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 - 21, 2009 on the Guru's Den
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Thanks for all your help Guru...I'm buying a rebuilt old model 25LG..one more question please...my shop has a 4" concrete floor ..What couldI get away with for a Base?
   - arthur - Friday, 05/15/09 22:45:53 EDT

If the floor is a good aged concrete it will do but there will be a lot of vibration (rattling things on shelves) and possible cracking. However, a 25 pound LG is a LITTLE hammer and they have a good anvil ratio of near 15:1.

As Little Giants are a tad short you can raise it on a heavy block and put padding between it and the floor to reduce shock to the floor. An above ground foundation made of solid steel is great. . but concrete will do if heavily reinforced and you use a strong grade of concrete (add Portland cement to bagged concretes as most are too lean).

To make a concrete above ground foundation you can start with a light or heavy plate shell, tack in crisscrossing rebar and anchors for the bolting down the hammer. In front it should only extend the distance needed for a foot rest (which can be built into the steel).

Setting the hammer using silicon caulk will assure a good distributed contact and stops walking. Note that do properly it can be hard on the floor to remove later.

The better the foundation the harder the hammer hits and the less shock you have to the floor. Vibration is known to cause fatigue so the OEM recommendation was a fairly heavy concrete foundation isolated from the floor. But lots of folks just skid them in and use them as-is and eventually bolt them down after getting tired of chasing them around the shop. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 05/16/09 01:40:37 EDT

Robert: Your soft face problem might be related also to the method of pad welding used. When doing something like this my method is to lay down a bead and them immediately flatten it as much as possible with a heavy hammer. Face is then brushed free of flux and the next bead laid down. My theory is this adds some 'work hardness' to the rod metel.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 05/16/09 05:31:57 EDT

The book I mentioned was published by Macmillan & Co.Ltd, London. Also see St Martins Press Inc, New York. The copy I have (on loan) was published in the UK. You could also research under The Macmillan Company of Canada Ltd, Toronto.
   - Tony - Saturday, 05/16/09 07:02:51 EDT


I've had my LG on a 4" reinforced concrete floor with a 3/4" shaped plywood pad between the base and floor for about 30 years. The vertical attachment bolts I recessed in the floor with Rockite anchor cement after making a careful template. I lowered it carefully onto its site with a chain fall.


Thanks for the info.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 05/16/09 13:09:20 EDT

Small hammer foundations:

My 50lb Star is bolted to a sort of giant butcher block made of 2x4 lumber scraps screwed, glued, and bolted together. This sits on the 4" concrete slab, onto which I anchored a couple pieces of angle iron as a corral to keep it from wandering around the shop as I work. Been there two years so far with no cracks in the slab.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 05/16/09 13:10:16 EDT

The schematic for the air hammer valving is all I needed to start assembling my own version of the JYH- perfect timing!What I would like to know is the brand of 4 way valve you have used so I can see if there is a supplier up here in B.C.Thanks for any info possible. Amos
   Amos Culham - Saturday, 05/16/09 16:53:37 EDT

My SOF&A workshop air hammer has a rectangular base of 1" plate stock. To keep it from dancing around I put a pad of some type of 1/2" black mat under it, trimmed, then build a frame out of angle iron. A rented .22 cartridge stud gun was used to shoot through pre-drilled holes. If it needs to be moved I'd have to grind off the top of the nails, lift up frame, work off hammer, then grind nail stubs down to floor level. Likely some dimpling there.

One aspect about power hammers (or ringing anvil) is to consider the neighbors. I don't have any 'really' close ones, but one tells me the only time he can hear I'm working in the shop is when the compressor runs and when I'm using the air hammer. Another says he can hear the air hammer if the wind is blowing in his direction.

Years ago now a guy in SOF&A lived in a close house neighborhood and converted his one-car garage into a smithy. Anvil, 25-lb Little Giant, arc welder and other tooling. All generally 'working' class neighbors. When one brought by something to be repaired he stopped whatever he was doing and did it for them essentially at his cost. He also made items for their wives, such as candle stick holders. He lived there about five years and no one, to his knowledge, complained about the noise.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 05/17/09 10:15:11 EDT

A friend of mine once bought a 50# LG and set it up in his (inner) suburban garage. It turned out his garage and house were on a common slab. He didn't keep the hammer long. . .
   Mike BR - Sunday, 05/17/09 10:52:48 EDT

Valves for Air Hammer: This is a moving target. Brands that were good a few years ago can't be recommended. Unless you are in the business and routinely buy valves it is difficult to tell. All you can do is buy what you can find and hope for the best.

Things that help reliability is filters and air driers. Filters are an absolute. If you use an air hammer commercially then an air drier is highly recommended.

A major dirt problem is long lengths of old rusted iron pipe for air lines. So filters need to be AT the hammer.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/17/09 12:24:17 EDT

This is pretty much what I thought,but it doesn't hurt to try. I have been checking my catologues and have talked to a few counterpersons and sofar have turned up nothing exciting but lots more places to go.100% agreement on the filters and dryers,I run a dessicant dryer on a dedicated line for my plaz and sandblaster and this is what the hammer will be fed off of too.You guys are doing a great job here and I have really been enjoying the site over the last year(one of the last dinosaurs to become computerized)and wish I had known of it years ago.
Thanks and keep it up!
   Amos Culham - Sunday, 05/17/09 15:45:17 EDT

I have recently been given a used anvil, and am trying to no avail to find out the manufacturer. It came off a decommisioned u.s. navy ship. It is a "london style/pattern" and is cast steel with a nice ring and tremendous rebound. one side is marked, 1 1/4 CUT ENGLAND and the other side, 64 KGS there are no other markings i can find. Do you have any idea who may have made it? A shipyard foundry maybe? Is 1 1/4 hundred weight it does match with the 64 kilo mark (140 lbs)?
   Tom H. - Sunday, 05/17/09 16:32:23 EDT

How to keep Anvil and Swedge block from rusting. Oil Ospho?
   - JIMS - Sunday, 05/17/09 16:42:41 EDT

Jim, It depends on time between uses. If the anvil is used every day it will need no oil. If it is only used on weekends then WD-40 is good. If it goes for several weeks to a month then heavier oil or a light coat of vasaline. If months go by then paint it. If you paint the entire anvil then just the work surfaces get exposed and that is all that needs a little oil.

Swageblocks should be painted with a thin coat of barbecue black (heat resistant paint). Then if used a little oil can be put on the worn spots. Eventually they get a good even coat of rust which can be painted or oiled.
   - guru - Sunday, 05/17/09 17:24:52 EDT

Tom H., probably a Vaughn (aka Brooks). The 1 1/4 cwt does equal 140 lbs / 64 Kg. Is it by chance painted blue, or did the Navy give it the standard battleship gray paint job? If blue (or blue under the gray) it's definitly a Vaughn.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 05/17/09 19:00:40 EDT

Alan-L, found a bit of blue under the "haze gray" thanks for the info, she's in excellent shape. time to dress her up and take her out to sing. I've been wanting to retire my Vulcan/Armstrong for awhile.
   Tom H. - Sunday, 05/17/09 19:39:55 EDT

Thanks for clearing up my misconception on hammer face and anvil face i guess most of my problems stem from in experience or sloppy hammer control but I am determined to learn this art its in my blood.Thanks guys .
   - Robert S. Stallings - Sunday, 05/17/09 21:30:38 EDT

Vaughn/Vaughan. Don't confuse the two. They are very different anvils! Vaughans are British made anvils and are of superlative quality (and price). They are in current production and can be seen on Vaughans website but you must make sure you are sitting down before you read their pricelist. Having said which I wouldn't swop mine for anything and will equip the next shop (in europe) with one of theirs!
   philip in china - Monday, 05/18/09 01:05:24 EDT

I'm a hobbiest armourer over in the UK and need some advice on heating steel (up to 2mm thick mild steel sheets). I have a small DIY hobby blow torch that can heat steel to orange heat, but it is very slow. To heat steel before working, or for annealing after working cold, what is the best "torch" for the job?
Can I use a torch attached to a propane gas bottle with a regulator, or do I need an Oxy-Acetylene kit?
   Phil Gower - Monday, 05/18/09 06:38:35 EDT

Tom H: Vulcan/Armstrong. Why the Armstrong? It would be a new anvil reference, at least for me. I know there was an Armstrong brand of, at least, wrenches.

If I remember correctly, at the end of the VULCAN anvil run the Illinois Iron and Bolt Company subcontracted them to the American Skein and Iron Company (BADGER line) in Racine, WI. From a recent eBay listing, it had the raised VULCAN logo on one side and a BADGER decal on the other. Likely II&B simply shipped them their molds.

II&B apparently is a lot like Peter Wright. Major manufacturers at one time, yet almost no information on them exists today. On behalf of Richard Postman I sent letters to all of the nursing homes and senior citizen centers in and around Carpentersville, IL asking for contact with any former employees. No responses. I also did the same for AS&I with same results.

I strongly suspect the anvils you see with a weight number under the horn, a pronounced bump under the hardy hole and a notch out of the back foot are related to II&B. Perhaps like FISHER, which, from evidence, produced the anvils with a six-pointed star, II&B wanted to produce a low-end anvil while avoiding a reference to their other product.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/18/09 08:08:08 EDT

Armour Heating: Phil, Small propane - air torches (typically with a 1/2" (13mm) nozzle are not suitable. Yes, they get hot enough but are not BIG enough. Oxy-Acetylene works but is expensive and hotter than necessary. You can easily scale, burn or melt your work with oxy-acetylene.

You can use what in the U.S. we call a "weed burner". This is a large primitive propane burner on the end of a long pipe used to burn weeds and brush outdoors. These hook to a large propane bottle.

You can also build a propane forge burner from pipe fittings, add a handle and use for similar large area heating.

Then the best for daily shop use is to build an "armour forge". See our planfile page or click the link. This is a large insulated propane nozzle and stand designed for sheet metal heating.
   - guru - Monday, 05/18/09 08:51:35 EDT

More on Armour: Depending on your shop capacity and needs the answer to "Do I need an oxy-acetylene kit?" is always YES.

It is not an absolute necessity but you can do SO much with it that most metal working shops would have a difficult time without. The cutting attachment on a small set will handle up to 2" think plate easily. The small welding tips will handle welding thin plate and the larger tips heavy brazing and small heating jobs. Even if the equipment is not used in your craft it is used to make tools and equipment.

The same goes for a small transformer type arc welder. When building equipment it is the fastest most efficient way to put steel together. Not only will it well all types of carbon steel but stainless steel as well using stainless rods.

But if you are a hobbiest this can be expensive equipment and finding storage OR a place to use it can sometimes be difficult.

If you need the heat for annealing plate then you can also use a coal or charcoal forge. The advantage to this is you do not have tanks to move and store, the fuel does not leak like pressurized gases AND it is much cheaper than either of the above.

SO there are lots of choices depending on your situation.
   - guru - Monday, 05/18/09 09:08:35 EDT

Safety and Education: I always recommend taking a proper school course in welding if you are going to have welding equipment. There are several dozen safety points to know about oxy-acetylene equipment and some rather important rules. What makes it the most useful is learning to use the equipment.
   - guru - Monday, 05/18/09 09:12:27 EDT

Phillip in China: My apologies! I did mean Vaughan. I did not know our navy used them, I would have expected them to use Fishers.

Ken: I have an old wagon tire bender/roller from II&B. Got any date for that?
   Alan-L - Monday, 05/18/09 10:33:38 EDT

Many thanks for the advice. I think I'll steer clear of the Oxy-acetylene for the time being, since it seems that I have alternatives. A propane burner seems to be the most appropriate choice for me at the moment. That being said, an armour forge as described in the link would be very welcome!!
   Phil Gower - Monday, 05/18/09 11:56:45 EDT

HI, i am a sword collector and a wannabe-but-not-rich-enough blacksmith. i keep hearing people talk about HRC blade hardness for swords. Do you know what this means? is a higher number better?
thanks for your time.
   Zack Hays - Monday, 05/18/09 14:38:12 EDT

HRC Zack, That is ## Hardness Rockwell scale C

Higher numbers are harder than lower IF in the same scale range. C is normally used. Another common hardness is Brinell which is given as ### HB, Hardness Brinell.

See our FAQ page Hardness Conversion Table and Temper Color with Hardness Table

Harder is not necessarily better. Hard enough to hold an edge and do the job is sufficient but not so hard that the item is brittle. A thin blade may be much harder than a thick blade as the thin will be more flexible. The best products are not uniformly hard or soft but made so selectively for the best performance.

Note that those that sell products with a specific hardness often do not really know nor have had the product tested. In the blade business, particularly swords the field is so full of BS that I would assume everything a seller says to be a lie until proven otherwise. Because hardness vs. strength is not well understood and requires testing with metallurgical laboratory equipment it is one of the most abused terms in the industry. Proper hardness for a specific blade type and alloy requires engineering knowledge to really evaluate what is better or not.
   - guru - Monday, 05/18/09 15:36:10 EDT

Alan L: According to Anvils in America (available from anvilfire.com store) II&B existed from about 1875 until 1969. I suspect a tire shrinker from them would be late 1800s/early 1900s.

Out of curiousity, how is it marked? Their RR/house jacks I've seen had their raised VULCAN logo.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 05/18/09 16:28:35 EDT

Re. Vaughans the UK armed forces use exclusively Vaughans. I have got Alex Bealer's book in which he says that at the time of writing there were no US manufactured anvils so perhaps if ships were commissioned at that time, and US Navy had no stock of anvils they bought British.
   philip in china - Monday, 05/18/09 19:43:53 EDT

I recently purchased a Buffalo forge that is in great shape but needs a coat of paint. I can not tell what color it was originally. Would anyone know what color they were? Also the firepot sets above the bottom of the pan about a 1-1/2", was there a liner in the bottom? If so what did they use? Thanks in advance
   Doug K - Monday, 05/18/09 21:40:13 EDT

Doug, Most likely black. 99% of all equipment was painted black at that time.

If the fire pot does not fit flush to the bottom it is probably not the original. But an inch and a half would be just right for split bricks which are 1-1/4" thick.
   - guru - Monday, 05/18/09 23:22:10 EDT

Alas, how many anvils lie at the bottom of the oceans in sunk warship. From what I've read at one time many sailing ships carried a small smithy. In Moby Dick they forged harpoons. In Mutiny on the Bounty they set up the smithy on the island they end up on.

Apparently not today though. I have a nephew in the sub service. He was stationed on a sub tender in Italy. I asked him what brand anvil(s) they had. He checked and said the ship didn't have any.

Fred Caylor, from Central IN, told the story of how he served on one ship which had a steam hammer. The leading petty officer would bring a hard-boiled egg for lunch. He could call down to have steam sent to the hammer, use it to crack the egg, then have the steam shut off.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/19/09 07:03:58 EDT

Must've been a pretty tough egg.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 05/19/09 08:33:04 EDT

alan-l/phillip in china/ken scharabok: thank all for the input, I'm pretty sure the anvil in question is a Vaughn. It is an outstanding chunk of steel! It came off the U.S.S Kennedy (CV-67) a 40 year vet of the U.S carrier fleet decomed in 07. Sorry Ken, had some brain gas my other girl is a Vulcan Arm Hammer, oval logo right in the casting. I did check out the Vaughn website $$$$$, seems Ive recieved a heck of a gift!
   Tom H. - Tuesday, 05/19/09 10:04:17 EDT

The Bounty's anvil was set up on Pitcairn Island in a place still called "Bang Iron Valley".

And it's not only warships. Any old ship can be expected to have an anvil as parts of it's "fix things in the middle of nowhere kit". Unfortunately anvils have a tendency to sink with the ship...

Off to a weeklong campout with my forge, no internet access till next Tuesday!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 05/19/09 10:46:41 EDT

SORRY, did it again,Vaughans not Vaughn :/
   Tom H. - Tuesday, 05/19/09 12:14:15 EDT

Tom H: I was at the commissioning of the USS Kennedy in Portsmouth, VA. LBJ said something. Jackie smashed the bottle. Don't remember the ship itself going anywhere. This would have been maybe 1965/66 or so. Fisher anvils were still being produced through someone they sold the rights to. Can't remember name.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 05/19/09 13:06:34 EDT

Ships and Anvils: Ships have always had a minimal collection of tools to do what was necessary. As they got bigger the tools became a complete machine shop.

The steam era when every factory had complete shop facilities from foundry to forge and machine shop was also the time when ships had power hammers.

One of the oldest "anvils" found was a little bronze swage block found on a Bronze age ship wreck off the coast of Turkey. See SwageBlocks.com
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/19/09 13:57:29 EDT

Any fan of TV's Futurama will love this one. My latest.


I will be putting together an entire "Robots" page on my site. The first is a compliation of ED-209 shots:

Thanks for looking!
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 05/19/09 14:06:19 EDT

Ken: It's a ring roller, not a shrinker. On one side of the frame is cast "II&B Co." with no other markings. The moveable part that controls the radius of curve has been replaced with a very nicely fabricated assembly by the previous owner, so he could roll rings of a wider array of sizes than wagon tires, and I don't know what that may have had on it.

Doug and paint jobs: A friend of mine once found a new-in-the-crate Champion portable forge at an auction of an ancient hardware dealer's warehouse. He said it was painted dark green with red pinstripes (!). Pimp that forge! (grin!)
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 05/19/09 16:04:12 EDT

What is Blacksmithing?
What is the history of Blacksmithing?
Why is Blacksmithing important?
WHat tools were used for Blacksmithing?
Where is Blacksmithing done?
What is the process of Blacksmithing?
What products Were made in Blacksmithing?
What skills were needed to become a Blacksmith?
What did you have to do to become a Blacksmith?
Dose Blacksmithing exist today?
   Josh Christopher - Tuesday, 05/19/09 16:51:29 EDT

Why did you not read the guidelines ( www.anvilfire.com/gurusden/ask-guru.htm )first?
   JimG - Tuesday, 05/19/09 17:03:54 EDT

I guess there could be lots of reasons why a Vaughan anvil might end up on a U.S. ship. There may have been some U.K supplies that flowed back to the U.S. as partial payment for what we shipped over in WWI or WWII. A U.S. ship could have arranged a trade with British ship, or just have happened to need an anvil when in a U.K. port. The anvil could even have been captured by the Japanese at Singapore or Hong Kong and then recaptured by the Americans. Or exported to Italy in WWI and captured from them in WWII. Anyway, you could have lots of fun making up a story (grin).
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 05/19/09 18:15:48 EDT

TNG, my vision for your next project will be a Giant Robotic Anvil with tiny Jewish blacksmiths dangling from its nipples......I'd pay to see it!
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 05/19/09 18:46:21 EDT

Josh that looks a lot like a homework question to me. What do you think Guru?
   philip in china - Tuesday, 05/19/09 19:00:40 EDT

I own a peice of work by Doug Carmichael. Any clue if he has a contact number or website?
Jeff Bailey
   - Jeff Bailey - Tuesday, 05/19/09 19:05:35 EDT

Looks like a class assignment to me. . .

Josh, ALL those questions are answered on our pages. With a little research (the point of a school assignment) you will find the answers. When you have 90% answered I'll be glad to point you to the hard ones or answer them. Show me your work.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/19/09 19:17:57 EDT

QC, the next famous robot I have in mind is Johnny Number 5 from the movie "Short Circuit". Stay tuned!
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 05/19/09 19:59:12 EDT

Some of the girls here are interested in trying to make some stainless steel jewellery. I have never worked SS and rarely made anything as small as jewellery. Where should I start? Can I weld it with a stick welder?
   philip in china - Tuesday, 05/19/09 20:15:18 EDT

Philip: You can weld stainless with a stick welder. 304 is usually welded with 308 rods & 316 with 316 rods. If You have an AC machine the rod # will end in -16, if You have a DC machine You can use -15 or -16 rods, example AWS E308-15. There are many other SS rod designations for other alloys, combinations & service situations, but these are the common ones. If You are using other than US designations, ask a local fabricator.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 05/19/09 20:54:44 EDT

Working Stainless: Stainless jewelery sells for several times the price of silver jewelery for a good reason, the difficulty of working it. Typically silver jewelery is cast, made from rolled stock (sheet and wire) that is sawed hammers and soldered. . most processes that do not apply to small scale stainless.

Example, much silver jewelery is made from sheet that is sawed, hammered and then a pin or clasp soldered on. In stainless you can saw but the life of the small blades is VERY short on stainless. Hammering works fine but polishing is tough and you cannot easily solder to it.

A TIG welding outfit is the way to weld SS jewelery.

All kinds of things can be made without attachments and those should be the focus when making SS jewelery.

Polishing requires lots of sanding to as fine a finish as possible before buffing. Then buffing is done with special white compound. This is very low wax and is difficult to keep on the wheel. This makes buffing slow and difficult.

However, a finely buffed stainless piece holds its finish for a very large time and can be mistaken for silver when fresh.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/20/09 00:24:56 EDT

So looking at that advice maybe I should tell them no? Or get them started on something like an ashtray (hardly politically correct) or something like that?
   philip in china - Wednesday, 05/20/09 01:03:09 EDT

Phillip in China, I, in another century was a jeweler, and di work in the precious metals as well as "German" silver and stainless.
Probably the easiest first project in stainless would be a bracelet. No critical sizing, and the scale makes it easy to work with, and hold. I would suggest type 316L if available, as it is more skin friendly over the long term.

If this progresses, you may wish to make up a bracelet mandrel to shape over and then perhaps a ring mandrel. I have however made bracelets for about 30 years without a mandrel.

The Guru has it right on polishing. Go through increasingly finer grits, ensuring that the scratchs from the previous grit are completely removed before moving to the next finer grit. I would suggest a fine sanded finish on the inside surfaces as a buffer will grab badly and sling bracelets easily when working the ID.
More? e-mail me.
   Ptree - Wednesday, 05/20/09 06:38:50 EDT


That is a great bender unit! Now I know how you get your scrap steel straightened (or bent). ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 05/20/09 07:35:02 EDT

Thanks Atli. Hey Phillip, I've been forging jewelry from stainless for years (why do I feel like I keep saying that here at least once a month?). 316L is the best choice, as noted. A bracelet madrel is standard equipment on any anvil, and depending on shape and size of the material can be forged cold (I'm thinking safety for the little ones). Polishing is suck-ass work that is hardly rewarding. That is why I got the electropolishing kit (man I feel like deja-vu all over again). Ptree is right about all that sanding and buffing. A nice Dremel or flexi shaft can help with the inner surfaces of bracelets and rings and such. I use Fabulustre rouge (white), made specifically for white metals. With a hard felt wheel and then muslin wheel buffing, I get mirror finish results. With the electropolish I get bright shiney steel with a pitted forged surface. I like them both, but really the customer will decide what they like. 316L is the best for body contact, it's used in skeletal fixator pins, cardiac stents, dental braces, and body jewelry. The low carbon makes it a LITTLE easier to forge, stainless doesn't move too easily when compared to mild steel, although as a work hardening steel I have worn out more saw blades than I'd like to admit. I work with small stock (under 1/2") and like to use cut off discs for chopping stainless.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 05/20/09 08:23:11 EDT

Nickel silver or German silver can be made into nice jewelry and is more easily worked than stainless. Some jewelers' supply houses carry it. The 'Crazy Crow' on-line catalog has it, and they sell it in 6"x12" sheets in various gauges. Once polished, it usually just needs a little Simichrome to keep it looking good.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/20/09 09:11:03 EDT

Before we get too carried away with this stainless business I think I shall just pick up a few pieces of stainless scrap and see how I get on with it. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't but I don't want to get their hopes up too high if they are then not going to be able to work the stuff. I will let you know what progress (if any) I make.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 05/20/09 09:17:36 EDT

Stainless is not so terrible to work but it is hard on tools. For neophytes it can be a problem because if you do not keep enough pressure on cutting tools it work hardens and trashes the tools. Drilling is the worst, then milling and sawing but it also effects filing.

A moment's pause and the drill and the work can be ruined.
So it is important to be sure the students are told to be sure to keep applying pressure and making chips when drilling.

Scratches are also hard to get out of flat surfaces.

If you don't need stainless you rapidly find out why starting with more expensive metal (silver) is more cost effective. Even with cheap labor there is the expense of rapidly worn tools.

As others have mentioned, if you keep the projects simple stainless is OK, it shines up nicely and is durable.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/20/09 09:57:53 EDT

Philip, try to start out with some thick 316 tig rod. It's relatively cheap, and if you find out you don't like it, it can be used as filler for welding. Don't give up before you try it.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 05/20/09 10:42:36 EDT

...and you can soft solder German silver and you can stamp designs in German silver. But whadda' I know? I went to Whatsamatta U.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/20/09 13:29:50 EDT

Tom H: I think I'm with you now. Both Vulcan and Arm & Hammer used similar raised arm with a hammer in their logos, but A&H's were about like Caddys while Vulcans were more like Vegas.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 05/20/09 15:45:37 EDT

Hello I am a fan of blacksmithing and I'm very interested in the oppurtunity to find a place to learn at under a master. I'm a sophmore in highschool. I like working hard and doing physical labor. Where can I find a good master to work under after or during my high school career?
   Brandon Williams - Wednesday, 05/20/09 17:37:29 EDT

I'm just getting started in the blacksmithing aspect of the trade. I've been a welder/ metal fabricator for 16 years and I am curious what size anvil would be best for me start off with?
   Jocco - Wednesday, 05/20/09 19:17:59 EDT

Brandon, Try your local blacksmithing group. Those with web sites can be located through ABANA-Chapter.com.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/20/09 19:20:40 EDT

I apologize, I found the answer here on this site. Never mind the newbie.
   Jocco - Wednesday, 05/20/09 19:24:58 EDT

Jewelery: Phillip, don't overlook aluminum for jewelery. It works and polishes easily.

Starter Anvil: For general blacksmithing any size REAL anvil (no ASO's) you can find from 100 pounds up. Smaller is only suitable for very light work.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/20/09 19:26:32 EDT

I am building a new forge and although I have heard about built in clinker breakers all the forges I have seen are the same as my old one(alliday & onion)that is a rod with a point that I use to break up the stuff.Can anybody direct me to something or somewhere that would have a picture or diagram of a forge with a built in breaker? I have looked at the ones through this site and have found nothing.Thanks
   Amos Culham - Wednesday, 05/20/09 19:34:00 EDT

Brandon Wiliams, if you look up two places from your post Mr. Turley runs a school out west. If you have the ways and means, he might take you through a class.
   - merl - Wednesday, 05/20/09 21:12:00 EDT

Soldering Stainless Steel:

SS can be soldered very satisfactorily with both soft solder (lead/tin or lead-free) and hard (silver) solders. The key to success is in preparing the solder joint by sanding with fine sandpaper like 400 grit and then using the proper flux. Johnson's makes a liquid flux specifically for soft soldering stainless steel, and you can usually find it at a place that sells supplies for places that make restaurant equipment.

For silver soldering stainless, the same prep is required and the proper flux is Battern's Se3lf-Pickling liquid flux. I've never had particularly good results with any of the other fluxes commonly used for soldering silver or other non-ferrous metals.

When sawing stainless steel with a jeweler's say and blades, you want to get the best blades possible. I personally prefer Herkules brand, though Scies also makes good blades. Use either beeswax or a graphite-based lubrican onthe blade and re-apply twice as often as you think you should. Don't be too delicate with the cutting pressure, either. Just short of snapping the blade is right - much less and you simply dull the blade on the work-hardened edge.

I think Frank has an excellent suggestion in using German silver/nickel silver, instead. It is much easier to work, looks pretty decent, and is compatible with other non-ferrous metals for those projects where you want some contrasting colors.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 05/20/09 23:48:40 EDT

I second Vicopper on several points for working SS. The Herkules blades are the best I have found also. For those who have not dealt with these tiny blades, they are very tiny, and will break constantly especially when makeing difficult cuts with a finer blade type. They are usually sold by the dozen or gross, buy more than you think you need:) Another tip on these is to keep the spares oiled lightly while in storage. Rust spots make these blades snap. I have also used bees wax, works well, but for SS I prefer the stick solid lubes now sold by various companies for drilling and tapping. These are a form of solid alcohol, and melt and flow at a lower temp than bees wax and seem to work a little better on SS.

I have used German silver, and used it as prototype material also for larger pieces than made the real item from precious metal.
I have had good luck in buying tools and materials from Rio Grande Jewelors supply.
   Ptree - Thursday, 05/21/09 06:56:19 EDT

Somewhere on this board I heard that you can use German silver.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 05/21/09 08:21:12 EDT

Clinker Breaker: The most popular due to simplicity is the triangular "ball". This does two things, it creates some motion to clear ash and clinker, and it directs the air to change the character of the fire from concentrated in the center to diffuse.

The ball clinker breaker fits on a 1/2" rod between the fire pot and the tuyere. Some have a half groove in each part or all in one. A retrofit can be done with two spacers or a thick one with a groove. They are made to be easy to remove on the rod as they tend to corrode to the rod and both must be replaced from time to time.

ball forge grate drawing by Jock Dempsey
ball forge grate drawing by Jock Dempsey

The handle has a bent end that weights it in one direction (usually point up). The ball is attached with a set screw OR it could be welded on.

You can simplify this with just a heavy disk on a rod. Works almost as a good and is easier to make.

To see a photo of a commercial ball grate see the BlacksmithsDepot web site.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/21/09 10:34:17 EDT

Triangular grates: Note that these work better in a square or rectangular hole. You can make the tuyere from square tubing just as well as round.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/21/09 10:41:28 EDT

The recent messages about stainless steel jewelry caught my attention to a e-solicitation I received for tungsten wedding bands for $12.99. “Guaranteed for life, 4mm Tungsten Band, Engraved with Brush Finish. SuperJeweler's Tungsten Carbide bands are heavy solid and will never scratch or look worn out.” They are available in normal ring sizes. I would expect they are made by powder metallurgy pressed, fused, and polished. How compatible is tungsten with tissue compatibility and how can they make them so inexpensively? I think I paid more for TIG electrodes? E-mail me if you would like me to send you the link on Buy.com.
   Bob Johnson - Thursday, 05/21/09 12:46:31 EDT

Has anyone ever sprayed the ITC 296A over the ITC 100. My forge has new fiber and I just cured the ITC 100 and need some opinions to help me decide if 296A is worth the trouble. Thanks a lot
   Randy - Thursday, 05/21/09 13:47:50 EDT

Randy, The ITC 296A is used for reducing scale and slag sticking in melting operations. It is also more resistant to flux than ITC-100. However, in a forge where the problem is the floor it will not help a lot. In forges the floor is going to have scale stick to it no matter what you do. If you plan to do a lot of welding the 296-A may help save the refractory or increase its service life. However, in small lightweight forges that have a relatively short lining life it may not pay.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/21/09 14:30:18 EDT

Bob, If they are sintered then the problem element is cobalt which is the glue holding the ceramic carbides together.

I see one web site claims nickel binder instead of cobalt.

If you read the various forums on these rings the prices vary wildly as do the guarantee. Apparently folks like Zales sell the warranty separately for nearly the cost of the ring.

There are two problems. They are brittle as glass and while they will not scratch they occasionally will break due to a shock at just the right angle and place.

The other problem is getting them off in a medical emergency. The recommended method is to break them. Now. . while they WILL occasionally break on their own I'm sure you have TRIED to break some hard material on purpose at some time (like cutter bits or taps). When you want the stuff to break it will not and when you have an appendage inside the thing that may need a hard blow from a hammer while on an anvil to break it *I* do not want to take part.

I've ground over half way through HSS lathe cutter bits and solid carbide cutters then tried to break them on the anvil OR clamped in a vise. All I managed to do on two occasions was ding the anvil, vise and hammer. They WILL break if notched more than half way through OR with a sharp notch. But not as easily as you want.

I can just imagine the circus in an emergency room when they try to remove the uncuttable ring from your smashed swollen hand in order to save the finger. .
   - guru - Thursday, 05/21/09 14:59:40 EDT

I want to make a broadfork which is a large garden fork 2ft. wide with handles each end and 5 or so tines 9 in. long. I plan to use old car coil spring for the tines welded to sguare tube.My question is whether should plan to reharden the the spring steel after staightening in the forge to a gentle curve,prior to welding to the square tube
Or will spring steel air harden to with stand the torque of digging?What about in the area of the welds will that be brittle and need some form of treatment(heating?)after the welding?You can probably tell from my question Im a neo.
   wayne eddy - Thursday, 05/21/09 15:37:03 EDT

Wayne, The problem with be the arc welding of the spring steel. This can cause a brittle weld zone that could easily break. Welding any kind of medium to high carbon steel requires heat treatment. In some cases the parts require preheat as well as post heat treatment. Welding any kind of high performance steel is a technical job that must be researched.

Spring steel varies greatly from modern low carbon springs to older high carbon (60 points or more). So Junk yard steel rules apply.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/21/09 18:42:47 EDT

Fire Tube: This is a very old technique you will probably find in Richardson's Practical Blacksmithing and a few other places. It is used for making forge welds in shallow forges, welding very small parts where any blast at all would burn them. It produces a very hot clear carburizing fire. Work can be heated above the coals rather than in them thus keeping the work cleaner. Clinker will form at the base of the tube over the tuyere and still need cleaning out.

While it was a well known technique to more technical blacksmiths such as instrument makers and locksmiths it was not a mainstream tool and not mentioned by most writing on blacksmithing.

The advantage of the bottom blast and "clinker breaker" is being able to use the fire longer without completely cleaning it out. The clinker breaker is more of a "shaker" to get ash to fall into the ash dump. Clinker will still builds up in the fire above it (depending on your coal) where it must still be fished out or the fire broken down and cleaned.

I had a running battle with Paw-Paw when using the portable forge shop forge. I preferred no grate and losing a little coal in order to be able to maintain a fire all day by pushing the ash and clinker into the ash dump. Paw-Paw kept sticking a stupid cast-iron floor grate in the forge which prevented coal as well as ASH from going into the ash dump. Just about the time you got a good bed of coke and a hot fire going it would clog up and start to die due to the ask not having somewhere to go. . . Fishing out the grate killed the fire and you had to start over again. I was used to building a fire and working all day without breaking it down. You couldn't do that with a grate.

So, whatever type of grate goes at the bottom of a bottom blast it should be open enough to allow for plenty of ash to fall through.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/21/09 22:59:58 EDT

I've posted this before, but the old bottom-blast Buffalos had a nice tuyere valve. I've imitated it by cutting a short section of an old axle half shaft, normally at the wheel end where it's thicker than the spline end. I hot-punch a rectangular hole through it, maybe 1/2" x 7/8". The buffalo valve was oval, so one could flatten the piece some before punching. The 1/2" rod could be attached fore and aft by drilling blind holes and countersinking them on the annealed piece. When arc welding, I fill the countersink with weld material. I always put a weight of scrap iron on the end opposite the handle. Allow a little of the rod to protrude and either bend it down at 90º or weld a rod on at 90º. Have the weight welded on the end of the downturned rod. After rotating, the valve will find center by gravity. This style allows blast to come through the central hole as well as either side of the valve. If it's oval in section, when turned, it better allows ash to come down the sides.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 05/21/09 23:40:19 EDT

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