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I think I'll chime in here, just to share a burn related revelation. The first day that I fired up my charcoal forge (about two and a half years ago), I used a charcoal briquette chimney (although I used genuine charcoal for the fuel). Foolishly after I had dumped the embers into the forge I neglected to move the hot chimney away to a safe location while I forged and I paid the price . My forearm brushed up against it while I put my steel back in the forge for another heat. It was a very bad burn, but I went and got a rag along with some pure aloe vera gel that has a painkiller in it. I soaked the rag in the aloe vera, tied it onto my arm, applied ice and waited. The results suprised me. I felt no pain at all, and there was only some very minor redness on my arm the next morning. The burned spot had healed completely overnight. I have no clue if that was a fluke or what, but as far as I am concerned, twelve hours (eight of them spent sleeping) is hardly any downtime at all. By the way Draconas, the next time you are in close proximity to a pharmacy, ask the head pharmacist about the blister. Normaly (In the US at least) the head pharmacist has a doctorate in the medical sciences and it may suprise you how much they can help with stuff that you would genrally ask a physician. And Draconas, allways remember that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Experience is seldom a kind teacher, but it is a good one.
   Matthew Marting - Sunday, 05/22/05 00:00:40 EDT

I am not exempt from burning myself, but I want to share something that someone told me once upon a time. You test the iron for heat quickly with the back of your hand. Electricians do this with wires, because if they touch the inside of the hand to a hot wire, a nerve reflex causes them to grip the wire. ¡Ay, Chihuahua!

Blacksmiths do it for a different reason. If they grab hot iron, they can't work for two weeks or more.

   Frank Turley - Sunday, 05/22/05 00:04:59 EDT

Jackie Bell,

I commend to you the "Treatises on Goldsmithing and Sculpture" by Bienvenuto Cellini, master goldsmith, sculptor, swordsman and raconteur of the Renaissance. Sadly, he didn't illustrate his treatise, but it is a worthwhile and fascinating read. As is his autobiography. Both are available in Dover reprints, I believe. You might also look at Diderot's Encyclopedia, another reprint. It is illustrated with engravings and/or woodcuts of various tradesmen's shops.

If you check out the shops of workers in under-developed countries of the twentieth century, you will see examples of many tools that are very little different from those used in the Renaissance. Oppi Untracht's book, "Metal Techniques for Craftsmen" has a number of pictures of shops in India, Nepal and other less developed places, mostly taken in the 1950's and 60's.
   vicopper - Sunday, 05/22/05 00:07:43 EDT

Not sure if it is hot or not? Simple. Pick it up with tongs and give it a quick dunk in the tub. It may save you from having to dunk your hand, instead.
   vicopper - Sunday, 05/22/05 00:11:51 EDT

Drac, two things

1. you can blue blush any iron or steel and some stainless, you could blue blush a store knife but it would ( in most cases ) ruin the knife. Stor bought knifes tend to be case hardned, pinched to an edge then ground even sharper. Home made knifes should have a softer or nontempered back and a workhardned or tempered edge. This imparts strength and durability to the knife.
2. I recomend that you ( whats your age any how?) always have some one near by while working anything that could kill maime or generaly make you hate life. Cold or hot sharp is sharp. Stiches hurt. Staples hurt worse. Infections leave bigger scars( and if let go too long will cause loss of limb or death[ gang green ] ) I personally have several scars from " Not thinking" and " Not having a plan" as well as " Not following my plan"
Safety FIRST!!!!
Trust me on this one. When I wave bye bye to my sister I wave with three, not five.( lost those at sea )
   - Timex - Sunday, 05/22/05 00:20:07 EDT

The Hot Steel test:

I test the temperature of the steel in my shop the same way I test a griddle when making pancakes. Dip your fingers in water and flick it on the steel. If it hisses and dances it is too hot to handle or its time for flapjacks. If the drops just evaporate fast you still probably don't want to pick it up bare handed. If the droplets just sort of sit there you are good to go.
   Martin P. - Sunday, 05/22/05 00:46:44 EDT

....and don't ferget the ever-popular spit.
   3dogs - Sunday, 05/22/05 02:09:53 EDT

ewwww! Remind me NOT to eat your griddle cakes!
   Ralph - Sunday, 05/22/05 03:51:03 EDT

Thank you very much for your response. We too ahve upsetters and hammers with us but none of them Ajax. Will check up on the site and get back to you. Will you have a copy of the manual of the 4 inch upsetter? If you do, and I am not asking for too much can I have a copy of it? I need one rather urgently.
   Mahesh Someshwar - Sunday, 05/22/05 05:22:58 EDT

I just looked up the Ajax and other upsetters. Also the huge hydralulic rams in china on the power hammer links. I sort of understand the huge rams. There are pictures of them in operatin. But I cant picutre what the Ajax upsetter does. It is obviously a huge piece of metal. From the name I can guess that it makes the metal nervous :) but I dont see how it works. anyone feel like expanding on that. thanx
   John W - Sunday, 05/22/05 09:45:35 EDT

Burns and confessions...
Working alone in the shop I generally do pretty well at not hurting myself. I might get nailed by some splatter once in a while. As a long time farrier, though, I've had to work with all manor of distractions and time pressure. I've done every dunb thing in the book from picking up a black hot piece forgetting what it was that I had laid down to leaning directly on red/orange hot steel to having a bar spin in the vice and bash me on the top of the head. In the case of leaning on red hot steelthe first hint that you're being burned is the smell because you may not feel anything at all (at least while it's happening). Testing the steel is easy. The challange is not letting your hands get ahead of your brain...think before you do.

   Mike Ferrara - Sunday, 05/22/05 10:13:38 EDT

John, an upsetter does on a huge scale what a smith does on the end of a piece of steel. The end of the workpiece is heated to about 2100F, it is inserted into the upsetter to a predetermined point, it is gripped by the jaws of the dieset, a traveling block hits the heated end causing it to compress longitudinally and and expand circumferentially into the die cavity. It can to this on solids or on tubing. Some upsetters have two cavities and execute two cycles in a single heat if a lot of metal must be moved.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 05/22/05 10:16:34 EDT

Mr Frank Turley and eletrical wire.

One NEVER touch a wire that you don't know for a FACT is de-energized.
Two If you have to, use the back of your hand? Not this boy. Thats what meters are for.
Three Any voltage has the potental to stop you heart or alter it's beat. Both depend on the amp, the path to ground, and the voltage.
   - AE2 Carter ' Timex' - Sunday, 05/22/05 10:24:51 EDT

Just for the newbies, does anyone know why eating utensiles and cups were made of silver? Or why charcoal is often coated with silver for use in water filters? Or why Christians who use a common silver cup for communion seldom share diseases? Silver will not support the growth of bacteria, sort of like honey.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 05/22/05 10:26:48 EDT

I want to find an old propane sphere tank (smaller the better) and can't seem to locate a salvage source....any help on this?
   Randall Meushaw - Sunday, 05/22/05 10:39:18 EDT

Regarding previous post on propane sphere tanks...you can email me direct at randymeushaw@earthlink.net....THX!
   Randall Meushaw - Sunday, 05/22/05 10:43:17 EDT

I am sorry to hear abowt Paw Paw. I think that among everyone here, I knew him the least but I know this: He was too good for this world. May he always be remembered as a god among men.
   Matthew Marting - Sunday, 05/22/05 12:54:46 EDT

I am currently working on resoring a "mid-way spiral geared blower" made by Champion forge and blower co. I was wondering about the finish that came on the new ones back then. were they painted? I would also appreciate any more info you could give me on this particular blower.
Thanks, Jim
   - Jim - Sunday, 05/22/05 13:34:16 EDT

John: Think of an ordinary railroad spike. These were form two at a time from one bar of stock. It was put in a large machine, gripped tightly and then both ends upset at the same time to create the head. Bar was when whacked in half, creating two spikes. I don't know if the upsetting was done hot or cold. Most drop forging can be thought of as upsetting in that it is moving metal to a particular shape.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 05/22/05 13:46:41 EDT

As you will see by my question I am new at this.
I have watched a number of articles about folding steel for knives and the question I have is do you "weld " every time you fold the steel? I have not seen anyone say to do so and my son says you have to weld every fold.
Thank you Ray harvey
   Ray Harvey - Sunday, 05/22/05 15:37:51 EDT

Firstly, thanks for the great site. You've answered several questions already for me and I'm back with another one.

I've located a 2cwt steam hammer almost identical to the one depicted in the drawings in "Anvils in America" by Richard Postman in figures 2 and 3 on page 319 and figure 7 on page 321. The hammer appears to be in good condition and I want to convert it to air. Can you please give me an idea of whats involved? Is it as simple as running it on a compressor with an in-line oiler? What PSI is required? I'm guessing I'd need about 75cfm, does that sound about right?

I do have experience with pneumatics and pneumatic hammers, but do steam hammers have similar characteristics in use? This hammer would never be my primary forging hammer, it's more a labour of love.

   malcolm hollis - Sunday, 05/22/05 17:36:37 EDT

I'd say your sons right, from what I gathered here (among the archives) if each fold ISN'T welded then the pieces will not hold together, it would just become lots of wafers of metal:)
The main reason ( I think :) as a newbie ) for folding steel for a knife or sword originally was to allow the maker to have a high carbon steel ( Hard ) edge and a milder ( Soft ) steel back. Given all the much higher quality steels and tempering techniques available to the smith now I think this is largely for aesthetic reason's.
This type of steel is correctly called 'Pattern Welded, although you may hear it referred to as 'Damascus'(It isn't and the reasons why are very interesting reading- see the archives) Some of the work is ART, Ive seen a knife with the american flag, as well as the letter's USA and a few shooting stars actually IN the steel.
   - Tinker - Sunday, 05/22/05 18:49:32 EDT

HELLO RAY: Yes you have to FORGE WELD each time it is folded. If you did not forge weld each fold, when you got thru and cut your billet from the handle all the pieces would fall apart. There are several places here and on the other knife sites that you can look up and study this process.

you can go to the archives and peg pattern welded steel.

good luck

   sandpile - Sunday, 05/22/05 19:21:24 EDT

Malcolm Hollis
Steam drop hammers are set up normally to tup, or to reciprocate somewhat all the time the machine is "ON". This would allow the steam to flow through the pipes and not condense. An air hammer does not need to tup, and will consume a huge amount of air in doing so. Easy to fix, just don't throw the tup lever. The steam valve will leak far too much air, and should be rebuilt to have seals, as the steam valve likely does not have seals. Lubericator is required as will a huge muffler. Most but the muffler on the roof, with a reclassifier to catch the oil that comes thru. Buy the biggest air reciever you can find to damp the pressure swings. An auto muffler has been used on small hammers. Use all sweep ells on the piping, especially the exhaust. Pipe two sizes bigger than the exhaust port in an air conversion. Use LOTS of oil. The old steam packings need to be updated to elastomeric seals most likely as the steam seals will probably howl air right on thru.
Good luck
   ptree - Sunday, 05/22/05 19:50:59 EDT

As Quenchcrack noted, an upsetter is a forging press with the line of action horizontal. Typically there are a set of progressive dies, that move the metal to the final shape in say 3 to 5 steps or hits. Some easy parts get only one hit. We forge truck axles mostly, and the area of the axle that gets the splines only needs a bit of bumping up to get the extra diameter, so say one hit in a little 4" upsetter. The flange may take a 8" or 9" upsetter say 4 to 5 hits. The grip slide has tooling that makes the back of the die, and the tool slide holds the other side. The bigger upsetters will hit in the 1500 to 2400 ton range.
To get a feel for size, a 9" upsetter frame only, no crank, gears etc weighs about 315,000#, and sits on a 90 cubic yard concrete foundation. All up I would guess about 600,000#.
These are high production machines that are high maintnance, use a several man crew, and a set of dies ready to run cost about $50,000. They made upsetters from 1" to a 10". From there a few specials were made bigger, but not many. We have one of the very few 10" made. A upsetter size refers to the size flange that is supposed to be able to clear the grip slide. We can make much bigger than 10" on ours, as we know some tricks.
   ptree - Sunday, 05/22/05 20:40:51 EDT

I am looking for the proper eye protection for gas forge use. I see you Boulton products on the store. I wear precription glasses. Can these Boulton glasses be purchased in precription form, or is there a version that can be used over regular glasses?
   Doug - Sunday, 05/22/05 21:05:20 EDT

Side shelf on Euroanvil right or left? I am thinking of purchasing one of those 335 Euroanvils that look like the Haberman with the little side shelf..I am curious as to opinions as to which side the shelf would be better to use.
Seems more convenient on the smiths side if you do lots of small work...but most anvils seem to have it opposite the smiths side..what do you Gents think?
   - RC - Sunday, 05/22/05 22:08:28 EDT

Quechcrack, Re: silver not supporting bacteria.
I worked at one time for a company that recovered silver from photographic processes, i.e. film, photo fix and xrays. Our customers, included hospitals in a 5 state region and Kodak's film manufacturing plant. We hired a new hotshot manager that did not have a clue about how our system worked. The first Friday he was there, he dumped 1000 gallons of unprocessed Photo fix into the local sewer system. The combination of the ph shock and silver in the fix halted the bacterial action of the sewer system for 60,000 people, requiring the sludge to be pumped and treated as hazardous waste. The bad part was the the city did not go after us but filed with the EPA against Kodak under a "Cradle to Grave" responsibility rule for producers of hazardous waste. It took the city less than 12 hours to back track the system to our tank. That brought an end to the company after 15 years in business.

As a side note ionic silver in solution can replace the iron in the blood in such a way that the blood will no longer carry oxygen. symptoms are shortness of breath and blue lips and extremities. silver poisoning.
   habu - Sunday, 05/22/05 22:55:52 EDT

Wife says I can build a smithy - ysy! I already have a Champion 40 blower and a huge anvil...and a plastic 5g bucket for a slack tub. Hey, I'm making progress, OK? The anvil came from Norfolk Southern Railway repair shops in Roanake, VA, I think, and is probably over 250 lbs. I'm big, and can pick up one end, but can't pick the whole thing up. It has a comparatively stout base, and has a couple of "H" stamps in the base (on the "toes" of the bick end, visible as one faces the anvil from that end). It also appears that there is a slight ledge along the base at each end to allow for a bracket mount, and the hardie hole appears to be about an inch-and-a-half square. I'll post photos when I can, but am curious if anyone would have an idea of what it might be. Thanks! -Tim
   Tim - Sunday, 05/22/05 23:03:13 EDT

That was "yay", with a full mouth. Sorry...
   Tim - Sunday, 05/22/05 23:04:14 EDT

Timex, I stand corrected re electrical wires. Use the meters. Thanks.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 05/22/05 23:20:43 EDT

It sounds like a Peter Wright.
   burntforge - Sunday, 05/22/05 23:23:42 EDT

Tim-- It might be a trip to the orthopaedic surgery rehab ward after a laminectomy to repair some popped disks-- if you keep trying to pick the damned thing up. I am here trying to coax some sciatica, brought on by hefting such things over the years, into letting me get on with my life. Do not make the same mistake. Leave the bloody anvil sit where it sits or get a cherry picker engine hoist to move it with.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 05/23/05 00:19:04 EDT

Yeah, but silver isn't all bad. In the dark ages wayyy back before penicillin, Argyrol, a non-prescription 10% solution of silver nitrate, was all that kept strep germs from moving from the throat down to kids' heart valves. It kept rheumatic fever patients alive-- and made the doc who invented it a jillionaire. It tasted awful!
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 05/23/05 00:24:37 EDT


I think Frank was referring to feeling for heat, not checking for live wires. I did (sometimes still do) the same thing when repairing electronics. I don't aactually touch the components, 'cuz that hurts. But the back of the hand, i use my knuckles, is more sensitive to heat. I just bring the knuckle near the components to see if they're warmer than they should be. Same would work for hot steel.

But for steel, I use the tap-tap method.

   - marc - Monday, 05/23/05 05:42:33 EDT

Silver wires were used in surgery because of the anti bacterial qualities. Silver nitrate was used on babies umbilical cords, may still be, I dont deliver anymore. But I did see an old man once who had used the Argyrol or silver nitrate sticks for years and he had turned black all over. Not African brown black but black like dark navy blue. Looked pretty strange. Silver nitrate is still used as a bladder flush for some infections and before my time, I think that a silver nitrate ointment was used for gonorrhea.
   John W - Monday, 05/23/05 07:55:03 EDT

RC, I've not used an anvil with the "side shelf", but it seems that I would prefer it away from me for everyday work. If I were doing multiples that required its use near me, I would simply turn the anvil around. My anvil is mounted on a steel box of sand, so it is movable.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/23/05 09:30:19 EDT

Thought some of you might be interested in this ebay item. (its not me selling by the way!) Little giants seem to be all the rage your side of the pond!! 7517393018 - dont see them on ebay to often...
   john n - Monday, 05/23/05 10:27:07 EDT

Randall, If you are thinking about using it for a gas forge housing don't, use a freon tank instead , Because:
1. It is safer . propane tanks have residual gas.
2. It is cheaper, Find a A/C repairman or company, they usually have empty non-refillable tanks around that they need to get rid of.
3. Freon tanks have about the right size chamber that won't use up a lot of fuel. Bigger is not always better.

Jim - hang in there, your post was not ignored, someone will answer your question or try to. The Guru will be back this week and he usually fields these type questions.

   daveb - Monday, 05/23/05 10:34:41 EDT

What materials/metals are best for blacksmithing, and what are there pros and cons?
   Josh Johnson - Monday, 05/23/05 11:01:43 EDT

Josh, hot metal is usually best. hot moves easier, cold moves harder, Please reread the last chapter in your class book.
We don't do homework.
   daveb - Monday, 05/23/05 11:20:02 EDT

Josh, I apoloize for the sarcasm. But a little work on your side is needed. A lot of homework questions get asked here. Your instructor has a reason for adding that question. He/she wants you to learn. That's what it's all about. If you have to work for the anwser then you will remember it easier.
   daveb - Monday, 05/23/05 11:25:04 EDT

Jackie Bell: first you really need to decide what type of renaissance shop---blacksmithing could be quite divided up due to the guild system---you know that spur makers were a different craft than knifemakers, than lockmakers, than nailmakers, than...

But in general: Diderot is way past renaissance. Look for pictures called "Venus in the Forge of Vulcan" there is a bunch of them showing late renaissance shops. "De Re Metallica" shows a lot of metal pounding stuff around the mid 16th century. There is an engraving of, IIRC, the Emperor Maximillian at his armour maker's shop---nice pic of the tools and equipment!. Also look for the "Hausbuch's" which show a lot of various crafts from renaissance times.

Most of this was gone over at the armourarchive.org research forum recently for a museum exhibit...(and use it uses the english spelling of armour)

In the late renaissance you can get away with using a double lunged bellows, fuel would be either lump charcoal or coal depending on "where" the shop was located. Metal would be real wrought iron, carburized WI and "natural steels"---high carbon bloomery blooms.

It is still possible to find tools that exactly resemble medieval and renaissance ones in pictures and illumenations. And if you have the $$ I have seen large "T" stake anvils that are spot on the ones shown in renaissance pictures; usually several at quadstate.

   Thomas P - Monday, 05/23/05 11:33:03 EDT

Irons Josh, There is some debate on this issue but modern mild steel or structural steel is the only PRACTICAL material. Wrought iron has a few minor advantages but it is no longer made. Those claiming to "make" wrought are mearly recyclying old wrought. It is expensive, difficult to obtain and available in limited cross sections. So that leaves us with mild steel.

Mild steel comes in two basic types, structural hot roll A-36 and cold finished precision SAE 1018-20. Currently there is a LOT of poor quality difficult to work structural steel on the market. When it is good quality it is fine for smithing. When bad it is good for NOTHING. Low quality steel is only a recent problem but it IS a problem. SAE 1018-20 has a narrower chemistry range and is generaly a better grade of steel. However it is now only found in CF bar (Cold Finished) bar and is significantly more expensive than HR A-36. So if you are doing a big job the more expensive steel CAN have an impact.

See our FAQ on steel product conditions.
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/05 11:40:15 EDT

Sorry about the delays folks. My laptop has died and I did not have access from the SouthEast Conference. . . Will get things sorted out ASAP.
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/05 11:42:04 EDT

Josh, the best materials/metals depend on what you are trying to do and what you have to do it with and what your skills are.

I don't know the answer to these questions so I can't answer your's.

I don't know if silver was prefferentially used for medieval/renaissance eating ware because of it's antibacterial properties---they didn't seem to have a grasp of the germ theory of medicine back then and anybody with money enough used gold or parcel gilt stuff anyway---my church uses a pewter chalice BTW.

Miles, I'll bring a rope to the next SWABA meeting and we can hang you upside down---don't even need a slow fire what with the weather being so hot! Hope you feel better soon---I've got that strong young college fellow coming over to load the truck for my 6 day forging campout...

   Thomas P - Monday, 05/23/05 11:43:04 EDT

Ken; You said,

“Most drop forging can be thought of as upsetting in that it is moving metal to a particular shape.”

NO! That process is called CLOSED DIE FORGING!

Upsetting is the process of increasing the size of stock over its original size. For example, making the end of a ½” diameter bar ¾” so that you have more stock for the next step, say for a flair for a candle cup. Another use would be to get more diameter in the middle of a piece of stock so that you have enough metal to make a 90-degree corner without thinning the stock at the bend.

You get an “A” for effort and intent but a D+ for content.
   Wayne Parris - Monday, 05/23/05 11:55:16 EDT

Hi. It's not often that I see a real anvil around here for sale. I just did this weekend, and I passed on it. I wonder if I did the right thing. The ad said "large anvil with history, $250". I called, and the seller said it had a 1.5" hardy hole, but he did not know how much it weighed. Great, I thought, a 200 lb + anvil for $250! So I went to take a look at it, and I found out why it had such a large hardy hole. It was a smaller anvil, about 150 lb, with this huge hardy hole in it. The reason why the hole was so large is that the original hole had been burned out or busted, and a new one formed by arc welding. The weld was quite large, and made in a bullseye pattern (the weldor had not bothered to grind). Otherwise, the anvil was in good shape. Nice face, nice ring (except near the big weld), nice rebound, no markings, two piece face. I could learn to stay away from the hardy hole, but given the recent discussions about welding on anvils, am a bit afraid of integrity problems with the steel face. Of course, there are those who say welding is OK, but this requires a skillful weldor, and the repairer of this anvil left a pretty rough job, so I don't know. What is the risk on this sort of thing?

   EricC - Monday, 05/23/05 11:58:53 EDT

Eric; in my book, you made the right choice. Way too much money for a buggered up anvil. Be patient, a good anvil will cross your path, espically if you attend blacksmithing events with tailgate sales. Ask everyone you meet about anvils. Ask at every yard sale, flea market or swap meet. Do not discount the possiblity of buying a new anvil. You can get them in whatever size you wish, they don't have a "history" and they will last much longer than your lifetime. When you figure you might use it for 50 years or more (I don't know your age) it is a much better thing to spend your money on than say a new car GRIN!
   Wayne Parris - Monday, 05/23/05 12:22:11 EDT

hello. i am going to be coming into $7,000.00 to set up a bladesmith shop and was wondering if you could recommend specific equipment.
i had in mind a nimba 260lb anvil to start.
what whould the best gas forge be that could handle swords as well as knives?
belt grinder?
do you know of any larger wheel wetstone grinders? are there plans out there to make a large wheel wet grinder?
-nate of dragonhead forge
   nate - Monday, 05/23/05 12:39:43 EDT

Blacksmith at the mining camps

I have an anvil on semi-permanent loan that came into my hands from a miner here in the cascades. The anvil(200 pound range) belonged to a blacksmith, who ended up going back east after some time out here, and left all of his equipment. I'm curious what type of work the typical mining camp blacskmith would do, and what sizes of stock they would work. Any ideas?
   - Tom T - Monday, 05/23/05 14:25:52 EDT

Setting Up, Spending Money: Nate, It sounds to me that you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you don't have a clue what tools you need. This is a disaster in the making.

First, in modern cutlery shops (1700's up) grinding has been the major shaping operation. Even a forged blade needs the decarburized surface removed and making laminated steel eats up more steel (even in forged blades) than stock removal. So the most important tools are grinders, grinders, grinders.

Belt grinders are the primary tool of the modern bladesmith. Then there are disk grinders (sometimes found on multi-use belt grinders). Belt grinders vary from the big industrial 4" wide models to the popular 2x42" grinders with contact wheels and even little 1" wide belt drinders.

Most bladesmiths have 3 or 4 grinders in their shops (and no wetstone wheels). You could easily spend your wad on nothing but grinders.

Then there is buffing equipment. I find I need at least 4 wheels to cover general work and I would think this to be true of bladesmithing as well. Buffers with 8" wheels can run around 3600 RPM and those with less than 6" around 5400 RPM.

Forges are a non-issue among anyone that knows what they need or ar doing as they can be built easily. Swords are never heated full length to forging heat so a smallish forge will do. In most shops there are different size forges for different size projects.

Heat treating equipment can be expensive and is critical to superior work. A piece of steel is no better than the care that goes into its heat treatment. Its the high temperature measurement tools and controls that cost money.

Then you need a good small drill press, band saw. . . If you are going to make laminated steel (Damascus) then you need a good power hammer, hydraulic press or McDonald Mill.

The tools I recommend you purchase IMMEDIATELY are ALL the books by Jim Hrisoulas and Wayne Goddard. Waynes $50 Knife Shop book and Cable Damascus Hunting Knife video will save you YEARS in tool development and learning (see our book review page). See also the plans for the McDonald Mill.

After you have studied all these and thought about the exact type of bladesmithing you want to do THEN start making a list of the tools you need. You will find that the money does not go far and a used $250 anvil will do the same job as a $1500 anvil.

Remember that the most important tool is between your ears.
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/05 14:53:37 EDT

Mining Camp Anvil

Tom, typicaly they would be dressing everything from hammers and drills and shovels. Hammers and drills become mushroomed and must be cleaned up. Drills dull and must be sharpened. Shovels wear and must be trimmed. When rock is quaried rather than blasted then wedges are used in large quantities. A crew of six or eight men would keep a smith busy and a larger crew would require an smith and a helper.

   - guru - Monday, 05/23/05 15:00:07 EDT

Anvils with "History" A good documented history is valuable to a museum or researcher IF the tool is of some importance or value but of little use otherwise. An anvil with a significant repair and a "history" that doesn't include who, how and why the repair was made is about as iffy as you can get. Besides the bad repair/mod there is a question of verasity. . .

A couple years ago a fellow on ebay was selling his "great, great grandfathers's" anvil that was "old when his distant patriarch bought it. . ." Sounded like a great history. However the type of the anvil was a modern farriers anvil that did not come about until the 1960's. About 40 years old. . .
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/05 15:40:57 EDT

Draconas; That is great news. The best way to earn and keep trust with your parrents is to be straight up and honest with them.

If you get hurt (and you will many more times) tell them and get proper treatment right away.

As a parrent, I would rather have my son get hurt, tell me how it happened and seek treatment, that way we can learn to keep it from happening again instead of hearing a lie that can be seen through, a situation in which nothing is learned.
   Wayne Parris - Monday, 05/23/05 15:54:05 EDT

Hi Folks

I had a saftey related issue over the weekend, and it fits right in with the burn topic.I went to the localtruckstop/propane depot to fill my propane tanks. I have two ten gallon tanks and one twenty gallon tank. They were all filled and I went home and put them away. My shop is an open air shop. I fired up the forge and started to work.All of a sudden the relief valve on one 10 gallon tank opened up. I shut off the forge and quickly grabbed the tank moving it far away from the forge, cracked the valve to relieve more pressure and that stopped the over flow. This is the first time that has happened to me in more than ten years of forging with propane. The tank was not near a heat source or in direct sun, and I am very glad my shop is outdoors. Any theories?

Just a heads up, this stuff is dangerous.

   blackbart - Monday, 05/23/05 16:09:03 EDT

Blackbart; Just a guess but when you fill a tank, the expansion of the gas causes the tank to cool. Lower temprature equals lower pressure. If they over filled the tanks at the station then they warmed up to air tempature, you could easlily have an over pressure situation. You should NEVER try to get that last little bit into the tank. I have had to stop attendents from over filling tanks for me. They like the nice round gallon numbers when they ring you up at the regester.
   Wayne Parris - Monday, 05/23/05 16:17:57 EDT

Propane Pop-off" Blackbart, This happens ocassionaly when the old sytle cylinders are overfilled. The NEW cylinders should not do this.

By the way, the propane is cyrogenic and where there is frost from rapid discharging you can get frost burned just as bad as from heat. My brother in-law had his entire palm burned from improper use of a CO2 fire extinguisher. . .
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/05 16:19:07 EDT

Eric if you need an anvil and the face is good I might go $100---cause it's been "re-worked" (check face for thickness---they might have ground it smooth and *thin*)

I have an anvil that's has a very nice face although it is broken off at the heel---I put hardies in the post vise. It's over 100# as it sits and I paid $40 for it in Columbus Ohio about 5 years ago. I use it as my leave outside or loaner anvil, (currently with the new Patrick).

   Thomas P - Monday, 05/23/05 17:02:40 EDT

You know, we recently lost Jim Wilson, and have seen what a trememdous impact that has had among the smithing community. So I just want to take this moment and say thank you to Jock Dempsey, for this wonderful site. I have learned so much thru this site, from Jock and the others that frequent it. I am absolutley amazed at Jock's knowledge, and if he doesn't know the answer, someone else here probably will. I learn more than I need for the simple smithing that I do, but I still enjoy learning of the other aspects of smithing and metal working that I may never attempt. And thru this great site, I have "talked" to many people, and have even met some, such as Jock, and Rich, and Paw Paw. And I want to thank Jock for that, and for having this site to carry on the great tradition of blacksmithing and the sharing of that knowledge. That is why I am a CSI member. I can help pay back the help that I recieved from this site, and by helping to support this site, I in turn help others.
   Bob H - Monday, 05/23/05 17:35:54 EDT

Wayne, Guru,
I thought over fill was part of the problem, and it is an old
style tank.
I didn't think about the cryogenic aspect though.
   blackbart - Monday, 05/23/05 17:37:34 EDT

Eric: I agree with Thomas P. Take over a bathroom scale and then offer him $.50 per pound to start, but no more than $.75 per pound due to damage. Yes hardy tools can be held in a vise, but they are often awkward to use then. He he balks suggest listing on eBay to see what others think it is worth.

If the hardy hole is the only concern you might looking into finding a piece of thick wall (say 1/4") tubing with a 1" inside diameter. If the existing hardy hole is 1 1/2" you might then put in a short length of the tubing and weld around it on top and bottom. If the welder knows what they are doing, and semi-skilled with a grinder, it might be made to look almost original.

Another alternative is to make a set of shims to reduce the 1 1/2" to the size hardy shank you use.

Up to you to determine if the cost, plus repairs, are worth while.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/23/05 17:44:28 EDT

We have a project which is requires several hundred feet of edge beveling. Are there any techniques, tricks, dies etc to get a hand beveled look with the power hammer, Or am I just being lazy by not wanting to do it by hand. We have an eastern european 70lb pneumatic hammer Thanks

   Scott Griffiths - Monday, 05/23/05 17:45:36 EDT

As Wayne Pharris noted a drop forge usually uses closed dies. NOT always, but usually. I have seen open die drop forges, and seen closed dies used as open die. We used to forge 12" round corner square billets. Move them into the hammer with a set of hung tongs, and release the tongs. The hammer man would then attach the second set of tongs, and drag the 1500 pound billet back to overhang the edge, and draw out a 4" tong hold. Then swing around and fit set #3 of tongs and use the impressions to make the forging.
I have seen very large shafts etc cogged out on a hammer with flat dies.
The upsetters we have are used to put the flanges on truck axles mostly, But we do gear blanks where about 4' of 3.5" billet becomes a 18" long gear blank with a 16" wheel in the middle. Now thats an upsetter at work. We also put a 22" flange about 4" thick on a 5.5" shaft. By the way, thats 5 hits max!
   ptree - Monday, 05/23/05 17:54:03 EDT

I am a 54 year old amature blacksmith but have been around it all my life. I am trying my hand at damascus steel knife blades. I have found that after etching the blade, it is covered with lots of bright specs that does not seem to be in the pattern. I think may this is due to carbon migration, but I am not sure. I used W2 and 1010 mild steel and etched in ferric chloride.
   Jesse - Monday, 05/23/05 18:20:23 EDT

Shop tip: Most of the work I do isn't to close tolerances, however one person wanted a replacement leg post bench bracket to precise measurements. Double checked the cuts and when assembed. He sent it back saying it wouldn't fit the shaft. Double checked again and still OK. Then I used a square and found I was off by 1/8" or so. Tracked down problem to the retractable tape measures. Every one in the shop had slop in the end tip which caused cuts to be off between 1/16" and 1/8" or so. I peened down the small rivets and will be much more careful when using them in the future.

I have also relegated those with both fractional and metric markets to the vehicles. Much too each use the metric side markings and be off on fractional measurements.

OK - when the ends are put on railroad spikes is that upsetting or forging?
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/23/05 20:01:24 EDT

Ken-- I have had the same problem with tape measures. When I worked construction in the early 1950s, they simply were not allowed on the job (!) for that reason. You had to use a folding wooden rule. I came up with same remedy as you did, tightening the rivets. Interestingly, one of the deceptive tapes is a Starrett, usually synonymous with precision. (The "solid brass" Starrett belt buckle that came with the tape attracts a magnet. That should have tipped me off, I guess, that all was not well.)
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 05/23/05 20:33:17 EDT


I was about to peen the rivets on my tape, when I realized the slop was there for a reason: when you hook the tape on the edge of something, the end pulls out the thickness of the vertical part of the tip. Butt it against something, and it pushes back in the same distance. If I'd peened the rivets, it would only have been accurate used one way.

Of course that's not to say they're all accurate, or even most of them. When it's critical, I measure from the 1" mark (and hope I remember to subtract).
   Mike B - Monday, 05/23/05 20:47:47 EDT

Mike B: Well, at least I'm wrong consistently.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/23/05 21:08:31 EDT

Mike, In Aerospace, it was common practice to "burn an inch" or not use the end of ANY scale unless it was certified true. It is not done so much today as most precision measuring is done with lasers and inferometers (sp?) or Theodolites but there is still the occasion when we need to "burn an inch" it is the only way to get good measurements from less than accurate scales.
   Wayne Parris - Monday, 05/23/05 21:12:19 EDT

Ptree, I stand corrected, thank you! There are indeed times when drop hammers are used with open dies but the most common use is with closed.

Ken, the slop in the tape measure is there to allow you to get a "accurate" or consistant measurement between inside and outside dimensions. The total slop on the end of the tape should be equal to the thickness of the "hook" on the end of the tape. This will get you close but you need to burn an inch or use a tri-square and hard scale to get the best results.
   Wayne Parris - Monday, 05/23/05 21:18:46 EDT

Ken, Do you mean "upsetting or drawing" in your previous post?

Francis Whitaker was reputed to have never used a tape measure. He used a metal folder, but I was told that he never folded it. He said that folding it would loosen the fitted joints by wear.

Over the years, I've gathered together a few metal folding rules, four made by Lufkin: 1 spring steel 72"; 1 spring steel 48" with fixed "hook" on one end; 1 aluminum 60"; and 1 spring steel 2' single fold. The English made (or still make) a 2' single fold of brass manufactured by Rabone Chesterman. One of my favorites, a non-folder, is the Lufkin yardstick of spring steel, very handy.

There is the zero centering rule, which is not absolutely necessary, but is pretty handy. One of my students made me a present of three stainless steel ones: one 1'; one 2'; and one 3'. The zero is in the center for laying out either direction from center. They are stamped "Gaebel Enterprises".
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/23/05 21:19:24 EDT

I was reading through the postings from last week and have to add my 2 cents on the burn subject. I am pretty much a naturally clumsy fellow, I have been burning myself for years now. My wife is a Natural Therapeutic Specialist and is always using me as her guinea pig for her remedies. A few months back she brought me home a Chinese burn cream. It smells strange and I cant read the package but I have never found anything that works as well as this on burns. I heal faster than ever before and the pain stops rather quickly. If anyone is interested in it let me know and I will ask er what it is called and where she gets it.
   Tom - Monday, 05/23/05 21:46:16 EDT

Tom, We're ALL interested.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/23/05 21:48:09 EDT

Here is the best source of information she had for the Chinese burn cream: http://www.itmonline.org/jintu/chingwan.htm it can be purchased at http://store.yahoo.com/maxnature/chwanhusoheb.html or any other site you can find selling "Great Wall Brand - Ching Wan Hung". Like I said before I have never used anything better on a burn
   Tom - Monday, 05/23/05 21:53:30 EDT

Folding rules & Tape measures : My Dad was a master carpenter, one of the hold outs from the old school.He used a folding 6' rule for anything 12' or under, and judging from the piles of worn out ones must have gone through a couple a year. Mike B makes a valid point about the rivets in the tapemeasure end. Check it when it is new, and periodically, because it will wear. For shop work, it is hard to beat a good quality steel rule, good ones will be within about .003" or closer.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 05/23/05 23:08:13 EDT

Rules/Tape Measures - if you want an accurate one you can special order them - as I remember, they cost about double what a home depot Starret Rule does. As with everthing else if you want accuracy, you have to pay for it. Wear is important too, when I was running the Mechanical Lab we had a 3' precision steel rule to check the tape measures with (all measurements were less than 3') when they got worn, they got retired.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 05/24/05 00:10:53 EDT

You guys are being vastly too kind to the tape makers, methinks. Hooking the hook shouldn't require a slip rivet. The edge of the hook should come down plumb to the end of the tape, no? The hook slips because it's a shoddily made piece of imported crap. I peened mine because it was not giving me an accurate measurement. It may say Made in USA but I betcha dime it's mostly offshore components cobbled together.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 05/24/05 00:26:59 EDT

Miles: If the hook had no thickness You would be corect.However the hook HAS thickness, if the inside of the hook is flush with the end of the tape if it doesn't slide any measurement made from the outside of the hook will be in error by the thickness of the hook. The hook on a good tape only slides the thickness of the hook.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 05/24/05 01:41:31 EDT

Steel tape measures have to have the sllip in the hook to allow for the difference in inside/outside measurements, the amount of slip being exactly equal to the thickness of the clip. I've used a lot of different brands and the good ones are quite accurate; within several thousandths of an inch, anyway. More than adequate for cabinetmaking and general fabricating. If you need accuracy better than that, you need to use a calibrated, fixed rule.

What ruins the accuracy of steel tapes is allowing the tape to whip back into the case so fast that the end slams against the case. This quickly elongates the holes for the slip rivets, changing the relationship between inside and outside measurements. The tape should always be slowed as the end nears the case to prevent this problem. Most experienced tape users know this, and the sound of a rookie user is that tape end whacking the case.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 05/24/05 01:46:14 EDT

I peened down the rivets in all of the tape measures in the shop I could find (which is about a half dozen, and then I sometimes have to hunt). I figure if I cut on top of the mark now I am going to be off no more than about the thickness of the bandsaw blade. While there might be a Stanley among the bunch, rest are el-cheapo imports.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/24/05 07:00:52 EDT

Well Wayne & vic beat me to the tape answer. I`ll say a rookie is someone who didn`t know what that slip rivet end is all about.(insert grin) Its really one of the basic questions a person asks/learns when they start using a tape measure working at a trade. An older Carpenter told me this years ago at the lumber yard my Father ran.

Wayne, In my trade as an Ironworker we "burn" an inch all the time even though "pretty close" is good enough most of the time. It is nice to weld a real good fit when a piece is cut right on the money!
   - Robert IW - Tuesday, 05/24/05 08:40:02 EDT

Measurements: Tape measures DO wear but I usualy lose them long before they wear out. Although I DID have one that the first 4" had the paint burned and scraped off that I carried for many years. . . It was a rare K&E brand.

All your measuring tools should be checked ocassionaly for accuracy. I am always surprised at how accurate most tape measures are but you need to check one against the longest precision steel rule you can find. I have checked them against six foot (1.8m) steel rules and found them dead accurate. THEN check your cheap rules against a good quality one. Ocassionaly the tape slips when being embossed and can be off significantly. Often what is most important is that all the rules in your shop agree NOT that they meet international standards.

Slip rivets have been covered above. The slots DO ocassionaly wear and cause problems. Note that many manufacturers supply replacement tapes so that you do not need to replace the entire rule.

I have also been surprised at how accurate antique scales are. An inch has accurately been a INCH for much longer than the metric system has been around. I have checked old squares that had forge welded corners and found them absolutely accurate.

IF you are measuring anything important that is less than a foot use a steel rule or square. If the part is less than half a foot and the tolerances too tight for your vision then use a Dial Caliper or Micrometers. A good dial caliper is as accurate as most micrometers but do not read less than .001" (0.025mm). If you need that last degree of accuracy then good micrometers with a vernier scale AND the proper touch (paractice) is required.

Although I suspect that a good set of dial calipers is rare in most blacksmiths tool chests it should not be. Anytime you need accurate measurements for transfering holes or fitting parts they are almost a necessity. When working with old, odd or hand made anything the dimensions often do not fall on even values and fitting parts to them requires those bastard decimal numbers. Dial Calipers are one of the fastest, easiest to use high accuracy measuring tools there is. Note however that there are MANY cheap ones not worth having that are no more accurate than a worn out tape measure. Buy Starrett, Brown & Sharpe, Fowler Helios or Lufkin top of the line. Covered racks are better. Avoid digital.

Beyond dial calipers there are large vernier calipers, precision flats, gauge block sets and various machine shop measuring tools that you may or may not need depending on the class of work you do. If you have a lathe and or a milling machine in your shop you should also have a samll precision flat and the associated measuring tools as well as dial indicators.

See our iForge demo #122 on squares. They are often out of square and need to be corrected. Framing squares have various scales that can cause a LOT of trouble if you do not understand and recognize them. Those 1/10ths can look a LOT like 1/8ths and 1/12ths a lot like 1/16ths!

Also note that if you have dual metric english scales in the shop that your employees understand the difference. I had one that did not and built an inch dimensioned part to centimeters. . . (about 40% scale). Expensive and STUPID mistake. It was the employees tape measure.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/24/05 10:26:11 EDT

RR spike knives- They are popular because of all the different twists & decorations, which is why folks collect them. The way to get a longer handle and better blade is to either "steel" the spike or split the end and forge weld a blade of whatever steel you choose. Grind to suit your tast.
Ken, The USA anvils are of cast iron made in Anniston Ala. There were a bunch of those aso's, at Madison, some of which were used in the beginners classes. Also a number of them for sale by the tail gaters. They do have a round horn as opposed to the Chinese cast flat horn aso's.
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 05/24/05 10:27:22 EDT

Ron: What Postman at the conference?
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/24/05 10:41:53 EDT

Hello Guru,
During the operation of one of our drilling stems in the Delayed Coker Unit the stem was bent. This is a 6" diameter, 0.63" thick and 1535" long pipe. Material with the following composition: C: 0.16-0.22, Mn: 1.3-1.6, Si:0.10-0.5 and Vanadium 0.10-0.16. We would like to know what would be the best procedure to straighten this stem, the angle of the bent is aprox. 15 degree. Do you recommend Rose budding?. Any advise or diferent procedure to perform this task?
Our site is in Venezuela.
   Pedro - Tuesday, 05/24/05 11:31:23 EDT

RE: Mining Camp Anvil

Tom&Guru: Where I'm from ("Mother Lode" of CA) picks were sharpened on the anvil. When I was a kid there were lots of broken-off pick tips out in the rocks that had been used as chisels. After the pick was sharpened it had to be hardened/tempered. Often not tempered right, tips broke off. All the tips have been picked up now, I only have one from the old days.

My anvil is an old mining camp anvil, around 100+#, fished out of a creek where it lived for a long time, judging from the rust. Considering the country, it probably passed through a ghost town site in the heyday of the Gold Rush before it ended up in the creek. Sandblasted the crusted rust off, ground off the mushroomed edge, smoothed (a little) the face with a belt sander, just remember to work around the divits. 150 year old English Joshua Wilkinson anvil, works fine.
   - David Hughes - Tuesday, 05/24/05 12:16:31 EDT

I have noticed many people talk about tailgait anvil sales, i was wondering where these usually occur, and if there is a convension of sorts coming up soon in the area of calgary alberta, ive looked on google and another site and havent found one, i was wondreing if its mostly word of mouth between blacksmiths, also what would be a good company to buy for an all around anvil, mines so old and dented i cant tell what company it is and my work comes out rippled because of the dents on the face, i dont want to grind it down because its very deep holes and i need a new one, i got this one from a teacher and it had been used for 20 years in a mechanics shop and all metal was cold when it was hammered, no actual forging.
   Draconas - Tuesday, 05/24/05 12:49:23 EDT


One handy little tool is the 1-2-3 block, I get more "what the !@#$" comments and looks when I pull my set of 1-2-3 blocks out of my toolbox to check a measurement.

A 1-2-3 block is just that a hardened ground block of steel 1 inch by 2 inches by 3 inches. My set has tapped holes so it can be fastened to something or have something fastened to it.
   - Hudsonl - Tuesday, 05/24/05 12:56:28 EDT


One handy little tool is the 1-2-3 block, I get more "what the !@#$" comments and looks when I pull my set of 1-2-3 blocks out of my toolbox to check a measurement.

A 1-2-3 block is just that a hardened ground block of steel 1 inch by 2 inches by 3 inches. My set has tapped holes so it can be fastened to something or have something fastened to it.
   - Hudsonl - Tuesday, 05/24/05 12:56:42 EDT

Ken, I don't think so; I didn't see him that I know of. I saw Jock, but he sorta stands out.

Does any one know the bearing specs or better yet, Timkin #'s for the ball bearings in a Champion 400 Blower?
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 05/24/05 13:03:20 EDT

Timken Bearings-More than likely, Timken is no longer making the same bearing that was used in the blowers. As bearing technology has advanced, bearings have become smaller and different shapes are sometimes used so that a 100 yr old bearing and a modern one for the same applicaton are much different. What I would do is get the bearing to be replaced and take it to a hardware store (ACE in my area has some bearings) and see if you can find a match. Alternativly, replace the bearing with a bronze sleeve.

   Patrick Nowak - Tuesday, 05/24/05 13:28:46 EDT

The bearings in a Champ 400 are loose balls running between two races. I don't know what you will do for the races but the balls are common and easy to get at most any bearing house. They are 1/4" dia. I think.
   Wayne Parris - Tuesday, 05/24/05 13:46:42 EDT

I'm looking for ways to prevent warping of 14 guage stainless steel sheet metal.Or, once warping has occured, how to straighten it as closely back to normal as possible. Any information you could give would be appreciated. Thank You,David Fraza
   David Fraza - Tuesday, 05/24/05 15:29:32 EDT

Ken-- There is bad news and there is good news. First, the bad news is, we are wrong and the brethren are right. Alas. Yup, the Starrett catalog says the ends are actually made to float that way, for "accuracy" on inside and outside measurements. Now the good news: no need to try to drill those rivets out so as to get the tip to float again. Nope, you can get a replacement blade for your 3/4 or 1-inch blade. Not me, though. That tip rattling and jiggling around down there saying one thing one minute and something else the next was just maddening. I peened the little buggers and I am glad and proud I did and I'd do it again.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 05/24/05 15:32:14 EDT

Draconas: Again, you have a blacksmithing group located in Calgary. You really need to be asking this type of question to them as they are the experts for that area.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/24/05 16:28:49 EDT

I have a forge question i have a new tire rim and its center hole is raised, should i fill in the area around it so that it makes a IVI type shape and so the air passes through all charcoal, ide fil it in with river bottom clay or dirt, also can i dig a hole and just put my tube attached to my blower in the ground, cover it up and have the tube at ground level sticking up so i can just set the rim on it , it would be on dirt and there is nothing flamable around. if this wont work can someone tell me another good way to set up this forge,
   Draconas - Tuesday, 05/24/05 16:39:33 EDT

David Fraza; carefully place the sheet between the polished surface of two granite surface plates and leave there for eternity.

You really haven't give us enough info---are you heating/welding the metal, standing it on edge against a wall, how is it getting warped? What are your tolerances? How big are the sheets? etc

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 05/24/05 16:59:34 EDT

To Martin and Thomas: From the bottom of my heart, I thank you both for the reality check. I attended the first weekend of the fair, and I got some great ideas from a couple people there, as well as finding out more about what my real job there is. My primary job at the fair is to pound on hot metal, make lots of noise, and draw customers for our wooden swords. We will also make wall hangers by order only, but they'll be the nice polished aluminum blades. Thankfully, I've had more time to search on this great site for more information, as well as meeting a guy that apprenticed for a couple years himself who is going to help us out and give us ideas from time to time. Thanks again, and sorry it took me so long to reply.
   Kirk - Tuesday, 05/24/05 17:55:39 EDT

Using my cut off tool:
Using the method of striking to one side of the tool works okay, but the cut off part tends to be a projectile as Adam pointed out. I can foresee possible damage to a finished, or partially finished piece, using this method. I prefer cutting part way through from four directions and twisting off (for now, at least).

I have read through your post regarding a radius on the bottom of this tool several times, but I don't really understand it. I intend to use this tool only in the vise, even though I designed it to fit in the hardy hole of my ASO, and cutting by hand. Is this radius something I should be concerned about?

And another question.
The city in which the shop I work at is located has recently passed an ordinance which forbids the use or storage of any material containing lead. We have close to a ton of various sizes of 12L14 which must now be disposed of. Is this stuff hazardous to forge? Or should I not volunteer bringing some home?
   Ano - Tuesday, 05/24/05 21:40:26 EDT

Draconas: Did you contact your local smithing group that Ken so kindly gave you the information on? START there. And make sure you have read and reread the FAQ's on this site. So many of your questions have already been answered in the FAQ's. Now YOU need to bust your butt and get out there to meet and greet your local smiths.
   Bob H - Tuesday, 05/24/05 21:44:07 EDT

Ano - 12L14 is hot short - it will give off lead fumes while being reheated for forging. In addition to the lead it intentionally contains a high level of sulfur to mak it easier to machine (Another reason it's hot short) Personally, I'd avoid it like the plague, unless I was doing some sort of screw machine work. But then, I'm just a metallurgist who was working on alternatives to lead in free-machining bar stock in 1980. :)
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 05/24/05 22:46:13 EDT

Ano: Someone needs to ask that cities planners what kind of car batteries they recommend, and what to replace all the machined brass & steel, and die cast potmetal parts with. Somewhere the ordinance is going to have to give. It is easy for an uninformed group to pass laws without understanding the scope of what all they cover. That ordinance would also cover window glass, fishing sinkers, curtain weights, wheelwheights, most ammunition, sailboat keels,stained glass windows, anything soldered prior to about 25 years ago, printed circut boards, and a lot of stuff I havn't even thought of. That material may give trouble forging, but would be great for alot of other uses around the shop.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 05/24/05 22:56:44 EDT

David Fraza,

Are you welding this stainless? If so, we need to know the alloy, the process, and the desired result in more detail.

Basically, if you are welding sheet metal, you need to minimize the heat affected zone (HAZ) to control warping, which occurs when different areas shrink differing amounts due to cooling from different heats. Some welding processes affect the metal more than others, in terms of transferring heat outside the immediate weld zone. Different alloys have different rates of heat transfer as well.

TIG welding will generally produce the narrowes HAZ, and thus have the lowest amount of warping. With proper clamping, pre and post-heating, the warpage should be very minimal, and easily corrected by counter heating in stress zones. In some cases, pre-stressing parts before welding can offset the anticipated warpage due to welding. In my limited experience, this is way more of an art than a science and you haver to experiment and analyze your results and adjust accordingly. If you have a production run to do, this is time well spent.

Give us more details on your exact situation and we can provide better guidance.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 05/24/05 23:05:38 EDT


What is that city going to do about all the x-ray rooms where they use lead aprons for shielding? Replace them with a couple of feet of concrete? (grin) I suppose they can make all the cars use Lithium-ion batteries, but the cost will increase the price of a car by a few thousand dollars.

This sounds like another example of shotgun legislation enacted by well-meaning but scientifically ignorant city fathers. Pretty soon these Latter-Day-Naders will pass legislation prohibiting life because it is always proves to be fatal in the long run. (grin)
   vicopper - Tuesday, 05/24/05 23:19:20 EDT

Floppy Tip: As a shipfitter and a steelfitter, I was taught by the Elders to never trust the end of any tape. If I was using the tape to measure with, I'd start with the 1" mark, with the tape anchored to the plate by either a helpers' thumb or a stout spring clamp, and add the inch at the other end. I'd set my trammels (beam compasses) the same way. Some of those were 20' long. (You swing some BIG radii in a shipyard.) One good cussing out by the head loftsman, and you'll never forget to add that inch again.
   3dogs - Tuesday, 05/24/05 23:46:48 EDT

3dogs-- Write on, bro'!
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 05/25/05 01:03:17 EDT

3dogs: That helper is where the confusion often begins. Some guys trust the end of the tape, some burn an inch, & then a few like to start at the 1 foot mark. Nothing like getting the sixteenths right but being off a foot. One of My friends is a union carpenter foreman, He has a lot of these stories to tell.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 05/25/05 01:35:59 EDT

Thanks for the support on the anvil issue, Wayne, guru, Ken, and Thomas. I figured as much, especially after reading the FAQ on Anvilfire about the risks of careless large scale welding. Probably filling pits with TIG as recommended by Ernie is OK. The seller told me that I was missing out and there were plenty of eager buyers. His ad dropped out pretty soon, so he must have sold it. I have still had good results from my small railroad track anvil, except for fullering/drawing heavy stock. But I have some ideas on how to deal with that.
   EricC - Wednesday, 05/25/05 02:27:32 EDT

EricC: At the moment someone is selling a package of a homemade coal/charcoal forge, anvil and vise set (6181724204). Take a look at how they made their anvil. Interesting design. Would not be that difficult to weld on a hardy hole.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 05/25/05 07:47:08 EDT

Vicopper---what about the bullets in police guns???

Thomas sneaking through on his way out of town
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 05/25/05 10:54:55 EDT

I'm not familiar with the Rockwell Scale. How much of a difference does a few points make. Nimba anvils are tempered to 50 and Peddinghaus are 52-54, is that a negligable amount of difference or not? Will the Nimba easily deform in a few years or will it last a lifetime?
   - Trapper - Wednesday, 05/25/05 12:00:56 EDT

Woohoo! I didn't post it twice!
   - Trapper - Wednesday, 05/25/05 12:01:30 EDT

I am looking for a good source to buy 1 1/4" and larger high carbon aircraft cable for making wire damascus knives. My local hardware store can order it, but I have to buy larger quantities than I need (100' or more). Any ideas for an online source?

Thanks in advance,

   Mike - Wednesday, 05/25/05 12:03:02 EDT

The Nimba is a high grade alloy cast steel. The face of the anvil will mark if directly struck hard with a hammer that is not properly dressed. Cast steel anvils tend to be a bit softer than a forged anvil. The Nimba will certainly last a few life times. I would not hesitate to buy one. I have an anvil made from the same material. The Peddinghaus is the only drop forged anvil produced today and is made in Germany. It is a little harder and does not mark as easily. The Nimba has a greater mass for moving material . It is really a personal preference. You can mark the face of any anvil with a missed blow. A few points does make a little difference. It is really nothing to worry about. I personally like the Nimba better myself. I hope this helps. Jock the "guru" posted more detail on this very subject within the last few weeks. You may look through past posts.
   - straight-way blacksmith - Wednesday, 05/25/05 13:03:58 EDT


On the aircraft cable, consider ordering the minimum and then offer what you don't use on eBay at some much per foot to at least recoup your associated costs (and don't forget and eBay & PayPal fees).
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 05/25/05 13:39:05 EDT

Mike- try Spruce-- www.aircraft-spruce.com/
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 05/25/05 14:24:52 EDT

Friend has had a Nimba anvil last several years, uses it daily to make a living, loves it. My cast steel Swedish Paragon is going on 75, looking good.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 05/25/05 14:29:03 EDT

When you are looking for cable, make sure it does NOT have a hemp core. You want only steel in your core or you will be taking the cable apart to remove it, then you will have a hollow core, not good.

You might try salvage yards or large equipment repair shops for used cable. You will need to de-grease it but it makes nice knives. I have made cable knives out of smaller cable and they turned out fine.

Good luck on your search.
   Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 05/25/05 14:29:32 EDT

"Burning an Inch" This works great except when you forget to ADD an extra inch. . . It is not recommended to do this with a helper as that more than doubles the chance of making a 1" error.

Measuring and 1-2-3 Blocks: I've have never had any but would not turn down a set. Very handy. I DO have an old #2 B&S Surface Grinder for precision work which is also very handy. Its full automatic with coolant system. I wouldn't have one without.

Straightening Long Pipe/Tube: This is tricky business. It does not require heat. However, it is possible to run a couple longetudenal weld beads on the OPPOSITE side of the pipe to pull it back straight. When the weld shrinks it contracts that side of the pipe or bar that was stretched from bending.

You may have to use a hydraulic press (about 50 to 100 Tons). To keep from further deforming the tube you will need a fitted saddle on the ram and fitted saddles on pivots below.

After straightening you will probably need to push a mandrel through the bend and repeatedly press that area until the flattening is removed and the mandrel will slip through easily.

When you add up the cost of shop made tooling (saddles and mandrel) you may find the tube less expensive to replace.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/05 14:40:38 EDT

Thank's all for the suggestions. I've tried smaller cable, but like the look of the knives made from the larger cable better. Personal preferance. Again, thanks for the suggestions.
   Mike - Wednesday, 05/25/05 14:45:35 EDT

Anti Lead Ordiance: Hoo Ha! Have they got a tiger by the tail! Almost all iron and steel contains SOME lead, brass and copper more. Then there are things not mentioned above like TV and computer monitor tubes which contain about 5 pounds EACH! Fuse metal, bearings and not just old paint but old fine art like oil paintings (The Mona Lisa is hazardous)! Lead solder was used on tin and copper roofs and gutter systems. Then there is Greician Formula for men. . a lead compound. Then how about the human body!

   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/05 14:48:59 EDT

Big Cable: Take a bundle of smaller cable and heat, then twist. . . Then weld and keep trucking. You will have to think about directions of twist so that everything is tightening but it should work. Much rope and wire rope is made of smaller groups. . . Six or seven pieces with a core works well.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/05 15:17:52 EDT

Hi Jock,
Just like you to know that I'm back after a serious illness, and had to buy a new pc after my previous one was stolen while I was in hospital.Apologies for not being in touch sooner but I've had a heap of problems with this new computer. Anyway, would you like me to pick up from where I left off and contribute some more?
Ray Smith
   Ray Smith - Wednesday, 05/25/05 15:52:53 EDT

First-time poster with a finishing question. I have checked the archives without success.

I'm putting together an open fire cookset for myself, patterned after some that I've seen on the web, and I would like some suggestions on finishing. What should I finish with that will withstand high heat and bonking around in my trunk? Finish need not be food-safe, it's not going to touch the food, it's just a rod to hang pots from and the like.

Thanks in advance!

~Tom K.
   Tom K. - Wednesday, 05/25/05 16:12:36 EDT


I just spent a few days searching for cable. I found the real thing on line at e-rigging.com. As big as you want with no fiber cores or galvanizing. I didn't know what size I'd settle on so I only ordered 10 ft and they were still willing to sell. I got the impression they don't hear from many knife makers. LOL
   Mike Ferrara - Wednesday, 05/25/05 16:37:41 EDT

Big cable,
I get mine from the floor of the local chain and wire rope shop. Big cities will have at least one. They make chain and cable slings ETC. they often have new drops of a foot or so. Take a small knife with you, and promise a knife from the drop. The shop guys eat this up, and will generally give you all you can use. Ask the local tow truck guys where they get chain and wire rope. Another source is rigging companies. Ask them where.
   ptree - Wednesday, 05/25/05 18:10:16 EDT

Tom: What about just dunking the hot metal in oil after forging. Nice black authentinc looking finish. Or heat it with a torch and then oil it.
   John W. - Wednesday, 05/25/05 19:16:52 EDT

John W:

Thanks for the reply! I've done that with other small pieces, but this will have three pieces that are over four feet long. Sounded like a hassle to heat in the forge and then apply oil, needing multiple heats. Also too large to stick in the oven.

I was wondering if there were a no-brainer finish for a longer piece that sprang to anyone's mind.

If I did go that route, will the oil burn off over time when it's over the campfire, or will the thin coating just stay put? Will I have to re-oil often, after every use, or just occasionally, like every few years?
   Tom K. - Wednesday, 05/25/05 20:01:51 EDT

Tom K.
you could paint it with hi temp paint. No matter what you do it will need redoing periodically.
In fact if you are going to be in an area with lots of folks painting it black and then painting the last inch or so on the ends with a disitictive color helps you locate your parts.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 05/25/05 21:14:08 EDT

I need to make a stair rail that has a 3/4" sq bar that is punched for the vertical rails to pass through. Since the 3/4" is parallel to the stringer then the axis of the punched holes is not perpendicular to the 3/4" sq bar. I know how to slit and punch when the hole is perpendicular to the axis but how do you do it at approx. 35 degrees? I could make the 3/4" square out of two pieces of 3/8 x 3/4" flat that have offset bends done at the correct angle.

Any thoughts. Thanks for your help
   Steve Bronstein - Wednesday, 05/25/05 21:50:54 EDT

Tom: There are baking enamels, Brownell's the gunsmith company has them. Spray it on and put the piece over a bbq or use a propane torch on it.
   John W. - Wednesday, 05/25/05 22:12:04 EDT

Steve Bronstein, After many years of smithing, punching at an angle is something I haven't tried yet. Not ashamed, though. Otto Schmirler has a section on page 76 which describes his method. He first slit/drifts a round hole, straight through. Then he holds the hole, hot, over a heavy steel block, the block having the desired angled hole through its thickness. In the book, the block is held in the vise and is nearly the width of the vise jaws. The drift, going through the vertical hole will find the angle in the thick block and force the drift and workpiece hole to take that angle. Reference: "Werk und Werkzeug des Kinstschmieds" (Work and Tools of the Artsmith), Otto Schmirler, Ernst Wasmuth, Tübingen, 1981. ISBN 3 8030 5040 5.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/25/05 22:21:18 EDT

John W,

I would suggest wire wheelling the pieces after forging to remove any scale and crud, then cold blue them using Brownell's or Birchwood-Casey gun bluing compound. After that, wash thoroughly, polish lightly with OOOO steel wool and wipe with corn oil. A couple passes with a torch or forge burner will heat it enough to begin polymerization, which will continue while it sits in your trunk. It will be a mite sticky for a few days until it all polymerizes completely, but it eventually becomes a varnish. When it begins to show degradation from use, simply wipe it down with some oil after use, while it is still warm.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 05/25/05 22:30:29 EDT

Tom K.

You can use high temp car motor paint. It comes in a multitude of colors and temp range. You could also use "BBQ High Heat" paint. It tends to come in only two colors( silver and black, both flat) but I have seen it in other colors( spec. order $$$$). Your best Bet is to compare prices at Wally Mart, Hommie Depo. If all else fails you may want to call a Painter's supply store, ie: Sherwood Willams, Monarch ect. The sales rep should be able to help you select the best paint for the general temp range and use. Also be careful about the 'x-gas'( the gasses that come off a paint when heated or " burnt ") some of the paints give off some pretty nasty stuff, so should not be used. Other than that have a good time and paint away!
   - Timex - Wednesday, 05/25/05 22:31:13 EDT


Thanks, I have it in my library and should have thought to go there first.

   Steve Bronstein - Wednesday, 05/25/05 22:31:29 EDT

Steve Bronstein,

If you drill the end points of your slits, the punch will follow the angle of the drilled holes. You can make a simple drilling jig for use with a drill press or even a hand drill, by first cutting a step in the jig block and the complementary angle of the hole. That gives you a "flat" place to start drilling.

Use a small drill, such as 1/8" or 3/16" for the end holes, and use a narrow rectangular punch with rounded corners to help it follow the hole angle. You will need to make a stop block for the work piece, or hold it in a vise to punch at that angle.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 05/25/05 22:38:48 EDT

angled rail.
COuld you make the tennon at the correct angle?
   Ralph - Wednesday, 05/25/05 23:07:43 EDT

Angled Rail: Steve, Ralph is right, the NORMAL method is to make shoulders on the pickets at the correct angle with tennons perpendicular to them. This is done by bending, forging and then finishing by filing. It is a lot of work but it is much less than making angled holes AND still needing to make angled shoulders on the pickets. See our iForge demo on riveting.

We have also done this in production on a lathe. The bar is bent, then the tennon machined with a "box" tool in the chuck of the lathe and the picket supported on an angle on the carriage. This makes the tennon and the angled shoulder in one operation. Both the top and bottom can be done this way.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/05 23:55:11 EDT

Steve Bronstein-- How about cutting the mortises with the oxy-acetylene torch? Assuming the 3/4 square is the top rail, the bannister, the shoulder on the tenon under the rail will hide any slight overage in the hole, as will the riveted head of the tenon on top. I've done this on the top rail of gates and it works, looks good.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 05/26/05 00:02:30 EDT

Lead in storage. Our community is considering a similar ordinance banning lead in storage. It is silly, as you would guess, but it is not exactly what is conveyed by the above messages. The key is "in storage". So, bullets and wheel weights don't fall under this rule, since they are technically in use (the bullets are there to keep the guns ready). Paint does not either, since it is "being used" to keep the metal protected. The big thing is that computer monitors that are not plugged in and are not inventory are considered to be in storage, and therefore will be in violation of the law after something like 90 days. I don't know if this law was adopted, but it drew a lot of protests from small businesses. They may need the monitor later, and it now costs money to dispose of them.

Going to do some more team forging soon, yay! The guy who hosts these activities has a good spot. There is a lot of coal smoke, but the neighbors do not mind. Some come by and take a few licks.
   EricC - Thursday, 05/26/05 02:32:34 EDT

Much thanks to John W, vicopper, and Timex for answers. Great forum, guys!

~Tom K.
(who needs to join CSI...)
   Tom K. - Thursday, 05/26/05 08:21:08 EDT

Tom K;
As to your tag line (who needs to join CSI), it is easy, just go to the navigation bar and go to the sign up page. It will only take at the most 5 minutes. Go ahead, you will feel better about youreself!
   Wayne P - Thursday, 05/26/05 08:43:17 EDT

Building Smithy (just getting started- took class with museum 5 yrs ago). Anvil appears indeed to be a Peter Wright of >250# (thanks for the opinion), but layout has me bothered and my books don't address the question very well.

I am right-handed, so I would think I would want to use my Champion 40 hand-crank blower with my right hand (hold tongs in left, move with half-turn to anvil, grab hammer with right hand and pound, rather than switching tong hands). Usig a clock-face to help my description, this suggests the anvil in an open 8' doorway at 12:00, the forge at 3:00, the blower at 4:00, and perhaps a slack tub at 10:00 and a bench across the back wall (centered at 6:00). I have a 12x12 area to work with, and we are still in planning stages. I plan an overhead smokestack of rather stout 12" dia steel a/c ducting from a restaurant, with a larger sleeve to get it through the roof (with insulation between), and for the top of the chimney as outlined elsewhere. ANY thoughts or comments very welcome!
   Tim - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:09:10 EDT

Lead in Storage: These kinds of laws need to be very well written and fairly specific. Laws of this sort that are open to interpertation by a local beaurocrat can be a disaster.

Angled Rail: The cleanest and easiest combination is to drill the holes on an angle (start with end mill) then make a straight tennon and file an angle to fit. IF you want swelling at holes (frog eye) then drill undersize and drift hot. However, there will be some change in length when you do this that must be compensated for, usualy by trial and error. If you have a similar parallel rail using a different method then it will need to be carefully matched to the top.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:12:08 EDT

After checking out the machinery's hand book section on austenite, martensite and cementite I find I have a crying need to understand these terms better. Is there a publication which illuminates this subject with light that I can actually see. I was always told good teachers make complex subjects easy to comprehend and I was hoping someone could do so.
   Marty Illers - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:16:34 EDT

Another question deals with lighting - do I EVER want direct sunlight? My thought is that a north window or doorway would be best, so as to give lots of light but not too much. And should I swap from green safety glasses to clear as I move from forge to anvil? OK, I'm kidding - but should I use green all the time, or just when welding?
   Tim - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:27:39 EDT

Angled rail: Were it me I would lay out the top rail and then cut the vertical rails to fit in place. Then drill straight through the top rail where the holes are needed. Now use a jig to hold the vertical rail in place and, using the same hole, drill through it at an angle. Not put in your tenon, leaving a space to be backfilled with weld on the side of the tenon. If done right you have a perfect shoulder and there should be no sign of the tenon on the vertical rails.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:29:05 EDT

I am going through enough drill bits now to justify a sharpener.

1. Can coated drill bits be resharped or will it just make them into ordinary bits (not that they aren't of use when dull).

2. Can anyone recommend a good, relatively idiot proof, sharpener for say 3/16" through 1/2" drill bits? Source please as well.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:31:44 EDT

Angled Rail. Steve, I was simply attempting to provide an answer to your question. Howsomeever, since other have chimed in with alternative methods, I think the easier way would be to avoid the hole and tenon altogether. You could shoulder, thin, and bend a decorative "tab" to the correct angle and rivet it through the handrail. Another solution would be to hot split the top of the baluster with scrolls going both ways of the center, one lowered and one elevated to provide the correct angle, again riveting through. Fritz Kühn's German books show a lot of this kind of work. One of his best is "Stahl Gestaltung" (Steel Formations). It's written in German, but you can read the pictures.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:39:01 EDT

I am interested in publishing a 'how to' book on blacksmithing items for sale at arts & crafts fairs. Any recommendations for going about finding someone to author such a book as far as the illustrations and instructions? Compensation would likely be a royalty payment for each copy sold but could be a one-time flat fee. I retain copyright.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:43:54 EDT

Organization: Tim you will be more comfortable with the blower to the left (off hand). You do a LOT with your right hand while cranking or operating the bellows. Fire maintenance is one, adjusting the steel position is another. Traditionaly this has been the forge arrangement for centuries. There are many good reasons for it.

Your hammer normaly rests on the anvil ready to pick up. Steel is most often removed from the fire with the right hand and transferd to the left as you rotate to the anvil. I make it a practice to swing the steel down low and raise it to the anvil. This is a safety precaution to prevent turning and hitting someone that has gotten too close with the hot iron. Although I worked alone most of the time I now often work at a teaching forge where there may be two or three others working near the same forge. Teach them to do the same.

You left out the most important tool location, the vise. A blacksmiths leg vise is permanently anchored for best use so its location is critical. You can move the anvil in most cases but not the vise. The vise is often used more than the anvil for hot work so its location is critical. Normally it wants to be within a few feet of the forge. Some folks like one mounted ON the forge.

A power hammer is often placed in this work circle and one MAY be in your future.

Be sure there is adequate distance between anvil, forge, and vise to work from all sides comfortably. A good friend of mine recently bolted his anvil stand down before mounting the blower on his forge then found that there was not enough room to pass between the two. The entire area became completely bolexed when there is a helper cranking the blower as they were virtualy sitting on the anvil with nowhere else to go. Same for the individual. . .

When forge welding with a blower or bellows you will find that you want to provide a very gentle blast right up to the last second when you remove the work from the fire. If welding two loose pieces you will need tongs in both hands and the right/left issue is different. When doing the dropped tongs method you want to have the smaller piece in your right hand, balance the two on the anvil, drop the tongs and pick up your hammer and make the weld. In this case both hands are doing critical work but the right is doing slightly more complex work with both tongs and hammer.

When making work area layouts use circles of 28 to 36" (712 to 914 mm) for work positions WITH clearance. 40 to 48" (1015 to 1220mm) is a convienient reach distance, more with tongs. Paths between work positions should be the minimum width plus clearance. If you draw a couple layouts like this you will get the idea. There is no ideal arrangement and everyone has different equipment. Put you vise on the corner of a weld platten or a gas forge on wheels and everthing is different in each case.

DO remember that forge fires are hot and you will not want to stand close to one in warm weather. I have often seen arrangements where the smith could not get a decent distance from the fire. One step or a pirouet from tong distance is fine as long as there is room to move otherwise. I have also seen bellows arrangements that put the operator between forge and anvil. This is a disaster for the smith and worse if there is a helper.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:45:57 EDT

Ken S,

I sharpen my drill bits by hand, but it is an acquired skill that took lots of tries to learn. Several people I know highly recommend the "Drill Doctor" bit sharpener, available at most big box hardware stores and online fom various sources. I'm sure they are available on eBay. They tell me that it comes in more than one grade, and you should definitely get the "professional" grade.

You can sharpen TiN coated drills just fine. The coating is just there to reduce friction and galling. Once sharpened, the coating is no longer on the cutting edge or heel, and so what remains is mostly of value only in keeping the bit from rusting while sitting around. The underlying steel is the same as in uncoated bits in most cases. In the case of el cheapo imported bits, the TiN coating is the selling point and the underlying bits are often poorly heat treated. I recommend buying only high quality industrial bits from places like MSC, McMaster-Carr and Grainger, and expect to pay several times as much as you would at Harbor Freight or Home Depot. Good quality bits are well worth the money, and certainly well worth sharpening.

If you make a lot of holes of one particular size, it is handy to get several bits in that size so you can quickly change when one begins to dull. Using a dull bit can ruin it to the point it cannot be sharpened.
   vicopper - Thursday, 05/26/05 09:56:50 EDT

Shop Lighting: This is a difficult subject. For centuries smiths have worked in low light in order to judge heat better. I worked many years outdoors and prefer good lighting but direct sunlight is difficult to work in.

Good diffuse dailight (those famous Northern Exposures) are the best. A ray of bright sunlight in a dark shop can be blinding. However, good daylight in a bright shop is wonderful.

I have often commented that the problem people have when arc welding is insufficient ambient light. In good diffuse daylight you can see well enough to read newsprint through a #12 filter lens. In this light there is no stabbing around blindly when trying to start an arc or find your weld position.

Note that filter lenses are generaly only needed for gas forges. However, I have used them (#2) with coal and have found they still work well in low light, even in the dark.

Good lighting and good ventilation both work better with high ceilings. Walls and ceiling painted white help lighting.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/05 10:02:06 EDT

Shop Lighting: Opaque panels also work well in a metal roof. Most of the time I don't even have on the lights in the shop.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 05/26/05 10:15:09 EDT

Tim. Building Smithy Plan. If you're facing the long, working side of the hearth, your left, width side of the hearth should be the "wall side", so you can put long pieces through the fire. It's embarassing to put a long bar through and have it bang into the wall. Still facing the hearth, as the guru says, the blower is on the left. The anvil will be on your right, normally at right angles to the hearth front. An average distance from center of fire to center of anvil is five feet, farther for heavy work. Some smiths put the anvil behind them.
The leg vise should be within easy reach. These three tools will often form a triangle, one with the other, not necessarily equilateral.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 05/26/05 10:15:56 EDT

Copyright: Ken, Copyright always originates with the author or creator of art works. Publishers normally have limited rights that end after a period sufficeint to sell the agreed number of printings. When a work is created "for hire" the publisher pays the author one time covering all expenses related to the work as well as creative fees. The publisher then owns the work and may copyright it in their name.

Royalty deals are rarely works for hire. The reason is that if the publisher fails to do a good job selling the book then the author is out all their time and creative effort with no compesation. Only a fool would agree to such a deal. When the author owns the work if the first publisher fails then they can go to another OR publish the work themselves.

If an author is known to have the skills to produce a work then the usual deal is an advance (against future royalties) in order that the author can live while producing the work. Royalties kick in after the advance is paid off. However, most publishers find ways to cook the books such that most authors never see a royalty payment. So authors know they must get enough in the advance to live on PLUS a profit to live on until the next book deal. . . It is ALMOST a work for hire but has a promise or future riches. . . And this is where agents and copyright lawyers come into play.

So why a book on basics? There are a dozen out there, some good, some not so good. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/05 10:21:26 EDT

Tapes and rules:

I was taught tp never use the end of any rule as a reference point if the result really mattered. I use a hook rule for carpentry, and most smithing, but not for precision metalwork or even fine cabinetmaking.

I then measure by the difference between rwo readings. For convenience one reading is usually set to 1" or 10 cm.

if you use them, the hooks on rules must slip the thickness of the hook.
   John Odom - Thursday, 05/26/05 10:30:47 EDT

Sharpening Drill Bits: I have yet to see anything less than a top of the line industrial sharpener than did better than hand grinding. Unless the geometry is perfect (like new bits) the efficiency of the bits drop and they often are likely to break or burn up. Broken bits and taps of ANY size cost less to replace than the cost of one ruined hole or piece. Replacing suspect bits EARLY saves money on the long run.

I will hand sharpen bits over about 3/8" (10mm) and toss and replace anything smaller. If drilling many holes it pays to buy multiple bits and toss them as you go.

Most modern bits come with split point sharpening and MUST be resharpened this way. The reason is that regular bits have the last 20% of the drill web thinned in order to reduce the size of the "dead center" or chisel point. Split point bits do not have the web thinned and MUST have that split point sharpening. This requires a special grinding wheel (usualy diamond) that must be dressed often to keep its sharp square edge.

When edges chip on bits I will modify the tip angle slightly to sharpen the chip and keep the split point. This usualy lets you sharpen the bit by hand ONE TIME. After that it is time to toss the bit OR have a professional sharpen it.

I'll resharpen bits between 3/8" (10mm) and 1/2" (13mm) this way once then TRY to resharpen at the normal angle. If the bit has a thick web designed for split point sharpening only then I toss them. Bits over 1/2" are usualy cost effective to have a professional resharpen. Note however that true professional tool grinders that can or will replace a split point are rare and expensive.

Note that most bits available from most of the hardware chains are crummy amatuer stuff (especialy the TiN coated bits). They are made of poor grades of HSS and or poorly heat trreated. Their life is typicaly 10% or less of professional bits that cost no more. Good bits are made by Consolidated and a few others. Buy bits from an industrial machine shop supply NOT a hardware store. You will be amazed at the difference in quality of cut and life.

Also note that bit life varies greatly with the application. Hand drills rapidly wreak bits and the best NEW bits are required for any job. Good drill presses that run the proper LOW speed for drilling the given material are the easiest on bits and get many hundreds of times more service than hand held.

If you sharpen bits by hand keep a good bench grinder dedicated to this purpose and a diamond dressing point to keep the wheels crisp, smooth and straight. A drill sharpening guage will help keep bits equal sided.

When bits slip in the chuck the soft shanks get torn up. It is best to clean up the raised burrs with a smooth flat file. If bits slip often or wobble in the chuck then it is likely that the chuck jaws are worn and need to be replaced or the chuck replaced.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/05 11:12:51 EDT

Here comes one of those "now in my day" moments that we geezers are so fond of. Manual drill sharpening wasn't optional, it was part of your training as a Millwright or other mechanical tradesman, so you DID it. Now, when I take a drill to the grinder, I can get an audience. I get brilliant comments like, "Whaddaya do THAT for? They got new ones in the crib."
   3dogs - Thursday, 05/26/05 11:26:48 EDT

RE: Cable source

I do not know how common this is, but where I work they test (stretch and bend) rebar to destruction to see if it meets specs. They also stretch (pre-tensioning?) cable to destruction. Out of a lot of ten pieces they might test one and toss the rest. Seems that cable (thick strands, no core, probably good steel) might work for pattern-welding-knife-making. Go check "Geotechnical Services and Material Testing" and go dumpster diving. If anywhere near Sacramento CA I can supply same, pieces 2-3 ft long.

Sunny and hot in the Central Valley of CA. In August we will be crying for days as cool as it is now.
   - David Hughes - Thursday, 05/26/05 11:37:59 EDT

3dogs, Almost everywhere I have worked I have done the drill sharpening because few others can do it or do it well.

It is not difficult to learn, it just takes practice like anything else. AND it helps to look at factory points. However, knowing how to sharpen bits does not solve the thick web problem. You CAN thin the web manualy but it requres many different width and radius wheels that are usualy not available

The thick web problem greatly increases the pressure necessary to make chips and also increases the heat created by the bit. The combination makes them almost worthless. This is ironic since the split point greatly reduces the necessary feed pressure and lowers heat generation.

In the early days of split points the webs were thinned as always. THESE old bits can be resharpened. However, that was 20 years ago or more. . . Note also that the thick web problem also occurs when a bit has been resharpened too many times and more than 10% of its length used up.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/05 11:46:43 EDT

Just thought that I would put in a few cents... (my $0.02). My dad (a professional jeweler) uses a LOT of small drill bits, many less than 1mm. He manually resharpens his own bits on a fine sharpening stone -- often a carborundum stone or Arkansas. This may be easier for some people with relatively small bits -- I've been known to do it for 1/8" bits. Just thought I'd toss that into the fray.
   T. Gold - Thursday, 05/26/05 13:35:36 EDT

Sharpeng drill bits by hand. This skill is worth its weight in gold (makes no sense, I know). It's not hard but it does take some practice and its hard to follow a verbal description - someone has to show you. Most of the holes one drills for smithing dont need to be that accurate. You can easily learn to sharpen bits good enough for general smithing. I practised on my cheap Harbor Freight set.

I tried one of those Drill Doctors but it didnt cut the relief angles - the bits were sharp but they wouldnt bite. Other people have reported good results.
   adam - Thursday, 05/26/05 13:45:01 EDT

Post vice identification. I recently bought a nice post vise, 65lbs, 5 inch jaws, stamped on the lower front jaw, either 1908 or 1898?. Overall appears almost identical to a Columbian. Underneath the diamond shaped bench mount is cast a large 4 and the letters Th. I know Columbians have a C in this spot. Any idea as to the manufacturer?
   - Gary - Thursday, 05/26/05 13:49:46 EDT

What does "Anti" in "Anti-Borax" mean? Are these fluxes better than anhydrous (oven dried) borax.
   - lsundstrom - Thursday, 05/26/05 14:11:22 EDT

Drill Grinding Gage. "Back in my day", this geezer noticed that in a well run shop class, a drill grinding gage could be one of the projects. Pretty simple to make of sheet steel or brass. Measurement lines could be scribed to show cutting lip length. Getting the 59º angle would require the use of a protracter and perhaps a bevel square. A guy would learn how to carefully file, as well.

If the instructor knew "come here from sic'em", other such projects could be a bevel square, center square, washer cutter, tap wrench, etc.

Gary, It sounds like a Columbian. I have one where 1917 is stamped on the movable jaw. Most Columbians had a relatively short and open box-end protruding from the back of the fixed jaw...as opposed to the good looking, lengthy "solid box" patented in England by Peter Wright.

Larry, Anti-Borax is the company name, and they put out quite a few flux compounds. The company name is old and was used to encourage one to purchase the Anti-Borax products. I met the former owner of the company in Ohio in the 80's, and he told me that the Anti-Borax fluxes Climax, Cherry Heat and E-Z Weld all came out of the same vat. Oh, he got a big laugh out of that, because one smith would SWEAR, say, that Cherry Heat was better than Climax.

When I lap weld, I use both. I apply borax first, because it glazes the surface and gets tacky. The the E-Z Weld is applied and it better sticks to the work without falling off. Daryl Nelson of Eatonville, Washington, showed me that one, years ago. Tiny iron swarf is supposed to be part of the E-Z compound formula. When the swarf melts, you're about ready to hammer.

When I fagot weld, I use borax alone.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 05/26/05 14:54:06 EDT

Guru: any chance of you illustrating the drill bit sharpening with one of your excellent pencil drawings. Some of us (well, me) are a bit thick and do better with pictures than words.
   John W - Thursday, 05/26/05 15:46:49 EDT

John W,

If you can get hold of a copy of the textbook for the Henry Ford Trade School, published around 1920, it has an excellent description of the process.

I've been sharpening my own by hand for years, everything from #80 and up. As Tyler said, the ones from #80 up to about #30 I do on a stone. The remainder I do on a grinder.

For those heavy-webbed bits that you can't get a good split-point on, I sometimes sharpen them to a brad point for sheet metal and wood work. A set of brad point drills is very handy for sheet metal when you want really round holes.
   vicopper - Thursday, 05/26/05 16:29:34 EDT

Thx Frank for your reply.
Is "Swarf" iron filings? And is Anti-Borax mostly borax?
   - lsundstrom - Thursday, 05/26/05 16:40:04 EDT


On books, this might not be of interest to most so they can skip over it.

Available is different than availability. Yes, Centaur Forge (and probably others) carry some beginners books, such as how to forge weld) but you have to go to them to find them. They are 'available', but their 'availability' is limited. Old saying is "Trying to do business without advertising is like kissing a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but no one else does". I don't wait for people to basically have to come to me, but advertise to them, in particular on eBay.

Author payment is, as you noted, flexible. When I acquired the rights to "101 Metal Projects for the Novice Blacksmith" from Al Cannella I had two options. 1. Pay a modest per book sale royalty to him (or his estate) for twenty years. 2. Pay one lump sum for all rights. I chose the second option so I don't have to keep count and will totally avoid the possibility of heirs agruing over who is entitled to the royalties. I reprint Robb Gunter's Quality blacksmith... sign on a royalty basis. Here I just paid him a lump sum for all I had printed (prepaid the royalty). Should I get another batch printed, it will be the same payment arrangement.

Mr. Cannella's book is a good example of the 'available vs abailability' concept. Two of the buyers have mentioned they had been looking for this book for some time. It was self-published and pretty well only available from him in person at meetings or conferences. I do not recall seeing it advertised by him. With my acquiring the rights to it, I have enhanced the availability.

On purchasing books from others, even with a substantial wholesale discount, I still have to pay for shipping to me so, unless I resell them for substantially more than my supplier, my return on investment is so small as to make it not worth doing for the most part.

Can the market stand another basic or how-to projects book on blacksmithing? Done right, I believe so.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 05/26/05 17:05:14 EDT

Dave B,
I have only used the readywelder spool gun on batteries. Contact readywelder and ask them. I believe the newer guns will run from ac as well as dc welding sources. Ready Welder Corp: (800) 935 3644 customer service or (541) 660 0620 Ron Knapp tech service of ready welder. The gun itself comes in a briefcase. The power source is the bulk and weight: batteries or a welding source. I did not have easy access to 220 volts, and the 110 machines could not source enough current. I charge the batteries from 110, although dual batteries(or triple) in parallel can be charged driving a vehicle, then the batteries can be connected in series to weld(disconnected from the vehicle).
   - ironspider - Thursday, 05/26/05 17:17:56 EDT

Sharpening drills,
I've read lots of different articles, how to's etc on sharpening, and just never could do it. Finaly I got the bright idea to LOOK at a brand new sharp bit.
I took it to the bench grinder that was turned off and went through the motions needed to get the shape. I now can sharpen drills.
   JimG - Thursday, 05/26/05 18:25:10 EDT

Has anyone used the Whisper Momma open end forge? I am thinking about purchasing one, but $500.00 is a lot of money. I would like to hear someones personal exsperience with this forge. Does it use alot of propane? Can you forge weld with it? Thanks, Kelly
   - Kelly - Thursday, 05/26/05 19:35:55 EDT

I use a Whisper Daddy forge with the open end ports. A 20 gallon propane tank (grill size) lasts 5 hours running at 10 lbs with three burners. It gets hot enough to do forge welding. It has a bigger area to heat inside than the momma. I am very happy with mine. You may want to buy some fire brick to put in the bottom to protect it while forge welding. Any gas forge will eat holes in the bottom brick from the flux used in the welding process. You should run your forge between 8 & 10 lbs during general forging and 12 lbs for forge welding. I forget the formula on propane usage and burners. I think you gain 1 1/2 hours of use with a two burner forge. I hope this is of some value to you as I am not an expert just use one myself.
   - straight-way blacksmith - Thursday, 05/26/05 19:58:23 EDT

I have a Peter Wright anvil with the following marks on it: "0 3 24" and then on a line below that, "H". What do these marks mean?

Many thanks.
   Norm - Thursday, 05/26/05 21:27:58 EDT

Anvil marks.
0 = hundred weights ( 112) in your case 0
3 = quarter hundred weight in your case 84
24= pounds.
So total is 108 pounds.
Not sure about the 'H'. I do not remember seeing one on my PW
   Ralph - Thursday, 05/26/05 21:57:12 EDT

Drill Sharpening: If You are going to do it by hand, Jim G has the right method - look at a new one, and make the old one the same.A drill grinding gage helps You get the point in the middle and keep the angle corect, the amount of clearance must be judged by eye. A sharp cornered wheel works to dress the web similar to a split point by hand, but You cant go all the way to the center. The drill doctor generates the same geometry as a comercial grinder, but the parts are plastic and probably need to be treated gently. The best one they offer is suposed to grind split points. They use a plated diamond wheel, when it wears out it needs to be replaced, no dressing. I dont have one, but it looks workable. General tool offers a die cast fixture that mounts on the bench beside a bench grinder, and does bits from 1/8 to 1/2". These work OK, but need to be adjusted for diferent size drills, and are far from idiot proof.Any web dressing has to be done by hand, allso they won't do taper shank or blacksmith drills as the diameter must be the same on the point and shank.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 05/26/05 22:40:04 EDT

Thank you for the heads-up on the 12L14. I rather suspected as much, but I wanted to be sure before I passed up the opportunity for such a large supply of stock.

Anti-lead ordinance:
I looked into the ordinance that has been passed by the city. This ordinance focuses expressly on the use and storage of lead, or materials containing lead, for manufacturing purposes within the corporate limits of the city.

Anyone want a whole bunch of 12L14? I can get it cheap!
   Ano - Thursday, 05/26/05 22:43:27 EDT

Is it possible to have too much of an air blast going into the fire? Outside of not heating the work as quick as it should, would it show in the characteristics of the coke? I couldn't afford to buy a centaur firepot and all the attachments that go with that so made a style of a centaur round firepot with a clinker breaker. (I already had a 3" dia. tee joint to connect to this) When I get to working on things the coke gets a bit cakey. I break it up to keep it loose but it will go back to the same situation. I know to keep a clean fire by clearing the clinkers out but it seems to get cakey maybe sooner than it should. Am I just cranking too much air to the fire, poor fire tending, or might it be the tuyere opening is too big. The tuyere opening is 2 1/2" dia. with the clinker breaker taking up much of this space. The coal is Pocahontas #3 and should be just fine. Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.
   Chad - Thursday, 05/26/05 23:27:21 EDT

Chad, hard to say for sure but it almost sounds as if you are getting go coking action.
If the work is not heating as fast as it was, I would think either clinker or a clogged air inlet.
Just my 2 cents
   Ralph - Friday, 05/27/05 00:15:59 EDT

Any advice on buying a used leg vise? I need one and have a good surrogate shopper who frequents estate sales and farm sales. Any information on what to 'watch out for' would be helpful.

   sriver - Friday, 05/27/05 00:20:25 EDT


Part of it depends on your smithing level. You can score some great deals on post vises that lack springs or mounting plates (the "I'd buy it but all the parts aren't there" approach), but you need to be able to make new ones. If you're not at that level, look for one with all the parts.
Loo for the obvious things, repairs, cracks and such, but the most important thing that is not immediately obvious is the screw. Open the vise up wide. Does the screw look badly worn? More importantly, does it work well? When I go to an auction, I always carry a couple small pieces (1-2")of my commonly used stock sizes with me and cinch 'em down in the vise. If it closes tightly, and doesn't slip, I'm interested. If not, I move on.


By cakey, I assume you mean a semi-solid ring of coke around the heart of the fire? It happens to me too when I use my electric blower. My guess has always been that it's a combination of air flow and inattention to the fire while I'm at the anvil (I am a really slow worker). When I see the ring, I can usually bet that the center of my fire is hollow as well (results in heavy scale, and crummy heating). Cutting back on the air helps. Working the coal towards the center more often helps too.

   eander4 - Friday, 05/27/05 03:52:07 EDT

My Sincere thanks to all the elves who make things work here and a big thankyou to Jock and Dave.
Proudly brought to you by the color blue and the letters CSI.
Help support this site and join, I did so should you
   Tinker - Friday, 05/27/05 05:50:32 EDT


I don't know when mild steel replaced wrought iron, but wrought iron was very easy to forge weld. I suspect many things were used as flux, including, I have been told, powdered mud daubber nests. A blacksmithing oldtimer gave me his recipe of three parts borax, two parts baking soda and one part table sale by volume. Mix and heat in oven at about 300 degrees until it cakes. Break up and crush back to powder (I used a hand cranked food grinder). When it no longer cakes store in airtight container. It does work but perhaps not any better than straight borax.

While common cleaning borax (e.g., 20-Mule Team) can be used straight out of the box most users seem to like to dehydrate it as described above.

I have long heard the rumor the original Anti-Borax was little more than bandsaw cutting residue added to borax. When the metal approached forge welding temperature the cuttings began sparking (rather than the metal), letting you know the weld was ready to complete.

I haven't done a forge weld in quite a while, but used the oldtimer's recipe mixed 3/1 by volume with bandsaw filings. (I now subcontract my welds to Miller.)
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 05/27/05 06:47:20 EDT

Blue is a good colour for you Tinker, (And for everyone else too)
Sincere thanks to you for ponying up the brass for CSI membership
   JimG - Friday, 05/27/05 08:41:46 EDT

I can see that a word about coal fires and tending them is in order. Good coal will coke easily. When it cokes, it sticks together. What you are talking about (cakey coal) gluing it’s self together, IS A GOOD THING! The best coal will even coke the fines together. The sticking action keeps the coke from blowing out of the fire with the blast from the blower, as coke is much lighter than the coal it came from. STICKING TOGTHER IS A GOOD THING!

To work a coal fire, after it is lit, you add fresh coal to the OUTSIDE of the fire. You control the size of the fire with water so that you are not wasting coal. The green smoke you see when starting a fresh fire with “green” coal are the impurities being burned off. When the coal is added around the outside of the fire, it heats up and gets a chance to burn off the impurities without contaminating the rest of the fire. You push the fire together toward the middle from the outside so that you have a fresh supply of clean coke to fuel the fire. This is a continuous process, adding coal, pushing the fire together, watching for clinker and keeping the fire from becoming hollow, is done EVERY time you put the metal back in the fire.

There are three layers in a coal fire. Starting at the top, you have the carburizing layer. This is where there is not enough oxygen for the coke to fully combust. Next down is the neutral layer. Here the coke is fully burned and you have the most heat. Down by the twere, you have the oxidizing layer. Here there is an excess of oxygen and the chances of burning your work are much higher. The blast from the blower also cools the work and you have less heat here also.

A good coal fire needs to be about 6 inches deep. You must work in the middle layer of the fire for the best heating of your work. Do NOT chase the fire down to the twere as it burns down with poor fire control. This will only take longer to heat your work and increase the chances of burning it. Welding is also done in the neutral zone. You should have a good layer of coke over the project to protect the metal from the oxygen in the air.

Good fire tending is a habit that needs to be developed and worked on constantly. This is why I like to start my students with a gas fire first. They don’t need to worry about the fire while they are trying to learn to have good hammer control and understand what the metal is doing every time they strike it. I have a coal fire they can use after they get the basics of forging down.
   Wayne P - Friday, 05/27/05 09:08:35 EDT

I was thinking on the way home last night - Adding carbon to iron is what makes it steel, right? Are there any other iron alloys where carbon is not added? What would they be good for?

This is just a curiousity question. I have absolutely no practical application for this knowledge. Unless, of course, I can make a sword with mythical properties with it.
   - Marc - Friday, 05/27/05 09:38:54 EDT

Iron Alloys, Materials Science: Marc, Without extensive processing to elemental iron almost all manufactured iron has a little carbon. For some purposes very low carbon iron is made. It usualy contains some silicon and a little manganese. These are very small amounts used to make the iron more ductile.

It would be possible to make an iron/elemental metal alloy without carbon but it would serve little purpose. Carbon is what makes iron into steel and gives it great strength.

There are other non-ferrous alloys that LOOK like steel and are quite tough. Monel (there are various types) is a trade name for corrosion resistant Copper/Nickle alloys. Some contain iron and others do not. There are also Chrome/Nickle alloys that are very hard and heat resistant.

However, most of these alloys have faults that prevent them from being better than steel except in very specific situations.

If you want to study these alloys you need to start with a readily available reference like Machinery's Handbook and then one of the ASM references, probably the Metals Reference Book. The manufacturers of these alloys often have more engineering data. Then you need to compare all the engineering properties including modulus of elasticity, notch strength, percent of stretch and so on and UNDERSTAND what they mean when applied to your application. It would be a good start toward being a metalurgist or engineer. . .

Most "mythical" items of great strength must contain mythical materials otherwise what you describe in fiction may be known in reality and not meet its purported properties. Writers of fiction constantly make up fictional "elements" unknown to man in order to have fantastic properties (IE all the Star Trek materials). The only catch is that the periodic table is filled, there are no gaps. The only room is beyond the end in very heavy unstable elements that very likely exist in dwarf stars and black holes but nowhere else and under no other conditions. Here we jump from metallurgy to astro physics.

However, there is ONE hope for the "fantastic". There is no metallurgical science that can predict the properties of new alloys. We still live in the "heat it and beat it" era of metallurgy. So there are still many possibilities.

THEN there are the ceramics and powdered metal materials and combinations of the two. These are purely synthetic substances that cannot exist in nature, requiring modern high tech industry to produce. There are no natural rules for their properties as there is for alloys. Again we are still in the trial and error stage of development and it is a hugely exciting area of R&D.

Both these areas (alloying and powdered metals) are expensive to research but are the future of an advanced society. They are the reason we needed things like the defunct super colider and aero-space projects. Pure science and space exploration push material limits and force us to develope new ones.

Those trying to sell Ronald Regan and Congress on the Super Colider kept harping on finding the origins of the universe. This was a poor argument made to people that believe the Bible answers all these questions. The value of the super colider was the research into magnetics and superconductivity that would give their creators a lead in technology. The folks working on the magnetics had made some tremondous discoveries and were on the verge of important breakthroughs that would translate to improved transportation and possibly sustainable fussion power. It was all abandonded. . . a tremondous loss.

Research into new technologies has always paid.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 10:49:55 EDT

Carbon, Life and Technology: There have been many science fiction writers try to conjure up worlds without carbon and life based on other elements such as silicon. However, many brilliant scientists and authors such as Issac Asimov have worked on this problem and found that there is only one element that life can organize around and that is carbon. In fact the protiens that make up DNA form naturaly from hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. The spiral structure of DNA is a natural result of the angular bond in these protiens. So not only would life anywhere in the universe be based on carbon it would also have DNA very similar to what we know on Earth. It is a Universal constant.

Carbon is defined as both metal and non-metal and exits in every state other than liquid. It is the building block of life, the most important solid fuel element, is found in its pure form as soot, graphite and diamond the hardest natural material. It is no wonder that it along with iron resulting in steel is the the most material of technology. Given the natural distribution of elements not only would life on another world have DNA like ours but their technology would be based on the same materials as ours and even possibly be very familiar at same stages.
Universaly Perfect Tools: Besides common things like the hammer other tools like a twist drill bit would be the same. It would be made of the same material, have the same cutting geometry and same path for the ejection of chips. It is a universaly perfect tool.

So when you learn to hand sharpen a drill bit you are also learning the technology of civilizations on other worlds IF they exist. . and so it is with much of blacksmithing. There are basics that are truely universal.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 11:20:11 EDT

welding flux...
With the help of some of the folks here I've worked pretty hard on my welding in the last year or so and although I have 2 stick welders anytime I can use a forge weld I do. I just like it.

I've had ok results with plain borax on faggot welds but with other welds I've had better results with borax and ez-weld on top. Thanks Frank Turley.

Last night I welded up my first billit and on the advice of Jim Hroulas in his book "The Pattern Welded Blade" I used borax mixed with sal-ammoniac. I only folded the stack one additional time so there isn't enough layers to get a great pattern but I wanted to run through the whole process before spending a week on a billit only to find out that I messed up in the beginning. I cut it up, polished the pieces and find no trace of weld flaws. In fact even with an eye loop I can't see any signs that it was ever anything but a solid block of steel. The really good news is that I didn't melt down the forge or anything but man was it hot in that place!
   Mike Ferrara - Friday, 05/27/05 11:53:05 EDT

See, Mikey, we knowed ya could do it. Good on ya. But then, with a name like "Ferrara", how could you NOT do it.
   3dogs - Friday, 05/27/05 12:01:55 EDT

lsundstrom, Swarf can be iron filings, drilling chips, residue from lathe work, etc. I'm threatening to get a bumper sticker made: "Have you swept your swarf today?

I don't think that Anti-Borax fluxes contain mostly borax.
The company's fluxes are chemical compounds, and there would be an attempt to keep the compounds a trade secret. Clean, quartzy sand can be used as a flux. I've been told that Mount St. Helen's fly ash can be a flux.

In the UK, many blacksmiths do not use flux for forge welding. The keep a clean fire and they will often wire brush the pieces to be welded. They use a relatively clean fuel called "breeze" which I understand helps quite a bit.

As an aside, I have not found that forge welding wrought iron to be that much easier than welding mild steel.

Another thought. If you have a good reducing fire, you will have coke covering the workpieces. When forge welding, you will not always see the welding sparks above the fire, because the top coke acts as an obstruction. Furthermore, you can weld without ANY sparks separating from the stock. It's called a light welding heat or a sweating heat (no sparks).

Leg Vise. It's always good to look for one that has a 5" jaw width or bigger. You want a stout vise for hammer "rebound". Also you'll put a wide piece in to bend and it may bump into the box. This can even happen with an 8" vise. Vise jaw caps of angle iron are helpful.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 05/27/05 12:21:34 EDT

Guru - great post on Iron Alloys, Materials Science - I'd add only 1 new development in metals, which I've read about in the ASM monthly magazine but have no direct experience with - that is metallic glasses. If processed correctly a number of metals can be produced in a non-crystalline (i.e. glass state). I think there are some iron compounds among them.
   - Gavainh - Friday, 05/27/05 12:36:17 EDT

Vise Shopping: There are good leg vises, worn leg vises, partial vises and badly wrecked leg vices.

I have noticed lately that prices do not vary much between good ones and wrecked ones. Wrecked vises have cracked jaws or excessively bent frames. It is common for them to bend at the screw eye and tear the wrought iron. Screws are often trashed and odd replacements used. I have never liked the feel of the replacement screws which are usualy designed for wood working vises.

Although frames can be repaired and missing springs and brackets made the screw is a critical irreplaceable part. They wear from grit (when was the last time you cleaned YOUR vice screws?) and are ocassionaly stripped. I had one I thought was good because I could close the jaws tight, however it was stripped when operating with the vice open 1/2" which is probably the most common operating range. Although the screw threads have sharp edges when new, most I have seen are worn quite round and still work fine.

I have found that even small blacksmiths leg vises work quite well as long as they are well anchored and will take a tremondous amount of pounding (within reason). Although these vices are designed to take a pounding I have seen huge 8" jaw 200 pound vises that were pounded to death. In fact this was the worse I had seen.

Blacksmith vise jaws come with very light hatching and are best when smooth. I have seen one vise where some idiot cut out the old jaws and welded in machine vice jaws with coarse 1/8" teeth. . . Although most old leg vises are made of wrought iron the jaws are faced with forgewelded steel inserts.

Lack of lubrication is common in leg vises and makes them stiff to operate. The hinge pin should be oiled with light oil, the screw and thrust washers greased with light (common) wheel bearing grease. So old vices did not have the hemi spherical thrust wahsers common on late vises. I have found that it helps on vices without thrust washers to add a couple large flat washers and lubricate well. These will bear on each other's flat surface and make a low friction bearing so it is easier to close the vice tightly.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 12:49:56 EDT

"Swarf" Generaly this is not a good choice for addition to flux as it includes materials from various sources. Grinders produce swarf that is mostly burnt iron and wheel grit. The wheel grit is usualy a refractory material that will not melt in the forge and will prevent a weld.

However, water cooled surface grinder swarf seperated magneticaly is almost pure steel powder.

Lathe chips may contain aluminium, copper, brass, stainless. . .

So there is swarf and there is swarf. . .

I have SEEN lathe chips in old welds on a Little Giant treadle. And I have had folks report here that brake drum and rotor machining chips are good additions to flux. These items are usualy ductile iron so the chips are closer to mild steel with graphite dust than to cast iron. Ask a garage that does brake work for some and you can easily walk away with a life time supply.

Commercial fluxes appear to contain fine commercial iron powder.

When welding billets for Laminated steel you want clean flux. You do not want to add unknown materials to the billet. That is why most of this type welding is done with borax, borax and boric acid, borax and flourite. Flourite is commonly used in steel production and as foundry flux and may be the "mystery" component in some Anti-Borax fluxes. Its aggressiveness is needed to weld nickle and chrome alloy steels.

Frank, the sign I like from your shop is "A bench is not a shelf". . . ;)
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 13:09:17 EDT

Fluxes and welding.
There is a member of CBA who demos by the name of Mark Aspery. He was originally from Great Britain.
In his demos he talks about the requirements for welding.
Clean fire , hot fire, flux. Then he proceeds to make bueatiful welds with out flux. After the weld he then pulls out a fair bit of clinker from the fire. And states that all that is really needed is a hot fire.
When folks ask about flux he will bend down and grab a pinch of dirt and toss it into hte air and say OK we just fluxed.

Of course we are not all like Mark. ANd it seems most smiths are a tad bit superstious, and so we have our own little rituals we follow.
   Ralph - Friday, 05/27/05 13:29:23 EDT

In Wayne P's excellent coal fire post above he mentions that you control the fire size with water. That water needs to be added SLOWLY or sprinkled onto the ares of the fire that need to be controlled. A heavy stream of water hitting a hot firepot can crack it and can also send off jets of steam. While a solid dipper or can can be used to apply the water it's probably best to have a dipper or can with punched holes to use as a sprinkler when starting out. If you like to cover the top of your fire with green coal as some of us do sprinkle the coal liberally before you shovel it onto the fire rather than wetting it down once it is in place.
   SGensh - Friday, 05/27/05 13:31:02 EDT

Holy Smokes guru! From drill bits to DNA through a black hole and back to drill bits all in one day. It hurt my tiny walnut brain just reading that!

"Join CSI and keep undiscovered alien technology alive"!

Nice fire tending advice Wayne. That's a keeper with the SGensh addendum.
   Gronk - Friday, 05/27/05 13:37:52 EDT

Okay, now I'm confused. Does the gate go on the intake side of the blower or exhaust side?
   smitty7 - Friday, 05/27/05 14:07:56 EDT

Gate. . The exhust side works best in some cases but is easier to do on the intake others. Although the logic is weird it is easiest on a motor to be on the exhust side.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 14:27:41 EDT

I thought you would like alien blacksmiths and blackholes in one. ;)

Will be on the road again this weekend but will check in. .
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 14:29:38 EDT

Nice catch. This is usually shown as I explain the coal fire to my students and in the post above, I was trying to clear up the fire dynamics for some of the newer people, I did in deed forget to mention that the water is added slowly. Your addendum will probably save many firepots from an early death. Thank you!

If you are using an electric blower, place the air gate on the INLET side of the blower, this will prevent excess loads on the blower as you are not causing a backpressure on the bades.

   - Wayne P - Friday, 05/27/05 14:55:02 EDT

Guru, I guess I stand corrected, seems like it should be the other way round to me. The inlet side is where my valve is on my electric blower. It was made for a forge and is of the vain type, not a squirrel cage
   - Wayne P - Friday, 05/27/05 14:59:44 EDT

The best place for an airgate is on the inlet side of the blower. When placed on th einlet, air is restricted from entering, and thus the blower has fewer molecules to push around (i.e., work to do). When placed on the outlet, th ebvlower is trying to compress those molecules, resulting in greater load on the motor, heat being generated, and th eside-effect of creating higher-velocity air due to the smaller outlet area.
   vicopper - Friday, 05/27/05 15:10:22 EDT

mike f, did you use a power hammer to forge the "mini" billet?? curious..
   - rugg - Friday, 05/27/05 15:12:24 EDT

blower comment: i fashioned an airgate (output side), but found that is was a tad too strong still. i put a piece of coke to prop open the ash dump...works and its "tunable"...works for me
   - rugg - Friday, 05/27/05 15:15:13 EDT


3 1/2 pound cross pien powered by my strong right arm and fueled by plenty of good home cookin! I fugure it'll take several evenings to do a complete billet. Practice should make me a little faster but it's still a lot of work...and coal!
   Mike Ferrara - Friday, 05/27/05 15:52:26 EDT

water and fuel.
I usually have my green coal in a plastic bucket and then fill with water. I usually do not need to add more water to the forge. But if I do I use a small can with a few ( 3 or 4) holes to direct the water to the coal and NOT the hearth or other metal parts.
   Ralph - Friday, 05/27/05 16:52:34 EDT

Wayne P, As I said above- excellent post. I find when writing that it's extrememly difficult to cover every detail when you are dscribing a process you are personally familiar with. I have to write detailed instructions for installation of the motorized drive mechanisms I make and it's is often a struggle for me to be sure I have covered all the details. It is just so easy to pass over something that seems routine. I figured that you'd show how to add the water if you were demonstrating it but I could just picture someone unfamiliar with the process ladling on huge splashes with bad results. Technical writing ain't easy!
   SGensh - Friday, 05/27/05 17:32:47 EDT

Hi I live in upstate new york am new to blacksmithing I have and old anvil that belonged to my grandfather, It goes about 103# and has Jourdan Mouse Hole stamped into the side. The first word is hard to read and I could have it misspelled. I was wondering about the history of this anvil and if it was related to the english company that produced anvils.
   Timothy De Sacia - Friday, 05/27/05 18:44:20 EDT

Jock, "A workbench is not a shelf".
   Frank Turley - Friday, 05/27/05 18:52:35 EDT

Not a shelf.......
I like that, who's name do I put on it when I make a sign quoting it for over my shelf...... I mean Work bench?
   JimG - Friday, 05/27/05 19:20:08 EDT

Yeah, but I've seen the photos. . . looks like my work benches. . . But it IS a good reminder.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 20:12:17 EDT

KEN- If you feel the need of a book on blacksmithing basics I really like the new one from George Dixon, "A Blacksmith's Craft". I am anxious for volume 2 to get in print, which will go beyond basics.

SHARPENING DRILL BITS. I bought the Drill Doctor and I like it. No thinking or skill on my part, but nice long spirals of swarf. The next thing I must do is get a good chuck. Allways something to spend money for.

Went to SERBA at Madison last week. They number name tags in the order the registration sheets come. I was #1. I had to explain over and over that it had nothing to do with ability, but that was obvious to a bunch of people that know me. I got a number of back issues of "Fabricator" magazine at the conference and really have enjoyed reading the articles. There is a lot for smiths in some of them. Came away with the certain knowledge that Tongs cost money and that there will allways be one more that I don't have but desperatly need.
   - J.MYERS - Friday, 05/27/05 20:13:57 EDT

Timothy, That is probably an M&H Arimatage Mouse Hole anvil. May also say warrented. Don't try to force the lettering. It is about 130-140 years old (without looking it up). Age can be more specific if you describe the logo exactly. Does it have a mouse, a mouse hole, lettering above or below that kind of thing. Its an English anvil and fairly common.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/05 20:18:27 EDT

Timothy De Sacia:

Ahhhhh Timothy. An anvil mystery. None of Mouse Hole Forge's logos look anything like Jourdan. Most have ARMITAGE on it, but don't see how it could be mistaken for Jourdan. What you may have is a special order one for a buyer who wanted their only branding, but even here Postman's book on "Mouse Hole Forge" shows them (other than Armitage) with Sheffield also on the logo. Trick to raise lettering: Lay anvil on side with horn to the right. Dust with flour and brush off lightly, leaving flour in depressions. If it still looks like Jourdan please send me a photo if possible to my e-mail address (just click on name for form).
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 05/27/05 20:24:53 EDT

J. Myers:

The next book I'm interested in publishing would be focused on forged items suitable for sale at an arts and crafts-type fair rather than one on basics. Items that are relatively simple to make and which are marketable. I have the capability to get it published and advertised but the projects are beyond it.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 05/27/05 20:29:00 EDT

Does anyone know what stores carry Vanex Break-Through Acrylic Paint? Is Vanex the name brand if not what is it? I read about this paint in the Anvils Ring. I have a use for it. I would appreciate anyones help.
   - burntforge - Friday, 05/27/05 22:02:17 EDT


Vanex is the name of the company. If you call the Vanex Inc. home office at 1-800-851-7390, they can direct you to a local supplier for Break-Through. It runs around $28 per gallon and is available in colors as well as in plain white.

   eander4 - Friday, 05/27/05 23:28:56 EDT

I was very sorry to hear of Paw Paw Wilson's passing.
I have a Trenton anvil, in pretty good shape. "Trenton" is stamped on the right side of the anvil, that is, right if you are standing with the horn pointing away from you. On the two front feet, under the horn, on the left foot vertical face, (left if you are facing the horn) is stamped "Z 154". On the right front foot vertical face is stamped "141015", very haphazardly. What can be known about this anvil?
   - Will C Bunnell - Saturday, 05/28/05 00:04:38 EDT


I read that in the Anvil's Ring, also. As you might imagine, it isn't available here in the Virgin Islands, but if it is good stuff, it would be worth ordering some shipped in, I think. We do have more thana little trouble here with rust and corrosion, due to the constant sea air exposure. Anything that will hold up to that would be a real life saver. If you get some of the stuff, could you let us know how it works out? Thanks!
   vicopper - Saturday, 05/28/05 01:28:48 EDT

Water and fuel: Ralph, you said you put the green coal in water and then add it to the fire. Do you let it soak (minutes, hours, days) or just get it wet before you use it? Just curious as I occasionally get coal that *melts* together... like glue. Gets hot enough., very little clinker but hard to manipulate.
   Gronk - Saturday, 05/28/05 02:10:02 EDT

Will C. Bunnell:

Your anvil was made by the Columbus Forge and Iron Company of Columbus, OH in 1914 according to serial #141015. Unless the weight were say 155 pounds, it is not known what the numbers to the side of it refer to. It should have a two-piece wrought iron body with a steel plate and a nice ring. CF&I made over 225K anvils from cicra 1898-1953. Additional information can be obtained from Richard Postman's book "Anvils in America", available in the Anvilfire Store.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 05/28/05 02:35:10 EDT

I have several 5 gal plastice pails that hold my coal. After i fills with coal I cover it with water.
Some smiths I know from the CBA like getting coal fines and making a slurry with it. This goop cokes nicely.

Of course the whole water on teh fire thing is to control fuel useage. When I started one of the first influences I had was a smith who used to be a RR smith as well as a government smith. Merlyn would have a HUGE pile of coal. Over the years I finally learned to only have a fire as big as I needed. Ergo less need for watering.
   Ralph - Saturday, 05/28/05 03:50:03 EDT

If I can locate it I will let you know how it works. We have all seasons here and lots of salt in the winter. Moisture changes here all the time. I understand with the salty air where you live.
   burntforge - Saturday, 05/28/05 08:42:49 EDT

Iron alloys that do not have added Carbon: L-grade stainless steels have extremely low carbon contents, in the range of .05% or less. Keeping the carbon as low as possible prevents the precipitation of chromium carbides when the material is heated. This precipitation reduces the corrosion resistance of the stainless. Pure irons do have applications in the lab and in some electrical industries but not much tonnage is produced. Manganese is used as a strengthening agent and to tie up sulfur as manganese sulfides, preventing hot shortness. Silicon is added to combine with dissolved oxygen, forming silicates, that prevent porosity in the steel from the evolution of O2 during solidification.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 05/28/05 08:48:43 EDT

where do you buy sal-ammoniac. Hot? That's where the sweat Dr. Hrisoulas speaks of comes from.

Frank and Jock et all. Thanks for the answers. I agree with swarfless welds for Damacus.

Also, "a shelf is not a trash can" should be on display in my place.

I don't use flux on simple welds but I am to chicken (superstious) not to use it when doing blades.

The best way to add water to a fire is with a garden sprayer. Point and spit.

   - lsundstrom - Saturday, 05/28/05 08:50:32 EDT


Thank You very much for the information!! It will be a great help!!
   burntforge - Saturday, 05/28/05 09:10:26 EDT

Always remember when adding water to a green coal fire to make sure there is some air moving through the fire. Adding water to hot green coal produces heavier-than-air explosive gases, and if the air blast is off said gasses will accumulate in the tuyere/ductwork. When fresh air is added, they will explode with quite a pop! I lost the dryer-vent duct to my handcrank blower that way once, and it was about as loud as a 12-gauge shotgun. If this happens with a large bellows, much damage can result.

Not trying to scare anyone, just encouraging common sense with practical advise. My ear still rings from time to time...
   Alan-L - Saturday, 05/28/05 09:51:22 EDT


sal ammoniac in block form is used as a tinning block for soldering irons. I used to see it in hardware stores and stuff but couldn't find it this time or any one who knew whatit was for that matter. My wife ordered it for me from on on-line stained glass supplies place. If you want I can ask her the name of the place but a google search should turn up several sources. Something like an electrical supply store might have it too. It comes in blocks but easily crunbles to powder. I don't know if it actually helped the welding process but it made me feel good to have it in the mix. LOL

I still don't know where you'd get your hands on flourite/flourspar though. I did find places selling it as jewlery. Do you have to buy a ring and grind it up? LOL

I love it I walk into a store and ask for sal ammoniac...ammonium chloride...a tinning block or wire rope that's not galvanized. I get told "we have soldering flux. What are you trying to do?" or "galvanized is better. It won't rust. What are you doing with it?" A bit of advice, don't tell them what you're doing. If you think they gave you strange looks to start with wait to you see how they look at you when you tell them what you're making pattern-welded blades!
   Mike Ferrara Ferrara - Saturday, 05/28/05 10:19:07 EDT

Trenton Anvil. The Trenton anvils I have seen have the weight where you have "Z154". I don't have a clue what the "Z" stands for.

Coal slurry. If the coal is about pea sized and with some fines, I will mix water with the coal, but I first build a coke fire using coke from a previous fire. Then I shovel the wet coal around the periphery making a volcanic cone, In front, I don't cone it; I leave a flat shelf of wet, green coal. Presently, I'm using coal in quite large chunks, because it is available from a feed & fuel dealer four minutes from me. I break up some of it to help start a fire. Then, I "cone up" the fire, or more properly, wall it up with the large chunks. As the big pieces get heated, they "fractionate", and are easily chipped into the sweet spot.

The fire is fed from the inside out. Pieces of coke are pulled into the heart of the fire and green coal is pulled in behind. If the cone caves in slightly, slop some more slurry on. Sometimes, with good coal, you'll get a fairly thick "coke ring". Your fire rake should have a point on it so you can chip away at the coke ring.

An early student of mine worked for a while with an elderly industrial smith. The old man would build his fire in a cavity left by packing wet coal around a 4"x4" or 5"x5" chunk of wood, the wood being about 10" long. The small "timber" was tapered on the bottom to accommodate the firepot shape as was placed vertically in the clean firepot "on the diamond". After packing and coning the fire, the wood was removed and the fire begun with newspaper and wood chips. Coke was added until a hot coke fire was dead center above the tuyere.

The circular cone is for everyday work. A lengthier trench fire can be built for taking slightly longer heats by coning the sides only. A cave fire is where the coke forms a roof over the fire and you get an oven effect.

   Frank Turley - Saturday, 05/28/05 10:19:14 EDT

Coal Slurry. And furthermore, I forgot to mention that by wetting coal, you can build up the sides of your fire four inches or higher and steeper than the angle of repose thereby getting a deep fire, which is desirable.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 05/28/05 10:29:32 EDT

Straight-way blacksmith,

Thanks for the information.

   - Kelly - Saturday, 05/28/05 11:27:16 EDT

isn't methane one of the gasses given off? If so it is less dense than air.
But it WILL explode, and destroy a great bellows. Do not ask how we know. (smile)

I had always thought the gasses were heavier than air too. BUt after one of our new smiths forgot to tend the forge after adding a LOT of green coal we learned otherwise. The bellows filled and then on his first pull, instead of doing a short clearing pull he did a full range pull. The methane caught fire and traveled up the air tube to the bellows in the rafters. It was strong enough that the 1 1/2 inch screws holding the canvas on were driven almost all the way into the wall the other side of shop ( about 30 feet) Also the walls are made from 12 inch squared timbers

Long winded, but I am agreeing with Adam.
Make sure if you add green coal make sure that there is a small 'chimney' so that flame from the coke can reach the green smoke and burn it off.
   Ralph - Saturday, 05/28/05 11:37:47 EDT

No-carbon iron alloys:

I did some searching around the net and found a couple of example. Some, like monel, already mentioned here. Others are used in transformer cores. Not a strong alloy, but has high magnetic permeability.

And I was kidding about the sword with mythical properties. I need to use more :-).
   - Marc - Saturday, 05/28/05 12:00:40 EDT

I have a bunch of old circular sawblades (non carbide tiped) and would like to cut them into "useful" shapes--knifeblades, woodplane blades, etc. Whats the best way to do this without the use of a plasma cutter. Grind an outline and snap, anneal and use a hacksaw, go wild with an anglegrinder? Any suggestions?
   Galen - Saturday, 05/28/05 12:18:23 EDT

Someone was looking for a large anvil recently. There is a 500-pounder (looks like it might be a PW) on eBay at #6182803983.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 05/28/05 13:59:56 EDT

I think i have a wrought iron RR spike no markins really old got off old abandoned RR track with permission from owner of course
   New smith - Saturday, 05/28/05 16:31:34 EDT

Explosive Gases in Forge and Bellows: These circulate back into the bellows due to a variety of reasons. They are most often the volitiles from fresh coal but can also be hot carbonacious gas as well as wood gas from charcoal.

1) Slight drafts or breezes can blow the gases back into the bellows. This is the most common problem and is more noticable in outdoor setups.

2) The gases are hot and hot air rises. When bellows are above the forge this can occur. This is the down side of high mounted bellows.

3) Bad valves in the bellows. This is a maintenance problem. I recently inspected a double chambered bellows at an historical park that was re-leathered by a prestigeous institution and the middle (exhust) valve was not functional, nor was it reachable from the bottom valve to inspect or correct (both valves were badly reworked).

Explosion Prevention: When fresh air mixes with the hot coal smoke it often ignites explosively with a "whoompf" sound. This can lift the top of a bellows to full inflation and has been known to blow up bellows. You can reduce the problem by giving the bellows a VERY short pump on the first stroke after every rest. This will let the smoke ignite and inflate the top of the bellows without damaging it. If you give the bellows a full quick pump the top will be fully inflated when the smoke ignites and there is no room for the bellows to expand further.

Another preventive measure is a pressure relief valve. This is a top valve just like the middle valve but it is weighted to hold a safe pressure. These are shown in DeRe Metalica on large water driven bellows. In this application I suspect it was to prevent damaging the bellows if the tuyere became clogged.

Bad Installs: In every public park where I have inspected a bellows driven forge the bellows was installed so that it was nearly impossible to use and very inefficient. Bellows were re-leathered short, the levers had improper leverage and were poorly hung AND the operating position was too close to the forge or over some other fixed object. Almost all these problems existed in every installation!

Setting up a bellows is not rocket science but it DOES require some mechanical and operational knowledge as well as understanding the organization of a blacksmith shop. A properly setup bellows is a joy to use and I prefer them over hand crank blowers. However, it is easy to screw one up so that it is worthless and frustrating to use.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/28/05 16:59:33 EDT

Saw Blades: Galen, All the above. Carbide tipped blade bodies are not necessarily good blade steel. They will be heat treatable but since they are not the cutting edge material they can be much lower grade than other saw steels. Scoring with the edge of a n angle grinder works. .
   - guru - Saturday, 05/28/05 17:02:37 EDT

first of all where r u guys located and can u make me a big sword of metal with a spiky design has to be sharp and as light as possible if you cant tell me where i can get one in British Columbia, Canada thank you
   Jamal - Saturday, 05/28/05 17:05:10 EDT

Guru et al,

I would like to make farm hardware (gate latches and the like). I can't afford a sandblaster, but am considering Rustoleum's cold galvanizing spray for $3.30 a can (from our local Northern Tool shop), followed by a second layer of Rustoleum flat black enamel. See http://www.rustoleum.com/tds/2045990%20RO-01.pdf for specs - the cold galvanizing spray uses an epoxy ester base that yields 92% zinc when dry. Or would you just use an oil and beeswax coating when warm, and call the rust "authentic"?
   Tim - Saturday, 05/28/05 19:54:02 EDT

I found sal ammoniac at Bryant Lab a few years ago, and they sent it pronto. It's in the ingredients listed on the labels of commercial soldering fluxes but nobody in hardware stores ever heard of it. Old time tinsmiths have but nobody uses it any more. www.bryantlaboratory.com/
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 05/28/05 20:03:18 EDT


You're on the right track with th cold galvanizing. If you can't sandblast them prior to the zinc, you might consider etching them in muriatic acid or phosphoric acid. I use a product called Ospho, a proprietary phosphoric acid product, and then cold galvanize over that, followed by paint.

The rattle can galvanizing is okay, but expensive. You can get the 90+% zinc paint in regular cans and either brush, dip or spray it on, at a great savings over the rattle cans. The brand I use is Lanco, from th elocal hardware store. Check RV and boat dealers, they usually carry something similar. If you want your paint job to be durable, avoid flat colors. They have a low varnish content and flatting agents such as talcum powder in them, and are more prone to weathering. Try to get "satin" black. It is nearly flat, but about twice as durable as true flat. Automotive paint is much more durable than Rustoleum, too. If you have a compressor, I suggest you consider it.
   vicopper - Saturday, 05/28/05 20:18:00 EDT

Do you mena auto lacquer or enamel?
   - Tom H - Saturday, 05/28/05 21:43:54 EDT

Do you mena auto lacquer or enamel?
   - Tom H - Saturday, 05/28/05 21:44:20 EDT

And is the sutomotive stuff available in user-friendly forms? I don't have a compressor or spray gear. I can certainly imagine dipping, but vaguely remember that the auto stuff uses catalysts and retarding agents rather than having conventional solvent thinners like I'm used to. Thoughts? (Thanks for the tips, too!)
   Tim - Saturday, 05/28/05 21:59:21 EDT

Rust is only authentic on poorly finished goods, often what YOUR hardware is replacing. The spray can galvanizing over CLEAN metal is a good start. It needs a light coating of a neutral (chemicaly) primer then a top coat. On small high markup hardware in low production spray cans are economical but DO consider the impact on your profit or final price.

Automotive products are all labled "for professional use only" and in recent years some places will not sell them to non-businesses. You need an air compressor and spray gun to use them. Lacquer also requires a lot of expensive thinner to clean up after.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/28/05 22:18:13 EDT

Tom H. paints:

Guru has a good point, in the last few years the 'paint ' industary has moved more and more twards the 'pro' side and will not sell some of the more caustic chemical coatings.
Most auto stores sell 'pizz' or spray can versions of auto paint but most are a poor replacement for the real thing and will cost you an arm and leg. If you are going to spray( low air high volume) with a air sprayier, harbor frieght sells a devielblis( sp?) that will run you about 10 - 15 $US. Second, make shure that you have good ventlation and a heppa filter resperator.( will keep your lungs safe) Most two part epoxy paints can do Evil things to the human body that will have a long lasting effect. But with a little common sence and some basic saftey gear you should be fine.
Thinners, depending on what you are going to spray you are either going to use a laquer thinner( not too caustic but can cause problems if over exposed [ measured in months and years]) or a methelethelkeytone based " Paint thinner ". MEK is pretty nasty stuff and you should not allow it to be inhaled or " wash your hands in it" (stupid painters) but it too has an exposure rate measured in months and years.
But if one looks hard enough you can buy a premixed and thinned sprayable paint( acts much like a oil based paint) that is 'environmentally safe' and is not to expensive.

Ps don't pile up any rags used with oil or petrol based products. They WILL start a fire. Spred them out and let them air out befor you dispose of them.
   - Timex - Saturday, 05/28/05 23:13:52 EDT

Dear Experts,

On further digging I realize that my recent question about cold galvanizing had been clearly answered in the archives. Oops. Thanks for your patience, and I promise to do a better job of checking the archives in the future.

Appreciatively, -Tim
   Tim - Saturday, 05/28/05 23:45:35 EDT

Sal ammoniac & old fashioned "chemical names". My old Dixie Gun Works catalog has a list of old timey names and what they are currently called. Sal ammoniac is ammonium chloride; rottenstone is tripoli, etc.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 05/29/05 00:13:28 EDT

Jamal from B.C.

Check out the Armoury page on the pull-down menu on the upper right, especially the article on GEn-X Swordmaking. Read it and the other swordmaking articles, and then start reading the books in the bibliographies. Then start thinking about it.

E-Bay is full of folks offering all sorts of sword-like-objects. If you want something to hang on the wall, try there. If you do historic reenactments, study some more. If you want to employ edged weapons in defense of your country's honor, join the Canadian Armed Forces. If you study weapons for their beauty and technological complexity, try Sword Forum.com.

Simple requests have many answers.

Visit your National Parks; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial seems appropriate: www.nps.gov/vive/

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 05/29/05 00:39:03 EDT

Timex and those who wish to paint with sprayers.
A HEPA filter in a respirator is a "High Effieciency Particulate Absolute" This is a 99.97% effecient filter for dust. NOT for vapor such as one gets from evaporating solvents in paints. One needs to look at the solvent that will be evaporated and chose the filter based on that. For MOST paints that would be a "organic vapor" filter. Ask for a MSDS, and look at the hazardous chemicals present. Look for ant that have an OSHA exposure limit. These are sure to be ones that you will want to filter against. Ask the seller if in doubt for guidance, Assuming you are buying from a knowledgable vendor.

There are combo filters that will filter both dust and vapor.

The HEPA filter is a very good choice for welding, grinding, wire wheel work etc.
   ptree - Sunday, 05/29/05 08:21:44 EDT

Ralph: Same from a 'titless WAVE' (USN 64-67)
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 05/29/05 08:45:38 EDT

Cannoncockers too!
   3dogs - Sunday, 05/29/05 09:43:23 EDT

Sal ammoniac-- credit where credit is due dept.: It was from Prof. Turley that I heard of Bryant Labs, nigh onto 30 years ago (Gasp! How can this be, when we are only now turning 29?) and thus knew where to turn to find sal ammoniac. Is finding ammonium chloride any simpler?
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 05/29/05 10:35:32 EDT

Ptree your right about the vapors, I had forgoten to mention the pre filters that snap on over the heppa.
   - Timex - Sunday, 05/29/05 14:43:59 EDT

Timex, In all the respirators that I have seen the vapor filter is after the dust filter. Maybe your respirator is different.
Typically that hazard in painting is from solvents not dusts.
   ptree - Sunday, 05/29/05 17:40:09 EDT

How does ceremic shell casting work ('molochite castin') step by step?
I'm a jeweller and would like to know if I'm able to use this casting method in my business.
Thank you.
   Daniel - Sunday, 05/29/05 17:54:36 EDT

As shown, my name is Chris Havens. I do not want to post a question, but rather a statement of respect. I was raised as a tradesman (family, not bargained apprentice) and understand the respect and investment one needs for an art before any level of skill, much less mastery can be obtained. I have reviewed comments and responses and wanted to tip my hat to the integrity and reality relayed in your responses. Though my field is not with metal, I am researching, studying, and educating myself about the processes involved. Blacksmithing, as with any other trade, requires dedication and relentless patience. I understand your frustration in the repeat "get rich quick" questions. I am a carpenter by trade and repeatedly laugh at the question I get... "how do i build a house". People without the education or experience think it is as simple as nailing this board to that board. Or "I want to learn how to build a house". That's a good one too. Too many small details to just "tell" someone.

I just wanted to say that I have viewed numerous sites on metallurgy and blacksmithing, and I respect your approach and your honest protrayal of the art of metal working.

From one tradesman, craftsman, artist to another, my hat is off.

Chris Havens.
   - Chris Havens - Sunday, 05/29/05 17:58:08 EDT

I need help. i am building my first forge, and am almost done. However, i am looking forward to casting brass and the like, and have no wish melt down my forge. My reasoning puts the solution fire bricks to line my forge. However, the price of fire brick is incredable. I need an affordable alternative to fire bricks.
   Robert Shultz - Sunday, 05/29/05 18:31:46 EDT

Robert Shultz: Look in your yellow pages for listings for Refactory Supplies or Boiler Supplies. They may sell you firebrick in small quantities. Really not that expensive. Remember on the ones you see for sale on eBay the seller has had to include a markup to their cost for expenses and a financial return on their effort.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 05/29/05 18:45:26 EDT

Flourite/fluospar. Mike, I bought mine at a ceramics supply store.(Clay Planet, www.claymaker.com). It is not expensive, but at welding temperatures it will release HF gas, which is hazardous to breathe. Do not sniff the fumes.

By the way, it pays to try to keep things safe. I try to think ahead and avoid accidents, but I had one yesterday during a regular team forging session. I let the other fellow wield the handled hot cut. I used the two handed hammer and was wailing away, amazed at the cutting progress we were making and how glad I was that we weren't using a cutoff wheel. Suddenly, there was this horrible pinging sound, and the head of the hot cut went skittering across the floor. I thought that I must have struck an errant blow, and did find a notch on the handle, but the fellow who was holding it assured me it was his fault. It seemed that he had slipped and turned it at an angle, and my hammer hit a glancing blow. The handle snapped like a twig.

Of course, it missed his foot, and I whipped out a large chisel and finished the cut myself. He was very apologetic for goofing up my nice Champion hot cut, but I told him that a hot cut costs $40, a handle costs $4, and microsurgery to reattach toes costs $40,000. Plus, if you lose toes, you cannot finish the cut (and eventually the piece, which we did). I took this incident very seriously, but had a difficult time figuring out how to avoid doing this again (other than using a cutoff wheel). Hit less hard? Slower? Any suggestions? Thanks!
   EricC - Sunday, 05/29/05 19:12:13 EDT

Chris, as one of the sub-gurus, I want to say thanks for your comments. You might be surprised at how many of the smiths who post here are also carpenters, woodworkers, artists, welders, ironworkers, engineers, metallurgists, jewelers, police officers, and many more than I can post. You are welcome to stick around and offer your opinions, laugh at some of questions, and be amazed at some of the answers. Yep, an interesting place.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 05/29/05 19:39:01 EDT

Trenton anvil markings: On the left foot under the horn is "Z" and "154". The 154 is clearly stamped in with individual dies, but the Z is separate. It is indented, but appears to have been part of the original casting.
   Will Bunnell - Sunday, 05/29/05 19:40:33 EDT

Will Z-Mark
As you mentioned the bottom portion of the Trenton anvils made in the US were cast with the upper half being forge. You also mention the Z appears to be part of the casting. My educated guess is the pattern makers mark or pattern shop mark.
   burntforge - Sunday, 05/29/05 20:11:36 EDT

Dear guru and friends,

I have a question reguarding post vise. i happened to have a bit of luck buying an anvil and after buying the fello who sold it too me asked if i had a vise and i said no so he picked one up and said here take this too. He said that all I needed to do was to forge a new mounting bracket for it. So i took it to an open forge night at my local abanna chapter and the blacksmith there said that i shouldn't realy repair it because it was a very very old vise and that those are worth more as an antique. So I let that be that. Until Another member there said that since its in great condishioning theres no reason not to make the bracket and use it. So I'm wondering what your thoughts are. Surly I dont want to distroy a piece of history but post vises are expense and i dont want to realy look around for another good one if i could use this one.Thank you for your time.

John Scancella
   John Scancella - Sunday, 05/29/05 20:28:22 EDT

What size stock were you cutting?
Two quick solutions that come to mind,
Use a hardy and have your helper hold the stock on it while you use the 2 handed hammer, but not the solution I'd like.
Or use a hotset and hardy in combination get your help to hold the stock, and you use a one handed hammer and hold the hot set while striking it.
Personaly I've never felt comfortable with someone else holding a struck tool for me unless it was a flatter or something that wasn't tippy.
I'm glad all left with all toes (attached)
   JimG - Sunday, 05/29/05 20:47:12 EDT

John Scancella:

It sounds like you were just given the shafts/jaws without mounting bracket and spring. Vise (whatever its history) is a wall hanger now. Adding on a bracket and spring not only makes it functional, but in no ways damages its historical value. Go ahead and make a bracket and spring for it.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 05/29/05 21:08:43 EDT


People working under powerhammers use very short top tools for just that reason. You might try making a short hotset with a rod handle and try that. The short tool is less likely to get tipped far enough to fly, and the rod handle won't break, just bend. Safer, I would think.
   vicopper - Sunday, 05/29/05 21:50:15 EDT

Robert Shultz. Are you sure you're building a forge, and not a furnace? I would think that you melt the brass in a crucible, ladle, or high-fire stoneware, and then pour into a mold (?)

I agree with Ken on the vise resuscitation. If the parts are made by a smith using blacksmith's methods...and with integrity, you are doing the old vise a service. I have rebuilt many vises.

Hardy Cut. I know there is a right way, a wrong way, and the Army way. However, the old shop way of cutting something fairly thick was to have the striker use the sledge, and have him stand off to one side, often the horn side, so that the cut piece doesn't do him damage. The journeyman does everything else: taking the heat, placing the work support if needed, placing the hardy, and holding the hot cut in the right place. He is the journeyman, after all, and knows what needs to be done. The striker is a striker.

An old Danish smith told me that top tools should not be wedged. The haft should be a good fit, though, and it usually protrudes through the eye a little ways. I wanted to know why, and the smith explained that if there is an errant blow, a wedged haft will sometime split in two, lengthwise, and the wedge just increases the possibility. It has happened to me one time. If it appears that the haft is loosening a bit in use, just tamp the butt end to tighten and keep on working.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 05/29/05 21:56:49 EDT

John Scancella,

I have blacksmithing tools that qualify as true antiques, that I use every day. I didn't buy them to look at, I bought them to use. When I'm dead, my widow can sell them as antiques if she wants, though she'll probably give them to some new smith who needs a hand. My point is, th evise is useless as either a "user" or as a display piece if it is not complete and totally authentic. Go ahead and make the bracket and whatever else it needs and enjoy using a tool that you have helped to make. It will be far more satisfying than using one you bought complete, too.
   vicopper - Sunday, 05/29/05 22:01:54 EDT


As one of my woodworking friends is fond of telling me, as a carpenter, I'm a pretty good blacksmith. ;-) He does the chests, I do the hardware, the end results are not-too-bad.


The only caveat I would add to the good advice, above, is that the work you do in it should be appropriate to the size of the vise. You don't want to go whanging on a 4", 35# (10cm, 16kg) antique post vise with a 12 pound (5.4kg) sledge. These vises are tough, but they're not impervious to heavy tools. Given the matching of the vise size to the job, however, these vises will last for a long time.
In some ways there is nothing quite as sad as a useful tool hung up on some collector's wall like a butterfly pinned to a cork board. Use it well.


No wedges- makes a lot of sense, especially since a top tool does not receive the same dynamic load as a tool the is swung to the strike. I note that a lot of the old top tools that I've acquired over the years have no wedges; I'll have to take a closet look.

Visit your National Parks; the Old Pension Building (now the National Building Museum) is where the Civil War pensioners, and their widows, collected their pensions: http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc40.htm

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 05/29/05 22:56:33 EDT

If you are thinking of using the forge to melt then depending on what you have built depends on if you can. I melt silver in a propane feuled furnace, similar to a forge (as in they both breath fire and can scare the neighbours, pets and small children :) but the furnace chamber stands UPRIGHT, in most forges the burn chamber lies horizontaly and there is an entrance and exit for the work to slide in and out. These may get hot enough to melt metal but I would think be rather more work than needed. In a furnace the Burner idealy enters the burn chamber off centre so that the flame circles the chamber and thus evenly heats your crucible. I stand mine on a crucible post to take it just out of the main blast of the burner (I used castable refractory rated to 1700C).
You could line your furnace with the lightweight refractory bricks, or maybe dura board, if money is REALLY tight then try YTONG gypsum blocks, but probably best is Kaowool and then paint it with ITC 100 or Plistix 100, to help stabalise the wool. I lined mine old freon tank with Kaowool, then using castable refractory made the chamber, and then painted the chamber with Plistix. Melts silver from cold in under 10 minutes.
   Tinker - Sunday, 05/29/05 23:24:42 EDT

Oh by the by, Tim McCreight does a few books on casting, well worth your time if thats the direction you want to head in. Good Luck, and remember when you fire her up not to fire yourself up too :)
   Tinker - Sunday, 05/29/05 23:28:32 EDT

you may want to consider making a furnace specifically for casting. A freon bottle ( from a auto A/C shop) make a propane burner etc. There are several places to look about this.
   Ralph - Sunday, 05/29/05 23:43:19 EDT

Joe's vice:-) Use it, but do a nice job on the bracket:-) Francis Whitaker always recomended making nice tools, so when clients visited your shop it showed the quality of your work and your integrity:-) Sometimes you just need something to get the job done, but there is a time for making NICE tools. Refitting a nice old vice would seem to me to be one of those times... I picked up a nice fairly heavy post vice (5" ~80#) that needs a new spring, bracket and foot, for 20$

Eric's dilema:-) You have two choices, teach the guy to swing the helper sledge or teach him to hold the toptool properly:-) Teaching him to hold to toptool is probably quicker, but teaching him how to be a good striker for you will pay lasting dividends:-)

Wedges:-) Toptools pass on more shock, and are much more likely to break their handles if wedged. BUT the do work loose. Some of the modern farrier's hot tools have been adapted to have a keeper that keeps the head where it is supposed to be, with just a bit of wiggle(atleast after you have used it a bit:-) but it doesn't lock the head to the handle. Essentially it is a mild steel tap that is screwed to the handle well below the eye, and then it goes through the eye and is folded over on the end of the eye. Farrier's hotworking tools have very small eyes, so wedging would not be a good idea anyway, gaurenteed to break the handle before it should...

Chris and craftmanship:-) We live in a very odd world that is diviorced from traditional skills and even from its food supply. It is amusing (sometimes to see just how much a person has to learn in order to understand just how ignorant they are in the real scheme of things:-) (I know that ignorant has come to have a somewhat pegorative conotation, but the meaning still fits, even if people find it offensive, doesn't make it any less true, or fitting:-)

I am old enough to laugh at myself, are you?:-)
   Fionnbharr - Sunday, 05/29/05 23:59:47 EDT

John Scancella, I just made a mounting bracket for an old post vice I bought off ebay a couple months ago. Mine too is an antuiqe, but to me it is much more valuable as a working tool than as a collectors item.

I documented the process I went through on my web site. http://fredlyfx.com click on current projects, and it is the top one.

I hope this helps

   FredlyFX - Monday, 05/30/05 07:09:25 EDT

To see a really odd-ball anvil go to eBay #6183173332. Any speculation on the reason for the shape of the top?
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/30/05 07:43:52 EDT

Ken: The horn on that anvil looks like a projectile for a large (4-6 inch) gun. Could it be a very ambitious home made?
   John W - Monday, 05/30/05 07:58:37 EDT

John W.: It almost looks like the horn was made and then put into the mold with the cast iron (my assumption) poured over it. The core used rather indicates a more professional setting, such as a foundry. From the photographs I can't tell if the shoulders were cast that way or broken off later. I recall seeing a fairly standard swage block with a horn to one side on eBay in the past.

John Scancella: In reflection I am a bit surprised at the hammer-in reaction on the vise mounting. Seems like it would make an almost ideal project to illustrate precise bending and putting in the rectangular holes for the wedge and key - keeping everything in alignment.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/30/05 08:37:06 EDT

Indirect Percussion. I maintain that the top tool should be held by the smith, journeyman, or journeywoman, and if the smith is right handed, the tool is in the right hand. It has to do with accuracy. If a helper holds the hot cut, assuming a hardy is below the work, he may be 1/8" or so off target. After worrying the piece loose with the final blows, the helper gets the blame. If the smith is off target, he has only himself to blame. That is as it should be. What if more accuracy is desired, maybe a hammer eye. Why in the world would you give the eye punch to a helper?

The anthropologists and flint knappers call the use of a tool interposed between hammer and workpiece a tool of indirect percussion. The smith's top tools are hafted with either wood or a steel rod-wrap in order to get the holding hand away from the heat and for safety reasons. It is a no-no to hold a pritchel-like tool, say 11" or 12" long, for a striker. What if he misses? A gloved hand won't help, either.

In the "olden days", non-blacksmiths visiting my shop would look at the tool racks and tell me that I certainly had a lot of hammers. Of course, they were looking at mostly top tools, and I would patiently explain about tools of indirect percussion, blah, blah, etc. I finally got tired of all that, and now I simply say, "Yeah, I've got a lotta' hammers".

   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/30/05 09:26:55 EDT

OK-casting isn't my primary use for my forge, as i am primarily a blacksmith. I am greatful for the solutions you offered. Now i have another dillemma. Should the blast from the bellows come in through the bottom or the side? It is a standing argument between my dad and i.
   Robert Shultz - Monday, 05/30/05 13:01:53 EDT

I've been trying to forge a bolster on a chisel without much success. Any suggestions or sources of info?
   - nick - Monday, 05/30/05 14:07:24 EDT

Nick, Square Bolster. Maybe use drill rod. Fuller four sides on the tang side. Fuller four sides a little distance from the firse fullering. The second fullering will demarcate the blade. The bolster is in between the fuller marks and will be ground/filed/polished later on. Use careful edge to-edge-blows to draw the tang and the
blade. With no striker, you can use a guillotine, treadle hammer, spring fullers, and/or careful hammer blows.

Robert, Side or Bottom Blast. The side blast is used quite a bit in the UK and somewhat on the European continent. If carefully managed, the side blast will form clinker below the tuyere nose, and the fire will require less cleaning. The bottom blast became popular in the U.S., probably because of clever advertising. For instance, Buffalo used to advertise, "Super Whirlwind Blast Tuyere Iron...Clinker Free with Tuyere Valve", or words to that effect. Not true.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/30/05 15:47:49 EDT

would 17 inch fireplace bellows be a good thing for my forge?, they have a brass nozzel. also how would i go about hooking this up. should i drill a hole through the fire bowl and stick it in when it needs air?
   Draconas - Monday, 05/30/05 17:04:12 EDT

HELLO FRANK; Hey!! Before I ruin these HELLER pull-off pinchers. They have any collector value. They are about 12 or so inches??

   sandpile - Monday, 05/30/05 17:04:57 EDT

sorry. Cast Iron Nozzle
   Draconas - Monday, 05/30/05 17:05:18 EDT

Back from camping for 5 nights with the forge---had a great time even though we had rain and cold and a "no fires rule" ended up heating a chunk of rail used as an anvil for the penannular brooch class on a propane burner as a campfire for the group I was camping with...

Tom K why not make it from stainless steel?

Thomas off to unload
   Thomas P - Monday, 05/30/05 17:36:47 EDT

Draconas, See previous posts about getting with you local organizations and seeing what WORKS. Also see our reading list and STUDY the books.

Bellows are proportional to the size of the forge, fire and work. Jewelers used little "moulders" or fireplace size bellows to blow little charcoal fires to melt a ring's worth of silver or gold or to forge a little watch spring or brass part in a benchtop forge. Bellows for a full size "general" blacksmith shop are about 5 feet long by 3 feet wide and open about 4 feet tall at the back. Larger bellows were made for iron furnaces. Everything is a matter of scale. If you want to forge steel doll house furniture, surgical instruments or other small parts that little bellows will do fine.
   - guru - Monday, 05/30/05 17:40:41 EDT

Sandpile, You aren't going to ruin them unless you drive a tank over them. If they're fresh out of the box with the original black paint or Japanning, they'll be worth more than used ones. Do they have ball end reins? The really pretty Heller Bros, in my estimation, are the 16½" draft horse pulloffs with the beautifully tapered jaws and "acorn" end reins. I used to carry them when I shod the hosses. I could get in under a race plate or a draft shoe. They were a little heavy, but offered great leverage. Hellers also made an acorn end that was 13 3/8" long, overall.

Heller Bros tools are being collected, both farrier and blacksmith. As you can guess, I'm hanging onto these two pulloffs. I have two Heller Bros rounding hammers, the old style with the large, concave cheeks, a pair of Heller's clinching tongs, and one of those knives with the cast iron handle. By the way, one of my old shoeing mentors said the end of the cast handle was serrated, so that it could be held against one side of the shoe when hot fitting. The pritchel, driven in diagonally for grip, was on the other side of the shoe.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/30/05 18:08:38 EDT

tis true, those bellows would be of more use to me (trainee silver/goldsmith) than you. (trainee bladesmith?)
You will save yourself so much bother by taking the time to go and have a look at how a working smith has his equipment set up. Even though I don't forge much at all (a pair of crucible tongs and furnace lid lifters) I'm away to the 'Royal Armouries' next weekend with my son to see their Smith in action...
Some people learn by looking
   Tinker - Monday, 05/30/05 18:15:05 EDT

FRANK I have already made them into a set for holding round 1 1/4 round steel. I am upsetting it for hammers.Grin. They will be good ones for that.

They were 13 inchers with the round balls on the ends.
I never had used them. I found them in a fleamarket in ANGELO. They cost all of eight dollars .BOG.

Damn!! I am sweating and my glasses are fogging over..
See Ya.. chuck
   sandpile - Monday, 05/30/05 18:32:52 EDT

Guru: I am asking for your expertise as an electrical engineer now. I have a small squirrel cage fan salvaged from a wood stove air circulator. It has a 1/20 hp dayton motor and it runs when I hook it up to full wall current. When I run it through a rheostat, (wall fan type) it humms (doesnt know the words I guess) but doesnt move. It was hooked through a rheostat orriginally but I dont know if it is any good or not, so I got a new one, same result. I greased the bearings and the inside of the motor looks good. Got any suggestions? An air release valve or slot may be the answer?
   John W - Monday, 05/30/05 19:28:39 EDT

Hello, I am a beginning metal sculptor, (I took one semester of welding at the local tec college a couple of years ago) and have been doing large 12' x 5' painted steel flowers since then. My question is I am constantly having to form the same bowl-shaped sepals and buds, and they usually are 12" to 18", so I would like to get some kind of swage (is that the right word?) to form these pieces. I thought about using a cast iron birdbath or an old cast iron porcelain sink forming it from the bottom side of the sink (would it be dangerous?) or even to make a big bowl-shaped hunk of concrete...maybe cover it with copper to absorb some of the heat. Do you have any advice on where to find such a thing? Thank you!
   Vivianne Carey - Monday, 05/30/05 19:31:55 EDT

Sandpile, Tough toenails; keep them the way you've reforged them. The round end reins are probably mid 20th century and drop forged, not worth as much as the acorn ended, the latter being more cleanly finished and with classier lines. Not to worry.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/30/05 19:39:52 EDT

Vivianne Carey,
A handy shape for forming in is either a "butt weld pipe cap" or the hemispherical head from a pressure vessel.
While you did not mention your location, if in oil country, or in a city the has industry, look in the yellow pages for a pipe and valve supply house. Ask to have a look at their catalog for butt weld fittings. Or if you have a welding and fabrication shop that makes tanks or air recievers, they may have a head that is scrap. These both have compound curves and are of nice thick steel the works well to form into. How heavy is the steel that you wish to form? If light an english wheel is the real deal to do forming. If the steel is not too heavy, a large sandbag with a heavy wood mallet will also do the job.
Good luck.
   ptree - Monday, 05/30/05 20:10:08 EDT

John W : A month or two ago someone had the same problem, the hinged cover on the intake side seemed to be the prefered solution, however turning the controller to full power and backing down carefully MAY work. Restricting the intake or discharge side will work, there has been some disagrement on this forum as to which is better, another alternative is to bleed off some of the discharge air. The motor will perform best if not run through a controller.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 05/30/05 21:54:44 EDT

Sinking Dies for Sheetmetal: Vivianne, A sink will not work, a bird bath is similar. They are very brittle cast iron and a couple blows of a hammer and it will break or punch through.

For custom work in sheet metal wood dies are best for cold working. For hot working you need a swage block or custom die. Both start as a wood pattern and are cast in thick cast iron or ductile iron (better).

You can do surprisingly heavy work in the end grain of a wood block or stump. You want very shallow forming areas. Deep depressions are problematic and the sign of an amature. This is also true in metal swage blocks. What you want is roughly your finished curvature or a slightly larger radius and a depression less than an inch deep. The edges of the depression need to be very soft large radii so they do not mark the work. See our NEWS articles on the West Viginia Armour-In.
   - guru - Monday, 05/30/05 22:25:26 EDT

Vivianne Carey-- For a detailed step-by-step on how to make and use the wooden forms the Guruissimo is talking about, check out the great textbook Silversmithing, by Rupert Finegold and William Seitz. These cats know what whereof they speak, offer loads of detail re: sinking and raising silver and the techniques are readily applicable to ironwork.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 05/30/05 22:44:41 EDT

Fan Controllers: These must start the motor at full power then be turned back down. The controllers made for overhead fans do this but those for lights may not. When you use these fan controllers they assume it is the only switch in the circuit. That is why they are arranged, OFF, FULL, medium, slow. . .

When I use these on automatic controls on gas forges I have a time delay relay that by-passes the controller at full power for a couple seconds then drops down to the manualy set speed and opens the gas solenoid at the same time. Otherwise the motor will stall and just humm. Sepending on the motor this can burn it up in a very short time.
   - guru - Monday, 05/30/05 23:43:04 EDT

Timex A 6 pound hammer is way to heavy. This size hammer is used for ocassional gross work but little else. A 4 pound hammer is about the max that anyone should attempt daily use. Average "large" hammers are near 3 pounds. Learning CONTROL and velocity is much more important than how big a hammer you swing.

A power hammer costs less than surgery or loss of income and will do the work of 5 men swinging 10 pound sledges. . ALL DAY LONG.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/05 00:07:43 EDT

Unusual Ebay Anvil: From the break surfaces on both sides and under the horn, and the shape I would bet the horn is a steel repair.

The repair does not matter much. This looks to be a one of a kind or VERY low production. Collectors value tends to be marginal on one of a kinds unless that is what you collect. It is items with known sources that more than one person can collect that creates value in collectables.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/05 00:20:25 EDT

I have a anvil which someone has attacked with oxy-acetiline
They have cut the hardie hole out to about 40 mm and I was wondering if it was possable to repair it and make it 25mm to fit standard stock size 25mm square bar
   - Ryan Cameron - Tuesday, 05/31/05 03:23:31 EDT

Ryan Cameron: You seem to want to reduce a roughly 1.5" hardy hole to 1"

From a welder's perspective: Make up a box from 1/4" stock with a bit loose 1" inside hole to fit within the existing hardy hole. Length needs to be about 1/8" above the anvil top and to the lowest point of your hardy hole underneath. Weld into hardy hole top and bottom. The extra on top will allow you to grind down flush with the anvil plate top. Grinding to curve under heel is not as critical as it normally isn't seen.

From a blacksmith's perspective: Make shims which drop into the hole and convert it to the size you need.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/31/05 06:06:33 EDT

Guru, Dave: Thanks for the help. I Looked back in the archives after your suggestion and reread the advice from then. Sounds like the best alternative is to put a moveable shutter on the intake hole and use a switch, pushbutton If I can find it, rather than the controller. Guru, I just realized that Gladys isnt far from Burlington, NC. Do you suffer fools to wander in to the shop to see what you are doing?
   John W - Tuesday, 05/31/05 07:58:27 EDT

Hi, Thank you for the advice, I'm going shopping today with the list of all the things that may work...bird bath, old cast iron pots, tree stumps, sandbags, butt end pipes....talk about a treasure hunt! I am working with a torch and usually 16 gauge steel or thicker, so the stump sounds like a good idea as long as I don't burn the shop down, (my leather jacket apparently had an ember in it, it wicked and I returned the next day to find only the end of a zipper). Actually the stump sound like a good idea for the beginning of the curve but since these forms are deep bowl shaped I may not be able to hammer when I get to the outer radius...I think the butt-end pipe may be the best bet...or I could use my capped oxygen tank (LOL). Thanks for the book ideas and helpful links too...I'll check them out. Thank you so much!

Vivianne Carey

Spartanburg, SC
   Vivianne Carey - Tuesday, 05/31/05 08:51:07 EDT

Vivianne. No, not cast iron; it's brittle. See the guru's caveat above.

I'm thinking that a Vee-trough of welded up mild steel might work. A LARGE angle iron might serve, used in conjunction with a long headed hammer. The sides of the vee shape tend to cradle the work without leaving unsightly marks. Some of the work can be done cold. Don't forget the use of stakes, especially for finish work and to remove unwanted "wrinkles"; for example, a mushroom (domed) stake.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 05/31/05 09:51:40 EDT

Vivianne: I once saw someone who used round hubcaps to make indent molds in concrete for repousse work.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/31/05 10:10:51 EDT

Stanford University hosts a site on how things are made that has a neat video on forging (as well as other things). Another video takes you through forging a ford camshaft. Both are facinating. Go to the site listed, click "How everyday things are made", once inside select processes and then forging.
   Ken Nelson - Tuesday, 05/31/05 10:33:22 EDT

I've been dishing pots in the several gallon range for LH use---cast iron cookware is just so late renaissance you know... I went to a place that does hydro-testing of Oxygen tanks and got their rejects and use the heavy bottom section as a dishing form---you can work hot metal in it with no problem. You can also use a section of the tank with the edges smoothly rounded and dish into "free air" when working hot. I have also used a "doughnut hitch" from a large military trailer as sort of a combination of the two above methods.

One of my favorite hot dishing hammers is made from a RR bolt (not spike---bolt). I slit and drift an eye in the threaded end and have a hammer that has a nice curved face and can get into deep dishing without hitting the haft.

If you are going to do a lot of this you should look into "power planishers" that armourers build to hammer curved surfaces---as Guru mentioned, see the stuff that Ted built on the news page.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 05/31/05 11:27:43 EDT

What tool would a metal worker use to measure width and depth that the punch/drill press made
   - cj - Tuesday, 05/31/05 12:55:50 EDT

John, My shop is mostly storage at this point and my office looks like the "sea of paper" from that TV commercial. . . Not much to visit but you are welcome. However, I am rarely home weekends these days. . at leat for the next few months.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/05 13:15:31 EDT

I will see when I get loose from work and all in the next few months and make the pilgrimige. I am working on setting up my backyard smithy, restoring a Champion model 200 1/2 drill press and a coal forge. I could send pictures when it is all done. If you are going through Burlington, let me know. If nothing else I will buy you a Wendy's and cup of coffee.
   John W. - Tuesday, 05/31/05 13:56:31 EDT

CJ, and others who would like to use forum experts to do their homework for them: You guys need to know how to word your questions to disguise them as real questions. In this case, a better wording would be, "How can I measure the width and depth of a hole in a piece of junkyard steel?" At least it sounds like you're looking for the proper tool. Newbies are tolerated much more than people looking for homework shortcuts.

In your case, I would crack open that nice, shiny, textbook they gave you at the beginning of the course and look in the table of contents, or maybe the index, for "measuring", "measurement", etc. Not only will you find the tool you're looking for, but you'll see the proper use of it and maybe even run across some other useful information on a different tool that you can use for question #14.

   - Marc - Tuesday, 05/31/05 14:16:06 EDT

I got this question on another forum, but I figured someone on here would know the answer.

If one is wearing aluminum-ringed chainmail against the skin and after wearing for several hours gets a grey coating that is hard to scrub off, is this Aluminum Oxide, and is it in a form that can be toxic?

   Escher - Tuesday, 05/31/05 15:21:06 EDT

have you tried Maille Artisans International? I'm sure I remember somthing on there about tarnishing of Aluminium and how to sort it.
   Tinker - Tuesday, 05/31/05 15:46:16 EDT

Escher: I use a lot of aluminum electric fence wire on the farm. When you handle it you get the coating as you mentioned. About 50/50 will clean off/wear off. Surely you are allowed to wear something underneath. Seems like a silk over-shirt (early version of T-shirt) would be allowed. Remember hearing something about the Mongrels wearing silk shirts. If struck by an arrow it would be pushed into the wound and thus pull out easily - or something of that nature.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/31/05 15:54:57 EDT


That coating is more likely to be raw aluminum than aluminum oxide. Aluminum is fairly soft and somewhat soluble in salt water (sweat), but aluminum oxide is darn near inert, which is why it is used for abrasives and coatings.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 05/31/05 16:02:39 EDT

A seller has a 1916 Buffalo Forge Co. catalog on eBay. In response to a question on if any anvils were listed they replied: "Yes, I see semi-steel anvils, cast iron anvils and semi steel anvils w/chilled face."

Thomas P. indicated earlier semi-steel might be the equivalent of ductile iron. However, was ductile iron around that long ago? Might it have been mild steel instead? Can someone elaborate on chilling? I know it has something to do with putting something in the mold to rapidly cool the top, but little beyond that.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/31/05 16:04:23 EDT

Mongrels in silk shirts. I've seen pure breeds wearing silly looking vests and socks but never seen a dog in a silk shirt. For a mongrel it sounds a bit effete to me. Wouldnt his buddies all make fun of him? :)

Al contamination. Aluminum is used in cookware and utensils. People who use them ingest a fair amount of Al Oxide - the grey coating. I have never heard any *credible* claim that it was hazardous.
   adam - Tuesday, 05/31/05 16:13:30 EDT

Black Oxide: Escher, The black IS aluminium oxide. Raw aluminium oxidizes quite easily especialy when exposed to salt and oil (sweaty skin is perfect). Aluminium oxide is chemicaly inert and non-poisionous. However, it IS quite dirty. Aluminium oxide forms everything from Saphire and Garnet to the vast majority of the earths crust. It is in almost every refractory brick.

The reason we do not think of aluminium as oxidizing is that virtualy all aluminium products are clear lacquered or clear anodized. Eeven some "raw stock" is anodized. Aluminium oxide varies in color depending on its formation and the black is most common in the abov condition. It is probably not the contact with the skin but the links rubbing against each other making fine dust.

Like many metals after a brief period of oxidation the surface is sealed from further oxidation and it slows or stops. However, the wearing rings may make fine dust forever.

Anodizing is VERY hard (like saphire) and makes a scratch resistant surface as well as oxidation resistant. It can be many colors. Clear, yellow (gold), red, green, blue, black. Have it anodized and cal it Mytheral. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/05 17:23:33 EDT

John W, Etal. Others close to NC, USA.

Do not forget the memorial Hammer-In for Paw-Paw on June 18th. There will be an Iron in the Hat and demonstrations. I think a bunch of us will demo making leaves and give them to Ntech for the "Leaves for Paw-Paw" project.

The information on the Calendar of events (including directions) has been updated. Y'all come now!
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/05 17:31:29 EDT

Ken, Semisteel and Chilling.

I think you and I have been through some of this a few months ago. Not pretending to be anything approaching a metallurgist, I just refer to my books. My early response I got from Tiemann's 1933 book, "Iron and Steel". In a 1944 edition of "Materials Handbook", the author avers that semisteel is a cast iron which has had a certain percentage of steel scrap mixed into the charge. Gray cast iron, by itself, has carbon in the form of graphite flakes, and is a mechanical mix rather than a combined mix, like steel, for instance. By adding steel scrap, the carbon content of the iron is reduced and the number of graphite flakes is reduced, resulting in greater strength in the final product.

In "The Making Shaping and Treating of Steel", 1971, U S Steel Corporation, the authors talk briefly about the pouring of the molten iron in such a way that the parts to be chill-hardened will solidify on contacting a metal or graphite block capable of abstracting heat rapidly. The quick cooling causes a hard surface of varying depths, and the reason offerd is thus. The rapid cooling in the "clear chill" area retains the carbon in the combined form and prevents the separation of graphite.

The U S Steel book says that the poured iron can be of various compositions: "ordinary low-silicon iron and irons alloyed usually, with nickel and chromium".
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 05/31/05 19:07:35 EDT

Semi steel is indeed a cast iron mixed with a precentage of steel scrap mixed in. The valve factory that I used to work at had a line of semisteel valves for refrigeration service. Ductile iron and ductile iron are two different materials to my knowledge. I think semisteel has been around since comercial steel making.
   ptree - Tuesday, 05/31/05 21:47:11 EDT

I grew up in Birmingham Al and we saw the big blast furnaces being tapped and the pig iron running out. As kids we were taught a certain amount of iron foundry lore in our local history classes but there are things I only remember incompletely so help me if I am wrong. The big blast furnaces had ore coal and limestone layered in and then it was fired and the high carbon cast iron puddled down and was tapped out the bottom and ran out into the pigs. The pig iron was then sent over to a Bessemer converter and melted with Oxygen bubbled through the iron to burn out the excess carbon to make it steel? The blast furnaces were outside and we could watch them, especially at night it was really spectacular. I think I remember the guy at the bottom who looked like an armored knight stabbing away at the plug at the bottom with a long pole to release the flow. there was a lot of fireworks then. I think that the converters must have been inside or somewhere else because , I dont remember them at all. does any of that sound right?
   John W - Tuesday, 05/31/05 22:02:30 EDT

I'll never forget the way the night skies over Johnstown and Sparrows Point lit up when they poured those humongous crucibles.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 05/31/05 22:37:45 EDT

John, Somewhat. The converters were replaced by another process in many operations.

Semi-steel is not steel at all but a cast iron close to white iron which is very hard and brittle. It is cheaper to make than good grades of cast iron because you simply mix in scrap steel and increase the volume.

Chilled face and semi-steel WERE the rot-gut botoom of the line ASO's back when every tool catalog had several grades of anvil. They generaly ran about 1/5th the cost of top of the line forged anvils. Unlike modern ASO's the sellers were honest in that they informed the buyer that these were for very light work and were NOT professional quality anvils. Their lack of durability is evident in the fact that MILLIONS of old forged and steel faced anvils of every age exist and are common in the market place while the OLD ASO's are virtualy non-existant. The chilled face anvils were a great improvement over modern grey iron ASO's yet they did not last.

Something to think about before buying an ASO. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/05 23:00:33 EDT

Ken, Ductile (Nodular) Iron.

A little more reading, again from Materials Handbook and the U S Steel book. Ductile iron goes also by the name of nodular iron, because the graphite undergoes a change. What would normally be a gray cast iron charge is treated with special alloys of cerium or magnesium. When the molten iron is poured, the resulting carbon is present in a nodular or spheroidal form rather than flakes. This gives a stronger, tougher iron that in some respects, is like steel, and can be heat treated. It is not plastic under a hammer, however.

Ductile or nodular iron was introduced into the commercial marketplace about 1948, so you can be sure it wasn't around in 1916.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 05/31/05 23:05:53 EDT

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