WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

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, 2007 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Hey all quick question for whoever can answer. I just finished building a new forge today, a nice forced air one, from a 16" long 8" diameter pipe, and my question now is, how concerned should I be with using it indoors. (inside my 2 car garage, with both doors open that is, like I normally work)

My old whisper baby venturi forge I could practically sit stuff ontop of hte forge and not worry about the heat around it, but this new one is a LOT more powerful and hotter, and i can singe my eyebrows off just standing too close to the front of it. I'm concerned because my garage, while having a nice high roof, is all wood. Should I now be looking at building some sort of metal hood and chimney or something?

   Jmercier - Saturday, 04/07/07 22:58:29 EDT

Jmercier, It depends strictly on ventilation, space and distance. I suspect there it relatively low overhead clearance. I would cover the immediate overhead space with dry wall as it is an insulating fireproofing. This will help disapate the hot exhaust so it is not heating one localized area. But you will need doors and windows open and a roof peak vent would help a lot to keep temperatures down.

The fire code will call for triple wall pipe and a proper roof penetration flange as well as the device not being any closer than 30" from anything.

The singing problem can be taken care of with and air curtain.

   - guru - Sunday, 04/08/07 00:39:28 EDT

Small projects: Craig, there are numerous projects on our iForge page. RR-rail anvils are pretty light and thus small work is the rule. Hooks from 1/4" bar, steels for flint and steel made from 1/4 diameter coil spring wire, small knives from small steel. . . miniature anything.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/08/07 00:43:19 EDT

Acids and disposal: If you are environmentally concious then even common mild acids like vinegar become a serious hazardous waste when you use it to disolve cadmium, lead, zinc. . . any heavy metal. THEN you have partially killed acid solution with heavy metals in solution. Where ever you dump this the heavy metals will become part of the ground water and the earth. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 04/08/07 00:52:00 EDT

Muriaic acid with zinc dissolved in it makes a pretty fair flux for soft soldering on galvanized (or bare) steel. It is pretty much what most of the acid-type soldering fluxes are.

There is only one correct way to dispose of contaminatd acid: call youor local hazardous waste removal company and pay the fee. Not cheap, either. If you have a medium-sized business that disposes of the same sort of waste, they MAY be willing to take yours and include it with theirs for a lower fee than the waste handlers would charge. It doesn't hurt to ask.
   vicopper - Sunday, 04/08/07 02:27:59 EDT

Just an update on my new 7" x 12" metal bandsaw. Great. However it is a bit like only having a 12" pipe wrench when all you really need is a 1/2" open end wrench. Sort of wish now I had kept the 4" x 6" for cutting jobs more suitable to it.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/08/07 09:01:33 EDT

Take a look at the 350 pound double-heeled Fisher at eBay #110111771573. Steve said it is apparently not a one-of-a-kind as he has received reports of others. Steve also said Jock thinks it was an industrial usage. Postman is baffled. I simply cannot think of a practical usage for it. Note the double hardy and pritchel holes.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/08/07 09:06:24 EDT

Let me advise people about Anvilfire sidebar ads. Neither the Guru nor CSA has any control over the content of the Ads; we should all understand that. The ads are from Google and provide revenue that helps support the site. This is a good thing. HOWEVER....be aware that www.freeringtonez.us is really a joke subscription service and if you sign up for a "FREE" ring tone, you also sign up for the service at $20 per month. You can cancel this service by sending a text message "STOP" to 86595. As with all free offers, read the fine print FIRST!
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/08/07 09:34:44 EDT

IIRC, companies that make hazardous waste automatically get "generator" licenses that let them store the waste for up to 90 days prior to disposal. Accepting waste from someone else probably requires a special license and a major paperwork drill to get it. So, as ViCopper points out, it can't hurt to ask, but don't be too surprised if the answer is "no."
   Mike BR - Sunday, 04/08/07 10:09:05 EDT

Deb Johnson: After looking at the photos in your eBay listing I now strongly suspect 1881 isn't a date but a serial number. My guess is a 1900 made Arm & Hammer, but... Oval depression in bottom could be Trenton also. I'm not sure about A&H, but very early Trentons had a flat base. Feel the area under the heel. If rough forged there, likely an A&H. If smooth, likely a Trenton. I suspect there may be another digit to the serial number though, making it later for an A&H than 1900 or later than 1898 for a Trenton.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/08/07 11:33:11 EDT

Machine Tool Sizes: Yep, there is a size that is best for every job. At home and in our family shop we had little 6" Craftsman hobby lathes as well as bigger 13" 16" and 20" professional machine tools. For anything an inch or smaller that did not need tight tolerances the little under powered 6" lathes get used because they are easy tp use.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/08/07 12:26:26 EDT

i live in eastern pa,i'm new to the smithing and enjoy it very much. i've recently purchased an anvil with a star on it. i belive its cast steel with a hardend face plate , can you help me identify this anvil? no other marking that i can see,weighs about 158 lbs,has a 1 inch hardie hole and a.375 pritchel, london pattern. can you tell me if its any good maker wise.thanks i'm sure i'll have more questions later
   robert webbe - Sunday, 04/08/07 12:43:14 EDT

i live in eastern pa,i'm new to the smithing and enjoy it very much. i've recently purchased an anvil with a star on it. i belive its cast steel with a hardend face plate , can you help me identify this anvil? no other marking that i can see,weighs about 158 lbs,has a 1 inch hardie hole and a.375 pritchel, london pattern. can you tell me if its any good maker wise.thanks i'm sure i'll have more questions later
   robert webbe - Sunday, 04/08/07 12:44:41 EDT

Google Ads: If you see REALLY deceptive ads or products that you thing are inappropriate please let me know and I can block them.

Note however that some products such as "Sound Anvil" a sound mixing computer product or "Anvil mixers" a cooking appliance are sold by hundreds of people and I have no way to block such ads that are just in the wrong category. As we all know some keyword based categorization just does not work. . .

I HAD thought about blocking the Horsey ringtones due to the not really being FREE but I cannot protect everyone from everything. Note that MANY "free" things on the net are paid for by giving them your e-mail address or phone number which they are then free to market to (by law). You pay by being deluged with SPAM and telemarketers. But that is a choice YOU make. Nothing is free, even the "free" advice we give has a cost (ads).

   - guru - Sunday, 04/08/07 12:54:24 EDT

STAR anvils: Robert, the only star anvil I have had was a cast iron anvil with a then steel face plate. These are manufactured by the Fisher process where the plate was welded in the casting process. The Star I had was the cheapest made I have seen and the plate was broken and loose.

The advantage of steel faced cast iron anvils is that they do not ring loudly. The disadvantage is that they do not have quite the rebound of a good steel or steel and wrought anvil. They are also nearly impossible to repair if the plate comes loose. Cast iron steel faced anvils also by necessity have thick heels which some folks do not like.

There are those that love this type anvil and those that hate it. If it is in decent condition then you have a good sized anvil that you can produce a lot of work with.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/08/07 13:02:41 EDT

Robert Webbe, I have a hot cut with a star on it. I think it was made by Iron City Forge, probably in Pittsburg. Ken S should be able to confirm or debunk that opinion.

Guru: No complaints from me on the ads. I should have practiced what I preach. It is not your job to protect anyone from their own stupidity. These merchants are found everywhere and you just need to be eternally vigilant.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/08/07 13:03:28 EDT

Two anvils had stars basically as the logo.

North Star is a Swedish anvil. Would be cast steel.

The other is American Star. Looks like a very early Fisher & Norris, probably from the mid-1800s. Cast steel with an steel plate. Likely also made in Trenton, NJ. The novelty of this one was a large, deep hole in the bottom called a tempering cavity. Not all that rare. I've seen perhaps 6-8 on eBay over the past couple of years.

Primary source: Anvils in America by Richard Postman.

By the way, received a note from Richard he is pretty well not going any where this year (Quad-State possibly excluded) to finish More on Anvils. It won't be a rewrite of AIA, but rather a supplement to it. Originally was to primarily focus on additional English anvil manufacturers, but I suspect he has found out quite about bit more about U.S. anvils since AIA was finished.

Remember the Anvilfire.com Hammer-in will be on my farm near Waverly, TN primarily on Saturday, April 21st. Ptree will be demonstrating wizard heads. Guru will be doing powerhammer tips and techniques as best he can on my limited equipment. May be other impromptu demonstrations.

Tie in to discussion is it is your chance to see one of only two known anvils solely marked as a DUNN & MURCOTT, BROOKLYN, NY with a serial number. Two others are known to have their stamp, plus AMERICAN (American Wrought Anvil Company, Brooklyn, NY) who apparently acquired D&M and changed names.

Last year attendance was about 30. From additional publicity I expect perhaps twice or so that many this year.

If you want event details just click on my name and request them.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/08/07 14:27:28 EDT

thanks guys. mine does have said cavity,any further thought on quality. this is going to be a user, no cracks ,one chip pretty small. light rust on face.just wondering what to look out for,thanks again.
   robert webbe - Sunday, 04/08/07 14:45:36 EDT

Robert Webbe: Quality should be every bit as good as a Fisher & Norris from the same period. As long as the top plate is firmly attached to the body you should get indefinite use out of it. If the edges are sharp you may want to put a bit of a radii on them to help prevent edge breakage.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/08/07 19:31:25 EDT

I was once told of a susposed old method of preventing a blade from rusting was to rub the blade with a cow horn during the tempering process this allows the horn to burn and in this process releasing oils into the blade, helping prevent rust. i would like to know if this process works and if there is any histrocal evidance supporting it. If you can get me an answer i would appreciate it

Alan J Grillot
   - Alan J Grillot - Sunday, 04/08/07 23:38:18 EDT

Alan, No, No, and no.
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 04:53:28 EDT

...and no, the stench of burning horn is something you DONT want to have in your nostrils.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 04/09/07 08:03:13 EDT

The stench.
A farrier fitting hot horseshoes becomes inured.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/09/07 08:30:29 EDT

I found a near perfect anvil that has a name on it of Nohab 14 sweden. I can't find any info on this .any help as to a web site. thanks much
   mark - Monday, 04/09/07 08:36:53 EDT

Mark, are you sure? Are there gaps in the lettering? There was a North Star Brand that was imported from Sweden in the 1940's. The one in Anvils in America looks like a Kohlswa ( a current Swedish anvil manufacturer) in shape.

All the imported Swedish anvils have been good anvils if not a little too hard.
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 09:05:52 EDT

I have just started to try to learn to forge weld. It is normally snowing when I am at the forge. Not good for forge welding. I have had a limited success. I can get the weld to take, and make the line disappear, but after I Quench it in water. I can pull it apart. It was held together but not very strong. I used 20 mule borax, and heated the steel to just before it starts to spark. and I try to make my first few hit of medium(pretty vague) contact. Any tips on where I may be going wrong?
   Sean Alexander - Monday, 04/09/07 13:14:55 EDT

Sean, I've found that on the first heat I get the parts together, re-flux, and then on the second heat finish shaping while the metal is still in the yellow range. Any forging below this temp and the welds don't seem to hold as well. This works for me anyway.
   Mike H. - Monday, 04/09/07 13:46:52 EDT

Alan this may be a variation of a method that Theophilus wrote about in 1120 CE in his book "Divers Arts". He mentions heating the iron and burning featers on it to leave a coating that helps prevent rust and has a pleasing look to it. I have not tried this out---yet.

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/09/07 14:16:30 EDT

Guru, I love your sight! I am one of those that in spite of perfectly sound advice decided to 'fix' an old anvil that was missing part of the top plate a couple years ago (and it's quite a story). Well needless to say I am in the market for a new anvil and have been monitoring the comments here as well as researching anvil manufacturers.

There are three anvils I am considering and need some help determining which would be the best investment. I am looking in the 250-275lb range for Peddinghaus, Nimbus and Rathole Forge. You seem to be a strong supporter of Peddinghaus and I have heard some really good things about Numbus. I really like the look of Rathole Forge anvils but I am not sure which would make the best investment. They are all in the $1,500 range and shipping for any to my area is about the same. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions or experiences would be greatly appreciated.
   Rhordae - Monday, 04/09/07 14:22:07 EDT

Decisions, decisions. . .

If I had the money it would be a hard decision. Peddinghaus is the best in material but lack in fit and finish. They have not been up to what I consider "German" standards for many years. They are also in and out of production and hard to get.

Between the Rat-Hole and Nimba there is probably not much difference in quality metallurgically and in finish. however, the Rat-Hole is a work of art. They took some of the most classic features of well designed anvils and combined them into the most beautiful anvil of the last century and a half. They are pretty much custom made in low quantities and you never know when they are going to quit or the foundry become too difficult to work with. This makes them a good long term investment.

However, all three of these lines do not depreciate much as used tools so they are all a good financial investment as well as being good tools.
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 14:37:53 EDT

Failing welds: Sean, First, it is bad practice to quench steel while too hot. Second, cleanliness is next to Godliness when it comes to welding. Descale with a stiff brush, flux early and DO NOT burn the steel. Just below sparking is good for low carbon or mild steel but will burn higher carbon and alloy steels.

When you bring a piece to welding temperature the surface that is nearly liquid decarburizes rapidly. SO when you make a weld there is a lower carbon zone in the joint that may also have some dirt inclusions as well. This makes the joint weaker than the rest. SO. . keep it clean

In wrought iron it was nothing except a mass of welds so another one doesn't make much difference. But in steel a forge weld joint is often a weak point unless it is well made. You also need to look at the shape of the joint and how long of bars you are using for leverage. Anything can be broken under the right conditions.
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 14:48:06 EDT

The Rathole anvil looks like it is made from two pieces where the Nimbas are one solid chunk-o-steel. Would that make a difference in the working quality of the anvils? I heard that Nimba's ring really loud but that aside would the Nimba actually be a more 'solid' anvil because of its construction? Or am I wrong about the Rathole?
   Rhordae - Monday, 04/09/07 15:17:02 EDT

The Rat-hole is a one piece casting just like the Nimba and of similar material. Most cast steel anvils ring quite loud and need some deadening.
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 15:22:33 EDT

Thanks, I am using a mild steel, and I actually hot filed the surfaces and quickly fluxed them. I then put them back into the coal forge, and brought them up to a yellow heat.
Each piece of steel was about 1-1.5' long, and the weld was about 1.5 inches long. I believe that it could be a combination of low carbon zone and leverage. It did not bend much just a little and then it would break, and I could see the "Crystaline" Stucture where the two surfaces were attached.

Well back to the forge always learning!!

   Sean Alexander - Monday, 04/09/07 15:30:25 EDT

Thanks Guru for your prompt replies and unwavering dedication to such an incredible and informative site!
   Rhordae - Monday, 04/09/07 15:36:44 EDT


There are very few times when one would quench a weld, and this goes for arc and oxy welds, as well. A couple of instances when a forge weld is quenched: a pattern welded knife blade; a link shaped fire-steel. A mild steel weld, when quenched, may result in a "contraction crack". Mild steel forge welds are normally air cooled, sometimes annealed.


I'm using a Rathole, cast in one piece. If you make a steel tray for the base and paritally fill it with sand, it deadens the sound pretty well.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/09/07 19:57:27 EDT

I would like a Rathole Forge Anvil. I am afraid it may chase my Mouse Hole Forge anvil around and eat it. I don't think I could keep enough cheese for both.
   - Hit & Miss - Monday, 04/09/07 21:06:13 EDT

Does anyone know where to get these small anvils used , well, for what ive seen, as sword smithing anvils?
theyre in a couple videos from youtube,a nd a couple sites, the sites i forget but, heres the videos

and, does anyone know what type of steel they are made from or anything about them?
   Cameron - Monday, 04/09/07 21:47:07 EDT

I was hoping someone has seen Ron Kinyon's new version of his air hammer with the leaf spring ram mount. I understand he may be putting together a new set of plans with this modification and wanted to know if anyone had any information about this.

   Steven Bronstein - Monday, 04/09/07 22:16:25 EDT

Hi there.

Is it possible to Mig-weld tool steel S5?
   stef - Monday, 04/09/07 22:56:51 EDT

Thanks for letting me know that burning a horn on a blade will not help prevent rust. I do agree that the smell of burning cow horn is not something that i want in my shop. Than does however lead me to another question. what is a method that i can use to prevent rust that is inexpensive and readily available in a small city. I live in Pittsburg Kansas. In the area we have quite a few farms and farm stores if that is any help for your suggestions.
Alan J Grillot
   - Alan J Grillot - Monday, 04/09/07 23:03:57 EDT


I use a Nimba anvil, and love it. The things I like best about the Nimba are the design and the quality of the workmanship. The horn is shaped beautifully and is eminently useable, and the face is very wide with a tremendous amount of mass under it. That mass under the face makes the anvil work like one that is considerably heavier, compared to the London or American pattern anvils with their narrow waists. While some people think the wide face is a disadvantage, the nimba's tapered heel is, effectively, a face of almost any width you want.

The Nimba isn't as snazzy looking as the Rathole, nor a classic-looking as whatever Wile E. Coyote is dropping on unwary roadrunners, but it IS a remarkably well thought out piece of forging equipment.

My Nimba was excruciatingly loud until I mounted it o a proper stand with a bed of Geocel silicone consruction adhesive under it. After that, it is very nearly as quiet as my Fisher; no "ring" at all.
   vicopper - Monday, 04/09/07 23:14:38 EDT


Rub a bit of Vaseline on it. Vaseline is just a cleaner version of the old military Cosmoline that has prevented rust for a century.
   vicopper - Monday, 04/09/07 23:16:31 EDT

Cameron, I couldn't find anything on youtube except a misch masch of stuff, but the anvil shown on katana is a small cast iron Chinese anvil. You'd probably have to go to China to get one. The Chinese have been making that style for quite a few years. Because they make swords on them doesn't mean they are all that wonderful.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/09/07 23:23:54 EDT

Chinese Anvils: Cameron, these are a standard Chinese anvil. I believe that they are traditionally cast iron (not very good). But that is the Chinese tradition. They jumped past the wrought iron and steel stage to cast iron very early (before Europeans could make cast iron) and thus many of their tools were cast. They made a huge technological leap which caused their technological development to falter. Many of their traditional tools are stuck there.

Since these are considered sub-standard anvils by the rest of the world there is no export market in them. There may be some made of steel but that is not the "tradition". However, a piece of structural plate flame cut to that shape is about as good if that is what you want.

Note that while many of the videos on the net are of "Japanese" sword forging, these are being made in China by hand in low wage shops, (thus the Chinese tools).
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 23:25:01 EDT

MIG welding tool steel: I would not recommend it but it can be done with the right wire. The results are not going to be spectacular. Specialty high manganese rods do a much better job on tool steels.

Note that in any type of arc welding of high carbon tool steels you will need to preheat and post heat treat to reduce extreme brittleness at the joint.
   - guru - Monday, 04/09/07 23:34:25 EDT

Mark. Nohab was a Swedish manufacturer that made excellent airhammers, and since almost every Swedish steelmill made their own anvils in the past one can assume they also made ordinary anvils. I´d guess it is a cast steel anvil..
   - Bo - Tuesday, 04/10/07 03:04:50 EDT

Hi everyone
I have a E.C. Atkins Kwik Kut #7 machanical? hacksaw
I know its for metal and it ran by steam? and its better then excellant shape can anyone tell me anything about it
I will probably sell it but I am unable to find a #7 information. I also have a Drill press excelsior 21 royersford that I know very much about but both very facinating equipment
Thanks alot april
   - april showers - Tuesday, 04/10/07 06:19:35 EDT

Hi everyone
I have a E.C. Atkins Kwik Kut #7 machanical? hacksaw
I know its for metal and it ran by steam? and its better then excellant shape can anyone tell me anything about it
I will probably sell it but I am unable to find a #7 information. I also have a Drill press excelsior 21 royersford that I know very much about but both very facinating equipment
Thanks alot april
   - april showers - Tuesday, 04/10/07 06:21:31 EDT

Those anvils appear to be something they made for their specific use. They may have been a machine part or just scrap they modified. It appears they forge welded on face that they made convex for drawing purposes. I could here the ring in the video. I do not believe they are cast iron. The Chinese are smart and use good tools themselves, though they may appear primitive.
   - Hit & Miss - Tuesday, 04/10/07 07:45:29 EDT


I mix Vaseline with kerosene and put it in a spray bottle. That worked great this winter, which was pretty bad from a condensation point of view. I got that recipe from this forum.

   - Marc - Tuesday, 04/10/07 07:59:58 EDT

For a cold rub application, linseed oil works rather well. You can get it at just about any hardware store and it is inexpensive. Mink oil works too.

What size Nimba do you use? I REALLY like the Nimbas and am having a hard time deciding between that and the Rathole. The decision may be made for me however since Nimba emailed me back with pricing quotes within hours and Rathole seems to not check their emails at all.
   Rhordae - Tuesday, 04/10/07 09:15:17 EDT


Willene Jacqua of Nimba anvils is a PLEASURE to deal with, and they REALLY stand behind their product. Oh, and I love my Nimba as well. I have the 120lb Titan. VICopper has the Gladiator (Sweet).

I am sure RatHole is a great anvil as well. Tough decision for you I guess.

   Mike Berube - Tuesday, 04/10/07 09:43:51 EDT

I'm just waiting for the sea to start rising and then I'm going to spread the rumour that the US VI are sinking due to the weight of NIMBA anvils and they should be *immediately* shipped to me out here in NM as I have over 4000' before I have to worry...

Traditional Japanese swordsmithing anvils look a lot like western sawyers anvils. I see a couple most years at Quad-State; however I would probably just try to find a couple of worn out H13 dies that I could buy for scrap price and use the flat side/end of them.

May I commend to your attention the National Geographic Special on "Living Treasures of Japan" for their sword forging scenes. My local public library in OH had a copy and I can now ILL a copy at my new public library here in NM.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/10/07 12:23:17 EDT


As Mike said, I have the Nimba Gladiator, at 450#. It is a truly wonderful anvil. Yes, they cost a lot. They're absolutely worth every penny, if you love great tools. Excellent casting, superb finish, and a shape that is designed for serious forging. The 450# makes a very noticeable difference in efficiency when forging bigger stock, but is probably overkill if you're not planning to work stock much over 3/4" regularly.

The late Russell Jacqua, an excellent blacksmith, designed the Nimba and used to personally hand finish every one. Since his unfortunate and untimely death, his widow Willene is running the business and by all accounts doing a great job. You won't find a better place to do business with no matter how hard you look.

If you do decide on the Nimba, please tell Willene that you were persuaded by information you got here on Anvilfire, and suggest that she might benefit from advertising here. Advertising revenues are what keeps this site afloat so we can continue to recommend fine tools like the Nimba.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/10/07 12:43:04 EDT


I've given serious thought to your hypothesis and I do believe you're right. I'm unwilling to give up my Nimba however, so I'm sending you a few thousand pounds of scrap cast iron, freight collect. That should offset the Nimba's mass very handily and even leave me room to lay in some forging stock. (grin)

Thanks for caring!
   vicopper - Tuesday, 04/10/07 12:46:00 EDT

You can do that? Sending "freight collect"? I must not think evil thoughts, I must not think evil thoughts, I must not think evil thoughts........
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/10/07 12:53:10 EDT

Clarifications : China vs. Japan: As I noted, there is a huge industry in China making cheap Japanese swords. They use Chinese methods and tools and thus are not making a 100% traditional Japanese product. THIS is what is being heavily advertised by way of YouTube videos. If you want to learn Japanese methods then that is NOT the place to learn.

The Chinese anvils shown in the links are of unknown material. However, traditional Chinese anvils are made of cast iron and is the reason the tops have huge rounded corners. This is from wear and new anvils being made to look like well worn anvils. In China at Work by Rudolph Hommel, he shows this type anvil and clearly states they are cast iron but an odd grade that may be near to steel. However, the example he shows has the distinct texture of pulverized cast iron on all the working surfaces This was in the 1930's and the style of the anvil used by the Chinese has not changed.

I have a painting of a "traditional" Chinese shop that has a slightly different type of anvil. At first we thought it was a piece of industrial scrap but it has the features of the classic Chinese anvil. It has the bread loaf shaped main working section and two shelves. However on this anvil they are both on one side of a long anvil and are fully supported (do not have the sloping bottom surface that makes the others look like a horn). This is a heavier version of the type with horn like shelves.

The Chinese have a VERY different idea of what an anvil should look like than we do in the West. It may be why they have such a difficult time making patterns for Western style anvils.

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/10/07 13:11:35 EDT

I have been given a box ( about 150 ) of cutoff arrows from a fletchers shop, most are 6" to 8" long and alum. Any ideas for a use? I just couldn't say no.
   daveb - Tuesday, 04/10/07 13:35:13 EDT

Hmmmmmm more of your sculpture. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/10/07 13:45:30 EDT

Nipp, vicopper:

"Freight Collect"...thanks for the laugh. I needed that :-).

   Mike Berube - Tuesday, 04/10/07 14:50:20 EDT


you could possibly make mini crossbow bolts, they would be around that size,
   Cameron - Tuesday, 04/10/07 15:12:56 EDT

I'm getting ready to make a couple of door knockers, and I want to cut the corners of the backer plate with a semicircle, about a 1/2 inch diameter. I could drill it out but would prefer to cut it out hot. Should I forge one of my bigger chisels into a round like a gouge or is this a hardy tool kind of operation? Can't recall where I saw a rounded hot cut for the hardy hole. Checked the advertisers and didn't see one.

Thank you,
   Michael - Tuesday, 04/10/07 15:21:45 EDT

the all time best antirust for a dripping condensing shop. Someone on this site suggested an oscillating fan left on all the time and aimed at the ceiling to help to reduce rust in a metal sided shop. I have a metal sided shop that will rain inside when the temps change. The dirt floor helps in the humidity some I am sure.
The fan was installed before the fall last year, and it has been an absolute success. NO dripping!!! I do now get a little light rust on bare surfaces, but I just use WD-40 on the stuff that needs a light oil, and the sulfanate oil on the anvils and swage block ETC. The little 14" fan was a left over, sitting out of use, and uses almost no electricity, as the motor is maybe a 20th of a Hp.

To whom ever made the suggestion, Many Many thanks.
   ptree - Tuesday, 04/10/07 16:38:50 EDT

IIRC a Farrier's supply co will sell the curved hardies.

However I find I like to look at where the chisel hits the work to get things lined up so I would go with a hand held curved chisel---pretty easy to forge.

Rich does the Govenor know that you will be shipping all that cast iron away---they only thing that's keeping the magnetic field of the Nimba from pulling in every hurricane for 500 miles of the islands?---you're bringing the Nimba to Quad-State to show it off aren't you?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/10/07 16:56:54 EDT

I am looking to start to get into metal working and have decided to start with copper, however I have not been able to find much information. I am looking to make some copper runes and other such items. I would be great full if someone can provide sources such as sites or books as there where I can get started. I am currently working on building a drumbrake forge but it has been slow going.

   Mightywetfoot - Tuesday, 04/10/07 17:03:15 EDT

Thanks Thomas, looks like I've got another tool to forge.
   Michael - Tuesday, 04/10/07 18:15:26 EDT

Wetfoot, I have made rune sets from river stones pulled from the creek in my backyard. I used a diamond tip engraving tool for those. Iron runes would be more appropos, copper is a little too flashy for Vikings.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/10/07 18:20:22 EDT


I don't remember who originally posted about the fan, but I've been thinking about it since. I figure that when the weather changes and your shop fills with warm, humid air, the cold surfaces start cooling the immediately adjacent air. Once the surrounding air drops below the dew point, condensation starts. If the fan can blow the air away before it cools that much, it will prevent condensation.

If my theory's right, adjusting or supplementing the fan so you get good circulation around your equipment might stop the surface rust also.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 04/10/07 18:36:40 EDT

april showers-- the Royersford Excelsior 21 is a marvel, a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Keep it well lubed. The estimable Guruissimo helped me bring mine back from the dead a few years ago-- 1998-- and I now use it just about every day.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/10/07 20:18:40 EDT

Working Copper: Mightlywetfoot, Look up silver smithing. Everything applies to non-ferrous. Copper is one of the softest and must ductile metals there is next to gold. You can hammer it cold, roll it, bend, punch and work hot as well. Copper is excellent for repousse' (bas relief in metal). We have reviews of the two best books on the subject of working non-ferrous metals. Metal Techniques for Craftsmen and Metal Working. For inspiration in mixed metals see the late Dona Meilach's Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork.

A strip of runes in repousse' on copper would be a nice decorative piece that could be turned into an arm band, braceket or other device.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/10/07 23:21:18 EDT

Oh... I was going along the lines of runes for divination. I used to read stone castings (similar to tarot cards)
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 04/11/07 07:11:57 EDT

what do you mean the "late" dona meilach? last i heard she was gathering more photos for another book. if its not a typo , that's really really bad news. her books were fantastic. so much inspiration in those pages. what happened? bad bad news. sympathy to any family reading this.

cooling down in brisbane australia, 11-28 cel.dry.
we need rain,lots and lots of rain!!!!
   - wayne - Wednesday, 04/11/07 08:20:25 EDT

Wayne, Sorry to be the bearer of sad news. I found out months after the fact myself. Dona died in January after a long fight against cancer. Se was 80 years old, which surprised me. When I met her in 2000 I would have guessed mid 60's. Her publisher Schiffer Books is continuing the series of books she had started for them.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/11/07 09:41:53 EDT

Working Copper

Thank you both for your quick responses, I will look into getting those books. As far as runes I am looking into both for casting and to put on metal work. I also want to create some authentic looking bronze and cooper ax's and tools to get out some use of my anthropology schooling.
   Mightywetfoot - Wednesday, 04/11/07 13:09:42 EDT

MightyWF, visit the ancient weapons forum over at swordforum.com to converse with folks actually making such items---some using the original methods as well!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/11/07 13:16:55 EDT

Bronze Age Tools: These were primarily cast. After casting some were used as-is and others were finished. Much of the bronze age hammering was done to decorate tools, weapons and jewelery. During the late bronze age in Britain and Europe stone, bronze and iron tools were used to work bronze. Hammered, work hardened bronze chisels were used to apply decorations. Anvils were small odd things used primarily on jewelery. Padded stone work surfaced were used to support larger items. Since the metal was not being hot forged a true anvil had little use.

While bronze and copper can be hot worked and is very malleable it is much easier to produce an axe shape or an eyed tool by casting. Many of the molds used during this period were permanent stone molds made of soap stone or other heat resistant stone. Molds were both single open face and double two part closed molds. The result was that a large quantity of similar items could be cast in a short time. Some molds were quite detailed.

Edged tools had their edges cast close to finished but were hammered to create a thin sharp edge.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/11/07 13:52:44 EDT

i am very interested inn metalurgy and black smithing. any info on were i can learn the trade, get help, and even find a master smith in kentucky, usa.?
   - grieveedge - Wednesday, 04/11/07 14:44:52 EDT

i am very interested inn metalurgy and black smithing. any info on were i can learn the trade, get help, and even find a master smith in kentucky, usa.?
   - grieveedge - Wednesday, 04/11/07 14:45:07 EDT

grieveedge: Try these contact points:


Pres: Andy Bennet, Jr.
PO Box 366
Brandenburg, KY 40108
(207) 422-3107

Ed: Larry Zoeller
4312 Lahnna Drive
Louisville, KY 40216
(502) 361-0706


If you haven't already done so click on the link at the top of the page for Getting Started in Blacksmithing. Lots and lots of good information there.

I don't know where in KY you are, but avvilfire.com is having a hammer-in on my farm near Waverly, TN weekend after next. You can just click on my name to request conference information. Your chance not only to see some demonstrations, and perhaps hands-on instruction, but to meet and greet fellow blacksmiths from the general area. If you are looking for tools and equipment we expect some tailgate sellers at the event.
   - Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Wednesday, 04/11/07 15:51:35 EDT

If you are in the Louisville Ky area, I live in Floyds knobs, just across the river from Louisville. The Indiana Blacksmithing Association is very active, there are monthly meetings with open forge time for beginners, in North Vernon, very near Semour IN. They also have a very nice conference the first weekend in June, in Tipton, near Indianapolis. And i too will be at the CSI hammer-in at Ken's farm.
   ptree - Wednesday, 04/11/07 17:09:46 EDT

And. . as I often point out. These meetings usually have demos as well as short courses (green coal classes). If you are willing to travel a little you can be at a meeting almost every weekend. Besides seeing it done, you get a chance at hands on AND there are almost always folks there selling tools (new and used). You will also get to visit a number of shops as most groups rotate where they meet. Some will be professional and others back yard hobbiest. But this will let you see just how varied blacksmithing IS.

In the old days a blacksmith graduated from apprentice to journeyman. The journeyman, as his title says was supposed to travel and work in other shops in order to gain experience and learn more than he could from a single master. Today in the US you can pick up a lot of that knowledge by going to association meetings and conferences.

Upcoming major conferences include SBA (Southern Blacksmiths Association) who put on a regional conference in Georgia. It is a great conference and worth much more in educational than they charge and your travel cost will be.

In July the Canadians are having another CanIron. This is a wonderfully different gathering and quite international. You can learn in days what might take years to see otherwise. Do you have a PASSPORT?. You will need one if you live in the U.S.

Our event in Tennessee is FREE, but we do ask that you bring something for Iron-In-The-Hat. There will be demonstrations and tailgating (a chance to buy tools you wouldn't see elsewhere).

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/11/07 17:59:22 EDT

thanks guru. from her writing I'd have guessed much younger.once again, sad news.
   - wayne - Wednesday, 04/11/07 20:15:34 EDT

Mark: From the photographs you sent my SWAG is your NOHAB anvil was made from them by Soderfors. Looks like their Peter Wright copy. My WAG on date would be sometime during the first half of the 1900s.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Thursday, 04/12/07 01:12:24 EDT

I had posted a question about the Clackson scroll formula, hoping the guru might be able to answer it, but it has disappeared in the meantime.
Anyway, a friend directed me to Wikipedia, where I have found details. Having tried it out, it gives a good estimate of the length of metal required for making a scroll and takes the guesswork out of ordering the right length of stock.
   Derek Rae - Thursday, 04/12/07 05:49:03 EDT

Not a proper "blacksmith" question, but I really am trying. I was recently given a new-fangled electric-type drill press thingy and I would like to know what speed to set it at for drilling your average black mild 15mm thick steel plate. I'm worried about burning my bits, if you know what I mean. If the worst should happen, can you re-temper a good quality drill bit?
   Craig - Thursday, 04/12/07 06:33:51 EDT

Speeds and Feeds: Craig, many drill presses will not go slow enough for steel. The thickness is not an issue. The critical parameters ARE. .

Material (type of steel)
Diameter of the bit.

Cutting speed is given in linear feet per minute. This is then converted to RPM.

We are assuming good quality HSS drill bits, not antiques.

For most mild steel the cutting speed for drill is around 120 to 100 Feet per minute. For stainless and tool steel it is about 90 feet per minute or less. Bits last longer at low speed. Published values (see Machinery's Handbook) may be higher but also assume heavy duty machine shop equipment and professional operators.

SO. . . for each size bit there is a different speed. The larger the bit, the slower the RPM.

I'll calculate in English units then convert to nearest MM.

120 * 12 / Dia * PI = RPM (high)

3/8" (10mm) = 1222 RPM
1/2" (13mm) = 917
9/16" (14mm) = 814
5/8" (16mm) = 733
3/4" (19mm) = 611
7/8" (22mm) = 523
1" (25.4mm) = 458

Now. . . I run at about 100 FPM which is 80% of the above speeds and use thin oil for chip coolant. Drill bits last for hundreds of holes between sharpening on average.

Drill presses designed for wood working rarely go slow enough for drill bits larger than 3/8" (10mm). Unless all you do is very small work then they have no place in the metal shop.

Feed pressure is also critical. Making a good healthy chip is better on the bit than going too slow. Not cutting, just rubbing, work hardens the metal and heats the bit resulting in worn chipped or broken bits. Not clearing chips in deep hole is a problem but worse is riding on top of a chip that has fallen back into the hole. NOT having sufficient feed pressure is why drill bits are rapidly burned up by hand held drills.

Finally, how you handle the "break through" at the bottom of the hole is critical and requires some skill. As the hole opens less pressure is required and the bit will try to crew itself through the thin edges rather than cutting. At this point you have to slow the feed (reduce the pressure of even hold back) so that the bit cuts the last metal no faster than it has the rest. Chipped edges and broken bits result from not paying attention to the break through. The "feel" from the feed back in a sensitive drill press is a critical part of learning to drill holes.

Feed rate in distance per turn can be set on many machine tools but is only used for drilling on fully automatic drills.

NEVER, step drill unless you need the precision for some reason. Step drilling is a hand drill crutch that solves the lack of feed pressure problem by substituting other problems. Controlling the feed rate (holding back) is critical when you step drill. Otherwise the bit sees too much load and you break the corners off the bit. When you step drill on a drill press it should only be done on machines that have an automatic feed for boring. Thus the machine feeds forward a controlled amount all the way through the hole. It is still hard on corners. Step drilling does not solve the problem of turning too fast.

This IS a blacksmithing question. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 09:53:45 EDT

More drilling speeds. Many drill presses do not have fine speed adjustments. For average work I keep mine at the next to the slowest speed (in straight gear). When drilling small deep holes the low speed gives one a better feel and I get a better rate of success.

However, in a job-shop environment where profits are measured in pounds of chips made per hour you push the performance envelope to the max. It is like running a race. You run 10% higher than the highest published speeds using coolant and use higher feed rates. If chips are not blue you are not running fast enough. As soon as bit wear can be detected they are replaced, the dull ones set aside to be resharpened by a specialist. Small bits are often discarded as it is cheaper to buy new than the resharpen used.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 10:09:12 EDT

Measuring Spirals: Derek, you must have posted that somewhere else.

A true spiral is a simple slope. Given the distance from the center as one side of a right triangle and the number of turns times PI times half the diameter as the other the length of the spiral is the hypotenuse (more or less).

Hmmm. . that is the radius in both cases.

Most blacksmiths just bend a piece of wire to the planned spiral and then straighten and measure it. You can also use a roller measure (map wheel) on a scale drawing (OR an old fashioned blacksmiths traveler). Wheel tools for measurement have been around for centuries if not millinium.

   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 10:23:03 EDT


I've found a source of what may be old wrought iron, but I'm not entirely sure whether it is. The badly rusted surface seems more pitted than grainy, but there are some spots that do seem to show a linear grain. I've tried cutting a piece nearly all the way through and then breaking it the rest of the way; the break wasn't as "doughy" as I expected, but the metal at the point of the break does seem to have a grainy, somewhat fibrous appearance. I also tried letting it sit in vinegar overnight (my less hazardous, slower-acting version of the nitric acid test mentioned in the wrought iron FAQ here); this morning the cut ends were still bright, which hasn't been the case when I've done the same thing with steel. But the other steels I've soaked in vinegar were pretty high in carbon, which might make a difference, so I'm not sure that little experiment proves that what I have is wrought iron versus, say, mild steel.

Can anyone point me to any good photos of what the broken ends of wrought iron and mild steel look like, for comparison purposes? Any other hints on verifying that it's wrought?
   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 13:16:41 EDT

PS -- Here's a photo of a small piece of it: http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g170/mandmphotos/iron.jpg
   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 13:29:28 EDT

I showed a teacher friend of mine who is scottish , the sgian dubh i made, and he would like me to make him one, but with a different pattern,
other than, Cable, And roller chain damascus, what are some damascus patterns that can be done with semi easy to find scrap, i dont want to have to buy sheets of certain steels, i just want to grab some steel and weld it together, ive heard you can make some damascus out of singlemetal bandsaw blades, with something else inbetween, and since he wants a twisted damascus pattern i think that would work best, but, does anyone know how that is supposed to be done? also, the whole process of making star twist damascus, with a billet?

   Cameron - Thursday, 04/12/07 14:16:57 EDT

Many of the single metal bandsaw blades are L6 steel (you want the really big blades, not the type you get for your little shop bandsaw) Recently I've seen some good contrast damascus made with L6 bandsaw steel and 1084. On the whole there arent a whole lot of high carbon sources for damascus that you can 'find as scrap' besides things like motorcycle primary chains, cable, and the like, everything else needs to be cut, cleaned, and layered for the most part.
   Jmercier - Thursday, 04/12/07 14:40:48 EDT

Bandsaw blade steel and steel strapping -- the kind they used to secure heavy loads to pallets for shipping -- is a fairly common combination. I've heard the steel strapping is supposed to be close to 1095. I find the 1" wide strapping in the scrap bin at my local structural steel warehouse.
   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 14:41:59 EDT

Cam; if you go over to anvilfire's hammer-in forum you will find a link to "Thomas's pizza mutilating device" that shows an exampl of bandsaw blate and pallet strapping done as a 40 layer twist.

As for instructions; I'm sorry I am not going to type out a half dozen pages on how to do it when you can get Hrisoulas' books that describe it in detial by interlibrary loan from your local library.

A couple of tips though: round the billet *throughly* before twisting; twist when very hot, the stars show up depending on how deep you grind into the billet---this is shown in the books very nicely with the pattern you get when you grind into the billet shown in steps.

Thomas and yes I'm the pizza slasher
   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/12/07 14:54:03 EDT

Matt could you show us the *broken* section not the outside.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/12/07 14:54:57 EDT

Break in Wrought: The break test in wrought is supposed to show grains pulling out of either end sort of like when a tree is felled and wood is pulled out at the "hinge". But you need to look close at the break. Steel does not do this at all. The grain in your piece looks to be wrought but it is difficult to tell from the photo. What you look for is changes in the grain direction where welds might be or a piece was folded and welded to itself. In steel you occasionally get a surface grain effect when it is stressed or sharpely bent.

Another thing that raw freshly forged wrought iron does is the rust converts to bright red iron oxide more than does steel. Wrought dust rusts iron oxide red as well and is much brighter than steel rust.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 15:09:21 EDT

Clackson Scroll Formula: Thank you, guru. I know your hypotenuse method must amount to the same thing, but it seems a lot more complicated than Clackson´s

length of scroll = number of turns squared times spacing between turns times PI
   Derek Rae - Thursday, 04/12/07 15:34:53 EDT

hi ive got a question can u make a anvil?
   john - Thursday, 04/12/07 15:39:31 EDT

for star twist damascus, once you have a billet, do you twist all one way, then hammer flat, then forge what you want, or do you have to twist one way, then twist opposite way every inch or wahtever>?

   Cameron - Thursday, 04/12/07 15:41:11 EDT


The piece in the pic is actually pretty small (maybe 1/4" diameter or a bit more), and I'm having trouble getting a decent resolution pic of the end grain. I'll give it another try.

guru, your description of a felled tree is very encouraging. On one of the breaks I only cut about halfway through before I broke the piece, and the site of the break looks very much like you're describing.

I'll see what I can do about getting an image.
   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 16:17:30 EDT

The detail on this isn't nearly what I'd like, but here's a side view of a break where I'd only cut about halfway through the metal before I broke it:


The rust in the cut is from the overnight soak in vinegar, followed by riding around in my pocket for most of the day today.

Still working on a useful end pic.
   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 16:38:41 EDT

John N; Yes I can make an anvil; can you?

Friends of mine made one and documented it on their website for the "Marco-Krieger Armory", search out that and then go to "that anvil story" link

Matt "green stick fracture" where the break looks fiberous rather than grannular is what you are looking for.

Thomas down a pint of blood
   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/12/07 16:47:41 EDT

Making Anvils: John, Sure, what size? Are you looking for something special? There are a number of manufacturers of anvils today and the production product is much more economical than a special one-off.

While Bealer stated in The art of Blacksmithing that the only tool a blacksmith could not make was his anvil that is not nearly as true today as it was 150 years ago. Today we have large slabs of high carbon steel available and you can do wonders with a cutting torch, an arc welder and an angle grinder (hand held grinder). However, it is a relatively expensive way to go as steel plate sells for half what a finished anvil sells for and there is a lot of waste and labor in this method. Fuel costs for heavy cutting are also not insignificant. Most anvils made today are cast then the face machined. There is some hand finishing on better anvils but it is nothing like hand carving from the rough.

I've made little small bench anvils using a combination of fabrication and forging. A nice stake anvil in the 30 pound range can be forged under a typical small shop 150 pound power hammer such as a Big BLU, Phoenix or Striker.

I've also made patterns and cast small brass anvils. These are more decorative than useful but the process is the same as was used in the Bronze age to make small anvils then.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 16:47:44 EDT

OK, here are the best two I could get of the end grain:

   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 17:06:43 EDT

More about making anvils: I have a friend that has a 500 and 750 pound steam hammer in his shop. Some fairly serious anvil forging could be done under these. . .

Using the flame cutting route a fairly large anvil can be made, especially if the torch is machine guided. I have two torch setups, one that does circles and arcs, the other straight lines. Machine cutting can be relatively smooth and save a lot of grinding time. Steel service centers will also flame cut on one axis using computer guided torches. This can save a lot of setup time and effort.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 17:32:34 EDT

Wrought Iron: Go here: www.realwroughtiron.com/wiac.htm
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 04/12/07 18:36:11 EDT

Thanks Guru. I think I have been running too fast, and I have chipped the edge of my brand new 10mm at the break thru point, so I will be more vigilant in future.
As for "burnt" bits, is it worth the effort of trying to ressurect them?
   Craig - Thursday, 04/12/07 18:36:36 EDT

Quenchcrack: Been there more than once in the past couple of days. Didn't tell me what I need to know.
   Matt - Thursday, 04/12/07 18:55:18 EDT

Quenchcrack, You gonna be at the CSI hammerin?
   ptree - Thursday, 04/12/07 19:35:59 EDT

Burnt Drill Bits: Most twist drill bits are fine to resharpen unless the sides of the flutes are torn up.

Note however that many of the new "split point" bits have a thick web and cannot be sharpened normally. Regular point drill bits have the web thinned for the last 20% of the bit and can be resharpened until losing about 10% of their length. After that the web must be thinned. This requires a special radiused grinding wheel and skills that most folks do not have. It should be done on a special drill grinding fixture. That means that only large expensive bits that are worth taking to a professional ahould be sharpened beyond the -10% point.

Cheap split points with thick webs must be resharpened with a split point. This requires a machine with a properly dressed diamond wheel. Better quality split points have enough web thinning to be converted to plain points.

   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 21:02:48 EDT

Dear Guru,
I purchased a very large anvil at an auction recently. It must weigh 250 lbs because it has 25 on the one foot and theirs an emblem on the side which is a circle with an eagle in it. the eagle is the older style ( like what you would see on a liberty silver dollar) the one with two wings and the head turned to the side. I am curious as to what kind it is and where it was made and its value. I would be very interested to know more about it and appreciate that there is a web site that gives me the opportunity to be able to ask these questions. I found your web site on the ask Jeeves web site. Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you or one of your helpers!
   Jack Rowley - Thursday, 04/12/07 21:12:52 EDT

Jack that sounds like a Fisher-Norris Eagle Anvil. See the link.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/12/07 21:43:00 EDT


When you break wrought, you're looking for the part you didn't cut to split lengthwise and kind of peel apart into fibers. Just like a green stick would.

Someone smarter than I am will have to tell whether wrought can *ever* break the way your piece did. But you certainly didn't get a classic wrought-iron break.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 04/12/07 22:12:07 EDT


Pardon me, but the pic looks like a clinker that's been hacksawed a little.

I use the spark test. Fairly straight carrier lines with an occasional break, maybe a dash on the end(s). A few sprigs. No bursting. A little darker color than mild steel. With mild steel, you begin to get some bursting in the spark shower. The catch. You'll need a piece of wrought iron for study and comparison purposes.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 04/12/07 23:28:46 EDT

FYI: Clean looking Trenton 75 pound anvil in Seattle area on Craig's List... http://seattle.craigslist.org/tac/tls/310983484.html
   Bob Johnson - Friday, 04/13/07 00:32:53 EDT

Hello Guru,
I am to go look at a little giant trip hammer.What is the difference between a trip hammer or power hammer?If so what do I need to be looking at for unfixable problems?Thanks for a great site .I've learned a ton reading the posts and answers!
   - Rich - Friday, 04/13/07 07:21:41 EDT

Wrought iron grain.




   - TM - Friday, 04/13/07 09:17:32 EDT


I saw those pics of yours posted somewhere else. (Don Fogg's?) But since not all wrought is created equal, I didn't want to assume every WI break will look exactly like that.

Thanks for the input, guys.
   Matt - Friday, 04/13/07 09:30:38 EDT

Ptree, do you need me to bring some RR spikes to TN ?
   daveb - Friday, 04/13/07 09:57:10 EDT

Power Hammer vs. Trip Hammer: The two terms are used interchangeably. However, a trip hammer is most commonly a mechanical hammer and preferably a gravity helve hammer.

First thing to recognize about a Little Giant is that most are at least 75 years old and have been used a LOT.

The second thing is that most people think they can be repaired with a bigger hammer, arc welded or torch. They ARE a machine and some parts were quite precision.

The third thing is that lack of lubrication is a common problem. If it is not dripping with grease and oil then its not properly lubricated. The bearings have no seals, the guides no wipers and even the clutch surfaces get oiled.

Common problems:

Worn or broken dies, loose fitting dies.

Broken dovetails, stuck wedges.

Worn guides. Grab the arms and give it a good shake. The ram should not rattle around in the guides.

Worn bearings. Using a block of wood and a pry bar, pry UP on the ram several inches. You should be able to put upward pressure on the crank wheel. If it lifts noticably then it MAY need rebabbiting. A small amount of slop can be shimmed out IF there are shims remaining.

Worn clutch bearing. This is the most expensive and difficult to repair. There are two types of clutch, a middle clutch and a rear clutch (hanging off the back). The works slides on the drive shaft but should not rattle around. The middle clutches can be in terible condition and still work OK, but the rear clutches become completely uncontrolable if worn.

There are several models of Little Giant but most later hammers came with a "sow block" or anvil cap. This is a seperate piece that is dovetailed to the anvil and if damaged can be replaced. Hammers without this are very expensive to repair if there is a die dovetail problem.

Most small parts of Little Giants are now available and is their only savings grace. New springs can perk up performance and toggle ends smooth the control.
   - guru - Friday, 04/13/07 10:47:36 EDT

Matt, you're welcome.

Ptree, gonna try but can't say for sure.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 04/13/07 11:56:06 EDT

Matt, it looks like the stuff you have could very well be wrought iron.

I have another piece of metal that didn't show much fibrous grain at all after breaking like that, but it has quite a beautiful pattern of different stuffs in it, and it forges as soft as wrought iron. It also has a good bit of copper in it.
   - TM - Friday, 04/13/07 12:53:37 EDT

....so therefore, you're correct that not all wrought is created equal. There are as many variations in it as there are smelters that made it.
   - TM - Friday, 04/13/07 12:56:08 EDT


I'm pretty sure it is WI. Not positive, but the context is an important clue: I found this stuff on a river bank at the site of an old mill that was in operation from the 1740s to the 1920s, when it burned down. Assuming it's from the mill -- which seems very likely -- I think the odds are in my favor.
   Matt - Friday, 04/13/07 14:00:22 EDT

just posted on the other message board - not internet savy
i am trying to "revive" an old peter wright anvil for a friend who wants to learn. Is there a welding rod to rebuild the face of an anvil that will stand up to constant pounding? the one he has cannot be ground smooth and still have a working face.
   nathan - Friday, 04/13/07 15:02:00 EDT

Nathan, I have seen some pretty rough anvils revived with relatively light grinding. Do not worry about flat. An anvil is NOT a reference surface. In fact a good sway is more useful for straightening than a flat anvil.

For spot welding I know folks that use special manganese tool steel welding rods (one was called super missile rod) along with plain steel rod. These are not hard facing rods but do mix with the high carbon fairly well. This works on spot repairs only and will be a little soft.

If the entire face is to be welded then you use a hard facing rod like a Stoody brand rod. Bill Pieh used to recommend using their build up rod as the others were TOO hard. Do not use any kind of hard facing rod for spot repairs. This results in hard spots that will become high spots and damage hammers.

Avoid welding if at all possible. However, if you must take as much as 1/8" off the surface then that is damaging the anvil as well.

   - guru - Friday, 04/13/07 15:57:08 EDT

I am just starting doing this stuff so I have no clue as to where to look for things, for example walmart
I was wanting to make an aluminum sword like over in the armory section of the web site but I can't find where to buy aluminum blanks. I've been looking for a while and every place I call doesn't even know what I am talking about. So if you could give me some advice about where to find some that would be great.
   - Christopher - Friday, 04/13/07 16:00:00 EDT


If you can't find any locally, you can order it from places like Online Metals: http://onlinemetals.com/merchant.cfm?id=69&step=2 They sell 6061-T6, which is one of the aluminum alloys mentioned in the tutorial you referred to.
   Matt - Friday, 04/13/07 16:09:45 EDT

there are several deep gouges (requiring more than 1/8 inch) but the entire face does not need to be rewelded.
this website is a wonderful reference for both experienced smiths and the apprentice. please keep up the good work
   nathan - Friday, 04/13/07 16:39:21 EDT

Nathan; if the gouges are not across the whole face thay do not need to be repaired. All you need is at least *1* area of smooth face to work on and the rest can be pretty rough. Lots less risk of damaging the anvil by not welding on it too.

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/13/07 16:59:52 EDT

Matt, Christoper Etal, Please see the On-line metals link in OUR store. . .
   - guru - Friday, 04/13/07 17:17:59 EDT

I just discovered the iForge area of this site and I am extremely impressed at 1)the idea of having an online real-time forging demo and 2) the quality of the demos being portrayed by these fine gentlemen. Again thankyou for such an AWESOME site where I can learn different blacksmithing techniques from the comfort of my home. This site has to be the best online resource I have found. Thanks again for all your dedication!
   Rhordae - Friday, 04/13/07 17:48:12 EDT

Hey guys, im a hobbyist blacksmith having some trouble finding what tools i need. Right now i've got myself a 3lb hammer and a pair of vice grips... it just doesnt cut it. im having trouble committing to anything on ebay since most of the sellers don't seem to know much about blacksmithing. Centaur forge isnt cheap and their out of stock on most of the things i want. I guess i need help with 2 things really: How much should i be willing to spend on a good tool, and what should no smith be with out, (i know i need a cut off hardie, and some tongs cause pliers dont cut it but im not sure what to get) Right now all i've been doing is simple spirals and curls. but want to start making other things! if anyone has any advice im more than happy to hear it =P. thanks!


   Sebastian - Friday, 04/13/07 18:28:30 EDT

oh, and i have a 125# anvil too, nice try smartguys!
   Sebastian - Friday, 04/13/07 18:29:35 EDT

Seb, there are some iForge demos on making tongs. Try the one with the Dempsey Twist. Very simple and they work. You need some flat steel stock to make it with. You can make a rivet out of 1/4" round rod from Lowes. Making your own tools is one of the most satisfying facets of blacksmithing.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 04/13/07 18:35:38 EDT

Sorry about that, Jock! I completely forgot about your link. Very embarrassing! Please feel free to edit me!
   Matt - Friday, 04/13/07 19:28:04 EDT

DaveB, RR spikes would be very nice. The museum just sold the last trowels I had made, and I am out of the good spikes. For a trowel I really like the 5/8" spikes that arnt undercut from the track plate, and I was lucky to find a partial keg a few years ago. All gone now:( Need anything for trade? I have lots of slightly used die springs that make great knives. Also some no carbon steel sheet in small pieces.
   ptree - Friday, 04/13/07 20:11:51 EDT

Just read the "Generation X Sword Making or POOF! You're a Swordsmith!" How funny! I was almost in tears. I actually had the benifit of being taught by a sword/knife smith. I worked for him on some of the menial tasks (polishing, rough grinding, rough forging, etc in ecahange for Beer, smokes and knowledge. Looking back, I can see that I came out WAY ahead in the deal! We lost touch over the years. I know this isn't exaclty the right place, but I wanted to publicly thank him for his gift to me. So... S.M. Von Kruger, (AkA Ice) if you every read this page, thank you for your gift of knowledge, It is much appreciated. I would also like to thank you all, esteemed craftsman, for your gifts of knowledge to us Gen Xers et al. I assume most times your help goes unappreciated. I for one appreciate it greatly!

   Chris Bernard - Friday, 04/13/07 21:35:26 EDT

Chris, thanks. Much of it is tongue in cheek but much is also the truth that many do not want to hear.
   - guru - Friday, 04/13/07 23:17:28 EDT

Tools: When you are poor you need to spend money on tools that help you make tools. The two key items for this in the modern world are an oxy-acetylene welding cutting outfit. A good full size one like a Victor Journeyman set from a reputable dealer and a good 240VAC buzz box. With these two items and an angle grinder you can build almost anything.

Smaller items include a good blacksmiths leg vice and a post , tank or bench to mount it on. A good vice gets used almost as much as the anvil when doing forge work. I like to say vises are my vice as I have numerous types and sizes.

Back to machinery. A good drill press is needed for making tools and producing work. A metal working drill should have a range of 1000 down to 400 RPM. A good small saw will save you a lot of time and grief. Some folks substitute an abrasive chop saw but I dislike the noisy dirty things. Clean square cuts can be applied to work and to making tools and fixtures.

With a good drill press you should plan to purchase a full drill index of top quality HSS drill bits ut to 1/2" or 15mm minimum.

Good tongs can be made or bought. You will not appreciate how inexpensive a $25 pair of tongs are until you make a few that are not as good. DO make tongs. But buying them is efficient use of ones shop time. I have both commercial tonga and tongs I've made for myself. I like and use both. I wish I had time to make all my tongs just to say I did. . .

Our advertisers sell super alloy slitting chisels that cannot be beat. I highly recommend them.

The one thing NOT to do is get stuck on some prehistoric idea of what a "traditional" blacksmith shop is. Blacksmiths are metal workers and they have always sought out the most efficient tools to do their job. In top shops they use power hammers, automated plasma torches and programmable benders along with automatic saws and other machine shop type tools.

The two most important machines in my shop are the Lathe and the Drill press followed by the saw. No matter how much forge work I do these machines are as important as all the rest.

Good luck deciding what to get first. However, finances usually make the decision for most of us.
   - guru - Friday, 04/13/07 23:37:36 EDT

Sebastian: At the the risk of beating my own drum have you even looked at my eBay Store: Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools? Easiest way is to just do a seller search on scharabo, asking for 200 results per page. I think you will find I have some knowledge of blacksmithing and my tools are not only reasonably price, but specifically designed for the beginner/novice smith.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 04/14/07 06:30:01 EDT

Where can I find these kinds of files needed to make the aluminum sword

12" Mill file bastard cut
10" Flat smooth cut
8" Flat smooth cut
12" Square bastard cut
10" Flat aluminum cut
8" Half Round aluminum cut
10" Round rough cut
   - Christopher - Saturday, 04/14/07 09:32:01 EDT

Christopher, Almost any major hardware supplier will have all but the special aluminium files. These you will need to get from a machine shop supply. For all odd-ball things that you do not have a local supplier for I use McMaster-Carr (www.mcmaster.com). Sometimes their prices are a little high but they are the most efficient folks I have ever dealt with. If it in their on-line catalog inventory then they really have it and it will be shipped immediately. Any extra cost is worth the convenience and service.

Note that this was just a suggested list and that you will probably just use two or three of these. But files are an investment even though they do wear out. Some files will be replaced often while others will be in use for decades.

File Notes:

Files used for brass and aluminium should not be used on steel. They need and will keep a sharper edge until used on steel.

Handles make files easier to use an let you use more of the file. For large files commercial handles are best. For small files I make my own from a piece of hardwood and a piece of copper tube for a ferrule.

Files come phosphated and oiled and resist rusting to a degree. But they need to be kept oiled when in storage. WD-40 works well. Fine files should be de-oiled prior to use.

Files need to be cleaned of chips and nits every so often. A "file card" is used for most files. A heavier hand wire brush works on larger files. I use a fine wire wheel turning at relatively low speed (not on a grinder) to clean up seriously clogged files.

Files are best stored so that they do not knock into each other. This is getting picky but it is true. Sadly mine are all in one heap except those still in the box.

Old files can be used for their steel for making other tools. Ends can be ground to use as scrapers even before the file wears out making them a combination tools.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/14/07 10:34:18 EDT

Ken, there is nothing wrong with beating your own drum, I think doctors even recommend it once and a while. I'll check out your shop. Thanks!

   Sebastian - Saturday, 04/14/07 11:12:27 EDT

"Our advertisers sell super alloy slitting chisels that cannot be beat."

dang I beat on my super alloy slitting chisels all the time---only way to use them!

   Thomas P - Saturday, 04/14/07 13:05:13 EDT


Real men just push 'em through...cold.
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/14/07 13:21:06 EDT

File handles are a important safety item too. There have been many guys have a file tang stabbed into their hand when their file un-expectedly snags up.

I often recycle the handle off a junked screwdriver.
Just pull the screwdriver blade off its plastic handle then insert the file to that.
Does not work well if the handles are the moulded to the shaft type screwdriver, But at least 50% of all screwdrivers made the handles are just pressed on and can be just as easily pulled off.

   - Sven - Saturday, 04/14/07 15:43:09 EDT

Ken, Scharabok: I cannot find my directions to the World Headquarters for Poorboy Blacksmith, INC. Can you post them or email them to me. I will try to be there Saturday but I will be returning from Houston on Friday. Maybe some honeydo's stacked up.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 04/14/07 15:43:10 EDT

quenchcrack:Directions to Ken's and CSI Hammer-In
From I-40 east or west
Take Highway 13 North (Buffalo Exit – to the east of KY Lake) about 14 miles.

Look for hospital on right. Take next road on left (Mathews Hollow Road) to where it ends on West Blue Creek Road.

Turn right and the site will be the next place on the left.

From Highway 70 east or west
Come into Waverly until you see the Exxon (Hunt's Outdoors) station on the northeast corner of an intersection.

Turn south on S. Clydeton Road and follow it (over Main Street) until it stops on Highway 13.

Turn right and then take another quick right onto Mathews Hollow Road.

Then follow above directions.

From Highway 13 South, go through downtown Waverly.

At top of hill will be the Town Hill Restaurant.

The second road to the right past it will be Mathews Hollow.

   ML - Saturday, 04/14/07 15:52:24 EDT

Are your coming to Tennesse this year?
my hammerin is first weekend in may
drop me a line
id also like to swap links
drop me a line
   larry harley - Saturday, 04/14/07 16:23:18 EDT

Where can I find a hammer for cheap? I already have an anvil that was my great grandfathers, and I will put some time into building a forge after I have gotten the proper tools.
   - Allen - Saturday, 04/14/07 16:27:23 EDT

Cheap Hammer: Allen, You get what you pay for and cheap tools pay you back in kind.

First, avoid all Flea market Chinese hammers. They are made of poor metal, poorly finished and poorly handled.

Go to almost any hardware store and look for a blacksmiths cross peen hammer. You will want about a 2.5 to 3 pound (max) hammer starting out. Any good brand will do, Plumb, Craftsman. . . .

Alternatively you can order a standard German hammer from one of our advertisers. These are very economical EXCEPT you must dress them yourself. This means taking a belt grinder to the face and radiusing all the corners. It is not a job for someone that doesn't know exactly what the face of a hammer should look like OR have good grinding skills.

   - guru - Saturday, 04/14/07 16:50:06 EDT

CSI 2007 Hammer-In: There is a link to directions to Kens.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/14/07 16:56:36 EDT

Is there a schedule of what is happening on which day? what time are things starting on Friday?
   brian robertson - Saturday, 04/14/07 17:30:14 EDT

Is there a special kind of saw that I need to cut aluminum and
if so will I use it enough for it to pay for itself?
   - Christopher - Saturday, 04/14/07 17:47:59 EDT

Brian Robertson:

Basically Friday will be a set-up and practice day. Guru (Jock) needs to test drive my SOF&A workshop air hammer to see what he can do with it as far as to what he has plans to do. (And hopefully he will volunteer some folks to strike for him as well as part of the demonstration.)

Saturday will be the BIG day. Will likely get started around 8:30 to 9:00 and run to about noon. Then a break for lunch (I'm only two miles from Waverly with the typical small town fast food joints) and back for perhaps 1:00 to 3-4 PM. Likely how long demonstrations will run will depend on crowd continuing interest.

In late afternoon on Saturday will be the Iron-in-the-Hat drawing. (There is no registration fee for the event but participants are asked to bring something reasonally blacksmithing-related to donate to the drawing.)

We do not have a World of Tools Museum tour scheduled for this year. I would like to alternate on that year to year. If someone where a 'tool-head', I likely could arrange something informal on Friday or Sunday.

Sunday, if anything, would be take down, but anyone would be welcome to stay and use my shop and equipment if they have a suitable project they'd like to work on. If you can't find a tool you need I suspect I can make a useable one for you.

Difficult to project attendance, but I'm guessing at 40-60. They was an article on me in the March 2007 issue of The Cooperator (monthly of the TN Farmers' Co-op) and I received about a dozen calls asking about the event. I also know of some folks saying they were coming to specifically look for an anvil and other tools in the tailgate sales.

Richard Postman sent a note he will not be coming this year. He wants to concentrate of finishing "More on Anvils", which will be THE one supplement to "Anvils in America".

I also have about a one-acre farm pond which will be open to fishing if anyone wants to try to drown worms, shiners or chicken livers, but casting is fine as well.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 04/14/07 18:09:15 EDT

I have been looking at blacksmithing for a while and I have been wondering if it was worth getting in to as a hobby. What can you do with the skill of blacksmithing?
   - aaron - Saturday, 04/14/07 18:12:21 EDT

aaron-- you can spend the rest of your life trying to find the answer(s) to that question and have a blast every step of the endlessly fascinating way, is what you can do. It's entirely up to you. Nobody else can answer that for you.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 04/14/07 18:44:56 EDT

On above directions, Mathews Hollow Road T-s off on West Blue Creek Road. Turn right and I'm the next place on the LEFT. Staff and vendors can park in yard. Day folks should go into the gate just PAST my mailbox and park in the field in front of the hay/storage bar.

BYOC - Bring your own chair.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 04/14/07 18:47:29 EDT

I am sorry to ask questions constantly but you guys are the only people I know who can answer my questions. I am wanting to make an aluminum sword and I want it to look like an Roman short sword. Do you guys know the dimensions for one?
   - Christopher - Saturday, 04/14/07 19:49:50 EDT

Can someone tell me how I can find out the maker of an anvil. I have one that was left by my father. Must be 50 years old it is forged and in great shape. Where would look on it for the maker? It must weigh 300 lbs not including the base and it has a square end and a round pointed end ,1 small round hole and one small square hardie hole. Any help would be appreciated. I am going to attempt to sell it but I need to do my homework.
   Dan - Saturday, 04/14/07 19:57:20 EDT

Anvil ID: Dan, most anvils have the manufacturers name stamped in their side OR have a cast logo. Years of rust, paint and dirt often make them hard to see.

Normally if you have the round horn to the LEFT the markings will be toward you.

Use a wire brush to remove heavy rust and accumulated paint or dirt. Stamped markings are often very shallow and hard to see. Sometimes making a rubbing using thin paper and the side of a soft pencil helps. Other times you just have to scratch out the dirt.

Anvils often have distinct styles and features. If you can get a good clear photograph of it then we can tell you a lot more.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/14/07 20:56:16 EDT

Saw for aluminum: Christopher, any hack-saw will do. Aluminium is easy to cut and it is one of the few things that a hack saw is REALLY good for. Use as coarse a blade as your hardware store carries.

Sword length varies. Try a cubit. (tip of elbow to tip of fingers). It varies with the person so it will be proportionately correct for you.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/14/07 21:01:45 EDT

the class i'm attending uses side draft forges. i was wondering if you can tell me the pros an cons .i know most american smiths use bottom draft forges, my insructor apprenticed in england. i'm planing to build a forge and wanting to know wich is more useful.
   robert webbe - Saturday, 04/14/07 21:07:32 EDT


What can you do with the skill of stamp collecting, or fishing, reading, playing the kaxoo or whittling duck decoys? ANY hobby, blacksmithing included, is pursued for the simple enjoyment of doing it. No other reason or justification is needed, but if you do feel the need for some sort of validation, consider that having a hobby goes a long way towards preserving one's mental health. (Yeah, I know; all blacksmiths are loony, but who cares?)
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/14/07 23:14:29 EDT

Aaron; Find a nearby blacksmith and go watch them for a bit. Either you will be drawn towards the light (of the fire) or not. Either you will have an urge to start collect hammers and tongs or not.

If you get the urge do not fight it. Join us - resistance is futile!!
   dief - Saturday, 04/14/07 23:18:05 EDT

For a bandsaw blade damascus knife with bandsaw and pallet strapping ,

is it metal cutting bandsaws or wood, and how do i tell whether it is bi metal or single metal?
thanks alot
   Cameron - Saturday, 04/14/07 23:52:05 EDT

What can you do with blacksmithing?

Make almost anything made from metal from primitive tools to machine tools. Make sculpture for your desk or public sculpture as large as a barn. You can explore the mysteries of ancient metallurgy or advance modern metallurgy. You can create artistic lamps, railings and guards for homes rich and poor. You can make blades for hunters OR for surgeons. You can discover how technology developed or advance tomarrow's technology. You can beat swords into plowshares make weapons or symbols of peace.

Blacksmithing is art, science, history and playing with fire and hot metal. Blacksmithing can be fun or it can be drudgery. It is what you make of it.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/15/07 00:26:14 EDT

Strapping and bandsaw blades: First, there is strapping and there is strapping. There is high grade for heavy loads and low (soft grade) for low loads. It also comes in stainless steel and plastic.

Bi-metal blades have a distinctive weld line and the hard HSS steel edge will break while the back is bending. If you want a clue about bandsaw blades investigate a saw blade catalog.

You are talking Junkyard steels and junkyard steel rules apply. You find a sample and then YOU become the metallurgist. If you trust someone that says all such and such are X type of steel then you are a fool. If it is from scrap then YOU must determine what it is. Otherwise, buy new steel with a pedigree.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/15/07 00:33:52 EDT

Dan: Anvil identification sometimes comes down to eliminating possibilities: Checklist:

- If you tap the end of the horn and heel does it have a ring or 'thud' sound?

- Are any letters or numbers raised or stamped in? If so, where and what are they? (I recommend laying anvil on side, horn to right, and dusting with flour. When flour is brushed off, leaving residue in depressions, sometimes stamped letters or numbers stand out.)

- Does there appear to be what looks like an eagle with spread wings raised on the side with the horn to right? On same side does it have an raised oval with an arm holding a hammer within it?

- On the side with horn to right do you see a flattened diamond with lettering within it varying in height depending on location within the diamond? On same side (think of a football from the side) is there lettering arced at the top and bottom to follow the football shape?

- Are there any numbers on the front foot? If so, where (which side) and what are they? Only a couple of manufacturers put weight and/or serial numbers there - including Peter Wright in their later years.)

- Are there handling holes under the horn, heel and on the bottom? If so, how many at each location?

- Is the bottom flat, an oval depression or a depression which follows the sides of the base?

- Can you see any evidence of a separate top plate, such as a slightly depressed line 3/8" to 1/2" below the top of the anvil?

- Can you weigh the anvil on a bathroom scale (many of which today go over 300 pounds)? People tend to overestimate weight based on eyeballing alone.

- Are there small flat ledges on top of the front and back feet?

- Are their bolt down hole nubs on the front or back feet or a notch in the back under the hardy (square) hole. (Typically the size of the hardy hole increased with the weight of an anvil to where its size can be roughly correlated to weight.)

- Many of the anvils in the U.S. today were exported by Britian. Almost all of those had the anvil's weight stamped at the waist on one side or the other. Stamps were in the British stone weight system and spaced apart to where the first represented multiples of 112 pounds (1/20th of a long ton), the second multiples of 28 pounds and third remaining pounds. For example, if your anvil weighs 300 pounds and was British made you should be able to see numbers such as 2 2 20 or 2 . 2 . 20. (The dots, which are set punch marks, are important since predominately only Mouse Hole Forge used them. My neighbor has a MH which can only be identified to them by the style of the feet and those two punch marks. All of the rest of the markings are gone with time and use.)

As Guru noted good quality photographs are of great help. If you have a digital camera you can send them to either him or me by clicking on our name and then attaching them to the e-mail form which will come up.)

The definitive reference is "Anvils in America" and "Mouse Hole Forge" (two books) by Richard Postman. Both should be available from the anvilfire.com store (click on NAVIGATE anvilfire box in upper right). AIA is only going to increase in value. While it now sells new for around $60 plus S&H, I received a notice one is on www.half.com for something like $171. Mr. Postman is also working on "More on Anvils" which will be a supplement to, not a revision of, AIA. AIA was first published about 11 years ago and he has learned a good deal more about manufacturers since then.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/15/07 08:34:48 EDT

Thank you for the vast amount of info I got from Guru and Ken. I have work to do to learn the history and make of my anvil and will get pics up to you for sure. I am impressed with your thoroughness in answering my questions. I have learned alot.Thanks again
   Dan - Sunday, 04/15/07 10:36:44 EDT

I haven't gotten my hammer yet but I was wondering where do you get the metal you work with? Do you just buy a big block of it and cut off what your going to use?
   - Allen - Sunday, 04/15/07 11:25:06 EDT

i was commisioned to make a candle snuffer. a bell on the end of a handle, not the scissors style. i took a piece of 3/4 round and punched a hole up the center and then forged the round into a bell shape on the bick. now i need to figure out how to attach the handle. i could drill and tap the bell and thread a tennon on the handle and screw the two together. i dont think i could forge weld the two together clean enough. is there such a thing as a shrink fit? like putting a cold tennon into a hot mortice will it hold? what is the proper procedure?
   coolhand - Sunday, 04/15/07 11:34:56 EDT

i was wondering which is more efficient... regular bellows or box bellows? and the best material for the flap valves?
   jimbo - Sunday, 04/15/07 11:36:38 EDT

Metal Sources: The vast majority, including hobby smiths buy it new from a "steel service center" or steel supplier. You can only scrounge up so much usable scrap, most of which will be too large or too small. You can also buy steel bar from hardware stores and big box stores. HOWEVER, most of this is zinc galvanized and is not good material for forging. See our top iForge safety demo.

Then, in all of the third world and most poor countries re-bar is used. See our FAQ on rebar.

Material sold at steel service centers comes in 20-21 foot lengths. The will cut it for you for a small fee but the minimum purchase will be several pieces at least. Cut in half you can carry it on the luggage rack of a fan or station wagon. I would buy a length of 1/2" square, 3/8" square and 1/4" square to start. The 1/2" will come in HR-bar and the smaller in CF-bar (see our FAQ on steel product types).

Minimums are usually $50 and these are INDUSTRIAL suppliers, not toy stores. They expect you to know what you need, order it like you know what you are talking about and not wince at the $50 cash minimum. In other words, suck it up and act like a man!

You can also buy steel from steel fabricators or machine shops. However, THEY are not in the steel resale business and their prices will be higher and though more convenient for you, your business will will be considered a nuisance. So don't be a nag or ask stupid questions. Educate yourself before going to these businesses.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/15/07 12:34:09 EDT

Bellow Efficiency: Jimbo, Most bellows have equal efficiency if well constructed. Where inefficiency exists it is in leaks and bad (leaking) valves. However, I have seen large overly heavy Great Bellows that were hard to pull and were too short of stroke to be easy to use. These were in classy historical shops that made their bellows from bad historical illustrations.

A box bellows pumps air on both strokes with a slight pause in air flow at the direction change. The Great Bellows pumps air only on the (lever) down stroke and stores it in the top chamber for smooth continous air flow. However, this last only a moment or so after pumping and is a highly overrated feature. Both take the same effort to move the same amount of air and both give the same control over the fire.

When I built my bellow on my shop trailer I was very lucky. It was the perfect balance of size, board weights and lever arrangement. It was a joy to use and was quite efficient. I was licky because I did not have a clue what I was doing and was going by rough sizing from Alex Bealer.

I have used other bellows that were terrible to use. These were the result of too heavy a top board, short on leather and linkage that forced a short stroke no matter how the bellows performed. The stroke on the lever should be from your arm fully extended down to about shoulder height. This is about 22 to 24". You can pump less distance if you choose but it is much more relaxing to have a long gentle stroke. The leather on each bellows chamber should extend to almost the width (80 to 90%) of the bellows at the back. It is common to get cheap on leather and make a poorly operating low capacity bellows.

Heavy top boards were common but require a counter weight. Heavy bottom boards are just dead weight that you have to lift over and over again. Thick boards are easier to nail to but are lazy design. I used 1" nominal (3/4" thick) pine shelving and it worked very well. If you want a thicker edge then make the EDGE thicker not the entire board. Many bellows had edging boards fit around the perimiter. These also had 45 degree corners rather than round so it was easier to fit the wood.

The tricky part of building a box bellows is the piston seal. I plan on using felt. Folks also build these from plywood which is the WORSE thing you can do. Plywood has a rough non-linear grain and is a very high friction surface. The interior needs to be smooth linear grain wood finely finished with a good waxing. One side needs to be removable for maintenance.

Valves vary depending on type or position. Those in my bellows were made of some scrap rubberized cloth that someone gave me. They have worked like a charm for over 30 years. Traditional valves were wood. These can warp and not fit well. Soft leather with a loose edge and a wood back makes a good horizontal valve. The leather makes a good hinge as well and conforms to seal.

Box bellows use two different valving confiqurations. The classic type has flap valves in a hidden bottom chamber and a bidirectional pivoted exhaust valve. This flips back and forth in a V shaped opening closing one exhaust port then the other. It is a wood valve. I would use a piece of thin brass and felt seats.

The plan currently circulating is taken from a book under copyright. It has valves in the end boards and two exhaust valves on the sides in a "birdhouse" shaped manifold. This is a very simple design but the valves are not naturally closing. They require some air movement to close them. They need some kind of very light spring (perhaps a small wire) to bias them closed.

The devil is in the details. . .

The advantage of the box bellows is there is no leather. However, the valving is a little more sophisticated and friction and leakage can both be a problem if not properly addressed.

   - guru - Sunday, 04/15/07 14:01:37 EDT

To follow onto guru's comments on steel stock I would also recommend those sizes in round and 1/4" x 1/2", 3/4 & 1" flat stock. With my supplier I sometimes indicate a given length, more or less. For example, say I wanted about 6' of 7/8" round and they might have a piece 5', 7' or 8' long. I'll take it so they don't have to cut off from a long bar.

On square and flat stock cold rolled typically has square corners while hot rolled is a tad rounded. Hot rolled is less expensive than cold rolled. Cold rolled will typically have an oil coating.

If you just need a short piece try hardware or auto parts outlets. Locally the Farmers' Co-op has assorted sizes and types in lengths of up to 6' in a stand-up rack.

Last week I picked up a piece of 1/4" x 1" off of the rack and ruined a bandsaw blade trying to cut it. Apparently a length of a stainless or tool steel alloy either got mixed in with the supplier's stock or it was a piece of junkyand find I had forgotten about. Probably the latter. As Guru cuations, be careful.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 04/15/07 16:13:22 EDT

How hard is it to build a forge? I've been looking around but they all seem so complex and I have this vision of me setting myself on fire while just trying to build it.
   - Allen - Sunday, 04/15/07 16:23:10 EDT

I just bought some S7. The big 2.75" and 3.5" diameter pieces won't be hard to remember but the 3/4" round 4140 looks just like any other piece of steel. When you by odd steel stamp its alloy on the end or paint it or something. . .

   - guru - Sunday, 04/15/07 17:43:14 EDT

Building a forge: Allen, It depends on what kind. I do not recommend a gas forge as a first project unless you have a lot of experience with gas torches and equipment or do a lot of plumbing. However, coal and charcoal forges are dead simple. A container or hole in the ground to contain the fire and a source of blown air.

Consider THIS. You could take a smoking pipe (corncob, whatever, just not a good one), put a little real wood charcoal crumbled to about 1/8" to 1/4" in it, light it, then blow very gently and get a welding heat that will melt the end off an 1/8" diameter steel rod. Of course the pipe will probably catch on fire shortly after. . . Don't try this at home folks.

A ground forge is the simplest to build but assumes you like to work squatting or on your knees. A hole in clay soil, a tube (could be a rock lined tunnel OR buried piece of 1-1/2" pipe, and a bellows, blower, wine skin or reversed vacuum cleaner and you have a forge that will do almost anything. This type of forge is still in use in many countries and has been around for thousands of years.

NOW. . if you are a typical Westerner (From Eurpoe West) then you like to work standing. SOoooo...... You raise you pit onto a hearth, table, stand. . . And, since you are a little more sophisticated and can afford to do something about the smoke you add a chimney next to the fire pit. The surrounding hearth surface becomes a work support and fuel reserve area so that you can just keep pushing fresh fuel to the fire pit (or fire POT). These forges with a side blown air intake and clay lined "pot" have been made for centuries. They have been built using wood framing holding dirt and clay, stone, brick Or stone earth and brick mixed, and most recently cast iron and steel.

A modern steel forge is exactly the same thing as in the past. However, they have gotten a little more sophisticated. They have a well designed fire pot based on centuries of experience. They also have an ash dump which is necessary for bottom blast coal forges. The table or hearth is the coal reserve, the cast forges sloping toward the fire pot with cutouts for stock, a stock stand and sometimes a water tank built in.

You can by components for building forges from our advertisers.

THEN there are little rivet and home built brake drum or spare wheel DIY forges that can be built from junk.

See our Coal and Charcoal FAQ about fuel.

   - guru - Sunday, 04/15/07 18:09:02 EDT

I just built my first forge, and I have to say it's one of the scariest, most rewarding things I've ever done. I started the hard way with basicly no skill, and really no idea what I was getting into. I also started with a Gas forge. the forge I built works just peachy, but I can look at it and see the many things I will do diffrently next time. Two bits of Advice I want to give. One: read everything you can find, There is a lot of info on the net about building forges, either char/coal or gas. two: ask questions, People here were very nice to put up with some fairly silly questions I posted when i was just trying to figure out what I was doing. It never hurts to ask, espcially when you have no clue what your doing.
   Frostfly - Sunday, 04/15/07 22:28:45 EDT

for a steel strapping and saw blade damscus, i have 1 inch black painted strapping,t hat is from a heavy load, and im now looking for saw blades, everywhere i ask says they dont have bandsaw, but have hacksaw,can that be used?
   Draconas__666@hotmail.com - Sunday, 04/15/07 22:36:26 EDT

2 questions.
First, can simple glycols (like those in engine coolant) be used for a slower quench than water to any good effect?
Second, are there any readers here who live in or near Sydney who would be interested in sharing a 1 ton load of coke? I have been told of a good source down near Wollongong, but they only seel minimum 1 ton. My mrs has let me know in no uncertain terms that I will not be granted the necessary real estate for a coke heap in our back garden. Otherwise, can anyone point me to a supplier of bagged coke?
   Craig - Sunday, 04/15/07 22:37:39 EDT

Draconas, aka Cameron:

I suggest yo heed the oft-given advice about buying steel of a known type if you're goin gto go to the trouble of making a pattern welded billet. If you're tyrying to buy bandsaw blades, you'll pay more for them than you will for a piece of L-6 or 15N20 from a knife supply, and you stil lwon' tknow for sure what you're getting. The bandsaw blades foks here are referring to are those used for commercial lumber mill resawing work and are anywhere from 1" to 4" wide and up to thirty feet long. One blade new costs more than you'll be willing to pay, believe me. ANd they're not sold at your local Lowe's, either. The knifemakers who use them get them from the sawmill after they're worn out or damaged beyond repair, they don't buy them new.

Steel strapping can be anything from low carbon junk to quality high carbon steel, and every combination in between. You have no way of knowing what you're getting. You might go to a lot of effort to clean and grind every piece, make a stack and heat it, only to find that it is unweldable, and now you've just ruined your bandsaw blade, to boot.

Order some 1095 and some L-6 or 15N20 from one of the knife supply places. That way, you'll know what you're working with, you'll have some idea of what you should be doing with it, and you can actually predict what the resulting contrast will be, hardenability, etc. In the final analysis, it will also be far cheaper than all the running around trying to find something that you don't even know how to recognize when you see it. Why set yourself up for almost certain failure, when it is so easy to set yourself up for success?
   vicopper - Sunday, 04/15/07 23:16:30 EDT

I am new on the blacksmithing scene and was wondering if you could tell me about the max temps for various furnaces. Basically, in addition to blacksmithing I would like to cast metal ingots of copper, aluminum, and most importantly nickel. Nickel has a melting/flow point of about 2500f and I was wondering if you had any idea what kind of heat source would be able to achieve these types of temperatures.
Thank you,
   Brian - Sunday, 04/15/07 23:18:34 EDT

Bottom blast vs side blast, not knowing what you plan to forge or even what fuel you plan to use it would be rather like me asking you what ice cream I would prefer---chocolate or vanilla.

However I will say that a properly build sideblast can be easier to clean if you are doing a lot of forge welding.

Bottom blast can be better for large items that you need to spot heat over the forge as it can be built with a flat table.

Bellows: the devil is in the details; my great bellows could be pumped with my pinkie and had enough air for me to get quite a lot done messing with the fire or the piece before I had to pump it up again. A friend wo5rked at a historical forge with a great bellows took serious force to pump---messed up his shoulder for life.

Hammers: I go with the buying of old good quality hammers at fleamarkets and garage sales---never paid over $5 for a hammer till I came across a stash of WWII british boilermaker's hammers, I paid around US$8 for them...of course you have to factor in your time and putting in a new handle. Many of the used ones will need a new handle and if the dealer has already put one in expect to need to re-set or replace it. (one fellow was trying to jack up the price of a hammer I wanted because of the new handle he had put in it. It had been so badly installed that I pulled the handle out and handed it to him and asked how much the price was without it)

Steel: I live in a rural area, I can buy steel at the local lumberyard---expensive or at a local business that uses it (Windmill construction and repair) that is considerably cheaper. (a business gets a price cut depending on how much they buy so if they can sell some on the side it may help them out too.) However I tend to stock up when I drive the 100 or 150 miles to a big town and go to a real steel supply that is cheaper.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 04/15/07 23:47:24 EDT

I do a lot of billets using 1/2" BSB and strapping as it's an easy size to weld in a small forge at demos. As for metal or wood; yes! I do try to use the same blade for the entire billet though.

Strapping: you should quench test it if you are interested in doing a blade from the billet---pattern welded steel doesn't have to be made into a blade! I'm working on a helmet from the stuff now that the PW pizza cutter is done.

If you really worry about the carbon content you can put in a last weld center layer of file or thin pieces of it early to act as a carbon source for the rest of the billet.

I've sometimes tried to double layer the BSB but it tends not to like to weld to itself due to the Ni content and so I usually go with alternating BSB & S.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 04/15/07 23:55:51 EDT

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