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

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

This archive #177 of posts from June 1 - 8, 2002 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Malleable iron vs. Ductile. Patrick, To the best of my knowledge they are the same animal. Ductile is actualy LOW tech.

To make ductile the CI melt is innoculated with magnesium pellets which causes the carbon to form graphite nodules when it freezes. The low low tech method is done IN the mold. A special chamber is created in the feed runner of the mold. It is filled with the magnesium pellets. Sometimes a ceramic grate is used to hold back the pellets. When the CI is poured it is enoculated with the magnesium and viola' you have ductile iron. . .

I'm not sure when it was invented but I think the early 1900's.
   - guru - Friday, 05/31/02 21:09:08 GMT

Marcus-- one tiny point: oxygen and acetylene regulator valves open and close backwards from your usual bathtub and sink spigots. This may not need stating, but just in case: before you open the bottles, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS MAKE CERTAIN the regulators are closed. That is, that the spinners on the regulators are turned counter clockwise all the way to the point where they spin freely. That takes all the strain off the diaphragms inside. Otherwise when you open the bottles, the huge bottle pressures are likely to pooch the diaphragms. Once the bottles are open-- all the way on the oxygen valve, just a half-turn on the acetylene bottle, so you can shut it down fast in a jam (and that means leaving the wrench on the valve if there is no handle affixed)-- THEN you slowwwwly turn the regulator valves to the proper pressure settings. As Jock said, no more than 10 as rule-- and NEVER more than 15-- on the acetylene. When you open the bottles, stand aside from the dial faces, and do not look at them. Some welders install the regulators so the dials are aimed somewhat downward. (Sometimes things pop and you don't want your eyeballs in the way, you dig?)
   miles undercut - Saturday, 06/01/02 00:03:22 GMT

Marcus-- oops, forgot to mention that thus it must follow, as the night the day, that when you are done welding or cutting and shut down, you ALWAYS BLEED the hoses.
   miles undercut - Saturday, 06/01/02 00:08:06 GMT

Malleable and Ductile iron are not quite the same. Malleable iron is made by heat treating ordinary grey iron to allow the carbon flake to breakdown and diffuse into the iron. It results in a pearlite/ferrite microstructure that is much lower in flake graphite than grey iron. Ductile iron is made as previously described using a magnesium innoculant.
   Bob Nichols - Saturday, 06/01/02 00:26:15 GMT

Details, details, the devil is in the details. . .

You see lots of folks using cutting torches without filter lenses or trying to use sunglasses or flash glasses. . . NEVER! EVER!.. . Dumb. Where the proper cutting glasses with cobalt filter lenses. Unless you LIKE glacoma.

Besides, you can't do a good job without looking closely into the kerf. Squinting doesn't hack it.

Basic gas welding classes generaly run for a quarter.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 01:02:05 GMT

Bob, thanks!
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 01:07:06 GMT

How would you shoe a horse with a club foot. A while back I had read an article about how to shoe a club foot. I would like your input.
Thanks Mona
   Mona - Saturday, 06/01/02 01:16:15 GMT

Malleable & Ductile iron. Our company had castings made from both. A engineer told me one costs more due to processing.
   D.Wells - Saturday, 06/01/02 01:33:42 GMT

Mona, I'm afraid we are mostly decorative smiths and ironworkers here. We DO have a handful of farriers that hang out on the Slack-Tub Pub. But my guess is that you do it like you would any damaged animal (or human). You would fit a prosthetic device that laced on like a boot and had a proper fit. The folks that specialize in prosthetics use latex rubber molds to make fiberglass parts to accurately fit the limb. Then there is the engineering. Every case if different.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 01:35:28 GMT


I'm am "old car" hotrodder and have been researching the metallurgy of one particular Ford engine family for a couple years. I've never yet spoken to a foundry person, and my only direct experience with molten metals relates to a soldering iron.

Before I get to my question, I'm curious about a statement you made on the "before you post, read this" page. It states "forged iron and steel". My non-scholastic and non-applied studies have got me believing that steels are by definition forgeable and cast irons are by definition non-forgeable. The reason is that steel passes through a granular "plastic" state between liquid and solid, and iron goes straight to a cellular state upon changing. Can you elaborate?

My question relates to the many rumors of nickel addition to cast iron engine blocks when cast for performance applications. Why is nickel added? I've heard a common percentile (by weight) is 2%, but other rumors claim particularly special pours may contain much higher percentages. Any insights or links I might try hitting to search out an answer?

While I'm on the topic, I've got n even less reliable rumor that some engine blocks are cast of nodular iron. I've seen it in print for the small block Ford V-8 of the early '60s, but have seen more reliable sources which claim Ford was simply excercising a new thin-wall technology using Class 35 gray iron as the "next step" after the aluminum lobbies proved to be pushing a product which was not yet ready for prime time. Gray iron makes the most sense, since it contains the impurity sulfur, which combines with silicon which dry lubricates carbide cutters to go a whole 8-hour shift without changeout.

I think I drifted, as usual.

Please let me consolidate my two questions:
Number 1:...wait a minute. I've got a third question.

I've heard a rumor that automotive manufacturers switched from a class 35 to a class 32 gray iron in their engine blocks, probably in the mid-70s, and probably for the purpose of saving money during the oil-embargo-induced recession.

I'd better not try to summarize my thoughts. I get the feeling I'd just come up with more questions.

Thanks for your time. I'm heading to browse your archives now.

Dave Shoe
   Dave "Shoe" Schouweiler - Saturday, 06/01/02 02:53:32 GMT

Holy cow. My apoligies for misunderstanding that this is a chatroom format. This is cool, but I ignorantly wrote in a "forum" style. Im not exactly chat-room savvy, yet.

I'll be reading the current chat listing now. I realize I may be in the wrong place, but I also suspect you folks are well equipped to tell me where I can go.

Back to chat reading and learning mode.


   Dave "Shoe" Schouweiler - Saturday, 06/01/02 03:07:12 GMT

By the way, I just read upstairs (ref: Friday, 05/31/02 21:09:08 GMT) that someone mentioned malleable iron and ductile iron are about the same thing.

Their properties have similarities, but they are quite different forms of cast iron.

It's nodular and ductile iron that are different names for the same thing.

Malleable iron is a formulation of gray iron which goes through typically a 12-hour heat treatment (expensive) to cause the graphite flakes to sorta migrate into clumps of planar graphite, sorta like steel wool is a messy clump of steel.

Nodular iron, on the other hand, does not form planar (flake) graphite upon solidifying. Instead the "seed" for the graphite is magnesium, and this Mg nucleus causes the carbon to precipitate around it as a cube, not a plane.

Nodular/Ductile iron (patented in 1947) can be cheaper to make than malleable, in high-volume situations. Remember, I only preach rumors from books I've read which I only half understand, but I believe most of my rumors.

It's pretty certain that I'll stop posting now and go into some sort of "read only" mode.

   Dave "Shoe" Schouweiler - Saturday, 06/01/02 03:42:41 GMT

Hi everyone!

I've been blacksmithing now for almost one year and I guess I can say that I am really getting the blacksmithing bug. I just got my first "client" (store owner) who wants me to supply him with a number of outdoor garden items such as plant hangers, stands, and so on. My client wants the iron work painted black (of course) and I thought that a few coats of tremclad (I think that's how it's spells) was the ticket. Any suggestions? I know "Guru" spoke on the matter in question a number of times but I can't find the answer anywhere on the site.

   Louis - Saturday, 06/01/02 04:12:46 GMT

Dave, this IS a forum. But it is our own custom software so it looks different than most forums. Our "chat" is the Slack-Tub Pub.

Nickle was added to the cast iron to make it stronger and more wear resistant. I don't have a clue about all your other whys. I do know that many of the changes had to do with changing foundries and looking for that "zero" defects in supplied castings.

Our company bid on an automated tooling refit at a local Intermet foundry that made Ford and Crystler castings. Many of the parts were ductile iron. The tooling we looked at was for front wheel drive suspension "knuckles"??. The castings were spot machined in several places, rockwell hardness tested with a robotic vision system, then ultrasonic tested in a fluid filled tank. At the end of the line good castings went into one bin and bad the other. We were bidding on the refit of this line for a new size/shape part. The foundry didn't get the job so neither did we. .

I know that the famous Chevy 235 "big six" was a cast steel engine. Unbelievably tough. I needed a head dressed that was a little out of flat. The head grinding machine that would take 1/8" off a cast iron head in one pass if you were not careful just polished that steel head. . That is when I learned the entire engine was steel except the manifolds.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 04:23:22 GMT

Louis, it depends if you want to do it right or be competitive. If you use coal the work should be sandblasted (see article on corrosion, 21st Century page). If the work is to be used outdoors the first coat should be zinc powder paint (cold galvanizing), then a neutral primer and then a top coat of your choice.

To be competitive you clean by dipping in a big tank of acid, rinse and neutralize then dip in paint OR contract the painting to a powder coater. The finish will hold up just long enough that the buyer won't complain. But if you put the same finish on a high dollar custom job the client is going to come back in two years and want to know why its rusting.

On the other hand the thin galvanizing on hardware store hardware that they charge extra for is only good enough to keep the hardware from rusting on the shelf. . . Its NOT the same as the good old cadnium plated stuff.

Lots of stuff is just dusted off and painted with whatever flat black is available.

Two years might sound like a long time but the customer may have the same home with your railing (or whatever) for 30 or 40 years. Selling inexpensive production items is different. If it doesn't rust while in inventory the store owner will be happy. Inexpensive garden items are often "throw away" items in our transient society.

So there is the right way and the competitive way.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 04:54:31 GMT

Thanks for the info, Guru.

I'm curious about that Chevy-six material. Next time I happen to page thru a magazine which discusses the topic (I collect old automotive industrial mags, a friend collects automotive performance mags - together we've got a nice stash of info). A steel block sounds like miserable stuff to run up against.

   Dave "Shoe" Schouweiler - Saturday, 06/01/02 07:08:03 GMT

Following Miles's dictum.( bleed the hoses) then unscrew the regulator adjustments to relieve stress on the diaphram.
RE pressure settings. While it is less than optimum, many torch cutters simply set their acet to 5# and the oxy to 20#. To do it right takes more finesse..but 5 and 20 will cut fence posts.
If you find you aren't cutting through, up the oxy pressure, if you are plowing through and the cut doesn't lag just a little as you move the torch along, drop the pressure.
As a vague generality, with exceptions, you can set the welding tip pressure to about the tip size. IE 5# for a number 5 tip. The oxy is generally a # or 2 higher. 4# pressure is about the minimum for small tips though...again , with a few exceptions. Too low a pressure tends to pop and be unstable. Too high a pressure wastes gas and leads to a higher flame velosity which is a nuisance.
A last safety note; Cheap or old torch sets lack anti-flash-back valves. Get a set!
Oh yeah...don't cut any closed vessels, please.
   - Pete F - Saturday, 06/01/02 07:45:59 GMT

Dear Guru , I have for some time wanted to make some small wood carving knives . I have been collecting old cutthroat razors that have chipped edges for this purpose . I would like your advise whether I should carefully grind the blades to the desired shape or reheat the blades and forge to the shapes I require . I have never attempted any forging work to date but have been researching annealling , hardening and tempering techniques .
best wishes
   mike holland - Saturday, 06/01/02 11:14:47 GMT

Mike, on something this thin I would carefully grind to shape. If you can come up with a water cooled grinder (belt or wheel) you should be able to do all your grinding without losing the original temper. Otherwise you will need to a piece and test hardening and tempering. However, different manufacturers use different steels and each one MIGHT be slightly different, but I doubt it on these.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 16:29:41 GMT

Dave "Shoe":

Part of your question concerned the forgebilty of iron and steel.

Dave wrote: "My non-scholastic and non-applied studies have got me believing that steels are by definition forgeable and cast irons are by definition non-forgeable. The reason is that steel passes through a granular "plastic" state between liquid and solid, and iron goes straight to a cellular state upon changing. Can you elaborate?"

There is always a little confusion regarding "iron" and "cast iron". "Iron" refers to nearly pure elemental iron (almost no carbon or metallic additions). "Steel" refers to iron with a small amount of carbon (up to 1.8% or so). "Cast iron" refers to iron with more than 1.8% carbon, although usually has much more carbon. These are very general classifications, but they serve well enough. Of the three "iron" is the most forgeble. Next is steel, and last is cast iron.
   - grant - Saturday, 06/01/02 16:59:16 GMT

Grant, thanks for catching that for me. I read it and set it aside. Both pure iron and wrought iron are correctly (or commonly) called "iron" and in our business get lumped with steel or ferrous alloy that is forgeable.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/01/02 17:48:14 GMT

Can i purchase equipment for melting copper and shaping it into a ring? If so, what equipment will i need and how much will it cost?
   Jonathan - Saturday, 06/01/02 18:33:27 GMT

OBTW. Who was it that bought the Centaur "Tom tongs"? Just interested in feedback on quality etc. They seem a little pricy to me.

   - grant - Saturday, 06/01/02 19:34:03 GMT


Contact me email, please? Need to talk to you about something.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 06/01/02 20:22:46 GMT

Call me at (800)993-6744
   - grant - Saturday, 06/01/02 20:29:35 GMT


Is there such a thing as a metal bit for a router? I want to plow about 1/8 of an inch of steel out of a piece that I plan on doing. Is the only way to do this by coating the surfaces I don't want effected in wax and giving the whole thing an acid bath?
   Chris - Saturday, 06/01/02 22:45:55 GMT

Grant & Guru,

Thanks for the clarification of Iron and C.I. I didn't even think of that.

I've been unable to find any practical applications for pure iron, and that may be why I didn't think of it. Connecting the wrought irons to the iron category will help me create an association for iron along side the steel and C.I. classifications.

I sort of understood that pure irons and wrought irons were hammerable, but never made the connection that they would be forgeable until now.

Thanks again.

   Dave "Shoe" Schouweiler - Sunday, 06/02/02 01:59:36 GMT

Hello, I am an author who is researching a topic for a fiction book about a young boy who becomes an apprentice to a Black Smith. In the world I am creating I am making metal scarce and I was wondering about the problems that would acquire over over-smelting of Metal.

What would happen to individual types of metals and alloys if they were re-forged again and again? Also what are the dangers of taking an older piece of metal that has been exposed to weather and tried to re-smith it?

I realize that these questions are larger then just a yes or no or multiple choice answer and perhaps if you can point me in the right direction toward research, and give me a brief overview of the problems, I could delve deeper to get more complete answers.

The smith would be a typical English middle ages affair, and the Smith would be a master Smith. The Metal he uses would be of poor quality recovered from battlefields.

Any information you could point me toward would be greatly appreciated and would be accredited with in my work.

Thank you for your time and attentions.
Brendan McGlynn

   Brendan McGlynn - Sunday, 06/02/02 02:44:39 GMT

Routing Milling Chris, No. Routers are designed for cutting wood and turn about. . . 2,000 times TOO fast.

A vertical milling machine uses cutters that look similar to router bits but the machine is MUCH more rigid and runs much slower. Or a horizontal mill could do the job. They use a blade sort of like a curcular saw. Any machine shop could do the job (for a fee).

The blacksmith alternative is a sharp narrow cold chisel and patience. Keyways and slots were commonly cut by hand until very recently. You start by scribing lines, then clamping the work in a heavy vise and chiping away. It is actualy easier than you would think.

A machine called shaper was designed in 1840's to do this job. It used simple bits like a lathe and operated in a straight line reciprocating back and forth. However, machine tools did not spread to small shops until the early 1900's and many slots and keyways were cut by hand until then. And a lot of us still do it occasionaly in a pinch.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/02/02 03:21:42 GMT

Pure Iron is quite a bit in decorative work. And a nearly pure carbonless iron is used for transformer plates and solenoid cores because it does not magnetize.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/02/02 03:23:36 GMT

Iron in Fiction: Brendan, you have fallen into a den of authors and would be authors and are now in deep do. Why, because they are Smiths FIRST! See our story page and Paw-Paw's Revolutionary Blacksmith

First, most metals are eminently recyleable just about forever. There ARE problems with over working some metals particularly iron but if you are recycling it then that is a different matter.

Second, the materials picked up off a battlefield would have started out as the best of their time. Even the common foot soldier would have had a fair grade of iron and steel armor and weaponry IF they had any at all.

Rust IS a problem. How may years are we speaking of? Generaly rust does not hurt steel other than making it ugly. Put it in the forge and away you go like new.

However, wrought iron is a different animal. Anything soft, helms, armor and such that didn't have cutting edges were probably made of wrought iron. Wrought is a complicated material made by a lot of hammering of a slaggy "bloom" that leaves a lot of fine layers of slag in the iron. Generally wrought is more resistant to rusting than steel. But if it is burried, or under water or anywhere that stays moist rust follows the slag lines and the wroght becomes and LOOKs like rotten wood. At this point is is NOT forgeable. However, it IS recyclable.

Old wrought rusted beyond practical use can be reworked similar to its original manufacture OR recycled into cast iron (no forgeable). Old wrought is brought up to a welding heat (white hot) and heavily fluxed and then rewelded back into solid bar. But the material is not too good. SO, it is reheated, fluxed, folded and welded again and again until the imperfections are reduced to nothingness or squeezed out with the flux.

Many times small pieces of old wrought iron or steel have often been forge welded together to make a bigger piece. Reference the making of the magical harpoon in Moby Dick, from the used nails of racehorses. The metalurgy is all wrong in the book but the methodology works. It is common today to find old handmade tools made from farriers rasps that have been folded and forge welded into a larger lump of steel.

It is claimed that nearly all the gold that has every existed is still in billets or coins somewhere in the world having been recycled over and over. There is also a good probability that bronze from the earliest bronze age warrior's weapons was recycled into Ancient Greek bronze statuary that was later recyled into Roman statuary that was recast into medieval bronze cannon that was. . . .

To be accurate you will need to do a LOT of studying. References to follow. Its too late tonight. . . .
   - guru - Sunday, 06/02/02 03:50:40 GMT

Chris-- with ultra-extreme care and steady hands (clad in gloves!) and a thin blade, a groove or many grooves can be ground of the depth you want in steel that is clamped in a vise, using an angle grinder. A biggie or a mini, either one, depending on the work. (Without extreme care, one more groove than planned on sometimes results, in a body part, often a finger.)
   miles undercut - Sunday, 06/02/02 03:51:38 GMT

Chris-- Come to think of it, there are myriad... well, maybe not myriad, but at least several... other ways to cut that groove-- and, again, if one isn't careful, send sharp pieces of tool steel into one's poor dermis. Like, the Dremel tool and its big brother, the Foredom, those dental-like implements that spin tiny burrs at amazing speeds. (Tempting as it may be, do NOT, EVER, chuck a round file into one of these high-RPM beauties.)
   miles undercut - Sunday, 06/02/02 04:49:31 GMT


I've been known to chuck a rotary file in an air tool, though.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Sunday, 06/02/02 10:53:17 GMT

Rotary Files The ones designed for air tools are solid carbide. They also depend on air cooling. Running full speed on hard or torch cut steel can wreck the cutter. Do not try to cut a groove like a keyway with one.

Miles, Try to cut a groove in steel with your Dremel and say goodby to the cutter unless you have a variable speed model and keep it on the minimum speed. Even then only solid carbide rotary files or grinding wheels are good for that speed even at small diameters. One touch at high speed and metal cutters are gone.

It is also NOT recommended to try to hand cut a groove in steel. The cutter generaly starts occilating (bouncing off the sides of the groove) and wrecks the Dremel. It will either rip the bit out of the chuck, trash the bearings or break the housing. Some goes for doing the same with heavy duty industrial die grinders. - Done both.

The Foredom being a flexible shaft tool is different in this respect. It will do the same occilation routine but the fact that the mass is very low the result is not as catastrophic. It is still not a good way to cut a groove.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/02/02 13:10:25 GMT


Thanks for the info. Miles, those safety procedures are exactly what I've been doing on the propane/oxy setup that I'm familiar with. I've always assumed that they were necessary regardless of what gas was being used. Again, thanks for your concern and help.

   - Marcus - Sunday, 06/02/02 13:16:03 GMT


Thanks to you too. The need for flashback arrestors is noted. Also, since these are old chain-link fence posts that are hollow with caps, I'll be sure to remove the caps before cutting. Logic would dictate that if enough pressure were built up the caps would pop off before the post exploded, but that's not necessarily a good thing either. I was planning to remove the caps anyway, but thanks for the reminder.

   - Marcus - Sunday, 06/02/02 14:29:41 GMT


Here I go, contrary as usual. I HAVE cut straight grooves with a router using a solid carbide end mill. The dust is pretty hard on an electric router, but I just happen to have an air router. That's an air-POWERED router, not to be confused with things like an "air guitar". Used an angle iron fence as a guide.
   - grant - Sunday, 06/02/02 15:05:24 GMT

Grant, Often, things that YOU or I could get away with in a pinch will end in disaster for others. A certain degree of finesse makes a big difference in the sucess or failure of many things.

Chris, Note that Grant said a "solid carbide end mill". You can probably pay to have the job done for less than the cost of the cutter.

My experiance with cutting metal with wood working tools has also been that they are not designed for metal grit or abrasive grit. They make cutoff wheels that work in a hand held circular saw but the grit is death on the works. My good hand saw never recovered. Cleaning didn't help.

Marcus, that fence piping is probably galvanized. You will need good ventilation to prevent metal fume fever from burning zinc. If it is old enough the galvanizing may contain cadmium. Fumes from that are just plain lethal.

I get letters a couple times a year from welders that have heavy metal poisioning. There is no cure. And for the self employed there is no one else to blame or claim damages from.

More reasons to take an accredited welding course.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/02/02 16:07:14 GMT

Hello Mr or Mrs Guru. My name is paul i am 13 years old and i need info about blacksmiths in the renaissance time period. The info needs to be what they did how they did it and what they used.
Thanks Paul P.S. Please anwser soon my project is due on this tuesday.
   Paul - Sunday, 06/02/02 17:14:52 GMT

Paul, they did much of the same stuff the same way that blacksmiths have been doing for thousands of years, but if you haven´t done any research YET you´re in trouble.(And if your teacher reads this he will know..)

And, yes, working as a teacher has made me somewhat grumpy towards students taking the easy way out. Maybe the GURU will be nicer to you.
   - Olle Andersson - Sunday, 06/02/02 18:11:34 GMT

Olle, I wouldn't bet on that! Guru doesn't do homework, he tells students where to find the answers! (grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Sunday, 06/02/02 19:14:28 GMT

Speaking of welding courses....
In 3 weeksd I will be starting an oxy/act weld class. I have given up on trying to learn how myself..... All I have sucesseded in doing is use up a tank of O2 and acetalyne(sp?)...

This way I can actually see someone do it and I can use their gas....(smile)
   Ralph - Sunday, 06/02/02 21:36:45 GMT

I'm looking to purchase a drop-forge coin minting unit to use at Medieval faires. Can you help locate a source?
   George Robinson Jr. - Sunday, 06/02/02 22:34:48 GMT

I am looking for a drop-forge to mint coins. Can you help locate a source? I want to use this at Medieval faires.
Thank you
   George Robinson Jr. - Sunday, 06/02/02 22:37:41 GMT

I am little old lady with an art gallery who does all kinds of art. I'd like to be able to cut out flat metal sculptures that I could stand up in front of the gallery to attract customers. I could then also make garden cut-out sculptures for people. Would I be able to do this and how expensive would it be? I think metal (don't know what kind would be best) can be cut with a torch (don't know what kind of torch either) and think I could do that. My neighbor does welding and could help me out if I needed that. I didn't see anything on your site about this. What do you think? Thanks, Barbara
   Barbara - Sunday, 06/02/02 23:17:57 GMT

Hello Jock
I've just picked up a Champion Model 404 forge with a model 400 blower attached to it from an auction. I'm curious as to its vintage...what years they were made and it main use. It seems to be a semi-small, square shop forge. This one also has a three inch thick by four inch wide "donut" made of clay or 'crete and wedge shape brick over the tuyere. Is this normal? It really raises the fire bed up, almost to the level of the side identations of the forge. Any input (as usual) is greatly appreciated. I've searched the web for some info and really didn't find anything...
   Gator - Sunday, 06/02/02 23:54:34 GMT

Steel Cut Outs: Barbara, There are several methods.
  1. Using an oxy-acetylene torch to cut steel plate. There are large and small oxy-acetylene sets. Cost to seup is roughly $500 US. You can free hand cut plate from 1/16" to 4" thick. I recommend that anyone considering oxy-acetylene take an accredited welding course at a college or trade school. See the numerous posts above as to why (last week of May).

  2. Plasma torches will cut steel, aluminium and stainless. They are higher tech but many small shops use them for what you describe. The advantage is a cleaner cut. They use compressed air or bottled inert gas and a special electric power source to break the gas molecules down into very hot atomic particles mixed with free electrons. It is like a gas but it is a differnt state of matter "plasma". Again, I recommend you take a course.
  3. CAD-CAM cutting by either of the methods above or via LASER. You create the CAD drawing, email it to a steel warehouse and they do the cutting and delivery the semi-finished product. The advantages are that you don't need to own expensive and possibly dangerous equipment and that you can have multiple pieces cut out to any scale. Using the B-spline or cubic spline drawing commands in CAD you can create beautiful sensous lines and as much detail as you like. You can also use a graphics pad with the CAD program to trace drawings or create free hand work. This is a rapidly growing method used by artists and craftspeople all over the country. The same linework files can be sent to engravers to cut metal or plastic and sign shops to cut stick-on vinyl.

  4. There are low tech tracer torches that do similar work as the CAD-CAM but are not nearly as flexible and are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
Let us know if you need more specifics.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 00:10:07 GMT

dear mr. GURU, can you explain me the best way for lightening a coal forge. i'm a begginer and have lot of trouble to do it. the best way i found is using fire lighter make of small pieces of wax log,the artificial log founded in store.i made a piece of dimension of a golf ball ,light it and put coke over it.some time it takes about 20 to light,but sometimes i have to repeat the process and it can takes 2 or 3 hours to light it,sometimes can't forge cause it's time to go bed..... does anyone have a miracle tips to do that ?? thanks a lot ,and by the way thanks to all people who participate in iforge.
   machefer - Monday, 06/03/02 00:19:08 GMT

Oops...I signed of before I was done! One more question...I also picked up a post vise that is in fine shape with one exception...when unscrewed, the spring does not continue to keep pushing the jaws out...the spring is sprung! Can I take it out and forge a bigger bend into it to add some sproing to it? (yes, I said "sproing" and I'm stickin' to it!)...thanks again...Gator:)
   Gator - Monday, 06/03/02 00:23:16 GMT

Gator, Yes you can bent the spring. Just don't over do it. The travel needed at the bottom is very little. The last one I made I installed without hardening and tempering and it has worked fine for years. However, its not recommended. Most springs are tempered to a blue.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 00:41:49 GMT

Starting Coal Forges: Machefer, There are many ways to do this. A lot depends on the quality of your coal and the moisture content. Most coal is slightly porous and absorbs water if it sits out. Keep you coal dry or at least a bucket full for starting fires.

Top quality bituminous (soft) smithing coal will start with two or three sheets of newsprint. Twist the newsprint into a ball with a tail so that it looks like a mushroom. Light the tail, stick it into the clean tuyeer, add some fresh coal and apply a gentle blast. Should start.

More difficult to start coal needs a small amount of wood kindling on top of the paper.

Damp and difficult to start coal an be helped by a 1/8 to 1/4 cup of kenosene on top of the paper and kindling.

Anthricite (hard) coal and coke need a good hot fire to start them. The methods above with more kindling.

Many smiths use a welding torch to start all tyoes of coal.
Well. . summer has hit Central Virgina with a vengence!
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 00:54:26 GMT

Drop Forge: George, this requires either heavy of very powerful equipment. One of the best manual machines for coining is a flypress. But even small unpowered ones may weigh 1,000 pounds (453 kg). A flypress is a type of screw press and has been used for hundreds of years in the coining business. See our Power hammer page.

There are also simple guided drop hammers but none have been manufactured in maybe a century. A weight is pulled up a set of guides (like angle iron) to a height of 10 to 20 feet with a rope and then let go. Deap simple, but this requires an "anvil" to absorb the shock of maybe 1,000 pounds (453 kg) or more. You might get away with half that much. So you are back to a heavy device in any case. If the setup is to be semi-permanent then its not too much of a problem but if its to be portable. . .

The size of the coin and the material make a big difference. Gold is the easiest to coin followed by silver then copper. Brasses and bronze take much more force. Aluminium varies greatly with the alloy and the temper. Pure (1000 series) annealed aluminium is the softest.

It would be a fun design-build project but would require some R&D.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 01:08:25 GMT

I am deeply shocked.
   miles undercut - Monday, 06/03/02 01:35:59 GMT

Hi Guru,

I just got an old rusted forge. I cleaned it up
and it seems to push air just fine. I live in Ojai, inland from ventura which is an hour North of L.A. I was
hoping you could point me in the direction of a coal dealer
if that is the fuel I should use in the forge.

Thank You, Matt.
   Matt Jenkins - Monday, 06/03/02 01:42:43 GMT

George: My friends mint coins at medieval fairs using a stout lad and a 9# sledge. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. By the colonial period, they were using small fly presses. Just remember that a hammerman can hit considerably harder, (accelerating the hammer as it falls) than a much heavier weight in free-fall.

Paul: Start writing, kid. You've only got tonight and Monday! To restate and (slightly) elaborate on the main theme, a renaissance smith had everything a medieval smith had, plus a vise. A colonial smith had pretty much the same tools as a renaissance smith, except they used double (over/under) bellows instead of side-by-side bellows. Most of what changed was fashions in the type of output: broadswords become rapiers become sabres. Trammel hooks (holding the stew pot over the fire place) stay the same for hundreds of years.

Read some of the stuff on the story page. (DON'T COPY IT, this is research!) Look in your books and see how iron was used in the society of the time. If they have it in your library, look at a copy of The Pirotechnia by Vannoccio Biringuccio, written in the 16th century and republished (and translated) in paperback (Dover Books; ISBN 0-486-26134-4) It has LOTS of pictures, so it may give you a feel for how things worked.

Get cracking, kid! Time's a wastin'!

Should you manage to pull a rabbit out of your hat, write back, thank the Guru for running this site, and let us know what grade you got.

Good luck.

I may or may not be in contact, depending on my laptop. Bound for Boston tomorrow, New Bedford on Friday morning and Saugus on Friday afternoon on the way to the airport. I'll take a few pictures.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov



Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 06/03/02 01:48:25 GMT

Armand: If you have any questions about a Fairbanks hammers you can contact us at: http://www.united.forginghammers.com/ We’ll be glad to answer any questions and we might be able to date the hammer your considering buying. We offer OEM parts from original factory drawings for Beaudry, Bradley, Fairbanks and Nazel hammers.
   Bruce R. Wallace - Monday, 06/03/02 02:49:40 GMT

Coal in California: Matt, Contact the CBA (California Blacksmiths Association). California is not a big coal burning state and much of the Western coal that is available is not very good for blacksmithing. I suspect the CBA purchases coal in bulk for the members as do many of the ABANA Chapters. Look for them on our ABANA-Chapter.com page. You can also try the Coal Scuttle list on our home page.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 03:23:06 GMT

Report on Blacksmithing: Paul, if you have found this then see the other folks comments above. There are many books on blacksmithing and others on the renaissance. You will need to go to a good public library or university library to find them.

Diderot's Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry dates from the late 1700's but blacksmithing had not changed much from the Renaissance (see Bruce's post above). At the time the French smiths that Diderot recorded were still producing work similar to that of the Renaissance. Diderots is full of great engravings to use in a report. It covers both the product and the methods but is a pictorial encylopedia. You will have to interpert what to write on your own.

Good luck. Don't wait until the last minute next time. Many subjects that seem simple may be harder to research than you think. The Internet is a wonderful resource but many subjects are not covered on the net. For the most part we cover "how-to" not found elsewhere and leave the historical to the many published books on the subject.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 03:38:48 GMT

Oh Marcus;
Damn, I feel like I'm about to take over for your mother.
About those old chain link fence posts....sigh....
Most all of those pipe fence posts I've seen were galvanized. This galvanizes me to warn you about cutting the nasty stuff with a torch.
The zinc coating ( galv) vaporizes during cutting forming zinc oxide which is both bad and cumulative . Don't breathe the stuff, at all, It can get real mean.
Betcha never seen a hairrer buncha 200 pound mother hens.
We would all like to wish Miles a speedy recovery!
   - Pete F - Monday, 06/03/02 04:52:52 GMT

i am looking for a magizine called the fabricators.i have done a searchon the internet with no luck can you help.
   mike lowery - Monday, 06/03/02 04:53:16 GMT

It's Fabricator
singular...search again
   - Pete F - Monday, 06/03/02 04:58:05 GMT

Hi Guys,
I am new to welding. I just bought a used 50amp arc welder. I am restoring an intique car. My question is this: How do you use an arc welder as a cutting torch?
Thank you very much.
   Thomas - Monday, 06/03/02 04:59:24 GMT

Coal in Ca and CBA,
Even tho I am not in Ca I do know that the Northern section of the CBA do get a large shipment(21 tons) This is done as often as they can get firm comitment that total up to 21 tons....
   Ralph - Monday, 06/03/02 07:05:39 GMT

I really am not sure. And this is just hearsay and opinion, but I do not really think you want to arc weld cars. At least not panels. Hmmmm, but if it were thick enough.......
Most folks I know who weld car stuff use a wire or some use TIG or even oxy/act.....
   Ralph - Monday, 06/03/02 07:26:09 GMT

I'm trying to find the email address of an long time friend, Walfrid Huber of Pirawrath, Austria. If anyone has his email address, either please send it to me, or send my email address to Walfrid. Thanks
   Arnie Rowland - Monday, 06/03/02 09:02:24 GMT

Howdy gang. Got a quick coal question. Is it normal for the fire to die out in minutes if there is no blast? The reason I ask is I'm using a hand crank and can't leave it for more than 5 minutes. Thanks
   Gronk - Monday, 06/03/02 10:15:48 GMT

Pete and all:

Ok, so it's sounding more and more like cutting these posts down with a torch may be a bad idea all around. Any other suggestions? I had someone tell me that an angle grinder would be a good choice, but I figured that would be more dangerous than the torch.

Thanks again,

   - Marcus - Monday, 06/03/02 11:58:46 GMT

The Fabricator: Mike, Its published by NOMMA. See FAQs, Alphabet Soup.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 13:30:45 GMT

Cutting Posts Down Marcus, That means they are probably outdoor and you have lots of ventilation. A cutoff wheel in a grinder will do the job but is probably more dangerous. Embedding a resinoid grinding wheel in a slot, especialy one that is in thin material has a tendency to cause the grinder to snag and kick back.

We had a fellow do that a few years ago. . . The wheel hit him in the face and nearly cut off his jaw on one side. It took out a bunch of teeth and cut nerves so that one side of his face will never quite work right again. . He wasn't wearing a face shield but I'm not SURE that would have helped. The grinder did not have a guard and I'm SURE that would have helped especially combined with a face shield. But the force of the grinder hitting him in the face would still have been significant.

Cuttoff wheels are designed for stationary equipment (with guards).

I would cut the posts with a torch. However, see our series of Q&A above about sparks. Working outdoors means you have to be carefull about NOT starting a fire, especially in the summer and in this drought that is effecting much of the country. How many times have you heard in the news "the blaze was started by sparks from a welder's torch"? You DO NOT want to be that welder.

Ahhh, the sparks apply to BOTH torch and wheel.

The other option is to cut them off with a pipe cutter. They make big ones that work just like the little ones for cutting tubing. The disadvantages are that they require clearance to operate in both axies and are not cheap tools. The clearance means a stub sticking up about two inches and that it wont work if there is a ledge or wall close to the pipe. But the stub could be split, folded in and a sledge used to flatten. Not as easy as a torch but very quiet except for the ocassional curse as you scrape you knuckles.

Then there is the porta-band. Those little hand held band saws. Many smiths find them handy for all kinds of work and they were designed for just this operation. Dan Boone has a bracket on his so he can clamp it in a vise to use as a small vertical band saw.

Just some options to think about. . .
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 13:54:45 GMT

Fire going out: Gronk, Yes and no. It depends on the type of coal and how you build your fire as well as the forge design. A heap of good coal will generate enough natural draft to burn itself out in a few hours. This is often a dissapointing mistake when a smith heaps on some coal to coke down and then gets distracted or leaves it overnight. . .

All that is required to put out most forge fires is to simply break apart the fire. But if you are using a small forge and a small amount of coal the fire may always be "broken apart" and thus go out quickly.

Coke, either formed in the fire or out requires an almost constant blast to keep burning. You turn the blast down but not off when dealing with coke. If your coal has mostly coked down then the fire WILL go out very shortly. A shovel full of fresh coal spread around the perimiter of the fire will provide some fresh coal to keep things going. If all you have is a small coked down fine the the coal will need to added to the center. So the age of the fire in the coal to coke to ash cycle is a variable.

A dirty fire, no matter how hot will go out in short order.

Anthracite needs a deep fire bed and a constant draft. This hard coal has few volitiles that burn at low temperatures so it is more difficult to keep burning.

The shape of the firepot and the forge arrangement are also variables making it almost impossible to trouble shoot remotely.

This is all part of fire maintenance that you learn by doing.

The problem with trying to teach fire maintenance in writing is that every batch of coal has different characteristics and how you handle one coal will be different than another. From experiance smiths learn how to "read coal" and adjust their methods. However, if you only use one grade of coal your whole carreer you may not learn how to compensate for these differences.

Its an art, almost as complicated as learning how to read a person's personality and knowing how to interact with that person. As humans we learn this from birth. But as smiths we learn to read coal and forges much later in life and without the advantage of BEING a forge. . .

Be the forge!
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 14:21:03 GMT

Lot of talk about cutting implements lately. :) Convenient in a sense because I'm looking to invest in a general purpose cutter.

My original thought was a chop saw with abrasive cut off wheel (one meant for the task because I agree with Guru, most wood work tools don't like sparks and iron filings etc. Otherwise I'd just throw a wheel in the one I have).

I'd contemplated oxy-acetelene torch... but I've been more than convinced, for a multitude of reasons (primarily though not killing myself), that that's not the thing for me until I get a course, maybe 2, under my belt.

It never occured to me to look into a portable bandsaw, but that might work too. In iForge #45, Guru uses a band saw to cut RR tie. Was that a portable?

I guess I'm looking for an opinion, or preferably a collection of opinions. What is the most versatile "cutter".
   mattmaus - Monday, 06/03/02 15:23:15 GMT

Versatility Mattmaus, an oxy-acetylene torch is the most efficient and most versatile piece of equipment in a metalworking shop. When they first came out an outfit with the usual cutting, welding and heating tips was called a "forge outfit". But there are a lot of safety concerns that need to be addressed as noted.

Many folks buy this equipment or learn on the job and just figure it out. . . But I don't recommend it because folks that do this almost never learn the safety rules and WHY the rules.

Portabands are too small to cut most railroad rail (ties are the wooden piece they rails lay on).

I'm a little confused about what you are doing. Are the posts installed and need to be removed or are you just cutting them up?

If cutting them in the shop either a cutoff band saw or a chop saw are a good route. I don't like the noise and grit of an abrasisve chop saw but they will cut hardened steel that would wreck a band saw. But a metalworking band saw will also cut non-ferrous metals, wood and plastic.

So many toys to choose from and so little money to go around. But in the end most of have numerous tools for doing the same job because each has its advantages and disadvantages. I like to use a saw when I can because of the clean square surface of the cut and lack of heat effect. But a torch is a necessity in many cases and all saws have sever limitations on the size of the work they will handle. . .
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 15:45:23 GMT

Ahh, coal vs. coke. Yup that's the story Guru. It's at the mostly coke stage that I can't leave it alone. I've been kinda stingy about adding new coal near the end of forging thinking it would just be wasteful. Didn't realize the fire could be put out quickly by breaking it, and I'm not willing to walk away from a fire till I KNOW it's out. Thanks for the info.
I will try to "Be the forge" cuz being the "Blower motor" is a drag.
   Gronk - Monday, 06/03/02 15:45:36 GMT

Yes Folks, We have been offline again. From about 2:00 to 4:00. Server folks are giving me a fit.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 20:45:31 GMT

after cuting several misplaced posts down I would recomend a Sawsall with a 14 per inch bimetal blade cuts em off like butter and if you run out of blades half a hacksaw blade will chuck in, in an emergancy. the advantadge of useing one of these is you can cut flush with the surface given a long enough blade
   Mark P. - Monday, 06/03/02 21:29:26 GMT

Brendan "typical English middle ages affair" When? AD 400 or AD 1400? lots of things change in that 1000 years. Some basics though: use of 2 single action bellows, "lump" anvils, tongs and hammers look very much the same for the most part. Side blown forges. The changes include the transition from charcoal to coal as fuel (though charcoal was used in places without coal access through today), pattern welding going from a primary method of making weapons to a rare one, different iron (wrought iron) making technologies, ground forges to masonry forges. The basics, heat and beat, remained the same.

I do Y1k smithing at times and would be happy to consult if you would like, (BTW check out "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" from the library to see a picture of a high middle ages forge in use. "Divers Arts" was written in 1120 AD and gives a nice "hands on" description of how things were done back then---unfortunately not a lot on smithing but there is info on making and hardening files, gravers, etc)

One thing to think upon; by the HMA many smiths would be specialized in what they made (the term "Master" smith seems to indicate a guild structure in place...) and so they might be a bit limited in what they did---you didn't go to a swordsmith to buy armour or vice versa, armour smiths would buy hinges and catches from locksmiths, etc.

Anyway we can discuss this in e-mail if you would like.

BTW where are you at? You really should spend some time at the forge to get the feel for it---preferably a forge set up like one in your time "period" ( charcoal you complain aout the sparks, coal the smoke, etc).

   Thomas Powers - Monday, 06/03/02 21:33:47 GMT


I think you may have me and Mattmaus confused. I'm the one dealing with fenceposts. Mine are installed outside and are at least twenty (and probably more) years old. The guy who owned the house before me has a history of over-engineering when it came to setting posts, and we decided to just cut these posts off and hammer them into the ground with a large sledge. I don't even want to talk about what I went through when I decided to take down the angle-iron clothesline posts in the backyard... but rest assured that a couple of us got our exercise that day.

That's what got this whole cutting implements discussion started.

   - Marcus - Monday, 06/03/02 21:48:56 GMT

Mark P:

I hadn't considered using a reciprocating saw, but I guess that's an option to consider. That would be an easy thing to try out on a post just to see how well it works.

   - Marcus - Monday, 06/03/02 21:55:09 GMT

Thomas, I told Brenden via mail to get some real forge practice before trying to write about it!

Marcus, may be. I work with too many windows open at once these days. .
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 21:56:52 GMT

Hmmmm a blacksmithing school for authors. . . We almost get enough here to fill one summer class.
   - guru - Monday, 06/03/02 22:02:14 GMT

First let me say that I am a hopeless packrat. But then I just made several hundred dollars making stuff out of some old tractor parts. My hobby is growing into a business as people find out what I can do. I need some advice on stock storage. Inside or outside? What kind of rack works best? I want to put it on wheels as my shop space gets shared by cars and lawnmowers and drill presses and etc. etc. What length remnants do the professionals recommend keeping and what gets tossed? I work with rods of various diameters up to 1/2 inch. Store this in a rack horizontally or vertically. How about heavier stock like angle iron and square tubing. I'd love some feedback on this topic. Thanks
   Stan - Monday, 06/03/02 23:49:46 GMT

Stan, most stock racks end up too heavy to move, even on wheels. Standard uncut length for hot roll stock is 20 to 21 feet. Standard length for most cold drawn bar is 12 feet. Many of us take delivery on the long stuff cut in half or 8/12 so it fits in a pickup. But anyone doing a lot of work has the steel delivered in full lengths. High grade annealed tool steel is often sold in 3 foot lengths.

What length gets scraped varies from shop to shop. Production shops don't scrap stock unless it is too short to chuck PLUS having the length to make a part. This varies with the diameter of the stock but for common stuff its about 6". Screw machines start with 12 to 20 foot long bars and the stub end gets scraped. Today, if its valuable material or the shop is high production they will have a deal with a recycler for all the stubs and chips.

In most small shops it doesn't get tossed unless it it bent, burnt, rusted or unidentifiable.

The best stock rack is single sided with a cutting rack at the base lined up to your saw or shear. Takes about 30 feet.

You are the only one that will know what is best for you.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 00:07:05 GMT

Hey Guru,
Thanks for the quick reply. I am fortunate enough to have the 30 feet indoors with about 6 feet to spare. When you say single sided, I envision a rack that when viewed from the end to look like a 30-60-90 triangle with the long side having spines to hold the material. When you suggest a cutting rack do you mean a spine located at the height of the band saw so you could just slide the material into the vise? The only material storage I have seen is at the steel supply house but their setup is not adaptable to my situation. Thanks again for the info.
   Stan - Tuesday, 06/04/02 00:28:33 GMT

Mike Holland: If you decide to actually forge the knife blades, I would suggest trying W1 tool steel (aka, drill rod). It can be purchased from most any industrial supply store for about $1.00 per foot for 1/4" rod. W1 is very easy to work with, doesn't crack (usually) in a water quench, tempers in your oven at 425F to about a 60Rc. Holds a good edge, too! Check out the message board at www.carvingworld.com for more info on how to do this. It really is quite easy and making carving blades is how I got into "recreational blacksmithing".
   Bob Nichols - Tuesday, 06/04/02 00:38:13 GMT

Mike Lowrey, go to www.thefabricator.com. This website is sponsored by The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association and publish The Fabricator, Practical Welding, Stamping Journal and The Tube and Pipe Journal, all free to qualified applicants. These are great mags, very practice oriented covering a wide variety of metalworking topics.
   Bob Nichols - Tuesday, 06/04/02 00:43:19 GMT

Stan, Yes the cutting rack is usualy for the bandsaw and may or may not have rollers. It DOES create a dead space but that usualy fills up with junk. . . You might make the sapce underneigth suitable for light and short stock. But having the saw rack as part of the stock rack means that one person can load relatively heavy pieces for sawing. And there is also the convenience factor.

The 30 feet is needed so that with 20 feet of rack you can roll out and cut pieces in half. This 10 foot space does not need to be dedicated space it just needs to be available when sawing. A wall of shelves could be placed there.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 00:43:19 GMT

Thomas-- I'm not sure you can cut much with a 50 amp welder, except maybe light sheet. But the process of cutting plate with a stick welder is simple: get a 1/8 or 3/16 rod and just hold it in the puddle until you come out the other side, and then keep moving in the line you want to cut. Grind to taste.
   miles undercut - Tuesday, 06/04/02 01:34:49 GMT

guru, thanks for the reply. i probably didnt word my question carefully enough. i wanted advice on frames that would work well for forging. i did call and visit optometry "shops" and no one had any advice. there is a famous bladesmith in this area and i saw a pic of him with glasses that had side shields and were heavy duty. i called several industrial and saftety stores and still no luck. that is why i came to the source. boy am i glad to know that if i had acute appendicitis. that i should not look for a mechanic. what i did was find mountaineering glasses and had a script put in them. they are just what i was looking and work very well. i know that ventilation is very important, even out doors. i wanted to know if the coal dust is something to be concerned with. thanks again..
   - rugg - Tuesday, 06/04/02 01:35:35 GMT


I wasn't meaning to give you a bad time or to offend you. I was just trying to make a point. Take a look at iForge demo number 66, and you'll understand why I'm so adamant about good eye protection.

Which brings me to another point. Jock, should I write a follow up to that demo with the "rest of the story"?
   Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 06/04/02 02:34:20 GMT

Frames Rugg, I prefer a standard safety glass frame made by HL Bouton(#5907 Spectacle). These are old heavy looking (1950's?) frames and have hinged wire side shields that fit the face and allow the glasses to "breathe" and not fog up while fitting closely. They are what was required by Lynchburg Foundry with either clear lenses or #3 filters as "flash" glasses. Some safety supply places still carry them but they are not sexy or stylish so most places do not.

Dual Lens Spectacle

For forge welding using a gas forge the type with the filter lenses are recommended as these are the same as foundries require where iron is being poured. If you do much forge welding in any type of forge they are a good idea.

Coal dust is coal dust. You don't want to breathe it any more than any dirt. Generaly its the least of your worries in a blacksmith shop
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 03:19:11 GMT

arc cutting
I don't think 50 amps is enought to cut with .. the hacker way to cut with a arc is to turn it WAY up and blow through the steel (not a good Idea but it works) the old way is to get a carbon arc torch set up for the welder but I think that they need at least 150 amps ( not sure as I have never used one. in fact I am not sure they are even made any more.)

fire maintence
one thing I have forng helpfull when I bank my fire (going into the house to get a drink ,tool I forgot, etc) and even more handy when I do demos is to keep a bag of lump charcoal on hand when I bank out the fire I kind of jam a hunk of the charcoal into the center of the fire pile on some green coal give it a bit of air to ge tthe charcoal to light then walk away. the fire will birn at a low temp for a long time and when you come back a bit of air gets the fire going quick time.

reciprocating saw
I did a repair job on a rail (replaced the cap on site) and used a saws all to cut all the pickets and posts (120' of them).. the post were a pain I thought they were tube they were 1" solid worked well enough that I got all the rail cut in one day by my self.
   MP - Tuesday, 06/04/02 05:56:30 GMT

50 Amp Welder Thomas, you probably can burn through auto body material with 50A but it makes a mess. There used to be an air-arc torch that used compressed air and the arc to cut steel but I do not know if they are still sell them.

You also want to be VERY careful using an arc welder anywhere on a vehical for the following reasons:

1) Fuel (gasoline, alcohol) is not just in the tank but in fuel lines and carberurettor.

2) Stray arc paths to ground can go through bearings, arc burning them and thus causing their failure in a very short time.

3) Stray arc paths to ground can go through wiring burning up wires and attached devices.

3) Stray arc paths to ground can go through piping like metal fuel lines and brake lines vaporizing the fluid and damaging components.

   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 13:41:51 GMT

I am looking for tips on making bells made from recycled air cylinders. Do you have any advice or a resourse for me to study? I have purchased a couple of medium cylinders and have acess to a band saw and plasama cutting torch. I am a novice to much serious metal work my partner in this venture has ttraining knowledge to use these tools safely, but no experiance in bells/gongs
   Craig Worth - Tuesday, 06/04/02 14:53:02 GMT

Graig, I had promised a long time ago to look up the math and DID post the basis of such (looking for now). But have not had time to dig out the math. SOMEWHERE I have the math for tuning forks and simple bar gongs (xylophone and glockenspiel) that return the exact dimensions for a given note (frequency).

12th Root Math of Musical Notes

Gong Chime Proportions

Load these, then click on the article and press CTRL-F (for find) and type in your keyword (gong).

I should probably start a FAQ on this to remind me to keep looking for my old formulae. . .

WARNING: Never ever cut pld welding cylinders with a torch until after a complete end is sawed off.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 15:41:42 GMT

Hey Jock, thanks for the info on the post vise spring...did you have any thoughts on that "donut" i referred to on the previous posting (060202...23:54:34)Thanks!
   Gator - Tuesday, 06/04/02 15:14:05 GMT

When demoing at Fort Vancouver, I never had a problem with fire going out.
Often I would end up talking for an hour before I would have a chance to work the forge. Never had ot resort to placing charcoal or wood in the center to hold a fire in place..... But that was just my experience.....
   Ralph - Tuesday, 06/04/02 15:18:10 GMT

Ralph, As I said, the coal and the forge provide almost infinite variables.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 15:48:44 GMT

We are restoring/rebuilding a 1850's blacksmith in Milton Ontario Canada. We want to restore/build the charcoal forge but cannot find any references to the air supply to the charcoal bed. We have a bellows and are starting on the stone framework but before we start we need to knwo how the air is fed into the charcoal.
   Doug Langlotz - Tuesday, 06/04/02 16:02:19 GMT

If you are using hardwood charcoal I would go with a side blast forge. Which is a forge where the air nozzle comes from the side. The nozzle should be about 1 -2 inches above the top of the fire area. and about 2 inches in front of the nozzle the forge floor should form a bowl that goes down below the level of the nozzle a few inches. ANd the side of the bowl (away from teh nozzle) should go up above the nozzle. This is the fire pot area. Leastways that is what we did at FOrt Vancover NHS. circa 1845 Hudson Bay Company trading post.

This arragement can be used effectively with coal as well. But coal does better with a bottom draft firepot in most cases.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 06/04/02 16:29:19 GMT

Thanks Ralph, we have already built the coal forge and di indeed use the bottom draft firepot for it.
Are there any pictures and/or website for Fort Vancouver NHS??
   Doug Langlotz - Tuesday, 06/04/02 17:09:42 GMT

Masonary Forge: Doug, the air inlet or tuyere in many brick forges is in the back just below the bottom of the forge. A trough extends from the inlet to about a foot (no more) from the back wall. This is easy to do in brick and not difficult in clay. To provide a "tunnel" to get the air to the middle of the fire a loose brick is used to cover the trough at the back of the forge. This provides easy clean out of the tuyeer trough.

In a coal forge the trough ends in a 45° slope so the blast turns UP. In a charcoal forge the trough can open into a alightly deeper area (about a brick thick).

In many side blown forges where a tuyere tube extends into the firebed the tuyere is water cooled. Generally these are a casting with a hollow space for water. The casting bolts to a water reservoir and has two flanges. A flange on the front of the tank and one on the back. The air enters from behind the water tank, passes through the inner part of the tube in the water and then out into the fire. Some blacksmith shops used these as a source of hot water! This type tuyere is popular in Britian and still manufactured there.

Prior to water cooled tuyeres a tapered ceramic tube was used. These short pieces fit inside each other and several could be used to provide a passageway in soil or clay. These loose pieces were easy to make and to replace. These were made of the best local clay but need to be a refractory (high temperature) clay. And even the ancients knew where to obtain these clays and used them.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 19:08:19 GMT

Dear Guru's:

I have been working with different metals as a hobby and have some tool grade steel material embedded in a ceramic case. I don't want to damage the steel but remove the ceramic material. Is the a chemical or process for removing the ceramics?
   KeithB - Tuesday, 06/04/02 19:57:21 GMT

Hacker way! Not a good idea! Picky, picky, picky! Hark! If one is standing there in the hot sun, wishing the piece of angle iron were two pieces of angle iron and wishing has not made it so nor is it likely to make it so, and the choice is blasting it in two with the rod or shutting down the welder and walking over to get the torch and taking the helmet off and putting the goggles on, then it seems to the undersigned affiant that the choice is obvious.
   miles undercut - Tuesday, 06/04/02 19:57:51 GMT

For those of you who would like some good basic information on carbon and alloy steels visit the Bethlehem steel site at http://www.bethsteel.com/about/gentechlit_1.shtml. Download the Modern Steels Handbook in .pdf format. You will need Acrobat Reader for this. Great book even if it is 30+ years old. Good info on steel making, heat treating, testing, etc.
   Bob Nichols - Tuesday, 06/04/02 20:18:22 GMT

Keith, There are chemicals that will disolve ceramics but they will also melt or disolve the steel. Just take a hammer and break up the ceramic. It is brittle and will shatter and the steel, even if very hard should not unless you use a REALLY big hammer and an anvil. Should be done in less time than it took me to type this last sentence.

Please wear safety glasses.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 20:19:31 GMT


I have recently purchased a device and am not sure what it is. Neither did the seller....

It appears to be a bench punch of some variety, but I'm not 100% sure. It has one long arm which moves a small punchlike cylinder up and down. It is labled JG Braun, New York Chicago, #39H, Made in Germany, 711

I have no idea wht I now own. It was only $10 and weighs about 40# so I think I am ahead. I'm sure I can find some way to use it (paperweight? home defense?) but would prefer to know what it is supposed to do.

If you or any of the other gurus could provide some information based on the lack of info I have provided I would be most grateful.

I will take a few digital pictures tomorrow.

   JIM - Tuesday, 06/04/02 20:54:12 GMT

Sounds like bench mounted hand punch to me. But seeing a photo would help.

Braun is still in business and is a major supplier of architectural components.

   - guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 21:09:23 GMT

Just wanted to add my own trials to the list to enforce a safety note that has been brought up before. Today I was cutting a 3/4" steel plate with a MAPP torch and the puddle popped in mid-pierce. The molten slag material hopped out of the curf and onto my glove. It burned through my glove and the first layer of skin before I was able to whip my hand to shake it off. You guys were right!! That stuff IS hot!! I have always been the guy in the shop that whined about safety to everyone else and I get to be more of a preacher each time something bad/painful like this happens. So be careful, if it's metal assume it's hot, sharp, or heavy. If it's a machine, assume it's moving and can bite you. Thats all, I'm off to go pamper the 2 perfect pinprick sized holes in my finger!
   Tim - Tuesday, 06/04/02 23:42:51 GMT


I'm sorry it happened, but glad it was now worse.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 00:17:17 GMT

That was supposed to be no, not now. FFS!
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 00:17:48 GMT

Tim-- In my shop, burns usually get infected. Watch out for that puffy redness. Sulfadiazene (prescription, alas!) cream works wonders, sooner than later.
   miles undercut - Wednesday, 06/05/02 01:23:03 GMT

I'm glad it was no worse also, I was wearing a full face shield, tinted safety glasses, leather gloves and welders sleeves and when it popped the slag hit the shield as well. Must have glanced off nicely because I can still see to type! I'll keep an eye on the affected areas, thanx guys.
   Tim - Wednesday, 06/05/02 02:15:44 GMT

During the heat of summer things that normally would not get infected, get infected. Keep an eye on all injuries till they heal completely.
   - Conner - Wednesday, 06/05/02 02:33:45 GMT


Good for you for wearing the safety gear!
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 02:56:30 GMT

never said I wasn't above a bit of hacking now and then... can be fun at times.
a note on safety
I am just geting over a bad cut, I was working on an arow head and my vice grips sliped into my finger went the hot VERY sharp point ... about 1.5 inchs got the nerve the tendon and took me almost an hour to stop the bleeding (should have gotten stitchs) I am healing ..slowly ..a week out of work, how did it happen you ask ... I was tired and SHOULD NOT HAVE been working I new that I needed to reset the vise grips, but didn't want to lose the heat... in stead I allmost lost my finger!! being in the right state of mind in the shop is THE single most inportant safety tip!!
   MP - Wednesday, 06/05/02 06:41:16 GMT


No argument at all. Working tired is the frequently the shortest road to the emergency room.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 11:11:28 GMT

Time to update the Safety page. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 15:44:00 GMT

Thought I'd offer up some potential help in the sanding/polishing department in hopes of making partial repayment of past advice, and keeping open a line of credit for future questions. I start my grinding with the typical grinding wheel on an angle grinder and then use a cut-off wheel to take out the grinder marks as these are a finer grit. (A fine grit grinding wheel would be better if such a critter exists) This gets you ready for 80 to 100 grit sanding. If you know someone who refinnishes hardwood floors you can get a limitless supply of good sandpaper for FREE. The edgers used use a seven inch disc and only the outer inch usually gets worn or gummed. I made a 4 1/2" ring of 1/8" x 1/2" flat bar sharpened the bottom edge, welded crossbars across the top, and welded a piece of 7/8" OD pipe in the center (this shold stick down a little further than the bottom of the ring). Then all you need is a flat piece of wood with a 7/8" hole (hog it out just a bit) in it and set the used disc on it, sanded side down, put the stamp on the paper, pipe through the holes and smack it with a hammer a few times around the edge and you have free sanding discs that fit a standard attatchment for a 4 1/2" angle grinder!
Hope this helps someone else. It has saved me tons on sandpaper.
   Jovan - Wednesday, 06/05/02 16:44:09 GMT


Some time ago, there was an extended discussion about first aid kit contents on the Virtual Hammerin page. As part of updating the Safety page, I'd suggest retrieving that group of messages, consolidating the suggested contents lists, then having that list gone over by some of the medicaly trained smiths that frequent Anvilfire.

Also: When you guys have an accident, like mine, or like Tim's, or like MP's. A picture is worth a thousand words. A digital picture or even a cheap snap shot could save someone else from being injured the same way you were. I know that iForge demo #66 is printed out and distributed in several High Schol and Vo Tech schools around the country. If that distribution keeps ONE kid from being hurt, I'm satisfied.

Think about it, and then DO something about it. (after you get the appropriate treatment, of course!) [grin]
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 16:45:35 GMT

Information Central I answered a question about LNG (liquified natural gas) by mail this AM (along with my other e-mail) and then some folks from Arkansas stopped by looking for genealogical information related to the Old Grist Mill I live in. . . and YES I happended to know parts of this unrelated folks genealogy. . .

There's GOT to be a way to make money at this. . .

   - guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 17:21:06 GMT

Sanding Disks I used to use 9" sanding disks in my old angle grinder. When the working edge wore out I had a 6" rubber backup wheel and cut the remains to fit that.

Grinding Disks The resinoid fiberglass reinforced grinding wheels used in angle grinders DO indeed come in various grits AND hardnesses. Most places sell the hard martix wheels. These cut slow but last long. The slightly softer wheels are much more aggressive and cut much faster. However, they don't last long. BUT the time saved is worth more than the reduction in wheel life.

When I found out I could get faster cutting wheels from my welding supplier that is all I ever bought. THEN. . . we had a shop manager that thought he would get ahead and he ordered a case of wheels. . without thinking to ask if there were different types.

Grinding wheel logic is backwards from what you would think. The harder the material, the softer the wheel needs to be. The "hardness" we are speaking of is NOT the abrasive which is almost always the same, but the glue or matrix holding the wheel together. Hard materials wear out the abrasive and clog the surface of the wheel, so the wheel surface needs to be able to wear away more rapidly with hard material than with soft.

Huge McDonald has sent information and a photo about using cutoff wheels on a pedestal or bench grinder. Will post somewhere soon.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 17:42:43 GMT


How do you sharpen a hot punch, and what should it look like when you are done? A cylinder with a flat bottom and sides 90 degrees to the base? I have also read puches should have small curve to the cutting end, almost like a sine wave wrapped around the base, if you can picture such a thing.

The reason I ask is because i just aquired an assortment of tools, with some pretty beat up punches in the mix, and I was wondering what I needed to do to make them useful again.


   JIM - Wednesday, 06/05/02 18:21:13 GMT

Jim, hot punches typically come with sharp square corners and a flat face but these make the punch harder to use. The steel flows around the punch as it is forced through the steel. So radiused corners create less resistance. The flow around a square corner also tends to make an oversized hole.

A quarter eliptic or parabloic curve is probably right but there is little difference between them and a plain radius in this case. You do not want too much curve as this makes a larger shear area when you back punch to finish a hole.

The important thing to attend on old tools is the mushroomed striking surfaces. In cases where there is a lot of cracks you should cut off all the effected end. Torching works but a chopsaw will do a cleaner job and not heat the tool quite as much.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 18:45:17 GMT

NOTICE TO ALL: My Internet connection has been intermittent starting last night and all day today. There is a good chance that I will not be available for tonight's iForge demo on Lost Wax Casting by vicopper. But the demo SHOULD go on as scheduled.

Hopefully my connection problems will get better soon.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 19:16:55 GMT

got some shots of mine .. they aren't all that inpresive but I decided to start a scrap book of my ... stupidity (every cut and burn could have been prevented) my worst saftey problem is working tired .. more so becouse I tend to think a cup of coffee will solve my tiredness I may feel awake but I am not and am still prone to geting hurt. let me know I would be happy to pass them along.

I read in one of wayne goodards book that the worst injury he ever got was from a miniture knife he was working on , gave him a bone deep cut. he also said he wasn't paying attion to it as it was just a mini. gos to show you that the things we don't think will bit us in the shop are the ones that will.
   MP - Wednesday, 06/05/02 22:45:29 GMT

I found a piece of stainless at the junkyard and it's about half the price of a new piece. It has "ASTM A240 - 89B 006 76D" printed on it, but nobody at the yard could identify it. I looked in Machinery's Handbook (22nd) and couldn't find any charts for stainless, if you have a chart handy and can identify it for me that would be great. If its gonna take some searching just point me in the right direction or tell me to get stuffed cause I should be spending my own time on saving myself a few bucks instead of bugging somebody else.
   Jovan - Wednesday, 06/05/02 23:24:10 GMT

I have a question about my Whisper Baby Gas forge. It is a pretty economical heat source but when heating material like a RR Spike, it takes a while to reach a good forging heat. Can I speed this up by placing a firebrick in the front portal to block about 1/2 the opening? Or do I run the risk of being the first HobbySmith to achieve low earth orbit?
   Bob Nichols - Wednesday, 06/05/02 23:38:25 GMT

Being Tired: One of my brothers is missing his index finger from one hand. He was working too many hours in a cabinetry shop. Pushing a board into a shaper he pushed the pusher board until it was gone and THEN his finger until IT was gone. . . It was a good thing it wasn't the kind of machine that grabs you and jerks your arm or head off before it throws you across the shop. . .

Remember, machines have no morals or conscience.

I used to have a problem with falling asleep when I was driving. . . woke up several times half off the road or in some precarious position. The worst part was not being able to remember driving the last 20 miles. . .

Now, I never leave on a trip OR return without a good night's sleep OR someone to drive with me. This increases the cost of travel, but I am STILL alive. I also cannot commute for the same reason. And anytime I feel myself nodding off now I find a place to pull off and go to sleep. This has often been on interstates and places where you are not supposed to pull stop on the roadside. But it is a life or death situation. I'll take a parking ticket before death anytime. The only time a trooper stopped to ask me what was going on, I explained and he suggested a stop a few miles down the road, AFTER felt I could make it. Better late than dead.

Driving OR working in the shop tired is no different than being drunk. There is no excuse in either case and WE are the ones responsible. Make yourself do the right thing. You may not have the opportunity to learn from your mistake. Please learn from ours.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 23:42:41 GMT

ASTM stands for American Society for Testing and Materials. This is an industry organization that issues standard specifications on a wide variety of materials, including stainless. 240 is the specification number and 89B refers to the year in which the last revision was made. It might be difficult to find a 1989 edition of this spec. I have a suspicion that 006 79D refers to the previous revision. As for exactly what kind of material it is....well....that will take some research. I guess at this point I could say "get stuffed" but I might actually try to find this for you if I get time.
   Bob Nichols - Wednesday, 06/05/02 23:45:27 GMT

Jovan, ok, I got bored and looked it up at www.astm.org. ASTM A240 is as follows: .1 This specification covers chromium, chromium-nickel, and chromium-manganese-nickel stainless steel plate, sheet, and strip for pressure vessels and for general applications. So it could be darned near any kind of stainless. The Chromium stainless would be magnetic, like 409, and fairly good for high heat applications, like exhaust pipes. The Chromium-Nickel would probably non-magnetic, like 304, and good for corrosion resistance. I don't know what you plan to do with this stuff but if it is for a critical application, take it to a Chemical Lab and ask for an analysis. Hope this helps.
   Bob Nichols - Wednesday, 06/05/02 23:52:07 GMT

ASTM A240 is a spec for 302 thru XX-33 stainlesses. The other numbers could mean anything. ASTM numbers are testing specs and could cover the material's shape, finish, temper or be a minimum strength. ASTM numbers ARE NOT proper numbers for specifying alloy content and are not designed as such. That is why MACHINERY'S and other books will not have ASTM specs.

ASTM SELLS their testing specs. They are not cheap NOR do most stand alone. You can buy them on-line a handfull of pages sent to a FAX machine. ALL ASTM specs reference the ASTM definitions book (I have that) as well as other parts of the spec AND other organizations specs that you will also need. ASTM specs are not a chart or a single book. They are many books requiring several shelves to hold them. Only large engineering firms, government offices and University libraries have complete sets and few are up to date. . . AND if you have the spec, it may mearly state something like "rolled and centerless ground stock, diameter to meet ASTM XXX, for alloy see SAE spec. . ."

I looked up the number in the ASTM, SAE, UNS book Metals and Alloys in the Unified Numbering System. The ASTM part lists about 30 stainlesses under A240 without further extensions. 304SS can also be found under A668 and other specs. . .

One of our other readers may have the correct reference but it is doubtful. If I MUST have ASTM specs I drive 100 miles to the University of Virginia.

Currently SS scrap sells FROM scrapyards for about $1/pound which is a LOT less than half of new. If they want a lot more than that and cannot tell you what it is, then tell them to forget it.

Sorry for the rant. ASTM numbers are non sequitur.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 00:26:05 GMT

Hmmmmm other comments about ASTM about like mine. . . :)

Whisper Baby: Bob, I have a fire brick turned on edge that I use for a hearth on mine. It fits in the notch of the door just right. . I haven't tried choking it but you have to remember that the notch in the door is the ONLY vent and the forge MUST be vented or it flames out. .

These little forges take a while to get a saturated heat (several hours) and even then a RR spike is large stock for a Whisper Baby.

Try goosing the gas pressure up a little (not much).

I plan to open mine up and coat the interior with ITC-100 and see if it runs hotter. . . Another thing on my to-do list.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 00:33:45 GMT

Tim // Miles // Burns // Skin Infection
To prevent mild skin burns becoming infected, wash the burn area and swab it with an antiseptic chemical, for example an alcohol. (rubbing alcohol (=isopropyl alcohol), or ethyl alcohol (=drinking alcohol), or in a pinch vodka, boubon, rye, scotch, etc. (use hydrogen peroxide if you are out of all the above chamicals, it can cause some cell damage).
Next, get a bandaid and smear it with a generous amount of a product called Neosporin. Neosporin can be bought at the pharmacy (chemists in G.B.). No prescription is needed to buy it. Neosporin is a cream that has three antibiotics in it. Namely neomycin, bacitracin and polymixin-B.
You can use Polysporin instead, but it only has the last two antibiotics. It is missing neomycin.
There is a very good reason for cleaning the burn area and disinfecting it. 60% of the population has a nasty bug called Staphylococcus aureus on the skin all the time. Staph. aureus is potentially lethal if neglected (not that common). This is so because it can, in certain instances, invade tissue beneath the skin (cellulitis) and really take off, spreading fast making a real mess of skin and tissue.
IF it is STILL neglected, it can, eventually, cause sepsis, otherwise called blood poisoning. (the later scenario does not happen too often). But sepsis it can kill the patient.
There is another nasty bug that can cause big-time problems. It is called Streptococcus. (Group- A beta haemolytic strep., is the worst of that gang.) Streptococci invade the damaged skin and also go sub-cutaneous (i. e. grow in the tissue under the skin) causing a nasty cellulitis which spreads even faster than Staphyloccus cellulitis. A very small minority of those Streptococcus bugs causing cellulitis also cause flesh eating disease which can cause loss of limbs or kill you. (they have chemicals that destroy skin cells and the "glue" that cements cells together.) These bugs are not very common. Sooo promptly disinfect the burn and apply an antibiotic ointment loaded bandaid on it.
That should prevent any infections and avoid all the above medical melodrama.
If you see redness and/or swelling at the burn area two and a half days AFTER starting treatment, get to a Doctor quickly. He will usually prescribe A penicillin like cloxacillin or (in the U.S.A. dicloxacillin).
Sulfadiazine (a sulfonamide antibiotic), can be used instead of cloxacillin, especially for penicillin allergic people. A combination of the antibiotics sulfamethoxazole and trimethomprim works even better. And in really serious cellulitis cases the Doctor will throw in another antbiotic such as rifampin or a quinolone (e.g. cipro- or ofloxacin).
But those drugs are given when an infection gets serious.
Prompt washing and disinfecting and and topical (i.e. skin)antibiotic application should avoid all the horror stories described above.
Do it as soon as you get a burn. In other words turn down the blower, stop forging, and patch the burn.
Then happy forging can commence again.
Regards to all, from somewhat North of you'se.
   slag - Thursday, 06/06/02 01:42:38 GMT

All - I suggest you print out what Slag just posted and then post it somewhere you'll see it regularly. Have the Neosporin in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet. It can literally save your life. Forty years ago I nearly died from an infected blister that resulted in septicemia due to ignorance on my part. Less than six months ago, I developed a ruptured gall bladder that became gangrenous. Only emergency surgery and a bucketful of IV antibiotics kept me around to tell about it. Infection is no joke, and burns are the BEST possible vector for infectious organisms to invade through.

Last I checked, the survival rate for septicemia is still only about 50%, even with treatment. Doesn't make sense to gamble with odds like that.
   - vicopper - Thursday, 06/06/02 03:11:34 GMT

Thanks much, I think I'll just stick to buying stuff I know is 304 then all of my scrap is the same, may end up cheaper in the long run.
   Jovan - Thursday, 06/06/02 03:27:24 GMT

Correction // Burns etc.
Trimethomprim should be trimethoprim.
   slag - Thursday, 06/06/02 05:00:07 GMT

Is 1060 an appropriate steel for blades? In the Bethlehem Steels book i downloaded it says it has a carbon level of 55-65 pts., 60-90 pts. Manganese, 4 pts. Phosphorous and 5 pts. Silicone.
   Nicholas - Thursday, 06/06/02 09:37:05 GMT


Which book did you download?
   Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 06/06/02 12:15:33 GMT

take 2 shots of vodka and call me in the morning if the bleeding fills your shoe.
   miles undercut - Thursday, 06/06/02 13:15:39 GMT

SAE 1060: Nicholas, Yes, a wide range of steels will do. SAE 1060 is used for various types of blades and springs.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 13:57:33 GMT

   - MOLLIE LAMA - Thursday, 06/06/02 18:49:22 GMT

Fire, or forge fire. Ancients would have had words in their own language to similar effect.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 19:19:49 GMT

Can you recomend a good structural reference? I'm contemplating building a fence, and before I plan out what it looks like I want to know what I can do. What I'm really after is something like "square tube x inches can support y pounds over a span of z feet". Would I be able to find such a thing in universal building code?
   Mattmaus - Thursday, 06/06/02 19:25:29 GMT

Guru, the steel mill I work for is re-bricking the slab re-heating furnace right now and I will be out there scarfing up all the usable scrap brick I can find. Since I re-filled the bottle, the Whisper Baby runs a lot hotter. I thought the regulator would keep it fairly constant but when the pressure in the bottle drops below 10 psi, what you see is what you get! Once it is hot, it takes about 5 minutes to bring a spike from ambient to forging temperature on a full bottle. Re-heats are about 1 minute. The soft refractory lining seems to have very low thermal mass so I wonder why it takes so long to soak out. Is there firebrick under the soft lining?
   Bob Nichols - Thursday, 06/06/02 21:42:21 GMT


While 1060 makes a very serviceable blade, nothing will take an edge and hold it quite like "high carbon" (over .83%) steel. When carbon steel was the rule, things like razors and reamers were made from 1.2 to even 1.4% carbon steel. This high of carbon does not make as tough a blade though.
   - grant - Thursday, 06/06/02 22:21:08 GMT

Engineering: Mattmaus, The building code have many structural strength requirements and many are rather poorly stated. . sort of like "must be strong enough". The codes expect the architect, builder or contractor to hire a licensed engineer to determine what the loads are and what is required to support them. In public buildings this must be a civil engineer.

Because of the infinite variables codes and design references avoid being specific about stock size, joint design and so on. They expect someone that KNOWS something to figure it out.

The majority of architectural smiths work from experiance and example. They study other's work. And this is not to say it is the RIGHT way. In modern "code" construction most of what you see is the minimum that can be gotten away with.

Things an engineer will ask are, how do you plan to anchor the fence?, what are the soil conditions? if there are existing structures how deep are their foundations? is the fence on a busy public thoroughfare? He will want your design first and then calculate its weight and expected loads such as from people climbing on it, riding gates. . .

The "structural reference" you are looking for is a stack of books and an engineering education.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 23:01:25 GMT

I don't mean to beat a dead horse but....
Another post on safety in the workplace. Recently my shop began a job where a large drill is needed for large diameter holes in thick plate and beams. The bit spins at a high speed and this throws off some metal. I went to get my face shield and a guy jokingly made a comment about it being overkill. I wore the shield anyway and I can get close enough to the drill to monitor its performance. The other guys are ducking chips and ribbons of steel that fly out. My point is twofold, 1. Because I have the proper gear on I can do the job right the first time. 2. No matter how many people laugh at me for being "scared" of a machine or tool I will still go for the proper gear first and take the teasing. Don't let someone talk you out of it because you are afraid of being thought of as unmanly. It's unmanly to be strapped down while the doc CUTS or DRILLS a piece of steel out of your eye or neck!
   Tim - Friday, 06/07/02 00:06:28 GMT

I was rather afraid that your answer would be along those lines. I know from my admitedly limited drafting experience that UBC will tell you things like 2x10 rafters spaced at 16" have a maximum "legal" span of X. And I remember looking up I-beams in an exceptionaly limited excerpt of an engineering reference based on expected weight load.

I did manage to get the answer I was looking for from, just as you've suggested, observing other's work. And while the peice I looked at was sagging, it was 1> a really long gate with no support on the ends. 2> at least 50% taller than I'd planned on, 3> roughly 25% longer than I'd wanted to go. and 4> I really have to beleive that the majority of this poor defenseless gate's sag was caused by the god-forsaken way in which it was hinged/mounted (made me want to cry).

Tomorrow will be spent cruising through the ritzy part of town, scoping out fences. :)
   Mattmaus - Friday, 06/07/02 00:21:32 GMT

Re : the sawzall series, various makers make blades called Demolition or Fire Rescue blades, these are thicker and do not have the whip associated with thinner blades. Try them the next time you have to cut fence posts. Also , someone makes a blade that resembles a bow saw, very effective for wood demolition or trimming trees. Always make sure your head is screwed on right before using any power tool.
   BBB - Friday, 06/07/02 00:47:21 GMT

guru and paw paw, thanks for the info. that is what i was looking for. (safety glasses)
no offense taken paw paw, but you have to admit, you didnt respond to the question and the comment about the mechanic would at least irritate most. nasty lacerations (#66)! was that you?
a question for you guys. recently a fellow told me that cold rolled 1018 steel is more difficult to work cold and has the tendancy to fracture. he also said it is more difficult to forge. i have noticed that hot rolled has a layer of scale on it and i thought that this may make it more difficult to forge weld.
1)are the comments on cold rolled true?
2)is the scale on hot rolled a factor when forge welding?
3)would brushing or grinding it off be beneficial?
4)when is using a flux WITH iron filings not a good idea.

thanks again for your time and expertise...
   - rugg - Friday, 06/07/02 01:05:09 GMT

Paw Paw, I downloaded the book from: http://www.bethsteel.com/about/gentechlit_1.shtml
Great book with some good information, my level of experience made it a bit hard to understand but the veterans would have no trouble at all:-)
Now...a steel with 83 points of carbon is more likely to break or shatter when used to cut hard objects as oppose to one with 60 points. If I recollect correctly through my research, the higher the carbon level, the more brittle the blade is...
Anyway, enough of my blabbering...thanks for the expertise Paw Paw and Guru.
   Nicholas - Friday, 06/07/02 02:53:41 GMT

Sorry, double post...sorry if i may have sounded a little blunt in the above post, it was meant to be more of a question than a contradiction, sorry again.
   Nicholas - Friday, 06/07/02 02:55:24 GMT


You're right, I didn't really respond to the question, and I should have. I was being facetious, and didn't mark the comment that way. Yes, that's me in iForge demo #66. That's why I preach about proper safety gear. And addition that I need to add to that demo is that 20 months after the accident, I still occasionally have traumatic headaches as a result. If I hadn't been wearing GOOD safety glasses, I'd only have one eye today, IF I was alive. Without the safety glasses, the blow would probably have knocked me unconsious. With a severed temporal vein, I'd quite likely have bled to death.

So I preach long and loud about PROPER safety equipment, and going to the people that KNOW what you need for good safety glasses. An Optometrist CAN prescribe them for you, but an Opthamologist is better qualified to do so.

Didn't mean to be offensive, but I guess I was.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/07/02 03:00:41 GMT


I just finished downloading and printing MODERN STEELS AND THEIR PROPERTIES from the Bethlehem Steel site. 200+ pages! But invaluable to guys like us.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/07/02 03:04:25 GMT

whoa! You actually printed the WHOLE thing?!
And i couldn't agree more.
By the way, you suggested SAE 1080 as a good edge holding steel. Is this steel more prone to break or even shatter in use than 1060 because of the higher carbon level?
   Nicholas - Friday, 06/07/02 03:08:20 GMT

   CARMEN - Friday, 06/07/02 03:09:16 GMT

any steel over 60 points or so of carbon can and will make a serviseable blade the higher carbon blades (1085 1095 ,O1 etc) will have to be tempered down a bit more than the 1060 or 1070. alloy steels like 5160 also make good knifes as the alloying allows for a deeper hardining than a plain carbon steel thus they must be tempered down a bit more. the starting hardness after hardining is not so inprotant as the final hardness after tempering. no steel properly heat treated should crack or break under normal use.
I would sigest ANY one that is geting into blade makeing should read wayne goddards books. I just got around to reading them and I have been makeing knifes for almost 10 years. I still learned a lot from them. he give a lot of good info on testing and heat treating with out useing expencive tooling.
   MP - Friday, 06/07/02 03:28:37 GMT

Thanks MP, i'll look into it a bit more.
   Nicholas - Friday, 06/07/02 03:41:26 GMT


I sure did print the whole thing.

MP answered your question. And he knows a whole lot more than I do about bladesmithing. With NO intention of sounding derogatory, I'm a blacksmith, not a bladesmith. A bladesmith is much more specialized than I am. I'm just a fair country smith.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Friday, 06/07/02 03:52:40 GMT

Carmen, Heat expands parts, does not shrink them. If you have precision parts that are intended to be held together by a shrink fit then the designer/engineer probably wrote a procedure.

Most shrink fits take less heat than one would think. A 0.001" shrink on a small shaft is almost impossible to dissasemble and on a large part may still be very tight. Huge 10,000 HP pump impellers only have about .0015" to 002" shrink. However, they also have tapered fits. This means that the parts only need to move axialy 1/2" or less at a close fit. The "shrink" is determined on these by the difference between a cold trial fit and the amount of advance on the taper.

There is always the danger of a long parallel fit grabbing before the parts are fully engaged. Advanced preparations need to made for handling the hot part especialy if the parts are heavy.

Depending on the shrink fit only 350°F to 450°F is needed. If the parts are hardened and ground (typical of precision parts) you do not want to overheat them or you may damage the part by making it softer than required.

One of the last shrink fits I assembled was a ring gear on an automobile flywheel. Maximum temperature was 325°F and 275°F was the minimum to assemble. It dropped right on and grabed in a couple seconds. Not having a way to check the temperature at the time I gently heated until a spit wetted finger made a nice "sizzle". VERY scientific.

If you have precision dimensions for the parts and know the material the necessary heat can be calculated.

   - guru - Friday, 06/07/02 05:10:32 GMT

Steels: Nicholas, annealed high carbon tool steel can be machined, drilled, filed and bent. It IS stiffer than mild steel in the annealed state but it is "soft". Fully hardened any hardenable steel including mild steel is brittle. After hardening steels are tempered to reduce the brittleness. Generaly brittlness drops a lot for a small reduction in hardness. After hardening and tempering most high carbon steels are much stronger than a lower carbon steel at the same hardness. There is a lot to learn and everything in trying to optimizing steel parts is a compromize.

Rugg, Who ever you were talking to was full it. Cold drawn steel IS work hardened and the surface is harder than the core. It is a little springier than some hot roll. It will fail if cold worked repeatedly but so will any steel. The fact that it has already been cold worked means it can be cold worked less than an annealed stel. SAE 1018-1020 is generaly better steel than hot roll because hot roll is most commonly A-36 (structural grade) steel. A-36 has a wider range of carbon than the SAE steels and may also have more impurities. Hot roll is also often quenched in the production process and can also be quite hard. The great variability of A-36 make is a lower grade steel than the SAE steels. Years ago hot roll was often SAE steel that was hot finished and did not meet the dimensional tolerances of cold drawn. But today HR steel is often low grade imported stuff dumped on the US market (We will buy anything).

By the time you get a pices of CF bar up to welding heat it is just as scaled as the HR bar. Grinding is only necessary if you burn the steel OR if you are making laminated billets. When making laminated steel you never use flux with powdered steel because it is a contaminant and can ruin the pattern.

Many smiths wire brush prior to welding but it is generaly a waste of time unless you fluxed too late or burnt your work prior to welding. If the work is burnt, wire brushing won't fix it. . On the other hand there are many smiths that weld with no flux at all.
   - guru - Friday, 06/07/02 05:42:32 GMT

As to carbon content and breaking....
It all depends on what kind of knife you are making. Since different types of knives are used differently you will need to know that before selecting material to use.
If I remember correctly Wayne does talk about that in his books. I know Jim Hirosulas does talk about it in his books.
For example, small paring type knife or a skinner type blade is less likely to be used with any pressure or stress sideways to the blade, so a higher carbon content is good, but a longer blade that would make a good camp knife or a bowie style should have a lower carbon content.
   Ralph - Friday, 06/07/02 14:27:58 GMT

in my experience, I have found either cold drawn or the hot rolled mild to be a bear to forge weld. It can be done and I have done a fair amount of it, but the higher carbon steels seem to weld more easily for me. Wrought iron welds real nice and easy as well as the Pure Iron that is on the market.
But in any case all it takes is a little thought and planning of your actions. I mean walk thru every step cold before hand so you know exactly what you are going to do hot. Then practice, practice, practice.
It is my personal policy to do at least one weld every time I am at a hot forge.
   Ralph - Friday, 06/07/02 14:33:17 GMT

Sortof a basic question, but....

What steel are people using for general blacksmithing? I have been buying A-36 from BMG in Richmond, but I was curious what other people used.

I keep thinking about grabing some pure iron, but haven't been willing to spend that much money yet....

   JIM - Friday, 06/07/02 15:33:01 GMT

Jim, For decorative work most folks use what they can get. HR bar in 3/8" and up. CF for smaller and odd sizes like 7/16" and 5/16" square. Generaly you cannot get 1/4" square and smaller in HR so folks buy the more expensive CF bar in those sizes.

At one time I was making a lot of fireplace tools in 7/16" square so I ordered a rolling in HR. The rolling ended up being something in the neighborhood of 3,000 feet. The surprise was when it came in 2 years after I had ordered it!

For repousse' artists prefer a high grade of deep draw steel OR a fine grained wrought. I suspect the pure iron would also do. These are more expensive than common steel plate and are not necessary for hot work.

Wrought and soft pure iron are a joy to work but you pay a significant price for them. Unless you are doing highly detailed work and getting a good price for it there is no point in either. If you ARE doing highly sculptural work with lots of details then these premium materials may pay for themselves.
   - guru - Friday, 06/07/02 15:59:16 GMT

Welding: Ralph, Etal:

High carbon steels tend to weld easier because of their lower melting temperature. Zero carbon steels weld easier because they can be heated to their higher melting points without burning. Low carbon steels have that same high melting point but have enough carbon to burn easier. . . SO it is more difficult to weld.

This is one of those cases where extremes are better than being in the middle.
   - guru - Friday, 06/07/02 16:05:37 GMT

Access: I have been having a fit getting on line from my desktop machine. Its either bad phone lines or a bad modem. . . hard to tell. Will be on and off line today. Probably off more. :(
   - guru - Friday, 06/07/02 16:14:15 GMT

Nicholas, one thing that has not been mentioned about carbon content is that past about .60% carbon, the steel does not get appreciably harder when quenched. The extra carbon goes to making carbides, which is a chemical combination of metal and carbon. In plain carbon steels, it forms iron carbide. In alloy steels, it may form chromium carbide, tungsten carbide, etc, depending on what is in it. Carbides create abrasion resistance, acting like hard little ball bearings in the steel. They don't move, of course, but tend to prevent erosion of the metal matrix. Iron carbides are hard but not as hard as carbides of chromium, tungsten, etc. Tool steels use a lot of carbon and alloys specifically to form these carbides. A very servicable blade can be made with 1060-1095 steels if you are going to cut wood, hide, etc. If you plan to cut metals, the extra alloying is essential. To get greater toughness in a high carbon blade, you should temper at the highest temperature (and the shortest time) possible. This will form many small carbides. Tempering at a low temperature for a long time tends to form fewer, larger carbides. Some steels benefit from double tempering. High carbon steels tend not to completely transform to martensite when quenched. Some of the steel is still non-magnetic austenite. The first tempering operation can cause the austenite to transform to martensite or bainite. The second temper softens and toughens these secondary transformation products. If you decide to double temper, temper the first time about 50 degrees colder than you normally would, let the piece cool and temper again at the normal temperature. Tempering twice at the same temperature does not reduce the hardness or necessarily improve toughness.
   Bob Nichols - Friday, 06/07/02 17:07:57 GMT

Bob, My understanding of double tempering is that it is just to be sure you got an equal temper throughout the part.
   - guru - Friday, 06/07/02 17:23:31 GMT

Nicholas, I forgot to mention one critical point. You can improve the toughness of the steel by allowing it to cool from your final forging temperature to room temperature, and then re-heat it to a medium red and allow it to cool again. When you heat the steel to forging temperature, the austenite grains grow very large. This can make the steel brittle. By re-heating it to a lower temperature, you re-form the austenite grains but they will be smaller. This will make the steel tougher when you heat treat it.
   Bob Nichols - Friday, 06/07/02 17:43:41 GMT

Guru, I think that if you failed to get an even heat the first time, things will not be much different the second time. Previously, we gas carburized 8620 up to a carbon potential of about 1.00% in the case. When we quenched, we got a lot of retained austenite. We would quench to about 100 deg, lightly temper it, cool it, then re-temper it hotter. Later, we quenched to 250 deg, cool the parts,pack the parts in dry ice, which continued the quenching down to -190 deg. This got rid of all of the retained austenite and we only had to temper it once.
   Bob Nichols - Friday, 06/07/02 17:53:25 GMT

I will second what Guru said. I use what I have or what is less expensive for general stuff. But for most things that require heat treat etc I will usually get specific known steel from the steelyard.

when buying stock I almost always ask what the cost difference is between 1018 and A36(AKA mild steel) SO far price is the same and I get the 1018. Now of course they could be giving me the run around but I do not think so.....
   Ralph - Friday, 06/07/02 18:46:05 GMT

need information on source in bay area to forge a bar to lift heavy loads to move job specific. cannot find local source to work with me to forge bar is high carbon steel, five feet long with point on one end, and angled spoon on other. please help me and respond to me.
thx, troy williams
   troy - Friday, 06/07/02 23:49:43 GMT

QUESTION: The word, EQUINEPHALANGIOLOGIST. A farrier friend of mine states this is what he is? He says it means, farrier / blacksmith. Is my leg getting longer from his pulling it?
   T. J. - Saturday, 06/08/02 01:39:33 GMT


Welll... Equine = horse Phalangi = pedal extremity, or foot, or in the case of a horse hoof. ologist = One who works.

It's a fancy, made up word, to impress the yokels. I don't thing your leg is getting any shorter.

It's like describing a blacksmith as a thermo-mechanical-manipulator-of ferrous and non-ferrous materials. (grin)
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Saturday, 06/08/02 02:02:22 GMT

dear mr. guru i have a hammer that i can not find any info on,its called a commensence hammer,#1 gunning model, made or sold by schuyler co. burkley calf. i need to put a motor on it but i need to know about gearing or how to attach a motor,it has the wide belt & flywheel on top, it looks like a little giant. please help thank you.
   - steve jenkins - Saturday, 06/08/02 02:19:37 GMT

Steve, Go to the Power hammer Page and the Little Giant specs. The sizes and speeds are there. Most similar hammers run about the same speed. Hammers such as Fairbanks and Bradleys that have stroke adjustments can run considerably faster when set for short stroke. But fixed stroke hammers like LG's run best at one specific maximum speed.

After figuring out what size hammer you have if you need more help let me know.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/08/02 04:19:14 GMT

guru, I'm looking for a copy of Machinerys Handbook, is the latest edition good for blacksmithing or should I try to get a older copy?
   Jim Torseth - Saturday, 06/08/02 05:00:01 GMT

Thanks Bob for the vital information...the length of the blade is in fact a sword and not a knife. Any variations on tempering and hardening?
   Nicholas - Saturday, 06/08/02 08:39:12 GMT


Reading back through the posts, I want to mention the first aid kit idea again for the safety page. In addition, I think Slag's post about burn infections should also be added. Most burns are contaminated by either burned flesh, and/or other bacteria. Infections are common place, almost inevitable in serious burns, and can actually be more dangerous than the burn itself. Add in that Vicopper's notes about septicemia is also accurate, and I think those would be valuable additions to the safety page.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Saturday, 06/08/02 11:18:11 GMT

MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK: Jim, It depends on what you are looking for. The older editions (going back to the earliest editions) have more detail in the articles on industrial power hammer foundations, forge air requirements, babbiting, and thermit. The latest editions have more information on modern alloys and heat treating, carbides and such. You have to remember that most of our "modern" alloys were developed in the 1940's and 50's but designations have changed and will continue to change. In the 60's and 70's stainlesses became more common as did the alloy tool steels we use today. The 21st edition has the tongs dimention chart and I think that is the last edition that had it. The 23rd did not.

Looking back over my review of MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK (one of my first reviews) I see I need to revisit the subject and update the review. . . . Item # 2,000 on the todo list. #1 is put new disk drives in my PC today. . . hopefully it will still run afterward!
   - guru - Saturday, 06/08/02 14:22:48 GMT

I did it!! I'm a CSI member!! I think.....
I'm pretty sure it went through ok.
   Tim - Saturday, 06/08/02 17:46:22 GMT

The logo for CSI is a pretty cool design. Have patches or stickers been made of that design? I would buy a few if thats something that you have in the online store.
   Tim - Saturday, 06/08/02 17:50:41 GMT

Steve Jenkins, Call Sid Suedmeier, he owns Little Giant and is located in Nebraska City, Nebraska, 402-873-6603. Sid owns and has rebuilt many different kinds of hammers (some no one has really ever heard of) if anyone in the country can help you get as close to what you need he can do it.
   - Robert - Saturday, 06/08/02 18:38:24 GMT

Have you ever seen the seven volume set of Machinerys Encyclopedia?
   - grant - Saturday, 06/08/02 18:40:44 GMT

Tim, give me a few minutes. All these things are handles manualy!

Grant, I thnk I have seen odd volumes of old editions but not the whole set. I do know they publish other things besides the HANDBOOK which now comes in large type as well as a CD version.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/08/02 20:33:45 GMT

No problem, just glad I finally got to do it. You and the others have been a great help in getting me started. I will be purchasing some W-1 or O-1 soon too. Hope that helps also.
   Tim - Saturday, 06/08/02 20:49:08 GMT

oooh, i like the new view!
   Rooster - Saturday, 06/08/02 20:50:04 GMT

"Tim is now Known as Rooster"
   Rooster - Saturday, 06/08/02 20:50:34 GMT

Cyber Smiths International LogoCSI logo Tim, we are working on that. I just did this CSI logo for the next edition of the NEWS that will work better in different applications. Now I just have to update the membership page which is very dated. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 06/08/02 21:07:12 GMT

[ CSI - anvilfire MEMBERS Group | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]
Counter    Copyright © 2002 Jock Dempsey, www.anvilfire.com Cummulative_Arc GSC