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This is an archive of posts from June 16 - 24, 2006 on the Guru's Den
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Gas Forge Ventilation: Darrell, This is a good question and I do not have an immediate answer. "Two burner" does not say much about the output of the forge as burners vary greatly. However, I suspect any ventilation blower larger than a bathroom ventilation fan is enough. Where you need to be careful is that it is rated for high temperatures like a commercial kitchen stove fan.
   - guru - Friday, 06/16/06 08:07:02 EDT

Forges heating shop: A big part of this is radiant heading from the exterior of poorly designed forges. The normal 2" of Kaowool works but the exterior of the forge will still get quite hot after a few hours use and then the radiant heat is sufficient to heat objects a considerable distance away. The problem is extream with hard (ie dense)refractories.

If you want a cool forge exterior then you need a hollow exterior shell with an air space that is vented along with exhust gases. The shell needs to have an air intake as well an exhust. For dead cool you need two shells. In many cases the shells can simply be a U shape that surrounds the bottom and sides with the top completely open to the vent above. In this case it is a heat shield rather than a shell. A double heat shield is much more efficient at keeping the exterior cool than added insulation. Note however that hard refractory forges need a light weight refractory cover to reduce the temperature to when the heat shields do not over heat.

At the knife makers meet I went to a couple weeks ago all the forges had air curtains to control dragon's breath. These were simply a nozzel (like a wide thin vacuume cleaner nozzel) set about 4" away from the forge opening blowing air UP. These had a small blower to make them work OR as in the case of one forge the forge blower supplied air to the burner AND the air curtain.

The air curtain would assure that the exhust goes up a reasonble size hood as well thus reducing CO and CO2 in the shop.

You could stand inches away from the opening of these forges and not get burned. This is a very good reason to abandon the so called "simplicity" of finicky atmospheric burners and just go to blown forges (which always run hotter).

   - guru - Saturday, 06/17/06 08:15:00 EDT

Mike B
I have a 24" turbine ventalator in the roof just above my gasser. This turbine moves a tremendous amount of air in a slight breeze. With the gasser running, the updraft powers the turbine, and spins it even faster. Think Sirkosky helicopter like sounds amd air movement :)
   ptree - Saturday, 06/17/06 08:19:02 EDT

I'm off for about 36 hours. Have some family business to attend to. Be back Sunday afternoon.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/17/06 10:29:47 EDT

Propane forges just give off humongous quantities of toxic nasties that linger, no way around it. Mine is totally out of doors and nonetheless exhaust hangs around. So (gasp!) do the fumes from anything that might be on the junk steel I am recycling into objets d'haha art when I cook it. When it was inside the shop, even with front and rear doors and roof hatches wide open, same: bad headaches. Soooo, I just built me a whompus 10-foot diameter tin tipi out of corrugated roofing that encloses the monster totally except for access ports fore and aft. My (hopeful) theory is, the thermal convection currents will carry the nasties skyward, where they will dissipate before contributing noticeably to global warming and general planetary (and my) degredation. Stay tuned. Watch for a blinding blue flash in the mountains north of Santa Fe.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 06/17/06 11:19:19 EDT


Pie are square?
Pie are round; cornbread are square.

Couldn't help m'self.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 06/17/06 11:23:01 EDT


Headaches are symptom of carbon monoxide poisioning. CO is a sign of a rich mixture( too much fuel, not enough air) and poor fuel economy. It is deadly and cumulitive in your system. I've been there, done that...and so it is a pet peeve of mine. Get a Nighthawk (tm) DIGITAL alarm for your shop. It takes 6 days to rid your body of exposure to CO. The digital read out can be used to tune your forge.

Take action before you get your next saftey meeting from Paw-Paw.
   Habu - Saturday, 06/17/06 12:31:28 EDT

What is a 250# little giant worth? It is an older one peice, in great condition, new flat dies and newish moter. I paid $4995 for it a long time ago and I just want to know if it has appreciated in value over the years. Can you help with a ball park figure or have you seen some of these sold recently and how much did they go for?
   - Colby - Saturday, 06/17/06 13:50:57 EDT

What is a 250# little giant worth? It is an older one peice, in great condition, new flat dies and newish moter. I paid $4995 for it a long time ago and I just want to know if it has appreciated in value over the years. Can you help with a ball park figure or have you seen some of these sold recently and how much did they go for?
   - Colby - Saturday, 06/17/06 13:51:12 EDT

What is a 250# little giant worth? It is an older one peice, in great condition, new flat dies and newish moter. I paid $4995 for it a long time ago and I just want to know if it has appreciated in value over the years. Can you help with a ball park figure or have you seen some of these sold recently and how much did they go for?
   Colby - Saturday, 06/17/06 13:52:02 EDT

Zinc question: I just used a spray-can of cold galvanizing compound to coat some recent work, and had a fair amount of overspray on the ground (on the path from car to house). Do I need to be concerned about the zinc? I would think not, but thought I should ask.
   Paymeister - Saturday, 06/17/06 13:55:03 EDT

Coal Fire Woes:
I've been having some difficulting managing my coal fire and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I can't seem to get the fire big enough so that it is hot above the level of the top of my firepot so I can't heat anything but the ends of my stock.

I've got a little brake drum forge set in a table that is about 10" in diameter with a 2" tuyere (2" pipe with a 1/4" plate with 1/4" holes drilled in it for air) with a plundered range-hood fan for air, the drum is only about 2 1/2" deep so the fire stays really quite small. From my reading online (can't remember if it was here or somewhere linked to from here) that it is ideal to have 4" - 4 1/2" of fire beneath the iron so that most of the oxygen is burned up. So that implies that your fire should be substantially higher than mine. Do you have any recommendations? Is my tuyere too small? Is my blower too weak? Do I need to build my fire in a special way?

Your help is greatly appreciated!
   Condredge - Saturday, 06/17/06 14:10:56 EDT

Forge size: pi x r^2 xh is the vol of a right cylinder.

Guessing that you have 2" of wool and that 15" is the dia gives pi x 6.5^2 x 20 roughly 2500 cu ins. Reil type burners are rated for about 300 cu ins so you would need 8 burners! Which ever calculation is right, Mike, Ken or Adam, they all agree that your burn chamber is way oversized for the burners

A couple of other things: Jet size is usually #58. I use a #60 at 7000' and the burner has to be derated some. The cross section is much too square - typically the cylinder is 2 or 2 times longer than wide. This helps to contain the swirling gas longer and also reduces the amount of radiant heat loss. At forging temps the main heat loss is radiant (light) (Stefans Law 4th power effect yata yata". Any window that sees directly into the forges core is a MAJOR heat loss and you have a huge window. You can greatly reduce this kind of loss by placing a refractory barrier in front of the mouth but perhaps an inch away to allow gas flow and access with the work. The main thing is that to minimize the direct line of site paths for the radiant heat to escape. The barrier will heat up and reflect a lot of light back into the forge

Unless you want to weld up enormous damascus billets, size is NOT important - temperature is the most important thing.

I use a 4" diameter gas forge that runs at welding heat and I can make a gate with it! Think about the way a coal fire is used.

For venting I open th garage doors and run a big fan

"Frank couldnt help himself" This is a leetel hard to believe - where pie and cornbread are concerned, Frank will find a way to help himself and come back for seconds! ;)
   adam - Saturday, 06/17/06 14:15:21 EDT

Clarification: "the cross section of the BURN CHAMBER is much too square."
   adam - Saturday, 06/17/06 14:17:30 EDT

Before my neighbors objected , I used ran a forge with a 2" tuyere and the fire was 6" to 8" in dia. 1/4" holes sounds waaaay too small I suspect you are strangling the air flow, drill them out to 3/8". Also pile up your coal so the you have enough depth over the firepot. A sheet metal table around the fire pot helps with this.
   adam - Saturday, 06/17/06 14:38:20 EDT

Adam, thanks for your advice on this! I'll try drilling the holes bigger. I do have a sheet metal table so I can pile it high, but it just doesn't burn higher...
Hopefully my neighbours don't object as well! I'm going to switch to coke once I use up my coal which should be pretty soon. Then the smoke won't be yellow and nasty
   Condredge - Saturday, 06/17/06 14:48:37 EDT

Habu-- many thanks! I appreciate the advice. Actually, though, carbon monoxide is an inevitable by-product of just about any fuel burn, no? What I am considering here, for the Fourth of July, slow forging periods, and the Santa Fe Fiesta, is capping the top, holding off on the ignition while letting the propane build up under the tin tipi, then letting a spark go. Why should that Virgin Airways guy get a lock on the first manned space center? Get your reservations in early.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 06/17/06 16:37:43 EDT

AFAIK zinc is a concern when it gets heated or ground and one inhales or swallows the results. I wouldnt worry unless thats yo8ur favorite spot for torch cutting - (shouldnt cut over concrete anyways)
   adam - Saturday, 06/17/06 17:39:55 EDT

Does anybody know where to get antique looking bolts like square headed ones? I would like some original looking bolts to attatch the railing I am building for a house.
   - Ty Rankin - Saturday, 06/17/06 18:23:38 EDT

where can I find reproduction bolts to install railing on a staircase. would like to find square headed bolts and not galvanized.
   - Ty Rankin - Saturday, 06/17/06 18:30:59 EDT

HYey, i have been forging on a large peice of railroad track on its side, so theres alot of mass under it, and its less loud than when its flat , but its still very loud,
is that as loud as an anvil would be generally?
i keep gettting complaints from my parents because its so loud,
   Dylan - Saturday, 06/17/06 18:54:06 EDT

Mine would be the first COMMERCIAL manned space center in NM. MUST start reading these posts. Before I post.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 06/17/06 19:05:03 EDT

Frank, good one! I was laughing for a while before I was capable if asking this question thanks to your "pie are round" comment.-Grin!
My question is: I'm getting more work done on the chainsaw bike I mention a few months ago, but now I need to press a bike wheel hub with a welded on pulley tightly against the rear tire. The scrap I have around here is not good enough to use for this, and I was wondering; Where would I be able to get some cheap scrap pipe, and would I be able to use anything else? I plane on welding this to the bike frame, but it can't be too heavy. Any help would be appreciated!

   - Rob - Saturday, 06/17/06 19:15:49 EDT

Sorry, I didn't mention what the pipe was needed for: I was planning on drilling it out so I could fit a fair sized bolt through it to hold the hub against the wheel.
   - Rob - Saturday, 06/17/06 19:17:37 EDT

I've been practicing forge welding mild steel. I heat to red, wire brush, flux, heat to weld temp, flux, re-heat then hit it over the anvil. I'm doing fagot welds to build up a multi-layer billot. I've tried other joints, but haven't got the co-ordination of hands/tongs/heat/hammer yet....
Anyway, I weld a billot. I grind the edges & can't see any seam. I cut it with a hack saw & can't see any seam. However, if I put the cold billot in the vice & drive a cold chisel into the first weld (since it still has the remainder of the length protruding), I can break it open. Once a split is started, I can just grab the length in my hands then pull & continue that split so as to pull of the first layer. This doesn't seem good.
Any suggestions?
   andrew - Saturday, 06/17/06 20:00:04 EDT


My math was the same as yours -- I just used 18" for the length (allowing for 1" wool at each end) and divided by 1728 to get cubic feet. Just for the record, 2" of kaowool would reduce the *radius* by 2" (from 7.5 to 5.5). Using that and 16" for the length, gives 1520 cubic inches. Still a lot more than 600.

Ptree, I'll keep your suggestion in mind. At this point, I'm trying to avoid going through the roof -- I think most of the neighbors haven't figured out where the noise is coming from yet! I do have a gable end fan, and now a furnace blower that blows outside air directly on me.
   Mike B - Saturday, 06/17/06 20:08:23 EDT

Ty: Marks Nuts & Bolts here in the Phoenix area carries square headed bolts and screws. Their number is 623 939-9312.
   dief - Saturday, 06/17/06 22:36:24 EDT

Miles: >Actually, though, carbon monoxide is an inevitable by-product of just about any fuel burn, no?< Not quite. a complete burn of a fuel that has enough Oxygen will give carbon dioxide or CO2, Carbon monoxide or CO happens in a burn with out enough oxygen to complete the burn. This is what happens in a reduction enviroment that produces a little or no scale in your forge. If you are getting scale your forge is set to an oxidizing mixture with excess oxygen in the enviroment and the output will be almost pure CO2.
CO attaches to your red blood cell like oxygen, but it will not detach from the cell when it returns to your lungs. Your blood accumulates the CO and oxygen cannot be carried by your blood. Death, brain damage, heart, kidney, and liver problems are all attributed to short and long term exposure to CO.

Coal and charcoal also produce CO, but the coal smoke is often enough to make people open some doors and windows before the level of CO becomes a threat.

You can't see or smell CO , Death can happen within moments at levels above 700 parts per million and within hours at levels of 80ppm. the Nighthawk alarm has an algorithum that takes into account the level and length of exposure and has a buzzer that will wake up the dead. Mine sets above and near the forge and a quick glance will tell me if my forge is running right and if levels are rising. I have had times when my forge produced levels above 999ppm in less than 15min in my garage, with out the alarm I would not have known it. My unit is 6 years old and cost $60, a lot less than the trip in the black limo.

   Habu - Saturday, 06/17/06 22:38:16 EDT


Your 1/4" holes might be fine if there are enough of them. Think in terms of having about 1-1/2 to 2 square inches of draft area. That means you'd need about 30 1/4" holes. The 2" pipe would be just fine if you just welded a couple of 3/8" sqare bars across it to keep the coal from falling through. That jwould net you about 1.5 in² blast area.

The biggest problem I would think you're having is not enough air from that range hood blower. Most of those things, unless you're talking a commercial kitchen hood, use wimply little blowers that only move about 60-80 cfm - with NO back pressure. A blow drier will give you a better air source. Disconnect the heating element and use some flex duct to hook it to the forge from far enough away to keep it from getting melted.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/17/06 22:44:23 EDT


I think it was the economist Adam Smith who said, "The value of a thing is what that thing will bring." Prettyy much applies to your 250 LG. If somebody wants one badly enough, and you're selling, then you get a profit. But if someone else is selling a Nazel 3-B for 5 grand, guess which one I'd buy?
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/17/06 22:57:26 EDT

Ty Rankin:

Uhhhh, maybe I'm not tracking here but, why wouldn't a blacksmith just forge the hex heads to square? Only takes a minute or two each, max.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/17/06 23:01:22 EDT

Condredge: The work should be IN the burning coal, not on top of the fire like so many artists have drawn it. Some firebricks around the firepot can increase it's effective depth. Enlarging the holes untill there is only a thin web between them should solve the air problem IF THE FAN CAN MAKE ENOUGH PRESSURE. Try other blowers [hair dryer etc.] if it still doesn't work.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 06/17/06 23:12:26 EDT


Are you grinding the mild steel to a bare, shiny, scale-free finish before you try to weld it? Other than sufficient heat, I think the most critical requirements for a successful forge weld are "fit and finish." Clean and shiny, and closely fitting to minimize intrusion of dirt and oxygen.

When you grind the surfaces for welding, make them just barely convex, maybe five or ten thousandths of an inch rise in the middle of a 1" wide bar, say. This will cause the weld to stick in the center first, then squeeze the flux and dross out the sides as it closes down, keeping the surfaces clean.

When you have the fit, finish, flux and heat right, you can get the weld to stick with a rather light blow. I favor a fairly heavy hammer, but farily gentle blows at first. This gives the requisite mass to get the blow to the center of the stack, but you don't have to hit is so hard that you blast the near-molten surface metal clean out of the joint. Once you have it "stuck", take a second welding heat and work it with harder blows.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/17/06 23:15:52 EDT

Hanu-- Again, many thanks. I appreciate your making the effort to straighten me out on this and warn me of the dangers. I thought cars and propane water heaters and propane furnaces and all those other engineered devices just inescapably produced carbon monoxide as a matter of the nature of combustion. Have you told Detroit about this?
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 06/18/06 00:01:50 EDT

Habu-- Oops, sorry for the name misspelling! Getting late here. Many thanks again. You really should, if you have not already, alert the furnace companies, water heater manufacturers, automakers, fire marshals, building inspectors about your findings. Sounds to me as if it would save a lot of lives and make the world a vastly better place if combustion devices were only required to be properly tuned, tested and certified. Over and out here in the foothills of the Rockies.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 06/18/06 00:17:52 EDT

Miles: Here in the east We have auto emmision inspection, CO being one of the things they check for, and it is supposed to be close to 0%. I was having carb troubble with My van one time, running it in the garage with the door open, and the alarm in the house above went off. Another time My 50's vintage engine drive welder was being used for standby power, in spite of having the exhaust piped outside the meter still showed an elevated CO reading in the house.I had the same problem with a portable generator running on deck on My sailboat one time. Modern cars and apliances in proper condition should make little or no CO, all bets are off with older equiptment.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 06/18/06 00:33:48 EDT

VIcopper: I noticed the same problem as Andrew, the weld looked pretty good with respect to contaminants. I would like to know how well forge weld holds up to the pry apart test when one of You experienced guys does it. I used 1/4x1 1/4 stock and welded the last 3/4" together. As I pried it open the stock bent as the weld parted. This type of test puts almoast infinant stress on a line across the weld which just keeps moving as it fails rather than loading the entire welded area at one time.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 06/18/06 00:48:50 EDT

Dave Boyer,

With respect to "mild steel" (A-36), you kind of never quite know for sure what you're going to get. The chemistry for A-36 is arbitrary, and so the forge weld results are, too. The only real spec that applies to A-36 is the 36 kpsi tensile strength. So some of it welds just fine for me, with pretty close to 100% strength, and other pieces just barely stick when I do everything right. Kind of a crap shoot. Sulfur content, possibly. I'm no metallurgist, but Quenchcrack or one of the other metallurgists would probably have some good input.

If you use 1018, then the chemistry is pretty dependable and consistent, and the welds will come out pretty consistent and pretty strong; maybe 85+% or so of parent stock strength. Higher carbon straight alloys like 1045 or 1095 achieve essentially 100% strength bonds. (If not, laminated steel blades wouldn't hold up well, no?) But the list of possible "contaminants" in A-36 reads like the period chart, and all sorts of weird stuff can happen.

Theoretically, with sufficiently clean and tightly fitted steel working in a vacuum, you can weld at room temp with sufficient pressure. Solid state diffusion bonding. The pressures required get kinda exciting though, I think. But with some of the crud in A-36, I'll bet even that won't work dependably. Nasty stuff.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/18/06 01:13:24 EDT

The test you used does put essentially infinite stress on the weld, Dave. The weakest point in the steel will fail, and that is going to be the weld; even if it is 99.999% as strong as the parent stock, it is still the weakest point in the strain zone. If the stock is bending before parting, then you're pretty darn close to a full strength weld, I'd say.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/18/06 01:16:11 EDT

I have a couple of questions first i'm planning on buying a halflinger horse for riding and I need to know what to look for when looking at the shoes of the horse to determan if the horse needs new shoes,and how often do they need to have their shoes changed?
   denise - Sunday, 06/18/06 08:06:02 EDT

ANY combustion process has the potential to emit Carbon monoxide. If for any reason the fuel to air ratio gets off the perfect, then CO is formed instead of the ideal CO2 and H2O. As the fuel portion of the mixture increases (Rich) the portion of CO increases.

Working as a safety guy in a 250,000 square foot factory, I have to check the CO levels twice daily as we run propane fork truck, and the factory is airconditioned. We have a 25% fresh air content in the make up air, and it is amazing how fast one out of tune truck can change the CO content at breathing level from 1 to 2 parts per million to 12 or 15 PPM. A simple re-tune or sometimes plugs ETC returns the engine to emitting something like 3 or 4PPM.

I have seen reports in the safety trades that suggest increased fatique and headaches can occur at levels as low as 10 PPM. As CO is very hard for the body to expell, if you are eposed daily, you can have cummulative build-up of CO at levels well below the deadly in a short term exposure.
Please consider the ventilation, tuning and other issues when running any unvented fuel burning appliance.
   ptree - Sunday, 06/18/06 09:03:15 EDT

CO exposure:
I owened and opperated an auto emission test station in Colorado for 7 years and tested up to 90 cars a day, 6 days a week in a 18' x 25' bay. Most modern cars would test at levels below the detectable by my equipment. one in 20 would not pass the test, at 1.5% of tail pipe gasses, one in 50 would exceed the 10% limit of my equipment. Note that is a % of total gas emissions not parts per million. My building was a drive thrugh facility that had garage doors at both ends that were open whenever testing was going on. I took care to avoid exposure by standing on the up wind side of the shop durring testing and watching the readings on the Nighthawk alarm read out durring the test because my equipment tested in a blind mode. Still, I went home many a night with splitting headaches, dizzyness, slurred speach and dull thinking.

After 15 years away from exposure, I still have memory problems with things like names for people and objects, and this effects my speech patterns. Heart and lung dammage are also a concern. My inability to spell however was not affected.(grin)

If you don't think the government is aware of the exposure to CO compare the engine configuration of a 1957 chevy with a modern car, most of what you see is due to emission controls and fuel economy. Tunning of other combustion devices is still a good idea, tho most use a lean mixture to assure a compete burn of the gas in an open air enviroment this leads to most of the fuel being fully burned. If you look at the burners of most applinces you will note a choke to adjust air fuel mixture. Enclosed burns as in an auto cylinder or a closed forge allow the gasses to burn the available Oxygen durring the burn cycle. A Rich mixture(reducing flame)= more CO. If you have Dragons breath from your forge, this is fuel that is burning in the open air out side your forge. If you do not get scale on your steel in your forge then you have a reducing enviroment that is probably producing some CO.

Paw-paw and I discussed this at length just before his death and he told me he was going to put an alarm in his shop, I don't know if he ever did.

Habu, owner of Grumpy's Emissions

   habu - Sunday, 06/18/06 10:29:47 EDT

My Pinto has a Hooker header on it along with a staight piped no cat exhaust. The smog pump is removed as well as any fuel return lines that would have normally gone to the cat and carb. These modifications allow the car to acheive better horsepower and mileage. It also increases the CO and hydrocarbon output. Because it is an older car, I don't just start her up and drive off, I have to warm it up for a minute or two. Fortunately I do not have a garage to fill up with CO.

I do worry about CO killing my pets, I have exotic birds and reptiles in my house and when the CO alarm goes off I stop work immediately and turn on exhaust fans (I have gotten into the habit of turning the fans on BEFORE I forge now).
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 06/18/06 10:56:57 EDT

Some thoughts on a first gas forge: THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!

It seems that about once a month with dependable regularity, someone, having built his first gas forge needs help troubleshooting it. Nothingwrongwiththat. It’s what we’re her for. Nearly always, the problem is that forge wont get hot enough and usually, it turns out that the combustion chamber is very large, somewhere north of 1000 cu ins. IMO this is a mistake. It’s a natural mistake. The thinking goes something like this:-

“Got to make that nice window grill for my lady and it’s going have a couple of 10”
scrolls. Once I start bending the work it’s not going to fit inside that inky dinky little forge that Ron Reil made. Gonna need at least a 10” dia chamber.

This departs from a known working design - generally not a smart idea with a first effort but people do it anyway because a gas forge seems like such a simple affair; Just a hot little oven running on propane. Its not simple, its quite tricky and unless you have experience you are likely to miss a lot of important subtleties and the forge wont work well. Running a combustion chamber at 2000F (welding heat) is NOTHING like running the same chamber at, say, 1500F red heat. It’s a different game. Especially if the forge is designed to run with an opening in the front, like Ron’s Mini Forge. Such a design does not simply scale up – there has to be some careful thought. I see a lot of gas forges like this and mostly they run cold and the owner is working his steel much too cold.

In the early stages of forging, the steel should be close to welding heat – perhaps even a spark or two. Not only is this much easier to forge but the steel moves differently – very differently. So whether one plans to weld or not the forge should reliably attain welding heat.

Another confusion is about the way gas forges are to be used. Gas forges can be roughly categorized into three types.

1. To feed a power hammer.
In this case one may want to work with 8” of hot steel and have several pieces going at the same time. These forges are usually the “big oven” design with a hinged door that closes on the work. 2, 4 or even 8 burners are not unusual. Such forges don’t generally have to run at welding heat because a power hammer doesn’t require it. But if its just you and your little 3# crosspein you don’t want 8” of hot steel. You wont be able to use all that heat and it will be hard to control.

2. Blade making.
This often involves welding up Damascus billets – repetitive BIG welds. These forges tend to be the “little oven” design. The whole work is put in the chamber and a door closes after it. The forge runs at welding heat.


This is to be a general purpose forge. Some big some small – perhaps its your first forge and you don’t really know yet what you are going to be doing. You need something versatile. You don’t need a big oven – think outside the box! You need a small hot forge. The internal dimensions should be something like 5” dia x 10” long .Like Ron’s Mini Forge. Most of your work will not fit inside, instead you will lay it ACROSS THE MOUTH of the forge and heat up a short section at a time.

You should have no trouble getting the work to orange heat and if you need hotter, stack some fire brick up in front of the forge so that it heats up and reflects the heat back. If you want to weld, Then you can make a little roof too. Essentially you use the forge as a burner and you set up a temporary heating chamber at the mouth of the forge. I prefer to make some blocks and walls out of kaowool coated with a skim of some refractory (thankyou Guru) since these heat up much faster, but plain ole yeller firebrick works fine too. You will likely find that you want a little “porch” made of firebrick in front of your forge. This technique does take a bit of practice to get things working smoothly and you are likely to drop some very hot firebrick on the floor – but its all part of the fun.

A final point once you have some experience, you will find that gas forges are indeed easy to make and you might make a couple more for special work. Also, its no big deal to set up a temporary forge of kaowool and firebrick and just transfer your existing burner to it.
   adam - Sunday, 06/18/06 11:01:43 EDT

Many thanks for the illuminating info, Habu, Dave Boyer, and ptree. I am going out and get myself a canary for my smithy as soon as the pet shop opens!
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 06/18/06 11:04:43 EDT

After thought: I have been working with small gas forges for over 10 years. The , umm, "wisdom" above was won by making every stupid mistake (several times). Yep, my very first forge was a "modified" Reil Mini Forge and it ran about hot enough to make muffins. Ron was *very* patient with me when I emailed him to ask "Why wont it get hot????"
   adam - Sunday, 06/18/06 11:13:58 EDT

CO detectors:

I would suggest getting a detector with a readout. Once the alarm goes off (or the canary goes toes-up), there's nothing left to do but shut down, ventilate, and then wait for things to settle. By watching my detector, once I see the numbers climbing, I know to get the ventilation going and I can therefore keep going.

That's mainly in the winter, though. In the summer I've got the ventilation going just to cool off. And for me, my shop is in a two-car garage. I replaced the overhead doors with swingouts and have an openable window in each door half. All I need for ventilation is a cheap pedestal fan, where I lengthened the pedestal to reach the door window. I exhaust out the window on the far right door and open the window on the far left. The CO goes down to 0 minutes after I start that up.

   - Marc - Sunday, 06/18/06 11:34:12 EDT

Hi Mike T. In regards to your question about wedge type scarfs vs. cupped scarfs, it looks like your query was a result of reading the opinion of the beautifuliron.com web site on tong rein welds. Is this correct? Cupped scarfs are not always appropriate for welds, for example in welding billets. The web site cautions against using wedge shaped scarfs for attaching tong reins. It also says that only beginners use borax for flux, and such welds always fail. I don't think that this is quite correct. I have seen some demos featuring well-known non-beginner smiths using borax to produce very servicable welds. I also saw a demo of a weld done with no flux; it failed immediately upon further forging, but the smith (an expert, not a beginner) just cranked the heat up a little more and rewelded the joint as part of the forging. The final piece ended up just fine, and I think it ended up selling at the evening auction.

There was a pair of tongs on sale at a blacksmith's auction. The weld on the reins was not scarfed at all. In fact, the two bars were lapped diagonally mis-aligned. Really ugly, with a big gap. But the tongs were well used, and appeared to have held up. People examining the tongs were flexing them hard expecting the weld to show weakness, but the weld contact surface must have been long enough so it was strong.

As for the "cupped scarf", why don't you follow the link on the web page to the free book. That tells how to make a cupped scarf. It is done by setting down over a rounded edge of the anvil.
   EricC - Sunday, 06/18/06 12:01:27 EDT

I am thinking of putting some 1" square solid bar stock directly into a concrete step for a railing newel post. I am curious what is the minimum size hole I should make in order to put mortar in the gap and have it be secure. I was thinking of using "cemente blanco." I learned about it from some Mexican guys who were installing a gate into stone columns with it. I used it to install into stone and it was interesting material, it hardened so hard it almost had a "ring" to it. Second question is , what is it and how does it differ from common cement? I wonder if I can rely on even ordinary cement/sand mortar mix to be strong enough to allow me to use, say, a 2" hole for the 1" bar.
   brian kennedy - Sunday, 06/18/06 18:51:25 EDT

I've got an idea for using those little 16 oz. propane bottles but I need to know a safe way to cut them(empty, of course). Can you offer a suggestion? Thank You.
   Steve Stransky - Sunday, 06/18/06 20:07:59 EDT

Guru, I'm looking for some rr spikes and can't seem to find any that i caould use in my shop. Can you recommend any places that I can get them from?
   Mike K. - Sunday, 06/18/06 20:31:36 EDT

My post vises ae mounted on stands made from 1.5 inch square tubing. In order to increase the stability, I want to fill all areas of the tubing and cap the ends. My question is, what would give me the most weight-filling them with old lead wheel weights or sand?
   Brian C - Sunday, 06/18/06 20:35:02 EDT

Small propane bottle. I just puncture it with an awl, I like to do it right where it says "Do not puncture" When it stops hissing I slice it open with an abrasive disk.
   adam - Sunday, 06/18/06 20:51:48 EDT

Lead is much denser than steel or sand but it might depend on how they stack inside the pipe. You might could pack it with wheel wts AND some sand to fill in the voids and soak up any ringing. Ideal would be to heat the pipe to about 600F and make the wts melt but that could be a lot of work.
   adam - Sunday, 06/18/06 20:55:03 EDT

Brake Drum Forge: 1/4" holes for grate????????

Look at my plans. Do you see and plate with holes???

Plates with holes, floor drain covers, tubes with holes (neo-tribal). . all are a waste of time and effort. Forges need a large opening with a gentle BLAST of air. . . not little tiny whistling holes. . . This is a FORGE not a flute. . .

I start with aproximnately a 2" hole and leave it wide OPEN. If my coal is too small I put a SINGLE piece of 1/2" stock across the hole. WORKS. Doesn't clog.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:07:46 EDT

Gunsmithing: The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association has a series of books called the Journal of Historical Arms and Technologies. This series covers a lot of what you need to know and includes a lot of information on how lock parts were forged along with other information that would be of inrterest to many on this site. They can be found at NMLRA.org

   M. Yazel - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:26:50 EDT


Filling things with lead: Unless it is an absolute need for some VERY sound engineering reasons you have no business melting and pouring lead! Its toxic and you can easily find the EPA labeling your shop and all the soil around it a hazardous waste dump from spilling just a pouind or so spilled. DOn't do it. I know people still fill treadle hammer and junk yard hammer heads with lead. . WELL, IT IS STUPID!!!! Don't do it.

Steel is just a little less dense than lead. Just build with steel to start. If you want to pour liquid metal fill use zinc. . . .(91% as dense as steel). Yeah its toxic overheated but the zinc dust on your clothes will not make YOUR CHILDREN RETARDED. If you overheat lead it will not make you a little sick, it will KILL YOU.

Before using lead DO THE DENSITY VOLUME CALCS and figure out how little more volume it takes to use steel or zinc. If you cannot figure it out then perhaps you've been exposed to too much lead already.

Is this a RANT? Yes this is a yelling screaming RANT!

You do not even have to use lead for radiation shielding! Steel works just as well provided there is an equivalent mass between you and the raditation source. I KNOW. I've built millions of dollars worth of radiation shielding and stood behind it. NO RADIATION! Steel works. Its 1/10th the cost of lead, you can weld it easily and it is self supporting in huge pieces which lead is NOT.

Lead is bad stuff. Use it only as a last resort. There are more ways to use other things than you can count.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:27:34 EDT

A vise stand does little good using dead weight unless you can make it in the 500 pound range or greater. With torque, even 1,000 pound benches move. . .

To make it entirely immovable and light weight just attach a thin plate to the base that you stand on. You can not move the object you are standing on unless you try REAL HARD using inertia. Using torque, impossible.

See our FAQ on blacksmiths leg vises and see the stand with the round base. Note also that in THIS CASE the plate is too flexible and the vise springs. Diagonals will cure.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:30:48 EDT

Every horse owner has a different opinion on shoes for their horses. Unless I'm moving cows in the hill's I leave mine barefoot but have them trimmed or reshod every 7 to 8 weeks. About shoeing in general, wear on the toe is the determining factor on the life of the shoes. However, before you invest in a horse you should line up all your ducks in a row....one of those ducks is your farrier. Ask your vet clinic to recommend one and then let him guide you in your shoeing needs. Don't forget to have the horse vet'ed before you buy it and if possible, as the farrier familiar with the horse if he knows of any problems or pricy corrections that should be done on the hooves. Buying a horse is a crap shoot, hedge your bets with all the professional help you can get !!
   Thumper - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:34:48 EDT

Small Propane bottles: Steve, As Adam noted, you punch a hole in them. Many have a little reinforced circle ready to punch. Note that you MUST empty the bottle first (attach a valve and vent). Shake it to see if you can feel fluid move.

When punching do it away from open flames, wear safety glasses and gloves would not hurt.

Once they have a hole in them they are safe to dispose of.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:38:27 EDT

Anchoring in Masonary: Brian, First, I much prefer epoxy for a bunch of reasons.

One brand of the special non-shrinking concrete made for this purpose in the US is called Rockite.

When using cement you want sufficient space all around the part to have continous and strong piece of concrete. Typical holes are 2" and up. Many masonary contractors have the hollow core diamond drills for this purpose.

I'm not sure what "cemente blanco" is. I've used very rich mixtures of portland cement and fine sand. But using a commercial miz designed for the purpose is better.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:46:30 EDT

Forge Weld Strength in Mild Steel:

Where the problem lies is that most iron/steel heated in gas or coal forges ends up significantly decarburized on the surface. These decarburized surfaces are what your weld is made of. In the case of wrought iron which has no carbon to start, the weld is as strong as the base metal. In any steel reducing carbon reduces strength and thus the weld if made from decarburized steel will always be weaker than the surrounding metal.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 21:51:45 EDT

Square Head Screws: Kayne and Son, blacksmithsdepot.com , carry them.

Square headed lag bolts are no longer made except by special order by the thousands several years in advance. If you MUST have them then make them.

RR-Spikes: You can buy new ones from McMaster-Carr mcmaster.com. Used ones come from rail roads.

250# Little Giant Value: As noted above, they are worth what someone is willing to pay for them. However, the interesting thing about Little Giants is that due to portability, power needed, cost of moving, room to set up. . and DEMAND they ALL sell fro roughly the same from 25 pounds UP. In the case of the 250 you can add its potential scrap value (which is not insignificant).

Many smiths have no clue how wonderful a BIG hammer is and are scarred to death of them. So there is less demand. There is also the problem of power. A 250# LG needs a full 7.5HP or 10 HP motor. Many places in the country can not run that big a motor (I currently cannot). SO, even though I would love to have a big hammer I cannot currently run one. However, I DO have a gasoline powered air compressor to run a big air hammer. . . That is why I traded off my 250 Little Giant. . .

Location is also important. If the people that want your hammer are on the other side of the country they shipping will be a significant addition to their price. These things tend to be worth more the farther away from the industrialized North East and Rust Belt. So if you are in Ohio the hammer is worth much less than in California or Utah.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/18/06 22:11:39 EDT

Cemente blanco:

Down here, it is a white portland cement made in Puerto Rico, with a high lime content, used for repairs to historic buildings that were originally built using white lime mortar. It is actually NOT correct, and will cause problems due to incompatible transient moisture absorption and also incompatible strength. It's actually too good a product to be compatible with the old white lime mortar.

Rockite; basically a portland cement/gypsum blend that expands upon hardening and has fairly high crush strength. The lack of aggregate makes it not so hot for shear/tensile strength of course, but then you don't use it in shear. Good for resistance to withdrawal of fasteners, provided that said fasteners are corrugated or otherwise textured to resist slipping.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/18/06 22:18:13 EDT

Lead: While I am in no way endorsing using lead where it is not needed, it is 45% more dense than steel and 58% more dense than cast iron. Usless in treaddle or power hammers, but it makes a BIG difference in the verticle center of gravity in a sailboat keel, for instance. If You melt lead You need to take the necessairy precautions.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 06/18/06 22:44:52 EDT


I can't help you, unless you live in Santa Fe, I go to Capital Scrap Iron or Airport Auto Acres for my needs.


Build a deep fire. Build up a volcanic cone around the fire. Wet the coal if it's small enough so you can pack it around the fire center steeper than the angle of repose. Drilled holes are the worst type of tuyere. They clog up the fastest, and furthermore, they remind me of an ole timey bathtub drain. A simple hole about 5/8" x 1½" works much better. As Boyer sez, put your work in the heart of the fire, and cover with about 2" of coke.

Brian Kennedy,

I have used Rockite brand anchor cement over the years, and am satisfied with it. It is probably similar to Cemente Blanco. Look for it with your search engines.

Mike K.,

I have RR spikes for sale. Will ship.

Forge Weld Strength.

Besides the decarbuization problem, there is grain growth along the line of the weld, because you've been in the "incipient burning range". Furthermore, in a coal forge situation, you get what the metallurgists call, "slag inclusions" (fly ash; dirt). The grain growth can be restored somewhat by annealing. I've said this before on this forum about forge welds. "I don't care how weak it is, as long as it's strong enough".

I like to flux at a brighter than a red heat, and I flux only once.

When laminating, hammering from one end to the other with flat, overlapping blows is helpful in squeezing the "grunge" out in one direction only.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 06/18/06 22:47:45 EDT


Here is just one supplier of squarehead lags
   - Sven - Sunday, 06/18/06 23:41:03 EDT

VIcopper, Jock, Frank - Weld strength: Yes the peel apart test is probably the easiest way to load to failure, which is pretty much what I planned to do to see if the whole surface "took". Understandably that type of joint is unsuited for structural aplications due to the strap not being stiff enough to resist bending and transfer the load to the entire weld. I asked Jonathan Nedbore the demonstrater at R&T last weekend [John Larson says He is the best forge welder He has seen] about the weld failing, He didn't seem surprised and commented about it being a poor type of joint in that loading. I guess the lesson is that joint geometry is equally if not more important in forge welding as with any other type.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 06/19/06 02:30:08 EDT

I called the power plant at the Arkansas Power and Light company and asked if I could purchase some coal from them. The head man said he would make arrangements for me to get some, but he said it was soft coal mined from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. He said you could step on a piece of it and it would crush. Would this be OK to use or will charcoal be better ?
   Mike Thompson - Monday, 06/19/06 03:01:09 EDT

Mike, Top grade blacksmiths coal is bituminous AKA "soft" coal. However, what you want is high BTU, low ash, low sulfur, soft coal. Coal, comes in INFINITE variety.

Power plants do not use "trash" coal but they use some pretty bad stuff sometimes. Get a bucket full and test it before getting more. I know a couple smiths with multi ton mounds of useless coal cluttering their yard.
   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 07:41:35 EDT

PRB coal should be very good coal. Currently it is the fuel of choice for many power plants in the US due to it's low ash and sulfur contents.

A typical fuel analysis for PRB is as follows:

Carbon: 67.9%
Hydrogen: 4.8%
Oxygen: 10.4%
Nitrogen: 1.5%
Sulfur: 1%
Ash: 4.1%
Moisture: 10.3% (as received)

Volatile Matter: 40.2%
Fixed Carbon: 45.4%
HHV: 13,900 Btu/lb

This particular analysis is a composite of seams 7,7 1/2,9, and 15 from the Sweetwater coal field in Wyoming.
   Steven Galonska - Monday, 06/19/06 08:16:43 EDT

Lead Density and applications:

Yep a whopping 45% more dense. So the following is true:

Lead vs. Steel

1 x 1 x 1 = 1 x 1 x 1.45

1 x 1 x 1 = 1.063 x 1.063 x 1.283

1 x 1 x 1 = 1.132 x 1.132 x 1.132

So a cube of steel equal in weight to a cube of lead is only 13% larger in each dimension.

Any designer worth his salt can easily put the same mass in nearly the same space using the two different materials in most cases. Boat keels often have a torpedo shaped mass on the bottom to lower the mass cg as much as possible. If this is made 20% longer and 20% larger in diameter in steel it will equal lead. In fact, in steel the exterior fiberglass can be reduced to a minimum just to protect against rust and the total diameter increase reduced to about 10%. The only time this would b critical is in a world class racing boat. Otherwise it is an acceptable change. IF the designer only changed the length of the keel by 45% then the cross sectional flow reisitance would be no different then with lead.

For radiation shielding we were using cast material which can have voids so we often doubled the thickness of our ductile iron shielding. But the most important thing was that we could build shields 4" and 6" thick that were not only self supporting but could support other equipment weighing tons. An equivalent lead shield would sag under its own weight. AND needing to be cast a heavy supporting shell was needed in any case. The costs of lead compared to steel were enormous plus the heavy welded shell and the casting. . . Due to space limitations we built only one lead lined shield device. This allowed a man to work for hours inside a relatively small pump bore in an environment that would otherwise kill him in a few minutes. Out of dozens of shielding devices this was the only place we used lead.

A lot of thick concrete is used as radiation shielding. In the 1960's they used a special high density mineral as agregate to increase the average density. Today they have wised up and realized that steel shot and pellets is the way to go.

Soft Lead Mallets: Used to be a common item but today we have those wonderful softer plastic dead blow hammers. If they don't work skip to brass. . .

Plumbing (from the latin plumbum for lead) solder is now mostly tin with a bit of other things to make it harder (silver was used for a while). Its a little more expensive but there is no lead. . . Will people centuries from now wonder why the root of the word plumbing is "lead" and there is no lead in plumbing?
   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 09:06:44 EDT

Propane bottles: I put a center punch to the bottle, then drill a hole in it UNDER WATER! I don't know if this is adding any extra safety, but I worry about an errant spark from the drill bit. I use empty bottles for micro forges and lawn ornaments (they make nice little air pigs). What do you have planned for your empties?
   - Nippulini - Monday, 06/19/06 10:04:53 EDT

Guru mentioned attaching a light weight base plate to stand on to secure your vise, I put one on my anvil stand and totally eliminated the "wander" I used to have on my 100# anvil no matter whether using the heel, center, or horn!! Just make sure it's thin enough sheet that you don't trip over it. Sure beats tying the stand down permanenty in case you want to change your shop around later.
   Thumper - Monday, 06/19/06 11:07:21 EDT

Hey, Jonathan Nedbor was mentioned above; he's an old "Turley Grad". However, I can't claim his fame and skill. He did it on his own.

LEAD reminded me of two metal related expressions. I wonder how old they are.

My old Okie friend, when speaking of something easily done, would say, "Why that's a lead pipe cinch."

My mom, always genteel, would say, "That's not worth a tinker's dam."
   Frank Turley - Monday, 06/19/06 11:35:09 EDT

Re; Rocktite
Thanks for the tips. I will reread the label on the Rocktite. It seems to me that when I read the label on one of those expanding pour-it-in products it said that it was not recommended for applications that could get wet. Which kind of made sense because it's behavior was similar to plaster in the fast set-up characteristic. I thought people were using it pretty often for outside. applications. I'll check into it at the hardware store again, maybe I'm confusing it with another product. The thing I don't like about the epoxy products I have used is the waste products that go in the landfill, they look pretty toxic, and tend to be expensive. Some kind of cement seems a little more benign.
   brian kennedy - Monday, 06/19/06 11:41:28 EDT

Brian, I think they mean under water. . . We had a crew use Rockite on a water turbine installation and it dissappeared. . . but in applications like setting sign posts in boulders, railing on steps and such it works well.

I prefer using epoxy because it is absolutely positive anchorage in all types of materials. But the two tube dispensers and the consumable mixing tubes are not inexpensive. I bought the gun for a big commercial job (bolt anchors in a river bed for a bridge) that paid for it.
   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 11:59:12 EDT

Reference Rocktite, etc. Just a couple of weeks ago, I installed some chain link fence for my son. We were going to use the usual quikcrete until I noticed a big pile of sacks that were a product designed specifically for setting posts in a mixture designed to be used underground. The main thing about it was that it was 100% fly ash. It hardens in 30 minutes to a peculiar yellowish color and is very, very hard. It only cost a $1 more per bag than quikcrete. Might be worth checking into. I bought it at Sutherlands.
   Brummbaer - Monday, 06/19/06 12:22:14 EDT

   Ralph - Monday, 06/19/06 13:52:09 EDT

Lead pipe: I recall reading where the Romans used lead water pipes and there is some speculation part of the decline of the Roman Empire may have been due to lead poisoning.

Brian Kennedy: Were it me I'd weld on some nuts or such onto the post end before setting it in concrete. Logic is they would help anchor the post better than smooth sides. I have used both rebar and smooth steel bars for electric fence posts in the past. The rebar is MUCH harder to pull out than the smooth posts. If you put rebar down through gravely-soil you pretty well have to dig them out.
   - Ken Scharabok - Monday, 06/19/06 13:56:56 EDT

Hello all, looking for a bit of help, if you would. Just bought a 100# Murrey power hammer, works great, with one small exception. When I let off of the foot ring the center clutch stays stightly engaged. The slide mech. for the clutch tilts slightly. Any thoughts on how to correct this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time folks.
   - VLAD - Monday, 06/19/06 13:57:48 EDT


Thanks for the PRB coal analysis. I will try it.

   Mike Thompson - Monday, 06/19/06 14:32:07 EDT

Frank, I think "tinker's dam" is at least as old as my late grandaddy; he was born in 1888. It was the little asbestos dam that tinkers used to patch holes in pots, pans and tubs.
   Ron Childers - Monday, 06/19/06 14:41:17 EDT

Good luck Mike. Hopefully you can get some at a decent price. Powder River Basin (PRB) coal is very much in demand now and as such is much more expesive than other types of coal. However, if you're buying small quantities it shouldn't be too bad.
   Steven Galonska - Monday, 06/19/06 14:49:57 EDT

"Murrey" Powerhammer VLAD, The Murray Hammers, were previously the Moloch hammer and designed by the Mayer Brothers of Little Giant. Although the hammers are very similar they were built in seperate factories from different plans and patterns.

I am not clear on which part you are speaking off. The sliding clutch pulley on these slides on the same bearing that they rotate on. Repair requires disassembly, machining out the old babitt, pouring new babbitt and machining the new babbitt to fit the shaft. Unlike most babbitted bearings this one requires machining to fit. This assures the tapered clutch surface runs true to the shaft.

Note that these clutches require a lot of lubrication or the bearings AND the clutch friction surface. Thick grease can cause the clutch to drag. On Little Giants this bearing is lubricated with grease which spins out onto the clutch and often thickens the oil required to make the clutch perform correctly. Thus the grease must be flushed with oil.

The book, The Little Gant Powerhammer by Kern has some information about the repair of these clutches.

Be sure the treadle return spring is lifting the treadle completely and fully disengaging the clutch.
   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 15:47:51 EDT

We cut the bottom of a water tank off for the bottom of our coal forge. Have everything almost done. I was thinking of cutting the top of the tank off for a hood. The top and bottom are rounded. How much should the hood be cut off ? Also, where should the flue be placed for proper draw ?
   Mike Thompson - Monday, 06/19/06 16:27:14 EDT

Mike, See our plans page for side draft hoods.

You should have enough material from the tank you make a cut here, another there, a weld here, a weld there and put together a side draft type hood nearly over the forge. The important thing is the 10" and UP stack (12" recommended) and for the intake to be just to the side of the fire and no bigger than 12 x 12".

   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 16:57:19 EDT

When I need to add mass to a tubular structure, such as my Junk Yard Hammer, I have used steel shot. I have always been lucky to work at a shop that used shot blast machines when I needed some, and as it is dumped to a landfill when underize from use free. On my hammer, I added about 7 gallons. Then as I ran the hammer, and the shot packed in, i ended up adding about another gallon. With the humidity around here, that shot is now a solid mass, and the hollow hammer column gives a dull thud when struck with a hammer.
   ptree - Monday, 06/19/06 17:55:00 EDT

Ken, on the subject of Romans and lead pipe, I read that the only reason that the lead pipe was usable was that the lead was quickly covered with lime deposits making it relatively safe. They didn’t know anything about that at the time however.
   Mike H - Monday, 06/19/06 18:48:18 EDT

Actually in "world class" racing boats (Like America's cup contenders) they now prefer depleated uranium! The difference is more than you calculated because you are using the weight in the atmosphere not under water. Oak may seem heavy but it weighs nothing under water (actually a little less than nothing as it's boyant).
   - grant - Monday, 06/19/06 21:02:27 EDT

Grant, Yep, there is a difference. In fact, density as specific gravity is generaly measured in relationship to water, water being 1, other things being relative to water.

Bouancy (subtracting the "1" does make things much lighter relatively speaking) and changes the ratio slightly.

Specific gravity

steel = 7.85
lead = 11.35
ratio = 1.45

steel in water = 6.85 g/cm3
lead in water = 10.35 g/cm3
ratio in water 1.51

You want heavy. . .

uranium = 18.95
gold = 19.32
tungsten = 19.3

The cost of tungsten ($30 to $50/lb) is far less than depleted uranium and LOT less than gold. . .
   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 21:44:47 EDT

Steel may not be the most dense but for practical purposes it is cheaper and much safer than lead. There are no good reasons to use it in for mass in machinery.

Bulk tungsten is sold in pellets and powder.
   - guru - Monday, 06/19/06 21:48:28 EDT

While we're on the subject: Concrete is heavy and aluminum is light, right? Concrete weighs LESS than aluminum! We just tend to use aluminum in a lot smaller sections. Fun stuff.
   - grant - Monday, 06/19/06 22:20:49 EDT

Ballast Keels: Iron & steel are only used for reasons of economy. Tungsten is not used for reasons of economy & class rules. Ballast bulbs have a terrible lift to drag ratio BECAUSE THEY PROVIDE NO LIFT.If configured as an endplate to the foil the total L/D ratio isn't as bad. Thickness of fiberglas keel shells is a function of how long You want the boat to be able to survive while grounded in a rockpile or reef, not a function of the strength of what is inside it. Most modern sailboats are externally ballasted, the keel is bolted onto a stub extending from the hull. As this is a narrow mounting surface the less hight of a dense ballast keel makes for a more reliable and overall stronger junction. While You may fiddle the numbers to make the difference between lead and iron look insignificant, You aren't going to convince the naval arcitects, or fool Mother Nature. Grant:Thwere are no racing class rules that presently allow ballast of a greater density than lead, the Russions did use depleted uraniun in one boat once I believe. The hot setup in racing boats now is a keel that swings to the side to provide much greater righting arm WITHOUT the boat heeling.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 06/19/06 22:54:47 EDT

I have a question on proper hammer usage. I have found that if I do a full extended arm swing (approx 150-170 degree extention), for 20 min or so, I have mild tennis elbow for several days. I've practiced and changed my form to a more direct strike using my shoulder more and not extending my arm past about 120 degrees. My farrier has complained of shoulder soreness using this method but I'm fine. Seems like I have the same power and more control this way and I haven't noticed any time difference in working mild steel. Is it going to effect me over time? And if so, what changes should I make?
   Thumper - Monday, 06/19/06 23:50:24 EDT

I am not licensed to practice in your county (or any county for that matter) but Tennis Elbow is muy serious affliction, requiring surgery to repair, similar to Little League Elbow, in that snap stress on a tendon has literally pulled a protuberance of bone, that little knob, off the inside of the elbow joint. If you had tennis elbow you would not be hammering at all I suspect. There is bursitis, in which you inflame the bursa of your shoulder. There is tendinitis in which you inflame a tendon. You can stress the brachio radialis muscle of your forearm by striking long and hard on something that up too high, such as in the leg vise. Then there is a plain old garden variety charlie horse, which sets in the next day from hammering too hard for too long too soon. Answer to all: stop hammering when you first start feeling fatigued until your arm gets in shape. My broinlaw the Alexander Method practitioner sez to swing the hammer on the anvil mainly using the power of the shoulder, swinging in close to the body.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 06/20/06 00:03:11 EDT

Thanks Brummbaer, I'll be on the lookout. Thanks Ken, I will weld a little something on there in case my 92-year-old customer starts feeling frisky enough to attempt a dead lift on the railing. Thanks Guru for the story about the turbine--whoops!
   brian kennedy - Tuesday, 06/20/06 01:37:42 EDT

Here is a story from today: I was using an oxy-acetylene torch to heat something. Meanwhile I had a Lincoln Ranger portable welder-generator supplying power to a Lincoln 170T small 220v mig welder and a smaller Lincoln 110v mig and a plasma cutter. I was alternately tacking with the 220 mig while my helper did the same with the 110 mig. Once in a while I cut something with the plasma cutter after turning on a 110v compressor plugged into the same generator. My oxy-acetlene set is barely working, I'm having trouble with the valves on the torch, the regulators don't read, I'm guessing at the pressures. So I am trying to nurse this torch along, it's my last semi-working one, I'm trying to light it, it is popping, I am concentrating on adjusting the gases, and BANG! There is bright fire near the back of the little 220 mig and loud sounds of blowing air. I first think something has happened to the plasma cutter because the bright flame is bluish almost like some kind of electrical fire. The back of the 220 welder has some flames and the cord and the gas line are melting. I turn off the generator and it continues and I realize that the oxy-acetylene hose is burned in half and blowing fire. I had run the hose right past the back of the welder where the exhaust fan vent is and that is where the hose blew(it was a pretty new hose.) I ran in and turned the valve off. I was caught by surprise on that play.
Does anyone understand what happened? I've heard of blowback in a torch, but the hoses burnt right next to the welding machine. Did warm air coming out of the vent onto the hoses heat them hot enough to trigger this explosion?
   brian kennedy - Tuesday, 06/20/06 02:09:22 EDT

Brian K: As acetylene pressure aproaches 30 PSIG it can ignite by itself, without oxygen. In the tank it is disolved in acetone, otherwise it would detonate when they fill the tank. The popping at the torch could have caused a momentary increase in the line pressure and caused detonation in the hose if their are no or malfunctioning flashback arestors or check valves. Without functioning guages coupled with a problem regulator the pressure could get close to the detonation point and You would have no way to know. Acetylene regulators SHOULD not supply more than 15 PSIG, which is the safe limit of pressure. Possibly the pressure was close to the detonation point and when the elevated pressure wave from the popping got to the warmer part of the hose it went off. Flashback from the torch is a posibility allso, do You have flashback arestors or at least check valves on the torch? Too much pressure makes the torch hard to adjust, at proper pressure the valves should be open a full turn [this doesn't aply to oxygen on a cutting torch]to reduce sensitivety. Acetylene is an inherently unstable fuel, using compromised equiptment leads to the situation You just experienced, or worse. Mapp is a safer high performance fuel, and propane even safer and adequate for most purposes, and more economical as well. Some new gear is what You need, You might not be as luckey next time.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 06/20/06 03:18:12 EDT

Dave Boyer:
I was remembering a RTW boat of a number of years ago. I think that exact swink keel was described in "Common Sense of Yacht Design" by Herreshoff in what, 1946?
   - grant - Tuesday, 06/20/06 03:41:23 EDT

When I demonstrate forging I advise there are really three hammer swings. The shoulder for doing heavy work, the elbow for moderate and wrist for light. It is also important to keep the elbow into the body rather than flailing away from the side.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 06/20/06 04:55:25 EDT


No one is going to be able to describe verbally how to swing a hammer, and no matter how good your form, there is something called repetitive stress syndrome, over time.

There are many factors involved, the weight of the hammer, for example. I use 2.5#; I used to use 3# for much of my work. There is the hand grip. I use the tennis player admonition. When first learning, the coach says, "Shake hands with the racket." When you do, your thumb wraps around the handle, unless you're one of those dead fish hand shakers. That is the grip I teach for smithing. There is a good drawing of it in Schwarzkopf's book. Frank Wilson, the neurologist, wrote a book called "The Hand". He talks about homo saps (pun intended) ability to hold something like a hammer handle with the fingers pointing back diagonally toward the ham of the thumb and wrist/forearm. This allows you hold a haft pretty much parallel to your forearm. The lesser primates can't do that. They have a smaller thumb in a different location, and their fingers wrap around an object at right angles to its length.

There is an arc to the swing. I watched Edward Martin of Closeburn, Scotland, working. He says that there is a sort of pull-back "look/feeling" when you contact the metal, which may be more apparent than real. Many beginners PUSH the hammer forward on contacting the metal mistakenly thinking that they are "really drawing it out". I tell them that all they are only "ice skating". In the English book, "The Blacksmith's Craft", there is a statement, "Don't use drawing blows; hit the metal fair and square." By the bye, in the year 2000, Edward Martin was called to London to receive one of three gold medals presented by The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in the last 100 years. The medal states that he is a "Supreme Master Blacksmith".

Another factor; how close are you to the anvil?

Miles mentioned the Alexander Method. There is also the Feldenkreis method, and others. The practicioners of these methods can analyze your movements at the anvil and provide corrective bodily measures. Two martial arts which put heavy emphasis on grounding, relaxation and deep breathing, are tai chi and aikido. Some of this methodology is valuable, if it can be brought into the studio. That is a big "IF".

Nowadays, we talk about ergonomics. Ergonomics is a very broad field which addresses the subject of how we posture ourselves to the artifacts we have made. If you're going to be at the anvil a lot, it pays to bring consicousness and good habits to the work. You must be your own critic in many instances. You can catch yourself holding the hammer too tightly or with your thumb on top, holding your breath against your work, gritting your teeth, etc.

Uri Hofi has a method of canting the hammer handle in the hand when drawing metal. The edge of the hammer face acts a little like a fuller, creating friction heat. However, I don't think he and I are at odds when talking generically about the arc of the swing. A swing is a swing is a swing.

   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 06/20/06 10:04:32 EDT

Tinker's dam goes back to the renaissance at least and is probably medieval---they used a dab of clay for the dam.

Isn't theat term used in Shakespeare somewhere?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/20/06 10:32:26 EDT

Ok, I suspect tendinits rather than tennis elbow (whew) and in reference to how I stand, it's close to and over the anvil, head slightly in front of where the hammer strikes, I've had the pleasure of the hammer whistling by my ear at the speed of light after a mis-strike. Elbow close to my side and hammer held like a, well, hammer, all fingers wrapped, no leading with the thumb up the shaft, a habit I broke a couple of years ago. Sounds like I also have the three methods of striking down pat. The extended swing I used to use probably had me striking off center and snapping with the elbow. The height of contact is the culprit I suspect this last time. I was using my guiotine(sp) fuller to neck down 1/2 to 1/4 and used it so long and hard, I cracked the weld holding the striking face loose, add to that it's 6# higher than the anvil face. Sounds like I've got the problem whooped and shouldn't be looking at shoulder problems down the road, my farriers 77, maybe I should try to teach that old dog some new tricks if he'll let me. Thanks all for your input.
   Thumper - Tuesday, 06/20/06 10:54:55 EDT

I have a some what of a problem when I make knife blades and I hope some one can point me in the right direction. Some of the blades I make seem to "chip" when I put the final edge on them when using a hand held knife sharpener (I am sure you have seen these they kinda look like a plasic "D" with a groove to draw the blade threw). Only some blades do this, same metal same quenching prosses and they are all taken back in the same oven at the same temp. about 1 of 3 blades will do this. The chips are small but it leaves a rather jagged edge that will not cut well and looks even worse. Any suggestions?
   Jed Depew - Tuesday, 06/20/06 11:05:47 EDT

Jed, Lots can go wrong and you have not provided enough ingormation. Are you forging the blades or using stock removal? Alloy? New or used material?

I would guess you are going for too hard an edge but that is just a guess. Then there is burning or decarburizing the steel and not grinding enough off.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 12:42:53 EDT

Has anyone forged 12L11 or 12L14 steel and had any issues with the lead in it? I am looking at doing some tomahawk heads based on originals forged from gun barrels and the barrel scrap I have is from 12L material. I have spent my life casting lead balls and have friends casting 3000 lbs a year to sell without probelms but forging is a lot hotter than casting temps. I know the lead content in 12L material is quite small but thought it must vaporise in the forging process?

   M. Yazel - Tuesday, 06/20/06 13:43:20 EDT


Im looking for a used manual fly press. Minimum 8" throat to CL and 10" bed to ram. Any leads for me.


   Todd - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:06:32 EDT

Hi all, been busy and I haven't posted here in several years now. I have a hollow cast iron power hammer base that I'm guessing originally was made hollow to keep the cost down. The hollow is in the shape of a truncated square pyramid. I want to build a junkyard hammer around this piece and don't want to mess with molten lead but would like to bulk up the weight before I bolt it to a base plate. I was wondering whether some kind of epoxy might be sufficient to secure a bunch of scrap iron inside, or whether the constant shaking of a hammer would dislodge it. The inside of the cavity is pretty rough as-cast, and there are a couple holes that I could secure bolts through to provide additional inside support. Any suggestions?


   mstu - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:07:35 EDT

Thanks Dave
I will get new Victor set before proceeding. I did not realize how close to disaster I was treading. I usually use propane now,switched over about a year ago, but I had this one tank of acetylene around I was trying to finish off.
   brian kennedy - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:15:13 EDT

Re: Leaded steel. I have heard that those alloys don't forge very well. I wouldn't worry about the lead vapors, if I had good ventilation, but I would make very sure it was good!
   - John Odom - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:21:38 EDT

Jed-- those sharpeners which you drag the blade through are awful, will tear up almost any blade just as you describe. Get two Arkansas stones, coarse and fine, and some honing oil.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:24:26 EDT

Adding weight: Adding weight to the cast anvil is problematic. If epoxy won't stick and stay put neither will lead. In this case I would recommend a heavy base plate IF the anvil bottom is fairly flat. Many of these are as-case and very uneven. However, a few are machined and quite flat.

The reason for the hollow in most conical hammer bases is to reduce shrinks due to casting. The hollow reduces the wall thickness to something more reasonable. Little Giants have hollow bases and still have a 15:1 anvil to ram ratio.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:45:10 EDT

If it is not too much trouble, I was wondering if someone could give me some pointers concerning working with brass. Specifically, i was wondering what kind of file to use, what kind of file strokes, what dremel tool bits work best, what drill bits work best, and how to polish it (if its much different from steel in that regard). I was also wondering if you seasoned metalworkers could suggest the easiest way to machine a slot in a brass bar to high tolerances with a drill press and files (no milling machine). Thank you in advance. Oh, and feel free to just point me in the direction of where I could find out for myself if you would be so kind. Up to this point, my searching has produced nothing.
   Matthew Marting - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:47:54 EDT

Where do you guys get your beltsander belts? I pay WAY too much for mine because I get them at sears. For a 2x42 it's $3 per belt! If you've got any links that would be great.
   Eric - Tuesday, 06/20/06 14:52:23 EDT

Matthew Marting:

Working with brass is not that much different from working with steel, as far as filing, cutting and polishing go. The techniques are the same, just modified a bit for the softer, stickier material. Also, there are brasses and there are brasses. All are not created equal.

For filing, I prefer double-cut files in cuts from #00 to #6, depending on how delicate a cut I’m trying to take. (The higher the number, the finer the cut.) Cut on the push stroke, don’t drag the file teeth back across the stock, and keep the file clean by carding and picking as necessary. Wanna save yourself grief down the road? Buy the very best files you can. My personal favorite are Grobet, also Vallorbe. Cheap files are not worth owning.

As for machining a high-tolerance cut in brass, the ONLY solution is to use a machine tool with the requisite tolerances. Any other method will not give dependable results. I may be able to cut a slot in a piece of brass that is 1/8” wide and 3/32” deep with a hand graver, but it will be just good luck if I get it within say, ten thousandths. I might get one, and the next three would be out of spec. You didn’t say exactly what tolerances you were aiming for, but when you say high-tolerance, I think in terms of ±.0005” or less. That’s “high-tolerance” for general machine work; high tolerance for the semiconductor industry is on the order of one thousandth of that. And high tolerance for earthmoving is ± a couple of inches, I think.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 06/20/06 15:10:48 EDT


Try Tru-grit.com. Or Pop's Knifeworking Supply on the 'net. Google 'em.

But don't expect to buy quality belts for less than a buck apiece, either. The ones that cheap aren't worth the money. Buying 2x72 belts, I usually pay about $3 to $7 each, depending on the type and grit.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 06/20/06 15:13:24 EDT

Well, you got me on that one. Its just gonna be a guard for a knife blade. I dont need it within .0005, just close enough that it fits like a glove (to the human eye). I am going to silver solder it anyhow. Some knife makers in Utah have developed a method for a solderless guard that is unbelievably well fitting. It involves mirror polishing the top of the guard and using the mirror image of the file to ensure it is at a right angle to the guard. Anyhow, so far I have been just drilling through the guard and then using a spiral cut dremel bit in the drill press and getting enough of the unremoved brass out of the way so i can fit a file in there. And I am very glad you told me about your rule for files. I will get some good ones immediately. One thing first though, what cut of file is meant for fast removal of brass? Thanks again.
   Matthew Marting - Tuesday, 06/20/06 15:31:34 EDT

Brass: One pointer on filing brass it to keep seperate files for brass that have not been used on steel. You need sharper files. Chips caused by filing steel, OR "nibs" of steel caught in the file will leave coarse marks in the brass.

For fast cutting we used to buy special "aluminium" cutting files made by Nicholen. But, I am not sure they are still available.

Scrapers also work great on brasses and I use 3M wet or dry with water for finishing prior to buffing.

Brass tends to expand IN around drills when drilling deep holes. Take care to cool and lubricate when drilling.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 16:30:07 EDT

Tinkers dam (damn) There is a note from 1877 that talks about the use of dough to contain solder in patching pots, but an alternative to "tinkers dam" was "tinkers curse" in that a tinker was such an intenerant and generally worthless sort that his curse was not worrying. See below:
   JLW - Tuesday, 06/20/06 17:17:39 EDT

Although this is not a blacksmithing question I hope those of you with an engineering background can help here. I am after the formula for calculating where 50% of the area of a donut shape would lie when measured radially from the centre.
   Phil M. - Tuesday, 06/20/06 17:36:46 EDT

donut - toroid - your question needs a bit more definition - there are many ways to cut a donut so that the surface area of the two parts are the same. Slice it like a bagel frinstance. I am guessing you are interested in the radius that sweeps out a partial toroid with exactly half the surface area of the whole thing? As if one were to stamp it with a cylindrical cookie cutter of just the right size?
   adam - Tuesday, 06/20/06 17:57:46 EDT

I have had excellent service on grinder belts from Texas Knifemakers' Supply.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 06/20/06 18:17:12 EDT

donut clarification:If the id was 2" and the od was 6" at what distance between them represents 50% of the area if you were to turn it into 2 donuts. ie 1 would be 2" id with a new od of x" and the other would have a new id of x" and an od of 6" but both having the same area of material.
   Phil M. - Tuesday, 06/20/06 18:35:47 EDT

Todd; unless paying shipping for heavy equipment is of no concern, it would be a good idea to mention your continent on this international forum...

I have a friend who has bought close to a dozen of them used so far and he uses a used machinery paper published in the NE of the US and then just deal with the shipping of them to AR.

Phill sounds like a calculus problem to me or write a simple numerical methods program for a computer...

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/20/06 18:44:10 EDT

Half Centriod of a Torus: Hmmmmm. . . That would be the same as the radius plus/minus the cg of a half circle.

See Machinery's Handbook, Mechanics, Center of Gravity, Circle Segment.

b = c3 / 12A

c = cord, A = area of segment. In this case the cord is the diameter and the area is 1/2 the area of the circle.

Your question did not define if the torus was cut on the axis or rotation or the planar axis. There are two ways to cut and four possible areas. However, in all cases the value above is the offset from the cutting axis.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 19:24:29 EDT

Note that is C (cord) cubed.

Donughts are Toruses. Parts of Tori are no longer a Torus or doughnut, they are now an unnamed shape.

When I was writing area and volume geometery programs I let the user use wild out of range definitions for a torus. IF the OD = diameter of the section the result was a sphere. If the OD were anything less than 2d and greater than 1d then the shape was a "pumpkin". When the OD was less than 1d then the shape was a "needle". Torus, Pumpkin, Sphere and Needle was all calculated using the same input and formulae.

Now, the NIFTY shape was when you take a toroidal fillet with an inside corner greater than or less than 90° AND you had the option of the fillet being inside or outside the circle. You could define a cup shape that had vertical outside surfaces, outside slopes or internal slopes. The nifyiest shape was the outside fillet with an angle greater than 90° and an OD of 0, creating a "thorn" shape.

Hard to visulaize? Try to calculate the cg for an area of rotation. This is not in the books. . . but there is simple logic to find it and it works in all cases.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 19:38:36 EDT

Hmmm. . . I never used "pumpkin" for that shape, berry would be more universal. The thorn really looks like a thorn but I could not find suitable names for the reverse shapes. Although they are all easily definable mathematicaly and appear on man made and natural things there are no names for those shapes that I could find.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 19:43:59 EDT

CSI meeting tonight. . now
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/20/06 20:11:02 EDT

Tendonitis: Only took me 14 months to heal up and get back to the forge. 'Taint nothing to be taken lightly. Pay attention to how you swing that hammer.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 06/20/06 20:20:16 EDT

Mike, Leaded steel - lead is added to enhance machinability it has very limited solubility in iron and mostly segregates to the grain boundaries - tends to prdouce more and finer chips when machining, so that you don't end up with any "long curly ribbons of steel" which produce a poorer surface finish and take more energy to machine.

The lead makes the material hot short (I believe the 1200 series also has higher sulfur levels to help machinability as well - more hot shortness). It can be processed - they used to take it from an ingot down to bar stock size - limited heating multiple small passes on rolling mill, etc. (My experience is from about 1982) Not certain how it's being done today, though lead is being replaced by Bismuth.

My personal opinion is that it is going to be a bugger to work, and would not represent a period correct piece - they weren't adding lead for machinability during the colonial era. You will get some minor off gasing of lead - it's there as a separate element in the iron and you're going to be above the melting point. If you really have to do it, I'd ventilate well, and keep working temperatures as low as possible, and plan on multiple heats.

Good luck whichever way you go.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 06/20/06 22:47:38 EDT

I was railroad scavenging the other day, got a giant carriage bolt, a bunch of spikes (one marked HCX, high carbon I'm sure) and some odd round chisel point lookin things, about 1-1/4" thick 6 inches long. Also some large J shaped pieces. ANy good project ideas I could do?
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/20/06 23:26:18 EDT

Does this toroidish bagel come with a schmear of cream cheese on it, or lox? Both? If it is a doughnut, is it a honeydip, or jelly? Or a plain cruller? These details matter.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 06/20/06 23:27:53 EDT

Grant: Nat Hershoff came up with that idea a really long time ago[close to 100 years I think]. In the last 10 years there have been a bunch of singlhanded RTW boats using swing keels, and some smaller experimental boats with a rudder front and back to steer and counter leway, and a bulb on a deep foil for stability only, shaped for minimal drag. Structural & mechanical issues are pretty common with these "radical" designs. Not good for running aground with.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 06/21/06 00:03:00 EDT

Phil, so its to be two concentric toroids one nested snugly inside the other? Also, ignore Miles' silly comments. It's cream cheese AND lox not "cream cheese OR lox" sheesh!
   adam - Wednesday, 06/21/06 02:25:11 EDT

Jed, your chipping problem could be from the quench or drawing the temper at too low a temp- what is the steel and how do you heat treat? You might try oil instead of water-
Eric, I like Pearce Abrasives- as stated above, their more expensive belts last much longer.
Nip, those "J" clips can be welded together for bases, yard art & such but too much trouble to forge. The round head bolts moke mushroom stakes. I'd like to know what kind of steel those "chisle lookin things" are. Heat one up and smack it- I think they are used in welding the tracks. Spikes make good letter openers but if you want a high performance spike knife split and forge weld some good steel in for the edge.
   Ron Childers - Wednesday, 06/21/06 07:22:51 EDT

The odd pieces look like the chisel point nail tips from a gigantic nail. Four facets, run about 2 or 4 inches into the rod, the rod being a total of 6 to 8 inches and 1-1/4" thick. They appear as if they might have been jackhammer points(?). The one RR spike marked HCx should make a nice knife, no?
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 06/21/06 07:59:59 EDT


That spike will make a knife that looks nice, but won't be much at edge holding. Even the HC stamped spikes only get about 30-40 points of carbon; not enough to make a good knife unless there are a bunch of other alloying elements present.

For good edge-holding, you need about 80 points carbon or more in a straight carbon steel. Alloys like 5160 (many springs) are okay at a bit lower C value because of the other ingredients.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 06/21/06 08:37:49 EDT

Nip, "high carbon" RR spikes are medium carbon steel around 40 points. High enough to be high strength, high enough to harden some, but not high enough to make a really good knife.

Most RR-spike knives have the head remaining as-is so that you can tell what it was made from. This makes it an odd ball collector's piece, not a particularly good knife. There are folks that collect them. You would not believe the variety. Much of it is in the shape of the handle, usualy a twist of some sort, but also blade shapes, inserted blades, inlays, engraving or etching (usualy RR theme). Kind of kitchy art.

The other pieces you will just have to test. If in fact the bigger points are tool steel then they would be good for stakes and hardies, a good knife. See the spark test chart linked to the Metals for Engineering Craftsmen review via the Junk Yard Steel FAQ.

The spark test is a fair assement of carbon content if you practice and learn to read it. Try known steels then compare to the scrap.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/21/06 08:41:42 EDT

Railroad chisel point, about 1.25 by 6 inches. I found one of these too. This one was broken off at its base; battered and re-dressed at its chisel point. I am thinking it might be the claw from the machine that digs through the gravel in the road bed, it should be quite hardenable, and might make a good anvil bick. (But I haven't gotten around to trying it yet.)
   Walking Dog - Wednesday, 06/21/06 09:51:16 EDT

Phil M 'Doughnut'

Are you asking about volume rather than area? Or is the 'doughnut' flat more like a washer of some uniform thickness, in which case the 'X' you are seeking would be the same area or volume and be straightforward algebra?

   - Tom H - Wednesday, 06/21/06 10:04:13 EDT

The RR giant "nail" sounds like a sprue from thermite welding of rails---look for coarse grain on the large "broken" end.

Folks have found some of them to be hardenable and to have a slightly wootz like appearence due to the large grains.

The spec's I have seen for HC spike puts them as topping out at 30 points with 27 points the nominal---the low end of medium carbon steel.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/21/06 10:43:24 EDT

Sorry about the lack of info on the blades, I am unfortunatly using old files (W2?) as it seems to ne nearly impossable to get good HC steel where I live, forged and quenched in a mix of oil and desil fuel. The bladed are then taken back in a oven at about 375f-400f for a few hours.
   Jed Depew - Wednesday, 06/21/06 10:47:37 EDT

Adam-- That is largely, but not entirely, true. At your midtown delis, such as Radio City, fine options were/are available, and the choice would make a big difference as to the moment of inertia in question. I have a call in to Timoshenko, at home.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 06/21/06 11:15:04 EDT

Wow, been reading up on thermite welding of rails. Interesting stuff. They say a spall from it can be used to forge a knife with a damascus-like pattern.
   - Tyler Murch - Wednesday, 06/21/06 11:58:15 EDT


The knives should probably tempered at 500ºF or more, which would make them less brittle.

W1 high carbon, plain carbon, drill rod of about 1% carbon content is availabe in round sections of 3 foot lengths from such mail order suppliers as McMaster-Carr, MSC, and Travers Tool.

   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 06/21/06 14:19:08 EDT

I have a 1843 William Foster carriage makers anvil with the side horn table thats about 3"long and about 1 1/2" wide. It's in nice shape with the normal dings of a 160 year old anvil. Any idea what this is worth?
   rick - Wednesday, 06/21/06 14:24:59 EDT

This is a 122 lb. anvil
   rick - Wednesday, 06/21/06 14:28:52 EDT

Rick, the value of virtualy all anvils depends on their condition. I do not mind normal dings and a few well worn chips but others have different values.

The fact that it is and old English anvil with side table makes it somewhat collectable and increases its value. I would say $350 and up.

Does it have both a hardy and pritichel hole?
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/21/06 14:47:16 EDT

Thermit: Tyler, A few decades ago you could purchase the thermite powder in various strength grades just like welding rods. The higher strength materials had manganese and materials to add carbon. There were also high nickle grades for welding cast iron. Today Thermit Corp only supplies the grade for RR-rails and does no engineering. Like many industries they are on the way to becoming extinct.

The modern molds are bolt on assemblies with disposable burn hoppers. They also have tall risers and preheat hollows to use an acetylene torch through for preheating the rail and mold.

I have a section of heavy rail with a beautiful Thermit weld right in the middle. I plan to cut it out and save it as a curiosity or "museum" piece.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/21/06 14:55:51 EDT

For those looking for shop tools for ornamental ironworking check out www.shopoutfitters.com.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 06/21/06 15:48:27 EDT

Rick; I bought a severly damaged 1828 William Foster anvil for $5---it was probably originally about 120#.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/21/06 17:53:35 EDT

i clayed a brake drum forge today, and i just used normal ground clay, and worked it as dry as possible,
will it crumble,
shoudl i have mixed it with sand or somehting?
   Cameron - Wednesday, 06/21/06 18:27:36 EDT

Cameron, Maybe, probably some. Let it dry and then patch the cracks. It WILL shrink and need a little patching, but it is easy to repair.

You can add a small amount of portland cement to clay to add a chemical bond but at high tempertures it degrades. However, portland sets fairly quickly so you have to work fast. AFTER it sets you still need the mass to dry as much as possible.

Sand can help the refractoryness if it is a good silica sand but sands vary greatly. In India they all a little cow manure to help bind the clay. . .

The thing about clay is it is cheap and simple. If you keep it simple it is simple to repair.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/21/06 20:28:00 EDT

Im in Moonlake,Mississippi;I live on the lake and my back yard has about 90 old wood pilings that use to support a house.Im building a hydraulic tree shear to drop in the water and cut the pilings flush with the mud.
How do I make a hard blade that can stand the pressure of pressing thru the 10 inch pilings?I have welding equipment and cutting torch.

Thank you
Roger Jenkins
   roger jenkins - Wednesday, 06/21/06 20:49:28 EDT

I take tendonitis as seriously as a heart attack, I had to give up classical guitar several(or 10), years ago because of it. I went a bought myself one of those tennis elbow arm bands yesterday and will buy another when this one wears out, guitar was fun, but smithin' is in my bones !!!
   Thumper - Wednesday, 06/21/06 23:10:28 EDT

Roger, Blades for shearing wood do not need to be particularly hard. Toughness is more important. To start with any steel will probably do as long as it is not too thin. I would go with SAE 4140 with a flat edge about 1/8" wide, a 60° included taper to a blade about 1" thick. The edge could be flame hardened but I suspect it won't make much difference.

To make a thin sharp blade for this application would take a lot of experiance and/or R&D (which means a lot of failures). A thin blade would want to be a very tough hardenable alloy like the poular SAE 5160 used for springs. In this case it would not want to be any harder than a spring. This would require good professional heat treating in a piece this big. It would still want to be at least 1" thick at the back edge of the blade and taper to the same 1/8" flat edge. The blade would need good support from the operating arms.

This is one of those brute force jobs where a sharp edge would just result in chips and broken parts. Thus the thick edge and tough steel.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/21/06 23:27:56 EDT

Roger J: If You can't get the shear to work You might use a hydraulic motor to power a chainsaw and do it with scuba or hooka gear IN the water.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 06/22/06 01:37:53 EDT

I need a new abrasive shopo saw and would like suggestions as to a brand. I've looked at the many 14 inch, 15 amp saws that are available and most seem to have a 4 inch cutting depth, some have a swiveling vise, etc. This time I'd like one that will last for a while in the typical blacksmith shop environment. All suggestions are welcome.
   BJ - Thursday, 06/22/06 01:46:04 EDT

OOPS, that was supposed to be "abrasive CHOP saw"
   BJ - Thursday, 06/22/06 01:49:01 EDT

Rojer J:

I'll second Dave Hammer's idea of a hydraulic chain saw. Our local utility complany uses one for cutting poles and it works great. No reason it wouldn't work under water just fine. Has the advantage of being a commercially available item, too.

If you really want to use a shear type arrangement, you will want to give some thought to the geometry of the blade shape. Look at shears that are designed for cuttin gwood and see what works there. Do you wan ta bypass type cuttin gaction, or do you want to cut against an anvil? I'm not sure which would be best for that use, but my guess would be the bypass-type action, with a curved cutting face. This would not necessarily mean you need a single bevel "cutting" edge; many lopping shears use a double bevel blade working between a pair of stop bars. I would think that wold be good for an application where there is going to be some challenges to keeping the cutting equipment in place against the post. Just a couple thoughts to mull over while you're in the design stage.
   vicopper - Thursday, 06/22/06 01:56:59 EDT

Roger Jenkins,

Are you kin to Conway Twitty the country singer ? I believe his real name was Harold Jenkins and was from that area.

   Mike Thompson - Thursday, 06/22/06 02:07:37 EDT

Dave Boyer mentioned a hydraulic motor being used underwater with a chainsaw.

Actually, there ARE underwater chainsaws available like this. I did some research last year (my brother has in-water trees at his lake property). If I recall, they were not prohibitively expensive either, assuming you already have hydraulics capability. It would be fairly easy to temporarily convert the the hydraulics from a wood splitter, or whatever. If the timbers you want to cut are near the shore, it even makes it easier (we would have needed to use a pontoon as a platform).

To research, just Google "underwater chainsaw".
   - djhammerd - Thursday, 06/22/06 06:46:57 EDT

Roger Jenkins: I would encourage you to redefine your question to "How can I get these old pilings out of the way". Locally dozers hire out for $50-$100 hour depending on size and minimum charges. Can you have one back up to the waterline, put a chain around pilings and then just pull? Should either come out or break off near the base.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 06/22/06 06:59:21 EDT

Well, I cut a chunk out of the thermite weld rod thingy, and sure enough there are dark veins of steel running in the grain of a whiter solid steel. The chunk forges nicely, a little hard to move but man does it keep its heat for a while longer than most steels I have worked with so far. Whats the best method to keep and show the color variances?
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 06/22/06 12:44:09 EDT

What Roger Jenkins wants to build is called a "Feller" in the logging industry, and it is perfectly feasible- but, and its a big but, it takes a lotta muscle to do this- which is why, even used, a machine like this runs from $50,000 to $150,000.
To shear trees or pilings of that size takes a Bunching Shear, alone, without a tracked vehicle to mount it on, that weighs in at around 5000lbs- and this is just the weight of the shear, clamp, and blade- this does not include the wrist to hold it, or the hydraulic system to power it.
It takes that amount of steel to hold the piling, and be rigid enough to hold the shear against the force of the hydraulics.

Average industry machines like this, Bunching Shears, use a pair of 3 1/2" diameter hydraulic cylinders to clamp the piling, and then two 6" diameter cylinders to do the actual shearing- this is some heavy investment in hydraulics, money, and weight, and they usually run around a 200hp diesel engine to run the machine and hydraulic pump.

In other words, sure, you can build your own- but it is such a big, heavy job, that unless you are planning on going into business doing this, its probably not worth it. If a commercial machine costs 100 grand, and you are an amazing machinist, scrounger, and welder, well, maybe you can build one for a mere 20 grand or so- but wouldnt it be a lot cheaper to just hire it done?
You could build your own Cat D9, too, I suppose- but they only get a couple of hundred an hour to run em.

When I want to build anything myself, I always look at how the commercial models are built- like these TigerCats- www.tigercat.com then look under accessories to see their Felling Shears.
   - Ries - Thursday, 06/22/06 12:59:30 EDT

Odd Steel: TGN, If there are significant carbon differences then when you are done you can etch the metal using ferric chloride circuit board etchant. The low carbon/low alloy stuff usualy turns a nice black while the higher carbon steel does not.

Keeping its heat is probably due to the size of the piece.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/22/06 13:10:12 EDT

Just wanted to say thanks for an excellent forum. I am learning daily from this board and site. Hope to soon start my own work on the iron! BTW: I bet you guys get tired of "How much is my anvil worth?"!!
   keykeeper - Thursday, 06/22/06 14:19:16 EDT

Yep. . especially from folks that know that anvils vary from mint to piles of rubble. . . with the price varying accordingly.

Be sure to check all our FAQ's and book reviews. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 06/22/06 14:46:57 EDT

I've been reviewing the FAQ's and Reviews as time allows. Some I've read several times. Just want to be sure before I make rash decisions on purchases. I've pretty much been all over this site so far. By far, the best on the web!!
   keykeeper - Thursday, 06/22/06 15:34:50 EDT

Thanks Guru(s) for all your help with my coal forge that wouldn't burn very big - I drilled out the holes super big as per your advice and now it works and forging is a "blast" *grin* of course I'm terrible at it and now I can't blame my forge anymore, but now I can at least get a decent heat on my work and get some serious practicing done.
Also, Guru, checking your brake-drum forge plans, I see that you don't have a plate with holes in it for the tuyere... I guess I must've got that from another site or maybe I just invented it... who knows?

Anyhow, thanks again!
   Condredge - Thursday, 06/22/06 17:08:31 EDT

HELP!! just bought a 1913, 25 lb. karrihard power hammer from a guy who knew nothing about it other than what was on the clutch wheel(Red Oak, Ind.) the dies appear homemade and so after I built them up with welding material so they fit the key slots, they don't fall out.(he had a dozen shims holding them in place.) it's set up with a 1 horse, 220 motor now running the line shaft wheel with a flat v belt. can't find any info on the web. would appreciate any info on adjustments, maintainence, etc. thanks folks from Fa/Wa Ironwerks
   Kieffer - Thursday, 06/22/06 19:36:57 EDT

Are concrete stakes made out of a high carbon steel, if so what steel. Are they suited for a sword. I'm forging one out of it.
   RJ - Thursday, 06/22/06 20:54:10 EDT

I wanna see a picture of that piece of etched thermit weld steel!
   - Tyler Murch - Thursday, 06/22/06 21:05:10 EDT

Rj read the forgeing sword from beging area. it will set you correct get you7 all straight and help you miss any wrong issuses. and help you and hopefully uss as well. good luck.novice blacksmith
   Ralph - Thursday, 06/22/06 21:33:38 EDT

I have an anvil set and I'm not quite sure what it actully is.I'm a farrier but leaning a bit towards more blacksmithing. This set is several pieces.First is a large plate with several "hardy holes" in it. Next,I have several attachments that fit into it.Two horns several square flats,and several half round surfaced pieces.I can't find anything out about it.It's stamped PEXCO with three digit numbers on each piece.Any thoughts? Thanks.
   - jim - Thursday, 06/22/06 21:44:36 EDT

Jim, That is a set of sheet metal stakes and the holder. It is too light for forging. However, they are valuable tools.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/22/06 21:59:54 EDT

roger jenkins-- any chance that you could get those pilings out by first reversing a process I've heard is sometimes used to put them in-- squirting a high pressure hose down at the bases, loosening and cratering the mud around them-- then attaching a crane?
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 06/22/06 22:05:43 EDT

Jim-- The estimable Guru is correct again as usual. Go to the advertisers' list on the drop-down menu on this page, click on Centaur forge, go to tools, click on metal-forming tools, and be amazed at your good fortune. Give your inner tinsmith/silversmith a chance to soar.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 06/22/06 22:11:21 EDT

Concrete Form Stakes: RJ, Probably "mild" steel. See our Junk Yard Steels FAQ.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/22/06 22:53:27 EDT

I think you have a typo error, its actually Pexto.
Peck Stow & Wilcox company, They had been around forever, But I dont know if they are still in business. Known mostly for the sheetmetal and measuring tools(Your collection of stakes and plate is valuable) They made tools of ALL kinds.
   - Sven - Thursday, 06/22/06 23:22:48 EDT

The grass is cut, the tent is up, half of one of the barns is cleared, the tables and chairs are in position, the refrigerator in the forge is stocked, the coal bins and gas cylinders are filled…

I guess we’re ready for the summer session of Camp Fenby!

If you’re coming, look for the small blue strips on the route and place signs marked thus:


We kick off Friday, and the crab feast is Saturday night.

Y’all come if you can.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 06/22/06 23:26:31 EDT


I am not mechanically minded, but Here is an idea of how I might try to rid myself of these pilings. Build a tri-pod,
weld a flat sheet of steel on the bottom of each pod to keep them from sinking in the mud. Drill a hole through the top of each piling to run a steel pipe or bar through. Hook a chain hoist to the top of the tripod, run the chain around the pipe, then pull them out of the ground.
   Mike Thompson - Friday, 06/23/06 00:20:29 EDT


Also. Run a pipe through the top of the piling, wrap a cable around the piling, attach the other end to a winch or the back of a tractor and pull them out. I better stop here, my brain cells are over heating.
   Mike Thompson - Friday, 06/23/06 00:30:01 EDT

Roger, A 55 gal drum displaces appx 400# of water. If you sink one, tie it to the piling then put air in the drum it should lift it if you water jet around the bottom.
   Ron Childers - Friday, 06/23/06 07:16:27 EDT

Nipp, You forged the "chisel looking things"? Did you etch it? Wash in Dawn & water to kill the action of ferric cloride - Fluid film seems to work ok for me; some awear by wax, Bore Butter or several other gun oils sold bu Brownell's.
   Ron Childers - Friday, 06/23/06 07:44:58 EDT

Roger: sponser a underwater lumberjack competition---2 scuba equipped man saw... couple of hundred dollars in prizes and you would still come out agead of trying to build a cutter!

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/23/06 11:01:19 EDT

Things "Happen"

This is a couple year old story and I am not going to name name names, but it COULD happen to you.

A maker of fantasy weapons, actualy art pieces, was the target of a television investigation by one of the big three networks. Actualy there was not much investigation to it, it was a bushwack. First they sent someone in with a hidden camera, then they did the front door bushwack. The "topic" was "Weapons for Sale" and characterized the pieces as "the deadliest weapons imaginable. . sold on you neighborhood streets"! Comments of unnamed neighbors were used in the report using slanted questions like "do you think dangerous weapons should be sold on the street just blocks from the school"?

The result was that the artist came under the eyes of the local council and the zoning commission. The question of local sales had been taken care of because the work was normaly sold over the internet. However, the artist did what we all would do when the undercover "reporter" asked in privacy of his home, he offered to make the sale then at a discount. Then there was the matter of the small shed that served as a workshop in a place not zoned for manufacturing or business, despite the landlord renting it specificaly for that purpose.

The reporter on a vendetta, kept going back to city council members asking them what they have done about this horrible problem?

The immediate result was that the artist and his family had to move due to the hounding of news organizations and the local council. Then folks from the bladesmithing community started writing letters and eventually the article which had been posted on-line was removed. Moving out of the jurisdiction, a drastic step, solved the primary legal problems.

In the end things worked out. The national news organization removed the article, the artist is now working from a better location AND his infamy resulted in a lot of free advertising. However, things could have gone the other direction. Not everyone has the option to pickup and move, there could have been fines involved and other legal issues.

Avoiding Problems:

There are ways some of this could have been avoided. First is to know your zoning law. This is often not easy and maps are often not 100% up to date as a local business in a non-business area may have a variance that does not show on a map. These things go building by building and just because your neighbor has a legal business does not mean you can.

Do the research yourself OR hire a lawyer to do it. DO NOT just go down to city hall and ask "Can I setup a shop to make weapons on my residential street?" THIS or other similar questions will immediately put you under suspicion. IF you had a chance to be legal as an art studio or hobby shop you may have lost it.

Read the general parts of the zoning law carefully. Hobbies are often exempt but as soon as you make a sale you may not longer be exempt as a hobbiest. Artists and artist's studios are often exempt even when they are making sales from their location. This is the reason I called the fellow above an "artist". In fact his "weapons", even though they look dangerous and probably are are more ART than weapon. Fantasy weapons tend to be unweildly and as dangerous to the weilder as to others. These are ART. If the maker characterized them as art rather than weapons then the problem might have never occured.

In the case above an artist comes under "Professional office" which is legal in zone "R-TH Multifamily, medium density general or professional office, medium density". On the other hand in Industrial and Light Industrial "forge shops" and "open-air storage yards for coal" are prohibited. Of course they are talking about big industry but zoning administrators are not known for their openmindedness.

Some places specificaly list "blacksmith" shops. In this case they do not but the metalworking definition covers small shops which must be in an Industrial zone. SO, are you an "artist" or a "metal worker". It makes a big difference in the zoning. The code for this locality defines "junkyard" as anything over 100 square feet. This too could get you in trouble.

Lying Low: Many people skirt these problems by not seeking publicity and lying low. This is a difficult way to do business but a surprizing number of folks in suburbia do this. I do not reccomend it but even as a hobby you may want to not alert to many neighbors. In this case the important thing to do is keep on good terms with your close neighbors and be sure they just think you just have an interesting hobby IF that. People talk and things get around. I've known craftspeople that were so paranoid about their neighbors that they loaded and unloaded their car after dark when going and coming from craft shows. . .

In our craft it is hard to hide coal smoke, ringing anvils and long bars of steel on the roof of your truck. Grinding noises carry worse than ringing anvils. You have to use common sense about these things. Most of what we do often comes under Light Industrial occupations. If what you do is a hobby, keep it that way unless you know the legalities of where your shop is situated.

Luckily, most of us in rural areas do not have these problems. However, even in rural areas you can upset your neighbors and find out that the local law covers more details of your business than you want to know. . .
   - guru - Friday, 06/23/06 11:04:32 EDT

generalcode.com e-codes

These folks have many local codes including zoning ordinances available on-line.
   - guru - Friday, 06/23/06 11:30:05 EDT

Yes, I just finished a nice drop point blade. As a matter of fact, it's tempering in my oven right now. I haven't gotten the ferric chloride, where's a good source for that? I don't have much in the chemical department, just fuel and lots of scrap. I do have some taxidermy chems, Stop Rot and Preserve-It fluids. Borax, boric acid, that's pretty much it. My CO monitor is going off like crazy, everythings well ventilated, fans going and all. The monitor (beeping right now) continues even after I'm done using any CO producing equipment. Is the CO gathering in my basement??
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/23/06 11:30:17 EDT

Hobbying: Legally, even if you make money from your hobby, it can only be considered a business IF your profits surpass your expenditures. I found this out after a good friend of mine had to close down his reptile shop because he was spending more than the business made. The IRS automatically put him in a "HOBBY" setting. Local laws DO suck, I have 3 retail business locations and zoning is the BIGGEST headache we've ever had to deal with.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/23/06 11:35:46 EDT

I get my ferric chloride at radio shack. They sell it for etching printed circuit boards. About $3.00 a bottle I bought two a couple yrs ago and haven't opened the second yet.
   Harley - Friday, 06/23/06 11:43:43 EDT

CO: Nip, I think lots of places are having summer heat inversions and CO and ozone warnings. . . I doubt if it is general environmental but it must have an effect.

CO is 97% as dense as air so it will tend to rise to the ceiling but not much, but being hot will make it lighter. CO2 is 1.53 times as dense as air, a significant difference.

IRS and Profits:

Nothing in the IRS code says you must claim ALL your expenses. You cannot claim expenses you did not have but nothing says you can't forget or miss something. Just don't forget INCOME. In fact, small businesses lose all kinds of expense deductions simply because they cannot prove they had them.

The general rule is you must show a profit 3 out of 5 years. So you can show a loss 2 years in a row but must show profits after that. However, nothing says HOW MUCH profit. You can easily adjust a losing business to show a slight profit. Just enough not to take a loss but not so much as to have to pay a lot of taxes.

What the IRS does not want is your hobby writing off living expenses. However, if you have taxes due from those endevours THEN the expenses may be legitimate and if so can always be written off. Just be sure to show a profit. If you have questions as a tax lawyer or good accountant.

Zoning: We had a local zoning Tzar that did not understand the difference between .5 feet and 5". One is 6" and the other is what it is. . He insisted on using .5 feet (6") in an area calculation instead of 5" (.417 feet). It doesn't sound like a big deal but he forced us to make an addition to a building 1" narrower AFTER the pad was poured and the steel delivered for a large steel building. . . The building was going to be 2 square feet too big according to his erroneous math. He claimed he was proud to be the most hated man in the county. What he is, is an ignorant ass. Which seems to be the model zoning Tzar in many locations.

   - guru - Friday, 06/23/06 12:17:23 EDT

BJ, I've been very pleased with my Makita. I bought it after burning up 3 or 4 HF ones in two years. I bout this Makita and have used it twice as hard as those others with no problems at all.

   FredlyFX - Friday, 06/23/06 12:27:53 EDT

Can anyone give me plans or instructions on how to make a hearth broom? Also, where the straw is available. Thanks.
   HORSEMAN - Friday, 06/23/06 12:36:07 EDT

I second FredlyFX. I burned out the brushing in two Northern Tool chop saws (returned for refund) before buying a used DeWalt on eBay. Have use the DeWalt likely much harder than I ever did the NT Asian imports for going on two years and it is still running fine.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 06/23/06 13:00:32 EDT

anvil value? what are YOU WILLING TO PAY FOR?
a few minor grinds and other osmetic works, all old about 3 or so hours. Wa told I NEEDED a bunch of weldeing. I Called BS. I NOW have a nice anvil, without damage etc. 149 lb that I have been offered about 4 per lb. but since it my anly anvil I find I HAVE to say no thank you
   Ralph - Friday, 06/23/06 13:04:11 EDT

What kind of steel are concrete stakes made out of. Are they suited for swords?
   - RJ - Friday, 06/23/06 15:45:46 EDT

What kind of steel are concrete stakes made out of. Are they suited for swords?
   - RJ - Friday, 06/23/06 15:46:04 EDT

Nip, dilute the Etchant (ferric cloride) 3 or 4 to 1 with water, preferably distilled water. That iron sounda almost like wrought iron... Now I have to try forging it; that stuff is lying all over the place and my railroai detective friend told me to take it all, including spikes, etc
   Ron Childers - Friday, 06/23/06 15:55:36 EDT

RJ, Your question was answered yesteday, scroll UP.
   - guru - Friday, 06/23/06 16:10:02 EDT

Doesn't sound like wrought iron it sounds like thermite sprues---*very* different from WI! Of course I have found real WI around old railbeds in OH including fishing 10' of 1/2" rod out of a creek below a RR bridge.

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/23/06 16:58:13 EDT

I am looking for a replacement part for my Strands S-53 drill press. I broke the laminated drive gear for the highest speed and need to fix this problem ASAP. If anyone has ideas of where to get pats for this swedish made drill press please send me an email.
   Courtney Green - Friday, 06/23/06 18:32:35 EDT

Need to find replacement part for a Strands S-53 floor drill press. I have chewed the laminated high gear. I need to address this problem and replace the gear ASAP. So if anyone has a source for swedish parts could email me at cgreen721@hotmail.com. Thanks for any help.
   - Courtney Green - Friday, 06/23/06 18:36:12 EDT

Need to find replacement part for a Strands S-53 floor drill press. I have chewed the laminated high gear. I need to address this problem and replace the gear ASAP. So if anyone has a source for swedish parts could email me at cgreen721@hotmail.com. Thanks for any help.
   - Courtney Green - Friday, 06/23/06 18:36:20 EDT

Need to find replacement part for a Strands S-53 floor drill press. I have chewed the laminated high gear. I need to address this problem and replace the gear ASAP. So if anyone has a source for swedish parts could email me at cgreen721@hotmail.com. Thanks for any help.
   Courtney Green - Friday, 06/23/06 18:37:31 EDT

Wilton has been selling Strands Drill presses under the Wilton name for many years. So they might have parts for yours, or might not.
You can call em and see- google wmh tool group, that is Wilton's parent company, then call the tech phone number from the web site.
Other wise, it could be tough. I had a similar problem on a lathe, and ended up having to have a couple of gears custom made- $500 each.
Or, you could try asking the company in Sweden, either for the part, or for a north american dealer-
   - Ries - Friday, 06/23/06 19:09:38 EDT

hey, thanks for the info, guys.My next question is this; quite honestly my heart is for blacksmithing.My plan was to find out if this set was worth anything because I'd really like a GOOD anvil.I've got a 100 lb jhm but it's nothing like working on a kolswa,etc. Do you think it would be foolish to get rid of this in order to invest in a good anvil or should I hold on to it. If I did chose to sell it what kind of buyers do you look for.
   - jim - Friday, 06/23/06 20:21:01 EDT

I am still looking for information about hearth brooms. Plans to make one and where can the straw be purchased. Any info. would be greatly appreciated.
   HORSEMAN - Friday, 06/23/06 20:40:25 EDT

Jim, Most used used equipment dealers would trade you a very good anvil in the 200 pound range for the set you have got.

On the other hand, I have spent years picking up pieces of a sheet metal set. I have about $400 invested in odd pieces over 10 years or more and have no stake plate. So far I have,

Blowhorn Stake
Beakhorn Stake (the one on the Selecting an anvil FAQ)
3" mushroom stake
2" mushroom stake
Holder for the mushroom stakes (others do not fit)
Wire edge stake
Large radius stake with 1-3/4" shank (doesn't fit ANYTHING).

I also have a collection of steel balls that run 6", 4", 2", 1.5". AND I have bought a couple old sheet metal hammers including two old pattern "repousse'" or "blocking" hammers which are no longer made.

The point? Every now and then you want to do some sheet metal work or repousse' up to about 16 or 12ga. as part of a project, armour, weather vane, musical instrument, sculpture. . . So I have been collecting. The most expensive piece I have seen to date (and do not have) is the multi-hole stake plate that takes various sizes at different angles. Sets are hard to find and expensive.

Stakes I will probably make myself because they are easy to make, needle case and ring stakes, hatchet stake, heavy pipe joint stake.

One of the interesting blacksmith tools from CoSira's Decorative Ironwork is a "multi-purpose" stake. Although stakes are not anvils, they have a lot of uses in the blacksmith shop depending on what you do. They may not be at the top of your wish list now but they may be in the future.

I have always regretted trading off or selling tools.

   - guru - Friday, 06/23/06 21:52:05 EDT

If you are looking for a hearth broom, go to www.osv.org. Old Sturbridge Village (Massachusetts)has hearth brooms for sale. The bristles come from broom corn (sorghum vulgaris I think). We watched them being last weekend.
   - tweaver - Friday, 06/23/06 21:52:39 EDT

jim-- the first book Dona Meilach did re: blacksmithing has a good section, lotsa snaps, on raising vessels from sheet metal, using stakes. It's an amazing part of blacksmithing you may want to do some day. If you do use them, beware: they are cast iron and cannot be struck too hard. These tools are quite expensive, and like everything else, they are not getting any cheaper. On the other hand, if you think you have to sell, check out the prices for them on Centaur ($300 plus shipping just for that stake plate you mentioned, to name one piece), and jewelry tool supply houses like Rio Grande, Thunderbird, etc. and then put an ad on the bulletin board at the local supply house. Or run a notice on www.ganoksin.com The tools are around, but they are not easy to find second hand.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 06/23/06 22:39:58 EDT

I'm not looking to buy a hearth broom, I'm looking to make one for a fire place set I'm making. I need to find out how to finish the handle so that the broom section can be put onto it. If there is a plan out there, or someone can tell me how to do it, it would be greatly appreciated. Also, the broom corn must be available from some vendor to be made into a broom.
   HORSEMAN - Friday, 06/23/06 23:04:48 EDT

Well, the kids at Radio Shack never heard of etching fluid, let alone what a "circuit board" is. I'm not kidding. Besides, Radio Shack is going out of business so I'm going to need a good source for it.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/23/06 23:23:33 EDT

Jim: Maybee You could find an aging farrier Who is looking to trade down. Just a thought.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 06/23/06 23:23:34 EDT

Zoning: I live in the rural part of a township that is [or properly, was]largely rural. Our zoning, farming/residential, does not permit a buisines of any type to be run from a home, but does allow a farm, I guess they don't consider that a business for some reason. There are only a coupple working farms left.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 06/23/06 23:37:11 EDT


I have the same problem with Radio Shack down here, plus, the US mail will not allow mailing ferric chloride.

Check in the nearest city for a chemical supply house. When I was in Portland, I found a small supply house that carried FeCl in powder/lump form. Just mix with water, easy as that. (As a powder, you can probably get away with mailing it, too.) Aobut a tablespoonful of powder in a galss of water makes about the right solution for me.

In the PA area, try Van Waters and Rogers. Their headquarters is in West Chester. Probably have warehouses in a couple locations.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/24/06 00:10:40 EDT

Donuts:-->Guru, Machinerys Handbook Revised edition 23 Mechanics,centre of gravity, circle segment,page 152. Yes I have the formula here. However I would think that the formula for "part of a circle ring" b=38.197x(R3-r3)sinadam yes its to be two concentric toroids one nested snugly inside the other, however lets just stick with 2 dimensions at the moment and forget the toroidial aspect.
--> Tom H yes you hit the nail on the head, so to speak, we are dealing with a flat uniform thickness of zero. And no this is NOT homework. I gave that up 25 years ago. ......Hmmmm...... maybe therin lies some of the problem.
   Phil M - Saturday, 06/24/06 01:25:48 EDT

Hey, so i started blacksmithing when i was 8 years old. But then my mentor moved away... and so i had to wait until i turned 18, which happened last october. I've now started again and loving it at the local historical society. My only problem is that I've forgotten some of what i learned 10 years ago. Mostly. I've forgotten how to weld and put a blade on a knife... any help would be great. THANKS!
   Youngin' - Saturday, 06/24/06 01:27:36 EDT

oops!formula for "part of a circle ring" b=38.197x(R3-r3)sin "new line" -->adam yes its to be two concentric toroids one nested snugly inside the other
   Phil M - Saturday, 06/24/06 01:40:31 EDT

Ferric Chloride Etchant - Cell Phone Shack is no longer a good place to look for electronic components and such. Sad, but I am lucky enough that another local shop has taken up the slack. Anyway, look for an electronic parts supplier and see if they have it as a circuit board etchant. If not, do a Google search on Froogle for Ferric Chloride. Micro-Mark appears on the second page, and has a good price for a small amount. Hazmat shipping may be a killer though.
   Rick WIdmer - Saturday, 06/24/06 02:19:04 EDT

Jim: If you will let us know where you are located we can likely better help you find a buyer for the set.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 06/24/06 06:42:02 EDT

BROOMS - Check out the IForge How-To section (using the Navigation drop-down at the upper right of the screen), and choose #117. Super information, and on my list to try!
   Paymeister - Saturday, 06/24/06 08:05:18 EDT

IM trying to build some blades for building a small tree shear.How do I harden the blades?

roger jenkins
   roger jenkins - Saturday, 06/24/06 08:35:59 EDT

How do you harden blades for making a tree shear operating from a hydraulic pump
   - roger jenkins - Saturday, 06/24/06 08:37:53 EDT

Roger, lots of answers to your questions above.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 09:13:19 EDT


It's on the other side of town from you, but the radio shack at 40th and locust had ferric chloride a couple of weeks ago. I'd call first and ask if they have part number 276-1535 in stock. PN 276-1576 is the complete kit including etching fluid and resist. The store at 48th and pine has a better selection of parts and tools than most and may have it too. Usually if you go into one and they don't have what you want they can look in the computer and see if any other local stores have it.
   Dave A - Saturday, 06/24/06 09:57:15 EDT

Parts of Tori: Phil, I do not see a question or clarity of definition in that. If the "part of a circular ring" formula seems to apply then I have no idea what you were describing in the first place.

Some centers of gravity of areas apply to centers of gravity of masses but some do not. IF you are talking about a broken ring resulting in two C shaped pieces then the cg might be tricky to calculate. The part of a circular ring MIGHT work but to prove it you would have to do a bunch trial calculations. As Thomas pointed out you may be in the realm of Calculus.

My proofs tend to be mechanic/hack vs. purely mathematical. At least with my mechanical methods I KNOW the answer is right.

IF in fact you have a C shape and you think the "part of circle ring" is the right but not sure I would use a built up "mass" from thin layers cut in the view of the diagram in machinerys. If the cg is the same for each section then it will be correct for a part of a torus. A simple proof is to take ANY two distant sections of different dimensions based on the same center and swept angle. I would use the full section and an edge with about 10% of the width of the full section.

IF the cg's are equal then the cg for many thin sections to make a built up part would be equal and the formula is true.

IF they are NOT equal then I would write a program that loops through the calculations and finds centers of gravity between each new piece with a rectangular section and the previous summed parts (Summation and itteration)). This is complicated but I have done it as proofs of much simplier formulas to test their accuracy. When you calculate a thousand sections using the dimension on the surface line of the shape the steps or jaggies average out nearly perfectly (many decimal places).

CONSTANTS: I have found a number of formulae in reference books that used constants that were not defined or explained so I found other ways. The "barrel" shape in Machinery's and other sources uses some averaging that defines a volume with a parabola for an outside curve rather than an arc. To get the correct answers you use the area of a segment of a circle, its cg and volume of rotation then add this to a cylinder and you have the exact volume of a shape with an arc as a surface. The problem it that this is a LONG series of calulations. However, when writing computer programs for mass and volume calculations it is easy to include all the steps without shortcuts or improperly defined constants. When calculating aerodynamic curves it can take an entire page of formulae to determine one point on the curve. When doing this by hand you calculate as few points as possible and then loft the curve by hand. When using a computer you can use brute force and calculate a continous series of points thousansths of an inch apart and it only takes an instant.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 10:25:47 EDT

If you go the Radio Shack website and search on "etchant," you can enter your zip code and find out which stores near you have it in stock.
   Mike B - Saturday, 06/24/06 10:31:44 EDT

I'm tryng to figure out how to forge a bell for a farm animal, (An ox to be specific), I've tried asking others to no avail, so how do I forge a bell like this?
   Quinn - Saturday, 06/24/06 13:21:54 EDT

Quinn: Livestock bells weren't 'forged' per se, but rather made from flat stock which is then cut and folded into a rectangular bell.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 06/24/06 13:41:10 EDT

Cow Bells: Quinn, As ken noted these are made of folded steel. After folding they are usualy brazed. Brazing can be done in the forge as a "penny weld" or with a torch as is commonly practiced today. You can also weld the joints.

Illustration by Jock Dempsey
Cow Bell illustration by Jock Dempsey for the Revolutionary Blacksmith by Jim PPW Wilson

I have made cow bells of various sizes and shapes mostly from 16ga steel as illustrated above. But they can also be made from up to 1/8" plate and as thin as 20ga. The thickness should be somewhat proportional to the overall size, the thin material used for very samll bells.

If you are not sure about your pattern make one of thin carboard or paper and then fold to see how it works. At the upper corners I leave some overlap to make a stronger braze joint. Such bells can be tuned by trimming, flaring the opening or brazing the edge to add weight.

On a trip to Costa Rica a few years ago I found a hand made cow bell about 3" long hanging on a wall with some other farm curiosities. The interesting thing about it was that it was identical to the first bell I had made (as illustrated above) and sounded nearly the same. Small world.

   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 15:00:49 EDT

Cylindrical Bells: Are made in India and the Far East. These are made by rolling up a cylinder and brazing the slightly overlaping butt joint. Then a domed "lid" with the striker and hanging loop is brazed onto the top. Often these have a slightly bulging center to the cylindrical section. You can see these in imported crafts and gift stores.

These are made from thin steel and then lightly brazed all over for color and tone. It is easy to see how they are made because they are not painted.

It is also possible to raise a bell from sheet in steel or brass but it is a considerable task. See our Armoury page and the article by Eric Thing. I have also seen spun brass bells from India. However, most of these are now cast and the outside machined to finish and to thin the body.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 15:10:00 EDT

Phil so lets try again: this is two concentric WASHERS nested one within the other and they are to be of equal surface area.

I have played with your problem but the algebra gets messy and I think I will wait to make sure I am solving the RIGHT problem before launching a full scale assualt :)

I know these things can be tricky to describe in words - too bad we dont have a scratch pad to draw on. So we'll just keep asking questions until we nail it down. :)
   adam - Saturday, 06/24/06 16:04:08 EDT

umm.... "assault" (and pepper) Everything I needed to know about spelling I learned on Anvilfire. KNOT! heheh
   adam - Saturday, 06/24/06 16:05:42 EDT

I have a bunch of Harbor Freight welding magnets that are handy indeed for holding stuff, BUT they are made in the form of a kind of crapola sandwich that will burn if it gets hot enough, such as when next to a weld. (!) Anybody know a source of powerful, solid steel right and 45-degree or adjustable magnets?
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 06/24/06 17:14:32 EDT


Starret used to make some really nifty adjustable ones, but the machinist who owned to pair I saw would have simply shot anyone who used them as welding fixtures.

Try Enco; look at part #505-4657.

MSC Industrial Supply, part #80044720 might be what you want, too.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/24/06 20:07:08 EDT

me and my friend are trying to get into mace crafting but we are clue less on anything but the basics. Please help
   zack clark - Saturday, 06/24/06 20:46:46 EDT

I'm having a bit of a problem finding my way around your forum, it's a bit different than other forums I regularly post to, so my apologies in advance, if this is a stupid question.

I'm looking for a resource, preferably online, dealing with making steel from iron. I'm looking to learn about the primitive methods of making alloys.

I'm a woodworker by trade, plus I'm a pretty good chandler and I used to be pretty skilled at leather working. In short, I know how frustrating these newbie questions can be, so you'll have an idea of how grateful I'll be for any help. :)

An E-mail to dustpuuppy@mailsent.net would be most appreciated, if anyone has the time.

   Craig - Saturday, 06/24/06 21:02:17 EDT

vicopper-- Many thanks! I appreciate the helpful leads.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 06/24/06 21:43:06 EDT

BTW. The reason I asked the above question is that everything I come up with speaks of modern methods but little or nothing on the more primitive methods.

Thanks again.
   Craig - Saturday, 06/24/06 22:28:54 EDT

Miles and Rich: Have you ever noticed the arc blow problem that comes with magnets when welding with DC? It'll drive ya nutz until you figure out what's causing it.
   3dogs - Saturday, 06/24/06 22:44:55 EDT

Zack, lets cover the basics of *QUESTION ASKING* first---when asking such a question you have to let us know the tools and skill sets you have access to! A simple answer would be to get a 6" cube of tool steel and chuck it on a 5 axis CNC and mill off everything that doesn't look like a maceor to investment cast it using a vacuum melter.

Do you have axis to OA or arc welding equipment? Can you forge weld? Do you have axis to a forge? Do you want to make this using medieval methods?

My suggested method is to take a strip of real wrought iron about 1/4" thick and 4-6" wide and as long as need be anfd then take a section and fold it back on itself and forge weld the fold and hot cut the flange from that and forge it to basic shape and then advance down the strip and repeat until you have the number of flanges you want and then bend the strip with flanges around a mandrel and forgeweld the seam---very medieval technology

Or you could take a piece of black pipe and arc weld flanges that you cut from sheetmetal---very common modern method.

   Thomas P - Saturday, 06/24/06 22:45:44 EDT

Craig, may I commend to your attention "Steelmaking Before Bessemer, vol I Blister steel" Also "Divers Arts" written in 1120 CE discusses steeling iron, Also "Practical Blacksmithing" from the 1880's-90's and how about "Mechanick Exercises" published in 1703. "Sources for the History of the Science of Steel" has a method or two in it.

All should be available through inter library loan for free or a nominal charge at the local library---lestways I can get much rarer books at the library in our town of 9000 people---the largest in the county! and only for US$1 per title.

Lastly you can also get "natural steels" as some blooms from the bloomery smelter will be high carbon.

You may also want to investigate the method they used in japane for making orishagane (sp) where they would heat small bits of bloomery iron scrap in the charcoal forge and then weld it up into usable steel.

Ric Furrer demo'd "Three methods of making steel" at a recent Quad-State you may want to track him down...

   Thomas P - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:04:49 EDT

Miles: Be sure to remove the magnets after the first few tack welds, as heat tends to demagnatize magnets even if they don't burn up.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:14:50 EDT

Sorry about the typo's/misspellings...

   Thomas P - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:15:04 EDT

Thomas P:

Thanks. Some of the terms you mention gave me something to Google, as well as the books you mention. I really didn't have the first clue where to start. I didn't even know what to put into a search engine, to find anything.

Basically, I have an interest in all types of primitive crafts/technologies. I'm not actually going to tackle blacksmithing. The manager of the apartment building would probably get annoyed about my putting a forge in the kitchen.

Your information is much appreciated.
   Craig - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:23:39 EDT

Primitive Steel Making: This is done by a variety of methods. Knowing how it was done and reading about it are far from knowing HOW.

The Japanese methods vary according to your rank in the pecking order. Those at the bottom of the order must make their own steel in the forge. Those at the top get the best pick of the steel produced by direct smelting from ore to steel. A lot of what is created in this process is close to cast iron and some is pure iron. Using the dross takes a huge amount of effort and is how the lowly earn points and move up in rank. Yes, it is a hard cruel life. Modern Japanese youth interested in bladesmithing know they can just BUY real steel and skip the school of hard knocks. . .

To smelt your own in the direct method takes a team of three or four willing to work all day and into the night. Then after that the product requires hand working until it is of useful quality.

Other methods start with a form of pure iron called wrought iron. To use this method the "old" way you will have to search for scrap OR make your own. It is similar to the method above requiring a team and most of a long day. It is then carburized in a sealed container, then like the Japanese steel it is worked by hand welding it over and over.

All the methods have very important tricks to their manufacture that are not in the books. So first step is to study the books Thomas listed above then the next step is to join one of the many teams that make iron and steel to learn the details that are not written in books. OR you can do what these people have done and spend a decade or two figuring it out on your own.

At least there ARE people that have done this research and are refining the methods, and recording the details that were not written down in the past. Twenty years ago you would be on your own following the many false leads of those who wrote down the methods but did not know the actual details themselves.

Study (not just read) the books first. This is your starting at the bottom rung. Yes, its a cruel world.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:29:17 EDT

Zack, see the references on our Sword Making FAQ. The first couple are basic metal working and begining blacksmithing. If you have no skills you start at the begining, how to use a file, scraper, saw, bend, drill holes, basic metal identification, heating . . . As you go along you collect the tools need to practice each stage of the craft.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:47:50 EDT

Magnets: Miles, McMaster-Carr (mcmaster.com) has every imaginable type (and price).
   - guru - Saturday, 06/24/06 23:50:49 EDT

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