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THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from April 8 - 15, 2006 on the Guru's Den
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Dave Boyer.
When I ran a R & D lab for the valve co, I too used paint to indicate stress and bending, I used cheap, fast dry spray paint as it seemed to get brittle better than the good spray paint. I got the idea from looking at a few bent things that had been painted.
There are some very expensive coatings that used to be available that would do the same thing but were supposed to be able to indicate the level of stretch from counting the cracks as it was supposed to be sorta calibrated.
I never used the calibrated stuff.
There were also some plastic materials that a part could be duplicated in that would with the right optical viewer show stress distribution.
   - ptree - Saturday, 04/08/06 10:14:36 EDT

Idaho Hammer In

I just learned there is a Hammer In at Pawnee's Forge, Blanchard, Idaho (near Coeur d'Alene) today, April 8, from 9:00-5:00 His phone is 208-437-1144

I have no idea why it was never submitted to the Calendar of Events but I'll ask later today. There are precious few such events in this neck of the woods and I'm looking forward to it. Hope to see you there.
   dschessher - Saturday, 04/08/06 10:25:52 EDT

The oxides of alluminium are very hard & adherent.So why it detaches from the surface by simple rubing by skin or cloth & cloth does not contain any oil even then it gets black?
   yamin - Saturday, 04/08/06 11:42:00 EDT

Yamin, Aluminum itself is soft and abrades. The aluminium powder caused by abrasion oxidizes. The mixture of dark colors appears black.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/08/06 12:08:33 EDT

what does it mean by active-passive transition in corrosion of metals?
   Tahzib - Saturday, 04/08/06 15:38:49 EDT

ferrite is more corrosive or cementite and why?
   Tahzib - Saturday, 04/08/06 15:40:18 EDT

Question for Mr Uri Hofi: Is the difference in results mostly from your hammer design or your technique?? I've watched numerous videos of you demonstrating and wonder if any hammer used with your technique would be more efficient, or it the square design itself better?
   rthibeau - Saturday, 04/08/06 18:15:43 EDT


I have a hammer that is similar to the Hofi hammer, though it is not an actual Hofi. I also have Hofi's DVD on hammer technique, and have learned it, for the most part. The technique is excellent, as are Hofi's hammers. The technique does pretty much require a hammer with a squarish face and a cross pein that is very broad. The hammer and the technique complement each other. It really does seem to be a better way to work.
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/08/06 19:49:22 EDT

Ptree: Our lab tested plastic 1/4 scale modles of car & truck frames [our products]. I think they used PVC for fatigue testing and polycarbinate for crash simulation, but I may have them reversed. This was done in the design phase, then full size steel parts would be tested when they felt they were close to where they needed to be. I don't think the paint would be as usefull on less ductile parts, like on a coil spring I doubt it would show anything.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 04/08/06 22:33:39 EDT

what is a good sorce for forge components?
   i - Saturday, 04/08/06 22:56:25 EDT


My name is Jesse. I am 18 years old and have some experience in metal working. Not a lot, but I am learning. I am understanding the processes and methods to sword making, but I can't find any information on how to make a sword scabbard. If anyone has any helpful tips, books, or links, I would be most greatful.
Thank you, -Jesse.
   jesse - Saturday, 04/08/06 23:39:20 EDT

Forge Parts: ii, What kind of forge? Coal, Oil, Gas? Hobby or professional? DIY or full fab shop capability?

Our advertisers, Blacksmiths Depot, Blacksmiths Supply, Centaur Forge and Pieh Tool Co., all sell coal forge parts and forges. They also sell comnplete gas forges.

We sell Kaowool and ITC-100 for building gas forges. We also have plans for a beginner DIY coal forge on our plans page as well as hoods for shop forges.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/08/06 23:55:43 EDT

Scabbards: Jesse, our history and technology experts will tell you this is and has been a wholely seperate craft from sword making.

Like swords, I recommend you start small. Make a holster for a folder, then one for a skinner and then a hunting knife. Sword scabbards are also like the blades they held, very different depending on the society and class of owner. Simple ones were leather often with a hard dry rawhide liner. Modern makers use a plastic fiber material to replace the rawhide as it is more dependable for safety. Sword scabbards are made of fabric, leather, wood, sheet metal or any combination of the four. The craft is the craft of working each of these materials. Then you have painting and decoration which also varies and it the study of THOSE crafts as well as the design.

Where there is ART you study ART. If you want to use Celtic knots in a decoration there are only two books on the subject written a generation apart by a father and son. These then require a mastery of the logic and a skill at working out the puzzle of each original knot and having it follow the rules of the craft. A minor detail. A trifle. But you can spent a lifetime studying it.

Engraving? The same. Also used on blades, hilts and scabbards. It is such a specialty that it is almost always subbed out, AND often costs more than the original piece by a significant factor.

Some of the books on knife and sword making have a little on the subject. Start there. But you will also need to study the craft of working the materials of your choice. Then the ART. The art is found in museums and books on museum collections as well as specialty books.

See our Sword Making FAQ and its Resource list (linked above as well as on our FAQs and Armoury page.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/09/06 00:32:26 EDT

I'am helping a friend repairing desaltization electrodes due to corrosion.I was told the material was stainless steel,but when I took it apart,I wasn't convinced it was s/s.Using the spark test on a grinding stone I discovered the non-ferrous metal had a multitude of white sparks,not yellow as with stainless steel.What kind of metal could this be?
   Joe Domonkos - Sunday, 04/09/06 10:29:18 EDT

Joe, I am not versed on this technology. However, there are stainlesses and stainlesses. There are dozens of alloys and they all contain a majority of iron.

In almost any electrolytic process there is a transfer of metalic ions. Eletrodes eventualy degrade and become too porus to be useful. In the process iron is the most soluable and would be built up on the surface of stainless electrodes. A surface spark test would show more iron.

I would check with the manufacturer of the device and ask what the expected life of the electrodes are and about replacing them or the proper material.

To find out exactly what you have would take a laboratory analysis. I can recommend one if you need.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/09/06 11:28:52 EDT

Titanium makes very bright white sparks when you grind it.
   Mike B - Sunday, 04/09/06 14:03:09 EDT

Tornados: 23 dead in Dyersburg last week. This week we had another weekend of killer storms and 10 more died. Bad spring this year. I was camping in KY and spent Saturday evening huddled in the bath house at the campground listening for freight trains. Not the most fun I ever had. Hope they all missed Ken.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/09/06 14:45:17 EDT

I tried to call Ken. Phone answering machine is working. Knowing Ken he is out helping neighbors.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/09/06 15:29:33 EDT

I know what you mean. We have had quite a few severe storms this season already. Had to train some set up guys at work from the home plant in Japan. I trained them on the emergency response plan. The bit about earthquakes was no problem. the part about tornados took quite a bit of explaining by the translator. I'm not sure they believed me about how fast they appear and how severe. An hour and a half later we had a big, severe line came through. I though I would die listening to them watching the weather radar in the break room. They really freaked.
   - ptree - Sunday, 04/09/06 20:42:20 EDT

I recently bought a 2# rounding(turning), hammer and within 3 days I was experiencing mild tennins elbow symptoms so I put it down and they went away. Could anyone tell me why this should happen? Using a 2 and 1.5# ball pien and a 3# cross pien for 2+ years hasn't bothered me at all? I'm thinking angle of blow on contact (I've already trimmed the handle to duplicate the other 3 hammers I use constantly so that's not it). I'd appreciate any and all input, thanks.
   Thumper - Sunday, 04/09/06 22:22:02 EDT

Trivia tidbit. I heard this out shooting with my black powder buddies today. The Term "ball pien" comes from the navy. Seems that back in the old days, when a vessel was preparing for battle the ships carpenter(or mechanic) would hand out hammers to pien the rust off the balls so they'd load smoothly. They discovered an extra added bonus in that they would also shoot straighter for longer distances. This is allegedy where the idea to dimple golf balls came from !!!!
   Thumper - Sunday, 04/09/06 22:29:39 EDT

Joe; Sheath & Scabbard Making:

Jim Hrisoulas's book, The Complete Bladesmith (ISBN 0-87364-430-1) has a chapter on leather work for sheaths and his late book, The Master Bladesmith (ISBN 0-87364-612-6), has a chapter on scabbards. They may be available through Inter-Library Loan (ILL). I'm sure there's other sources out there. You may also want to try over at:


A lovely day on the banks of the lower Potomac. Drilled some bronze fittings for the Sæ Hrafn after working on her in the rain yesterday. Bronze drills funny. ;-)

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 04/09/06 22:37:42 EDT

golf balls vs ball pien.
Did find a site talking about the dimples in golf balls but know references to ball peining cannon balls as of yet
   Ralph - Sunday, 04/09/06 23:57:33 EDT


Pien, pein, peen, pane, however you spell it, refers to the shape of the hammer opposite the face. In my experience looking at hammers, peens are smaller in size than the face. For example, on a farrier's rounding hammer, the convex face is called a ball face, not a peen, because it is the same diameter as the opposing face. There are ball peens of course, but also cross peens and straight peens, not to mention the slender cross peen on a Warrington hammer, a woodworker's tool. The slender peen allows the worker to start a short nail or tack held between thumb and finger.

If you believe the cannonball/golf ball story, I have a Brooklyn Bridge I would like to sell you.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/10/06 08:59:53 EDT

I have an idea for a makeshift anvil, so I thought I would run it by and see if you guys found any major things wrong with it; I was going to fill an old wheel with concrete, and weld a 1/4" sheet of steel on top of it. Has anyone done this before? If so, how did it work out? Thanks in advance.

   - Rob - Monday, 04/10/06 11:21:13 EDT

Frank, Thanks for the definition on the pein,peen,pien. Not quite sure what that had to do with my trivia posting though. If you think it was a bit far-fetched, then you should look up the term "Magnus effect" on the net. In the development of dimples on the golf ball, the Magnus effect on cannonballs was sited as to the reason golf balls flew off center (this theory didn't prove true, even though Sir Issac Newton weighed in on the subject), but the connection between the two sphere's is documented at that level. The use of dimpling made all the difference on golf ball flight trajectory. Perhaps what I wrote wasn't in any history books, but given the dialogue about the two dissimilar balls, it's not inconcievable and stranger discoveries have been made under even stranger circumstances. Thanks for the bridge offer anyhow :).
   Thumper - Monday, 04/10/06 11:58:40 EDT

Hofi were are you teaching at In the USA?
Yamin This might be for iron oxide or steel which ever but when iron/steel rusts it goes by levels and basically decomps so the top layer fails off and a new layer is revieled for oxidation.
Jesse go to armourarcheive.org (I think thats right scroll up to friday's posting that site should be there incase I didn't spell it right)
I wish I could come to the demonstration that ken is throughing but I have school and my truck gets like 10 miles to the gallon highway which driving from eastern kansas to tennesee would cost me more than i want to think about. Will there by any chance be a web cam feed for this event or anything along those lines?? If so were can I acess the feed at? By the way I got the tin to finally take form on my gauntlets I had to tack them to a piece of steel pipe and heat them up and let them cool for about 36 hours. Then I grinded the weld off and they stayed. I thought it would work and it did so I got 1 word SWEET. By the way I don't like to use ball pein hammers on smithing big things but they do come in handy on bending the finger gauntlets bending them and all. Just make sure of ONE THING the head wont fly off. HAd that happen to me and lets just say hitting a propane tank nozzle for a BBQ grill WASNT A GOOD THING. I did how ever dispose of the tank in the proper manor TOOK IT THE COUNTY dump and told them what happened. By the way whats all the hub bub about the HOFI power hammers did I miss something about them? No offense ment towards hofi himself.
   - Tyler - Monday, 04/10/06 12:17:39 EDT

Just out of curiostiy how many people live in Kansas and still freak out about tornadoes? Cause i have one thing to say about them. Thats great there giant swirling vortexes of death and there frequent in kansas anything else new in kansas? Really whats new please tell me. Why do people freak out about tornaodoes in kansas I think there awesome I stand on my front porch and look around when the sirens go off but thats just me
PS just saw the thing from quenchcrack. No offense ment towards anyone and may god have mercy on the peoples souls that died AMEN
   - Tyler - Monday, 04/10/06 12:29:12 EDT

Rob; What you would wind up with would be a 14" diameter container of powdered concrete, starting with the first good hit. The 1/4" plate is nowhere near rigid enough to pound on, and it would flex like a drumhead. You'd be better off with a good, heavy chunk of junkyard steel of 100 pounds or more. Our esteemed Thomas Powers has beat a lot of iron on a piece of discarded boxcar coupler, for instance.
   3dogs - Monday, 04/10/06 12:31:51 EDT

I like Thumpers story. That’s the kind of thing that adds color and texture to the fabric of life.
   manidemers.com - Monday, 04/10/06 14:02:56 EDT

Encased Concrete Anvils: Guess we need a FAQ on this one. It keeps coming up.

What you are proposing makes an "OK" stock stand or base for a "third hand". Otherwise is is pretty useless.

1) Concrete is not nearly as heavy as folks give it credit. It weighs 144 pounds per cubic foot compared to steel at 490 pounds. A 3.4 : 1 difference.

2) Concrete is hard when apposed to flesh but its modulus of rupture is only 600 to 700 PSI and overall compressive strength 5,000 PSI. The lowest grade of cast iron has a rupture strength of 26,000 PSI and compressive strength of 83,000 PSI. Modulus of rupture does not apply to steel (you cannot even compare steel and casti-iron, much less concrete).

3) When concrete is exposed to high temperatures steam is created and it spalls (explodes). This is both dangerous and makes a mess of the concrete.

4) Most concrete shrinks when it hardens and dries. When a steel container is filled with it the concrete eventualy pulls away from the surface of the container leaving loose spots.

5) Steel stacked up flat does not make a good anvil as the transmission of the impact force through a boundry is very poor. Steel over a softer substance provides little or no added benifit. Concrete has no rebound thus would not add anything to a steel plate laying over top of it.

Too light, too weak, not heat resistant, not a good design. . . Concrete is good for many things but not for anvils.

When using concrete for dead weight you can increase its density somewhat by replacing the stone agregate with steel shot and slugs or even old nuts and bolts. In nuclear they ised to use a very heavy dense stone as the agregate. Steel is still three times heavier. However it cannot replace all the stone or the sand.

When filling steel containers with concrete a network of steel rebar welded to the container will help reduce shrinkage. If added mass is the goal the rebar also adds that.

Concrete filled machinery bases have been tried and failed due to shrinkage and breakdown of the concrete. It can be done but it does not replace steel or cast iron.
   - guru - Monday, 04/10/06 14:20:41 EDT

I'm new to blacksmithing and would like to get started in it, my question is would an open sided shop with just a roof to keep out rain and a earth floor be sufficient for the forge and anvil etc.? I would have a seperate smaller shop for my machine tools, and for storing hammers, tongs, chisels etc.
   masina - Monday, 04/10/06 14:56:27 EDT


Open air shops are the best under certain circumstances.

1) Is theft going to be a problem?

2) Does your climate alow year round outdoor work AND do you need to work in your shop in the winter?

If the answer to both of these is no then an open air shop is great. They have the advantage of having excellent ventilation, light and room for oversized work.

Earthen floors are fine provided the soil is high in sand or clay or both. Fertile loams with high degrees of organic matter are inflamable and hot steel dropped on it will start a smouldering fire that you may not notice until your entire shop is in flames. Hard clay is best. Fine gravel over clay is OK. Sand is difficult to keep flat.

The down side to open air shops is that wind can make it difficult to work OR under certain circumstances smoke will collect instead of blowing away. Hoods and stacks are sometimes useless but needed otherwise. However, open air shops using charcoal or gas need no chimney.

You want the floor to be a high spot or have good drainage around your building so that the floor stays dry.
   - guru - Monday, 04/10/06 15:19:18 EDT

Kevin there are several ways which i dont want to get into. The easiest is just mark out the size with the orginal hand gaurd and enlarge it thats the easiest way to do it and the hilt just find a nice piece of oak and widdel it down to the size you want then when thats done hallow the inside out and you should be able to fit the hilt of the blade into the oak hilt and make sure its a tight fit other wise your blade can come out if you swing it and kill some one or damage a wall really bad. Thats the way I do those types of things but when i do i make sure they weapon is for display use only and not for fencing or stuff like that then thats an entirely different mounting process.
PS scabbarbs are a pain to make and if you live some were cold and you use your sword alot then have fun if its leather it can shrink so much that you can pull your sword out of the scabbard untill you warm it up. Had that happen to me a few times this winter and to my buddies.
   - Tyler - Monday, 04/10/06 15:25:47 EDT

another thing I for got to mention I dont use a blade smithing anvil I use a normal good old every day anvil and might I add it works very well. But I have one problem my face is starting to bowel a litle can I fix this or do I need to get another anvil. IT was made in 1888 so I'dimagine its ready for a little TLC. The bowel is only 150 thousandths deep but it still affects my armor making and my knife blade forging.
   - Tyler - Monday, 04/10/06 15:39:12 EDT

Lets leave the urban legends to the sites that specialize in them. "Back Derrivations" are a common and misleading way to go. If you need more colour in your life there is a great possum thread going on across the street.

Tyler, medieval swords had wooden scabbards that were then covered with leather.

There is a specific term for folks who go outside when the tornado siren goes off---it's "evolution in action".

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/10/06 15:44:09 EDT

I am a Certified Journeyman Farrier so I've got experience with welding, etc.. in the forge.
I was recently aproached with the idea of melting glass (beer bottles)into blocks. My questions are the proper procedure to melt and cool my glass. I would also like your opinion on which forge to buy or build for this process. I,ve always used propane but am leaning toward coal. Thank you for any help you can give.
James Irvine
   james irvine - Monday, 04/10/06 17:28:35 EDT

I have sorta experemented with glass and iron composite jobs. FOr fun and self education mostly.
All I can say is coal or gas work OK Just be aware the glass in a semi-molten state will stick in and BURN you like crazy.
Do not have a crowd around as they will distracy you at the crucial point be all of you hurt. Glass will get real runny
fast and then you will have long strings of hot molten glass all over the place. I sujest you start just will the neck portion so you can learn the glass dynamics with a SMALL piece so you do not have a large potential burn and fire inciedent. Just my opinion. Remember that heat and glass or metal are inheriently DANGEROUS events. Wear the PPE needed. long sleeves, pants, closed shoes, preferably leather as well as leather apron.
James why BTW are you wanting to make glass blocks from beer bottles? Also do you know a Jerry from up that area?
   Ralph - Monday, 04/10/06 18:13:31 EDT

Whoa.....attitude about the discussion of the possible origin of the name "ball pein"? Let's lighten up some shall we? I humbly apologize to anyone I've besmirched who's name begins or ends in the words "ball" or "pein,peen,pien". If I wanted less color in my life, I suppose I could go to the MIT Metallurgical chat room for entertainment but I choose this site instead, because it is entertaining AND informative and filled with creative and inqusitive minds which lead to similarly intriguing questions and answers.
   Thumper - Monday, 04/10/06 18:15:23 EDT

Balance blocks and pivots out of an large scale(semi scale). Any body know what type and number of steel might be? Freddie Haire gave me several pieces of this steel.

   sandpile - Monday, 04/10/06 20:18:12 EDT


Can you spark test them? Test the unknown to a known.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/10/06 20:32:13 EDT

Alright, no concrete anvils.
Masina, my shop is all out-door. By my experience, outdoor seems to be the best option, at least for me. There is no loud echo every time you pound steel, there's nothing better for ventilation, and it's great to be working outside in the fresh air. The soil around my area is stirdy enough to hold up under pressure for about 3 months in one spot. This is of course my area however, and my biggest problem is wind.
   - Rob - Monday, 04/10/06 21:09:26 EDT

Hello Frank. how have you and yours been??-- I have some S7, but no H series. I suspect this stuff is really hard.

I put the smallest piece in the forge, if it drops down to a darker orange it gets hard. I did not hammer on it at a red.

I am going to call the scale company tomorrow. They probably will not know what it is, but again they might.
   sandpile - Monday, 04/10/06 21:18:02 EDT

Weather: Tornados about a week ago were about 60-80 miles to the west of me. The one (or more) last Friday apparently hit a couple of miles to the SW and about 30 miles to the NE. Found tornado debris in yard, such as coke can, plastic milk jug and pieces of siding and asphalt roof shingles. I was in OH at the time and was asked at the air hammer workshop if they hit my area. Now pleased to say no. My storm shelter is buckled in my one-ton Dodge flatbed. About 6,700 pounds so it isn't going far anyway. At least better than the tin can I live in.

My new air hammer is in the shop and operating. Will be available for hands-on operation at the Anvilfire.com Hammer-In on my farm April 21-23. Weighed hammer at Co-op at 710 pounds. About a 70-lb ram with top die. Anvil is 6" round MS 32". Flat dies, 4140, oil quenched.

At this point SOF&A's design is still more or less in the prototyping stage.

Trying to operate it on a 2 1/2 HP compressor. Not up to full-power, but a lot of that may be a 1/4" air hose. Will purchase a larger diameter hose to see if it makes a difference.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/10/06 21:43:40 EDT

Air Hose / Piping: Ken for power hammers this needs to be pretty large. 1/2" and UP. Hammer will run well for a heat IF you are lucky and can drain the tank. Then you will need to wait for it to pump back up. Chambersburg called for an inlet pipe of 1" on hammers from 100 to 300 pounds then 1-1/2". 3/4" is probably as big as a 100 needs. and the 300 1-1/4". However, when specing plumbing for industrial use they kept it simple. 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3. . .

They also recommeded a dedicated reciever near the hammer. When using a portable air compressor you just put it close and use a short hose. Hose length is a HUGE killer on air flow and pressure.

   - guru - Monday, 04/10/06 22:00:47 EDT

hi. i am wanting to learn how to forge swords and have a question. what are the pros/cons of a gas forge and coal forge when it comes to smithing swords.
i would REALLY appreciate finding out.


(please do not give out this email address)

thanks again
   Wayne C - Monday, 04/10/06 22:02:36 EDT

Scale Weights: The will be anything from cast iron to medium carbon steel. Manufacturer may not even know. Pivots and arms are a different story and will be speced pretty close. However, manufacturers usualy consider this information proprietary.
   - guru - Monday, 04/10/06 22:06:26 EDT

Jock these pieces are from a huge 100 foot scale for weighing in and out of a feed yard. The pieces I am wondering about are the 6"X3/4"X3/4" with a groove down the middle for the balance blocks to sit in.

This scale has been in operation since the eightys and this is the first time the blocks have been replaced and there is no visible wear. They will weight up to a hundred trucks a day. This stuff is really hard.
   sandpile - Monday, 04/10/06 22:17:49 EDT

Hello Jock,
I hope you are well. Do you have any current info on the Mark Krause hammer plans? Are they still available? Do you have current contact details for Mark?
   Bruce Beamish - Tuesday, 04/11/06 01:56:30 EDT

Is there informatio available on the Catalan Forge, and how to construct one? Thanks
   Duane Chellevold - Tuesday, 04/11/06 03:10:30 EDT

Could you elaborate your expertise about the following?
1. Forge Bar and Billet - high temperature alloys;

2. Caster - evaluate and implement line-ups to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and product quality in arc melting, continuous casting and primary processing;

3. Strip Finishing with a focus on continuous improvement to reduce cycle times and manage process controls to reduce variation and improve product quality;

4. Cold heading and cold forming specializing in nickel-based alloys

   - Bill - Tuesday, 04/11/06 04:02:24 EDT

Dear Gurgh I am a entry level Meta1lurgist, these questions are part of an interview.
1. Forge Bar and Billet - high temperature alloys;

2. Caster - evaluate and implement line-ups to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and product quality in arc melting, continuous casting and primary processing;

3. Strip Finishing with a focus on continuous improvement to reduce cycle times and manage process controls to reduce variation and improve product quality;

4. Cold heading and cold forming specializing in nickel-based alloys

   Bill - Tuesday, 04/11/06 04:10:05 EDT

Bill: No offense but if you are an entry level metallurgist you should already have at least a bachelor's degree in the subject field. Thus, you should already be familiar with the reference sources for such information. If not, you wouldn't make much of an employee.

Rather sound like homework questions to me.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 04/11/06 05:21:41 EDT

Catalan Forge; Duane:

There has been a lot of work with small bloomeries of late, but very little (to my knowledge) with the Catalan forge. I'll check some of my sources at home tonight. In the meantime a net search may help you find further information, especially since they continued in use, at least in the Appalachian mountains of the U.S., into the late 19th or early 20th centuries as bloomeries.

Colonial Williamsburg built one about 20 years ago, and published a report in a book on crafts. I had a copy, but it seemed to have walked away. You may want to check with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to see if the book is still in print; a quick search of the site turns up: Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Volume 8, No. 2; Winter 1985 "It's Ironmaking Time" by David Harvey (9 pages).

One of the key factors to note about the Catalan forge is that where the smaller, early medieval bloomeries were small-time operations, supplied and operated by three of four people, these are beginning to be on an industrial scale, requiring a lot more people to “feed the beast.” Not as much as a blast furnace, but certainly more than the small bloomeries. The payoff is efficiency in production- more wrought iron or steel per man-hour (but you still have to invest a lot more men and hours).

Please keep us informed if you find any good sites.

Cool and clear on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 04/11/06 09:04:47 EDT

Bloomeries: Lee Sauder and
Skip Williams at theRockbridge Bloomery have done more research and published more on the subject than anyone I know.

They started with a large elaborate furnace that took a LONG day to fire with poor results. Now they have the process down to the essentials. This trick is the firing DETAILS more than the furnace. Fuel size, how much air and when, roasting the ore, ore types. . .

People all over the world have been working on this process and in perhaps the last 10 years or less we have gone from mearly knowing what the furnaces to looked like and what was done with them to all the details of operation.

Although there is no economic purpose in making iron this way the new knowledge of historical methods is very important.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 09:24:04 EDT

Duane Chellevold,

Catalan Forge Process.

There is a paragraph and a diagram on the process of making "spongy iron" by the direct Catalan Forge process in Hugh P. Tiemann, "Iron and Steel a Pocket Encyclopedia", 3rd edition, 1933. The cross-sectional diagram of the forge and the information was taken from Thurston, "Iron and Steel".

The forge is described as a large open-fronted hearth with some depth to it and sides to hold the charcoal and ore. The hearth has a stack and usually a single tuyere inserted about two feet below the level of the top of the fuel. It takes about 3 hours to form a 300 pound mass of iron, the mass being lifted out from under the fuel and worked under the hammer into "a bloom or loup". One furnace was expected to produce from one ton to 2500 pounds of iron per day. Thurston estimated that it took about 3500 to 5000 pounds of charcoal and 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 tons of selected ore per one ton of blooms. The selected ore was equivalent to from 2 1/2 to 4 tons of ore, as mined.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/11/06 10:58:44 EDT

just to start off i want to say ive been a fan of anvil fire for a long time and think its a really good site for many like myself wanting to do some of this themselves. Recently though i decided to want to become a smith myself mabe due to my love for fantasy stories or what not but im having seconds doubt about only about ten percent but still its there and was wondering what a real smith would do after the training or what not so if you could help me out with more or less some information on different things that you do with the skill as a career.
   kong lo - Tuesday, 04/11/06 11:04:14 EDT

I have to agree with Ken on this one. Given I am no metallurgist and don't plan on studying the subject any more than I need to. Those do sound like home work questions and should be very easy to look up in a book or on the internet.
Thomas P
I know that the scabbards are made of wood and covered in leather. But they still can shrink enough to make it were you can't hardly pull your sword out of the scabbard.
I got to ask this question to because I didnt get an answer back yesterday. How do I fix the face on my anvil? It has a bowl in its face and its affecting how i make my armour and knife blades plus many other things.
James I personally wouldn't use coal just for the fact that theres alot of impurites and might possibly make the glass look smoky. But thats my thinking. I would use the propane for the glass and coal for heating metals.
   - Tyler - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:02:59 EDT

Glass- all the glassblowers I know use gas fired ovens to melt the glass. Built similarly to a forge, with refractory.
But melting it is only half the journey- to get it to cool down without cracking is the big problem.
For this, they all use computer controlled annealing ovens, usually electric. These have small Plc controlled thermostats to cool the glass over time- usually at least 12 to 24 hours, but often longer for heavier pieces. I have heard of big chunks needing controlled temp drops over several days.

   - Ries - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:13:39 EDT

As a carreer. . kong lo, this is a difficult question. It depends a great deal on the individual and their location. There are few blacksmiths shops where one can simply apply for a job and go to work. Most blacksmiths are self employed in a range of occupations. Blacksmithing is also a good skill to give engineers and metallurists practical experiance rather than just theoretical.

Artist blacksmiths are generally self employed creating art, architictural work or historic reproductions. Some do nothing but sculptural art and others specialize in architectural gates, railings and such. Famous artists such as Alexander Calder used blacksmithing in their work and blacksmiths such as Simon Benneton are more artist than smith.

Fabricatiors are builders of architectural railings and from purchased elements which they weld together. Most do no forging, it is all cut, weld and grind. In the past they could purchase simple decorative elements made by others but today they can purchase some really well made hand forged elements. This has blurred the line between fabricator and blacksmith and many fabricators are looking at forging to expand their market into higher level work. Fabricators employ numerous workers to do fitup, cutting, welding, grinding and finishing.

Armourers still have a place making armour for theater, reinactors and movies. Some is only for show while much is also made to historical standards. Most armourers are self employed.

Bladesmiths often forge blades, parts of blades or make their own material. Generally they specialize in a size or type of blade. There is a large market for high quality hand crafted knives. However, the size of the market has also created a great deal of competition as well as spurred imports.

Hobby Smiths are a large segment of modern smithing. As a hobby they do not need to make a living at their craft but many do earn a suplemental income. Hobby smiths are often as well equiped as professionals and ocassionaly have skills equal to top professionals. In the U.S. the vast number of smiths are Hobby Smiths. Hobby smiths fill the blacksmithing schools and keep the tool suppliers in business.

Hobby Smiths also do a lot or reinacting and primitive smithing. Time periods range from the late Bronze Age to WWII. To many the challange of learning to set up to forge in a stone age environment is a goal in itself.

There are more. Jewelers and smiths are closely related with the primary difference being the size of the work they produce. Auto body and motorcyle customizers often employ blacksmithing techniques. Makers of steel drums use techniques akin to making plate armour and must have a feel for temper as well as a musical sense. Besides fabricators that do architectural work there are shops that specializing in commercial bending and welding. Machine shops often need someone that can make something other than by making chips. Then there are folks that make orthopedic braces and specialty medical appliances. Many of the shapes they create by cutting and grinding can be efficiently made by forging.

It is not the universal skill but it can be applied in many situations. As you study it you will find more applications.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:15:10 EDT

Anvil fix: Tyler, dont. We have gone into wht whys and why nots many times here.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:18:06 EDT

Kong Lo-
There are a lot of different kinds of blacksmiths today- some of them actually have jobs, but most of them MAKE their own jobs.
There are a few jobs out there for blacksmiths- you could google Scots Forge, for example, to see a big company that hires industrial blacksmiths.
There are a fair amount of knifemakers, and even a few swordmakers, who support themselves- but they must have incredible drive, business skills, and stick to itiveness, along with skill as a bladesmith.
There are art blacksmiths who make furniture, fireplace tools, and hardware.
There are ornamental blacksmiths who make fences, gates, window grilles, and stairs.
There are liturgical blacksmiths who make religious items.
There are Toolmaking blacksmiths, who make woodworking tools, metalworking tools, jewelers tools, and custom stone carving tools.
There are jobs out there- not a lot, and not easy to get, but there are some.
But I would say you have to love the trade, and study it, much more than you would to be a plumber, electrician, or a software writer.
Which is good, in my opinion, as it selects out a lot of mediocre types we find in many industrial trades.
If you go to the blacksmith ring link on this site, there are over 180 different sites, many showing contemporary blacksmiths, and the range of work they do.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:21:07 EDT

I have that Williamsburg publication at home, if it's unpacked I can give you the cite on it. IIRC they had not gotten it working very well when they published.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:27:33 EDT

I'm going to try to make some wootz steel. Here's my plan: make a volcano-like structure from red clay, fill it with charcoal and mild steel, light it, turn the blast on, wait for it to melt, let it cool, and pull the wootz out. Will this work? Do I need to keep it molten for a certain amount of time to let it absorb the carbon and also, what makes it show a pattern?
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:48:29 EDT

Blacksmiths at Scot Forge:

Actually, while we do have a postion title "blacksmith" it is not what you would think. At Scot Forge, a blacksmith is the lead man on a 4 man crew. He is resposible for making sure that finished forgings are correct in terms of size. I have never seen a production forging held with tongs or forged with a hand held hammer. All our forgings are large enough that heavy equipment is used for handling. I doubt that we would be able to find a person with the necessary skills off the street to serve as a blacksmith. What we do is hire people who are willing to work very hard 60 hrs a week and train them in house. You start of as a Grinder, move to Blacksmith's helper, and then to Blacksmith. It usually takes quite a few years to be promoted to blacksmith because the promotion is given only when there is an opening.

More traditonal industrial blacksmithing is done by the maintaince departments at large closed die forge shops such as Clifford Jacobs and Ladish. Both of these companies employ a blacksmith to make tools for use on the production hammers. I know there are several other closed die shops with simialar set ups. Several years ago while I was between jobs I actually saw a job opening posted on Monster.com for a blacksmith to reforge pavement breakers, and when I worked at GM there was a blacksmith in the maintaince shop who made hooks and reforged air chisels. So there are industrial blacksmith out there, but most of these companies don't expect to find a blacksmith ready work, rather they train them in house, just as Scot Forge does. I have heard that some of the larger onamental ironwork shops do higher blacksmiths who have gone through the collgiate blackmsmithing programs no offered by a few universities.

   Patrick Nowak - Tuesday, 04/11/06 12:55:30 EDT

Tyler: That is not wootz, that's simple remelting to form a bloom, and will take much more charcoal than you suspect. When Don Fogg's forum is back up (which they promise will be soon!) I strongly suggest you go there and read the archives from the smelting forum. Better yet, do a web search on Wootz, particularly searching for the .pdf format dissertation on the same by Ann Feuerbach and a similar work by Paul Verhoeven.

Direct reduction of iron oxide (iron ore) to steel is possible in a bloomery furnace, which is almost but not quite what you describe. Wootz ("bulat" in Russian and Persian) is a crucible steel with rather specific alloy constituents. These alloy constituents are what form the large, abrasion-resistant carbides which produce the distinctive dendritic patterns of hyper-eutectoid crucible steels. It's a LOT more than iron and carbon stewing in a fire.

May I also suggest looking at knifenetwork.com/forums, particularly the Outpost and Historical Inspiration sections.

I have made some buttons of crucible-reduced magnetite ore steel that shows dendritic carbides but isn't really wootz in a gas forge. It can be done, but you really need to understand exactly what you're trying to do before you attempt it unless you really get your crank turned by inexplicable failures.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 04/11/06 13:08:33 EDT

I can't find rivets locally for blacksmithing. Who sells them online at a reasonable price? Thanks
   Mike H - Tuesday, 04/11/06 13:08:42 EDT

Resurfacing Anvils:


Pretty much says it all...

Wootz Steel: If it were that simple they would have made a lot more of it, and everybody would be doing it. Sounds like you need a lot more studying before you even try it. What's your crucible made of? How is it sealed? What's your carbon source in the crucible? How long do you keep it at heat? How hot?

Experimentation is good, but to go off half-cocked, before you've done all the research and gathered the facts and put a little experience under your belt, is to set yourself up for continuous frustration.

Hit the books until they don't hit back; and then get ambitious when you find the questions that they can't answer.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 04/11/06 13:24:47 EDT

Oh, and what Alan said! ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 04/11/06 13:27:00 EDT

Mike H,

You can find some rivets through the Centaur Forge catalog and website. I have the same problem, although I can hear some of the "old-timers" in my mind saying "Why don't you just make them yourself, after all, you ARE a blacksmith aren't you?" I have also had a small amount of luck finding some small rivets at a local Salvage/Liquidation store. You never know where you might find them.
   Paul Bilodeau - Tuesday, 04/11/06 13:27:54 EDT

Thumper - I thought your hypothosis was intersting (and not far of topic)!! :) whats the url for the MIT Metallurgical chat room - sounds interesting....

Is Scots forge one of the biggest in the US? - some tasty looking kit in there!
   john n - Tuesday, 04/11/06 13:28:16 EDT

Dear, guru I live in the thumb of michigan and I cant find any tools to get started in blacksmithin. Were Should I look
   CJ - Tuesday, 04/11/06 14:54:49 EDT

Paul, I knew when I asked the question that somebody would tell me to make them myself. :) I would much rather spend my time doing other things however. Thanks for the input. I'll check them out.
   Mike H - Tuesday, 04/11/06 15:15:25 EDT

Mike H: Have you tried Centaur Forge and Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools for rivets? Both are forum advertisers. Just click on the NAVIGATE anvilfire box and scroll down to suppliers. Centaur has mostly short length rivets. I have some up to 4" and suitable for large strap hinges.

As far as a resonable price bear in mind pretty well anything made out of steel has gone up significantly in price within the past two years.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 04/11/06 15:23:45 EDT


- Click on the NAVIGATE anvilfire box in upper right then scroll down to ABANA Affilitate Link. The group which covers your area may be able to help you find tools.

- Try placing a classified ads in nearby small town newspapers to the effect: WANTED: Blacksmithing tools. XXX-XXXX. Still lots of anvils, pan forges and some hand tools in outbuildings, etc.

- Get in the habit of asking just about anyone you encounter where you might find blacksmithing tools in your area. Someone may remember Old Lady McClusky's husband was the area blacksmith and may still have his tools.

- Ask tool sellers are flea markets. Perhaps they have heavier tools at home they just didn't want to lug around.

- Always eBay, but watch out for S&H costs.

- For new professional-level tools use the navigate link down to forum advertisers.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 04/11/06 15:29:36 EDT

I am looking for a resource for already patined zinc for a countertop. We need the 'aged' look at the time of installtion.
Thank you,

   Jennifer Kalister - Tuesday, 04/11/06 15:29:59 EDT

This is for the newb's looking for tools and reading materials. Tools can be found in a variety of places I have had lots of luck finding them at auctions and welding supply shops. As for the reading material go to your library and ask for the Internet loan. There is a forum on this stie for books to read. I have read a few of them and there well worth the recomendations.
   - Tyler - Tuesday, 04/11/06 15:57:24 EDT

Scale knife edges and the mating pivot blocks frequently were made of stellite in high-grade mechanical truck scales. This is a non-ferrous alloy. in later units I have seen them made of M2, carbide and other alloys. I have an antique 2000 lb platform scale and in it they were originaly made of 1095, and were rusted out when I got the scale. I replaced them with M2 from ground toolbits, and recalibrated the scale.

   - John Odom - Tuesday, 04/11/06 16:23:21 EDT

What is the process to make the diamond shape in the center of a cross where the vertical and horizontal portions meet?
   - spec3 - Tuesday, 04/11/06 16:33:29 EDT

look at iforge demo 56. It should point you in the correct way
   Ralph - Tuesday, 04/11/06 17:09:27 EDT

Rivets: If you type in the word Rivet in Google the two largest suppliers of rivets are advertised links. Then as pointed out we have a couple suppliers that provide rivets.

MANY, MANY years ago you could walk into any hardware store and buy a variety of steel rivets. You could mail order them from Sears and other places. Those times are gone. If you want commercial rivets of a certain size then you must order them from the few suppliers left and wait.

Why make Rivets? Because it is a BASIC task. In blacksmithing you will need rivets in an almopst infinite variety of sizes and shapes. You will not be able to inventory them all. In decorative work a hand made head will not look like a machine made head. If you need continuity in your work you make them (or use finishing headers.

For some jobs we order rivets in bulk. I used to make a riveted shovel and dustpan from 16ga steel. For these I needed 3/16 x 3/8" rivets, lots of them. The minimum order was 25 pounds (based in dollars) at the time. I will have enough short 3/16" rivets for the rest of my life. . .

For making tongs it is nice to use comercial rivets. I stock a few 3/8" by 1" for this purpose. However, tongs need 5/16" x 1, 3/8" x 1-1/8, 3/8" by 1-1/4, 13/32 x 1-1-1/2. . . if you make a range of sizes. Many smiths take a long bolt that has enough plain shank and cut them off. . .

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 17:56:19 EDT

Can't Find Tools: CJ, Like my post on Rivets above, there WAS a time when you could walk into ANY hardware store and buy blacksmithing tools. There ARE a few rural stores that carry a handful of farriers tongs, a hammer and rasps, but that is IT. If you want NEW tools you order them by mail order or on-line. All the major suppliers advertise here and have on-line stores with cart systems. If you have the money they have the tools, from every size and type of tongs to anvils, flypresses and power hammers.

If you are looking for used tools they are everywhere. You just have to ask questions and follow the leads. However, used tools are not FREE tools. Although they MAY be less expensive than new in most cases blacksmithing tools usualy do not wear out. Things like forges rust out more often than not. Two hundred year old anvils are good useful tools and just barely becoming antiques to collectors.

Where to start: What do you need? You need to knoe what it is called, what it looks like and how to describe it to people that do not know.

If you are looking for free tools then ask ALL your relatives. This is a good time to look into your geneaology. That Great Aunt you never knew you had may have had a husband that was a tool collector OR at least had an anvil and forge out in the garage or barn. . Then ask your neighbors. THEY may have a Great Aunt. . . You would be surprised at how many free anvils folks have been given simply because they showed and interest in using them. Have a good reason to tell them them why you want to get into blacksmithing and it better NOT be "I wanna make a swword". The generation that has these tools lived through WWI, WWII and Vietnam and killing and mayhem are not fun and games.

If you FIND that free anvil be sure to pay the poor widow AT LEAST $1/pound. It is worth twice that and I don't want to be telling you how to take advantage of poor widows.

Go down to the local farmers or hunters hangout before dawn. Yeah, that may be the local truck stop or greasy spoon that you would NEVER otherwise go into. Strike up a conversation with anyone and ask if they know anyone around these parts that has blacksmithing tools. Same as above. If you tell them you wanna make a swoord you may get bounced out on your ear. Be prepared to talk about the "good old days", the depression, John Deere tractors, pump shotguns. If someone has a cache of tools these old boys KNOW where it is. You just gotta become friends and jog their memory. OBTW - They do not know what OBTW means and if you wear ear rings or body jewelery then they are going to think you are a low life hippie and if they DO tell you anything then the directions are probably going to lead you down to a swamp with no way out. . .

Ask questions, follow leads, many are dead ends OR require asking more questions. It is WORK. There are easier ways.

Go to the nearest blacksmith organization meeting. You can look them up on the web. NO, they are probably NOT going to be in YOUR town. But there is at least one group in every state or province and more in denser populations. You are going to need to travel. However, it is less travel than going to every farm sale, every country antique store and following every wild lead. . . .

At most blacksmith gatherings folks bring tools to sell and trade. Sometimes this is a traveling dealer with new tools, sometimes it is guys with side business that traveled farther than YOU or they are others with excessive tools of one kind or another looking to trade or convert to cash.

Once in a great while I will haggle with a tailgater. But I have done the time looking for tools and these guys are FINDERS. They know how and where and put in the hours so you and I do not need to. THAT is worth something.

Look at past editions of our NEWS. There are photos of thousands of anvils, tongs, forges. . . all found and for sale by tailgaters at blacksmith meets.

Every time I go to one of these things I almost always buy something. I usualy spend $200 on deals that are too good to pass by. The last thing I bought was a little 124 pound Mousehole anvil for $75. Shortly after that I won a medium duty universal bench vise in iron-in-the-hat for $15 worth of tickets. Prior to the little anvil I bought a nice beakhorn stake for $95. $185 spent on what would be about $800 worth of tools. AND I also had to travel to the events where these were. But that is part of my job. If I was going in search of tools I would have a couple thousand to spend each trip and shop carefully.

Inexpensive, yes, free, no. Good tools are never cheap.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 18:42:45 EDT

Zinc Countertop: We have had several questions over the years about zinc countertops. My first question is always WHY a zinc countertop. It is a soft, highly reactive metal that oxidizes both black and white. Yeah, they are all the rage in Europe. . .

I checked a couple sites that offered zinc countertops and they only offered clean new surfaces. One problem with "pre patinated" surfaces is that nothing corrodes evenly. Furniture and counter tops do not destress enenly. If you are looking for "old" it will have to be done in place.

Zinc is used because it is fairly corosion resistant. However it developes a thin white oxidation when exposed to rain water (very dilute carbonic acid). Bare zinc when exposed to salts and oil (such as from one's hands) turns a grey then black.

Often zinc countertops are cleaned and or polished then lacquered. The resulting wear through spots are part of the aging process. Many metals oxidize under varnishes as well.

On finishing.com they had no good advise to evenly patinating zinc. One suggestion was a salt paste, the other tomatoes (by a woman looking for a food-safe acid).

If you must produce your own antiqued surface, I would start by mechanicaly distreessing the surface. Rough it up with super coarse sand paper, scratch with nails. Then try to remove the scratches with fine sandpaper (180 grit wet or dry followed by 240 grit). Afterwards clean the surface to remove every trace of oil. Apply an acid such as dilute Muriatic acid. Do this outdoors with plenty of ventilation. Applying acids to metals releases very nasty fumes. Reapply if necessary. When there is a good coarse surface then rinse and neutralize with backing soda solution.

Polish some more. Treat with salt. Apply a thin coat of vegatable oil. By now (a week at least) it should look pretty disreputable. Clean. Seal with clear lacquer if you want the oxidation to slow as much as possible. Clean then varnish if you want slow continuing oxidation.

If I wanted an aged in place look then I would finish on the counter using clear lacquer and glazes black tint and or black rubbed into the distressed surface. Then I would wear through the wear areas using sandpaper to remove the finish then polish the metal in those spots. The result should leave some ragged edges to the finish. Then I would finish over this. . .

LOTS of work. But it can be done. The above IS NOT a proven method, just a suggestion. There are other acids that may work better and faster. I would lean toward mechanical surface distressing including the above as well as heavy sand blasting then a paint/glaze finish. Note that paint doesn't not stick well to bright zinc and the usual method is to flatten the surface with an acid (or LOTS of time) prior to painting.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 19:49:16 EDT

Ken Scharabok-
What size air cylinder did you use for you hammer? I have an 8 inch dia x 30 inch shaft that I can use as an anvil, which would probably do for a fairly large hammer, but I don't want to get too large a compressor, since this is just a hobby.

I was aiming for about a 40 lb ram, similar to one of the smaller hammers in the Junk-Yard Hammer section. I can get a 1.6 x 12 inch air cylinder locally, but I don't know if that will work. I already have a couple of 2.5 x 12 inch cylinders, but I sustpect that they might consume too much air...or would that be better assuming that I could run at a lower pressure?

I might have gone a bit overboard on the anvil size but I don't want the hammer to break up my garage floor.
   DonS - Tuesday, 04/11/06 20:23:02 EDT

Kong Lo

Blacksmiths, Don't over look historical parks. Last year I spent the summer working at Rockledge Ranch at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Pay was low but it was the best job of my life. I was given 3000' of steel, a forge, an anvil, a hammer, told to have fun and talk the to public about blacksmithing. The period of our site was between 1865 and 1910. General Palmer, the one time owner of the site, was the developer of CF&I steel, Denver Rio Grand Railroad and built Colorado Springs.
My Boss was trained as a blacksmith by Francis Whittaker, and studied in Europe. We built a new brick forge, repaired a great bellows and made hardware for the site. Other smiths volunteered at the site, and there were demos by visiting smiths. A picture of Francis Whittaker making a forgeweld was above the anvil and Frank Turley’s signature was on the wall for inspiration. We taught classes, dressed in funny clothes, cooked meals on the wood stoves, drove draft horses, butchered pigs, raised a garden, hauled manure, chopped wood, played old timey music, and made people smile. They were looking for a smith for this summer. The only reason I’m not there is because of family health problems. I am currently on the volunteer list at 4 other historical sites with in 50 miles of my home. Last week my Grandaughter asked me if I could go with her on a field trip to a historical "With A Blacksmith Shop, Grandpa" park in Golden Colorado, I told her no, I had to work, She was very supprised to find that grandpa was to working in that same blacksmith shop today when they came through. The kids were impressed when I told them that her Great, Great, Great, Grandpa, had a blacksmith shop 110 years ago 30 miles from where we stood. Best S-hook I ever made.
   habu68 - Tuesday, 04/11/06 21:00:20 EDT

I have a question about arc welding electrodes. Once a box has been opened and the electrodes are exposed to the air and moisture, what is the procedure for drying them back out again before storing them properly in an air tight container or electrode oven? I've been told that you can bake them in an ordinary oven to drive off the moisture. Can you tell me how it's done? Thank you kindly.
   Wendy - Tuesday, 04/11/06 21:02:09 EDT

Being from Michigan you might look up Tillers down by Kalamazoo. www.wmich.edu/tillers they are a great group and offer a variety of classes in blacksmithing, tool making, timberframing, knifemaking, etc. I've taken several classes there and the instructors are all great.

   eckfordblacksmith - Tuesday, 04/11/06 21:15:12 EDT

Is is true that blacksmiths didn't shoe horseshoes? I am just getting into the blacksmithing biz and just wanted to know for when people ask. I also was wondering if if is considered heresy to use modern tools such as a mig welder or a milling machine in conjunction with blacksmithing and not be considered an outcast by the local abana group.

thanks for the info.
   - thenewguy - Tuesday, 04/11/06 21:47:52 EDT

DonS, for this kind of thing I highly recommend the Mark Linn air hammer video (see the AFC web site). It has plumbing as well as calculations that tell you how much air is consumed and HP needed.

Your anvil weighs 427 pounds. Using a 40 pound ram you have a 10:1 ratio. This is not going overboard, it is just about right. Lower ratios are acceptable but do not give the best efficiency or vibration resistance. However, hammers up to 100 pounds are built on anvils that size. A heavy floor distribution plate is helpful.

I would be concerend about the length of the cylinders. Bottoming them out is a disaster. You need some extra to prevent wrecking them as well as not hitting a hard stop. I do not know what your design stroke is so I cannot say.
   - guru Ex-officio - Tuesday, 04/11/06 21:56:50 EDT

Don S,

Try this site for some simple calculators that will make it easy to figure the push/pull of your cylinder at different pressures, etc. I used to have a better one, but I don't know where it went.

   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:11:33 EDT


Amen about Rockledge Ranch, Colorado Springs. A mention should probably be made about Andy Morris, the ranch manager. Andy is a walking antiquarian when it comes to knowing about early ranch and farm material-culture. He is quite a good blacksmith and a good horseman, especially with the harnessed draft horses. They had an Indian program where a small tipi and camp were set up and manned by an "early period Indian Family". He wanted to do the camp this summer, and Rockledge can pay per hour, but the budget won't allow housing in town.

One year, Andy organized a small Indian Powwow on the grounds, and my wife and I participated.

I have demonstrated at Andy's request twice, first at the Littleton Historical Museum in 1997 near Denver, and once at Rockledge in 2004.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:23:29 EDT

Guru--I bought an old Trenton 100# anvil. Somebody used a cutting torch on the top and left gouges and pock marks in the top. I am thinking about using hard surface rod to repair the damage. Any thoughts from you about how to fix the damage and what mateials to use? The gouges are not more than about 3/16" deep on the worst ones.
   Gary Waner - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:27:07 EDT

Guru--I bought an old Trenton 100# anvil. Somebody used a cutting torch on the top and left gouges and pock marks in the top. I am thinking about using hard surface rod to repair the damage. Any thoughts from you about how to fix the damage and what mateials to use? The gouges are not more than about 3/16" deep on the worst ones.
   Gary Waner - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:27:26 EDT

I've seen more than one smith who would just use a piece of round stock with no head for a tong. The tong halves are held on the anvil with a cantilever bar under the middle. The hot slug is brought out of the forge and dropped in the hole and smacked with the hammer upsetting both ends! The cantilever helps hold the tong the right distance off the anvil, but ya still gotta be quick.
   - grant - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:29:53 EDT

Cite: "Colonial Williamsburg Historic Trades Volume 1" copyright 1988 ISSN 0897-7216, pg 19-37: Reconstructing the American Bloomery Process, David Harvey

NewGuy: In America, especially in a small town or out on the frontir there may have been only 1 local smith and they did just about everything including shoeing horses. Extant daybooks record this---IIRC "To Forge Upset and Weld" includes an example showing this.

In Europe or in cities or industrial areas the craft of farrier and blacksmith could be quite distinct. If you likie to live dangerously try asking an "old school" european smith to shoe a horse---having a hammer thrown at you is a possibility!

Also as smithing waned in the US the smith started doing a wider range of tasks to make ends meet and some of then took up shoeing.

When asked I generally tell folks that "Horses are bigger than I am and dumber than I am and that's just to scary a situation for me!" If they are really interested I explain how specialized shoeing can be these days and it just wasn't something I was interested in.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:43:01 EDT


All Nations day(Powwow) is one of the annual highlights of the year. We had over 500 people there that weekend The Indian encampment at the ranch has been documented to be at least 4000 years old by carbon dating. The Ute tirbe has no migration legend, they say, "We were here forever".

Andy Morris, Is a good blacksmith, horseman,dog trainer, manager, and a fine human, in the best tradition of the west.

Littleton Museum has a blacksmith shop to lust after.
Adams county fairgrounds has a nice shop
Golden's Astor house historical park a small but nice demo shop
Boulder County has Two shops. One at the Agicultural Heritage center near Longmont and one at The Walker Ranch near Lyons.
Pueblo Colorado has one at the old Pueblo site.
Old Bent's Fort in La Junta.
Greely Colorado also has a forge at the historical farm.
Not all of these have paying positions, butthen, not all jobs pay in money...

This is a list of just the front range of Colorado. It might be the begining of a list of historical blacksmith sites for other states.
   habu68 - Tuesday, 04/11/06 22:58:10 EDT

Arc Welding Electrodes:

Wendy, It depends on the electrodes and the use. What are known as "low hydrogen" rods cannot be used as a certified rod once damp. In fact it is requred to keep them in a "rod heater" until use. Open cans are routinly scrapped.

Any other rods used for non-certified work can be dried simply by baking at something above the boiling point for a few moments. I would use 300#&176;F. For immediate use I have dried rods with a torch. Light colored rods turn a golden brown when cooked this way. Rods that are so soaked they would sputter and not weld at all will work fine this way.

Air tight containers must be REALLY tight. The substances in rods that absorb moisture are hydroscopic and chemicaly pull water from the air. Usualy containers that are not sealed do not cut it.

For general shop storage folks often use an old refrigerator with a light bulb "heater" to keep it warm. The door seal is the important thing and prevents air change and condensation. Again, this does not apply to certified wedling rods. But if they are for general work and decorative ironwork it is a fine way to go.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 23:00:46 EDT


Low-hydrogen rods like E7018 are very hydrophilic and quickly pick up water, rendering them no longer "low hydrogen." For non-spec use, they can be dried out in an oven at 525°F for an hour or more, then stored in a heated, dried rod oven. For work that must meet spec, the rods must be considered contaminated and not used, I believe.

Ordinary rods, like E6010, E6011 and others, can be dried out at 250°F and stored in a rod box that is heated moderately, say 140° or so. They'll be just fine for a long time that way.

The American Welding Society (AWS) publishes specifications for welding rod storage. The major manufacturers of welding machines and consumables, like Miller, Lincoln, Hobart, Esab, etc. all have handbooks that give guidelines for electrode storage. Check your local welding supply or search online.

Also, "Modern Welding" by Althouse, Turnquist, et al. has solid information on electorde storage and handling.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/11/06 23:00:54 EDT

thenewguy: Some did/do some didn't/don't. In the old days a blacksmith in a remote area would do anything He could, just because there wasn't anybody else to do it. In that period a gunsmith might shoe horses if there wasn't anybody else around doing it. There are people promoting "True Path" smithing, then there are guys like Ries that combine all the tricks He has up his sleve, CNC machine tools included to produce interesting objects, and to make His buisiness profitable enough to live on. Personally I think You can use what ever will do an effective job, just be honest about what You have made and don't try to represent it as something it is not.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/11/06 23:15:24 EDT

Gouge Repair: Gary, the trick here is to fill the pit so that it stays welded. I have an anvil that someone tried to repair with nickle rod and the welds have come loose and poped out. Although this was the wrong rod it should have stayed welded. The trick is to first clean out any torch mark so there is no slag or scale. This usally means grinding out with a small die grinder. You only want it open enough to clean and get a rod in. Then you preheat the anvil to about 350°F. Weld with a high manganese rod designed for tool steel. If you work the rod right you can mix some of the surface metal into the puddle and reduce color differences as well as alloy differences. It is an art. Peen as the weld cools. After the entire anvil cools peen and grind. If you are lucky you will not have created a bigger hole than you had or cracks in the surrounding tool steel face. Clean and weld again if needed.

I always recomend NOT welding and judicious use of a grinder or working around the bad spot rather than welding and possibly wrecking a useful tool. If the cuts are only in the edges then you may be able to dress the edges and have a clean smooth anvil without welding and the possible repercussions.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/11/06 23:16:52 EDT

Wendy: in adition to vicopper's post, ordinary [NOT Low Hydrogen] rods can be stored in normal dry indor conditions for many years and work fine, but if kept in a shed or barn or a damp basment won't work well unless dried. I am about finished with a 50# box of 6011's that I purchased in '78, they havn't been kept in a special container, just in a DRY basment. We used to keep all the rods on top of the oil furnace, they were always warm, but the new furnace doesn't lend itself to rod storage. If You really must use 7018 there are some moisture resistant grades that are less sensitive to moisture absorption.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/11/06 23:28:14 EDT

Thanks for the calculator reference. The Cv calculation for the valve is real interesting. It turns out that a 1.6 inch cylinder at 96 psi in, and a 6 psi valve drop will do the same work as a 2 inch cylinder at 70 psi in, with the same valve. (Cv=2.3). Instantaneous air consuption with the larger cylinder is only about 10% more all other things being equal. A 2 inch cylinder is probably a more versatile design. Thanks again.
   DonS - Wednesday, 04/12/06 00:01:31 EDT

I will have to check out the video. I was planning to allow about 1/2 inch at the bottom of the stroke for die wear, and a couple of inches at the top, with a spring in case of excess travel. A 10 inch cylinder would give about a 7-1/2 inch usable stroke, and a 12 inch cylinder would give about 9-1/2 inch usable stroke. The longer cylinder might allow for a bit more accelleration of the ram I think.
Thanks for the info.
   DonS - Wednesday, 04/12/06 00:16:25 EDT


Technically horseshoers are farriers. As noted, their craft and blacksmithing have been intermingled throughout the years. I suspect at one time, say in the 1800s New England area, a large blacksmithing shop might have a senior apprentice to do almost all of the shoeing (including making the shoes), with the blacksmith getting involved in only complicated cases. Out West the stable owner may have done the shoeing while the town blacksmith did the other work. In isolated or very rural areas owners may have shoed their own horses. On ranches one of the hands may have done the shoeing.

I don't remember when keg shoes (factory made shoes which originally came in kegs) became common, but suspect it was in the later quarter of the 1800s. Farriers then somewhat split into hot shoers and cold shoers with some doing both.

Some of the best blacksmiths around today started out a farriers, the hot shoeing lead to an interest in metal shaping, leading to another career as a blacksmith.

When people ask if I shoe horses I say yes I do. Then I use my hands in the go away gesture saying shoooo, shooo, shooo.

Lots of arts and crafts items can be made from new or used horseshoes. Only publication I have seen on it though is 101 Things You Can Build from Horseshoes by W.F. Dohrmann. It is available through several of the forum advertisers.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/12/06 06:54:09 EDT

Tyler: On your anvil you noted the date of 1888. Only a couple of anvil manufacturers dated their anvils, predominately William Foster (England) in the early to mid-1800s and Fisher/Norris in the U.S. What anvil brand is it? Date is too late for WF and a Fisher (having a cast iron body) shouldn't have saddled out like that. More of an indication of a wrought iron body.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/12/06 06:58:48 EDT

I am looking for someone that does contract work for the lost art of sawmill blade hammering/tensioning. I live in the North Central part of Indiana and the friend I am doing this inquiry for owns a small sawmill business. I've been searching the internet for leads, but only come up the tools to do it with. If anyone could give me some leads my friend and I would be eternally grateful. ~Sue
   Sue M. - Wednesday, 04/12/06 07:32:35 EDT

Hi Mr. Guru
I'm a final year metallurgical engineering student at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. A recent welding project aim in the direction of welding a 2mm austenitic stainless steel plate to a 3mm aluminium plate. Would you perhaps have a solution to the Challenge??? I tried TIG & MIG with no success... Now i'm aiming to Resistance spot welding. Can YOU pleeeaaaassseee help.
Bart (I like the site)
   Bart Peyper - Wednesday, 04/12/06 07:45:49 EDT

RIVETS- www.bigflatsrivet.com- good selection and how too page. Spaenaur in Canada.
   crosspean - Wednesday, 04/12/06 08:01:58 EDT

Sue M. Look at (www.menomineesaw.com/) they do circular saw hammering/tensioning and about everything else for sawmills. I have had good service from them. Although I have not used them for circular saw tensioning. Since I use bandsaw.

Saw tensioning is only a lost art where trees are lost. grin.
   - Tony - Wednesday, 04/12/06 08:17:28 EDT

Keg Shoes:

I remember reading that during the War Between the States, one of the Union's "secret weapons," much coveted by Southern spies, was a machine that could crank out something like 1,000 horseshoes a day (or maybe an hour). When you realize how vital the horse and mule transportation was, not just for cavalry, but for artillery and the quartermasters’ supply wagons, a good source of shoes was as vital as rubber tires in 20th century warfare. (Actually, the rubber tires were mostly utilized by Allied forces; a surprising amount of Axis transportation still relied on horses and mules.)

Most of the Sears-Roebuck light duty anvils and forges sold in the late 18th and early 20th centuries were meant for farmers to do their own farrier work. The most basic kit is tongs, pullers, rasps and such; sort of like a basic tire-patch kit.

Cool and clear on the banks of the Potomac. Nice weather, but we need more rain for the crops to go in soon.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 04/12/06 08:24:55 EDT


I just cut 10d or other appropriate sized nails short (to appropriate length) and head the other end. Since most of the nails are salvage, no problem. The rest of the nail can be re-headed for rough carpentry, or used for other purposes, or tossed back into the recycle bin. If it’s a BIG project, then I might consider buying pre-made rivets outright (or if I see a bargain at a tailgate session). But for occasional use, I just lop-off nails. (We are, after all, "barnbarians!")
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 04/12/06 08:32:04 EDT

Welding Challange: Bart, If we gave you the answer it would be cheating. I will give you hint. Common welding techniques will not work (SMAW, MIG, TIG). Think space age or stone age. . . . or maybe there is no solution. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/12/06 09:03:54 EDT

Besides Grant's cantilever idea, we do something similar on smaller gage hinges with an annealed MS pin. A sheet metal spacer, say 16 gage, with an elongated cutout, is placed on the anvil, the cutout width slightly larger than the rivet shank. The unheaded pin, room temperature, is placed through the hinge barrel with 1/16" (in this instance) protruding beyond each end. The spacer allows the 1/16" projection to touch the anvil while keeping the barrel end on the spacer. I work both ends of the pin until I get an equal amount of upset started. I then finish without the spacer. The heads become flattened and almost get burnished beyond recognition, as is sometimes seen on early American hinges. I have a nice, old H-L door hinge, originally from New Orleans, with the flattened heads.

In class, I have students make rivets the hard way, a la Ernst Schwarzkopf. A student will neck down a rivet shank from oversized round stock at the near radiused edge of the anvil, say a 3/16"D shank from 5/16"D. The larger D is notched a little ways above the shoulder, and the hot shank inserted in the header and quickly wrung off. The head is hammered. I use a whiteout pen to draw a concentric circle around the header hole to help keep the head centered.

There is also the hinged, vise clamp which has a scant half round channel in each of it's small jaws. You can notch, insert, tighten the vise, wring off, and head. No need for necking down a shank.

Nowadays, most farriers are not blacksmiths, and most blacksmiths are not farriers. In the large city farrier shops of old, you had a fireman and a floorman. The fireman was the "master" and made the shoes. The floorman trimmed and nailed on. This was the English/American method. On the Continent of Europe, the two man team worked differently. The "master" trimmed, made the shoes and nailed on. His helper held up the feet for him.

When keg shoes came on the scene, many had overly long heels. It was assumed that the farrier had a fire and was going to crop the heels to fit a particular foot.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 04/12/06 10:05:43 EDT

Guru and friends, Thank you for the electrode drying info. I live and work on the coast where it rains A LOT... this moisture thang is really an issue.
I did have another question regarding electrodes: I have an old fire pot with a hunk busted off of it. Braising won't stand up to the heat, I don't think, so is there a rod commomly used for cast iron? Thanks again.
   Wendy - Wednesday, 04/12/06 10:15:17 EDT

Welding Cast Iron: Wendy, Cast Iron repairs are always problematic. The problem is that much of what people THINK is cast iron today is in fact ductile iron which can be welded with a variety of rods. This includes some firepots.

On small parts many have luck gas welding cast iron. In fact this is nearly a re-casting process as the entire part if brought up nearly to melting and the welding done using iron rod. Having the entire part up to naer melting lets it cool and shrink evenly.

On large parts the problem is that the shrinkage often creates cracks on the opposite side of the part. The recommended practice is to preheat the place opposite the weld where it is going to crack. Perform the weld and then hopefully both sides shrink equally and do not crack. On simple examples given in welding texts such as pullies and flywheels this works but on most real world items such as pump cases it is a different story. Most real world cases are much more complicated.

To make arc weld repairs of cast iron you use nickle rod. It is marked Ni-rod. Rods cost a dollar or more each so are usualy not bought by the box.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/12/06 11:06:46 EDT

I dont know who made it but i can send you a picture of it if you would like. The patent number is in very bad shape so I can't find out who made it and the symbol is well worn. Just out of curiosity the body of my anvil doesn;t look like iron but were the heel is broken off at it has the look of iron fibers What has caused this. I dont in tend on welding the heel back on and have refused alot of offers for it. I also know that its a 2 1/2 steel plate welded to the top. I have been trying for a long time to figure out who made the anvil but I have had no luck.
   - Tyler - Wednesday, 04/12/06 11:55:53 EDT

Speaking of rivets. I use them fairly often in armour making and was thinking. Is there away around them? OO yea were can I buy a hydrulic steel cutting press at for under $1,000. There are some in a town close by but there all over $4,500.
   - Tyler - Wednesday, 04/12/06 12:07:42 EDT

HMMM could that anvil be an 1838 william foster? Some of the old 3's can look an awfull lot like 8's...

Welding Challenge; they weld Al to steel on a regular basis over at EMRTC here on the New Mexico Tech campus, I can hear them doing it from my office some days.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/12/06 12:24:45 EDT

Tyler, Hydraulics cost money, period. No way around it. Press frames are heavy and also cost.

Rivets, as Grant pointed out and in the iForge demo I linked to can be made from any plain round bar stock, support it equally protruding from a joint and smack it hard with a hammer. If the lengths, positioning and ends are right AND you give a good hard STRAIGHT blow you will get two equal heads. For small work I do this cold. The round stock needs to be annealed when cold heading or it is likely to expand too much in the work.

On you anvil if the "fibers" look like wood that has been pulled apart then it is a wrought iron bodied anvil. If they look crystaline then it coud be cast iron or steel.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/12/06 12:27:32 EDT

guru, I read earlier about the guy wanting to use concrete for an anvil with 1/4 inch top plate. I watched on the Discovery channel an episode regarding bridge piers in arctic ice environment. They stated that coal ashes from working steel added to the concrete raises it's strength astronomically. Thought I would just run that by you.
   cordell - Wednesday, 04/12/06 12:36:57 EDT

I have welded aluminum to stainless steel once or twice in the past. I twas unintentional, believe me; it resulted in my having to spend several hours machining the aluminum back out of the mold. On the third try, we finally got the charge right. (grin)

With such radically differing melting points, no fluid-state welding process will be possible. If I really wanted to do such a process, I suppose I'd start looking into a variation on the process I use for mokumé gané. Might require high vacuum, though. Hmmmm...maybe I could be the first metalsmith on the space staton?
   vicopper - Wednesday, 04/12/06 13:03:50 EDT

Rivets - Centaur Forge has a nice variety pack of 10 different rivet sizes for abut $50
   rthibeau - Wednesday, 04/12/06 13:07:41 EDT

I have a question about COLD WORK in knives. First, and generally, are the properties of heavily cold workeded steel substantially different from the results gained by heat treating to a hard state?

Specifically, in a cutting edge, were one to stretch the steel cold so as to deform the grain structure, would this give the edge different properties from heat treating? Would it make any difference whether the blade ran parallel or perpendicular to the axis of elongation of the cold worked grains?
   jgourlay - Wednesday, 04/12/06 13:51:57 EDT

Cold Work: jgourlay, Generaly "packing" of the blade edge to make it harder is a myth, especialy if the steel is to be heat treated afterwards. The metal will be its best condition if properly forged and heat treated.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/12/06 14:12:33 EDT

Tyler: I don't think you have an original of whatever if it has a 2 1/2" thick steel plate on top - which should have a saddle to start with.

If you are anywhere near West-central, TN, come to the Anvilfire Hammer-In. Rush Cashion (Antioch, TN) called this AM to say he is bringing about a dozen anvils, a swage block and a large floor cone on Saturday.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/12/06 14:42:19 EDT

How can I take out a double riveted bolted bedlocks to shorten a bedrail?
   Daytha - Wednesday, 04/12/06 15:06:29 EDT

Ken I would love to come to the hammer in but i have a couple things holding me back. 1.) I am getting a 1989 chevy 1 ton with a 454 auto so gas would kill me going to TN. 2.)I live in eastern Kansas and 3.) I have school. Maybe the next hammer in I can go to. Aren't they every other year? I remember a little of the symbol from when I was a kid. It looked like a english man reeling in a fish or something like that.
Thomas p
thats a possiblity the numbers and symbols are well worn I might possibly be reading it wrong.
   - Tyler - Wednesday, 04/12/06 15:10:05 EDT

Theres one other thing I forgot to mention. I have another anvil but its a chunck of RR track I got both of them from my grandpa and he's had many a good years use out of them. Would that work very well for armour making such as leg and arms? Just wondering.
   - Tyler - Wednesday, 04/12/06 15:13:58 EDT


You mean the rivet has two heads? Grind off one head and tap out the rivet with a pin punch?
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 04/12/06 15:53:14 EDT

I've "plug welded" mild steel to aluminum with a TIG welder (MIG would be as good or better). I drilled holes in the steel, set it on the Al plate, and welded through the holes with Al. I built up top of the plugs so they acted like rivet heads. Really a form of mechanical fastener, but I thought it was neat anyway.
   Mike B - Wednesday, 04/12/06 17:58:02 EDT

Double Riveted Frank, She probably means two rivets.

Daytha, As Frank noted the only way to remove a rivet is to cut off the head then punch out the rivet. The best way to gemove the head is with a hand held grinder as it does the least damage. Ocassionaly you also need to drill out the remaining rivet shank. This is done with a slightly undersize drill. Once drilled the pressure on the rivet is relieved and it will knock out with less effort.

To shorten and reassemble you will need to drill new holes in the rail after cutting it to length. The best method providing there is enough material would be to clamp the bracket in place and use a drill for the the next nominal bolt size larger than the rivet. Drill the first hole, insert the bolt and then drill the second hole. Using nominal drill sizes the bolt is "body bound" and will make a tighter stronger fit than if you had to drill celarance holes.

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/12/06 18:03:42 EDT

Vicopper---not if *I* win the lottery first!

Cold working is work hardening an edge by building up dislocations in the crystaline structure. Heat treat hardening (simple carbon steel) works by racking the crystalline structure through interstitial carbon atoms.

Different properties! Work hardened low carbon steel edges have been used for scythe blades as they would chip less when hitting rocks in the grass, but they don't hold an edge as well or as sharp as a proper heat treated carbon steel.

If all I had was low carbon steel I would work harden the edges. I would also discard any such blade when I had the chance to go to a high carbon heat treated one!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/12/06 18:10:01 EDT

Tyler: Yes, please send me a couple of photographs. Before photographing the logo side lay that side up and dust with flour. Bursh off excess. Usually makes letters and numbers stand out fairly clearly. Just click on my name and include as attachments.

DonS: The top cylinder is only about 10% of the assembly. The devel in the detail is the valving and trip arm set-up. Will send Guru a couple of photographs of the SOF&A hammer. Perhaps he can post them here.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/12/06 18:51:02 EDT

Sue M : I can't answer the question, but I pass along this advice - My Dad owned and operated a Frick 00 sawmill from about 1980, and when He was setting it up an old timer cautioned that there was a lot to learn about what an individual blade liked and diddn't like and that a lot of people wanted to get blades hammered that only needed to learn thier blades better. I anm not being critical of Your friend, but many things can make a blade wobbly. Overspeeding is one. Not having the teeth swaged wide enough to make a sufficiently wide kerf to keep the log or plank from rubbing the blade is another. If the log or board has stress that causes any rubbing on the body of the blade it will heat, expand and wobble. The blade must be absolutly true to the carriage travel. An old blade that worked before fore somebody else should work again, nothing has changed. I am sure I don't remember everything the old timer said, He must be long dead by now and My Dad has passed allso. Some blades of course need to be hammered, but the old timers point was that most didn't. While I understand the process, I have never done it, as Dad learned to work around His blades idosyncricies.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 04/12/06 21:43:48 EDT

   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 04/12/06 22:05:03 EDT

   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 04/12/06 23:19:11 EDT

   vicopper - Wednesday, 04/12/06 23:40:10 EDT

   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 04/12/06 23:54:45 EDT

Hey guys, WE DON'T DO HOMEWORK. I gave a couple hints. It may take him a couple days to research it and come up with the right answer. It is a RESEARCH project!
   - guru - Thursday, 04/13/06 00:18:01 EDT

An important part of formal education is learning how to find information, and I tend to forget that asking someone who knows isn't one of the approved methods. I am educatted at the School Of Hard Knocks, where there are 4 ways to learn. [1] Read it out of a book, and try to do it. [2] Ask someone who knows, and see if it works. [3] Learn from the mistakes of others. [4] Take Your best guess and hope You survive to learn from Your own mistakes. "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment" My school colors are Black & Blue.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 04/13/06 02:25:56 EDT

Concrete and coal ash. I believe what is referred to is fly ash from large commercial boilers. It is a low-grade hazardous waste material. Uses for it are somewhat limited, such as adding to concrete, road fill to be covered over or landfill to be covered over. We have a source of it locally (a TVA coal fired plant) yet none of the concrete mixers I know of use it and I have heard TVA will pay you to haul it off. If additional strength is required fine fiberglass fibers are added to the mix.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/13/06 04:15:57 EDT

Ken S. Thanks for the reply. It was the first I ever heard of it, & I do construction on the side. More curiosity than anything.
   cordell - Thursday, 04/13/06 10:07:47 EDT

Dave I have hesrd that stated as: There are folks who can lean by reading about it and there are folks who can lean by watching other people; but there are always some folks who have to pee on the electric fence themselves.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/13/06 11:04:06 EDT

Dave, We are from the same school and I still have all my fingers and toes. And yes, asking an expert is one way to learn. And as Thomas noted many have to see something to believe it.

But in school you need to learn to find the proper references THEN ask an expert. The reference will have the basic answer but often not the details or a practical method of applying the answer. Armed with a mysterious solution you do further research including asking experts in the field.

The internet has short cutted the process of finding experts but with one HUGE caveat', the information found is often wrong. An engineering student needs to know how to do the research and sort out the good information from the bad, the fact from fantasy, the bs answers from the true wisdom.

   - guru - Thursday, 04/13/06 11:18:04 EDT

Cinders in Concrete: Ah. . . that is why they often call it "cinder block". Cinder did not increase the strength of concrete so much as it reduced the weight for the same strength. This means that the structure can support more. Lightweight concrete is also made by blowing air into concrete but is not as strong as adding cinders.

This used to be a primary method of disposing of coal ashes and clinkers. However I think the character of the fine ash from bag rooms is such that it is too fine to be of any use in making concrete. But I am not sure on this. I do know that most of this dusty stuff ends up in landfills.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/13/06 11:23:46 EDT

Who ever said using coal ash will stregthen concrete please do research on that. You are probly thinking of volcanic ash. The roamns used it in there concrete for the colloseum. Thats were they probly got the idea at. That is one thing you cant do enough of Research is a very important thing in blacksmithing or atleast it is for me.
Ken I'll try to send you a pic some time this weekend. If i can get my hands on our digital camera for more than 5 mins. For my question yesterday aren;t the meetings your hosting this year every other year Ken? I will also try and remember to sprinkle flour on the the symbol.
By the way I was talking to my uncle yesterday and hes a certified welder. So i asked him why he doesn't like TIG welding and he told me that if you don't have something to filter out the smoke it can lead to parkinsons diesease earlier than normal. Is this true?
   - Tyler - Thursday, 04/13/06 11:51:30 EDT

what is the order of process for finishing a cut off hardie

anneal, harden, temper? is it good to use an oil quench for hardening?
   eric zuaro - Thursday, 04/13/06 12:02:07 EDT

Thanks for the input on the coal ashes & concrete. Just for my own edification I will look in to it further & let you know. As I said I saw on the discovery channel it just caught my curiosity.
   cordell - Thursday, 04/13/06 12:56:24 EDT

Fly ash will indeed improve the strength of concrete, but there are inconsistencies from source to source, and perhaps even from batch to batch which make exactly how much of an improvement you will get less than completely predictable.

As I understand it "fume silica" is what they use when the concrete must reach its maximum strength.

Chopped fiberglass is added to cement to serve as reinforcement and in some circumstances can save the labor of setting up steel reinforcement.
   John Lowther - Thursday, 04/13/06 13:02:14 EDT

Eric, it all depends on what alloy the hardy is made from. I didn't notice this mandatory piece of info in your post though...

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/13/06 13:22:36 EDT

Tyler, research and safety: Print out the article on our safety page about welding, manganese and health issues. They research it some more.

There is nothing inherintly more dangerous about TIG welding than other processes. In fact it is far safer than SMAW (stick welding). You have you filler rod and inert gas, that's it. The coating on welding rods contain cellulose products to make smoke, flux products to clean and cover the metal, and metal additives to create the weld properties. These include iron powder, manganese and other things depending on the rod. Almost all welding rods are the same low carbon rod and all the differences are created by the coating.

Rods for welding high alloy and high strength steel have a lot of manganese as do the alloys themselves. It is the manganese that is suposedly the contributor to possible Parkinson's.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/13/06 13:34:16 EDT

I met a guy a couple of years ago who had a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA for those of us who live with 'em) to do a commercial-level experiment with concrete using fly ash from one of the coal-burning powerplants as lightweight aggregate. He was very optimistic, but as I haven't seen him since I don't know how it turned out. He was using ash from the Kingston steam plant, which is the one immediately north of U.S. Interstate 40 where it crosses the Clinch River at Kingston, Tennessee.

Research before you cast aspersion, eh? (grin!)

My old landlord in Kentucky had a story about his great uncle who was (of course) a blacksmith. Seems he was in one of the early (1910s) auto factories scraping by as a floor sweeper when he overheard one of the money guys complaining about a broken axle. He offered to fix said axle via forge welding it, whereupon the money man, a city boy from somewhere east-coastish who had never ever gotten his hands dirty before deciding to invest in this newfangled auto business, proclaimed the act of forge welding to be impossible. End result: Axle repaired, great uncle promoted to head blacksmith, money man learned something, and the rest of the grunts who could have told him so never liked the uncle after that.

Not sure what the foregoing has to do with the subject, except to be sure you know whereof you speak if it's important, lest someone show you up. As for showing someone up, well, it proves you can get promoted, be hated for being a show-off, and move back to Kentucky to be a farmer with some stories about stupid rich guys, I guess (grin!).
   Alan-L - Thursday, 04/13/06 13:35:06 EDT

Tyler: Anvilfire Hammer-in is planned to be an annual event sometime during the last half of April. I have plenty of room here on the farm but covered facilities are a bit lacking. Intent is to keep it low-keyed, somewhat of a good old boy swapping lies and equipment, event. Absolutely not plans to grow into something like a Quad-State.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/13/06 14:26:08 EDT


*Everything* that goes into concrete comes out of a mine and can vary from batch to batch. I'm sure those who make good concrete learned long ago to analyze and blend as necessary to get a consistent (enough) product.
   Mike B - Thursday, 04/13/06 17:54:09 EDT

Fly ash. There is a company here in Chattanooga that takes TVA flyash from selected plants, processes and blends it to make a uniform product and then they sell it as a concrete attitive for light-weight high-strength concrete. Fiberglass is also sometimes added, but usualy they use one or the other.
   - John Odom - Thursday, 04/13/06 19:48:05 EDT

Hi Guru & Crew! Firstoff, I've read the guidelines and I understand your statement about not doing homework for students. That said, I am a college student looking for old, ancient, Anglo-Saxon-type-old primary-source books relating to blacksmithing and metallurgy. I've had a miserable time finding books or online versions of these documents, and I was wondering if you guys had any titles or authors you could throw at me. I'm looking for works written in English (although English from any time period - the older, the better, like Old-English, not just guys modern guys talking about ancient blacksmithing). If you guys can't do this feel free to throw this message away. But, if you can help me, great! Thanks.
   Sam Axelrath - Thursday, 04/13/06 19:54:02 EDT

Well you guys have satisfied my curiosity. I must say that there is an immense wealth of knowledge In a vast array of subject matter, to be found on this site. Thanks guys. Blacksmiths can be pretty smart
   cordell - Thursday, 04/13/06 20:06:13 EDT

ps: I duly acknowledge the Romans
   cordell - Thursday, 04/13/06 20:18:20 EDT

Close to the plant I work at in Shelbyville KY is a wire plant that makes fine wire bits for adding to concrete as a strenght improver.
   ptree - Thursday, 04/13/06 20:49:59 EDT

Is it feasable/possible to forgeweld copper in a coalfire in a similar manner as forgewelding iron and steel?
I have several chunks of copper bussbars I would like to play around forging but alone they are not really large enough for the job I have in mind. I realise I could melt and cast them together then go from there But I dont want to have to buy a crucible and its probably best to do this in a gas furnace anyway(which I dont have) versus a coalfire.
   - Sven - Thursday, 04/13/06 22:20:47 EDT

Anglo-Saxon Blacksmithing Sources; Sam:

I don't know what's available in the libraries (although I've given them a pretty good run-through, too) but when it comes to primary souces for even Western European blacksmithing, between the Roman, Pliny the Elder (or Younger?) and Theophilus (ca. 1120) it's all archeology. These things were mysteries and trade secrets, and folks didn't write them down for general instruction. Leechbooks for medicine, yes, some herbals, yes, "The Old, Old New Edge of the Anvil" no. I can help with some of the archeological reports and such, but there just aren't any primary instructive works that I know of.

I'll be happy to be proven wrong. :-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 04/13/06 22:39:27 EDT

Tyler : There are I think some health concerns about the thoriated tungsten electrodes often used with TIG welding, but they might only be harmfull in California, as most things become toxic when they cross that particular state line. If the work is clean, which is important in TIG welding there should be little to no visible smoke. Tig is a good way to make high quality welds, but is too slow to be used profitably in most cases where other methods are acceptable.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 04/13/06 22:45:48 EDT

Anglo-saxon Blacksmithing Sources:

Sam, you might try the E-books at http://hammerguy.home.mindspring.com/
   habu - Thursday, 04/13/06 23:20:47 EDT

Dave thanks for that tid-bit. I will agree with you on that one. Most things do become hazordus when they cross that state line.
Does anyone on here have a anvil made of RR track they use for armor making? Just wondering and if they do how well does it work?
   - Tyler - Thursday, 04/13/06 23:50:01 EDT


The general answer to your question is mostly going to be "no", but I have a notion that you might try. It might even work. (grin)

Think of mokumé gané. Clean the copper absolutely bright and chemically clean. Stack them up between two heavy plates of stainless steel, say about 3/4" thick, that are drilled to accept 1/2" or 5/8" bolts around the perimeter. You'll want at least four bolts, preferrably more, to compress the stack. Torque the bolts to whatever the book shows for torque limit, using a torque wrench. Probably around 160-200 ft/lb, I think. Flux the outside of the stack thoroughly with a 50/50 mix of borax and boric acid mixed to a paste with ethyl alcohol.

Stick the whole works in the fire, as high in the fire as you can so it is not oxidizing, and bring it up to just short of the melting point of the copper and hold it there for an hour or so. This is going to take some really great finesse at fire control and a ton of blind running dumb luck. (grin) One minute's loss of attention and you will have a nasty little puddle of copper in your tuyere.

What will/should happen is this: the stack will heat up and expand some minute amount, while the stainless bolts expand silghtly less. This will increase the effective pressure on the stack, hopefully bringing it high enough to cause solid state diffusion bonding at the surfaces.

This is a "maybe will, maybe won't" sort of thing. No warrantees expressed or implied. If you try it, let me know how it works out. I've done other metals this way in a gas furnace, though usually in an electric one with inert atmosphere, with good success. I have never tried all one metal, as I was always trying for a variegated effect upon finishing. So I'll be learning right along with you on this one.

NOTE: The foregoing is presented as information for experimental purposes, and NOT as an answer to a homework question, research project or Montessori exercise. Any use of this information for the proscribed purposes is done on your own volition and without my endorsement.
   vicopper - Friday, 04/14/06 01:22:39 EDT

In learnig to be a black smith, what school would be the best if you want to learn the old techniques? And after learning what you need to become a blacksmith, would you need addithional trainging to make swords, and armour.
   Colin - Friday, 04/14/06 04:25:05 EDT

Sven, A fairly easy way to make mokume with your copper bars: Sandwich some sheet nickle between the bars with a big pair of tongs to hold it all. heat it slowly in a coal fire "cave" and when you see the nickel start to melt, take it out and hit it, not too hard but solidly. It should be ready to forge at this point- Cut or grind grooves or drill holes in it and forge at a red heat. This will make a pattern when forged. (Resist the urge to hit it that one last time). Grind off the slag and polish. Google "Mokume Gane" and look at the patterns. A good project is a heart. It can also be done with $2.75 in quarters.

Colin, Join your local Artist Blacksmith Association and read everything you can find. The really good artist black smiths, blade smiths and Gurus are still learning, even those who have made a living at it for 20 - 30 years. Yes, you need additional training- and experience.
   Ron Childers - Friday, 04/14/06 07:29:04 EDT

Anvil height and such:

So I prefer my anvil a bit on the high side, about abdomen height. I prefer this height because I usually do smaller work. Most of the books state the "standard" knuckle height, I've tried this and found it too low and was hunching over my work. Here's my point, if the standard anvil height is supposed to be knuckle high, then why is everything else we use shop bench high? I mean vises, forge, etc.? The basic shop setup should be easy to maneuver around, less than one step from forge to anvil to vise, so why set up things at different positions?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 04/14/06 08:16:11 EDT

Tyler's anvil is a FISHER with a broken-off heel. May have been used for an anvil shoot and came down on top of the base anvil.

On continual learning I once heard Francis Whitaker say he had never attended a blacksmithing conference in which he didn't learn something new. He might demonstrate one of his standard techniques and have someone come up afterwards to say they did it differently. He may have liked their method better than his.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/14/06 08:16:27 EDT

I haven't been to all the smithery schools, but I think mine is pretty good.

At first blush, walking into my school shop, you'd think you were in 1920. The school is 35.5 years old. You may click Top Post; The-Gurus; and finally my school, "The granddaddy".

Making armour is a whole, other ball game, but we do have a good assortment of stakes, and we do some raising/sinking hot and cold. As for swords, I would recommend reading the FAQ about swords using the pulldown menu, upper right of the forum page.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 04/14/06 09:23:30 EDT

Nippulini, Anvil height.

Better too high than too low. I think that the fist on the anvil (large knuckle) height was OK when there was more striking done than there is now. Dan Nibblelink, a blacksmith who runs Colorado Waterjet is definitely of the opinion that anvils should be higher than the big knuckles.

A while back, a pretty tall "Turley grad" got a smithing job in Missouri. He neglected to raise the installed too-low anvil, and got some fairly serious back trouble.

No matter whether your anvil is knuckle high or higher, you should bend forward from the coccygeal-sacral area of the spine, and make an attempt to keep your back relatively straight.

I think I mentioned before that the noted farrier, Jay Sharp, went to the U.K. for a horseshoeing competition. He noticed that the U.K. farriers had their anvils lower than knuckle high, whereas the U.S. team had theirs at knuckle height. Jay was able to return the following year, and thinking that, being from the Old Country, they must know something special, he lowered his anvil. When he arrived for the competition, he saw that a number of the Brits had RAISED their anvils. Har de har har.

   Frank Turley - Friday, 04/14/06 09:59:45 EDT

HA! That's excellent! There goes "the grass is always greener" argument!
   - Nippulini - Friday, 04/14/06 10:03:14 EDT

Anglo-Saxon Blacksmithing Sources: I waited for Thomas or Bruce to weigh in on this one but I was pretty sure that was the case (none available). Not only were these type of books with guild secrets not written, books and literature of the time were reproduced by hand largely by monks. Those in the technical fields could often read but writing is a different skill and takes valuable time. It is only until the last 200 years that there has been serious detailed writing on some of these subjects.

The only place I could think to look was the Oxford English dictionary. Their emtomology of words often list very rare manuscripts but they ARE based on verifiable documents. Even then you are only likely to find a snippet or two written in a manuscript on another subject or the word used in a metaphore.

However, I am pretty sure there is little to be found as modern blacksmiths have done serious research on the source of tool names like Hardie, Pritchel, Tuyeer, Swage (or swedge) and have found no original source material. They have had come to accept that a name is name and nothing more.
   - guru - Friday, 04/14/06 10:30:51 EDT

Thanks all for the input on rivets. I've been away from the computer for a couple of days, hence the belated response. I have a question that may be better suited for the hammer in, and if so I apologize in advance. How do I come up with a job estimate that is in anyway based on fact and not just a guess? I made a coat rack two days ago and charged what I thought it was worth. While working I was thinking about the money being spent. Steel, propane, welding wire, co2, electricity, etc. Also, oil leaked out of an oiler and killed my drill charger ($60.00 replacement). How do you factor these things into your estimate when there are so many things to consider? Thanks again.
   Mike H - Friday, 04/14/06 10:58:04 EDT

   Ralph - Friday, 04/14/06 11:27:06 EDT

Anvil Height: I have generally gone by the rule of thumb (or knuckles as it is). But I have also practiced working posture from an early age. I stand straight at the bench and anvil as well. It is something you must practice and be concious of when you start learning any craft.

On the other hand I just watched three of the Forge & Anvil tapes with Alan Rogers for review. It makes me hurt to just watch him work. With a knuckle height anvil he crouches over until his face is only a little over a foot or so above the anvil. It is a posture I have seen in other farriers that are used to working under a horse. It is a terrible work posture. As he works and the metal gets colder he gets closer and closer to the anvil as if his breath is going to help warm the metal. He might be much more comfortable working on an anvil a foot higher.

   - guru - Friday, 04/14/06 11:34:05 EDT

Weighing in: as has been mentioned folks that could write in anglo-saxon times were not the folks doing basic industrial work. As these worker folks could not read why would they want a book about the subject?

The best you can do is to hunt for tidbits of peple describing strange (to them) stuff they see on their travels or tangential information through recorded wills and tax rolls---won't tell you how they did it but may indicate what they had to work with.

May I commend to your attention "The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England", H.R.E.Davidson, as an example of how to research things that there is not a Theophilus writing about. (Be wary as the research on pattern welding listed in the appendix has been supersceded)

As for learning "the old ways" remember that they did not work the same materials as we do today and such earier stuff does work differently than the stuff you can find today.

Inless you are planning to run your own bloomery and make your own wrought iron and/or "natural" steels and go on to convert it to blister steel the "old" ways will not do very well.

For people who claim "it hasn't changed" I like to give them a piece of real wrought iron and watch them completely botch it working it like mild steel.

Now there are some of us out there who have that streak of absolute insanity and do research working with ancient materials and processes; but it's certainly not a way of providing a living for one's self and one's family!

R.F Tylecote, Cyril Stanley Smith, Alan Williams have all written extensively about archeological metallurgy, there is an arch-metals mailing list and "Divers Arts", (c 1120 A.D) and "De Re Metallica", "Pirotechnia" from the 16th century are all available in english translation very cheaply through Dover Books. "The Mastermyr Find:A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland" is a bit more expensive but it is a good collection of smithing tools.

Other than that it's bits and pieces out of archeological journals.

Do you have some specific questions?

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/14/06 11:36:44 EDT

Anvil Height:
I was using the knuckle method for height until I watched Hofi's DVD on his hammer and technique. When you change your grip like he recommends (and I now like as well as his hammer), it made about a 1 inch plus difference in the height. I forged for a few hours at the original height with the new grip and hammer and had a backache. I raised up my anvil about 1-1/4 inches (recycled cutting board) and now everything is great - just need more time to be spending on the anvil. Your mileage may vary. Jim
   Jim Warren - Friday, 04/14/06 13:06:03 EDT

Anvil height
My anvil is 8" over knuckle height. When I am doing most work I stand on a cinder block platform and it is right at knuckle height. When I do small work such as spoons made from horseshoe nails I just stand on the floor.
   - Tyler Murch - Friday, 04/14/06 15:30:24 EDT

Anvil Height.

Something else to consider with anvil height is working on long stock alone. I often hold a longer piece between my legs on the anvil when I need two hands.
   JimG - Friday, 04/14/06 16:49:28 EDT

Jim that technique certainly trains you to only work *hot* steel as it tends to bounce a bit when it cools off and you are still hammering on it...

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/14/06 17:49:03 EDT

I my self am a armour smith. But really it just depends on what style of armour your going after and the materials your using along with how many layers of under protection you want the suit to have etc etc etc.
I dont think thats a good idea. Just think about it for a minute.
   Tyler - Friday, 04/14/06 19:12:00 EDT

Archeological Reports Relevant to Anglo-Saxon Smithing:

Early Iron Production -Archaeology, Technology and Experiments; edited by Lars Chr. Norbach; Technical Report Nr. 3. (c) 1997, Historical-archaeological Experimental Centre, Lejre, Denmark; ISBN: 87-87567-40-7; ISSN 0909-4148. Field archeology, historical research, and experimental archeology.

Iron Makers of Myers Wood _A medieval Enterprise in Kirkburton, Huddersfield: an archeological summary; edited by Granville Clay, et al; (C) 2004; ISBN 0-905747. A 33 page booklet with a bare-bones report on a multi-furnace smelting site, but it ties in nicely with the previous book.

A Smith in Lindsey -The Anglo-Saxon Grave at Tattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire by David A. Hinton; The Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series: NO. 16; (c) 2000; ISBN 1 902653 28 9, ISSN 0583-9106. Small scale but wide range of tools (for grave goods) possibly belonging to a jeweler (although one always need to be wary of grave goods; maybe they left the bigger stuff out).

Anglo-Scandinavian Ironwork from York by Patrick Ottaway; The Archaeology of York, The Small Finds 17/6; (c) 1992; ISBN 1 872414 28 X. Wonderful stuff, over 100 knives, no two alike! Everything from horse shoes to hinges.

Numerous books on excavations of Migration Period cemeteries…

When it comes to Anglo-Saxon England, you pretty much have to look at the artifacts, and then reverse engineer how they did it. I'm still trying to master some of their techniques for shield bosses (disappointing, but fascinating exercises in puzzlement and frustration). Recreating these artifacts always looks easy in the books, mostly illustrated and described or speculated upon by folks who don't hold hammers and hot iron. ;-)

The books the Thomas listed, above, are pretty much the canon for metalworking in medieval and renaissance period Europe. There may be something lurking out there in a dusty library, but if you come across anything, please let us know.

I hope this is some help to you.

Warm and hoping for rain on the banks of the lower Potomac. Off to Thorhall Halftroll’s (Fred McCoy) Markland wake tomorrow; a good knife maker, a good warrior and a good friend.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 04/14/06 22:55:02 EDT

Mike H - Costing Jobs: We hash this out every so often. It dependes to a great extent on You. What do You expect / need to recover from Your efforts? If this is a hobby and You are working for friends and only need to keep from depleting Your pocket, that is one thing. If You are trying to run a profitable bonafide buisiness that is a whole differnt matter. Costs in My home shop probably don't run over $10/hour. That doesn't include aquisition costs of the machinery, the building, its insurance, light or heat. I am strictly talking perishable tooling and consumables. You need to charge for materials,and Your direct costs, even if You are willing to absorb everything else. As a business, You would need to charge from $60 an hour to WELL OVER THAT if You expect to make a living, pay Your taxes, buy health insurance [This is a BIGGIE to Me as I have cancer, and fortunatly alwas carried insurance] insure Your shop & it's contents, and depending on what You do, carry liability insurance. If You are going to charge enough to cover everything You need to be really productive.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 04/14/06 23:28:14 EDT

I am looking for practical but in-depth information on working copper for archetectural vessels, hoods etc... Any suggestions would be appreciated.
   - Scott - Friday, 04/14/06 23:42:21 EDT

Anybody out there with opinions on the advantages (if any) of a side-blast forge? I've heard that they are popular in the UK, at least metal ones with water-cooled tuyeres are.

I've recently gotten the hankering to build a half-way authentic Medieval/Renaissance traveling forge, for demos. (Doing a portrayal of a Middle Ages armorer loses something when you have a crank blower, a cast-iron bottom-blown firepot, and a London-pattern anvil.) Atli, maybe you can weigh in here: you have a small side-blast setup, right? Are they better than bottom-blown rigs for cleaning out clinker? Better for charcoal? Etc?

   - Eric Thing - Saturday, 04/15/06 00:10:14 EDT

Eric: WWW.beautiful Iron.com has some pictures and opinions on the side draft forges, if You havn't been there already.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 04/15/06 03:53:43 EDT

Medieval Forges: Eric, side blast was pretty much the standard until modern times and the cast iron forge. During the charcoal era this was the only known forge type. It did not matter if the forge was an earthen pit, a wood and clay forge or fancy Colonial era brick forge.

The only real advantage I see to them is that clinker and ash do not fall down the tuyeer. In a charcoal forge most of the ash blows out. But in a coal forge there is clinker and heavy ash that settles to the bottom of the fire and there is perhaps an advantage to being able to push this waste down an ash dump as the fuel is fed toward the center of the fire. Coal fires are a progressive burn with fresh pushing and becoming the coke, the coke burning and ash created and needing to be removed at the center of the fire.

In my coal fire I much prefer a fairly open "grate" or just a vertical hole so that I can push the clinker down and clear the fire path in the fire. This is particularly important if you have good coking coal that melts together AND you are using a bellows. You can get away with a dispersed air blast and loose fire when using a electric blower OR have a helper but when working alone you need a higher efficiency to keep a hot fire. I tend to run a "behive" welding type fire all day when working alone as this keeps the heat the best and does not go out while not pumping the bellows. Sometime during the day you get an very large hot fire that works as an open disperse fire (usualy when you have a volunteer help with the bellows) but it does not last (nor does the help) and I find that I need to rebuild and go back to the behive.

Working with a bellows and alone is much different than working with a blower or slave labor.

I have been planning a side draft Japanese type forge for a while and wanted to build a box bellows to go with it. I had come up with what I thought was a unique valve design. It turns out that the Chinese box bellows uses the same valving. There are individual intakes for each end which can be in the end boards or the floor. But at the exhust they use a little verticaly hinged "door" that is set into a "V" shape with the ports from the right and left ths sides of the "V" and the outlet the open side. This little valve switches from right to left as the air flow changes. The valves and ports are built into a hollow section under the floor board which results in a clean neat unit unlike the primitive plans on the net with a birdhouse addition to the side of the bellows.

Box bellows have the advantage that you don't have to kill a large cow to build them and they are generally more compact than a double chambered or paired bellows. They also do not suffer from having a hole poked through the leather or seems splitting.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/15/06 08:16:15 EDT

Side blast, traveling.

Our Southwest Blacksmiths newsletter editor, Gary Williams, showed up last November at the Bosque del Apache Crane Festival with a traveling bellows setup. I don't recall whether it fed a bottom or side blast, but it was pretty neat, about 1/2 size of a shop bellows. You might contact him about it: swaba.abana-chapter.com
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 04/15/06 08:49:08 EDT

Job costing: Mike, Sorry I missed this one. Dave had some good points. There is a big difference between pricing work as a hobby and as a business.

As a hobby I have found that material costs (steel and fuel) should be no more than 10 to 12% of the price of the finished product. It is practicaly impossible to factor in other costs.

As a business you have to start out with the goal to be very productive and that means every modern advantage for the type of work you are doing. At a minimum this means a good power hammer, gas forge, cut off saw and or ironworker, power tools, stock racks and a large work space. You will find that curently in the U.S. there are many hobby smiths that are better equiped than some professionals. This means that as a pro you need to be VERY efficient. Add MIG welder and vibratory finisher to that list. . .

As a professional you must make a decent living in order to continue being a professional. In the U.S. today if you expect to make $50k/yr. you must charge AT LEAST $100/hr. for shop time PER MAN. IF you sit down and go through the numbers you will find this absolutely true. I'll give you a start.

First you will never be more than 50% productive and this is if you REALLY hustle. Errands, paperwork, phone calls, housekeeping will eat up your time. Employees MAY BE more efficient if YOU provide the proper work environment and do nothing but manage jobs. But in a one person shop you can figure 50% or a little less. The working year has 2020 hours. SO, in 1010 working hours you need to make your income and pay all the bills. In general your shop bills will cost 50% of that $100/hour rate. So you have 505 hours to make your living at $100/hour. Now. . if you only charge $50/hour you may make NOTHING. . . or at $75/hour you might eke by.

Shop/office costs:

$300 to $500/month electric = $3,600 to $6,000
$200/month phone ISP = $2,400
$150/month fuel (forge & welder)= $1,800
$500 to $2000 rent = $6,000 to $24,000
$3000 per year small tools (files, drill bits, elec hand tools)
$5,000 to $10,000 per year machinery allowance.
$5,000 to $10,000 per yer vehical (PU) cost
??? insurance
??? property and equipment or licensing taxes
$23,500 to $53,900 without insurance, taxes or advertising.

Now in the past when I was running a small shop with no rent it was easy to have $25,000/yr expenses. Small tools averaged me $2400 year in the 1980's. These include anything that could walk off in someones pocket no matter how expensive (like a pair of micrometers) or up to things like electric drills and grinders that are only worth 10% of what you paid for them if you tried to sell them used at the fleamarket. Your expected small tools expense is where that wrecked battery charger or stolen drill gets covered. These are shop expenses and you write them off on your taxes. You DO NOT depreciate or add small tools to your capital costs. YES, they ARE important to you and it hurts when they break or dissapear. But that is why they are expense items. They have unexpectedly short lives sometimes. Others like files, drill bits and MIG nozzels are actual consumables.

Note that I did not include materials. These are a job by job item that sometimes you must buy extra and other times not at all (due to the extra) but they are charged to each job and even though an expense are not an hourly expense.

With 1010 productive man hours per year the costs above are $23 to $53 per productive hour. So, if you think charging $25/hr or paying a mechanic working in a million dollar facility $50/hr. in the US is a big deal then think again and work your OWN numbers. Even a hobbiest charging $10/hr. is losing money (that is why it is a hobby).

I recently had an arguement with a friend who is a darn good smith that claimed there is no way you can charge those rates unless you have a "name" or reputation. He was WRONG and that is why his blacksmithing business as well as mine and many other have generally been failures. You have to do the math, know your costs. If you let your customer know that the hour they just spent haggling over some detail cost $50 in shop expenses then they might understand why things cost what they do.

In recent years I have been able to work with and talk about pricing with some sucessful smiths. They will tell you that the current rule of thumb prices of $300 to $500/foot for railings is low and requires unbelievable efficiency. In fact the fabricators are starting to get these kinds of prices becasue that is what it costs with the necessary profit. In fact, the high art stuff is not just double or tripple these prices but 20X. Prices like $10,000/foot or $50/pound as "rules of thumb" are what it takes to make a living on high class blacksmith work.

My friend mentioned above sold a set of huge gates for $5,000 and ended up needing to collect $12,000 to get the job done and delivered late. His price was off by a factor of 10 or more. The gates were easily worth $50,000. At that price he could have hired help, invested in machinery if needed and completed the job on time and most importantly, made a living.

SO, Start with your annual costs. Try to list everything and throw something in for those OOPS moments. THEN be realistic and admit that you will only have half your time to cover these costs. If my numbers were high (I doub't it) and you KNOW that you need $20/hour to just break even and that $10 more only pay poverty ewages then you you will have a better idea of how to charge for your work. Then you can also work out your own rule of thumb prices for your work based on knowledge rather than a guess.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/15/06 09:41:39 EDT

OOPS costs. . . One of our members welded up his DIY air hammer frame of 2" plate with huge 1" fillets. Electric bill jumped $200 to $250. . . that little ARC costs something. Add THAT to your hobby shop costs!

We have all had this happen. . someone uses your torch, does not turn off the gas. . . empty cylinder in the AM cost $25 PLUS time to refill and lost shop time. . real cost more than $100.

I let a customer I was doing a job for turn OFF my torch (too many things to hold onto). He turned them off with a Gorrila grip and wrecked the seats. They would never work the same again. To have them repaired (if they had been repairable) . . $75 and a trip to town.

As mentioned on the Hammer-In, I had a NEW auto-dark helmet get knocked off its hook in the shop. . . $125 (in 1984 dollars). I am told new ones are more durable.

I was doing a welding job and needed a work platform so I stood on the roof of my old beat up Pickup Truck. . . No problem with the paint I thought. But I did not count on the sputter balls sticking to the glass and making it impossible to keep wiper blades. . . Cost of windshield $250.

A friend installed a railing next to some big plate glass windows. Grinding swarf embeds in glass. . replacement glass $500. I don't know who paid or if the glass was replaced.

Employees and helpers multiply the OOPS factor by about 20. Old irreplaceable machine tools get back gears broken, holes drilled in tables, handles broken. . . New saw blades get broken on first cut. New electric tools get dropped in the river. Vehicals get glass broken out by careless stock handling, engines wrecked by not shifting out of low, wheels and fenders bent. . .

There are thousands more. These are just ones I have been witness to. OOPS costs are why small tools are written off as an expense every year. Some survive but many do not and the annual cost is contant. The accidental costs above are not small tool expenses but they are a regular and expected cost of doing business. You just hope that vehical glass knoched out is not in a customers car.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/15/06 10:09:19 EDT

Low ball or get your foot in the door biddding:

If you are honest these get you no-where. Low ball bidding is common on big government and some corporate jobs where once they have put in so much money they will not stop when you tell them you cannot finish and you underbid by a factor of. . well you name it. Big defense contracts on big ticket items do not really go over budget. They are bid at what congress wants the public to believe is the price then the REAL costs come later. This often happens on small government jobs as well. Bids that should be dissmissed and tossed out as "naive bids" are routinely accepted to give jobs to the prechosen company and for other reasons. This is the way much government spending is done and is why our company quit bidding on goverenment jobs. You cannot do it honestly.

Changing or not meeting the bid spec is also common practice. You carefully bid exactly what the customer asked and your competitor bids for a reduced scope. . . This is a gamble on the part of the competitor. It often works and they have bid for half the job at only 10% less. This can also backfire and usualy only works when there is a secret (illegal) deal in place.

I bid on providing computers to the local schools one time. I had REALLY sharpened my pencil and done by homework and gave a "get in the door" bid. . I was underbid by 30%. I asked one of the competing venders at lunch how they did it and surprisingly they told me. They were not going to meet the delivery deadline. Instead of delivering in 3 months they would deliver in 6. Prices of parts were dropping and they would make their profit on the difference in price between now and then. . .

Under bidding to get in, hoping that you will get more work at a higher rate never works. Once you have established that you can work for $10/hour you will not get more. Your customer will also tell others what a great deal they got and they will want the same price. . .

Being honest in business is tough. But it is the only way I know how. So you must be more efficient and better than the guys that cheat on bids. And you need to have a feel for when it is an insiders (the good ole boys) deal and not beat yourself to death over it.

Know your costs, know what you need to make. Price things honestly and let the rest take care of itself.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/15/06 10:45:22 EDT

As most of you know, I earn my daily bread as a CPA. Until I specialized in income taxes a few years ago I did analysis of business costs (cost accounting), for some large and a number of small businesses. Guru is spot on in his numbers above. In doing tax returns I don't have the same level of expenses as running a metals shop....not much in the "small tools" department....computers, software, paper, ink cartridges, books to stay current, then there is Continuing Education (Required by all states if you are a professional). In my field $100 per hour is a MINIMUM to make a living, and that will not be a "fancy" living. $150 is more like where it should be at a minimum.

Non profit status has been granted to CSI by the IRS and there is an important discussion in the Member's Forum as to the steps we need to take now. Your input is solicited so the Board of Directors will have member input on where the membership wants to go with this. Thank you. Please log in there and make your comments known.
   Ellen - Saturday, 04/15/06 11:08:18 EDT

Guru, thankyou for your well thought out answers to my cost estimation questions. I just joined CSI.
   Mike H - Saturday, 04/15/06 11:44:15 EDT

Thanks Mike, and welcome aboard. Your support is really appreciated!
   Ellen - Saturday, 04/15/06 14:45:00 EDT

I've been looking for several months now for detailed instructions on how to make steel. Does anyone have a website or know a book that would tell me this information in a detailed format? Thanks in advance!

   - Rob - Saturday, 04/15/06 15:50:39 EDT

you need to get several books on the iron working industry. Say from a school of metealurgy. It will be several heavy tomes.
Find a descent sourse of raw mat. ore, magnatite sand, bog iron etc. then learn how to extract the good from bad. Then find fuel ( real charcoal) design/build your furnace to get the iron out. plus refining it to a useable state, etc.
As a plain "I jusy want to do it, fine" But since we can go buy steel cheaper than re-building the WHOLE metal industery from scratch.
   Ralph - Saturday, 04/15/06 16:01:40 EDT

Greetings I am a machine repairman , I have always enjoyed forging I also study and experiment with the origins of metal-working crafts/trades....I am 50 and skeletal were and tear prevent me from forging heavy work often...I am going to rethink how to continue my involvment on a smaller scale (many ideas from old footage of chinese smithy) they do everything different...and I think I can make east and west meet in the shop...hence I would simply like to join anvilfire and ainchient ??/craft ring ...
but join where all i found was for a "site"

and I am going to sell three anvills . one customised leg vise . and possibly my experimental forge , maybe list them here , one anvil is a peter wright...the P.C. and swimming through screen info have me dumbfounded where do I enlist 262-930-0516

in short I saw the master blacksmith @ williams berg puzzeling over file making , on the wood wright once..

I have discerned the curved hammer and why it's like that
that's the stuf that interests me

reguards Phil J.
   Phil Johnson - Saturday, 04/15/06 16:27:26 EDT

Phil Johnson: If you are located anywhere near West-central, TN bring your extra equipment for sale to the Anvilfire.com Hammer-in on my farm near Waverly on April 21-23, 2006. Just click on my name and I'll send you conference details.

The tour of The World of Tools Museum is definitely on for 1 PM on Saturday. This is likely the largest private collection of tools in the U.S. Folks may want to bring along a bottle of water to help get down all that saliva from seeing them. Mr. Pilkinton also has a one-car garage full of items for sale and lots of scrap iron at $.25 lb.

So far I know of 13 anvils, a large swage block, large floor cone, a couple of post vises and assorted tools will be in the tailgate sales area. Folklift will be available.

Richard Postman is coming so if you don't have your copy of Anvils in America autographed bring it along.

For those coming early, bring your fishing rig. I have a fairly large farm pond next to the Hammer-in area with way too many largemouth bass (some approaching wall-hanger size) and flathead catfish (some up to 20 or more pounds) I would like to have fished out. They're eating all of the bluegill.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 04/15/06 16:54:33 EDT

Ken: Fishing and Forging! What more could we ask for?
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 04/15/06 18:00:46 EDT

Information on steel making: www.steelynks.net.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 04/15/06 18:06:15 EDT

Phil, if you go to the pull down menu at the top right corner of your screen, and go to "store", scroll to the bottom of the store listings and there is a link to click on to join Anvilfire. Your support is greatly appreciated and will enable some nice improvements to made to our site here, improvements that will benefit us all. And, your dues are tax deductible, since we are a non profit organization.
   Ellen - Saturday, 04/15/06 18:06:38 EDT

Sorry, that should have been www.steelynx.net
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 04/15/06 18:14:08 EDT

Ellen , found it ,thanks. I joined @ 1/2 year to start. Looking forward to interaction , and exploring others' ideas . To be frank , the anvils , leg vise etc. that I mentioned for sale are on two other forums with a little responce ....
I realise I won't be advertising since I am mailing a check. I want them to go to someone needs them . If any of your members wants to inquire in the mean time , please email me and I can foreward pics and descriptions outside this forum for now. Also I have a freind who makes real charcoal , I can put you on to him ...he freely shares his methods....best to all. 737373@sbcglobal.net
   Phil Johnson - Saturday, 04/15/06 19:04:08 EDT

Phil if you have items to sell list them on the Hammer-In. It is only archived once a month as this is archived weekly and the place for Q&A.

If you are looking for an easier way you might try a power hammer. Then there is also the McDonald Rolling Mill for small hot work. See our book review page for a review of the plans.

I'll have the new memberships setup ASAP.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/15/06 19:30:16 EDT

The Guru is right on the money with the oops factor I own a small sheetmetal fab shop and have heard every excuse for the missing hand tools, dents in the trucks and broken equipment. but the contractors we work for still tell us the price is to high. Deisel fuel is at $3.10 a gallon and most jobs are at least an hour away might as well stay home.
   Otisthedogking - Saturday, 04/15/06 19:31:34 EDT

These questions are for all those Big Blu hammer owners out there. What size air compressor are you using? What size storage tank? Those of you using a 5hp 2 stage; how is the performance of your hammer?
   brian robertson - Saturday, 04/15/06 20:36:26 EDT

Is the "Controlling Your Air Hammer" video still available? If so, from where would I buy it?

   Bob G - Saturday, 04/15/06 20:57:19 EDT

Bob, Yes, go to the AFC.ABANA-Chapter.com site and click on air-hammer. There is a mail link to Mark Linn who made and sells the video. If it does not work try the webmaster Mike Linn (his son).

   - guru - Saturday, 04/15/06 21:10:01 EDT

Brian, I purchased a 100lb big blue back in January. I had difficulty getting 3 phase run to my shop in the country and didn't want to mess with a phase converter. I ended up getting 7.5 hp 2 stage which is the biggest 1 phase available from Ingersoll (this also limits your hammer size unfortunately). I had to run new service to my shop to support its amp load. Big wire, had to beat it with a 2x4 to get it to submit (make turns etc.). My compressor does well unless I really get on it forging large stock with full blows. This is pretty rare however. Overall I've been very satisfied with my hammer, but I think you might find the performance of a 5hp compressor lacking.
   Mike H - Saturday, 04/15/06 21:33:23 EDT

To Dave Boyer {box bellows & clikers}the chinese box bellows takes a little getting used to...when you stop so does the air, unless you provide a secodary chamber with another check valve, and a weight. And you have to pump smooooth if you are welding or the bursts will disturb the fire , and kick up impurities ,I do think it has advantages though...I built a replica of late 1800s bottom blast forge has no butterflys and clinkers are pushed thru the mouth and out a counterweighted trap door , further the exposed iron around the mouth is part of a large enough peice of iron that it cannot get hot enough for slag /clinkers to stick to it...
works great... the original was made from a solid cannon ball I could look it up if interested...
   Phil Johnson - Saturday, 04/15/06 22:04:08 EDT

I am NOT IN DISPUTE WITH JOCK"S NUMBERS. The 10$/hour I mentioned was supposed to mean that if I am actively working on a project My cost is 10$/hour ABOVE what My shop costs would be if I was just down there tinkering around on My own stuff. I just thout I needed to clear up what I meant.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 04/15/06 22:12:01 EDT


A picture of my medieval field-forge set up is at:

...and my two-stump portable anvil setup is at:

(More Midgard MMM photos: www.larp.com/midgard/photos.html )

As Jock mentioned, above, it's practically impossible for a single person to pump the bllows, tend the fire, and do any meaningful forging. It pretty much has to be a two man (or man and boy, or man, son and daughter-in-law...) operation. Of course, at Scadian events, you're usually blessed with a large labor pool. The picture of the forge is after the fire was broken. In operation, the charcoal is heaped up to within an inch of the top of the tuyere stone for a good, deep fire. Also, if there are no check valves, the bellows have to be pumped up gradually and smoothly to keep a constant pressure, otherwise, you suck fire, which both makes a nasty noice and is not good for the bellows. Some forges use a gap between the bellows and the tuyere stone opening to prevent this, but I prefer skillful helpers. :-)

As for portability, I prefer just plopping it on the ground, although Darryl up in Canada has a really nice sand table, which he just fills with the local dirt. It also has handles and places to strap down the bellows (note how mine are staked down eight ways to Tuesday).

I hope this is helpful.

Scatterd T-storms on the banks of the lower Potomac tonight. Got in some good forging, and fitted the guard to my eldest daughter's cutlass in time for Easter.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 04/15/06 23:25:05 EDT

Got a bunch of matress coils today. I removed the staples that held them to the wood frame, then pry back the wire frame and you got a single coil. I have about a dozen right now. What is the average matress coil steel type? It's a high carbon I'm sure, but any specifics would be helpful.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 04/15/06 23:29:22 EDT

   - guru - Saturday, 04/08/06 13:09:51 EDT

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