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 22 - 31, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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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

Bruce-- In my experience with many coal stoves any time you penetrate a roof you have a leak. If that's a problem, I'd go out the side wall with the flue from a coal forge. My gasser is outside the shop, in back. The exhaust fumes linger, even in the open. Sooooo... I built a 10-foot high, 5-foot diameter corrugated tin tipi around the forge to carry the exhaust skyward.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/22/08 01:39:43 EDT

Roof Penetrations: Depending on the roof material this can be easy OR difficult. Unlike most construction methods, I prefer lots of advance planning.

In semi flat tin roofing (the modern kind with low ridges) you can often fit flashing under the tin on the uphill side and between the ridges on the down hill side. If the alignment is such that a down hill seem interferes then you can flatten it for the distance of the flashing.

I double flashed on my shop roof. This makes a flat area for the commercial penetration and a long distance of flashing under and over the roofing material. However, this took planning and the preliminary flashing went on while the roofing was being placed.

If you penetrate a corrugated roof near or at the peak then you can flash over top of the corrugated thickness AND provide a tin structure from the peak down if necessary to prevent an uphill valley. Use wood construction to bring the flashing tin to the level of the corrugations. Then extend over the corrugations and bend a lip downward to prevent wind blown water or snow/ice penetration. A real craftsman would cut a trim piece to fit between corrugations before adding the flashing. This would reduce the space open to wasps and birds for building nests.

If you penetrate farther down the roof then you will definitely want an uphill side structure to deflect the flow to the sides and around. In this case the flashing needs to extend well under the corrugated tin at top and sides. You will need to fit your construction to flash over the roofing at the bottom edge as above.

While all this sounds complicated it is pretty simple once you get going on it. I built a roof access cap on my Virginia shop using flashing tin and lock seam techniques and it has never leaked even when we had 2 feet of snow piled over it. Same for the double flashed pipe stack vent. I design all the joints and flash overlaps so that no tar or sealer is necessary. I would dread putting in penetrations on an existing roof.

All this is in contrast to Paw-Paw's shop design which is two large light duty garage structures side by side with a trough inbetween. The corrugations go long wise. . . For shop arrangement he put the coal stack through the center of the trough. . . It has leaked since it was installed and other leaks in the trough have recently appeared including one directly into a welder outlet. I do not think it is patchable much less repairable. It is MUCH easier to do these things right the first time. . .

Side wall penetrations are much simplier but should also be well flashed. Keep the penetration high if possible.

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/22/08 10:44:10 EDT

Hi, Can you please tell me how to polish stainless steel to a very smooth finish which removes scratches.I am working on 316 for outdoor rails near the sea. Which rubbing compounds, buffing pads and tools are best? All info is greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance
   Richard - Tuesday, 04/22/08 14:50:28 EDT

Richard-- 3M makes "Roloc" disks that screw onto a pad that screws onto the business end of your 4-inch grinder. Various grades of abrasiveness. Pricey and rapidly perishable, but they work great while they last. BEWARE: DO NOT touch that stainless with anything ferrous such as a wirewheel or a wirebrush. Use only a stainless wirebrush or wirewheel. Otherwise eency bits of wire get embedded in your beautiful work and will rust forever making the cutest little freckles. All over it. Call the nice man at A Cut Above for advice on what he can sell you if you have really deep scratches. Maybe Norton's "Beartex" wheels that he sells would be good. I know they rapidly take off rust and paint from ferrous without leaving much trace of their swirls.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/22/08 15:33:28 EDT

Stainless Polishing: Richard, Stainless is quite abrasion resistant and requires a lot of work to polish.

Graduated abrasives are required for all polishing and more so for stainless. Depending on where you start you need very coarse at the beginning and work toward smooth in steps. A typical sequence is:

80 Grit (to flatten forged surfaces)
120 Grit to remove scratches from prior work
240 Grit to remove scratches from prior.
320 Grit to remove scratches from prior.

500 Grit prior to polishing.

The 340 through 500 should be 3M Wet-or-Dry and will last longer wet.

Polish with white stainless buffing compound using a stiff (sewn at about 1/2" spiral) white cotton wheel running about 2500 to 3500 FPM.

Flap wheels on a 4.5" grinder are very handy for initial smoothing but it depends on your rail. If the rail is rectangular I would use a portable belt sander to start and then hand paper up to polishing time.

Polishing with a wheel is tricky and keeping the dry compound on the wheel takes constant attention. You can also polish with Dupont Orange Rubbing Compound by hand or with a low speed polisher.

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/22/08 15:57:08 EDT

Would electro polishing help in this harsh environment?

In my experience it is truly "stain-less" rather than "stain-never".

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/22/08 16:05:04 EDT

Thank you all for your swift replies. I'm looking forward to the video on the hood, and I am glad the Guru agrees the side draft is the way to go. If I make the "hood" from Galvanized metal, will I be safe or should I try to find some stainless sheet? The Hofi side draft link above has me thinking. Thanks for that.

As for the firepot itself, I've got some free time on my hands, so I might play around with different designs, while I've got the welder out. I started out several years ago on a brake drum and I've since used a very unique, very deep plow disk and my current boiler (each better than the last). Hopefully I won't be wasting this sizable chunk of channel.

Thanks again,

Bob - HPL Steele
   HPL Steele - Tuesday, 04/22/08 17:21:05 EDT

Galvanized Hoods: You probably won't have a problem but a side draft hood right at the intake gets pretty hot. I would use heavier steel or stainless if you find it cheap.

I did not exactly understand your fire pot question but almost any thick steel will do. Sloped sides help self feed the fire as well as keep it focused.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/22/08 18:40:22 EDT

HPL Steele, My little portable forge that is in the video uses a lenght of 8" spiral wrap ventalation pipe with a bottom cut into a side draft. After about 3 years of use the bottom rusted where the high temp burnt off the very thin galvanizing. I just replaced the bottom 24" of that pipe with some thin salavaged SS. Same shape and so on.
   ptree - Tuesday, 04/22/08 18:53:24 EDT

Bruce, a stack idea from John Larson is to run a 12" out through the wall into a 12" "T". Run down from the "T" to a few cement blocks on the ground to carry the weight of the stack and keep rain water OUTSIDE THE BUILDING and up as high or a little more than the roof peak to get good draft.

Uri Hofi sent Me some pictures of His side draft setups in the school, The side draft is a square or rectangular duct going through the wall and into a stack. I forget if He mentioned the size, but about 12" I think. Those pictures got lost when I changed computers.

If steel culvert pipe is still available, I would use that or other heavier pipe, rather than stove pipe.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/22/08 22:08:01 EDT

Richard: Walter company sells a neet kit for a 4 1/2" grinder that goes from a 120 grit Zircona flap disk through 3 grades of a "scotch Bright" type abrasive and ends with a felt pad and a few grades of buffing compound. All this quick changes on a velcro pad with a pilot in the center to heep everything concentric. This kit is a bit pricey, but works well for surfaces that they can reach. You can get it through welding supply shops.

The Scotch Bright, Bear Tex, and similar wheels work well, they hold up better if You run them slower rather than faster 4"-5" @ 3000-4000 RPM rather than 10000-12000 RPM. These are for use before going to the sewn buffing wheels and compound.

There are coarser sisal buffing wheels for use with the coarser compounds, close sewn for intermediate use and loose sewn wheels for final finishing.

The trick is in making good quality welds that require little finishing work. KATO in Annapolliss Md. are masters in this, and make "boat jewelry" and high end arcitectural stainless work.

The secret is to stay with a given grade of wheel untill all the scratches from the previous grade have been removed. If You go to a finer grit prematurely, You will NEVER gert those coarser scratches out. Been there & done that on some boat projects.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/22/08 22:29:21 EDT

Electropolishing SS parts: This is an excellant way to finish stainless parts, but for best results the entire part needs to be submerged at one time, or You get a waterline. This limits the size or the parts for many people who offer this service.

There are portable systems for use on welds and the HAZ [heat affected zone] that surrounds them, as well as some brush on chemical solutions that remove the oxide colors. These are not as effective as treating the entire part.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/22/08 22:34:16 EDT

HPL: You would be best off fabricating a firepot that basicly resembles a well designed cast iron pot. I did some experimenting based on some comments on another smithing site, it works but is not ideal. I will be changing to a roughly 10-11" square at the top, 4 1/2-5" square at the bottom and 5-6" deep fabricated steel pot. I plan to incorporate the "Bullet Grate" air opening from an "I Forge Iron" blueprint. This is for soft coal.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/22/08 22:42:34 EDT

vicopper, my silversmith friend thanks you profusely for your help but, he reminds me that he is working with pure silver(.999 fine) not sterling. Does your solution still apply?
Thanks again
   - merl - Tuesday, 04/22/08 23:13:06 EDT

I need to add my two cents worth to the question about the stove pipe and wether to go through the roof or the side.
Several years ago I instaled a corn burning heating applience in what is now my smithy.
I too was concerned about leaks from the roof so I ran it out the side.
Not knowing anything about flues and running stove pipe I ran the pipe up untill I was 18" from the ceiling (code in our area) and then went horizontal to the wall and out and up again until the pipe ended at 3' above the edge of the side of the roof.
This did not work at all!!
I could not figure out what was wrong and so called the local heating contractor. He came out to the tune of $60. /hr and told me right off that I had way too much horizontal run as compared to my vertical run.
He also said my stack needed to be at least 3' above the peak or, ridge line of the roof or I would also have backdraft problems.
He recomended I put one section of class A chimeny pipe and a code thimble through the roof as close to the peak as possible if not through the peak itself. Then elimenate the horizontal run all together.
So I did these things and had no further problems. If you use the right flashing and trim pieces and some expanding foam insulation to seal it up you should have no problems with leaks. Remember- minimal horizontal run of flu pipe and at least 3' ABOVE the ridge line. These rules apply wether through the roof or out the side wall.
I have since moved that corn burner to another building closer to the house and have my smithy in the old spot. Too bad I only put in a 6" class A flu because it is not big enough to handle the smoke from my forge. I'm planning on building a coupola at the peak and put in a 14" turbine ventilator I found at the salvage yard. The inside of the coupola will be baffeld to prevent leaks and alowed to drain back out side.
   - merl - Tuesday, 04/22/08 23:52:17 EDT

I suspect, if going through a wall, two 45 degree elbows would be much more efficent than two 90 degree ones.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/23/08 03:04:26 EDT

Hi, do you have any idea where a customised blacksmith's stamp might be bought? We've searched around but have had no joy.
Many thanks
   Nikki - Wednesday, 04/23/08 05:38:40 EDT

   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 04/23/08 08:55:55 EDT

Merl: I suspect your trouble with the original and success with the rebuild had a lot more to do with the total vertical of the stack than the horizontal or the number and angle of bends. From your description, it sounds like the first configuration had a total of maybe 8 feet of vertical (assuming "the edge of the side of the roof" means "eaves"), whereas the new configuration was, what, double that, in total vertical? I recently worked in a general store where the main heat source was a very large coal base heater set up just as your original corn burner was, except the horizontal run is about 20 feet of six inch pipe. The key here is that the total vertical is about 30 feet. The thing draws like a Hoover at any heat setting in any weather. Look at the Hofi setup linked above. Its about a 6 foot horizontal (actually 4 degree DOWN slope) into a very large, high vertical) It appears to draw as well as any setup I have seen that has no horizontal run at all. One final note: you should double-check that "3 above the ridge line" spec. Thats nearly impossible if you have to go out under an eaves or anywhere on the pitch of a roof. I think you will find that the rule is more like 2 feet above a 10' horizontal to the roof, or if less than 10 feet from the ridge, 3' above the point the highest point where it emerges from the roof. Look at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-100.html for a typical set of standards. I would look at the Hofi setup, the side draft designs here, and these specs before you even think about all the trouble of the vented cupola. I really think you will find a simpler solution. Wouldn't it be easier to change out the flue? Its really all about flues size and total vertical. I'm afraid that that 6" flue is gonna be the stopper no matter what you put on top.
   Peter Hirst - Wednesday, 04/23/08 10:27:43 EDT

I know that quenching tool steel at cherry red hardens it to unusable brittleness, but what happens when you let cool down to grey (In a shadowed area), and then quench, how hard is it then? I can't find any reference to this in tempering/heat charts.
   Thumper - Wednesday, 04/23/08 12:45:41 EDT

Peter is correct in that the codes call for two feet above any point withing 10 feet measured horizontal. However, this is a general rule and may fail on windward sides of buildings and on buildings with steps to a second floor. The surrounding area, buildings, hills and trees need to be taken into account including prevailing winds.

We had a chimney that drew very well but in certain wind conditions would reverse flow and fill the room with smoke in about 2 seconds. . . Our building blocked wind flow in a narrow valley and when the wind went up the valley it created a low pressure in the back and sucked smoke down the chimney. This was much too common and we finally retired the chimney.

I too have seen long horizontal runs in old wood stove installations. These work fine in old leaky wood stoves that run HOT but would be a major disaster on an "air tight" type stove that generates a lot of creosote. If run at a typical smoldering temperature the creosote would condense and leak out at seams as well as clog that section of horizontal pipe. A chimney fire in that horizontal would probably lead to a collapse of the pipe and possibly a devastating fire.

We heated with wood for many years and finally quit due to far too many close calls. It can be done safely but not in our situation at the time.

The ideal flue system for a coal forge would be a hot side draft and a seperate cool running hood for that percentage that always escapes.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/23/08 13:16:29 EDT

Thumper, if you let steel cool to grey and quench you won't harden it. Most plain carbon, alloy steels and tool steels are designed to be quenched from the austenitic range - it varies a bit with the steel but typical ranges would be around 1500 to 1600 degrees F. You need to choose quench media depending on the type of steel - brine, water, oil, or air. Highly alloyed tool steels are often quenched in air. After quenching, the object needs to be tempered to reduce hardness and increase ductility.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 04/23/08 13:19:07 EDT

Low temp quench: Thumper, This would vary greatly with the steel. Many steels that are oil quench or occasionally water quench will air cool to full hard in thin sections. However, in most cases the result will be that of "normalized" steel. It will not be hard but it will not be as soft as annealed. Once its temperature falls below the transition point quenching has no effect.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/23/08 13:24:00 EDT

Another question on low temp quenches. I've heard several old timers say that their method of heat treating plow shares after sharpening was to quench in water just as the steel was going from red to black(in a darkened area). Is this another case of misinformation, or does this have some effect on the hardness of typical plow steels?
   Bernard Tappel - Wednesday, 04/23/08 15:12:13 EDT

Thanks guys, I sorta though the effect would be minimal hardening, but I was afraid I might be causing some internal stress. I used an old ball pein to make a tomahawk. After tempering, the blade is nice and hard and the body can still be filed pretty easily. Here's a pic of what I made.
   Thumper - Wednesday, 04/23/08 15:26:47 EDT

Thumper, Sounds like a case of air hardening of the edge. For uniform hardening annealing was often recommended.

Bernard, Sounds like misinformation OR possible self quench. If you quench or keep a piece cold NEAR where it is hot the cold area can cool the hot area fast enough to act as a quench. If working in bright daylight it is often hard to see a hardenable red even in shadow. That is why so many people recommend the magnet test.

Ambient lighting makes a HUGE difference in perceived temperature colors.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/23/08 16:46:08 EDT

Hello I work making documentaries and am currently doing one for the Discovery Channel and the Spanish colonialization in Peru. I am desperately looking for a metal forge in Lima in Peru that can help me make a sword in the Spanish style from around 1530. it doesn't have to be a work of art just needs to show how the sword would have been made in those days. Any help with this would be fantastically helpful - thank you
Best wishes
   gaby - Wednesday, 04/23/08 17:02:04 EDT

As odd as this question is, we know a blacksmith working in South America and Peru. Brent Bailey has been teaching blacksmithing in Peru and should have contacts there. See

Brent Bailey Forge

That said, the likelihood of smiths making swords in Peru at that time is highly unlikely. Blades made in Spain may have been straightened, repaired or sharpened by Spanish Armourers brought along for the purpose, but making arms in the new world would probably wait until there was a high degree of settlement.

You may have to travel a great ways OR import a swordsmith to get your film.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/23/08 18:12:26 EDT

Brent Bailey in the anvilfire NEWS
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/23/08 18:18:17 EDT

Richard- As the Guru said, polishing on a wheel is tricky. It is also dangerous. In the orthopaeic shop way back when we ran a 18-20 inch sewn wheel off of a 5 HP motor. Careful is the watchword. You can get excellant results, but be watchful at all times. If the wheel grabs the material it is to late to "Duck and cover", it has already happened. Don't ask me how I know this. :)
Good luck.
   Brian C - Wednesday, 04/23/08 19:02:58 EDT

Stainless Steel Railings-
Polishing stainless is a thankless, and time consuming job.
Thats why the pros dont. Polish it, much, that is.
They buy pre-polished tubing. Most common sizes of round tubing, from 1/2" up to at least 2", are available pre polished, either in a brushed finish, or in full mirror shine. Yep, you pay for it- but it works out to a lot less than you would pay for in materials to polish it yourself, even if your labor was free.
Electropolishing is a great option as well- I am lucky enough to live near a boat railing manufacturer that will electropolish for me up to 4'x4'x8' pieces. We can then weld those together to make larger items. The welds can be site electropolished with a battery charger, and citri-surf, (google it) a citric acid based product that is nontoxic, and works great.
The other option, especially for round tubes, is one of the stainless polishing sanders from CS Unitec (again, google em) they make several nifty sanders just for graining and polishing metals, along with sanding flap wheels to fit them, that make short work of this job. Not cheap,but unless your labor is free, you will quickly tire of polishing stainless, and also realize why most people settle for a grained finish rather than mirror.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 04/23/08 19:42:41 EDT

Stainless is expensive to fabricate no matter what and folks often misjudge the costs. The term "stainless" is a lot like "fiberglass". The both invoke images of beautiful shiny surfaces while in fact they are both costly and difficult to make like that. There is nothing natural about either's finish. They must be created with a great deal of labor.

For stainless you start with the difference in material cost then multiply labor by 3 or 4 MINIMUM not including a polished surface. Most folks try to go for a brushed finish but while this is easier than polishing it can be difficult to create matched even surfaces.

I often recommend stainless as an option to a full three coat weather resistant paint job. This is especially true for those that want the "natural" look. In this case the stainless can be left with a black scale finish and highlights polished for "color". A coat of wax and the result will look as-forged for decades.

Keep in mind that due to difficulty in fabrication stainless steel jewelery sells for more than silver!
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/23/08 20:54:27 EDT

Gaby, I wrote you an informative e-letter, and it bounced.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 04/23/08 21:03:35 EDT

Hey guys. I'm thinking of building a Kinyon air hammer a modify the design to handle a 200LB ram. Does anyone have advice on cylinder bore size? Big Blu uses a 3.25 cylinder on their 155lb hammer and John Larson of Iron Kiss uses a 4" bore cylinder for his larger hammer. Would 50lbs more make a big difference on a 4" bore or should I icrease size? Thanks a lot
   - Mark Harrington - Wednesday, 04/23/08 21:42:50 EDT

The Iron Kiss has a better designed and sized air circut than the Big Blue. Beacuse of this and probably a more favorable ram to anvil weight ratio, the Iron Kiss has more power and better controll.

John Larson posted some information concerning ram weight to cylinder size on Forgemagic.com . You might be able to find it in the archives, or just ask Him on that forum.

You will need a big compressor to run a hammer that size effectivly, probably 10 HP minimum.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 04/23/08 22:44:44 EDT

Peter, yes the horizontal run was the problem and since the contractor was only adviseing me and, not actualy doing the work, he recomended to eliminate the horizontal run altoghether.
The other problem was that my flu ended below the peak of the roof and when the wind came from the East in my case it would come over the peak and swirle around verticaly and stop the draft or even back flow down the capped flu.
When we have a blizzerd here with alot of wind driven snow over the peak I can actualy see the wind pattern and understand just what the problem would be.
As to the flu size going thru the roof, I fully relize that the 6" is too small but that is $300. worth of class A chiminy going thru there and I'm not going to just tear it out and replace it with an even more expencive 8" or 10" one. I will utilize the 6" for a wood stove or somthing and put up a hood with a straight run of 12" up to the cupola. This is the same settup we have for the multipul forges we have at our club's smithy, works great.
   - merl - Wednesday, 04/23/08 23:44:15 EDT

As a general question, when a power hammer is rated at a certain weight 50lb,75, 100... does this refer to the weight of the hammer and the sliding components or is this the ft/lbs of impact force the machine is designed to produce.
I was talking to someone at work about the power hammer I want to build and one of our engineers over heard me and asked how I was rating the machine. I said by the weight of the hammer and conected sliding parts and he crankd out a simple formula to calculate the impact force for any given moving object. The formula does require a few simple conversions but, is fairly easy to operate if anyone is interested and, it's OK with Guru to post it here.
   - merl - Thursday, 04/24/08 00:16:33 EDT

I'm considering switching my torch set up from acetylene to propane or mapp gas or some such thing. I use my torch for cutting, heating, and brazing. would it still work well for brazing? Also, would I save money on fuel gas?
   - Josh S - Thursday, 04/24/08 00:38:04 EDT


If you try to make a 200# Kinyon style hammer, you may run into more difficulties than just the air supply. You would need to do the calculations for the size of cylinder. These are easy to do, you just need the weight of the moving parts, the stroke distance, the number of strokes per minute and you can calculate the force needed and air required to develop that force. I would guess that a 4" cylinder would be okay or just a little bit undersized for 200#, as a 2" is about right for 40-50#. The force is a function of the area of the piston so you would need about a 4" diameter cylinder to get four times the piston area of a 2" cylinder, (disregarding the shaft deduction).

The place you might run into trouble is the guide and support structure. On the piston, the area is a function of the square of the radius, but for structural strength the function is a cube, not a square. You'd need to carefully engineer the guides and the supporting members to handle the increased reciprocating weight safely.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/24/08 02:47:55 EDT


The convention is to rate the hammer by the total weight of reciprocating parts - ram, die, connecting rod(s). The impact force is a function of both the mass of the hammer and the velocity of the hammer. The velocity component is a square function and the mass is not, so the velocity has more to do with force than the ram mass.

Josh S:

Yes, propane or MAPP will work fine for cutting, heating and brazing. I don't liek it for welding, but it does the rest jus tfine and is definitely cheaper and more available than acetylene. Be advised though, that using propane will take morfe oxygen than acetylene does.
   vicopper - Thursday, 04/24/08 03:12:41 EDT

Josh S, Make sure that you change your torch hoses over to type T when you change over from acetylene as acetylene hose will break down with other gasses. Maybe same would happen with seals in regulator so i would replace that also. Mapp will also give you more heat than propane
   Tom-L - Thursday, 04/24/08 06:19:58 EDT

200 Pound (90kg) DIY hammer: The problem with scaling up these designs is that standard off the shelf air cylinders are not rated for these high inertial loads and impact. Both BigBLU and Phoenix use custom made cylinders made to their specs that have larger than standard rods and special seals. Both have done so due to durability issues. They also had the cooperation of their suppliers due to the volume of cylinders they buy.

Note that large rods make a significant difference between up and down force.

Air hammers can use much larger cylinders than necessary but then use more air than a comparable hammer with a smaller correctly engineered hammer. Air hammers (as are all air tools) are very energy inefficient and building one that is more inefficient than necessary is a true waste. Back when energy was not so much of a consideration and almost unmeasurable on a small steam hammer Chambersburg used a 4.5" diameter cylinder on their 100 pound utility hammer. They required a 10HP minimum electric air compressor.

Mark Linn produced a video on air hammer controls that includes calculations for selecting an air cylinder. I have just updated the contact information. However, I note that the utility program he references is no longer on-line. I am looking for a copy.

Note that the Kinyon design used a small rod and a flexible coupling which often fails. Alignment between the cylinder and the ram guides is critical.

Also note that the original Kinyon design was WAY under anviled. The optimum is 15:1 (3,000 pounds for a 200 pound ram) and due to economics many are now built with 10:1 ratios. This is a ton for your hammer design. That is a 17.3" diameter cylinder 30" tall or a 15.3" square 30" tall. In today's market with $1/pound steel prices it is pretty easy to figure.

The problem with rating hammers by energy is properly measuring the velocity of the ram. Theory fails due to the dynamics of reversing prior to the blow. Machines with energy ratings are carefully measured after construction. In practical use a power hammer is only rarely used at full force and what is more important is the controllability at high and low positions as well as ease of throttling. For this and many other reasons the industry quit arguing the point at its height and settled on total ram weight.

If you have never built a hammer before I would recommend staying in the 100 pound range. We are building a 100 pound mechanical hammer and just moving the individual pieces from floor to machine or bench gets to be a significant problem. The core of our anvil is now 800 pounds and a serious issue to handle even though I have a 5,000 pound fork lift in the shop. You think twice before lifting the 100 pound ram onto the drill press . .

If you have a shop with a good overhead hoist system then it is not a problem. My former shops had overhead hoisting and it was much safer and easier than dealing with a fork lift or portable hoist.
   - guru - Thursday, 04/24/08 10:13:17 EDT

Oxy-Propane: Josh, See others posts above. For cutting and heating propane is more cost effective and saves on the cost of a rental cylinder. For brazing it depends on the type and works fairly well. For welding steel it is difficult to use.

For heating with a Rosebud torch I much prefer propane as it is much less violent. It has a softer quieter flame and still have high BTU's.

For flame cutting propane is now used almost exclusively by industry. This is due to economics and availability of bulk tanks. For hand use it takes getting used to (practice). It is not quite as easy as acetylene but it works.

For both the above you need special propane tips.

Welding with oxy-propane is possible but I have had trouble with porous foamy welds. I suspect this is operator error but that is my brief experience with it.

   - guru - Thursday, 04/24/08 11:25:17 EDT

Made my first guillotine fullering tool the other day... it is awesome! Leaf spring steel was a pain to drill through, but it makes a VERRY handy hardie toool.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 04/24/08 14:42:59 EDT

Hey everyone, trust all is good your side of the pond.

Jock, im afraid ive got to disagree with you again on measuring the energy of hammers. It is easy to do, and done by pretty well every hammer manufacturer past and present. Blow energy is a simple calculation of mass x velocity at point of impact.

The blow energy can then be expressed as 'foot pounds ( ftlbs) kilogram meters ( KgM ), newton meters, kilo-joules or any other measure of energy. - if your comparing 2 hammers that use differnt measurement ratings, you can convert one to the other, or standardise them for comparison purposes into one measurment unit. simple math.

we use a velocity recorder ( a fancy lanyard clipped to the ram, in effect), that traces onto graph paper, measure the angle of the trace, and voila! velocity of moving parts at impact.

In the industry we do refer to the machines by ram weight in general conversation, ie "that job needs a 3 ton hammer", but we all know if we are discussing a gravity drop / air / hydraulic hammer etc, and believe me the calculations follow. Forge companies do not invest millions of dollars on capital plant unless its based on fact.

We also have some pretty nifty charts for conversion of hammer blow energies to forging press tonnages for given forging sizes, based on the 'energy value' for the grade of steel, weight & surface / flash area of the forging.

regarding the controlability of open die hammers, there are 2 tests, one is taking the shell off a hard boiled egg (seen it done on 2 ton self contained's) and closing an open match box, stood on its end. not so scientific, but cool to watch! :)
   - John N - Thursday, 04/24/08 18:31:34 EDT

edit to the above post...

when a hammer is in its 'full work' position (ie, striking as hard as it can) the effects of the ram reversing to the upstroke has no effect at all on the blow energy. this is because the 'theoretical point of ram impact' is about 6 inchs below the work piece !

On an accurate trace (velocity) recording of a hammer running at full tilt this can clearly be seen, as the downstroke of the ram is a constant angle, with a momentary flat spot in the trace before the ram starts to rise again.
   - John N - Thursday, 04/24/08 18:42:46 EDT

Mark- What kind of work are you doing that requires a 200# hammer? I'm not in any way implying that you don't need one, and bigger is always better, but are you aware that there is an economy of scale to larger tools? Big hammers need to be fed bigger stock, which take bigger forges to heat, and need hoists and more space around them for material handling. For my work which is mostly railings and hardware I use 35, 85, and 150# hammers, and by far the workhorse is my 85# hammer. Of course, if I lucked into a 200# hammer I wouldn't say no..... so what are you making?
   Judson Yaggy - Thursday, 04/24/08 21:47:03 EDT

The L.G. is back the action after replacing the pitmann bushing, clutch blocks, and adjusting the ram guides and bearings. Its runs with a steady thump like never before... the discussions on here where of help. cheers.
   andy - Thursday, 04/24/08 23:42:15 EDT

Power Hammer Energy:
I built a "Rusty" type hammer with a 34 lb Ram. I took a video of it at 30 frames/sec and a fast shutter speed (good lighting). I had a ruller set beside the dies for reference. The ram appeared to move 5 inches in the last frame before the blow. Since it was still accellerating through most of the frame, I took the liberty of calling it 6 inches per frame just before impact. Using "work = 1/2 M V squared" this works out to 162 joules.

If you take into consideration that it delivers 200 blows per minute, the ENERGY delivered is 538 watts. I know that my 1 HP motor is running close to rated current, so that works out to 72 percent efficiency (with reference to the 1 HP available at the shaft).

Just for comparison, the Anyang 33 self-contained hammer is rated at 160 joules, delivers 240 blows/min and requires a 1.5 HP motor. (No, I did not fudge my initial measurement of my machine...it just happened to work out.)

Using a video camera is a pretty crude way to measure the speed, since I should really have a higher frame rate to get better resolution, or have access to John N's velocity recorder.

I might try a pair of optical sensors and a digital storage scope to get a better reading.

The real work delivered to the workpiece still depends on having a suitably sized anvil. I tried 250 lb, and was very disppointed with the performance. At 400 lb it really shaped up.
   - DonS - Thursday, 04/24/08 23:53:07 EDT

Power hammer energy:
Are there any kinds of force transducers that could be used to measure the impact of a hammer? I have zero experience in this outside of my old gas grill, but couldn't some kind of piezo device be placed between the hammer and a hard place, with the results captured on a storage scope?

   - Marc - Friday, 04/25/08 08:52:31 EDT

Marc, strain gauges measure deflection so you would need an object to take the force and return to normal similar to a spring. These usually have a narrow operating range if you need accurate measurements.

   - guru - Friday, 04/25/08 09:09:05 EDT

Don: Impressive numbers. And I'll bet they would be even better with a more accurate measure of the acceleration of the ram. If its accelerating over that entire last 5 inches, the speed at the end could be a LOT higher than the average speed over the whole stroke.

Now, not to nitpick your calculations . . . ok yes, to nitpick your calculations: 1/2 M V^2 equals energy, not work, and watts is a rate of energy consumption or production, i.e. power, not energy itself. Work is force x displacement (times cosign of the angle of displacement). Measuring the actual work on the piece would be very difficult, as it would require meauring the distance and angle of the displacement of every bit of iron in the work. Huge force over minute distances and very complicated angles. I'm not sure that would give a useful number anyway. You could calculate the force delivered if you could nail down the exact ram speed at impact(and therefore accelertaion from zero at the high point), multiply that by the mass of the ram, and divide by the distance the ram travels after impact with the work, to give you a pretty good proxy for actual work on a particular piece. I'm not sure all that would be worth the trouble, since any useful information is all a function of ram mass and speed at the point of impact, and you seem to have nailed that pretty well, as your comparison to HOP rating of your motor confirm.

   Peter Hirst - Friday, 04/25/08 10:08:27 EDT

Oops, didnt mean to sign your name. Neglected editing
   Peter Hirst - Friday, 04/25/08 10:16:16 EDT

I am trying to make a dumbell out of some 1 inch diamater steel piping,some metal plates, and a hole and pin system so I can add or remove weight easily (if you go on ebay and you type in dumbell in sporting goods you can see a picture of what I want the plates to look like, but with a pin system to hold them on.) Do you have any ideas of how to do this?
   Jacob Badger - Friday, 04/25/08 11:25:50 EDT

Im 14 and I need some dumbells but don't have the money to buy them so I got permission at Geronimo this year so I could use there tool in acouple of weeks.
   Jacob Badger - Friday, 04/25/08 11:30:35 EDT

Weights: Jacob, The "economical" weight sets are plastic with sand or shot fill. Much cheaper than solid metal.

The first type I see on ebay use a pin to prevent rotation of the handle/holder. When rotated there are flats that let the weights escape. . I think. It is difficult to tell details from the photo. I looks like the more you rotate the center the more plates are let to escape. This is not a simple thing to manufacture.

The normal system uses replaceable weights and a nut or pin to hold them on the bar. If you use multiple weights you will need to vary the location of the pin OR use a sleeve with holes in various locations that changes its offset.
   - guru - Friday, 04/25/08 12:08:07 EDT

Jacob, I would use a piece of 1" threaded rod (AKA "all thread"), a pipe spacer or grip (1" Schedule 40 pipe is 1.049 ID), two nuts, maybe some washers and weight plates drilled to 1-1/64" or 1-1/32".

Other than sawing to length and drilling there is no machining involved. Deburr (chamfer) all the parts well with a file.

Drilling 1" holes is not easy but if you have the right machine it is not too difficult. Pilot drill with a new 3/16" bit to start. This removes the metal where the "dead" center, or chisel point is on the drill and greatly reduces the feed pressure.

   - guru - Friday, 04/25/08 12:17:57 EDT

Jacob; the first thing to do is to ask around; let everyone know you are looking for weights. There are thousands of tons of the things sitting in basements and garages unused and unwanted. Also check thrift stores; put a want add in the local penny paper, etc. You will probably be able to find a set cheaper than you can build one!

The second thing is that steel is expensive right now, trying to do a 1-off with probably minimal equipment is going to cost in time or in money! The weights on some cheap sets are cast concrete---a lot chaeper than steel but more fragile---the heavy plastic coatings are to keep it together even after it cracks.

   Thomas P - Friday, 04/25/08 12:36:11 EDT

Peter Hirst: Thanks for correcting my terminology. I will fix my spreadsheet accordingly.

This all started when I watched Dave Manzer's Power Hammer videos and watched the ram of his 50 and 100 lb Little Giant hammers one frame at-a-time to see how far they moved per frame. They yeilded 106 and 330 joules respectively, but that is a real WAG because I did not have a ruller next to the ram for reference. These numbers look a bit low, but most people run these hammers quite a bit slower than the speeds published by Little Giant in favour of better control.
   - DonS - Friday, 04/25/08 13:29:04 EDT

Im pretty sure the 33lb anyang motor is rated at 3 hp (2.2 kw) - (I should know really, I sell them!) - A mechanicl hammer will have much lower friction losses.

I was mulling the methods etc of measuring hammer performance today, whilst stuck on a milling machine for 10 hours....

With the advances (and massive price reductions in technology) It would be pretty easy to build a full air hammer monitoring system / diagnostics system with high speed vid cam (ive seen these used as diagnostic tool on there own,) velocity recorder, air pressure sensors, temp sensors, ammeters etc, that would all plot onto one graph with the video frames as a reference. I use all these techneques individually, but it would be cool to have a full 'ECG' trace for a hammer on the laptop!

The 'lead' test is the oldest method of calculating a hammers energy for a single blow, since the energy required to deform a given piece of pure lead is pretty well a constant. I think Ive lost the calculation sheet but basically start with a cylindrical billet of lead of given diameter, give it a smack, measure its new height. work it back from there.
   - John N - Friday, 04/25/08 14:07:11 EDT

What I find intersting is the diffence between a low velocity heavy weight, and a high velocity light weight (with the same energy), and their effects on the hot steel. It seems, from experience that the metal moves in a different way depnding on the type of blow. It must depend if the metal is moving from the 'middle' core of the billet, or the outside portion.
   - John N - Friday, 04/25/08 14:22:26 EDT

Hammer Efficiency: Mechanical hammers are a completely different beast than air hammers. Electromechanical hammers are a closed system with only friction losses. However, friction can include the hammer fighting itself if it is improperly designed. When properly designed there may only be a 5% friction loss. Electropneumatic hammers have high losses due to compressing and using air resulting in high heat losses. They also have a higher load at idle than a mechanical which should have zero load with the clutch disengaged. BOTH hammers have high losses at less than full power.

Don, If you need the LG dimensions they are on the chart on our power hammer page. You would have to do a little extrapolation.

LG designed with only full HP industrial motors and did not use fractional HP motors so their small hammers had larger motors than needed.
   - guru - Friday, 04/25/08 15:04:39 EDT

Hammer Size: For years the artist blacksmithing community in the U.S. was stuck on little 25 pound LG's and a "big" hammer was a 50. Then folks found out they could do just as delicate work with a 100 as with a 25 AND do heavier work. In a commercial shop a 200 or so such as the Nazel 2B's in the Yellin shop are perfect.

When the "new" air hammers came out they were 75 pound machines and advertised to run on a $300 K-Mart air compressor. This was an exageration. They could be operated on such a machine but it would not keep up with even modest work. Both the current makers of the new hammers now suggest larger air compressors and sell 100 pound plus machines. Why? Because for the typical architectural shop this is the right size.

However, you cannot beat having MORE POWER. I've watched Josh Greenwood forge a 1.5" diameter round about 5" long into a 6" diameter cookie about 1/2" thick on his 500 pound Chambersburg. Pretty slick demo and it illustrates what can be done when you have sufficient power. I'm trying to figure out how/where I can setup my 350# Niles. . . For this machine I have a large gasoline powered screw compressor. About 40 HP I think.

ANY power hammer is better than NO power hammer just like ANY anvil is better than NO anvil. Size often defines what you can do and the class of work your shop can accept. But you can produce tons of small parts on a 25# LG. Just don't plan on any 20 pound forgings.
   - guru - Friday, 04/25/08 15:23:40 EDT

I have an opportunity to buy a johnson ,400,000 BTU, gas forge. I am not sure of the model #. Does anyone have an opinion of their abilities vs homemade forges. I have made a number of blower forges but none are big enough to heat up a 12" Diameter piece of 1/4" plate that I need to work. I thought this might do the job with the open top. The price is $400.

On a different topic, I am tired of bending over at my power hammer and was thinking of raising it higher than the standard 34". I am 5'8" but still have to lean over when working shorter stock. Any thoughts on this before I hoist my 100# hammer?
   Steven Bronstein - Friday, 04/25/08 17:20:54 EDT

I have an anvil which I couldnt find in Anvils of america.
I would like to email you a picture,Maybe you can help? Also I have a Soderfors Clip Horn anvil,How rare are they?
   Ernie - Friday, 04/25/08 17:23:14 EDT

Ernie: If you e-mail the photos to me (click on name) as attachments (not in text) I'll take a look for you. Need side, front, back and bottom as a minimum. Also of any writings, numbers, etc.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 04/25/08 17:36:00 EDT

Jacob, I was very pleased to see your post. I have made a whole rack of dumbells for the school here where I work. As both a blacksmith and a weight trainer I would advise you to do it a bit differently. Don't make adjustable weight bells. Make fixed or semi fixed ones and make several pairs. The bar through the centre is fairly easily available. If you let people in the trade know what you are doing and you want some offcuts of 1" bar I think you might get them for free or at least very cheap. Then find some pipe which will just slide over the bar, this makes both a rotating sleeve inside the bell. Mine, from memory, are 5.5" long. Any offcuts of pipe are then used to make the collars on the outside ends of the dumbells. The secret at first is also to look for any circles cut out of plate. If there are 4 the same size grab them out of the scrap pile. Those will be your weights. As you get better start even to look for cutouts in pairs. They will, later, become the weights when you make welded barbells! Besides the rack of dumbells I have made a rack of welded barbells, the racks, a butterfly bench, squat stands, spare disc holder and several ordinary adjustable bars and it is all pretty well made out of scrap. Joe Weider started by lifting an old flywheel he found in a scrap yard and he did OK! Remember it is NOT the equipment you have got it is what you do with it that makes the difference!

PS Jock, sorry for the long post.
   philip in china - Friday, 04/25/08 18:31:33 EDT

Jacob, Don't rule out coffe cans cast full of cement with a pipe in between. A sleve to allow rotation is a good idea. My neighbor used cement and coffe can dumbells & bar bells to get back in shape after an injury, worked for Him. I agree that You will probably be able to find a used set free or cheap if You ask around. Young guys probably won't give them up, somewhat older guys often stop lifting.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 04/25/08 21:27:24 EDT

I am trying to locate Christopher Lambdin. I understand he may be a blacksmith in your area. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated! Thank You! Betty Marlin
   Betty Marlin - Friday, 04/25/08 21:27:59 EDT

I am trying to locate Christopher Lambdin. I understand he may be a blacksmith in your area. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated! Thank You! Betty Marlin
   Betty Marlin - Friday, 04/25/08 21:28:10 EDT

How do I email you for the Anvil pictures?
   Ernie - Saturday, 04/26/08 12:44:53 EDT

I don't know what system you are on or how your pictures are stored. You can post them to a site and send me the links. Or you can click on my name, which should bring up an e-mail form, and provide them as attachments to the e-mail. Please don't put the pictures in the text or the e-mail will take forever to open.

It is rare for a new U.S. made anvil brand to show up today. Almost all of them turn out to be Hay-Buddens or Trentons with a client logo.

The 'Holy Grail' of anvils in the U.S. is probably the SAMSON. Mineatures aren't that rate, but a full-sized one remains elusive.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 04/26/08 17:02:03 EDT

Betty Marlin: Try www.switchboard.com, www.whowhere.com or The White Pages. Also Google the name. With an unusual last name he might come up in one of those.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 04/26/08 17:04:17 EDT

Google lists some URLs for a Christopher Lambdin.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 04/26/08 19:05:29 EDT

Hi Ken,
Can you explain why an Anvil would be used as a base for a steam hammer?
   Ernie - Saturday, 04/26/08 20:22:17 EDT

Hey folks-
Do you know of anyone how might be willing to help me with a knife making project in the Kansas City, Missouri area ? The more "old school" the better. I have a 1855 village with a Blacksmith shop in my area but don't know if knife making is common to Blacksmithing or if that is more of a specialty thing.
   Mark - Saturday, 04/26/08 20:35:01 EDT

Anvil: Ernie, an "anvil" is not necessarily the shape object used by farriers and blacksmiths. "Anvil" is a mechanical term for a mass that resists impact or supports work that is impacted. Every steam hammer had a base that was an "anvil" or held an anvil centered under the hammer. These varied in shape but were most often rectangular and may have weighed many tons.

   - guru - Saturday, 04/26/08 21:20:47 EDT

Johnson Forges: Steve, These have their uses and are well made but they are gas hogs compared to your small DIY forges (which probably run 30 to 40,000 BTU - 1/10 the Johnson) or made to suit forges. Generally they are best for long work. They are most often used with natural gas.
   - guru - Saturday, 04/26/08 21:27:25 EDT

Mark, If all else fails, there will be a HUGE blacksmith conference in Sedalia, MO, May 1-3. http://www.bamsite.org
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 04/26/08 22:11:32 EDT

Thanks Frank, I'm hoping that I can get someone to help pretty soon. I am a Police Officer assigned as a School Resource Officer at a Middle School. I get the opportinity to teach as much as I want. Right now I am preparing a class about survival and "thinking outside the box" which is a term I hate. I think what Blacksmiths do is incredible and would like to have our film folks film the process of raw metal into a finished knife. Making the case would be step two. The course covers several different responsibilities for the students as well as touch on the science part of the process. Long story....
   Mark - Sunday, 04/27/08 00:05:28 EDT

Am I even on the right track here? Do Blacksmiths commonly make knives? Or do I need to find a knife maker specifically?
   Mark - Sunday, 04/27/08 00:12:57 EDT

Mark, Knives.
Yes, no, and maybe. Most knives that are shop made are done cold by those who have grinders and belt sanders. For hardening and tempering, the shaped blades are sent out to professional heat treaters and then returned. These knife makers have little interest in forging a blade hot.

There are some bladesmiths, and there is an American Bladesmith Society which promotes forged blades. www.americanbladesmith.com

The group which meets in Sedalia is the Blacksmiths Association of Missouri. The president is Kirk Sullens. kirk@kirksullens.com
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 04/27/08 07:40:57 EDT

Spent last week camping in the Texas Hill Country, NW of San Antonio. We drove to Fredericksburg and did the usual tourist stroll through the shops. In one shop I was stumbling along, looking at the floor, when an anvil pops into view! It had the Eagle logo and was in fine condition. Looked to be about 150#. Unfortunately, it was not for sale. Turns out to be a prop to advertise the hand forged items for sale in the shop. They were made by a local smith in Fredericksburg and he does excellent work. Prices were reasonable, even a bit low. The items were not just flying off the shelf, though. Too much competition from Chinese-made coffee cups and wannabe-cowboy junk. Sad, here is a fine craftsman whose work is well executed and reasonably priced but lack of understanding leaves it un-appreciated.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 08:48:32 EDT

More knife.
Go to NAVIGATE ANVILFIRE menu and click iForge How To. See #97. Also you can go to www.youtube.com and search "Knife Making," the problem being that there may be a little horse hockey on some of the clips.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 04/27/08 09:33:51 EDT

Quenchcrack. And he has a wonderful name: Roy Bellows.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 04/27/08 09:36:44 EDT

Frank, that is, indeed, a great name for a smith. However, it doesn't sound like the name on the display. I foolishly failed to get a card, but it was a different sounding name, maybe starting with a Z? Dang it, now this is going to drive me nuts until I find his name.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 11:10:18 EDT

The internet is an amazing resource. The smiths name is Mike Jaksik and I have his phone number if anyone wants it. His work is displayed in a Fredericksburg shop called "The Christmas Shop" and I highly recommend giving them a visit if you are ever in the neighborhood. Support Your Local Smith!
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 11:27:32 EDT

While in Kerrville, TX, I found something called Rutland Stove Polish. It is intended for sprucing up cast iron stoves. It is like a very black shoe polish and you are to apply it cold and polish it to a shine. It contains waxes and black pigments. I am planning to try it on some decorative pieces to see if it looks better than just carmelized waxes or oils. Has anyone ever used it?
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 13:23:43 EDT

I use it on my two stoves all the time, one cast and one plate, and it is great for that purpose. Maintains a satin to flat finish on very smooth cast, and improves with heating. May need heat to keep it from leaching/rubbing off, though. I am guessing it would work best if the object were heated indirectly after application (such as on a hot plate, as if you were tempering it) to maybe 350 and held there for a while, and allowed to air cool. Never tried it on iron that is not heated periodically: let us know how it works out. You may be on to something.
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 04/27/08 13:35:02 EDT

QC: Just remembered: I also use it on my steel barbecue pit, which I bought in Kerrville. Greatest real honest to god barbecue pits in the world, made right there, out of recycled gas & oil pipe. Betcha that's why you found the stove polish there.
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 04/27/08 13:39:14 EDT

Peter, there is a store there called "Gibsons" that is one of those old-tyme hardware/general stores that carries everything from garden plants to underwear to firearms. That's where I found it. Great store, hope Walmart doesn't run them out of business. I think you can order it directly from the Rutland website, too. www.rutland.com if anyone is interested. More news when I get a chance to try it out.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 13:48:52 EDT

Stove Polish: The problem with most of these is the pigment is graphite and there is very little binder. Typically the binders age and the graphite chalks just like cheap paint. The problem is folks do not like black rubbing off onto their hands and clothes. I used to use high temperature paint on my fireplace sets. . . the problem was it eventually started to rub off (about 18 months to 2 years). When customers asked about it I would repaint using a standard flat black EXCEPT on the parts that might get hot OR suggest to them that they do they same.

If you are going to use high temperature paints or stove polish you need to age test them before using on anything folks are going to handle.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/27/08 13:55:16 EDT

I recently went to a blacksmith conference. I noticed a lot of very talented people used the hofi hammers or hofi style hammers. I am very new to this craft and wonder where is the best place to purchase this type hammer and is there anything I should stay away from? David
   David - Sunday, 04/27/08 14:09:31 EDT

Guru, I just applied the polish to one end of a piece of 3/8" rod and left the other end as-rolled. After a few minutes I polished the coated end fairly agressively to a nice sheen. I then pulled it through my fist and had a light black streak. Yup, not for BBQ or Fireplace tools. I am leaving the rod on the back porch for an un-controlled corrosion test for a few days. Still, I may fool around with it on a warm piece to see what happens. However, I may relegate it to the BBQ pit as Peter suggests.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 14:22:06 EDT

David, I don't own a Hofi hammer but I am inclined to think it is not the unusual hammer head that works the magic but rather the skill and talent of the smith using it. Hammers are like golf clubs and we all would like to buy a better game. Uri Hofi could forge a work of art using an old flip-flop for a hammer.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 14:27:13 EDT

David, BigBLU Manufacturing makes these hammers in a forged version. Occasionally Hofi has them in a cast model. BigBLU has a wide range of sizes and styles.

See, BLU Blacksmith Hammers:
   - guru - Sunday, 04/27/08 14:29:42 EDT

Hammer Styles: I personally prefer the standard American pattern smithing hammer as do many other smiths. But I also think it is what you are used to. A lot of emphasis is placed on "ergonimics" but I think the ergonomics are in the technique, not the hammer. Far earlier than the current ergonomic school folks like Donald Streeter were teaching the use of a loose pivoting grip. Josh Greenwood demonstrated the same using a hand forged Swedish style hammer at our hammer-in last Saturday. He has been teaching this technique since the 1970's.

Best moment from our hammer-in:

While demonstrating hammer technique Josh forges on hot piece without looking at it. Then he walks around the anvil while talking and looking at the audience and hammering away without missing a beat. The point? Good hammer control includes knowing where the work is without looking as well as body position and being to change it as needed while working.

I'll try to talk him into another demo when he is not in Costa Rica.

   - guru - Sunday, 04/27/08 15:02:49 EDT

I have found if you spray on flat black paint to warmed metal it seems to provide a better bond than when cold.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 04/27/08 15:35:18 EDT

"Uri Hofi could forge a work of art using an old flip-flop for a hammer."

On learning from others, when I first started making my propane (freon-bottle) forges I used a 9" length of 3/4" black iron pipe as the air tube. To make them I bought 10" nipples and cut off the threads on one end. Was in the shop doing so one day when a guy stopped by with his 4-year-old son to ask about a welding job he needed done. I continued to cut off one threaded end as we talked. Kid ask why I was doing that. When I told him, he replied, "Why don't you buy one twice as long and cut it in half". Duhhhhh. A most humbling moment. One 18" nipple costs less than two 10" ones, and one cut instead of two.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 04/27/08 15:43:10 EDT

Mark even 2000 years ago a blademaker would not be likely to be smelting the metal to be used. They would buy/barter it from the specialists. Iron "currency bars", which BTW look a whole lot like swords are not unusual finds from early iron age sites.

Smelting is a very different craft than forging!

There are a number of American smiths that do do "From Ore to Blade" sessions, The one that comes to mind is Ric Furrer.

Gotta go family meal on the table!

   Thomas Powers-Las Cruces - Sunday, 04/27/08 16:31:34 EDT

Funds are tight and I need a piano-tuning wrench, so I want to make my own. How should I go about making what effectively is a socket wrench, for a 1/4" square-head nut whose 'head' is a half-inch tall?

I can figure out the handle part (think tire-iron shape), and I have half-inch round and square stock as well as some old coil springs and leaf springs. I will probably straighten a coil spring and put a 90-degree bend an inch or two back from the end for the tool shape. To create the socket I'm thinking of slowly heating the end until nearly welding heat and using a piece of 1/4" square stock as a punch down the axis of the bent part, quenching the punch after each hit, or use a series of punches. Alternatively, I'm thinking of flattening the bent end then wrapping the flat part around a piece of 1/4" square stock to make the socket.

Strength is not the major issue: one has to overcome the tuning peg tension, but we're not talking about a huge torque here. I do want a long lever arm, though, since one often needs to only move a peg a degree or two to tune the string.

Thoughts? Advice?

I am a blacksmithing newbie (took some classes eight years ago; finally got the forge going a few weeks ago). Tools are limited, and I will likely be working by myself (though I could probably enlist the help of my dear wife or daughter).
   Paymeister - Sunday, 04/27/08 17:47:07 EDT

Stove Polish: OK, I think if you wait more than a few minutes to let it dry, it is more permanent. I left it on the back porch for a few hours and no more black marks on my fingers. In the sunlight, the color is a graphite gray/black. It is a pleasant color and would look fine on decorative items. I would not use it on eating or cooking utensiles.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 04/27/08 17:57:13 EDT

Further on piano tuning wrench (see entry a couple above this):

The commercial version is an 8-point socket; all I need is a four-point (=square) hole. Also, the tuning pegs may have a slight taper to them. Photo at http://www.netdataconsultants.com/tim/socket.jpg .

Thanks, all!
   Paymeister - Sunday, 04/27/08 18:16:53 EDT


I struggled trying to make a similiar piece with a 5/16" socket for a door lever gizmo. I finally wound up swaging a piece of small pipe down so that I had a 5/16" round socket at one end, shouldered down to a 3/8" OD shaft. I then drilled the end of a piece of 3/4" to match the OD of the socket, with a continuing 3/8" hole to accept the shaft part of the piece. Finally, I dropped the socket into the hole and broached it with a 5/16" square punch. Being trapped in the hole, the socket couldn't flare out or collapse when I broached it.

There's probably an easier way. I know there would have been for me -- when I installed the socket, I discovered that the other end of the 5/16" shaft the socket fit over was just held with a set screw. I could have forged a new shaft that was 3/8" round at one end and 5/16" square at the other and been done with it. Oh well, if I didn't do things the hard way, I wouldn't be a blacksmith (grin).

   Mike BR - Sunday, 04/27/08 19:14:22 EDT

Tuning Wrench: I use a Snap-On British Car Brake Adjusting wrench. It has pivot ends and 1/4 and 5/16" square 4 point socket ends. Very slick tool and much classier than the those made for the purpose.

You can purchase 4 and 8 point square sockets. Sears used to stock them. McMaster-Carr stocks them now. $4-$5 and you weld on a handle OR use a 1/4" drive plain socket wrench (they swivel). If you use a commercial socket and weld on a handle I would use stainless for the handle and welding rod. The stainless rod will melt through and blend with chrome plating making a nice looking tool.

To punch-form a deep hole for this you may want a slightly pointed punch but not tapered. To make it from hot work steel will cost you much more than the Snap-On wrench (if they still make them). So make a punch from the highest carbon steel you have and be sure to lube it while punching. The punch should be .008 to .010" larger than the size to fit. Wrenches must have clearance. The lube wants to be a coolant such as grease.

You will also want a bolster made from heavy bar to support the part in. Drill and heavily chamfer/radius a shoulder for a 1/4" round to set in.

Step one is to neck down the wrench blank to about 1/4" from a 3/8" round. The blank does not need to be large because the punch is going to expand it. Support the bolster over the hardy hole or over a hole in something sturdy. Heat the wrench blank, drop in the hole and punch the socket. You may want to clearly mark the center of the end of the part by pre-punching. Ideally the bolster would have a hole to capture the expanding material but this could jam things up if too small or if you do not work fast. Just lube and punch.

I would use a commercial socket wrench and handle. You can get 3/16 and 5/16" as well and a ratchet handle is handy when restringing or working in a tight location. Due to their size they are inexpensive. You can also use a short 1/4" extension and a wrench to fit it. . . I needed a wrench to fit the 3/8" lugs on a 4-jaw chuck and that is what I used until I got a wrench to fit.
   - guru - Sunday, 04/27/08 19:57:31 EDT

A 12" tuning lever(4 OR 8 Point)is available from AMS Piano Tools for $18.64. Can any of these solutions be cheaper than that? More fun, sure, but cheaper in the end?
   Peter Hirst - Sunday, 04/27/08 21:42:05 EDT

Square socket wrench: You could probably buy a nice forged one from Williams or Armstrong. The refrigeration trade uses a square socket ratcheting box wrench for turning the charge valves, they incorporate several sizes, 1/4" being one of them. Depending on the peg spacing it might not fit.

I would probably just weld any old 1/4" drive socket on a suitable handle, or slip it on a hex key.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 04/27/08 21:47:40 EDT

Frank and Thomas-
Thanks for your time and responding to my question. I'm going to keep looking into this thing. I think it would be great for my kids, of which there are nearly 1000 a year. The 1855 village in my area offers Blacksmithing classes and I plan to enroll so I can learn more myself. I'll save the site and check back in from time to time. You folks stay safe.
   Mark - Sunday, 04/27/08 23:37:14 EDT

Hi all,
I've been asked whether I can sharpen and retemper a mining pick. What should I quench in, and what colour should I draw to? Of course, I'm assuming that mining picks would be relatively consistent in terms of steel used.
   Craig - Monday, 04/28/08 00:29:54 EDT

Hi everyone, i was wondering how i can get in contact with a local blacksmith to possibly see about learning how to smith? i have tried googling and websearching but to no avail. I live in Goulburn, NSW, Australia can anyone help?
   - Simon - Monday, 04/28/08 01:34:55 EDT

The TAFE at Richmond does a basic course. It's a bit far for you, I know, but it is a good course.
   Craig - Monday, 04/28/08 01:43:23 EDT

Simon: Contact this group as they may know of blacksmiths in your area:

President / Editor: Brian Keenan
12 Padstow St.
Karrinyup, Western Australia, 6018
(08) 9447 9135

Public Relations: Jo Mazzarol
38 Imperial Circuit
Madeley, Western Australia, 6065
ph / fax: (08) 9302 6445

For a do-it-yourself course, I recommend The Backyard Blacksmith by Lorelei Simms.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 04/28/08 03:29:59 EDT

Some blokes from NSW will occasionally send their newsletter, "SOLID WROUGHT: Linking the Blacksmiths of Australia". The editor is Graham Moyses, 8 Lake Spur, Laurieton, NSW 2443. e-mail: graham.moyses@bigpond.com
I just received their 66th issue. Nice people. I met many of them in 2005 at the "Hot Iron Muster" in Queensland.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/28/08 09:12:03 EDT

Craig, that assumption may be a bit of an assumption depending on how old and where it was made and if it was factory made or made by a local smith. If it's under 100 years old it would most likely be a medium to high carbon steel with only the ends heat treated. If it's made of antler (like the ones used to mine salt in the neolithic/bronze age) you are on your own!

I would suggest spark testing it and then going for a warm brine quench if it doesn't look too bursty only heating the ends and quenching and then tempering from the eye towards the ends.

How much use is it going to see? If just around a garden I might even just try normalizing it.

Mark; you need to figure out if you should be showing the kids what was actually done at a smithy at that time and place or what you want to be showing or doing; unfortunately usually very different things for us!

   Thomas P - Monday, 04/28/08 11:30:50 EDT

Craig, More mining pick.

If it's modern day high carbon steel, don't put a needle point on it. The point should be rounding, maybe a 1/16" radius or slightly more. If it has a mattock end, dress it to a 35º bevel on the haft side of the blade. You're usually on the safe side drawing to a blue temper color, but you may need to experiment with that depending on the hardness of the rock or soil.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 04/28/08 13:51:22 EDT

Mark, I had the great luck to meet Ric Furrer at a knife show in March. You can't dought the dedication to the craft in a guy that casts his own Wootz steel to make his own blades from scratch. He also makes a range of bladesmith's hammers at very good prices. I would think that anything you want to know about blades and bladesmithing, he would know. Check him out at DOORCOUNTYFORGEWORKS.COM (it's all upper case on the busines card but I don't think it matters)
   - merl - Monday, 04/28/08 17:48:38 EDT

Re mining pick.
Thanks. It just got a litle more complicated. I asked how old it was, "I don't know". I asked when he bought it "I didn't. An old miner gave it to me."
A little further probing revealed that the two ends are welded on. It has been resharpened before by an old local blacksmith with good results, but he didn't have any more information to do the job than I do.
As for use, he is a collector of mineral specimens, so it gets used fairly rigorously on rock that is often quite hard.
I think I will err on the side of caution, if I decide to do the job at all...
   Craig - Monday, 04/28/08 18:07:55 EDT

I want to make a couple of heavy duty crowbars. I am proposing to use 40mm round bar and have each one 3 metres long which should make each one 30Kg. I have a couple of questions: How many foot pounds does it take to bend 40mm bar? I will forge a point on one of the bars and a flat on the other. The bars will then be sledgehammered under the objects I am moving.How much energy from the sledgehammer blows will be lost due to the inertia of the bars? Instead of using a sledgehammer I could weld a piece of 40mm ID pipe over the bar and make a slide hammer. Would the weld have any effect on the strength of the bar? Would this be in any way compensated for by the strength added by the pipe? Finally I have never forged anything as big as 40mm bar. Realistically can a couple of strong guys striking with 15 pound sledgehammers do it? We have a 280 pound anvil and a lot of enthusiasm!
   philip in china - Monday, 04/28/08 22:45:49 EDT

Pry Bars: Phillip, This will indeed take a lot of enthusiasm to forge by hand but it can be done. Note that force to bend depends on the radius and length of bend. There is also about a 2:1 difference between mild steel and tool steel.

The traditional heavy pry bar is only about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. I have several well used ones. They normally start out as 1.25" (32 mm) square bar with a wedge end and taper to about 3/4" (19 mm) round. I knew someone who made them and many were forged from 4140 and others from 5160.

The two older ones I have were curved like snakes when I bought them for almost nothing. I used my 20T hydraulic press to straighten them like new. They have been used for all kinds of heavy moving without damage. I know you can apply 350 pounds to the end of one while the other end is under a load without bending it.

Years later I saw how these things get twisted up like corkscrews. While moving huge boulders using a track hoe, holes were drilled in the boulder and pry pars stuck in the holes as anchors for chains. While pulling on them the chains would often slip to the ends and the tension bend the bars. Or they would roll over onto the bars. . . Nothing like an 8 or 10 ton machine and 5 to 8 ton boulders to mangle tools designed to use by hand.

Note that a pry bar over about 7 foot (2.1 meters) becomes useless once vertical as you cannot apply sufficient force by hand at this point. You must also subtract the weight from the amount of pull the worker can apply.

Normally if you need to drive wedges under a load to move it then you want wedges and spacer plates, not a big ugly pry bar. Even wood wedges work better on steel bearing plates. Once high enough you put the pry bar (or rollers) under the load. If you have to drive the pry bar in level then there is a very great danger that one's fingers could get pinched under it if unsuccessful lifting and maintaining the lift on the load. It helps to have LOTS of spacers to put under loads.

You also need to think of the strength of the material that you are moving. Heavy stone or concrete may give or crumble with a long narrow lever trying to move it. Then there is the surface the thing is on. Heavy machinery must often be moved on steel tracks laid especially for the purpose. This also makes a smooth surface that rollers can be used on.

While Archimedes said. "Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I shall move the Earth" there are some impracticalities in his statement.

See our review of Wallace Wallington's, The Forgotten Technology. Wedges and rocking a mass about it's center of gravity go a lot farther than a long lever and brute force.
   - guru - Monday, 04/28/08 23:54:10 EDT

Spacers: There are all kinds of applications in and out of the shop for steel spacers. I have sets cut from various thicknesses of 2" wide bar 2" long to use on machine tables when clamping work. On one job we had stacks of 4 x 6" plates 1/2" and 1/4" made in sets that stacked up 3 or 4" high. These were used to level a piece of heavy machinery.

We also often have stacks of wood spacers cut out of convenient width boards. Then there is the usual dunnage from 2x4's, 2x6's and 4x4's. If you move heavy stuff around you need some way to keep it off the floor once you raise it. If you have a fork lift dunnage is an absolute necessity.

The problem with all these spacers and dunnage is that they are handy sizes to be used for all kinds of things OR they get misidentified as scraps. . . and the sets get broken up or completely disappear. Building sets of various thickness steel often takes years of being opportunistic when the material is in the shop. 2x1, 2x.75, 2x.5, 2x.375. . . all take time to accumulate. I like to have pieces ranging from an inch to 1/16".

Just something to think about before putting that bar back on the stock rack.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/29/08 00:10:04 EDT

Just a suggestion when forging. I have in my shop a chain, the links of which are not much bigger than dog chain. The chain hangs from a hook driven into a ceiling rafter. It is situated a few feet back from my anvil, and I use it as a chain sling to hold digging bars that I dress. The end of the chain has a simple home made hook that can be inserted into any link, the loop thus made supporting the bar at the correct angle for forging. I've worked by myself this way, but it still helps to have live holder-helpers.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/29/08 00:17:31 EDT

The idea was to show a honest,hard working guy working in less than pleasant conditions who knows his craft. That guy works hard and eventally makes a good product. The product in this situation would a knife which I could produce as part of my "survival pack". That would be a great time to brake into a honest hard work talk. That may or may or may not lead to a video of the knife being made and an interview with the Craftsman. Like I said...This thing is a ways away and I'm sure minor things will be changed. If the legistics won't work out it is a moot point brfore I start the Blacksmith part. Thats why I want to learn more about things before I set things in stone.
Where you thinking there would be something we wouldn't want to share?
   Mark - Tuesday, 04/29/08 00:52:32 EDT

I had two pry bars that were nearly identical and six feet long. The only difference seemed to be about 40 years and their origin. US for the old one and India for the new one. I only weigh 240 pounds and bent the new one just pulling on it. The old one hardly flexed even when I jumped up and down on it. Same can be said of many of my short crow bars. Quality and composition count for as much as size in a stressed steel member. A statics and properties of materials reference book should answer most of your questions about bending and applied forces. Lots of interesting math involved.
   Robert Cutting - Tuesday, 04/29/08 00:53:09 EDT

Mark: If this is a knife to me made in an emergency survival situation then one would use readily available materials with the lowest level of technology. Suggest visiting a state prison and asking to see their display of shanks taken from prisoners.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 04/29/08 05:08:45 EDT

Ken, the proiper term is shiv (n.), shank is used (in prison) as a verb ("to shank"). Don't ask me how I know this.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 04/29/08 08:10:14 EDT

survival tools. My Dad always claimed a hatchet is a superior survival tool than a knife. Of course a jackknife is easier to carry than a hatchet. In a survival situation it's the tools you have on you that count
   JimG - Tuesday, 04/29/08 09:55:24 EDT

I agree about the hatchet being better than a knife for survival. In either case, the tool should be high carbon steel, so that it may be used as a fire steel. I've made knives with slab handles where a little extra steel extended beyond the slabs in order to be used with a flint.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/29/08 10:05:43 EDT

Tools, The Knife vs. Ax: The knife is the most primitive of tools coming only after the hammer if not before. It is the tool that raised man above the beast. They have been made of bone, wood, stone, almost every metal as well as plastics. They are also verboten on school grounds in the U.S. as well as on airplanes. Versions of given lengths and mechanics (switch or automatic knives) have been regulated as being the choice weapon of revolutionaries, anarchists and madmen (This dates from the 1890's).

As a regulated "weapon" and prohibited on school grounds in the U.S. it is probably not a suitable subject for demos or how-to. To my/our generation this may seem moronically stupid and PC to the extreme but it is a fact of life.

I carried a samll knife to school every day from when I was about 10. Like Thomas I have also carried a small knife into security clearance facilities for many years. A generation earlier may have carried hunting weapons to school and properly parked them in the office until the end of the day. But today you can be expelled from American schools for having a water pistol or paint ball gun in your car (not even on your person). So the subject of making anything that could be construed as a weapon or facsimile of a weapon in a school situation is not a good idea.

So far a simple hand ax has not been focused on as being a weapon. However, in our overly dramatic scared of one's shadow touchy feely society anything could be suddenly defined as a weapon (shoe, ball point pen, brief case, hammer. . .).

So, the making of an ax seems to be the more PC thing to do. It is a tool of construction, or shelter building, clearing land for farming, making a dugout canoe. An ax is useful for felling trees to clearing brush. It can be used to split logs into boards or carve pieces into handles. It can be used to process fire wood as well as to dispatch a chicken. . . (Whoops, that may not be acceptably PC. Make that "chop vegetables for a salad").

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/29/08 11:43:06 EDT

Thumper, in response to your post way back on 4/17, I think the guy you are referring to is Glen Stollmeyer. His website is gstongs.com. Very nice tongs, I have a few myself. I now make most of my own also, but Glen's were a great way to get started.
   Dave - Tuesday, 04/29/08 11:43:45 EDT

Of course a modern "survival ax" would have a hollow handle with a small knife, fish hooks, string. . . emergency transponder with GPS.
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/29/08 12:01:06 EDT

Some of the pro's might correct me here, but a typical "blacksmith" knife is a somewhat crude but very practical knife, vs the works of art that bladesmith's produce. While many blacksmiths also make great and beautiful knives, most of us will only make a few knives per year, prefering forge work to hours spent with grinders/files/sandpaper. Forging a blade is quite a trick, requiring considerable practice. I would think step one should be can your village blacksmith forge blades? If so, is he willing to forge in front of a camra (not everyone will). If you are planning to forge the blade yourself plan to spend some time "buggering" up steel before getting confident enough to forge a knife in front of the camra. (it took me a long time to get that kind of confidence)
   - Nathan - Tuesday, 04/29/08 12:18:02 EDT

No Mark, my comment was more on the lines of being in an LH situation but showing things that would not have been done at that time an place---like going to Williamsburg and watching the craftsmen using laser guided chopsaws to cut metal. They don't allow that sort of thing!

Some living history places are quick picky that you should represent what was actually done and not what we might like to *think* was done. Exp 2: Think about the Pirates of the Carribean movie where they showed him making a presentation sword in a colony setting---NOT something that was done! Yet now millions of people think it was a reasonable thing for a colonial smith to have done.

If your LH smithy doesn't care then more power to you; however *please* tell any of those folks watching that the smelting part of the operation would not have been done by the smith! (even the traditional japanese swordmakers *buy* their tamahagane from the experts that smelt it in the traditional way.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/29/08 14:03:47 EDT

Nathan, in most of the Americas there are very few villages, must less village blacksmiths. Even in Rural central and South America where there are places you might call a "village" they are far from the semi-self supporting centers of the past. Most are centered on anything that is left of that past, a church or store. Otherwise the highway strip development is taking over almost world wide.

Among todays modern smiths there are a great deal of hobby smiths that consider themselves fairly general smiths that also can make quite wonderful knives. Some of us are just plain old smiths but others have focused on the more difficult side of the craft. In fact the hobby smith or part time blademsmiths drive the pro's crazy due to the volume of their work sold at much lower prices than pro's can afford.

I also know a few smiths that are not bladesmiths that can forge a fantastic near finished blade shape in much less time and effort than many of the best bladesmiths. Forging itself is an art and those that do a lot of it can often forge anything better than specialists in the field.

There are also many blades that are works of art yet do not cut worth a darn and very plain knives that cut with unbelievable ease.

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/29/08 14:18:31 EDT

Blacksmiths, bladesmiths, cutlers and artists all make knives of various qualities and practicalities and beuties (or utilities). It's one of those fuzzy areas where we can't easliy categorize things, so much depending upon the skill, artistic talent, time and determination of the individual craftsman.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 04/29/08 14:31:45 EDT

If you look back through history cutler, bladesmith, hilter, scabbard maker, etc were *all* different craft guilds than basic blacksmithing.

On the american frontier there wasn't a lot of diversity of folks working in similiar yet different modes; hence the american smith who did a bunch of everything as required; but of course he wasn't the "specialist" in an area like you found in the cities. Folks who could bought imported blades.

Note the proliferation of local made items during the ACW when the blockade shut off access to the european markets.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:09:29 EDT

Holy cow!!! Where did all of you folks come from today? Thanks for all the in put. Guru even tossed in a verboten. Good to hear from you all. Without keeping you all glued to your seats for the entire presentation, the survival pack I mentioned is not much more than a prop. It is intended to keep the attention of the students and open doors to other themes. The class is not really about teaching anyone about surviving in the wild, although that plays a very minor roll. It is about thinking outside the box(don't really like that term), making good decisions, planning ahead .... Got to go folks....see ya.
   Mark - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:20:22 EDT

What is the purpose of a spring in a blacksmith vise and can they work ok without one. And is an iron city vise a quality one, or should I stay away from them.(be honest)
Sorry to be so demanding but can I get a response in the next thirty minuets, or it will be to late.
   - John L. - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:30:41 EDT

The problem with people watching a film and thinking it is reality is, unfortunately, a very real one. Anybody who can watch a film like the one you mentioned and confuse it with history must have a serious problem. The problem, for me, is when somebody watches a film which purports to be an accurate representation and then assumes that everything in the film is the truth. A guy I knew told me how Elliott Ness killed Frank Nitti by pushing him off a building. He had seen this in a movie. (Actually F N died after Ness and I believe from natural causes). People then think that a blacksmith can do anything they have "seen" one doing in a film or TV programme. The position is further compounded by faux science TV and pseudo expert sites on the internet. As my mother would say: "Use your brain, question everything."
   philip in china - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:44:13 EDT

John L. Iron City is a good brand made in Pittsburgh in the early days. The spring caused the movable vise jaw to open without having to pull it open with your hand.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:44:31 EDT

John L. Iron City is a good quality vise. Yes, you need a spring so the jaws come apart by themselves when you back out the screw. Replacements springs are very easy to make if it is missing one.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:45:52 EDT

Thanks for the good response
   - John L. - Tuesday, 04/29/08 18:49:11 EDT

Philip & All, I always enjoyed how quickly a horse was shod on the TV serials. I remember the smith on "Gunsmoke" gave two whacks on the nail head and said, "There ya' are Mr. Dillon. You're horse is done!" He didn;t even clinch the nails.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 04/29/08 19:22:42 EDT

Hello, recently had the foundation sills replaced on 1716 house. Workers cut off both boot scrapers that were set into stone by the door. Getting them back. Can they be added on to or do we have to have new ones made? How do I find someone for this job? Thank you for your time.
   newfypal - Tuesday, 04/29/08 20:44:12 EDT

In addition to my question about boot scrapers being added onto or having to be replaced once they are cut off of the stone they are set into, my e-mail address is newfypal@verizon.net I am trying to restore 'this old money pit' I am a goldsmith, not a blacksmith, so I don't know enough about properties of iron nor do I know of any blacksmiths who might work with me on this. Thanks again!
   - newfypal - Tuesday, 04/29/08 20:58:02 EDT


Where are you? Based on your email address and the age of your house, I'd guess the East coast of the U.S. But that's still covers a lot of territory. I might be able to find someone near Washington, D.C. to look at your boot scraper. But if you're in Boston or Savannah, I doubt they'd make the trip.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 04/29/08 21:30:51 EDT

Old Boot Scraper: The original, if as old as the house would have been wrought iron. This is a good material to weld in the forge but a terrible material to weld in place using modern methods. New reproductions would probably hold up better and be about the same cost as repairs using rare wrought iron. But yes, they can be repaired. The originals were probably leaded into the stone.

Where you are does make a difference when suggesting help. For a list of blacksmithing organizations try ABANA-Chapter.com
   - guru - Tuesday, 04/29/08 21:37:26 EDT

The Forgotten Technology: Phillip, Some of Wallace Wallington's methods may be historically inaccurate but they DO work in the real world. They are also much better ideas than space aliens building the pyramids. I would never say they are truly historical. However, they work using primitive tools and little manpower. They are also simple enough methods to have been reinvented world wide by people in primitive situations when needed.

Today in the world of machinery, hydraulic jacks, cranes and such it is easy to be blinded by the fact that people that had none of these tools and very little metal raised some fantastic structures. They were not dumb, they just had no modern tools. Modern thinking that because they had no tools they would do things the most inefficient ways is short sighted. Modern examples where millions have been thrown into slave labor doing every job the hardest way possible for idealistic reasons is also a bad example.

I have Wallington's video (I reviewed it) and he uses no slight of hand or video magic to move tremendous loads single handedly. I have also used some of his methods and know they work. They take some time and preparation (as most well thought out jobs) but they work and save time in the long run.

   - guru - Tuesday, 04/29/08 21:40:35 EDT

newfypal: A blacksmith, metal fabricator or welder should be able to help You with this. If You find any 1 of the 3 they can probably steer You to someone who will do it if they don't want to.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 04/29/08 21:46:45 EDT

Query-- why does this site take so INCREDIBLY long to load? No other website I look at takes as long as this one to open. It gets to the logo, and a big white box and then just hangs there. And hangs there. And hangs there. Mind you this is on a Stone Age dial-up, but, still, no other site, European or American takes anywhere near as long.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/29/08 22:22:42 EDT

Boot Scrapers: Thank you Guru and Dave, Yes, I am sure they are originals; the house has original hinges, door latches, wide floor boards, and wavy glass windows. I live in central Massachusetts. I will go to the blacksmithing website that Guru recommended. I could send the boot scrapers out if I can find someone who would like to try repairing them for me. I already had some drivers for doors made up years ago, but the blacksmith has changed e-mail addresses and I cannot find Mitchell K. Smith. I think he was from Virginia, but I can't find that information.
   newfypal - Tuesday, 04/29/08 22:26:30 EDT

Boot scrapers-- you go get those irreplaceable scrapers back this instant! Tell those idiots you will have them charged with grand larceny and incarcerated if they do not return them. If you don't think they are valuable, just try to find a pair of period replacements. (It'll cost you more than $100 just to get a facsimile copy of Albert Sonn's classic Early American Wrought Iron to show a smith what you want copied should you have to get fakes.) Then if you ever do get them back, get a smith to forge weld new stubs, or find some bodger to arc weld new steel stubs, it ain't that hard, onto the bottom and re-set them. No one will ever notice. I won't tell if you don't. Incredible! What barbarians!
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/29/08 22:32:24 EDT

Site-loading hangups-- not that I don't deeply value it and admire it and your heroic efforts on behalf of the craft, mind you, Jock!
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 04/29/08 22:43:34 EDT

OK, now that it has been brought up about hand forging knives (no swaging dies), I got my self in a little bit of a bind. I took an order from someone for a "shin do"(no idea how it is actualy spelled)it is a personal knife or daggger worn with the traditional Scottish garb.
I am a newbe at the forge but I have done alot of drawing out on bars so I let myself be talked into this job thinking it was a short step from what I was already doing.
The problem I can't seem to get around is maintaining the dimond shape of the blade cross section as I work it down.
I can keep one side good but the opposite side looses it's crisp shape.
I tried working at the edge of the anvil, and have made a hardy tool with the shape of the opposite side on it to help hold the shape as I work the blade but, still have pretty much the same problem.
I'm hessitent to go to Ric Furrer for help with this simple task untill I at least learn more about blaksmithing in general. You don't go to the Captain with a question for the First Sargent.
This wouldn't be any problem except the guy who wants the knife wants it to look rough with the hammer marks and no grinding on the edge. Sharpen by hammer strokes... I must be crazy to take a job like this.
   - merl - Wednesday, 04/30/08 00:35:39 EDT

Umm what? What is even sharpening by hammer strokes? Did any one even do that, ever?
   Nabiul Haque - Wednesday, 04/30/08 00:42:49 EDT

You could try asking here on don fogg's bladesmithing forum.

   Nabiul Haque - Wednesday, 04/30/08 00:44:24 EDT

Mark: Find a blacksmith in your area who will handforge out a railroad spike into a knife. Perhaps take a video or slides of the steps. RR spikes are a common item and fairly easy to forge due to their relatively low carbon content. Knife wouldn't be a good one, but it will illustrate the concept of forging and finishing.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 04/30/08 05:02:58 EDT

Merl: I had a similar problem with a diamond shaped tool handle. The solution was the setup shape, that is "work it down" first, then forge the diamond shape. Forge the flat, long triangular outline first somewhat narrower and than the finished dimension, then form the edge and the diamond cross section by working down from the haft to the point, both sides at once alternating every half hammer width or so as you go. This will take several passes along each edge, working from the edge to the center on each pass, NOT drawing from the center outward. This will also tend to upset material toward the centerline slightly, maintiainiing and possibly increasing the finished thickness at the centerline. As you work along each side, you will get a ridge or angle where the flat of the setup shape breakes toward the taper you are forging toward the edge. On each pass, this line will move toward the center from each side, and when they meet in the center, you have your diamond. If you start with the diamond and then try to draw the whole shape to a point, every time you strike on one side it will tend to upset across the centerline and ruin the diamond form on the other side. Hope this helps. If not, shoot me an email and I'll be glad get on the phone with you. BTW, one spelling I have seen is "skean dhu".
   Peter Hirst - Wednesday, 04/30/08 07:23:38 EDT

Who is Wallace Wallington? What is the film to which you refer?

Try Skien Dhu. It means black knife. If you email me I will even send you a poem on the subject.

I agree with you on the site hanging for ages longer than any otehr I know. Still worth the wait though.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 04/30/08 07:27:57 EDT

Frank, if Mr. Dillon can fire a six-shooter 14 times without reloading, I recon the local "smith" could shoe a horse in under a minute, too. The local Farrier might do it even faster.
Nabiul, I believe this refers to forging the edge to a thickness that it can be considered sharp. It does not address the problem of decarburization of the edge which would leave it as soft as a babies bottom. Cold forging the edge would be similar to how some farm impliments are sharpend (sythes and such) but these are not "shaving" sharp.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 04/30/08 08:53:01 EDT

Load Time: Sorry folks! It was strictly the log size which I had not archived in over a month.

What's UP:

From December through February I was working another job and living in a motel room with a so-so connection. Worked day (on the job)and night (on anvilfire). The job ran over into February. . That was not in the plan.

In late February and March we made several eventful trips in my 30 year old flat bed truck moving tons of tools and machinery from my old shop to a new temporary location. The move is far from complete. Anyone that has driven OLD vehicles knows what I mean by eventful. . . The truck had been sitting for 10 years and I spent some $5,000 on various work including exhaust, brakes, tires, a battery and other misc repairs. . . Probably could have bought a new truck but five ton flatbeds are hard to find. .

The machinery selected was the easiest to move with limited time and help but all required complete derusting, motors mounted and various repairs. Much of this was done with the help of a couple teenage girls (Sheri's granddaughter and friend), another part timer and one volunteer (Dave Baker). During the Hammer-In Dale Poulliot also stayed up late helping drill holes and VIcopper and his brother helped get the lathe operational at the last moment. The lathe was still being setup on the first day of our hammer-in. . .

While the machinery was being cleaned and setup (at incredible expense) we were also trying to build a pair of mechanical power hammers to show off at the hammer-in (also a huge expense). Oh! We also had to wire the shop for 240 VAC and rearrange it completely several times . . If you have ever put in a dozen 240 VAC outlets you know what this cost (twice what I expected).

The week of the hammer-in we spent several nights in the shop working until midnight and the last when we SHOULD have been getting the shop ready for the show until 4:00am. . .

Costs were out of control as everything has to be done NOW. Lots of new steel was bought, McMaster-Carr loves me and even the local hardware stores know to get out a wagon when they see Sheri coming. . . The "part time" help was also putting in 12 hour days which quickly add up to far more than just part time.

In the end, we didn't make it. The hammers were just a pile of parts. We spent one day of the hammer-in moving machinery and in-progress hammer parts to make room for quests and to setup BigBLU. Did I mention that during this time I also bought and repaired two fork lifts and traded one off? Hmmmm also wrecked my van in December and had to replace it A$AP.

The hammer-in was small but everyone was impressed with Josh Greenwood's demos. We will try to have photos in the news soon. My demo was cut short by the fact that the lathe had just been gotten running and it had a few problems to fix. . . I was also too exhausted to put on the full demo I had planned. However, I did demonstrate how quickly tenons can be machined in one pass and a number of folks were interested in the working of the old machinery.

Since then we have been playing catchup with web work for others and getting ready for the PPW tool auction (for the second time). The work on others sites, largely processing images and minor HTML work pays the bills here and keeps anvilfire running. While the outside job paid a lot and paid off a bunch of old debts, the move, and hammer-in preparation used up all that was left plus more. . . Meanwhile the truck is having a new water pump installed and the radiator repaired. . . .

Meanwhile, life goes on. I am much closer to having a working shop again and maybe we will hold a summer Hammer-In.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 08:58:44 EDT

Phillip, I thought you were referring to my reply to your question about pry bars. See The Forgotten Technology.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 09:02:51 EDT

Merl; you may want to track down Primal Fires or other neo-tribal smithing sites. One of the original goals of the neo-tribal movement was to do less than 10% stock removal on a blade, (and that all by hand---no power equipment). The archives should be full of useful info.

As for decarb, they primarily worked in charcoal forges and with low air input decarb is not such a problem---you can keep the blade in the carburizing part of the fire pretty well all the time save when hammering and that pretty much scales off.

All the black knives I have seen had a fairly flat crossection not a diamond one. Sounds more like they want a boot knife and not a SD!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/30/08 11:05:34 EDT

Boot scraper:

Newfypal, the local ABANA chapter for you would be the New England Blacksmiths, www.newenglandblacksmiths.org. From there you could contact your MA rep and he'll be able to help you.

Alternatively, you could look up Bill Lyons, who used to be, and still may be, the blacksmith at Sturbridge Village. He used to spend a lot of time there, but also does period restorations and reproductions. He is an excellent smith and would know the best way to work with period pieces.
   - Marc - Wednesday, 04/30/08 11:10:07 EDT

merl. If you need a photo I could send you a pic of mine. I have been in a pipe band for quite a few years and we all carry them when wearing our kilts.
   dale - Wednesday, 04/30/08 13:43:00 EDT

What the Customer Wants: I've repeated the story of the museum curator that wanted a piece hammered all over that would have been just plain bar so I will not repeat it again.

Often what the customer wants is some preconceived idea of what would be historically correct when it is not. They get these ideas from fiction, movies and confusing one type work with the other.

If asked to make a true historical reproduction then it is your duty to point out misconceptions. However, if the customer only has a vague idea of what they want then as the saying goes, the customer is always right.

Forging a leaf shape blade: In this case I think you are looking a leaf or fish shape blade that tapers in all directions. That includes a thick heavy tang and the blade tapering in thickness all the way to the point (a distal taper). Forging proceeds in logical steps. Since this is a leaf shape you would want a blank similar to making a leaf. For a wide blade you want a piece no more than half the width so that most of the shape is created by forging. Create your blank first with the point and distal taper forged first. Then using a square or rocker faced hammer work the sides out from the center. Keep the axis of the curved hammer parallel to the finished edge. Work every face a little at a time to maintain symmetry. Don't try to forge one edge all at once. Forge some, flip, forge some, take another heat.

A rocker faced hammer is best for this purpose because it moves the steel mostly one direction and the flatness makes straight lines better than a round faced hammer.

This type forging is also often done on a wet anvil as the steam blows away the scale so that it does not get embedded into the work surface making a rough piece. It also helps to wire brush off any heavy scale.

As Thomas noted this type of blade is often more flat in section then diamond but it COULD be forged in a diamond section using the above method. I would more likely forge a near flat or slightly tapered blade with a central ridge. To forge a ridge keep it off the anvil face. This is a case where a good round edge on the anvil is helpful.

If this type forging is not already in your range of experience then plan on making several for practice. Do not overwork yourself. Working tired only trains you for bad work. Forge one on a good day, then another on another day. You should improve greatly with each one.

Working tired while trying to learn hammer control is a serious problem at first. It takes a lot of forging practice to learn control. Forging tired is frustrating and as noted, just teaches sloppy work. So work until you feel the hammer getting too heavy then quit for another day.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 14:32:33 EDT

Jock, dont burn the candle at both ends!
   - John N - Wednesday, 04/30/08 15:57:46 EDT

" So work until you feel the hammer getting too heavy then quit for another day"

This is not only advice for beginners! I tell my students that they need to quit *BEFORE* making the unrecoverable mistake not after. Learning when you are likely to make that one and stopping ahead of time is a great skill to have!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 04/30/08 16:01:22 EDT

I need to replace crankshaft bearings in a Champion No.400 forge blower. This is a hand crank blower, patented 1902, with ball bearings. Does anyone have experience removing the shaft on this blower? Thanks
   Dean Lloyd - Wednesday, 04/30/08 18:11:34 EDT

John, My wick burnt to the middle a long time ago. . Keeping up with teenagers was the killer.

Thomas, I have always been a little lazy and when things hurt, I quit. It takes time to build up to where you can work at the forge all day. The last time I was going to do a demo I started with about 1 hour a day forging small stuff. Even that short a time was rough after setting at a desk for 20 years. . . It took about 2 weeks to get my confidence back. It would take months to get back to peak form. However, little hammer control was lost, just muscle. For the newbie both muscle needs to be built up and control learned. Once learned, control is like riding a bicycle.

I also noticed that my eye for what was good had changed and I no longer accept work that I would have accepted 30 years ago. Control, the ability to make what you want is important but vision, the ability to see what is good work is a completely different thing. It comes from studying other's work as well as one's own. It is a greater part of being an artist-blacksmith.

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 18:15:13 EDT

Dean, The bearing balls on these are standard but the races are custom parts no longer made. Champion made many blower types but most had bearings with adjustable end play. Normally there are nuts on the shaft to adjust the end play. Races like most are pressed in and can be removed with a punch and a hammer.

There are a number of folks that regularly rebuild these old blowers. It often requires remachining the housings to accept modern bearings and making bushings to fit shafts. Most often the gears are worn out and this is a significant expense to repair. They too are custom and must be hand made to fit.

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 18:22:01 EDT

Anybody know of worthwhile alternatives to Wilton's contact wheels for their "Square Wheel" belt grinder? Mine is an oldie, built by the now-gone Square Wheel outfit, acquired by Wilton. They want $790 for a 10-inch x 2-inch serrated wheel, $306 for a smooth 8x2, and $324 for a serrated 8x2. That seems more than a tad high to me.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 04/30/08 18:31:21 EDT

Miles, McMaster-Carr has dozens of caster wheels of various constructions of that size for $60 to $180 (including caster assembly). Under "Abrasiv Belt Wheels" they have serrated and solid contact wheels for about 40" less than you were quoted.

   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 19:27:46 EDT

Ah 40% less. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 19:29:21 EDT

Jock-- Many thanks, I will check 'em out!!
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 04/30/08 19:39:28 EDT

Water Replacement for Gas: Please note that ALL these offers (seen in the Google Ads) are ripoffs. They do not work and have been around for over 50 years. Nothing new, just the same old rip-off that pops up with every generation's "energy crisis".

Some of these are plain old water injectors, others are low grade hydrolysis systems. They call the fuel "free" but there is NO FREE LUNCH in the world of energy. Many of these sites point to fuel cells as "proof" but have absolutely nothing to do with fuel cell technology.

We will be blocking these ads as fast as they pop up.
   - guru - Wednesday, 04/30/08 19:44:39 EDT

Miles, check with Rob Frink at www.beaumontmetalworks.com as well. Rob makes the highly repuable KMG grinder these days, but will make wheels and other parts to fit most any other machine ever made so long as you can provide shaft size and so on.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 04/30/08 20:26:14 EDT

Correction to above: Repuable, while a lovely word, should read "repuTable" instead. Rob is a good guy. My poor spelling should be ignored.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 04/30/08 20:28:16 EDT

Newfypal, that would be Rob Lyon, and he used to be able to be contacted at Old Sturbridge Village,
Rob Lyon
1 Old Sturbridge Village
Sturbridge MA 01566
Phone: 508/347-3362
Fax: 508/347-0369

   - Marc - Wednesday, 04/30/08 20:48:13 EDT

Wilton's "Square Wheel".....I'v recently bought an old one. I could not pass it up. It was only $100.00. The only problem is that there is no platen plate. I was wondering where I could get one or are they even available any more and if so where? The bracket that holds the platen is missing also. It does have a 8x2 serrated wheel, a variable speed attachment and about 15 sanding belts though.

   Ringer - Wednesday, 04/30/08 20:50:04 EDT

Alan-L-- Many thanks!! Ringer-- you got a fantastic deal if it is in working order. They go for around $2,000 new. Many of the trappings are available-- at least, everything is shown on the schematic on the Wilton website. Some I have inquired about have been unavailable. I got mine without a table for out in front, made one in the shop. The stuff is all incredibly, to me anyway, pricey.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 04/30/08 20:59:09 EDT

About the boot scrapers, I would like to thank everyone who responded, both to the forum members and to the e-mails that I have received from Massachusetts! I appreciate your expertise in getting the cut off boot scrapers restored - our ghosts will be pleased, too... Thank you all again.
   newfypal - Wednesday, 04/30/08 23:12:29 EDT

Thanks for all the replies so far. To explain a little more on what I'm dealing with, this knife is for the son of a friend so he can be properly "kitted out" when he goes to the Renaissance fair but, he can't make up his mind on what he wants. I steered him away from buying a $200. foe demascus dagger to use as a Skien Dhu but, that knife was what he had in mind so I said I would try to knock one up to approximate it. He wanted it to apear rough and crude or old looking so I said I would make one by hammer only and one by hammer and a little finish grinding to see what he liked better, after all he is offering the $200 to me for one of them.
So I relized this is not the traditional shape for this blade as soon as I started to have trouble making it hold the shape. I will take all of your good advise back to the forge and go at it again but, the Ren fair season is coming up so I think he will end up with a blade made with swaging dies and some convincing hammer marks and artifical ageing for the summer while I get this sorted out. Can't take any money for that but, at least he'll walk around fully dressed.
Thanks again for all the great advise,I will be taking it all in.
   - merl - Wednesday, 04/30/08 23:38:03 EDT

Grinder Platen: Ringer, Most of these are just a simple piece of steel plate with rounded ends to prevent snagging the belt. Many bladesmiths are picky about platen shape and make their own. Custom ones are slightly convex but some are even concave. Shaped ones are often made from wood for light use. In Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop he makes entire grinders with shaped plattens from wood.

Commercial platens are just mild steel unless high production in cast iron.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/01/08 10:40:24 EDT

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