filing down, shaping and grinding, even some short cuts on cutting. It all depends on what you want to do. Some things can only be done with heat, but an amazing amount can be done cold.
   - Timex - Monday, 04/04/05 00:02:25 EDT

Warship Armor:

As Adam posted, it could have been used for an atom site for shielding or some other use. Back when I was at the University of Mayryland, in '71, they used 8" or 12" caliber howitzer barrels for shielding in the newly constructed cyclotron. Our medieval group thought it would be fun to take one of the foot-long drops and "reassign" it by turning it into a small bombard. Couldn't move it very far, due to the sheer weight and decided that plugging the breech would be beyond our capability. (If only we had the talent, friends and equipment then that we do now... ;-)

As Jock has pointed out, mass is more important than density when stopping radiation. Aluminum works as well as lead, if you have enough of it; so armor might be a popular alternative. Ask your scrap dealer how it got to Las Vegas. If it's legit, he'll have a fascinating story, like the story that Frank Turley told me about his steel layout table with the semi-circular cut-out from Los Alamos.

Passing Things Along:

Had a nice encounter today; the great grandson of the last "general" blacksmith in St. Mary's County was visiting our church today with his wife. (His great grandfather's grave is just outside the church door.) I introduced myself and mentioned that I had several of his name-stamped tools in my forge that I used for fire tools (coal shovel, poker and a couple of rakes). He didn't have any of his great grandfather's stamped work, so I invited him to the forge and gave him one of the two rakes; stamped five (!) times with "A T Wible", both sides of the shank, both sides of the ring handle, and one side of the rake. He tried to pay me for it, but I turned him down, since I had two, and it has given me great pleasure (not to mention a feeling of continuity) to use Mr. Wible's tools over the years. He's also wants to buy the shovel off of me (marked on the handle, and the shovel part was made from an enameled sign with part of the design still intact; the globe from the old "cover the world" advertisement). I told him that they would have to wait until I made a replacement, after I finish ironing two sleds and forging a shield boss for one of our crew. Still, I don't think I'll sell it to him; I'd rather swap it for a copy of Mr. Wible's photograph. I'll still keep one rake for myself, for the sake of continuity.

Still a little rainy, but the streams are back in their banks, leading to the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/04/05 00:05:35 EDT

Richy -- Aluminum welding is not too hard to learn if You can already weld, BUT it takes a lot of practice to be really good [I can, but am not really good]. For mig 4043 wire with argon shielding is the easiest to handle. Argon flow about 40 cu/ft/hr. Voltage can be high enough for spray transfer, or below spray transition, which is easier to controll. If using a regular mig gun, You will need a teflon liner for the conduit, a short [10'or less]gun cable gives less feeding trouble. I use a spool gun, push-pull setups work well allso. For tig use AC with continuous high frequency and argon shilding at about 10 cu/ft/hr. Note that tungsten electrodes have a lower amperage capacity on AC than on DC+. Traditionally, pure tungsten has been used, with the end melted to a rounded shape by arcing onto a copper block.I have allso used thoriated ground to a flattened point & couldnt tell the diference, but I am not that experienced. Clenliness is everything, brush vigirously with a CLEEN stainless wire brush imediatly before welding. Pre heat is a good idea on large parts. Lots of practice on junk parts before working on anything of value is a good idea, You may not get good results on the first try. Sorry I dont know gas flow in metric, Guess You can look it up.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 04/04/05 00:21:07 EDT

Draconas: If you live in Calgary, check out WCBG.ORG or Western Canadian Blacksmith's Guild. Look for the "Executive" tab and find the list for South Alberta Chapter, which covers the Calgary area. The news letter show that the next meeting is on April 9 at Pioneer Acres, Irricana. Call one of the members (they are in Calgary)and confirm the date and time.
   Don Sinclaire - Monday, 04/04/05 01:01:29 EDT

good on ya for giving a grand son a piece of his g-father's work back to the family. Thats how I got my great great grandfathers anvil. One of the church members( Rockhill, South Carolina) found out that I was trying to learn and shipped( las vegas , nevada) it to me with some history behind it. I use it as much as possable and with as much care as possable. This ment more to me than any other gift that I have ever recived. If he insists on paying you, have him nail a penny to the floor by your anvil and call it good luck .
   - Timex - Monday, 04/04/05 01:11:52 EDT

OK, this is for Thomas and Paw Paw and anyone else how wants to jump in. The power hammer I have is a "Modern Power Hammer" mfg by Modern Sale Inc and made in 1904. I will posting a few pictures of it along with a drill press on my webpage for all to see. E-mail me and I will send you the link. As before, we have a whole bunch of hand tools and gadgets and gizmos that go with the hammer specifically and many other smithing tools as well. If anyone has heard of this brand and cares to share their info, please do so I can become as well versed as you....yeah, that will happen...hehehe By the way, I do appreciate the feedback I have recieved so far, you all seem like a good bunch of folks. Pete
   Pete McKinley - Monday, 04/04/05 01:24:52 EDT

Quenchcrack--Thanks for the reply. I have used nitrided mold ejector pins. The foreman told Me they were about 70 Rc [a couple of tenths deep] and that they almost never gauld. They sure knock hell out of a grinding wheel 'till You get through the case.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 04/04/05 01:41:43 EDT

Hi i am a beginner n blacksmithing i have been making knives with a friend of mine for almost a year now, while attending the New York State Designer Blacksmiths. my qeustion is this during my last year of highschool at boces welding tech the land scaping teacher wants me to build a trelise for her garden i wanted to know how much would half-inch sqaure stock shrink when twisted
   Dean Pangburn - Monday, 04/04/05 09:12:32 EDT


Very little. The volume remains the same, minus some small loss for scale, but the profile changes.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 04/04/05 09:21:19 EDT

Stock Twisting:

That might be an interesting experiment; cut three or four 1/2" bars to exactly a foot or 18" and put varying amounts of twists into them. With any sort of careful measurement, you could come up with a proportional amount that would be applicable to the proposed work.

I agree with Paw Paw that it shouldn't have much effect on the length; but if you put in a lot of tight twists, like Albert Paley does on some of his work (using an old high-torque elevator motor) then it may actually make a difference. Short of that, it may have little effect.

Give it a turn and let us know (unless Jock or one of our other fine members already knows this). I'm curious now; I'd do it myself if I didn't have three other projects stacked up.

Finally sunny and warming on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/04/05 10:20:03 EDT

I have a question I'm hoping one of you may be able to help me answer... well, actually, it may be a few questions, but here we go none-the-less.

The easiest way for me to approach this is to give you my goal: My intent is to create a sword. (I know, I know) I've been all over anvilfire.com and a myriad of other sites and while I agree with you about how "sword first projects" is a bad idea, my situation is a bit different than most. I want to make it out of silver and or copper. Ultimately, I want it to be as conductive as possible. I know silver is more conducive than copper, and I also know that alloys with silicon make things that much more conductive... so basically, I guess my question would be whether or not it's a good idea to mix silver & copper, and if so how? I'm assuming I can just add sand for the silicon (or at least that's what I'm picking up from the reading I've done). The sword is for ceremonial purposes, so the softness of the metal isn't that big an issue, but I also don't want to make something that will bend if accidentally dropped. Any suggestions?

Next question: If I were to make the sword out of copper (provided the silver isn't a good idea or too much of a pain), could I consider doing some kind of silver inlay... or vice versa?

Finally, I'm assuming I should follow a process somewhat similar to that of "Generation X Sword Making: Option 2 - Aluminum Wallhanger"... Yes/No?

For the guard, I'm considering casting it because of the amount of detail I'm looking for... do you think this is a good or bad idea? Again, I don't know exactly what I'm doing, but intuition tends to take over (or common sense... maybe a combination of the two?)

Finally, a little background on myself and family... My grandfather was a blacksmith, but had left my grandmother while my father was still young. As a result, my father did everything he could to be the best dad he could... teaching us about cars, carpentry, etc. I didn't really get to know grandfather until I met him in December of 1996. He stayed with us for a three week period over Christmas. Two months later he died while I was in bootcamp. He left a portable forge behind when he left my grandmother, and by age 15 I was trying to make my own sword. I made a handle for it in shop class, but was stuck on what to do for the blade. So my father went out back and grabbed a leaf spring from an old truck. We threw it into the forge, straightened it out (eventually cutting it so we didn't have quite so much to work with), and I proceeded to beat the hell out of it with a hammer (LOL) I think the one thing I learned for certain was that molten metal doesn't hurt when it lands on your skin... the skin just wipes right off and it doesn't hurt until a day or two later :)

Anyhow, I asked my father for the forge and he said I could have it... so probably within the next couple months I should have it. In the mean time, I combed through the anvil tutorial and was quite amazed at how well I was able to pick out the fakes, etc on eBay afterward. I did find one that seemed like a decent deal that was selling for $56 at the time + $60 shipping... I think it was 70 pounds or so though... at which point my dad and his friend chimed in that I need a 250 lb anvil like my grandfather had.

Sorry for the long post, but any help suggestions you guys could provided would be much appreciated.

Thanks again.
   Robert Dean - Monday, 04/04/05 10:28:11 EDT

Silver/copper sword---you realize that sterling silver is a silver/copper alloy and very easy to find in bulk....

If it's just for show I would look into casting the entire blade, or at least the preform that you hammer out for the finished piece. You can work cold, annealing the piece as needed---which will be a pain since that alloy also conducts heat very well and so you will need to heat the entire blade up and then quench to anneal (non-ferrous metals are backwards to steel); or work hot which on a large piece will be a problem cause it will be so soft and want to droop.

Won't be cheap either if you copy a typical sword at about 2.5 pounds in steel it will be about 3.5 pounds or about 51 troy oz---about US$400 in silver----you may want to think about doing a copper sword alloyed with silver and perhaps inlay silver on the outside...working copper is very much like working silver.

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/04/05 11:49:58 EDT

Silver Sword: Robert, This would probably be a better casting project than forging or fabrication. If you wanted to make your own alloy you would need to melt the metals anyway. However, there is no predicting the results of alloying and it can be very expensive R&D.

As to conductivity I would expect that as a silver/copper alloy the conductivity would be roughly proportional to the differences in conductivity and the balance of metals. However, nothing in alloying is staight forward and rarely follows a simple line. The answer to this specific question would be in the International Binary Alloy Series published by ASM and possibly found in a few engineering University libraries. The LOC has connections to University libraries world wide and you could search for one via that context.

On the other hand a silver/copper Mokume' Gane' bar would have the lengthwise conductivity of silver and the amperage capacity of copper while being mostly copper. Mokume' Gane' is a Japanese process for laminating non-ferrous metals that results in a wood grain like structure which is what Mokume' Gane' means in Japanese. In this case you would forge the billet close to size then use some stock removal to expose the layers. The combination of processes here is almost unlimited.

Before working with precious metals I would recommend some practice projects in other less expensive metals.

Yes a complicated guard can be cast via the lost wax process but it can also be built by fabrication from brass wire using a torch and then carving some details or applying them via silver solder. See our iForge demo on brass candlesticks and the first seven books on our Sword Making Resources list.
   - guru - Monday, 04/04/05 12:09:09 EDT

I need a couple of feet of 3/4" ID, 1 1/8" OD metal tubing (1/8" wall). Does anyone have some in their scrap pile they are willing to sell?
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/04/05 12:23:29 EDT

Twisting Length Change: The amount is small and varies between hot and cold twisting. There is more shrinkage when cold twisting. Where it becomes an issue is twisting the entire length of long bars. Motorized bar twisters must let the tailstock or clamping end float or the bar will pull out of the chuck or tailstock. However, we are only talking a few inches in many feet. Most blacksmiths would start with a little extra material and trim to fit OR do all the twisting and trim the bar to length.

I asked Bruce Wallace about this he said what I said above. He said for a price he would run the tests on his bar twister. . .
   - guru - Monday, 04/04/05 13:02:30 EDT

Ken, That is 3/16 wall. . .

3/4 SCHD 40 .114 wall .824 ID
3/4 SCHD 80 .154 wall .742 ID
3/4 SCHD 160 .218 wall .614 ID

Schedule 80 is the closest to what you are looking for.
   - guru - Monday, 04/04/05 13:13:12 EDT

DEAN P.: I have been working on a railing for my wife's deck..These pieces are 30" long finished and 30" to start. Some of them were twisted at not quite enough heat and were a1/16" short. If you maintain the heat in every piece to a high orange, there will be little if any shrink. Make sure you have a real stiff wire brush to clean the scale while it is still red hot. If you fail to clean your scale quick enough, it is real hard to get off. Cleaning the scale off, makes for a nice finish on the trellis.

   - sandpile - Monday, 04/04/05 13:24:12 EDT

DEAN P.: I have been working on a railing for my wife's deck..These pieces are 30" long finished and 30" to start. Some of them were twisted at not quite enough heat and were a1/16" short. If you maintain the heat in every piece to a high orange, there will be little if any shrink. Make sure you have a real stiff wire brush to clean the scale while it is still red hot. If you fail to clean your scale quick enough, it is real hard to get off. Cleaning the scale off, makes for a nice finish on the trellis.

   - sandpile - Monday, 04/04/05 13:24:26 EDT


It was measured to be exactly 7/8" ID and 1 1/8" OD, which means the walls are 1/8". I use it to make the step mandrels for the store. It has to slide down in the next size larger (lathed to fit 1 1/8") and another length has to slide down in it (already 3/4" OD. I purchased it as a special order at my primary steel supplier. However, I had to take a 20' length and I am now down to where I only need a couple of feet to finish all of these I will make.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/04/05 12:53:09 EDT

Guru, Atli, Ptree and Quench crack,

I just wanted to say thank you for all the advise about my new proto anvils. The plate was from the oil transportship ' Maryland 'that served from 1956 to 1984, home ported in Norfolk Va., then later in Corpus Christi, Tx. The scrap yard owner had gotten it from a D.R.M.O. lot auction.( Demilitarized reutilisation Maintance Organation)
It was a white elephant to him, and had sat in his yard for years as a cutting platform. ( he gives one free cut per 200lbs ) When he found out what I was going to do he gave me 4 cutts for free and fudged the scale in my favor. " We metal workers gotta stick together". The only thing that he asked in return was to make him a hammer to hang on the wall with his extensive collection.
Four trips( one per piece ) and lost of grunting later. I now have 4 proto anvils, and a new project ' my second hammer'. Thanks again
   - Timex - Monday, 04/04/05 13:43:20 EDT

Robert Dean,

I'm going to swim upstream on this one. Sterling silver would be highly conductive, and has enough copper (7.5%), to allow it to work harden if worked cold. You can get a nice sized chunk from a silver supplier and do 90% of your shaping by forging, thuus reducing the amount of expensive metal lost to grinding.

I would not suggest casting this item, unless you have the equipment to cast it either centrifugally or with vacuum assist. The chances of developing porosity and/or cold shuts on such a shape are pretty high. Cast the hilt/handle/pommel if you like, but the blade has a bit high a ratio of length to cross-section to get a dependable flow of metal by gravity alone.

You could do the mokume gane as Jock suggests. If done with copper, the conductivity would be very high. The trick is in selecting the right metal for the other component. For something with a lot of dimension change such as forging a sword, you need to make up your mokume using metals that have very similar ductility. If not, the boundaries may shear when forged. Silver should work pretty well with copper. Be sure to marry the metals using diffusion bonding and not soldering. A solder alloy will almost certainly shear under that much forging.

   vicopper - Monday, 04/04/05 14:01:37 EDT

Good on you, Timex!

Sandpile, there is a story about Francis Whitaker acommodating a twist that shortened a picket for a grille a student at John C. Campbell was making. Seems that the student was annoyed that his fancy twist had thrown him off by about 1/16", so Francis said "Gimme that." Stuck in the forge, heated it to near welding, put it in the vice and pulled hard. It fit after that...
   Alan-L - Monday, 04/04/05 14:19:38 EDT

Robert Dean, if it's to be an Athame, sterling is probably most appropriate. I can't help with how to make it, but I'd like to give a vote of coolness! you could probably get away with using brass and having it silver-plated as well.
   Alan-L - Monday, 04/04/05 14:21:27 EDT

Ken, see your dimensions in your original post.

Yep, Tubing is much different than pipe. I have designed enough machinery from tubing that the supplier SAID was available and then it wasn't that I converted to using pipe any time possible. Inch nominals are getting harder and harder to find. . .

Somewhere I have some leftover 2-1/8" OD 9/16" ID DOM tubing. . . pricey stuff. Perfect small cannon barrel material.
   - guru - Monday, 04/04/05 14:49:39 EDT


Red faced - yes - I mistyped. I am looking for 7/8" ID, 1 1/8" OD. I will have to look for some 1 1/8" solid and then drill one end, but doable. If I do make more of these, they will be all in black pipe.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/04/05 15:00:30 EDT

Shop Built Anvils: Timex, I have a very classy design for a fabbed anvil (not the one on-line), but it is for a BIG 500# or so hunk of iron. Here are some design features.

The square horn is narrower than the face by about 1.5 to 2". A hardie hole is milled in the horn as a slot. To the sides of the slot are heavy weld preps that result in nearly 100% penetration welding. However, at the TOP the prep ends in a curve just before the end so that a narrow bead finishes the joint on the face. This was for an alloy or tool steel anvil so that there would be almost no face weld.

The round horn is made similarly except it has a round punching hole near the attachement joint. On both horns the full penetration welds finish flush to the surrounding geometry. A bit of grinding but not too much.

Corner chamfers are torched on the heavy body that make the retangular body LOOK narrower near the base. At the end of the long tapering chamfer it flares OUT just above where 1" or so bar stock is welded for additional feet. This give the anvil a slight "V" shape when viewed from all angles.

Clear? Probably as mud. The design was to look like some kind of heavy ancient European anvil or something from mythology. . . In fact it was designed to use in a Ren-Faire demo shop. It is basicaly one big rectangular block with short horns protruding. The decorative chamfers on the front reducing its blocky look yet not reducing the solidity. It would be a good working anvil as well as stylish.

Something to think about. .
   - guru - Monday, 04/04/05 15:11:32 EDT

Guru et al...

Where does the term "drop forged" come from? What exactly is the process? Just curious.

   PredatorGuy - Monday, 04/04/05 15:22:44 EDT

Timex: Sounds like you have found a scrap dealer who likes you - this is every blacksmith's fantasy! Take good care of him - you wont be sorry.
   adam - Monday, 04/04/05 15:26:35 EDT


Just think, a little piece of 'Maryland' now residing in Nevada! Actully, ;ots of little pieces.

I knew it had an interesting story!
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/04/05 15:57:16 EDT

I need some help on making some scroll type legs for some trivets I'm making.i was thinking of splitting some material off of the bottom of the ring but for four legs that would look odd and would be too much material and would be too tall. I could make them and stick weld them on, but I don't want to do them that way.Any ideas?
   smitty7 - Monday, 04/04/05 16:07:53 EDT

Help. Anvil up at auction soon. Looks cast, with "C" inside of inverted triangle on side. Quick look turns up no other obvious marks. Funny looking tapered rear 'horn' with hardy hole closer to center rather than out near end. Seems disproportionately wide and looks (ruff guess) about 150lbs or so. Looks cast but didn't see obvious evidence of welded on table. Recently deceased owner (80yo) said it was his dad's since a kid. Any ideas? Thanks
   - Tom H - Monday, 04/04/05 16:23:08 EDT

Trivet. I tenon mine into the ring. Three legs will sit without rocking on almost any surface. Four legs only if they are a perfect match to the surface.
   adam - Monday, 04/04/05 16:32:17 EDT

Tom H; Columbian Anvil, Cast Steel, American Made. Well worth getting if the condition and price are right.

Smitty7, you could forge weld the legs on---i'd do a lap weld and then bend the leg down.

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/04/05 16:50:14 EDT

Drop forged means pretty much just that. A ram and die are raised by any of several means, and when the forging blow is desired, the ram and die are dropped onto the billet. There are open die and closed die versions. Open die uses simple shapes on the dies to create the desired shape in the forging. Usually used for short runs. Closed die has half the shape cut into each die, and the forged metal fills the impressions yeilding a repetitive shape.Often the dies have three impressions to progressivly move the metal to the finished shape. If you see "drop forged" on a wrench, it was made in a closed die drop hammer, often steam or air powered.
A drop forge hammer is sized by the falling weight, ie the ram, cylinder piston and rod and the upper die. The acceleration of the ram/die by steam or air yeilds much more impact than a simple drop, but this is not in the rating. A big drop hammer, say 13,000#, can forge something like a semi truck front axle, half at a time. A 12" cresent wrench can be done in something like a 1000# er.
   ptree - Monday, 04/04/05 16:54:21 EDT

Timex, a Brazeel Bros style anvil should be a piece of cake. If you e-mail me I will send a photo of this style I made.Take care of that scrapper!
   - Ptree - Monday, 04/04/05 16:56:03 EDT

Timex, Now that you have some good metal, want a photo of a shop built Brazeel Bros anvil? I built one. If so e-mail me.
   ptree - Monday, 04/04/05 17:02:47 EDT

the layout of the 500# anvil sounds pretty strait forward, but is the block tappered like a inverted trapiziod or are the corners beveled to give the apperance of taper?

Sand pile, another way to 'knock' scale off, is to heat your twist to a orange yellow then hit it gently with a piece of wood on top of a wood block. Hit it too hard it bends, too softly you just burn wood. I've used it a few times and was pleased with the sharp corners and lack of scrach patterns.
   - Timex - Monday, 04/04/05 17:13:49 EDT

Corners are beveled to appear to be tapered. The top of the face is square then the bevels start just below. When the corners are dressed the bevel line should look lik it extends to the top. This was a relatively tall anvil design.
   - guru - Monday, 04/04/05 17:59:18 EDT

Wood on wood with twists: This is one of the recommended ways I was given to adjust a bent-twisted rod, so as to not knock down the edges when bringing the piece bakc to true. This is also usefull if you want to adjust a curve of twisted rod. With my light wooden mallet, I actually go ahead and use the anvil as my base rather than wood on wood. But then, I'd rather take two hits and be sure it's gentle enough, than mash it with one Wallop.

The other method invoved gently tightening in the vice to "gum" it back to straight. Naturally care was taken to not over squeeze the stock.
   Monica - Monday, 04/04/05 18:08:29 EDT

thanks, now off to the drawing board!
   - Timex - Monday, 04/04/05 18:08:51 EDT


I don't have a wooden 'hammer', my wood block is a piece of tree branch( mequite ) and the ' hammer ' is a smaller piece of the same. Darn I thought that I had come up with a low brow solution for a high brow problem. oh well
   - Timex - Monday, 04/04/05 18:20:00 EDT

RE: Drop forged

Aha! Thanks ptree!
   PredatorGuy - Monday, 04/04/05 18:39:47 EDT

Thanks Thomas P. I hope to pick it up.
(What did guru just say about investing retirement money in old good anvils??)
   - TomH - Monday, 04/04/05 20:41:02 EDT

smitty 7, Many old cooking trivets had the legs riveted on. If you use round shanked rivets, you can cold chisel marks around the hole to try to keep the leg from twisting after it is riveted. Or make square shanked rivets. If the top of the ring is supposed to be a plane surface, you can countersink the holes.

I just returned from a trip, so I'm going way back to the post about forge brazing. Copper was often used for the hard solder in the early days, because it was an element with a known melting temperature. Brass was used, but sometimes it was an unknown alloy and avoided.

In the horseshoeing world, we used to braze on high carbon steel calks (called "jar calks") using a bit of penny or a snippet of copper wire, all fluxed with borax at a red heat. Many times, after brazing, the entire job would look like a pinto pony with the copper or brass making little islands of color. Not good. In an attempt to keep the braze cleaner and stronger, I was taught to do three things immediately after the copper melted.

First, the work is removed from the fire and pressure is applied to the two pieces either with steady hammer head pressure (no hitting) or squeezing in the vise. This enhances the capillary action. Secondly, the piece is given a rapid water quench, not more than one second, which freezes (solidifies) the copper and pops much cupreous oxides to the surface; it becomes free scaling. Finally, the entire area is wire brushed.

Following these steps will usually give a clean, good looking braze.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/04/05 21:06:42 EDT


Late input to your interior radio reception question. I live in a single wide trailer. It came with an El-cheapo built-in AM/FM/Cassette. Antenna is a short length of wire hanging in from of the unit. Horrible reception. I asked Radio Shank and their answer was an outside FM antenna - about $60-$70 for entire package. Balked at cost. As I was ready to leave one clerk took me aside and said to just connect the antenna to a roll of speaker wire and then hang the wire outside. I basically strung the wire between some 1/2" fiberglass electic fence posts on the top of the trailer, above the center hump. Reception improved greatly. Cost was a couple of bucks.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/04/05 21:16:21 EDT

I know that choosing a double horn or single horn anvil is just personal preference, but why do some people have a preference? What I mean is, what is better about a double horn than a single horn and vise versa?
   - trapper - Monday, 04/04/05 21:46:57 EDT

Handiest thing I've seen about using a double horn anvil (or similar stakes) is that the flat faced horn is very handy for getting into small areas for backing rivets. handy when making a helm.

Of course, if somebody forced a double-horned Peddighaus on me, I'm sure I'd find some other uses. ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/04/05 22:29:49 EDT

Poof then prost! 8-P Too many "handies" also too! Redundant is; yes?
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/04/05 22:32:56 EDT

trapper. On the pyramidal horn, forging a small, hook-like shape on a bar, but each bend with a 90º angle; leveling a horseshoe with side clips; working on detailed pieces, such as branding iron letters, a rapier's swept hilt, furniture hardware, jewelry, etc.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/05/05 00:12:46 EDT

I need your advice again Gentlemen: I bought a 5in. post vice at the flea market the other day, not because I really needed it, but the price was right. After cleaning the years of accumulated dirt and gunk off, I find that one of the lower pivot point braces had come completely loose where it had been forge welded. I'm not set up to do a forge weld that size right now, so i was considering grinding a 3/8 bevel and arc welding the plate back to the post. What type of rod or welding for that matter would be best suited for the purpose? Any advice would be welcome.
   - RC - Tuesday, 04/05/05 00:13:24 EDT

RC: Welding rod choice is usually more a matter of welder's preference than usage. For example, I do all of my welding with either 7018 or 312-16. However, before welding check with the blacksmithing group in your general area. Vise might make a good meeting project.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 04/05/05 07:47:11 EDT

Vise Repair: RC, Reference to Ken, good group project. On wrought the rod is not critical so standard E6013 is fine. The trick is that the inclusinons in wrought melt and flow out leaving less metal (a depression plus undercuts) and it takes some practice to back fill when welding wrought. You can also get good results torch welding wrought if you have a full sized oxy-acetylene outfit.

One post vise I have has a significant fillet weld inside the tabs. They look to have been arc or gas welded on and finely finished. This is not common but it looks like a factory job. The vise did not appear to have enough wear for it to be a repair. In fact the vise had numerous manufacturing burrs which hadn't worn off so I ground them off (a few were hazardous).
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 08:57:00 EDT

Anvil Preference and Features: Although we do not have a complete range of choices today there are features that a smith gets accustomed to on the anvil they learn on. On the "standard" London and American pattern anvil the step at the cutting table is very handy for bucking work and making bends. The current crop of double horned anvils do not have this feature. In the past several manufacturers made double horned anvils with double steps. Personaly I find the step very handy but it is what I learned on.

Another feature missing from the current double horned anvils is the pritichel hole. However, the "Hofi" anvil and for a while the Euroanvil came with multiple round punching holes of farious sizes to make up for not having the small pritchel hole.

Carriage maker's anvils had a side clip (small thin rectangular table) on one side of the anvil. This is currently standard on the Euroanvil and at one time you had a choice of it being on the right or left. Dean Curfman (maker of the Big BLU) prefers this feature so much he added one to his Peddinghaus anvil. The side table was sometimes set below the face and other times level with the face. Today they are all level to the face.

The European/Austrian pattern has a sloping far side along the face. It is about 30° rather than vertical. The slope blends into the radius of the horn at the shoulder of the anvil. I am sure this feature has a purpose but I do not know it. However, the far side of the anvil gets the most abuse from both the smith working on the edge and from strikers missing the work. This results in many anvils with heavily chipped edges. The 120° edge of the European/Austrian style anvil is much less likely to chip and is nearly impossible to slump or mushroom.

One of the biggest differences in anvil horns is the cross section. Most old anvils had an eliptical section or oblate section almost showing corners as if a dressed triangle section. These were partialy by design but mostly a manufacturing effect from back when anvils were hand forged. The purely conical horns of the German style anvil such as Peddinghaus, Refflinghaus and Euroanvil was designed to be machine finished so are perfectly round (although none are now machine finished). Some smiths strongly prefer the horn with corners and are quite vocal about it claiming the round horns as worthless. To me the only difference is that if you want a different radius you move horizontaly on the round horn rather than roll on the oblate. Most of the farrier's anvils have oblate horns. The only heavy forging anvil I know of that has the oblate horn is the new Haberman anvil (not the clones).

On many modern cast anvils and even a few forged anvils the oval has the long axis vertical rather than horizontal. This is more pronounced at the body and fades to round near the tip.

In the 18th century before anvils became a multi-purpose tool it was commmon for a smithy to have a plain hornless forging anvil and seperate bickerns or stake anvils for other types of work. For punching a bolster plate was used.

Practiced smiths use every feature and almost every surface of the anvil. I have even seen the depression in the base of an anvil (not all have it) used like a bowl shape in a swage block.

When you look at the global variations in anvils you will see that there are many local styles that are prefered. Once you learn on that style anvil you generaly prefer it. They all work. Today in this era of cheap ASO's it is more important to purchase an anvil of good quality than a specific shape.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 10:05:57 EDT

Note: the post vise may not be wrought iron; but if it is the above advice holds very true. I would probably do a spark test on it and see if it's wrought iron or even possibly a carbon steel---if it shows a bit of carbon content do a simple pre and post heat to avoind a brittle layer in the HAZ.

I've had a couple of post vises where the braces were rivited on with substantial rivits.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/05/05 11:10:49 EDT

Thomas, I was going to suggest that rivets would not hurt along with welding. . . Just don't use TOO big a rivet and weaken the leg of the vice.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 11:34:35 EDT

Thanks Ken. I suppose you mean copper wire. I can run it to the attic and along the ridge beam. Pretty well out of the way. I'll give that a try.
   Gronk - Tuesday, 04/05/05 11:51:27 EDT

While I was stationed( Navy ) in Guam our tv/raido reception was poor at best. Most of us had( including me ) taken old coaxail cable( 9 to 10 feet) and used it for a Tv antenna. Just attach it to the TV, wad it up in a ball and cram it into the overhead( ceiling ). Our raidos antennas were every thing from beer cans and duct tape, to a $7 spool of fine wire( about the size found in eletric Fan motors) that was spooled out on the celing in a spider web pattern and held up with staples and thumbtacks. All worked, some better than others. The web was getting BBC and raido Atsugi in Japan
   - Timex - Tuesday, 04/05/05 12:27:03 EDT


I hope you save that last "Anvil Preference and Features" note for posterity and the next time someone asks. Those few paragraphs offer as clear and succint an explanation as I have seen in a while.

I have a large radius on the far side of the anvil face nearest the horn where I do almost all my drawing. I see a lot of people drawing on the horn but the rebound is usually not as good in that area and for that reason I like to work right over the largest mass. I would say 90% of my heavy work is all done in a fairly small area, with the other spots used only as necessary.
   - HWooldridge - Tuesday, 04/05/05 12:34:41 EDT

HW, I was thinking that as I wrote it. Need to dig out my best "finding and anvil" post too. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 13:27:03 EDT

I am seeking case hardening info on 12L14. Specifically, I would like to know if 'authorities' consider 12L14 to be case-hardenable, so something like a quote or summary from pg. 227 of the ASM Heat Treater's Guide regarding the suitability of 12L14 for case hardening would be ideal.

   Daniel - Tuesday, 04/05/05 14:16:14 EDT

Guru, having seen one of those anvils with the angled side in Germany I was wondering if they were designed to allow adjusting the angle on a plow. I should have asked the smith there---but he was too interested in me doing a pattern welding demo...

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/05/05 14:44:28 EDT

Forgot to mention---If I was going to try to forge weld a bracket back on I would probably tack it on with a buzz box first to make sure it didn't slip it's alignment when all "hot and bothered". Riviting was mentioned as a common method of holding stuff together for welding in "Practical Blacksmithing" too.
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/05/05 14:46:32 EDT

Hello all... I have finally found the name of the hammer we have. It is a Modern Power Hammer. I put pictures of it on my webpage if anyone want to have a peak. We also have a drill press and the mandril that ran the entire shop. I really would appreciate any comments as to worth to a blacksmith and what or where to list these items for sale. My wife is eager to part with these items as they are all in storage and they should be making noise and all that jazz. I will give the web address to anyone who asks. Thanks...
   Pete McKinley - Tuesday, 04/05/05 15:09:21 EDT

Thanks everyone for your help and ideas. I'm an old welder and I tend to think along those lines first. I remember about the three legged stoole being more stable , just wasn't thinking.
   smitty7 - Tuesday, 04/05/05 15:22:24 EDT

Thanks everyone for your help and ideas. I'm an old welder and I tend to think along those lines first. I remember about the three legged stoole being more stable , just wasn't thinking. This will give me chance to pratice my forge welding and tenions. Thanks again
   smitty7 - Tuesday, 04/05/05 15:26:02 EDT

rivitting before welding is a great way to go. I have a box or three of small rivits just for that.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/05/05 17:02:12 EDT

Pete, please re-post the website that the photos are located at.
   Monica - Tuesday, 04/05/05 17:27:04 EDT

Peter McKinley,

Email to you bounced.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 04/05/05 17:41:07 EDT

Here is the website that has pictures of my power hammer and other blacksmith stuff.


If I am not allowed to put this here, feel free to smack me electronically and I will humbly sit in the corner. Pete
   Pete McKinley - Tuesday, 04/05/05 17:45:05 EDT

Paw Paw

I think there is something goofy with the email address. Check to make sure it looks like this:


I heard something about the dot changing to a slash from the posting. Anyway, give that a whirl...Pete
   Pete McKinley - Tuesday, 04/05/05 17:47:00 EDT

What kind of new steel would I order if I wanted to make Post vice springs, muskrat trap springs and such? I know that hammering leaf springs down is an option but for what I need, That's a lot of hand hammering that I could be putting to better use. Also, I souored the local scrap yard yesterday and could not find one leaf spring. I checked our local car salvage yard and the owner said "we get $50.00 for leaf springs." I said I just wanted one broken leaf. He said "we still get $50.00 for em." I know- "steelo's up." Thank you all.
   Karl - Tuesday, 04/05/05 19:46:32 EDT

Springs: Karl, Traps are generally made of all mild steel including the spring. Mild steel has the same modulas of elastasticity as spring steel. This means that any properly designed spring can be made of mide steel. One maker I know uses cold rolled steel plate. This is considerably work hardened and springier than other mild steel. Note however that once you heat it you have lost the work hardening.

Now. . what is the difference? Well, if you overtravel a mild steel spring is bends. A spring steel spring can travel much farther before it bends. This also means that spring steel springs can be smaller, thus lighter than a soft steel spring. But mild steel can work.

Today most mild steel is not so "mild". It used to be you could purchase SAE 1018-20 in hot and cold roll steel. Today most everything in hot roll is A-36 which has a wider carbon range (as much as 30 points). So it is generally harder and thus springs farther.

Try another scrap yard. Coil springs work to. In fact when flattened they are a better size for many things. In junk yards they often escape and then nobody knows what they fit. Loose on the ground they really ARE scrap.

Local steel service centers usualy have SAE 4140. Any medium carbon steel up to 60 points will work. You just have to be sure to properly heat treat it. You can also buy small amounts of new pre-heattreated spring steel from McMaster-Carr.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 20:11:04 EDT

We have a local company that does the lift kits for Jeeps
and other off road vehicles- they have a monsterious pile
of take- off suspension parts behind the building- they will give you springs etc-- you might check out this kind of business- I would take MY business to a easier to deal with scrap jard
   - ptpiddler - Tuesday, 04/05/05 20:31:29 EDT

I read in Foxfire 5 that you could use a cold block of lead to quench steel but it didn't give any details. What is the advantage of this and what would you use it for?
   - trapper - Tuesday, 04/05/05 20:58:17 EDT

Karl: I got the same response from wrecking yards. But auto shops that do spring & suspension work will usually let you take their old springs for the cost of scrap steel and sometimes for free. I made my vice spring out of a pc of leaf spring.
   adam - Tuesday, 04/05/05 21:07:47 EDT

Oblate horn on the Hay-Budden farriers' anvil. There is no cutting table on the farriers' pattern, simply a flat area with a clip horn welded on one side. Therefore, that "flat" continues into the horn making a slight oval, not a round. On the smith's pattern, the two "notches" on the horn base demarcate the cutting table and tend to make the horn rounder on top. I have one 140# farriers' Hay-Budden that appears to be an older "experimental model". It lacks the "swelled horn" that is talked about in the early HB literature and advertising. It has a clip horn and one pritchel hole. On a horizontal line, the tip of the horn is very slightly below the anvil face. The horn base where a swell should start measures 3 15/16". The waist is 4 1/8"; the face is 3 7/8"; and the heel, 1 3/16" thick.

My other farriers' pattern HB weighs 211# and is more "extreme" in design than the 140# one. The definite swell is 5", calipered side to side. Even though a heavier anvil than the other, the other three measurements are less. The waist is 4 1/16"; the face, 3 3/4"; and the heel, 7/8" thick. There are two pritchel holes. The tip of the horn is slightly higher that the anvil face.
Raison d'être...
The swell and slightly flattened oval on the top of the horn is intended to allow the farrier to open a shoe. When a shoe is hung on the horn, there is normally some daylight between horn and shoe, so the farrier can open the shoe by getting rid of some of the daylight.

The narrow face was probably to help with leveling a shoe, especially a shoe with clips.

The two pritchel holes were designed, I suppose, to give easier access when pritcheling out the nail holes on one side of the shoe (an arguable point).

I'm not sure why the heels became thinner, because sometimes calks are turned on the heel and personally, I preferred the more substantial heel.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/05/05 21:09:56 EDT

springs..... Might look and see if there is a spring place near you. There is one near me in Portland. Last time I was there I got new cutoff spring steel for pennies per lb.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/05/05 21:49:12 EDT

The traps that were being made by the smiths for the HBC in Ft Vancouver used wrought for the body and steel for the springs. This was circa 1845, and the traps were made the same as they had since the early 1700's
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/05/05 21:51:52 EDT


I recently made a post vise spring from a piece of 1-1/4x3/16 A-36 (was the only size I had handy). I doubled it in thickness so it wound up at 3/8. I closed it up in another vise and tacked it in a couple of spots with the MIG so it would not separate and bent the top end where the strap holds the spring. After heating, I quenched in brine and it worked fine with no tempering. I put the vise together and installed it.
   - HWooldridge - Tuesday, 04/05/05 22:38:23 EDT

Daniel - the problem with case hardening 12L14 is the lead. It doesn't alloy with the iron but instead segregates to the grain boundaries as elemental lead. Case hardening temperature is higher than the melting point of the lead, so you have the potential of it getting hot short/degrading from the case hardening operation. Lead is normally added to improve machinability - it presence in the grain boundaries enhances the formation of fine ships during machining rather than long spiral stringers.

Theoretically, you can case harden about any steel - expose it at higher temp to a carbon potential higher than it has and you'll increase the surface carbon.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 04/05/05 22:54:33 EDT

Thanks Guru and everyone that answered my questions
no mater how stupid they were
i just started out and its helped me a lot

   Draconas - Tuesday, 04/05/05 22:56:33 EDT

oh um... am i able to use a fire pit to heat my projects
can i use wood in the pit and i have bellows , or should i use coal or briqets?
   Draconas - Tuesday, 04/05/05 22:58:00 EDT

Wood Fuel: Draconas, wood as fuel is not as hot and is much smokier than charcoal.

In the burning process the water and volatiles gas off cooling the wood. Even dry wood has considerable moisture bound into the wood. Some of the gases burn and the rest make smoke. The wood turns to charcoal as the cooling gases leave the wood. The burning charcoal surface makes the heat. . If the wood is coaled seperately the cooling and smoke generating volitiles have been removed. THEN when you burn the charcoal you get a clean HOT fire. There is some smoke but only a very small fraction as burning raw wood.

Trying to forge in pit with wood you will end up inhaling a LOT of wood smoke that can damage your lungs as well as make you ill immediately, also burning the eyes. This is not a bonfire that you stand back from. This is a forge fire where you work closely to and look deeply into the fire.

See our Coal and Charcoal FAQ.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 23:25:43 EDT

i have a fire pit and bellows
can i use that or should i make a forge and use coal or briquets
my typing has been a bit off and i forgot some words
i think
   Draconas - Tuesday, 04/05/05 23:26:12 EDT

sorry again
you wrote your answer just as i re wrote my question
   Draconas - Tuesday, 04/05/05 23:27:45 EDT

Draconas, note that briquetts are not real charcoal and make a marginal forge fuel. Briquets are largely sawdust with some coal dust, charcoal and glue. The saw dust is for flavor. Mineral coal is a differnt thing.

A "pit" forge is a small thing, not a big fire pit like for bonfires. It needs a small tunnel to introduce the air toward the bottom of the pit (digging and playing in the dirt). The tunnel is lined with what every you have on hand to keep it from collapsing. Stone can be used but should not be in the hot part of firepit as it can spall from heat. Historicaly ceramic (fired clay) tubes were used. These were short pieces like Dixie Cups with the bottoms cut out. Several could make a curved pipe. Today a piece of steel pipe could be used. The pipe is to give your bellows some distance from the fire and get it above ground.

Another style of forge is the Scandinavian or Viking "shield stone" forge. In this forge the bellows is behind a stone (usualy soap stone) that has a nozzel shaped hole cut through it for the air. The bellows blows AT the hole and is not directly connected. The stone protects the bellows from the radiant heat. The fire side is a sheetmetal OR earthen box supported by wood around the edges. This can be a pit style forge on or in the ground or on a built up table top forge.

The difference between sitting on the ground working or standing and working is largely a cultural difference but is also a mater of economics and portability. Legs or mass to make a table or bench to stand at cost money and reduce portability (if needed). However, if your culture dictates that you stand to work you find a way. Historicaly the difference was between the East and the West but has changed over times and between crafts. There are many places today where smiths still sit on the ground. Generally in the West (Europe, the Americas) we all stand.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 00:03:11 EDT

Any idea when in Europe the smith started to standing to work instead of sitting?

There is a bit oF anecdotal evidence that a lot of the smiths were lame. The saga of Volund for one where Volund had his hamstrings cut. And the Ramsund stone depicticing the Sigard ledgend shows the smith in a squat and with a very low anvil.
   JimG - Wednesday, 04/06/05 01:46:05 EDT

JimG: Remember reading a story somewhere to where the highest skilled armorers were lamed to keep them from going elsewhere. True or legend I don't know.

Steel question: One of my customers asked about medium carbon steel. He says A36 doesn't get hard enough for him and tool steel is too costly. What should he ask for at a steel supplier? 4140? I get the impression he works by hand, so unrolling and using coil spring is likely not an option.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/06/05 03:00:48 EDT

Ken, our basic 1 classes use car coil spring for punches and chisels and they have no problem working it by hand. Sometimes we cut it into 12" pieces with a torch, other times they unroll it and cut it with a hardy. If you can get it in your forge and get it hot, there should be no problem working coil spring material. What is the intended use of the metal?
   - Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 04/06/05 08:38:43 EDT

Forging with Wood:

When we were forging up at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, as part of the Leif Erickson Millennial celebration, they didn’t have any charcoal. (We instructed them on several Viking Age methods of making it, but they didn’t have time until after we left.)

The forge was fueled by feeding softwood into it at the opposite end from the bellows; it took a while, but you did end up with a bed of useable coals. You also ended up with a lot of smoke, most of which filled the ~ 450 square foot sod walled Viking-style forge building. We still managed to forge some spearheads, and repair some axes, but on the whole it was neither efficient nor healthy. (Jolly good fun though!)

Lame Smiths:

As I remember Hephaestus (Vulcan), the husband of Aphrodite (Venus), was not only lame, but ugly to boot! In Old English legend, I thing Whelan is also described as lame.

I don’t feel too bad about the slight limp I have from falling off a barn roof last century, either. Blacksmithing is a lot mere fun than jogging! ;-)

I’ve also heard that smiths were purposely lamed to keep them from running off to the next tribe with their magic. Still, we might be confusing cause and effect; smithing is just the sort of thing that someone who’s lame, but otherwise healthy, could excel at. Compared to plowing, or getting around on a ship, or carrying wood and fetching water; the smith can stand there at his forge and pound out a good days work without having to travel more than a few yards. Pumping the bellows is an easy skill for the handicapped, so it may have developed from there.

“Hire the handicapped” is not a new concept; as the god, Othin, states in the Havamal:

“The lame can ride horse, the handless drive cattle,
the deaf one can fight and prevail,
'tis happier for the blind than for him on the bale-fire,
but no man hath care for a corpse.”

(This also applies to the mentally handicapped; or as my friends say of my youngest daughter: “You don’t need a 150 I.Q. to spin, weave, and tend the sheep.”)

Warm and sunny on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 04/06/05 09:00:19 EDT

Wayne Parris:

This is what was passed on as question. They had purchased some ductile iron bars from Carr and, not surprisingly, found them to not be forgeable. I suggested mild steel, 1018 or A36, hot or cold rolled.

"Yeah I was hoping for something with alittle more weight to it. I have been using 1018 and A36 for the past two years. But I ma now looking to move up to something with a bit more carbon in it thusly weighing more. But I am finding that it is ALOT more expensive and doesn;t readily come in the configurations I need it in like sheets and certain sized bars."

I will ask what end use is.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/06/05 09:05:00 EDT

Medium Carbon Steel: The range for this is typicaly 30 to 60 points. At the low end you have SOME A-36 (it has a wide range of acceptable content) and at the high end many spring steels. A typical spring steel is 5160. It is also commonly supplied in hexagon section and items like caulking irons, wedges, drifts, pry bars and such made from it. It will also work for hot punching but is tweeky when it comes to steel cutting edge tools. 4140 is good for many things but is a little soft for punches.

Uncoiling Springs: I did one of these at the recent NC-ABANA meet in the Big BLU hammer shop. They had put away their big gas forges to make room so I used the coal forge. It took about 4 or 5 heats to straighten a big auto or small truck coil spring into about 6 feet of bar. MOST of the straightening was done in a vise but a scrolling fork in the anvil would have done as well. There was enough heat after uncoiling to do some straightening on the anvil.

I needed the steel to make a tool. All that was left was flattened and given to a knifemaker.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 09:08:22 EDT

Take a look at the anvil at eBay: 6168570406. Almost looks like a Peter Wright wearing a Trenton coat. Base look like a P-W. Ledges. Handling hole (square, not rectangle) in at least front foot. No serial number. Weight stamped between legs on one side. Look closely at bottom as it appears it might have been made from several pieces. Trenton trademark appears to have been put in by factory rather than being hand-chiseled in later. Hybrid German Trenton?
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/06/05 09:23:57 EDT

Buying steel: Ductile Iron. . . then "heavier" due to more carbon? Actually the more carbon, the less dense the iron (CI is less dense than high carbon steel).

Ken your friend needs a copy of Machinery's Handbook and perhaps a service center catalog to do a little studying before purchasing any more metal. . .

New steel is always expensive if you are not making a salable product or don't need enough to purchase the minimum. I suspect that what is not available is what he is asking for. Something that does not exist. If you ask a commercial supplier for things that don't exist most will not educate you, they will just say "no we don't carry that" and hope you go away.

Certain steels come in a few forms but not in others. Tool steels are most commonly in rounds and hexes as well as a limited number of rectangular sizes. The most expensive is the annealed, cut and ground precision stock sold to diemakers. Although VERY pricey per pound these steels save a lot of money for the diemaker. Centerless ground is a little cheaper and is why "drill rod" is a common stock in machine shops. The cheapest is the normalized hot rolled round and hex stock.

One of the steels sought after by Damascus makers is the nickle bearing steel used for boiler plate. It is a specialized steel for that purpose and you will not find it in bar, strip or flats. The few suppliers that have flat bar for knifemakers shear it out of plate.

The 50 to 75 point steel used for RR-rail comes in one form, RR-rail. The carbon content varies with the rail size and capacity. This steel is manufactured for one purpose.

Alloys intended for truck and auto frame members come in flat stock in a narrow range of thicknesses and that is IT. These special high formability non work hardening steels are made for one purpose so you will not find it in bar stock.

Specialty mills making super high alloy tool steels often have a couple standard sections (usualy round and hex) and that is it. Spring steels come in rounds and flats but hot hexes unless it is also a tool steel like the ubiquitous SAE 5160. Currently large rounds (6 to 12") are commonly available in SAE 1040 for some reason.

In the 1970's at the height of the United States' industrial prowess more steels were avaialble in more sections than at any other time. Since then there has been a tremondous decline with fewer available sections. And even in structural steel many sizes are no longer produced. It is part of our shift away from heavy industry and the high pressure to reduce available inventories. This has hurt the small business the most but it effects all manufacturing businesses.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 10:12:12 EDT

Standing vs. Sitting: Sitting on the Earth while working seems to be more prevalent in warm climates than in cold. Standing seems to be more universal in cold climates and in more industrialy developed regions. I have not looked to see if there is research on this but it is a definite difference of high magnitude.

I attribute the more common use of the vise to working while standing (or vice versa). The length of the vise handle makes it difficult to use on the ground. And since all the early vises appear to have been leg vises there is a limit to how short they can be. I have seen photos of a Middle Eastern locksmith using a small vise like a wagon vise while working on the ground. However, larger vices have long handles that would make them unweildly to use on the ground AND there is a definite benifit to being able to easily put your weight on the vise handle.

Ground level workers tend to use "V" rests, logs and clamp dogs or something similar to the Japanese wedge "vice".

There is also the materials and affluence issue. A worker in an affluent society can afford to build benches and raised hearths while an impoverised worker may not.

It is a complicated issue involving culture, economy and technology. It would make an interesting study. I think the "lame ugly smith" is a different story. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 10:40:14 EDT

Hmm lower end of medium carbon steel---sounds like HC RR spike. Can you get a trap spring out of a spike's worth?

Atli---why were you jogging on the barn roof?

I don't know when we switched to working standing as I have seen viking era ground forges and celtic forges that were worked standing---at leas the one I recall from the museum in Austria was displayed as a standing forge. I'll look at my "egyptian metalworking" book tonight and see what they show. Anyone have a book showing the smithing displayed on greek pots?

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/06/05 10:44:53 EDT

Standing vs Sitting when forging. In my very limited experiments sitting to forge works better with help. Working alone it is a nuisance to have to get up to move from working the blower to tending the fire, to smithing the work. I also found that standing I can deliver more power to the work. A small anvil looses too much energy from a heavy blow and I can get more work done per heat "tapping" at a small anvil sitting. But then I learnt to work standing.
   JimG - Wednesday, 04/06/05 12:05:26 EDT

Standing vs. Sitting-Perhaps this has something to do with the size of the work. The photos I have seen of sitting smiths all show relaitvely small work, but if the size increases you may need the extra leverage you get by standing just to move the product around.

   Patrick Nowak - Wednesday, 04/06/05 12:26:32 EDT

Laming smiths... I doubt that this was done intentionally. That sounds a little too Hollywood - Conan. Would you REALLY want your sword/shield/armor or even your scythe, made and sharpened by someone with a grudge against you over cut hamstrings?
   Monica - Wednesday, 04/06/05 13:11:36 EDT

read the "Lay of Volund" www.angelfire.com/on/Wodensharrow/volund.html
I'll bet Nidud regreted hamstringing Volund. Another reason never to tick off a Smith.
   JimG - Wednesday, 04/06/05 13:18:37 EDT

Ancient Egyptians and Greeks: Thomas, I have or have seen both sitting. The famous Greek artist known as the "Foundry Painter" did a forging scene with the smith sitting and a helper (striker) standing like in Japanese smithing. This image can be found in the Shelbourn Museuem book. No bellows is apparent. The forge/furnace looks to be a tall stack with a small air entry. This will cause a high velocity draft without a bellows.

The Egyptian scene is VERY early and reproduced in Bealers The Art of Blacksmithing. In this scene the fire is blown by lung power from a group with blow pipes.

In Locks of Iran there is a photograph of a 20th century locksmith working on the ground. His bellows a "wine skin". His anvil is small and low to the ground. His files rest on the ground leaning against the wall . This is the same image with a short English vise similar in size to a wagon vise.

I also have photos of modern Pakistani blade smiths working at ground forges AND we had a correspondent from India send us a link to his photo of a typical ground forge using a blower and a piece of scrap plate for an anvil.

And we all know the traditional Japanese system.

In an interesting twist I have a piece of video of a native smith in the Phillippines using a Japaneses style box bellows and trough forge, his anvil also appearing to be a blocky traditional Japanese type. All are raised so that he can stand while working.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 13:27:32 EDT

Regarding the use of small anvils while sitting:

What appears to be a small anvil may, in fact, be only the visible portion of a much large anvil buried in the ground to get the working surface to a convenient height for sitting work. Not much different than the way some really big power hammer anvils are situated in order to keep the bottom die height reasonably workable.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 04/06/05 14:27:30 EDT

Ancient Industrial Accidents: OK, You sit at the forge, you use marginal tongs, no protective gear, your striker stands and swings an 8 pound sledge. . . What are the chances that in a lifetime of work you won't have a foot or ankle struck by the striker, drop a significant hunk of hot metal on same bare foot or have a piece fly up an hit you in the face . . . then there are stories you or others make up to explain it.

Just look at how common it used to be less than a century ago for machinists and ironworkers to have missing digits or wear a patch to cover a wrecked eye. I don't think I ever remember going into an old shop that at least ONE of the fellows didn't have a permanent injury. And THIS in the modern era. Imagine how much more hazzardous it was to work in an industrial environment a thousand years ago or more.

We are much more careful about such injuries today but we all know smiths that have had serious accidents or near misses. Just dealing with heavy objects (anvils, swage blocks) is dangerous. As we become more safety aware and medicine improves (they reattach severed digits now), we will not have these examples before us and in the future may not even consider this line of thinking. But conditions WERE different . . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 14:44:15 EDT

Carbon Monoxide Quandry- I bought a Nighthawk CO alarm for the shop. When I run the gas forge, the level rises to above 'safe' in 15-20 minutes. I'm okay with that, and open the doors. What has me puzzled is, I use a 35000BTU Reddi-blaster (fuel oil) to heat the shop when i'm too lazy to start the wood stove. I can run the Reddi-heater for 6 hours with the doors closed, and the CO meter never goes above zero... I know combustion is happening and should be generating CO, so why does the alarm not see it? Another thing I learned is oxy-acet rosebud work makes the alarm go off quicker than the propane forge. Thanks
   mike-hr - Wednesday, 04/06/05 14:47:29 EDT

Anyone know how to contact the outfit is South Carolina that used to make air compressor kits to be used with vw engines?
   Bill - Wednesday, 04/06/05 15:04:29 EDT

Small anvils. . I suspect the ancient anvils were relatively small as material costs were high. But they were very likley supported by a burried big stump as most ancient anvils had heavy stakes or shanks to anchor in wood.

The bed of Ullyses was described as built around a large olive tree for permanence. I suspect this theme extended to other areas of ancient life that needed solidity or permanence. Later writen descriptions speak of anvil stumps burried 8 feet in the ground.

The photos I have seen of Indian sledge hammer head anvils is a scene of permanence as if the lump of steel had poked above the surface of the Earth for centuries and was immovable. I suspect there is a deeply burried stump and the little anvil is securely anchored to it both for solidity and to prevent theft. If it still works in the 21st Century it probably worked in 10th century BC.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 15:09:06 EDT

CO: Mike, you get more CO when there is a lack of oxygen or are recirculating exhust gas back into the furnace. In small forges it is easy for the intake air to suck into the exhust and create CO. The forge (and the rosebud) exhust just rises and hangs around. I suspect the Reddi-blaster creates enough air movement to prevent stagnation. If you can run the Reddi-blaster that long you have a definite source of fresh air.

Just a guess.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/06/05 15:17:24 EDT

I have a stereo-pic of a Damascus Sword Smith's shop with a ground forge and anvil and a late Roman depictation of Vulcan standing at his anvil. The Stave Church (11th century?) looks to me to be a raised forge and anvil. So it seems to vary with location and time.

Can't feel sorry for Nidud---after all he got a couple of nifty drinking cups out of the deal!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/06/05 15:27:49 EDT

Carbon monoxide:

Also note that good complete combustion (and maybe excess oxygen combustion) won't produce CO, just CO2 and water vapor. It will still deplete the air of oxygen, which is not something a Nighthawk detector measures for.
   T. Gold - Wednesday, 04/06/05 16:05:55 EDT

Thanks Guru, TG
   mike-hr - Wednesday, 04/06/05 16:36:37 EDT

Charcoal... for those looking for a sorce, Ace Hardware has Cowboy brand charcoal in 20# bags for 12.99(SKU-8140139) in their speical order catalog. My local store stocks 8.8# bags. $7.99. I think I like it better than coal, no clinker, no ash, no complaints from the neighbors.... and when the Constable leaves you can actually eat the hot-dog.
   habu - Wednesday, 04/06/05 20:27:06 EDT

Paw Paw, Did the guy looking for info. on the 1000lb anvil ever send you pictures?

A friend of mine sent me pictures (a year or so ago) of a 1143lb chainmaker anvil he got to see up close in a little country museum back in the Northeast. It has two big dogs/hardys placed in its side that chain is hanging on, the anvil has no horn.
   Robert IW - Wednesday, 04/06/05 22:44:31 EDT

re: Steel - Ken, I have a friend who is an SCA armourer - does period correct pieces that also pass SCA fighting requirements. Lately he's been using 4150 sheet, about 12 gauge I think and raising helms from the flat. So stock is out there, though I agree with the guru, not as much and as varied as in the 1970's. As to what alloy would be appropriate for your friend - depends a lot on what he's trying to do - let us know, and I'm sure the metallurgists on this board will try to come up with a good alloy match.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 04/06/05 23:19:50 EDT


I don't think so. I did receive some pictures recently of a Fisher Sawyer's anvil.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 04/06/05 23:23:48 EDT


As best I can tell he makes martial arts throwing weapons on a production basis under the guidance of several Japanese sword makers. Weight is as critical as size. I forwarded Guru's information to him and he said he would try to find of copy of the manual.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/07/05 00:54:07 EDT

OK, I know forge welding can happen with a gas forge. I have seen it demonstrated. In my own forge, I haven't been albe to make it happen. It seems I can't get the metal hot enough. I am using a home made forge, made of 10" ID pipe metal, and a welded on 2 ft section of 2" ID piping for the air and gas to be delivered into the forge. The propane is under low pressure (2 to 5 psi on the propane tank guage) and air is supplied by a hair dryer that has an in line power adjustment so air flow is low. The forge is lined with KaoWool. I recently replaced the KaoWool and applied ITC-100 to the KaoWool thinking I would be able to get the metal to a yellow, white heat. The best I am able to get is a very, very bright orange. The forge runs alot hotter with less gas, but still, no welding heat. The inside of the forge is much brighter now, so the thermal and Infared reflectivity have definately been improved, however, still no welding. Do I need to break down and get a small portable coal forge to weld with? Thanks for any ideas.
   Larry Reed - Thursday, 04/07/05 01:51:32 EDT

Larry Reed:

From what I am told, consider any gauge on a propane regulator to be suspect. I would try upping your pressure to at least 20, perhaps even 35 and see if that doesn't help. With forged air you really should be able to get the forge cooking. Test from someplace on forum: Put in two small rods and periodically touch ends together. If they will stick, you can forge weld.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/07/05 02:07:39 EDT

I am a beginning blacksmith (I have taken 2 years of upper division jewelry and metalsmithing classes at HSU) and I am setting up a small forge in southern california. I have a forge but I am having difficulty locating a nearby blacksmith supply to purchase an anvil. Do you know of any in the southern california are or surrounding areas (I am willing to travel a bit to pick one up) I am primarily interested in making knives and other weapons from the middle ages. I was also wondering which anvils you would recommend (is the JHM journeyman farriers anvil any good?) I am not the richest person so price does matter but I also want quality so I am willing to spend some money. Thanks for your help

William Conn
   William Conn - Thursday, 04/07/05 07:02:17 EDT

What is the term PCD in Engeering term as in find circle positions on a given marking ie. Like 8 holes on a round plate of steel
   Gerry Martin - Thursday, 04/07/05 07:02:20 EDT

William Conn: Go to the NAVIGATE box and then to Frequently Asked Question. One in there on selecting an anvil. You can pick up the 110 lb Russian anvils at Harbor Freight retail outlets for about $90. They may not be out on the floor or one might have to be shipped in for you. It might be a starter anvils for you until you can upgrade. Lots of nice American and English anvils on eBay, but watch out for shipping as it can cost more than the anvil itself. If you live in a residential area you might consider a 'dead' (non-ringing) anvil such as a Vulcan or Fisher.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/07/05 08:58:52 EDT

Larry 10" dia , how thick is the kaowool? What is the actual dia of the burn chamber? Are you closing up the ends? What does the exhaust look like? (Blue, orange, yellow) What size is the orifice on your gas line?
   adam - Thursday, 04/07/05 09:32:08 EDT

Western US Anvil Dealers: William, The closest one of our advertisers to SoCal is Pieh Tool Company near Sedona, AZ. They carry several brands including Peddinghaus.

You may want to go to some CBA (California Blacksmith Associantion) meetings. There are usualy "tailgaters" selling used equipment from their pickup trucks. You can ocassionaly find good deals on used anvils that way. The folks at the meetings would also know the closest dealers.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 09:47:34 EDT

PCD 1: Part Coordination Document. This term is from the ANSI Y-14 geometric tolerancing standard. In this standard nothing is assumed such as perpendicularity of a holes to a surface. Every possible control feature is considered. It uses very symbolic notatation that is non intuitive and assumes a detailed knowledge of the ANSI Y-14 theory, philosophy and the standard as well as the ANSI definitions and documents it may refer to.

NO ANSI document stands alone and you usualy need the standard, the definitions book and then other possible standards referenced. Standards can be ordered from the ANSI Sales Department. You may also find them in an Engineering school library.

Trade and Engineering schools give glasses on understanding geometric tollerancing. The problem is that often the engineers and detailers applying the standard do no understand it and this is further confused by the machinist who may not understand it. . . The government LOVES IT, closest thing to Orwellean newspeak there is!

I cannot find my copy of Y-14 and have a bad feeling I loaned it to someone. . . All the time we were designing and building tools for the Nuclear industry we used good old fashioned notations along with coordinate dimensioning and never had a problem. . .

Generaly if you do not know about ANSI Y-14 and have specs to follow you are in over your head OR have a long learning curve.

PCD 2: Polycrystalline diamond. Also machine shop related and can be found referenced in the same documents as ANSI Y-14

PCD 3: Proximity Coupling Device. Another ANSI designation.

   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 10:37:27 EDT

Habu, out here I was getting 10 pound sacks for about $5 a piece at wally world.

Gavainh; medieval and renaissance "period correct pieces" using a steel that's been around less than 100 years? Perhaps we are using the terms differently...I might call that "replicating period pieces using modern materials".


   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/07/05 10:48:49 EDT

Ken I had been running the pressure at 16 to 18 and was told by the person who designed the forge that it is a low pressure system and the pressure should be between 3 to 5.

Adam; The Kaowool is about 1" thick, making the diameter of the burn chamber about 8.5 to 9 " across. One end is closed with a Kaowool "plug" backed up by firebricks stacked up. The working end has fire bricks stacked to make a smaller opening. The flames shooting out of the opening are yellow. The gas line is hardware store gas line (plastic) with either 1/4 " or 3/8" (can't remember for sure) ID copper tubing that enters the gas/air pipe. Thanks again for any ideas.
   Larry Reed - Thursday, 04/07/05 10:56:59 EDT

Cold Forge: Larry, Besides Thomas's questions, do you have a door or restricted opening, refractory floor?

The best advise to adjusting a blower type forge is to keep tweeking until you get a tremondous reverbatory roar. When you hit it you cannot mistake it. It is a deep bellowing continous LION's roar at that point that reverberates in your chest.

At this point the forge is working at its optimum. However, it may need to be tweeked to reduce oxidizing. Large forges must be tweeked just below this point to keep from vibrating everything in the shop. . It can literaly shake things off shelves and benches worse than a power hammer.

Doors or restrictions are necessary to contain the fire and get maximum heat. On venturi forges the vent size is 7 times the area of the burner pipe. However, this ratio does not apply to blower forges so you need to find it by trial and error.

Orifice size means nothing in a blower forge and is unnecessary. If you have one it only creates a restriction that may prevent enough gas flow from a low pressure supply.

Hard refractory floors are necessary if you use flux in your Kaowool lined forge. The ITC-100 provides some protection but the slightest crack or porosity will let liquid flux run through and wreck your lining.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 11:03:26 EDT

This is one for the group...

I am looking to find exactly what safety precautions I should take when using a coal fire. I've been firing up my forge for a period of about two weeks and I've realized exactly how much of the exhaust I end up breathing even though I may try to avoid it. So, pointers on safely burning my coal would be appreciated.

Two things to note are that I'm not currently in my shop with my forge because I haven't put a hood in, yet and that I don't even have a hood for the forge, yet. So wind tends to be a factor in where I stand.

Also, in starting my fire, I recieve copious amounts of thick, yellow smoke. I think, to a certain extent, that this is normal, but as much as I end up having before getting a clean fire seems excessive. Any pointers there?
   CyraLynx21 - Thursday, 04/07/05 11:11:01 EDT

Does anyone else have the problem of being hackeled by the buliding inspector and bylaw officer?
   - joe - Thursday, 04/07/05 11:25:33 EDT


Once you have install a stack (I recommend at least 10" diameter and higher than your highest roof ridge) you should control most of the smoke once you have a fire burning well. The yellow smoke you see is the sulfur burning off. Amount of it will very by the quality of the coal. Really not much you can do about it to my knowledge besides looking for a better grade of low sulfur coal.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/07/05 12:07:34 EDT

Coal Smoke: No, it is not good to breathe. However, many smiths breathe quite a bit of it. It is hard to define the health hazzards specificaly due to people having different tollerance to pollutants and OTHER pollutants they are exposed to (smoking, desiel exhust, urban air).

The yellow smoke you see is mostly the volitiles from the coal gassing off. Once the coal is hot enough most of these burn and you have less smoke.

Overhead hoods do not work well. See our side draft hood plans on the plans page. In enclosed shops it also helps to have an exhust fan. But note that if the fan is too powerfull and you don't have sufficient fresh air that it can reduce the effectivness of the hood and flue. Eveything must be balanced.

In breezy conditions a simple wind shield can help.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 12:28:05 EDT

If a codes inspector has an axe to grind with you, perhaps the best thing to do is move out of the jurisdiction. You can't fix stuff fast enough to keep him out of your hair.

The confessed BTK (for Bind Torture Kill) serial killer stopped killing people after he got a job as a codes inspector. . . I reckon after that he got his jollies using the municipal processes to torture people. . .
   John Lowther - Thursday, 04/07/05 12:35:54 EDT

Authorities: Joe, It depends on where you are. Usualy the authorities show up due to a complaint by a neighbor. If you are making smoke and noise in a residential neighborhood then they have a right to complain. The question THEN is are you in violation of local ordinances. In most cases you can get away with a lot if your blacksmithing is a hobby. But if you earn income from it then everyone including the national government has a say in what you do.

The best way to avoid problems with neighbors is to be preemptive. Invite them to a barbeque and demonstrate forging, give them small gifts, ofer to make repairs. Most folks thing blacksmithing is a NEET thing.

Besides the neighborhood the region you are in makes a difference. In California they even regulate the starter fluid used to start charcoal (its verboten). Folks there are also very sensitive to any environmental issues and will generally complain faster than anywhere in the country.

Building inspectors generally only have authority during construction or if you are in rental property. However, this varies from place to place.

Your best approach to the authorities is to not get their attention. However, sometimes your neighbors are to blame for this too. It helps if you study the applicable regulations and bylaws so that you know what is allowed and what is not. Do not argue the point with the authorities because they usualy have absolute power in these matters and making them mad is counterproductive.

If your neighbors are to blame and you are already in trouble with the authorities then you are in a hard spot. All you can do is try to do your best to meet the requirements they have put on you. However, it is often the case that someone wants you OUT, to go away. In this case it may not be possible to make anyone happy and you are wasting your time. If that is the situation move or find another place to do what you do.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 12:47:25 EDT

Authorities and Regulations: These vary greatly from place to place and can be different down to your most local political division (city, county, parish) and some areas even local neighborhoods that are restricted by deed. It is practicaly impossible for us to advise on these matters except in the most general way.

However, there ARE work-arounds that are semi universal. Most places with restrictions on open fires alow cooking fires. Many a smith has kept a grill with a pot of hot water for coffee or tea on their forge to meet the requirement of "cooking". When using gas or charcoal you can actually cook meats (hot dogs, steaks . . .).

If visible smoke is the problem then change fuels or learn to reduce the smoke. Fresh coal smokes horribly but the coke from it does not. If you make and store enough coke to get a fire good and hot before adding fresh coal then you will make much less smoke. This can work but it takes practice and discipline.

Noise is hard to avoid but you can do a lot to reduce it. First be sure not to make loud noises at night or too early in the morning. Dampen you anvil, work inside, insulate your shop. Sound absorbant panels can help a lot.

And as mentioned above. Making friends with your neighbors can go a long way.

One prominant smith we know found that he could burn all the coal he wanted and make all the noise he wanted until he became a business. Then he had to comply with EPA regulations which meant converting to gas forges and move his business to a commercial district.

I also know a smith that setup in a large industrial park on the site of an old steel mill. After moving in to this high rent location he found they would not allow a coal forge. . . a LITTLE coal forge on what was a huge steel mill site. . .

So, investigate the rules and regulations for your location. It is best NOT to ask the authorities as that will just get them interested in you BEFORE you have done anything. Go the library or court house and find the information yourself. THEN if you have problems you know where you stand.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 13:14:59 EDT

My blown forge is not nearly as loud as Jock describes, it's fairly close to what the venturi forge I have sounds like...they are both about the same in size.

First thing "yellow flames" sounds like it's not getting enough air, can you increase the flow rate on the blower? When you look inside at the burners are they putting out a blue flame at all?

Code/Bylaw/Etc. *know* the laws; many people in charge of enforcing them only know the ones they get involved with the most---mainly this is a rules lawyering rear guard action while you arrange to move to the country...I was very lucky. I had an unknown neighbor who was very down on my forge and used to call the fire department on me---the lucky part was that 3 times in a row they showed up to find me using my woodfired BBQ and not the forge. I guess they had a talking to the person about the fee for false alarm runs cause they never got called on me again!

Smoke: Weygers' book has a neat "smoke catcher" that would feed the start up smoke back into the hand crank blower to get re-burned. Never tried it but it might be a suggestion for thickly settled areas

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/07/05 13:15:24 EDT

The anvil that I normally use is a London-pattern cast steel type. It weighs a bit over 140 pounds, and the only identifying marks are "55K" written above "150L" in raised letters on the side of the anvil. I assume this must mean 55Kg, 150 Lbs as a nominal weight. The surface is very hard, (based on the ball bearing test and comparing it to a Peter Wright) and the edges are chipped a bit. The horn is a bit shorter than an equivalent Peter Wright. Does anyone know what make this would be?
   DonS - Thursday, 04/07/05 14:37:35 EDT

Larry Reed, When asking your question I think you have actually told us what is wrong with your gas forge. You state that the blower is an old hair dryer and the air flow is low. It sounds like you are trying to run a zero pressure gas system without enough velocity to mix your gas. You will probably find a marked improvement by replacing your hair dryer with a high static pressure blower. I believe that Jymm Hoffman who uses a similar burner arrangement gets his blowers from Kayne or Blacksmith Supply who advertise here. He forge welds in his all the time. Supporting our advertisers helps to keep this site functioning- so does joining CSI.
   SGensh - Thursday, 04/07/05 14:53:46 EDT

DonS: My SWAG is you have an English Brooks/Vaughn anvil. See Anvils in America, page 131. Postman notes weight can be in stones, kgs or lbs.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/07/05 17:21:59 EDT

Larry Reed.
I have a forge like yours. My blower puts out something like 150 CFM. This is way more than a blowdryer. I have gotten hot enough to weld since I put ITC on the Kaowool. I don't do a lot of welding in the forge, but I usually do mine in the coal forge. I believe i run at something like 9psi across a 1/16" drilled orifice.
I built a door for mine like an industrial forge, and I open only enough to get the part in, although I have a minimum door open stop to allow the burnt gasses to escape. Its something like 2".
   ptree - Thursday, 04/07/05 17:28:36 EDT

Don's anvil. I was going to say the same. This anvil probably has a fairly thick heel and a somewhat blunt horn.

The new anvils sold under name are now cast in India.

Welcome aboard CSI Don! Thanks for the support.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 17:30:37 EDT

I have a side draft hood, made from one of the future oppotunities I drug home. Works like a charm. The 10" stack works well, and to really get it going, i wad up a newspaper sheet, light it, the light the coal. That preheats the stack, and prevents almost all the smoke escaping the hood.
I put a small stack, removable, and a sidedraft as well on my portable forge. Works like a charm, and exits the smoke about 10' in the air, well above my face. The velocity up the stack seems to carry the smoke well up from the exit point, mostly preventing the smoke from fouling the demo area. The small stack on my rivit sized forge is a 8".
   ptree - Thursday, 04/07/05 17:34:18 EDT

Thanks for all the input.

Guru: I use a fire brick that has been coated with the ITC-100 on the floor of the forge. One end of the forge has a "plug" made of a cut to size piece of Kaowool that ws coated with the ITC-100. On the outside of the forge there is a stack of firebricks to back up the Kaowool plug. On the front of the forge (the working end)the opening is enclosed by a stack of firebricks and I create a 3" by 5" opening to place the work into the forge through. There is no other door on the forge.

There is a blue flame at the point where the gas/air opening enters the forge when it first is lit, once it heats up that disappears, and as it warms up the blue flame is lost and it becomes fairly uniformly bright orange.

The forge makes a low quiet roar when running, not too different from my venturi system forge.

I have a reostat wired into the hairdryer circuit so I can tamp down or ramp up the amount of air blown into the forge. It seems when I turn the air up too high it actually cools the forge down by blowing too fast. When the air is turned up and I turn up the gas flow all I get is a larger amount of flame blowing out of the 3 x 5 opening I have to place work inside the forge.

Maybe lighting a coal fire wouldn't be so complicated?

Where do I join CSI? Thx.
   Larry Reed - Thursday, 04/07/05 17:34:31 EDT

I'm wanting to make some boatbuilding caulking irons and I'm trying to find out what type of steel they would have been made of, specifically the C. Drew irons. They were considered the best, they called them talking irons. I know there are many car springs, etc. but I'm interested in what I should buy.
   - Eide - Thursday, 04/07/05 18:03:44 EDT


I think you are being too timid with the gas. These forges typicaly have a considerable flame coming from the vent and many people call them "dragon's breath" forges because of it. I have never seen a blue flame IN the forge although I have heard a lot of folks describe it.

On my blower units the air is run just fast enough to prevent blow back and then the gas flow is adjusted upward to that loud roaring point. Until you start getting lazy leaping flames that need air from outside the forge you generally have not added too much gas.

There are a lot of variables in how these forges are built so it hard to troubleshoot remotely. But on this kind of forge you just keep adjusting until it works. It is actualy easier than learning coal fire management, and some folks DO have trouble lighting a coal fire. . .

CSI link is right next to the Getting Started link at the bottom of the forum log. The "MEMBERS only" link on the drop down menu will also take you there.

   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 18:09:24 EDT

Caulking Irons: Eide, A friend of mine makes caulking irons for a New York plumbing house and they are all made of SAE 5160 and shipped normalized. In this condition they are quite hard and tough without further heat treating. This happens to be the steel used for many springs as well.

The tools could probably be improved by careful localized heattreating. This is usualy the difference between a common run of the mill tool and a first class tool. Even when you start with the same material you can get superior results by care in processing.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/07/05 18:18:27 EDT

I've come upon a good number of old blacksmithing tools (about 25 hammers and 10 sets of tongs). They are all French and about 100 years old. Some have seen some pretty hard days by the looks of things. The hammers all have 1 face which is made for a very specific purpose. i.e. 1/2 circle concave curve and 1/2 circle convex partner hammer
Opposite the specific face is a what looks to have been a flat face with and hexagonal shape. However these flat faces have been hit on their edges and now the metal is peeling over like on a cold chisel head. I removed this peeled metal (on one -- no worries it was not specialized like the others) as I had seen another smith do and smoothed the sides out, but noticed small black lines running horizontal to the face. I was wondering what I should do with the rest of the hammers and whether I would be able to use them for smithing.

Thanks for your time

   Walker Lunsford - Thursday, 04/07/05 18:33:51 EDT

Walker Lunsford. It sounds to me from you description that you have "set hammers" or "top tools". They may be punchs. The mushrooming is from being struck with a sledge or large hand hammer. The black lines are probably cracks.
   ptree - Thursday, 04/07/05 19:19:43 EDT

I have been thinking about the reverbortory noise you describe in blown forges. I can't say that I have ever seen any of the industrial forges make such a noise. A steady roar, yes. reverb not really. It may be that the fan system and gas train have a big influence, but the several industrial shops I have been around have not had that experience.
   ptree - Thursday, 04/07/05 19:22:18 EDT

I have to forge a ring out of flat bar 2 inch by 3/16 inch. I need it to have a slight taper, to fit around a wooden piece that has a cone shape.
I read in the Blacksmith's Journal issue 143, theat you have to bent the flat bar first the hard way, then the easy way. Well, I think with a 2 inch flat bar the hard way might be a bit too hard. As well, I need to have a certain diameter at the end. Does anyone has an idea or experience how to solve that problem. Thankful for any tip.
   duerst - Thursday, 04/07/05 20:22:19 EDT

Brooks Anvil: Thanks Ken and Guru. I will have to add Anvils in America to my wish list. The blunt horn and thick heel are correct. The hardy hole is a bit sloppy in that it is about 7/8 x 15/16, but the anvil is nice to work on.

I see my membership went through already. Thanks
   DonS - Thursday, 04/07/05 20:24:34 EDT

Larry Reed,

Unless I missed it, no one addressed what I see as a CRITICAL issue with your forge. In your first post, you said,"The gas line is hardware store gas line (plastic)..."

There is no plastic gas line that is safe around a forge, that I know of. In fact, the only plastic gas line I am aware of being sold by hardware stores is plastic line for liquid gasoline or diesel fuel. Plastic will melt almost instantly if accidentally touched by a hot piece of iron and then you have flame where you most assuredly DON'T want it. Possibly firing back up the line to the regulator. Bad thing.

I strongly suggest you use copper line from the regulator to the mixing plenum. If you must use flexible line, use it no closer than a couple of feet to the forge, and shield it with an appropriate size of flexible metallic conduit (BX) to prevent burn damage. Use propane rated rubber tubing, not plastic. You can get it from a welding supply, just ask for type "T" hose.

Also, you didn't say what length and diameter your mixing tube is. For the best efficiency (read, highest heat output), the propane and air need to be thoroughly mixed before being ignited. This means you need about 9 or 10 inches of tube after the point where the gas enters the airstream. Ideally, this would be smaller diameter than the 2" you mentioned. Smaller diameter equals higher velocity, more turbulance, better mixing. You can transition to larger tube at the forge if you need to slow the velocity to retain a stable flame front. The setup you described sounds to me as though much of your mixing is not happening until the gas gets into the forge, and even some after it has exited the forge still unburned. The goal is to have all the gas you can get burned inside the forge. That is one of the reasons for the high static pressure blower that ptree suggested.

I havve seen and made furnaces where the gas was piped into the intake of the blower itself to take advantage of every bit of mixing possible. It is very effective, but you don't do it with a blower that has an open electric motor attached, unless you like unexpected and dangerous explosions.

One last thing. You said you have a 1" layer of Kaowool lining the shell. I strongly suggest you add another inch. You may be losing more heat through the shell than you think.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/07/05 20:44:53 EDT

William Conn,

There are a couple of places in So Cal to buy anvils. The one I have been to is in Yucaipa and is called the shoein Shop. He sells everything a ferrier would need including coal, anvils, hammers. The last time I was there he had a nice selection of mostly ferrier anvils with a couple of London pattern ones available also. Probably not the cheapest on his anvils, but with the savings in shipping you can afford a little more and still make out ok.

   FredlyFX - Thursday, 04/07/05 20:46:50 EDT


Why not work one edge of your stock a little thinner, so it cuves away from that edge (like in the bananna knife syndrome) then bend it the easy way. If you bent it the hard way, you'd end up thinning the outside edge anyway.

If I've got this right you should start with a length of bar equal to the circumference you need at the narrow end of the "cone." Work one edge until, measured around the curve, it equals the circumference of the large end of the cone you want. Then roll it up the easy way, cross your fingers, and it should fit.
   Mike B - Thursday, 04/07/05 21:06:37 EDT

Or, just cut the ends on an angle that gives you the correct circumference at each side and the roll and stick it. True up on horn or cone and flat plate.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/07/05 21:47:58 EDT

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for my first demo of the year, won't be back until late Sunday evening. Y'all play nice while I'm gone! (grin
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 04/07/05 21:56:44 EDT

Thanks very much for all of the suggestions to make my forge work better. I can see I have some "tweaking" to do. I'll report back once I get it working better.
   Larry Reed - Thursday, 04/07/05 22:00:49 EDT


A friend lives in a national forest area in New Mexico, and has hardly used his coal forge during the last five years. We have had drought conditions until this year, and he was leery about starting a forest fire.

Duerst, A Budweiser draft horseshoe is ½" x 2½" and it's bent on edge.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 04/07/05 22:27:23 EDT

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