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 16 - 21, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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The innards of my Armitron watch are Chinese, I suspect, and it is truly a wonderful watch. Dirt cheap and incredibly accurate and versatile. Moreover, my maritime lawyer friend in NYC who keeps close tabs on such things says our Asian brethren can make great tankers and freighters when they choose to. That said, I must report, sadly, that every Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese tool I have ever used has been pure caca. Junk. Garbage. Worthless. Exhibit A would be "Great Neck" pipe wrenches. Compare them with the century-old U.S. counterparts and there is simple no comparison. Examine Exhibit B, the seemingly massive machinist's vise that swivels and pivots. U.S. made it would probably run about $1,000. Chinese-made, it wholesales for $25-30, retails for $50 and worth every penny. The jaw falls off because of the bad weld if stressed-- that is, if the aft casting that should have been a forging that serves to tighten the pivot doesn't break first. The "anvil" is but a piece of 1/2-inch plate cotter-pinneded to a thin and extremely brittle cast iron cylinder, the joint Bondoed to appear solid. Finishing touch: the bolts that fix the swivel in position are brittle cast iron, too, so they break when tightened. How droll. Under the counter lights with sub-standard wiring, bathroom heaters that overheat, vise grips that fail, hammers with hafts that bend, kids' toys and pet foods that are poisoned, medicines that are fake, etc., etc. it's all a hoot. Our Asian brethren must be laughing their asses off. Hyuk hyuk.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 04/16/08 01:31:33 EDT

I am a journyman tool and die maker in a large job shop and have worked as a highly skilled machinist for 26 years.
When I baught my first 0-3" set of Brown & Sharpe mics 26 years ago, the 0-1" mic cost more than a whole 0-6 set of made in China mics does today. Does anyone think that a set of cheap instruments will outperform or outlast good ones? As I have said above it's not the name or were it's made that makes something good or bad, it's the actual use that determins the things worth. Buy the way, if you see anything that says "Starrett Global Series " on it, you gessed it, "made in China!" B&S has thier import line too, even Mitutoyo has stuff made in China.
Here is what will happen. The Japanies got blamed for taking all our jobs first ( I'd like to see something on the store shelf that said Made in Japan for a change) then they all went to Mexico, then China, India, Veitnam, Africa, ... Ownership of those companies never chages hands so "they" keep making higher and higher profit margens and when the bubble finely bursts "they" will have made their money and not give a damn about the rest of the world.
Wal-Mart is gonna' get what they deserve in the end but, it will be at the rest of the worlds expense in the mean time and, my two young boys and their generation will be the ones to pay for it. Personaly, I forbid my wife to shop at Wal-Mart as, that is the only real recourse I have against them is, they don't get any of my money.
I suppose one day the U.S. will be one the list of third world contries and it will be our turn to be the cheapest labor force to manufacture goods for the rest of the world. I just hope we can remember how...
   - merl - Wednesday, 04/16/08 01:53:16 EDT

Hey Miles! I sold a machine a few years ago that had a pretty good looking Korean motor on it. The buyer said he didn't want that motor so I put a GE motor on it and he was happy. Funny thing; if you really look at the nametag on the GE it says "made in Korea"! Westinghouse is made there too. Funny, when they started making them over there they didn't lower the price one bit!
   - grant - Wednesday, 04/16/08 02:25:38 EDT

Well, in their defense, I've been very pleasantly surprised by most of my Japanese tools(you still get what you pay for, even here); however I have yet to come across a Korean or Chinese tool that was worth the metal it was made of. And the Japanese did just get a shipment of pesticide-tainted gyoza that was, big surprise, Made in China... At least we're not the ONLY ones getting the short end of the stick
   MacFly - Wednesday, 04/16/08 05:14:41 EDT

Grant, sorry, I must have misread your post. Just got off the phone with Big Blu. $6295.00 for 165# hammer made in N.C. Tried to call chinese hammer's U.S. distributer. Got a message that the number is temporalily out of service. Glad I don't need a part from them. Bought a polish 3 jaw chuck by accident.(site unseen, thought I was getting a used hendy). Ran .060" out. thats one sixteenth of an inch. Bought a mityutoyu 8" dial caliper. Kept it clean, returned to closed case between every use. Lasted three years. Made a new inner swivel plate for a local welder's P.O.S. chinese swivel vise. Charged him exactly what the whole vice had cost brand new. Glad to be of service.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 04/16/08 10:00:01 EDT

Ptree Excellent advice. I wouldn't do it now, but it was my job then. All we had onboard was willy peter when the bomb blew up the magazine and burned 1/3 of the ship. We had to offload all ordinance befor we could enter drydock in Subic Bay. I pulled one projectile out of the oil and muck and it started smoking. The Marine ord. specialist said "get rid of it" no problem. There was a convienient hole in the side of the ship for a float test. God bless all Veterans for their service. Gator.
   - Gator - Wednesday, 04/16/08 10:15:40 EDT

Haas GROUP, has 2 divisions in Europe, 2 in Brazil and 1 in Singapore.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 04/16/08 10:41:27 EDT

Guru's. I have been asked by a customer to build some rather hurky brackets for a post and beam site. The design calls for bending 1/4 x 12 x 42 (UM) Plate at either a 45* or 90* angle. These are a little heavy for an old man to do on the anvil, and way too big to get in the hossfeld. I do not have a big enough brake to do it.
Any suggestions? Thanks in advance..
PS...I have bent 3/16 x 10, 90* bend, over a thick hunk of plate suspended between two post vices (hot, by hammer and hand), but I don't think this would be easy for the 45* bends...any help greatly appreciated
   - Tim in Orygun - Wednesday, 04/16/08 11:30:03 EDT

Hi there, I would like to see if anyone could help identify an anvil for me. I am not sure how to post a picture here...I'll search around and see if I can figure it out. thanks!
   - Shannon - Wednesday, 04/16/08 11:41:35 EDT

Hi there, I would like to see if anyone could help identify an anvil for me. I am not sure how to post a picture here...I'll search around and see if I can figure it out. thanks!
   - Shannon - Wednesday, 04/16/08 11:41:47 EDT

Economics and Buying American: The problems are more complex than just who buys what and whether we should protect our economy or not.

1) It is the DUTY of all Republics to to protect their economy (currency, industry) from outside influences. There are degrees of protection but it IS the duty of the government.

Before the U.S. had an income tax it operated on import duties alone.

2) Many big corporate entities (money traders) make huge amounts on moving money, raiding currencies and other manipulative practices that do NOTHING for the global economy except drain significant amounts from those who can least afford it (Beware the "World Bank").

3) Corporate entities have no morals and no patriotism and will make money any way they can.

Quality: As had been said here often in the past much of the imported "junk" was made at the request of the importer. The Chinese will make ANYTHING you want and find a way to make it as cheap as you want. This often means cutting corners or not meeting standards.

Sears often asked their branded manufacturers to make things for a certain low price. The result was often pretty but poor quality goods. At one time they stopped using solid copper for motor commutators replacing the little blocks of copper with thin sheet glued to a plastic surface. Saved a bunch but produced tools than had a life time of a few hours (less than 20-50). They also reduced gear sizes in saws, grinders and drills to microscopic. . . I invested a lot in these tools often labeled as "Professional quality" and regretted it greatly. I also stopped buying anything electric at Sears.

Now this was a BIG well recognized retailer. Do you know WHO is the importer of the junk import tools? Of course not. They specify, import, then sell through others.

The problem here is that there are too many people buying the junk and not returning it when it fails. Of course you may have a difficult time returning it to the factory for a refund. . .

In one of the small southern Virginia towns famous for its textile mills which are all now defunct, gone to China, they only had ONE big car dealer, Honda. The mill workers enjoyed the slightly better prices and the infinitely better engineering but now have no jobs. . . just like the American car workers they helped to but out of work.

I've tried to "Buy American" any time I could. But today you often cannot find American made goods at ANY price. Even when we purchased an "American" made Dodge the engine was made in Japan and the body in Canada. Try to buy a cammera, VCR, shoes. . . that are not made in Japan, Korea or China.

The problem is the numbers. Just LOOK at a map at the size of Japan compared to the U.S. They have NO room for natural resources and yet had enough industrial capacity prior to WWII to almost push the U.S. Navy out of the Pacific. After WWII (with our help) then have dominated the machine tool and automotive industry. South Korea, another SMALL country has dominated shoe manufacturing and is huge in electronics and sutos as well. They also have more nuclear generated electricity per capita than anywhere else in world (also due to our help). Taiwan took over domination of much of the lower class machine tool industry and is where those thousands of Bridgeport clones have come from.

These are small almost microscopic countries all smaller than the average U.S. state. Now HUGE China is in the picture. The sleeping dragon is awakening industrially and we are in deep trouble if we do not do something. . .

I do not know the answers. But I DO know that our elected officials do not think about these things at all and it will be the end of life as WE in the U.S. know it. . .

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/16/08 11:59:28 EDT


I was in charge of a small crew of archaeologists doing a survey of forest service land leased by the Army at Ft. Polk, Louisiana in 1993. We all got the standard lecture on unexploded stuff from the range control officer, but sometimes it didn't stick. The best thing they told us was if we were digging and hit metal, leave the shovel there and run don't walk away. Thousands of tons of WWII era 75mm tank rouonds out there, along with everything else produced since that time. Once EOD came out and made us move our truck because they had to detonate the 155mm shell we'd been unknowlingly driving over for months...

And you should have heard the chewing they gave one of the girls on the crew when I found a cute little 20mm shell with a yellow tip sitting on the coffee table in their hotel room way off base!

She had somehow missed the original lecture on paint colors and thought her boyfriend back in New Orleans would like it as a souvenir.

Yellow tip = high explosive, by the way. Blue is dummy, white is incendiary. The paint goes away after a couple of years in the environment, which is not helpful.

If you ever meet me in person, ask about the day we encountered a forest fire in the area we were working...
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 04/16/08 12:00:06 EDT

Tim; I don't know your skills or tools but I think I would build a improvised brake for this job; probably sized just for that one thickness and with a latched top piece to speed it up so you can bend *hot*. Syill probably need a helper for the actual run.

Remember when "made in Japan" meant it was *crap*? I do. Now they are known for their quality. China has spacecraft and they don't tend to work well at low quality levels. It looks like to me that there is high quality stuff being made in China; but we just don't see it. As long as companies can get away selling us crap, crap is what we'll get!

Think about it; how many people buy tools for a long and hard life of use? Most folks buy a tool for *1* job and then end up leaving it in the garage or basement. Been going on for a long while too as I often buy very nice tools from the 1960's that were only used one time if at all and at least back then you could expect to be able to compleatly rebuild your own car! Why spend all the money for good tools when you won't ever use them again?

It's the folks who will be using them a lot for a long time that have to buy Quality. A much smaller market and much more expensive tools!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/16/08 12:07:08 EDT

Heavy Bends: This press is a little overkill but it will bend 1" square. We recently used it to bend curves in 1/4" by 6" flat and it will make nice crisp bends in up to 3/8".

You can rig something that will do the same with a couple heavy pieces of threaded rod holding a stiff cross bar. The base can be a short piece of structural. Put a jack in the frame with a plate and two round bars to make a "V" block and bend away. . . I used a 20 ton jack but a 10 ton will do your job if you do not need real sharp corners.

All my bending tooling for the above press has been odd pieces of mild steel arc welded together. I prefer round bar for V's and my latest were large rounds setting between pieces of angle so they could rotate if needed.

Jewelers build a similar press using four threaded rod columns for relatively precision work.

OR you can heat a very narrow strip using a torch . . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/16/08 12:14:08 EDT

Well said Guru. Amen.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 04/16/08 12:55:57 EDT

Jewelers press: Jock, do you have any plans or pics of one of thse little guys? I'd love to build one.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 04/16/08 14:01:49 EDT

Guru, I agree 100%!! It's to bad we can only get lawyers to run for president, this country would turn around in a heartbeat if we could get a hands-on self employed (and success), craftsman from any field to fill the office!! Naturally, I'd prefer it to be a blacksmith.
   - Thumper - Wednesday, 04/16/08 14:03:54 EDT

Seen on T-shirt worn by Ordinance Disposal Technician: If you see me running, try to keep up! I did a job at an Army Ordinance Facility and upon entering, they took away my cigarette lighter. "Nothing that can make a spark or flame is allowed on site". OK, I can agree with that. Then, from over the hill erupts a 50 foot tall tongue of flame. Seems they were burning off some old rocket assist take off motors. No sparks there!
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 04/16/08 14:19:02 EDT

Nip, I think the Guru is referring to the Bonny Doon Press, which is now only sold by Rio Grande, the jewlery supply company.
The Bonny Doon is a jewelers size 20 ton press, used a lot for sheet metal forming.
It does not use threaded rod- it is actually a welded steel construction, very well thought out by a good engineer. And, unfortunately, priced accordingly.

google Bonny Doon Press, or, Charles Lawton Brain, a jeweler who has done a lot of interesting work with small hydraulic presses.
There are several books available on the subject.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 04/16/08 14:49:53 EDT

Tim in Orygun,

I don't know about your specific area, but even down here in the "almost" third world, there is a local fabricating shop with a humping big press brake. When I need heavy plate bent, I just give them the specs and let them do it. With all the stock pre-cut and ready to bend, they can crank out fifty or a hundred of those bends in less than an hour's shop time. Even at $80/hr shop rate, that's peanuts compared to the time it would take me to buid the tool/jig and do them myself. Sometimes, it really pays to sub out stuff like that, and save your time and effort for the things that you can really make money on.

Ask yourself this: will you use the tool enough to justify the time qand materials to build it? If not, it makes sense to use someone else's tooling.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 04/16/08 15:53:44 EDT

Shannon: You can e-mail pictures to me (attachments - not in body text PLEASE) at scharabo@aol.com. Need side, front, back and bottom at a minimum. If you can make out any numbers or letters on side or front foot, wire brush off crud, dust with flour, brush off excess and then take photo.

It is very easy to misread a logo. Anvil now on eBay as an ASM Int'l. Obviously an ACME made by TRENTON. Seller said I had no credibility so I referred them to Richard Postman. Don't know if they bothered to call him.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/16/08 17:09:25 EDT

Bonny Doon Press: Yep that is the one. But you can do it with threaded rod and I THINK early versions were.

I have a threaded rod press I built for a BIG job. Had to be portable . . Base was a piece of 12" fairly heavy section H beam, Cross bar a 3" round and two 1.5" pieces of threaded rod to hold together. On top of the hydraulic cylinder I had a plate with two angle irons welded to it to make a large open "V" block. On the bottom I welded a ring that kept it centered on the cylinder's ram. Designed and built one day, used the next, parked ever since. Earned me a couple thousand dollars. . .

But as VIc noted, it could be a lot more profitable for you to pay someone else.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/16/08 18:21:46 EDT

Ken, ASM International (a publishing house) will be glad to know that someone found the one anvil they never edited and printed. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/16/08 18:22:57 EDT

All thread presses. I built many for production hydro test machines. When hydro testing at pressures or say 10,050 psi it is critical to get the O-rings as perfectly clamped as possible. We used adapters that fit into the valves, and had a face groove for an O-ring to seal on the face of the valve pipe end. Since these presses had a 50 second cycle time, often ran 2.5 shifts a day 6 days a week, they tended to stretch and move some.
Prevoius designer had used machined tierods that bolted to the platens. Almost impossible to realign once wear and stretching had occurred. In seal design for an O-ring one shoots for zero clearance between the surfaces for a static seal. For any given )-ring hardness there is a seal gap that a given pressure can extrude the O-ring. Hence the search for zero clearance. At 0.003" the O-rings we used would extrude at 3000 psi. Higher pressure the smaller the gap allowed.
I built from thick boiler plate cause we had it. Usually 4" thick, with machine burnt holes for the tierods. I machined in the adapter threading and the press cylinder carried the other adapter. I usually used 2.5" B-7 all thread with 2H nuts on both sides of the plate. Piece of cake to dial in to perfect alignment.
If the O-rings started to blow, we had built a dial indictaor adapter that let us sweep in the platens. Just loosen the nuts and adjust. 4 B-7 althread lenghts about 4' and 16 2H nuts were far cheaper than machineing a tei rod. Never had one fail, nevr had trouble adjusting one in.
   ptree - Wednesday, 04/16/08 18:59:17 EDT

Tim- As a former timberframer (10+years with a very high quality outfit) it is my opinion that people who want a frame held together with steel plates instead traditional joinery (pegs and housings, mortice and tennons, dovetails and birdsmouths, etc.) will in general not want to pay for real blacksmithing either. If a structural engineer is calling the shots and demanding steel this may not be the case, but I would cut, weld, grind and paint or reheat and darken the structural stuff and push for them to spend their metal budget on some more dramatic forged stuff like door hardware or railings. Good luck.
   Jud Yaggy - Wednesday, 04/16/08 19:21:02 EDT

Re Chinese quality- yes of course they can make high quality. Guru is right- the reason they make a lot of junk is that that is what is ordered by the importer. Hundreds of factories here advertise that they will make a product you just have to tell them what name you want putting on it so buying a recognised name doesn't necessarily meanb a thing any longer. Where I live (and I suspect elsewhere in the country) there are workshops all over producing almost everything you can think of. Also other machine shops servicing the workshops. Many of them are run by very skilled workers. If you think of China as being a land of starving peasants producing low quality junk in apalling conditions then you are several years behind the times. Very soon the long awaited Hofi anvil will be available. Guess where they are going to be made.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 04/16/08 19:26:04 EDT

thanks for your veiw on the world out look Guru, you're a real bright spark! ( half laghter, half crying ... no little stupid punctuation marks for that one)
still waiting for the charcoal making pics.
   - merl - Wednesday, 04/16/08 20:32:46 EDT

Last I read, the French farmers on the old WWI battlefields were still plowing up unexploded shells every spring and stacking them by the road for the army to pick up.

It go a little (further) off topic, in 1916-17, the British dug under the German positions on Messines ridge and put around 500 tons of high explosive in 21 separate mines. On the appointed morning, 19 detonated, making a roar that could be heard in London.

One blew up in a thunderstorm in 1955.

I hope to go see the battlefields one day, but I think the 21st mine is a good place *not* to put on the itinerary . . .
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 04/16/08 20:56:56 EDT

One interesting irony in this discussion is that I manufacture here in the U.S. I produce the "OFF CENTER" brand on tongs and have to compete against tongs brought in from Pakistan. You'd think I'd be on the other side of the discussion. The Pakistani tongs are ground and polished all over, like a "newbe" that's usually done to hide the forging workmanship. I'm proud to show off my tongs with a smooth forged finish. People have their choise.
   - grant - Wednesday, 04/16/08 21:18:40 EDT

Mike: thats how land "mines" got their name. They employed miners as far back as the civil war to dig tunnels under fortification and set charges.
   - grant - Wednesday, 04/16/08 21:23:17 EDT

I am a Farrier that makes a fair amount of handmade shoes. For our punches, I use H-13 air hardened tool steel 3/4 round. I am having great difficulty finding it. I usually buy it in 3 ft sticks. I don't care for S-7. Wondering if you had any other tool steel recomendations and tempering processes that are relatively simple.
   John - Wednesday, 04/16/08 21:28:56 EDT


Then how do you explain sea mines? (I know, I *know*, but I just couldn't resist (grin)).

One reason the Chinese make cheap stuff is because stuff made in China is cheap. (Obvious, right?).

Seriously, though, if your motto is "the best money can buy" and your competitor finds a way to cut costs, you may not care that much. You're still the best money can buy.

But if your motto is "we're cheaper than they are" and "they" outsource to China, you'd better do the same, pronto.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 04/16/08 22:08:28 EDT

Mike BR. When i was in Germnany in the mid 70's, in the ARMY, most all excavation was still done with hand shovels. i do not recall then seeing a backhoe or crawler laoder/dozer. Better to find that unexploded 500# or 1000# bomb with a gentle hand shovel. There were reports in the Stars and Stripes almost daily of unexploded bombs found.
Lets run a bit of math, 1000 plane raid, each with 10 500#ers, and 17% dud rate. Day and night for a year or so.
The russians lined up a field piece every 50 meters along a front of almost a 100 kilometers and fired them at rate for several days before the final push on Berlin. Their dud rate has been reported to exceed 22%.
I think I would like the hand shovel as well.
   ptree - Wednesday, 04/16/08 22:17:41 EDT


S1 is good. Begin forging 1850-2050ºF; don't forge below 1600ºF. You can anneal after forging: 1450-1500ºF. Cool SLOWLY. Oil harden at bright red, 1650-1750ºF Try tempering to a straw or dark straw, 450-465ºF.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 04/16/08 22:55:28 EDT

Hello, I am returning to blacksmithing as a hobby mostly, with plans for a craft fair here and there in the next few years. Its been almost 4 years and I have found that I have forgotten a bit as I was only very active for about 2 years before life got in the way. I do not have the perfect place to work in fact I work half in and half out of my basement. I set my propane forge outdide the basement door and set my anvil inside. This door is the only ventilation in the basement and since the forge is outside I always felt that was adequate, but after reading the post morteum safety lesson from Paw Paw it makes you stop and think. I could pull everything out in the good weather but in the bright sun it is kind of hard to see how hot the metal is. I believe that most of the metal I have in stock is cold rolled steel, and a bit of stainless. I do a bit of welding mostly tack welds but since my ventilation in my basement is not as good as it used to be, we used to have french doors I could open along with the regular door I now use, I guess my best bet is to do that outside as well. The only thing I have to do inside is clean the metal as far as grinding the surface and sometimes to remove the old paint(spray enamel). Do I need to use a respirator to do this or is a dust mask sufficient? I also use and oxy -acetylene torch occasionally to wrap leaves and if I can find away to secure the base piece I could do that outside as well. I do agree tht takinga welding course may be a very good idea but just in case I'm tempted to do a few tack welds before I get there can you give me a few basic safety tips? I have a feeling that in the past I have taken chances I shouldn't have because I wanted to get something done and that fever to finish just kind of took over. I don't think I have any health issues from my indiscretions and I'd like to keep it that way. Thank you so much for any and all tips.
   - Wendy - Wednesday, 04/16/08 23:59:01 EDT

Grant, Mines predate the civil war! In the old days before even black powder the sappers would dig under a wall, prop up the sap with wooden beams, dig more, prop again etc. Then eventually they just lit the wooden props. Even today that is a good way to demolish a building if you don't want to use explosives and is used on old mill chimneys in UK except that the propping is at ground level rather than in a mine.
   philip in china - Thursday, 04/17/08 00:09:03 EDT

Basement Shops: Wendy, You have to judge each possible risk as it comes. Is it possible to run a 10" galvanized stack out of your basement? Or other ventilation ports?

You can run a forge, especially gas in a basement if you have a good vent. A small hood over the forge and a pipe through an old window opening and up. . . The biggest hazard is using propane in a low spot. If the gas leaks and there is no ventilation it collects and waits for a spark.

Oxy-Acetylene is less of a hazard due to dissipation of the lighter acetylene gas. Fumes should be vented outdoors with a hood and a fan. Sparks from cutting are a fire hazard if there is any kind of debris or flamable material stored in the area.

A good forge and welding station with natural or forced ventilation overhead would be ideal.

The biggest problem with a basement shop is various odors filtering up into the living space. Everything from burnt cutting oil to paint fumes.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/17/08 10:18:07 EDT

Fumes: Galvanized is pretty easy to spot. It is silvery white or a dirty dark gray if oxidized and oily. It is much different then the dark blue gray of steel. You are best off avoiding it unless you have the work galvanized AFTER you have worked it. Generally you are best off to avoid galvanized materials all together in the blacksmith shop.

We just had a letter from someone that thought that he could burn the galvanizing off in a bonfire from parts he was building a coal forge from. It did not work and he ended up with zinc fume fever from using the forge. I suspect the fumes were mixed with the coal smoke.

When burning off paint you rarely get it hot enough to burn the heavy metal pigments but it is a possibility, you are mostly breaking down the oils and making a lot of smoke. However, some epoxies make some really noxious fumes.

Forges and large heating tips make carbon monoxide that will collect in a closed space. Many smiths us CO monitors in their shops.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/17/08 10:42:43 EDT

I don't have the coal forge section of my shop built yet so when I want to run with coal I put up a tarp outside the shop door and forge under that.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/17/08 11:06:34 EDT

Basement shop:
Here's mine; http://greatnippulini.com/smithin.html On top of what Guru notes, basement shops like mine are also prone to clutterage, which increases shop hazards. Welding ground cables, hoses, stray cut off bits find their way under stuff, short cuts of rod roll around and will eventually get under foot. Tight spaces are also more difficult to keep tidy and swept. My basement has a walk in fireplace (not kidding) with 2 exhaust fans forcing air up the chimney.

On another (unrelated) note, I have found a clip of me lifting the worlds worst ASO in Istanbul.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 04/17/08 11:20:27 EDT

greetings all, just a quick question, I want to add copper and brass rivets to some of my projects, and I found out my metal supplier carries brass and bronze rod. Of the 2, which would be eastiest to work with (softest??)
   dan - Thursday, 04/17/08 11:20:30 EDT

looking for info and pic of an old anvil or metal fabricating device that I have. 4" thick 18" square. Various holes round and square all multiple sizes. Arcs around the edges to shape metal curves of multiple sizes. please email me
   - ric stephens - Thursday, 04/17/08 13:51:21 EDT

I just received my brand new NC 70lb standard anvil (bought through Centaur FOrge, but the maker is NC) and the face and actually everything but the shoulder and bick are covered by what looks (and smells) like black latex paint. I started flex-wheeling it off the faceplate and then stopped and figured I should ask the experts. Help!
   Jonathan fY. - Thursday, 04/17/08 14:58:02 EDT

Ric Stephens, Tune in www.swageblocks.com
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 04/17/08 15:15:40 EDT

Dan it depends on which of the several hundred brass and bronze alloys it is and how it has been worked before you get it. You probably want to ask for full soft (annealed) and not half hard or full hard (work hardened).

Most of the time I have asked the local dealer knew squat about it and I had to buy a rod and test it myself. Failures went in the forge brazing can.

If you want to try to anneal it yourself you need to heat to glowing slightly in a *dark* room and quench in water immediately. Remember that copper based alloys transmit heat *very* well and so even quite long pieces should be held with pliers or tongs and *not* fingers.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 04/17/08 16:02:08 EDT

Tim in Orygun:

I assume the bracket will be bent with a 12" wide width. 1/4" x 12" comes in lengths. As it is being cut to length for you mark out where the bend will be and have them cut through about 2/3rds of the way. Heat that area with a torch and then bend to desired angle. Clamp to hold angle and then arc weld the widened split on the back to fill it in. However, check with engineers on an strength reduction via this technique.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 04/17/08 22:05:42 EDT

Grant, are you the guy who offers sets of tongs on ebay? If so, GOOD JOB, really well done. I'd buy some but old hoof nippers are easy to come by out here so I just pull the rivet and make my own.
   - Thumper - Thursday, 04/17/08 23:13:50 EDT


No, Grant sells the Off-Center brand of tongs that are sold through Kayne and Sons' Blacksmiths Depot and also Blacksmiths Supply. They are worlds apart form the tongs sold on Ebay, believe me. Grant's tongs are precisely forged, made from a medium carbon steel (like 1045), lightweight and strong as can be. The offset tongs are perfect for damn near anything in the way of round or square stock, and he has lots of others, too. No comparison to the Ebay tongs, once you've seen both, and once you've used the Off-Center tongs you are spoiled - at least I am.

Okay, Grant, now send me the royalties! (grin) Seriously, I'm hoping that Kayne's will be at the Anvilfire Hammer-in this weekend so I can get some more of Grant's tongs to fatten up my luggage on the trip home. And yes, I'll be paying full pop for them, even after saying all these nice things.
   vicopper - Friday, 04/18/08 03:20:18 EDT

chair seats: today I visited a store which had some chairs that were purportedly made of zinc. I thought they must be galvanized steel but the sales person claimed they were actually zinc. They had a nice black patina and very comfortable body-conforming seats. I could see that the seat panel had been welded and ground around its top edge. On the underside it had very small tack welds also holding the seat panel to the legs and sides of the seat.
Could it be that the seat panel was formed of zinc sheet that can be welded to the legs made also of zinc sheet (about 1i8" thick)? I heard of a bar-top made out of zinc sheet once, but I have not seen zinc for sale before. I never heard of people welding zinc, I think it melts around 850 degrees fahrenheit.
I'm tending to think it must just have been steel, galvanized and patinated to black.
Does anyone know about zinc being used as a material for outdoor furniture? It was incredibly comfortable because it distributed the sitter's weight so well.
   - brian kennedy - Friday, 04/18/08 04:47:46 EDT

Thumper: I suspect I am the one selling sets of tongs on eBay (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools). Havn't seen a listing in well over a year, but someone use to sell a set of forged tongs.

One needs to realize I'm selling to a totally different market than Off-Center. Mine are cut and stick. Theirs are forged. My market is the beginner or amateur. Theirs is the professional market. As I note in many of my listings, if you are a professional, pay professionally built prices. If you are something less than that, than my tongs may be quite suitable. I've sold a bunch of them with one registered complaint.

And, do I use them myself? Occasionally. I have about ten pair of commercially made tongs which suit probably 90% of what I do at the forge and airhammer. However, I've probably run through about 100 pairs of commercial tongs to get down to those of most use to me for what I do.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/18/08 07:59:20 EDT

Ken, it's not you, I know your store. You have good entry level tongs. There was/is a smith that sells handmade tongs w/welded reins. His stuff is easily identifyable because of the way he finishes the tips (almost all rounded), and he has a pic of his little brick smithy he puts up on the listing. Again, nice stuff but I'm sold on reworking nippers. It's nice how much metal there is to work with on the ends.
   Thumper - Friday, 04/18/08 12:58:41 EDT

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't every smith supposed to forge their own tools, especially tongs? "You don't need tongs to make tongs"
   - Nippulini - Friday, 04/18/08 13:03:56 EDT

Brian Kennedy, a lot of relatively inexpensive castings are zinc based alloys - parts for lawnmower engines, etc. You can get adequate strength for the use - generically clled "pot metal" by a lot of folks. The legs sound a bit thin for a zinc alloy, but depending on the source a conforming seat should be doable. Again, though a lot more zinc alloys are produced and used as castings rahter than as wrought products.
   - Gavainh - Friday, 04/18/08 13:21:43 EDT

Hey everyone! I'm a higschool student from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I'm currently doing a Career Exploration for my Grade 9 POP Class.

Basically, what I am trying to do is research any possible career of my choice. I decided that a Blacksmith would be a really cool choice, because NOONE will be doing what I am researching for a while. I also think blacksmithing is a little cool.

Anyway, I'm trying to get as much information as possible for my project. I decided that to compliment my online research I should ask people who are in the job themselves some questions.

So I ask: What do blacksmiths during their daily routine? What tools do they use? What metals do they work with? What adivce could you give someone just starting out in the job? And lastly, what are somethings you like about your line of work and what parts don't you like?

I hope someone would be willing to answer these questions. I'd really appreciate it and I'll be more than happy to include your name in my Bibliography =).

Thanks so much,

Danielle Mustillo
   Danielle Mustillo - Friday, 04/18/08 14:22:12 EDT

Nipp, Just cause you can make something, doesn't necessarily mean you have to. Some smiths I know spend more time making their tools than using them (great tools by the way), and that's what they like to do, but I figure a good shotcut shouldn't be overlooked. I've made, bicks, hardies, fullers, tongs etc and even a JYH, but I much prefer making things than tools.
   Thumper - Friday, 04/18/08 14:25:15 EDT

When I took my introduction to blacksmithing classes I made my first, and last, pair of hand-forged tongs.

Danielle Mustillo: My business isn't really all that much different than old time smiths. I do whatever come in the door. These days that door is predominately the Internet.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/18/08 15:00:07 EDT

TGN; I've forged *1* complete set of tongs---out of Ti---I can buy tongs way cheaper than making them, especially if you consider my lack of hobby time as it is.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/18/08 15:48:33 EDT


Nothing but respect but I must dispute the implication, unintentional or otherwise that we are breaking into gun ranges and whacking anything we find with a hammer. Confusion might stem from my casual descriptor of an 'armor training ground'. I am not talking about any regimented military establishment but rather where WWII tank crews held simulations and more or less drove randomly around on BLM land and shot at boulders and cacti. We often encounter such places hunting rocks in the desert. For unexposed the AP and API are very easy to distinguish, API having a softer silver tip with a plug in the rear, the AP is a solid copper jacket. No one in our group has ever found an API where we collect, and we do look for them, as many of us also have some trigger time. If you look in and around whatever poor lonely rock pile drew the attention of gunner AP can be found that has naturally stripped itself of the jacket and needs no additional work. I understand the need to frighten a certain class of people into not making rash decisions but for those professionals who are up for such things, the AP bullets have all sorts of interesting possibilities. I have also found a handful when I used to hunt pheasants and agate in Eastern Washington.
   Ken Nelson - Friday, 04/18/08 17:05:03 EDT

We used to live in Lake Havasu City Arizona and on more than one walk thru the desert surrounding our home we happened upon whole belts of ammo that my dad said the flight crews used to dump out of their planes before they landed at the air base which was a pretty good distance from us. However the firing range was in the opposite direction and the town was built between the two around 1968- 1970?. The construction crews used to find ALOT of that stuff. I'm sure there are many places like that in what was formerly wide open nothing.
   - Robert Cutting - Friday, 04/18/08 19:26:34 EDT

Ken Nelson. It indeed sounds as if you have some experience in the field. The younger set also read the site, and I do indeed feel the need to instill a strong respect for old unexploded ordnance in the general public. I was driving a CSM on a fire and manaveur range at Ft Know a few years, well many years ago, and came up on a road guard. He was standing, waiting to direct folks to the exercise. We stopped to ask how he was as it was hot, and he said fine, and what is this, and lifted up a "petal" off a cluster munition. Unexploded bomblets still clinging. I was letting the clutch out on the Jeep, throwing dirt as the CSM shouted to stand very still and don't move the metal thing. We got about 300 meters away, and stopped and called for EOD.
And he was in the ARMY, and trained, and was almost very shredded dead.

On that range was a nice BLUE 105mm projo about every 50' in any direction. But some had the paint gone, and there were the occasional yellow striped ones as well. Easy to think one was picking up an inert, and get a handfull of HET or HEAT, or HE.
Good luck and be very careful
   ptree - Friday, 04/18/08 19:29:59 EDT

Robert Cutting, once opened, the ammo cans are very difficult to get back into storage as it "screws up the paperwork. Even blanks. I may have seen a few thousand rounds of blanks go into creeks, and the occasional fire barrel. Easy to "lose' hard to do the proper thing. By the way, My Dad may have been one of those crew as he trained as an areial gunner in AZ in 1943.
   ptree - Friday, 04/18/08 19:32:40 EDT


As a hobby smith, I could well afford the time to make my own tongs, and I still do when I want something special. That's maybe 25% of the time. The rest of the time, I much prefer to pay Grant to make tongs while other people pay me to make chandeliers, furniture and architectural stuff. I simply can't justify the time to make something in forty minutes that I can buy for thirty bucks. But then, I'm trying to make my living as a smith now, not just have fun and learn. Don't get me wrong, I'm strongly in favor of every smith learning how to make GOOD tongs and modify tongs as needed for any job - it is a necessary part of being a smith.
   vicopper - Friday, 04/18/08 20:17:48 EDT


I read your site frequently, but only infrequently post. So before I start: Thank you for providing such a great resource for the trade.

I'm a hobbiest smith, and I've built most of my own equipment including my forge and my anvil (from an ingot intended for the Saturn plant here in Spring Hill Tennessee). My forge is the bottom of what I believe to be the bottom of a cast iron boiler that had seen better days when I found it, and they've only gotten worse since. I am thinking of rebuilding, but I wanted to get some general advice from you folks before I committed to dragging out the MIG welder to put the new one together.

My shop is in an old barn, and the owner has asked that I not burn inside, so everything is on wheels and I forge just outside the door (where the ingot anvil and slack tub have a perminant home against the barn wall). I'm running into two problems with this setup.

The first is the smoke. While there isn't much once I have the coal (or occasionally home-made charcoal when I have the time) burning, at startup there's quite a column of green smoke. Without a hood on the forge, this smoke tends to linger on all but the windiest of days. So I'm going to attempt to build a mobile hood out of Hardware store odds and ends. I thought I might make a side-draft hood out of a large (14" x 8") galvanized air register vent chute, with a section of 8" round galvanized chimney pipe for a chimney. This would be bolted to a frame made of heavy angle iron to hold the galvanized ducting about 12-14" above the actual fire. Do you think that will be far enough away from the actual flame to prevent the galvanized metal from causing any health problems? I have a few 8" inline duct fans, and I thought I might use that for some extra air flow when the chimney is cold, or if I can't get a good draft.

My second problem is the forge itself. Rust has finally taken its toll on the old boiler bottom, so I am looking to rebuild. I have a section of channel 4" deep with 1/4" thick walls, but with straight sides and a flat bottom. If weld on some angle iron to deepen it to around 6" and close up the ends, could this make a suitable replacement? Or should I keep looking for another dish, or weld something up with sloped sides?

Sorry for the long post, and thanks in advance for your help!

- Bob
   HPL Steele - Friday, 04/18/08 21:00:49 EDT

I always thought it was more fun to use up the left over ammo at the end of a range day or field problem and everyone was more than happy to give me their spares. I had to clean the assorted MG's and personal weapons before turning them in to the arms room anyway. .50 cal wide open is way too much fun to pass up and now you are required to turn in something like 98% minium of your brass due to a lake on a base to remain unnamed that was drained for other reasons and revealed several tons of "expended" ammo. Ever seen a forty yard dumpster full of shell casings that you had to count a large portion of? Sorry to get off topic. (I'll be at the Hammer in tomorrow with some spare goodies to swap and sell. Looking forward to a good time.)
   Robert Cutting - Friday, 04/18/08 22:09:13 EDT

HPL Steele: Couple of thoughts:

- Can you find an open ended 55-gallon metal drum? If so, use a sawzall to cut our an arced opening, leaving about 1/4 of the original rim. On the top cut out about a 7 1/2" hole and attach a collar upright, onto which a length of 8" stovepipe will fit. Secure the new hood over the firepot such that it can easily removed for storage.

- On a firepot, a brake drum from a one-ton truck can make a very nice firepot. Check around at places which do such brake work and ask them to save you one - perhaps even offering a nominal payment.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 04/19/08 05:09:56 EDT

HPL Steele I also have a couple of thoughts and a little video to show you a working small portable stack.
I have built several small portable forges. The one I like best has a steel wheel from an old baot trailer for the fire pot. I cut the tire off, and I made a hoop the diameter of thewheel rim from 1/4 x 1" flat. I welded the hoop to the rim, and to the bottom of a flat steel table to give fuel space. I welded a straight tube to the botom with an ash dump, and that also has a tee'd tude for air supply. I find the curve of the stamped wheel makes a more natural firepot than a straight sided brake drum.
I used a lenght of 8" od spiral vent pipe for the stack. I cut a upside down U shape in the wall of the pipe at one end. The open end sits on the forge, and next to the fire. A little smoke escapes when I first start up, but 95% goes up the pipe once much fire is going. The straight pipe gets the smoke moving up with good velocity and carries it over the heads of my demo crowd as well as mine. This stack sits on a little mount that I made and lifts off to travel. My demo rig is an old trailer, but the same would work for a forge on wheels.
I had a demo customer to video me making a cross, and it shows the stac pretty well.
   ptree - Saturday, 04/19/08 08:07:52 EDT

HPL steele, the video has ben taken down to change the credits. Onc back up, I will post.
   ptree - Saturday, 04/19/08 08:12:06 EDT

I now you guys say that you can't use a hank crank blower with coke because it goes out immediatly, but I went to a blacksmith demonstrastion today and he was using coke for his fuel with a hand crank blower and it worked just fine the fire stayed going well, there was little smoke and he got alot done with a small pale of it. So, my question is why did his coke work so well? Are there different grades and does the Metallurgical coke sold by knyena and sons be ok with a crank blower?
   - John L. - Saturday, 04/19/08 16:29:02 EDT

John L, I use coke with my hand-cranker from time to time and it works just fine. However, I DO always start out with coked smithing coal and some green coal to add both "stickiness" and fire-holding ability. I do notice that when my metallurgical coke-to-coal ratio goes over about 3:1 it wants to go out if I don't crank for ten or 15 minutes, but that's not a problem for me as when I have time to fire up the forge you'd better believe it's working the whole time!

The coke I have at the moment is from Kayne.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 04/19/08 16:50:03 EDT

John L, I use coke exclusively and depend on an electric blower with an adjustable intake limiter because I can't always be undistracted when smithing. As Alan said, 10-15min leeway is all you get if you don't crank constantly. When demo-ing you don't leave the forge to take care of a dog, horse or wife problem or answer the phone. Plus, if you're good with kids at a demo, you can con one or two of them into cranking for you and they'll thank you afterwards for the priviledge.
   Thumper - Saturday, 04/19/08 21:07:50 EDT

I've got a job where i need to weld 1/4" round to 1/2" round. I've got to use oxy acetylene because it's all i have. I've got to show the client the piece this coming week and i won't be able to get a proper sized welding tip in that time. Could i weld this with a cutting tip? What would be the best way to set up?
   - tm - Saturday, 04/19/08 21:58:46 EDT


Yes, you can weld it with a cutting tip. Set the torch for a slightly carburizing flame, as small as you can without getting a backfire, and weld away. I've done it several times.
   vicopper - Saturday, 04/19/08 22:02:43 EDT


It appears that I left my jacket behind in the shop after the Hammer-in. Pass it along to someone who can use it. Take the roll of bills out of the pocket and mail that to me, of course. :-)

Thanks for a great time, give my best to Sheri and tell Sandy she did a great job of striking!

   vicopper - Saturday, 04/19/08 22:07:07 EDT

Thanks for the comments!! I'm usually pretty focused when I forge and don't go anywhere, so I think I'll give it a try. Do you guys have any recommendations on where to buy it for the cheapest? I'll have to get it online , because aperently you can't but coke in Utah.
   - John L. - Saturday, 04/19/08 23:30:27 EDT

I'm pretty happy today. I've been looking around localy for a bigger anvil and, now that the flee market/ swap meet season has finely got to us up North, I made it out to a swap meet today and got lucky right off the bat.
I hadn't been there more than ten minets talking to a friend and I spoted one at the first table.
Looked it over and and liked it right off.
I had two other people standing there waiting to check it out after me so I kept my hand on it and asked how much.
$295. That chased one person away and made the other go off to think about it. That was about $100 more than I had in my pocket as I didn't really expect to find one today.
Had to convince SWMBO but, I got it home in the end (they took a check for the full amount)
All I could make out there was "U.S." and "WARRENTED" and I figured it went 150# at most but, it's in great shape with a clear ring and a good bounce so I thought not too bad.
Got it home and cleaned off the side to show "TRADE MARK" "U.S." "WARRENTED" "SOLID WROUGHT" 134
200# at $295 for a nice London pattern, yupp, I'm pretty happy!
Speaking of anvils, I'm slowly putting together the parts for a JYH. I have a good sorce for drops and plugs from a big burnout table but probably nothing over 100# in one piece. I want the anvil to stand about 24" high so I figure I can just weld slabs together (usually 2-3" thick) or would they come apart in time. I've done alot of heavy welding (7/64 flux core MIG) but, never for an application like this. My consern is the slabs would have spaces in between them no matter how carefull I am with the prep and weld, and would not provide a good solid anvil for the hammer.
I plan to have interchangeable tooling as well.
   - merl - Sunday, 04/20/08 00:53:12 EDT

I just saw a post on "Practical Machinist" were a guy explained...16oz=1lb, 14lb=1stone, 2stone=28lbs=1quarter cwt,=112lbs
he then goes on to say that in a three digit wieght code the third number stands for number of stones.
So that a 1.2.3. would be one cwt, two quarters, and three stone or 210 lbs.
I always understood it to be cwt, quarters, and left over pounds or, 1.2.3.= 171lbs.
Any clarification on that?
   - merl - Sunday, 04/20/08 02:29:52 EDT

Merl, you are correct. The guy on PM doesn't know what he is talking about. It is a system that was in use for many years in UK. For example if you get a Chubb safe that is a few decades old the weight of the safe is struck into the top of the door using the same system. It is true that 14 pounds = 1 stone but that has no relevance the system as stones form no part of it. If it were as he says the system could measure things accurate only to the nearest 14 pounds. Also if you have a measure of a quarter (28 pounds) why would you have your next unit as close to that as 14 pounds? A 1:2:3 weighs 112 + 56 (2 x 28) + 3 = 171. I have a british 2:2:0 and it tips the scales at 280.
   philip in china - Sunday, 04/20/08 03:02:23 EDT


Put that anvil on a scale. If it is marked "U.S.". it is very unlikely that it is marked in Imperial hundredweights, and those numbers are more likely to be the actual weight in pounds.

One of the guys with a copy of Anvils In America can probably give you a better guess as to the manufacturer, I would think.
   vicopper - Sunday, 04/20/08 03:53:40 EDT


n.b. - On your power hammer anvil, use the 2" plate drops aligned vertically, so that each piece goes from the sow block or die base right on down to the base plate and then you don't have to worry about loss of effectiveness. You are correct in thinking that stacking them flat will probably result in loss of effective transmission of forces.
   vicopper - Sunday, 04/20/08 03:56:28 EDT

merl: You have a Hay-Budden anvil made for S.D. Kimbark (a national mail order catalog at the time), Chicago, IL, probably in the early 1890s. Weight would be actual. Look on the front foot. Should be a serial number there which can be cross-referenced to likely year of manufacture. On the one on page 289 of AIA, doesn't include TRADE MARK, but other information fits.

A couple of years ago at a flea market guy had a 150-lb PW for $200. Didn't have that much cash on me at the time. Gone the next week. Didn't occur to me I could have given him a downpayment, gone into town and drawn cash off of my credit card.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 04/20/08 07:27:25 EDT

John L, email me and I"ll send you a name and address.
   Thumper - Sunday, 04/20/08 10:24:51 EDT

Ken (or anyone with AIA), I just picked up a Hay-Budden this morning. its marked 204 (maybe its just me but 204lbs weighs more than it used to when I was young)the serial# on mine is 200354....would you mind giving me any info on it that you could find?

thanks, Rob
   Rob Barnett - Sunday, 04/20/08 12:35:31 EDT

btw, I went to the flea market this morning....maybe three or four sellers set up....one had tongs ($5 each....I passed them up, beat up and looked to be cast)I asked if he happened to have any anvils....nope so I walked off. the guy he was talking to looked at my shirt a couple times (ABA blacksmithing assc.) and a couple minute later came over to talk. he had an anvil....had heard they sell for $5 a lb or so....said he'd had one sitting for a while and figured I would get more use out of it. he'd take $300 for it. I said I'd look at it, followed him to his house about 10 miles away....he had it sitting outside. I could see the brooklyn, ny on the side and on closer inspection made out the hay-budden. the face and horn looked great, tiny scratches and small ammounts of wear on the edges, looked to be perfectly flat. I said yes and loaded it up. when I got it home I did the bounce test, great rebound and a clear ring. very happy for 300 bucks....didnt even try to negotiate the price.

   Rob Barnett - Sunday, 04/20/08 12:51:27 EDT

Rob, The date is probably stamped on the same side as the manufacturer's stamp. AIA sez ca 1913 for a date.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 04/20/08 12:59:15 EDT

Rob. Whoa, I meant the weight, same side.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 04/20/08 13:01:41 EDT

Frank is correct. Hay-Budden and Arm & Hammer (NOT VULCAN) put their weights on the side with logo. TRENTON put theirs on the front foot. If you can't make it out, a standard bathroom scale will work nicely. Stamped weight is usually off from actual weight a couple of pounds.

On Hay-Budden, Richard Postman, in AIA, had to make an educated guess on manufacture year since their records are long since gone. They advertised expensively and put in their ads the number of anvils sold to date. Tracked over years it provided him an educated guess.

About 1908 Hay-Budden switched from a top half of wrought iron with a steel plate to forged steel (no plate). Bottom was either wrought iron or, more likely, mild steel at that time.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 04/20/08 13:19:56 EDT

thanks guys!!

the weight is on the side with the logo....204.....my back is still telling me that is was a typo though. the serial number was on the foot, on the face under the horn.

where is the best place to find AIA? I would really like a copy for myself.
   Rob Barnett - Sunday, 04/20/08 13:48:29 EDT

Hey guys thanks for the quick responce.
Your right my anvil does only wiegh 134lbs (132 to be exact)not the 200 I had figured incorrectly.
The serial number is 11243 on the front foot and there is a small mark on the back foot that looks like two capital letter "J" back to back. Still avery nice unit ready to give good service as soon as I get a stand made.
I have another question that may require some research.
A friend of mine is experimenting with TIG welding sterling silver. The resaults have been good so far except that the weld bead its self turns black. He can clean the black off but it comes right back. This only is on the bead not the whole heat effect zone. He is using seriated tungstin, DC straight polarity, and straight Argon for shield gas. The machine is a brand new Miller inverter power supply and , knowing him probably has all the bells and whistles on it. He has tried straight tungstin and thoriated with the same effect. Is now thinking of changeing to revearse polarity and maybe Helium shield gas. Any thoughts from anybody?
   - merl - Sunday, 04/20/08 16:08:42 EDT

Check out the NAVIGATE ANVILFIRE menu and go to BOOKSHELF. Scroll to "Mousehole Forge" and "Anvils in America."
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 04/20/08 16:48:17 EDT

Merl: That serial number would be about 1894.

For anvil heads. A not uncommon anvil is one with a six-pointed star. May have a circle (usually) or pyramid in the middle. I found one on eBay with two patent dates on the bottom. Richard Postman was able to confirm both dates exactly match Fisher & Norris patent dates. Richard refers to that one as the 'Rosetta Stone' as it confirms F&N made these. They are what he calls 'farmer's anvils'. May be semi-steel or chilled cast iron. Likely they were made to take up slack in the production plant, yet not to be able to be directly advertised as an F&N anvil. In ad where it had Fisher & Star listed, he originally thought it was F&H and American Star. Now thinks it was just two grades of F&N anvils. Essentially selling to the high and low end of the market at the same time.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 04/20/08 18:21:32 EDT

phil, I'm not going to argue the point, but the "stone" does have a wee bit of relevance because 2 stone make a 1/4weight. Now the question I have is which stone was used as the original standard?
   JimG - Sunday, 04/20/08 21:19:36 EDT

thanks Frank, for some reason my computer doesnt like the store section of anvil fire. I'll have to get on my wifes computer so I can check into it and order.

   Rob Barnett - Sunday, 04/20/08 21:22:08 EDT

Or for that matter whose foot was the original foot? When weights and measures were invented people were smaller than they are now. An inch was the top joint of a thumb, a foot was a foot. a yard was from the hand to the nose with the arm outstretched. Each town had its own measures originally. In some old cities they are still there marked in the stone in the market place. I suspect each town would have had a stone which was their measure and could be used in a balance to weigh goods. Later they standardised. If you think that is boring let me continue. In ancient China they had a system of length and volume. The two were linked in a clever way. The standard length if used to measure a string gave a particular note when plucked (obviously) but this was the same as the note produced by striking the standard volume measure. What this has to do with teh original question is, perhaps, a trifle obscure.
   philip in china - Sunday, 04/20/08 21:40:30 EDT

I'm new to blacksmithing. I have a used chipper blade that I was thinking about trying to make into a knife. I don't know what kind of steel it is, so I'm not sure how to heat treat it. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks.

   dan - Sunday, 04/20/08 21:53:40 EDT

Dear Sir(s)/Ma'am(s),
Looking for outdoor cooking tools including tripod, cooking pot & rotisserie. Tough to find it appears. Friends own a set & love it but blacksmith has since retired. Traveling south for Nascar soon. Any suggestions?
Peter Coyne
Chicago USA
   Peter Coyne - Sunday, 04/20/08 23:11:10 EDT

Thanks for the info Ken. It realy blows my hair back to know how old it is and have it be in such good shape and, to know that I can use it for the rest of my life and then pass it on to my kids.
My silver smithing buddy went down to Centar Forge and got a brand new 160# anvil from Texas, took it home and spent MANY hours polishing the horn and table perfectly smooth for silver work. Every time I go into his "studio" I want to grab one of his fancy Peddinghouse hammers and give that anvil a wack (I never do though)
There is much to be said for a good old used anvil, even though they all start out new.
   - merl - Monday, 04/21/08 00:35:47 EDT

At the Historical Village ( Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia) where I volunteer, we have a blacksmiths shop. In it there is a Alldays & Onions double bellows dated approx 1890. The leather is split and one of the internal wooden support hoops appears to be broken.
I can email pics if required.
We plan to restore it ourselves having fair woodworking and engineering skills, not much leather knowledge. We expect to have to replace the leather and would use existing as patterns. Probably contact a local saddler for help here. We have been quoted around $3000 by an expert at Sovereign Hill in Victoria. This is beyond our means being a self funded operation.
If you can put us in touch with anyone with experience/knowledge of this type of bellows it would be appreciated. Alos need to know how to mount unit once completed to get benefit of double action.
Brian Taylor
   Brian Taylor - Monday, 04/21/08 02:30:27 EDT


The black color is oxides of the copper alloy in the sterling. You want to run the TIG basically like you were doing copper: DC electrode positive, pure argon shield and pure tungsten or lanthanated tungsten. At the start of the weld, jump on the pedal like a street racer to get some qjick heat, then quickly back down to the level that is just enough to sustain a clean puddle. Copper is highly active, so a gas lens helps to prevent induction of atmospheric oxygen into the flow of the shield gas.

Now the big "secret" of keeping the weldment and HAZ looking good (not turning black later): After welding, heat the piece to around 400F and quench in a 10% sulfuric acid solution or Sparex #2. Do this three or four times, until there is no sign of firescale in the weld. The hot dipping process etches away the surface copper alloy and any residual oxides, leaving a surface of pure silver a few microns deep. No copper, no black. Ta da!
   vicopper - Monday, 04/21/08 02:31:26 EDT


chipper blades can be any number of things, but I've heard that a number of them are either A2 or D2. Try a small piece and heat treat for those alloys and see what the result is.
   vicopper - Monday, 04/21/08 02:32:28 EDT


One thing I neglected to mention above is that you should have the post-flow gas set to enough time to let the weld area get down below a black heat before the shield gas shuts off. This will help a lot on preventing copper oxides from forming.
   vicopper - Monday, 04/21/08 03:13:12 EDT

On measuring, read a novel titled "Look to the Mountain" by LeGrand Cannon, Jr. Set in the late 1700s in remote VT. When building a cabin the guy used the length of his axe. It was to be a certain number of axe lengths wide, deep and high. He yearned for a local saw mill so he might have a door and window shutters, but then that created the need for a local blacksmith also for nails, hinges and such.

Brian Taylor: See if your local library can aquire a loaner copy of the book "The Blacksmith: Irownworker and Farrier" (originally titled: "The Village Blacksmith") by Aldren A. Watson. Chapter 11 is on Building a Leather Lung Bellows, which includes leather selection, cutting, mounting and use. May give you the information you need. (If you strike out at the library e-mail me and for the price of postage I'll send you a copy of that chapter. Book is also occasionally on eBay. Essentially traced a year in the life of a early New England blacksmith and has plans for a wagon as well.)

I haven't seen it documented, but have heard in some shops they hired the town drunk to work the bellows during the day.

Alldays & Onions was a large British manufacturing firm offering a wide variety of merchandise.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/21/08 05:15:19 EDT

Operating the bellows.

Victor Vera, originally of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, said that when he was a little boy, his dad and uncle would sit him on top of the bellows when they had large iron pieces in the fire. Whee!

In the late 1970's, we were in Sr. Franco's shop in Chihuahua, and the journeyman was welding up a plow share point. They didn't have a bellows, but rather a hand cranked blower. The blower was placed behind the forge and behind the journeyman, so the apprentice's job was to run around to operate the blower. Then, he had to run back in front of the anvil, grab his sledge, and strike. In terms of time-and-motion, that seemed strange to me, but it could possibly suggest the way things were done in the days when bellows were in use.

In England, a cow's horn was fitted as a lever handle for the bellows, a tradition.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/21/08 10:08:25 EDT

I have a Hay Budden 300lb anvil, serial #29139. It is good usable shape. What sort of value does it have and how old is it?
   Jack Barker - Monday, 04/21/08 10:23:43 EDT

Brian- I'll second Ken's advice about Watson's book. My first forge set up was blown by a bellows I made to his pattern. 3 bits of advice though. 1. Wait till the bellows are done to locate your mounting points as their center of gravity may be different than in the book. 2. Make the air intake holes in both chambers larger than he has drawn, they will work better. 3. Unless budget is not an issue and authenticity is use Naugahide (vinyl fake leather) instead of the real thing. Hard to spot the difference from more than 15 feet away. WAY cheaper, if you mess up a cut oh well, get some more, and holes can just have another piece glued over the hole. It stays supple down to about 0 deg.F.
   Jud Yaggy - Monday, 04/21/08 12:34:15 EDT

Jack, the price will of course differ by where you are at---smithing stuff costs about twice as much where I live now, NM as when I lived in OH and I'm still in the same country!

Now you might be in South Africa, Australia, England, China, making it hard to give you a "local price".

I also don't know what "good usable shape" actually means; I've had folks use that description for things I would consider scrap and for things I would consider 1 step from "mint condition"

However if I was in the USA and looking to buy an anvil in what I would consider good using shape and I was not in one of the high price zones---like the west coast of the US; I would expect to pay about US$2-3 a pound and I would be looking more at the lower end than the higher end.

Bellows: when I built my double lunged bellows I used heavily treated canvas for the "leathers". It was the tarpoleon material used for wind wings on oilfield drilling rigs. It was still going strong 20 years later when I gave it on when I moved---the wood was giving out from outdoor storage though.

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/21/08 13:25:37 EDT

Hey guys. I have just been given the leaf springs from a '93 Ford Ranger. Does anyone know if they are good for tooling? If so, how should it be heat treated? Thanks
   - Mike s - Monday, 04/21/08 13:27:22 EDT

Back From the Dead: Well. . . I am up for a little while to respond to posts and answer emails. Over the years I have developed problems with fluid build up in my legs when I am vertical too long and the week leading to the Hammer-In were just too much. After a few 16 hour days and a 20 hour day trying to get our hammer built (as well as set up the machinery to do so) I could hardly stand on Saturday.

The Hammer-In, In Brief: We had a small turn out of 50 but an unusual group of people including some long time smiths and some newbies.

Josh Greenwood but on two long demos forging scrolls, leaves, advanced leaves and heavily textured and scrolled leaves. This was classic work of the highest degree of skill. He also forged two small stake anvils. On was Jewelers siz and the other hardy hole size. Heavy forging was done on the BigBLU Hammers provided graciously by BiBLU Manufacturing.

My demo was cut short by having just gotten the lathe operating a few hours earlier and my inability to stand for long periods. I turned a couple one pass tenons on the lathe and buried a 7/16" drill in a block of steel. I discussed the usefulness of apparently antique and worn out machinery in the blacksmith shop.

Even though the group was small, Iron-in-Hat covered CSI's expenses for the Porta-Pots and the Pizza.

More details in the upcoming NEWS.

   - guru - Monday, 04/21/08 14:27:43 EDT

Thanks for the info on the Hay Budden.  I live in Fort Lauderdale Florida; not too many anvils turn up down here.  Any idea on how old this thing is?  I might put in on eBay, but shipping would probably be expensive for the buyer.
   Jack Barker - Monday, 04/21/08 14:46:48 EDT

Using Old Leaf Springs: Mike, these are handy for making numerous things that need to be tough and fairly hard. For many years they were the only "hard" steel I used.

First thing you must recognize is that Junk Yard Steel Rules apply. You have a vague idea what they are but DO NOT really know what steel they are. You should also note that old leaf springs may be cracked or have zones of micro cracks and are ready to fail.

The things I have made out of leaf springs include, Wood working gouges, small shear blades, bender nose (welded into a piece of mild steel), vise springs, narrow fullers. Generally I oil quench spring steels.

   - guru - Monday, 04/21/08 15:05:10 EDT

Anvils, Good Usable Shape: At our Hammer-In Saturday Josh Greenwood forged on and discussed the advantages of an old beat to pieces Colonial era anvil I have. It is swayed, the face worn through and the horn broken off. But its wide almost waistless shape is stouter than the 200 pound Hay-Budden he was also using.

My opinion is that an old anvil like this that cost me $5 (would be $50 today) is a much better tool than a low quality so-so "steel" or cast iron anvil. Just because a piece of iron LOOKS like and anvil does not mean it is a usable tool. That is why we call junk anvils ASO's (Anvil Shapped Objects). A cast iron anvil might as well be concrete or overbaked fruit cake. It never was nor will be anything other than a door stop.

So, the definition of "good usable" anvil can have quite a range of meaning depending on your viewpoint and sense of practicality.

   - guru - Monday, 04/21/08 15:21:35 EDT

Smoke, Outdoors: Portable forges almost always had a short wind screen on one side OR a tall hood and stack. You need to get the smoke at least to 8 or 10 feet so it is not hanging around your head. A light weight version of a side draft hood will do the trick.

"Hood" is a misnomer in this case. Hoods tend to have large openings that suck up hot and cold air alike resulting in poor draft and a smoky result. Side drafts are an opening next to the fire that is slightly smaller than the stake so that a high velocity is created. This will suck the smoke sideways off the fire.
   - guru - Monday, 04/21/08 15:28:56 EDT

Hay-Budden Age: Jack, They stopped manufacture in 1928 so that is the youngest it can be.
   - guru - Monday, 04/21/08 15:33:51 EDT

Jack, look up your local FABA group. Someone fairly local will either buy it or know where you can sell it. Send an e-mail to the FABA newsletter editor and he will put it in "The Clinker Breaker" for you. The SE conference in Barberville is a good place to sell an anvil.
   Ron Childers - Monday, 04/21/08 16:11:22 EDT

Some guy on eBay in IN is selling 916 pounds of wrought iron square and flat stock: 330229427845.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/21/08 17:58:34 EDT

To find the FABA group go to Navigate Anvilfire pull down menu on the upper right of this page and go to near the bottom where it says ABANA-Chapter.com and look for the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association link there.

Folks in less anvil'd up areas would *love* to be able to pick up an anvil locally so you should have no problem getting a decent price for it down there.

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/21/08 18:12:46 EDT

Beware the Watson book-- at least one edition of his Village Blacksmith book has the heat rainbow backwards in his section on tempering a chisel.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 04/21/08 21:27:38 EDT

Through the Roof or Out the Wall?

Work proceeds on the new building for Oakley Forge. I’m cutting out and nailing up the trusses. Right now, due to availability and cost, it looks like I’ll be putting corrugated metal roofing on the structure. This poses a dilemma for installing the stack for the coal forge. I have two sections of 3’ long 1’ inside diameter double walled stainless steel stack sections, currently on the old stripping shed an atop the masonry (9” i.d. square) chimney. However, the skirting for the SS chimney (left over from the original user) looks somewhat incompatible for a corrugated roof. I know that, ideally, I should run the stack straight up through the roof, with an extension down to the forge; but I’m very tempted to leave the corrugated roof intact and run the stack horizontally out the wall and tie it in with the main SS stack caged on the outside gable end and projecting at least 3’ above the roof ridgeline. This would sort of duplicate the present arrangement, and certainly simplify installation.

For general ventilation, I also plan a number of windows on the west, north and east sides, and will probably add some Viking style gable vents on the east and west gable ends. The “hot” work area will be at the east (downwind; prevailing wind is from the NW) end of the building.

As always, your comments, observations and opinions are appreciated.

Rainy and unsettled on the banks of the lower Potomac. Wish I could have made the hammer-in, but all of my spare time, and money, is going into the new forge building.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 04/21/08 23:07:33 EDT

Bruce, Uri Hofi has some photos of the way he has set up his stacks in his school in Germany. They are somewhere on IFI. The design is so simple I think you will like it
   philip in china - Monday, 04/21/08 23:22:06 EDT

vicopper, Thank you very much for your answer, that sounds like just the ticket and logical as can be. He suspected it was somthing like that, some part of the alloy giveing trouble but, figured he would end up having to either plate over the weld or somehow incorperate the seem into the visual apperance of the piece, something he does not want to do.
This will certainly lift him out of the funk he's in over the problem.
Thanks again (visualize me bowing low to your supierior knowlage)
   - merl - Monday, 04/21/08 23:24:39 EDT

Mike S, I was going to mention to you that I use the coil springs from cars and trucks for the hand tools I make when I demonstrate at our club show.
I get them at the local salvage yard by the pound and they are always good quality steel for the money.
We have a young kid in our club and he enjoys the job of straightening out a spring or two for us to use during the show and the spectators usualy find it interesting too, like seeing a knife made from a rail road spike...
   - merl - Monday, 04/21/08 23:44:24 EDT

A little more to Miles comment about Watson's heat rainbow.
I have the old hard cover book and the newer paperback, as well. The backwards temper colors are in both copies, page 51 on the more recent copy. The order of colors is correct, pale yellow to blue, but turned around. The verbal description is correct

There is a Table 2 in the Appendix which has a list of tools and corresponding temper colors written next to the tools. In this table, Watson got the blue shades turned around. He lists 560º light blue; 570º blue; and 580º dark blue. It should be reversed. When properly chasing color TOWARDS THE BUSINESS END, dark blue appears before blue and light blue. It's the dark blue that's 560ºF.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/22/08 00:30:48 EDT

I confess it was not I who spotted it but my smiting sensei, Frank Turley, who immediately noticed it at a glance and alerted me to the error in The Village Blacksmith re: the heat rainbow, many moons ago.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/22/08 01:18:24 EDT

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