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

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

This is an archive of posts from May 16 - 23, 2007 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

FYI-- I once saw a guy pull into the Santa Fe flea market with a lowboy trailer full of RR track sections he hoped to sell as anvils. By day's end, he still had a trailer full. Granted they were not this mammoth stuff, but....
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 05/16/07 00:14:57 EDT

Funny you should say that, Guru. I just rang them and asked if they would cut it for me (they usually cut for free). The answer was that they would be happy to cut it for me if I were buying a whole length, but they don't want to shorten any of the stock they have. The price for a whole length is $1925 (about $200 per metre)... I don't have that sort of spare cash lying around at the moment, so it's back to the drawing board. If I knew enough people around my end of the planet that were interested, I'd be in with a chance. Maybe I'll ask at my smithin' class next week. They have 4 lengths in total.
   Craig - Wednesday, 05/16/07 00:34:05 EDT

-Vicopper, I would love a cylinder with 1" ports but I haven't found one. I was planning on just running it as-is and if it doesn't perform breaking down and buying a brand new one, or at least new end plates. The mounting for it is just bolted down for now so it wont be a big deal to unbolt it and mount a different cylinder.

-Guru I have a spring cushion in case that is a problem, it was actually my thinking that compressing the spring would make it run faster, but I guess I should try to avoid that. I have 14" of clearance without the dies, so I think I should be OK on clearance. Mass is probably a little light, 7" solid round stock 350# anvil welded to the 1 1/2" base. But I haven't welded on the anvil bracing and I will probably make it out of 3/4"+ plate so that will add some.. that is when I figure out how to pre-heat all that steel.

Anyways my question about the valving, "lots of R&D" makes me think I should probably just add all the valves I can, as long as the are oversize anyways. I think I will have to upload a picture of this valve and maybe someone can identify it for me. Thanks for the good advise guys.
   Leaf D - Wednesday, 05/16/07 00:57:56 EDT

the blower is a blacksmith's electric blower. it came on the coal forge i got that's from the 1800's. it ran for about ten min and died. i took it to a place to see if he could fix it and he said it was from the 1940's but he doesn't know how fast it should run for a forge or what kind of motor he could replace it with. sorry i don't know anything else about it.
   noyajean - Wednesday, 05/16/07 01:19:58 EDT


You may very well find that that big, high volume valve may not work wel at all, being choked to death by the wimpy little cylinder ports. Kind of like puttng a very, very restrictive muffler on a turbocharged engine. As we said, the components need to be matched.

If you can't see your way to getting a new cylinder, you might think about modifying your end caps to take two ports. Not too hard to tear it down and drill/tap another port in each cap, I wouldn't think. That would double your available flow, pretty near. Still not enough, but better.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 05/16/07 01:25:00 EDT


That may have been an old 800 rpm motor, particularly if it was direct coupled to the blower shaft. If so, use a 1725 rpm motor and drop the speed with 1:2 sheave ratio.

You should be able to tell the rpm of the motor by counting the poles. If the armature windings are burned up though, that gets uncertain since you can't read the windings with a meter.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 05/16/07 01:29:38 EDT

At 192kg/m and $200 (if U.S.) per meter that works out to about $.50 USD pound. I would say that would be a pretty decent price cut into lengths.

The Blacksmithing Association of Western Australia seems to be inactive. However, the Austrialian Blacksmithing Association in Victoria meets twice a month (http://www.abavic.org.au/?Welcome). Perhaps you can organize a group purchase for a length. I would recommend not committing to a purchase until you have payment in hand. If stock is sold before then you can do a refund.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Wednesday, 05/16/07 06:58:17 EDT

Thanks. I am familiar with ABAVIC, and I may contact them if I can't rouse some interest amongst my classmates here in Sydney. Shipping wouldn't be cheap for something that heavy, and there would be a fair amount of trust required in the transaction. It actually works out to around $175 USD per metre as the exchange rate stands at the moment. 4 or 5 other takers would make it a viable option.
   Craig - Wednesday, 05/16/07 07:41:37 EDT

-Vicopper wow, no way to bore the holes larger, but I hadn't thought of adding more, thanks.
   Leaf D - Wednesday, 05/16/07 09:29:53 EDT

Another idea is to find out who uses such rail and ask around their maintenance shop with either the $$ for the item or perhaps a trade for some handsmithing for a government job...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 05/16/07 10:22:13 EDT

Hey, this may seem like a dumb question for some , but,
why do some bladesmiths put water on their anvil?

   Cameron - Wednesday, 05/16/07 11:42:14 EDT

Wet Forging: This causes small steam explosions that drive scale of the anvil and the work. The result is smother cleaner forging. Others wire brush after every heat but this takes time and the metal is cooling.

When forging pieces that are going to take many heats this greatly reduces the roughness of the final forging.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 11:59:19 EDT

Some also keep their hammer heads wet for the same reason.
   Matt - Wednesday, 05/16/07 15:02:41 EDT

question for frank;
if you were to make a ring with an ID of 8", 1" round stock, wouldnt you calculate the length required
(Pi)(9"), which = approx 28.26"?

likewise, if the OD was to be 8", the equation would be
(Pi)(7"), aprox 22"?
am i off? got me thinking, i could not figure out how 2X the thickness of the stock fits in...thanks
   - morph - Wednesday, 05/16/07 16:14:39 EDT

Length of stock: Morph, This is what is known as bending allowance. The actual amount to be added is 1/3 to 1/2 the thickness per 90° bend. A full circle is four 90° bends so you add 1.33 to 2 thicknesses to the theoretical centerline length. The percentage range is largely dependent on the hardness of the material comparing aluminum, brass and steel. The harder the material the higher the percentage in that 1/3 to 1/2 range. So you use the full 1/2 per 90° for steel.

These values are not exact science but from industrial experience. The reason for the allowance is that when you make a bend the inside of the material compresses and the outside stretches. Since dense material does not like to do either the material tends to bunch up on the inside of the curve. The result is not a purely predictable effect so the bending allowances are based on experience instead of a purely logical scientific theory that exact numbers could be applied to.

Any time you production bend ANYTHING, the theoretical length must be tested and adjusted. AND it must be understood that variations in the tolerances of the material thickness and its temper can effect the outcome. So you either allow for variation OR test every lot of material. In some cases such as when bending dies have spring back allowances the temper of the metal is extremely critical. If you change from nearly dead soft hot roll to work hardened cold drawn material the spring back may double.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 17:22:35 EDT

Not sure why but I am not able to log into the Member Log in on the Drop Down Menu. I do not see my familiar forest green name. In fact, I no longer see any references to the sub-gurus at the top of the page. Jock, was there a coup?
   Quenchcrack - Wednesday, 05/16/07 19:21:59 EDT

Please include an example for clarification. Say you are using 1" round mild steel and want to end up with a ring with an ID of 6" and an OD of 8". What is the formula for the length of stock to cut?
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Wednesday, 05/16/07 19:43:40 EDT

Craig, I hadn't realised you were also in australia. I'm in adelaide & I definitely want a piece of that. You're right though, organising a deal across the country isn't really practical. I know there are quite a few blacksmiths here, but for some reason there isn't an active association....
I'm negotiating for a job in Sydney at the moment though, so maybe we can start one there!
   andrew - Wednesday, 05/16/07 20:09:17 EDT

Hi, I wanted to get started in blacksmithing as a hobby. I first read about a break drum forge but then other sites said it wasn't good. The reasons where: 1. It was to small for a hearth. 2. It is too deep for a firebox and 3. It didn't have a simple way to add fuel nor would it be easy to clean out.

After thinking it out, i decided they had good points. I then thought of another forge to build but it would be more simple, especially since i can not weld. The Idea would need

1. Fire brick
2. Motar
3. 2 in steel pipe
4. fittings
5. A blower

I then procided to draw it out, since my scanner is broken i did it on paint to show you and to get your imput


and if HTML isn't allowed c/p the url

Thanks and please comment
   Brandon - Wednesday, 05/16/07 20:34:49 EDT

QC, Sounds like a glitch to me. . nothing has changed here since the last redesign several months ago.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 20:43:51 EDT

hello, I have a 167 lb. Peter Wright anvil. It has a little wear but the top is nice and flat. No chips. I'd say it's in very good shape. I'm in southern Pa. Could you tell me what it is worth or what is a fair price?
   Ray - Wednesday, 05/16/07 21:24:00 EDT

Ken, The neutral axis in a ring this size will be somewhere near the center of the stock, but not necesarily the exact center, so Pie x 7" is where You start, and if it isn't close enough You recalculate and try again. Jock's post is more revelant to angular bends than to making a ring, but there is always the educated guess & trial method, or as My night school teacher said "Trial Without Error"
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 05/16/07 21:44:58 EDT


Stick with the brake drum forge. It can be built with nothing more than plumbinig fittings and an electric drill, and will work just fine. The naysayers have probably never really worked with one, or are pushing some design of their own. Hundreds of people have started out with brake drum forges and had good success...why should you be any different?

The pipe-with-holes tuyere is a poor notion, in general. You really want a concentrated blast to keep your fire at amanageable size. You'd be building a situation where you were working against yourself in terms of learning good fire control with that tuyere design. That concept is better suited to a charcoal forge for heating longer items forheat treating than it is for forging. You can only work a section about two to three inches long before you lose the heat, so why design a forge to waste fuel heating a section longer than you can forge?
   vicopper - Wednesday, 05/16/07 21:49:17 EDT

Back to missing "duck tails", on vises...here's another one on ebay Item number: 200108769293 hope the length of the address is ok, forgot how to condense it. I have a P.W. vise just like this, can anyone tell me if there was a specific use of the key shaped risers on the thread guard, or were they just an extra detail incase you needed them for a project.
   Thumper - Wednesday, 05/16/07 22:04:48 EDT

@ Dave Boyer

The reason is that i can't weld, I can only soilder and the soilder would melt, also if i got a anvil around 50 pounds would it be good enough
   Brandon - Wednesday, 05/16/07 22:26:33 EDT

I have a question concerning a handforged wroughtiron post vise that I recently got. It is clearly forged welded together using several pieces of wrought iron. The screw housing looks to be sheet steel that has been rolled and brazed with copper or brass in the fire. It is missing the spring and mounting bracket assembly, but everything else is there. I couldn't find any markings, not sure really where to look for them. I'm located in North Hamilton county, outside of Chattanooga, TN. in Soddy Daisy. I've been blacksmithing for about ten years, I'm 52 years old. I got the vise from a neighbor, her brother used to haul in scrap metal but passed away, this was still in the yard. I'm not sure what area he might have gotten it from but I think it was within a 30 mile radius for he never traveled much further. I would like to know what is worth for one thing and how old it might be. I will be in Madison Ga. for the Southeastern Conference this weekend and will have it there for any who would like to see it, thank you.
   - Terry Snyder - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:00:56 EDT

Thumper, That "key shape" IS a key, it keeps the nut from rotating. The bid is crazy.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:09:07 EDT

Terry, See the ebay item referenced above and our FAQ on vices. The assembly of the nut or "box" varied. Some were fabricated and forge welded, others were fabricated and fire brazed and the late ones were forged in one piece.

It could be 300 years old or 50 years old. It could have been made in England (most likely) or the US. Unless it is a very heavy vice (over 100 pounds) it is not worth much without all the parts.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:15:18 EDT

In relpie to thumper, I have re-done the drawing. I still, did not like the break drum forge because it lacked space.

here is the new forge plan

   Brandon - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:20:13 EDT

Forge Designs:

Steel pipe tuyeers with holes clog and burn out and are generally a pain. When they are used from the side the end is open and the forge is a side draft.

Coal forges are not enclosed as you drew. Most are open and that is their great advantage as almost any shape or length piece can be heated in one. Those that are enclosed are vented UP and are for small work (horseshoes, chain making).

Brake drum forges are too deep when built from heavy truck drums (the wrong type). SEE MY DRAWINGS.

Yes, brake drum forges have limited coal reserve (see my FAQ on coal fire maintenance). But as VIcopper pointed out they work and are a proven design IF you follow the instructions.

If you want a GOOD coal forge start with a commercial firepot and build from there.

Besides the traditional bottom blast forge (best for coal) and the side blast British type (better for breeze and coke) the oriental through forge is the simplest. This is two parallel walls of brick a little over a foot tall and a brick apart about an arms length long. Air is introduced through a missing half brick or hole in one side. The floor can be the Earth, OR brick. These have the benefit of an open forge and the flexibility of changing the fire space easily with a few bricks.

Stick with the designs that have been proven over thousands of years.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:28:17 EDT

Morph, Ken, Dave Boyer,

Morph's math is correct. I sometimes use fractions, allowing 22/7 as pi. For example, re Morph's first query, I got 28 2/7. Nothing wrong with decimals, though.

For Ken's query, I would use 7, although as Dave says, that's where you start. It'd be a test piece. 22/7 x 7/1 equals 22, so you'd start with 22 inches of one inch round.

An old timey smith, and I am one, is not going to measure through center, from medial line to medial line of a drawn circle to get the mean diameter. If you want the one inch round to have a 6" ID, you simply measure from the inside of the circle to the outside of the circle through center, and you get the mean diameter. Another simple way: take the ID and add the material thickness or the material diameter, and you've got it.

For forge welding, which I doubt we're going to do because of material handling problems, I do the multiplication, and THEN add one times the thickness or diameter of the material. The extra material is to allow for upsetting and scarfing both ends, preparing for a lap weld. After lap welding and shaping, it is amazing how close you can get to the sought, finished diameter.

Don't add one times the thickness BEFORE multiplying, or you'll screw up your pi x mean diaameter formula.


The "thread guard" is the container of the female threads. The old catalogs called it a box; it is a screw box. When you crank the handle containing the male thread, you don't want the box to turn. The little raised "riser" extends into an exension of the slit/drifted eye of the fixed leg and acts as a stop. It prevents the box from turning around.

   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:35:49 EDT

Brandon, You are also not allowing for ash. Even with a grate ash is going to fall down your pipe and clog the fan. Fine grates also clog or burn up as well.

Table forges are the simplest, they are just a flat surface with a place for air to pass through. This must have an ash dump. However, their flat surface lets coal and pieces of work fall off. So they are made with an edge. In order to get a hotter fire without a large mound of coal a depression is created. In modern forges this became the fire pot.

Table forges have hoods and vents added to them. When used they are to one side of the fire. When they surround the forge the sides are high with a door at working level.

Start simple. Start traditional. Don't use fancy grates that can clog or burn up. The best forges follow the KISS theory of design.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:42:21 EDT

Terry Snyder,

You have an old style of vise, where the screw box was often forge welded, and the threads were brazed inside the box with copper, more often brass. They usually have a 4" jaw +- 1/2". Is there a rectangular hole through the fixed leg just below the box eye? If so, that was for a tenoned, wedged mounting plate. We guess that these date from around 1800 plus or minus 30 years or so. Most of the ones found in the U.S. were English made. I have found one German one in the U.S. They are selling at about the same price as any other vises, although they are more of an antique, age wise.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:47:15 EDT

@ Frank Turly

I would of made an ash trap

@ Guru

Would it be possible to set a break drum into Fire brick so that i could have a hearth. I would still make a ashtrap, but just a screw off cap
   Brandon - Wednesday, 05/16/07 23:56:56 EDT

Super Rail - Craig, there is an industrial blacksmith by the name of Glenn Moon in Sydney who also does artistic / smaller work. Hes got quite a tidy sized shop. ( he is the Auzzy dealer for the Anyang hammers )

It may be worth giving him a nudge to see if he would be intereted in the rail - now im sure he wont do it for free, but you could end up with your piece free, and he could hold the rest for later sale at reasonable price? - just a thought. http://www.springandhammersmith.com.au/
   - John N - Thursday, 05/17/07 05:56:49 EDT

Craig, If you speak to Glenn tell him Ive got a beer waiting for him here in the UK when hes over for the big conference in July !
   - John N - Thursday, 05/17/07 06:03:43 EDT

Terry Snyder: Occasionally at blacksmithing conferences you can luck across just the bench bracket part of a leg vise, hopefully in the width you need. As a make do bracket I recommend finding a piece of large angle iron, 6" x 3" x 8" long would be nice. Go to a building supply outlet and get two foundation bolts. They are put into concrete before it dries so just the thread and nut area sticks up. Concrete end is a dog-leg. Straighten out both. Now bend such that about 3/4rds of the thread area will be behind the back leg. Measure and drill two holes in the short side of the angle iron such that you would have hole, back post and hole. Overlap the bent over areas on the front, arc weld side by side and then cut off surplus. Essentially what you are doing is making a U bolt sized to your post. Springs are very easy to make. I use 1/4" flat stock the same width as the back post at bench height. For 4" jaws, use 10" length, 5" - 11" and 6 or more - 12". After forging and shaping I just heat to a dull red and water quench. If the box and threads are fine you really don't need much spring action.

A couple of weeks ago I was at my scrap irom dealer. From about 50' away I spotted the floor end of a leg vise sticking out of a 55-gallon drum. Alas, 4" vise with no other parts but the jaws.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Thursday, 05/17/07 06:49:12 EDT

Water on the anvil: I just lurked above and found the post about this. It makes sense a lot, but my question is, how is rust dealt with? I've set a cold beer on my anvil once or twice only to see a rusty ring form immediately due to condensation. And, yes I know an anvil is not a shelf, but sometimes it's the only available space in my shop.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 05/17/07 08:14:32 EDT

Brandon: A screw off cap will work for an ashdump, but over time the thread will get "boogered" up, to the point of being more of a pain than anything. Also, depending on fire grate setup, you may be dumping the ash more than you think.
They make self closing lids for tractors/heavy equipment that can be bought at most farm stores for less than 10.00 a pop. They are available in many different sizes. Add a little weight to it, and you have a nice little self-closing ashdump that will last quite a while in normal use. Just a suggestion, your mileage may vary!
   keykeeper - Thursday, 05/17/07 08:42:47 EDT


My "shop" is outdoors anyway. I keep my anvil covered, but it still rusts from condensation. I wipe it down when I'm finished using it, and clean it up with a wire brush on the angle grinder when necessary.
   Matt - Thursday, 05/17/07 08:53:03 EDT

Rust on anvils. . A well used anvil stays bright from use. An occasional use anvil develops a rust patina. An anvil used for wet forging is often wiped down but most of the water runs off and evaporates quickly. While bright fresh polished steel will show rust instantly once it has had a chance to get a slight grey from oxidation it does not rust so obviously from a little water.

Most of my anvils developed a rust patina on the unworked finished surfaces. When I would dress them to a bright finish I would accelerate the rusting with some water. This produced a very light haze on the surface that slowly developed into a darker rust finish which was then oiled. Starting with an even surface prevented rust spots or crusty looking rust. Oil would then be held by the rust and made a fairly durable finish.

If you want a rust proof anvil start thinking 440C SS at $20/lb. SURE would be pretty.

Back in the 1970's Sears sold a full set of stainless steel Craftsman wrenches that were fully polished. I looked at them a number of times but since I already had duplicate sets of wrenches it was an extravagance. . . But they sure were pretty.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/17/07 09:03:29 EDT

Just a note on the rings, if you use a ring roller, on some types you will have two (2) flat areas on the ends. We have four machines that roll rings and every one has flat areas, this is due to the distance between the center active head and the dead rollers.(arranged in a triangle) We compensate by adding this distance,(measured from the center pin to the center of one outside roller X 2)to the original lenght. This leaves an overlap which is then bandsawed off, leaving a nice round ring. Some machine will roll a 20 ft stick into a coil, but the flats are still there. Exp. Machine A has a 4" spaceing, you want a 8" in ring. 8*pi = 25.1328 + (4*2) = 33.1328, round to 33" roll and cut. I would roll a stick a spread the scrap out among more parts. one of anything cost more to make. My two cents :)
   daveb - Thursday, 05/17/07 09:31:54 EDT

I am teaching history here in China. When I saw the pic of George Washington, I was just wondering if there was a story to go along with it?
   Sean in China - Thursday, 05/17/07 10:32:43 EDT

Brake Drum in Brick Table: Brandon, while this gives you a nice large work area it is mixing high dollar parts with low dollar parts which is generally a waste. "Firebricks cost several dollars each and something to support them (steel bar grating or a frame work) also has a significant cost and must be fabricated. If you are going to go to this much expense then you should purchase a commercial fire pot with ash dump and forget a cheap DIY system.

The REASON for a brake drum forge is that it can be built in much less time than we have been discussing it. It is a DIY junkyard project that is designed to get you in operation at little cost and time invested. It is a GREAT way to get started and to test the available fuel. In fact, you may find that the available coal is worthless and that a large investment in a coal forge may have been wasted.

I've built two of these forges in my life and helped countless others. My first forge used automobile wheels and junk from around the house and shop. The only items purchased were 3 pieces of 1/2" pipe for legs. Holes were made in one wheel for the leg fittings by drilling a small hole, filing it larger, then worrying it open with several tapered punches AND a blackskiths 5/8" punch (the only real Blacksmith tool I had found in several years of looking in local junk shops). It took me all weekend to build with what I had and with what I knew at the time.

The second forge I built was a true Brake Drum Forge. It was built at a girlfriend's suburban house in California. Everything to build it was in her father's garage including the brake drum, pipe for legs and a buzz box to put the whole together. I took about 3 hours to scrounge, cut and weld it all together. It took more time to find coal. It worked but the coal (used for landscaping) was the pits. . . She later built a gas forge then gave up steel for wood working. . .

The point is that there was little or nothing invested in these highly portable amateur forges and they did what they were supposed to do. They can also be built from all kinds of other things not just brake drums. The important part is the ash dump which is as good as on any commercial forge. The fire pot can be made of an automobile rim (if you can find one that has few holes and is made of steel), an automobile or light truck brake drum, a large PU or truck disk brake rotor, an old water heater tank, old propane bottle, a shallow sink. . .

As soon as you go to fire bricks you are no longer building a portable forge. At 10 pounds each it only takes a few to have something you cannot easily lift and if moved with wheels needs heavy duty ones. Design for brick is also different. The easiest is the trough forge I described above which can be dry stacked. Full size brick forges are a major construction project that can cost thousands of dollars and often must meet local building codes.

Commercial "portable" steel forges are not hard to fabricate. However, there is the cost of the steel and it is well worth while to use commercial fire pots. If you are going to build a professional tool you use the best parts and methods.

Building heavy duty is a great thing to do if it suits the purpose and budget. In the 1980's I built a heavy duty welding bench with a 36" (915mm) square 1" (25mm) thick top on one end and a fire brick top on the other. It had a 4" (100mm) angle iron frame and bar grating under shelf. The firebricks were also supported on bar grating. At the time materials cost nearly $1000 and it weighs 1350 lbs. (612kg). The top plate is bolted on and has a brass ground pad and short grounding stinger attached. The top also has a central 1" eyebolt that is set flush to the top from underneath so it can be removed and used to lift the plate. All the legs have feet with 3/4" holes so the bench can be bolted down. This is the gold standard of welding benches. Heavy, immovable, nearly indestructible AND it has storage space.

I handled every piece by hand except the top plate. When it was completely assembled four men could not move it without tools. Good way to build but not very portable. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 05/17/07 10:40:36 EDT

George Washington, The American Cincinnatus - 1919 J.L.G. Ferris (1863-1930)

George Washington, American Cincinnatus: The 1919 painting by J.L.G. Ferris (1863-1930) depicts George Washington as an American "Cincinnatus," - the famous Roman citizen-farmer turned soldier who laid down his arms at the conclusion of hostilities rather than continue in military power.

The painting shows George Washington working at the forge sharpening a horse drawn plow, horseshoes at his feet, children looking on a young slave pumping the bellows.

A good link discussing the symbolism of this painting is

JSTOR Social Change and Collective Memory

The painting's use of a slave also shows the imperfectness of the American Revolution that would result in the Civil War some 65 years later. The subject of releasing the slaves was a very divisive issue at the time. Some such as Patrick Henry wanted the rights of ALL men to be included in the constitution and a phased plan to release the slaves. Others would not hear of it knowing it would be political suicide. While the American patriots were idealists on one hand, they were practical men of commerce on the other.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/17/07 11:27:48 EDT

Can you full penetration weld stainless without a argon backing gas?
   donnell - Thursday, 05/17/07 17:17:56 EDT

-Guru thank you and i see your point. Do u think there would be a way for me to set up the forge without welding. I am 15 and do not have the best resources(money wise).

I am skilled at making plans though so if u can give me an idea i will most certainly make it work
   Brandon - Thursday, 05/17/07 19:00:46 EDT

Jock, yup, seems to work right this time. Got my green back.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 05/17/07 19:55:28 EDT

Anvil rust: think vasaline. Just a commercially pure cosmolene. Don't use too much though.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 05/17/07 19:59:17 EDT

Quenck, for anvil rust, use the anvil more :)
   ptree - Thursday, 05/17/07 20:34:10 EDT

Donnell: If You don't have to conform to a WPS or a code, and if You don't need absolute perfection You certainly can. If You use a copper or permanent backing strip You don't always need backing gas. But for a more specific answer You need to give a lot more info, and if You want to hear from real professionals You should ask on a welding forum.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 05/17/07 21:10:43 EDT

Design, Forges: Brandon, The trick if you have no or few tools and no budget is to build with what you you find and what tools you have. Specific plans can trap you into needing X, Y an Z parts and materials cut to shapes that may not be possible in many cases.

The EASIEST way to design something is to use all custom pieces and assume that nothing is impossible to make. I have done a lot of that type designing including detailing the parts and making a lot of them. In many cases it is the best way to go but it assumes a fully outfitted machine shop and a real budget. Designing for stock components selected from a catalog is harder and can save money in some cases but on some one off projects the design time and extra needed to fit the stock component can often cost more than a custom item. I've done quite a bit of this as well and the end requirements are not much different than all custom work. Designing with what you have on hand takes real imagination and planning. The true junk yard construction ethic is to convert things to your needs with the least effort and least expense.

The simplest forge requiring no tools (with the exception of some kind of air supply or its construction) is a pit forge. Literally a hole in the ground. You would be surprised to know that there are smiths in many countries still using this 5,000 year old technique. The next simplest is the oriental trough forge I described earlier. It can be made out of any type of brick EXCEPT concrete. Refractory (fire) bricks should be used for the zone where the fire is hottest. However, fire bricks have different proportions than common brick and are difficult to mix together. Refractory brick are also expensive but occasionally they are found in scrap yards. While fire brick are heavy a trough forge can be built, disassembled the brick moved and rebuilt elsewhere with ease. I would recommend charcoal as fuel in both these forges.

One advantage of a trough forge is that it can be built on a stand or table so that it can be used standing as is common here in the West. Note however that fire brick are NOT insulating material, they are heat resistant material. If put directly over a wood surface they may get hot enough to burn the wood. A layer of sheet rock (gypsum board) will act as fire proofing and provide some insulation. Building on a steel table or frame is recommended. It could also be built on top of a masonry (brick) stand).

A common pioneer forge is a pit type forge built in a wood box or stand filled with dirt. This raises the forge off the ground to our Western way of working. The materials are cheap, scrap lumber, dirt and clay PLUS the blower. The dirt needs to be deep enough to provide insulation from the wood and the size needs to be about 3 feet square for the same reason. Wood edges often catch fire on this type of forge but can be protected with some sheet metal patches. The common way of building such a forge is with a side blown tweer and no ash dump. This is suitable only for charcoal. If you want to use coal it should have an ash dump. Use the brake drum tuyeer assembly with a longer vertical tube and you are there. This assumes the forge box is raised off the floor, not filled from the floor up.

There are all kinds of ways to build forges that work. It all depends on your needs, expectations and ability. What is important is the KNOWLEDGE of what works.
   - guru - Friday, 05/18/07 09:01:22 EDT

I have just bought some 150mm bar. The sticker on the end of the bar says:

Any idea what any of that might mean? I won't weary you with the Chinese characters.
   philip in China - Friday, 05/18/07 09:56:15 EDT

Hi ...I have stated to make jaws for some vices i am rebuilding... making them from some old files I have heated red hot --- Annealed in lime then cut drilled and fitted to the Vice....
I need to know what the best way and or Temperature to temper them at ???
Also some one said that this can be done in some type of mud / clay dos any one know about this technic.???

Thanks for any info

   tecnovist - Friday, 05/18/07 10:52:00 EDT

Chinese Steel: Phillip, I suspect that you have what is known as C45 in the Chinese steel industry. This MAY be equivalent to SAE 1045 steel (described above 05/11/07), but that is a guess.

In the manuals I have on Chinese power hammers all the steel parts including the dies are called to be made from C45. This may be Chinese 45 or Carbon 45 but that is a quess. However, folks familiar with machining the dies suggest that is a possibility.

The long numbers are not standard Unified Number System numbers since "P" would indicate a precious metal. Supposedly the Chinese are using the ASTM system at this time but the numbers do not fit.

References I looked in:

Metals and Alloys in The UNS System, 5th Ed.
ASM Heat Treater's Guide
Woldmans Engineering Alloys, 6th Ed.

When all else fails Junk Yard Steel Rules apply.
   - guru - Friday, 05/18/07 11:11:29 EDT

Vice Jaws: Tecnovist, Generally you use the heat treat for SAE 1095 OR W1 for files. However, as noted above Junk Yard Steel Rules apply.

Hardening (1095): Warm gently, heat to 1475°F (800°C), Quench in water or brine. OIL QUENCH sections under 3/16" (1.59mm) (or pieces subject to quench cracking).

Tempering: As quenched hardness as high as 66 HRC. Can be adjusted downward by tempering. Tempering should be performed immediately after hardening before parts reach room temperature. See Temper Color Chart with Rockwell Hardnesses.

The correct tempering is an engineering decision to be made by the part designer. Pick a hardness from the chart above. I prefer smooth soft vise jaws so I would have used a medium carbon steel and left it unhardened OR for machine vise jaws I would have used hard aluminum and dressed them in place.

Mud/clay hardening techniques are used to create selectively hardened areas on blades and would not be applicable to this project. To protect the parts from oxidation you could use stainless foil.

The trick on these parts is going to be quench cracking and growth. Parts often grow when hardened. Precision locations like the countersunk screw holes in these parts will often be too far apart. When hard parts of this nature are made O1 is often used because of its low growth upon hardening. Otherwise the hole locations must be adjusted a few thousandths in the unhardened part. The amount or need is determined by trial and error.
   - guru - Friday, 05/18/07 11:31:31 EDT

Hello Guru--A few (a many?) months ago you posted pictures and/or? plans for a forge built out of a flat piece of steel using a commercially available firepot. I have finally scrounged a piece of flat steel plate to make the table? part of the forge, fabricating the legs is obvious even to me. Could you repost these plans/pictures, or re-describe the forge? And what would be your recomendation for a firepot? My current forge is a brakedrum forge with a homemade firepot that doesn't work very well. The new forge will be using coal, and powered by a rebuilt Champion #400 blower. I also have an electric blower that was used in the gold mines of the CA foothills, I was going to attach the blower with dryer exhaust flex ducting so I can switch between blowers. Thanx
   - David Hughes - Friday, 05/18/07 11:58:12 EDT

David Hughes: E-mail me your e-mail addy and I'll send you a couple of photographs of mine, which is likely what you have in mind. Just click on my name to bring up e-mail form.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Friday, 05/18/07 13:52:18 EDT

I looked today in the equivelents manual, and in China the equivelent to C1045 is "45" I wrote down the chemistry, but left it at work. If you really want to know the chemistry I will get the note on Monday.
   ptree - Friday, 05/18/07 17:53:36 EDT

Phillip in China
If you are looking for hammer stock, if you can find heavy truck axle I suspect that the material will be pretty much the same the world over, and the needs of the part are the same. In the US 1050H and 1541H are used and have been for years. Forge hot, don't hold at forgeing or quench heat for longer than neccesary and quench in oil. makes a good hammer stock.
   ptree - Friday, 05/18/07 17:56:01 EDT

Hi Guru,
I recently made a propane forge and have been trying to make a pair of tongs and I have been following the directions given in The Dempsey Twist and I have been using A36 mild steel and the jaws have been breaking and I am wondering if too many heats is causing the steel to become brittle thus causing the jaws to break at the twist point?
   Lindsay - Friday, 05/18/07 18:58:02 EDT

Cracking Tongs: Lindsay, There are a number of things you can do wrong.

1) Fuller too deep (no more than 50%).
2) Fuller too sharp (radius no less than 2x the thickness).
3) Twist to sharp (held too close when twisted - needs 1t+).
4) Not dress the corners before or after the twist (more).

One thing that helps is to dress the corners off sharp cornered stock when you start and to dress the new corners created by the fuller. If you can make is near round without reducing the thickness that is ideal.

ALL the above are just good forging practice on most items.

Another thing that helps is to start with a little heavier stock and leaving the twist area heavier than the surrounding stock.

Don't try to make an abrupt sharp corner joint. Lots of tongs have long necked joints and the offset is created by a bend not change in section.

Bad Steel: You CAN have bad steel. Some flat bar is sheared from plate, not hot rolled. It is then straightened and the rough edges rolled to clean them up. Often this creates cracks and cold shuts along the edges. It is generally a bad practice. You can identify this material by looking close.

There is also cold rolled rather than cold drawn CF bar. This is made by rolling hot roll that is just a little oversize to the correct size. This work hardens the steel and often hides flaws. A spotted or mottled surface is often the indicator of this type stock.

Then there is just lousy steel. . . Too high of carbon, varying carbon, bad chemistry in general. It used to be VERY rare but is more and more common today.

Note that this is not the best way to make tongs. It is just one way that is easy to visualize and it works. The tongs I made using this method were all for doing small work and are still the tongs I use the most when hand forging. They are over 30 years old now and one pair out of three has had to be repaired. A heavy handed oaf bent them a number of times and they failed from fatigue.
   - guru - Friday, 05/18/07 20:01:18 EDT

There seems to be conflicting information concerning forges.

Guru: "Stick with the designs that have been proven over thousands of years". Then you say "break drum forges work and are a proven design IF you follow the instructions". Followed in the same post by "If you want a GOOD coal forge start with a commercial firepot and build from there." This would suggest that we have had break drums and commercial firepots for thousands of years.

You say your first forge was a “used automobile wheel”, “the second forge I built was a true Brake Drum Forge”. You then say "The fire pot can be made of an automobile rim, an automobile or light truck brake drum, a large PU or truck disk brake rotor, an old water heater tank, old propane bottle, a shallow sink. . ." This would suggest these items are a proven design.

Common pioneer forge
"The dirt needs to be deep enough to provide insulation from the wood and the size needs to be about 3 feet square for the same reason". "The common way of building such a forge is with a side blown tweer and no ash dump. This is suitable only for charcoal. If you want to use coal it should have an ash dump". You said "Besides the traditional bottom blast forge (best for coal) and the side blast British type (better for breeze and coke) the oriental through forge is the simplest". Is not breeze coal files or dust, and is not coke just coal with the volatiles removed? You specified a width of 3 feet, can you specify how deep “deep enough” needs to be?

"The simplest forge requiring no tools, is a pit forge. Literally a hole in the ground. You would be surprised to know that there are smiths in many countries still using this 5,000 year old technique. The next simplest is the oriental trough forge I described earlier". "What is important is the KNOWLEDGE of what works".

Please review the information and consider a FAQ so there no longer seems to be conflicting information. This way when people want “the KNOWLEDGE of what works” they can be referred to the FAQ.
   - Ntech - Friday, 05/18/07 21:00:46 EDT

Do suggest to buy the charcoal or make it for the forge
   Brandon - Friday, 05/18/07 21:12:28 EDT

I see no real conflicting information in anything that Jock wrote on forge design and construction. On the contrary, what he has repeated numerous times is that you need to determine what you want to do and then build suitably to that goal. He has provided numerous examples of different ways that forges can be built, from the most very basic to the more complex, and listed the advantages and disadvantages of each.

If you cannot read all that and figure out how to make a fire, then you probably don't possess the requisite experimental nature to make much of a blacksmith. Good grief, man. This isn't rocket science, it is just building a fire and confining it where you want it. If you need to have it done for you, then your best recourse is to purchase a complete forge from a dealer and have him give you instructions on how to use that exact forge.

The key to success at most creative endeavors is understanding the processes and principles involved, not learning cookbook recipes for duplicatinig someone else's work. Forge building isn't really any different. You try things, note what is good and what is not so good, and adjust accordingly with the next iteration. The learning process is not linear; it is filled with detours and diversions, each valuable in itself.
   vicopper - Friday, 05/18/07 21:43:02 EDT


If you have the time, space and energy, then by all means take a stab at making some charcoal on your own. It's really kind of fun...once. After having done that, you can decide if you want to keep doing it, or go to the restaurant supply and buy ready-made charcoal.

The ready-made restaurant type real wood charcoal, (NOT those pressed briquettes that are junk), is usually pretty uniform and dependably good. Homemade charcoal is generally a mixture of not completely coaled wood, good charcoal, and some that is overcooked almost to the point of being little more than ash. It takes some real skill andpractice to consistently make good charcoal, even if you have a proper retort. Doing it in a pit clamp is much more an art than a science, but fun to try as I said earlier. If I didn't mention it before, it's a lot of work, too. (grin)

Bottom line? Buy it if you're lazy like me, and if you can get good quality real wood charcoal.
   vicopper - Friday, 05/18/07 21:49:56 EDT

I strongly agree with vicopper.
   - Burnt Forge - Friday, 05/18/07 21:55:15 EDT

Brake Drum forge from actual experience:
If you cut a semi tractor brake drum in half the thickness you have the perfect firepot depth. You will be deep enough to have a good hot fire that will stay going with a hand crank blower and it will be non-oxidizing. If you make the pot deeper it will not work. I know this from experience.
I also used a dodge 1/2 ton brake drum for a forge. It worked well, but the diameter was really too small.

This should satisfy Ntech's question.
   - Burnt Forge - Friday, 05/18/07 22:00:03 EDT

Ntech-- forges may seem dauntingly complex in the abstract. However, in smithing as in the rest of life, there is thinking about it, reading about it, getting ready to get ready, then (glug!) doing it. Before going much further in your quest, a suggestion: a picture is worth a thousand words. Take a gander at the one someone named Wendy Talkers shot while traveling through Viet Nam not long ago of a smith at work. Wendy posted this picture at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wendietalker/87212502/in/set-72057594050140931/ This wonderful picture of a knifemaker AT WORK getting the product out will clarify a lot of the seeming problems, perhaps.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 05/18/07 23:35:27 EDT

I think i will just get fire bricks, stack them in a circle a foot in diameter and 6in high. then place them on a peice of steel attached to my blower then place it on bricks.

perfect, it mobile and won't break.Plus i can make it bigger or smaller

Do u think a junk yard will have a decent anvil say 50 pounds
   Brandon - Saturday, 05/19/07 00:12:51 EDT

Brandon: Depends on your definition of anvil. If you are thinking of a scrapped traditional anvil, answer is almost surely no. I have spoken to several long-time scrap metal dealers and all have said they don't remember a single scrap anvil coming in.

(On this general area, Richard Postman is still looking for a copy of a large format (e.g., Look, Life, SEP), WW-II era magazine issue which had a photograph of a large piles of anvils in a scrapyard. Notation was anvils were being scrapped as part of the war scrap metal drive. He notes what came into the scrapyard may not have been scrapped but redirected to a secondary market if they were still in good condition. Junkers (likely mostly abused solid cast iron) probably scrapped though. Why sell for say $.01 a pound at the time when they would get at least several times that elsewhere?) I remember seeing the photograph sometime in the past.)

If you are asking if a scrapyard might have an a hunk of metal you can use for an anvil, then your answer is in all likelihood yes. Just don't expect to get a lot of mass in 50 pounds though. A rule of thumb for mild steel is .2835 pounds to the cubic inch. Thus, 50 pounds would be roughly the equivalent or say 6" x 6" x 6". My recommendation would be to look for something rectangular in 4" thickness, say 4" x 8" x 10". If my math is correct, about 90 pounds. The scrapyard I use charges $.25 per pound for mild steel. Occasionally they have a nice chunk of stainless steel for $1 pound.

If you have access to welding you can put on a receiver for a hardy tool on one end. A hardy cone mandrel can be a suitable substitute for a horn.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 05/19/07 06:21:44 EDT

Proven Designs: Some folks cannot cannot see the forest for the trees. The scrap components to produce a given design do not need to include every nut and bolt or brand of the item. A fireproof container with generally sloping sides to hold the fuel can be any one of thousands of things and not void the general "design".

Vagueness in Description: In many cases "enough" is just what it says "enough". While you can build a tabletop jeweler's forge with earthen insulation that is only a few inches deep a forge used in heavy commercial service may need several feet of soil insulation to protect a wood enclosure. The rules of thermal dynamics are not simple but they ARE a matter of scale and time. Even commercial cast iron fire pots often melt or burn up if used for work that is too heavy or at maximum heat for too long a time.

On the pioneer forge the soil type can make a big difference and this is where you need to assume some common sense (I know, that is a dangerous thing, to make and assumption and that someone has any sense). Soil that is very high in organic matter makes good insulation but it is also inflammable. Clay soils are not as good of insulation but are not flammable. Clay soils with organic matter at a level where it is not flammable are the best for this purpose. Is that vague enough? It is life and folks use what they have on hand. Friability and flammability is why both pit and box forges have the soil covered with a layer of clay.

There are thousands of options of how to build a solid fuel forge but the general configurations are very nearly the same. There are some differences depending on the materials used. In most cases you are making a hole to put fuel into. It can be in the ground or on a table but it is still a hole. I've repeated numerous times that a trough forge is the best if bricks are going to be used but that advice has not been taken so I have been arguing the point needlessly.

You are right, I DO need to write a complete article on forges.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/19/07 09:56:57 EDT

Forges over the years.

Little by little, I have traded, bought and sold coal forges, hoping for the day when I would have all cast iron hearths in the shop. A couple of weeks ago, a friend, Will Outland, helped me schlep the last two of six cast hearths indoors. One of them has a Lorance firepot and the other has an original Buffalo rectangular firepot, the latter having a hole through the tuyere valve. We lined the hearths with concrete, using arroyo sand and Portland cement, mixed in a wheelbarrow. I am not saying that cast iron hearths are the best in the West, but now I have some consistancy in the shop. I still have a fabbed forge which I can load in the pickup for traveling demos.

The essential equipment for a blacksmith is a forge, anvil, and vise. Even if you're a hobby smith, your first cost is not that much, compared to setting up other hobbies or businesses. Why not look for real anvils and firepots? Check out your farm auction sale bills. Put an ad in the "nickel advertiser" saying what you need. eBay is normally higher than a cat's back, but check it anyway. Look at our advertisers; offerings with the NAVIGTE ANVILFIRE MENU. If you're young and short on money, get a McJob and save up.

   Frank Turley - Saturday, 05/19/07 10:24:56 EDT

Of scrap yards and Anvils:

First, anvils are valuable tools and not just old scrap to be found lying about anywhere. New anvils cost $3 to $10 a pound and used anvils $1 to $5 a pound in the U.S.

You MAY find an anvil in a scrap yard but it is very unlikely. However, if they DO have one they will not be selling it at scrap metal prices.

Where you find anvils - Blacksmith tool dealers (see our advertisers), Tailgate sales at blacksmithing events (see our Calendar of events AND your state/local blacksmithing group. You can also find them at flea markets (rarely) and farm or shop auctions (far and few between) OR from individuals. Note that I did NOT list ebay. There you will find good old anvils being sold as collector's items OR new cast iron junk anvils. Stay away from ebay unless you are a knowledgeable and experienced buyer.

Almost every day I here people say "I cannot find an anvil". However, what they REALLY mean is they cannot find a free or cheap anvil. As previously stated, anvils are a valuable too. Good ones are made of machined and hardened tool steel. They are necessarily heavy and this also increases their cost.

You can make an anvil from scrap but it takes serious metalworking tools unless that scrap is ready to use as-is. It will also not be as good as a real anvil unless you are a very talented person with a well equiped shop. In that case you could probably afford a good anvil or already have one and are making one for the experience.

As Frank pointed out it is not that expensive to start right. It is MORE expensive to make a lot of missteps wasting expensive materials. Learning by trial and error is an expensive education.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/19/07 11:22:20 EDT

If you want absolutes---take up machining as a hobby there you can control enough variables to get a narrow range of answers.

Blacksmithing is the hobby that's wide open---you can deform, remove and add metal, different alloys and different heat treats can result in markedly different properties in your work piece.

If the idea that there are a number of equally good ways to do things and NO BEST WAY without a massive listing of constraints disturbs you this is not the hobby for you.

50# is about half the weight of my travel anvil. I would consider it more of a "toy" anvil abd be very wary since so many 50# ASO's have been sold into the environment. I have a Y1K anvil that is about that weight---a cube of steel and use it for historical demo's but it is sure a joy to get back to the larger anvils when the demo is over---one thing to recall is that working real wrough iron you work it really HOT! so the smaller anvils they used worked better than us hammering on A36 nowdays.

Breeze is coke that forms in the blacksmiths forge as compared to the much heavier denser compacted "industrial" coke that is sold commercially.

Say a bunch of old cable tool drilling buts/subs/fishes sold today at the Tech Auction, I fear they are headed to the scrap yard. One of the old drill pipe wrenches was stamped 450# a dandy anvil if in a bit of an odd form.

   Thomas Powers - Saturday, 05/19/07 14:18:17 EDT

how is flutagon heat treated?
   - Bill - Saturday, 05/19/07 17:54:00 EDT

I have located a "Little Giant" 25lb power hammer in good shape with several swages and dies. And a few other blacksmithing items thrown in. He wants $2500. Is this a fair price to pay? I have been working for several years without a hammer and have a very small shop so a big one is out of the question. If this sounds like something I should consider, what should I look for as far as warning signs of needed repairs. The $2500 is a stretch for me so I need to be wise about this purchase. Thank you for any advice.

   Don - Saturday, 05/19/07 21:29:24 EDT

One more thing, the guy said that it was a "post War" little giant.

   Don - Saturday, 05/19/07 21:30:55 EDT

Flutagon® Atlantic 33® (Shaped Non-Tempering Tool Steel: February 1st, 1999 (NEWS, Dan Boone's)

It comes in a four lobed bar called a "flutagon". The shape makes tools very easy to hold and mis-identification of the steel impossible.

From October 28, 2001

Atlantic 33 is a proprietary steel made by Atlantic Steel Corp, there is no standard designation so you will not find it in standard references.

Atlantic 33 is the ultimate in hot work steel. It is a very high alloy steel and is called "non-tempering". Most smiths forge it, quench the tip of the tool and use it. I believe that those fancy thin imported hot work chisels listed as Chrome - Molybdenum Air Hardening Steel sold by Kayne and Son and Centaur are of similar material.

From June 29, 2001:

Flutagon® Atlantic 33® (Shaped Non-Tempering Tool Steel):

Atlantic Steel Corp.
35-27 36th Street
Astoria, NY 11106

(From Thomas Register)
215-T Liberty Ave.
Minela, NY 11501

From Atlantic Steel:

To Forge: Heat slowly and uniformly to temperature of about 1825°F to 1975°F (lemon to yellow) and forge.

To Harden: Reheat the cutting edge about 1" back between 1650°F to 1950°F (salmon to lemon color) depending on hardness required. Quench in clean cold water. DO NOT DRAW TEMPER.

As a die steel, Atlantic 33 can be flame hardened at 1540°F followed by a continuous water spray quench directly behind the flame, resulting Rockwell C. 58-62. The flame should travel from 3" to 7" per minute at a height of about 3/16" over the steel. The thinner the section, the faster should be the rate of travel of the flame. A forced air quench using the same temperature gives about 63-64 Rc. A still air quench using the same temperature gives about 48-52 Rc. By carburizing and flame hardening, a Rockwell hardness from between 63-68 Rc is obtained.

If you want more you will need to contact Atlantic Steel.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/19/07 21:35:20 EDT

Value of Little Giant: Don, This is a pretty small hammer. You may want to consider bigger, they take very little more space. Post war? Civil, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam?

First, LG's are all out of production. Second they are in much too high a demand. So they sell high for an almost orphan machine. They are supported by a reborn Little Giant Co that only makes spares and does rebuilds.

The important thing is condition. They sell for more in perfect condition. But they are often in MUCH LESS than perfect condition. You will need to check to see if there are any cracks in the frame and dovetails, severely worn bearings, bad repairs. . . Looking for cracks SHOULD be difficult as these machines should be a ball of oil and grease if they have been properly lubricated. Some of the recommended rebuilding techniques are NOT top shelf and the tendency is to fis them with a bigger hammer. If you see ANY arc welding or weld beads on the machine they are not OEM.

Remember that the very NEWEST of these machines are over 32 years old and post WWII means 60 years. That is a lot of time for a machine that is typically abused and under lubricated. In rough condition they often sell for $800 or less.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/19/07 21:49:30 EDT


Give serious consideration to building an air hammer, rather than buying an overpriced and undersized Little Giant.

You can build a very nice air hammer for about a grand in materials, less if you're a good scrounger. A 65# air hammer will run rings around a 50# Little Giant, and doesn't need constant fiddling and re-adjusting. It DOES require a real, 5hp compressor capable of delivering an honest 15 cfm to run it. The compressor will cost about another grand, but it is also useful for painting, sandblasting, etc.

Old mechanical hammers, even the good ones like Beaudrys and Bradleys, are less user friendly than air hammers. They do have that nostalgic appeal, but that wears off pretty fast when you use them and work on them.
   vicopper - Saturday, 05/19/07 22:22:27 EDT

Really Bad Steel:

I came across a piece of that WW-II rebar that was incredibly red short as I was cleaning out the barn moving stuff to "my side" of the farm. if anyone wants a sample for analysis, just contact me at "asylum" and I'll hack off a piece and send it along. Neat "organic" looking pattern, lousy metal!

Clear and cool on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 05/19/07 22:35:30 EDT

If any of you have experience with small building construction, please check out my posting over at the Hammer-in regarding my plans for the new forge building for Oakley Forge over on "my side of the farm." My sisters have sold Oakley House and the west fields, so I will have to pull back to the east side of the lane in the near future. The forge is on the house lease, but that only lasts until we move into the new house; after that, it's at the sufferance of the new owners. Better to plan ahead and get things ready than to trust to the whims of the new owners. If worse comes to worse, I'll just have to drag all the gear over to the "old barn" (circa 1830) and stash it until I get the new structure built.

Oh well, as we say in the Park Service: "Adapt, migrate or die!"
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 05/19/07 23:09:10 EDT

Hi, im looking at buying an anvil from my shop teacher. its an arm and hammer, its very big, its got 302 stamped
on one of the legs im supposing thats the weight. i think the the face is 5 1/2" by 20 5/8. its in a high school metal shop, so im sure its been used for much more than blacksmithing but its composure is good. the face is pretty beat up a few chips ones pretty deep but not bad,
but the whole face looks like smoebody went to town on it with a center punch or chisel. i think it would clean up with 3 3/2 to an 1/8 of an inch ground of. other than above
it has the best rebound ive ever felt (not saying much)
its strapped down but you can hear a deafened ring.
i offered him $400 i figure if i buy a 150lb. pw off ebay it will cost me that much anyway. so being that your an experienced blacksmith and all, what do you think?
i could send you pictures if you wanted.
   Matthew Maiers - Sunday, 05/20/07 00:02:57 EDT

Matthew Maiers: Arm & Hammer anvils are among the top ones every made. A bit over $1.00 pound would be an outright steal pretty well regardless of condition.

You mentioned a shop teacher so I going to assume you are on the younger side. I would see that anvil about the equivalent of a music student buying an old upright piano. You are likely going to move a fair number of times before you settle into one place and that anvil is going to be a bear to move every time.

If you can get it for $4.00 what you might do is to consider purchasing it, sell it on eBay and then use the money to buy one in the 150-200 pound range, either off eBay or from one of the Anvilfire.com advertisers.

An eBay anvil is going to pretty well be at its maximum value for a number of years. The A&M would likely continue to appreciate, as would one of the new European imports or U.S. produced steel anvils.

In short, I suspect the A&M is simply too big for your current situation.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 05/20/07 07:34:20 EDT

Hot (red) shortness: This condition is due to excessive sulfur in the steel. Manganese is added to combine with the Sulfur to make Manganese Sulfides. While these inclusions are not good, they do let you work the steel hot by keep the the sulfur off the grain boundaries. When I started my career a couple of hundred years ago, the normal AISI range for S was .025-.035. Aircraft quality was down around .010-.015. Today, the company I work for makes steel down to .0001 Sulfur. Some heats have no detectable sulfur. Yep, we don't make steel like we used to. :-)
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 05/20/07 08:05:24 EDT

Arm & Hammer anvil.

Is it really an Arm & Hammer, or is it a Vulcan, that has an arm and hammer logo cast into its side? The Vulcans are servicable, but of cast iron with a steel face...kind of ugly, too. The Arm & Hammers are like the Trentons, having a cast base and forged from the waist up; more quality than the Vulcan.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 05/20/07 10:27:16 EDT

Watched one program on the WW-II German invasion of Russia. Said during the brutal cold weather near Moscow the Germans had a great deal of problems with metal on tanks and such breaking. As I recall it said it was due to a high sulfur content, added to increase machineability.

Also recall hearing at least the rivets used to hold Titantic's side plates together also had a high sulfur content. May have contributed to the damage.

For other 'anvilheads': Recently several anvils have shown up with a six-point raised star on side. Either a triangle or circle within star. I have been corresponding with someone who has one with the circle. They cleaned up the bottom and found: PATENT APRIL 24, 1877 MAY 13, 1884 and 1892 (in larger size). April 24, 1877 happens to also be the patent date on an 1888 dated Fisher anvil just listed on eBay? Coincidence? I suspect not. This anvil is VERY badly damaged, missing the heel, bad chips out of side. About 1/3rd of a very thin top plate can still be seen. Top of horn seems to have been machined smooth.

Am now wondering if Fisher & Norris didn't put out a separate, lower-quality, anvil for a while.

Can foreward e-mail (with clear photos) to anyone interested.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 05/20/07 10:41:15 EDT

Flux Alternatives:

Greetings again, still playing with hot metal, and am planning to work on fire welding shortly. Have not done it before, so I want to try it out some. Read some articles on the process and think I have a fair grasp of it. My question is regarding flux. Borax seems to be the popular chemical used for welding flux, but seems in short supply in this country I'm in. Or atleast I can't find a good source. Anyway, are there any alternatives to using Borax for welding flux ? Some other chemical perhaps, I've been told glass can somehow be used...

Thanks in advance,

   bruno - Sunday, 05/20/07 12:47:04 EDT

Bruno, Try the drugist (chemist) in the nearest town. They may have boric acid.
Many many things have been used for flux, including good clean sand, mud dauber nests grond up to dust and if you are really good no flux.
Borax in the uS is mostly found in the laundry aisle for improving the washing effect of laundry soap. Sold as "20 Mule Team Borax"
   ptree - Sunday, 05/20/07 13:13:36 EDT

yes, its a real arm and hammer.ive been in the market for an anvil for a few years now and finnaly decided to spring for one and yes, vulcans are kinda ugly. and by the way poor boy have you used those tuyeres that you make, do they work well? im thinkin im going to fill a large break drum with refractory cement and form a firepot. plus the other day i found a forge blower on a guys farm! yippy!
thanks poorboy i dont think moving it will be a big problem.
plus i THINK i might over work a 150-200 pounder but just a thought.
   - Matthew maiers - Sunday, 05/20/07 17:39:05 EDT

Matthew Maiers: The tuyere referred to is a 2" black iron floor flange in which two pieces of rod have been welded into the center to make air grates. Like most of my tools, they work, but not necessarily as well as professionally made one. Someone on eBay use to sell cast tuyeres, but I don't recall seeing them in a while.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 05/20/07 18:11:27 EDT

Matthew, We recently gave a grandson of a friend similar advise about a big roll around tool chest. . "What are you going to do with it in college moving from dorm to dorm". But this anvil is different. I would buy it as an investment. If you can use it some now GREAT. If you can store it while in school then it will not depreciate. Good old anvils are a good investment, probably as good as gold and almost as easily converted to cash. AND if you have use for it then it is worth at least what a new anvil is worth for that purpose and STILL appreciating as long as you do not abuse it.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/20/07 18:13:00 EDT

Fluxes: Bruno, Ptree is correct. In most places you can purchase borax from the pharmacy. In Hispanic or Latin countries they sell borax in small packets along with cooking stuffs such as spices and dyes. However, because it is packaged in little bags (less than a handful) it is fairly expensive. I do not know what they use it for.

Potters (ceramic artists) also use borax in glaze recipes. So a ceramics supplier would carry it. They use the dehydrated version which is a little better.

The large soapbox size used here costs about $7 to $8. If you needed to buy some from the US it would be double that plus shipping (doubling the cost again). So, about $30 plus exchange.

Boric acid is usually used in combination with borax.

The coating on arc welding rods contains borax, boric acid, iron powder (some types) and cellulose (wood flour) to produce smoke.

Using sand for flux is tricky as you need the right kind (proper mineral). When clay or mud dauber nests are used this is a protectant to reduce oxidation. It does not disolve oxides as does a true flux.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/20/07 18:51:52 EDT

ya i'll have a place to keep it while in college. and yes thats the great thing about blacksmithing, almost all your tools appreciate over time. i figure i might as well get into blacksmithing while im young and have the time, plus it will give me more time for experience. ive always been facinated with metallurgy.i changed my mind on the brake drum thing i think ill make a firepot out of 3/8" or 1/2"steel and weld it together with 6011 then just make a simple tuyere and ash gate then upgrade from there.
im thinkin for my senior project restoring a 50lb. little giant power hammer.
FORGET the dog tools are mans best friend.
   - Matthew maiers - Sunday, 05/20/07 19:13:59 EDT

Can you tell me about hot rasping? Just experimenting, I tried out an old bastard file on some hot steel. It doesn't cut in the same was as it would on cold steel, but seems to smooth it none the less. I'd like to know when and why the technique is used & what kind of file should be used.
   andrew - Sunday, 05/20/07 20:15:24 EDT


I use old used farrier's rasps for hot rasping, or a very coarse double-cut 14" file. A bastard cut file is really too fine for hot rasping. It will ruinn those little teeth in no time flat, too.

Hot rasping is something I do to remove the rag left when hot cutting or slitting, and occassionally to clean up a tenon if I got careless and pinched it in the spring dies. Other than that, I usually do my filing at a cooler temperature on the 5hp belt grinder. I'm lazy. :-)
   vicopper - Sunday, 05/20/07 20:38:18 EDT

Hot Rasping and Sawing:

Hot rasping is done with coarse old worn files. It wrecks new files as the heat softens the teeth and dulls them rapidly. Coarse files are generally used, not rasps. It is done at a red to black heat. When done right you should get bright sparks like grinding swarf. It is a good use for old files.

Many smith use this technique to clean up rough work as well as to round edges. It leaves a unique finish that oxidizes from the heat.

Hot sawing can also be done using HSS saw blades. This too produces a rain of sparks. The process is very fast but like hot rasping it is hard on cutting tools. Hot sawing is a good technique to use on hard to anneal steels. For these steels the steel needs to be hotter than a dull red as these start to harden at higher temperatures than plain carbon steels.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/20/07 23:01:22 EDT

Matthew Maiers: I too would suggest buying the big anvil and keeping it. Make up a bar about 2' longer than the anvil from horn to heel with a ring for around the horn and a bolt that goes through the harde hole. With 1' extending out each end 2 young guys can carry that around no problem.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 05/20/07 23:11:56 EDT

Coke Breeze: In the terminology of the irone and coke industries, the term breeze is used for the fine particles of coke that break off the lumps and blow around the coke plant. So breeze is fine coke. When coke is made in the forge, it is soft and makes fines easily. Therefore forge-made coke is called breeze by blacksmiths.
   - John Odom - Monday, 05/21/07 07:45:03 EDT

Dave Boyer: It had never occurred to me to carry an anvil in that nature. Today I learned something. Make it worth while getting up.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Monday, 05/21/07 07:56:46 EDT

Mattew Maiers: Here is the eBay listing number for a cast forge ash grate. Elbow under is of far lessor importance, with the standard being a sideways T to allow removal of what fell through the grate.

If you are willing to invest the money, at least in my opinion, the SOFA designed firepots are about as good as them come. Now being handled by Bob Cruikshank, 1485 W. Possom Road, Springfield, OH 45506 (937-323-1300). If he is back to work now (after bypasses) he is an pipefitter so is gone a lot. He can mail you a brochure. Website doesn't seem to be working.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Monday, 05/21/07 08:05:26 EDT

I've seen several people use this method of moving anvils. It works well with small anvils or whatever size you have made the tool to fit. As anvils tend to be similar in length over a range of sizes they will work on more than one.

I have seen short ones that just made a loop from horn to hardie hole. You can slip a cross bar under so that two or more people have room to lift.

For heavy anvils I use a short nylon sling with both loops on the horn. I have a pair of 36" (.9m) 1" (25mm) nylon slings that are good for 5,000 pounds and are very handy for tasks like this.
   - guru - Monday, 05/21/07 08:19:13 EDT

Ken: Try the website www.creativeironforge.biz for the SOFA firepots.
   keykeeper - Monday, 05/21/07 08:52:45 EDT

Moving anvils with the porter bar is a good idea.
I've mounted a couple of 200#+ anvils by my lonesome by moving them to the site with a hand dolly. I use a homemade tripod over the anvil stand with a welded chain hook at the top holding a chain fall. The "sling" is a chain wrapped around the anvil.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/21/07 09:44:41 EDT

Hot Rasping with saw blades

Sounds like a good way to do this would be with a modified hacksaw that had, say half a dozen old blades mounted on it.
   Hudson - Monday, 05/21/07 11:28:29 EDT

Moving anvils: I have a large Fisher anvil that I have moved when I have enough help by slipping a couple of good sized pieces of pipe through the hardies (*2* 1.5" ones one at either end of the face) That way it's only about 125# per person---with 4 people...

By myself it's rollers to where the mounting block is and then I use two lolly columns to reinforce the roof truss and use a comealong to do the lift. nb: Never stand under a weight being lifted; my comealong is rated for 2 tons; but my feet/legs are rated for almost *nothing* if something fails I'd rather bemoan a crack in the floor than buffer the impact with my foot!

Arm& Hammer anvils, made in Columbus OH are great anvils but have the weight stamped, in pounds, on the waist not on a leg! Vulcan anvils have a weaight indicator stamped on a leg, (usually the appr weight divided by 10)---see where our confusion comes from?

The ring, gracile vs robustus form and the incised vs outstanding emblem are good indicators you have the Arm&Hammer. You may want to do the ball bearing test to make sure the face is still in good temper.

   Thomas P - Monday, 05/21/07 11:43:15 EDT

Historical Heat Treating

The common blacksmith practice is to use the non-magnetic temperature (Curie temp) as the approximate temperature for quenching to harden. I believe that at least low-quality permanent magnets were available throughout the 19th century.

Does anyone know if "heating to nonmagnetic" was used at all for 19th century heat treating? Was it strictly based on color?
   Walking Dog - Monday, 05/21/07 12:04:25 EDT

"Dempsey Twist" tongs:

The jaws on my first pair broke, too. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure it was because I twisted them too cold.
   Matt - Monday, 05/21/07 13:00:11 EDT

According to Anvils in America both CF&I Trentons and CA&F Arm & Hammers had the weight stamped on the front foot. II&B (Vulcan) typically put it in raised letters above the front foot. Fisher used both the right front foot or above the front foot.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Monday, 05/21/07 13:48:13 EDT

Magnetic Point: I think this is a modern technique blacksmiths learned from modern metallurgy.
   - guru - Monday, 05/21/07 14:41:45 EDT

Ptree, Guru:

Thanks for the info. Will look around some more, didn't think to check the pharmacy. Heard recently borax is available "somewhere" at the bazaar. Just gonna have to look harder I guess. hehe, at least I now know how to pronounce it in the local language.

Guru, in regards to what borax is used for in latin countries, I've read, on wikipedia (grain of salt needed), that some countries use it as a food additive somehow (perservative maybe?) , in small amounts. Which is funny because it also says that it is toxic at certain levels.

Thanks again,

   bruno - Monday, 05/21/07 14:49:42 EDT

hey everyone what do you use to light a propane forge could you just throw a match in it and then turn on the gas like with a grill
   - newbiesmith - Monday, 05/21/07 15:34:42 EDT

Borax Toxicity: Everything is toxic at certain levels and that for borax is pretty high. Other borax facts.

Boracic acid and borax were the principal ingredients added to meat by the large national firms. Both were antiseptic compounds used initially to treat wounds, but also employed to inhibit bacterial growth in food products, and turn-of-the-century meat industry formulas routinely contained substantial quantities. To maintain meat's "fresh appearance," one industry handbook recommended treating fresh beef with a solution containing one-and-a-third pounds of borax and boracic acid for every gallon of water. Borax was routinely sprinkled on fresh meat prior to shipment, "to prevent them [the meat] turning slippery or moldy."
These two ingredients were at the center of the public health controversy that finally resulted, after publication of Upton Sinclair's exposé, The Jungle, in federal regulation of meat industry. Defenders of boracic acid and borax claimed these materials were of "inestimable value" in safeguarding the public's health because of their prevention of contamination.73 Critics, led by Harvey Wiley, countered by stressing the incremental impact of these products, alleging that over time these agents could damage the kidneys. In 1906, the Department of Agriculture banned use of borax and boracic acid in food products in the same measure that finally imposed federal inspection over the national meat industry.

Besides an antiseptic (note that washing with borax produces dermatitis in some people), it is also used in various recipes to kill insects. A sugar and borax mix is said to be good for killing ants but must be kept away from pets.

Fluoridated water can cause hypothyroidism and decrease your body's metabolism. Defluoridate your water by adding a medium size pinch of borax per liter of water. . .
   - guru - Monday, 05/21/07 15:42:37 EDT

Lighting a Propane Forge:

NOTICE - Never stand in front of or look into the opening of a gas forge when lighting. It is not unusual to get a burst of flame several feet or more from the forge.

There are numerous ways to light a gas forge. A long gas stove lighter works well. A small ball of paper lit with a match works well. Be prepared to have it shoot across the shop and need to be retrieved and put out.

Atmospheric or venturi forges are lit by just turning on the gas. Blower types should have the blower on low, then gas added.
   - guru - Monday, 05/21/07 15:49:10 EDT

The "Curie Point" was named after a 19th Century Scientist so one can assume the practice of heating to the Curie Point is fairly recent. This does not mean that early blacksmiths did not recognise the loss of magnetic properties as coinciding with the eutectoid point although it is doubtful they has such a wonderfully polysylabic word for it. For anyone interested, heating just beyond Curie only works for a narrow range of carbon, about .65-85%. Other carbon contents must be heated hotter to achieve a fully austenitic structure from which to quench.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 05/21/07 16:45:37 EDT

19th century: Unfortunately I am packing for a 6 day campout; however I would check in "Practical Blacksmithing" by Richardson a collection of articles from a late 19th century Smithing journal. If it's documented anywhere I would expect it there! (It will take a through going through though as the indexes are not of great use...

   Thomas P - Monday, 05/21/07 19:56:43 EDT

Thomas's Camping Trip: How much blacksmithing gear do You take for a 6 day trip?
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 05/21/07 20:59:49 EDT

Im still trying to track down some Borax in the UK - I have been lead to believe that some of the larger ' Boots ' chemists stock it, and read somewhere last night the 'Wilkinsons ' sell it.

Ive got some funny looks spending time in the supermarkets studdying laundry additives ingredients looking for sodium tetraborate in them !

If anyone from the UK has any other sources feel free to post them :)
   - John N - Tuesday, 05/22/07 05:43:55 EDT

John, An outfit called Dri-Pak Ltd. carries it and will sell direct.

   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 08:11:20 EDT

John, I found several others using the key words, "Borax UK"

The Green Shop http://www.greenshop.co.uk/

Borax UK
Gorsey Lane
WA8 0RP(Road Map)
Tel: 0151 420 5522
Fax: 0151 4208815
Internet: www.borax.com

   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 08:20:04 EDT

Note the last above is a US mining operation and the UK distributor is an industrial type. The web address does not list them.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 08:47:50 EDT

John, where are you based? I am English although I live in china! Will be back in uk in a little over 3 weeks (on an anvil buying spree).
   philip in china - Tuesday, 05/22/07 09:29:34 EDT

Thomas, I am packing to move to Houston but I did scan my copy of Practical BS'ing. The men who submitted methods for hardening used color to determine the hardening heat and none of them mentioned the non-magnetic point. In fact, most of them still subscribed to the idea that the quenchant was most important, not the heat. The concept of fully austenitizing and soaking the carbides to dissolution had to wait for a few more generations I guess.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 05/22/07 10:25:33 EDT

John: If you absolutely can't find borax in England I can send you the contents of a four pound box for the cost of purchase and $11 in Priority Mail shipping.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Tuesday, 05/22/07 11:08:00 EDT

As late as the early 1900's books and articles on blacksmithing still considered crystallization of parts in service to be the reason for failure. So metallurgy had a way to go with blacksmiths at that late date. One of the biggest technical advances in blacksmithing and one of the few scientifically studied advances was the study of weld failures by James Nasmyth. It is he who discovered that forge weld scarfs needed to be convex to allow for swarf to squeeze out of the joint. Prior to then it was all random.

If you study the work and life of early engineers like james Watt you find that they had very little real knowledge or tools to back them up. When Watt first studying parts of steam engines there were no values for strengths of materials and a load test was to put a beam between two trees and pull with a team of mules or horses. In order to study steam engines Watt had to invent the pressure gage and the strip recorder.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 11:18:54 EDT

Dave: I'm packing light; current plan is only: 91# Anvil, 134# Anvil, 70# Stake Anvil, 2 chunks heavy rail; two stumps, one will hold either the stake anvil or be flipped over for another anvil. Postvise; Wooden bucket for slacktub (ex icecream maker bucket) 10x20 canvas tarp with poles, ropes, stakes. 2 Wooden boxes for tools. Propane forge, 4 tanks propane, Stock for teaching and "fun"; table for forge: Note I will be teaching intro to smithing (lite) class and making a simple penannular brooch class so have some jewelry stuff as well in the wooden tool chest.

Of course I also have my clothing, cooking and food wooden chests, bedding, tent, water! (no onsite source), Fire extinguishers, barley pop. I won't be taking an ice chest but living off foods that do not require refrigeration, though I do have a tin lined wooden barrel to use as a cooler---no ice; just open at night and close it during the day---keep in shade.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 05/22/07 12:13:35 EDT

Jock - Thanks for the pointers, I must have gotten to obsessed with finding it in the local stores, and diddnt google ! (widnes is only 30 miles down the road) - Ken, thanks for the offer, but in todays climate shipping boxes of white powder internationally may not be the best of ideas :)

On sourcing stuff in the UK....I ended up paying gbp 40 shipped, + sales tax for a pint of ITC100 the other day - so ANVILFIRE price is a good one!

Philip, Im live in south Manchester (Didsbury), with the factory in east Manc (Hyde)- feel free to pop in if your in the area , drop me a mail first as ironically (well, coincidently, no real irony) im out in china in 2 or 3 weeks time :)

- I really cant believe it will be ecconomical to buy anvils in the UK and ship over there, find a chinese steel foundery and they will probably do you pattern & casting for less than the shipping cost.

On a hitting metal note I managed to get my first bit of cable to weld up the other day (obviously with no flux) - it started out in my mind as a huge bowie knife but ended up as a key fob as the only section welded properly without laminations - pleased as punch with it though ! (now im on the look out for nice cable that wont try and kill me with zinc fumes and nylon cores :)
   John N - Tuesday, 05/22/07 12:45:38 EDT

On standardisation of material strenghts I thought all the pioneering work was done by Joeseph Basiljet (sp.)- hes the guy that saved millions of lives by building the london sewerage system - the material science was on the newfangle portland cement they used, the concept was then carried over to metals, There is a statue of the guy by the River Thames. (I thing this pre-dates Watt et al, of course I may be wrong )
   John N - Tuesday, 05/22/07 12:54:46 EDT

OK My scrounger (Dad) just found a Champion electric forge blower #50 - motor #8780. Do I need a rheostat (speed control), or should I just try to choke the intake, or use a gate valve, or combo of these? I'm operating a coal forge, table style w/ firepot (round bowl shape 12"OD X 4"deep. Dad seems to think that this blower can only be controlled electrically. I haven't seen it yet, so I don’t know what can be engineered here. Is this enough info to answer the question?
   Dave Leppo - Tuesday, 05/22/07 14:11:54 EDT

Dave, This blower came with a big antique looking rheostat control. Few still work. On any motor a control is a risk because it is easy to stall the motor on a low speed setting and burn it up. You can put an air gate on any forge blower. This is dependable and safe. The blower working at full capacity will also help keep the motor cool in many cases since some air is drawn from the motor side of the blower housing.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 15:04:30 EDT

John, I do not know about that but would not find it unusual for there to be advances in one field and they be unknown in another. I do not think Watt advanced material science at the time (its been a while since I read the history) but he did find the current state lacking and tried to do better.

I DO know for a fact that he invented the pressure gage. It looked a little like a rocker type steam engine cylinder. He then applied the gage to pen and manually moved card to produce a strip recorder. A piece of equipment that was very rare in engineering until much later.

Watt also made a split image distance finder to use in surveying. The book does not say if he invented it or not but he did make one sufficiently accurate to measure a distance across a river that could not be measured by conventional means at the time.

Watt is often erroneously given credit for the invention of the steam engine. That is incorrect. What he did was study the current state of affairs greatly advanced the science and technology leading to the modern steam engine. The engines he built were much more efficient and dependable than other's because of his understanding of their workings and their necessary engineering.

For inventors and men of logic and imagination this was a great time to be alive. Virtually all of science and technology was yet to be invented. While great technological changes are still ocuring today it is nothing like the past 200 years were every generation lived in a world completely different than the one before. Imagine the life of my grandparents who started life in the horse and buggy era when the most important new invention of the time was the glass plate view camera, who then lived to see the invention of the automobile, the nuclear bomb, man step on the moon, the space shuttle, heart transplants, modern computers and the domination of life by radio and TV. We still have great things ahead of us, but I do not think anyone's life will see as much dramatic change as this.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 15:27:59 EDT

I don't know, Guru. If you'd told your parents you wanted to run a website when you grew up, they might have looked at you a little funny (grin).
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 05/22/07 17:24:07 EDT

Crystalization failure: Jock, on one of the moon landings, an astronaut speculated that an aluminum strut on one of the Viking landers that preceeded him failed due to crystalization. Actually, it was from massive gamma ray damage from the sun's radiation. A common misconception I am sure.....
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 05/22/07 17:40:32 EDT


I shall be fairly close in Worksop, Notts. I know your side of the countrythough as I used to live in Birkenhead. Mail me on philipgreening@gmail.com or log into slack tub. Where will you be in China?
   philip in china - Tuesday, 05/22/07 18:12:56 EDT

Fire clay question. First some background, I have finally gotten around to building a coal/charcol forge, I cut the bottom off of a 36" vertical steel pressure vessel, it has a 3" pipe coupling welded into the bottom for my blast. The dish is very deep, measuring from the bottom center to where the straight sidewall starts it is 6" deep.

I know I could purchase an exellent fire pot, or even use it without although I think I would have trouble with fire control as the slope of the sides is enough it would self feed from all around. I also think it is to deep as it sits. Lastly half the fun is making something from nothing so I would rather play with my own design and when it fails then build a better forge based on this experience. Now that I have the tank and have added legs and an electric blower and ash gate this really isn't portable. I have large solid rubber wheels mounted in such a way that when removable handles are added to the other side It can be lifted like a cart and then moved. The wheels don't touch when sitting but rather only when tilted (like a welding tank dolly).

Also I have found a nice clay bowl with just over 3" base and almost 12" across the top, 4" deep (upside down, it looks like a Chinese hat with tip cut off flat), I am planning on packing my clay aound this bowl filling the dish of he tank to level with the begining of the sideshell. Then removing the bowl for final shaping I figure if I start 2" off of the bottom I have a 4" deep fire pot just where the sides are vertical, that would allow a large item to be layed across the forge at 4" fire depth, if I need more depth I can always build the fire higher. I plan to leave 3" vertical sides with opposing closeable cut outs down to where the tank starts curving. It will really just be a 3 foot metal bowl on legs with a smaller 12" bowl in the center of a mass of clay/concrete/vermiculite, and possibly some sand under the clay mix if after mixing it looks like I will be short material. As I have seen on this site before just a hole in the ground on a table.

I have just under $10 invested in this so far. for 100# of fire clay, everything else is scrounged. Or has been sitting in my shop so long I don't know what if anything was paid for it. Anyway enough useless info,

Reading in the plans there is a recipe to line a forge, 4 parts cement, 4 parts fire clay and 1 part vermiculite I just want to be sure this is by wieght not by volume? Would you change anything about the design I have described for the finished project?

   Jeff G - Tuesday, 05/22/07 18:20:15 EDT

Uh, Quenchcrack, you sure that was a Viking and not a Mariner? Otherwise we'd be on Mars with humans now(insert wink and grin)!

And to think people looked at me askance when I blamed the gamma rays...
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 05/22/07 18:51:13 EDT

Thomas P: I owe you an apology. A&H anvils did have the weight on their sides.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Tuesday, 05/22/07 19:51:51 EDT

Jeff, Sounds good. I suspect the mix is by volume because by weight you would have too much vermiculite. These things are usually measured by the shovelful.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 20:00:38 EDT

When I worked at Westinghouse Air Brake Co. (WABCO) The fluid power division in the late 70's one of the companys relics that great pride was taken in was the "brake-o-meter, designed and built by George Westinghouse himself. It was used to record the pressure change in the brake lines VS the application of brakes.
Remember that in rail cars the only power available then was brake air line pressure. So George built a clockwork drive stripchart, and had a little rocker type pressure indicator that moved a point type scribe across the recording paper. Since the temp was often below freezing in PA. there was no ink. The chart paper was waxed paper and the point left a usable trace. The time stamps were from pinprick points on the drive roller. The whole thing an elegant, buetifully made instrument from the centruy before, and that was is now two centuries ago. And I will point out that it was still in perfect working order.
I suspect the inventor of the pressure gages that we use now was a guy named Bourdon.
   ptree - Tuesday, 05/22/07 21:18:45 EDT

Actually, the pieces recovered from the moon by the Apollo crew were from a Surveyor spacecraft, which was designed to land "soft" and photograph the environment. Before the Surveyors the two schools of speculation regarding the moon's surface were the "hard rock" school and the "moondust" school; both of which appeared in numerous science fiction stories and artwork. What they found was... dirt. Very peculiar dirt, but dirt just the same, and at least we knew the Apollo lander wouldn't sink from site or come to a jarring halt.

What was amazing, as Quenchcrack pointed out, is just how much damage the derelict spacecraft took waiting for Apollo to show up. The moon (and space in general) really is a harsh mistress.

Warm and a tad cloudy on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 05/22/07 22:47:58 EDT

Bruce, When are you going to inspect the site for the moon historic park?

The misconceptions about many things that wer unknown at the time seem very strange today.

The belief by many scientists that the first nuclear explosion would set the atmosphere on fire and destroy the Earth. . . They tested it anyway.

The "sound barrier" that could not be broken.

The dust so deep on the moon that one would disappear into it.

The canals of mars.

   - guru - Tuesday, 05/22/07 23:43:09 EDT

JOHN for the BORAX try the ''swan'' they produce very very good forge welding powder for steel and alu

   hofi - Wednesday, 05/23/07 00:50:12 EDT

Thanks Hofi, I will give Cecil a try.

The thing to remember with the advancements in technology is that alot of it they dont tell us about untill its 40 years out of date - Stealth planes, the SR71 Blackbird etc.

Im sure if we were party to todays cutting edge military technology we would think its from a different world. (when im 70 they will anounce a "technology" that im amazed by, that is around NOW)

There was some speculation during the Manhatten project that the entire earth atmosphere would burn off - now the interesting thing will be when they fire up the new partical accelerator in Switzerland, since there is some speculation that it will cause a small blackhole, which everthing will collapse into ! - we will find out in November :)
   John N - Wednesday, 05/23/07 05:28:33 EDT

To anybody considering buying a chinese made ASO... Those following these mails will know that I have bought not1, not 2 but 3 Chinese ASOs. They are very cheap here in China. They are so bad that I have just spent about 1 months salary getting a western made anvil shipped out here. (Being a Yiddish boy I don't waste money). I just can't work on the Chinese ones. They are just no good. If you just want a heavy flat surface on which to do some craft work then they are probably fine but if you want to forge anything leave them alone. Get a length of railway line or just a big block of steel from a scrapyard. You will do much better. Whenever possible I use Chinese kit (including their very good line in wives) but these really are beyond the pale. I shall be sending the guru some photos of the state of my anvils. This is after some very light use by a couple of amateur smiths so I am sure heavy professional use would destroy these things in no time. You have been warned!
   philip in china - Wednesday, 05/23/07 08:21:10 EDT

Alan-L, you may be right. I used to know all that stuff. I remember one of my Professors in College discussing the effects of Gamma radiation on metallic crystals in a Mechanical Metallurgy class. Nasty stuff. Another good reason to take care of our atmosphere.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 05/23/07 09:05:32 EDT

I have 2 Chinese and 1 USA cast A.S.O.s, but I used to use them in my stage act. Now they are used as house decorations and doorstops. Being a Yiddisha boy myself as well, I figured of nice ways to use them.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 05/23/07 09:40:41 EDT

looking for a good program for design , I have a new drawing pad for the computer but I cant find a program. Any Ideas???

Thanks Cooper
   Cooper - Wednesday, 05/23/07 16:38:02 EDT

John N,
That technology is advanced by military need and spending is true. Especially medical science. So many experimental subjects you see.
In the Gulf War, they spoke of "deep penetrator" bombs as being the latest thing. Flying out of Bovington (sp?) in WWII, my Dad was on the second Disney bomb raid on the sub pens on the french coast. 92nd Hvy Bomb wing. Used old naval cannon barrels for the bomb body, and they had a rocket motor to accelerate them. They were designed to get thru the 25' thick concrete pen roofs and the rubble on top of that. Worked. They also had the Aphrodite project to fly radio controlled bombs into the pen entrances. Smart bombs, but they had 25,000# torpex war heads. The radio controls of the day were not up to the task.
   ptree - Wednesday, 05/23/07 18:06:56 EDT

I have built my clay forge but for some reason I can't get it to light. I made the hole, covered the edges with clay and put coal and charcoal(I tried both) I need advice.
   - Allen - Wednesday, 05/23/07 19:43:56 EDT

PTree, Bovington is spelt correctly. Very interesting place as it is now the UK Tank museum. One of the exhibits is a Centurion which has been cut in two along it's long axis. I shudder to think how much oxygen that took. So when you are next cutting a bit of heavy plate just remember it is chicken feed compared to that job.
   - philip in china - Wednesday, 05/23/07 19:59:27 EDT

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