WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.0

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

This is an archive of posts from May 1 - 8, 2002 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]


   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 05/01/02 00:01:02 GMT

Charcoal: Rodriquez, Allmost all the worlds iron and steel was made with charcoal until the late 1700's (1800's in North America).

Try a deeper fire. Charcoal being less dense than coal requires more surface area to produce the same BTU's. With a deeper fire you will want a more focused blast since it spreads in the fire.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 00:32:26 GMT

Recycling old tips: Tim, yep it will work. However, alloys are formulated to be good for particular purposes. Casting alloys are different than forging alloys. Keep that in mind when you have trouble using scrap for casting. Most casters prefer to reuse old cast material.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 00:34:53 GMT

dear guru...and every body. i want to buy a new métal bandsaw,but don't have lot of money to put on it,and want to know if a 3/4 '' blade is good,or if it is going to be always broked.i see somme general bandsaw,but don't know if it's good tools....what is your opinion about that ??
   - machefer - Wednesday, 05/01/02 02:15:04 GMT

Machefer, A 3/4" blade is a good deal heavier than the typical low quality saw uses. The little cheap saws use a 1/2" x .025" thick blade. These run on approximately 10" diameter wheels.

The larger the wheel on a band saw the less strain on the weld and the longer the blades last. For metal cutting the heavier the blade the better but you do not want to use a heavier blade than recomended for the saw.

If the saw is to be used to cut curves you want a narrow blade. Vertical table type metal cutting band saws have rubber tired wheels so they can use narrow blades. They also have some type of feed assist because it takes more pressure than you can apply by hand to cut heavy material on this type saw.

Its a hard decision. That's why I buy used equipment when its available. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 04:48:49 GMT

most of my hilts are forged from mild steel then polished(sometimes cut for finsh/ size) others (raiper/foils) are composits of 4 or more parts welded together, or I cut 1/8 plate to a shape and dish it out (cup hilts/shell gards) some are just cut from bar and filed, sawed, milled, bent what ever to get the shape I want. as to wooden grips I use a 1/30 belt sander to shape them (use a dust collecter) start with 50grit and step up slowly to 400grit then seal, hand rub and buff. I remove the square plate and table from my sander and use it as a true slack belt (works better for me on rounded grips)
most of my polishing is done on the sander(at least untill I get my new 2/72 done) small ground knifes are done start to finsh on it, forged knives get cleaned up and most of my hilt work gets polished of it (up to 400 then hand rub/ buff)
I find it easier to look at the hilt work as a set of shapes then figure out the best method to make that set of shapes.
   MP - Wednesday, 05/01/02 04:51:02 GMT

Does anyone know if there is a difference between refractory cement and fire clay? My local brick yard didn't know. Thanks
   Gronk - Wednesday, 05/01/02 12:34:24 GMT

Gronk, Refractory cement is made from fire clay and high temperature binders. It is most often sold premixed. Fire clay is an alumina clay that will withstand high temperatures. It has no binders.

True porceline (not the glass glaze put on metal) is a high temperature clay. The cups on a TIG or plasma torch are a very high purity alumina. Firebricks are made from mixtures of fireclays and require very high firing temperatures.

For a comparson, standard white ceramic clay (often sold as slip) can be boiled in a gas forge. . . NOT very good stuff to make a forge out of. . .

Castable refractory is made of crushed fired refractory and high temperature minerals, silica sand, binders such as sodium silicate and sometimes a little portland cement. But there are other "cements" that have higher temperature ratings and when first heated will fuse to the other refractories instead of calcining and falling apart like portland cement.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 13:36:54 GMT

The Kaynes, among others, will be at BAM this coming weekend (May 3-5). They will have almost everything you see in their catalog on their truck. Bring money! :)
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 13:41:19 GMT

Not to undercut Miles' excellent wit, but here is part of a poem by Lewis Carroll that I like:

I'll tell thee everything I can;
There's little to relate.
I saw an aged aged man,
A-sitting on a gate.
"Who are you, aged man?" I said,
"And how is it you live?"
And his answer trickled through my head
Like water through a sieve.

He said, "I look for butterflies
That sleep among the wheat:
I make them into mutton-pies,
And sell them in the street.
I sell them unto men," he said,
"Who sail on stormy seas;
And that's the way I get my bread -
A trifle; if you please

The rest can be found at:
   adam - Wednesday, 05/01/02 16:03:09 GMT

What tools do blacksmiths use to shoe horses and how do they do it?
   ely - Wednesday, 05/01/02 18:41:48 GMT

Ely, To SHOE the horse a farrier uses "nippers" to pull out and cut old nails and a shoeing hammer to put them in. A "clincher" is used to bend and dress nails. A hoof knife and a rasp is used to trim the hoof.

To MAKE horseshoes is another thing. That requires an anvil, forge, tongs, a creaser and a variety of punches. See our iForge demo #7 by Rich Hale.

Not all blacksmiths shoe horses. Farriers shoe horses and blacksmiths forge iron and steel. Many farriers do not make horseshoes, they use factory made shoes and adjust them to fit.

To learn the details of shoeing you will need to ask a farrier.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 20:36:57 GMT

I have been thinking about the many curved stair railings i have seen, especially very ornate ones, and I am wondering how all of the pieces are bent to the correct curve. Can anyone enlighten me? Also, how is the rise of the stair taken into account in this process? Thanks
   patrick nowak - Wednesday, 05/01/02 21:17:23 GMT

Patrick, The curves are generally bent the hard way, but a few folks use heavy rolls. The trick it that the rail is not just curved but TWISTED. The twist is required to keep the top rail perpendicular to the vertical axis of the railing. Most smiths block up reference points on a heavy layout table or weld platten. The jig points are set vertical at measured distances to match the rise and run. Often sectional jigs are made. Then the rail is bent, clamped to the starting point and adjusted to fit.

You need lots of space and often multi level access to do these jobs. That's why I designed my forge shop with 16 foot ceilings and a mezzanine to work from. However, I HAVE seen 18 foot tall spiral stairs built horizontaly. . . and never seen vertical until delivered to the site.

My general recomendation on spiral stairs is, if you have to ask, then you shouldn't be attempting one. There is a Spiral staircase FAQ on the 21st Century page that hasn't made it to the FAQ's page.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/01/02 21:50:15 GMT

You've mentioned the three step painting process for outdoor work. How does this compare in cost to powder coating? I have a fence to do with scrolls, etc. I took a sample piece to the powder coater and he kinda gasped, saying that where the scrolls contact each other would rust, etc. He hadn't done anything that detailed for exterior work. Does anyone have any experience with scrolls, collars , etc. for outdoor work? Thanks a lot.(when I get some money, I'll send some for a csa membership, this is a great resource.)
   - kevin - Wednesday, 05/01/02 23:13:11 GMT

Guru, could you please tell me how to make the pintels that go with strap hinges. I know how to make the strap hinges and weld them but I can't seem to get the pintels right. What is the trick to it. Thanks Charles
   - Charles - Thursday, 05/02/02 02:39:25 GMT

Kevin, The hard part is the cleaning. I prefer sand blasting. It doesn't get EVERYWHERE but it is better than having acid residue in cracks and around rivets.

When going for a best possible paint job on this type thing I thin the zinc paint with some thinner so it can be run down into cracks and crevices. After spot painting the hard to get to places I spray paint all over. Bare zinc paint in tight places is not perfect but its much better than nothing. However, I most often brush on the top coat and work paint into the tight places. This often catches places missed by spraying the primer. Again, some paint is better than nothing. That's why I do my own painting.

I don't have a clue about comparitive cost. I know powder coat is the wave of the future but it provides no protection if there are breaks in the finish.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 03:10:39 GMT

Pintles Charles, there are numerous ways to make these depending on the size and style of the hinge.

The traditional method was to wrap the shank around the pin and forge weld them together.

Modern pintles are often bent, the corner upset to provide mass and the pin forged like a tennon but at a right angle to the shank. Its quite an excersize in forging.

On large hinges I've used drilled blocks with a seperate pin. A top cap with a shallow hole made a second anchor point. The top cap was a cubic sort of thing with a big flat head screw holding it into place. The "pintle" was similar except for a long piece of threaded rod screwed into it that also bound the pin in place.

Some pintles are supported by a loose (not welded) eye and the end of the pin has some decoration on it and a screw holding the "tail". This creates two anchor points and a place for decoration. It also avoids the welding. The "eye" can be drilled for a good fit.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 03:21:18 GMT

Do you have any information / plans on how to make a `salt bath' for heat treating of competition axes ? I only want to harden the cutting edge.
   Graeme Austin - Thursday, 05/02/02 06:38:56 GMT

Hand Painting is 2-3 times the cost of powder coating. Very labor intensive. A combo of spray and brush works the best. Brush to work it into the nooks with a little help from gravity and spray for the flats. Every coat a slightly different color so you can see what you're doing.

The last time I had a piece powder coated I tried something different. The powder coater offered a two coat process. What he called a marine grade finish. First coat was a zinc coat. While the piece was still hot, I think he told me 800*, it was rolled out of the oven and then top coated and put back in to cure. Now we have to wait. Only time will tell. The powder coat finish is also very thick. So much detail is lost. I don't like powder as much as hand painting. Take a small sample to the powder coater and then hang it out side to see what will happen. Spray it w/salt water from time to time to "really" see what will happen.

I just had a large trellis (took 3 guys to lift one side) done w/the two coat finish including sand blasting for $400.00.
   - Pete-Raven - Thursday, 05/02/02 11:45:42 GMT

Powder coat with zinc. Pete at that temperature the zinc should melt giving you a hot galvanizing. Zinc melts at 409°C / 769°F.

The true test of powder coat is to nick or chip the coating and THEN see what happens.

Want accelerated rusting? Leave it with me next to the Mill Pond and daily condensation. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 15:41:24 GMT

I called the powder coater and I had the temps all wrong. 250* for the zinc primer and 400* for the finish coat.

I've had holidays in the powder coat finish before. Thats little missed spots in painting lingo. I've always done a dry brush finish over the powder for effect anyway. So it didn't matter as to the paint touch up.

I worry about the nicks too. I'm only two yrs into the powder method. we'll see.

You're not developing gills are you? Do you have falling water from the old mill part? Or are you so far down in a holler that the dew never leaves?
   - Pete-Raven - Thursday, 05/02/02 16:09:07 GMT

Selective Hardening and Tempering: Graeme, There are a variety of ways to do selective hardening. The best metallurgically is to heat treat the entire part then draw the temper more on the parts you want to be soft. In some old blade making processes the body of the blade is protected from heat and only the edge is hardened. Metallurgically speaking this produces some odd results and is not really the best method.

Don Fogg used to have details about his salt bath furnaces on his web site (see our links page).

The tank or crucible for a salt bath is made of stainless steel or a refractory material depending on the use. Salt baths can be used for both hardening or tempering. Don makes his using a length of SS pipe with the end cap welded on. You will need something bigger for an axe.

The crucible is then supported in a gas furnace similar to a small melting furnace. This calls for a refractory lining of Kaowool or castable refractory (fire bricks if its large). A gas burner is placed at the bottom of the furnace. Its nozzel tangent to the interior surface so that the hot flames swirl around the crucible. A direct blast against the crucible is likely to melt it or burn it out.

The most expensive part of the whole is temperature controls. You need a thermocouple and controler with appropriate set points, temperature display and relay outputs. It is easy to boil the salt and create a huge mess. You also need to know the temperature in order to heat treat your parts. It is easy to spend $500 US on a small temperature control. You may also need a solenoid valve for the fuel and a relay to power it. Don't rely on the internal contacts in the temperature controller unless you can afford the replace the whole thing occasionaly.

Then you need heat treating salts. Common salt is used for some things, potassium chloride for low temp work and there are a load of others. It is best to obtain them from a heat treaters supplier.

My recomendation is to take your axes to a professional heat treater and have them harden and temper the axe to the hardest desired hardness (hardest recommended for the steel or less). THEN you selectively draw the temper from the parts you want soft using a torch, forge or heated block of steel. This is the most cost effective method, has some quality control AND you get to do your part.

   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 16:09:24 GMT

Dew: We have an 80 foot long spillway with 15 feet of fall. Just enough to create a nice mist and increase the local humidity. We are also in the creek bottom where the cold air flows at night. . the dew almost never leaves and I've seen standing water the likes of which seem impossible clinging to every surface of heavy metal objects (anvils, machine tools, inventory. . .).

An ideal non-salt rust testing environment. And I've watched and closely observed the results for 26 years. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 16:15:45 GMT

Dear Gurus,

Thanks for this great site! I'm getting back into metalworking after about a 20 year hiatus. I would
love to do some knifemaking, and am planning on buying
the 'knifemaker' forge next month.

My question is, is there a place where I can get info
on forging brass? I can't seem to locate one. I have
ground, brazed and shaped brass in the past, but I know absolutely nothing about hammering hot brass into the
desired shape, like proper temps, annealing, etc.

I'm a decent welder, oxy-acetylene and arc, and am learing
MIG. I've done a lot of rough machine-work over the years,
but haven't tried actual forging. (although I'm really
looking forward to it.) I've made a couple of knives, but
want to do it seriously. (And well. :-) )

Thanks in advance for any help, and I'll certainly understand if this question is just a little too
'dumb' for a reply.

Best wishes,

   Lex Liberato - Thursday, 05/02/02 17:24:12 GMT

Lex, we have a brass-bronze FAQ on the FAQ's page and it covers most of your questions as well as having a link to an iForge demo I did on the subject.

Brass forges like butter but there are forgable grades and those that are difficult to forge. The low forging temperature makes it difficult to judge the heat in a typical forge (in the dark or very low light the metal will just barely have a glow).

Our FAQ's page is on the pull down menu.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 17:59:41 GMT

It seems to me that "Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork" by Dona Z. Meilach has a nice section on forging bronze. See the book review on the bookshelf page. (It's worth it even if you don't get around to forging bronze.)

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 05/02/02 19:25:47 GMT

Thanks for the reply on powder coating and painting. I guess that you(Pete) are figuring that the cost of painting is higher due to the labor involved. This is 60 ft. of 5-6 ft. tall, detailed fence. What should powder coating cost roughly? Any ideas on hanging the fence panels on the posts. Thanks.
   - kevin - Thursday, 05/02/02 20:40:16 GMT

Kevin: No idea, I don't do fencing or railings. You should get a break because of the footage. Between $60 and $100/per? As to hanging, tabs on the posts I would guess. Have you done this kind of job before? Detailed huh? I guess you're in the $4-600/ft range then.
   - Pete-Raven - Thursday, 05/02/02 22:19:34 GMT

Hanging panels Kevin, normally there should be anchors accurately set into the masonry pillars when they are constructed. These are flat bars with holes in them for bolts.

I would use bars (about 1/2" x 1-1/2" min. ) that fully penetrated the pillar or at least half way through with bent ends to hold them from pulling out. The bolt holes MUST be far enough from the masonry to provide adequate clearance for assembly. REMEMBER +/- an inch is accurate masonry and +/-2-3 is typical. After the anchors are set take as-built dimensions.

It seems to me Frank said something about standing over the mason with a BIG hammer while he set the anchors. . Especially pintles for gates and cranes.

On a recent repair job the original picketts were riveted to the bottom bar but slipped in the top bar. This way the vertical distance was not critical. Its an idea to think about.

IF the masonry is complete without anchors (a common problem) then the best anchor material is epoxy. Your construction supplier should have the type that comes in a paired tube, fits in a special gun like a double barrel caulking gun and has disposable mixing nozels.

Anchor holes should be drilled with a large diamond edge hole saw. Preferably by another contractor that knows what he is doing. On a vertical surface you will need daming materials to hold the epoxy for the couple minutes it takes to set. As above, I would set the anchors, THEN make the work to fit. OR use a fixture to hold the anchors the exact distance apart.

Layout may require a transit to assure the locations are correct and level. HOWEVER, it is best if the panels follows the installed contours. Thus, nothing looks crooked. If two pillars are 6" closer at the top than the bottom and you set a nice rectangular panel inbetween. . the more massive pillars will look straight and YOUR work will look crooked. My front door is an example. At the top it is 4" narrower than the bottom due to the crooked building and a later wall that was added. It is parallel to both lines and LOOKS straight. An even width door would have looked terrible.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 23:02:36 GMT

Klez Virus: I am currently getting one piece of Klez generated e-mail about every 3 minutes. You do the math.

DO NOT open any unexpected attachements! Especialy those that clain they will FIX the virus. They ARE the virus!
   - guru - Thursday, 05/02/02 23:23:47 GMT

I just finished installing a side draft hood on my coal forge and used the "double pipe" design for the chimney. Used 10" inside and 12" outside pipes, with the 12" extending an extra 5 ft up. I plan not to use a rain cap.

I need to put a screen inside my side draft hood to keep sparks from going up the chimney. What type of mesh is suitable for that screen?

Note Email address change.

   - doug - Friday, 05/03/02 01:04:42 GMT

How do I make copper pipe look old fast?
thanks Jon
   jon - Friday, 05/03/02 17:12:44 GMT


I am here in Michigan, about 20 miles north of Pontiac. We found what appears to be a very wierd slag. Its composition includes

Al 1.3%, B .006%, Ba .007%, C .033%, Ca 14.04%, Cr 19.11%, Cu .004%, Fe 1.83%, K .043%, Mg 3.68%, Mn 4.12%, Mo .004%, Na .020%, Nb .31%, Ni .53%, S .15%, Si 16.07%,
Ti .31%, V .077%, Zn.005%, Zr .022%, Au 20ppb, Pt 10ppb.

It also contains numerous oxides of the above metals. Inside, under a microscope, it has millions (it is a 20-lb piece) of microscopic formations, including 3-D prisims, pyramids, spheriols, and some pyramids actually have a ball that exudes from the center.(these are all found within the matrix, in air gaps) I can email a picture if you can generate some interest concerning this.

My question: We have shown this to numerous experts, from geologists to petrologists, to meteorists, along with some metalugists, just thrown in. Do you (or your network) know who (within 100 miles) might be a slag expert that would like to examine this and possibly tell us where it is from?

Thank you, Brian Winter, Chemistry teacher, Southfield HS
   Brian Winter - Friday, 05/03/02 17:35:41 GMT

Guru I get an error saying that the login app is broken when trying to log in.
hope it is on MY side.
   - OErjan - Friday, 05/03/02 19:12:58 GMT

To all: Woo hoo!! This weekend I will be attending my first ever New England Blacksmithing Associations annual spring meet in Brentwood NH. I hope you all have as much fun this weekend as I hope to.
   Tim - Friday, 05/03/02 20:11:53 GMT

Weird Slag: Brian,

My guess is that it is either slag from a recycling operation or from an alloy (tool steel) plant. NO, my initial guess is wrong, the 20% chrome is the primary constituant. Its either from chrome smelting or recycling chrome.

Many of the items can be discounted as trace elements that all but the highest purity metals contain. You have high levels of Chrome, Nickle, Columbium (AKA Niobium) and Manganese which would indicate tool steel manufacture except for the low level of iron.

The lighter elements are probably fluxing and refractory materials. You list the elements but not the compounds. The aluminium, boron, barium, calcium, silicon, titanium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are consistent with fluxing and degassing compounds which are often minerals or light metal compounds. Remember, the slag is waste material taken off the top of a pour OR tapped from a furnace before the wanted metal is poured.

In the cutting tool industry there are a number of non-ferrous or low iron alloys that can withstand higher working temperatures than high speed steel and more shock than sintered carbides. Haynes Stellite and J-Metal are typical. However, the absense of Cobalt and Tungsten in your list discount this.

In some alloy making operations the innoculants are melted seperately form the primary metal and then added. The slag is not inconsistant with additions for making an alloy steel. The chrome, manganese, nickle and vanadium could be such an addition.

The weird crystal structures are not so weird. I've seen mushroom shaped crystaline growths in iron castings that you didn't need a microscope to see.

Also remember that alloying is a trial and error process. There is NO predictive science to alloying. There have been many small research foundries that melted and remelted all kinds of weird things making alloys, pouring, forging and testing them.

Now. . if you want to really pose a problem, the solution of which is needed if we are to advance technologicaly to the "Star Trek" era. Ask,
"How can the properties of an alloy be predicted?"
This will be one of the most important technological breakthroughs in the history of mankind. It is a difficult problem. There are some 20 or more alloyable metals that can be mixed in any possible combination (2020) in any possible proportion (creating infinite possibilities). Simple mathematics says we are unlikly to discover (except by shear accident) some very important alloys such as a cheap manufacturable super-conductor or a lightweight radiation shielding. The combination of which would make the nuclear powered automobile (and anything else) predicted in 1940's possible.

It is a question that is not being asked often enough. It is a problem surpassing the "unified theory" in complexity and probably the most important problem in science. And only if we ask it often enough, will that one person that comes along once in a century or so, know that it is a problem to be solved.

Perhaps there is no answer but I do not think so. Perhaps the "artificial inteligence" algorithm will be more important IF there is one. In either case I believe the answers will come either from a true genious or random happenstance. But not unless we keep asking the question.
   - guru - Friday, 05/03/02 22:04:51 GMT

OErjan, I use the same system everytime I login (sometimes more than once a day), and it appears to be working.
   - guru - Friday, 05/03/02 22:07:43 GMT

Old Copper: Jon, How fast? Copper is slow to oxidize and it takes harsh chemicals to produce a patina. Stong acids and lead compounds are used to color copper and I do not recommend trying it.

If you just want to make it brown (like an old penny) a little heat will do it. Oil it and heat again.

If you want crusty green then a paste of fertilizer such as "Mirical Grow" has been recommend. Common household bleach does a good job too. Be very careful about handling the bleach, paint or spray it on, DO NOT DIP and do it outdoors.

In any case it may take a few days.

   - guru - Friday, 05/03/02 22:16:55 GMT

Why "DO NOT DIP" the copper in the bleach, besides needing a ton of bleach.....?
   Rodriguez - Saturday, 05/04/02 02:15:22 GMT

anyone know where i can learn this in florida??
   - jeremy - Saturday, 05/04/02 19:07:05 GMT

I am a highschool teacher, planning a lesson about careers in the arts. I want to include metalsmithing, do you know of any good places to look for professions in metalsmithing. Please e mail me.
   bailey - Saturday, 05/04/02 20:49:45 GMT

DO NOT DIP: This is advice for any harsh chemical, acid or alkali. The reason is that you may liberate a large amount of heat and gas or both.

You don't add water to acid because it liberates a lot of heat to the point of boiling suddenly. Instead you add small amounts of acid to water to dilute it. Small amounts of heat are liberated but the large volume of water dissapates it. Adding metal can liberate heat AND flamable or poisionous gas. The combination can be explosive or deadly.

Chemists working with harsh chemicals wear protective clothing for a reason. Safety glasses and face shield, heavy protective apron, rubber gloves. . . Just because bleach is a "household product" doesn't mean its not dangerous. Lye is sold in the same places. . .

Use diluted chemicals until you know the results. Be safe.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/05/02 05:35:53 GMT

Jeremy, contact FABA the Florida Artist Blacksmiths Association (see our ABANA-Chapter page) and see our Getting Started article.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/05/02 05:51:41 GMT

Hey Jock...
No questions, just wondering if your doing ok with all the flooding we're hearing about...
   Gator - Sunday, 05/05/02 14:55:13 GMT

Thanks for asking. No problems flooding problems here. Our watershed is small. We can have flooding when no body else does. But so far have been lucky. Just enough rain to make the grass and weeds grow like crazy. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 05/05/02 18:21:36 GMT

Thanks a lot for the replies on painting, etc. Do you have any idea what it costs to sand-blast, prime and paint without labor, just materials? Thanks a lot.
   - Kevin - Sunday, 05/05/02 18:49:59 GMT

Hi all, I just spent the weekend camping in Brentwood New Hampshire at the New England Blacksmiths Training Facility and attended their annual Spring Meet. I learned a great deal and got to meet Peter Ross from Colonial Williamsburg. I'm sure some of you have met or at least heard of him. He's a pretty knowledgeable smith and a great guy. I got to be his striker for a demo he was putting on and that in itself was an experience! I got all kinds of great pictures. I also finally solved a few problems I was having with some thechniques and that enabled me to make a few things. Every time I think I'm really having fun doing this, something even better happens and I catch the bug all over again!
   Tim - Sunday, 05/05/02 23:03:22 GMT

What size and material mesh screen should be used in a hood to stop sparks from going out the chimney?
   - doug - Monday, 05/06/02 00:57:02 GMT

Where Are They Now Dept.-- This just in: Cracked Anvil's administrative assistant and confidential secretary Chastity Dangerfield informs me by ESP Spectralscope that she, along with Cracked, Technoboffin Yummi deLisch and general gofer Swarf are happily settled in at last. The time machine they were working on actually functioned-- somewhat. It broke down just as they reached the mid-1950s, stranding them in The Dizzy Club on Holabird Avenue just outside of Baltimore in Dundalk, Md., where they now loaf about listening to lots of Kay Starr, Tommy Edwards, Joni James and Johnny Ray and ordering each other rounds of Gunther. In bottles. They are thinking of opening a shop just as soon as Cracked finishes the plans for the TIG.
   miles undercut - Monday, 05/06/02 01:41:35 GMT

Miles, thanks for the update. Next time you have the ESP Spectralscope working, send Cracked and company our best wishes. Their research and expertise in explaining things is missed.
   - Conner - Monday, 05/06/02 13:06:42 GMT

Please help settle an argument I have been having in regards to tempering. I am of the opinion that temper is what you want to put into your work in order to soften it.
In life, temper is having a good disposition. (As in well tempered scale, piano) Bad temper is the lack of temper, i.e. brittle, irritable, cracked. I say that in tempering a peice of work you draw the hardness out and replace it with temper. He says that you draw out the temper. Which is it. The dictionary is no help.
P.S. I wish Cracked was around because he, losing temper one time struck an anvil with insufficent temper and cracked it.
If anyone would know the direction of the flow of temper, it would be him.
   L.Sundstrom - Monday, 05/06/02 14:28:13 GMT

Larry, You are right. Harden first, then temper. I've found that people over the entire planet are confused about "tempering" no matter what the language. It is due to poor explanations and then non-metalworkers using the term improperly. This is has been going on since the beginning of metalworking and will probably continue forever. . .
   - guru - Monday, 05/06/02 15:03:46 GMT

Doug, how big are the sparks?

If you are installing a screen because of a local fire code the code should be specific.

The finer the screen the more resistance to flow. Any screen is a great hinderance to flow so you want as coarse a screen as alowed. The larger the screen area the better (to make up for the restriction). So, most screens are put at the top of chimneys at the perimeter in order to at least double the area. Generaly a coal forge does not have sparks lite enough to float up the stack but the paper used to start the fire may. Charcoal forges make copious sparks but they generaly don't burn all the way to the top of the stack.

IF you put a screen in the intake end of a side draft hood it is very likely to prevent the hood from working AND possibly get burned out. I would use stainless screen due to the corrosives in coal ash. Copper screens work at the top of chimneys where wood/charcoal are burned and the smoke has had a chance to cool.

I'd look for something coarse, maybe 1/8" to 1/10" spacing and fine wire.

   - guru - Monday, 05/06/02 16:26:53 GMT

Does anyone know the website where Daryl Meir was posting tools he had for sale (or if he is still posting tools for sale)? Thanks.
   Patrick Nowak - Monday, 05/06/02 19:17:01 GMT

Patrick www.meiersteel.com/ Did not see anything about tools for sale though
   - Pete-Raven - Monday, 05/06/02 21:11:21 GMT

I also checked his steel website. If I remember correctly, this was a different sight. I think he mentioned it sometime last year. He may no longer have it either.
   Patrick Nowak - Monday, 05/06/02 21:27:04 GMT

RE Metallurgy
I have just started to study this subject in more detail. I went to the library. looked up "metallurgy" and promply froze the computer. then I went to the help desk and asked ... I was told that the newest book in the library was printed in 1950.(in the first four chapters I found referances to 10 or so methods that have been abandoned sence the book was printed.) the newest that they could get me was 1972... the newest in the computer was 1989 (nonlending library)..and my local library is the 2nd largest in the state!!! there is most defanitly not enough research going on!!!
I did find some more curent texts on powdered steel and some other doctorate thesis's on modern alloys (mostly super conductors and high temp alloys)
   MP - Monday, 05/06/02 22:32:01 GMT

I came into the habit of reading fantasy books a few years back and through them i kind of fell in love with the idea of blacksmithing. i have been wondering if there is anyplace around san diego or LA that takes on apprecnticships becuase i would really love to lear, if not i am almost to the point of trying to learn through books. any information towards this would be great. thank you
   - Mike - Tuesday, 05/07/02 01:06:43 GMT

A friend asked me to help replace some rivets in the chassis of a Model T Ford he is restoring. I have done some cold riveting but not hot. We would like to make ours as close to the original ones as possible and would appreciate any help with the procedure and any “tricks of the trade”. I plan to heat the rivets in my coal forge and use a rivet set for the business end and to backup with a heavy hammer that has a dome to match the rivet head to minimize distortion. If memory serves me right the new head requires one and a half times the diameter of the rivet. Thanks in advance, Buck.
   B Brown - Tuesday, 05/07/02 01:35:12 GMT

MP, Public libraries do not purchase many expensive technical books. A University library that has an engineering school will have most of what ASM publishes as well as ASTM references and others.

Occasionaly I use the library at the University of Virginia. They have a couple exceptional specialty libraries. There science and engineering library is very good and their music library rivals anything on the planet. Many researchers end up at the Library of Congress but UVA is better for some subjects.

Small college libraries SHOULD be good but I have found many of those to only be a little better than public libraries. Check out your local Universities. Most alow the public to use them but call ahead for schedules and rules.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/07/02 03:27:51 GMT

Riveting: B. Brown, Check our iForge demo. However, auto and structural rivets are mostly installed with hydraulic setter, A heavy C frame with hydraulic cylinder. Round head rivets take 1-3/4 diameters to make a full round head.

#1 rule is don't burn the rivets. Production rivets are heated electricaly to prevent burning.

#2 is back up the work on an anvil if hand setting. Yep, figure out a way to hang the frame on a hoist and manuver it over the anvil. Backing up with a sledge or any movable mass results in distorting the parts unless they are very heavy, and auto frames are not.

#3 (should be #1) test your setup. Can you quickly get the rivet in place and backed up? Clumsy to do? Fumbling? The rivet is cold and youv'e screwed up. . Work it out before hand. You may need two helpers to manuver the frame while two others do the riveting.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/07/02 03:39:04 GMT

Mike, See our Getting Started article and FAQs page. Check the ABANA-Chapter page for the CBA. You will find there are blacksmiths all over but few willing to take on "apprentices". See my article for the whys.

Patrick, Daryl's email address is listed on "THE - GURUS" at the top of this page. Ask him.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/07/02 03:44:13 GMT

anvilfire store My appologies to all. The forms for the new CD's didn't have places for non-US ordering info. That has been corrected. I've also updated the member's store. I had let some things slide while I worked on the NEW store . . but it is still under development.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/07/02 03:47:38 GMT

This subject has come up quite a few times when a group of smiths together ,normally late at night, - is / was Whale oil the best for hardening/tempering ,treating ect.
   - wayne - Tuesday, 05/07/02 10:34:58 GMT

Wayne; So that's why I keep seeing folk skulking around the crick with harpoons when I'm trying to take my bath each year...

Actually you need more details; "the best" available at that time/place or what they thought was the best or...

Brine was best for some of the low Mn early alloys, though quenching in murcury was considered best for certain things.

A stroll through "Practical Blacksmithing" by Richardson will give you an idea of what they *thought* was good in the late 19th century. ISTR fish oil being mentioned---perhaps cod liver oil? "Mechanicks Exercises" will cover around 1700, Theophilus mentions using the urine of a small red headed boy or that of a goat fed ferns for 3 days; also candle wax for gravers IIRC. "sources for the history of the science of steel" lists dozens of renaissance "secret" quenchants guarenteed to harden steel "the best"...

   - Thomas Powers - Tuesday, 05/07/02 15:22:31 GMT

the local collage library wasn't any more help (weslyan) and the state collage libary (UCONN) is a lending libary (that is were I got the books on powdered metals) the ASM and ASTM referance a all available to me but don't do me much good for learning what I want to. it is fine to say the this steel has these numbers and reacts this way but I want to know WHY those numbers MAKE the steel react in that way.
even the libarian said that the books she found me were far out of date and n they needed to buy more curent texts. that tells me not a hole lot of requests come in for those books for it not to have been noticed for 50 years or so.
   MP - Tuesday, 05/07/02 15:52:02 GMT

Quenchants: Wayne, Start at our heat treating FAQ. See also L.Sundstrom's question and my response a few posts above.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/07/02 15:59:31 GMT

Speaking of quenches, where do you find "Shaklee Basic I" for Super Quench. Does old used motor oil work for oil quenching? Thanks!
   Gator - Tuesday, 05/07/02 21:37:12 GMT

Regarding my last post...NEVER MIND! I just went to the FAQ section and PRESTO...answers!
   Gator - Tuesday, 05/07/02 21:42:52 GMT

I'm doing a "found object" sculpture that will include some old kitchen tools.... what is the best way to remove the chrome plating that remains on some of these pieces? the whole sculpture will be painted after completion ... I would like to make sure that the remaining chrome won't peel

thank you
   Mark Parkinson - Tuesday, 05/07/02 22:20:47 GMT

Dear folks
Cold you start me out on how to tie a square knot in 1/2 round steel to be used in leg cross supports? Otherwise the "X" between the legs with a knot at the intersection.
Our shop does almost any thing fabrication wise however I am a little stumped on how to start thease. Thank you! Ralph
   Ralph at RCR Fabrication - Wednesday, 05/08/02 00:29:49 GMT

CT scan results are in.

Couple of small lesions, nothing needs to be done about them. So I'm clear to go ahead with anything I feel like doing.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 05/08/02 00:32:17 GMT


Whale oil, snail oil, horse piss. Don't matter as long as it removes the heat fast enough for the alloy or cross section you are working with. There is no chemical reaction, and anything else is just smoke and mirrors. Fish oils are known to give good results even when they reach 180F or so. Modern quenching oils are just about as good though (and smell a WHOLE lot better).


You got me! I checked my library (home) of metallurgy and found that most of my books are indeed over fifty years old, some almost eighty! Still real usefull. Almost everything of PRACTICAL value was known by that time.
   - grant - Wednesday, 05/08/02 01:14:09 GMT


A square knot is easier than it looks. You bend two bars double with a bit of a "dogbone" eye at the bend. Then you bend up the dogbone ends almost 90 degrees. Now, if you got it right you should be able to put the ends of each through the eyes of the other. Bend the ends away for the knot and it will be locked.
   - grant - Wednesday, 05/08/02 01:21:40 GMT

P.S. Playing with some wire solder is a good way to study knot making in iron.
   - grant - Wednesday, 05/08/02 01:25:13 GMT

Grant, and you used to complain about *ME* quoting OLD references. . . ;)
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/08/02 01:55:08 GMT

Well, at least "I" don't use 50 year old computer books! Come to that, computers seem to be geared to "dog years". Yep, 'bout right.

Didn't the IRON AGE end it 1982?
   - grant - Wednesday, 05/08/02 02:12:10 GMT

Guru: I have built the ABANA/Pete S. treadle hammer. In the down position and the total up position the head hammer does not sit level. When the hammer is on the anvil, it sits up 7/16" up in the front. It also over hangs in the back of the anvil. All measurements are right on, except the bottom leaf spring is just under a 16th" longer than the top. Could the anvil be angle to match the head? Or do you have any other ideas for alignment.
   - Gerry W. Jones - Wednesday, 05/08/02 04:04:23 GMT

I am a sales rep for a metal distributor.
I live nearly 35 miles west of Chicago.
I am 27 years old.

I recently worked out a deal with a forging house to supply 6061-F temper aluminum rod. To the best of my knowledge this is the temper the material takes after being extruded. There is no heat treating, aging, etc. done. This is the preferred material for this customer and program.

On occation, I will not have F temper material in a size requested by my customer (all materials are round 12 foot lengths ranging from 1" to 4" diameter). In these situations we will supply 6061-T6511 material. My customer will cut the bars to the required size for his forging operation and then anneal them. From here they will will start the forging process which will include heating the material to nearly 850 degrees prior to striking it.

My questions are...
To what tempature and for how long would the material need to be kept prior to striking in order to eliminate the initial annealing process they are currently using?

Where can I obtain documentation on these times/temps to share with my customer?

Thank you for your assistance,
Scott R. Longmire
   Scott Longmire - Wednesday, 05/08/02 04:23:36 GMT

hey all.. i have been visiting this site quite often in search of some information on getting on the right foot to smithing both blade and armor.. i have requested for the chat several times in the past week and have been unsuccessful on the return confirmation.. please help Zac
   Zac - Wednesday, 05/08/02 04:55:52 GMT

regestered. not requested. sorry for the mistake in the previous post..
   Zac - Wednesday, 05/08/02 05:37:21 GMT

Oops...the arms need to be the same length really. You could compensate a little by putting slightly more bend in the longer one.
What is more important than contact is where the planes of the hammer and anvil are when at working height.
   - Pete F - Wednesday, 05/08/02 06:23:08 GMT

I have heard it said that blacksmiths have been called on to perform weddings, I would like to know some more of this part of the blacksmith lore. Can any one enlighten me? Say with some examples of recorded instances, or local customs etc. I am at a complete loss as to where to start looking for more info on this.
   Mills - Wednesday, 05/08/02 11:26:10 GMT


Go to:


For the history of Gretna Green, the site of many blacksmith witnessed weddings.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Wednesday, 05/08/02 12:35:17 GMT

Can you tell me how I can make my own anhydrous borax? I had some information on how to do this but have misplaced it.I beleive it was to place 20 mule team borax on a cookie sheet and place in an oven set at 375 for 2 hours,is this correct?
   Bill - Wednesday, 05/08/02 13:44:54 GMT


according to Norse lore(northern european) Thor(one of the more prominent gods) was often called upon to preform weddings as the it was thought that with the power of his hammer he could weld the to people together in marriage(Thors hammer , according to legend, is large of head and short of haft...similar to a smiths hand sledge)

...I hope that was helpful
   jan - Wednesday, 05/08/02 14:21:17 GMT

I would like to make the Norfolk latch found on your 21st Century Page. Are there any directions available? I think it would make a great demo.
   Mike Rice - Wednesday, 05/08/02 16:17:37 GMT


I agree with Mike about the Norfolk latch. A set of directions and SKETCHES might appear in Chapter 9 or 10. (grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 05/08/02 16:54:05 GMT

unless you are trying to learn about the new powder metals that are used by some of the knifemakers and some of the modern alloys.
the old books can teach you what the critical temp graphs meen and such but I want to know why and they aren'y very good about telling me that. they are a great place to start though.
   MP - Wednesday, 05/08/02 17:26:03 GMT

Zac, I am behind on the pub regsistrations. They are handled manually by me along with everything else. Will get caught up today.

Treadle Hammer Gerry, I have not seen any of the treadle hammer plans to study them. Many of the newer plans use parallel motion so should be in parallel all the time but will not be centered on the same axis.

As Pete mentioned alignment is more important at working height. Most work under a treadle hammer is done with hand held tools or dies that raise the head. Rarely do you work die to die. Forging or drawing out thin material is not very effective under a treadle hammer.

With all plans you should study the dimensions and think about the relationships.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/08/02 17:35:53 GMT

Borax: Bill, see our Borax article on the the 21st Century and FAQs pages.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/08/02 17:46:19 GMT

Heat Treating Aluminium: Scott, I'm not sure of the metalurgical reason for annealing the 6061 before forging since they are normally using the as-rolled condition which can be a variety of states. It appears they are reversing the effects of precipitation heat treatment.

However, the ASM Metals Refernce Book is a reliable source of information. From the 2nd Edition, 1983.

Full annealing, 6061, 775°F for 2-3 hours then cool at 50°F/h down to 500°F (p.318)

Precipitation heat treatment 6061 to T651(e) (e, stretched after solution treatment and prior to precipitation).

320°F for 18 hours (p.311)

Then from the ASM Metals Handbook, Vol.5, Forging and Casting 1970 (note, the volume numbers change with time and edition).

Forging temperature 6061 and 6151, 810-900°F.

The required force drops considerably if forging is done closer to the maxium of 900°F. 6061 forges about like mild steel. This reference has no mention of prior heat-treatments.
Normally the forging temperature and the reduction of the metal by forging cancels all previous heat treating. However, it is best to check with the manufacturer of any particular alloy. Hmmmmmm. . . as the rep, that means you. So you should speak to the metallurgists of the actual manufacturer. Then again, if the end customer has a spec then their engineers may know why. You may also want to contact the Aluminium Association at www.aluminium.org.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/08/02 18:42:19 GMT

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   - guru - Wednesday, 05/08/02 19:03:34 GMT

Hello. I have very little expierence in foundry work and blacksmithing. I wanted to know if there are any stores or shops, in the eastern Pennsylvania area that I would be able to by a sword or have one custom made for me?
Also, do you know of any really good beginners books in that field? Thank You.
   Alex - Wednesday, 05/08/02 19:58:17 GMT

I notice Swan puts out a flux called "Ali Weld" which the salesman told is for welding aluminum. Can one forgeweld aluminum and if so how is it done?
   adam - Wednesday, 05/08/02 21:00:14 GMT

Man wants to know not just "what," but "why?" Does he, now! Indeed! And, then, next, it'll be "so what?" that he wants to know the answer to. And then... then... someday... he will come upon the enigma of the Thermos bottle. In the summer, it keeps your tea cold. But in the winter, it keepeth your tomato soup hot! How do it know? These are sub-atomic questions fit more for a lifelong quest than a snappy Q&A. Nobody ever said it'd be easy.
   miles undercut - Wednesday, 05/08/02 23:42:03 GMT

Books: Alex we have a number of reviews on our book review page. In blade smithing the beginning is general metalwork, blacksmithing and heat treating. There are many books on the subjects. Get out your credit card and give Norm Larson a call (see Getting Dtarted). He will have numberous suggestions. Centaur Forge also has a long list of books.

Aluminium Flux: Adam, I believe that is for gas welding. Due to the oxidation and high melting point of aluminium oxide I doubt if anyone has forge welded it.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/09/02 00:05:56 GMT

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