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 16 - 21, 2009 on the Guru's Den
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I was given a martial arts weapon called a sai dagger to repair. The hilt was bent. The thing appears to be mild steel which has been chromed. I told him I could heat it and bend it back into shape, but the chrome would be discolored. He said that would be ok. Question. Can chromed mild steel be heated? Or is it like zinc -- producing toxic fumes? How should I go about this?

   coondogger - Monday, 06/15/09 22:22:38 EDT

Anvil Source: According to an entry on the ABANA forum www.incandescent-iron.com now offers an anvil imported from Northern China under the brand name of Rhino. Three sizes, all with a 1" hardy standard. Under $4 lb FOB Spokan, WA.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 06/16/09 04:35:39 EDT

Coondogger: i hear chrome is really bad. i think you should look it up. i am a newbie but i really think that chrome is nasty stuff. and some of this information came from the 3 saftey tutorials from the iforge section.
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 06/16/09 06:43:42 EDT

I'm getting started. I have a family anvil that was ID'd as colonial. A little sway on the surface but not bad. I would like confirm it's ID and proceed to use it or sell it and get one I can use. It has no names or #'s, It is wrought iron, 100lbs, with a horn ,but no cutting table, early English. I can send pics to anyone who might be interested
   Scott Smith - Tuesday, 06/16/09 07:21:21 EDT

Coondogger, just straighten it cold. Sai are usually made of mild steel, sometimes aluminum, rarely zamak (aluminum-zinc alloy commonly known as pot metal), and VERY rarely hardenable steel.

I'd imagine one or two bumps in a vise and you'd be done. Just be sure to pad it with some leather to keep from scratching the chrome.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 06/16/09 08:15:21 EDT

I was curious if anybody would be able to tell me if my plan could work as a makeshift anvil. It is to weld a good piece of steel to the end of a rectangular 2 ft piece of thick tubing and fill it with cement after the steel is welded to the pipe so that the ringing is diminished. the pipe, or rectangular tubing was used to lift a 4 ton turtle submarine replica and is pretty hefty. The turtle sub if anyone doesn't know was the first sub ever built in the United States and was used during the revolutionary war
   matt - Tuesday, 06/16/09 08:25:38 EDT

Rhino Anvils: PLEASE NOTE, I've said this before. There are NO photos of most of the products on this site, just CAD images. This usually means that the product has never been produced or delivered. The same images have been there for around a year.

Family Colonial Anvil: Scott, The prices on these vary greatly depending on the style and condition. Top prices were running over $800 in the US but many have sold for less. If the anvil will only bring half that you are better off using it. You may send photos to me if you would like it ID'd. In exchange I'd like permission to use photos sent.

Pipe Anvil: No. See our Anvil Making Articles

Mousehole Anvils were the most popular and most common anvil in the U.S. for a very long time. Generally they are very well manufactured and IF they had any problems have broken or showed their failure points by now. While Peter Wright anvils were more popular by name I believe Mousehole sold many more anvils. They were one of the oldest manufacturers and were in business longer than any other. Almost any broken down piece of Mousehole anvil would be better than a lift fork.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/16/09 10:13:21 EDT

now I see why you said no, I was worried about those issues brought up in the part of the article that talked about concrete, so that will not be the path I will fallow, thankyou.
   matt - Tuesday, 06/16/09 10:26:06 EDT

Scott, I took your advice and stuck it into some scrolling posts and bent it cold.
It's not perfect, but you'd have to look awfully close to see the imperfection of the repair. Best of all, it didn't mar the chrome finish. Thanks for the tip.
   coondogger - Tuesday, 06/16/09 10:28:06 EDT

Coondogger, that was Alan-L. that answered your question.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/16/09 11:19:56 EDT

My forklift tine is huge how do you reccomend i get it heated to a temperature high enough to harden? We have a oxy-acetylene torch but we dont hove the big bottles, we have machine and welding shops, that how i should do it?
   Jacob Lockhart - Tuesday, 06/16/09 11:32:23 EDT

Well its 3x6" on the face and im sure it weighs well over 200lbs maybe closer to 300, Its a short stocky little sucker.
   Jacob Lockhart - Tuesday, 06/16/09 12:50:26 EDT

A coupla' guys described what they did to harden an old anvil face. They dug a hole in the ground for a wood fire but had a 3" stove pipe off to one side and going to the center/bottom of the hole for a tuyere. The stove pipe came above ground about 15' from the fire and attached to a hand blower. They probably used over a face-cord of wood for the fire. They chained the waist of the anvil and used a steel porter bar through the chain for lifting. The anvil was placed in the fire upside down. When the face was cherry red, they lowered the anvil into a large stock tank. Proctective clothing and face masks were a must.
   - Frank Turley - Tuesday, 06/16/09 14:04:32 EDT

Hi, I am interested in castng my own anvil from cast iron & or steel. This project is a long way off, but I am designing a tilt furnace for large iron/steel loads (80 lbs max) and I want to make sure that I make it with all the nessasary features. I know that this is somewhat impractical, but I think it will be fun and it might even be cheaper than buying a lightly used one.

Anyway, so far I have been planning on making a 250 lb London style anvil. I was planning on first making a solid horn and table of tool steel, with a tang that would extend all the way to the hardie hole through the body of the anvil. Then I would set up an open top mold for the face and body so that the tang would be (hopefully) weleded into the tool steel face. After the face and the tang were cast I could cast the rest of the body from cast iron, or tool steel if I could find enough. Then I would just have to make a mold for the base so that it would (hopefully) weld to the rest of the anvil when I poured it. The big question is, if I do this will any of the welds be made or will I have to find a differnt way to weld the peices togethor? Can you see any other flaws in my plans? Finaly, could old leaf springs from the scrap yard be used in stead of tool steal with a decent result? I dont know what alloy these are but I might need to find really old ones that dont require air quenching.
Anyway, thanks for helping out a confused newbie,
   - Julian - Tuesday, 06/16/09 17:49:32 EDT

Jacob Lockhart, if I were to want to heat treat the end of that forklift tine, I would build a stack of fire bricks and lay the tine with the end sticking a few inches through. Then using a weed burner I would heat just the end, and then when hot quench with water. I would spray from a hose on the end that needs to be hard. Once cool,quickly sand a spot and let the heat run back in to a straw. The forklift technicians I have asked have all reported the fork materal to be 4140. Truth is, I would use as is, hot metal is not that hard on an un-heat treated surface, its the missed hammer blows that do the damage.
   ptree - Tuesday, 06/16/09 18:06:45 EDT

Rhino Anvils. I haven't mentioned this on AF because Jock relies on paid advertising. What Jock says about the images of Rhino anvils and other products is completely correct. The products, however, do exist (in China). I have a set of his stake tools which get used a lot by my students. I also have a swage block which looks exactly like the CAD on the site. I use it a lot and it is very good. Those tools I have paid for and am very happy with them.

I also have one of each size anvil which have been sent to me to test. So far they have proved to be very good. The wider face takes a bit of getting used to. I was worried that it might mean that there would be a problem with not having enough steel under the edge for seriously heavy forging but this hasn't yet been a problem with the 234# middle sized unit. I ahven't done anything heavy on the other two yet. The tapered heel I also find useful. Sort of half way between a single and a double bick!

One thing with these tools is that at least they are sold as being made in China. Some other manufacturers do have tools, including anvils, made here and try to suggest by their publicity that they are made in the west.
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/16/09 18:12:26 EDT

I suspect China will be like Japan shortly after WW-II. At first known for inferior products, but within about a decade became known for the superior quality.

Look for more and more high quality Chinese anvils becoming available in the U.S.

As Philip noted, at least they admit they are Chinese and give you the specifications. For $50 extra you can even have your own logo put on one.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 06/16/09 18:36:03 EDT

I thought the logo might be useful in cases where you are worried about theft. Makes reclaiming it much easier!
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/16/09 18:54:50 EDT

Julian; have you read the section of Fisher Anvils in "Anvils in America" IIRC they mention some of the patents that fisher had for that process. I'm afraid it's quite a bit more involved than just casting it onto the face to get a good bond.

As for it being cheaper I would expect your fuel cost to be more than I can find an anvil for; not to mention the cost of the melting apparatus, the cost of the refractories to make the mold from, shoot the cost of the proper safety equipment is going to be more than buying a decent anvil.

Do it cause you *want* to do it expecting to spend more than you need to!

I know you are of course expecting to have to do many tries before getting this down right, right?

Remember too that when you melt steel and cast it you don't get what you started with unless you are dealing with a large number of factors. (including large weak grain structure---the cast steel ingots used to be heavily forged to get good properties when they used to do it that way in Sheffield!)

I would not try to cast the face but rather make it from a good steel and full penetration weld the tang(s) on. Try to use a steel where you can refine the grain through normalization.

Remember that you will need a trained and practiced crew to do this safely. If you are near Central NM I'll volunteer to be a grunt.

(note that very few steels require air quenching and in anvil sized items even air quenching steels may need a bit of help...)

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/16/09 19:04:11 EDT

BTW "making your own anvil because it is cheaper"? I don't think so!
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/16/09 19:25:53 EDT

Casting in Stages: Julian, this works in substances that bind together by cold methods (like concrete) but not melted materials like metal.

To make good castings in most metals requires a significantly higher percentage of metal than the shape in the mold. Risers help pressurize the metal and provide metal supply as the part cools and shrinks. Some castings take as much as 100% extra for the risers and sprues.

If you want to experiment with casting start small and work on quality and consistent results. Casting, especially heavy masses is an art. I've had commercial foundries that couldn't cast a 30 pound swage block because they didn't know how to make a heavy casting (did not weight mold, use large enough risers, too fine of sand. . .).

If you want to see a little about what it takes to make a weld using poured metal see our news article on Thermite Welding and pay particular attention to the preheat requirement.

IF you are serious about casting work you need to find ALL the works by C.W. Ammen on casting and pattern work. There are others but most take their info from Ammen or learned from his works

If you want to make your own anvil you can do it much more cheaply and effectively if by using fabrication methods from heavy sections and plate by cutting, welding and grinding. We have a great selection of ideas and methods in our Anvil Making Articles
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/16/09 20:36:05 EDT

Even concrete isn't that great a material to join cold, in fact in the building trades a foundation made with more than one pour is said to have a "cold joint" and it will usually send the structural engineer screaming (usually screaming "NO, NO, NO right into the job super's office to put a stop to things).
   Judson Yaggy - Tuesday, 06/16/09 20:49:21 EDT

Hey, i had asked about if anyone had the E-copy of the cosira blacksmith craft that they had up a couple years ago, cause that site has dissapears,

now imwondering if anyone has any of the other ones, specifically the one about wrought iron fencing, and it had a bunch of like, traditional english style sign hangers, and some designs and stuff,
did anyone here ever copy the whole set from cosira,
i know i had it on my old computer, but i cant get that to even start,

thanks in advance everyone
   Cameron - Tuesday, 06/16/09 20:58:49 EDT

CAD Images of Sales Items: If the seller has no images of the product then it is unlikely they have taken delivery on the product. If they have taken delivery of the product and haven't photographed the product then you have to ask why. Maybe the product is great and as-advertised but not having photos after a year in this day and age is very suspicious.

The Case of the Curious Hammer

About 5 years ago I was directed to a power hammer website. The hammer looked a LOT like a Big BLU but had an even deeper throat. The guys that owned the site had purchased a Big BLU. . . Then they built a frame and put the Big BLU parts on it (ram, guides, cylinder, valves, dies), painted it green and gave it a new name. Was the hammer real? Yes. Did the "manufacturer" make it? NO. There was no product. They were not a manufacturer, they didn't even make a copy, they used parts they probably didn't have the capacity to make and parts they couldn't source. They even stole much of the Big BLU website and descriptive wording.

The above was a flimflam but the people doing it probably thought it was just "business". Someone was trying to make enough advance sales of a product they didn't have in order to finance their startup. Worse, they leveraged their "prototype" off another manufacturer. Somewhere along the line someone must have had a moral epiphany or had someone convinced them that they would get clobbered on the blacksmithing forums because the project was dropped.

This kind of thing used to be common among manufacturers. Those with no imagination or skill would steal from others. They would copy patterns, infringe on patents and know that it could take years before they were caught. Today if you market a stolen design, use someone else's pattern without permission you will get caught in days or weeks, not years, especially in a small community like ours.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/16/09 22:11:13 EDT

Archives: I've been WAY behind on archives (14 months). They are all posted now.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/16/09 22:12:57 EDT

Fork Anvil:

Here's what I did with a fork to make 2 anvils:

The large piece is used unhardened. The small piece was flame hardened almost exactly as Ptree describes above. They both work very well, but the fuel cost and mess involved in hardening the face of the smaller one is not something I'd repeat.
   Mike/Marco - Tuesday, 06/16/09 22:15:41 EDT

Cameron, I think you can get to the uk publications via Herfordshire College: http://www.hct.ac.uk/Downloads/craftpublications.html
   - Frank Turley - Tuesday, 06/16/09 22:34:18 EDT

FYI, chromium as a solid metal is not particularly hazardous. If you mill it in a ball mill, you can produce particles that are small enough to be inhalable and they have the potential for causing cancer - similar to manganese. Do not mill either of these materials in open air - they'll self ignite and potentially explode depending on dust load and amount of oxygen present. At the least, you'll have a very hot metal fire. Even with inerted ball mills, respirators were required around the one milling operation I worked at, and I don't mean the silly paper ones.

Where chromium becomes dangerous is in solution where it shows up as Cr+6 aka Chrome 6 - very nasty stuff when in solution. But even so, limited amounts are permitted in discharge water from industrial plants - levels are typically in ppm or less - ptree can probably tell you more, I've just worked with the production end while he's concerned with safety and environment.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 06/17/09 00:27:58 EDT

Chrome6 better known in the safety trade as hexavalent chrome, is indeed a safety issue. It causes pretty severe skin rash if it comes in contact with bare skin. It causes cancer in long exposure.
Hexavelant chrome is present in weld smoke from chrome bearing steels. This would be a big issue in stainless steel where chrome runs in the 13 to 20% range.
Most plain steels these days have at least a trace of chrome from the scrap using in the melt.
Chrome in alloy is not usually considered a threat, only when disolved out say by acid attack, or when welded. The high energy state in arc welding converts a % to hexavalent chrome.
   Ptree - Wednesday, 06/17/09 05:37:19 EDT

How dangerous is manganese? i have heard it causes parkinsons synfdrome and other nasty stuff. is this something i should worry about in my forge? sorry to spam the forum. but this is a good information for people like me who do not know all of the dangers.
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 06/17/09 10:09:45 EDT

Cameron, another source of traditional sign hangers but German is a book I picked up in Germany whose title translates as "Pretty, old, Inn/Tavern Signs". Lovely work in it though they tend to gold leaf a lot of stuff....many are compleatly blacksmith made without wooden signboards. I'll try to bring it in before the weekend and post the details.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/17/09 10:52:43 EDT

Manganese is generally not a problem in the forge but welding, especially with high strength welding rods and welding high hardenability alloys.

Safe practice in the shop requires good (forced) ventilation any time metallic materials are made powdered and air born OR as fumes from burning. Exhaust fans are critical and the smaller the shop area the more important.

Long term exposure to arc welding fumes is a particular problem. Point ventilation (a suction hose and fan) is recommended as well as general ventilation. Working outdoors helps a lot but welding fumes will circulate up into to your welding helmet more than 50% of the time unless there is a breeze and you are in the right position.

The most important thing is to think about what you are doing and avoid hazards when you can.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/17/09 10:58:39 EDT

Wedding Sword Project continued: I'm back with another question. For better or for worse I have decided on an annealed piece of 440 stainless for this project, ordered from a reputable company and chosen for it's ability to be heat treated when finished. I still hope to find a forge that can harden it for me when I am done but if not, I guess I will wind up with a shiny "soft" hanger.

The problem is that when I got the 3/16 by 3ft piece of steel, it has a nice gradual curve from one end to the other, (about a quarter inch high in the middle when laid flat). I assume that this can be easily remedied by bending it back to straight but I want to make sure with someone who knows as I don't know the properties of this metal or whether or not it will stay straight if I try warping it back. Or, should I contact the company and see if I can get a straight piece sent to replace it, I imagine the other pieces they would have would be in the same condition as this one.

Any ideas on the best way to straighten this and keep it straight would be greatly appreciated. Pretty sure this is a fairly novice question so I thank everyone for their patience, I just want to make sure I do this right the first time around. Thank you.
   James - Wednesday, 06/17/09 12:44:22 EDT

Stainless Blades:Standard treatment is to whack it against a suitable tree. . I would clamp in a vise an lean on it. However, if the bar was supposed to be straight when you got it I would ask questions. Is is coil steel poorly straightened? Did it get bent in transit? Annealed steel is soft and should be able to be bent and formed. However, stainless work hardens easily and that could be an issue from to much bending.

Note that with heat treatable stainless you are not going to be able to heat treat it yourself. This is the realm of high tech. Plus being a word you are going to need to find a high tech specialist.

440S SS:

Hardening is done in a vacuum or inert gas furnace. There is either one or two preheats depending on the shape (1000F and/or 1450F) until equally heated then harden by heating to 1850-1950F and holding for a time (30 min.) partially depending on the type of anneal (process, isothermal, or full anneal). Double soak time if isothermal or full anneal.

The part is then air or oil quenched (oil preferred). Now. . . the tricky part is that you now have a long spaghetti limp piece of steel that you must get out of the special hardening furnace and into the quench without distorting it. If its hardened in a significant curve or waves it may break when you try to straighten it. This is where a sword specialist comes in. They often end quench supporting the blade by a hole in the tang.

After hardening then temper similar to other steels (a minimum of 325F). But swords should be selectively heat treated with the area of the tang all but annealed.

Cryogenic (-100F) treatment is also recommend for this steel. It is usually done after the first temper and before a second temper but the book was not clear.

Final grinding is done after heat treatment.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/17/09 16:22:40 EDT

440SS, We made some valve stems from this material, which were pretty much an experimental design for us, that moved to trial production. These had a precise ball on the end with a flow hole thru. The ball was excentric to the stem to give a cam action as the ball was rotated into the seat. Patent granted, so no secrets revealed here. The ball had to have a spericity and finish similar to a ball bearing. We even purchased a special machine to sperically grind and superfinish the ball. The heat treat was a special problem. We had the controlled atmosphere furnace, and the proper controls, even the correct quench. We had the cryo treat onsite. We had balls to crack and fall off in tool boxes overnight. We had balls crack and come off in the superfinish, we had balls come off...
$$)SS is a good surgical steel that makes a nice blade if you have the heat treat down. I would not reccomend for a first time blade.
   ptree - Wednesday, 06/17/09 19:02:39 EDT

I live on .77 acres, do you think a welding shop could heat the forklift fork wit several torches? Ide like to do it myself but alot of these methods wont fly in my area.
   - Jacob Lockhart - Wednesday, 06/17/09 19:28:20 EDT


The annealed 440C might have been sheared cold leaving the curve. Try straightening it cold, as Guru talks about. A bending fork and bending wrench could be used.

If it's a "hanger" as you mentioned, I assume you mean a "wall hanger." If so, you should probably make the sword cold by grinding, sanding, polishing, and forget the heat treatment.
   - Frank Turley - Wednesday, 06/17/09 19:33:58 EDT

Besides a curve, shearing will make a REALLY hard work hardened edge. These edges should be ground off prior to straightening.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/17/09 23:40:16 EDT

Jacob: Go to one of the local welding shops and ask how much they would charge you to heat up the forklift fork/tine. Be prepared for sticker shock.

For the time, effort and money you are going to have invested in your project likely you could purchase a nice suitable anvil.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 06/18/09 06:45:48 EDT

When I bought the drop of 14 gauge 304 sheet, I asked them if they could shear it into sword blanks on a brake press. They refused, saying that they can't do it with stainless. Now I know why. I took it to a waterjet cutting shop and had them chop up two sheets resulting in 64 sword blanks, 24" long, 3/4" to 1/2" taper. They are all as straight as the sheet they were cut from. The cuts cost $280, but I will make that money back with my first sale. James, I'll be honest, there is NO good reason to go through all that work for a decoration sword. If it will truly sit on your wall and look fantastic, it doesn't matter if it is made of the softest steel around. Personally I would go with the 300 series. When polished, a 300 series finish is unmatched.

Thomas, I am making a sign bracket for our newest shop, it's in a historical district so the regulations about signage are pretty strict. The sign will be wood, 4' wide by 3' tall. I'd love to see these German sign brackets.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 06/18/09 09:54:36 EDT

The book is Schone (with umlaut over the o) Alte Wirthaus Schilder by Walter Leonhard ISBN 3675414948.

When I was in Germany I tried to collect as many used books as I could, especially guide books that predated the wars when possible to get examples of "originals".

Jacob useing chunk charcoal I could do stuff like that on a city lot about 75' wide and 100' deep much smaller than .77 acre!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 06/18/09 10:26:06 EDT

Thanks frank and thomas, ive been looking for those e versions ever since the cosira website went missing :)
thanks alot
   Cameron - Thursday, 06/18/09 10:40:38 EDT

Nip, just to be picky,
Its a "Press Brake", not a "brake press".

And since a Press Brake bends, metal, thats probably why they couldnt use it to cut your stainless- you use a Shear for that.

The main reason they probably didnt want to cut your stainless, though, is because it dulls blades much quicker than mild steel, and its a big pain to remove the blades for sharpening.

Most all stainless sheet comes from the mill not particularly flat. Usually a shop that does a lot of this will roll it back and forth a few times to get it flat, if flat is needed. For sheet, or plate, big powered rolls- thats what I use. For flat bar, angle rolls work fine. You start by rolling it just barely past flat in the opposite direction, then dial it back towards flat, flipping the orientation every pass.
In a pinch, I often straighten flat bar on the hossfeld bender, which, properly set up, will do this quite easily in up to 1/2" thick flat bar, up to 4" wide. Takes a bit of practice, though.
Stainless steel is expensive to work with, no matter how you do it. Shops that do it regularly and well HAVE to invest tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on heavy duty, high quality machines. There arent shortcuts for a lot of this stuff, not without serious compromises.

I, too, would recommend 304 stainless for a sword like this. Heat treating and hardening are just not needed. Assuming you are only going to cut a few heads off a week, or chop the occasional brush with it, it just doesnt need to be that hard or sharp.
I have seen the guys who cut 50 KG slabs of raw tuna in the Tokyo fish market into sushi- now they can justify having a 3' long, razor sharp, sword like knife- and they gladly pay several thousand dollars for the privilege.
But for a wedding sword, you are just setting yourself unreasonable goals.
   - Ries - Thursday, 06/18/09 11:58:57 EDT

Space needed to do work:

In his book James Nasmyth describes doing foundry work (brass and bronze) as a child in his bedroom using the fireplace to create a draft through a small furnace. His bedroom was probably 12x12 to a maximum of 15x15 feet.

My indoor shop in the Old Mill was 15x15. In it I had two wall mounted work benches, one with a vise and key cutter, one with tool chest, bench grinder and motor/buffer. In the middle of the shop sat a hydraulic press and 4x6 saw. Against one wall there was a post drill, large foot treadle grinder, a 20" drill press and a set of shelves. In the back set my small 6" lathe and against the other wall a heavy storage cabinet and 13" x 60" lathe. About 4 tons of tools and machinery and plenty of work space for small jobs. Had 3 people working in that space at one time. . .

Our late friend Paw-Paw had a shop in a 12x16 storage building. It went through many changes but at one time it had a wood stove for heat and work benches on two walls. There was a small drill press and a table belt/disk sander plus a ton of small tools. When I knew him he had expanded outside of the building but for many years most work was done inside the building.

Lots of folks store all their equipment in the corner or a closet sized space of a garage and drag it out when they need it.

Where space becomes a concern is when you need to get a truck in the door and have space around it to unload it OR when you are handling 20 foot lengths of steel OR building a large gate or railing and need to mock it up.

Most of us never have enough space. Something is always stored outside, often machinery, usually stock. Jobs are often done outdoors. We try to keep it indoors but its not always possible.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/18/09 13:23:41 EDT

One advantage of outside work is the great ventilation. The "spreading chestnut tree" shaded not only the smithy but the smith. Much work, such as setting iron tires on wooden wheels was done, by necessity, in the smithy yard. When I had my neighbor clear the area for the new forge, I carefully marked all of the trees I wanted him to leave, so I could get a balance of good light and good shade. I've even got a new tree coming up on the south side for additional shade in a few years.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 06/18/09 17:41:45 EDT

My first indoor blacksmith shop was 9' by 9.5' and I had a forge, some stock and a workbenck in there and often had two of my kids in learning.
   ptree - Thursday, 06/18/09 18:11:42 EDT

A good source book for fancy scrollwork including sign brackets has been published by Larson Publishing Company (Norm Larson) of Lompoc, California, titled "Wrought Iron Artistry." This is a work by Otto Schmirler* of Vienna, and consists of sketches, scale drawings, and photographs, 1983. ISBN 3 8030 5044 8. Each page of explanation is in English, German, and French. I haven't been in touch with Norm lately, but his address used to be P.O. Box 286, zip 93438. You may find an e-contact on the net, but Norm lives in the country, and told me his service is molasses-slow, so he hardly uses it. I'm in hopes the book is still available.

*Otto Schmirler is the same man who authored the wonderful how-to book, "Werk und Werkzeug des Kunstschmieds" (Work and Tools of the Art Smith).

If the P.O. Box doesn't work, try 5426 Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436.
   - Frank Turley - Thursday, 06/18/09 20:02:42 EDT

Folks are always asking about shop layout without mentioning a budget or square feet they can afford. Everything is a matter of scale and budget. In a small shop all you care about is the location of the forge, anvil and vise (the work triangle) and if you have one a power hammer making the work space a square. If you have a big shop with more than one forge station then each station MAY be the same OR they may share major equipment like a power hammer or weld platten.

In a modest shop where you have a lot of equipment a lifting means is important to me. I have too many machines that need to be lifted with a hoist or lift truck. Moved, unloaded, rearranged, exchanged. . . In my old shop I had an overhead crane good for 4,000-5,000 pounds. In my new shop the building cannot support 1/10th that so now I have a fork lift (yet another expensive piece of equipment). In both cases truck access is needed and possibly a loading dock. . .

What is "necessary" varies greatly and often depends on your interests and how long and how seriously you have been collecting tools. My shop is much larger than many but also much smaller. About 5 years ago I had a newby that was jealous of my having more than one anvil and a significant number of other tools give me grief about my being "greedy" by having so many tools. Now he has multiples of many tools including power hammers. One's viewpoint can change rapidly. It is a fact of life.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/18/09 23:27:26 EDT

Everybody's input on my Wedding Sword is greatly appreciated and received with very open ears, however, I have already purchased the 440SS and I'm moving forward with it. I am learning the various complications as I go along, mostly from you guys, but not only do I want a nice looking "wall hanger", which is essentially what it'll be, but I also figure that if I'm going to make a sword, then it might as well be a functional one as well. I was able to straighten the steel the good ole fashion way, one end on the floor and my foot in the middle, but I will see if any machine shops in my area have the tools to get it perfect. After that it will be time to cut out the shape. A friend of mine has tools for cutting steel, he makes knives, and I hope that what he has will work on the 440. We don't have much to remove, just around the tang and the tapers down to the tip. I will then grind and file the shape til it's perfect and then start on the edges. I know these will take awhile but the idea here is the amount of work I have to put into it, not how fast and easily I can get it done. To me, the harder it is, the more it will be worth to me in the end. I still want to have it hardened because of how easy it was for me to bend by hand. I wanted to have a hand in this as well but after Gurus input on the hardening process, I imagine I will need to send it out to be done elsewere. But I think that will still leave it to be tempered, which hopefully would solve the cracking issues mentioned above. I'd like to at least be able to do this part under the guidance of someone that knows how to do it, and I'll even travel if I have to.

Again, I thank all of you for your input and I will keep you posted on how it goes...most likely via more questions that I post as I encounter more problems.
   James - Friday, 06/19/09 04:05:02 EDT


To clear up one misconception you seem to be laboring under: the heat treating process for that 440C stainless steel will NOT leave it for you to temper - that is part of the overall heat treating and must be done contemporaneous with the hardening. All this must be done by the professional heat treating facility. Many of the professional, and all the semi-professional knife makers that I know send their stainless steel knives/swords out to be heat treated. None of them try to do it themselves. Too foolhardy to risk destroying a hundred hours or more of hard work in ten minutes of heat treating gone wrong.

When you cut the profile for the tang, be sure you leave a decent radius on any inside corners. Sharp inside corners will create "stress risers", or places where the material will fail under stress and crack. For a sword tang, I'd suggest that the radius be equal to about the diameter of a regular pencil - say, a 5/32" radius. Alan Longmire or one of the other real bladesmiths here can give you more guidance on this, but that's my best guess. Just don't make a sharp inside corner, whatever you do! That's where all the stress is focused when a sword is actually used for what swords were designed to do - swing and cut, thrust and parry, all that stuff. Terribly embarrassing, even disastrously so, for the swordsman to be suddenly holding nothing more than the haft after a contact.

It sounds like your stainless was delivered in full annealed condition, and not too badly hardened by the shearing process. That will be good, since it will be easier to cut and finish than if it were half hard. Stainless is also abrasion-resistant, so it will take much patience and plenty of sharp abrasives to do the finish work. You will have LOTS of time and hard work invested by the time it is ready to heat treat, believe me. You will be very satisfied with the investment, I'm sure.

Keep us posted on your progress. Since we get hordes of youngsters here who want to make a sword, it would be handy to have a record of the actual amount of time you spend on this.
   vicopper - Friday, 06/19/09 09:54:15 EDT

James; do the distal taper before starting on the edges!

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/19/09 12:20:04 EDT

Did I hear someone taking my name in vain? (big grin!)

That 5/32" radius Vicopper mentions is good for a knife. For a sword, especially a longish one, something more like an inch or better is the norm. 440 is a tough steel if treated correctly, but even it will snap like a dry twig the first time you (or your eventual kids) whack something with it if you leave sharp-cornered insdie shoulders at the tang.

Tang width is a big deal on a sword as well. I've seen plenty of playlike sword-shaped objects (the ones you can buy at the flea market for $25-$50) whith the tang about the size of a pencil. This too will lead to bending and breaking. Make the tang almost as wide as the grip at the guard end, and taper it to the pommel as little as you can. Most original medieval swords would have a blade at the guard about 1.25 to 1.75 inches wide. The tangs on these are about an inch at the guard tapering to maybe a half inch at the pommel. You also want to leave the tang the same thickness as the blade.

If you're gonna shape it with files and sandpaper, get the biggest and best files you can find! I like a 14" Nicholson Magicut or a 14" Simmonds Nu-Cut to start with. These are BIG files that will remove a lot of material quickly and yet will leave a fairly smotth finish that you can then clean up with smaller files.

By the time you have it down to where a 6" smooth bastard-cut file won't make it any smoother, move on to sandpaper wrapped around a flat steel bar. This will keep the ridgeline from getting rounded over or washed out. Use the best wet-or-dry sandpaper you can find, and use it wet. Start with 120 grit and move up by increments to 400, making sure you've removed all the scratches left by the previous grit. By 400 grit it should be a nice satin finish, and this is the point where it will be ready to send out to heat-treat which, again as Vicopper said, includes the tempering step as well. There's no shame in sending stainless out for heat-treatment, even many of the pros do so. A gentleman named Paul Bos in Los Angeles is the go-to pro of choice for heat treating stainless steels, but there are several others that do an excellent job. The length is going to cause problems, however, not all heat-treaters are set up to do long blades.

When you get it back, you may have to start with the 220-grit wet-or-dry paper again to remove the surface oxides. Or, and this would be the best if you want a shiny surface, have it electropolished after the heat-treat step.

If you work as fast as I do (which isn't very!), I'd estimate that doing a 36" sword blade will take you about two to three months of weekends to shape, and you'll wear out two or three files and a huge pile of sandpaper.

If you can use an angle grinder to set the initial distal taper and bevels, cut one weekend off that estimate. Be aware, though, that if you aren't good with an angle grinder (or a belt grinder) all it will do is allow you to screw up at speeds you never thought possible!

I'm not trying to talk you out of doing it by any means! I just want you to be fully aware of what you're getting yourself into. Who knows, you may get hooked and become a swordmaker!

Let us know how it's going!
   Alan-L - Friday, 06/19/09 15:25:13 EDT

One other important tidbit: DO NOT GIVE IT SHARP EDGES BEFORE HEAT TREATMENT! Leave the edges about the thickness of a dime or a little thicker, well rounded with no sharp corners. Any sharp corner is a potential stress riser during the heat treatment process and can result in a broken or cracked blade.

Air-quench steels like 440 are less troublesome in that regard than some, but better safe than sorry.
   Alan-L - Friday, 06/19/09 15:31:25 EDT

Tangs I've got rough sketches of what a tang should look like in the Sword Making article. I had intended to replace them with a better images but ran out of round-tu-its. My goal is still to revisit this article with complete photo how-to's for every stage.

The reason amateur, back yard, cheap. . . makers of blades like sharp tang corners is they are easy to fit the guard and grip. Those with a large radius require an equally large matching radius in the guard that is more difficult to seat than one with sharp corners and a small tang. Fitting the grip over a flat taper takes time and patience instead of a drilled hole. . .

On polishing I've updated the Polishing FAQ, the Wheels FAQ and added a Motor Polisher FAQ which has a link to the Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop book review.

I love to shape things with a HD Wildcat angle grinder but as Alan noted you can screw up in a millisecond. It takes an eye for shape and line plus experience shaping with tool that wants anything BUT to be controlled.
   - guru - Friday, 06/19/09 17:07:13 EDT

Let me add in: Don't sharpen it till the very end---not until *after* the scabbard is made!

Once a sword is sharp is should be considered a "loaded" weapon 24x7! I would suggest putting in a mounting point for a peace cord on the scabbard. (a cord you tie around the hilt so the blade cannot be drawn from the scabbard without untieing it first---a "safety" for a sword.)

My grandmother once nearly cut her thumb off picking up one of my grandfather's swords *wrong* and having the blade slide out towards the floor sharp side against her thumb.

Boy was she mad when the first thing I said when she told me this story was "did you clean the blood off the blade?" (well I knew she had survived and what kind of damage had been done just seeing her...)

   ThomasPowers - Friday, 06/19/09 20:07:58 EDT

My plan is to use a wide tang with deeply rounded edges where it connects to the blade. I had already figured for this and intend to spend the time filing out and shaping the brass guard to mate nicely with the tang. However, I was not counting on rounding the corners of the blade where the wide edges meet the guard, do you think that I should for the hardening process? To avoid the sharp corner problems mentioned above. I suppose I could always square them off afterwards, or just cut a groove into the guard to accept the entire width of the blade.

Also, along with hand files, I was planning on using the flat edge of a 6" bench grinder to help with the heavier grinding. Being semi-aware of the effect of heat and work-hardening of the steel, how should i approach this? Should I use water or oil during this part, not do it at all, or just move from one section to another to avoid over heating the metal?
   James - Saturday, 06/20/09 01:57:59 EDT

Bench Grinders and stainless generally do not mix well. The stainless tends to gum up wheels rapidly. For grinding stainless a belt sander/grinder is most often used and angle grinders with soft friable wheels also work.

I'm not sure how the annealed 440 will grind on a bench grinder but I suspect clogging will be an issue, especially considering the large amount of material to remove. A wheel dresser will be an absolute necessity. Wheels on these machines are designed for medium to hard carbon steels. Try it and see what happens. DO NOT grind on the side of the wheel.

When grinding hand held parts they are quenched in water repeatedly. You want to have a tank to submerge the entire piece.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/20/09 03:10:05 EDT

If you let me get up on my hobby horse for a minute, it seems to me it's time give in to reality and start giving all dimensions as diameters and not radii. It's hard to have a conversation without one party either confusing "radius" with "diameter" or wondering whether the other will. When you end up with someone as meticulous as VICopper writing "radius . . . equal to about the diameter of a regular pencil," it's time to throw in the towel.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 06/20/09 06:58:18 EDT

Mike BR: Okay, when I said a 1" radius, I meant "as ground with a 2" contact wheel," so it was truly a radius. (grin!) When I talk about radii, I'm usually thinking along the lines of the size of wheel that will produce the desired effect, so I may say something like a 1" radius or ground witrh a 2" wheel. But I know what you mean.

You should try figuring out dates in archaeological reports when they can be recorded as BC, BP, or BCE. BC and BP are easy enough, (BP is "before present") but BCE causes problems. It means "Before Common Era," and was invented by archaeologists to describe radiocarbon dates in which the "common era" was 1952, the year C14 dating was introduced. Historians, on the other hand, decided it sounded like a nifty term to use in place of "BC" as it did not have any kind of religious reference. So, if reading an unfamiliar report, you have to decide if the authors are using BCE to mean "years before 1952" or as a non-religious way of saying "BC". 1,952 years is a pretty big margin of error, eh?

James: The blade shoulders will be fine as long as you just gently hit 'em with some fine sandpaper. All you really need to avoid on outside corners is an edge sharp enough to cut. There should be no inside corners.

You're trying this as a Viking-style blade, right? (I went back and looked at all your posts to see how badly I've led you astray) If so, the blade should be set back into the lower guard anyway. Problem solved!

I wouldn't use a stone-wheel grinder at all. If you have a belt sander, you can clamp it upside down in a vise and use it (dry!), but I think you'll be happier with files. Stainless has a bad tendency to gall, so be sure you keep the files well chalked (just rub a piece of chalk into the teeth of the file, it'll help keep chips from sticking and gouging your work). Also, stop every few strokes and clear the filings. I use a toothbrush, a little wire brush, and a little piece of brass sheet as tools to keep the file teeth cleaned out. You'll see why when you start. You'll be filing merrily along, leaving a smooth surface, then suddenly you'll feel a slight change in the stroke, and there behind the file will be a deep gouge in the blade.

Clean the file before this happens! I've taught myself many new and amusing words over the years because of this and other minor annoyances in the field of arms manufacture, most of which cause my wife to yell out the house window "Shhh! The neighbors might hear you!"
   Alan-L - Saturday, 06/20/09 08:28:54 EDT

Mike BR is absolutely right about that post of mine - I winced the second I pushed the "post" button while reading that gaffe. Too late, however, and no way to edit posts in this forum, unfortunately. Radius equal to diameter, indeed! As one who constantly whines about people using "radius" when they really mean "diameter", I knew I was going to hear about that one. As I well deserved to! (grin)

I was trying for the visual thing to clarify the issue for just the reason Mike stated, and see what happened? While I really prefer to use the radius, rather than the diameter, (due to semantic issues), I think I'm going to just start saying, "as big around as your thumb", or something equally graphic and non-dimensional. Now I just have to figure out some standard graphic radii - thumbs vary too much, pencils are often hexagonal, toothpicks are sometimes flat. Hmmmm....
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/20/09 10:50:01 EDT


I remember the joke in my dendrochronology lab was that a few decades didn't really matter to the radiocarbon folks -- their dates were all +/- 50 years or so anyway. What drove *us* nuts was another dendro lab whose computer thought there was a year zero. . . so all their BC dates were a year off.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 06/20/09 15:19:31 EDT

Off a year even though +/- 50 was the tolerance. . . !

Radius: is often a poorly used term by many people and it IS often easier to visualize a curve compared to some known diameter such as a 1/2" or 1" bar of steel.

I have sets of old fullers that ate marked in diameters instead of radius. But on a blueprint of a forging the spec is going to be radius. So, the smith had to be able to do the math or the part was screwed up. But this is also one of those places that creates the possibility of error.

In the shop we have positive and negative radius gauges for grinding tools and measuring results. But in the same drawer we may store a drill size gauge which is diameters.

I think it is a problem because in our trade we rarely use radius as a descriptive term today and as I mentioned above is it often easier to visualize in diameters.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/20/09 20:18:13 EDT


Rereading my post, on dating, I realize I wasn't very clear. With dendrochronology (matching tree ring sequences) you can potentially date to a specific year. In fact, if your sample still has the bark (and matches a known sequence, of course) you can sometimes tell if the tree was cut down in the spring or the fall of that year. And if you're trying to match sequences, a year off is just as wrong as a century.

Radiocarbon dating, at least until recently had pretty wide tolerances. I think the new accelerator dating is quite a bit better. But it's also a matter of culture. With radiocarbon dating, you see a lump of charcoal that you can send off to a lab to get a date. With dendro, you might see a sequence of 20 rings that may have come from the center of a 200 year-old tree. You'd also think of the possiblity that it was a rotting beam from a 500 year old building that got thrown on the fire. So you need good samples to get a reliable date, but if you find them, you can often be pretty precise.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 06/20/09 22:15:23 EDT

I've also seen BCE given as Before Christian Era, which, I believe, starts with the year 1 on the death of Christ.

One problem with BC and AD is it left out approximately 33 years - the lifetime of Christ.

AD comes from a 6th Century monk who plotted years backwards. Most scholars feel it got it wrong by a small number of years. For example, if the Star of David (comet) was correct, comet trackers say the most likely year would have been 6-7 years later than the year of the birth of Christ used. Major Christian holidays (e.g., Easter and Christmas) were merely current holidays converted to a Christian meaning.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 06/21/09 10:05:27 EDT

It is also a Eurocentric view of time and history. Others such as the Chinese have kept continuous track of the years from well into the Bronze Age. Then there is the very ancient Mayan calendar that was rudely interrupted by the invading Europeans.

The calendar as we know it is full of curiosities. Those that started officially counting the years in Mesopotamia used base 60 for their mathematics and used a 360 day year because their mathematics came from the gods (priests) and they were "perfect" and thus the year created by God had to be perfect as well. As we know, it is NOT. So the priests sprinkled the year with holy days which were not counted.

Then there was the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Calendars had to be corrected 10 to 12 days depending on when the change was made and year end changed from mid spring to mid winter. Adoption of the calendar started in 1584 but many countries did not accept this "Catholic" calendar so there are global differences until 1927 with Turkey being the last country to make the change. For almost 200 years when you crossed the English channel you gained or lost 10 days and a year. Talk about jet-lag!

To make matters worse the public often did not adopt the change at the same time as the country did officially. So a Protestant church on one side of the street may have recorded a date 10 days and a year differently than a Catholic church on the other side of the street. Dual dates with a slash or noted OS and NS were also used but this may have been omitted as well.

So, if you need dates accurate to within a year or better any time from 1583 to 1927 OR spanning that period you had best get out your list of countries and the date they adopted the Gregorian calendar.

The adoption of the new calendar created all kinds of problems, especially related to contracts and rents. Monthly rents came due 10 days sooner by actual time. Did the landlord get to collect a full month's rent 10 days early OR only 2/3 of the rent? Did you have to move out 10 days sooner than you planned? Lots of issues.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/21/09 11:11:11 EDT

Ken, regardless of one's religious affiliations, AD does not leave out a 33-year period. Many American protestants believe that AD is an abbreviation for "After Death." It is not. It's Latin, Anno Domini, literally "year of the Lord," which includes birth. It starts at 1.

Whenever that actually was! (grin!) Any dating system is just a convenience, but we need to mark the passage of time somehow, so it's gotta start somewhere.

Mike, Dendrochronology is pretty nifty stuff. Annoys the heck out the historians around here, though, since many of the supposed late 18th century settlers' log cobins are being shown to be their children's or grandchildren's (or some stranger's who bought the land later)cabins, built to replace the rotten old homeplace about 30 to 50 years after the original hastily-built one became too unsafe to live in.

One cabin in particular is in funny position: The director of the historic site insists the cabin was built in 1783. He is therefore at an absolute loss to explain how a stump located beneath the floor was dendro-dated to having been cut in the fall of 1829...
   Alan-L - Sunday, 06/21/09 13:22:40 EDT

Can anyone tell me something about this flux that is supposed to be friendly to gas forge refractories? I found one such flux for $16 per lb that was 100% sodium tetraborate: borax. It did not list the snake oil content. Upon closer reading, it was safe for gas forges as long as you didn't let it spill on the refractory.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 06/21/09 11:26:02 EDT


That last sentence is a joke? or a catch 22?

Tony C,

In April, we talked about Lafitte welding plate. I found my piece while Spring cleaning, and if you want a snippet, let me know.
   - Frank Turley - Sunday, 06/21/09 13:22:53 EDT

To add to the above: we archaeologists were greatly pleased to have that stump under the floor, as it explained why we'd never been able to find any artifacts that predated about 1820 or so.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 06/21/09 13:24:14 EDT

I never heard of such a thing. I think the "snake oil" part is what you have. . .

Fluxes dissolve metal oxides and refractories are primarily metal oxides. . . Its kind of a hard fact to get around.

At room temperature water is the nearest thing to a "universal" solvent. Above its meting point glass is the next. Borax is probably more aggressive than glass and fluorite much more so.

It COULD be the fact that there is no powdered metal in the pure borax that it is easier on refractories than fluxes with additions.

Many borate fluxes are primarily boric acid. It is possible that this is harder on refractories than pure borax.

Keeping borax off the refractory is a real trick since much of it evaporates and may condense on cooler parts of the forge.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/21/09 13:29:15 EDT

Frank, that last sentence was half truth only. The ad says you need only enough to cover the surface of the parts being joined so use it sparingly. Fair enough and that could be true of any flux. Does drying it to anhydrous condition make it any less bubbly? If so, this might have been dried but it must have been a very expensive oven to add $14 per pound to the cost.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 06/21/09 14:08:56 EDT

Forgot to add another question: Guru, if the borax evaporates and condenses on the cooler parts of the forge, putting a stainless pan under the part does little good, correct?
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 06/21/09 14:12:16 EDT

I recall reading somewhere, Hammer's Blow perhaps, that Borax is hydroscopic and even anhydrous borax doesn't remain so for long unless stored in sealed container, rod oven, or New Mexico;). Can anyone confirm this?
   Judson Yaggy - Sunday, 06/21/09 16:53:18 EDT

BORAX: Judson, Yes it is to a degree but not as bad as some substances. But its largely what fails in welding rod.

QC, The pan catches the liquid which is most damaging. But the stuff does get everywhere. . . Ideally you do not get that hot but gas forges tend to have hot spots. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 06/21/09 18:13:34 EDT

Since the boiling point of borax is somewhere over 2800F, if you've boiled the flux you've burnt the steel anyway, most likely. I've just about dissolved the 1" kiln shelf floor in my current forge and the Kaowool-lined walls and roof, coated with ITC-100 appear just fine, so I don't think I'm too concerned about borax fumes condensing on the walls and roof.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/21/09 21:21:22 EDT

We had reports from a number of folks that do commercial work in gas forges that stated that borax "stalactites" form at the door (along with pools in the floor that had to be drained occasionally). While the work temperature is much below the boiling point the atmosphere in the forge is often hotter.
   - guru - Monday, 06/22/09 01:46:17 EDT

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