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

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

This is an archive of posts from June 22 - 31, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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More on job applications . . . I recently eliminated a promising looking resume from a short list of applicants for a job opening based on a really silly and unprofessional answering message on the applicant's cell phone. The cell number was the only phone number listed on the resume as means to contact the applicant. Hard to believe anyone would apply for a professional position and then present such an unprofessional image via their messaging service.
   Bernard Tappel - Saturday, 06/14/08 23:51:38 EDT


The controller shouldn't care one whit whether it turns on and off five times in an hour or fifty times. We're talking miniscule amounts of curent in solid statee circuitry about as complex as a Walkman. Those little solid state components are rated for tens of millions of cycles before they hit failure mode.

The elements, on the other hand, don't like to be turned on and off repeatedly. Every time they go through a cycle of heat and cool, they expand and contract. They also oxidize when hot and the oxides are more brittle than the clean wire. So the fewer times they expand and contract the better, and the less time they spend in an oxidizing state the better. Still, they'll handle thousands of cycles before they even begin to degrade as long as you keep the oven door closed so that you're not introducing fresh oxygen all the time. My homemade burnout and enameling kilns were ramped up at about 500F per hour becuaes that was what the investment and emamels liked. On occasion I would run them up quicker and it didn't seem to cause any issues.

Some of the newer alloys for elements actually are supposed to like oxidizing atmospheres, from what I have read somewhere. The old nichrome wire preferred a non-oxidizing atmosphere and also preferred not to be run at a screaming white heat. Keeping them at a resistance load that runs them at the lowest workable coil heat seemed to provide the best life, but that wasn't always possible. FYI, I should note here that I "rolled my own" on the kiln elements so Icould fludge things a bit one way or the other and I didn't always get it just right. Always seemed to work, though.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/21/08 23:06:31 EDT

vicopper-- Many thanks once again for your valuable observations!! The heating wires in this Paragon/Rio Grande kiln are buried in the fiber walls of the firebox. The wires in the semi-cylinders I got at the Black Hole, for building a somewhat larger one, however, are somewhat exposed, and I intend to clad them with furnace cement in such a way that if there is a thermal expansion difference, the patch won't impose on anything.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 06/22/08 00:33:22 EDT

Miles, Many potters use ITC-213 to help reduce degradation of the elements and ITC-100 to improve the life of the walls.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/22/08 18:28:10 EDT

Welding Rod Flux: As noted they have a lot of cellulose (wood flour) in them. Some varieties also contain iron powder and compounds of manganese to increase hardness. The active ingredient is borax and sometimes fluorite.

The MSDS will have the ingredients. I do not think it will make very good forge welding flux due to the wood flour and other compounds that are in larger amounts than the borax.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/22/08 18:32:47 EDT

I remember reading here that you can use a salt-saturated vinegar solution to chemically remove mill scale. I tried it once, and I couldn't stop the corrosion afterwards. Therefore, I ask "is the salt necessary?".
As a background for my question, I am building a dog kennel around a steel frame (45X45X3mm angle). Obviously, I need to prep the steel for painting, and want to do it the easiest/cheapest way I can. I just priced blasting, and it would cost more than the steel! Alkaline electrolytic immersion costs even more.
   Craig - Sunday, 06/22/08 21:05:11 EDT

Craig, I will often physically remove scale with a knotted wire cup fit to my small angle grinder. In the U.S., there is also a fibrous wheel with the brand name Bear-Tex, a Norton product, which is good.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 06/22/08 22:01:25 EDT

Cheers Frank :)
I'll have a look for it at the local welding supply shop on my way home this afternoon.
   Craig - Sunday, 06/22/08 22:38:37 EDT

Chemical Cleaning: After any chemical cleaning the active ingredients need to be neutralized. When acids are used you should neutralize with a baking soda solution. That should be washed off with fresh soft water. The salt should be removed by the cleaning neutralizing process.

Immediately after the cleaning process the object should have an active primer applied. An active primer is either cold galvanizing (the best) or a zinc compound primer. That should be followed by a neutral primer and then a top coat of paint.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/22/08 22:49:08 EDT

OBTW - When neutralizing an acid, salts are formed. These are also electrolytic, thus contributing to corrosion and should be removed. Warm water helps. If detergent and water is used it should also be rinsed well.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/22/08 22:53:50 EDT

Jock-- muchas gracias, senor! Craig-- A Cut Above is a great source for abrasives. They'll fix you up with all the Beartex wheels you need in a matter of a few days. Goggle 'em. AND BE DAMNED SURE TO WEAR EYE PROTECTION AND LEATHER EVERYTHING WITH THAT WIRE WHEEL!!!
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 06/22/08 23:49:57 EDT

The following urls point to data sheets for products made where I work. This is the system I intend to use (because I get a 60% discount!). Is this what you meant by an active primer?


   Craig - Monday, 06/23/08 00:32:26 EDT

Craig, No. I am talking about primers for steel that contain zinc similar to galvanizing the part. 97-98% zinc powder by weight is best. I do not have much faith in the zinc compounds. The neutral primer is a non chemically active (usually neutral ph) primer that keeps the top coat's pigments from reacting with the zinc. This no always a problem but unless you are a paint chemist you will not know.

The products you list are part of a two part system that probably works pretty well. However, no paint system that does not provide galvanic protection for the steel is less protection than those that do. While they may be fine paint systems any scratch or pinhole eventually leads to corrosion under the paint, then flaking and loose paint.

Using a system such as yours is much better than no system at all. However, in every case cleanliness of the base metal is critical. That is followed by proper application of the paint (each layer the proper thickness). Then drying and handling. Shop painted items such as decorative iron work that must be assembled often need the finish to be repaired in the field. The need for field repair is why I do not like powder coating.
   - guru - Monday, 06/23/08 08:44:09 EDT

Hey Mr. Turley, I just took my first Blacksmithing class at Rock Ledge Ranch(I've officially been 'bit'!), and I happened to see your signature up on the wall. It was pretty neat seeing a name I recognized. Anywho, on to an actual question. Whenever the subject of building a forge comes up, I never hear anyone say anything about Induction types. Are those something completely out of the scope for beginners such as myself(who also knows pretty much nil about electronics), or would making a home grown one out of say, an old electric stove/range be possible? Just curious as to what you gentlemen thought.
   MacFly - Monday, 06/23/08 09:27:09 EDT

Hey MacFly!! I thought I told you never to come here again!

Heh heh... sorry I just HAD to. Seriously, I am quite interested to see if anyone has a good answer to his question... I would LOVE to have a small induction forge for nails, knives, fake drill bits, etc.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 06/23/08 10:22:10 EDT

Centaur sells an induction forge, I think, or maybe I saw it in a knife mag. There has been lotsa chatter re: induction forges over on another venue whose name I dare not utter here but the last part of which rhymes with tragic.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 06/23/08 11:25:21 EDT

I picked up a lovely cole drill at the Las Cruces fleamarket Saturday. In very good shape; first thing I did when I got home was to clean the dirt off it and oil it and check that all the adjustments were working fine. It only had a 0-1/2" jacobs chuck on it and it still had the V block for the "table" to do round work with it.

Something you don't need often; but very handy when you do---now to scrounge some structural pipe for the new forge addition since the trusses already have bolt plates on them...

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/23/08 11:29:04 EDT

Induction Forges: These are not beyond being shop built but you might need a degree in electrical engineering and a lot of electronic bench top experience. . . Say the type of person that builds oscilloscopes and satellite receivers from scratch. . .

Even simple transformer arc welders have a degree of sophistication that makes them easier to weld with than just a straight transformer. They have capacitor stabilization circuits and circuits to discharge the capacitors as well as RC circuits to reduce high voltage spikes on the diodes (if they are DC).

My basic electronics only extends to making unregulated DC power supplies and I recently re-learned how to apply Ohm's law for combining resistors . . I have a number of VOM's, DOM's and phase meters and have built data collection systems and automatic controls (both rtelay and digital) but I would not tackle such a project as an induction heater.
   - guru - Monday, 06/23/08 11:42:27 EDT

Cole Drill I had to look this one up (click link). Handy tool. Sort of a poor man's mag-base drill press. But it has the advantage of being much lighter and would fit in a portable tool box. The article says it is rigid but I would say only rigid compared to holding a drill by hand. The frame and column is much to light and will definitely be sprung quite a bit while drilling large holes. But it IS a nifty tool.
   - guru - Monday, 06/23/08 11:50:41 EDT

Best Show on Track--Cool time in Woodland CA this last weekend (actually boiling hot time). Major tractor show at the Best farm (a grandson of Best Tractor founder). Best and Holt combined to form Caterpillar Tractor. Tons (literally) of Best Tractors, Holt Tractors, all sorts of Caterpillars, stream tractors, old engines, dirt moving equipment pushing dirt around, and so on. (and what does this have to do with blacksmithing?) There was a Civil War reenactor group, an artillary unit. They have one of 6 mobil Civil War artillary forges still remaining, the other 5 are locked up in museums. Major coolness: they loaded and fired their cannon, they had a misfire, and (speaking as a licensed blaster) they did all the right things to get the shot off safely, they mounted up and pulled their unit at the head of the tractor parade. The three riding on the magazine locked their arms to keep from being bounced off (makes sence). Wool uniforms in 103 degree Central Valley weather. Dedicated. No, I didn't take any pictures. Should be pictures and writeups in the news services, google news "best show on tracks", "woodland best show" or variations on that. HarrysOldEngine.com already has some pictures up.
   - David Hughes - Monday, 06/23/08 12:09:16 EDT

David Hughes

The correct url to Harry's old Engines is: http://old-engine.com/
   - Rustystuff - Monday, 06/23/08 12:39:46 EDT

I love the "Feel The Steel" promo. My favorite part is when the lady screams getting her genitilia pierced.
   - Rustystuff - Monday, 06/23/08 13:00:23 EDT

Induction Forges: The Kaynes used to sell them but Grant Sarver was the supplier. He now sell them direct.

Induction Forge Article:

   - guru - Monday, 06/23/08 13:33:27 EDT

MacFly, You'll be Back to the Future, if you get an induction setup, eh? It looks like the gang here beat me to it with their responses. Grant Sarver will probably get back to anvilfire with an answer. He is out of Tacoma, Washington, where he has a manufacturing concern making Off-Center Brand tools among other things.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 06/23/08 15:16:09 EDT

Yup that's the one, slow and high pressure---note the size of the hole it's shown drilling and what the cuttings look like!

Also the column is solid, not a pipe which helps a bit. You can also totally remove the column and put in a longer one if you need to span a longer distance. I like the design decisions they made.

Not as nice as a mag drill; but for US$12 will probably do what I need it to! (even came with the chuckkey and a *real* jacobs chuck.)

I have a smaller variation that runs off a brace and has a chain to go around pipe as well.

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/23/08 15:22:56 EDT

Rustystuff--yep, you're probably right. Being lazy, I use Google search "harrys old engine", I'm feeling lucky, and it goes right to it. Magic. You're into old iron? I just finished restoring a McCormick-Deering 3 hp M, started on the first crank (a pleasant surprise). Slap the decals on the side, repaint the engine cart, and done. Next, a Sta-Rite problem child.
   - David Hughes - Monday, 06/23/08 15:34:48 EDT

Haha, yeah, this is the one nickname that has really seemed to follow me. I'm all for coal and propane forges, but living on the 3rd floor in an apartment complex isn't exactly a conducive smithing environment. The only reason I even thought of it was my electric stove element(which I was using to season the 'Colorado/Texas Steak-Turner' I made in the class). I'd say my best bet for now is probably going to be joining up with the local ABANA chapter and see if I can snag any more classes somewhere...and remember; "Nobody calls me chicken!"
   MacFly - Monday, 06/23/08 15:57:37 EDT


Thanks for the condescending message, I'll be sure to tell all of my friends about this site. Just to clear it up I wasn't whining, just giving an explanation.
   Anthony M. - Monday, 06/23/08 16:04:06 EDT

Macfly- the stove element heats by resistance of current passing through an element buried inside the stove coil whereas the induction coil heats through the transfer of rf energy through the induction coil and into the piece you are trying to heat up similar to the way a transformer works but at very high current levels..
   - dale - Monday, 06/23/08 16:26:53 EDT

Dear Guru,
I am going to produce a new firepot for a forge and don't exactly know how to get the word out because i live in louisiana where there arn't very many smiths. I see that you do advertising on your site but im not ready for that as im just getting started. I tried putting it in a forum at iforgeiron but was banned for advertising, i didn't mean any harm, i didn't even know it was against the rules. I would appreciate it if you could help me because before i was banned i had a few people who wanted to buy one already. I know this is for my gain but would you please help me, im just an honest person who wants to do an honest thing.
   Matt Tessier - Monday, 06/23/08 16:41:10 EDT

Rustystuff et al: Sorry for the "Feel the Steel" thing.. it was my dad's idea mostly and I never figured the title to come up in search engines would come back to haunt me into embarassment.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 06/23/08 17:02:34 EDT


Thanks for the link on the cole drill -- I learned something too. And a thank you to Thomas for making us stretch a little. (Of course, my first thought was that it was a Japanese tool for making big holes in concrete (grin).)
   Mike BR - Monday, 06/23/08 17:09:10 EDT

Anthony; I can't speak for Jock; but one thing I have found out in the 27 years I have been forging and teaching is that there are those people who will always have an excuse not to do something and those people who will do something no matter what! You cant tell at first which will be which.

I had one friend/student who started forging in college. He didn't have a car, he lived in a dorm room, he didn't have any money; but he did it anyway! (he now has a bigger triphammer than I do, grrrrrrr)

However I've had dozens if not scores or hundreds of people tell me they want to be smiths, *but*.... and every time I work out a way around their problem they come up with a different one. I now try to stop after solving their first problem unless they take it to heart and act on it. It saves me time and time is the *only* thing we are given in this life.

Show us that you are a 'doer" and smiths from all over the world will try to help; but a lot of us are conditioned that when someone has one excuse they will have a trillion of them and it's a waste of our precious time to wade through them.

Shoot if I had the resources available online today I'd have started at least a dozen years earlier and made some very different decisions during the course of my life.

The best way to deal with condescension is to show that it is unwarrented by your actions.

See you at Quad-State this September?


   Thomas P - Monday, 06/23/08 17:36:42 EDT

Not many smiths...
Ok, just what do you guys think are a lot of "smiths" in an area? Taking Matt for example, I know of at least 6 smiths in Louisianna, and I'm about 4000 miles and in another country from there.

   JimG - Monday, 06/23/08 18:03:29 EDT

Thanks Jim, but where in louisiana are you talking about?
   Matt Tessier - Monday, 06/23/08 18:08:52 EDT

Hi David Hughes
I like old iron. I enjoy steam engines, hit & miss, vintage tractors and oil field para. Readers may wonder what does this have to do with blacksmithing. Blacksmithing was a critical part of all those old industries. They were all intertwined.

No problem on the url. I just wanted to make sure anyone interested could fine harry's old engines.
   - Rustystuff - Monday, 06/23/08 18:50:47 EDT

I know this is somewhat off topic, but on MySpace some video clips of me are going wild. I know some of you guys hate the long URL's but here:

On another note (more on topic) about learning from mistakes... I designed a neat folding knife that opens similar to a barbers straight razor. After forging, stock removal, punching a hole, drifting it square, making it beautiful I quenched it and hastily attempted to do a "dry run" assembly before I got a chance to temper it. The square hole caused an immediate crack and destroyed hours of work. ARRRRRGGGGHH!!! was all that could be heard.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 06/23/08 19:02:12 EDT

Matt start with http://www.gulfcoastblacksmith.com/index.php but I think you may have more luck with selling your firepot to beginner smiths rather than ones who who already have a forge.
   JimG - Monday, 06/23/08 19:06:42 EDT

Well we're a bit thin on the ground if you are thinking of a business; but as far a people go there's a passel of smiths in NM which has less than half as many people as Louisianna...

As much as I'm overjoyed to have another supplier; I'm not enthused by that firepot's design; too shallow and not set up for a clinker breaker.

The execution is quite admirable though and I hope you will continue to work on them.

I use a round firepot myself; made from an axle cover of a '30's banjo rear end. I need to make a clinker breaker/grate for it myself...

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/23/08 19:22:39 EDT

what if it was set-up so that you could attach your own tyere and clinker breaker and you could use fire bricks to make it deeper
   Matt Tessier - Monday, 06/23/08 19:43:00 EDT

Firepots: Matt, We don't ban advertising unless it is rather blatent. On the other hand, if you are selling any quantity of a product it PAYS not costs to advertise on anvilfire. A number of new businesses that advertised on anvilfire starting out have been very successful. Others advertise here and nowhere else. We also host and maintain web sites for large and small vendors.

Items for sale belong on the Hammer-In.

That said, manufacturing a firepot is generally a casting operation and thus production and significant numbers of sales are important. Thus advertising should be an essential part of your plan. . .

More important though is the making of a quality product that works well. Materials, the metal, is relatively cheap compared to the design and execution. Skimp on materials and you are doomed to failure. Remember that folks buy commercial fire pots for durability.

I haven't seen or used your pot so I am not qualified to comment on particulars. Some are a good shape, others are not. Some are heavy enough to be be durable, others are not. Some fit old forges and are thus useful as a replacement part as well as a for a new forge. Many have poorly designed grates and I will not give them 30 seconds of my time using them. . . I like large openings that let a lot of air through, do not clog and are easy to clean and maintain. A commercial pot should come with a complete set of parts available, tuyere, ash dump, clinker breaker/gate. If you have to fabricate any of these then it is a hobby kit and many will not buy it no matter how good it is. . .
   - guru - Monday, 06/23/08 20:16:41 EDT

Matt, it's already set up that way you would need to drill a hole through the side of the bottom projection and then push a rod through it, a clinker breaker/grate piece and through the hole on the other side. You would need to fasten it to the rod by welding, pinning, etc. A person could have their choice of grate/clinker breaker shapes that way too.

I would like it to be deep enough to start and let the firebricks be there for "really deep" fires.

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/23/08 20:20:53 EDT

Nip- An old teacher of mine always said "Steel hates a sharp corner"..... Good luck next time.
   Judson Yaggy - Monday, 06/23/08 20:57:23 EDT

Cole Drill: This looks to be an improvement on the drilling post and drilling rachet. I cant say where exactly to view these on the net if You are not familliar with them, but an early Machinerys Handbook may, or an early American Machinist's Handbook does show pictures of them.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 06/23/08 21:03:38 EDT

Dave, my title had a link. Interesting tool. I like my magnetic drill press better but few can afford one. On the other hand, if you really NEED one you cannot NOT afford to have one

Nip, it is difficult to make square holes with rounded inside corners but it helps a lot. Tempering immediately is a good rule to follow as well. . .
   - guru - Monday, 06/23/08 23:24:53 EDT

hello all im very new to this and will just be adding blacksmithing to my list of hobbies for nw but would some day love to atleast suppliment my income if not live off this trade,that being said i have built a small inadequate coal forge that works well for now but i will be scraping soon. have about a forty minute drive to get coal so i was wondering if you would recomend staying with coal or switching to propane, i like doing things the old way but hate paying for gas to run for coal any help or sugestions would be apprieciated. thanks
   justin n - Tuesday, 06/24/08 01:27:09 EDT

hello gurus,

i've got a painted steel door (painted was "baked" on), however the plaster workers left all sorts of plaster on the door. to clean, we were obligated to use hydrchloric acid.

i'm know looking at plaster free doors, however, we are starting to notice what look like borax crystals forming in several places. is there a product to stabilize the formation of the borax? we have washed and washed, but to no avail.


   charles shick - Tuesday, 06/24/08 10:07:39 EDT

Forge Types: Justin, Coal is great for some things but if you are going to make money in the trade gas is much more efficient. IF you can use both in your location that is the best choice. The reason is that gas is not as good as coal for some jobs.

The advantages of gas:

Fuel is easy to obtain almost anywhere.
Fast, clean and no more costly than coal IF the forge is used to its best capacity.
Easier to heat multiple parts to feed a power hammer.
Temperature is more forgiving than coal (rarely burns work).

Advantages of a coal forge:

Flexible capacity from small to large work.
Hotter fire, better for forge welding.
Open so that odd shape work will fit.
possibly less waste fuel getting to temperature
Fuel is less of a fire hazard.

Disadvantages of either:

While coal is very flexible the fire requires constant attention and you must haul ashes out, coal in. Coal absolutely requires a stack.

While gas is very convenient you need different sizes and types of gas forges for general work. An oxy-gas torch is often used to supplement the forge.

Neither is perfect so most commercial shops have both and use each to its best advantage.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/24/08 10:19:59 EDT

Door problem, crystals: Charles, plaster can be removed by softening with water and scrubbing with a stiff plastic bristle brush or stiff rag.

For there to be "borax" crystals there had to be borax there under the paint in the first place. Plaster and borax are two different things. Borax on a metal part could be in either arc welding flux or brazing flux. Crystal growth is more common from brazing and would occur eventually even without the acid. After welding, borax is anhydrous but its natural state is 10 water molecules per single borax crystal. This is the balance that nature wants to achieve. The borax will grab the water from the air or condensation.

Removing borax is difficult. Prior to painting visible borax should be sand blasted off. If it is suspected that borax is trapped in joints then the work should be soaked in water for several weeks, cleaned with a pressure washer and the process repeated. Resulting rust should be removed before painting.

If your problem actually IS borax then the problem existed before the plaster and should have been taken care of by the manufacturer. While the acid accelerated the crystal growth it would have probably occurred on its own at a later date.

Plaster = calcium sulfate hemihydrate -> Calcium sulphate dihydrate

Borax = Sodium tetraborate -> Sodium tetraborate, pentahydrate
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/24/08 10:38:30 EDT

thank you so much for the answer you gave about the chioce of forges you are obviously passionate about what you do one can tel by how eager you are to pass on knowledge and again i thank you, i have another question about anvil construction i have obtained a piece of 6 inch plate and have managed to work a suitable anvil shape out of it wich i might add is no small feat with hand held power tools it is not tool steel but rings like a bell and well rebound a steel ball bearing about 50 to 60 pecent from ten inches have i been wasting my time with this or will this steel hold up for a while until i can get an actual anvil the steel that is left weighs 248 lbs an i still have a bit of grinding to do
   justin n - Tuesday, 06/24/08 11:29:55 EDT

i have read everything you have on this site and a few others as well and just couldnt come out with enough info not that your information is not enough it got me to where i am now i just was curios if you thought i was wasting time
   justin n - Tuesday, 06/24/08 11:33:48 EDT

Justin, a *steel* slab---up on edge so the mass is under the hammer impact point makes a fine anvil and would be much better than what thousands of pattern welded swords were made on back in the early middle ages. It's much better than a cast iron ASO (anvil shaped object) sold as an anvil.

It will have a softer face than a great anvil and you will lose some of the energy from the lower rebound but it will also teach you hammer control and to work the metal hot.

It will be easy to dress if it gets dented too.

Keep your eye out for a great anvil at a great price and don't worry about passing up over priced ones as you *have* an anvil already!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/24/08 11:57:39 EDT

Note that plaster may not be sheet rock mud but a real lime based plaster which will be a calcium carbonate based mixture.

Sheet rock mud is much more common though.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/24/08 11:59:00 EDT

Justin FWIW: Just came across this. Can't vouch for the quality of the result, but just to let you know there is someone out there working in the same direction on anvils:

   - Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 06/24/08 12:13:10 EDT

I've heard about mud being used for flux/flux additive. More specifically, fine mud. I have a collection of mud dauber nests on one of my cellar windowpanes... should I be collecting it? If so, how should I mix it?
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/24/08 12:33:34 EDT

thaks for the link i have already read this one two i love the part about you will nned an oxy acetelyne torch and four inch plate mine is 6 inch and i did all the cutting with a skill saw,sawz all,and a four in angle grinder but it sure would have been nice to have a torch lol but again thank you and i have the whole famdamily looking for the "real" thing two but am glad to know that there will be a benifit in just steel
   justin n - Tuesday, 06/24/08 12:44:31 EDT

Anvil Making: Ernie's, hard facing process is a LOT of welding and grinding. And while he lists most of the expenses he does not list the cost of electricity required.

We had a member write that his electric bill had jumped $200 in one month and wanted to know if building his power hammer with heavy welds could be the cause (his wife was furious). Yep. . it was the welding. But building an anvil is an expensive business no matter what. Just don't overlook that "hidden" fuel cost. And those 7" grinders are not cheap to run either. . .

You said a "steel" of unknown type. So it could be anything from a block of expensive leaded 1018 to hard wear resistant plate (or maybe even annealed tool steel). As Thomas noted it could be a little soft. However, OLD anvils were often soft as well and some structural plate come close to that if hardened. What is important is that the mass is largely under the center of the anvil and that it is solid.

Also as Thomas noted a soft anvil will teach hammer control. When it gets dinged you just clean it up. IF for some reason your steel is a little higher carbon than mild steel then it may hold up surprisingly well.

When you have sizable material and you use good design then you are not wasting your time. When the material is too small and used without a good clear idea of what an anvil needs to do then it can be a waste of time and money.

Hopefully you found my Anvil Making Index. If your anvil turned out well send me some photos and I will add them to the gallery of DIY anvils.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/24/08 12:49:19 EDT

Mud Flux: Nip, this is not really an active "flux" but is an oxidation protectant. Yes it does work for forge welding (for some folks).

Mud dauber mud is supposedly very good for the purpose as they find good ceramic type clay and seperate out most sand and other impurities.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/24/08 12:52:46 EDT

Note that mud dauber mud flux was a suggestion from the time of real wrought iron which needed less fluxing and withstood higher temps than modern mild steel.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/24/08 15:24:34 EDT

I have been reading about the Henrob torch and it sounds and looks too good to be true. What is the general opinion of the gurus council? The web site has videos that are wonderful. Is there a downside to the torch?
   JLW - Tuesday, 06/24/08 19:18:02 EDT

JLW, It is a very handy dandy tool for small work. They do not replace a full sized torch. I do not have one but I've seen them demonstrated. I think I've heard they are hard on tips. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/24/08 19:27:03 EDT

I'm off - on the road for a day. Still moving tools, equipment, STEEL. . . Lousy hot weather for it so driving at night.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/24/08 19:29:19 EDT

Henrobs- some people love em, others hate em.

Many people just dont like the hand position.
They seem to be most popular for small, but not too small, gas welding.
The cutting is sort of in between- not as fast, easy, or accurate, as a plasma torch, but not heavy duty as even a medium sized victor torch- so its rare you meet anybody who does much cutting with them.
Nowadays, with cheapo chinese plasma setups below $500, and used plasma machines common, its hard to see using a henrob instead of plasma for anything thinner than 3/8" or so. And for thicker stuff, a traditional cutting torch is much more practical- for one thing, your hand is another foot or two away from that 3000 degree molten steel.

Personally, I cannot think of anything I would do with a Henrob that isnt better and quicker, albeit more expensively, done with a plasma cutter and a tig welder.

I would recommend a nice medium sized victor torch set, with cutting attachment- theres a reason they havent changed the design in 75 years- it works.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 06/24/08 19:29:35 EDT

See if you can get from Henrob the sort of detailed specs the majors will provide re: what their gear can and can't do, especially when it comes to cutting stainless as Henrob claims-- or used to, anyway-- that it somehow magically can do. I gave up some years ago.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 06/24/08 20:43:54 EDT

Thanks, I am a hobby metalworker and took a oxy-fuel course at the local Tech college. I have a Victor knock off torch that does most things pretty well and a 220 Lincoln for heavier. The henrob looked pretty good as far as economics of gas consumption and neat cutting. I will try to find someone who has one that I can watch. Seems suspicious that most welders and shops dont use one.
   JLW - Tuesday, 06/24/08 20:56:58 EDT

LJW: The guy in the Henrob video sure can do a lot with that torch, but He isn't an average Jo use it 3 times a year guy. I picked up a used one and havn't tried it out yet. Thier greatest claim is that they get the gasses mixed better. and get better performance because of it. By seperating the preheat & cutting oxygen they do [in the right hands]get a better cut in thin steel than a common cutting torch. I tend to agree with Ries that a plasma cutter and TIG welder is better & more versatile, the Henrob is cheaper & more portable.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 06/24/08 23:06:47 EDT

JLW, the above post is meant for You.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 06/24/08 23:07:40 EDT

ank you again for the words of encouragement and yes i did read all of your anvil design pages which were also very helpful although i decided to go with a more traditional desing only for the simple reason that it is esier for me to remove mass than add it i do have an arc welder and am farly proficient using it i dont have an ample power supply and am limited to how long i can weld before triping a breaker and i have to keep my electric down as well i will send pictures as soon as it is complete and ready for show but i am the type that doesnt mind making mistake but will not show them off so as soon as there is a finished poduct ill send the pics as for the steel i have come across i was able to talk a friend into letting me into there yard and grab a "piece" he didnt say what size or shape it had to be he just said take what you want as long as you can lift it so i did and wound up with a chunk that weighed a bit over six hundred pounds in the back of my car and a sore back for a week. two days later when i saw him again he asked who i had help me get it into the truck and i said nobody and no truck it is structural steel plate but i have struck it with a 3 lb sledge before i started working on it and can mark it but very slight even on edge the hammer hardly makes a ding so maybe that might be able to help determine what it is again thank you for being so helpful where i grew up that is how people were all day every day(northern vermont) and now im an hour outside boston and people in general arent so polite or helpful again thanks
   justin n - Tuesday, 06/24/08 23:49:29 EDT

hi ive recently decided to make the switch from charcoal to propane forge (mainly due to my neibors an the fire dept.) but i cant find any plans for the burner that are very simple t me any ideas anything helps thanks
   Denny - Wednesday, 06/25/08 02:15:17 EDT

Justin N: Mass is a lot more important than hardnes for effective forging, and if You wear/displace an area You can always re grind it. You must have worn out a few blades on this project, but I think it will serve You for as long as it needs to, and then some. Happy Hammering.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 06/25/08 22:01:10 EDT

Denny, a lot of people are using the designs from Ron Riel, there is probably a link on this site to it. I have built burners similar to the venturi burner Jock shows on this site. I can't point You right at it, but search around this site till You find the section on forges & burners.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 06/25/08 22:05:36 EDT

yes it has worn out some blades and still has a few hore to go but it is comming along and i can see steady progress i should be done in a year or two lol just kiding it will be finished in a week or so and then i will rebuild the forge and im collecting parts for a jyh so alot to do still but im making headway im just glad that you all are here with what seems to be an infinite wealth of knowledge and thank again
   justin n - Wednesday, 06/25/08 23:34:35 EDT

I am wondering if anyone has any experience shearing corten steel. Specifically I need to cut a bunch of 18 gauge and want to use a corded shear or nibbler. I know corten has a bunch more strength than regular mild so....do I need a heavier rated shear?


   - jamie - Wednesday, 06/25/08 23:35:36 EDT

Jamie, I do not have specs on Corten steel but its claim to fame in its natural rust finish. It is a structural grade steel with added copper and special heat treatment. It SHOULD shear with the same tools as A-36 and other structural grades.

Note that many places that used Corten due to not needing to paint it have now painted it (bridges, sculptures). The reason, rust stains on everything it touches (usually concrete).
   - guru - Thursday, 06/26/08 00:02:09 EDT

Stock Removal on anvil: Generally removing material in order to get a "traditional" anvil shape is a huge waste of time and material. Shaping a horn and heel is one thing but cutting a waist is a mistake. If you look at older anvils such as many of the Mouse Hole anvils, Colonials, French and Italian anvils they have slight or NO waists. These anvils are all much more solid than "modern" anvils which are patterned after farrier's anvils and are also designed to ring due to shape. Their "tradition" reaches back farther and continues to this day in anvils such as the Nimba line.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/26/08 00:08:13 EDT


Cot-Ten steel is alloyed with silicon, chromium, and nickel, (in addition to copper), which will give it somewhat more resistance to abrasion and shearing as well as corrosion resistance. For 18 gauge (.040") I would use my Unishears without hesitation. They're rated for 16 gauge mild steel, though I often cut 14 gauge with them.

As a side note, Cor-Ten doesn't really have all that much higher strength than regular A36 structural steel. 50Ksi versus 35Ksi, roughly.
   vicopper - Thursday, 06/26/08 00:10:28 EDT

Henrob, Skill and Claims: In one of my welding references they have a photo of a fellow cutting 1" slabs from a piece of material that appears to be 8" x 8" with a common torch BY HAND! The slabs look sawn. . . I can hand cut 2 and 3" (50 and 75mm) plate fairly smoothly and competently but over that is a very rare skill. Much of what the Henrob demonstrators is sort of like that. However, I have seen "the man off the street" do fairly decent thick cutting with the Henrob.

Several places sell special "welding rods" for aluminium. . . they are in fact zinc or Zamak so the joint is brazing, not true welding. The MSDS for the products tell the story but the folks selling them say different. . . Henrob was one of those selling special rods for "welding" aluminium. When confronted on this issue the folks selling these get quite indignant and CLAIM they are not zinc but get even more flustered and indignant when the evidence of the MSDS is referred to.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/26/08 00:20:48 EDT

Justin-- if you can lift 600 pounds by yourself you are wasting your time smiting. Get a club gig.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 06/26/08 00:29:57 EDT

I use a Henrod on pretty well a daily basis for cutting thin metal (freon tanks) and applying precise heat when needed for bending and such. For example, yesterday I made a dinner bell triangle out of 3' of 1/2" rod. I can precisely heat the area needed to be bent and then fine tune the final fit quite easily. Another task is to bend over the ears on a postvise spring with the fishtail held in a vise.

I don't braze and a Miller Thunderbolt does me quite nicely for welding.

One of the nice aspects of a Henrom is you keep the acetyene set at 5 pound for ALL jobs. You just vary the oxygen as needed for the job.

At one time Henrob was hitting the horseshoeing conference circuit for their ability for brazing onto aluminum shoes.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 06/26/08 07:52:24 EDT

the shape of the piece determined what to make it was a fallout piece like you show in you anvil design pages but not the corner of a circle rather the waste from the middle of four cicles so it was a four pointed star and the tips of the points were 1 1/2 inches thick which made only two cuts to get the basic shape i needed and i didnt spend much time or remove much material to get the shape i wanted i did leave it as thick as possible becuse every where i read on your pages and others you said to keep as much mass as possible as for the club job i dont think that is up my alley im too mild mannered and it wasnt a lift but more like a roll but ill keep it in mind
   justin n - Thursday, 06/26/08 11:37:37 EDT

Justin, sounds like you are going in the right direction.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/26/08 11:45:38 EDT

thanks and ill send pics of the whole build when i finish
   justin n - Thursday, 06/26/08 11:56:19 EDT

Jamie- I do cor-ten projects 2 or 3 times a year and while I have never worked it that thin my ironworker and bandsaw seem to feel no difference when shearing, punching or sawing that versus regular A36 (or whatever comes thru as mild steel these days). The flames from a forge are more green when you try to hot work the stuff so do it outside or have lots of good ventilation. If you find a mig wire that is a good match structurally and with the rust patina please let us know.
   Judson Yaggy - Thursday, 06/26/08 19:17:30 EDT

Jamie: If You need to bend sharp corners in the CorTen try some pieces both with and across the grain. Bending with the grain it may tend to crack if the bend radius is too tight.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 06/26/08 22:22:47 EDT

More CorTen: To maintain the material's corrosion properties it must be handled strictly according to the manufacturer's fabrication specifications. That includes using the recommend CorTen welding rod, assembling with CorTen bolts and properly heat treating any HAZ (Heat Affected Zones).

It all seemed like a lot of bother to avoid a paint job which much of this material ends up with anyway. . .
   - guru - Friday, 06/27/08 09:58:17 EDT

I recently obtained "Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork"... I am in awe of what these artists are capable of. Of course Anvilfire has top of the list for websites and there's nice pictures of Frank Turley to boot.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/27/08 10:41:01 EDT

Ah, must be the new reprint, the old one predated websites...

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/27/08 11:09:20 EDT

I'm off to OK and AR tomorrow be back around July 7th; don't expect to be online next week.

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/27/08 11:50:16 EDT

I have a question: I am NOT a blacksmith, but I have a vintage power hammer, drill press, lots of hardys, and other stuff I inherited. How does one figure out what it is worth, and where does one sell it? I've heard everything from $20,000, which sounds unrealistic, to "whatever you can get out of it as scrap metal." I'd like to to go to someone who will USE it. (and quit paying storage fees for it. . .)
   Ellen McKinley - Friday, 06/27/08 12:03:06 EDT

Yes, it's a reprint copyright date 1999. Not only is it an excellent resource for techniques, but is a treasure trove for inspiration for new ideas. It is CHOCK full of photographs with 20 pages of color plates. Highly recommended!
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/27/08 12:28:28 EDT

Ellen, as always, the question becomes where are you located (that will have an effect on price). Secondly, what are the particulars for the equipment - type of power hammer, rating, condition, same for drill press and other equipment. Do you want to sell as a lot - you'll usually get less that way, but will be rid of everything quickly. At Quad State in Troy Ohio, I've seen used power hammers in good working condition go for $2000 to $5000 - depended on model, capacity, and condition. I've seen basketcase frames go for about $1000. Drill presses - depends again on size and condition. Used anvil tools at Quad State in good condition usually go for between $15 and $25 each depending on rarity of the type sometimes down to $5 & rarely if ever over $25.
   - Gavainh - Friday, 06/27/08 12:32:24 EDT

Ellen, if you go to the "navigate anvilfire" dropdown menu in the upper right of the page and follow it down to ABANA-Chapter.com near the bottom of it you can find a listing of Blacksmith groups. If there is one near you they may be a good source of people interested in the items you wish to sell.

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/27/08 14:37:29 EDT

Prices: Ellen, If you send me a list of the major pieces (brand names, sizes and or photos of major pieces) I can give you some idea of value.

Many blacksmithing tools and machines that are over 100 years old are in everyday use and sell for new or better prices. SOME small tools, particularly those marked Atha or have a horseshoe with an A inside it are collectors pieces.

People go to a great deal of effort to rescue this type machinery from the scrap yard and restore it. So please do not scrap it!

Values often depend on how long you can wait and how willing you are to market the pieces yourself. Small items can be sold on ebay for fair prices if you want to put that effort into it.

Generally when you sell as a lot you get much less unless there is a great deal of interest in your tools as a group (such as having belonged to someone famous).

Value and selling price are often two very different things.
   - guru - Friday, 06/27/08 15:44:00 EDT

Trip indefinitely postponed as of now.
   Thomas P - Friday, 06/27/08 18:02:15 EDT

CorTen : I seem to recall this as the material of choice for laying up a hull on a steel yacht. They would be painted with an epoxy paint but, still expected to corrode due to galvanic reaction by a predictable amount (so many .001 of an inch per year) even with sacrificial zinc anodes on the hull.
It's gonna' rust some no matter what you do isn't it?
   - merl - Friday, 06/27/08 19:06:04 EDT

Guru, in reguards to Ellen's situation. Is there any way that anvilfire can act as a "middle man" and post pictures and prices for her (for a commission of course) to not only aid her but, also to try to prevent this stuff from going to the scrap yard?
   - merl - Friday, 06/27/08 19:18:37 EDT

Hi Folks,
A machinist friend of mine commented on how hard my anvils must be after years of hammering on them.
Do they work harden much, or does the hot metal minimize the work hardening?
It just got me wondering.
   blackbart - Friday, 06/27/08 19:23:04 EDT

Not to worry about anvils work hardening.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 06/27/08 19:55:01 EDT

blackbart: The anvil face is heat treated when the anvil is made, it is hard right from the start. Work hardening comes from deformation of the material, a good anvil is too hard for this to happen, it is already harder than a softer material will work harden to.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 06/27/08 23:02:02 EDT

merl: CorTen was used to some degree in yacht building. There are almoast aleays some places that don't get prepped or coated properly, particularly on the inside where the hull meets frames & stringers. The idea is that the CorTen will rust slower in these areas, and any place the paint gets chipped chafed, or otherwise compromised. The ideal hull material is 70/30 CuproNickel, but it is WAY too expensive. This material, left uncoated and not galvanicly protected will last an extremely long time, and barnicals will not grow on it.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 06/27/08 23:08:32 EDT

Work Hardening Anvils: According to our metallurgists and much experience the work hardening of anvils is a myth promoted by those that sell soft unhardened anvils. . .

Now, IF you try to machine a good hard anvil with improper tooling, at improper speeds and with lack of rigidity then the machining process will create hard spots from heating and rubbing (a type of work hardening).

Working much too heavy of work on an anvil COULD soften it. Any temperature above 350°F will reduce the maximum hardness of plain carbon steels. However, most anvils never reach maximum hardness so temperatures arounf 450°F should not hurt. If you get the anvil that hot then you are REALLY working too heavy of steel by hand. . .

   - guru - Saturday, 06/28/08 01:26:51 EDT

I currently have a dandy little brake drum forge which has worked well for me over the last couple of years. I do mostly hobby work as opposed to production. I am interested in doing more work and have been considering a gas forge. I have read about the two burner atmospheric forges and it seems that people would recommend doors on both ends ( I have made some rather larges pieces (6' long)
My question is whether it makes sense to buy a gas forge & if so what do I look for. Do I need to make modifications to my shop? Right now I have a 18" flue in a 10 by 18 shop.
Thanks a heap!
   Karl - Saturday, 06/28/08 15:44:42 EDT

It's an axiom in boat building that a steel boat rusts from the inside out. It's the condensation that gets ya. Cor-ten is a little better in this regard, but it's also used because of it's tensile strength, it takes a fairer curve and doesen't dent as easy.

Jock: e-mail me @ nakedanvil
   - grant - Saturday, 06/28/08 16:11:05 EDT

Vicopper: I wouldn't call nearly 50% stronger "not all that much".
   - grant - Saturday, 06/28/08 16:17:21 EDT

information on small rolling mills
   - fredhale - Saturday, 06/28/08 19:25:35 EDT

Guru: Sorry, I'm pretty new to this--I do have some photos, but I don't see how/where I would attach them. The brand of the power hammer is "Modern Power Hammer" and the patent date stamped on it is either 1903 or 1913, don't remember which. I don't know much about the drill press, except that it was from the same era. The two were attached by belts to a huge axle-type apparatus and, most recently, run by an electric motor. There are also lots of hardys and many other things, probably, that I know very little about. Any suggestions as to what to look for on the pieces to find out more about them would be appreciated, as well.

   Ellen McKinley - Saturday, 06/28/08 19:37:06 EDT

need information on rolling mills
   - fredhale - Saturday, 06/28/08 20:10:23 EDT

Ellen: Both answers were right, you get what you get. What area are you in? We may be able to put you in touch with blacksmiths in your area. Get at least three or more opinions, throw away the highest and lowest and average the rest. There may be gold in the "many other things" or just dirt. Decent "Modern" might bring $1,500 to 3,000. Drill press $500 and up. Anvil $1.00 to $3.00 per pound. Most of the rest will probably be scrap, maybe 25 cents per pound. Heck, thats $25.00 per hundredweight! Much depends on your local market.
   - grant - Saturday, 06/28/08 21:26:24 EDT

fredhale: They are machines that roll material out. What kind of information do you need? E-L-A-B-O-R-A-T-E-!
   - grant - Saturday, 06/28/08 21:28:55 EDT


In the overall scheme of high tensile-strength steels, Cor-Ten isn't even in the running, any more than A36 is. Yes, Cor-Ten is almost 50% higher strength than A36, but neither of them approach the 100-200ksi strength of true high-strength alloys. Good old 4140 hits 95ksi tensile strength, for example, and I believe your tongs hit 85ksi. I'd think that since you use an alloy that is more than 50% stronger than Cor-Ten for your tongs, you'd agree that 50ksi ain't all that great. (grin)
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/28/08 22:19:48 EDT

Guru, I welded some plumbing fittings into a pontoon last week, threaded with 1 1/4 inch pipe threads to receive threaded plugs. The first bunch I did got slightly warped so that I had to run a tap in them to put the plugs in. The second batch I started putting the plugs in, screwed down pretty far so the important threads would not be hit with spatter, in an effort to hold the so it would not warp. I thought when everything cooled off it should be easy enough to unscrew them. I did four and unscrewed the fourth one pretty easily while it was still hot because I needed the plug for the next six-- I was running out of plugs. I finished the six, unscrewing the last plug each time when the weld was completed with no problem, which surprised me because I had expected that everything would expand and stick and have to cool off before I could take out the plugs. So, then I went back and tried to get the first three plugs out and they were stuck. I ran another bead around one and started to unscrew it, got about 1/2 a turn towards freedom and it got stubborn again. I thought that since the threads are tapered, I should be able to get it with a bit more force since I already got it moving so I put a cheater bar on the wrench and the nut on the plug collapsed instead. I was surprised. Tuesday I have to go back and get them out. I wrecked the nut on two of them. I can weld something on to twist them again, maybe after spraying with liquid wrench. I can cut the plug with plasma, grind it thin and weak, and chisel it to collapse it. I have equipment to weld cut and heat available. What would you reccommend? Thanks.

   brian kennedy - Sunday, 06/29/08 00:48:23 EDT


You didn't tell us what the plugs and fittings are made of. Aluminum? Malleable iron? Steel? Are the galvanized?

If they're galvanized, maybe the zinc melted and brazed them together. You might be able to heat both pieces until it melts again and them back the plugs out.

If the plugs are steel, you could try heating them to red while keeping the fittings cool. Then let everything cool off again. The heat would expand the plugs in the fittings, with the same effect as if the fittings were contracting around them. Hopefully, when the plugs hit forging temperature, the force from the fittings would swage them a little smaller in diameter. Then when they cooled, you'd have some clearance.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 06/29/08 06:57:08 EDT

fredhale: Is this what you are looking for?

McDonald Rolling Mill
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 07:09:33 EDT

Ellen, If you click on my colored name at the end of this post is SHOULD launch your email client with my address. You can attach photos to send to me.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 07:11:04 EDT

Brian Kennedy,
When welding in female connections there are several tricks to keeping a good thread. If thin wall, say a schedule 40 coupling used as a port, use a never seize such a DowCorning Anti-seize 1000 on the threads, run them in only hand tight.

If available, a "Weld Couplet" is always a better, easier to use choice. These are a fitting made specificaly for welding into a tank etc. They have an extended end with a 55 degree weld prep. The wall thickness on the threaded portion is much heavier, and resists the heat. Weld couplets are used with a plug lightly screwed in only to keep out the splatter, and always never seized.

To remove a steel plug that is stuck, heating the plug to hope one reachs forging temp to resize the threads is hopeless. Heat the area around the plug, as the hoop will expand, loosening the plug. If heat galled in, you will no doubt have to replace the coupling.
   ptree - Sunday, 06/29/08 09:07:06 EDT

Brian, I assume you are using standard weld on pipe bosses. As Mike noted above it would help to have more information.

When I weld this type of thing I install a plug hand tight with the threads coated with never-seize. This helps prevent sticking/galling and sputter balls do not stick. Otherwise you might want to use a bronze plug in a steel fitting. I would use never-seize on any other materials as well especially stainless.

I cannot advise on a welding procedure but all the tanks I have examined appear to have a single continuous non stop MIG weld.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 09:07:11 EDT

Vicopper: Well, there you go. When my coffee gets to room temperature, it's cold, when my pop gets to room temperature, it's warm! Go figure! Strong IS relative. In a boat, cor-ten is probable as high strength as anyone is willing to go. Better to dent than to break. For other applications.........yeah, there are a lot better steels. In the shop cor-ten would only be used 'cause it's layin here and it's the right size anda......
   - grant - Sunday, 06/29/08 11:16:58 EDT

Ellen: The powerhammer and drill press are what is known as line shaft driven. At one time entire banks of equipment in factories were such powered. Shaft power source may have been a waterwheel. Story goes young boys were employed to keep the gears, bearings and such overhead lubricated and that is where the term 'grease monkey' originated.

Bob Zeller was one of the founders of the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil chapter of ABANA. His shop near Medway was such equipped. He would start the line shaft and then engage various pieces of equipment as he needed them.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 06/29/08 11:57:50 EDT

wantig to mount an old anvil my great grandpa hadand i've decided to put it on a block of wood.being that the anvil is 10/.5 inches high,how tall should the wood block be? making the whole unit a total of what height is norm
   - cecil - Sunday, 06/29/08 13:17:55 EDT

i also have the part that the fire is built in ,but i have no blower.i'm going to use the wheel and motor out of a cloths dryer. the motor has 4 wires coming out ,so i need to find out which makes it go.any ideas
   - cecil - Sunday, 06/29/08 13:20:51 EDT


The standard rule of thumb for anvils is to stand up, make a fist, and let your arm hang naturally at your side. Your knuckles should brush the top of the anvil. That's just a starting point -- many folks go an inch or two higher unless they regularly do heavy work.

On the dryer motor, you should be able to find a wiring diagram online if you know anything about the dryer. If you don't, look for a diagram here that matches the wire colors on your motor (and hope it's the right one): http://www.applianceaid.com/diagrams.html.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 06/29/08 14:50:16 EDT

Safety question.

It's summer now, and I'm building my forge for sword making. This is what it looked like a few minutes ago, now it's filled up with concrete up to the tuyere.


Now some of you may already see the problem, the tuyere is a piece of galvanized fencing pipe. Given that it's outdoors and only a small part of the tuyere is going to be exposed to the heat, should I allow a 'burn in' time if at all to get rid of the galvanized coating? I'm not particulairly anxious to get heavy metal poisoning.
   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 06/29/08 17:14:54 EDT

Just got a special order yesterday. Drawer pulls for an antique w non standard centers on existing holes.

I can make what the lady wants, but I got to wondering about finish on something than will be handled occasionally w the bare hand.

I've got a bunch of things I can put on, unfortunately very little experience in this kind of situation.

I've got Krylon clear coat spray on, the standard wax/kerosene/linseed, penetrol, boiled linseed, and a couple brass/copper cleaner coaters I've been told work well on any metal.

Opinions please?

   - Rudy - Sunday, 06/29/08 17:16:25 EDT

Rudy, see my post on the Hammer-In
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 17:31:33 EDT

Zinc Pipe: Nabiul, Watch for white smoke, brilliant white flames. Also watch for spalling (exploding) concrete. The problem with a "burn-in" on this type forge (one I DO NOT recommend) is that it will never be as hot as you will eventually get it . . . The problem is also compounded by the fact that this is a sit at or kneel at froge where you never get far from it. However, most of the problem material should burn off with the first fire. Where new problems will develop is when the pipe burns out and fuel falls into the pipe making it MUCH hotter.

The best oriental bladesmithing forges I have seen are the rectangular trough type with one or more side inlets. They are simple to build with a few refractory bricks. Easy to adjust. Will take long and irregular pieces and the simple side openings have nothing to clog or burn out.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 17:42:34 EDT

Cecil, For anvil stands see our iForge page for various types and the Dippy Duck demo for height and work positions.

Note that almost every anvil is the WRONG height for anyone other than the owner. If you plan on others using it consider some type of adjustment such as wood risers under a box stand. Children and young adults often need anvils with stands only 10 to 15" tall.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 17:48:04 EDT

If I had unlimited funds, my mian anvil would be mounted on a hydraulic column so I could run it up and down at will. With a 450# anvil, you don't just lift it up and shove a block under it like you do with a little 100#er. I even know where there's a couple of in-ground auto hoists I could have for the taking, but after several years of non-use in our climate they'll be worthless. Even if functional, they'd go so deep that I couldn't dig the hole, nor do I ever need my anvil ceiling high. (grin) Still its a lovely thought, a hydraulically positioned anvil.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/29/08 21:08:15 EDT

i cut the horn yesterday i think i made it too narrow is there a standard width for them or is four inches at the base wide enough the face is six inches wide so it looks a bit strange to me could this be built up or should it be ok at 4 inches. by the way thanks for sugesting the nimba site for ideas. it was much easier to go for somthing more along those lines for the piece i had again thanks for the help
   justin n - Sunday, 06/29/08 21:55:09 EDT

VICopper -- Couldn't be *that* hard to cut down a cylinder and shaft. Maybe you could even cut out the bad parts of one of the old lifts. Might make rearranging your shop a little inconvenient, though (grin).

Even if your post might have been a little tongue-in-cheek, I do wonder how those old air-powered lifts worked. I guess they had a big air-pressurized reservoir? That would mean low-pressure hydraulics, which is consistent with the huge shafts. Probably wouldn't take much of a hydraulic pump to run one as an anvil stand, since you'd only need a few inches of travel and speed wouldn't be much of a factor.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 06/29/08 22:06:40 EDT

also i did a spark test on one of the pieces that i cut off whith a wheel so it got hot on the edge and air dried it sparked the same as a file i know spark testing is a loose way to gauge steel properties but it is much harder on the heated and cooled edge than on the thicker edge without the heat from grinding.could i efectively harden it by building a bonfire around it and tossing it in the brook or would there be repercushions for trying that
   justin n - Sunday, 06/29/08 22:09:52 EDT

i meant air cooled sorry
   justin n - Sunday, 06/29/08 22:10:52 EDT

I've been thinking of making a roll around stand for an anvil with with the wheeled assembly attached to a couple of 6 ton bottle jacks that the local freight salvage is selling cheap. That way I can jack the wheels down and roll it around and then just release the pressure to set it back down. No reason it wouldn't work with adjustable height legs. Some of the anvil stand designs here on anvil fire look to be easily modified to accommodate my idea. Just a thought.
   Robert Cutting - Sunday, 06/29/08 22:33:27 EDT

I would not suggest trying to heat treat Your anvil, not initally anyway. Keep some of the scraps to play with if You ever do decide to try to harden it. I would very much doubt that it "sparks like a file" if You really understand what You are looking for in a spark test. You can try hardening the scraps with a torch to see what can be achieved. If the material is truly heat treatable, flame hardening would be the way to go, but You would have to build a fair ammount of gear to do it.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 06/29/08 22:41:37 EDT

hi i heard that hemitite was just magnatized iron . Is that true? an if so would it be pure enough to make a knife with all answers help thanks
   Denny - Sunday, 06/29/08 23:05:26 EDT

HEMATITE is black iron oxide highly compressed in mineral form. It was one of the first forms of iron worked by man and the oldest surviving iron art works are made of hematite. It works like a relatively fine but soft stone.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 23:23:47 EDT

Hammering on hydraulic cylinders has a habit of wrecking valves and gauges. We had a high class single column auto lift in our old Phillips 66 station. Sadly most of the works were hidden underground. . . Due to the air over oil system it was slightly bouncy (if you applied enough force).

There is a famous example of a heavy anvil mounted on a large screw that was part of the anvil. Very stout. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 23:30:15 EDT

Horn Design: Width has nothing to do with it. It is proportions resulting in the taper. Most modern horns start as wide as the anvil body and are 2-1/2 to 3 times as long. I've never measured the angle of a horn but the conical ones appear to be about 30 degrees. However, the rhino horn type are curved from near parallel to the side of the anvil to the point. A few blend from the sides to a short conical point. A popular German/Austrian design blends into a rounded side of the body and face.

Many smiths do not like the round turned horn such as on the Peddinghaus, they prefer a horn that is flatter on the top blending into an ovoid bottom. This creates a range of shapes. The old Mousehole forge horns were round on top and had a point underneath at the body but blended into a nearly round cone toward the point in rhino horn fashion. Late Hay-Buddens started out nearly square particularly on the bottom.

Some horns are long thus proportionately slender and others short. If too short I find them difficult to work on but iff too long they are springy and weak. In the 1700's shops had seperate stake anvils or bickerns that had very slender shapes compared to that used on an anvil IF it had a horn at all.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/29/08 23:45:02 EDT

dave boyer- i only know about spark testing what i have read on here but i though i was looking for was the amout of branching from the individual sparks and it was simillar to a file not quiet as brilliant but much more so than a hc rr spike which is 40 to 50 points of carbon i think. if i am doing something wrong i would love to know what so it could be corrected im clearly new to this and any input is helpful. thanks
   justin n - Monday, 06/30/08 00:13:05 EDT

Guru et al, Thanks for the tips. The fittings were galvanized steel schedule 40, not weld-on type (owner supplied them on the spur of the moment from the local lumberyard hurrying to get it back in the water before the 4th.) I ground the zinc off the area that was welded. I guess I will just cut the problems out, get some never seize for the replacement ones, and if I
unscrew them while things are still hot, hopefully they will come apart. They just have to be water tight. They are above the water line. Below the water line the 1/8 steel is pretty cratered from 30 years in the water, I think the new paint is going to be doing most of the hull duties for the rest of the dock's life!
   brian kennedy - Monday, 06/30/08 01:05:39 EDT

vicopper, maybe you could devise a platform to stand on that was hydraulic? I find tripping hazards help keep me alert. I work in a former goat shed with a dirt floor and a little cement foundation running across it for a removed wall. Eventually I will put cement up to that level, but in the meantime it is like a low rent vipassana meditation retreat.
   brian kennedy - Monday, 06/30/08 01:27:03 EDT

Spark Tests: These are only as reliable as the method. Fine small wheels such as on Dremels or die grinders tend to give lots of sparks that can be mistaken as "branching". To do a good test you need a nearly darkened room, a stationary bench grinder 6" or larger and a coarse wheel. Sparks must fly free not bouncing from the table or guards.

THEN you need a few known samples to test with. If you cannot get a good low branching spark indicating mild steel then you cannot detect the difference between other pieces of steel. Ocassionaly you can find 1/8" (3.2m) soft iron wire. It is commonly SAE 1008. Quite low carbon. Otherwise good quality U.S. made cold drawn key stock is usually SAE 1018-20. Either of these is a good standard. Follow that by a common coil spring and then a good quality file (not a rasp). Many old tools were made of steel near 1095 and are fair if unknown high carbon steels. Drills, made of HSS (High Speed Steel) spark differently and should not be used as a high carbon reference.

When you can easily see the difference between your samples (low, medium and high carbon) OR at least low and high carbon consistently then test your unknown sample the same way.

With practice and a good eye you should be able to estimate carbon content to within twenty points provided you have good samples to go by. The branching per spark is roughly directly proportional to the amount of carbon UNLESS it is dampened by alloying. . . Note that SOME alloys can also be detected by a good spark test.

   - guru - Monday, 06/30/08 10:36:37 EDT

OBTW - I would also use a piece of A-36 structural in the tests. Also note that flame cut surfaces often absorb a LOT of carbon in the swarf and melt zone. Trash corners being ground off plate will often test like higher carbon.
   - guru - Monday, 06/30/08 10:40:58 EDT

Hematite is a good iron ore, but it is not iron. It is a rock. Fe2O3 by composition, plus whatever other impurities may be present, it occurs in a range of colors from black to dull red. When smelted, it can yield anywhere from 20-60% iron by weight. It is not magnetic.

If roasted, you convert it to magnetite, Fe3O4. This is magnetic, sort of. If absolutely pure you can get up to 72% iron by weight from it.

The only natural "rocks" that have enough iron to forge as-is are certain nickel-iron meteorites. One look at the cost of that stuff and you'll see why it isn't used much!
   Alan-L - Monday, 06/30/08 11:07:45 EDT

More Anvil Horn Design:

The best of the old soft body English anvils with soft horns had the top of the horn slope uphill a bit (usually from the step to equal to the face height). This would help compensate for droop due to heavy use over the years. When new the effect is what one would call "perky" in another arena.

While the early rhino horn anvils were hand forged by eye later die forged and cast anvils had a horn laid out by geometric methods on the drawing board to approximate what the forgers had done. This was done with the top straight and the rest simple arcs. The horn was often about 1.1 to 1.3 deeper than wide so this resulted in an ovoid cross section. However I have a set of detailed drawings from an British foundry that gives the horn in perfectly round cross sections.

I personally like the rhino horn or eagle beak shape. But the conical shape has the advantage that it can be ground entirely by machine using a wide belt (or turned and ground). While almost all blacksmiths anvils have nearly round cross section horns those made for farriers have dramatically flattened horns with mixed ovoid curves.

In recent years some really BAD horn shapes have reached the market on cheap low quality anvils. The worst are on the "Central Forge" Russian and many of the Chinese. Pattern makers who apparently had never seen a good Western anvil were told to make it bird beak like and picked a duck's bill. . .

Carving any of these shapes well from the solid is art.
   - guru - Monday, 06/30/08 11:38:59 EDT

Ok Folks Pay Attention!

No there is not a standardized anvil shape: london patterns, japanese patterns, european patterns, bridge anvils, stake anvils all are anvils!

No there is not a standardized anvil height: just as torso length vs leg length differs from person to person and some folks are swinging sledged using top tools and other are doing precision work you should put your anvil at the height where your back doesn't hurt after a long session using it. (I have anvils at 4-5 different heights in my shop depending on what I am doing just for me!

No there is not a standardized hardy size. There are some that are more common than others, but of my anvils I have *3* that take 1.5" hardies something very few other anvils have. The others are around 7/8" to 1" and I own a very small hardy that has a 3/8" shaft.

No there is not a standardized pritchel size. As above with two of my largest anvils not having a pritchel at all, they have two hardy holes apiece though...

Anvils were originally made by blacksmiths swinging sledges out of material on hand. They then went to being made under open dies on large hammers, (tilt, steam, air, etc). This type of work does not generally result in carbon copies; rather things that are generally close to each other---why each anvil was weighed individually and the weights are almost never nice even numbers, exp anvils I have/do own: 138, 91, 163, 407 pounds...

Anvils should be installed to properly work for the user's body dimensions and type of work they do: why would you assume that someone else's dimensions would be the same as yours? (See the Bertillion system an early identification system based on the fact that pretty much everybody is slightly different in various measurable stats!)

So if you are building an anvil make it to suit yourself! Trying to exactly copy something when you are doing *custom* work is wasting the possibilities of making things perfect for *you*!

And if you are doing knifework usually having the anvil several inches *higher* than the oft quoted "knuckle height" will do wonders for your back!

Also there is no "best" metal for making a sword...

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/30/08 12:42:17 EDT

Jock, it almost seems as if you are reading excerpts from A.I.A., but you could have written it if Postman didn't get to it first!

Hematite: all over the place you can find "Sizzlers", they are football shaped pieces of hematite sold in pairs. They are completely magnetic, and when handled properly they "buzz" from vibration of the magnetic fields. So is this simply hematite shaped, tumbled, then heated to magnetite? Then there are magnetic hematite necklaces and bracelets supposed to have healing powers of the magnetic field. Hoodoo or not, I will not set up a pyramid frame around my anvil either.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 06/30/08 12:50:21 EDT

Oops, Thomas, not Jock.. sorry.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 06/30/08 12:50:46 EDT

AIA (Anvils in America):, Nip, There is not much on anvil design (or use) in AIA as it is primarily an historical reference. It is also primarily about Western anvils and has little on alternative types other than early anvils. There is nothing on DIY anvils. . .

The material found on anvilfire related to anvils is original and based on personal observation or experience. The rules on 50:1 mass and work size as well as the anvil size for class of work in our Selecting an Anvil article is all original and not found in AIA.

In fact 99% of all our anvil material is wholly original several predate AIA altogether. Some of the most basic advice goes back to the Art Of Blacksmithing which was published 30 years before AIA. Where AIA has been referred to a great deal is where people want to know when their anvil was made or who made it.

AIA is a great reference but there is still a lot to cover about this humble Queen of Tools (the hammer being King).
   - guru - Monday, 06/30/08 14:12:02 EDT

Last I heard from Richard Postman he is hard at work on the follow on to AIA, tentitively titled More on Anvils. Will be a supplement to AIA, rather than a redo. For example, he has now documented a number of additional English anvil manufacturers, additional client logos by H-B & Trenton and an additional Swedish brand.

He will also be making some corrections. For example, he though Harriet Fisher was Mark Fisher's daughter, but turns out she was his much younger wife. He thought ENGLAND started to be put on British anvils in 1910, but now dates it to the late 1800s.

He doubted it would be ready by Quad-State. More likely late this year or early next.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 06/30/08 14:27:01 EDT

Nip, here's a news flash: Those ain't hematite.

They're polished steel.

There's a reason folks think new Age crystal folks are gullible...
   Alan-L - Monday, 06/30/08 14:47:39 EDT

Hello, I am building a civil war travelling forge and have completed quite a bit of it. There are a few questions that I have about the limber that is associated with it. Does anyone have a picture or drawings of one? also what do the boxes 1 thru 5 look like? also the farrier tool box? I am trying to make it appear as authentic as possible. Thanks for any help.
   Slim - Monday, 06/30/08 15:44:17 EDT

Call it an Anvil

To reinforce what Master Thomas stated above, and especially for all of you sword and history fans (medieval, renaissance or merging into the colonial period…):

There are no medieval MilSpecs!

There are ranges, averages, medians and modes, but in a handcrafted society most items are individual. In pre industrial revolution societies, making something like six identical table knives is difficult and expensive; after the industrial revolution making lots of identical anything, quick and cheap, is relatively easy. Even preindustrial casting required a lot of hand work, with great care to make matching sets. Eli Whitney’s secret for the mass production of arms with interchangeable parts was to standardize templates, materials and techniques for a consistent product. Most of the time it actually worked, but even now we still need armorers (gunsmiths) to make those fine adjustments.

The countertrend in a handcrafted subsistence society is that “what works, works”; and thus tradition grows stronger. Experimentation is a luxury when you could starve or be killed should you miscalculate or just get unlucky.

Likewise, the anvil is an evolving tool, but usually slowly evolving. The anvil for a power hammer looks nothing like the anvil for a farrier, which only vaguely resembles a tinsmith’s stakes, all of which will do the job they were meant to do, and maybe a few that they weren’t designed to do, if necessary.

I keep a 45 lb. 4” X 4” X 12” block of steel under my desk and a small riveting hammer just for odd jobs that come up at the office (I just repaired somebody’s sandal a few minutes ago.). It’s an anvil, it’s a doorstop, it’s scrap for a future project, it’s a toe-stubber, it’s a counterweight… It’s whatever I need it to be. But if I tell folks it’s an anvil, that’s what it is. ;-)

Wild and hectic on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 06/30/08 15:59:14 EDT

More on anvils.
I picked up my 300 lb. German anvil at a farm auction years ago for 21 cents a lb. because it didn't look like a "regular" anvil. It is a typical hornless anvil from the late 1700's to early 1800's. There were several people at the auction looking for the anvil listed on the sale bill, but didn't bid on it because it didn't fit their stereotype idea of what an anvil should look like. Jock has a pic of it on his German anvil page
   Bernard Tappel - Monday, 06/30/08 16:44:56 EDT

Isn't it funny how many metalworking projects pop up at work once people know that you have the skills?

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/30/08 18:11:37 EDT

Alan and Nip: ANd they don't vibrate from interaction of the magnetic fields. They vibrate by bouncing off each other and coming back together repeatedly at a high rate. And hematite ain't black. At least not all black. It's red. That's why its called hematite. Sometimes found in a natural form that includes some black in the rock, but the mineral itself is so red its used a s a pigment in powdered form.
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 06/30/08 22:01:03 EDT

"a low rent vipassana meditation retreat" Brian I love the viual I get from that description. I prefer open toed sandals when I go out to the shop for a quick hammer so, I get the falling hot scale to help me stay awake. (hee hee)
I wonder though, does your former goat shed have the same rich tappastry of aromas as my former hog barn/smithy?
   - merl - Monday, 06/30/08 22:06:21 EDT

Ken:I have read at least three different supposedly authentic accounts of who Harriet was: Mark's wife, Mark's daughter and Clarks daughter. What's the definitive source?
   Peter Hirst - Monday, 06/30/08 22:36:24 EDT

Justin N: Jocks post covers the spark test pretty well. A good high carbon file sparks with loads of starbursts all the way back to the wheel, and none of the sparks that look like a tracer round being fired. The HC spikes are probably lower carbon than You think. The sort of plate things are flame cut from is most often A36, but could be a high strength low alloy material, 4xxx alloys being a posibility.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 06/30/08 22:59:26 EDT

Skills, Tools and Preparedness:, My ex-wife could install a plug on a cord and find and on/off switch. . She had screw drivers, wire cutters and electrical tape in her desk. So as an elementary school teacher she immediately became the audio-visual "tech" person. Long gone are the days when a school custodian had those skills. . .

I used to carry lock picks with me all the time in a tool kit or brief case. Came in real handy when folks lost or misplaced keys. . . I don't carry them anymore since the world has become so paranoid. Those and a pair of needle nosed pliers and you are likely to be labeled a subversive.

I have a pocket calculator size VOM that I would carry on Nuc jobs. I wasn't allowed to be an "electrician" or do that work in the plants but I always checked the voltage before we plugged in our machines. Some plants have everything from 240 to 880 on the same big ugly industrial plugs and they are not clearly marked. . .

My carpenter's box used to be organized well enough that I could fit and install a door and a dead lock in the same. It rode in the back of the truck for years. I don't have a clue what's in it now.

When I was traveling for business I kept an eclectic set of tools in by brief case and later in my computer case. These included miniature screw drivers and pliers, surgical clamp, a warding file, lock picks, the mini VOM and a copy of Machinery's Handbook (now digital). Post 9/11 security has killed that. I carry a bunch of the same in a zip lock bag in my checked luggage. It now includes a combination cork-screw and can opener as it is a different kind of kit now.

I've had a first-aid kit building project going for a couple years but never seem to complete it. Buying supplies to build three complete travel/shop kits gets fairly expensive. . . In the mean time various parts have been used. . .

In a small one-man shop you often collect tools for multiple trades. I have masons' and carpenters' tools including some rather professional equipment besides all the mechanics, blacksmithing, machine shop and locksmith stuff. . . But this is often what it takes to run a small (manufacturing) business no mater what it is.
   - guru - Monday, 06/30/08 23:38:25 EDT

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