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This is an archive of posts from June 22 - 30, 2009 on the Guru's Den
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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

I'm building a shed with a wood floor. To be able to pound in there would it be better to build a section up to level with the floor made of concrete or have a cut out part so I can get to the dirt below?
   Eric Kelley - Monday, 06/22/09 03:10:02 EDT

Vicopper, I am not really talking about boiling the borax, it appears to be hydrate water flashing to steam and causing bubbles in the flux. At least that what I think it is since, as you pointed out, the boiling point of borax is 2800F.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 06/22/09 07:50:30 EDT

BC and AD:
Back when I was in Catholic school, the nuns taught that AD meant "After Death", and I also thought that left out those 33 years. Nuns were good for many things, but accuracy wasn't always one of those things. Years later I found out that AD stands for Anno Domini, which means Year of our Lord, and it starts from the birth of Christ. BC does mean Before Christ. So those 33 years are accounted for.
   - Marc - Monday, 06/22/09 07:58:36 EDT

Floors Eric, There are several ways to do this as your question indicates. The first thing is to be sure you put you anvil location where it is going to be. Don't crowd yourself to much or force yourself too close to the forge. I would not cut a hole in the floor for an anvil. Keep your floor continuous.

Support should be off a masonry pad (brick, stone, concrete). Wood columns from this should rest on flashing to prevent moisture rot. If a short distance (less than 3 feet) the columns could be 2 x 4's.

How you add the support depends on the size of the floor joists and their spacing. However, I would create a mass of supports flush to the top of the joists prior to installing the flooring. If you are using 2x8" or greater joists you might consider cutting them down to add a layer of flooring under the entire work area around the anvil as well as the supports. Then you could move your anvil a foot or so nearer or farther from the forge as needed.

The details of how you do this is not as important as having done so. I've reinforced floors for machinery using a 6" x 6" crossing under the floor joists with a couple floor jacks. If the machine foot rested mid-span between joists I would reinforce the floor underneath with 2x4's or 2x6's cut to fit. If the load was heavy we would put in ledge boards under the reinforcing. Glue will insure nailed joints do not creep apart. In other cases we just put in a 4x4 column under the load points.

About the only time you would want a foundation penetrating the floor is for a large power hammer. However, small hammers can be supported as above.
   - guru - Monday, 06/22/09 08:16:44 EDT

Rich; so there is *no* water vapour above a pot of water heating until it begins to boil? And no humidity in your air since it's below 212 degF down there?

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/22/09 10:27:43 EDT


That bubbling is the water the borax has absorbed, alright. The anhydrous stuff, as long as it stays anhydrous, does avoid that.


I rather doubt that sodium tetraborate and water have the same properties, particularly as regards vapor pressure. However, I'm not a chemist so I will not state that emphatically. I think that Jock has the etiology of the condensate figured out, since the flame temp itself would be high enough to vaporize borax, albeit that the working temp of the forge might well not.
   vicopper - Monday, 06/22/09 12:10:06 EDT

I think boiling off your flux is less common in small gas forges but if your work is dry coming out of a coal forge it is as good as burnt. In large gas forges you can overheat steel more readily than in small ones and thus boiling off the flux is more likely.

As to vapor pressure we ARE talking about high temperatures where the rules are not the same as at room temperature or even boiling. . . I know rules change but I am not an expert on this.
   - guru - Monday, 06/22/09 12:35:42 EDT

What starting equipment should i consider for learning myself blaacksmithing from scratch? i aim to eventually produce replica weapons and armour and i have limited space, im also on a tight budget, so would probably want to start basic till im conifdent i can continue
   Jarveye - Monday, 06/22/09 12:52:13 EDT

Jarveye, The most important tool that many newbies skimp on is an anvil. There are a lot of shiny new but cheap junk anvils in places like ebay and the discount tool stores. A good anvil is a joy to work on and should be considered THE primary investment. Note that beat to pieces OLD anvils are JUST as good for starting out and cost the same or less than the new junkers. See our FAQ's page for more information.

A good vise is almost as important as an anvil. A smith will often work as much at the vise in a day as at the anvil. Per pound a vise is as expensive or MORE expensive than an anvil due to the mechanism. There are many good used blacksmiths leg vises in circulation selling for much less than new or what they are worth. Used ones are a bargain. Typically they will cost $150 US when purchased from a dealer or another smith and less from individuals.

Modern bench vises can substitute but must be heavy high quality tools. Bench vises are generally cast iron and cannot take the pounding that a forged blacksmiths vise will take. For many tasks such as filing, sawing, scraping, planing and other general holding tasks a machinists vise is just as useful as a blacksmiths vice. Vises WITHOUT a swivel base are better for most shop work.

More important than having a vise is mounting it on a steady support. Benches anchored to the wall and floor are the best. Posts anchored securely in the ground (two to three feet) are next and self supporting (portable) stands are the least effective. However, most hobby smiths do not have permanent work places and must regularly move their tools. In this case a portable stand is dictated by the situation. See our Vise FAQ.

The next major piece of equipment is the forge. While it is very important it is also the most commonly user built tool. Forges can be made from junk or scraps as well as purchased new and ready to use. The most important decision is the fuel type. While coal is still the number one choice of blacksmiths, many have been forced to use propane or natural gas and are very happy with it. Alternately you can use charcoal as a solid fuel and get similar results as with coal. This decision is usually made on the basis of availability and environmental concerns. If you live in a California suburb then forget coal. If you live in a rural area in almost any other state then your have more of a choice. If you live in a city you may or may not. If you live in a Northern city you may be able to buy coal from a local coal yard but if you live in the South you will have to pay to have it shipped to you.

In any case a small gas forge can be used almost anywhere and they are very handy even if you also have a coal forge. While many build their own I recommend buying one unless you are very handy. In that case you probably would not be asking these questions.

After anvil, vise and forge it is mostly hand tools (a couple hammers, tongs, files). Until you are trying to make a living with your smithing a good heavy duty hack saw and that vise will do for cutting stock. As your skills develop and you want to do more you should invest in welding equipment. An oxyacetylene setup and a buzz-box (transformer type arc welder). These also beg for an angle grinder to clean up cuts and welds. These two pieces also give you the capability to build other tools, machines, benches. . .

After the above there are infinite tools and machinery. A cutoff saw, shear, drill press, bench grinder, small lathe and more sophisticated welding equipment. And if you are turning pro a power hammer is a must.

So, start with the three primary shop tools and grow from there. If you quit these tools can often be resold for close to what they cost you or more. Also remember that you can "trade up" if you do not become too attached to your first tools. I'm afraid I become attached and regret every tool and machine I have let go. . .
   - guru - Monday, 06/22/09 13:37:37 EDT

More Tools: In any technical field you cannot find enough books. These in turn feed your MOST IMPORTANT tool, the one between your ears. The phrase "Knowlege is Power" is of very high relevance in the the crafts and metalworking trades. Books, even the higher priced newly published ones are cheap education. There are no strict blacksmithing text books being published but the general how-to books are mostly as good as text books and do not have the overinflated prices of text books sold to a captive student market.

See our review page or the list linked from our sword making resources list. You can purchase a small library of blacksmithing books for the several hundred dollar price that one semester's worth of college texts would cost. For around a thousand or less you could buy just about every book on the subject in print today. It is a CHEAP education, especially for the self taught.

AND do not overlook the books we have reproduced on-line. The two general smithing books complement each other somewhat and we have more to come.
   - guru - Monday, 06/22/09 15:29:30 EDT

I want to make a shear to be anchored in the hardy hole of my anvil. I have a piece of 130# to the yard railway line. I propose to cut off the actual rail part, leaving the very thick web, and use a leaf spring as the blade. The pivot would be a heavy bolt. Would that work? Should I make the cut on the line at an angle other than 90 degrees so as to make it like a knife or will a 90 be equally efficient.

Jarveye I started with an anvil, a hardie and a vice. Other than power tools almost everything else is home made by me.
   philip in china - Monday, 06/22/09 20:12:37 EDT

Shears: For hot work are not bad to build but for cold work are difficult. Except for cold shearing small bar MAYBE up to 5/16" or 10mm the anvil is not a suitable anchor unless its welded to the stand and the stand anchored to the floor. If you don't believe me then put a 3 foot bar in the hardy hole and pull hard on the far end. Most anvils and stands will tip over. Best axis to pull on is from the horn end toward it.

I have a little shear for 1/4" (6mm) round bar that I made to clamp in a vise. With a 3 foot handle the vice twists and the jaws try to spring open just before the bar shears with a "pop" (due to the spingyness of the vise mount).

Shears for metal have square edges that must be held close together. IF the blade is thin it will deflect and then instead of cutting it will try to fold the metal between the gap in the blades which deflects the blade even more. . . Blades need heavy side support. The gap is also proportional to the amount of burr created. The pivot is also critical. If it deflects, the blades seperate. . .

The classic Edwards type shear has a six to eight foot handle and the shear is anchored to the ground, usually in a concrete slab but occasionally in wood (that is anchored to a concrete slab OR a structural part of a building). Manual shears are no better than their anchoring.

Other shears have compound leverage or use gears to increase the force. The Beverly Shear uses a gear to increase force about 5x. The Whitney punches use compound leverage at the top of an arc (an over center device).

I've built large and small shears. The little one worked. The big one, built similar to some commercial models failed miserably. The little one was built like a bar shear with holes drilled through the blades. The big one was built from structural that had a 5/8" (16mm) web, had a 1" bolt for the pivot and a compound leverage arrangement. It sort of worked but the cuts looked torn in two. . .

I suspect that if you built four or five shears you would figure out the details and get a good small one in the end.

For hot work almost any shear will work as the force required is less than a tenth what it takes cold.

Good Luck!
   - guru - Monday, 06/22/09 21:18:29 EDT

Hey all, I just picked up a 255# Arm & Hammer anvil in pretty good shape and I was wondering if it could be dated by it's serial # (39922)? Anyone have an idea? I was told about Civil War era.
   Thumper - Monday, 06/22/09 23:25:17 EDT


Arm & Hammer was not in business back during the civil war!! They starting making anvils in 1900. Your anvil was made sometime between 1924-1934.

Civil War!! Laughing my rear off!! Dumb goober

You do have a very nice and quality anvil.
   - Anvil Stump - Monday, 06/22/09 23:50:05 EDT

The goober is the person who dated it civil war...ROTFL. I have a piece of metal with an electric weld. Think it was from the bronze age? LOL
   - Anvil Stump - Monday, 06/22/09 23:52:50 EDT

No offense taken, it was owned by an old woman who rememered her grandfather working on it. Old, being relative as I'm a "young & spry" 60 myself.
   Thumper - Tuesday, 06/23/09 00:23:01 EDT

Yeah, but could the old woman tell a London pattern from a double horned or a Mousehole from a Peddinghaus. To most of the world an anvil is an anvil is an anvil. Do all (insert unfamiliar/exotic race here) look the same to you? Anvils are that way to everyone except smiths that study them.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 00:46:34 EDT

I have always laughed at this system: "My grandmother had it, she died last year aged 84 therefore it is at least 85 years old". You hear it a lot.
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/23/09 10:02:50 EDT

Phillip; as I recall there are several "home made shears" discussed in "Practical Blacksmithing", Rhichardson, including one I remember the writer using to trim plowshares with (ie pretty stout!)

Jarveye; if you live in the United States then one of the most important tools you can get is a public library card!

Even our small town NM library can ILL rare and expensive works for me and all they charge is US$1---not bad to get my hands on a $300 book! I am always astounded by the number of people that think a couple of pages on a website can take the place of thousands of pages of books. Where the web excels is searching for the names of books you should dig into.

Also if you are near central NM, USA, may I invite you to the South West Artist Blacksmith Association meetings. Finding the local blacksmithing organization can save you hundreds of dollars and hours getting set up and learning the basics.

Go to the "navigate anvilfire" drop down menue and look near the bottom for ABANA-Chapter.com for a listing of blacksmithing groups and get hooked up!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/23/09 11:47:57 EDT

I was wondering about something. I have a small propane forge, front and back doors. Place a vice behind the back door, a vice that will swivel in front, have strips of steel running vice to vice through the forge. Get the steel up to welding temperature and start twisting it, would it create a weld ?
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 06/23/09 11:56:41 EDT

Any recommendations for a good bandsaw blade manufacturer? I'm going through these cheap bi-metal ones. They cut SO slooooooooooooooooow
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/23/09 14:30:45 EDT

Band Saw Blases: Nip, I prefer Lenox variable pitch tooth blades. The Lenox Die Master 6/10 is available in 1/2 x .020 and .025 so they can be made for any 4x6 saw. Note that the pitch is not suggested for thin wall tubing or sheet metal. However, I have cut 16ga which is technically too thin for the pitch. You just have to feed slow so that teeth are not stripped off.

   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 15:33:21 EDT

Twist Weld: Mike, Maybe, in spots, or not at all.

1) Gas forges tend to scale steel worse than other forges.

2) Gas forges run at the low end of welding temp for low carbon steels.

#1 and #2 mean that forge welds are not "automatic" or assured in a gas forge.

3) Twisting layers produces shear (slip) and pressure points or lines but not uniform pressure.

4) Good forge welding allows for flux and scale to squeeze out of the joint under controlled circumstances.

SO, you may get stuck spots with lots of gaps.

Its an interesting idea. In production laminate welding heating is done in fast heating inert gas filled furnaces on between induction coils and the weld occurs just as the metal passes out of the furnace into rollers that squeeze the two or more pieces together.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 15:34:36 EDT

Twist weld, part two:

If you want it to work, assuming your forge can get to welding temperature (which not all forges can), first weld the stack into a solid billet, then forge it into a round bar, THEN twist it. All steps done at welding heat to minimize the chances of delamination. If you leave the billet with square corners, it sets up shear stresses along those sharp corners. Just knocking off the corners helps a lot, but for the best results a full round bar twists with the least stress.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 06/23/09 15:41:08 EDT

Hello, I know nothing about anvils other than what I have read on line. Which is still very little. Wanting an anvil to have for tinkering around the barn I had been searching lately. The best looking and best priced I found was a Hay Budden around 85 pounds. Seeing where this is an old good name and the price was OK from what I had been seeing I purchased it today. It has what appears to be an R or K up to a side. Underneath that is Atlanta Ga. Under that is Hay Budden, Brooklyn NY and USA. Under that is what appears to be an 8 and a 2, I assume the pounds. At the bottom on one side are some unmakeable numbers-gotta do some cleaning-I will assume this is the serial number and will tell me the year made. What my question is why does it have Atlanta Ga on it? It appears to me to be in decent shape. Straight edge shows little dip in the center maybe a 32 nd. The edges are well rounded and the step down has chips. Roughly what should this sell for easily? Thanks for any information. ASAP I can clean up I will try to get serial numbers and repost.
   Derek Thomas - Tuesday, 06/23/09 16:48:42 EDT

Derek, I would have to see the markings. IF the markings were added to an old anvil by stamping then it may have just been some property ID. BUT if the letters are raised or heavily carved there is a good chance it is a cast anvil of unknown quality using a Hay-Budden for a pattern.

If cast and made of cast iron then it is a scrap iron door stop, not a tool, just a decorator item. If cast of good steel and hardened then it is a usable anvil and worth $100 to $300 US.

If it is an actual old Hay-Budden it is worth about $200 to $350 US.

But it sounds like there is a good chance it is a common cast copy.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 17:35:00 EDT

Awhile back I had found a website that was selling sections of preformed caprail for purchase. They had several different cross sections available. Now that I need some I'll be dipped if I could find them now. Does anyone know where I might find them? I'm looking for 2 8ft sections of rounded center and flat edge in 1.5-1.75 wide. Kinda like a flattened bowler hat with flat brim in crossection. Thanks in advance.
   Biff Schaefer - Tuesday, 06/23/09 18:28:14 EDT

How do you find out the age or brand of an anvil?....The only marks i can find on one i just bought are 1....2.....10 The numbers were spaced apart...Does that indicate weight?...It looks old and may weigh 200 lbs........thanks for any info....I have a forge and now to work......carl
   carl - Tuesday, 06/23/09 18:39:58 EDT

Carl, it weighs 178# per those markings. The system is explained elsewhere on the site. First mark is cwt (hundredweights) i.e. units of 112#, the second is qtr (i.e. units of 28# and the last one is pounds. So you have
1 x 112 =112
2 x 28 = 56
10 = 10
Total 178
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/23/09 19:35:05 EDT

Carl, it weighs 178# per those markings. The system is explained elsewhere on the site. First mark is cwt (hundredweights) i.e. units of 112#, the second is qtr (i.e. units of 28# and the last one is pounds. So you have
1 x 112 =112
2 x 28 = 56
10 = 10
Total 178
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/23/09 19:35:30 EDT

Laminated Steels: There have been some tremendous advances in billet welding in recent years. Most are simple once you have seen or heard about them. Ideas like using thin stock to reduce the total welding procedures and chance of problems. Using square or near cubical billets rather than long slender ones, to reduce weld area and make the mass more compact and hold heat better. The use of consumable containers or wrapping to prevent oxidation assures reliable repeat welding. When all these are combined with using a press or rolling mill the efficiency and reliability is much better than it used to be.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 19:56:36 EDT

Age and Brand of an Anvil: Unless there is a name clearly stamped or cast into the anvil then brands can only be speculated about. Age can be told somewhat by style and details such as lack of a pritchel hole.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 19:59:15 EDT

Guru et al,

What is the square hole in some anvils that runs from horn to heel, or horn to horn, through the middle of the anvil? What is its purpose?

   Matthew Barker - Tuesday, 06/23/09 20:05:51 EDT

i think that is the handling hole, i believe it is used for wrestling the anvil during forging, or are you referring the hardy hole? does this run through the waist or is it vertical?
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 06/23/09 20:32:00 EDT


Through the waist, from horn to heel or horn to horn. It is not the hardy hole.

   Matthew Barker - Tuesday, 06/23/09 21:10:07 EDT

ok that sounds like a handling hole to me (don't take my word for it let the guru answer it). those were on the forged anvils so they could be lifted from the fire to be hammered away on. just some people can get the hard mixed up with other square holes on the anvil (like me a few months ago).
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 06/23/09 21:16:08 EDT

Matt, bigfoot is correct. These "handling holes" are properly called "porter bar holes".


Don't you know every anvil people have or find is at least from the civil war if not the revolutionary war. You can substitute any antique item for the term "anvil". If you spent many years in the antiques business as I have you would have understood the tongue and cheek remark. Most people are liars or goobers when trying to sell an old item. Everyone's Grandfather used or had one of everything ever made. To us that were in the business it gets very old!! The lesson is to educate yourself on what you have before you sell it. Also you can't expect someone to pay for sentiment. Only what the item is worth by trend at that monent in time, not based on a book value. Remember the author's create pricing to increase the value of their own collections. Also prices are based on high dollar auction houses where items were sold to rich collectors. Two nuts battle each other and ran a price up at one moment in time. You're comment to my comment holds very little validity based in reality. I realize it was a good instant thought at the moment and nothing more. The seller was not informed or a shrewd liar. I don't trust most old people because they will spin a web of bulldung to make a sale. Always and exception to the rule and may be the case with her. If she sold it for 25-100 bucks I would believe it.

   - Anvil Stump - Tuesday, 06/23/09 22:35:39 EDT


After being in the anvil selling business for long time. I estimate the little hay budden 85 lb anvil is worth 150.00-200.00 depending on condition. a sale of 225.00 would be a stretch to the right person after a lengthy wait. As your guess mine is opinion based only.
   - Anvil Stump - Tuesday, 06/23/09 22:43:27 EDT

Anvil Features: The handling holes do not pass through. They are quite deep and may look like they meet in the middle but they do not as far as all examples I have seen. It might be possible on some small anvil that the holes were punched too deep.

The handling holes on either side of the waist were for two tapered bars OR the tips of special tongs to get a secure grip on the anvil for shaping, welding, heat treating and grinding. Some have a similar hole in the base that fit a spike in special third rein tongs.

Holes that pass through from side to side are features of chainmaker's anvils for supporting tooling (swages, tommy hammers. . ). These are fairly rare and special anvils.

Some smiths have been known to use the handling holes to store punch lube (beeswax, heavy grease, special compound).
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/23/09 22:57:11 EDT

Value vs Civil War

Guru & Thumper

The general public has the misconception that an item has more value if made during the civil war or stated to be much older than is. Certain few items for nostagia reasons this is true. War items, certain arms etc... A civil war era anvil may hold nostagia to a certain smith for demo or whistful yearnings. It doesn't make it have value. This is the same as making value from sentiment. Thumper's Arm & Hammer anvils is more valuable as a working tool than any anvil from the Civil War era. It is known to be a high grade tool in materials made, process, heat treatment, manufacturer rep etc... It is certainly superior quality to any civil war era made anvil. The anvil Mass have reconized this make to be in the top three anvils in value and desirability. Don't think for a moment from me shucking my head at the civil war era to be a bad thing. You're anvil is a much better usable tool and has monetary value that will likely remain stable or increase from the populas desire. A 225 Arm & Hammer in excellent condition typically brings 500-1000 depending what the market bares that day.

"An item is only worth what a person is willing to pay". Books are guides and reference, nothing else.
   - Anvil Stump - Tuesday, 06/23/09 23:08:26 EDT

Bill Schaefer,

Try Lawton or King Architectural or Julius Blum, all have websites you can Google for.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 06/23/09 23:46:46 EDT

Wedding sword cont.

I have met a new friend in the course of my studious project, a fifth-generation blacksmith who makes his living making and selling expensive knives. He has convinced me to purchase a belt grinder and told me of a fairly cheap option, (about $500 total!!!), on a 2"x72" belt grinder/buffer. He promises me that I will become addicted to this hobby and that I will probably make more when I'm finished with this one. Being a mechanically inclined person, I find it easy to justify the purchase of any tool, even expensive ones, so I'll probably do it.

But the reason for this post is that he has mentioned to me another hardening option, (not to discount those who have already offered input here, I'm taking all of it in, really). He has suggested edge hardening the blade, by using several torches simultaneously on just the edges to reach the hardening temps and also to temper. This made sense in the way that this would keep the center of the blade "soft", (not sure if too soft as it is annealed now, but I imagine the edges being heated would transfer heat to the center hardening it somewhat as well), while making the edges hard.

So what does everybody think of doing it this way? I must say his explaining it to me was fairly convincing.
   James - Wednesday, 06/24/09 01:15:04 EDT

You know, after doing some more reading on-line, I think myself that sending it out for a controlled HT at a proper facility is probably the better option. But I'd still like to hear if anyone has tried "edge-hardening" and how it worked out.
   James - Wednesday, 06/24/09 03:40:05 EDT

Nip, I too use and like the Lennox variable tooth in a 4 x 6 bandsaw. For thin stock like 16Ga tube, I use a 28 tooth lennox. Not the Diemaster II, as it is not made in that type but a Lennox stock usually used for porta-band saws.
The Hagemeyer folks make them up for me. I do use another Diemaster II for inbetween, a 18 or 20 tooth, so in fact I keep 3 tooth spacing blades. I keep the 28 tooth on one saw all the time, and the 9 to 14 on the other most of the time. A little stick lube extends the life.
I find that with the hard tooth bandsaw blades the main cause of failure is tooth stripping. I usually find that the rest of the blade is still sharp, and simply snap the blade into lenghts that I then lightly grind the ends on to hacksaw lenght. With the soft back on the Diemaster, one can drill the needed holes for mounting with a standard HSS drill and then you have an aggressive hacksaw blade:)
   Ptree - Wednesday, 06/24/09 05:47:30 EDT

James, do you think a newly minted surgeon starts out doing brain surgery? Or maybe taking out some tonsils to get the feel of things? Your 5th generation smith might be very capable of differential hardening but you might find it a bit tricky.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 06/24/09 07:39:06 EDT

So, since my great-grandfather was a Confederate veteran (cavalry, rode with Jubal Early) and I have the hinges from one of his barns or stables on the door of my forge, not only are they "Civil War" but they're "Confederate" and thus worth a lot of money on the "Moonlight & Magnolia" market. ;-)

I remember one gun show auction, back in the late '60s, where a pointy, long iron bar was being raffled off as a rare Confederate boarding pike. More likely it was a spud for breaking up hard dirt, but somebody bought it anyway. I bid on a book, instead.

The truth is that "Civil War" or "Revolution" or "Colonial" or "Confederate" is something that people can relate to; and age always adds to the interest, as well as the romance of past eras. Terms like this beat the heck out of "early 20th century" or "ca. 1890" in our imaginations.

I had been mislead on several family antiques because I had been told by family or self-styled experts that they were "this old" or "from there". Some really were old and unique, but a number of others were not. However, once someone I trusted told me that such-and-such was true, I turned off my critical faculties and never really took a close look at it. The received wisdom triumphed until someone with a more neutral and critical eye took a look and disabused me of my illusions.

I think of myself as "trusting" but that can also be considered an element of "gullible." :-)

Off of work today, preparing for Camp Fenby ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CampFenby/ )

Sunny and warm on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 06/24/09 08:44:43 EDT

The Wedding Sword: James, The Edge Hardening: The problem is that you already have found the annealed blade to be soft enough to bend easily. - Or maybe it is OK and took more to straighten than it would normally see. But if too soft in this respect then hardening the edges is not going to make a difference. Normally you want springy that will return to shape but no harder except the edges. . .

The point of edge hardening is to create an edge that can take being very sharp and holding an edge. The BIG problem here is that the goal was to make a display piece, a wall hanger that is most likely going to be handled by many people and NEVER used for anything else. In this case you want a tapered but purposely rounded DULL edge that is not going to accidentally hurt some innocent. Remember, those people will very likely NOT have experience handling a double edged sword and include your wife, your future children - THEIR friends, your best man, father in-law. . (maybe the whole wedding party) and others in your future.

The point of something like this is to be ART. When finished less than half the art in a sword is blade. You have the guard, grip and pommel to design and create more artistically than the rest. In the case of a display piece you may want a custom holder or case.

If you want a hardened and tempered SHARP weapon you can lose a lot of the art. It is a killing tool that makes a mess of the victim and killing with a LOT of blood and gore.

If anyone asks why its dull it is because it is retired and been made safe so that fools that cannot just look but MUST touch do not hurt themselves. There are FAR more of these people in the world than those that can stand back with their hands behind their back and just admire a work of of art.

The belt grinder is a great tool and not just for making knives. But you know your future better than we do.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/24/09 08:49:14 EDT

Mouseholes vs Peter Wrights:

Since records no longer apparently exist who knows. I had a discussion with Richard Postman about this and he said, as near as he can tell, Mousehole dominated the England to U.S. export market prior to the Civil War. Afterwards PW did.

I can only go by what I see listed on eBay and PWs dominate MHs by a considerable percentage.

May mean nothing. Perhaps MHs were so worked by strikers prior to the Civil War they were eventually scapped Due to the multi-composite bodies, horns or heels broken off? Perhaps post-Civil War PWs simply withstood daily (now mechanized) use better and are thus still around in greater quantity.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 06/24/09 09:20:46 EDT


Sounds like a Grizzly or Coote belt grinder? They're a decent tool to have around, you'll end up using it for many things.

As for differential hardening, stainless steels are notorious for not being able to have this done. The high alloy composition means they're usually very deep-hardening steels.

I have flame-hardened just the edge of a rather large single-edged sword made from pattern-welded carbon steel, and while it sort of worked, I knew it was going to be a wallhanger. I wouldn't do it to a working blade. I recently tried to do the same to a double-edged sword forged from 9260, a spring alloy that I know can be differentially hardened. It self-destructed. I wouldn't try it with 440.

You can get away with many techniques on knives that simply don't work on swords. In my opinion, torch-hardening is one of those techniques.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 06/24/09 10:16:16 EDT

HB Anvil: also HB made anvils for other "dealers" and you may have one marked for a specific dealer---if it's punched into the anvil. Raised markings are a warning sign of casting and as such are expected and tolerated for Fisher and Vulcan anvils and a BAD sign for any other old "good name" anvil!

Edge hardening is often done for knives by edge quenching. For swords the japanese do a version using a very shallow hardening steel and a clay coating on the back to reduce heat transfer---in the quench!

You would not want to do either version with a SS sword!!!!!! pro heat treat is pretty much a requirement for those alloys.

War items: being a "user" rather than a "collector" I generally stay away from items made during the wars especially civillian ones as they are often poorer in quality. I have seen books printed during WWII that are degrading much faster than ones printeds during the 1920's!

Claims about items: in general I try to hold with the "Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity"
But I sure have met a lot of people trying to screw over others! Just recently I bought 12 mill balls from a fellow at a fleamarket for US$1 a ball; 3 spots up a fellow was selling the same balls *he* had bought from the same fellow as "cannon balls" for $5 a piece. A pure lie as the original dealer knew what they were and didn't misrepresent them when selling. He was upset when I called him on it asking me how I knew they were *not* cannon balls. Pretty easy: wrong material, wear markings, and wrong size for any cannon used around these parts from Rev war times till now!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/24/09 10:28:33 EDT

You may see more PW's on ebay but I see far more Mouseholes in the real world. Since Mouseholes sold under names such as M & H Armitage and many others. Perhaps there are more PW's in better condition and thus more on the auction market. OR could be because of the recognizable name. We DO know of forgers putting PW on unmarked tools in order to get higher prices. SO it could just be a name thing. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/24/09 10:34:07 EDT

Anvil Weight: what Phillip posted holds true for English anvils which were marked in CWT (and now in KG).

American made anvils are not marked CWT but in pounds.

There is a lot of confusion out there and as often anvils end up priced "per pound" it can make a big difference!
1 2 3 is 171 pounds CWT but only 123 pounds if marked in pounds at $2 a pound that would be close to $100 difference!

Rarely have I had people try to sell me CWT marked anvils as pound weight marked; but quite often I've had people try to sell me a pound marked anvil as being CWT weight!

*MOST* people are bad judges of weight and their estimates can be wildly off. After many wasted hours going to auctions with "large anvils" being advertised only to find out that the "large anvil" was under 100 pounds I started asking the auctioneer over the phone, "how many men did it take to move the anvil" If one it's *NOT* a large anvil. If two it's a medium sized anvil and if he laughed and said they used a tractor/forklift/etc to lift it *then* I went to the auction. (but ended up buying my large anvils by private sale---much cheaper than the auctions I went to).

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/24/09 10:38:05 EDT

In this part of the world (Western Canada)in the 75-150ish pound range I have seen more PW's than any other. Larger than that they are about 1/2 and 1/2 Mouseholes and PWs with a few other names and nonames. I think the reason for so many small PWs is because Eaton's sold a farm blacksmith shop kit in their catalog. One of the oldest documentable anvils out here is a Mousehole. I was told they have the record of it being shipped to Fort Edmonton late 1700's by some one who used to volunteer at the smithy at Fort Edmonton. All second hand and anecdotal information.
   JimG - Wednesday, 06/24/09 13:20:27 EDT

Sales Regions had a lot to do with anvil distribution. While Mousehole and PW sold anvils in the U.S. French and Spanish manufacturers sold anvils in Mexico and Central America but not in the States or British Colonies. Other British manufactures sold anvils in British Africa, India and Australia. I suspect that this had to do with royal grants or some type of trade agreements.

The one, two or three man carry weight range is a good one but I have known folks that moved 600 pound anvils alone and others that took 350 pound anvils to demos in the back seta of a Volkswagon. . . So you need to judge those doing the moving a bit. But if one man can move you and be assured it is usually under 200 pounds.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/24/09 14:35:41 EDT

I don't know anything about anvils ( I use a big block of steel ), but when I think of steel production, I think of Germany, the Krupp family who made huge guns ( some of the earliest were considered engineering marvels ) and other armament for war production. I also think of the Ruher valley where their ore comes from. For some reason, I think they would make a superb anvil.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 06/24/09 20:18:32 EDT

The Germans made very fine anvils and tools but England had the export market tied up from their Colonial days then the U.S. as we rose to economic and trade power. You will find prewar German anvils in Europe and Africa and a few Globaly after the war. However, the peak of blacksmithing was at the end of the horse drawn era so much of the market since then has been local. The Forged Peddinghaus anvil from Germany is sold world wide.

   - guru - Wednesday, 06/24/09 20:43:14 EDT

Echoes From the Past:

Today I received an email from a woman on the West Coast who was trying to track down the person who made a sterling silver tray she was brokering at auction. She was looking online and found my website through a search and contacted me to see if I was the smith who had made the piece back in 1971. The tray was stamped on the bottom, "Waugh, 1971, Colo" and sterling silver. It was, in fact, a piece I had made and I was interested to see it again some 38 years later.

I bring this up only to point out the importance of properly marking your work to identify the maker and time of manufacture. (In this case, also to indicate the material.) Had that piece been stamped only with my seahorse touchmark, it would have been absolutely impossible for her to locate me or to learn anything about the person who made the tray.

Based on this experience, I will henceforth be stamping my work with my name, as well as my touchmark, and adding the date, something I haven't customarily done with my blacksmithing works. Something to think about.
   vicopper - Thursday, 06/25/09 00:43:45 EDT

I do not mark all my work but on anything appreciable I've put my name and date, sometimes the location, AND occasionally the customer.

IF you are in business, Having a presence on the web, in your name, is more important than a sign or a telephone listing. People are still learning this but the public looking for you EXPECTS it!
   - guru - Thursday, 06/25/09 01:13:35 EDT

Here is an idea I had. Most of the time an idea is not an original idea, but here goes. Get a piece of pipe, cut a slot from the end ( two slots 180 Deg. apart ) then drill
two or three holes, threading them for set screws. A flat bar of steel can be placed in the slot and the set screws tightened or a round piece ie. W1 drill rod put in the end hole and set screws tightened. This would allow a person to handle the steel with one hand and quick placement from the forge to the anvil and visa versa. Would probably need welding gloves in case it heated up too much.

   Mike T. - Thursday, 06/25/09 01:14:09 EDT

JimG: Can you elaborate on the Eaton catalog. I came across an Eaton anvil on eBay and sent copy of listing to Richard Postman. Confirmation Eaton was a Canadian mail order catalog company would provide additional documentation. Can you perhaps e-mail me a photocopy of that catalog page so I can forward it to Richard?

On eBay I've noticed most HILL anvils are listed in the norhtern tier of states. Almost like they were exported to Canada and some found their way south.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 06/25/09 04:56:28 EDT

Guru - I was going through the FAQ page and was impressed with the 'Blacksmith's Gazette' pages.

Is it still possible to order the back issues on CD-ROM? There's a price given, but no contact info.

75 deg. F (in the shade) with high humidity north of the Lake (Ontario.) Thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon.

   Don - Thursday, 06/25/09 09:22:08 EDT

GURU, This is concerning the Hay Budden I posted about on 06-23-09. After getting it cleaned up it appears the serial number is 9089-could you possible tell me a year by this?. Under the horn at a square hole is an 8 stamped. Again it has hay budden stamped on it and 82 for the pounds. The Atlanta Ga. stamp above the Hay Budden is stamped in really well-deeper and wider stamping than the Hay Budden stamp. Again I know nothing about anvils but it has a real nice ring and rebound when tapped. Compaired to the cheap china cast iron I have which just goes thud. I think I will be happy with it for just piddling around the barn things. Thanks for any information and the information the other day. Derek
   Derek Thomas - Thursday, 06/25/09 09:39:34 EDT

Mike T. - sounds like a good beginning. My thought is that as described, the pipe could act as a chimney, channeling hot gases up it. With the convection it could get pretty darn hot fairly soon. I believe you could stop the chimney effect by putting a blockage in the pipe upward from your holding slots. I'd probably try jamming some kaowool into it to stop hot gases and temp transfer.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 06/25/09 09:48:15 EDT

Just putting a good set of tongs on the piece and using a set of rein clips would do better and be faster to do/change and not have the chimney effect.

I call this the blacksmith version of vise grips and use it for students who have trouble manipulating tongs and the hammer at the same time. If I was going that route I would neck the pipe down around a piece of round stock and use the round stock for the handle and only a short section of pipe for the screw holder.

Kaowool is not suggested to be Jammed as that will spread the fibers around the air more.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 06/25/09 10:21:38 EDT

Anvils--Here in the foothills of the West coast, I have seen lots of Peter Wrights but not a single Mousehole. One of my two anvils came from a blacksmith shop in Columbia, CA, a ~200 lb Peter Wright. The other anvil from that shop was a smaller Fisher (with eagle on the side). My other anvil is an ~100 lb "portable" Joshua Wilkinson, also from the old days and from the area.

Although I don't go ID'ing every anvil I see, I usually at least glance at them and would examine a Mousehole, for the novelty

Hot in the Sacramento Valley (you have to live where you work, so here I am). OH! for the week after the 4th, have a backpack trip scoped out, 25 miles along the Lost Coast, the longest stretch of wilderness coast hiking in the lower 48, cliffs meeting the sea, 3 crossings at low tide only. Guess this poisonoaker has to figure out tides (don't got them where I'm from)

David Hughes
   - David Hughes - Thursday, 06/25/09 11:45:20 EDT

Blacksmiths Gazette: We have the CD to reproduce but have not taken the time to get it reproduced. I'll put it on my to-do list. The disk was not very well organized and I was working on adding an index before distribution. We also have early print additions I was going to add. . .

Feel free to remind me now and then.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/25/09 11:45:52 EDT

Homebuilt Anvil

Hi Guru,
I build large knives, and recently found myself in need of a larger anvil, so I researched your page, borrowed from your knowledge, and built myself a new anvil from a 4x6x16 block of 4140 tool steel (4150 steel in this size is very hard to find). A 4x6x16" block weighs about 100 lbs. and can be had for about $1.50 a pound. You can build one too for less than $200 and some sweat equity. Tough 4140-4150 tool steels are common for industrial dies.
I placed my 4140 anvil plate atop a section of 10 in. heavy pipe (with 2-2x3/8x16 in. straps welded onto pipe bottom, welded atop 3 pieces of 12 in. rebar), set into a 16x20x6 in. concrete base. I used commercial-mixed 4000 psi pea gravel concrete (2 5-gal. buckets). Joints are fully welded, pipe is double wrapped in thin carpet, and base is set upon a thin layer of carpet, producing a great anvil that produces a sweet low hammer ring that is not offensive or loud.
A week later I added a 1x1 in. hardie frame to the middle of the backside with 2-1x3 in. pieces of 3/8 in. steel strap, capped with a third piece of steel 1 3/4x3 in.; these pieces were formed around a piece of 1x1 in. rod, with strips of thin electrical tape on all 4 faces of rod for clearance, and whole assembly clamped in place and then welded. Top edge is lightly ground true with anvil surface. Various hardie tools with 1x1 in. shafts can then be added and used.
An equivalent cast blacksmith anvil would cost many hundreds of dollars. My anvil project was completed in two afternoons, and cost less than $200.00.
Thanks for your column, and your advice.

G. Cody, Swan, NC
   Gary Cody - Thursday, 06/25/09 15:17:12 EDT

Gordy, Thank you very much for the credit.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/25/09 17:48:20 EDT

Boy my eyes are getting bad. . . I menat Gary,
   - guru - Thursday, 06/25/09 20:17:28 EDT

So much for relying on memory. In my 1919, 1927, and 1934 Eaton's catalogs the anvils, vises, and forges are 'Imperials' (which I've never seen). I do have a 1937 MacCleods flyer which has Peter Wright anvils. I'll check later to see if I can find any more info for you.
   JimG - Thursday, 06/25/09 20:31:47 EDT

Ken- I would agree with your Hill observations- I had a 200# Hill that I bought in New Hampshire, moved it to Vermont for 10 years, then sold it (via Ebay) back to a guy in NH. A friend of mine in Montreal sees a lot of unmarked or marks worn off Colonial patterns. Not proof, but corroboration.
   Judson Yaggy - Thursday, 06/25/09 20:59:31 EDT

i know this is more of information for blacksmiths but im looking for a skilled blacksmith to make a custom sword for me. its a fairly simple design with some detial in the gaurd. i have a blue print with measurements already made. if you could please refer me or if any sees this that could make it please contact me. itr1182@hotmail.com. mike
   - michael saccoccio - Thursday, 06/25/09 21:24:54 EDT

Michael, You may want to try swordforums.com if you are looking for a bladesmith. However, there are a few bladesmiths that hang around here. . .

It will help if your "blueprint" is in CAD and converted to a PDF so you can email it. A true drawing will be dimensioned. However, fine details should be left up to the bladesmith. If you have overall dimensions then weight calculations should have been done. The last "blueprint" I was sent weighed in at 800 pounds. The designer refused to think this was a problem. Should be 1% or less of that.

You also need to specify a use. If its a pure wallhanger, collectors art piece or a practice sword. It makes a big difference in metallurgy and price.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/25/09 23:52:31 EDT

...Not to mention most similarly-phrased requests for a sword I've gotten (the ones that were not impossible fantasy like your 800-lb one) always went away when price was discussed. You ARE willing to pay what such work is worth, right? This can be from the high hundreds into the thousands of dollars, depending on what you want.

I don't know any bladesmiths who will work to a measured blueprint, either. It usually signifies a customer who is either unsatisfiable, uneducated, or both. As the Guru says, a dimensioned drawing perhaps, as long as you allow some wiggle room.

Most bladesmiths are kinda crusty when it comes to sword requests, based on many bad experiences with people seemingly unacquainted with the collective reality and the laws of physics, so don't let me put you off if you have a valid design. Just be aware that you may have a tough time convincing a *good* smith to take you up on your idea.
   Alan-L - Friday, 06/26/09 08:41:27 EDT

Gavainh and Thomas P.,

Thank you for your responses, this imput has helped me tremendously, as two-three heads are better than one. Mr.Thomas P. it is ironic that you mentioned that the tongs and rein clips give a vice grip effect as I read that vice-grips were actually invented by a blacksmith.

Thank you,
   Mike T. - Friday, 06/26/09 08:58:34 EDT

One can be an extremely skilled blacksmith and not be able to forge a decent blade at all it's very much a special field.

One can be a highly skilled bladesmith and not be a decent swordsmith as the design elements of swords are *different* than that of knives. many knives do not have distal taper and if they do it's usually even over the length---may not be on a sword! You never have to worry about blade harmonics in a knife but put a max instead of a node at the grip and you've made a sword that won't stay in your hand during use! (Not to mention I've seen swords made by knifemakers that had *slick* grips---the horror!)

So Michael can you describe the distal taper in your planned blade and where the harmonic nodes are and COP? If any of these terms are new to you you may have designed a SLO Sword Like Object rather than a sword.

And everybody please remember that custom work done by a highly skilled individual is ALWAYS more expensive than stuff churned out by a factory with massive economies of scale built in!

   Thomas P - Friday, 06/26/09 11:41:25 EDT

The issue of distal taper applies to things like machetes, too. I once bought a simple machete made by the Collins company. It had a distal taper that made the flex of the blade uniform over its length despite the shape that was narrowest at the handle. It was a pleasure to use. I foolishly sold that one in a garage sale and have never found another machete made like that. If you want to wear yourself out, use a machete made by stamping it out of sheet metal with no regard for shape or taper.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 06/26/09 13:39:32 EDT

Machete taper. . I've never looked. However, they sell for very little in CR with most made in Europe by Solingen (Germany?). The blades are good, the handles molded on plastic. Locals manufacture very nice tooled leather sheaths which cost less than the Machete. Total less then $20 I think. We brought one home as a gift a few years ago. Next time I get a chance I will check the taper.
   - guru - Friday, 06/26/09 14:00:11 EDT

On Bandsaw blades.
I have mine made at the local saw sharpening shop. They have bimetal blades good for wood or metal, custom made to length, tooth pitch, and width. They also have a vari pitch blade good for bronze. I have not tried any other blades as these work great and last quite a while.
   blackbart - Friday, 06/26/09 15:39:47 EDT

From what I can read W1 is very good for knife making, able to produce a keen edge. The only possible drawback is distortion upon quenching. Some of you who have worked with it, tell me how you quench it with a minimum of distortion.
Thanks Mike
   Mike T. - Friday, 06/26/09 18:51:08 EDT

W1 is a simple high carbon steel and if you make thin blades out of it, it will cool fast enough in warm oil to achieve a good hardness. I have compressed air quenched small wood carving knives to good hardness. If you must quench in water, quench the blade vertically and move it in a figure 8.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 06/26/09 19:20:39 EDT


Thank you for the information.

   Mike T. - Friday, 06/26/09 20:08:07 EDT

Mike T. Water can be warmed to tepid/luke warm before quenching. It can be done by stirring the water with a hot, steel bar.
   - Frank Turley - Friday, 06/26/09 20:20:59 EDT

Mr. Turley,

Thank you for this info. I still have my notes you E-mailed me a good while back. I have worked in my shop quite a bit, but the summer heat here in N.E. Arkansas is murder, I may have to hold off on some of it for awhile. I made my first skinning knife out of 1095 looks good. Took me about a month to complete it, but I wanted everyhing to be right.
My next one will be with the W1.

Thank you,
   Mike T. - Friday, 06/26/09 20:46:06 EDT

"Mr.Thomas P. it is ironic that you mentioned that the tongs and rein clips give a vice grip effect as I read that vice-grips were actually invented by a blacksmith."

Don't know answer, but this is a response I give at a public demo. if my use of them is questioned: My great-great grandfather's last name was Grip and was a blacksmithing. His favorite saying a blacksmith could never have too many vises, so he named one of his sons Vise. Vise also became a blacksmith and name stamped all of his tools, so this is one handed down from him.

I knew a guy in Ohio who quipped his favorite blacksmithing uncle had the last name of Craftsman.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 06/26/09 22:11:16 EDT


However, when hearing the term of blacksmith remember at one time it also applied to mechanics and some machinists. For example, my birth certificate gives my father's occupation twice as "Blaksmith" (yes, misspelled). However, he had a small manufacturing plant making self-unloading silage chopping boxes (Forage Master in Allenton, WI).
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 06/26/09 22:18:03 EDT

Hello Guru and Gurus in Waiting.
This has probably been answered sometime in the past (most questions here fit into that category, don't they?) but as I can't seem to find it...
I'm working on a piece of sculpture, intended for an exterior location. I am contemplating fabricating and forging it primarily of stainless (304 and/or 5052). It will be exposed to rainfall, but is not near the ocean and would not be subject to road salt spray. Were I to add copper or bronze elements, fastened mechanically, what would happen? If I were to braze them together, what would happen? The stainless elements would be no thinner than 1/4", the Cupric elements 3/16. I presume that the stainless would be the loser in any galvanic contest, but in this application, how long might that take, what exactly would happen structurally, and what would it look like. In the past, I have done similar things by using non-metallic bushings and fasteners to attach dis-similar metals, but this will not be practical here.
   Charlie Spademan - Saturday, 06/27/09 08:28:29 EDT

And, would 316 be better at the union with the copper?
   Charlie Spademan - Saturday, 06/27/09 08:31:43 EDT

Brain Fart: Sorry, I'm also contemplating making it entirely out of aluminum, hence the 5052 reference.
First coffee, then post
   Charlie Spademan - Saturday, 06/27/09 08:37:44 EDT

Charlie, have you thought about consulting a corrosion engineer? Seriously, they deal with a HUGE variety of corrosion problems involving dissimilar metals.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 06/27/09 09:00:20 EDT

Has anyone heard of a Idaho Star Foundry power hammer #50. There is one for sale by my neighbor.What might it be worth?
   Steven Bronstein - Saturday, 06/27/09 15:22:58 EDT

Is there a similar site for farriers?
   philip in china - Saturday, 06/27/09 21:16:11 EDT

Charlie Spademan,

If you do the stainless/copper combination, you won't have much in the way of problems. If you use 316L stainless and alloy 65500 high-silicon bronze I doubt you would see any galvanic corrosion for decades, even down here in the tropical islands. If you get into a stainless with more carbon, or copper alloys that contain zinc, then things aren't as stable.

The aluminum and copper mix is a positively horrible one. Guys with aluminum boats have learned the hard way that you don't want to drop any old copper pennies in your bilge. That combination corrodes almost while you watch. I understand that's one of the reasons they had so many problems back in the sixties when they tried to switch to aluminum wiring - wherever it contacted copper there were problems almost immediately. I don't know how the 5052 would react with silicon bronze, but the price is too high to want to find out the hard way.

I'll bet that Ries Niemi can give you a pretty definitive answer to your question if he's watching.
   vicopper - Saturday, 06/27/09 21:31:25 EDT

What can you tell me about Arm and Hammer anvils?
I acquired one several years ago in exchange for some work and have been unable to find anyone in this area who has even heard of these.It has very little rebound,virtually no ring and seems to be made of cast iron.
There is a golf ball sized chip out of one edge of the face as well as numerous nicks and dings.
Were these actually made by Arm and Hammer?
Thanks for any help.
   Robert Watson - Saturday, 06/27/09 22:09:01 EDT

Thanks ViCopper, I appreciate your input! I think it was you who answered a similar question for me about a year ago, regarding studs I was welding onto copper house numbers. That also was a stainless/copper combination, though they were pretty well protected from the weather because of their placement and anchoring system. As for my consideration of aluminum for this project, it would definitely be my second choice. If I went that way I had no intention of introducing any other metal into the equation; I was not fully awake when I was composing my question and did not word it clearly. As for aluminum wiring, my understanding has been that the aluminum wire expands as it heats (from heavy current draw) and compresses under the binding screw on devices designed for copper wires. When it cools and contracts, the joint is no longer tight and the higher impedance at that point causes additional heating, etc.. The NEC specified devices especially for aluminum wiring that maintained tight contact with the wire through expansion and contraction cycles, generally using a spring like a common wire-nut. It has never occurred to me that galvanic issues may have been in play as well, but it makes sense
   Charlie Spademan - Saturday, 06/27/09 22:09:45 EDT



You go through a registration rigamarole.
   - Frank Turley - Saturday, 06/27/09 22:54:48 EDT

Vise-Grips a link from our Getting Started Article.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/27/09 23:11:04 EDT

Charlie. You are building a huge electrolytic cell. Condensation on metal is more of an issue than rain. If you use aluminum use NOTHING but aluminum including anchor bolts. Stainless is not so bad but you should stick to one material. If you want copper colored elements use paint such as gilders paste. They say its not paint but IT IS paint.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/27/09 23:17:42 EDT

On the road visiting friends. . . big forged gates tomorrow.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/27/09 23:20:15 EDT


Yeah, the expansion/contraction was a big issue, probably the primary one, but the galvanic corrosion was also a factor, I'm sure. On the fixtures labeled for Cu/Al use, they specified that a conductive grease had to be used, which would prevent moisture from getting into the connection. That's my guess, anyway.

On ships down here, you see lots of stainless and bronze used together, with no visible problems, so I'm pretty sure you'd be okay with that combo.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/28/09 00:09:59 EDT

Robert Watson,

You are correct, that anvil is cast iron, with a steel face plate. Similar to the Fisher Eagle anvils, but no where near the high quality that Fisher made.

There are two different Arm and Hammer anvils: the good ones, (made by the Columbus Anvil and Forging Company I believe), which are all tool steel and a premium-quality anvil, and the type you have, which is made by Vulcan from cast iron and steel and is a mediocre anvil on its best day.

Neither of the Arm and Hammer anvils had any connection with the Arm and Hammer baking soda people.
   vicopper - Sunday, 06/28/09 00:18:46 EDT

When I was in high school, I helped a friend fix the dome light on his truck. We used a piece of stranded aluminum wire I had for some reason, and ended with a splice under the carpet. We made the splice with a crimp connector that must have been made from tinned copper.

The fix didn't last six months. The carpet must have gotten damp, because when we pulled it up we found a corroded mess and no electrical connection at the splice anymore. Anyway, I learned first-hand that aluminum and copper don't mix (except in 2000-series aluminum alloys and in aluminum bronzes, of course).
   Mike BR - Sunday, 06/28/09 06:01:25 EDT

Shop Heat

I was reading the recent posts over in the Hammer-In, and thought this might be a better place to pose this question...
I am planning a new shop, and addition on an existing pole-barn. Here in Michigan, heating in the winter becomes an issue with many options. What are other folks doing to keep a shop useable when the temps get down below the comfort zone? I have considered a lot of different options, such as wood fired furnaces, radiant overhead (propane powered), and in-floor hot water. Economics are a factor, of course, but what would be the "ideal" shop heat?Any suggestions as to pros and cons would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

   Dave F - Sunday, 06/28/09 07:25:56 EDT

Dave F
I'm in Saskatchewan, it gets cool in the winter here as well. If I was building from scratch, I would probably go with in floor heat. Second choice radiant. Currently I have a wood burning stove. What I like about in floor heat is my feet are warm, and air temp can be lower. If your not in there almost daily I would consider radiant, but being bald on top I find my head gets hot. Consider a wood fired boiler for in floor heat. Don't forget to insulate between the slab and the ground. Let us know what route you go, and how it works out.
   JimG - Sunday, 06/28/09 09:17:10 EDT

In-floor heat could be a real pain if you need cut into the floor for a power hammer foundation. Or even just intall anchor bolts to secure a piece of equipment or a bench.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 06/28/09 09:55:22 EDT

Arm and Hammer: Vulcan anvils are a cast steel with a *thin* steel face and not much drop for the cutting plate. The have the arm and hammer cast so that it projects from the side of the anvil.

Arm and Hammer, made in Columbus Ohio, are a traditionally made anvil and of very good quality indeed.

The lack of ring indicates you have a vulcan most likely (or a badly damaged A&H!) I advise them for suburbia and other places where noise is an issue but Fisher is a quiet brand of anvils too and MUCH higher in quality!

Do not pay top price for a vulcan.

   Thomas Powers - Sunday, 06/28/09 11:31:19 EDT

Answering my own question;
In researching, I found the following galvanic table:


It lists Bronze 655 and passivated stainless 304 as #70 and #71 respectively, in ascending order of nobility; Perfect! Copper and non-passivated 316l are not a bad match, either
   Charlie Spademan - Sunday, 06/28/09 12:46:50 EDT

Thank you all for the response to my Arm and Hammer anvil questions.I definately have the Vulcan one.I thought the chip missing from the face was from abuse but on closer exam I believe it is a casting defect and was always present.

I have had numerous offers to buy this anvil but knowing what it is not I will keep it as it is useful for the tasks I do.

Thank you all again for the help!
   Robert Watson - Sunday, 06/28/09 13:26:34 EDT

Steve Bronstein:

Are you sure it says "Idaho" on it? Star Foundry made a really nice 50# hammer, I have one and I love it. As far as I know, they were only made in three places, those being Albert Lea, Minnisota; Mankato, MN; and for a short time in Texas when the foundry owner had them made there for a bit. The whole production seems to have been from around 1918 to around 1929 or so, they are not common.

Any 50# mechanical hammer in good running order is worth what you can get it for, up to around $1500-$3000 depending on the hammer. If it's not in perfect shape, the price drops precipitously. If it doesn't run because the frame is broken, it's worth whatever the scrap rate is.

Broken frames can be fixed, of course, but the cost of the fix is usually upwards of $1000 if you value your time.

The only problems the Star hammers I'm familiar with have are the joints between the bow spring ends and the toggle arms. These hammers are a bow spring linkage like a Champion, and the bushings tend to go fast. Mine has no bushings, for example. I keep them joints filled with heavy grease to keep the grit out and prevent further wear, on the advice of the previous owner. It worked for him for 25 years, so I haven't changed his system.

They do not have sow blocks, and the lower die dovetail is part of the cast frame.

They are light-duty hammers, equivalent to a Little Giant, but much better in my opinion. That may be because I have one, I don't know. (grin!)

I've seen two different guide systems on them, mine (which is a square-section ram running in V-ways in the frame on the back with a really nice art-deco-styled wraparound steel guide handling the front), and a more conventional T-slot guide with adjustible gibs. I don't know which is better.

They are set up for flat-belt drive with a wood block clutch, and mine provides very good control.

What does your neighbor want for it?
   Alan-L - Sunday, 06/28/09 13:26:41 EDT

In floor radiant heat is nice, but the thermal mass of the flor is a problem if You don't heat continuously.

If You heat the shop when You are working there and don't when You are not, the radiant gas burners above work well if the celing is high enough.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 06/28/09 14:36:04 EDT

I will be trying my hand at forge welding soon. Sometimes when you read articles, you don't know how much credence to place in them. One article says you can weld at an orange heat another one says you can even weld at red heat if the metal is prepared and fluxed properly.
I didn't pay much attention to these articles until I looked at Centaur Forge's welding fluxes. They have a Cherry Heat welding flux that enables welding at lower temperatures. Have any of you used this flux ? Also, Mr. Dempsey, if I read your article on welding properly, you advise a percentage of florite for steels containing alloying elements ? If so, how much ? Can fluxes be purchased containing florite ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 06/28/09 21:41:04 EDT

Mike T.
In a regular coal forge situation, the welding heat is a "near white color." I sometimes call it a yellow/white. There is a light welding heat, also called "sweating" in which there are no sparks being emitted. If a few incipient sparks do appear, that may be OK, but you don't want a big shower of them, or you'll be burning (oxidizing) the metal. When the metal turns the same color as the heart of the coke fire, it will disappear from view unless you move it. When it disappears, you have just entered a welding heat. Give a few seconds more of blast, depending of the size of the workpiece. Bring it out and weld. Use three or four relatively light blows to start; then hit harder once you have cohesion.

Cherry Heat, Climax, and E-Z were marketing names made up by the old Anti-Borax Company. If you think about it, in combination, they all have a (ahem) sexual connotation. Anyway, it's all promo and hype. And of course, they called it the Anti-Borax Company, because they wanted you to buy their compounds!
   - Frank Turley - Sunday, 06/28/09 23:55:06 EDT

Mr. Turley,

Thanks, I will not waste my money on it. I appreciate everyone on this board.

   Mike T. - Monday, 06/29/09 00:57:28 EDT

Sometimes used in stainless welding and other heat treating chemicals and products may be purchased from:
rosemillcom.host-manager.com (Rose Mill company)
They do have on line sales, and sell true anhydrous Borax, and other products
I've heard nasty comments about the hazards of using Florite for forge welding. My experience in chemistry suggests that it is indeed better left to experts who have serious monetary motives for welding stainless steel.
   Charlotte - Monday, 06/29/09 08:16:53 EDT


Thanks for the site, I will check it out. If I use the florite, I will rig up a mask.

   Mike T. - Monday, 06/29/09 08:42:27 EDT

Mike it is possible to get a solid phase weld at subzero temperatures *IF* all the other factors are perfect: cleanliness, high pressure, surfaces perfectly match.

Look up vacuum welding and explosive welding as methods that get around the heat issue by maxing out other factors.

I have seen Billy Merritt (sp) weld at temps I would consider a bit low to forge at. However adding more heat is usually the easiest way to get from "won't weld" to "will weld"

   Thomas P - Monday, 06/29/09 10:17:29 EDT

Thomas P.

Thank you, I was driving down the highway one time and had a wheel bearing to over heat and lock up. The heat and pressure welded the lug nuts to the wheel. I had to get a chisel and cut them off. I have seen programs on television where metal parts were welded by spinning them
together at a high rate of speed, and the friction would weld them together.
   Mike T. - Monday, 06/29/09 11:06:01 EDT

RE: forge welding--Once I spent a very interesting hour or so watching Mike, the blacksmith from Guinda, CA, making (throwing tomahawks?) at the county fair. He would hot cut an old flat rasp, he had lengths of mild steel cut to length, fold the mild steel over to make the eye, sandwich the rasp steel within the folded over mild steel, heat and flux and weld. Lots of sparks, and another successful forge weld, shape the head and go to the next one.

It inspired me to go try forge welding some mild steel together, failed mizerably, had enough heat to burn the steel. Is there something "better" about welding mild steel to tool steel?
   - David Hughes - Monday, 06/29/09 11:14:33 EDT

No. In fact, one might pay more attention when welding tool steel (high carbon), because the extra carbon content causes the metal to crack and crumble if a sparking heat is reached. Try to do it all with a light welding heat; no sparks.
   - Frank Turley - Monday, 06/29/09 13:59:24 EDT

To add to what Frank said, the high carbon steel welds at a slightly lower heat that the mild steel. This CAN make it easier to weld, but it can also cause problems. Once carbon migration begins, the welds get easier, but you have to make that first weld before the carbon can start to equalize over the weld boundary. It's always something, isn't it?

If you were hot enough to burn the mild, you had more than enough heat to weld. You may have hed an oxidizing fire, though, and that will ruin a weld every time.
   Alan-L - Monday, 06/29/09 14:03:46 EDT

Fluxes - ANTI-Borax: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet . . .

These fluxes are primarily boric acid but all contain borax in varying percentages. In the end they are all boron fluxes. I suspect the only advantage is anhydrous borax is more expensive than regular hydrated borax and since it does not stay in the dehydrated state the fluxes may be more stable.

Fluorite is used in foundry operations for fluxing and is found in stainless are welding rods. The percentages I have heard for addition to borax are about 10% max.

Commercial forge welding fluxes often contain powdered iron or iron chips. You DO NOT want to use this for laminating steel because it contaminates the billet in unpredictable ways. The added iron can lower the welding temperature by melting in the flux and acting a "glue" in the forge weld. It does not actually lower the possible welding temperature BUT it does make it easier to weld at a lower temperature.
   - guru - Monday, 06/29/09 16:55:30 EDT

Strickly my experience, but the anhydrous does not rehydrate that quickly. Its advantage is that it does not require you to boil off the water before it does its job thus it cools your steel less. Because it doesn't swell as it boils of water less fall off into your fire so less mess in a gas forge. I generally use an old pot of to get rid of half of the water by heating 20 mule team in the oven. I cap that up in a glass jar and only take out a cup or so at a time.
I'm told that 20 mule team has and anticaking agent in it, that can show up in a welded billet. I don't know.
I have a can on anhydrous that I keep in a zip lock bag for those times when I really want to add some flux at almost the last moment.

With mild steel in a coal fire I cann't see that any of this makes much difference. It might for welding damascus billets that you are planning to finish and sell for serious money.
   Charlotte - Monday, 06/29/09 23:18:47 EDT

ThomasP, Billy is the forge master of the Southern Indiana Meteor Mashers, our IBA satalitte group. He regularly welds using a hammer HANDLE to make the weld, and almost always at temps the look too cool to get a weld, and I have never seen him miss a weld. He has been welding slices of meteor into his blades lately.
He taught Larry Zeoller to weld tomahawks from horse shoe rasps and Larry taught me. I have been playing with the horseshoe rasps, making tomahawks and axes, and I have been welding at what looks a too cool temp and mostly getting good welds.
   ptree - Tuesday, 06/30/09 06:45:09 EDT

Thanks to all who contributed to the question about shop heating! I will let you know how the project turns out. Dave
   Dave F - Tuesday, 06/30/09 08:07:38 EDT

The propane forge in the shop I use doesn't go higher than a high (light) orange. However, the guy I bought it from (who built it) said he used it on a regular basis for do Damascus-pattern billets and the forge, when bought, showed signs of it. I know if I have several pieces in it, they touch and they are left in too long them come out slightly stuck together. I've twice melted sections of items placed in it I forgot about and left in way to long.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 06/30/09 12:12:44 EDT

My copy of AIA was lent to me, I had to return it a few months ago. My "uncle" Bob just gifted me another anvil. It's in nice condition, looks hardly used. Short cutting table, clean weld top plate 1/4", horn tip blunted. I haven't gotten it home yet to clean it up any, but it says "AMERICAN WROUGHT" with a horsehoe between the words, inside the horseshoe it says "TRADE MARK". Under the whole makers mark is the weight "108". I haven't weighed it yet, but it is definitely bigger than my 100 pound Wilkinson. Hundredweight would put it at 132 pounds? Wish I had that AIA book right now.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/30/09 15:00:42 EDT

Sorry... 120 pounds.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/30/09 15:11:56 EDT

American Wrought Anvil Nip, If American made it would not be marked in Hundred weights. It will be pounds but could have been misread.

p.289 AIA, List of Hay-Budden private branded anvils.
American Wrought, Horse Shoe Brand, Montgomery Ward Catalog, 1895, S?N 932?, (1894).
You have a winner. The long slender pattern fooled you into thinking it was heavier than the stout better to forge on per pound Wilkinson.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/30/09 16:17:48 EDT

Shop heating is a subject I've not considered much. Keeping cool and having enough ventilation was most of the problem. However, I've run a part time shop so long working in the winter has not been one of my considerations. MOVING somewhere where winter doesn't exist is the long term plan for me. . .

We have heated with wood, oil and electric heat pump. All have their pros and cons and their costs. Wood is only cheaper if it is free or nearly free. Cutting, hauling, feeding. . . all costs. Oil is probably the cheapest to install and maintain long term. Heat pumps are more efficient energy users but they have become expensive to maintain requiring complete system replacement about every 10 years. When the equipment and maintenance costs are factored in heat pumps are not a good buy. SO, anything you do costs.

Static systems are the most cost effective. Additional insulation pays for itself in a decade no matter how much you add. If you can insulate heavy masses from the outside (insulation outside a masonry wall or chimney) this acts as a "thermal flywheel" holding heat OR absorbing it to help cool.

Static solar includes properly placed windows with shading in the summer. However, the classic overhanging roof has been found to be problematic. While they work to shade the window in summer they can be a big "cooling fin" in the winter dissipating valuable warmth. Good modern design isolates these from the building proper.

Efficient architectural design is a mix of art and engineering. It starts with a site study, geographic layout, solar gain, average temperatures, rain. . . all the environmental aspects. The final design must include goals and budget. Budget is sadly the deciding factor in too many cases. Thus the cost of heating and cooling is higher and over the long term the building much less efficient. IF we were thinking of generations of use and did not want to burden our grand children with lousy buildings we would build better.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/30/09 16:22:19 EDT

So, when I get it home and clean it up, where should I look for serial numbers?
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/30/09 17:30:56 EDT

Nip, Maybe on the side opposite the trademark. I have one Hey Bud like that.
   - Frank Turley - Tuesday, 06/30/09 18:30:30 EDT

Nip, Maybe on the side opposite the trademark. I have one Hey Bud like that.
   - Frank Turley - Tuesday, 06/30/09 18:31:13 EDT

There's nothing on the working side of the anvil. I've heard talk here of numbers being located on the feet or bottom. I'll post pics when I can.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/30/09 18:53:30 EDT

Just checked the horn side foot. There's some numbers, leading 5 and others can't read (yet). There's a strange slot in the center of the feet, horn side. About 1/8" x 1". Never saw that before on an anvil. There is no corresponding slot on the heel side, so I am at a loss. Maybe an odd handling hole? Sorry for the rampant posting today, but getting a new anvil is exciting!
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 06/30/09 19:00:07 EDT

Guru, I have a super insulated, passive solar home. Built it 24 years ago. I have to agree that insulation pays. I have the large overhang roof, and in my case it is not a cooling fin. I love the big 42" overhang, as I can leave the windows open in most rain storms and never get a drop in the awning style windows. Those windows are riple glazed, with selective emmisivity film. The walls are R-30, the roof R-60, and the part of the house with a crawl is R-48 under the floor. The 1000 square feet of concrete floor that thesun hits is 6" min thick, 18" in places and insulated from the earth. That is the Thermal Mass. Even in the summer we almost never run air conditioning. The thermal mass sucks up any heat that sneaks in during the day and when it is cooler at night we open up and run a 1/4Hp whole haouse fan, rejecting the heat from the mass.
Solar heating in our region is problamatic. Not enough good sunny days, and we do enjoy the view from all those windows so we don't cover with insulating means when the sun is not bright. So we supplament with an outside wood heater.
If I had it to do again, I would skip the solar heat, but definetly super insulate.
   ptree - Tuesday, 06/30/09 19:56:50 EDT

Nip, I've seen that little slot in some Hay-Buddens. I suspect it is for some unknown clamping fixture, probably for grinding but it could have served other purposes.

Those are serial numbers on the feet but also inspectors or crew marks.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/30/09 20:54:03 EDT

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